Daniël Maritz & Karnu Van Heerden

The Truth About Worldviews (Part 1)

Daniël Maritz & Karnu Van Heerden | 21 June 2021 | 10 min read

“Few people have anything approaching an articulate philosophy—at least as epitomized by the great philosophers. Even fewer, I suspect, have a carefully constructed theology. But everyone has a worldview. Whenever any of us thinks about anything—from a casual thought (Where did I leave my watch?) to a profound question (Who am I?)—we are operating within such a framework. In fact, it is only the assumption of a worldview—however basic or simple—that allows us to think at all.”[1]

According to James Sire “everyone has a worldview” which seems to be all-encompassing and inescapable.[2] In other words, everything we are confronted with, everything we think about, and everything we do, is inevitably confronted through, thought of, or done within the framework of a worldview. He also suggests that it is only “the assumption of a worldview” which makes thinking possible in the first place.

If a worldview is really such an integral and foundational part of life, it raises the question: What in the world is a worldview?

What in the World is a Worldview and Where Does it Come From?

To be sure, the task of defining the concept of worldview can be somewhat difficult, especially given the historical and philosophical roots of this term. By now it is “common knowledge” that the origin of the term worldview can be traced back to the German philosopher, Immanuel Kant (1724-1804). The English word is derived from the German, weltanschauuing, meaning, quite literally, “worldview” or “world outlook.”[3]

What Kant had in mind when he used this term was “a perch from which someone views the totality of the world and subsumes it under a concept, an organizing principle.”[4] Ever since Kant introduced the world to the concept of a worldview, it has been widely and flexibly used by many scholars within many different disciplines ranging from philosophy, theology, and hermeneutics, to especially anthropology and sociology. It was quickly used to refer to “an intellectual conception of the universe from the perspective of a human knower”[5] in an attempt to answer the biggest questions of life. The term worldview has indeed “become one of the central intellectual conceptions in contemporary thought and culture.”[6]

This idea of a weltanschauuing especially “resonated with a number of nineteenth-century philosophers, including G. W. F. Hegel (1770-1831), Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855), Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), and Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911).”[7] Other names from the twentieth century who also contributed to the development of worldview thinking included Edmund Husserl (1859-1938), Martin Heidegger (1889-1976), and Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951).[8]

In Christian circles the concept of worldview was eventually popularised by James Orr (1844-1913)[9], Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920)[10], and Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977).[11] There is consensus among Christians who write about worldviews today that “Orr, Kuyper and, occasionally, Dooyeweerd have” to a large extent, “influenced their own understanding.”[12]

Many other Christians have since followed in their footsteps by providing their own input on the nature of worldview thinking which is partly why there are countless definitions of what exactly a worldview is within Christianity today.[13] Nevertheless, Sire’s definition still holds sway among Christian scholars and can be accepted as a standard 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) that 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.”[14]

A worldview is therefore deeply and ineliminably embedded “in the self.”[15] As an “all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists”[16] it influences “every dimension of human life.”[17] Additionally, it is an “inescapable component of human knowing”[18] which “helps us interpret the world around us.”[19] This all-embracing “conceptual scheme” is held consciously or unconsciously to “fit everything we believe”[20] and even sets up the “standard by which reality is managed and pursued.”[21] As a “framework through which or by which one makes sense of the data of life”[22] it also “reflects how you would answer all the ‘big questions’ of human existence.”[23] This “conceptual lens through which we see, understand, and interpret the world and our place within it”[24] is indeed “the set of hinges on which all our everyday thinking and doing turns,”[25] and “the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”[26]

The best and easiest way to think of a worldview, as it has been defined by many, is by using the analogy of a pair of colored glasses thoroughly cemented to your face. You can imagine a person who carries a unique pair of glasses and he sees absolutely everything through these glasses. Now, imagine further that these glasses have a red tint to it which causes everything to appear red to this person. Note that the person does not see the red colored glasses themselves, he only sees everything through the red colored glasses. Hence, everything in reality is interpreted and thought of as having a red color, and this redness might be completely normal for this particular person. It might be so normal that any attempt to persuade him that reality is not red, seems to be impossible. This person is so entrenched in the view that everything is red, that he is unable to “conceive of another kind of world.”[27] In effect, your worldview functions like this pair of red colored glasses.

For many Christians, this analogy however, raises a rather big and important concern.

What in the World is Wrong with Worldview?

While many Christians engage with the concept of worldview, “a point that seems to be overlooked by those writing on these questions, and it is especially overlooked by Christian writers, is that when one considers one’s own worldview, one must look at one’s worldview through one’s worldview.”[28] If your worldview is really as all-encompassing and inescapable as is claimed by many, then the only option you have is to view the whole of reality through your worldview, and even to view your own worldview through your worldview. Everything is encountered and filtered through a prior worldview, and every single conclusion you may come to about any particular issue, is inescapably a product of this prior worldview.

