Worldview Flows from Heart and Mind

heart-mind

Philosopher James Sire defines worldview as “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]

Notice some of the components of this definition:

  1. A worldview is a commitment of the heart

Sire notes that a worldview goes beyond the intellect to the heart. It is a spiritual orientation that involves the soul. A worldview springs from a person’s inner being and reflects what she loves and values as much as what she has come to believe intellectually. In this sense, a worldview is a commitment. A person tends to interpret everything she experiences through this grid, even if it does not provide satisfactory answers for every question. Only when another worldview proves itself to have much better answers to many questions will a person abandon her original worldview for the new one.

When Sire speaks of the heart, he is referring to more than what many in the modern Western world think of the heart. His definition bears much more similarity to the biblical concept of heart than anything else, which is “the central defining element of the human person.”[2] While a person’s worldview involves emotion, it also involves wisdom, desire and will, intellect, and spirituality.

  1. A worldview involves presuppositions

A presupposition is a belief that serves as a foundation for all other beliefs. A worldview is not the same as a presupposition, but a worldview is developed from presuppositions. Since presuppositions are often held unconsciously, the foundations of a person’s worldview are often unexamined. Their worldview is usually consciously considered, but the presuppositions behind it are not always so.

When speaking with an unbeliever, we want to ask questions that reveal his presuppositions, such as, “Why do you believe that?” and “What do you base that on?” Once we discover on what he bases his beliefs, his worldview begins to become apparent. For example, if all his beliefs are based on his own rationality, then it becomes clear that he has either a rationalist or existentialist worldview. Worldviews tend to have clear implications for many of the areas of concern, so if you identify a person’s worldview, you can discover quickly what they will most likely believe about significant philosophical questions, such as the origin, purpose, identity, and destiny of the human race.

  1. A worldview has to do with what we think the world is

One of the most important aspects of a worldview is its view on metaphysics, that is the nature of the world. Metaphysics is the study of the nature of reality. It asks and answers questions such as, “What does it mean to exist? What is the nature of the divine? What is man? Why is there something rather than nothing? Why are things the way they are?” All these questions have a bearing on the rest of a person’s beliefs. For example, if someone believes that all of life is an illusion, then there is no logical reason to help anyone or do good, because the other person and “good” would also be an illusion.

On the contrary, if we believe that this world is created by God and man is unique in all of creation because he is made in the image of God, then we will value human life and seek to treat others with the dignity inherent in the image of God.

  1. A worldview determines how we live

What I think of the world will have a direct impact on how I live every day. If I believe that life is pointless, meaningless, and absurd, I may lead a life of responsibility and compassion for others, trying to make the world a better place, but there would be no logical reason for me to do so. If life is absurd, and I truly believe that, then most likely I will not seek out anything that normally provides people a sense of purpose.

As Christians our belief that there is a holy God to whom we are accountable, and in whose grace we stand, should motivate us to live pure, humble, thankful lives. Not all Christians do live this way, but they should.

The discrepancy between a person’s worldview and his daily life is best explained by the difference between profession and possession. I may claim to have a Christian worldview, but if my life is marked by squandering my resources, practicing immorality, being cruel to others, and living for myself, then I am merely professing Christianity. The Apostle John compares those who merely profess the right beliefs without truly being possessed by them. Those who truly possesses saving faith in Christ will live a life marked by light (truth, purity, and obedience—1 John 1:6-7), admit that they have sinned (1 John 1:8), confess their sins (1 John 1:9-10), live in obedience (1 John 2:4-5), and love other believers (1 John 2:9-10).

Discerning a person’s worldview is key to being able to challenge her unbelief or answer her challenges to the Christian faith. Having a well-developed Christian worldview helps us hold our faith consistently and confidently, and consequently engage unbelievers effectively.

[1] James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.

[2] David Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans, 2002), 267-74.

Understanding the concept of “Worldview”

world_view-eyesWorldview is a concept that has become more common over the last few decades. One of the reasons for the growth of its use in intellectual and religious conversations is that it allows us to understand why people believe the things they do. Understanding a person’s worldview allows you to trace the logical outcome of their heart commitments, and to discern inconsistencies and contradictions when people don’t remain coherent in their beliefs.

