Saturday 5 November 2011

Ten questions everyone should ask themselves – the importance of knowing your worldview

‘The unexamined life is not worth living.’ said Socrates at his trial for heresy. Socrates was on trial for encouraging his students to challenge the accepted beliefs of the time and think for themselves. 

My conclusion after twenty years of Christian ministry amongst university students is that most have unexamined lives. They neither challenge the accepted beliefs of our time nor think for themselves. Their beliefs are rather an inconsistent smorgasbord of borrowings from a variety of sources passively absorbed without proper evaluation. 

Yet the presuppositions which we bring to the world are incredibly important and have profound implications for the way we live and for our search for meaning and purpose. Everyone has a worldview (weltanschauung), a set of beliefs about ‘life, the universe and everything’ that determines the way they think and act in the world. Everyone has a worldview whether they admit it or not, or whether they have ever thought about it. 

You can establish a person's worldview by asking them the following set of questions: 
Why do humans have significance? 
What are human beings? 
What happens after death? 
How do we decide what is right and wrong? 
How can we discover truth? 
Does God exist? 

Dave Montoya’s excellent (though dated) on line survey can quickly establish someone’s worldview with these six questions in a multi-choice format. On the basis on answers given to these questions most people can be grouped very broadly into three worldview categories: theist, atheist and pantheist. 

Theists include Christians, Muslims and Jews; atheists include those with the perspective of the Communist world and the post-Christian West and pantheists broadly include those religions akin to the Hindu tradition and the New Age movement. Montoya further divides atheists into rationalists, existentialists and nihilists. 

Building on the six questions above here are an alternative ten questions that everybody should ask themselves. I have simply taken the questions raised by John Patrick in his excellent essay 'Nine questions everyone must face' (summary here) and rounded them up to ten. 

As John argues, ‘all the world's great religions know about these questions, only in the late twentieth century has a culture arisen that tries to pretend they don't exist. The result is the morass of drugs and depression, the epidemic of sexually transmitted disease, the scars of infidelity and divorce and the wastelands of burnout which characterize us so pathetically.’ 

Have you asked them of yourself? If so have you asked why you answer them in the way that you do? And have you worked through their practical implications? If not perhaps it is time to start. 

Who am I? (Anthropology) 
Where did I come from? (Origins) 
Why am I here? (Purpose) 
Where am I going? (Destiny) 
How do I come to terms with death? (Death) 
How do I come to terms with suffering? (Suffering) 
How can I believe in justice? (Justice) 
What can I know? (Epistemology) 
What should I believe? (Faith) 
What must I do? (Ethics) 


  1. As an ex-christian and contemplative atheist I have absolutely no problem answering these questions. Typical evangelical arrogance to assume we can't

    1. Your reply shows your lack of understanding of the purpose of these questions and a willful ignorance towards anything faith based. The questions were designed to be answered with the desire of establishing a baseline for ministering to a person by understanding their worldview. Did you actually read the article, or just skim it and see questions you pre-supposed that the author thought anyone other than Christians could not answer?

    2. There is no such thing as an 'ex-Christian'. That's only a false assumption you made. "They went out from us, but they did not really belong to us. For if they had belonged to us, they would have remained with us; but their going showed that none of them belonged to us." 1 John 2:19. I'm sure you won't be arrogant to say you once knew Scripture well either, since you weren't aware of this simple and clear texts. So the first words of your sentence already shows you have ignorance towards your own claims. You're an atheist you say? Not according to God,"The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them. For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse." Romans 1:18-20. You're no atheist..just a suppressor of truth. So in one sentence, it's established that you are neither an ex-Christian, nor are you an atheist. But since you claim that you are contemplative( I hope you are at least being honest with yourself about that!).. now you have something to contemplate! Typical arrogant claims of someone who says they are an ex-Christian and now is an atheist. What you are is a sinner in need of the Savior. Don't fret..that takes you out of the so-called atheist minority and puts you in the vast majority of sinners whom have not yet found their Savior. The worst person you can fool is yourself. Please don't fool yourself..the stakes are way to high. I'll pray for you. I been there..done that (suppressed the truth).

    3. Wow, Mike Dewalt. Nothing arrogant about what you wrote at all. I'm sure your firehose delivery really changed his heart. There's nothing like telling someone who self identifies as an ex-Christian that they were never a Christian in the first place. It must be nice for you to know that you've been a true Christian and that you'll never have problems with your faith causing you to doubt. I wonder what the "contemplative" part of "contemplative atheist" means? No matter. You just keep clubbing people with scripture because of course you are not some arrogant self righteous jerk - no, you're a "true" Christian. That lost sheep wasn't a true sheep either. That lost prodigal son wasn't a true son either.

  2. Since there is no problem in your answering these questions, please post them.

  3. cloisterman-
    I don't think you will get any answers from the self-described "contemplative atheist."
    So far popdeath's blog has been up since July of 2012 with no replys or members.

    1. If he had written his comment yesterday..I still doubt he would answer the questions.

  4. great questions! I have spent the last 10 years researching these and other questions which I have compiled into a website called: Worldview Cafe.


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