This, of course, is futile for how can you know whether your worldview is not distorting reality as is the case with the red colored glasses? How can you know “whether your view of your worldview is really distorting reality or whether it just seems like it is distorting reality because your worldview is making you think it is distorting reality.”[29] Moreover, is your choosing of a worldview just the unpreventable product of your own prior worldview? This ultimately leads to perspectivalism where “everyone has their own perspective about the world and that nobody’s perspective is any more or less legitimate than anyone else’s.”[30] We would be hopelessly stuck in our different worldviews with no access to objective reality. Additionally, any claim anyone makes about someone else’s worldview will also be rendered illegitimate due to the claim itself only being a product of the claimant’s self-contained worldview with no right to be objectively applied outside of that particular worldview.[31] Thomas Howe captures this vicious problem:

“If everyone interprets the world through his or her own preconditional framework, then the possibility of adjudicating between frameworks seems to be impossible. Everyone would simply understand his opponent’s framework in terms of his own, and any criticisms would be valid only within the framework of the particular interpreter.”[32]

At some point, however, we all want access to reality as it really is. In other words, we want access to objective reality, and not a product of reality after it has been packaged, sealed, and delivered to us by and through some or other all-encompassing and inescapable worldview.[33] Is the assumption of objectivity not that “in order to be objective, one must have a view that is not affected by a [worldview]” and therefore universally valid?[34]

Revisiting the analogy of the glasses, one has to ask the question: Why do we need glasses in the first place? We do not visit “the optometrist or ophthalmologist to get [a] pair of glasses in order to ‘see the world a certain way,’”[35] like in the color red for example. No, we go there to get glasses which will in turn help us to see the world as it really and objectively is in itself. Take note however, that even the idea that glasses helps you to see reality for what it really is implicitly assumes direct (or glasses-free) access to reality in order to make the judgement whether the glasses are in fact helping or hampering your access to reality.[36] This is why, “the proper object of knowledge” is not “our ideas, but reality.”[37]

The major concern for many Christians in discussions of worldview, therefore, is the loss of reality. Some forms of worldview thinking have a rather dangerous tendency to entirely “escape from reality” and in the process unhinges itself from the rich tradition of realism. With realism, “reality is what dictates the method, and not the method which defines reality.”[38] This, of course, assumes clear and undistorted access to reality with a true knowledge thereof. Whereas a worldviewist, through deep layers of supposed ineliminable and unsurpassable assumptions, only thinks about reality, a realist, in the unity of his intellect with apprehended reality, knows reality as it is.[39] Herman Bavinck reminds us:

“The Christian religion thus shows its wisdom primarily in this, that it knows and preserves truth as an objective reality, which exists independent of our consciousness and is displayed by God for us in his works of nature and grace. Accordingly, each person proceeds spontaneously on the basis of the conviction that the objective world exists outside him and that it exists as he has come to know it in clear perception.”[40]

Over against worldview thinking, Christianity is therefore not a worldview in this sense. Christianity is not interested in leaving the “terra firma of reality” behind to build “castles in the sky” within an isolated and detached worldview.[41] Christianity is not interested in the supposed categories and ideas that we bring to our experiences, rather than those that arise from our experiences of, and confrontations with the real world.[42] In this sense Christianity as a religion participates in reality, while the concept of worldview, as defined and used as it has been in the past, is nothing but a privation of reality.[43] Thus, Christianity is interested in objective reality which is inevitably and clearly grasped, and participated in by all human beings through their senses.[44]

There is, of course, a reason why reality is so important to Christians. In many ways, reality “is a gateway to a deeper mystery.”[45] It is “a mirror… of invisible things.”[46] It is “a school for attaining the knowledge of God” for through “visible and perceptible objects it provides guidance to the mind for the contemplation of the invisible.”[47] Grounded in reality is God’s revelation of Himself and reality is therefore known to be a revelatory gift mediating knowledge of God’s invisible attributes.[48]

The apostle Paul, in Romans 1:19-20, seems to assume that every normal functioning human being inevitably has direct and undistorted access to, at least, certain aspects of reality. He claims that the “invisible attributes” of God are “clearly perceived” by all people “in the things that have been made.”[49] According to Paul, it is precisely this knowledge of God’s invisible attributes, mediated through reality, which leaves everyone “without excuse.”[50] Thus, as we participate in reality through our senses, we come to know God’s invisible attributes. Reality is also then the medium by which the non-Christian “knows God and suppresses this truth in unrighteousness. So, even in unbelief, the senses play a role.”[51]

If one’s all-encompassing, inescapable, and sometimes, unconsciously held, worldview was to inevitably distort one’s access to the real world, it seems like, contrary to Paul, an excuse might be warranted. However, Paul is “stating as clearly as he could possibly have stated… that the invisible qualities of God are clearly seen in the created order. Just as we can look at a painting and know that there was a painter, so we can look at this universe and know that there is a Creator. Something of the nature of that Creator can be discerned from the visible things of his creation.”[52] If we therefore insist on still using the term worldview, we must also insist that there are certain common notions or truths about reality that are “undeniable” and which no one can succeed in not knowing. In other words, “there are some aspects of reality that are true in every worldview,” that is to say there are “trans-worldview” truths.[53]

Christians “down through the centuries have affirmed that truth about reality is knowable and based upon the light of nature and common notions… found in all humanity a legitimate common ground between humanity” exists.[54] Indeed, Christians and non-Christians therefore “possess a shared knowledge of the world and even God’s existence; they share God-given common notions.”[55] According to Andrew Payne reality is known by everyone:

“Common experience shared by all human beings… yields a commonly realized world. This world is full of things that we all know (and know in agreement) to have meaning… The world comes to us, and we know it… Insofar as both the Christian and the non-Christian have experience, they may reason about what is known.”[56]

All of this only to say that, if worldview thinking divorces us from common notions that are anchored in the revelatory gift of reality, and participated in by everyone through their senses, it is better to abandon it altogether.

Since we are not dismissing the fact that we must answer important questions which reality puts in front of us, we will look at certain aspects which we deem to be important in part 2 of this article.

Suggested Readings

Bavinck, Herman. Christian Worldview. Trans. Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, James Eglinton and Cory C. Brock. Wheaton: Crossway, 2019.

Gilson, Etienne. Methodical Realism: A Handbook for Beginning Realists. San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 2011.

Howe, Thomas A. Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation. Altamonte Springs, FL: Advantage Books, 2015.

Sire, James W. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Downers Grover: IVP Academic, 2015.

The opinions and views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views and opinions of the employees and members of Ratio Christi South Africa.

[1] James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (Downers Grover: IVP Academic), 5. In more or less the same manner Norman L. Geisler and William D. Watkins ask the question: “What is it that everyone has, no one can live without, every important decision in life is made with, and yet most people do not even know they have? Do you give up? It is a world view” (Norman L. Geisler & William D. Watkins, Worlds Apart: A Handbook on World Views [Grand Rapids: Baker Book House], 9).

[2] According to Tawa Anderson et al. James Sire is “the most influential evangelical worldview proponent over the past two generations” (Tawa J. Anderson, W. Michael Clark, & David K. Naugle, An Introduction to Christian Worldview: Pursuing God’s Perspective in a Pluralistic World [Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic], 13).

[3] “Is ‘Worldview’ too Much with Us?” by Mark Olivero, available at http://theologydelish.com/is-worldview-too-much-with-us/ accessed June 14, 2021; David K. Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company), 58-59; Anderson et al., An Introduction to Christian Worldview, p. 9; James W. Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (Downers Grove: IVP Academic), 23; J.V. Fesko, Reforming Apologetics: Retrieving the Classic Reformed Approach to Defending the Faith (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic), 100-101.

[4] Fesko, Reforming Apologetics, p. 101. It should be noted that for Immanuel Kant, the concept of worldview was not a thought or conceptual system, but rather a personal intuition about the things around you. Later the concept of worldview became associated with ideology in both Christian and secular circles. It started to function as a canon of ideas.

[5] Naugle, Worldview, p. 59.

[6] Ibid., p. 66.

[7] Fesko, Reforming Apologetics, p. 101.

[8] Anderson et al., An Introduction to Christian Worldview, p. 10.

[9] James Orr was a Scottish Presbyterian theologian who was interested in the defense of the Christian faith. The strategy he supposedly chose to do this was the category of weltanschauuing (Naugle, Worldview, p. 6-7). Sire explains that his “main goal was to provide a complete, coherent, rationally defensible exposition of Christianity, one that would stand up to the intellectual and cultural challenges of his day. The concept of worldview provided precisely the tool of analysis and exposition that fit the task” (Sire, Naming the Elephant, p. 32). Naugle explains that for Orr the “opportunity to articulate the Christian faith as a total worldview arose when Orr was invited by the United Presbyterian Theological College in Edinburgh to present the first of the Kerr Lectures” (Naugle, Worldview, p. 7). These lectures were later published as The Christian View of God and the World. According to Orr a worldview is “the widest view which the mind can take of things in an effort to grasp them together as a whole from the standpoint of some particular philosophy or theology.” He goes on to say that the “opposition which Christianity has to encounter is no longer confined to special doctrines or to points of supposed conflict with the natural sciences,—for example, the relations of Genesis and geology,—but extends to the whole manner of conceiving of the world, and of man’s place in it, the manner of conceiving of the entire system of things, natural and moral, of which we form a part. It is no longer an opposition of detail, but of principle. This circumstance necessitates an equal extension of the line of the 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, The Christian View of God and the World As Centring in the Incarnation [New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1907], 4). Orr admitted that it was his “consumption” of German Idealist philosophy which led him to believe that the concept of worldview is important (Fesko, Reforming Apologetics, p. 102; also see Orr, The Christian View, p. 3). He consequently was not interested in dealing with elements of Christianity in a piecemeal fashion, but the entire Christian worldview. By apologetically comparing other worldviews with the Christian one, he suggested that “it is no longer an opposition of detail, but of principle. This circumstance necessitates an equal extension of the line of the defence” (Orr, The Christian View, p. 4). Using worldview language, Orr also pushed a total antithesis between Christianity and all other worldviews: “[T]here is a definite Christian view of things, which has a character, coherence, and unity of its own, and stands in sharp contrast with counter theories and speculations, and that this world-view has the stamp of reason and reality upon itself, and can amply justify itself at the bar both of history and of experience. I shall endeavour to show that the Christian view of things forms a logical whole which cannot be infringed on, or accepted or rejected piecemeal, but stands or falls in its integrity, and can only suffer from attempts at amalgamation or compromise with theories which rest on totally distinct bases” (Ibid., p. 16). One final observation worth of mentioning, is that for Orr the Christian worldview centers on “the incarnation of God in Christ” (Sire, Naming the Elephant, p 33; also see Naugle, Worldview, p. 8).

[10] Abraham Kuyper was a Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian and statesman who was “a genius in both intellectual and practical affairs” (Naugle, Worldview, p. 16). When Kuyper was invited to do his Stone Foundation Lectures at Princeton University in 1889, which was later published as Lectures on Calvinism, he “presented Calvinist Christianity as a comprehensive worldview” (Sire, Naming the Elephant, p. 33). As he prepared for these lectures he turned to Orr for a definition of worldview which resulted in a remarkable similarity between Orr and Kuyper (Fesko, Reforming Apologetics, p. 105; Naugle, Worldview, p. 17; also see Abraham Kuyper, Calvinism: Six Lectures Delivered in the Theological Seminary at Princeton [New York: Fleming H. Revell Company], 3-4). He expressed his heart’s desire to reform the Dutch Church for which “the concept of worldview became a tool in his hands by which he expressed this comprehensive vision of the faith” (Naugle, Worldview, p. 17). Like Orr before him, Kuyper identified an antithetical struggle between the worldview, or as he calls it, the “life system” of Christianity and that of Modernism. According to Kuyper there “is no doubt that Christianity is imperilled by great and serious dangers. Two life systems are wrestling one with another, in mortal combat. Modernism is bound to build a world of its own from the data of the natural man, and to construct man himself from the data of nature; while, on the other hand, all those who reverently bend the knee to Christ and worship Him as the Son of the Living God, and God himself, are bent upon saving the ‘Christian Heritage.’ This is the struggle in Europe, this is the struggle in America, and this also, is the struggle for principles in which my own country is engaged, and in which I myself have been spending all my energy for nearly forty years” (Kuyper, Calvinism, p. 3-4). He explained that any worldview must address three “fundamental relations of all human life; viz., 1. our relation to God, 2. our relation to man, and 3. our relation to the world” (Ibid., p. 16). It is important to note that for Kuyper “every worldview has a single conception from which the whole worldview flows” (Sire, Naming the Elephant, p. 34). Moreover, he also took a dim view of classical apologetics, claiming it has not advanced the cause of the Christian faith “one single step.” He adds that it is “useless” (Kuyper, Calvinism, p. 4 & 181; also see Naugle, Worldview, p. 18-19). Kuyper suggests that “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” (Ibid., p. 4). Although Kuyper did emphasise the antithesis between Christianity and any other worldview, “he made allowances for agreement between different worldviews” (Fesko, Reforming Apologetics, p. 106). Kuyper was therefore still closer to the idea of common notions or common ground between Christians and adherents of other worldviews than Orr was.

[11] Herman Dooyeweerd probably was “the most creative and influential philosopher among the neo-Calvinists in the twentieth century” (Naugle, Worldview, p. 25). For Dooyeweerd the most fundamental aspect was not a theoretical worldview, but “the religious or faith orientation of the heart” (Sire, Naming the Elephant, p. 35). Since the Enlightenment had elevated reason, Dooyeweerd believed “this dogma of the autonomy of theoretical thought is a farce, not because of interference from worldviews but because of the belief content and inclination of the heart” (Naugle, Worldview, p. 26). He was therefore not concerned, as most other worldview thinkers were, with the supposed a priori categories of the human mind, but rather commitments of the heart (Ibid., 27). According to Naugle, the “condition of the heart constitutes what Dooyeweerd calls the ‘religious ground motive’ (grondmotief) which determines the substance of theories and the makeup of worldviews” (Ibid.). Dooyeweerd, in a lengthy manner, unpacks some of his views as follows: “The genuine life- and worldview has undoubtedly a close affinity with philosophy, because it is essentially directed towards the totality of meaning of our cosmos. A life- and worldview also implies an Archimedean point. Like philosophy, it has its religious ground-motive. It, as well as philosophy, requires the religious commitment of our selfhood. It has its own attitude of thought. However, it is not, as such, of a theoretical character. Its view of totality is not the theoretical, but rather the pretheoretical. It does not conceive reality in its abstracted modal aspects of meaning, but rather in typical structures of individuality which are not analyzed in a theoretical way. It is not restricted to a special category of ‘philosophic thinkers,’ but applies to everybody, the simplest included. Therefore, it is entirely wrong to see in Christian philosophy only a philosophically elaborated life- and worldview. To do so would be a fundamental misunderstanding of the true relationships. The Divine Word-revelation gives the Christian as little a detailed life- and worldview as a Christian philosophy, yet it gives to both simply their direction from the starting-point in their central basic motive. But this direction is really a radical and integral one, determining everything. The same holds for the direction and outlook which the apostate religious motives give to philosophy and a life- and worldview” (Herman Dooyeweerd, A New Critique of Theoretical Thought, Trans. David H. Freeman, William S. Young, and H. De Jongste [Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press], 128). Dooyeweerd evidently had a concern for the totality of things which flows from an “Archimedean point” in the form of religious ground motives which is the heart. Ultimately, there “are two central main springs operative in the heart of human existence. The first is the dynamis of the Holy Ghost, which by the moving power of God’s Word, incarnated in Jesus Christ, re-directs to its Creator the creation that had apostatized in the fall from its true Origin. This dynamis brings man into the relationship of sonship to the Divine Father. Its religious groundmotive is that of the Divine Word-Revelation, which is the key to the understanding of Holy Scripture: the motive of creation, fall, and redemption by Jesus Christ in the communion of the Holy Ghost. The second central main spring is that of the spirit of apostasy from the true God” (Ibid., p. 61). This entails that the “converted have a Christian worldview” derived from a “regenerated heart,” while the “unconverted have a worldview” which is derived from “a radically sinful heart” (Sire, Naming the Elephant, p. 36). This position also led Dooyweerd to maintain a radical antithesis between the Christian and the non-Christian worldview. According to Thomas Schultz “Dooyeweerd… readily admitted significant dependence on Kant’s philosophical thought” and referred to himself as a “Christian Kantian” (Thomas Schultz, Presuppositionalism and Philosophy in the Academy [In David Haines ed., Without Excuse: Scripture, Reason and Presuppositional Apologetics (The Davenant Press)], 166).

[12] Sire, Naming the Elephant, p. 37.

[13] Some scholars have argued that even one’s definition of a worldview is dependent upon one’s worldview (see Sire, Naming the Elephant, p. 43). This introduces many problems of its own. For now, consider some of the following Christian definitions for the concept of a worldview:

  • “One’s worldview… consists of one’s most basic beliefs and framework of understanding. Basic beliefs can be expressed by several terms – ideas, assumptions, convictions, presuppositions, and premises. Directly or indirectly, basic beliefs influence every dimension of human life: they guide thought, stimulate imagination, influence intuition, direct moral choices, and determine the value and priority given to each of these faculties. Collectively, basic beliefs function as the grid or matrix by which we comprehend reality and attempt to live consistently within that framework” (Andrew W. Hoffecker, Revolutions in Worldview: Understanding the Flow of Western Thought [Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing Company], xi).
  • “A worldview is how one views or interprets reality. The German word is Weltanschauung, meaning a ‘world and life view,’ or ‘a paradigm.’ It is the framework through which or by which one makes sense of the data of life. A worldview makes a world of difference in one’s view of God, origins, evil, human nature, values, and destiny” (Norman L. Geisler, Worldview [In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Grand Rapids: Baker Books], 785).
  • “[A] worldview is an overall view of the world. It’s not a physical view of the world, like the sight of planet Earth you might get from an orbiting space station. Rather, it’s a philosophical view of the world – and not just of our planet, but of all of reality. A worldview is an all-encompassing perspective on everything that exists and matters to us. Your worldview represents your most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe you inhabit. It reflects how you would answer all the “big questions” of human existence, the fundamental questions we ask about life, the universe, and everything… Your worldview directly influences how you answer those kinds of big questions – or how you would answer them if you were asked and gave them some thought” (James N. Anderson, What’s Your Worldview?: An Interactive Approach to Life’s Big Questions,[Wheaton: Crossway], 12).
  • “A world view is never merely a vision of life. It is always a vision for life as well… A world view determines our values. It helps us interpret the world around us. It sorts out what is important from what is not, what is of highest value from what is least. A world view, then, provides a model of the world which guides its adherents in the world. It stipulates how the world ought to be, and it thus advises how its adherents ought to conduct themselves in the world” (Brian J. Walsh & J. Richard Middleton, The Transforming Vision: Shaping a Christian World View [Downers Grover: IVP Academic], 31-32).
  • “A worldview (or vision of life) is a framework or set of fundamental beliefs through which we view the world and our calling and future in it. This vision need not be fully articulated: it may be so internalized that it goes largely unquestioned; it may not be explicitly developed into a systematic conception of life; it may not be theoretically deepened into a philosophy; it may not even be codified into creedal form; it may be greatly refined through cultural-historical development. Nevertheless, this vision is a channel for the ultimate beliefs which give direction and meaning to life. It is the integrative and interpretative framework by which order and disorder are judged; it is the standard by which reality is managed and pursued; it is the set of hinges on which all our everyday thinking and doing turns” (James H. Olthuis, “On Worldviews” [In Paul A. Marshall, Sander Griffioen & Richard Mouw, eds., Stained Glass: Worldviews and Social Science, (Lanham: University Press of America)], 29).
  • “For our purposes worldview will be defined as ‘the comprehensive framework of one’s basic beliefs about things.’… A worldview is a matter of the shared everyday experience of humankind. An inescapable component of all human knowing, and as such it is nonscientific, or rather (since scientific knowing is always dependent on the intuitive knowing of everyday experience) nature. It belongs to an order of cognition more basic than that of science or theory. Just as aesthetics presupposes some innate sense of the beautiful and legal theory presupposes a fundamental notion of justice, so theology and philosophy presuppose a pretheoretical perspective on the world. They give a scientific elaboration of a worldview” (Albert M. Wolters, Creation Regained: Biblical Basis for a Reformational Worldview, 2nd ed. [Grand Rapids: Eerdmans], 2, 10).
  • “In its simplest terms, a worldview is a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life… [It] is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality” (Ronald Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas [Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing House], 16).
  • “A person’s worldview, whether it be Christian, humanist or whatever is a personal insight about meaning and reality. It is how a person interprets, through his or her own eyes, a personal belief about the world. A person’s worldview tries to give reasons for how the facts of reality relate and tie together. The summation of these facts provides the big picture into which the daily events of a person’s life should fit” (“What is Your Worldview?” by Claude F. Autio, available at https://answersingenesis.org/christianity/what-is-your-worldview/ acessed June 15, 2021).
  • “In the simplest terms, a worldview can be defined as how one sees life and the world at large. In this manner it can be compared to a pair of glasses. How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person’s “vision,” so to speak. The interpretive “lens” helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Sometimes the lens brings clarity, but other times it can distort reality” (“What in the World is a Worldview?” by Kenneth Samples, available at https://reasons.org/explore/blogs/blog_channel/what-in-the-world-is-a-worldview accessed June 15,2021).

[14] Sire, The Universe Next Door, p. 6.

[15] Ibid., p. 7.

[16] Anderson, What’s Your Worldview?, p. 12.

[17] Hoffecker, Revolutions in Worldview, p xi.

[18] Wolters, Creation Regained, p. 10.

[19] Walsh & Middleton, The Transforming Vision, p. 32.

[20] Nash, Worldviews in Conflict, p. 16.

[21] Olthuis, On Worldviews, p. 29.

[22] Geisler, Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, p. 785.

[23] Anderson, What’s Your Worldview?, p. 12.

[24] Anderson et al., An Introduction to Christian Worldview, p. 17.

[25] Olthuis, On Worldviews, p. 29.

[26] Sire, The Universe Next Door, p. 6.

[27] Thomas A. Howe, “Practical Hermeneutics: How to Interpret your Bible Correctly (Part two),” Christian Research Journal, vol. 26(2003):2. Geisler and Watkins explain it as follows: “As has already been suggested, a world view is like a set of colored glasses. If one looks at the same object through green-colored glasses he will see it as green, while another looking at the same object through red glasses will see it as red. This is why people with different world views will often see the same facts in a very different way” (Geisler & Watkins, Worlds Apart, p. 11).

[28] Thomas A. Howe, Searching for Meaning: A Christian Philosophy of Hermeneutics, 20.

[29] “Why I Don’t have a Biblical Worldview (and you Shouldn’t either)” by Richard G. Howe, p. 5, available at http://www.richardghowe.com/index_htm_files/WhyIDontHaveaBiblicalWorldviewNotes.pdf accessed June 17, 2021.

[30] “On Building a Worldview” by Richard G. Howe, available at http://www.richardghowe.com/index_htm_files/OnBuildingaWorldview16x9.pdf accessed June 17,2021. It was especially the German philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900), who popularized the idea of perspectivalism. He “thought that reality was such that it could only be known via interpretation, and that one’s interpretation of reality was always situated such that one inevitably saw reality only from one perspective or point of view” (David Haines, “Natural Theology, Perspectivalism, and the Assumption of the Divine,” Journal of the International Society of Christian Apologetics 12[2019]:6).

[31] Thomas A. Howe makes the point that either the meaning of a proposition is univocally true for all worldviews or it is not. However, if it is not univocally true for all worldviews, it is not a “universally true statement. It may then be a statement that only has meaning within the worldview of the one espousing the claim” (Thomas A. Howe, Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation [USA: Advantage Books], 199). Howe goes further to say that “to require that a worldview be tested by the criteria that are only meaningful within an opposing worldview is illicit” (Ibid., p. 200).

[32] Thomas A. Howe, Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation, p. 25. J.P. Moreland makes a valuable observation in this regard as well: “[I]t is dangerously wrong to hold a view that places things between knowing and experiencing subjects and the real world – things like one’s cultural, historical location, one’s tradition, gender, race, or worldview – such that these items block our direct access to reality. It could be argued that our finitude does precisely this, namely, finitude entails that we have only mediated access to reality. But this claim represents a confusion and a misrepresentation of the view under consideration. Regarding the confusion, it conflates having genuine, direct though limited access to reality with failing to have direct access to reality. (e.g., I actually see the front side of an apple even if I can’t see the back side)” (“Why It is Harmful to Depict a Worldview as Glasses” by J.P. Moreland, p. 5, available at http://www.jpmoreland.com/wp-content/uploads/2021/04/JPM_Critique-of-WV-as-glasses-042321-Web.pdf accessed June 20, 2021.

[33] See “What’s So Bad About ‘Worldview’?” available at https://davenantinstitute.org/whats-bad-worldview/#_ftn1 accessed June 18, 2021. Interestingly, the sociologists Peter Berger and Thomas Luckmann held to the idea that reality is self-evident: “The reality of everyday life is taken for granted as reality. It does not require additional verification over and beyond its simple presence. It is simply there, as self-evident and compelling facticity. I know that it is real. While I am capable of engaging in doubt about its reality, I am obliged to suspend such doubt as I routinely exist in everyday life. This suspension of doubt is so firm that to abandon it, as I might want to do, say, in theoretical or religious contemplations, I have to make an extreme transition. The world of everyday life proclaims itself and, when I want to challenge the proclamation, I must engage in a deliberate, by no means easy effort” (Peter L. Berger & Thomas Luckmann, The Social Construction of Reality: A Treatise in the Sociology of Knowledge [Anchor Books], 22). In his turn, Thomas Howe unpacks this more philosophically: “[E]xtra-mental reality seems immediately obvious and therefore self-evident. If this is so, it seems highly problematic to attempt to prove the existence of a reality that is external to the mind, for to whom or what would such a proof be directed? Extra-mental reality appears to be self-evidently experienced on a daily basis by all who are alive. What is to be demonstrated, therefore, is not whether there is an extra-mental reality, but that this reality exists outside the mind as what is called substance” (Thomas A. Howe, Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation, p. 228). Finally, Herman Bavinck also asserted that the “starting point of the theory of knowledge ought to be ordinary daily experience, the universal and natural certainty of human beings concerning the objectivity and truth of their knowledge… Every human, after all, accepts the reliability of the senses and the existence of the external world, not by a logical inference from the effect, in this case the representation in his consciousness, to the cause outside of himself, nor by reasoning from the resistance his will encounters to an objective reality that generates this resistance. Prior to all reflection and reasoning, everyone is in fact fully assured of the real existence of the world” (Herman Bavinck, Reformed Dogmatics, Volume 1: Prolegomena, Trans. Bolt, J. & Vriend, J. [Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic], 223).

[34] Thomas A. Howe, Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation, p. 36. Thomas Howe goes on to state that “objectivity involves the notion of a neutral judgment that strives to be free from all biases, prejudices, presuppositions, preconceived ideas, preunderstandings, or other factors that might distort one’s understanding or conclusions” (Ibid., p. 8).

[35] Richard G. Howe, “Why I Don’t have a Biblical Worldview,” p. 5.

[36] We are indebted to Prof. Richard G. Howe for this valuable insight. It is also Prof. Richard G. Howe who inspired us to write this article.

[37] Thomas A. Howe, Objectivity in Biblical Interpretation, p. 215.

[38] Etienne Gilson, Methodical Realism: A Handbook for Beginning Realists (San Francisco: Ignatius Press), 86.

[39] Ibid., p. 94. A further claim by realists is that everyone has always been realists, and that “those who claim they think differently, think as realists as soon as they forget to act a part” (Ibid., p. 93). It is important to remember that realism does not claim reality is known exhaustively. Reality is rather known truly. Moreover, realism can also explain errors in the act of knowing: “The realist differs from the idealist, not in being unable to make mistakes, but principally in that, when he does make mistakes, the cause of the error is not a thought which has been unfaithful to itself, but an act of knowledge which has been unfaithful to its object… The person who believed he could grasp the whole of reality infallibly and at one fell swoop was the idealist Descartes. Pascal, the realist, clearly recognized how naïve was the claim of philosophers that they could ‘comprehend the principles of things, and from there—with a presumption as infinite as their object—go on to know everything.’ The proper virtue of the realist is modesty about his knowledge, and even if he does not practice it, he is committed to it by his calling” (Ibid., 102-103).

