About 10 years ago I started wearing glasses- these were my very first pair. For some time I realised I had been squinting a lot in order to see and as a result I went in for an eye exam, which concluded that I needed glasses. I remember the day I finally got them and stepped outside of the store with them on; the word “wow” appropriately came out.
I realised how poor my vision was because of how clearly I could now see; I was given new lens to correct my vision, in order to see the world around me.
The above example brings to mind another world that we view every day; a world of ideas. We view this world as we: open a book, turn our TV on, watch an interaction before us or converse with another person.
This world has been described quite appropriately by Alister McGrath quoting Francis Schaeffer in his book ‘Mere Apologetics’ saying “every person lives with a foot in each of two worlds-the real external world, characterized by its depth and complexity; and an internal world of thought, shaped by a longing for understanding, love and significance. If these two worlds stand in tension with each other, an individual cannot live meaningfully. There must be a correspondence between our experience of the external world and our internal world.” So essentially we all interact with the world around us and there is a striving for correspondence between our internal world which-according to some- rests on assumptions about the world.
So how are we to gain this correspondence and ensure that what we hope for and assume about the world corresponds with what is true about it in reality? Similar to my poor eye sight in the above example, where I needed corrective lens to view the material world around me, we need lens to view the world and form right ideas. We need a world-view and a proper one. Now world-views are essentially a means by which we view the world; everybody has one.
If we dialogue with someone long enough we would quickly realise that a person has a “view” about things that can be described as a world-view. A person may have a view of the world, similar to when I viewed around me and their view equates to “squinting”. You may not be able to clearly see and as such your lens may need to be corrected. So what should a good world-view or “lens” look like? I want to propose to you three essentials I believe a good worldview ought to have and in my follow up article, make a case for a Biblical world-view as one that can be trusted.
The first essential quality I believe a good world-view should have is an objective sense of direction. It answers the question of where should I be pointed to. We live in a post-modern view of the world currently, where it is believed that no over-arching or objective view of the world exists; with a view like this, direction in life boils down to wherever I want to go; does such a view on life suffice?
This noteworthy conversation between two characters in Lewis Carroll’s famous work ‘Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland’- the Cheshire cat and Alice- helps us “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here? That depends a good deal on where you want to get to, said the cat. I don’t care where-said Alice. Then it doesn’t matter which way you go, said the cat. So long as I get somewhere, Alice added as an explanation. Oh, you’re sure to do that, said the cat, if you only walk long enough”.
The sheer futility and aimlessness is glaringly apparent in the exchange between the Cat and Alice. She has no objective idea of where she wants to go but she is seeking directions. It will always depend on where we need to get to. Knowing where we are going informs how we get there and a world-view that doesn’t provide that kind of objective direction is found wanting.
Secondly in order to get to where we are going to, our directions ought to be clear and coherent. If I had foggy or obscure lens- as is the case when my glasses are smudged- then I would need to clean it in order to see clearly; similarly, it is essentially that our world-view, that seeks to direct, be clear.
At times there are views that may use lofty words to hide rather than reveal; this isn’t very new, Augustine in ‘Confessions’ mentions this “some use philosophy to seduce by disguising error with long words and subtle arguments and honorable sounding names”. This ought not to be a good world-view, the aim of a good one should be an aim to be understood, and therefore clarity is necessary.
So far we have seen that we need: proper directions and clarity for a good world-view; the last essential is a world-view that must speak to is meaning. We may say “that is a given”, who would do anything without the expectation of getting meaning? As we all gaze into the world of ideas, we arrive at conclusions that may or may not be true-that is a description of reality that is accurate.
There are some who may look into life and conclude that we can’t find objective meaning, some of us go through life not knowing that we should be looking for meaning. Interestingly some of the Philosophers of old were not only skilled in manipulating words but also paying much attention to them, these were philologists and even linguistic philosophers.
They paid much attention to it because they believed that meaning could be ascertained as we sought for this in content and words as Peter Hitchens once said in his essay ‘The fantasy of addiction’ “words are congealed thought”. Most importantly they devoted themselves to different schools of thought because they believed that there is meaning in life; a good world-view recognizes this and seeks to direct persons-with clarity-towards where it can be found.
Ultimately as Alister McGrath states in ‘Mere Apologetics’-and what I aim to do as a Christian Apologist- “Apologetics is about persuading people that there is a door to another world-a door that perhaps they never realised existed. Evangelism is about helping people to open that door and enter into the new world that lies beyond”. I would say that a good-worldview is an extension of the thought above.
Paul Lewis is a Staff Worker for Universities and Colleges Christian Fellowship in Kingston Jamaica, where he also resides. He has aspirations of becoming a Christian Apologist and he loves reading especially topics like: History, Philosophy and Theology. You can follow him on twitter @VeritasDeiVinci