Dr. David K. Naugle is chair and professor of Philosophy at Dallas Baptist University. He earned a Th.D. in systematic theology, and a Ph.D. in humanities with concentrations in philosophy and English literature. He is also the director of the Paideia College Society (formerly Pew College Society) the goal of which is the transformation of students, the reformation of the Church and the renewal of the various aspects of cultural life.
Dr. Naugle serves as a Fellow for the Wilberforce Forum, the Christian worldview think tank sponsored by Prison Fellowship in Washington, D. C. He serves as an associate editor of Findings, a quarterly journal produced by the Wilberforce Forum on worldview issues. He is also the editor of The Worldview Church E-Newsletter published by the Wilberforce Forum as an information source designed to encourage Church leaders to implement a Christian worldview in their congregations. Dr. Naugle is the author of Worldview: The History of a Concept(Eerdmans 2002), selected by Christianity Today magazine as the 2003 book of the year in the theology and ethics category. Prior to his post at DBU, Dr. Naugle was an adjunct professor of religion at the University of Texas at Arlington from 1980-1988.
In the introductory remarks to his book Heretics, G. K. Chesterton writes these crucial words about the importance of worldview:
But there are some people, nevertheless — and I am one of them — who think that the most practical and important thing about a man is still his view of the universe. We think that for a landlady considering a lodger, it is important to know his income, but still more important to know his philosophy. We think that for a general about to fight an enemy, it is important to know the enemy’s numbers, but still more important to know the enemy’s philosophy. We think the question is not whether the theory of the cosmos affects matters, but whether, in the long run, anything else affects them.”
I was struck by this quote when I first read it, and I am still struck by it today. After all, what could be more important or powerful than the way individuals conceptualize reality? Is any thing more fundamental than a person’s set of presuppositions and assumptions about the basic make up of the universe? What is more significant than a human being’s foundational system of beliefs? Is there anything more profound or influential than the answers to the deeper questions that the very presence of the universe poses to us all? In agreement, then, with Gilbert Keith Chesterton, I submit that the most practical and important thing about a human being is his or her view of the universe and theory of the cosmos — that is, the content and implications of one’s worldview.
For this reason, I believe that conceiving of biblical faith as a worldview has been one of the more important developments in the recent history of the Church. Though such a generous vision of reality is rooted in the best of the Church’s tradition, for various reasons — especially the reductionistic pressures stemming from modernism — this bigger biblical picture of things has virtually vanished. “We have rather lost sight of the idea,” Dorothy Sayers once noted, “that Christianity is supposed to be an interpretation of the universe.” In recent memory, however, this larger perspective has been hidden under a basket and its light almost extinguished.
In this contemporary setting of dwarfed versions of the faith, the concept of worldview has, in a sense, come to the rescue. It offers the Church a fresh perspective on the holistic nature, cosmic dimensions, and universal applications of the faith. Plus, the explanatory power, intellectual coherence, and pragmatic effectiveness of a Christian worldview not only make it exceedingly relevant for believers personally, but also establish it as a solid foundation for vigorous cultural and academic engagement. For these reasons, then, we will do well to understand as much as we can about the history of the concept of worldview, its theological meaning, and its implications on a variety of prominent human enterprises. That is what I seek to accomplish in this presentation. We begin, then, with a look at the origin of worldview as a concept and its history in the evangelical Church.
There is virtually universal recognition that the notable Prussian philosopher Immanuel Kant coined the term Weltanschauung, that is, worldview in his work Critique of Judgment, published in 1790. It originates in a quintessential Kantian paragraph that emphasizes the power of the perception of the human mind. Kant writes, “If the human mind is nonetheless to be able even to think the given infinite without contradiction, it must have within itself a power that is supersensible, whose idea of the noumenon cannot be intuited but can yet be regarded as the substrate underlying what is mere appearance, namely, our intuition of the world” [Weltanschauung]. That last phrase — “our intuition of the world” — is an English translation of Kant’s coined German term Weltanschauung.
The context of this quotation suggests that for Kant, Weltanschauung means something rather simple like a perception of the world gained empirically. Martin Heidegger notes that Kant employed Weltanschauung in reference to the mundus sensibilis, that is, as a “world-intuition in the sense of contemplation of the world given to the senses”
From its coinage in Kant, who used the term only once and for whom it was of minor significance, it evolved rather quickly to refer to an intellectual conception of the universe from the perspective of a human knower. Kant’s Copernican revolution in philosophy, with its emphasis on the knowing and willing self as the cognitive and moral center of the universe, created the conceptual space in which the notion of worldview could flourish. The term was adopted by Kant’s successors and soon became a celebrated concept in German intellectual life.
Weltanschauung captured the imaginations not only of the German intelligentsia, but of thinkers throughoutEurope and beyond. The term’s success is seen by how readily it was adopted by writers in other European languages either as a loanword, especially in the Romance languages, or as a copy word in the idiom of Slavic and Germanic languages.
This concept, indeed, had legs. Given its prominence, it was impossible for it to remain isolated on the Continent for long. Soon it crossed the channel to Great Britain and made its way across the Atlantic to the United States. According to the Oxford English Dictionary, within seventy-eight years of its inaugural use in Kant’s Critique of Judgment, Weltanschauung entered the English language in 1868 its naturalized form as “worldview.” Ten years later, the German term itself gained currency as a loan word in Anglo-American academic discourse. Since their mid-nineteenth-century beginnings, both Weltanschauung and worldview have flourished, and become significant terms in the thought and vocabulary of thinking people in the English-speaking world.
Throughout the nineteenth century, therefore, Weltanschauung became enormously popular. By the 1890s, the Scottish theologian James Orr could say that as a concept, it had become “in a manner indispensable.” It is no wonder, then, that Orr himself, as well as Abraham Kuyper, capitalized on its notoriety as a convenient and potent expression to configure their respective versions of a comprehensive Christian worldview of Calvinist persuasion.
The headwaters of the worldview tradition among Protestant evangelicals can be traced to two primary sources, both of which flow from the theological wellsprings of the reformer from Geneva , John Calvin (1509-1564). The first is the Scottish Presbyterian theologian, apologist, minister, and educator James Orr (1844-1913). The second is the Dutch neo-Calvinist theologian and statesman Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). Appropriating the concept from the broader intellectual milieu on the European continent, these two seminal thinkers introduced the vocabulary of worldview into the current of reformed Christian thought, and from there into the broader evangelical church. In their creative efforts, they gave birth to an agenda to conceive of biblical faith as a vigorous, coherent vision of reality that opened up Christianity to full flower with benefits inside the Church and as a way to meet the challenges of the modern world head on.
James Orr (1844-1913). The opportunity for James Orr to articulate the Christian faith as a worldview arose when he was invited by the United Presbyterian Theological College in Edinburgh to present the first of the Kerr Lectures whose stated purpose was for “the promotion of the study of Scientific theology.” These addresses took him three years to prepare, were delivered in 1891, and were published in 1893 as The Christian View of God and the World As Centering in the Incarnation. In this book, he devoted the first chapter and several endnotes to the concept of worldview in general, and to the idea of a Christian worldview in particular.
According to Orr, a worldview denoted “the widest view which the mind can take of things in the effort to grasp them together as a whole from the standpoint of some particular philosophy or theology.” The Christian faith in Orr’s opinion provides such a standpoint, developing its loftiest principle and view of life into “an ordered whole.” While explaining and defending Christian doctrines atomistically may have its place, Orr believed that the worldview concept enabled him to set forth and validate Christianity in its entirety as a coherent system. Given the increasingly anti-Christian Zeitgeist of the late nineteenth century, he perceived “that if Christianity is to be effectually defended from the attacks made upon it, it is the comprehensive method which is rapidly becoming the more urgent.” Nothing less than a fresh, coherent presentation of the Christian definition of reality in all its fullness would be adequate for the times.
Orr’s biblically based worldview was centered in the incarnation, as the second half his book title indicates. Belief in Jesus entailed a whole host of additional convictions, forming an overall view of things. He writes:
He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of Redemption, to a view of human destiny, found only in Christianity. This forms a “Weltanschauung,” or “Christian view of the world,” which stands in marked contrast with theories wrought out from a purely philosophical or scientific standpoint.
For Orr, then, biblical belief in Jesus Christ logically entailed a commitment to a complete Weltanschauung. Christianity was a christocentric vision of life, a revolutionary and apologetically expedient approach to the faith necessitated by the challenges of modernity at its apex.
Both Gordon H. Clark and Carl F. H. Henry appear to be the heirs of Orr’s worldview legacy. As a professional philosopher writing from an evangelical point of view, Gordon Clark (1902-1986) was recognized at the height of his powers as “perhaps the dean of those twentieth century American philosophers who have sought to develop a Christian Weltanschauung consistent with the Christian Scriptures.” Indeed, the title and content of one of his best-known books — A Christian View of Men and Things — suggests continuity with Orr’s work.
Orr’s worldview tradition influenced the late Carl F. H. Henry (1913-2003) as well. During his student days at Wheaton College, Henry became enamored of comprehending and defending the faith as a total “world-life view” by reading Orr’s volume. In his autobiography, he recalls that “It was James Orr’s great work, The Christian View of God and the World, used as a Senior text in theism, that did the most to give me a cogently comprehensive view of reality and life in a Christian context.” Through Henry, the idea of worldview in general and the notion of the Christian worldview in particular has been promoted widely among professional theologians and the evangelical public. “His emphasis was always on the big picture,” said Kenneth Kantzer. “Above all he sought to think clearly and effectively, consistently and comprehensively, about the total Christian world and life view.” This outlook animated his words in the influential manifesto The Uneasy Conscience of American Fundamentalism (1947) that challenged the born again church to trace out and apply the redemptive power of the Christian gospel to the totality of human thought and culture.
Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920). Meanwhile, to back track just a bit, about the same time James Orr was publishing his influential worldview volume in Scotland, a similar agenda was developing on the European continent. This time it was being promoted by an increasingly prominent Dutch ecclesiastical and political figure named Abraham Kuyper. A noted journalist, politician, educator, and theologian with mosaic vigor, Kuyper is especially remembered as the founder of the Free University of Amsterdam in 1880, and as the Prime Minister of the Netherlands from 1901-1905. The source of this man’s remarkable contributions is found in a powerful spiritual vision derived from the theology of the protestant reformers (primarily Calvin) that centered upon the sovereignty of the biblical God over all aspects of reality.
For Kuyper, if non-Christian worldviews characterized by idolatry and religious insubordination are worked out across the whole spectrum of life (which they are), then likewise Christianity must also be articulated in terms of a comprehensive vision of reality engendering the worship of God and submission to His will in all things. Indeed, when Kuyper was at the height of his powers, he had the opportunity to demonstrate that his beloved Calvinism was more than a just a church polity or doctrinaire religion, but rather an all encompassing Weltanschauung when he was invited to deliver the prestigious Stone Lectures at Princeton University in 1898. These addresses and the book that resulted from them, Lectures on Calvinism, became a second, influential source for conceiving of Christianity as a worldview among evangelical Protestants.
Interestingly enough, Kuyper’s reading of James Orr’s recently published book The Christian View of God and the World was likely a turning point in his own thinking. It underscored the value of Weltanschauung in his eyes, and prompted him to cast his entire lectures on Calvinism as a comprehensive vision of the world and of life within it. Indeed, the similarities between the two thinkers on worldview are remarkable, and it appears that Kuyper drew considerably from Orr’s thought on the topic.