[40] Herman Bavinck, Christian Worldview, Trans. Nathaniel Gray Sutanto, James Eglinton and Cory C. Brock, (Wheaton: Crossway), 33 (emphasis added). Also consider the following remark from Thomas A. Howe and Richard G. Howe: “If unbelievers do not understand what we are saying when we say Christianity is true, this confusion can hamper our ability to effectively communicate the claims of Christ. What they need to understand is that when we as Christians maintain that Christianity is true, we are not merely claiming that it fulfills a certain function in our lives. Our contention is that religion is more than something to give us peace of mind, a purpose for life, and happiness. It should certainly do this, but there is something more. We believe that true religion must be grounded in reality, that it must make true claims about reality—who we are as human beings, who God is, and how we relate to God. The religion that cannot truthfully answer these questions is false, not because it fails to give one peace of mind, but because it makes false claims about the way things are” (Thomas A. Howe & Richard G. Howe, Knowing Christianity is True [In Francis J. Beckwith, William Lane Craig & J.P. Moreland eds., To Everyone an Answer: The Case for the Christian Worldview, Downers Grover: IVP Academic], 24).

[41] Bavinck, Christian Worldview, p. 39.

[42] See “What’s So Bad About ‘Worldview’?”

[43] We are indebted to Dr. John Nerness for this insight and use of the phrases “participation in” and “privation of” reality in the context of worldviews.

[44] Reality, by virtue of being revelation, is known by the human intellect according to the three acts of the mind. The first act is called “simple apprehension” which is “whereby the mind lays hold of a thing.” The mind is not yet engaged in affirming or denying some or other aspect of reality (Howe & Howe, Knowing Christianity, p. 25-26). By conceiving reality, it only “furnishes the intellect with its many various and sundry concepts” (J. Andrew Payne, “The Great Debate: Classical vs. Presuppositional Apologetics,” Journal of International Society of Christian Apologetics 11[2018]:9). One could say that simple apprehension is “laying hold of or grasping what something is” (Howe & Howe, Knowing Christianity, p. 26). The second act of the mind is known as “judgment” whereby “we affirm or deny that the thing apprehended is or was or will be.” This differs from the first act of the mind in that “the act of judgment involves knowing the thing we have apprehended in terms of affirming or denying its existence” (Ibid.). Concepts are formed into “propositions and the truth or falsity of the claims of the propositions” are judged (Payne, The Great Debate, p. 9). The third act is “reasoning” which is “whereby the mind proceeds from known truth to new truth.” This does not only involve a “logical movement from premises to conclusion,” but also “a movement from question to answer” and “a movement from rhetoric to persuasion” (Howe & Howe, Knowing Christianity, p. 26). Following the three acts of the mind it becomes clear that reality is received and “knowledge is firstly derived from experience” which seems to be intuitively true since “one must first have something to reason about if one is to reason at all” (Payne, The Great Debate, p. 9).

[45] John Nerness, Theological Examination of Nihilism and the Eucharist Applied to Missions and Apologetics (Ph.D. thesis at NWU), 85.

[46] John Calvin, Commentary on the Epistle of Paul the Apostle to the Romans (Bellingham: Logos Bible Software), 70.

[47] Gerald Bray ed., Romans (Revised), Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press), 37.

[48] The first part of the Belgic Confession of Faith, article 2, is valuable here: “We know God… by the creation, preservation, and government of the universe, since that universe is before our eyes like a beautiful book in which all creatures, great and small, are as letters to make us ponder the invisible things of God: God’s eternal power and divinity, as the apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. All these things are enough to convict humans and to leave them without excuse.” Additionally, Erich Przywara explores the multifaceted revelation of God known through reality: “The more specific ways in which God can be known can be very different: at one moment, one might ascend from the perfection of finite things to the infinite source of all perfection; at another moment one might catch a glimpse of the majesty of the immutable shining through the flitting back and forth of mutable things; at another moment one’s experience of other persons may give one a lively sense of the personality of God as the fulfillment of everything we intimate in personal greatness; or, at yet another moment, we might happen to perceive in the restless activity of creation the ‘active repose and reposing activity’ of the Creator” (Erich Przywara, Analogia Entis: Metaphysics: Original Structure and Universal Rhythm, Trans. John R. Betz & David Bentley Hart [Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company], 54).

The sociologist Peter Berger has also creatively introduced what he calls “signals of transcendence” which may (or may not) be introduced as a meaningful category within general revelation. According to him “theological thought seek out what might be called signals of transcendence within the empirically given human situation. And I would further suggest that there are prototypical human gestures that may constitute such signals. What does this mean? By signals of transcendence I mean phenomena that are to be found within the domain of our ‘natural’ reality but that appear to point beyond that reality. In other words, I am not using transcendence here in a technical philosophical sense but literally, as the transcending of the normal, everyday world that I earlier identified with the notion of the ‘supernatural.’ By prototypical human gestures I mean certain reiterated acts and experiences that appear to express essential aspects of man’s being, of the human animal as such… The phenomenon I am discussing are not ‘unconscious’ and do not have to be excavated from the ‘depths’ of the mind; they belong to ordinary everyday awareness” (Peter Berger, A Rumor of Angels: Modern Society and the Rediscovery of the Supernatural [Garden City: Anchor Books], 52-53). In his turn, Os Guinness picked up on Berger’s work on the signals of transcendence: “Such experiences beep like a signal, impelling us to transcend our present awareness and think more deeply, widely and seriously. The signal’s message is a double one: it acts as a contradiction and a desire. It acts as a contradiction in that it punctures the adequacy of what we once believed… Others have used a plethora of words to describe such experiences, including clues, hints, spurs, jolts, triggers, homing signals, points of bafflement, scene shifters, epiphanies, transcendent impulses and metaphysical hunger. But they all attempt to capture experiences that make people realize that there must be ‘something more’ in life than they had ever imagined, experiences that beckon them to the very door of ‘worlds not realized,’ as Wordsworth described them. Sometimes such experiences are gentle. They leave only an aching longing for whatever that ‘something more’ might be. At other times, they are stronger and more disruptive, and act as catalysts that prompt people to abandon what they once believed and set out at once as seekers for a better and more satisfying answer” (Os Guinness, Fool’s talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion [Westmont: IVP Books], 134-135).

