“A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of 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 foundations on which we live and more and have our being.” (James Sire, The Universe Next Door)
What is a worldview?
We often think of a “worldview” as something which proceeds from our minds and is primarily concerned with how we think. This is partially true. But a worldview begins in pre-cognition… in our most basic and often unarticulated vision for ourselves, those around us, and the world as a whole.
For example, we all have a worldview that the world is orderly and predictable. We don’t get out of bed wondering, “I wonder if the world will end today?” and do the same thing again tomorrow. Quite the opposite: we plan our days, months, and years expecting to live a long time. We don’t question the goodness (or necessity) of friendship. If someone asked us to justify our belief, we would probably find that request odd. “Doesn’t everyone know that friendship is a good thing?” we’d say.
Likewise, our children grow-up with certain assumptions and unarticulated beliefs that should either be reinforced (like their God is a good and loving God) or challenged (I should be able to do what I want, when I want to…). Parents, through their example and instruction, make certain assumptions and beliefs plausible or implausible. Teachers do the same. It is good for us to take a moment and reflect a little on what a Christian’s worldview is (and we might even say the Church’s worldview is…) and how best to transmit it to the next generation.
There are many ways to illustrate what a worldview is and how it functions, but I’ve found this graphic helpful. It is a wheel. The wheel represents the “Lordship of Jesus Christ” over all things. We want to give expression to the idea that “the Lord reigns!” and we are his servants, who just happen to also be His sons and daughters. Our LORD is not a tribal or provincial deity.
“The earth is the LORD’s and all of the fullness thereof " (Ps. 24:1).
The apostle John tells us that only Jesus is worthy of glory, honor, praise and dominion because he created all things (Rev. 4:11) and redeemed all things (Rev. 5:6-10). So, we desire to confess what all Christians have confessed: Jesus is LORD (Rom. 10:9; 1 Cor. 12:3)!
Grace is the center of our worldview
We are able to say all of this only by His grace and mercy to us. There are millions living lives of “quiet desperation” (as Thoreau would’ve put it…) who do not see Jesus this way and who have not bowed the knee and confessed that Jesus is Lord. We have made this confession and desire the same for our children.
So – metaphorically speaking – what allows this “wheel” to move down the road? Grace is the center, the non-negotiable foundation (axle) for a comfortable ride. But God uses the means of our teaching (catechesis) our stories (narrative), examples (lifestyle) and our habits (symbols/liturgy) to assist. Does he have to? No, of course not. But just as he doesn’t need the sun and rain to grow our food – he could just have it materialize like the manna falling from heaven (Ex. 16:4), but he normally does not. Likewise, he could simply snap his fingers and save us all, but he’s appointed “ordinary means of grace” like preaching (Rom. 10:14) to work faith in the hearts of unbelievers.
And he appoints teaching, stories, examples and habits to form us into the men and women we should be. Let me suggest that we see these “spokes” as unavoidable realities. That is, every human culture produces and leverages teaching, stories, examples and habits for the purpose of worldview formation or, to use a different word, to enculturate whatever is their highest good.
What influences our worldview?
Let’s take each “spoke” in turn:
Teaching (Catechesis) What do you explicitly teach your children with your words? My grandfather, a Kentucky tobacco farmer, taught all of his children and grandchildren, “Work first, play second. When they were bored, he also said, “You can always pull weeds.” There are many variations, but ask yourself as parents… what do we teach our children? (We’ll get to what you teach by example below…). We can teach many things; what will you teach them about the greatest and best of beings – God Himself? Might it be wise to use resources from the past – like a catechism – to accompany your teaching them the vast and mighty truths of Scripture? (Cf. Our new Proverbs catechism should help!)
Stories (Narrative) Scripture is the story of God’s dealings with His people. Our desire for story/narrative is woven into the fabric of our being. Good songs – tell a story. Good movies – tell a story. Good books – tell a story. Even that dinner party you host where you get a bunch of your friends together for fellowship… what do you do? Tell stories. Some, admittedly, are better storytellers than others. But we all love to hear stories. They shape us. We develop an identity through them of who we are and where we’re going.
Example (Lifestyle) We’re embodied beings and not “brains on a stick.” That means how we act is vitally important for our worldview formation. A father who tells his children to “respect your mother” and then doesn’t respect her himself is undermining his own teaching. You’ve undoubtedly heard the phrase, “Better caught than taught”? This is the principle in a nutshell. Your children need to know why you do what you do and why they should follow your example (like Paul’s “imitate me as I imitate Christ” – 1 Cor. 11:1). If you’re angry, you’ll likely produce angry children. If you’re patient, you’ll help your children be patient. If you’re judgmental… well… you get the point.
Habits. The ancients believed that the habitual act was the virtuous act. “We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence (arete), then, is not an individual act but a habit. Our lives are filled with habits that help us live excellently (or in accord with our purpose): putting our car keys in the same place, working out every morning, reading our Bibles and praying every day, eating at regular intervals, worshipping with our church family, responding to emails, and so on. To make something “second nature” was, for the Greeks, not merely a nice idea, but the pathway to happiness. God doesn’t need habits to save, but it would appear that those with habits – properly seated below God’s grace in importance – will lead a richer and more substantial life than those without them.
Spokes aren’t an end in themselves, nor is an axle. They are means by which the Lordship of Christ is realized in our lives and that wheel – maybe helpfully called the Kingdom of God – is realized more and more. This is our goal as a school and we hope your goal as parents who’ve elected to partner with us in training your children in the paideia of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).