WORLDVIEW AND RELIGIOUS WORLDVIEW
This study explores the issue of worldview integration and the factors that may affect our willingness to engage in this practice. Chapter Two introduces the important and foundational concept of worldview and one manner in which it is exemplified, religious worldview.
The idea of a worldview starts as a philosophical concept. Necessarily, the literature review in this section will be more philosophical in nature, will include few empirical studies, and will often rely on secondary sources. Here, the components of a worldview and a theory concerning the process of worldview formation and integration will be considered by using a heuristic device referred to as The Worldview Cycle. This model suggests a process that includes a number of components, including a) a system of filters (on both a conscious and unconscious level) that influences the process, b) our foundational prejudices and assumptions, c) our beliefs regarding truth and learning, d) our motivational source and level, e) our perceived purpose, and f) our subjective feelings of well-being. Each of these effect our willingness to continually investigate and participate in worldview integration. It is this activity of continual investigation and integration that form the focus of this study.
The domain of religious worldview is a continuation of the general discussion regarding the concept of worldview. Religious worldview is only one aspect of a person’s worldview. However, one’s beliefs and decisions in this area tend to incorporate a number of foundational components. It is often the cornerstone of one’s more complex and complete worldview. While the instrumentation selected here does not exhaust the many permutations available within the area of religious worldviews, it does allow for some comparison on a continuum from secular naturalism to orthodox Christianity.
History of the Concept
The term “worldview” has found popular usage in recent years. To some, its perceived value may derive from an imprecision and an elusive nature that can embrace a myriad of concepts and preconceptions. To one person, the term describes the underlying foundations that provide the tools for understanding the rest of one’s life. To others, a worldview is simply a way of classifying one’s personal selection of relative beliefs among an inventory of choices. Still, to others, a worldview is simply a way of justifying our differences in perspective. One philosopher complains that “The word is used in a great many areas, ranging from the natural sciences to philosophy to theology. Authors who use it often do so without concern for proper definition, and even when definitions are given they tend to be far from precise” ( Griffioen, 1989, p. 83). Naugle (2002), in his work Worldview: The history of a concept, which is a major resource for this chapter, agrees.
The term worldview is originally a translation of Immanuel Kant’s (1724-1804) German term Weltanschauung (a combination of welt–“world” plus anschauun –“sense perception” or “intuition”). Kant coined the term in his Critique of Judgment (Trans. 1951, §26) to describe an individual’s intuitive way of beholding the world(McKenzie, 1991). As a part of Kant’s so called Copernican revolution in philosophy, a proper weltanschauung would be a building block in one’s intellectual conception of the universe. One’s worldview provides the manner in which the mind grasps the reality underlying the experience (the ding an sich) (Cabal, 1996, p. 2). Yet, although Kant used the term only once, it was quickly adopted by German philosophical idealists and romanticists to refer to one’s individual and human perspective on a communal universe, whether these observations matched reality or not ( Naugle, 2002, p. 61). Yet, this perspective was no longer limited to a simple descriptive and rational observation, but soon included people’s inevitable response to the problem of existence and their constructed meaning of life.
G.W.F. Hegel (1770-1831) expanded the term further by applying it to his philosophy of history. Here, a worldview becomes a historically developed notion that is “embedded in both the individual and national consciousness” ( Naugle, 2002, p. 70). Thus, a worldview is a shared and social perspective that is acquired by one’s participation in a particular society at a particular time in the world’s history. Wilhelm Dilthey (1833-1911) continued this historical direction and suggested that “the multiplicity of worldviews can be explained by the simple fact that they are developed under radically different conditions by radically different kinds of people” (p. 87). Accordingly, a worldview consists of one’s mental constructs derived from personal observations of life within the present time and culture. To Dilthey, a worldview is necessarily historically relative and may not be grounded in anything empirical, rational or logical. A worldview is not right or wrong, and while it may gradually converge toward accuracy or reality over time, it is a result of the times and is enslaved by history ( Dilthey, 1957).
Friedrich Nietzsche (1844-1900) took this historical view of the concept to its ultimate conclusion. Here, every worldview is completely dependent upon time, place and culture, however there is no convergence on truth. All worldviews are created fiction since, in fact, the concept of truth is itself a worldview derived from the times. The concept of worldview is no longer a rational pursuit, but a simple creation of perspectivalism ( Naugle, 2002). Thus, for many, Nietzsche transforms Kant’s original tool of mental analysis to a concept that is “the epistemological cousin historically and ideationally of postmodern skepticism” (Cabal, 1996, p. 1).