[49] Romans 1:19-20.

[50] Ibid.

[51] Nerness, Theological Examination, p. 5.

[52] R.C. Sproul, The Gospel of God: An Exposition of Romans (Great Britain: Christian Focus Publications, 1994), 31-32. This, of course, does not mean that everyone will believe in the existence of God. It is one thing to know certain truths, it is quite another to submit one’s will to those truths. This explains why Paul also adds that people, in their “unrighteousness” will “suppress the truth” which stares them in the face. Moreover, the notion of unbelief, in the act of suppressing the revelatory gift of reality, results in mal-conceptions, mal-judgements, and malicious or pseudo-arguments. A “mal-conception distorts the nature of things in reality; mal-judgements confuses and fabricates reality by putting together subjects and predicates that do not correspond to created reality; mal-arguments put together false statements either in a valid or invalid manner” (“Their Rock is Not Like Our Rock: An Introduction to ‘Subversive Fulfillment'” by Daniël Maritz & John Nerness, available at https://ratiochristi.co.za/their-rock-is-not-like-our-rock-an-introduction-to-subversive-fulfillment/ accessed June 19, 2021). Moreover, Gilson strikingly notes: “There is an ethical problem at the root of our philosophical difficulties; for men are most anxious to find truth, but very reluctant to accept it. We do not like to be cornered by rational evidence, and even when truth is there, in its impersonal and commanding objectivity, our greatest difficulty still remains; it is for me to bow to it in spite of the fact that it is not exclusively mine, for you to accept it though it cannot be exclusively yours. In short, finding out truth is not so hard; what is hard is not to run away from truth once we have found it. When it is not a ‘yes but,’ our ‘yes’ is often enough a ‘yes, and…’; it applies much less to what we have just been told than to what we are about to say. The greatest among philosophers are those who do not flinch in the presence of truth, but welcome it with the simple words: yes, Amen” (Etienne Gilson, Unity of Philosophical Experience [San Francisco: Ignatius Press], 49).

[53] Richard G. Howe, “Why I Don’t have a Biblical Worldview,” p. 3. It should be noted that we are not dismissing the possibility that certain things about reality can potentially be judged in a flawed manner due to flawed presuppositions and preunderstandings. We are, however, dismissing the notion that absolutely everything is filtered through and therefore becomes the product of a worldview consisting of certain presuppositions and preunderstandings. In this sense a worldview does not “determine what we see nor do they stand between us and reality” (Moreland, “Why It is Harmful to Depict a Worldview as Glasses,” p. 11). Knowledge do not start with deep presuppositions and assumptions. It starts with our direct apprehension of reality. This is why the three acts of the mind is so important to understand (see footnote 44 & 52). It is also why the notion of “trans-worldview” truths is so important to maintain if the concept of worldview is to be maintained.

[54] William C. Roach, Defending Evangelicalism: The Apologetics of Norman L. Geisler (Cambridge: Christian Publishing House), 81.

[55] Fesko, Reforming Apologetics, p. 99.

[56] Payne, The Great Debate, p. 21. This is precisely why, in the words of Nerness, “one may start with any area of reality in order to start with and move towards the transcendent truth of God’s existence” (Nerness, Theological Examination, p. 195). This order, however, can never be turned around. Gilson observes for example that “between the Christian God and things there is a metaphysical fissure, separating the necessary from the contingent. The world only exists by a free ordinance of God; consequently, it cannot be deduced from God. In fact, it is the opposite that is true – which shows how impossible the things is. Not only can one not deduce the existence of the world from the existence of God, but equally, because we are ourselves part of the world, our knowledge comes up against the same metaphysical breach as our being. The human mind cannot have God as its natural and proper object. As a creature, it is directly proportioned only to created being, so much so that instead of being able to deduce the existence of things from God, it must, on the contrary, of necessity rest on things in order to ascend to God” (Gilson, Methodical Realism, p. 52-53). In the same manner, Geerhardus Vos states that “Articuli puri [pure articles] are those that cannot be derived both from reason and from revelation but depend entirely on revelation. Articuli mixti [mixed articles] flow from both reason and revelation. The question then is whether creation can be proven by reason. That has been attempted by starting from the concept of God. God, one says, could not remain shut up within Himself. He needed a world in order to love it, etc. Such reasoning is not legitimate. As far as we can judge, had the creation remained nonexistent, God would have been all-sufficient, as He is now. We can certainly reason from the world up to God, but we cannot by logic descend from God to the world” (Geerhardus Vos, Reformed Dogmatics: Volume 1, Theology Proper, Trans. R. B. Gaffin Jr., ed. [Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press], 157). Greg L. Bahnsen’s formulation of the so-called transcendental argument for God’s existence is also phrased in the same way in order to allow for a demonstratia quia, i.e., a type of demonstration from effect to cause in order to ground something: “A transcendental argument begins with any item of experience or belief whatsoever and proceeds, by critical analysis, to ask what conditions (or what other beliefs) would need to be true in order for that original experience or belief to make sense, be meaningful, or be intelligible to us (Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetics: Readings & Analysis [Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing], 501-502).



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