By Dr. Tom Snyder with Dr. Ted Baehr
Everyone has a worldview by which they live, whether they know it consciously or not.
What is a worldview?
According to Norman Geisler and William D. Watkins in Worlds Apart: A Handbook of World Views, a worldview is “a way of viewing or interpreting all of reality.” Later, they add that a worldview provides “an interpretive framework through which or by which one makes sense out of the data of life and the world.” As such, all comprehensive worldviews seem to share at least five things: 1) they have a cosmology, a view of the “physical” or “material” universe; 2) they have a metaphysics, a view of what might or might not exist beyond the universe; 3) they have an anthropology, a view of human beings and their environment and culture; 4) they have a psychology, a view of the human soul and the mental, emotional, spiritual, and interior life of human beings; and, 5) they have an axiology, a philosophy of values.
In general, a good worldview must have at least three things: internal consistency, explanatory power, and empirical adequacy or sufficiency. Thus, it must be logical, it must be able to explain many different kinds of phenomenon, and it must fit the facts.
How many different worldviews are there?
Different scholars name different sets of worldviews. The Christian Film & Television Commission®’s flagship publication, MOVIEGUIDE®, identifies six basic worldviews.
The first two are the positive ones, labeled the Moral or Biblical Worldview and the Christian Worldview. We separate these two worldviews, because many movies are not explicitly, or even implicitly, Christian, but may contain moral or biblical elements, including references to the moral principles described by Moses in the Hebrew Scriptures and/or by Jesus Christ and his disciples in the New Testament, references to the historical figures in the Bible, or references to the characters in the parables of Jesus Christ. The Christian worldview, of course, implies that people are sinful and in need of redemption. Thus, a Christian worldview values such things as repentance, forgiveness, sacrifice, and service. It also makes explicit and implicit references to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, including the death, resurrection, and vicarious atonement of Jesus Christ, as well as references to the Kingdom, or Reign, of God that Christ came to establish in the minds, hearts and lives of human beings.
The four other major worldviews identified by MOVIEGUIDE® are explicitly, and often implicitly, Anti-Christian and anti-biblical and they include:
Nihilism: Nihilism says everything is meaningless. It denies the possibility of any objective truth or knowledge. It asserts that the universe is meaningless and without purpose, that human life lacks all value and significance, and that moral values are totally arbitrary and worthless. Nevertheless, some self-proclaimed nihilists assert (contradictorily, I might add) that, although life is meaningless, they have made a choice to find meaning somewhere, because, under nihilism, all choices are meaningless and, hence, all choices are objectively and morally equivalent, so it does not matter what you choose. Nihilism is often a kind of humanism, the next of the four Anti-Christian, unbiblical worldviews.
Humanism: Humanism posits man as the measure of all things; however, modern humanism is not just an anthropocentric or man-centered system. Accepting (as a matter of good faith!) the definition of humanism posited by THE HUMANIST MANIFESTO, modern humanism (unlike traditional or Christian humanism) believes that only the material world exists; there is no supernatural or nonmaterial world, no God, no gods, and usually no alien “others.” Man has no soul. He is just a meat machine that has “evolved” according to some form of Darwinism. Modern humanism always has a strong anti-supernatural bias. Also, it can be quite nihilistic. Marx said that his Communism and Socialism was the ultimate humanism and advocated that a humanist society should abolish religion, abolish family, abolish nation, and abolish private property.
Romanticism: Man is essentially good and noble, and civilization (by which Rousseau, the “father” of Romanticism, meant Christianity) corrupts man. Man is controlled by his “heart” and emotions, not by his intellect or logical mind. Thus, Romanticism often favors a personal, emotional kind of self-expression and includes such phrases as “follow your heart” or “follow your bliss,” without any appeal to God or the Bible. Paganism and mob rule are related to Romanticism, though Romanticism is more consistent and avoids totemism. Romanticism is not related to the idea of romance, but it is an idealistic worldview.
Paganism: Eclectic, “anything goes” worship of whatever gods or non-traditional belief system anyone so desires to worship (or a mixture of belief systems), usually without Christian or biblical values. In contrast, to an organized system such as shintoism. Sensual pleasures and material goods are often, but not always, the main goal in life. Often paganism leads to hedonism, anarchy or a fascist dictatorship. It also often involves spiritism, use of magic, or worship of many false gods, with one of the gods sometimes being singled out for special worship or particular lifelong devotion. Paganism also includes what is sometimes called the New Age, which is a movement that has roots in gnosticism, Buddhism, and Hinduism. Many people today have a mixed pagan worldview where they combine elements of Christianity or some biblical values with other Non-Christian or unbiblical spiritual ideas and behavior.
Another Worldview System
Worldviews can also be broken down into just two worldviews – those which are Christian and those which are Anti-Christian, or those which are Theistic and those which are Anti-Theistic.
This may be a little bit too simplistic and antagonistic, however, so a more fruitful or meaningful breakdown may be the following:
Theism: Theism affirms that the world or universe is real but finite or limited. It also says that the material universe was created by an eternal, nonmaterial, personal, and infinite Supreme Being, or God, who exists outside of or separate from the material universe, but who has ultimate, total control over the universe and who can therefore act within that universe. This God has established a set of absolute moral principles that all people are required to obey. In this worldview, all men survive physical death as corporeal spiritual beings, whereupon God will judge the person according to some specific criteria. For Jews and orthodox Christians, there is a unity of body, mind, soul, and spirit on earth, and after death when the person is physically and spiritually resurrected. Theistic Platonists posit the separation of the body and the soul, often with a Theistic judgment involving the transmigration of the soul. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam are examples of Theism.
