Worldviews - Part 1

This is a six part series on worldviews by guest blogger Frank Allan.

Worldviews

The windows through which we interpret the meaning of our lives

Part 1. What is a Worldview?

All of us have a view point from which we interpret our experiences of life. We have a view of the world by which we derive meaning and significance. A worldview is a set of assumptions that we consciously or unconsciously believe about the makeup of our world. We all believe that something exists, but the question is, what is that something? What is the ultimate reality? What is our worldview?

This is a fundamental question of life, yet it is often avoided. Silence often ensues in a group when the topic is raised. Why? Are we threatened by what think might be the answer or, is it because we have never thought deeply about it and are embarrassed that we cannot enter into the discussion? Many people do not bring their worldviews into critical focus.

Whether you believe in God, are an agnostic or an atheist there are values we more or less hold in common.

We may wish to define some of the following terms and not quite agree with every item in the following list, but we are likely close to agreeing with the values implied in each of them. Obey all applicable laws and rules. Tell the truth. Keep promises. Accept blame. Practice self-discipline. Respect trusts and confidences. Avoid half-truths. Reward merit. Avoid even the appearance of impropriety. Respect the dignity of others. Avoid demanding unconditional surrender or humiliation from opponents. Avoid making decisions just because they benefit you or make you look good. Conserve resources and protect the environment. Protect our society’s health and safety. Avoid petty politics. Take into account extenuating circumstances. Refuse to cut corners. Give credit, where it is due. Avoid accepting gifts or bribes in return for favours. Give back to the community. Constantly strive to get better. Remain positive and optimistic.

Our debate is not over these values but rather, what is the foundation of these values and why are these our values in the first place. The answer to these questions is found in the assumptions of our worldview.

There are several questions that when answered form the foundation of our worldview.
  1. What is the prime reality? The question of ultimate existence.
  2. How did we get here? The question of origins.
  3. What is the nature of man? The question of who we are.
  4. What is the basis of “right and wrong?” The question of ethics.
  5. What gives our life meaning? The question of significance.
  6. Where are we going when we die? The question of destiny.
The answer to these questions depends on how we see the world, what window we are looking through. We may all view the same events and behaviours, but how we relate to them depends on our basic assumptions, our presuppositions.

Here is a metaphor which may give greater clarity. Suppose you live in a hypothetical condominium (Windows of Life Condominium) that has people who hold different worldviews living on different floors. The windows all face the “courtyard of life” in which a number of events are occurring. Depending on what floor you are on and what window you are looking out, you see something different. The difference is because the residents of each floor have a different set of assumptions (presuppositions) by which they see the world. If you believe in God, you are looking through the theistic window. Granted, this window has different panes because the nature of God is not defined the same way by all theistic religions. The assumptions of the theist are polar opposites to the atheist’s. The worldviews of those occupying the different floors are all different. Our focus, in this article, is on the theistic and naturalist (secularist, atheist) windows, but the other worldview windows will be briefly described in the appendix.




Windows of Life Condominium


Courtyard of Life





Theistic Window
Deistic Window
Naturalistic Window
Nihilistic Window
Existentialistic Window
Pantheistic Monistic Window
Post Modernistic Window
Figure 1. You interpret the things you see in the “courtyard of life” differently, depending on what window you are looking out. You have a different worldview

No matter what floor and what window we are looking out, the challenge for each of us is to be able to move between the floors so we understand how our neighbours think. This allows us to engage each other in meaningful conversations. No doubt many have moved from one floor to another as they have accepted new beliefs as being true. Others have washed their windows and now see clearly the defects of the glass in the window they were looking out and realize they have to move to a different window to see “what is really, real.”

One of the interesting things that has happened as a result of the recent elections in the United States is the attempt of many to explain what happened. How did Donald Trump defeat Hillary Clinton? The National media has attempted to give reasons why they were so far off in their predictions of who would win. Several have acknowledge that since 81% of the evangelicals voted for Trump and only 16% for Clinton that something involving worldviews was going on. As one pundit put it, “Many evangelicals held their nose and voted for Trump because they saw religious liberty being threatened.” This was no doubt true. When you review the list of a number of laws that have been passed in recent years, and the comments of the Solicitor General made in the oral arguments before the Supreme Court in the same-sex marriage case, you realize that there is a huge gap between the worldview of the secularists and those who believe in the personal God of the Bible. During the oral arguments in the same-sex marriage case, the solicitor general said it would be an issue if religious institutions did not endorse same sex-marriage and recognize it as a human right. This indicates that the coercive force of the government was on track to force people to act against their consciences and recognize and accept same-sex marriage in their institutions.

As each of us sort through these worldviews we will ultimately settle on one, either consciously or unconsciously. No matter where we end up, we make choices based on our assumptions.

Our personal worldview has to:
  1. Satisfy our needs, [points to what gives us ultimate satisfaction and purpose]
  2. Correspond to reality, [explains why the world system appears to us the way it does ]
  3. Be livable! [gives us practical guidance on how to live in the present]
We have to realize that we live in a pluralistic world. What is obvious to us may be a “lie from hell” to our neighbour living on a different floor and looking through a different window.

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