I have recently been having an e-mail debate with a college professor about the truth of evolution. It has been a very interesting conversation, and the back and forth has been somewhat wide ranging. In the process of this, he has been very tenacious in his defense of his position and his attacks on me.
To me, there have been some very interesting facets of this discussion. First of all, he is very adamant in his affirmation that he is a Christian. Secondly, he is just as adamant that Darwinistic evolution is the truth. And he pulls no punches with his assertions. He positively believes that life emerged from non-life and that more complex life forms evolved from less complex ones. He believes that the mechanism of natural selection works from top to bottom and that all life forms are connected on a continuum.
Now, if someone wants to believe this, that is their choice. But they must recognize that the basis for making this kind of assertion is squarely based on the worldview presuppositions of Naturalism. You can’t get there with science alone.
That ought not to be a point of debate. There are no scientific findings which can prove his position. He can certainly make the argument that his Naturalistic approach makes the most sense to him and that based on that he has chosen to believe it. But he certainly can’t say it is scientifically proven. But he does. He continues to insist that his beliefs are based on hard science and that there is no question about it.
And I mentioned that he insists that he is a Christian. He does believe that God is the creator, but he can’t seem to express who God is, what he created or how he knows any information about God. He discounts that the Bible is God’s direct revelation.
Now, this is a highly educated man, yet his understanding of reality is totally confused. He claims to be a Christian yet is a functional Naturalist. And he is fighting hard for his point of view. But in making his arguments he has to either distort or ignore what I say. He can certainly live his life carrying this kind of confusion, but to do so he has to distort his understanding of reality and it definitely affects how he lives life.
Why is it important to understand worldview? There are several reasons. The story above illustrates a couple of them. First, it gives one confidence to stand strong in the face of opposing points of view. Secondly, it provides a means of witness to those who need to know Christ. I have had a chance to share some of the gospel message in our discussion. But there are other reason’s, as well, why understanding worldview is important. Let’s dig a little deeper into this topic and see if we can more fully answer the question.
Worldview and God
First of all, worldview relates to the purposes of God. God created the world for a specific purpose – as a place for mankind to exist. He deliberately created a being he could have fellowship with and established earth as the habitation for man. As mankind has populated the earth, societies have been created, and as they have developed various cultural expressions have emerged. And what guides these expressions? The beliefs of the people in the society. Some societies have developed around values and principles from the Bible, while others have coalesced around contrary values and principles. In every society there will be some cultural expression which becomes prominent. And the expression that predominates will influence people for or against God. There are many people who are promoting purposes which are contrary to God’s. Thus, it is important for those of us with a Christian worldview to fight for the hearts and minds of people in order to build a society which accomplishes God’s purposes.
But it is not just God’s purposes that are in play. It also relates to how we respond to the commands of God. God specifically gave mankind the responsibility to subdue the earth and to have dominion over it. Based on the Christian worldview, Christians ought to be doing all they can to create a world which conforms to the will of God. There is no question that the real war in the culture is the struggle for hearts and minds. After all, this deals with the eternal destiny of individuals. That being said, we still cannot give up the world. It is one of the battlegrounds upon which the war is fought, and the winners of that war will influence people toward or away from God.
In Acts 17:16-19, we have the story of the apostle Paul as he interacted with the people in the city of Athens. Here is what we read.
16 While Paul was waiting for them in Athens, he was greatly distressed to see that the city was full of idols. 17 So he reasoned in the synagogue with the Jews and the God-fearing Greeks, as well as in the marketplace day by day with those who happened to be there. 18 A group of Epicurean and Stoic philosophers began to dispute with him. Some of them asked, “What is this babbler trying to say?” Others remarked, “He seems to be advocating foreign gods.” They said this because Paul was preaching the good news about Jesus and the resurrection. NIV
What do we see here? Paul was not content just to sit around and let the world go as it would. Rather, he engaged every part of society that he could. He engaged the Jews in the synagogue, the general Animistic culture with their many God, and the philosophical elites. This was at least three distinctly different worldview groupings, and he dealt with each one according to their own starting places.
