Everyone has a worldview. Even the person who says worldview studies are a waste of time says it because of their worldview. A worldview is a person’s perspective of the world, but at its core, it is a set of basic presuppositions that a person believes through which they filter all other non-basic beliefs. There are thousands of religions and ‘ism that people hold, and no one can learn all of them, but there are only a handful of worldviews into which they all fit. If you learn the underlying worldviews, you will be better able to understand where a person is coming from, no matter what they call themselves. Some of the basic worldviews are theism, deism, naturalism, existentialism, postmodernism, and Eastern pantheistic monism.
James Sire, in his book, The Universe Next Door does us a huge favor by cataloging these worldviews and providing us with seven questions to get to the heart of any worldview. By asking these seven questions, we can find out not only where someone else stands, but where we stand as well. They can also reveal where a person may be inconsistent in their beliefs. I was once talking with someone who answered one questions by telling me all roads lead to God, and then when asked “what happens when someone dies,” told me that a person either goes to the light or the dark. When I asked if the dark was God too, she then saw the conflict in her two views and said that she needed to think things through a little better. That moment became a perfect opportunity to share the gospel.
Here are the seven questions to get the to the heart of any worldview, followed by a few possible answers.
1. What is prime reality—the really real?
Christians will say it is God. The atheist may answer matter, the universe, or natural laws.
2. What is the nature of the world or universe around us?
Was it created, did it just pop into being, is it ordered, is it chaos, does it even exist or is something we create in our mind?
3. What is a human being?
Is it created in the image of God, a highly complex machine, a cosmic accident, an evolved ape?
4. What happens when a person dies?
Is it heaven with God, or hell, a higher state, reincarnation, or do we cease to exist altogether?
5. Is it possible to know absolute truth?
Is it, yes, we are made in the image of God. Christ, who was fully God, became flesh and knew all truth. Therefore, we can know truth as well. Or is it, no, consciousness is something that evolved based on the survival of the fittest, and we cannot have confidence that what survives can necessarily know truth. It is all just chemicals firing in the brain. What we call knowledge is just a mental phenomenon, and we cannot know whether it corresponds to reality.
6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
Are we made in the image of God and have his law written on our hearts and told to us in His revealed word? Or is morality something we make up to order society, so there is no ultimate right and wrong?
7. What is the meaning of human history? Or who is in charge of history?
Did God create it for a purpose and has a plan that all things are moving toward? Or is no one in charge? All of it is random chance and ultimately meaningless, and though we may place some meaning on it, even our meaning is relative.
All of these questions reveal a person’s worldview, and you will see that at the center is either the true God or something else. Any worldview not based on the God of scripture cannot ultimately hold together. In Jesus, the creator and sustainer of all things, are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. Not only is it important to understand where other people stand in order to show them that their foundation is sinking sand, but it is important to make sure Christ is the rock upon which we stand in all matters of truth as well.
See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ. – Colossians 2:8