Thursday, June 20, 2013

All Worldviews Have a Basically "Confessional" Status

Linda, in Ann Arbor 

In logic we define "worldview as: "the vast web of fundamental ideas that help you make sense of the world." (Vaughn, The Power of Critical Thinking, 6) We all have a worldview. "Even the rejection of all worldviews is a worldview." (Ib., 49)

Though all have a worldview, few are able to articulate it in the sense of having thought critically about it. It is simply the air a person breathes, the water they indwell.

James K.A. Smith, in his description of a "pentecostal worldview" in Thinking in Tongues, describes "worldview." "A worldview is a passional orientation that governs how one sees, inhabits, and engages the world." (Smith) Smith quotes James Olthuis: "A worldview (or vision of life) is a framework or set of fundamental beliefs though which we view the world and our calling and future in it." (Ib.)

Smith gives five elements of "worldview."
  1. It is a framework of fundamental beliefs. A worldview provides the grid or framework through which we "make sense" of our world - the "set of hinges" on which our thinking and doing turn.
  2. It is a framework of fundamental beliefs. As fundamental, we could say they are pretheoretical. They are often not beliefs that we consciously, rationally reflect upon. They are the "control beliefs" that operate subterraneously. Smith says a worldview operates at the level of imagination, not thinking. (I'm currently reading Smith's Imagining the Kingdom: How Worship Works.) 
  3. It is a framework of fundamental beliefs. As "ultimate beliefs," worldivews are fundamentally religious in character, shaping the root commitments of individuals and communities. In this sense all of life is religious, even for the atheist.
  4. It provides a view of the world as such. Worldviews are comprehensive, giving us an account of how the big picture hangs together.They help us make sense of the totality of our experience, not just our "religious" experience.
  5. A worldview tells us something about our calling. How we understand our world determines how we understand our roles in it. By determining our calling, worldviews shape our identity by constituting the telos of our being-in-the-world. It defines what matters.
There is no such thing as a "neutral" perspective. Or, as Smith puts it, no such thing as a "secular" perspective, if by "secular" one means neutral and objective. No one operates in life without some faith commitments. Smith writes: "everyone operates on the basis of a worldview, and all worldviews have a basically confessional status."