Friday, June 10, 2022

8 Questions to ask Yourself in Regard to Worldview

Let us consider the basic aspects of a contemporary worldview. For this analysis we will consider eight questions carefully depicted by Professor James W. Sire in his work The Universe Next Door. There are other depictions of worldview that we might consider, but this form is direct and to the point in the clearest way possible. We will examine each of these eight areas of the mosaic of perspectives in the world and particularly reference their importance to how people identify themselves in our society in regard to race, ethnicity, gender and group socialization. I will be defending the thesis that these areas of identity are fundamental to establishing a worldview based on objective truth and knowledge of one’s self and the world, the past, and the future. Yet we will also see that God is able through His divine prevenient grace to draw any person, from any worldview, no matter how near or far from himself, to win them to His son Jesus Christ.

One: “What is prime reality- the really real?” (Sire, 2020, p. 8) What is the core reality of the universe and everything? Is it life and order, is it chaos and disorder? How does it all fit together? Many worldviews seem contradictory. They espouse a belief in God, but fail to live as if God were really real. Or they claim to believe in only a pitiless universe of howling nothingness but cry out for justice in the world with burning hot anger. But what justice exists in a pitiless universe? There is none. This is the most important question in my view: What is at the base of the structure on which you are forming your worldview?

For each of these areas of concern, race, ethnicity, gender, and group socialization we see certain factors that influence toward certain worldviews. But it’s important to note that each of these factors, race, ethnicity, gender, and group socialization are facets of worldviews built upon the bottom base, but they do not really define the bottom base. If our ancestors hail from a nation like Poland, like mine, I found myself raised in a Catholic church. Another may be more disconnected from their ethnicity. Some may take great stock in their race and form their identity around it, others may not. Obviously, the way a man and a woman grow up and live, will be very different from each other, and ethnicity and race will play into that dynamic as well. So will group socialization. Of each of these areas I believe group socialization is by far the most important because there the individual will find the influences of others, to even have a proper understanding of their gender, ethnicity, or race. In the group, we find our identity, whether it’s in a church, in a sports team, in a family unit, a university, or in a political/activist organization.

I would say that one will often not even consider this first question as they form their worldview. The worldview forms based on these areas of gender, ethnicity, race and group, and later as the individual grows and develops and ages, at some point they may eventually look back and ask the question, “What is prime reality?” From what I can tell from those I encounter on a daily basis, most do not even consider the big question of what prime reality is. They are busy defining themselves, making their plans, and living their lives, and the question of prime reality is missed entirely. This was also true for me, for many years of my early life, teens, and twenties. Let’s continue.

Two: “What is the nature of external reality (that is, the world around us)?” (Sire, 2020, p. 8) What is happening on this messed up world called Earth? That is the question all people seem to wrestle with. It doesn’t matter if they are Christian, deist, naturalist, socialist, capitalist, Freudian, or Jungian, it’s a question on every person’s mind, what went wrong here? Once again we see that these areas of self-definition in society will play into this dynamic of understanding the problem with the world.  For a Christian, we understand the world went wrong when Adam and Eve joined Satan’s rebellion against God in the perfect garden of Eden. And as a result, all of reality was cursed and became fallen. For a deist, they may consider the brokenness of the universe to be the work of a disinterested deity who created and disappeared. For a naturalist, they may consider the brokenness of the world to be a result of the concept of survival of the fittest, that evolution is vicious and without remorse in how it plays out. For a post-modernist, they might say that the evil of the world is a result of western colonization and imperialism and abuse by westerners of the developing world. For a modernist or utopian, they might believe that the constant progress of society has not yet reached its perfection, but someday humanity will transcend all darkness and evil, and form an idyllic society. Ethnicity, race, gender, and group identity will all play a part in these definitions. It all depends on experience. The family unit will influence an individual toward their preferred religion, or lack of religion. One’s social peers, those of similar race and ethnicity will influence the individual toward certain social, political, and religious beliefs. It’s all a game of influence, to a certain extent. Yet, we also see a sovereign God in the world drawing people out of Islam and toward himself, drawing people out of Post-modernism and toward himself, drawing people out of political radicalism and toward himself, drawing people away from nihilism and toward himself. That is the beautiful thing about an infinite God, he can overcome any false worldview, with the objectively true worldview. And that is one contention I want to make very clearly, there is a worldview in which one is able to perceive ultimate truth albeit in a limited sense. And there are worldviews where people are believing and living by things that are not true. This must certainly be the case.