Nihilism: Nihilism says everything is meaningless. It denies the possibility of any objective truth or knowledge. It asserts that the universe is meaningless and without purpose, that human life lacks all value and significance, and that moral values are totally arbitrary and worthless. Nevertheless, some self-proclaimed nihilists assert (contradictorily, I might add) that, although life is meaningless, they have made a choice to find meaning somewhere, because, under nihilism, all choices are meaningless and, hence, all choices are objectively and morally equivalent, so it does not matter what you choose.
Atheism: Although some atheists admit they cannot disprove the existence of God, atheism, or anti-theism, says people should conduct their lives as if God does not exist. Most atheists believe the material universe is real and declare that people are really only composed of matter. They deny there is a spirit or soul apart from our physical bodies. Finally, they believe that people create their own moral laws, which emerge by trial and error.
Polytheism: Polytheism claims there are two or more finite, personal gods. These gods are usually changing. Some of them may be good, some of them may be evil, and some of them may be both good and evil. They often compete for power with one another and with human beings whose souls are immortal but whose bodies usually are not. Polytheism also often contends that the material universe is eternal. The universe “is a great multifaceted, expanding organism that contains opposites which often war against each other, causing conflict and temporal states of chaos.” The universe as we know it now was created out of some pre-existent matter by the gods or by itself. The gods do not exist outside of this material cosmos but only act within it. According to polytheism, there are no absolute or universal ethics; moral laws are relative and local.
Pantheism: Pantheism asserts that what we call God is an infinite, impersonal energy, force, or even consciousness that, because the material universe flows out of God, is really one with t he universe. Miracles usually are impossible in this worldview, and man’s immortal soul must eventually unite with God in this world or in the next, often after being reincarnated countless times in various physical bodies, sometimes even animal and insect bodies, throughout history. Unlike theism, pantheism proclaims that people must transcend or go beyond good and evil, especially when they unite with God. Until that time, people are encouraged to live relatively moral lives in order to attain ever higher levels of spiritual growth and/or consciousness, although an ethical life is never the ultimate goal.
Each of these worldviews can be mixed with the others. For instance, there is a special worldview called panentheism, which says that God is actually finite at the present time but is becoming, or growing toward, infinity and that the material universe is a part of God, who still has some kind of existence beyond the universe. This worldview is a combination of theism and pantheism. Also, some forms of weak theism can seem quite atheistic, and some forms of atheism borrow ideas from theism, pantheism, and polytheism. Modern deism, for example, seems to be a combination of theism and atheism.
Christianity, a form of ethical monotheism, is superior to all of these non-Christian or anti-Christian worldviews because it is logical, it explains many different kinds of phenomenon, and it fits the facts.
For instance, the Christian worldview affirms the existence of an ordered, physical universe created by an eternal, transcendental, personal God, who is inherently benevolent, loving, and thoughtful. This God has instilled in people the ability to engage in rational or logical thought and empirical observation, as when a historian, scientist, theologian, or film critic rationally examines factual evidence. Thus, the Christian worldview affirms the general validity, but not the infallibility, of science, history, theology, and film criticism.
The Christian worldview also accepts the idea that truth exists and can be known by finite, or limited, human beings like you and me. This truth is objective, transcendent, and absolute because God and His existence are objective, transcendent, and absolute. It is perfectly proper, therefore, for human beings to spend their lives searching for objective, transcendent, absolute truth.
Third, the Christian worldview proclaims that there is an objective, transcendent moral order (or set of essential moral values and principles), which every person must obey. These moral values and principles are part of God’s character. Thus, in this way, Christianity provides a rational justification for judging what is good or evil, right or wrong, true or false, and proper or improper. Without a worldview such as Christian theism, we could not claim that murder is wrong or that the war against Nazi Germany in World War II was the right thing to do. Because of all this, the Christian worldview has an intellectually and emotionally compelling moral philosophy.
The Christian worldview is also superior because it gives human beings a meaningful love. The love that God has for human beings is rooted in the loving, transcendent, eternal relationship that exists between the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit, the three persons who are the One True God. This “trinity” is not an irrational concept, because the three persons in the Godhead share the single divine nature or divine being of the One True God. In other words, to have three “who’s” and one “what” is not a logical contradiction.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the Christian worldview, because it is based on a set of historical documents, the books of the Bible, can be empirically verified and rationally studied by using basic rules of evidence and basic laws of logic. There is sufficient evidence that the historical biblical documents making up the Holy Bible are internally consistent and factually true. The Bible clearly states that all human beings are sinful (Gen. 8:21; Psalm 14:1-3; John 3:19; Rom. 3:9-18, 23), but that Jesus Christ died for their sins and rose from the dead (Mark 10:45, 16:6; Luke 24:45-48; 1 Cor. 15:1-8). Human beings can receive forgiveness from God for their sins by believing in this Gospel of Jesus Christ and believing in the work Jesus has done (John 8:12 and 11:25-26; Acts 2:38 and 26:15; Eph. 1:17; 1 John 2:12).
Thus, Christianity is thoroughly logical, explains many different kinds of phenomenon (including physical phenomena and the human condition), and it fits the facts. There is no rational reason, therefore, to withhold your love, worship, and obedience to God the Father, through Jesus Christ, His Only Son, by the power of the Holy Spirit. Turn away from your sins and your evil nature, and believe the Good News of Jesus Christ.
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