I first encountered the word “worldview” in 1989 in books by Charles Colson. He defined it as “the sum total of our beliefs about the world, the ‘big picture’ that directs our daily decisions and actions.” There are different ways to classify worldviews, but I recently discovered a helpful chart that classifies all views of reality into five worldviews; you can see it here: https://dwellcc.org/learning/essays/five-worldviews. Christianity falls under the worldview of theism, as do Judaism and Islam, for example.
In his 1999 book How Now Shall We Live?, Charles Colson wrote that there are four big questions that every worldview has to answer.
- Where did we come from?
- What’s wrong with the world?
- What’s the solution?
- What’s our purpose in life?
Naturalism is one of the five major worldviews and a common one in the U.S. Let’s compare Christianity’s answers to these questions with those of naturalism.
- Christianity says that God created human beings in His image; naturalism says that we are the result of undirected evolution, i.e. blind chance.
- Christianity says that original sin is the problem; naturalism blames the problem on genes and society.
- Christianity says that the solution is Jesus’ atoning death on the cross and His resurrection; naturalism says that a worldly utopia is the answer.
- Christianity says that our purpose in life is to glorify God; naturalism says that our purpose is self-fulfillment.
As a teenager back in the 1970s, I used to watch The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson for anywhere from 15 minutes to an hour, depending on the evening’s special guest. When Johnny would announce that Carl Sagan was the evening’s special guest, I was thrilled and prepared to stay up late. Sagan, an astronomer and great popularizer of astronomy as a writer and speaker, was one of my biggest heroes at that time. I was preparing to major in astronomy and always listened to Sagan, enraptured as he spoke of galaxies, black holes, quasars, and the like. In the ’80s, after I became a Christian, I still enjoyed reading a book by Sagan now and then, but it was obvious that his worldview was thoroughly naturalistic. Among other things, Sagan was committed to the cause of animal rights. Therefore, he was strongly opposed to using animals for medical research. However, when Sagan discovered in the ’90s that he had a rare blood disease that required an experimental bone-marrow transplant to prolong his life, he was faced with a dilemma: should he remain true to his naturalistic philosophy of life and reject the transplant as something acquired by “immoral” means, or should he accept the transplant even though it meant going against his beliefs? Well, it’s not hard to guess what he did—Sagan chose the transplant, denying his cherished naturalism in the process.
This story illustrates Sagan’s naturalism; according to his worldview, he was no better than an animal, but when push came to shove, he abandoned his belief to prolong his life–by two years, as it turned out. At a deeper level, he illustrates the folly of naturalism; anyone who tries to live by such a road map will eventually discover it doesn’t explain reality. A Christian faced with Sagan’s “dilemma” should have no problem accepting such a bone-marrow transplant, because our value is greater than that of animals. In Matthew 6:26, Jesus tells us that we are much more valuable than the birds of the air, and by extension, all other animals as well.
The world’s current greatest spokesperson for naturalism is probably Richard Dawkins. He has written several books; perhaps you’ve heard of, or even read, The Selfish Gene (1976) and The God Delusion (2006). He is very open about his disdain for Christianity and other religions; some of the things he writes are downright vitriolic. Here’s a quote from him in his 2009 book The Greatest Show on Earth: “It is absolutely safe to say that, if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).” Admittedly, there are non-religious people who don’t believe in evolution, either, but Dawkins often targets Christians and people of other faiths.
Some of Dawkins’ opinions are bizarre. Here’s what he wrote in 2014: It “would be immoral” for a woman not to abort a fetus with Down syndrome. Christianity, on the other hand, has a reverence for all human life, including unborn children; that means virtually all abortion is “immoral,” to put it mildly. Another example: on his official website, Dawkins wrote in 2012: “Thank goodness, I have never personally experienced what it is like to believe – really and truly and deeply believe – in hell. But I think it can be plausibly argued that such a deeply held belief might cause a child more long-lasting mental trauma than the temporary embarrassment of mild physical abuse.” (The physical abuse Dawkins refers to is sexual.) First of all, for those who have experienced any form of sexual abuse, “embarrassment” is not a word I have ever heard anybody else use to describe it. Second, the Bible teaches that hell is very real but that we will spend eternity in heaven with the Lord if we come to Him in saving faith.
I mention these examples from Sagan and Dawkins to illustrate that naturalism has consequences in terms of important decisions and beliefs about specific issues. This is not to say that every naturalist has the same beliefs as they did/do, but that naturalism will inevitably lead to decisions and ideas which are very different from what the Bible teaches.
If you believe in one of the other worldviews–pantheism; spiritism and polytheism; or postmodernism–I challenge you to answer Colson’s four big questions accordingly. See if your worldview gives satisfactory answers. I pray that you will conclude Christianity is the only one that gives answers you can live by.