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Philosophy Questions: What Is the Christian Worldview?

A worldview is the set of basic beliefs about reality by which an individual understands life. What one believes about God determines every other aspect of his or her worldview (e.g., truth, ethics, or the meaning of life). Christianity is in one respect a worldview; we study the Bible to learn and live the biblical worldview.

Everyone Has a Worldview

Though many people hold only an undeveloped worldview, everyone has one, just as every tree has roots and every house has a foundation. Worldviews are what people use to make sense out of life, and our worldviews shape the decisions we make and the characters we develop (Proverbs 23:7).[1] Many people absorb a worldview as a sponge absorbs whatever liquid it is immersed in, without thinking carefully about what they believe and who they are. Yet Jesus promised that if we will follow Him, the truth will make us free (John 8:31-32).

Worldviews consist of beliefs; the more true (accurate to reality) those beliefs are, the better the worldview is. A worldview that does not fit reality leads to a fragmented heart and life. One major problem concerning theology and worldviews is that false beliefs and wrong actions create a vortex that pulls the individual away from God. In biblical terms, this is “the deceitfulness of sin” (Hebrews 3:12-13; James 1:14-16).


“Worldviews consist of beliefs; the more true (accurate to reality) those beliefs are, the better the worldview is.”


The more accurate a worldview is, the more it is coherent (the beliefs hold together), consistent (the beliefs correspond to reality), comprehensive (the beliefs best explain every area of human experience), and viable (the beliefs work well in real life). The Bible is the authorized summary of God’s revelation of His nature and will, and therefore provides the most coherent, consistent, comprehensive, and viable worldview. The Bible explains who God is, who we are, what life is for, and how to live.

All Truth Is God’s Truth

We refer to the idea of trueness to describe both statements and individuals. Truth (in the propositional or epistemic sense) is the quality of a statement’s correspondence with its referent in reality.[2] This has been the primary and traditional understanding throughout the history of Western thought and culture (the major alternative views have been the coherence and pragmatic theories of truth). Currently, though, epistemic relativism (which quickly leads to ethical relativism) is popular, especially in academia:

Students and faculty regularly tell one another that the objective truth is that there is no objective truth and that since no one’s values are any better than anyone else’s we ought to tolerate everyone’s values, because of course tolerance is a better value than intolerance.[3]


“Truth is the quality of a statement’s correspondence with its referent in reality.”


Truth (in the personal or ethical sense) is the quality of a person’s correspondence with righteousness. We describe a person of virtue and integrity as “a true man” or “a true friend.” This idea of personal trueness is consonant with the philosophical concept of beauty as attained in the fulfillment of one’s created purpose, innate potential, or undertaken responsibilities. Thus Keats could write, “Beauty is truth, truth beauty.”[4] This understanding of human nature and purpose, though, is lost to a secular culture. Allan Bloom has criticized the secular soullessness of many university students today:

As it now stands, students have powerful images of what a perfect body is and pursue it incessantly. But deprived of literary guidance, they no longer have any image of a perfect soul, and hence do not long to have one. They do not even imagine that there is such a thing.[5]

One definite strength of the biblical worldview is its affirmation of God as the ground of truth and knowledge. As Arthur Holmes has well noted, all truth is God’s truth.[6] Propositional truthfulness is ultimately grounded in the self-existence or “aseity” (a, from; se, self; ity, -ness) of God. His eternality (Exodus 3:14; Psalm 90:2; 1 Timothy 1:17) is the first truth of all reality. Personal trueness is ultimately grounded in the righteousness of God. His righteousness is the basis of our salvation, both in justification and sanctification (Romans 1:17; Philippians 1:6).

We Are Able to Know

How do you know? Epistemology is the study of the nature, grounds, and limitations of knowledge. Many people today find it convenient to deny the objectivity of truth or knowledge—when it serves their immediate interests to do so. Yet relativism, the idea that there is no absolute truth, therefore one belief is as good as another, is self-defeating. Skepticism, the idea that there is no objective knowledge, therefore we cannot really know anything, is also self-defeating. Many people affirm and practice relativism and/or skepticism, and avoid nihilism simply by being inconsistent (and thus lacking integrity) concerning truth and knowledge.

Knowledge is true facts or ideas gained through experience, observation, or study. Our minds perceive, order, and synthesize experience according to rational principles. Why do we, or should we, think that what is in our minds corresponds to what is really out there? The biblical worldview provides the best basis for confidence in our knowledge of truth. Its epistemology, in simple terms, is that the same God who made the world also made us and gave us the Bible. Therefore the way our minds work fits the way the world and the Bible are ordered.


What is the Christian worldview? “The biblical worldview provides the best basis for confidence in our knowledge of truth.”


Creation is ordered according to certain rational principles that reflect the mind of God. God’s revelation of His nature and will is also ordered according to these principles. We are created in God’s image, so our rationality also reflects the mind of God. These formal (rational) principles are the same for creation, revelation, and our minds. Therefore there is a formal correspondence between creation, revelation, and reason. This formal correspondence is the ground of our ability to know the truth.

Specifically, the formal principles are: being, identity, abstraction, causality, spatiality, temporality, and morality.[7] Prior to any specific information we have or decisions we make, we possess by virtue of God’s image these principles as the foundation of our reasoning ability. Our rationality is the work of God the Logos, incarnate in Jesus Christ, who is the Truth (John 1:1-9; 14:6) and who promised that the truth would make us free.