Unlike the original historical philosophers, Søren Kierkegaard (1813-1855) saw one’s worldview as an individually constructed thing, not a cultural set of ultimate and foundational truths. It is not an intellectual set of propositions, but an existential reflection of one’s experience in life allowing a person to draw a coherent meaning for their life. As a result, Kierkegaard abandoned the term weltanschuung (worldview) for a more encompassing lebensanschuung ( lifeview). To Kierkegaard, the term lifeview better underscored both the importance and the individual duties encompassed by the concept ( Naugle, 2002). Here, a lifeview does not consist of the sum of human experience and understanding, but rather is the considered framework that allows one to organize, consider and unlock the meaning of these experiences. However, as Naugle observes, Kierkegaard recognized “that not everyone obtains a lifeview, either because of the interference of life itself or because of an unreflective preoccupation with suffering” (p. 76).
While the historical consciousness of Hegel and Dilthey drew the idea of a worldview away from the individual and the individual’s role in proper cognitive thinking toward the inevitable and deterministic social effects of history, Kierkegaard directed the concept from propositional truth toward subjective and constructed meaning. In response, Dutch theologian Abraham Kuyper (1837-1920) and philosopher Herman Dooyeweerd (1894-1977) argued that a worldview is a fundamentally religious concept that reflects the divide between those who have been regenerated by God, and those who have not. The regenerated seek truth, not just constructed human knowledge, however they approach it from an entirely different vantage point. Edmund Husserl (1859-1938) saw the concept of a subjective worldview as a threat to the idea of philosophy as a scientific pursuit. Despite his attempts to distinguish between one’s subjective worldview and the logical precepts of philosophy, Husserl arguably found himself caught in his own worldview dilemma. As Naugle (2002) points out:
Perhaps the greatest irony associated with this herculean effort on Husserl’s part to establish a presuppositionless and scientific philosophy over against the prejudices and subjective nature of worldview formation is the contention that his entire phenomenological enterprise could itself be classified as a worldview. (p. 120)
While this same observation might be leveled at both Kuyper and Dooyeweerd, each argued that a worldview established by resort to the revelation of God would avoid this problem. But is this helpful only provided that what God has revealed can be objectively determined? Martin Heidegger (1889-1976) made an effort to rehabilitate Husserl’s work by distinguishing between an unexamined worldview (based on history, culture and unexamined subjective experience) and a philosophical worldview (one that rationally and theoretically organizes one’s worldview). In fact, as Heidegger would suggest, “philosophy has as its goal the formation of a world-view” (Heidegger, 1982, p. 7). As Heidegger suggests, a person is required to construct a worldview by the very nature of being human. Thus, one’s worldview cannot be constructed by another and simply adopted in full like a product taken off the store rack. (McKenzie, 1991, 4 )
Beginning with Ludwig Wittgenstein (1889-1951), the concept of a worldview takes on a decidedly relativistic nature where no worldview can be said to be more true or privileged than another ( Naugle, 2002). According to Wittgenstein, instead of developing a considered Kantian weltanschuung, we tend to operate from a weldbild (world picture or snapshot) that incorporates one’s context, one’s already developed presumptions and one’s current perspective. According to Wittgenstein, these world pictures are “ a kind of mythology–stories with themes that may cohere one with another but do not correspond to the real world . . . . Thus, and finally, world pictures are promulgated rhetorically and are accepted in faith” (p. 160). Here, a worldview is simply a linguistic notion which in later postmodern thought becomes a linguistic metanarrative that not only lacks truth value, but, as Michael Foucault (1926-1984) would suggest, is laden with social oppression and simply a disguised power play (Sire, 2004, p. 31).
The history of the worldview concept has lead some to speculate whether it has any true value other than simply as a register of human subjectivity ( Naugle, 2002). While Cabal (1996) suggests that the concept is inherently contaminated with the specter of skepticism and relativism, he does think that it may still be possible to “constructively utilize the worldview concept without being led into the postmodern dead-end” (p. 10). Rowe (1989) reminds Christians that the concept “is not a native but rather an immigrant into Christian intellectual territory. And, like all immigrants, it has crossed our borders with its baggage in hand” (p. 156). Furthermore, the content of that baggage may be foundational rather than simply innocuous or inconsequential. Yet, Christian theologians and philosophers from James Orr (1844-1913) to Francis A. Schaeffer (1912-1984) have recognized the value of the concept as an apologetic tool that exhibits the effect of regeneration and the process of edification within a world of fallen human nature and cognitive humility ( Naugle, 2002). Others recognize the value of the concept as an organizational and possibly metacognitive structure that allows for constant reconsideration of life, its purpose, and its direction. Schaeffer (1990) reminds us that even among Christians, a worldview is an organized and explanatory system.