In addition to the two reasons mentioned above that worldview is important to understand, there are some others we can mention.
1. We must be able to understand our own belief foundation. A large number of Christians struggle with understanding why our beliefs are valid. Understanding worldview addresses this problem.
2. We must be able to understand the belief foundation of others. In everyday life we hear the assertions of humanists, secularists, naturalists, modernists, existentialists, post-modernists, new-agers, Buddhists, Hindus, Muslims, animists, and others. If we don’t understand them, we will never be in a position to witness to them. Understanding worldview addresses this problem.
3. We need to be able to deal with causes rather than symptoms. As we deal with the various issues in the culture war, it is much easier to see the particular culture war elements that we disagree with and work to eliminate “symptoms” rather than identifying causes. For instance, abortion is not a cause to eliminate as much as it is a symptom of a belief system which does not value life. If you only address the symptoms, they will quickly return when people’s moods change. We must understand and deal with the causes of wrong behavior. Understanding worldview addresses this problem
4. We need to grasp the objective truth about the nature of reality. There is a worldview that reflects the way reality really exists and it is what is taught in the Bible. The world actually does operate in a certain way and we can only experience the fulness of life when we are in sync with it. Understanding worldview addresses this problem.
5. Finally, we need a personal reality that can motivate us. Most Christians recognize that other beliefs are different from their own, but are not fully committed to what we claim as truth. Having a clear understanding of worldview issues will gives us compelling personal reasons to stand strong for our Christian faith as we learn to see the world through God’s eyes, adopt his viewpoint and live our lives based on it.
When to Use Worldview Information
Understanding worldview is not just a matter of education. We certainly can become more educated by study in this area, but the practical implications in life are quite profound. There are several times when having this knowledge will make your life better.
When You Want To Get Your Own Life Sorted Out
Your worldview is the very foundation that your life is built upon. You do nothing and think nothing that is not first filtered through your worldview beliefs. If there are activities and attitudes in your life that you are not satisfied with because it seems to be contrary to the Christian faith, why do you accept them? It is because on a surface level you accept the Christian faith, but at a worldview level you allow for other possibilities. An understanding of worldview can help you discover where the problems are and give you the direction you need to solve them. You can use your worldview understanding as a means for planning your spiritual growth.
When You Want to Share Your Faith
One of the most important things you must be aware of when you want to share your faith is what the person you want to share with already believes. If they don’t believe in God, you can’t begin sharing by simply assuming they already do believe. If a person believes in God but that belief comes from a non-Biblical source, simply talking about God will not be fully understood because they will filter what you are saying through their own understanding of who God is. To be truly effective we must begin sharing at the most basic point of their understanding. An understanding of worldview puts you in a position to be more effective in sharing your faith.
When Someone Tries to Evangelize You
There are other belief systems in the world you live in which are very active evangelists for their religion. What do you do when one of these folks tries to evangelize you? Do you run? Do you refuse to open your door? Do you cut them off? Then, do you feel guilty that you were not able to share with them your own faith? With a solid understanding of worldview, you can know exactly where other people are coming from and not be frustrated or taken off guard.
When You Get Attacked
In our day, it is not at all unusual for people who have a non-Christian worldview to simply up and attack those who hold to faith in Christ. Many have been emboldened because Christians are so poor at knowing how to deal with these kinds of attacks. The fact is, everyone who attacks you is doing so based on their own faith position. They have no right to put down your position without first justifying their own. When you understand worldview, you have the tools to break down their attack and turn it on them.
On a surface level, the topic of worldview seems to many to belong primarily to the realm of academics. While is does make for a very interesting academic study, it is actually very, very real world, down to earth knowledge. It is particularly valuable for Christians who want to be able to stand strong in their own faith and to become effective in their witness.
Of course, gaining this foundation is not something that will happen without effort. It is a deep subject and does require an investment in time and energy. But in our modern world, it is an essential tool in the Christian’s tool belt. Every effort we make to master our understanding of worldview is worth it.
© 2009 Freddy Davis