How Should We Analyze a Worldview?

Post Author: Bill Pratt

There are many worldviews out there to choose from:  Christianity, Islam, secular humanism, New Age spiritualism, and so on.  Since choosing a worldview is perhaps one of the most important things a person must do, it is highly important that we have a trustworthy method to evaluate the options.  Our worldview colors the way we see almost everything around us, so we must choose wisely.

Apologist Ravi Zacharias offers what he calls the 3-4-5 method of analyzing worldviews.  I would like to share it with you because it will provide you a method with which to judge worldview options.

First, there are three tests that a worldview must pass.  It must be:

  1. logically consistent – Its teachings cannot be self-contradictory.
  2. empirically adequate – Its teachings must match what we see in reality.
  3. existentially relevant – Its teachings must speak directly to how we actually live our lives.
 Second, each worldview must address the following four ultimate questions:
  1. origin – Where do the universe and human beings come from?
  2. meaning – What is the meaning or purpose of life?
  3. morality – How do we know what is right and what is wrong?
  4. destiny – What happens to us after we die?
 Third, there are five academic disciplines that must be employed to study a worldview:
  1. theology – the study of God
  2. metaphysics – the study of what is ultimately real
  3. epistemology – the study of how we can know things
  4. ethics – the study of moral right and wrong
  5. anthropology – the study of what and who humans are

Why do I believe that the worldview of biblical Christianity is the best choice?  Its teachings are logically consistent, they accurately describe reality as it is, and they speak directly to the human condition.

In addition, Christianity provides compelling and powerful answers to the questions of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

Finally, the theology, metaphysics, epistemology, ethics, and anthropology of the Christian worldview are expansively rich and deeply profound – unsurpassed by any other worldview. 

If you are a Christian and you haven’t analyzed Christianity using the 3-4-5 method, you are truly missing out.  Read, and read some more.  Dig into your faith, as it provides comprehensive answers to life’s most important questions.

If you are not a Christian, I plead with you to open your heart and mind, and study the Christian worldview.  Apply the 3-4-5 method described above, but never forget that Christian doctrine always revolves around a person, Jesus Christ.  He is the embodiment of our faith, and it is to him that we look.

8 thoughts on “How Should We Analyze a Worldview?”

  1. Bill,

    Did Ravi explain how the five disciples are to be used by the average person to evaluate worldviews?

    To be slightly nitpicky, choosing a worldview is perhaps one of the most important things a person does do, rather than something they must do. Most choose it by default. Everybody has one whether they consciously choose it or not. The problem is that most people never analyze its completeness and relevance. Nor do they know how. Despite this lacking, it is important to understand our worldview and know the implications of it. A person might then find what they believe doesn’t measure up. To illustrate, an addict might fall into a view of the world (not necessarily a philosophical worldview) by his circumstances and then never really analyze his situation to know he is actually destroying his life as well as that of others around him. As far as he knows, he is living life to its fullest (that is the belief by most addicts who haven’t hit bottom yet). There is a better view than the one he has which yields a much better life for him and those around him. But if he is never moved to examine his life, he will likely not do it until it is too late. It is no different for philosophical worldviews. If we don’t analyze what we believe against what is known, we can fall short and end up in a worse situation than we need to be in.

    Logically consistent means our system is coherent. Empirically adequate means it is foundational. The best correspondence to reality must be coherent and foundational. Whether it is relevant depends on much more than just how we live our lives.

    The average Joe on the street doesn’t know how to use the academic disciplines (or sees the need to) to analyze a worldview. There are books out there (Dr. Geisler has a few, Unshakeable Foundations for one, as well as Ravi and others) that go through these disciplines. Do you have a recommendation for the average Joe, to help him see his own worldview in relation to the possibilities without getting lost in either what many perceive as philolosphical mumbo jumbo, or that it might be overly simplified and thus inadequate? Is it possible for a secular humanist or one who believes only in naturalism, to honestly examine his worldview? I think it is, but I haven’t found a book yet which does it. There has to be an openness to the possiblity of being wrong to have an honest assessment, and very few are willing to do that. Can a blind man know he is blind when he knows nothing else?

  2. Is it possible for a secular humanist or one who believes only in naturalism, to honestly examine his worldview?

    This is a So how long have you been beating your wife? kind of approach to reality. I don’t believe – in the religious sense of the term (faith without and/or contrary to evidence) – in ‘naturalism’. My ‘worldview’ is quite simple: let reality arbitrate what is true about it and let me endeavor not to fool myself. Perhaps I appreciate we can only know about reality if we let reality arbitrate what is true about it because I understand how ontology is informed by the quality of the epistemology used, and we can’t determine that until we allow reality to play its central role.

