LutheranWiktionary Definition of “Worldview” Invites Your Comments, by Pr. Rossow

A few days ago a reader requested a definition of “worldview” on our LutheranWiktionary. I have obliged. (To view the LutheranWiktionary click here. If you want to participate in this community  developed Lutheran dictionary click here.) My definition addresses a pet peeve that I have. I believe confessional Lutherans should not use the word “worldview.” The very word assumes the false view that perceptions can only be processed through one’s view. Granting that means that there is no objective truth, only one’s perspective. Give this definition a read and see what you think. it is a little rough in the last few lines and needs some editing but I think you will get the gist of it.

Worldview

 “Worldview” comes from the German word “weltanshaung.” Postmodernism has promoted this notion as way of discerning one’s bias. A worldview is basically the way someone approaches reality or the presuppositions one has about reality. For instance, a secular worldview begins with the presupposition that there is no God or that if there is, His presence ought not to be allowed into public discourse. An ecological worldview sees all things through the question of “What is good for the earth?”

How do confessional Lutherans approach this matter? One could say that we have a Scriptural worldview. For instance, we believe there is a God, that he created all things, that the world will be destroyed one day, that meaning in life is derived from confession and absolution, etc. It is probably best that we as Christians not succumb to the use of this term however. As noted above, it grows out of the postmodern approach to the world which assumes that everyone has a different interpretation on reality. That is not true. There are no competing views of the world. People may have different views and it may affect what they think is true, but in the end there is only the world and us. Instead of speaking of a Christian worldview, we need to hold everyone accountable for properly perceiving the world and drawing true conclusions about that experience outside of a worldview. The average human being is equipped with the same sense perceptions. If someone is “viewing” the world wrongly, we determine that they have physical problems with their sensing ability or if it is due to delusions then we say they are crazy. There is no need for us as confessional Christians to succumb to the notion that we have a world view. The world is there for everyone to sense. Of course, our wills have been blinded by sin and so there can be wrong conclusions drawn about the world based on sin. That is why we do not let any of our conclusions of reason contradict what we learn from Holy Scripture. Accurate sensation guided by Scripture leads to objective truth about the world and not some one’s presuppositions or “worldview.”

Most of the definitions in our LutheranWiktionary are not this obtuse. Check it out and see what you think. We have a nice start thanks to all of you who have requested definitions of written them. We hope you will make use of the LutheranWiktionary as you read this site and others and more importantly we hope you will help us build this useful resource by doing a little research and offering up a definition.

About Pastor Tim Rossow

Rev. Dr. Timothy Rossow is the Director of Development for Lutherans in Africa. He served Bethany Lutheran Church in Naperville, IL as the Sr. Pastor for 22 years (1994-2016) and was Sr. Pastor of Emmanuel Lutheran in Dearborn, MI prior to that. He is the founder of Brothers of John the Steadfast but handed off the Sr. Editor position to Rev. Joshua Scheer in 2015. He currently resides in Ocean Shores WA with his wife Phyllis. He regularly teaches in Africa. He also paints watercolors, reads philosophy and golfs. He is currently represented in two art galleries in the Pacific Northwest. His M Div is from Concordia, St. Louis and he has an MA in philosophy from St. Louis University and a D Min from Concordia, Fort Wayne.

Comments

LutheranWiktionary Definition of “Worldview” Invites Your Comments, by Pr. Rossow — 10 Comments

  1. Pastor Rossow-

    Thank you for addressing this issue.

    May I recommend a situation in which the term “worldview” might be profitably applied by Christians? In the study of and preparation for Christian cross-cultural work, I think it can be helpful to speak of “Western worldview” or “Asian worldview” etc. In a Christian application of this term, it is understood as referring to differences in perception resulting from cultural differences, with the truth of Scripture cutting through the whole. This is different from the cultural relativism of secular anthropology.

    In any given parameter, a culture may fall closer or farther away from the standard of ultimate truth, as defined by God’s Word. I think there are also valid differences in practice between Christians of different cultures- in details where the Bible is silent, it is natural for there to be some variation. Finally, it is helpful for Christians to recognize cultural differences and to define their own worldview. It is possible for very sincere Christians to have some dearly-held beliefs and standards that they assume are biblical though they are only cultural.

    Picky detail- check the spelling of “Weltanschauung.”

  2. Tlotliso,

    Thank you for wrestling with my point and your thoughtful comments. I particularly appreciate your point that in non-scriptural matters, Christians can hold contrary positions.

    However, what I would submit is that it is healthy to simply call these things “reasoned positions” or some such thing rather than “viewpoints.” Calling them “viewpoints” assumes the entire approach to knowledge, experience and language that asserts that all perception is individual and even narcissistic. This brings an end to true communication and the possibility of truth.

    So instead of speaking of a “Western” and “Eastern” worldview, we simply speak of western and eastern culture.
    Insofar as they are different, they have different principles. For examnple, in the West individuality is favored over the whole and the opposite is true. I think we are better off calling these traits or principles than “worldviews.”

    What I am proposing is a semantic thing but it is not mere semantics, but semantics with a difference. If we all use the terminology of worldview, I believe it drags our culture further down into the individualistic tendencies of postmodernism. If we talk about cultural “traits” or “working principles” I think it is more in keeping with a common sense realism approach to perception, language and knowledge.

    Pastor Rossow

  3. Pr. Rossow-

    I see your point. Anything labeled as a “view” becomes one of many possible choices, all of them valid. Add “Christian” as a prefix, and our biblical standards are seen as no more true than any other view. There would need to be an adequate replacement for speaking of “worldview” as a subset of culture that yet is greater than the sum of its parts- a cultural ideology, if you will. Perhaps a collective concept of “cultural traits” or “working principles” as you suggested, or a “system of cultural assumptions/interpretations.” (Wordy but accurate, I think.)

    Changing this terminology would make for an interesting project, since it’s so entrenched in the literature. Every term has to start somewhere though, even the old, entrenched ones. (Any Christian anthropologists out there who would like to take this one on…?)

  4. Tlotliso,

    I agree with you on “ideology.” It is much better than anything with “view” in it since it is based on ideas. Ideas of course can be subjective too but for the most part we connect some sort of thought process with ideas as opposed to just one’s perspective.

    Pastor Rossow

  5. Adino,

    Yes “paradaigm” is better than “worldview” but in many respects it was simply corporate America’s version of “worldview.”

    A paradagim seems to be more external than a worldview, i.e. something you discover outside of oneself by studying culture and in that regard, you are correct, it is preferable.

    Pastor Rossow

  6. Actually, “paradigm” comes from science. It was introduced by Thomas Kuhn in the 1960s in his book “The Structure of Scientific Revolutions”. He borrowed the term from grammar.

    But yes, the word has become one of those cliche buzzwords used by business people and many others.

  7. Thanks for the clarification Adino. I remember back in the 1980’s, everything in the corporate world was all about “paradign shifts.” And, just like today, it then made its way into the church. As I reacall, that was the beginning of the church turning to the business world for its guidance.

    Pastor Rossow

  8. Maybe we had better not use any word we can’t spell!

    (I’m not fond of “paradigm” for other reasons, too.) 🙂

  9. Hey, you gotta problem with “paradign?” I think I have accurately spelled “paradign shift” as in “I went out the other day im my back yard to dig two holes in order to move all the cash that I am keeping out of the stock market (I wish). You know – I was paradign – that’s making two holes and shifting things from one to the other.”

    So there! 🙂

    If I have time for this, I must not be preaching this week. Thank God for associate pastors.

    Pastor Rossow

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