Back in the 1970s, when I was a teenager, the fashionistas sported long hair, bright colored bell-bottoms, tie-dyed t-shirts, and groovy puka shell chokers. I also sported a pair of blue-tinted wire-rimmed Benjamin Franklin sunglasses.
When I was wearing those hippie eyepieces, my sunglasses’ chromatic tint colored my perception of my entire surroundings. And after one of my little brothers cracked both lenses, looking through them was impossible because everything was so distorted.
Our worldview works in the same way. We continually take in the data of life all around us, and we are always making both small and significant interpretations and decisions based on that input and how we perceive it.
Our worldview is the grid or filter by which we take in the data of life, interpret it, think about it, make decisions, and then act on these decisions.
Ultimately, there can only be one fully true worldview, one way of viewing the world around us correctly--seeing the world as it really is.
It is essential to realize that every worldview has some truth; otherwise, no one would believe it.
But the degree of truthfulness varies considerably from one worldview to another compared to the only correct worldview (Christianity).
- Some worldviews just discolor the real world (as in Judaism, which shares many truths with Christianity)
- Others are so distorted that those who believe them have to oppose some elements of common sense and common experience (e.g., atheism and pantheism)
Those who say “I don’t have a worldview” are wrong. Everyone has a worldview, whether they know it or not. The question is, “Is my worldview the correct one?” And “How can I know whether my worldview is the correct one?”
Acquiring a Worldview
So how does a worldview come about? According to George Barna, a worldview starts in early development and continues until the early teens when it is reasonably well determined. During these ages, we decide the answers to the “big questions” of life. We are also learning how to process the data and determine if our decisions and actions are correct.
Between the teenage years until the mid to late twenties those answers become embedded into our belief system, creating our life-long faith commitment. These belief systems or religions tend to be permanent for most people. Very few adults over 18 years old will ever change their worldview.
6 Big Questions that Define a Worldview
Everyone has answers to the “big questions” of life. Six of these life-defining questions that determine your worldview can be remembered by the mnemonic, “GO HOME”:
- “G” is for God: Does God exist? And if so, what is God’s nature or characteristics?
- “O” is for Origin: Where did the universe, first life, and humans originate?
- “H” is for Humanity: What makes humanity humans? Are humans exceptional when compared to other species?
- “O” is for “Ought” (Morality): What is good vs. evil or right vs. wrong? And who decides?
- “M” is for Meaning: Is there any meaning in our existence? If so, how do we discover it?
- “E” is for End (Destiny): What happens to us after we die?
7 Different Worldviews Based on “God”
Worldviews are distinguished by whether God exists, and if he does, what is his nature. Based on this, there are only seven worldview possibilities:
- Atheism (no God)
- Polytheism (many gods)
- Panentheism (one finite God identified with the world)
- Finite Godism (one finite God not identified with the world)
- Pantheism (one infinite God identified with the world)
- Deism (one infinite God not identified with the world that doesn’t perform miracles)
- Theism (one infinite God not identified with the world that does perform miracles)
Let’s break these down one at a time.
Atheism (or “anti-theism”) claims that no God exists. The physical universe is all there is, having either existed forever (impossible) or having caused itself to exist (also impossible), and it is self-sustaining.
Atheism has become the de facto cultural belief system of most of our Western secular culture and educational systems.
Polytheism believes that many finite gods exist both beyond and within the world. Polytheists deny a singular infinite or eternal God. Instead, they think in many gods, each having his or her domain.
When there is a hierarchy of gods (as in Roman and Greek gods) with one considered supreme over others, the religion is called henotheism. Chief representatives of polytheism include the ancient Greeks and Romans, Mormons, neopagans (Wiccans), and Jehovah’s Witnesses (who perceive that God the Father and Jesus are two distinct gods).
Panentheism is not to be confused with pantheism. “Pan-en-theism” views God in the universe as a mind is in a body.
This view believes that God has two poles: an actual pole, and a potential pole. The universe is God’s “body” or his actual pole. But there is also a “potential pole” to God, and that is his infinite potential to become. This view is also known as “process theology.”
4. Finite Godism
Finite Godism contends that there is only one God beyond the universe, but he is limited (finite) in either power, knowledge, or both. This belief system seeks to explain why there is evil and suffering in the world. Rabbi Kushner’s bestselling book When Bad Things Happen To Good People is a popular treatment of this view.
Pantheism contends that everything is God, including yourself. Pantheists believe that everything, from inanimate objects to humans and everything in between, is God. God is the universe or All, and the universe is God. Pantheistic religions include certain forms of Hinduism, Zen Buddhism, New Age, and Christian Science.
Deism believes in one God who exists beyond the physical universe. But deists differ from theism that while their God created everything, he does not act within his creation.
Deism is “theism minus miracles.” Deism portrays God as winding up the universe like a watch and then letting his creation run on naturalistic laws without any intervention on his part.
Theism is a monotheistic (“one God”) belief system. Theists believe there is only one infinite, eternal personal God.
This God exists beyond his created universe, and he can also act within his creation. There are three traditional theistic views:
Of these three monotheistic religions, Christianity is unique because Christians believe that our one God exists as a Trinity (or Tri-Unity, “three in one”). God is three distinct persons: Father, Son (Jesus), and Holy Spirit. And these three persons all share the same divine nature.
Can’t They All Be True?
Since each of these worldviews excludes the other six, only one can be true. Of course, many in our current culture hold to a belief that “all views are equally true.” But that is logically absurd. If “2 +2 = 4,” The answer cannot also be 3, 5, 7, or any number you feel is correct or want to re-define as accurate.
Said simply, if there are only seven options and each one excludes the other six, there can only be one that is true.
When considering each worldview’s answers to these six questions, only theism is true. And of the three prominent theistic worldviews, only Christianity fulfills rational empiric and existential tests for truth. As you continue to uncover Christianity, it’s my hope that you will see theism, and specifically Christianity, as the only complete prescription through which to see our world.
Geisler, Norman L., & Watkins, William D. (1989). Worlds Apart: A Handbook on World Views (2nd ed.). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House.
Geisler, Norman L. (1999). “Worldview.” In Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics (pp. 785–788). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.