Thursday, April 9, 2015

Evaluating Worldviews


Some men in the boot camp expressed interest in having a bit more information regarding the section on evaluating worldviews, so I thought I would put it up on the blog for others who may find it helpful.
First of all, what is a worldview?  I like the definition in James Sire’s book, The Universe Next Door:  “A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions which we hold about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”  In other words, a worldview is a way of viewing the world and how that view governs the way we live. 
A worldview can be expressed in propositions, or as the answers to the following seven questions.  These questions can be posed to ourselves and our children to help us think critically about the influences around us.
1. What is the prime reality? Some might answer God or the gods or the material universe.  As Christians, we would say that the prime reality, or the ultimate being, is the Triune God of the Bible.  A way of posing this to children/teens: “Based on these lyrics, who or what do you think the writer of this song would say is the ultimate being?  What would the Bible say?”
2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us? Is the world created or autonomous, chaotic or orderly, material or spiritual, etc.  As Christians, we would say that external reality is an orderly creation of God consisting of both material and spiritual elements.  We could ask our children: “What is this cartoon teaching about how the world came to be?  Does that match what the Bible says?”
3. What is a human being?  Is he is highly complex machine?  Is he a god?  Is he an evolved ape?  We would say that a human being is a person made in the image of God, but fallen through the sin of Adam.  “Based on what that celebrity just said, do you think he believes man is basically good or basically evil?  What should we believe about man?”
4. What happens to a person at death?  Does he cease to exist? Is he transformed to a higher state?  Is he reincarnated?  We would say that after death, a person goes onto the judgment after which he is blessed with eternal life or punished with eternal death.  “Knowing what you know about that celebrity’s life, do you think she expects there to be a judgment day?  What does the Bible teach about when we die?”
5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?  How do we know things?  Is it strictly by reason?  Strictly by scientific observation?  We would say that we know things because they have been revealed to us by God through various means including reason, observation, and special revelation.  “Do you think that the producer of that documentary believes that there is a higher source of knowledge than man’s own reason?  What is the truest and most reliable source of knowledge?”
6. How do we know what is right and wrong?  Are the concepts of right and wrong relative to a particular culture?  Are they products of evolution that enable man to maximize human flourishing?  We would say that we know right and wrong because we are created in the image of a moral God who has given us a conscience and has educated us by His Word.  “Does that TV show imply that there is an absolute measure of right and wrong...or that right and wrong can be different to different people?  What would the Bible tell us?”
7. What is the meaning of human history?  To make paradise on earth?  Is it meaningless?  Self-actualization?  We would say it is the self-revelation of God through the outworking of His salvific purposes.  “The people on that reality show – what do you think they believe life is all about?  What would God say life is all about?”   
In order to help our kids identify and analyze the influences around them, we really need to cultivate the habit in ourselves.  Sadly, most of us probably do not think much about the message being sent by the influences around us.  But remember that there is no such thing as an influence without a worldview, and every worldview but the biblical one would lead us and our children away from the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ.  We need to cultivate the habit of asking ourselves these questions as well as asking our children.
A good way to practice: simply watch a movie with your kids, asking yourself these questions as the movie progresses.  After the movie, talk about it with your kids and lead them to think about how the movie either coincided with or contradicted the biblical worldview.
If you want to read more about this concept, I highly recommend the book, The Universe Next Door.  

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