Putting Beliefs to the Test: 9 Ways to Know if Your Worldview Is Reliable
The unexamined life is not worth living for a human being.
Taking a page from the doomed Greek philosopher’s book, RTB’s own philosophy expert, Kenneth Samples, asserts, “The unexamined worldview is not worth believing or living out.”
Worldviews provide us with both an interpretive lens through which we see the world and a road map that guides how we live in and react to the world. Culturally, I interpret things through an American lens, specifically a Southern Californian lens. For example, when my husband, Darren, and I honeymooned in Virginia, we encountered okra for the first time at a tavern in Colonial Williamsburg. Our SoCal perspective caused us to misidentify the chunks of green vegetable floating in Darren’s stew as spicy jalapeño. He proceeded to remove it, until the Southern couple sitting near by told him it was okra and encouraged him to try it.
Okra slices looked like jalapeño to me and my husband. Image credit: Kham Tran (www.khamtran.com).
Of course, worldview impacts far more than just our dietary choices. As Ken puts it in his book A World of Difference,
“A person’s worldview shapes his vision of what is real, true, right, and valuable. It is the prism through which one makes sense of life and death. Controversial issues such as abortion, euthanasia, capital punishment, and war are powerfully impacted by worldview considerations. Therefore it is critical to have a view that is genuinely clear and distinct.”
Even after 20 years as a Christian I’ve sometimes wondered, “How do I know Christianity is true and reliable? After all, I’m submitting my life, actions, and thoughts to this particular worldview. It’s a big commitment—is it worth holding on to?”
Do like the Bereans do
In Acts 17:10–15, Luke briefly relates Paul and Silas’ adventures in Berea. Unlike their neighbors in Thessalonica, the Bereans “received the [Gospel] message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Paul later instructed the Thessalonians to do likewise: “Test everything. Hold on to the good.”
So how can we examine our worldviews to see if they are worth staking our lives on? A World of Difference provides nine standards that can be used all together to test a worldview’s validity.
- Coherence Test: A worldview’s tenets must be logically consistent, avoid being self-defeating, and account for rationality.
- Balance Test: A worldview must maintain adequate balance between simplicity (not too much explanation) and complexity (not insufficient explanation).
- Explanatory Power & Scope Test: A viable worldview must provide an efficient (in power) and sufficient (in scope) explanation for the facts of reality—the physical world included.
- Correspondence Test: Science and personal observation provide empirical facts and experiences through which we understand reality—a good worldview must correspond to these facts and experiences.
- Verification Test: All worldviews make truth-claims (e.g., Jesus Christ is the Son of God). Can these facts be verified or falsified through studying and testing? Keep in mind that a claim that cannot be falsified, at least in principle, can neither be verified.
- Pragmatic Test: Is the worldview livable—does it produce results relevant and practical for its adherents?
- Existential Test: Does the worldview answer humanity’s big “why” questions and address our need for purpose and meaning?
- Cumulative Test: There’s strength in numbers and that goes for worldviews, too. Multiple converging lines of evidence increase support for a worldview’s validity.
- Competitive Competence Test: Finally, a worldview must stand up to the competition from other perspectives and arguments.
Ken provides much greater detail on these comprehensive tests and puts them to work examining Christianity, Islam, naturalism, pantheism, and post-modernism in A World of Difference.
What do you think of these standards for judging worldview validity? Do you think any important point was left out? Do you see ways to apply these tests to your own views? Let us know in the comments on the WordPress version of this blog!
Resources: You can pick up A World of Difference at the RTB web store. And for more tips on critical thinking, tune in to Ken’s podcast, Straight Thinking.