Students who come to Summit hear a lot about “worldviews”—the Christian worldview, the Secular worldview, the Islamic worldview, etc. But what is a worldview, and why do we spend so much time thinking and teaching about them?
One of the best introductions to the concept of a worldview that you can find is this short talk given by Dr. James Anderson, Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Reformed Theological Seminary.
“A worldview,” says Anderson, is “an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us.” A worldview “represents a person’s most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe, as well as their ultimate values and heart commitments.”
Worldviews answer the big questions: Who are we? Where did we come from? What is the purpose of our lives? Who is God? What happens when we die? What’s wrong with the world and how do we fix it?
The way you think about the answers to these questions is filtered through your worldview, and everyone has a worldview, even if they are not aware of it. “Our worldviews shape and inform our experiences of the world and how we respond to those experiences,” says Anderson. (It’s also worth noting that the way we behave often informs our worldview, as much as our worldview informs our behavior. We’ll look at this reality in our next post.)
Anderson shows that worldviews matter for three main reasons.
- “They [worldviews] play a central and defining role in our thinking about the world, about ourselves, and about other people.” Anderson uses the metaphor of a house to illustrate the importance of worldviews. A worldview is like the foundation and framework of a house. Even though you cannot see the foundation or the framework in a finished house, that doesn’t mean that they’re not important—on the contrary, they’re holding up the whole structure. So with a worldview—a person’s worldview may not be obvious, but it is the foundation on which their beliefs and values are constructed.
- “Developing and applying a Christian worldview is an essential part of our sanctification as believers, our growth in godliness, and our spiritual maturity.” Scripture teaches that we are to love God with our hearts, souls, and minds. According to Anderson, this means “thinking the way God wants you to think,” or “seeing the world the way God sees it.” Having our minds transformed by the Spirit in this way is essential to Christian sanctification and maturity.
- “As Christians, we are called . . . to engage with people who aren’t thinking in a Christian way . . . ” Part of the Great Commission is sharing the truth of the Christian worldview with others. In order to have fruitful conversations, we need to engage with people at the worldview level—getting to the root of our differences.
Anderson points out that “conversion involves a change of worldview.” It is wise for us to remember that, as we seek to share the Christian worldview with others, most people don’t like change. Anderson compares changing your worldview to moving into a new house. We wouldn’t like someone coming in and telling us to get out of our house and to move somewhere else. While only the Spirit can bring about conversion in an individual, we can help others see how the Christian worldview makes sense of reality and answers life’s biggest questions.
If you’re interested in learning more about worldviews, check out Dr. Anderson’s short book, What’s Your Worldview: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions.