Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Worldview Thinking

I have been on a journey into the world of presuppositional apologetics. This field of philosophy/theology is about examining our basic foundational assumptions about life. Everyone has them whether they have ever thought about them or not. I have participated in discourse with atheists who claim that their belief system has been proven, and thus they made no assumptions or steps of faith in solidifying their worldview. No one can honestly make this claim. Not even the Christian. Somewhere the buck stops. Somewhere truth has to be self evidencing. Meaning if I am trying to prove a matter I have to prove the matter before that and before that and on into infinity. Somewhere truth, in order to be truth, has to stop at something that just is—something that gains its truthfulness not from another presupposition, but from the thing itself. Therefore, the discipline of presuppositional apologetics is about looking at worldviews from the top down instead of from the bottom up.

We ask questions to get people thinking about how they think. We point out that the very reason we can reason is that God is. We start at the place of God’s existence and illustrate how all else makes sense through that paradigm or worldview. In this way it is shown that other worldviews fail to make sense of the world, and how they all borrow from the Christian worldview to bring a semblance of validity to their belief system. This is usually unintentional, but happens just the same. If Christianity is the worldview that gives the most adequate foundation for life then it follows that any other worldview has some of its truth contained within or else it wouldn’t be plausible enough for anyone to believe it.

Apologist, Joe Boot puts it this way, “We must be willing to get to the foundations of our experience. If we remain content to decorate the interior of the house of knowledge and pay no attention to the structure and foundation stones of that house, we will find that the dry rot of absurdity and the rising damp of unexamined assumptions are fatal to the structure.”

Many people assume worldviews that are not livable. Postmodernist philosopher Jacques Derrida wrote an entire book about how language had no meaning as it could not point to anything beyond itself to gain its meaning. He used language to communicate how language cannot communicate. How absurd is that? The same philosopher says that any reader can interpret what is written according to their own worldview. He goes on to say that one should consider the author dead and not worry about what the author may have meant when writing the book. However, Derrida wrote another whole book explaining his previous book when people misinterpreted his arguments in the prior book. Apparently he expected people to have interpreted his book in the way he meant it and not in the way they chose to interpret it.

C.S. Lewis writes in Mere Christianity that a man can say he disbelieves in morality until someone steals from him and then he is the first to cry that an injustice has occurred, thus appealing to the moral law he previously denied.

Albert Einstein wrote that he was a moral relativist, but could not live like one if he wanted to get along in the world.

There are so many examples of contradictions between worldviews and practical living. These same people would have their practical lives come crashing down if they actually lived out their foundational presuppositions about life. If Derrida truly wanted to maintain his foundational beliefs he would have never been able to share them with anyone because they could never be communicated. In contrast, Renee Descartes, who is famous for his conclusion “I think therefore I am” remained in bed until he had resolved himself to the fact of his existence by acknowledgment of his own thoughts. He understood there was no point in going through the actions of life if he wasn’t yet sure of his existence.

There are certainly some foundational beliefs we are grateful people don’t actually try and live out for this benefits the rest of society. I have read of people who believe that there is no moral law and no difference between stepping on a beetle and killing a person. I would not advocate that they try and live this practically, but that they realize the impossibility of that belief system.

To borrow from Joe Boot, ones worldview must be able to give an adequate explanation for science, logic, morality and language. It must answer questions of origin, purpose, morality, and final destiny.

Apologist Ravi Zacharias rightly advocates that ones worldview must be logical, livable, and transferable. In other words, it must make sense philosophically, work practically, and have the ability to be communicated to another.

We must learn to think about our worldviews and not simply continue plunging blindly into life with no consideration for our basic foundational beliefs. We must not live lives in a place of complacent contradiction. It’s time to examine our foundational principles and confirm them or change them to line up with truth. Socrates always lamented that “the unexamined life was not worth living.” I believe that he realized that how we live is directly related to how we think.

Conversely, when Jesus called for man’s repentance he was speaking not only about a heart change, but a mind change, for the word literally means “to change the way you think.” Our thinking must line up with reality. That reality has been revealed through the person of Jesus for He said of himself that He is the Truth. Truth is personified in the person of Jesus. Hence, it can be personally known and experienced. Truly, when we examine our way of thinking we must do so in light of truth. We must compare our way of thinking to the Truth and alter ours to His when we find a discrepancy in the way we think. The way we live will follow when our thoughts follow His.


scott said...


a piece for peace

Jeanine said...

I agree that we need to evaluate our beliefs at their foundation. Trouble is the thinking man takes so much more energy to get anything done :). Like not getting out of bed until you prove to yourself that you exist. I just keep climbing through my mind and thoughts hoping to forge a road so that living goes faster after I have worked through all the complicated thoughts.

Karla said...

Sometimes it's when we hit a cross road that we have to stop and think about what we really believe and why. Sometimes it's when we are challenged about what we believe. Os Guinness quips that everybody thinks with their worldview, but not many think about it. Though I think most people that think come to a place where they examine their belief system. I'm glad most of us don't need to follow the path of Descartes and start from stratch. We have so many resources that have done the hard work for us. We can read through and ask questions and see what best corresponds to reality. Jesus disciples were just simple fishermen. One doesn't have to be a scholar to know where our trust lies.