A worldview catalogue

In his book, The Universe Next Door, James W. Sire catalogues eight wordlviews, analysing each one by asking of it seven basic questions.

I found this book excellent at helping me understand how other people understand the world. Thinking in someone else’s shoes is really hard, but this book makes it so much easier. I highly recommend it.

The Universe Next Door is available online at Amazon US or Amazon UK.

Sire begins by defining a worldview as “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”

Seven basic questions

  1. What is prime reality — the really real?
  2. What is the nature of external reality, that is, the world around us?
  3. What is a human being?
  4. What happens to a person at death?
  5. Why is it possible to know anything at all?
  6. How do we know what is right and wrong?
  7. What is the meaning of human history?

Christian theism

  1. God is infinite and personal (triune), transcendent and immanent, sovereign and good.
  2. God created the universe ex nihilo with a uniformity of cause and effect in an open system.
  3. Human beings are created in the image of God and thus possess personality, self-transcendence, intelligence, morality, gregariousness, and creativity.
  4. Human beings can know both the world around them and God himself because God has
    built into them the capacity to do so and because he takes an active role in communicating with them.
  5. Human beings were created good, but through the Fall the image of God became defaced, though not so ruined as not to be capable of restoration; through the work of Christ, God redeemed humanity and began the process of restoring people to goodness, though any given person may choose to reject that redemption.
  6. For each person death is either the gate to life with God and his people or the gate to eternal separation from the only thing that will ultimately fulfill human aspirations.
  7. Ethics is transcendent and is based on the character of God as good (holy and loving).
  8. History is linear, a meaningful sequence of events leading to the fulfillment of God’s purpose for humanity.

Deism

  1. A transcendent God, as a First Cause, created the universe but then left it to run on its own. God is thus not immanent, not fully personal, not sovereign over human affairs, not providential.
  2. The cosmos God created is determined, because it is created as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system; no miracle is possible.
  3. Human beings, though personal, are a part of the clockwork of the universe.
  4. The cosmos, this world, is understood to be in its normal state; it is not fallen or abnormal. We can know the universe, and we can determine what God is like by studying it.
  5. Ethics is limited to general revelation; because the universe is normal, it reveals what is right.
  6. History is linear, for the course of the cosmos was determined at creation.

Naturalism

  1. Matter exists eternally and is all there is. God does not exist.
  2. The cosmos exists as a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system.
  3. Human beings are complex “machines”; personality is an interrelation of chemical and physical properties we do not yet fully understand.
  4. Death is the extinction of personality and individuality.
  5. History is a linear stream of events linked by cause and effect but without an overarching purpose.
  6. Ethics is related only to human beings.

Nihilism

  1. Matter is all there is and it is eternal.
  2. The cosmos exists with a uniformity of cause and effect in a closed system.
  3. Human beings are complex machines whose personality is a function of highly complex chemical and physical properties not yet understood.
  4. Genuine knowledge is impossible i.e. we cannot know if what we think we know is illusion or truth.
  5. Values are a human creation with no further basis.
  6. There is no meaning of human history.

Existentialism

Atheistic Existentialism

  1. The cosmos is composed solely of matter, but to human beings reality appears in two forms — subjective and objective.
  2. For human beings alone existence precedes essence; people make themselves who they are.
  3. Each person is totally free as regards their nature and destiny.
  4. The highly wrought and tightly organized objective world stands over against human beings and appears absurd.
  5. In full recognition of and against the absurdity of the objective world, the authentic person must revolt and create value.

Theistic Existentialism

  1. Human beings are personal beings who, when they come to full consciousness, find themselves in an alien universe; whether or not God exists is a tough question to be solved not by reason but by faith.
  2. The personal is the valuable.
  3. Knowledge is subjectivity; the whole truth is often paradoxical.
  4. History as a record of events is uncertain and unimportant, but history as a model, or type, or myth to be made present and lived is of supreme importance.

Eastern Pantheistic Monism

  1. Atman is Brahman; that is, the soul of each and every human being is the Soul of the cosmos.
  2. Some things are more one than others.
  3. Many (if not all) roads lead to the One.
  4. To realize one’s oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond personality.
  5. To realize one’s oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond knowledge. The principle of non-contradiction does not apply where ultimate reality is concerned.
  6. To realize one’s oneness with the cosmos is to pass beyond good and evil; the cosmos is perfect at every moment.
  7. Death is the end of individual, personal existence, but it changes nothing essential in an individual’s nature.
  8. To realize one’s oneness with the One is to pass beyond time. Time is unreal. History is cyclical.

The New Age

  1. Whatever the nature of being (idea or matter, energy or particle), the self is the kingpin, the prime reality. As human beings grow in their awareness and grasp of this fact, the human race is on the verge of a radical change in human nature; even now we see harbingers of transformed humanity and prototypes of the New Age.
  2. The cosmos, while unified in the self, is manifested in two more dimensions: the visible universe, accessible through ordinary consciousness, and the invisible universe (or Mind at Large), accessible through altered states of consciousness.
  3. The core experience of the New Age is cosmic consciousness, in which ordinary categories of space, time, and morality tend to disappear.
  4. Physical death is not the end of the self; under the experience of cosmic consciousness, the fear of death is removed.
  5. Three distinct attitudes are taken to the metaphysical question of the nature of reality under the general framework of the New Age: (1) the occult version, in which the beings and things perceived in states of altered consciousness exist apart from the self that is conscious; (2) the psychedelic version, in which these things and beings are projections of the conscious self; and (3) the conceptual relativist version, in which the cosmic consciousness is the conscious activity of a mind using one of many non-ordinary models for reality, none of which is any “truer” than any other.

Postmodernism

  1. The first question postmodernism addresses is not what is there or how know what is there but how language functions to construct meaning itself. In other words, there has been a shift in “first things” from being to knowing constructing meaning.
  2. The truth about the reality itself is forever hidden from us. All we can do is tell stories.
  3. Stories give communities their cohesive character.
  4. All narratives mask a play for power. Any one narrative used as a meta-narrative is oppressive.
  5. There is no substantial self. Human beings make themselves who they are by the languages they construct about themselves.
  6. Ethics, like knowledge, is a linguistic construct. Social good is whatever society takes it to be.
  7. Postmodernism is in flux.

Jan05

3 Responses to “A worldview catalogue”

  1. Yuk Jiun Liew Says:
    February 11, 2011 at 4:36 am

    Not bad…good book!

  2. Yuk Jiun Liew Says:
    February 11, 2011 at 9:54 am

    however, keep in mind, there’s some minor mistakes in the book though.

  3. Great book! Helpful resource in giving worldview talks to student fellowships…

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