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What is a Worldview?

Living at the Crossroads


Chapter 2

A Brief History of Worldview


German word, weltanschauung
Arose first in German philosophy
Weltanschauung coined by Kant (17241804)
Key word in German idealist and Romantic
philosophy in 19th century
Used to denote a set of beliefs that
underlie and shape all of human thought
and action.
By 1840s it was a standard term in
vocabulary of educated German
Expressed global outlook on the world.

Worldview in German
Philosophy
In German Idealism and
Romanticism, worldview
expresses a set of beliefs
that are foundational and
formative for human thinking
and life.

Underlying beliefs that are . . .


Comprehensive
Foundational
Cohesive

Appropriation of worldview in
Evangelical church
Started being used in English in 1858;
gradually became part of English
vocabulary.
Introduced into evangelical world by
Abraham Kuyper and James Orr end of
19th century
In 1917 B.B. Warfield said word was
newly in fashion in North America.
Today widely used in evangelical circles
How did non-Christian term become so
popular in Christian circles?

How did this happen?


Important lectures by Abraham
Kuyper and James Orr
Orr, Kerr Lectures, Scotland, 1891
Kuyper, Stone Lectures, Princeton,
1898

Deep sense of need to protect the


Christian faith from a hostile
worldview
Made popular by a whole host of
writers

Similarities between Kuyper


and Orr
Christianity has an comprehensive and
unified view of the world
Modern worldview is threatening gospel:
Another comprehensive and unified view of
the world
Fundamentally religious
Embodied in forms of social and cultural life
Antithetical to Christianity

Christianitys only defence against the


power of modernism is to develop an
equally comprehensive worldview.

If the battle is to be fought with honour and with


a hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed
against principle; then it must be felt that in
Modernism the vast energy of an all-embracing
life system assails us, then
also it must be understood that we have to take
our stand in a life system of equally
comprehensive and far-reaching power
(Abraham Kuyper,
Stone Lecture 1).

No one, I think, whose eyes are open to the signs


of the times, can fail to perceive that if Christianity
is to be effectually defended from the attacks made
upon it, it is the comprehensive method that is
rapidly becoming the more urgent. The opposition
which Christianity has to encounter is no longer
confined to special doctrines . . . but extends to the
whole manner of conceiving the world. . . . It is no
longer an opposition of detail, but of principle. The
circumstance necessitates an equal extension of
the line of defence. It is the Christian view of things
in general which is attacked, and it
is by an exposition and vindication
of the Christian view of things as a
whole that the attack can most
successfully be met
(James Orr, Kerr Lecture 1).

Difference between Kuyper


and Orr
Orr concerned for defending
Christian theology
Kuyper concerned for whole
of cultural and public life
politics, art, scholarship, etc.

Term made popular by:

Carl F. H. Henry

Francis Schaeffer

Al Wolters

Brian Walsh and


Richard Middleton

James Sire

Colson and Pearcey

Arthur Holmes

Worldview functioned in two


ways in evangelicalism:
Protect the integrity,
comprehensiveness of
Christian faith; help Christians
not to be men and women who
were double-minded.
Provide tool to pursue Christian
scholarship, politics, etc. in
faithfulness to gospel

James Sires Revised


Definition of Worldview
A worldview is a commitment, a
fundamental orientation of the heart,
that can be expressed as a story or
in a set of presuppositions
(assumptions which may be true,
partially true or entirely false) which
we hold (consciously or
subconsciously, consistently or
inconsistently) about the basic
constitution of reality, and that
provides the foundation on which we
live and move and have our being.

Three important shifts


Worldview is first religious,
not rational
Worldview is first a story, not
a system
Worldview is first embodied,
then articulated

Criticisms of Christian
appropriation of worldview
Intellectualizes the gospel
Relativizes the gospel
Disconnected from Scripture
and vulnerable to idolatrous
spirits of the age
Leads to unhealthy activism
Leads to the neglect poor and
marginalized

Definition of worldview
Worldview is an articulation of
the basic beliefs embedded in a
shared grand story that are
rooted in a faith commitment
and that give shape and
direction to the whole of our
individual and corporate lives.

Summary of elements of a worldview


Takes form of a grand story

Form of a Story
Narrative is a central category for
understanding human life. (Walsh/Middleton)

A worldview is story-formed; we could say that


a worldview is a kind of
condensation or
shorthand . . . of a life- shaping story.
(Fernhout)

What is the real story?


I can only answer the question What
am I to do? if I can answer the prior
question Of what story do I find myself a
part? (MacIntyre)

The way we understand human life


depends on what conception we have of
the human story. What is the real story of
which my life story is part? (Newbigin)

Summary of elements of a worldview


Takes form of a grand story
Fundamental beliefs
embedded in grand story
Rooted in religious faith
commitment

Christ or and Idol


Ones worldview, then, and indeed
the worldview of a whole culture, is
rooted in a faith stancea stance in
relation to that which is taken to be
ultimate, an ultimate concern.
From a Christian perspective, this
ultimacy will either be appropriately
directed to the one who is Ultimate
or to a pseudo-ultimacy, a
pseudo-god, an idol. (Walsh)

Religious Nature of Human Beings


Faith: Committing oneself to someone or something that
gives meaning, coherence, and shape to life.

GOD

Idol

FAITH CREATURE
Humankind
...the question is not to believe or not to
believe but rather in whom or in what to
believe (Dan Beeby).
- Dan

Summary of elements of a worldview


Takes form of a grand story
Fundamental beliefs
embedded in grand story
Rooted in religious faith
commitment
Shapes the whole of our
communal lives

Communal nature of
worldview
Shared by community

Culture: Common way of life


rooted in a shared story

religious
core
STORY

Communal nature of
worldview
Shared by community
Issues in communal way of life
Shapes and unifies communal
life
Socialized into this communal
way of life

Socialization
If a cultures vision leads to
certain child-rearing,
educational, and economic
practices, then those
practices will themselves
socialize the children to live
in terms of that vision
(Middleton/Walsh).

Communal nature of
worldview
Shared by community
Issues in communal way of life
Shapes and unifies communal
life
Socialized into this communal
way of life
Often unconscious

Often Unconscious
Worldviews . . . are like the foundations of
a house: vital, but invisible. They are that
through which, not at which, a society or
an individual normally looks; they form the
grid according to which humans organize
reality, not bits of reality that offer
themselves for organization. They are not
usually called up to consciousness or
discussion unless they are challenged or
flouted fairly explicitly . . .
(NT Wright).

Summary of elements of a worldview


Takes form of a grand story
Fundamental beliefs embedded
in grand story
Rooted in religious faith
commitment
Shapes the whole our
communal life
Shapes the whole of our lives

Shape the Whole of Our Lives


Storied visions OF and FOR life
(Walsh)
Shape the way we:
See the world
Interpret the world
Live in the world

Summary of elements of a worldview


Takes form of a grand story
Fundamental beliefs embedded in
grand story
Rooted in religious faith commitment
Communal nature
Shapes the whole of our lives
All have worldview; few articulate it

Scripture and Worldview


Scripture
Biblical theology (our narrative telling of
the biblical story)
Christian worldview (setting out of the
comprehensive framework of a
Christians basic beliefs about things as
embedded in the drama of Scripture in
interaction with our cultures basic
beliefs)
Systematic theology and Christian
philosophy (which reflect on Christian
beliefs at a more theoretical level)

Worldview: Missional
Imperative
Mediates between gospel and human
life:
By explicating basic categories of
Biblical story
By clarifying their relationship
By defending the gospel against error
By providing a foundation for the
churchs mission in public life