What is a Worldview?

(Originally posted in June of 2016. Spruced up a tad today)

Worldview Defined

What is a worldview? I have some more defining aspects in pages 10 to the end of the opening chapter of my book. The American Heritage Dictionary defines “worldview” this way:

1) The overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world;

2) A collection of beliefs about life and the universe held by an individual or a group. 

James Sire has a more in-depth definition.

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) which 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 well being.

James W. Sire, Naming the Elephant: Worldview as a Concept (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2004), 122.

(Mind you, the Websters and American Heritage dictionaries encapsulate the same idea… just in layman terms… other philosophy dictionaries and books expand on the idea.)

Dr. Norman Geisler notes that a “Worldview is how one views or interprets reality,” he continues:

The German word is Weltanschauung, meaning a ‘world and life view,’ or ‘a paradigm.’ It is a framework through which or by which one makes sense of the data of life. A worldview makes a world of difference in one’s view of God, origins, evil, human nature, values, and destiny”

Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics [Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1999], 785-786.

Encycolpedia.com notes this of “worldview:

Weltanschauung is a German word that often is translated as “worldview” or “world outlook” but just as frequently is treated as a calque or left untranslated. A Weltanschauung is a comprehensive conception or theory of the world and the place of humanity within it. It is an intellectual construct that provides both a unified method of analysis for and a set of solutions to the problems of existence. The concept of a Weltanschauung has played an important role in the development of psychoanalysis, critical theory, and nineteenth- and twentieth-century hermeneutics.

And the Dictionary of Philosophy and Religion:  Eastern and Western Thought has this snippet as well:


From the German, meaning “world view.”

(1) Dilthey (v. 5), finding world-views (Weltanschauungen) to be a composite of actual beliefs, value-judgments, and ulti­mate goals, established a Weltanschauungs-lehre (teaching or doctrine about world-views). Each world-view makes thought, feeling, or will basic to its system and develops the appropriate categories to express its interpretation of life.

(2) Mannheim (q.v.) distinguished between partial and total ideology, equating the latter with the Weltan­schauung of an age or of a concrete historico-social group.

William L. Reese (Amherst, NY: Humanity Books [Prometheus Books], 1999), cf. Weltanschauung, 827.

Even Biblical Archaeology gets into the mix with this definition:

A worldview consists of a series of assumptions/presuppositions that a person holds about reality. A worldview, consciously or subconsciously, affects the way a person evaluates every aspect of reality. Every person adheres to some sort of worldview, although one person may not be as consciously aware of it as another person. These presuppositions affect the thinking of every person in the world. It logically follows that the way a person thinks affects what a person does.

The above definitions of a worldview should suffice this presentation… remember some persons think that a “coherent worldview must be able to satisfactorily answer four questions: that of origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.” Others, include more (pictured to the right, click it to enlarge).

What is a Worldview? Does God Exist? How Did Everything Begin? Who Am I? Why Am I Here? What Happens After I Die? Cabbages and puppies don’t think about this stuff…but people do. Reflecting on the big questions in life is part of what makes us human. Everyone Has A Worldview…What’s Yours?

(Take the Quiz at www.impact360.org/worldviewquiz)

And here is one of my all time favorites:

Lens Repair 101: A Worldview Analysis from Sarah Clifton

AGAIN, a worldview is…

that basic set of assumptions that gives meaning to one’s thoughts. A worldview is the set of assumptions that someone has about the way things are, about what things are, about why things are.

Russ Bush, A Handbook for Christian Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1991), 70.

If you want a “210 introduction” (i.e., a bit more advanced), see my introductory chapter to my book. The above video can also be found on my MRCTV account.

All Religions/Non-Religions

Fall Into a Worldview

Here are the worldviews that every religion falls into (I will post the harder worldviews to understand in short videos):

Theism (e.g. Christianity; Islam[1]; Judaism): An infinite Personal God Exists Both Beyond and in the Universe. The belief in one God as the creator and ruler of the universe, without rejection of revelation (distinguished from deism).

Polytheism: There are Many God Beyond the World and in It. (It can fit at times under theism or pantheism, and should be considered a sub-set of these two larger worldviews.) It comes from the two Greek words “poly” for many, and from “theism” for god. Obviously, this is the view that says there are many finite limited gods controlling and influencing reality together. Modern day examples of polytheism include Mormonism, Hinduism, the New Age movement, and the surviving remnants of the ancient cults of worshipping the many Roman, Greek, and Norse gods.

Finite-Godism: A Finite God Exists Beyond and in the Universe (Is a sub-set of theism). This is a rare view and we may not be very familiar with the worldview of finite godism. As the name suggests, this view of reality believes that God exists, is beyond the world, but is limited in power and imperfection. a god who is limited in his goodness is a god who is incapable of putting an end to evil in the world. If such a god cannot put an end to evil, such a god either: 1. Doesn’t exist. 2. Is a finite being. This view happens to be very similar in some ways to the worldview of polytheism, however, finite godism believes that there is only one single god in the universe.

