Coptic Orthodox Diocese of the Southern United States


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I. Introduction:

  • The concept of a worldview has received increasing attention for the past several years.

  • Frequently speakers will refer to the term. On occasion even reviews of movies and music will include the phrase.

  • All this attention prompts us to ask, "What does the term mean?" and "What difference does it make?"

  • It is our intent to answer these questions. And it is our hope that all of us will give serious attention to our own worldview, as well as the worldviews of those around us.

II. Definition:

  • Any ideology, philosophy, theology, movement, or religion that provides an overarching approach to understanding God, the world, and man's relations to God and the world (Dr. David Noebel – Understanding the Times).

  • A worldview is a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously) about the basic make-up of our world (The Universe Next Door – James Sire).

  • In simplest terms, a worldview is a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life that guide and directs our behavior.

III. Biblical References:

  • For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways My ways, says the Lord (Isaiah 55:8).

  • Bringing into captivity every thought to the obedience of Christ (2 Cor 10:5).

  • Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God (Rom 12:2).

  • The entire Bible is God's Worldview. These versus in particular help identify the essence of what makes a worldview - our thoughts.

  • The question again is what shapes our thoughts? If it isn't scripture, our thoughts and subsequently our behavior, will be shaped by another philosophy of life.

IV. The Need for a Worldview

  • Worldviews act somewhat like eye glasses or contact lenses. That is, a worldview should provide the correct "prescription" for making sense of the world just as wearing the correct prescription for your eyes brings things into focus.

  • Likewise an incorrect prescription can be dangerous, even life-threatening.

  • Therefore, it is extremely important for us to give attention to the formulation of the proper worldview.

  • A prominent need for the proper worldview is to help us deal with an increasingly diverse culture. We are faced with an assortment of worldviews, all of which make claims concerning truth.

  • Worldviews are so much a part of our lives that we see and hear them daily, whether we recognize them or not. For example, movies, television, music, magazines, newspapers, government, education, science, art, and all other aspects of culture are affected by worldviews. If we ignore their importance, we do so to our detriment.

V. Worldview Categories

  1. THEOLOGY – What does the person believe about the existence of God? Is God personal? Can He be known? If so, what are God's attributes?

  2. METAPHYSICS – What is God's relation to the universe? Is the universe sustained by God or is it self-existent? Is the universe created?

  3. EPISTEMOLOGY – Is knowledge about the world possible? Can man trust his senses? Is all truth relative and none absolute? What is the proper role of reason? Can God reveal Himself? What is the source of man's innate ideas?

  4. ETHICS – Are moral laws the same for all people? Are moral laws constructed by human beings? Is there an absolute source external to humans? Do morals transcend culture, history, and individual boundaries?

  5. ANTHROPOLOGY – Is man material only, or does he have a soul? Does man's existence end at death or is there an afterlife? Is there a heaven and a hell where individuals are conscious and physically present?

VI. Evaluating Worldviews

A worldview should pass certain tests. A worldview should be:

  • Rational
    • It must both not contradict itself and be coherent as a system.
  • Supported by evidence
    • It should give a satisfying comprehensive explanation of reality. It should be able to explain why things are the way they are.
  • Consistent with human experience
    • It must both explain what we know of ourselves and answer our deepest longings and aspirations.
  • Finally any truths revealed which couldn't be known otherwise--even though transcending what we can know on our own and being difficult to understand--should not conclusively contradict what we know in the range of human experience.

VII. Common Worldviews

  • Atheism
    • It is the lack of belief in a god and/or the belief that there is no god.
  • Existentialism
    • Existence precedes essence. You cannot, by thinking, find the meaning of life.
    • Don't ponder the essence of your life and then act. Rather act and you will find your own essence.
    • Freedom is a human property each of us possesses that must be exercised through individual choices for which each person alone is responsible.
    • The philosophy of despair, which declares that God is dead and with Him that in which we once put our hope.
  • Hedonism
    • All actions can be measured on the basis of how much pleasure and how little pain they produce. In simple terms, a hedonist strives to maximize this 'ratio' (pleasure over pain).
  • Humanism
    • Man is the measure of all things.
  • Materialism
    • All things are composed of material and all phenomena are the result of material interactions; matter is the only substance.
  • Nihilism
    • Is a philosophical position which argues that the world is without objective meaning, purpose, comprehensible truth, or essential value.
  • Postmodernism
    • It stems from recognition that reality is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own personal reality. For this reason, postmodernism is highly skeptical of explanations which claim to be valid for all groups, cultures, traditions, or races, and instead focuses on the relative truths of each person.
  • Pragmatism
    • It signifies the insistence on usefulness or practical consequences as a test of truth.
  • Socialism
    • Socialism refers to a broad array of doctrines that imagines a socio-economic system in which property and the distribution of wealth are subject to social control.
  • Theism
    • It refers to the belief that God created the world, yet transcends it, along with the idea that God s omniscient, omnipotent and omnipresent.
  • Naturalism
    • First, God is irrelevant, evolutionary change are inevitable, man is autonomous, self-centered, and will save himself, education is the guide to life, science is the ultimate provider both for knowledge and morals.
  • New Age Pantheism
    • All is one. There are no ultimate distinctions between humans, animals, or the rest of creation. Since all is one, all is god. If all is one and all is god, then each of us is god. Humans must discover their own divinity by experiencing a change in consciousness.

VIII. Conclusion

  • Let's return to a definition we affirmed in the beginning of this lesson: "A worldview is a set of beliefs about the most important issues in life that guide and directs our behavior."

  • If our model of the world includes an infinite-personal God, as in Orthodox Christianity, that belief should provide guidance for our life.

  • Thus some of us may be confronted with the need to think more deeply than we ever have before.

  • Some of us may need to purge those things from our lives that are contrary to the worldview of Orthodox Christianity.

  • Some of us may need to better understand that our thoughts are to be unified with daily life.

  • Some of us may need to better understand that true love, and hope and meaning are found only through God's answers.

  • Some of us may need to let God's ideas guide our thoughts more completely. And some of us may need to let God's guidelines guide our actions more fully.

  • Paul's admonition to the believers in ancient Colossae couldn't be more contemporary or helpful in light of our discussion. He wrote:
    See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ (Col 2:8).

Glory be to God forever.

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