Christianity is not just a lot of bits and pieces – there is a beginning and an end, a whole system of truth, and this system is the only system that will stand up to all the questions that are presented to us as we face the reality of existence. (p. 178).
Worldview Content and Classification
The concept of worldview has run the gamut from one’s considered effort to find the proper philosophical foundation for one’s life to a story that is accepted and believed due to one’s culture or one’s underlying quest for power and significance. For the concept to be of any further value, it must be carefully defined. Here, the definition I will adhere to is neither relative nor groundless. While a worldview is subjective to the extent that it is different for everyone due to differences in data, life situation, observations and degree of considered integration, there is still a reality to be approached. In order to arrive at an acceptable definition, let us first look at the concerns typically encompassed by a worldview.
Recently, a number of authors have suggested a list of concerns that fall under the auspices of a worldview. Ninian Smart (1984) tends to interpret a worldview as essentially religious. Using tradition as a guide, he classifies them on six continua (dimensions); a) doctrine or philosophy; b) narrative and mythic or actual; c) ethical or legal; d) ritual or practical; e) experiential or emotional; and f) social or organizational. Using these dimensions, he undertakes an inventory of available worldviews (Smart, 2000, pp. 8-10). Ronald Nash (1992) organizes the elements of a worldview more philosophically based on the accepted nature of: a) God; b) reality; c) knowledge; d) morality; and e) humankind (p. 26-30). James Sire (2004), similar to Nash, adds concerns regarding death and history and asks seven questions: 1) What is prime reality (God)? 2) What is the nature of external reality? 3) What is a human being? 4) What happens to a person at death? 5) Why is it possible to know anything at all? 6) How do we know what is right and wrong? Finally, 7) What is the meaning of human history? Notice that Sire changes the question from what to why regarding knowledge and history, and to how regarding ethics (p. 20).
Charles Kraft (1989) takes a slightly different approach and speaks of five categories of organizational assumptions that are found in every worldview. These are labeled worldview universals. First, all worldviews provide assumptions concerning how we structure or classify our perceptions of reality. Second, what is the relationship between the individual and the group, and which receives the greater emphasis? Third, how is the idea of causation and causal power treated? Is causation found only in nature—or does man and the supernatural play a part? Fourth, what is the relationship between time and events? Is the worldview more events oriented or more time oriented? Finally, what is the relationship between space and the material world?
Interestingly, McKenzie (1991) takes yet a more prioritized approach. Instead of focusing on content or organization, he seeks out levels of meaning. These levels consist of: a) ultimate concerns; b) penultimate concerns; and c) personal concerns (p. 8 )(See Table 2.1). Ultimate concerns involve the basic building blocks of the world including; metaphysics (ontology, external reality, human nature), epistemology (truth, knowledge, learning and their human limitations), and axiology (purpose, beauty, ethics). Penultimate concerns involve the way the world works (laws of nature) and the nature of human life, including politics, society and applied ethics. Finally, personal concerns involve the world as it affects our individual daily life and personal issues such as preferences and tastes.
McKenzie (1991) further recognizes that the characteristics of what we normally count as a worldview varies on a number of dimensions. As a result, he suggests a scheme of worldview classification based upon structural properties. These classifications are helpful in attempting to arrive at a more comprehensive definition of the concept (Table 2.2). First, a worldview may be explicit or tacit. Explicit worldviews are those that are publicly expressed and communicated to others. Tacit worldviews are those that are unvoiced, sometimes hidden, and sometimes unrecognized or unaccepted, yet still disclosed in deed and action. Tacit worldviews form the basis for the old adage that “actions speak louder than words.”
McKenzie’s Levels of Worldview Meaning
Second, worldviews may be discerning or myopic. A discerning worldview has been carefully and purposefully reviewed pursuant to one’s epistemic beliefs. A myopic worldview has not been consciously examined and is often superficial and grounded on a hurried judgment without prioritization or much thought and structure. Third, a worldview may be provisional or fixed. This depends upon the worldview's potential for
McKenzie’s Characteristics of a Worldview
change. A fixed worldview is closed and does not admit new ideas or evaluate them for congruence. If any sign of dissonance appears, the new belief is summarily discarded. The provisional includes a willingness to examine the new idea knowing that change is acceptable and to integrate it in an appropriate manner with the old.
