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Worldview based on presumptions

On February 23, 2010

A book by James Sire opens with the following story.

A young boy asks his father, "What holds the world up in space?" The father responds, "A camel." This response satisfies the son for a while until he asks, "What holds up the camel?"

By now the father is aware this conversation is not going to end well. To his son's second question he responds, "A kangaroo." Soon after, the boy asks, "What holds up the kangaroo?" The father replies, "An Elephant."

"Come on, Dad!" the frustrated son pleads. "What holds up the Elephant?" In a fit of genius the father blurts out, "It's…it's…it's Elephants all the way down!"

This story introduces Sire's thoughts on the concept of worldview. Our worldview is how we see things and is based on presuppositions, which are expressed in our beliefs, values and in our actions. Put another way, it is by our worldview that "we live and move and have our being." We all have a worldview whether we have ever thought about it or not.

Arguably, the two main worldviews are theism and naturalism. The former speaks of God as the basis of reality; the latter holds that what is really real is simply the material universe we live in.

If we are talking about a worldview, then where does the Elephant come in? "It's Elephants all the way down" is the basic conviction of our worldview. In other words, if you will trace your actions back to your beliefs and finally back to your basic presupposition, you will discover that you are committed to one of two belief systems: Either God is the foundation of your worldview or you believe we exist "because that's the way it is."

The father couldn't logically or reasonably answer what held up the earth; neither can we.

There simply comes a point in identifying our worldview where we can't do any better than the father. We have to finally admit that our worldview is based on what we can't see: God or accident.

Such thinking doesn't mean we can't present our beliefs in a logical and reasonable fashion. But what it does mean is we base our arguments on our commitment to the unseen.

If this last point is true we will surely ask ourselves, "How can I know that I know that I know?" If we rely solely on reason to know reality, then we will be disappointed. But, if a person's worldview provides peace and wholeness and purpose, then that person can say, "I know that I know that I know."

The Apostle Paul, an early Christian, said it well: "The life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me" (Galatians 2:20). Such confidence comes from knowledge that is grounded in love, for in love we learn who we are and what is real. Thus for me, "It's Jesus Christ all the way down."

What's your Elephant?

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