Coherence is a significant part of thinking rationally, and the nature of worldviews allows us to test the rationality of a belief system. This is essentially what you are doing when you are asking the type of questions we discussed in earlier chapters. Coherence means internal consistency, and a coherent position is one in which all the beliefs fit together. If, for example, I believe that man is nothing more than an animal, and with no more significance or value than an animal, it would be inconsistent for me to argue that humans have dignity or rights that animals don’t have. If I believe that this world came about by chance and mindless forces, it would be incoherent to talk about meaning in life.

Surprisingly, then, many worldviews contain internally incoherent elements. One way to become a better apologist is to familiarize yourself with various worldviews and learn to identify the logical implications for them. When you are able to do this, you will find that your ability to tear down strongholds and undermine the unbelief of the non-Christian grows significantly.

Definition and Explanation of a Worldview

Worldview is a complex concept that encompasses a person’s intellectual, emotional, religious, and psychological beliefs. Philosopher James Sire captures the heart of the concept in his definition. He writes that 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]

Sire’s definition helps us see the personal nature of worldviews. They go beyond the head to the heart. The depth at which a person holds his worldview helps us see how radical it is for someone to change his worldview. This is why salvation must be a work of the Holy Spirit to internally regenerate a person so he can, in one moment, jettison his unbelieving worldview and embrace the gospel. Evangelism and apologetics, then, must happen prayerfully in the power of the Spirit for genuine conversion to happen.

In the next post we will look at the component parts of Sire’s definition.

[1] James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.

Why Worldview Training Is not Enough for Godliness or Apologetics

not enoughWhen most people who are familiar with apologetics hear the term, they think of worldviews. While the concept of worldview is important, teaching it does not guarantee that a) students will automatically grow deeper in their faith and resist unbelief, and b) that they will equipped to engage unbelievers effectively with the gospel. Stephen Altrogge hits the nail on the head in this article, A Solid Worldview Won’t Save My Kids.

I’ve seen too many of my childhood friends grow up to reject the biblical worldview that was so furiously drummed into them as children. I’ve seen too many people make choices that they know are in direct contradiction to the worldview they embraced for so many years. I’ve seen too many train wrecks to think that worldview alone is enough.

Read the whole thing!

Destroying False Arguments and Pulling Down Intellectual Strongholds

Tearing Down Strongholds

 

As you ask questions and challenge the unbeliever’s worldview indirectly, you will now begin to weave into the conversation more direct confrontation of his beliefs. By this time you have already debunked some of his cherished beliefs, and if the conversation continues, he will be more open to hearing alternative explanations of the issues for which he no longer has answers. There are several ways to begin to present the Christian faith more directly.

  1. Challenge his errors and misconceptions about Christianity

While you are interacting with the unbeliever, pay attention to any “facts” he proposes about Christianity. Many times unbelievers will make accusations about the Bible or the Christian faith that are simply wrong. In such a case you must correct that error before proceeding in the conversation.

For example, if the unbeliever says, “I just can’t believe in a God who toys with people’s lives and punishes them for no reason whatsoever.” If you are not listening carefully, you might try to defend this view of God, when in fact, Christians don’t believe in this type of God. This description is a distortion of the biblical concepts of God’s sovereignty and justice. So a proper response would be something like, “Oh, I don’t believe in that type of God either. Can I tell you about the God I do believe in?” In other words, don’t let misconceptions about the Christian faith to stand without correction.

Similarly, if someone says, “I believe in Jesus! I believe he was a wise teacher who taught people to love one another and be at peace. I just don’t believe that Jesus would ever condemn people or only make one way to God.” A good response would be, “Jesus was a wise teacher and he did teach us to love one another, but he also spoke of judgment. He did claim to be the only way to God. If you are going to be fair with the evidence and not make up a Jesus of your own liking, then you have to consider everything he did and said, not just the parts you like.” By doing this you are making sure that the unbeliever understands the Christian faith accurately. This point will be expanded in the next lesson.