Like Orr before him, Kuyper saw his present cultural moment defined in both Europe and America by a life and death struggle between two antithetical worldviews, or as he called them, “life-systems.” As Orr proposed in his own lectures, Kuyper argued that a piecemeal apologetic approach must be replaced with a strategy that countered an all-encompassing modernism with a comprehensive Christian Weltanschauung. In his concluding lecture on “Calvinism and the Future,” Kuyper makes this point with great clarity and power:
With such a coherent world and life-view, firmly resting on its principle and self-consistent in its splendid structure, Modernism now confronts Christianity; and against this deadly danger, ye, Christians, cannot successfully defend your sanctuary, but by placing in opposition to all this, a life-and world-view of your own, founded as firmly on the base of your own principle, wrought out with the same clearness and glittering in an equally logical consistency.
In his lectures on Calvinism, therefore, Kuyper presents Reformed Christianity as a total framework of biblical thought, draws out its implications in the areas of religion, politics, science, and art, and suggests the kind of role it ought to play in the future of the world. So conceived and articulated, it could take its place along side the other great systems of human thought including paganism, Islamism, Romanism, and modernism, and be effective in the spiritual and intellectual warfare being waged in the modern world for cultural dominance.
This conception of Calvinistic Christianity subsumed under the rubric of worldview was appropriated by Kuyper’s followers — the Dutch neo-Calvinists or Kuyperians — and passed down to subsequent generations. Eventually it migrated with them across the Atlantic, and became a significant theme among them as an immigrant community in North America. Both Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and the Institute for Christian Studies in Toronto, Ontario, Canada — where Kuyperian ideals and worldview thinking have flourished — were birthed out of this tradition.
Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-84). This forceful Reformed interpretation of Christian faith also influenced Francis A. Schaeffer, without whom no discussion on the evangelical history of worldview would be complete. He affirmed what is now a commonplace that all people have a worldview and nobody, whether ditch-digger or professional thinker, can live without one. Philosophy is the only unavoidable occupation.Also, his rich interpretation of a Christianity that was intellectually credible and embraced the whole of life was uniquely attractive to many. Indeed, his discussion of a significant range of cultural issues from a Christian point of view was quite refreshing after decades of fundamentalist obscurantism.
The Swiss missionary and founder of L’Abri Fellowship recommended a Christian worldview as the only realistic answer to the pervasive emptiness and despair of modern, secular life. Schaeffer was passionate for the comprehensive system of “true truth” set forth in the Scriptures. In Escape From Reason Schaeffer says, “I love the biblical system as a system,”and in The God Who Is There he explains why:
The Christian system (what is taught in the whole Bible) is a unity of thought. Christianity is not just a lot of bits and pieces — there is a beginning and an end, a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence.
Schaeffer articulated his understanding of the biblical Weltanschauung in the first three books he published. The trilogy of The God Who Is There, Escape From Reason, and He Is There and He Is Not Silent formed the hub of his system, and his other works gave expression to his conception of the Christian vision as if they were spokes. An entire generation of evangelicals, myself included, cut their worldview teeth on Schaeffer’s work and thus have him to thank for stimulating an abiding interest in cultivating a comprehensive, systematic understanding of biblical faith with all of its attendant personal, intellectual and cultural implications.
Collectively, then, these noted thinkers handed the worldview baton off to others who have been running with it quite effectively ever since. Brian Walsh, Richard Middleton, Albert Wolters, Arthur Holmes, James Sire, Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey are just a few of the authors who have promoted worldview thinking and living vigorously in the evangelical community.As a matter of fact, in the entire history of worldview, no single philosophic school or religious community has given more sustained attention to or taken more advantage of this concept than Protestant evangelicals. This extensive use of the worldview concept carries with it certain assets to be sure. But its use, perhaps even its overuse, also fosters some liabilities as well. Some debate the suitability of the notion in the Church, and confusion exists regarding its basic definition and character. In light of these and other issues that have clouded the worldview sky, I think it prudent to offer some theological reflections on the worldview concept in an attempt to clarify its role and identity in the evangelical Christian community where God’s Word reigns as the supreme authority.
In tracing out the history of the worldview concept in a variety of disciplines, it is fascinating to observe how basic descriptions of it reflect the worldview of the one offering the description. For example, Hegel’s idealism, Kierkegaard’s theism, Dilthey’s historicism, Nietzsche’s atheism, Husserl’s phenomenology, Jaspers’ existentialism, Heidegger’s ontologism, Wittgenstein’s linguisticism, and the postmodernists’ skepticism affected their hypotheses on worldview deeply. There is a sociological relativity to theorizing about worldview. Any view of worldview, therefore, is itself worldview dependent.
The question, then, emerges regarding the implications of a Christian worldview on worldview theory: what nuances does Christian theism as a Weltanschauung impart to the notion of Weltanschauung itself? How do Scripture and theology contribute to our understanding of this important idea?
This is an important task. Several critics have voiced concerns about possible menacing connotations associated with worldview when it comes to its use in the Church. By the time James Orr and Abraham Kuyper appropriated worldview for Christian purposes, it had already become drenched with modern implications. Within the framework of European idealism and romanticism, it connoted a thoroughgoing subjectivism and a person or culture-relative perspective on reality. Consequently, worldviews were not considered “facts,” but “values,” and were consigned to the domain of private life.
The status of worldview becomes even more questionable in the context of postmodernism which is characterized famously by an “incredulity toward metanarratives.” As reified constructs and as instruments of power and violence, worldviews must be “deconstructed” and shown to be nothing more than privatized micronarratives possessing little, if any, public authority.
Given this background, evangelicals who employ the language of worldview regularly would be irresponsible to neglect the historical development of this term and the significations it has acquired in modern and postmodern parlance. The question, then, is this: Can worldview be regenerated and baptized in biblical waters, cleansing it of modern and postmodern impurities, making it useful for Christian service? I believe that it can.
If believers can be sanctified and if culture can be renewed, then perhaps an intellectual conception can be converted as well. Even biblical authors themselves frequently appropriated language and concepts from their surrounding cultures and used them in the context of Holy Scripture with fresh theistic meaning to convey the unique content and wisdom of divine revelation. Has this not provided something of a precedent that has been followed in post-canonical theological reflection when it comes to employing non-biblical terms and concepts to convey biblical themes and truths? Perhaps worldview falls into this category!