Three: “What is a human being?” (Sire, 2020, p. 8) What does it meant to be human? How does it all fit together? Am I born free? Do I have liberty? Am I just dancing to my DNA or do I have real choices to make? Once again, race, ethnicity, gender, and group socialization will all influence how someone answers these sorts of questions. Someone with an identity strongly rooted in their gender will identify who they are as a person more fundamentally in that way. I’m a woman, hear me roar, I’m a man, this is my core identity. Increasingly in the United States we see people identifying themselves and building much of their identity on their race. They form their basic identity as a person as claiming to be a person of color, or a Latino, or Indian, or Asian. And it becomes absolutely vital to their identity. And often this leads to group identity linked to race. It’s the same with gender, particularly as gender has been redefined to define an individual’s sexual preferences. This becomes over time much more than simply a personal preference for the individual, but instead becomes a core part of their identity and this link often expresses itself in who the individual socializes with. But once again I think to the largest degree we see the question of what is a human played out in group socialization. More and more so this is the direction fragmentation of group identity has taken in the United States. There are thousands of different denominations of churches. There are thousands of different interest groups. One might identify as an introvert and claim their identity in that. One might identify as their Meyers-Briggs type, or their Enneagram type. Others identify based on interests, some gather for special feudal festivals and dress up like knights in armor and maidens and joust together. Others gather in groups to play video games, others in Silicon Valley gather together for elite explicit sexual activities. We see an increasing fragmentation of society, as more and more groups and subgroups form and begin to identify themselves in unique ways in the group setting. But let’s continue.  

Four: “What happens to a person after death?” (Sire, 2020, p. 9) To me this question is often the question of worldview that is left out. We humans have an uncanny ability to avoid questions and thoughts that we find disturbing. This is one we often ignore. Though in American culture I find the milquetoast therapeutic deism perspective fairly common, indicating that pretty much everybody goes to heaven. Of course, as Christians we know that isn’t true. In fact, most people do not go to heaven, as far as I can tell. Now, whether an individual is a person of color of South African ethnicity female in gender and finds group socialization in a Baptist evangelical church, or an individual is Caucasian, of French descent, male, and gathers with group organizers at the local political office, both individuals may be equally uninterested in the question of what happens after death. Each of their worldviews may tend toward one conclusion or another, but it is my belief that God can grasp hold of either of them, and draw them to himself. Though that person certainly has free will and may either resist this pulling or engage with this pulling positively. But one worldview may be “closer” to a biblical Christian worldview than another. Now a man who considers himself an agnostic but loves to take walks at night and wonder at the mystery of the stars may actually be closer to knowing God than someone gathering at a Lutheran church on Sundays where dead religion is practiced and finds himself inoculated with dead religion from a knowledge of the living God. So worldview can be a deceptive measure of how close someone actually is to knowing God. Appearances can certainly be deceiving when examining one’s worldview.

