Please catch up with my posts in this series here.

When I was much younger, I made the following comment to my wife, in jest, of course, because young men are invincible, and think they’re immortal.

“If something happens to me, and I’m on a ventilator, don’t you give up on me…it ain’t over ’til it’s over.”

It was a frivolous statement I should have never made. Recent events have made me realize how cruel a burden that statement was to place on a loved one. I am thankful my loved ones have not had to make that kind of decision. My hope is that as I work through this, I can come to a better plan than that.

What Is A Worldview?

We need to begin by backtracking a minute and make a clear definition of what exactly a worldview is.

“So what is a worldview? Essentially this: A worldview is 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) that 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.”1

A worldview is basically your philosophy of life or your conception of the world. It is the accumulation of your presuppositions and beliefs, and how you look at reality. 

“In the simplest terms, a worldview may be defined as how one sees life and the world at large. In this manner it can be compared to a pair of glasses. How a person makes sense of the world depends upon that person’s “vision,” so to speak. The interpretive “lens” helps people make sense of life and comprehend the world around them. Sometimes the lens brings clarity, and other times it can distort reality.”2

A friend of mine gave me some really good tickets to the Alabama/UTC football game last year. My son and I were excited to go to Tuscaloosa and see the Crimson Tide in person. When I was leaving, I picked up what I thought were my glasses from the bathroom. I noticed that all the way to Tuscaloosa from here in North Georgia, I was having trouble seeing, and then I got a headache. My son was wondering what was wrong with me, when I couldn’t make out the names on the jerseys. Finally, I took of my glasses and looked…I had my daughters glasses on. When you’re half-blind, one set of frames that are similar look the same, but mine had bling-haha.

My point is that the philosophical “lens” you look through is either one you have considered, pondered over, and chosen for yourself (as I did my spectacles at Lenscrafters), or you’re wearing someone else’s “lenses”, or worse yet, you’re wearing worldview “glasses” that are made up of a hodgepodge of different “isms” that mix about as well as oil and water.

Seven Worldview Questions

Maybe you picked up a little “Christianism” in Sunday School. Then you added some good ol’ Pragmatism from American culture. Throw in some Romanticism, and mysticism, and you’ve got yourself one messed up set of worldview glasses. It’s no wonder you can’t make heads-or-tails out of basic worldview questions. James Sire lists seven basic questions all worldviews must answer. They are:

1  What is the nature of Ultimate Reality?- Is there a god? Is He Personal? Can I know Him?

2.  What is the nature of material reality?“Does matter exist? Is what we see an illusion? 

  • Is it created or uncreated?
  • Is it orderly or chaotic?
  • Is it subjective or objective?
  • Is it personal or impersonal?
  • Is it eternal or temporal?”3

3.  What is the nature of humanity?Is he merely a machine? Does he have immaterial parts? Is he a god? Is he a created being? 

4. What happens when you die? “Here are some of the answers that various worldviews give concerning life after death.

  • People cease to exist.
  • Individuals are transformed to a higher state.
  • People reincarnate into another life on earth.
  • People depart to a shadowy existence on “the other side.”
  • Individuals enter into the spiritual realm (heaven, hell, or other place) based on how life was lived on earth.
  • People enter directly into heaven.”4

5.  How do we know anything, or can we know anything at all? “These are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with the issue of knowledge.

  • Consciousness and rationality developed through a long process of evolution.
  • There is no “reason” that human beings are able to have knowledge. That is just the nature of our existence.
  • Knowledge is an illusion.
  • Humans are made in the image of God who, himself, has knowledge.”5

6.  What about ethics? Can anyone one really know right from wrong? Here are some of the ways that various worldviews deal with this issue.

  • Right and wrong are strictly products of human choice.
  • Right and wrong are determined by what feels good.
  • A sense of right and wrong was an evolutionary development as a survival mechanism for the species.
  • Right and wrong are learned by experience as we learn what pleases the gods.
  • We are made in the image of God whose character is good and who has revealed what is right.”6

7.  What is the meaning of human life and history?Some of the various worldviews deal with this by asserting:

  • There is no innate meaning to human history. Meaning is what humans make it to be.
  • Time is an illusion.
  • Meaning involves realizing the purpose of the gods.
  • Meaning results from discovering and fulfilling the purpose of God.”7

8. James Sire lists one more question that makes the point about a worldview being a matter of the heart, and not just an abstract exercise: “What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?”8

It’s very important that you understand your own worldview, and the worldviews of those around you, especially those who can affect your life significantly, such as your physicians, politicians, educators, etc.