As a matter of fact, plucking the concept of Weltanschauung out of recent intellectual discourse and using it for Christian purposes can be compared admirably to St. Augustine’s ancient strategy of appropriating pagan notions and employing them suitably in the church. He believed firmly that all truth was God’s truth, and in his famous “Egyptian Gold” analogy in De Doctrina Christiana, he explains on the basis of a story found in Exodus 11-12 how that truth can be recovered and utilized in superior ways by believers. For just as the Israelites appropriated the gold and silver of the Egyptians and used it service to God, so Christians can appropriate the intellectual gold and silver of non-Christian thinkers and employ it in Christian service as well.
Now I submit that the notion of worldview is a valuable piece of “Egyptian gold.” If we follow Augustine’s reasoning, we can propose that believers need to claim it for their own, and convert it to Christian use. In doing so, however, we must cleanse it of its pagan associations, reform it biblically, and make it a concept serviceable to the kingdom of God. As St. Paul says in 2 Corinthians 10: 5b, “. . . we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The theological reflections that follow will attempt to do just that.
My goal in reflecting on worldview theologically is to discern what inferences or connotations are built into this notion when it is examined from a Christian standpoint. Overall, I will make four assertions that impart biblically based nuances to worldview that stand in noticeable contrast to its secular significations.
Issues of objectivity . To the extent that the term worldview has been tinted or tainted for over two centuries with the hues of relativism, an affirmation of theological, cosmological, and moral objectivity rooted in God is the antidote. Worldview in Christian perspective affirms the existence of the Trinitarian God whose essential character of love and justice establishes the moral order of the universe and whose word, wisdom, and law define and govern all aspects of created existence. God is the ultimate reality whose Trinitarian nature, essential character, moral excellence, wonderful works, and sovereign rule constitute the objective reference point for all reality. As a construct ontologically grounded in God Himself, the nuance of objectivity is built into worldview from a Christian perspective.
Issues of subjectivity . In its philosophic history, worldview has also been understood in subjectivist terms as an individual’s particular interpretation of life. As cognitive, affective, and volitional beings, all people by necessity must understand, care about, and act in the world. Christian theology would agree, recognizing this to be the operation of the heart. Worldview in Christian perspective affirms that human beings as God’s image and likeness are anchored and integrated in the heart as the subjective sphere of consciousness which is decisive for shaping a vision of life and fulfilling the function typically ascribed to the notion of worldview. Life proceeds “kardioptically, out of “a vision of the heart.” That, I propose, is basically what a worldview is. I will develop this thesis in a bit more detail shortly.
Issues of sin and spiritual warfare . People are in a fallen condition, however. They suppress the truth in unrighteousness and manufacture surrogate deities and errant perspectives on the world. Worldview in Christian perspective, therefore, implies the catastrophic effects of sin on the human heart, resulting in the fabrication of false, idolatrous belief systems in place of God, and the engagement of the human race in cosmic spiritual warfare in which the truth about reality and the meaning of life are at stake. There is no way out from this spiritual, intellectual, and moral destitution apart from the grace of God.
Issues of grace and redemption . The merciful character of God and His redemptive work are the central elements in biblical thought. Worldview in Christian perspective affirms the gracious inbreaking of the kingdom of God into human history in the person and work of Jesus Christ who atones for sin, defeats the principalities and powers, and enables those who believe in Him to obtain a knowledge of the true God as the creator, judge, and savior of the whole cosmos. This kind of salvific transaction is wholly transformative in converting believers to God and renewing their perspectives on the whole of reality by truth. The formation of a Christian worldview, therefore, is ultimately a function of God’s saving grace.
Thus the implications of a divinely grounded objectivity, the reality of a heart-based human subjectivity, along with the themes of sin and spiritual warfare, grace and redemption are the inferences built into the notion of worldview in a Christian context.
Let me return now to the issue of subjectivity in this Christian reflection on worldview. The point I wish to emphasize is that the biblical teaching about the centrality of the “heart” in human life is a key to defining the notion of “worldview.” Theologian Gordon Spykman states, “the imago Dei embraces our entire selfhood in all its variegated functions centered and unified in the heart.” Similarly, Karl Barth affirms that “the heart is not merely a but the reality of man, both wholly of soul and wholly of body.”
These theological claims about the heart as the core of the person are supported by the fact that the Scriptures in both the Old and New Testaments teach in 1,000 or so uses (855 OT; 150 NT) that it is the seat and source of the intellect, affections, will, and spirituality as the location where we think, feel, choose and worship. Proverbs 4: 23 and 27: 19 state respectively that “from the heart flow the springs of life,” and that “the heart of man reflects man.” Jesus supports this perspective, stating in Matthew 6: 21 that what a person values most as one’s treasure in life resides in the heart. In Luke 6: 43-45 He adds that from the heart flow all our deeds and words, for “The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure of his heart brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart.” St. Paul prayed that “the eyes of the heart” would be enlightened so that believers might understand the magnitude of their callings in Christ (Eph. 1: 18). Thus, in the Old and New Testaments, for the Savior, and in the teaching of the Apostle Paul, the heart is the cornerstone of human existence.
On the basis of this biblical doctrine of the heart, I would like to make three suggestions about the concept of worldview. First, I propose that the heart and its content as the center of human consciousness creates and constitutes what we commonly refer to as a worldview. What the heart is and does in a biblical way is what the philosophers were getting at in various ways, though unconsciously, in devising and using the concept of worldview. Biblically speaking, then, life proceeds “kardioptically,” out of a vision of the heart, and that’s what I think a worldview is! It is a vision of the heart which is “our deepest organ of communication with the nature of things.”It is a vision of God, the universe, our world and our selves — rooted and grounded in the human heart. The heart of the matter of worldview is that worldview is a matter of the heart with its deeply embedded ideas, its profound affections, its life-determining choices, and its essential religion. For according to its specific disposition, it grinds its own “lenses,” metaphorically speaking, through which it perceives the world and life within it. As a function of the heart, therefore, Weltanschauung is an existential concept, indeed, a biblical concept, essential to human identity as the image and likeness of God.
