What Is a World View?
Everybody needs one. Most people don’t have one. Many people don’t commit to it. What is it?
Answer: A World view
It seems more and more people use these two words together. What are they talking about? The words are a translation of a German word — weltanschauung.
German thinkers began using this word around the year 1850 or so. Weltanschauung literally is translated “world view.” A dictionary might define “world view” as follows:
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.
Answers to the Questions of Life
Here is another way to define it: A world view consists of the basic beliefs you have about reality. Basic beliefs provide answers to the basic questions of life. Questions such as: Who am I? Why do I exist? What is real? Does God exist? If God exists, what does He want from me? What is the purpose of my life? What is truth?
These questions are not easy to answer. For example, Who am I? A chemist might say I’m a bunch of chemicals in a skin sack. A sci-fi fan might say I’m a carbon-based life form. A biologist might say I’m the result of millions of years of evolution. But that doesn’t really say who I am.
A humanist says I am the highest, most evolved form of life. That’s what people are—the pinnacle of evolution. Boy, that’s a scary thought. We are the best thing the Universe ever brought forth. Really? Give me a break! If I’m the pinnacle of the Universe’s life forms, then the Universe doesn’t have much imagination (or power). Certainly the Universe could do better.
Atheists say my life has no meaning. I exist until I die. Then I cease to exist. My few years here on earth mean nothing. How sad. Who wants to believe that?
Christianity says we are made in the image of God. God loves each one of us, individually. He is eternal. He has the time to love each of us completely. You are called and chosen and precious in God’s sight. How could that possibly be true? I don’t deserve any of that. It’s true because God, Who cannot lie, said it’s true. That belief is part of the Christian world view.
Committing to a World View
Many people never think about their world view. They never answer these basic questions. They might think about the questions. They might even ask them. But they never search for the answers. It’s too much bother to consider these questions. These people move from one experience to another. They never stop to wonder what life is all about. They don’t really live. They just exist. They respond to whatever life throws their way.
Some people are looking for answers. But they don’t like any of the world views they find. So they decide to make up their own world view. In America, people tend to have a “shopping cart” mentality. These people say to themselves, “Life is like a big grocery store. I can pick and choose bits and pieces of world views. I can believe anything I want to believe.”
They usually end up with a bunch of beliefs that don’t make sense. For example, I once met person who said he did not believe in God. He also said he was a Christian! He said, “I don’t have to believe in God to be a Christian.” Was he serious? He appeared to be so.
Or there’s the person who says with a straight face, “Thank God I’m an atheist.” Can you believe it?
Others are afraid to commit to a world view. They found a world view they like. One of them might say, “Christianity looks like a good idea. I like the stuff about ‘love your neighbor’ and ‘God loves you.’ But I’m not so crazy about submission to God and putting Christ first. If I truly commit to this world view, it will change my life.”
Exactly! Committing to a world view changes the way you see life. The change doesn’t end there. Your world view establishes the way the world is. You define everyone and everything according to your world view.
“When a man commits himself to anything, fully realising that he is not only choosing what he will be, but is thereby at the same time a legislator deciding for the whole of mankind – in such a moment a man cannot escape from the sense of complete and profound responsibility.” (from the essay Existentialism is a Humanism by Jean Paul Sartre)
Committing to a world view will transform your life. This can be a good thing. Commitment to Christianity has good side effects. You follow and obey the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Bible. You submit to God. God works to transform you to actually become Christ-like. It is a fantastic process!
But commitment to less worthy world views can be dangerous. Total commitment to a world view has consequences.
Consequences of a World View
Beliefs have consequences. You can’t avoid that.
Adolf Hitler believed in eugenics. He believed some people are more evolved than others. In addition, some races are more evolved. The Aryan race consists of tall whites from northern European countries. “This race obviously is superior,” the racist would say. “Just look at the facts.”
During Hitler’s lifetime Europeans controlled most of the world. France, Britain, Belgium, and other European countries dominated Africa. Britain controlled India. She also was prominent in the affairs of Australia, and Canada. France controlled southeast Asia.
Hitler believed the world was ruled by the Aryan race. He thought, “Aryans must be the master race. They must be more highly evolved. Isn’t it obvious?” Hitler was not the only person who believed this way. Dozens of books were written about the superiority of the Aryan race.
During this time a new science called Eugenics was developing. It promised the use of scientific principles to make the world a better place. Eugenics starts with the gene pool. They believe scientific methods can be used to improve the gene pool. The result will be a better human race. The world will thus be a better place. The first step was to identify those persons who had bad genes.
How do you know if a person has bad genes? It’s easy for Eugenics. Just look at the person. Find a person who is inferior (their word, not mine). They might be insane. They might be mentally handicapped. They might be criminals.
After you identify them, you keep them from breeding. You sterilize them. Then you let nature take its course. Over time you will be able to breed out bad genetic traits through the forced sterilization of less desirable people.
You might think this thinking is crazy. How could anyone take this seriously? But many people did. About 60,000 people were sterilized by force in America between 1920-1965. It’s sad but it’s true. The practice was upheld by the Supreme Court!
But this process takes generations. Hitler did not want to wait. He wanted to act now. His plan was called The Final Solution. Hitler hated Jews. The final solution, for him, included genocide for the Jewish race. We know what happened next. Eleven million people were murdered in Hitler’s camps. Six million of them were Jews.
Commitment to a world view has consequences. So the next question is obvious.
Why Commit to a World View?
Every world view comes with consequences. Why commit to a world view? Why not just outlaw them? Wouldn’t we do better without them?
For people like us, having a world view is unavoidable. Man is a rational creature. We can’t just live our lives. We want to know how things work. We also want to know why? We ask deep questions. Why do I exist? What is truth? We want answers.
We never will find answers to these questions without a world view. You may know “world view” by another name. Some people call it your philosophy of life. Other people call it your perspective. Whatever we call it, we cannot avoid it. Having a world view is part of what it is to be human.
Even if you do not commit to a world view, others do commit. Understand this. People need world views. Be aware of this. Do not be swallowed up in the consequences of another person’s world view.
But why commit to a world view? Well, if I have the answers to the questions of life, how could I not commit to it? How could I keep it to myself? My world view has changed my life. Everyone needs to know about it. If I have the cure to cancer or the common cold, how could I not tell others? That would be cruel and positively inhuman. To keep a life changing world view to myself would be just as bad.
A world view gives your life passion. The stronger your commitment, the stronger your passion. Did you ever wonder why some Christians evangelize? They believe that God loves each and every one of us. Jesus Christ, God’s Son, came to earth. He lived and died for us. His death and resurrection gives us a way to come to God. What good news! Everyone needs to hear this fantastic truth. That’s why Christians evangelize. They want to share this good news.
Not all world views are bad. Some world views have transformed our world for the better. Christianity has changed the world in this way. What are the consequences of Christian belief? Human rights are one consequence. Why does a person have rights? Because we are made in the image of God. Hospitals are a Christian invention. So is nursing as a caring profession.
World views answer the basic questions of life. Commitment to a world view leads to good or bad consequences. Like them or not, world views are here to stay. We need answers to our questions.