  1. Contrast the irrationality and contradiction of unbelief with the wisdom and rationality of the Christian faith.

As you help the unbeliever realize that his worldview is inconsistent, irrational, and contradictory by asking questions, you also want to interject the aspects of the Christian faith that provide real answers to those very questions. This is the aspect of apologetics that seeks to commend the Christian faith for its beauty and wisdom. I want to help the unbeliever see that the Christian faith meets all the intellectual tests that it encounters. The Christian faith can answer every legitimate challenge raised against it.

But there’s more. The gospel of Jesus Christ answers the deepest longings of the human heart. The reason this is so is because Christianity is about a relationship with a person—the God-man, Jesus Christ. What the unbeliever really wants in his soul, as one who was made to be in relationship with God, is to be restored to Him. Therefore, you want to present the gospel clearly and in a compelling fashion. The truth should be attractive. Even as you are removing the bricks in the wall of his worldview, you are presenting the alternative of Christ as the real answer to his longings.

This step is crucial; otherwise you may seem like nothing more than someone who likes to deconstruct the views of others. If you can present the logic and beauty of the Christian faith, you show the unbeliever that there is somewhere to go once he has rejected his former views. In order to do this the Christian needs to know his faith as thoroughly as possible. The more you understand all that the Christian faith teaches, the more thoroughly you will be able to describe the merits of the Christian faith. Second Corinthians 4:6 tells us that everything humans seek—knowledge, light, and glory—are all found in knowing Christ.

  1. If you don’t know, say so

Just as we should call the bluff of unbelievers who try to present phony evidence and unsubstantiated arguments against Christianity, we ourselves should always avoid bluffing. Unbelievers are keen to sense when a Christian is making up evidence or arguments for the faith. One of the most powerful things you can do when encountering a question or challenge to which you don’t know the answer is to say three little words: “I don’t know.”

Many people think that doing this is to admit defeat, but in reality, not knowing the answer to an unbeliever’s question shows that you are a real person. No one can know the answer to every question or objection that may be raised against the Christian faith. Doing this will give you credibility as a humble, genuine person who doesn’t try to bluff his way through a defense of the faith.

As a follow up to admitting you don’t have an answer you can say, “I don’t know, but I will get an answer and get back to you. Can we plan to meet soon so you can hear my answer?” An honest unbeliever won’t expect you to know the answer to every question and will usually respect an honest admission.

Conclusion

Learning to incorporate this method of engaging unbelievers takes considerable practice. The best way to learn, however, is not to keep reading and studying until you feel super-confident, with no doubts regarding your ability. That day will simply never come. No, the way to grow in your ability is to remind yourself of these truths and then to just go do it. Engage non-Christians in conversation. Start by asking questions about their worldview and then begin to incorporate these ideas little by little. No amount of study will replace actual encounters with unbelievers. By doing apologetics to the best of your ability, you will build up your skill in answering questions and pointing people to the gospel of Christ.

One thing that is especially important is to remember that conversion is a work of the Holy Spirit. God is the one who saves; you are merely the messenger of the truth. Be sensitive to how much the unbeliever can take at one time. If he shows interest in the Christian faith, keep going! If after awhile he seems to want to stop the conversation, model the gentleness and respect commanded in 1 Peter 3:16, and end the conversation graciously. Trust that the Holy Spirit will continue to use your words to convict and draw the unbeliever long after you are done speaking with him.

This lesson has shown that anyone can do apologetics. Anyone can learn to ask good questions. Anyone can learn to share the truth of the gospel in a clear and compelling fashion. May your efforts in this venture yield abundant fruit in the lives of the unbelievers that God brings across your path!

