Worldview: Perspectives on Reality

What is the nature of reality? Is there a God or does scientific naturalism hold the answers to our existence? These are just some of the major questions associated with worldview.

Worldview is a slippery beast—changing, nebulous, and hard to pin down. It engages with the big questions about our existence, the universe, and eternity. Worldview is related to religion but goes beyond a society’s belief system to encompass attitudes to politics, economics, gender and the environment. It informs our culture and the way in which we negotiate our world but it also transcends cultural boundaries.

The Christian worldview, for example, is not bound by cultural borders. Historically it has permeated cultures, transforming established worldviews, while sometimes leaving other aspects of culture intact. Ironically, the long held Christian world view of the West is now being challenged by secular naturalism which has gained religion like status.

Worldview can also function at a collective or individual level. We all know people whose worldview might accord with popular cultural perspectives but be fundamentally different to the values held by their family. Members of a small-scale culture may hold a common worldview based on religion; by contrast, a multicultural society may experience an abundance of worldviews all jostling for acknowledgement.

Worldview is often challenged when a person becomes a Christian, as attitudes and beliefs come into alignment with those of the Gospel. Culture may remain relatively intact but answers to the big questions of life will be transformed.

An understanding of worldview is particularly important to those engaged in cross-cultural evangelism. The concept of worldview is explored from an anthropological perspective in our course Reading Cultures.

Kraft, Charles H. Anthropology for Christian Witness. Maryknoll, NY: Orbis Books, 1996.

Sire, James W. Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept. Downers Grove, IL:InterVarsity Press, 2004.

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Dr. Rosemary Knight

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