What Is the Christian Worldview? Part 1

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

Post Author: Bill Pratt

According to James Sire in The Universe Next Door, a worldview is the following:

A commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.

It’s how we view the world!  All of us have a worldview, whether we realize it or not.  For those of us who are Christian, our faith heavily informs our worldview, or at least it should.  A person’s worldview should ideally answer a set of questions which are foundational to human existence.  These questions can be asked in several ways, but here are my versions of these questions:

  1. What is ultimate reality?
  2. Where did the world around us come from and what is its nature?
  3. What are human beings and where did they come from?
  4. Why do humans suffer?
  5. Is there a way for humans to be saved from suffering?
  6. How do I know right from wrong?
  7. What is the meaning or purpose of my life?
  8. What happens to me when I die?

You can evaluate any person’s worldview by asking them for answers to these questions.  Not only will you have a fascinating conversation, but you will learn what makes the other person tick.  You will get to see the world through their eyes.

So the next obvious question is this: how would a Christian answer these eight questions?  Christianity certainly offers compelling responses to these questions, as you would expect.  Below I will give you brief answers and then perhaps we can flesh them out if you (my blog-reading friends) would like to discuss them in the comments.

Question 1: What is ultimate reality?

Christians believe that the ultimate reality is God.  The Christian God has a number of qualities, but here are some of the most important: God is infinite, personal, sovereign, good, holy, transcendent, omniscient, and omnipotent.

Question 2: Where did the world around us come from and what is its nature?

Christians believe that the world around us is composed of time, space, matter, and energy, as scientists have demonstrated.  We believe that this physical world was spoken into existence by God.  We believe that God is separate from the world and not actually part of the world.

Question 3: What are human beings and where did they come from?

Human beings are soul and body.  We possess spiritual and physical dimensions.  We are created in the image of God, which means we represent God on earth as his representatives.  Being in God’s image, humans are also personal, intelligent, and moral beings.

Question 4: Why do humans suffer?

Humans suffer because of the Fall.  The Fall occurred when the first two human beings, Adam and Eve, rejected God and sought to usurp his position.  This rebellion – acting in a way contrary to God’s will –  introduced the disease of sin into the world, a disease which is passed on to every human generation.  All human suffering is ultimately the result of this pivotal event in human history.

I’ll finish up with answers to the last four questions in the next post.  See you then!

  • Todd

    I have a question. The first component of a worldview according to your post is about ultimate reality. Do you ask someone the question: What is ultimate reality? I’m trying to understand the question and anticipate answers. I imagine the average person’s response to that exact question would be, ‘what is that, or, what do you mean?’ I would like to know myself and also potential responses. Any help is greatly appreciated.

    Thanks!

  • Bill Pratt

    Todd,
    Great question. Maybe another way of asking the first worldview question would be: ” What do you think is the source of everything else?” or “What do you think is the fundamental thing about the universe or reality?” or “What do you think is the one thing that holds all of reality together?”

    Possible answers might be: 1) energy, 2) love, 3) personal God, 4) matter, 5) illusion, 6) nothingness, 7) impersonal God, 8 ) the individual self, and so on. This is a key question because it’s getting at a person’s highest notion of what the world is about, what is most important. The way they answer this question indicates what is ultimate to them. They may have never put it into words, but this question can help them do so.

    Hope this helped,
    BP

  • Raphael Wong

    Bill,

    On Question (1): Is God just the sum of His qualities, or something more?

    On Question (2): Which sense of “spoken”? Not the literal one, I hope; since God exists prior to speech.

    On Question (4): Sin is an imperfection, but Original Sin is a far more complex doctrine than simply something like “sin is a sort of AIDs virus”. I think you are over-specializing here. I am a Christian too, and I don’t hold that sin is a disease. Perhaps “sin as a disease” is part of the Evangelical view; it certainly isn’t part of the Catholic or Orthodox view.

  • Raphael, I have no trouble with God being “the sum of His qualities,” but I have great trouble with the minimizing term “just” I rather suspect, though, thet I am a bit trapped hear by the language, and this is not exactly what you meant.

    I would have a hard time conceiving of God in such a way that there is some aspecpect of Him that did not manifest iitself as a “Quality” or “Charachteristic” of God. I understand that God has “His secrete places”, but I couldn’t think that He has His “irrelavnecies”

    as to “original sin” I think the evangelicals tend to more emphasize our individual nature as sinful. Luther did speak of the “bondage of the will” but most of us tend to look at our own state, and find that, like Paul ”that which I would do, I cannot, and that which I would not do, I cannot avoid doing.” However the “sin of Adam” works against me, I do find that I am unable to consistently do what God would have me do, without His grace.
    I could be wrong, but I understand the Orthodox to be much more focused on the deformity of mankind that resulted from the sin of Adam. Athanasius in “On the Incarnation” makes much of this point, with the perfection of our Lord as a restorative “New Adam”
    The language of an infection model seems more in line with Calvin, but the idea of our ancestral sin bring about such a change as to render us unable to be who we desire to be, even when we know the truth, seems equally at home in either. I will let others speak for Rome.

  • Bill Pratt

    Hi Raphael,
    With respect to number one, I’m not sure I understand your question. I was merely trying to describe some of the traditional attributes of God that Christians have understood.

    With regard to question 2, I was just repeating the same language used in Genesis (e.g., And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light.)

    With respect to 4, I am a little surprised that you say Catholics don’t think of sin as a disease. Certainly sin can be described in many different ways, and I think that using the metaphor of “disease” is appropriate as sin, like disease, is an imperfection that spreads. I suppose I could have just said that sin is “an imperfection that spreads,” but disease is a more colorful word.

  • Raphael Wong

    Eric,

    Thanks for your thoughtful response.

    (1) I mean it in terms of “Is a whole more than the sum of its parts”?

    (2) X-Ref Descartes: “I think, therefore I am”. Or from Exodus: “I am that I am”.

    (3) I don’t disagree with you here. My point was that Bill is trying to present the Christian worldview in this article, but he has made it too specific to one subset of Christians. (Unless he thinks that Catholics and Orthodox are not Christians …)

    God Bless,
    Clement

    Bill,

    (1) You provided a description, when your question is asking for a definition.

    (2) “spoken into existence” means? “spoken” is just a translation after all. It could be that the original Hebrew word meant something totally different, or much more abstract.

    (3) We believe in the metaphor of sin as disease, if that is the sense, but not in the sense of the Calvinists as Eric describes above. In fact, although Aquinas speculated that Original Sin is passed down in semen ( yes, that line is actually in the Summa Theologicae), the Magisterium has not endorsed this opinion for the whole 800 years of its existence. The nature of Original Sin is left largely as Mystery in the Catholic tradition,

    What I objected to was that you seemed to be taking on the literal, rather than the metaphorical meaning, of sin. I see I was wrong; sorry about the misunderstanding.

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