A worldview is a set of basic underlying assumptions that one has about the way the world works, who or what created it, and the person’s place in the world. A person’s worldview can shape their actions, goals, and beliefs in life. Everyone has a worldview, although some people may have dedicated less thought to theirs, even to the point of simply assuming the worldview of those around them. Others have given tons of thought to their worldviews, ironing out contradictions and feeling confident enough to teach others about their worldview. Regardless, everyone, even those who say they don’t know their worldview, act according to a certain set of presuppositions of the world and their relation to it.
The set of worldview questions we will focus on in this article is the simplest I know, a set of four questions used by Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias.
Origin – Where did we come from?
Meaning – What is the meaning of life?
Morality – How do we know what right and wrong is (or do we?)
Destiny – What happens to us after death?
Other, more nuanced sets of questions exist (The book The Universe Next Door features a set of eight questions), but for the purposes of this article, the four questions above are enough.
To see this in action, my worldview (a standard Christian worldview) is as follows:
Origin – God created the world, and all creation
Meaning – We were created to live in accordance with God’s will and commandments
Morality – God is the source of all good. That which is not of God is sin.
Destiny – All people will be judged after death. Those found to be faithful will go to heaven. Those who are not will go to hell.
Whereas a particular atheist might have something like this:
Origin – The universe began with the Big Bang
Meaning – To do the most good
Morality – Society determines what is right and wrong
Destiny – There is absolute nothing after death
All worldviews have consequences. For example, the Christian worldview provides a solid foundation for objective morality. God has revealed His will and laws, and not a single person can break those laws without judgment. The atheistic worldview above, however, defines right and wrong as a social construct. It is whatever society judges it to be. What is right today may be wrong tomorrow, or vice versa. Somebody else may also depend on their individual conscience for their views on morality (of course, history shows us that not all consciences are alike).
Note that a worldview doesn’t necessarily have to be true. The two worldviews I outlined above cannot both be true (the difference is most apparent on the destiny question), but they can be sincerely held by two different people. Before moving on, think about how you would answer the four questions above yourself.
Different people usually choose whether to accept or reject another worldview based on the following criteria:
- Does the worldview make sense with reality? If one was to say the origin of the universe was 5 days ago, most people would not give them any credibility. Our own experience heavily suggests otherwise.
- Is the worldview logically coherent? If it contradicts itself on key issues, it is not a valid worldview. The statement ‘all truth is relative’ is an attempt at making an absolute (non-relative) truth claim, so it fails to be consistent.
- Is the worldview relevant? If it is impossible to live out, or not at all applicable to our lives, it is useless. For example, the church of Christian Science believes that only the spiritual world is real and the physical world, including pain and death, is an illusion. Pretty much anyone who’s had to check into a hospital would have something to say against that.
Finally, examine how your beliefs would translate into action. A Christian would see it as the utmost importance to spread the gospel message to others because they believe it to be an issue of life or death. Even if you aren’t a Christian, though, I hope this article has given you cause to think about your presuppositions of the world.