Five: “Why is it possible to know anything at all?” (Sire, 2020, p. 9) Interestingly enough, in our current contemporary times, it’s not a given to say that truth is fixed and objective. We live in a time of deconstructionism and post-modernism. We live in a time when the phrase is often repeated: “All truth is relative.” But is everything really relative? For a Christian we know that truth is objective. If two plus two equals four, that truth is true for everyone, everywhere, at every time, and in every place. It’s a constant. But for a post-modernist or atheist, they might simply believe that truth is relative, for one, it may seem this way, for another it may seem different, and they are both right. But then again, why should one believe such a contention in the first place, by that standard, wouldn’t the statement of all truth being relative be a relative statement, which means it wouldn’t always be true for everyone? We see much in the United States being redefined and reshaped to fit personal preferences. This is in itself an expression of worldview. If nothing is absolutely true and all things are relative, then it follows that redefining basic realities of society like gender, identity, sexuality, and so on, is completely reasonable, since the only guiding principle is what feels right in regard to personal preference. This progressive redefinition of things in society like race, gender, marriage, and sanctity of life, can be linked back to particular worldviews; worldviews of the past, deism and Christianity, in contention with presently powerful worldviews like naturalism, nihilism and extremism. One seeks to hold to past norms of societal definition while the other seeks to redefine societal norms. Next we consider morality.

Six: “How do we know what is right and wrong?” (Sire, 2020, p. 9) This question links closely with question five. How do we know what is ethical? For Christians our measuring rod is the word of God, the Bible. We examine everything in the world, in the universe, and use the Bible as our guide to understand what is right and wrong.  For a woman who is a feminist, they may be influenced by the writers of the feminist movement when considering what is right and wrong. For a man who is a Marxist, he would be influenced by the writings of Marx and Engels, on what is right and wrong. For many in our world today, their guide for what is true and not true, what is right and wrong is the television, the news media, and they base their beliefs on what those networks share. For many of the wealthy in our society they will tend to share the beliefs of the academic elites, the scientific establishment, the think tanks, Hollywood, and the news media.

Very often in our society we get our ideas of right and wrong from many different sources. As we access these sources, social media, news media, friends, family, church, schools, and so on, narratives begin to take hold in our minds. Race, ethnicity, gender, and group socialization all play a part in which of the predominant narratives we follow and define ourselves with. There are increasingly various narratives at play in our society today as fragmentation of culture expands; a progressive narrative, a liberal narrative, a centrist narrative, a conservative narrative, a libertarian narrative, and a conspiracy theory narrative just to name a few. All of these narratives express themselves in different ways, and one’s gender, race, ethnicity, and group socialization will all play a role in which of these narratives the individual will glob onto. Much of this will relate back to one’s understanding of human history.

Seven: “What is the meaning of human history?” (Sire, 2020, p. 9) This question came into common discussion over the last few years in the United States in regard to the 1619 project. How would Americans define themselves? How would they see their history? Which narrative would prevail, the concept of America as a nation founded on slavery and imperialism, or the narrative that America was founded for religious freedom and economic prosperity? The meaning of human history for a Jewish person would probably be linked in many ways to the holocaust, the establishment of the nation of Israel, and antisemitism in the United States. For a Cuban American they might base much of their understanding of human history on Fidel Castro and communism and fleeing that nation to the United States. For a woman who has experienced domestic violence, or abuse, they might see human history in the context of the liberation of women from limited rights and mistreatment in the past. One’s identity in their race, gender, ethnicity, and social group will influence how one views history. All of this connects deeply with personal experience. So finally, we consider practical application.

Eight: “What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?” (Sire, 2020, p. 9). As Del Tackett said in his landmark work through Focus on the Family, The Truth Project, he asked the simple question: “Do you believe, what you believe, is really real?” That is the question that comes to mind when considering core commitments. As Christians we can claim a belief structure, but do we really live as if it were real? That is the question each worldview must answer.

Professor Frank Turek wrote the book Stealing from God with the supposition that atheists had to steal things like morality and truth from Christians to make their arguments for why God didn’t exist.

The true test of a worldview in my view is in the question: Is it livable? Is it really livable, once removing all systemic contradiction from its practice? That is the final and most important question for each worldview: How do I put it into practice? And having put it into practice, is it livable? Can we flourish? But that is not necessarily a test of its validity, is it? The ultimate test of its validity is whether it’s actually real or not. And that is a question only God can answer for us.

References

Sire, J. W. (2020). The universe next door: A basic worldview catalog. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, an imprint of InterVarsity Press.

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