Asking Questions and Calling Bluffs

clarify-expectationAsking questions in an apologetics encounter is not always a straightforward venture. There are several keys to making progress in your questions with the unbeliever:

  1. Ask clarifying questions

As you ask questions and the unbeliever explains what he believes, ask questions from time to time to make sure you understand his position. If he says something unclear, such as that he couldn’t believe in such a complex God as Christianity presents, ask, “What do you mean by complex in this situation?” Sometimes people make vague or confusing arguments that are not clear at all. Be sure to ask for clarification so you don’t talk past one another. You may also ask him to define his terms, because if you both have a different understanding of an issue or concept, you will not be able to effectively communicate. Other clarifying questions include:

  • Am I understanding you correctly?
  • Are you saying that…?
  • Is it fair to say that you are arguing X position?
  1. Restate his position

Once you understand what the non-Christian believes, restate his position in simple terms. This is an important step, because once he affirms that you properly understand him, you can move on to the next step. For example, if he says that he believes that evolution explains everything in the universe, clarify by saying something like, “So you are saying that everything comes about randomly through time and chance?” This helps him see that if he wants to hold to Darwin’s theory of evolution, there are intellectual consequences. This is an important step, because once he affirms that you properly understand him, you can move on to the next step.

  1. Force him to hold his position consistently with all its implications

Once you understand what the non-Christian believes, the next step is to take his position for the sake of argument and show him the implications. For example, he may argue that everything came about by time and chance, but we should still do good to people and not harm. Show him that if this is so, we can’t say that anything is necessarily right or wrong. Anything that develops randomly is just that—random. A sense of right or wrong that everyone ought to obey cannot come from a universe that is random. In doing this you are demonstrating that his beliefs are irrational or a contradiction.

By taking his position and holding it consistently, you are showing him that beliefs should be coherent; they should be related to one another. Some beliefs are the basis of other beliefs. Other beliefs are the necessary consequences of those basic beliefs. For example, if someone is a nihilist (someone who believes that life has no meaning), then a logical consequence of that belief is that there is nothing worth living for, no action is better than another, and suicide makes sense. If the unbeliever is a nihilist, yet wants to use his life in service of humanity, you want to point out that doing so is no better than living only for yourself, because he as already started with the idea that life has no meaning.

This step is often a moment of awakening for unbelievers as they realize that their beliefs contradict each other. By asking good questions and playing along with their worldview with all its implications, you help them see for themselves the error of their thinking.

  1. Call his bluff

Sometimes in his opposition to the Christian faith the unbeliever will spout “facts” and “statistics” that seem to strengthen his case for unbelief. Often these arguments will pertain to topics you may not be familiar with. This can make you feel like you have lost the case for Christianity because you don’t know how to answer him. The truth is, however, that many times the unbeliever is bluffing. He may be making up his information, or may be quoting someone else in error. This happens more often than you might think.

For example, someone who has heard a skeptic on the radio, or read an internet article that attacks Christianity will often use those “facts” in a discussion with a Christian. Many times, however, he will get the facts wrong, misquote the source, or even misunderstand the source all together. The truth is that the average Christian knows much more about the ancient Near Eastern world of the Old Testament and the first century world of the New Testament than the average unbeliever. So when the unbeliever tries to attack some aspect of the Bible or the Christian faith, he often has no idea what he is talking about.

In these cases the Christian should “call the bluff” of the unbeliever. In other words, if you hear a “fact” that supposedly proves Christianity wrong, or challenges the truth, question it. Going back to our questions above, ask, “Where did you hear that?” or “What is your source for that fact?” or “Can you prove that statistic reliably?” Often you will find that the unbeliever has no idea where his argument came from and no way to substantiate his claim. By calling his bluff you are pulling him back to real facts. And the Christian faith deals in real, historically verified facts (1 Cor. 15:1-20).

In the next post we will address the ways to carry out 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, where we are called to destroy false arguments and pull down intellectual strongholds.

The Advantages of Asking Questions in Apologetics and Evangelism

QuestionThe key to making progress with unbelievers is asking questions. This has several advantages over a full frontal assault on the ideas opposing the Christian faith. First, as mentioned previously, asking questions encourages the conversation to continue, as opposed to expressing disagreement bluntly. In our increasingly secular society people are easily put off by disagreement.

Second, asking questions prevents the Christian from having to possess extensive knowledge of philosophy, science, history, and other academic fields. The truth is, the average Christian will never become conversant in these areas. Asking questions, however, removes the burden of having to know so much. It allows the Christian to place the burden of knowledge on the unbeliever who is rejecting Christianity.