Second, things that enter into the heart shape its vision of things, forming the basic assumptions upon which life proceeds. Before the springs flow out of the heart as a way of life, something must first and continue to flow into it to form a perspective on the world. Things are internalized before they are externalized. What the heart receives determines what it eventually conceives. What influences, then, shape a heart and determine its image of life? Certainly one’s natural genetic inheritance, native personality traits, and inborn insights are critical components of the heart’s composition. It is also deeply influenced by the manifold experiences of life. From early on, a torrential amount of content is poured into the reservoir of the heart from seemingly unlimited sources of varying quality, some of it pure, some of it polluted. Once the powerful forces of both nature and nurture have shaped the content and dispositions of a heart, they comprise the “presuppositional basis of life.”
Presuppositions “… refer us,” says Ted Peters, “to our fundamental vision of reality and the self-evident truths which are tacitly acknowledged in everything we comprehend and assert.” And as Michael Polanyi observes, when we acknowledge a set of presuppositions as an interpretative framework for life, “we may be said to dwell in them as we do in our own body.”
In any case, the heart sustains an interactive or reciprocal relationship with the external world, and in the process, obtains an underlying vision of life, though it is difficult to explain exactly how it all happens. In this dynamic process, basic assumptions are either ignored, discovered, followed, confirmed, challenged, put in crisis, reaffirmed, replaced, and solidified as the individual clings to a first, second, third, or even more “naïvetés” until death. Thus worldviews are always works in progress. The proverbial warning to watch over the heart, therefore, could not be more prudent.
Third, the things that proceed out of the heart as a way of life reflect its true worldview. The best test to determine what vision of life truly grips a heart is to examine one’s basic “conversation” in the world, to employ an antique term from the King’s English. Truth claims and professed beliefs may or may not correspond with one’s actual way of life. One’s actual way of life may or may not correspond to one’s truth claims or professed beliefs. If there is agreement, there is integrity. If there isn’t, there is hypocrisy. In any case, concrete behavior is a clear indicator of true belief, and whatever true beliefs reside in the heart and form its vision is what will show up in real life. Therefore, examine a person carefully (perhaps even yourself): listen to him speak, watch him act, observe his attitudes, detect his beliefs, and in a short while you will be led back to the tap root of his life in the basic assumptions of the his heart which supply him with his genuine conception and way of life, ideas, beliefs, and words to the contrary notwithstanding.
Now this concept of worldview as a vision of the heart as I have articulated here and in my book, is acceptable as far as it goes. But now I think it needs to be augmented. Though this description has a strong existential thrust, I detect a lingering Cartesianism in my formulation in which the heart as the psychic center of the human person still remains a somewhat disembodied and independent thing which thinks, feels, wills, and worships. With the help of Michael Polanyi mediated through the recent, capable work of Esther Lightcap Meeks, I have recognized that this heart needs to be rooted in the physical body and this “enhearted” body or embodied heart needs to be anchored in the ebb and flow of the real world.
God not only made the heart, but also the body, as He also made the world, and there is a divinely ordained coherence that unites them. Not only is there a bodily basis of all thought, as Polanyi taught, but the most basic way of being in and accessing the world is through the body. Worldviews grow out of lived bodily experience and it is from their embodied situations that people decipher the world in felt semiotic, narratival, rational, epistemic, and hermeneutical ways. This basic way of being in the world through the heart-body unity constitutes a worldview.
This bodily-based world consciousness is something of which most people are not typically cognizant since it is an object of subsidiary, rather than of focal awareness, to employ Polanyian categories once again. Just as the body is not the object of direct attention in its daily operations, so neither is there conscious awareness of worldview assumptions which constitute a vision of life. Instead both are indwelt tacitly. As Polanyi states, “when we accept a certain set of pre-suppositions and use them as our interpretative framework, we may be said to indwell them as we do in our own body.… As they are themselves our ultimate framework, they are essentially inarticulable.” Normally, people are as unconscious of their worldviews as they are of their bodies, unless both become the object of purposeful examination. Learning what it is like to live in a body tacitly is a helpful step in learning what it is like to have a worldview, and vice versa. Thus this world oriented, bodily based, heart centered understanding of worldview may provide a more complete picture, and may do greater justice to an overall biblical anthropology.
There are two additional points that figure prominently in my concept of a worldview that merit very brief consideration. These are their semiotic and narrative character. In light of the fact that Umberto Eco argues that the whole of culture must and can be studied as a semiotic phenomenon, and the fact that a defining trait of human persons as imago Dei who possess logos is the ability to use one thing to stand for another thing especially in the form of letters, words, speech and written discourse, and because Scripture teaches that the entire universe should be conceived pansemiotically and interpreted as a sign of God and His glorious power (e.g., Psa. 19: 1), it seemed wise to examine the nature and function of worldview sub specie semiotica. St. Augustine was also an catalyst in this regard in his demonstration of the role and power of signs in the process of communication and the acquisition of knowledge. As he states forthrightly in his De Doctrina Christiana, “Things are learned about through signs,” and in this magisterial treatise he recognizes clearly that semiotic systems and symbolic worlds of various kinds are at the heart of the human drama insofar as they convey either the wine of truth and of error.
My suggestion is that there is a certain set or string of symbols that present the meaning of life and possess unique cultural power. These are rightly designated as “worldview.” As an individual’s or culture’s foundation and system of meaning, they are promulgated through countless communicative avenues and mysteriously find their way to the inner most regions of the embodied heart that resides in the world. They inform the categories of consciousness that define human existence and provide an interpretation and way of life. They are the putative object of faith, the basis for hope, and the essential source of individual and socio-cultural security.
