“What’s a worldview?” I asked.
“It’s a way of viewing the world,” my helpful friend answered.
Long before I ever knew what a worldview was, I knew it was an important word. It was even the answer to one of the biggest questions I had ever asked: “How is it that creationists look at geology and biology and physics and other facts and see evidence of God, and evolutionists look at the same facts and see evidence of evolution?” A very wise older individual gave me a short but assuredly brilliant answer to this question. He said, “It’s because creationists and evolutionists have different worldviews.”
He was a very smart man, so this must have been a very smart answer, but it didn’t help me. I had to find out what a worldview was first.
The dictionary was uninformative. According to it a worldview is: “the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world.” Okay, but what does it mean to “interpret the world”?
In the end, it turned out that “worldview” was too difficult a word for me to understand in one giant leap. I had to first learn about a smaller but similar word: “dogview.”
If a worldview is “the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets the world” then a dogview is, of course, “the overall perspective from which one sees and interprets dogs.” It turns out everyone has a dogview and each person’s dogview can be quite different from their neighbor’s. To put it another way, a person’s dogview contains their basic core beliefs about dogs and answers all the big questions people have about dogs like: why are dogs the way they are, and why do they do the things they do? You could call it the starting point for figuring out dogs.
The really remarkable thing about dogviews is that a person’s dogview can sometimes have an incredible effect on how they interpret facts. Take for example, the case of Mel and Nicky, two friends who have very different dogviews: Nicky is convinced that all dogs are nice, while Mel believes that all dogs are mean.
THE FIRST DOG
One day, as the two of them were out for a walk, a dog jumped out of the bushes just a few feet in front of them. Mel, of course, thought this Pit bull/Doberman-cross looked quite menacing, while Nicky was convinced it just wanted a scratch behind the ears. When she approached to give the brute a pat, it bit her in the ankle and then ran off.
While this incident only added to Mel’s belief that all dogs are mean, if you thought this would force Nicky to revisit her “all dogs are nice” dogview, you would be mistaken. Nicky had a very strongly-held dogview so, rather than changing it, she reinterpreted the events to fit her dogview. “The dog wasn’t being mean,” she told Mel, “He was only giving me a love nip.”
DOG NUMBER TWO
As Nicky and Mel continued their walk, another dog just happened to jump in front of the two friends. With his tail wagging, the St. Bernard bounded forward and leapt up, putting his front paws on Mel’s shoulders. The dog knocked him right over and started licking Mel’s face. After a moment or two of this the St. Bernard, tail still wagging, bounded back into the bushes and disappeared.
“See Mel,” Nicky exclaimed, “All dogs are nice. He liked you so much, he was licking your face!”
To you or me it might seem this dog was nice and very friendly, but Mel saw things quite differently. His dogview, after all, was that all dogs were mean, so he interpreted the St. Bernard’s actions in light of that dogview. “Licking me, you say! He wasn’t licking me; he was tasting me! Fortunately I didn’t taste very good to him, so he left to go find someone else to devour.”
Mel and Nicky saw the exact same events and yet, because of their opposing dogviews, they interpreted those events very differently. They obviously had messed up dogviews – all dogs aren’t nice, and they aren’t all mean either – but because Mel and Nicky were so dedicated to their incorrect dogviews, they forced the facts to fit.
So what’s a worldview?
Once I understood the intricacies of what a dogview was, it became a lot easier to understand what a worldview was. As Reformed Christians we understand that God is sovereign over all of life – everything has been made by Him, and the purpose of life is to glorify and enjoy Him forever. That means our Christian faith is the “overall perspective from which we see and interprets the world.” Christianity is our worldview.
To put it another way, a worldview is a lot like a dogview, except instead of being just about dogs it concerns the whole world. A person’s worldview answers the big questions that we all have about the world and the people in it like: Why am I here? What is the nature of the universe? Why is there evil or good? A worldview is a person’s starting place, or their foundation for figuring out the world and people in it.
And like their dogview, a person’s worldview can sometimes have an incredible effect on how they interpret facts. Christians, for example, see the exquisite complexity of a human eye and understand it as evidence of a Grand Designer.
Evolutionists however, believe that the whole universe is the result of chance (that’s their worldview) so they look at a human eye differently. To them the complexity of the human eye is not evidence of a Grand Designer, but is instead evidence of vast amounts of time. After all, chance couldn’t produce something like an eye overnight – that takes time. Like Mel and Nicky, evolutionists force the facts to fit because the only alternative is for them to abandon their mistaken worldview and look for another. And like Mel and Nicky, most evolutionists hold on to their mistaken view too strongly for them to consider looking at the world in a different way.
As Christians we can take comfort in the fact that our worldview explains the world like no other worldview can. We can understand subjects like psychology better because we have a good grasp of human nature. Economics, as complicated as it is, is easier for Christians because we know that man is motivated by self-interest. Our worldview helps us have stronger marriages because we know that women are supposed to submit to the authority of their husbands and that men are supposed to love their wives sacrificially, as Christ loved the church. We understand events like terrorism better than the world because we know that man is sinful by nature (and that it would be naive to presume all false religions are inherently peaceful). We can face illness and sickness with hope because our Christian worldview explains why illness and sickness exist. Our worldview makes the world understandable.
And for that we should thank the One who gave us this understanding, and we should share His gift with everyone we know.
Jon Dykstra does not own a dog, and is quite happy about that.
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