Fourth, a worldview may be inclusive or narrow. Inclusive worldviews evaluate a diversity of possible meanings. Yet, this is not relativism or the acceptance of all divergent views. It deals more with a willingness to consider and test alternatives. A narrow worldview is one that rules out certain meanings a priori (dogmatism). Fifth, a worldview may be active or passive. Does the worldview rely upon others or upon self examination? The passive will adopt a worldview based upon authority. When discussing the domain of personal epistemology, William G. Perry, Jr. (1970) will label this as dualism. In an active worldview, the person seeks out self-knowledge, but still uses others to bring these new considerations to him for evaluation. Learning is an adventure, but is not dependent upon authority.
Sixth, there are critical and uncritical worldviews: A critical worldview is based upon the questioning and testing of ideas. The uncritical simply accepts things and integrates them without testing or any deliberate scrutiny. Due to the inherent limitations of human knowledge, a balance many be required. Arguably, one may also become too critical resulting in a skepticism that limits the integration of valid views. Seventh, a worldview may disdain others or accept others. Other-disdaining worldviews put no or little value in the thoughts and concerns of others. These tend to be smug and conceited, immediately dismissing conflicting worldviews as worthless or irrational. The other-accepting worldview understands that others may also possess worthwhile truth capable of being integrated. It is a worldview of humility and understanding that no one has reached perfect knowledge. Finally, a worldview may place a priority on the cognitive, the affective or the performative. This is really a three dimensional look at epistemology. Is the person's worldview more dependent upon the rational and cognitive, upon emotions and how it feels, or upon pragmatic and workability concerns? Here, often a balance is desired rather than undue emphasis on any one (McKenzie, 1991, 65-70 ).
Definition of Worldview
Our previous review of the content and classification of worldviews suggests a variety of divergent questions that any proper definition must address. First, is a worldview committed to reality and truth? As such, one’s metaphysical, epistemological and axiological commitments form the most basic components of a worldview. Here, I subscribe to the correspondence theory of truth. This is typically defined as the view that truth consists of some form of correspondence between a belief that one holds and a real fact or state of affairs—it corresponds to reality (Armstrong, 1973). Yet, for those holding to alternative theories of truth (coherence or pragmatic theories), the idea of a worldview’s system of nested beliefs will still apply. A correspondence theory still accepts that reality is both internally coherent and operational.
Second, is a worldview exclusively propositional or does it embrace components of teleology or the human traits of motivation, emotion and volition? As James Sire (2004) suggests, “a worldview is not just a set of basic concepts but a fundamental orientation of the heart” (p. 13). Here, it is recognized that a worldview consists of an integration of each with each directly affecting the other. Not only do propositional beliefs affect our will, our motivations and our emotions, but our emotions, motivations and will affect how we search for and consider propositions. Likewise, some propositional beliefs are tacit rather than explicit. While this discussion only deals with explicit beliefs available for our immediate consideration, our emotions, motivations and desires will determine the extent to which tacit beliefs will be uncovered and raised to explicit consideration.
Third, is a worldview an individual or communal thing? Is there a personal duty to formulate a worldview, or should this worldview be formulated by the community and handed down to the individual? Fourth, is a worldview a static or dynamic concept? If it is static, our duty is simply to find the correct worldview and download it. If it is a process, it would seem our duty is to constantly apply the facts, observations and experiences of our life in an attempt to continuously integrate a more complete, accurate and truthful worldview. An underlying question would be whether one’s existing worldview is capable of constructing beliefs and presumptions that limit or frustrate one’s ability to continue the process? In addition, is one’s worldview conscious or subconscious? Is it even available for volitional consideration and modification?
One final question that is often raised concerns the objective or subjective nature of a worldview. Is there one correct worldview that should be embraced by all? However, this question is actually determined by our response to the former questions. If a worldview is a process that seeks correspondence with reality, is developed individually, and embraces the agentic nature of man’s will, it must necessarily be subjective. The result will be an expected multiplicity of worldviews. Yet, the existence of this multiplicity simply affirms man’s need for humility in learning and does not require that each worldview possess equal truth value. The process toward a proper worldview can take a multitude of degrees and paths.
While authors in the past have seldom defined the term, a typical assumed definition for worldview might be a perspective that one holds that serves as a foundation for one’s attempt to address and understand the remainder of the world. However, this does not address each of the questions raised above. McKenzie (1991) has defined a worldview as "an understanding of the world that arises out of reflecting on one's experience of the world" which understanding "functions to explain the world" and makes "it intelligible at least on a provisional basis" (p. 2 ). James Sire (2004) reflects upon Naugle’s (2002) comprehensive analysis of the history of the worldview concept and proposes the following definition:
A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (conscious or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being. (p. 122).
