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A worldview is a comprehensive philosophical interpretation and explanation of reality. Everyone has a worldview, whether they are conscious of it or not. An individual’s worldview involves beliefs and assumptions about the universe and all the experiences of life. Worldviews shape and inform the way that we approach philosophy, religion, science, government, economics, education, and the arts. Though worldviews are as old as human history, all non-Christian worldviews stand in contrast to the Christian worldview. Contemporary non-Christian worldviews include anti-Trinitarian theism, humanism, existentialism, secularism, hedonism, pragmatism, naturalism, positivism, pluralism, postmodernism, statism, and atheism.


Early ancient Near Eastern cosmogonies are among the first recorded worldviews. They were written to help religious adherents interpret the world around them. These cosmogonies were often written as competing alternatives to one another. In contrast to God’s special revelation of Himself to His people, these alternative ancient pagan worldviews centered on myths about the gods and goddesses of the surrounding nations.

Pre-Socratic philosophers sought to answer the question of ultimate reality in light of the problem of the one and the many. They framed ultimate reality through their studies in biology, astrology, chemistry, and physics. They were seeing to develop a philosophical worldview in either unity or diversity. The history of Hellenistic philosophy from Heraclitus and Parmenides to Aristotle, Plato, and Socrates was a history of seeking out a coherent philosophical worldview that, among other things, solved the problem of unity and diversity.

A revolution occurred in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries with the philosophical contributions of Immanuel Kant and Friedrich Hegel. In his Critique of Pure Reason, Immanuel Kant formulated an agnostic worldview. Kant presented a philosophical approach that challenged widely accepted arguments for the existence of God. Framing a worldview around his notions of a noumenal realm and a phenomenal realm, Kant sequestered God to the noumenal realm (a realm of things which cannot be perceived by the senses). By making God transcendently unknowable, he removed Him from the interpretive process. For Kant, the only things that we can truly know are those things that relate to the phenomenal realm. Kant’s philosophy has been termed “transcendental idealism.”

In order to overcome the irreconcilability of Kant’s philosophical categories, the nineteenth-century German philosopher G.W.F. Hegel articulated an alternative philosophical worldview. Whereas Kant had limited God to the noumenal (i.e., transcendental) realm, Hegel moved toward a philosophy of immanence. Hegel built his worldview on the assumption that everything can be categorized as a thesis or an antithesis and that every thesis and antithesis can ultimately be progressively synthesized into a coherent system (a process called “dialectic”). Hegel suggested that history does not simply reveal God but that history is God unfolding Himself as absolute Spirit in time and space. The evolutionary metaphysics of Hegel in turn paved the way for the materialistic worldview of Karl Marx. Hegel’s emphasis on the dialectic also served to fuel the radical immanentism of German higher criticism.

Kant and Hegel massively influenced theological institutions across Europe in the nineteenth century. The phrase Weltanschauung (view of the world) was popularized in nineteenth-century German theological writings. The Weltanschauung was essentially an attempt to develop Kant’s Weltbegriff (world concept) into a theistic concept. The nineteenth-century Scottish theologian James Orr first undertook a detailed study of this development of Weltanschauung in nineteenth-century Germany. In his work A Christian View of God and the World, Orr laid the groundwork for a Christian theistic Weltanschauung. Orr argued that biblical Christianity provides us with an explicitly Christocentric worldview that is the only coherent explanation of the universe. He wrote, “The Christian view of things forms a logical whole which cannot be infringed on, or rejected piecemeal, but stands or falls in its integrity, and can only suffer from attempts at amalgamation or compromise with theories which rest on totally distinct bases.”

In the same century, Abraham Kuyper—the noted Dutch theologian, statesman, and educator—set out to articulate a robust Calvinistic worldview. Deeply influenced by John Calvin’s emphasis on God’s sovereignty over all spheres of life and experience, Kuyper strove to develop Calvin’s theology into a coherent philosophical worldview. In his inaugural address at the Free University of Amsterdam, Kuyper famously declared, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry: Mine!” Kuyper would go on to structure his worldview according to “sphere sovereignty”—namely, the way in which Christ carries out his rule through His people in the home, school, and government. Kuyper summarized the various spheres of his worldview in his 1898 Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary. Those lectures were later published under the title Lectures on Calvinism. Building on the work of James Orr, Kuyper placed his emphasis on the resurrected Christ and His supremacy over all things.

A contemporary of Kuyper, Herman Bavinck, labored to promote a consistent Christian theistic worldview. Bavinck frequently noted the futility of seeking to keep religion and science, as well as faith and knowledge, independent of one another. He wrote in his Reformed Dogmatics, “There cannot be two worldviews existing side by side, one religious and the other scientific. Instead, there can be only one worldview, a worldview that is simultaneously religious and scientific. Faith and knowledge, in other words, are not incompatible.”

At the same time, Bavinck rejected any attempts to synchronize a supernatural worldview of Christianity with a naturalistic worldview of secularism. He explained, “Every attempt to explain the facts of revelation naturalistically has up until now therefore always ended with the acknowledgment that between the supernatural worldview of Scripture and that of naturalists there yawns an enormous gap and that reconciliation between them is impossible.”

Kuyper and Bavinck laid the foundation for subsequent proponents of a Reformed and Calvinistic worldview. B.B. Warfield, Cornelius Van Til, and Herman Dooyeweerd are among the most notable successors of Kuyper and Bavinck in the Reformed church. Other well-known evangelical and Calvinistic philosophers and apologists of the twentieth century who made significant contributions to the articulation of a Christian worldview are Francis Schaeffer, Gordon Clark, Carl F.H. Henry, and E.J. Carnell.

In recent decades, the Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor has written extensively on the religious background and impact of a secular worldview. Taylor’s work has become a touchstone for understanding worldviews in a postmodern society.


A person’s worldview represents his most fundamental beliefs and assumptions about the universe he inhabits. It reflects how he would answer all the ‘big questions’ of human existence: fundamental questions about who and what we are, where we came from, why we’re here, where (if anywhere) we’re headed, the meaning and purpose of life, the nature of the afterlife, and what counts as a good life here and now. Few people think through these issues in any depth, and fewer still have firm answers to such questions, but a person’s worldview will at least incline him toward certain kinds of answers and away from others. Worldviews shape and inform our experiences of the world around us. Like spectacles with colored lenses, they affect what we see and how we see it. Depending on the ‘color’ of the lenses, some things may be seen more easily, or conversely, they may be de-emphasized or distorted—indeed, some things may not be seen at all.

James Anderson

On Worldviews

Tabletalk magazine

If science contradicts religion, or if religion contradicts science, at least one of them must be wrong. There have been times in history where the scientific community has corrected not the Bible but poor interpretations of the Bible, as we saw in the Galileo scandal. On the other hand, biblical revelation can act as intellectual brakes upon scientific theories that are groundless. In any case, if knowledge is possible, what Sagan assumed must continue to be assumed—namely, that for truth to be known, for science to be possible, there must be a coherent reality that we are seeking to know.

R.C. Sproul

All Truth Is God’s Truth

Tabletalk magazine

I am not for educating people in a sheltered environment where there is no interaction with the secular mindset and with pagan worldviews, but we need to be fully prepared to understand when and where those worldviews come into collision with Christianity and how to avoid collisions that may be disastrous.

R.C. Sproul

Be Prepared

Tabletalk magazine