    If that’s a worldview, then it’s one we all share almost all of the time. That’s why most of us stop walking into walls in spite of wishing really hard that we could walk through them unaltered. It takes a special kind of intellectual willingness to exempt this operant approach to reality with a strange belief in a parallel make-believe ‘worldview’ position equivalent to wishful thinking (in order to allow us enough mental wiggle room to continue to maintain that causal and guided intervention from some <supernatural agency pays our reality regular visits to earn this a special and even privileged role to play in our normative ‘worldview’) from the demand for compelling evidence from reality to justify it.

    Although I never suspected, it seems to take courage to realize that the ‘answers’ to each of the four question is, at best if we rely on reality to arbitrate, “I don’t know.” Of course, a good argument can be made to explain why the questions themselves are actually unknowable (if not absurdly egocnetric).

    It will also come as no surprise that I think the first two academic disciplines listed in the third section are no such thing because there’s nothing substantiated by reality to study. The understanding of what constitutes an epistemology that works in reality will reveal this to be the case, which renders the ‘answer’s from the second section to be empty of anything associated with the first three conditions, which makes me describe this undertaking of supposedly ‘choosing’ a ‘worldview’ to be rather problematic throughout.

  3. Sorry for the html fail yet again. I intended to italicize the ‘super’ in supernatural but failed to catch my mistake in the fast edit.

  4. tildeb, a very reasonable response. But if all knowledge is only known through empiricism with the presumption that all that some claim to be the result of supernatural causes can be explained only by natural causes, or else it must be put in the “I don’t, or can’t know” category, then isn’t it hard to get out of the box? Do you believe anything that is not empirically derived?

    If we put foundationalism aside for a moment, is it possible that the theistic worldvidew is coherent, just as a naturalism only worldview may be? If not, why not? Remember, I am only talking about coherence for the moment (does it hold together within itself), not whether it has any foundation to anchor it to reality. If it isn’t coherent, then even points of contact through foundationalism would not suffice to say a worldview has validity. If both worldviews are at least coherent, then the only thing that can cause us to disregard a view is that it isn’t coherent at the places where it touches reality. My claim, which I am working on, however slowly, is that the theistic worldview is coherent and that is continues to be coherent where it touches reality. The natural only worldview is coherent where it touches reality, but we need to see if it is coherent within itself. I am sure you believe it is. As you are so sure it is, it is impossible for you to find the holes in it – because there is always an explanation. Of course, I’m sure you’d say the same about the theistic worldview. The challenge is to work together, as people with different perspectives and see if a total view can be worked out that both honestly assess. Do you think that is really possible?

  5. But if all knowledge is only known through empiricism with the presumption that all that some claim to be the result of supernatural causes can be explained only by natural causes, or else it must be put in the “I don’t, or can’t know” category, then isn’t it hard to get out of the box?

    If ‘that box’ remains faithful to knowledge then it proves the point about why ‘getting out of it’ equates not with some other kind of knowledge but with ‘I don’t know’. That’s why the pseudo-answers to the four questions above are not any kind of worldview based on knowledge arbitrated by reality but conjecture, assertion, assumption, imagination, wishful and magical thinking.

    It’s not my epistemic problem to claim a kind of knowledge removed from reality’s arbitration. That problem belongs solely to those who wish to show beyond simply faith-based belief why it’s so. And so far – in spite of the very best efforts from all the most sophisticated theologians throughout history – this has not been done; instead, we are subject to a never-ending attempt by faitheists of all stripes to replace reality with counterfeit replicas called ‘Theology’ and ‘Metaphysics’… both of which rest squarely on circular reasoning that attempts to demand that reality be subject to its god-sanctioned authority (or at least equivalently respected as claims informed by reality;s arbitration of them)… and hold fast to the profoundly anti-scientific notion (out of some deeply misguided notion of tolerance) that faith held protectively away from reality’s arbitration of its claims about the reality we share is a virtue.

    It’s not a virtue. It’s a guaranteed way to fool ourselves, which carries highly negative real effects for real people in real life.

    Is the faith notion coherent? Only within its own bubble, which is why people can infuse whatever beliefs they want out of personal preference. But it also shows why a very clear line must be drawn between the private domain where faith can be freely exercised and the public where it must be held at bay. Anyone who suggests faith rightfully belongs in the public domain has successfully fooled themselves by this epistemic failure into believing reality does not arbitrate what’s true about it.

  6. Walt,
    Have you ever read the book Why I Am a Christian, edited by Norm Geisler and Paul Hoffman? There are some decent lay-level essays in there that might help average Joe. I’m sure there are other books like this, but that’s one that came to mind.

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