Worldview Webs

Worldview WebsEvery person has a set of beliefs that helps them make sense of the world (even if they haven’t properly thought it through).

This is called a Worldview.

The sorts of beliefs that go into forming someone’s worldview are usually based around responses to a series of BIG questions—the same ones philosophers have been asking for thousands of years.

Origins … Where do I come from?

Meaning … Why am I here?

Morality … How should I live in the world?

Destiny … Where am I going?

Images can be helpful to make sense of this idea. Picture someone’s worldview like a set of glasses—a lens or window through which you interpret everything you see and experience. This is a popular way of thinking about worldviews. But the problem with this image is, how do you know which set of glasses fits best? Navigating the world without bumping into things you can’t explain might make you confident your glasses suit you, but in an age when most people chooses glasses on the basis of fashion, and where relativism argues that reality is just a matter of perspective, the glasses metaphor isn’t really helpful in gauging what is true. So let me suggest another image to help us with this—the spider’s web.

Any spidery structural engineer will explain that a good web needs three things. First, it needs a web. It needs a series of answers to these BIG questions in the first place. Second, it needs anchoring. It needs to be attached to the world around it so that it doesn’t just blow away in the wind. Third, it needs coverage. It needs to attach internally in a consistent pattern. One additional bonus is that it would actually work by catching bugs. Let me suggest these 4 things serve as good criteria for testing a worldview.

1)    Completeness … Does it actually answer all the questions and explain the full spectrum of human experience and knowledge?

2)    Correspondence … Is it anchored to the real world in a way that can be tested? What is the real world evidence for believing this?

3)    Consistency … Do the individual beliefs come together to form a consistent and coherent system, or does it contradict itself?

4)    Liveability … When I live this out does it result in human flourishing? (bonus)

The first 3 criteria here test the explanatory power, evidential credibility, and philosophical viability of the worldview. The last one tests the practical value of applying or living out this set of beliefs. Some of the reasons I’m a Christian is because I believe that Jesus—and the worldview expressed in the Bible (Christian theism)—offer a better explanation of human life, a better evidential case to be convinced by, and a more consistent web of beliefs than any other system. Beyond this, when I actually live as though Christianity is true, I see confirmed in my own experience the personal fulfilment and flourishing Jesus promises.

C.S. Lewis famously wrote, “I believe in Christianity like I believe the sun has risen; not because I see it, but because by it I see everything else.”

I believe in Christianity because it is both the most intellectually compelling and existentially satisfying story for making sense of all of human life. Others may disagree. And they are welcome to put their worldview, and then Jesus, to the test. Truth invites questioning.

Dan Paterson is director of operations at Traverse, and a Pastor at Ashgrove Baptist Church.