Western culture has lost much of its confidence in truth and our ability to know it. This has happened because many have rejected God as the Creator of the universe and humans as created in His image. The reality, though, is that when God created the world, He ordered it according to certain principles. When He created human intelligence, He ordered it according to the same principles. This means that the way our minds work fits the way the world is, and we are able to know the truth.


What is the Christian worldview? “The way our minds work fits the way the world is, and we are able to know the truth.”


The formal correspondence that prevails between creation, revelation, and reason is the ground, but is not a guarantee, of objective knowledge. Our knowledge is accurate but limited, therefore so are our certainty and objectivity. The bottom line, though, is that we are able, therefore responsible, to know the truth about ourselves, the world, and God.

The Elements of a Worldview

The worldview that we develop is both philosophical and practical; it is foundational to the choices we make and the character we attain. A Christian worldview is based on biblical truth, but other worldviews both agree with and disagree with a Christian worldview in different aspects. The questions below are examples, not a complete list, but we may think of our worldview as what we believe in the following areas:

  • God – Is there a God? Is there only one God? What are God’s attributes? Is God perfect in His nature and character? What is the relationship between God and the universe? In what ways has God revealed Himself to us?
  • Man – What is it to be human? What is the relationship between the body and the soul? What are the purpose and meaning of life? Is death the end of existence, or is there something after this life?
  • Truth and Knowledge – What is truth? What is knowledge? What are we able to know? How are we able to know? What is the relation between reason and faith?

“What is truth? What is knowledge? What are we able to know? How are we able to know?”


  • Ethics – What are good and evil? What is the highest authority in deciding between right and wrong? Are humans good, evil, both, or neither? Should ethical decisions be based on consequences, character, commandments, or something else?
  • The Cosmos and Science – What is the cosmos? Can the existence and attributes of the universe be explained solely in terms of matter, energy, and natural processes? What is science? What worldview provides the best foundation for science? Is science the primary source of moral authority?
  • Society and Government – What constitutes the ideal, or best attainable, society? What are the primary institutions that form, or should form, a society and its culture? What is the purpose of government? What is the basis of governmental authority? What are the limits of governmental authority?
  • Education – What are the purposes and forms of education? What institutions should be responsible for and authoritative in the education of children and minors?
  • Beauty and Art – What is beauty? How does human appreciation of beauty move individuals and cultures? What are the purposes of art? How do worldview and art relate to and affect each other? What is the highest form of beauty?

At its best, the Christian worldview is grounded in biblical truth. The Word is deep; the truth is there; and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.


What is the Christian worldview? “The Word is deep; the truth is there; and the fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom.”


Theology is the study of the nature and will of God. In biblical terms, God is the eternal, holy Creator; in similar, philosophical terms, God is the transcendent, personal Ground of being. The nature and will of God define every area of the Christian worldview. A well-developed worldview is integral to a well-developed soul, and to the security and purpose by which we best know, love, and glorify God our Creator.


[1] Scripture quotations are from The Holy Bible, New King James Version (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1985).

[2] Aristotle posits that “to say of what is that it is not, or of what is not that it is, is false, while to say of what is that it is, and of what is not that it is not, is true.” Aristotle, Metaphysics, Book 4, Section 7, trans. W. D. Ross, in Great Books of the Western World, vol. 8 (Chicago, IL: Encyclopædia Britannica, 1952), 349. The underlying epistemological affirmation is, in the words of Thomas Aquinas, that “Veritas est adaequatio rei et intellectus” (‘Truth is the adequation of thing and intellect’). Aquinas, De Veritate Q. 1, A. 1 (cf. Summa Theologica, I.16.1, and Summa contra Gentiles, Book 1, ch. 59), cited in A. N. Prior, “Correspondence Theory of Truth,” The Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 1, Paul Edwards, ed. in chief (New York, NY: Macmillan, 1967), 224.

[3] Keith Yandell, “How to Teach What You Don’t Believe,” Christian Scholar’s Review, 21 (1991), 160. Concerning our culture’s veneration of tolerance as the ultimate virtue, Peter tells us to interact with others of different beliefs “with meekness and fear” (1 Peter 3:15, NKJV; the NIV reads “gentleness and respect”). The phrase “respecting someone else’s beliefs” is common but misleading. We are to respect the other person because, whatever his or her beliefs are, he or she bears the image of God. Yet the beliefs themselves are not something sacred or inviolable. If the person holds false beliefs in critical areas, such as the deity of Jesus, the most respectful and loving thing we can do is seek to persuade him or her that the belief is wrong and has consequences. There are many secondary principles concerning the ethics of persuasion that we should uphold, but our highest respect is toward God and His “beliefs” (i.e., His truth), and the responsibilities those truths imply for us. God is not a relativist; Jesus clearly differentiated between truth and non-truth; and the biblical writers offer us no justification for an attitude of complacency and compromise toward false beliefs and the destruction they inflict on hearts and lives (2 Corinthians 10:4-5; Jude 3).

[4] John Keats, “Ode on a Grecian Urn” (1820), as cited in John Bartlett, Familiar Quotations, 16th edition, Justin Kaplan, gen. ed. (Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company, 1992), 416.

[5] Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York, NY: Simon and Schuster/Touchstone Books, 1987), 67.

[6] Arthur Holmes, All Truth Is God’s Truth (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1977), passim.

[7] Kelvin Jones, “Revelation and Reason in the Theology of Carl F. H. Henry, James I. Packer, and Ronald H. Nash.” Dissertation, The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, 1994, 195-208.

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