What (Really) is a Worldview?

John ArmstrongCulture

Some years ago the concept of a worldview became popular. I am not sure who first coined this term. I get the feeling Francis Schaeffer may have made it popular but I am not really sure. All I know is that the terms has run through a number of expressions and now seems, at least to me, to be spent and less useful.

About twenty years ago a Christian theologian defined a worldview as "A broad conceptual synthesis which forms one’s perspective on the whole of reality." So far so good. The problem is that the "broad conceptual synthesis" has become more and more narrow as various cultural apologists have tried to use this term to define themselves and their ministries.

All Christians should have a Christian worldview, if by this term we mean a broad way by which we understand the created order and sin, fall and redemption and then order our lives by it. But this is not new in any real sense of the term. The early church had a worldview in this sense. So did the Protestant Reformers and so does the Catholic Church for that matter.

What troubles me about the common evangelical use of the term "world-view" is that it is now stands for some of the most sectarian and narrow interests imaginable. Calvinists especially like to use the term and thus often make it virtually synonymous with their particularly Calvinistic view of the world. Certain narrowly defined groups and ministries have various "Christian World-view Conferences" or ministries. It is a veritable buzz-word. The term is used to designate one group as holding a more consistent world-view than another group. Therefore, I have concluded that the term is almost useless now given the way it is being used and so narrowly defined. I could well be wrong about this but I would be interested to know what others think when they hear people use the term constantly.

A recent brochure on a forthcoming worldview conference promotes the event by telling me that I will be helped to think about how the Christian faith "applies to all of life." People__18__2
It also promises me that there are "answers from the Bible and every Christian can be equipped with them." The purpose of the training is thus to equip people to stand firm in a culture that is hostile to Christ. The entire brochure seems to be about learning various arguments and how to defend positions that are against the culture. Often these arguments are even aimed at other Christians as well.

My understanding of the truth as it is in Christ is that living truth is meant to make us worshipers of Jesus and the people of his kingdom. We are his witness (collectively and personally both) to the world, not simply a special interest group that can stand firm against it. When so much stress is placed on "standing firm" this generally means you are going to get a load of intellectual stuff that will push you further and further from being a missional Christian in the culture.