Who (if anyone) made me? Why am I here? Where do I belong/what is my value? What is my purpose? What is the nature of reality: What is right with the world? What is the major problem? What is the solution to that problem? What happens after death? How do I know?
An individual answers those (or similar) pillar questions in an effort to construct an understanding of reality, grappling with what he or she thinks, feels, and experiences of the world. The result: worldview. To date, I have compared worldview to a lens through which we view the world and to the foundational pillars, substrate, or bedrock—“the anchoring substance of our life [that] feeds every facet of who we are and what we do.” (Beyond Biblical Integration, 46) In another shorthand, worldview is the story a person or community tells (often to others) in order to make sense of the world.
At our time in history, a plethora of these stories exist. Understanding worldview has become vital even as we wrestle with today’s news. What we claim to be true—the narrative we tell ourselves to make sense of the world—influences the way we tell any story, including how we evaluate the people, places, conflicts, etc., within our stories. In our pluralistic society, a diversity of worldviews affects how we write news stories.
Take the unfolding conflict between Israel and Palestine. What we believe about the dignity and value of human beings influences how we write about civilians caught in the gears of war, violence enacted on women and children, hostage taking . . . and our beliefs frame how we write about those who perpetrate such crimes.
But what about the narrative to which members of Hamas subscribe? Or the Russians as opposed to the Ukrainians? Or the Chinese Communists vs. the people of Hong Kong or Taiwan? With such a diversity of narratives in play, how can we develop the discernment we need to operate in the world? It might seem a hopeless task only for those with the time and academic chops—doctors of philosophy—to tackle. I hope my work here as News Coach can break things into digestible pieces that you can, in turn, use in your discipleship efforts with the kids and teens in your life.
While we must have at least some rudimentary worldview recognition in our day, we don’t have to splinter them into the hundreds (as some scholars have done). We can simplify the diverse array of attitudinal, ideological, religious, and philosophical worldviews into grand narratives—metanarratives—according to shared characteristics.
The risk, of course, is oversimplification. In order to grapple with a correct, systematized version of each of the worldviews/world religions mentioned, one would have to take a deep dive into their sacred texts or writings of their major thinkers/philosophers. For example, as one gets deeper into Hinduism, one finds the pantheon of gods reflects the many faces of one god: Brahma. So, is Hinduism polytheistic or monotheistic? A deep dive into Mormonism might cause you to conclude the reverse: What seems a monotheistic religion builds towards the ultimate outcome where adherents expect to become world-making demi-gods.
Below, I have attempted to show the major worldview players on today’s global scene grouped under metanarrative categories, fully acknowledging that I have engaged in reduction. It is also vital to recognize that, though grouped similarly, the monotheists have conflicting answers to the major questions “What is the problem? What is the solution?”
The major players
The major players
The major players
- New Age/New Thought
- New Consciousness
Even as you consider the reduced categories above, I want to submit one further simplification which, while logical, challenges us beyond a cognitive level: It confronts our hearts. Truly, any non-Christian worldview, whether philosophy or religion, is humanistic at its core. Let me repeat for clarity: it is humanistic at its core because it is a man-made alternative to capital “T” truth. These narratives serve man’s desire for autonomy, man authoring his own story, where he creates god or gods in man’s image instead of the reverse.
When man places himself or his narrative above the authority of God and His revealed word, the result is man-centric, a humanistic construction. These constructed narratives are antithetical to the gospel—the redemptive narrative of scripture. It is only in the redemptive narrative that we discern who we are (image-bearing sinners desperate for divine intervention, redemption, restoration), whose we are (we have been created by God for His glory), and the true nature of reality (all things in heaven and Earth are His). It is the plumb line, pointing out where other worldviews may have hit upon the truth, and where they fall desperately short.
For the next portion of this worldview series, I peel back the next layer: defining the metanarrative categories and their major players by their shared characteristics and the way they answer the pillar questions. I hope to illustrate why worldviews are often at war, demonstrating why worldview is at the core of current events (as it has been for all of history)—both as a lens through which we tell all stories, but also the “stuff” of which news stories are made.