It is not unusual that when I bring up the topic of worldview, people’s eyes start getting glassy and they begin to fade into some nether world. On the other hand, I see that when people really begin to grasp the implications of worldview training, they become very excited.
But here is the problem. While this does not have to be all that complicated, it also can’t be explained in soundbites. It takes a little bit of explanation.
Unfortunately, even the word itself sounds a bit abstract and academic. So, I often have to call it something else or sneak it into the discussion while people are unsuspecting. But once they do begin to grasp it, the reaction is entirely different. It is immanently practical – even exciting – to begin mastering tools which make one’s Christian faith more real and exciting. And that’s exactly what an understanding of worldview brings to the table.
Hopefully you already know the definition of worldview. It is the assumptions that people make about the nature of reality. Gee, that really does sound abstract and academic, doesn’t it. But it actually is not. We are talking, here, about the most fundamental understanding that we have about life. And while we can talk about it in academic terms, the implications touch you at the very deepest core of your identity.
Understanding the Definition
First, lets break down the definition. We will start with the concept of an assumption.
What is an assumption, anyway? Simply put, it is something that we take so for granted that we don’t even question its validity. You have beliefs that are so fundamental to the way you understand the world that you cannot imagine that things could possibly exist in a different way. For instance, if you are a Christian, you may not even be able to imagine that there are people who really don’t believe in God. Oh sure, there are people who say they are atheists, but we all know that when their backs get pushed against the wall they will certainly call out to God for help, right?
If so, that person is probably not really an atheist at a worldview level. Those are generally people who want to live life without having to be accountable to God, so outwardly they deny him. But in their inner core, they at least believe he exists. Otherwise they would not call out to him in times of need. This kind of person may be a functional atheist, but is not an atheist based on his core worldview.
A true atheist would never call out to God because they positively believe that he does not exist – to the same degree you believe he does. As a Christian, when you have a grave need, you automatically call out to God because you believe he exists, even if you are not in proper fellowship with him. But a true atheist believes God does not exist and it would not even occur to him or her to call out to him – even when the need is great.
It is hard for many Christians to believe that anyone could really believe that way. But there are literally millions of people who fall into that camp. By the same token, there are people who believe in some Animistic set of gods or in the impersonal life force – to the same degree that you believe in the God of the Bible. Their belief is so foundational to their understanding of how the world really exists that they cannot imagine that it could be any other way. That is what we are talking about as we deal with the idea of an assumption.
To grasp the other part of the definition, we have to understand what we mean by “the nature of reality.” All we are talking about here is the way the universe exists. For instance, is there a god or is there not? If there is, what is he like. If there is not, what is the origin of the universe and how is it constructed?
Worldview is Practical
While an understanding of worldview may not seem practical on the surface, it is actually has very concrete implications. Let’s take a look at just how practical this is for living the Christian life.
Relationship with God
The first aspect of practicality has to do with the Christian’s personal relationship with God. All true Christians acknowledge the existence of a personal God that can be known in a personal relationship. There is a common problem, however. While most Christians acknowledge this fact intellectually, it doesn’t always play out practically in everyday life. The reason this is so generally has to do with the fact that most Christians conceive of their relationship with God in emotional rather than objective terms. That is, when they feel God’s presence they think he is near and when they don’t feel his presence, they think he is not near.
This is a totally flawed understanding of our relationship with God. This doesn’t even work in human relationships.
There are many things that can affect our feelings – what we ate, words someone said to us, how our ball team is doing, the weather and even the phase of the moon. None of these things have any affect whatsoever on the fact of our relationship with God. Of course, when we live a disobedient life, we usually do, and ought to, feel bad. But it is not the feelings that are at issue. It is our actual fellowship with God.
The truth is, our relationship with God is an objective personal relationship with an actual objective person. The elements of that relationship include exactly the same dynamics as our relationships with human beings. The actual truth of the relationship is not dependent on how we feel at any given moment, but on how we operate within it. We can feel bad and the relationship be good. In the same way, we can feel good and the relationship be bad. It is wonderful to have good feelings, but that is not the criteria for evaluating the reality of a relationship.
An understanding of the Christian worldview helps us grasp the actual nature of our objective personal relationship with a real personal God. In addition, it gives us a foundation for living in that relationship. There is nothing more practical for the Christian than for our relationship with God to be profound and powerful.
The second practical element of an understanding of worldview relates to our witness for Christ. Again, most true Christians affirm that a they ought to be sharing the gospel of Christ with those who don’t know him. This belief comes from the understanding that those who don’t know Christ are destined to eternal separation from God and that Christ has actually commissioned us to share the gospel. So, why is it that so few Christians actually do it. Beyond that, why is it that so few even know how?
While intellectually most will acknowledge that actively being a witness is the right thing, somehow we tend to be able to justify why we don’t really have to do it. As a result, most Christians don’t. So, what creates the disconnect with what we know we ought to do and with what we actually do?
The answer, once again, lies in our worldview foundation. Without exception, a person lives out what he or she believes on a worldview level. If a person is not an active witness, that means that the worldview foundation doesn’t require it – regardless of what we affirm on an intellectual level. So, where does this lead us? It leads us to affirm that we need to understand worldview as a means of strengthening our witness.
What Is it That Makes an Understanding of Worldview So Practical?
The reason an understanding of worldview is so practical is that it deals only with the essentials. It doesn’t get into denominational or stylistic differences between Christian groups. It only deals with the core elements of what makes a person a Christian and the implications of living the Christian life.
The doctrines of the faith and the stylistic approaches we use to live out our faith and to worship corporately are certainly important matters. In fact, these are things that sometimes create separation, even among true believers. Sometimes, churches, and even denominations, split over these.
But there are some doctrines that are not essential for salvation and a person can actually get them wrong and still be a Christian. That being said, there are some which are essential and can’t be compromised. It is these areas that are most crucial and which worldview training focuses on. As such, worldview training becomes one of the most practical things that we, as Christians, need to address.
As you move forward in your Christian faith, it is these essentials that you need to focus on. An understanding of worldview will give you the foundation you need to take your faith to ever higher levels. Even though it may not be one of the traditional topics that Christians have focused on in the past, it is something that we need to center on in modern society. Do it, and you will find your Christian faith growing more powerful as the days go on.