The third advantage of asking questions is that it allows the unbeliever to arrive at conclusions about his worldview and belief system on his own without you telling him he is wrong. The goal is to ask the right kind of questions so he comes to see for himself that his beliefs are a problem. Self-discovery is powerful when it comes to belief systems. This is what is known as the subversive power of the gospel. To subvert something means to undermine it and overthrow it. The gospel destabilizes, disrupts, and sabotages belief systems constructed out of suppression of the truth. They key to doing this well and bringing the unbeliever closer to Christ is, to repeat, asking good questions.

Christian thinker, Os Guinness, explains this well:

Questions are always more subversive than statements. For one thing, they are indirect. Whereas it should be crystal clear what a statement is saying and where it is leading, a good question is not so obvious, and where it leads to is hidden. For another thing, questions are involving. Whereas a statement always has a “take it or leave it” quality, and we may or may not be interested in what it tells us, there is no standing back from a well-asked question. It invites us, challenges us or intrigues us to get into it and follow it to see where it leads. In short, even a simple question can be a soft form of subversion.[1]

As mentioned earlier, questions invite further conversation. This makes the encounter with the unbeliever more natural and less strained. The unbeliever does not feel like he has encountered a salesman, but a satisfied customer (to put it crassly). Instead of being awkward, the conversation feels more like a person who has been healed of a deadly disease telling another sick person where to find healing.

Imagine the unbeliever’s worldview as a wall of bricks that he has constructed around himself to keep the truth from pressing in on his heart and mind. Every brick in the wall is a different belief, experience, and opinion that he has built up to make him feel justified in rejecting the truth. By asking questions and showing that his beliefs are contradictory or irrational, you are removing these bricks one by one. The more you can cause him to doubt his own beliefs, the less protection he has in his unbelief and the fewer reasons he has to keep rejecting the truth. Therefore, no matter how far the conversation goes as long as some bricks are dislodged or removed, the encounter is a victory.

In the next post we will look at several keys to effective apologetics with unbelievers.

[1] Os Guinness, Fool’s Talk: Recovering the Art of Christian Persuasion (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2015), 53.

Challenging the Authority of the Unbeliever’s Worldview

134ee-strongholdIn 2 Corinthians 10:3-5, the Apostle Paul explains that the battles that we fight are not physical, but spiritual battles. As a result, the weapons we use are not swords or guns, but rather truth and ideas. In the ancient world cities were surrounded by high, thick walls. The walls were the first line of defense. Inside the walls, however was a stronghold where the city stored supplies to outlast a siege. The stronghold was also a place to which the city leaders could retreat if the walls were breached until help would arrive. If the stronghold was brought down or breached, all was lost and those inside had to surrender to survive.

This is the word picture Paul uses to describe the tactic Christians should use when interacting with unbelievers. We should try to discern the authority on which the unbeliever relies. For some people, the authority is human reason; for others, science is their authority. Other authorities on which people rely include religion, a particular philosopher, parents, or their own experience. On whatever authority the unbeliever bases his ideas and values, that is the stronghold in his life.

Once the stronghold is identified we can begin to challenge that authority. By undermining the authority in which he trusts, we take away from him the grounds of his objections to the gospel. This approach echoes the wisdom saying in Proverbs 21:22, which says, “A wise man scales the city of the mighty, and brings down the stronghold in which they trust.” Even though an intellectual stronghold can be difficult to bring down, Paul reminds us that Christians have been given divine power to do so. This power is not a magical power, but is found in the arguments themselves. As he says in verse 4, we “destroy arguments.” That is, the arguments we use to defeat the objections raised against the Christian faith are powerful by virtue of being true. Truth is always more powerful than falsehood.

In our conversations with unbelievers we are seeking to show the weakness of the unbeliever’s worldview. We do this with the confidence that even though we can’t always see weakness in his arguments at first, they are there. Only the Christian faith can coherently answer the deep questions of meaning in life. The more we interact with unbelievers and seek to identify their strongholds, the better we become at identifying them accurately. When we identify them accurately we can show how the stronghold cannot stand the scrutiny of truth. But how do we do this?

In the next post we look at how to ask questions that reveal the true authority in the unbeliever’s worldview. The intent is to help him see that what he trusts epistemologically is self-contradictory, and cannot stand up to scrutiny.