More often than not, and this is the second point, they have been formulated, received and indwelt as a set of narratives or stories that establish a particular outlook on life. Semiotically constituted human beings in want of a solution to the riddles of the universe primarily fulfill this need in their trademark activity of telling stories that form a symbolic world for which people are inclined to live and even die. The power of stories to establish a context for life has been recognized since time immemorial by the traditions’ greatest thinkers.
These stories that establish a symbolic world do indeed guide all forms of human activity. Worldview narratives create a particular kind of “mind,” and serve in a normative fashion as “controlling stories.” The most fundamental stories associated with a Weltanschauung — those closest to its metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical epicenter — possess a kind of finality as the ultimate interpretation of reality in all its multifaceted aspects. Such stories are considered sacred, and they provide the adhesive that unites those who believe in them into a society characterized by shared perspectives and a common way of life. They also provide a tenacious grid by which competing narratives and alternative claims to truth are judged. Controlling stories, therefore, function in a regulatory fashion both positively and negatively, and are able to bind those who accept them into an intellectual or spiritual commonwealth. Thus the bulk of human praxis does seem to be under the jurisdiction of a worldview, including the significant activities of reasoning, interpreting, and knowing.
Worldview and rationality. What is rational? What influence, if any, does a worldview have upon the operation and content of reason? Is rationality free from or dependent upon a worldview framework? Is there an “arch” or “olympian” kind of rationality transcending worldviews that is the same for all? Or is what is reasonable worldview dependent?
Three questions will illustrate the precise thrust of this inquiry regarding the relation of worldview and rationality. First, are the beliefs of primitive cultures less “rational” than those of the modern, scientific West? Second, in the conflict between Jews, Greeks, and Christians regarding the credibility of the New Testament gospel, with which party does rationality side? Third, do human beings manifest the utmost in rational virtue when they insist that for a proposition to be true, it must be a part of the noetic structure of strong foundationalism?
These questions and their answers reflect intense debates among anthropologists about what constitutes cultural rationality, among Jews, Gentiles and Christians concerning religious rationality, and among philosophers over epistemic rationality. These differences make one thing clear: what is reasonable or what constitutes rationality is dependent upon prior commitments. What a person deems to be rational or irrational appears to be a function of the reasoner’s worldview.
This is not to suggest that the actual laws of logic are altered by cultural context or philosophic orientation. The laws of non-contradiction, identity, and excluded middle are, indeed, universal. The content, however, with which these laws of logic function, is markedly different. In Aristotelian terms, the formal cause of rationality is the same, but its material cause may vary considerably. Bare reason is embarrassed by nakedness and always seeks to be clothed in a worldview tradition.
Recently, Alasdair MacIntyre has supported this contention that rationality is rooted in various historical traditions. His concern in Whose Justice? Which Rationality? is, of course, on moral matters, in particular the conception of justice. In his investigation, however, he recognized that rival conceptions of justice presupposed rival conceptions of rationality. The Enlightenment’s attempt to formulate an objective view of reason that could adjudicate this matter failed. Thus, MacIntyre takes the discussion to a deeper level, and argues for a conception of rational inquiry that is embodied in a tradition. The rationality of doctrines has to be understood in terms of historical context. For this reason, MacIntyre asserts, there are “rationalities rather than [a] rationality.” At the end of the day, he seems to be saying that the questions about “whose justice” and “which rationality” is a matter intimately related to worldview. As he puts it, “it has become evident that conceptions of justice and of practical rationality generally and characteristically confront us as closely related aspects of some larger, more or less well-articulated, overall view of human life and of its place in nature.”
If MacIntyre’s analysis stands, then it seems prudent to assert that what is deemed to be rational is dependent on a larger frame of reference in which the perceived logic of the universe inheres. A fundamental outlook on life determines how the saw of reason itself cuts. Along these lines, let me state unequivocally my conviction that the true cosmic rationality resides in the Trinitarian God and His graciously revealed infallible Word.
Worldview and hermeneutics. The goal of modern thinkers was to design an objective method of understanding that circumvents the problem of hermeneutic circle in which the meaning of texts is determined in advance by the scholars’ aprioris. Their goal was to move as far away from interpretation as possible in hopes of obtaining scientific certitude. Why fool around with values when facts will do?
This separation of knowledge and interpretation, however, seems naive, unrealistic, and self-referentially incoherent: naive in its view of human nature, unrealistic in its expectation of a self-dispossessed objectivity, and incoherent in its establishment of a prejudice against prejudice. As Hans Georg Gadamer has pointed out famously, “There is one prejudice of the Enlightenment that defines its essence: the fundamental prejudice of the Enlightenment is the prejudice against prejudice itself, which denies tradition its power.”
The Enlightenment’s effort at stamping out all question-begging traditions became the new question-begging tradition of modernity. The intention to escape human subjectivity and its hermeneutic influence by means of the objectivity of science failed. In the contest, then, between Enlightenment objectivism and the hermeneutic circle, the latter, as postmodern critics have gleefully pointed out, triumphed over the former. The process of interpretation, like reason, is guided by prejudices and is tradition-bound. As Rudolph Bultmann (1884-1976) affirmed, “there cannot be any such thing as exegesis without presuppositions.” It is influenced significantly, according to the present argument, by worldview.
Both Martin Heidegger and Hans-Georg Gadamer have critiqued this Enlightenment objectivist position by reconnecting humanity to being, history, and the world. This re-immersion into stream of human experience effectively eliminated the possibility of a “God’s eye point of view” in all attempts to explain the nature of things immaculately. Therefore, no one is an interpretative island existing independently as a purely rational hermeneutic entity. The modern image of the solitary individual divested of self-interests in a scientific pursuit of objective knowledge of the world stands in contrast to the communitarian ideals of the premodern and postmodern periods. In both of these eras, the power of history and a narrative tradition to shape consciousness is recognized, along with its hermeneutic implications. Comprehension of things does not take place in a vacuum but in social, historical and linguistic contexts.
