In this transcript excerpt adapted from the Mobile Ed video course Biblical Worldview and Critical Thinking, esteemed Christian theologian and philosopher John Frame explores what it means to have a Christian worldview.
My definition of philosophy is that it’s the disciplined exposition and defense of a worldview. And what is a worldview? Well, it’s just the way you look at the whole world around you.
Buzzing, blooming confusion
You come into this world and you find a “buzzing, blooming confusion,” as one philosopher said. You see shapes and you hear sounds, and eventually, you sort them out. You see people: this is your mother. This is your father. This is your toy. This is your dog. And you start dividing the world into things and dividing the world into people, and eventually, you get some broader notions: that’s the sky up there, and that’s the stars and the sun and the moon. And you start asking yourself questions about how it fits together.
Well, that’s what philosophers do at a more sophisticated level. They ask, “What does the whole world look like? If I were to define the structure of the whole world, what would it be like?”
Materialism, pantheism, and deism
And today, some people, of course, say that the world is just a collection of material things; there are atoms and protons and neutrons and electrons and quarks—just material things bouncing around back and forth—and that’s all that the universe is.
There are other people, though, who say that there’s a remarkable unity to this world; there’s a oneness about this world, so that everything kind of goes together in a system, and that system may be so remarkable that we call it divine. That’s what we call pantheism. That’s one worldview. The first one I gave you might be called materialism. Then, there’s pantheism.
And then there’s the view that there’s some kind of a god who made the world and made it to operate according to certain laws, and then he got up and left; he never intervened again. And that’s called deism.
Now, there are a lot of [views]. There’s monism—that everything is one. There’s dualism—that there are two basic tendencies in the world that are going against one another. There is pluralism, which is that everything is moving around at its own speed.
Christian theistic worldview
And then there’s the Christian view—the Christian worldview that you find in the Bible.
You find it from the very first verse in the Bible: “In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth.” God made everything.
There is a person; it turns out that there are three persons: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. There is a tri-personal God who made the world and made everything that’s in it, and He doesn’t go away and leave the world.
He’s constantly involved in history. He comes to human beings, and He talks to them. And he does things; he blesses them sometimes; he judges them sometimes. And the whole story of the Bible is the story of how mankind rebelled against God and yet he came back and sent his Son in order to save them from the consequences of their sin.
Philosophies defend worldviews
Now, that’s a Christian theistic worldview.
And there are philosophies that defend pantheism, like Spinoza and Hegel. There are philosophies that defend deism, like Aristotle’s. There are philosophies that believe that everything is just one, like Parmenides’. There are philosophies that believe that there is a many-ness about the world where all these little particles just have nothing to do with one another.
There are all kinds of different worldviews and all kinds of different philosophies that aim to describe the worldview and to defend the worldview.
So there are non-Christian philosophies; there are Christian philosophies. And of course, you can see how a Christian philosophy overlaps a great deal with Christian theology. We can get to talking about that eventually too, but philosophies defend worldviews.
Now, people sometimes ask, “Why should we talk about worldviews?” Well, I think it’s almost inevitable. I think that everybody has a general picture in their mind of what the world is like and that can be called a worldview.
Some people prefer to talk about it as an ongoing history, not just a bunch of things, not just a structure, but a historical narrative of how things develop over many centuries and many years. That sometimes is called a metanarrative. And there are always some philosophers who say that we can’t know the structure of the world; we should reject attempts to formulate worldviews and we should reject attempts to formulate metanarratives.
But again, I think that it’s almost inevitable that we relate where we are, that we relate what we do, to a worldview (to a metanarrative, if you prefer) and that you use your reasoning, you use your philosophical ability, to defend that worldview. And of course, I believe very strongly that the true worldview is the Christian worldview, which we find in the Bible. And it’s important for us to learn how to expound and defend that worldview according to biblical standards.
Learn more about what it means to have a Christian worldview in the video course Biblical Worldview and Critical Thinking.
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