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.”
Notice some of the components of this definition:
- 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.” While a person’s worldview involves emotion, it also involves wisdom, desire and will, intellect, and spirituality.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
 James Sire, The Universe Next Door, 5th ed. (InterVarsity, 2009), 20.
 David Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Eerdmans, 2002), 267-74.