Naturalism (e.g. Atheism, Hard-Agnosticism, Existentialism): No God Exists Beyond or in the Universe. Atheism is not a disbelief in gods or a denial of gods; it is a lack of belief in gods. Older dictionaries define atheism as “a belief that there is no God.” Simply, the doctrine or belief that there is no God.

Pantheism (e.g. Hinduism; Taoism; Buddhism; much New Age Consciousness): God is the Universe (the All). Pantheism is the belief that the Universe (or nature as the totality of everything) is identical with divinity, or that everything composes an all-encompassing, immanent god. Pantheists thus do not believe in a distinct personal or anthropomorphic god.

The word “pantheism” comes from two greek words, “pan” and “theos”, meaning “all” and “God”.  So, in a nutshell, we see that pantheism is the worldview that believes that “all is God, and God is All.”  Pantheism includes the world religions of Hinduism, some forms of Buddhism, and the New Age Movement as well.

Pantheism is also the popular religion of “Star Wars” and “Master Yoda”, it forms the central beliefs of “Neo and Morpheus” in the box-office hit trilogy “Matrix”, and has also been made populer in the animated TV series “Avatar” for teens, where “Aang” is seeking spiritual enlightenment in his quest to save the world.

Panentheism: God is in the Universe  (e.g., as a mind is in a body). Panetheism is halfway between theism and pantheism. If we picture Atheism as an empty physical universe without any god, and Pantheism as a universe that is itself God, then Panentheism is a universe in which God would be inside of it all.  The actual word “panentheism” is made up of three Greek words that mean “all”, “in”, and “god” respectively.

Panentheism is the view that God is in all, and that God is developing and changing along with the world.  It is also called “process theology”, or “bipolar theism”, “organicism” since it views the universe as a gigantic organism, or even “neoclassical theism” since its idea of God is very different than the classical Christian concept. Typically, the average person that believes in the “God” of panentheism would probably call him “mother nature”, possibly “the cosmos”, or maybe even the “world spirit.”

  • Panentheism: God is in the tree, the rock, and the river.
  • Pantheism: the tree, the rock, and the river are in God.

Deism: God is Beyond the Universe, But Not in It. The “hands off God.” The term comes from the Latin deus, meaning “god.” This concept compares God to a clockmaker who creates a clock, starts it running, but has nothing to do with it after that. Deists drew this conclusion from watching natural disasters or human tragedies in which God did not intervene.

See also Dr. Geisler’s excerpt from his encyclopedia (PDF of “World Religions”)

“MORAL PLATONISM” is a form of this (roughly):

  • In 2011 Dr William Lane Craig spoke at the Forum of Christian Leaders (FOCL) in Hungary. While they he spoke on the topic, “Five Arguments for Theism” and took questions from the audience to accompany his lecture. In this clip, Dr Craig answers the question, “Is atheistic moral platonism more plausible than theism?”

[1] I ~ and others ~ would posit that Allah is not all-good (as well as other issues that would make this “god” fall a bit into “finite-godism”). Listen to this extended debate over the issue, here is the description for the linked video:

A controversy at Wheaton College has spurred a national debate on whether Muslims and Christians worship the same God. Certainly Muslims deny the Trinity and deity of Christ. Yet, is there enough overlap between the two religion’s concept of God to sufficiently claim that adherents of both worship the same God?

Justin is joined by two Christian guests to debate the question, Joseph Cumming a scholar of Islamic and Christian thought at Yale and former Ahmadi (Qadiani) Nabeel Qureshi of RZIM.

Joseph Cumming is a scholar of Islamic and Christian thought who serves as Pastor of the International Church at Yale University and works internationally as a consultant on Muslim-Christian and Muslim-Christian-Jewish relations. He was one of the architects of the “Yale Response” to the Common Word initiative of 138 prominent Muslim leaders and scholars. He is also International Director of Doulos Community, a humanitarian organization working in the Islamic Republic of Mauritania, and is past President of the Federation of NGOs in Mauritania. Cumming has published numerous articles on issues affecting relations among the Abrahamic faith communities. He has lectured in Arabic at Al-Azhar University and other Islamic institutions and has taught courses at Yale Divinity School, as well as at Fuller Theological Seminary and other Evangelical institutions. He has been interviewed in Arabic on Al-Jazeera and other Arab television networks, and in English on American and Canadian television and radio, and in French and German by European and African news media.

Dr. Nabeel Qureshi is a former Ahmadi (Qadiani) who was convinced of the truth of the Gospel through historical reasoning and a spiritual search for God. Since his conversion, he has dedicated his life to spreading the Gospel through teaching, preaching, writing, and debating.

Nabeel focuses on the foundations of the Christian faith, ancient Judaism, early Islam, and the interface of science and religion. He holds an MD from Eastern Virginia Medical School, an MA in Christian apologetics from Biola University, and an MA in Religion from Duke University. He is currently pursuing a doctorate in New Testament studies at Oxford University where he lives with his wife, Michelle


Napoleon said this about Jesus:

  • I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.

