How to Understand Any Worldview Pt. 3

As we’ve been walking through the book Finding Truth, we’ve discovered some ways of identifying the idols that people substitute for God in their worldview, and how idols necessarily lead to some form of reductionism, and how to look for clues as to what that reductionism is. However, it’s fairly common for people to have a fragmented worldview. In other words, they have certain beliefs about specific aspects of life, but they haven’t attempted to fit all the pieces together into a worldview puzzle (this is all too common in Christianity as well). Thankfully, Nancy Pearcey walks us through step one in testing worldviews.

Test the Idol: Does it Contradict What We Know about the World?

Certain ideas may seem nice on paper, and they may even theoretically solve certain problems, but when the rubber hits the road, either they will work or they won’t. This is an unpopular way to look at things, as it is much more fashionable to adopt the idea that “perception is reality” or that everyone finds the truths that are right for them, without respect to what someone else believes. In other words, “truth” is relative, because “truth” is merely opinion. This sort of relativistic thinking lead Francis Schaeffer to start talking about “true truth”, the idea that there is knowable truth and reality that is not subjected to people’s opinions. (More on that here)

I was once talking to a friend about morality, and in her view, morality was relative based on different cultures in different times. This idea is very popular, and sounds non-oppressive and, inclusive, and happy on the surface, but does it work? I presented her with the following hypothetical situation, to help her reason out the implications of her worldview. Suppose WWII went the other direction, with Hitler and the Nazis having won, and killed everyone that disagreed with them. Then, by her own reasoning, the Holocaust would have been justified and correct. She was unable to affirm that, even though her belief about relative morality demanded it.

This is essentially following Pearcey’s 3rd principle, by illustrating how a worldview does not match reality. In my example, she knew that her belief demanded what I had illustrated, but she also knew that the Holocaust was unquestionably evil, and that not determined by a different time or culture.

Pearcey points out that “The created order refuses to fit inside the box of any idol-based worldview.” and because of this, there will always be areas where we will be able to lovingly, but forcefully push someone to think through the logical conclusions of their beliefs. Francis Schaeffer talked about how people build walls and a roof around themselves to try and protect/isolate them from God’s truth, and the job of the apologist was to remove the roof and let them feel the tension between their beliefs and God’s truth/reality. This is a job for every Christian, and not just apologists, because this is helpful to evangelism.

Apologist and author Ravi Zacharias tells an interesting story about how he was taken to a postmodern art museum, and was being given a tour. He recalls seeing stairs that went nowhere, or windows that were put directly on a wall without a space to look out, and bits of the wall/ceiling that jutted out in strange ways for no reason. The tour guide explained everything to point to the relativity/meaninglessness of reality, and Ravi simply asked one question: Was the foundation built on the same principle? Obviously, it would be impossible for the building to be standing if the foundation was built on the same principle as the rest of the building or the art contained therein. It’s a powerful illustration of how there must be God’s reality that exists and holds everything together in order for people to rebel against His truth.

If you recall from the 2nd principle, there are certain things which you can look for which don’t fit within the box of any idol-based worldviews, and there are also clues in which the things sticking out of the box can be pushed to their logical conclusions. Essentially, you’re looking for cognitive dissonance, a fancy term meaning that what they claim to believe doesn’t match what both of you know about reality. If you hear things like “we can’t help believing in that, even though we know it’s not true” that is a sign that cognitive dissonance is happening.

Going back to moral relativism, you will often hear those same people making moral pronouncements all the time. Do they believe certain things are right or wrong? Do they say certain things should or should not be done? Those should be flags alerting you to an area where you should push. Obviously, what types of questions you ask or how hard you push depends on the person you are talking to, but in conversation with moral relativists in particular, I’ve found it helpful to ask things like “and why is that wrong/right?” or “didn’t you just tell me that all morality is relative? then why is that bad?” Whichever questions you ask, the goal remains the same. You want to help them see that their worldview doesn’t match the reality that both of you know exists. This principle goes hand in hand with the 2nd test for worldviews that we’ll cover next week.

– Jesse