What is a worldview?

If you want to defend the Christian faith to anyone, whether they are a Muslim or an atheist, you need to understand their worldview. A worldview is the truth claims that explain the world and reality. It helps people make sense of the world, like a map, so they can navigate through life. The worldview will tell them what is real, how to live, and answer basic questions. For example, Christianity teaches that God exists, that faith in Jesus saves people from their sins, and that stealing is wrong.

Technically, religions and philosophies have formal worldviews, and people adopt personal worldviews. Christianity and Secular Humanism, both dominant in the United States for example, have formal worldviews that explain reality, behavior, and answer questions that people have. However, personal worldviews are the application of this view to a person’s life; it is actually using this worldview in an individual’s life to make decisions and live. Returning to the metaphor used earlier: if a formal worldview is the map to navigate life, then a personal worldview is actually using the map to go somewhere. Interestingly, people’s formal and personal worldviews seldom match. In other words, people rarely use the map they own—they just leave it in the glove compartment.

To illustrate this, consider what Christianity says regarding Satan. The formal worldview clearly states that there is a natural and supernatural reality, and that there is an entity called the devil. However, George Barna in his book Third Millennium Teens showed that 65% of Christian youth don’t personally believe this. Two-thirds of Christian teenagers have rejected this doctrinal aspect of the formal worldview and personally don’t subscribe to that. Their personal and formal worldviews don’t line up, and the inconsistency is obvious. But it is not just Christians that are inconsistent or hypocritical; all people fail to employ their formal worldview in their personal one, whether they are religious or not. For example, according to a 2007 Pew Forum on Religion and Life poll, 21% of atheists said they believed in God or a universal spirit!

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