H.G. Wells, the famous novelist and historian in his own right agreed:

  • I am an historian, I am not a believer, but I must confess as a historian that this penniless preacher from Nazareth is irrevocably the very center of history. Jesus Christ is easily the most dominant figure in all history.

Albert Einstein adds his intellect:

  • As a child I received instruction both in the Bible and in the Talmud. I am a Jew, but I am enthralled by the luminous figure of the Nazarene…. No one can read the Gospels without feeling the actual presence of Jesus. His personality pulsates in every word. No myth is filled with such life.

Church historian Philip Schaff concludes:

  • Jesus of Nazareth, without money and arms, conquered more millions than Alexander the Great, Caesar, Mohammed, and Napoleon; without science and learning, he shed more light on things human and divine than all philosophers and scholars combined; without the eloquence of school, he spoke such words of life as were never spoken before or since, and produced effects which lie beyond the reach of orator or poet; without writing a single line, he set more pens in motion, and furnished themes for more sermons, orations, discussions, learned volumes, works of art, and songs of praise than the whole army of great men of ancient and modern times.

Robert Hume brings us home:

The nine founders among the eleven living religions in the world had characters which attracted many devoted followers during their own lifetime, and still larger numbers during the centuries of subsequent history. They were humble in certain respects, yet they were also confident of a great religious mission. Two of the nine, Mahavira and Buddha, were men so strong-minded and self-reliant that, according to the records, they displayed no need of any divine help, though they both taught the inexorable cosmic law of Karma. They are not reported as having possessed any consciousness of a supreme personal deity. Yet they have been strangely deified by their followers. Indeed, they themselves have been worshipped, even with multitudinous idols.

All of the nine founders of religion, with the exception of Jesus Christ, are reported in their respective sacred scriptures as having passed through a preliminary period of uncertainty, or of searching for religious light. Confucius, late in life, confessed his own sense of shortcomings and his desire for further improvement in knowledge and character. All the founders of the non-Christian religions evinced inconsistencies in their personal character; some of them altered their practical policies under change of circumstances.

Jesus Christ alone is reported as having had a consistent God consciousness, a consistent character himself, and a consistent program for his religion. The most remarkable and valuable aspect of the personality of Jesus Christ is the comprehensiveness and universal availability of his character, as well as its own loftiness, consistency, and sinlessness.

(The World’s Living Religions [New York, NY: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1959], 285-286.)

William Lane Craig discusses God’s attributes:

What properties must such a cause of the universe possess? By the very nature of the case, the cause of space and time must transcend space and time and therefore exist timelessly and nonspatially (at least without the universe). This transcendent cause must therefore be changeless and immaterial, since anything that is timeless must also be unchanging, and anything that is changeless must be nonphysical and immaterial (since material things are constantly changing at the molecular and atomic levels). Such an entity must be beginningless and uncaused, at least in the sense of lacking any prior causal conditions, since there cannot be an infinite regress of causes. Ockham’s razor—the principle which states that we should not multiply causes beyond necessity—will shave away any other causes, since only one cause is required to explain the effect. This entity must be unimaginably powerful, if not omnipotent, since it created the universe without any material cause.

Finally, and most remarkably, such a transcendent first cause is plausibly personal. Two reasons can be given for this conclusion. First, the personhood of the first cause of the universe is implied by its timelessness and immateriality. The only entities which can possess such properties are either minds or abstract objects, like numbers. But abstract objects don’t stand in causal relations. The number 7, for example, can’t cause anything. Therefore, the transcendent cause of the origin of the universe must be an unembodied mind.

Second, this same conclusion is implied by the origin of an effect with a beginning from a beginningless cause. We’ve concluded that the beginning of the universe was the effect of a first cause. By the nature of the case, that cause cannot have either a beginning of its existence or any prior cause. It just exists changelessly without beginning, and a finite time ago it brought the universe into existence. Now this is exceedingly odd. The cause is in some sense eternal and yet the effect which it produced is not eternal but began to exist a finite time ago. How can this be? If the necessary and sufficient conditions for the effect are eternal, then why isn’t the effect also eternal? How can the cause exist without the effect?

There seems to be only one way out of this dilemma, and that is to say that the cause of the universe’s beginning is a personal agent who freely chooses to create a universe in time. Philosophers call this type of causation “agent causation,” and because the agent is free, he can initiate new effects by freely bringing about conditions which were not previously present. Thus, a finite time ago a Creator endowed with free will could have freely brought the world into being at that moment. In this way, the Creator could exist changelessly and eternally but freely create the world in time. By exercising his causal power, he brings it about that a world with a beginning comes to exist? So the cause is eternal, but the effect is not. In this way, then, it is possible for the temporal universe to have come to exist from an eternal cause: through the free will of a personal Creator.

We may therefore conclude that a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless and unimaginably powerful.

William Lane Craig and Chad Meister, God Is Great, God Is Good: Why Believing in God Is Reasonable and Responsible (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2009), 16-17.

In conversation it is often good to focus on three “Worldviews”

Major World Religious worldviews Explained In 10-Minutes