This raises the most important question, however, in the matter of relating hermeneutics and worldview is whether or not any final meaning is possible. The answer, so it seems, depends on one’s worldview! If both God and humanity are dead — the two original sources of hermeneutical meaning, taking the cosmos with them and leaving nothing in their place — then we are left with nothing but pointless talk. As Stanley Rosen has affirmed, “If nothing is real, the real is nothing; there is no difference between the written lines of a text and the blank spaces between them.” On the other hand, as George Steiner has pointed out, God’s existence changes everything hermeneutically. A universe derived from and ordered by the Logos of God is the foundation and reference point by which to interpret the world truthfully. As Steiner puts it in his book Real Presences, “the wager on the meaning of meaning . . . is a wager on transcendence.”
Thus, not only is the art and science of interpretation affected by a worldview, but the question about the very possibility of meaning itself is also worldview dependent. The question hinges on the decision between the antithetical worldviews of atheism or theism. For if there is no God, there is no final meaning, but if there is, it makes all the difference in the world. God and His Word constitute the world’s true hermeneutic.
Worldview and epistemology. If the presence of a worldview affects reasoning and interpreting in significant ways, then what kind of impact does it have on the process of knowing itself? When it comes to worldview and knowledge, are its adherents connected with reality or just their view of it? Or is it perhaps a little bit of both? Three views are commonly recognized in responding to this query.
Naïve or common sense realism argues that comprehension of the cosmos is direct and accurate, substantially unaffected by worldview presuppositions or any other person-relative influences. Critical realism posits an objectively existing world and the possibility of trustworthy knowledge of it. But it also recognizes the prejudices that inevitably accompany human knowing and demands an ongoing critical conversation about the essentials of one’s outlook. Creative anti-realism is a view positing a radical disjunction between what is actually there and the many creative views of it. Worldviews in this context are all there are, belief systems that are reified and sustain no necessary connection to reality as such.
I submit that critical realism is the most responsible position in judging between these three options relating worldview and knowledge. This viewpoint avoids the dogmatism and arrogance of modernity, and the skepticism and despair of postmodernity. Rather, it promotes a sensible view of human knowledge marked by both epistemic confidence and humility. It is a golden mean epistemology that seeks to avoid the excesses and deficiencies of its competitors.
There is, therefore, no view from nowhere! All things are known from somewhere! Depending upon where one stands will determine whether or not things are obscured or clarified. As C. S. Lewis says in The Magician’s Nephew, “For what you see and hear depends a good deal on where you are standing: it also depends on what sort of person you are.”
There is, therefore, a persistent need for interaction with other perspectives to challenge and certify our take on the nature of things. I see things in my framework you do not see; you see things in your framework I do not see. I see and point out your shortcomings; you see and point out my shortcomings. Through these respective contributions and mutual criticisms, through the exercise of what Russian literary critic Mikhail Bakhtin called a “dialogical imagination,” the desideratum is an ever-increasing understanding of reality.At least in part, knowledge about the world is the fruit of a dialectical process rooted in a great conversation that ultimately must take its cue from the Greatest Conversation between God and humanity rooted in Scripture which is the world’s and the church’s true truth.
A worldview, then, constitutes the symbolic universe that has profound implications on a variety of significant human practices. It digs the channels in which the waters of reason flow. It establishes the hermeneutic framework by which texts are interpreted. It is that mental medium through which world is known. Human life in its variegated aspects, so it seems, proceeds “kardioptically” out of a vision of an embodied heart living in the world. Theologically speaking, to get that vision right requires a gracious work of the sovereign, Trinitarian God who has revealed Himself as the creator, judge, and redeemer of the world. This big biblical picture of the Christian faith as a comprehensive, coherent, and vivifying interpretation of all aspects of life was preeminently attractive and relevant to astute thinkers like James Orr and Abraham Kuyper and their worldview disciples. They and their followers introduced this larger, worldview way of apprehending the Christian faith into the culture and history of the evangelical Church. Thus the history, theology and implications of this notion of worldview serve to confirm my intuitive attraction to G. K. Chesterton’s conviction “that the most practical and important thing about a person is still his view of the universe.”
Thank you very much.
 G. K. Chesterton, Heretics, in The Complete Works of G. K. Chesterton, ed. David Dooley, vol. 1, (San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1986), 41.
 Dorothy L. Sayers, 1937-1944: From Novelist to Playwright, vol. 2 of The Letters of Dorothy Sayers, ed. Barbara Reynolds, preface P. D. James (New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1998),158.
 Immanuel Kant, Critique of Judgment: Including the First Introduction, trans. and intro. Werner S. Pluhar, with a foreword by Mary J. Gregor (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 1987), 111-2 (emphasis original).
 Martin Heidegger, The Basic Problems of Phenomenology, trans., intro., and lexicon Albert Hofstadter, Studies in Phenomenology and Existential Philosophy (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 1982), 4.
 James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World as Centering in the Incarnation (New York: Scribner, 1887; reprint, The Christian View of God and the World, with a foreword by Vernon C. Grounds, Grand Rapids: Kregel Publications, 1989), 365.
 Calvin apparently recognized that his own theological system constituted the basis for a “Christian philosophy,” which may be roughly analogous to a Christian worldview. In introducing the subject matter of his Institutes of the Christian Religion, he informs his readers that God provides guidance to help simple people discover “the sum of what God meant to teach them in his Word.” He then says that this cannot be done in any better way than “to treat the chief and weightiest matters comprised in the Christian philosophy.” See his Institutes of the Christian Religion, The Library of Christian Classics, vol. 20, ed. John T. McNeill, trans. and indexed Ford Lewis Battles (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1960), 6.
 Proceedings of the Synod of the United Presbyterian Church (1887): 489-490, quoted in Scorgie, The Call for Continuity, 47.
 James Orr, The Christian View of God and the World As Centering in the Incarnation (Edinburgh, Scotland: Andrew Eliot, 1893). This book has undergone many editions and reprints, the most recent being The Christian View of God and the World, foreword Vernon C. Grounds (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel Publications, 1989).