As Christian we are told:

1 Peter 3:15

New American Standard Bible (NASB)

15 but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;

You can’t make a defense to questions you haven’t worked through yourself. If you’ve ever tried to have a serious conversation with someone, and discovered you have no common point of reference, you have crashed into the worldview wall. Some of the most frustrating people I have ever tried to dialogue with are militant atheistic naturalists, and postmodern Christian Emergents. This is a clash of worldviews. If you don’t think that it’s important to understand different worldviews, consider this:

1611194_10202046474975690_69437121_oIn the past few weeks, my family has had to deal with the life and death situation of a loved one. In dealing with one particular doctor at a step-down facility that was supposed to wean my loved off of a ventilator, it became abundantly clear that there was a clash of worldviews. Our philosophy was that she should be cared for, medicated, and sustained with a ventilator, and heroic measures of resuscitation would not be employed. The doctor at the facility did not think it necessary to continue treating our family member as a human being needing compassion, but treated her like an animal needing to be put-down.

WORLDVIEWS MATTER!

Seven Worldviews That Developed After The Disintegration Of Christian Theism As the Dominant Worldview

James Sire, in his book The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog, lists the following worldviews that have developed as the Christian Theistic worldview has disintegrated in the last 3 centuries:

  1. Deism Advocating either an impersonal force or deity, or a personal god that created the cosmos, but who doesn’t interfere with the laws of nature. The miraculous is denied. Reason is basically deified.
  2. Naturalism- Anti-supernatural; all phenomena can be explained by natural  or scientific causes.
  3. Nihilism Traditional values are useless; existence is meaningless; no objective truth or morality. Proponents: Max Stirner, Friedrich Nietzsche, 
  4. Existentialism- focuses on the existence of the individual, and the responsibility of humans with freewill and self-determination. Proponents: Soren Kierkegaard, Friedrich Nietzsche, Karl Jaspers, Jean-Paul Sartre
  5. Eastern Mysticism
  6. New Age
  7. Islam

When dealing with a culture that is increasingly hostile to Objective Moral Truth, and the Sanctity of Life, especially when dealing with medical issues related to end-of-life care, understanding which worldview you are coming into conflict with as a Christian becomes something more than just an academic endeavor. Your loved one’s life may depend on your recognition of worldviews, and the questions you should be asking. As an exercise, just watch the news. Notice presuppositions, and how they relate to the seven worldview questions. It won’t take you terribly long to learn how to discern someone’s worldview. Asking the right questions, and listening to the answers could keep you from misinterpreting a medical professional. Trust me, it’s important.

“Despite the persistent boast that America is the most religious country in the Western world, the Christian worldview and Christian ethics are under attack by the dominant secular culture. The tactics employed by secularists vary from belittling religious belief in general to ridiculing Christian believers themselves.”10

1. Sire, James. “What Is a Worldview?” Christianity.com. Salem Web Network, 05 Mar. 2010. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.christianity.com/blogs/russell-moore/what-is-a-worldview-11627153.html&gt;.

2. Samples, Kenneth R. “Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview?” Reasons To Believe : What in the World Is a Worldview? Reasons To Believe, 01 Jan. 2007. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://www.reasons.org/articles/what-in-the-world-is-a-worldview&gt;.

3. Sire, James W. The Universe next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog. Downers Grove, Ill: InterVarsity, 1997. Print. Kindle edition.

4. Sire, ibid.

5. Sire, ibid.

6. Sire, ibid.

7. Sire, ibid.

8. Sire, ibid. Loc. 178

9. Sire, ibid.

10. Slick, Matt. “What Is a Christian World View and Why Do Christians Need One?” CARM. Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry, n.d. Web. 19 Jan. 2014. <http://carm.org/what-christian-world-view-and-why-do-christians-need-one&gt;.

Note: Much help in my journey through the murky waters has been given by:

Blocher, Mark B. “Christian Worldview and Medical Ethics, Part 2.” Lifemattersww.org/. Center for Biblical Bioethics, 2004. Web. 19 Jan. 2014.

My next post in this series will continue my family’s personal struggle with  bioethics in my critically ill loved one’s continuing saga.

simul justus et peccator,

Eric Adams

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Comments
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