The Term “Worldview”

by Glenn Conjurske

A reader has written me a few comments on my observations on the word “worldview,” which lead me to suppose a few more remarks may be profitable. My correspondent suggests that “worldview” is not in the dictionary because it ought to be written “world view.” This, of course, is true, but it is not the whole story. “World view” is not in the dictionary either, though there are hundreds of two-word expressions in all dictionaries, from “food poisoning” to “world power.” The term “world view” is a new one, however written.

As for “worldview,” it is a fad of these “endtimes” to combine adjectives and nouns into compound words. However, such compounds are usually formed only of two words which are commonly used together. We have nothing to object in principle to many of the modern compounds—-though some of them are certainly improper—-and if the modern generation decides to write “eggcrate” or “ballgame,” this will be as acceptable in principle as “bookstore” or “oatmeal,” which have been in use for years. Nevertheless, it appears that only such words are thus combined as are commonly used together. When two words have been long associated together in the mind, it seems quite natural to make one word of them. But this certainly is not the case with “world view,” unless with those modern Evangelicals who are generally preoccupied with the world. The rest of the world has no occasion to use such a term at all.

Well, but does the church have occasion to use it? My correspondent asks whether it is not proper to have a Biblical view of the world. Most certainly it is, but very frankly, those who do have a Biblical view of the world have little occasion for such a term as “worldview,” or “world view” either. The Biblical view of the world is this, that “The whole world lieth in the wicked one,” that the devil is its ruler and its god, that “whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God,” and “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” This is clear and simple—-surely nothing so complex or difficult as to occasion all the discussion which centers around the word “worldview.” The theological discussions of nearly twenty centuries found no occasion for such a term as “world view.” And “world view” aside, why “view” at all? The truth is objective, but this word is subjective, referring not to what the world is, but to how we see it. The Bible never once uses such a term. It speaks of the truth, not of our “view” of things. The word “view” just suits the uncertainty and the individualism of modern Evangelicalism, but it is altogether foreign to the vocabulary of Scripture.

“Worldview” is a new term, lately coined, and called into being by new thoughts and discussions, and the new spirit which is embodied in Neo-evangelicalism. We do not object to the term because it is new, but because the thoughts and discussions which are embodied in it are a departure from the spirit of Christianity. The old men of God found no occasion for such a term, though many of them—-not all—-had clear and decided views of what the world is. It was no great issue to Abraham to have “a godly Sodomview,” though he no doubt had a view of Sodom which was decided enough. But Lot, who must have been continually occupied with exactly how to relate to Sodom—-with knotty questions concerning how far he could go with Sodom and still maintain his pilgrim character—-he is the man who would have been greatly occupied with “a godly Sodomview.”

Let me be very frank here. The plain fact is, all of this discussion about a “Christian worldview” is not carried on by those who have such a view, but by those who profess to be struggling to attain it. The column from which I culled this term is entitled “Toward a Biblical Worldview.” But why all of this discussion and uncertainty concerning something which is so clear in the Scriptures? The simple fact is, those who have invented and popularized this terminology are not so much struggling to attain a “Biblical worldview,” as they are to depart from one. I do not accuse all who use this terminology of such a purpose, or of such a spirit. I do not accuse Charity Christian Fellowship of this, nor The Heartbeat of the Remnant. I suppose them to be no more than the victims of reading the wrong kind of literature, and of reading it with little discernment. I do affirm of those Neo-evangelicals who have brought this terminology into being, and filled the church with discussion on the matter, that their view of the world is not dictated by an adherence to the Scriptures at all, but by a vain attempt to reconcile the plain statements of the Bible with a spirit of worldliness. A single eye would do more to give people a “Biblical worldview” than all of this modern discussion.

Allow me to illustrate the same kind of tendency in another sphere. The Scripures admonish a woman to have long hair. This is simple enough, and the woman who understands and submits to it wears her hair long and flowing—-wears it as her covering and her glory. But when women begin to engage in discussion about exactly what “long” means, it is usually when their real purpose is to reconcile the Bible’s instruction to wear their hair long with their own desire to wear it short, and the result of the discussion is likely to be that “long” means a little longer than a crew-cut.

Once more: the church of God has held to the inspiration of Scripture since the days of the apostles. It was not a subject which required much discussion. The real church of God held the Scriptures to be the word of God, and bowed to them as to the authority of God himself. When the church began to be flooded with discussions of various “views” of inspiration, as though it were incumbent upon us to clarify our views on the subject, this was the work of liberal minds whose real concern was not to attain the Biblical view, but to depart from it. So I believe is this flood of discussion in the present day concerning our “worldview.” This discussion is not initiated by the Abrahams in the plains of Mamre, but by the Lots in Sodom. They “view” the world from within, rather than from the place of separation from it. It has too large a place in their hearts and minds. Hence comes all of this modern discussion, not so much to endeavor to conform their position to the Bible, as to reconcile the Bible’s statements with their own position.

“The whole world lieth in the wicked one.” “Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate.” “Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.” “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” “All that is in the world…is not of the Father.” This is my “view” of the world—-not, mind you, my humble contribution “toward a Biblical worldview,” but my settled and dogmatic position, which has not changed for more than twenty-five years, and which is not about to change for the next twenty-five centuries—-though I have hope that long ere then the world will be no more, for it will surely be destroyed by Christ at his coming.

But say, reader, do you ordinarily see these scriptures quoted by those who talk so much about a “Christian worldview”? If they quote these scriptures at all, it is usually only to weaken and explain them away.

Glenn Conjurske