 Orr, The Christian View, 4.
 Ronald H. Nash, preface to The Philosophy of Gordon H. Clark: A Festschrift, ed. Ronald H. Nash (Philadelphia: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1968), 5.
 Gordon H. Clark, A Christian View of Men and Things: An Introduction to Philosophy (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1951; reprint, Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1981).
 Kenneth S. Kantzer, “Carl Ferdinand Howard Henry: An Appreciation,” in God and Culture: Essays in Honor of Carl F. H. Henry, ed. D. A. Carson and John D. Woodbridge (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1993), 372.
 R. D. Henderson, “How Abraham Kuyper Became a Kuyperian,” Christian Scholars Review 22 (1992): 22, 34-35.
 Abraham Kuyper, Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1994).
 Peter S. Heslam, Creating a Christian Worldview: Abraham Kuyper’s Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1998), 93-94.
 For example, Herman Bavinck (1854-1921), D. H. T. Vollenhoven (1892-1978), Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977), Cornelius Van Til (1895-1987).
 Francis A Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent, vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 2d ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 279-280.
 Francis A Schaeffer, Escape From Reason, vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 2d ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 221.
 Francis A. Schaeffer, The God Who Is There, vol. 1 of The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 2d ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982), 178.
 The subtitle to Schaeffer’s Complete Works is aptly designated “A Christian Worldview.” Volume one deals with a Christian view of philosophy containing the three books mentioned above. Volume two deals with a Christian view of the Bible as truth. Volume three deals with a Christian view of spirituality. Volume four deals with a Christian view of the church. Volume five deals with a Christian view of the West. See Francis A. Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A. Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, 2d ed. 5 vols. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 1982).
 David K. Naugle, Worldview: The History of a Concept (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 2002), Appendix A.
 Jean-François Lyotard, The Postmodern Condition: A Report on Knowledge, trans. Geoff Bennington and Brian Massumi, foreword Fredric Jameson, Theory and History of Literature, vol. 10 (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1984), xxiv.
 Sander Griffioen, Richard Mouw, and Paul Marshall, “Introduction,” in Stained Glass: Worldviews and Social Science, Christian Studies Today (Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1989), 8, 10.
 St. Augustine, Teaching Christianity: De Doctrina Christiana, The Works of St. Augustine for the 21st Century, intro., trans., notes Edmund Hill, vol 11 (Hyde Park, NY: New City Press, 1996), 159-160 (§2.60).
 Gordon J. Spykman, Reformational Theology: A New Paradigm for Doing Dogmatics (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, 1992), p. 227; Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics, trans. Harold Knight, J. K. S. Reid, R. H. Fuller (Edinburgh: T. & T. Clark, 1960), III/2, p. 436.
 William James, “Is Life Worth Living,” in The Will to Believe and Other Essays in Popular Philosophy (New York, c. 1896; reprint, New York: Dover, 1956), 62; quoted in William J. Wainwright, Reason and the Heart: A Prolegomena to Passional Reason (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1995), 97.
 I think here of these lines from singer/song writer Kate Campbell in the chorus to her song, “How Much Can One Heart Hold?” (Monuments, 2002, Large River Music).
“How much can one heart hold,
A pound of dirt or a pound of gold,
We may never know the truth be told
How much can one heart hold.”
A felicitous expression I heard in a lecture by David Aikman at The Oxbridge Conference sponsored by the C. S. Lewis Foundation in the summer of 1998, celebrating the centennial of the birth of C. S. Lewis. Here is a definition of a presupposition based on its etymology: pre-sub-ponere = that which is posited (believed) underneath (taken for ganted) in advance (a priori).
 Ted Peters, “The Nature and Role of Presupposition: An Inquiry into Contemporary Hermeneutics,” International Philosophical Quarterly 14 (June 1974): 210.
 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: The University of Chicago Press, 1958, 1962), 60.
 Michael Polanyi, Personal Knowledge: Towards a Post-Critical Philosophy (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1958), p. 60.
 Dr. Esther L. Meek, “Working Implications of the Subsidiary Nature of Worldviews,” a paper presented at the Midwest Regional Evangelical Theological Society Conference, Lincoln Christian College, March 19, 2004. See also Esther Lightcap Meek, Longing to Know: The Philosophy of Knowledge for Ordinary People (Grand Rapids: Brazos Press, 2003).
 Umberto Eco, A Theory of Semiotics, Advances in Semiotics (Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1976), p. 22.
 Wright, The New Testament, 41-42. Wright acknowledges that the idea of “controlling stories” is derived from Nicholas Wolterstorff’s concept of “control beliefs” which he discusses in his Reason within the Bounds of Religion, 2d ed. (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1984), 67.
 The idea of an “arch-rationalism” as an absolutist style of reason is from Ian Hacking, “Language, Truth and Reason,” in Rationality and Relativism, ed. Martin Hollis and Steven Lukes (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1982), 51-53; the notion of “olympian reason” as a reasoning process from a “god’s eye point of view” is from Herbert Simon, Reason in Human Affairs (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1983), 34-35.
 Alasdair MacIntyre, Whose Justice? Which Rationality? (Notre Dame: University of Notre Dame Press, 1988), 9.
 Hans-Georg Gadamer, Truth and Method, 2d rev. ed., trans. rev. Joel Weinsheimer and Donald G. Marshall (New York: Continuum, 1993), 270.
 Rudolph Bultmann, “Is Exegesis Without Presuppositions Possible?” in New Testament and Mythology and Other Basic Writings, selected, ed. trans., Schubert M. Ogden (Philadelphia: Fortress Press, 1984), 146.
 Martin Heidegger, Being and Time, trans. John Macquarrie and Edward Robinson (New York: Harper & Row, Publishers, 1962). Gadamer, Truth and Method.
 Anthony C. Thiselton, New Horizons in Hermeneutics: The Theory and Practice of Transforming Biblical Reading (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992), 143.
Originally given as a lecture at Cornerstone University September, 2004.
© Copyright David Naugle. Used by permission.