What is a World View?
Jay N. Forrest
“For ‘Who has known the mind of the LORD that he may instruct Him?’ But we have the mind of Christ” (1 Corinthians 2:16).
David L. Wolfe has written, “We all know dogmatists who are more concerned about holding their opinions than about investigating their truth. (“My mind is made up, don’t confuse me with the facts.”) The worst feature of the dogmatists’ malady is that if they are mistaken, they will never discover it; they have condemned themselves to perpetual error.”
Each of us has a philosophy of life, what life means and why we’re here. Few have taken the time to examine their view of life, and probably aren’t even aware they have one. Philosophers call this philosophy of life a world view, for it reflects our view of the world, especially as a whole. Many feel that the task of philosophy is to find “a consistent philosophy of life….forging chaos into unity.”
Definition: The Dictionary defines a world view (from the German Weltanschauung) as “a comprehensive…philosophy or conception of the universe and of human life.” It is the view or interpretation which we have of reality as a whole. It is our comprehensive philosophy of God, nature, life, death, and history. It is our over all perspective, our fundamental point of view, our basic outlook upon life.
Everyone has a world view. It is developed early in life without any intentional planning. It is this world view which helps us make sense of it all. It is upon the basis of our world view that we make our decisions. It is a basic human need to find a framework through which life can be interpreted. Through this framework bare facts and raw experiences of life are given a connectedness and meaning. Through a world view we interpret what our senses tell us, which in turn guides our thoughts, actions and attitudes. What we see depends on how we see.
Most people are not even aware that they have a world view. It’s not something most people examine, let alone question. If you are like most people, you sometimes find it difficult to see things from another persons perspective. This is because we look through our perspective not at it. In other words, we’re talking about our viewing of the world and not the world that we view.
The fact that we are not consciously aware of our world view means that our perceptive is unexamined and unproven. Now this might be all right if our world view is in harmony with reality, but what if our perceptive is twisting our perceptions. What if our perceptions are out of line with reality?
Illustrations: We might compare a world view to a chain with many links forming a complete circle. Each link must be connected to another link in order to form the chain. Likewise, in a world view, each idea must be connected to another idea in order for it to make sense. The connection of ideas forms an interpretive framework were all new links must get connected at some point. The only way to break the chain, then, is to beak the connection of the links, which is what happens when a person experiences things that do not fit his world view.
How is it that two different people can look at the same ink-blot and come up with two entirely different interpretations? The answer is that it’s all in the perspective. We tend to arrange what we see into a pattern that is in line with our perceptive. An auto mechanic may see an oil pan, while a doctor might see a heart. Each of their perspectives determines what they see. Reality is like that ink-blot, it is open to a variety of different interpretations. These interpretations will likely be drawn from the culture in which you live. In a sense, world view are more often caught then taught. Who can deny the influence of society on the way we view life.
Trinity School of Apologetics and Theology
We might also compare a world view to a sweeter. Each experience in life adds another thread of yard, each interweaving with the others, becoming more and more complex and less and less likely to unravel. World views are like than in that every experience interview with others to make a increasingly complex system. The more complex our system of belief, the less likely that one will change it. Some would rather produce a mutilated sweeter than to go back and start over.
Another way to look at a world view is to look at is as a game in which you have to discover the rules as you go along. The rules are like one’s world view, while the game is the game of life. The hard part is knowing whether we are discovering the rules or inventing them. The trick is to make sure the rules are the games’ rules and not our own invention. If the rules that you learn are wrong, than you’ll end up losing the game because you were playing by the wrong rules. Life has rules, discover them and you win, invent them and you lose.
A world view is like a map which guides our activities, gives us direction, and leads us to the most important thing in life. Maps come ready made, we must choose which one to follow. World views are like maps guiding us through life. And like maps, world views come ready made. The only problem is deciding which one to follow. Most of us follow the map which we were given in childhood. We take it and depart without question or concern. But like different maps, not all of them can be right. Do you have the right map?
My favorite illustration is a pair of colored glasses. If you have blue colored glasses and I have red ones, are we going to see things the same way? Everything I see will be effected by what I see. Likewise, everything I see in the world is tainted by my world view. That’s the reason that people with different world views will often look at the same facts in totally different ways. The truth is that facts without a system of meaning, makes the facts meaningless. Meaning is something attributed to the facts from one’s world view, for they do not arise naturally out of the facts themselves. This is vitally important to remember. Experience is not self interpreting. We place our interpretation upon the facts of reality. So in order for the facts of reality to be meaningful, they must be interpreted from within a world view. It is our world view which systematizes the facts of reality. Knowing that all facts are “theory laden”, and that bare facts are entirely meaningless, should help us approach the examination of other world views with humility. Indeed, communicating with someone with a different world view might be more difficult than one might think, for the same fact can have vastly different meanings when viewed by different people.
The colored glasses also illustrate some other things. Glasses are things we look through and not at. World views are also things we see through and not at. Furthermore, colored glasses change our perception of things. And world views also alter our perceptions, perhaps making us see what’s not really there, or causing us to miss what is there. Reality can both influence our world view and our world view can influence the reality that we see. All our views and values are closely connected series of beliefs which are rooted at bottom to our basic assumptions. There are few things that are more powerful than our world view.
A world view is like a science model. A model is one of the ways in which scientist unify observed data into a meaningful pattern. A world view might be considered a ultimate model, attempting to explain, not just a part, but all of reality, not just some aspect of it. Other examples could be given.
The Challenge: The challenge I put before you is to examine your presuppositions. Is your world view really Biblical? I am a Christian living in the United States. The Christianity I had been handed was tainted by Americanism. Values such as success and individuality were these that I was informed were virtues. It was only as I began to form a Biblical world view that I began to see the such were stumbling blocks rather than stepping stones. The Bible defines success in terms of kingdom advancement rather than material prosperity. It defines individuality has a hindrance to accountability and mutual dependence of the body of Christ. The prosperity gospel and rugged individualism is nothing but the Americanization of the gospel.
It is time for the body of Christ to form a philosophy of life based upon and derived from the Bible. Too often people read into the Bible their opinions. This is because we have not taken the time to re-evaluate what we assume to be true. It is time to think with the same presuppositions that Christ thought with, for only then can we truly say that we have the mind of Christ.