Special Report: What is a worldview? Part 1 with John StonestreetSeptember 8, 2020
The term worldview should be more than a buzzword— it should provoke us to think intentionally and critically about the forces that influence our minds and hearts. We use the word “worldview” regularly, but want to take the opportunity to slow down and pick apart what it really means and then equip you to test competing worldviews against Truth.
To do this, we talked with John Stonestreet who is President of the Chuck Colson Center. He is an author of several worldview-related books and co-host of BreakPoint Radio broadcast.
If you would rather listen to our conversation, you can find listen here:
What is a worldview?
Stonestreet helps us paint a picture. He says, “What we mean by worldview is the framework through which people understand the world. All of us have a pair of -you could call it- idea glasses, basically a framework of basic beliefs – our deepest convictions about reality. It gives us an interpretation of the events that happen in our lives.
“It’s not what we look at, it’s what we look through to see the world.”
“I think this is a helpful analogy which is like a pair of idea glasses. And when we say idea glasses I don’t think we mean sunglasses. I think we mean prescription glasses. You know if I took my glasses- I wear contact lenses- and I took my contacts out and picked up somebody else’s you know prescription lenses, it would keep me from seeing the world clearly. And that’s the power of a worldview is that it will either allow me to bring what happens in the world, or in my life- the story- into focus or it’ll make it really indiscernible and make it so we just can’t understand it. And that’s how important worldview is. It’s important we have the right one.”
There are glasses we put on that help us see reality more clearly. But there are lenses we put on that distort reality, and don’t lead us into truth.
So when we are thinking about worldview, the question we need to be asking ourselves isn’t “Do I have a worldview?” The question is “Which world view do I have?” and “How do I know?” We will explore the major types of worldviews in Part 2 next week.
How do we form a worldview?
When thinking about worldview and the fact that we all have one— conscious or not— we may wonder, how did we get it? Is it passed down to us like DNA or something we pick up on the way? Well, both. For many people, worldview is not necessarily something they studied or intentionally formed. It is something influenced by when and where we are born, parentage, religion, socio-economic status and life events which influence us.
Stonestreet shares, “It’s not just an intentional thing. It’s just more of when you lived life and you have to make decisions about where you spend time, where you spend money, and what you’re going to trust as an authoritative source. You’re really wrestling with these big questions. What you’ll find too is how you answer one question will impact the rest.”
Because of this, our worldview may be inconsistent depending on the topic or incomplete or even be full of contradictions. Here is where we need to be thinking intentionally about what influences us and what kinds of “glasses” we may be wearing.
“There’s often times a level of inconsistency and that’s one of the reasons I think Christians can be so helpful in loving their neighbor by understanding worldview because then we can kind of point out an inconsistency and say, ‘Well look, if you believe this over here then what does that mean for this over here.’ When we talk about everybody having a worldview, it doesn’t mean they have a consistent worldview, doesn’t mean they have an informed worldview as one of my friends says. Many people have a world view like W H I R L E D in a world like it’s all whirled together- all these kind of various ideas of our culture and so actually stopping people and having conversations where you point out the consequences of their ideas.”
First, we look at the types of questions any worldview must answer.
Here are the types of questions any worldview must answer:
Origin: Where did everything come from? Is the world a gigantic accident? Is this world the product of a Divine Plan? Is the world an illusion?
Meaning: What is the meaning of life? On the personal level, why do I get up in the morning? What am I going to love today? What’s worth my passion and what’s worth my time and attention?
Morality: Who sets the rules about what’s right and wrong. How do I know. Is it relative, is it absolute? Is it up to the powerful or is it up to some kind of divine providence to determine what’s right and wrong?
Identity: What makes a person? Are we different than the animals?
Destiny: What happens when we die and where is history headed?
A worldview must answer all of these questions consistently and in a way that reflects reality. We will talk more about that in part two, next week.