Using this definition, Sire recognizes that a worldview is a commitment and a matter of the heart, involving human emotions, desire, motivation and will. It is also a fundamental orientation in that even the very act of considering a worldview is, itself, worldview laden. Furthermore, Sire reminds us that these commitments (although possibly propositional) are normally holistic and so interconnected that the best manner of communicating the entire content is through narrative. That content, which is humanly derived and not guaranteed to fully correspond to reality (or be fully consistent), may be held either consciously or subconsciously. The purpose of the content is to describe reality to the best of our ability and to provide a foundation for the decisions that we, as agents, make during the course of our lives.
However, Sire’s definition fails to address a number of issues, including the process nature of a worldview and its individual–communal nature. In addition, there is arguably a metaphysical distinction between truth and reality. Reality is how things actually are, while truth is the quality of those propositions that accord with reality ( Horwich, 1999). A worldview must necessarily address both. Nor does this definition recognize that it is only in living communally that propositional or story communication becomes necessary. Finally, a worldview is generally expected to provide explanatory and predictive power. This not only allows us to anticipate cause and effect relations, but also as Nash (1992) reminds us, to provide “an explanation for the disparity between the way things are and the way they ought to be” (p. 31). Keeping this in mind and by making a few minimal modifications to Sire’s excellent template, I will use the following definition of worldview:
A worldview is an individual’s commitment to a network of fundamental beliefs about the basic constitution of truth and reality that provides the cornerstones on which we rely for prediction, explanation, and for making agency decisions in and interpreting and integrating the world in which we exist. This network, which is constantly in process and subject to modification based upon the individual’s dynamic interaction with life, the developed motivations and desires of the heart, and our current operational worldview, may include beliefs that are held consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently and which may be true, partially true or entirely false. An individual’s worldview, which may be expressed through proposition, narrative or behavior, may be dynamically integrated with that of others to form a resulting communal worldview. Due to the inherent limitations of human knowledge, worldviews may validly include components of faith and depend upon our diligence and degree of integration, thereby resulting in an anticipated multiplicity of operational worldviews.
Theoretically, the human mind is not satisfied with piecemeal knowledge, but seeks integrity in its understanding of reality. Worldviews are generated by the mind’s aspiration to a unified comprehension of the universe, drawing together facts, laws, generalizations, and answers to ultimate questions. ( Naugle, 2002, p. 9).
A major assumption of my definition is that one’s worldview is dynamic. Using McKenzie’s (1991) classification, I would argue that a worldview should be provisional, discerning, inclusive, active and other-accepting. Human desire to investigate reality and to synchronize our worldview with reality seems natural. As McKenzie observes,
We pull apart, analyze, each new experience and determine the degree to which it is compatible with the existing worldview. If compatible, or at least not contradictory or unimaginable/impossible in terms of the existing worldview, the new experience is assimilated and integrated into the existing worldview. (p. 30).
Not only does worldview integration seem to naturally occur, but it is arguably a duty of the well-lived and considered life proposed by Socrates. As McKenzie (1991) adds,
The mere unthinking acceptance of a worldview that has been 'taken off the shelf,' so to speak, can become a violation of ethical obligation, especially if such an unthinking acceptance poses an obstacle to the creation of a better self and/or has negative consequences for society. (p. 95).
McKenzie (1991), in discussing adult education, goes on to suggest that worldview integration depends upon an interpretive understanding of our current experience in light of our currently operative prejudices, assumptions and beliefs. As he observes, “new experiences can be rejected on the basis of these prejudices, assumptions or beliefs, or to the contrary, prejudices, assumptions or beliefs can undergo change in the face of new experiences" (p. ix). William G. Perry, Jr. (1970), in his study of the intellectual development of individual college students, refers to Piagetian concepts of cognitive development and notes that this integration will depend upon the “degree of the incongruence” that the learning bears to the student’s prior experience.
The degree and nature of the incongruence will determine the work a person has to do to "make sense" of the experience. The work of making sense will consist of some balance between two processes: (1) assimilation of the emerging forms of the experience to the forms of the expectancies the person brought with him (by means of selection, simplification, or distortion), and (2) accommodation of the form of the expectancies to the forms emerging in the experience (by means of recombinations and transformations which result in new forms of expectancy). (p. 46).
Yet, this development does not occur in a vacuum. Rather the very worldview of other individuals, together with the accumulated worldview of culture and society, will provide external influence leading to a need to investigate the social-cultural and psycho-social theories of learning as well. As a leading theorist in the burgeoning field of personal epistemology observed, “It is unlikely that we will make great strides in improving education until we examine, understand, and negotiate with the epistemological world views of a much larger community, beyond the world of formal education” ( Schommer-Aikins, 2002, p. 232).
McKenzie (1991), in attempting to describe the critical process of worldview integration, refers to the following five principles or canons of systematic integration. First, the Canon of Equilibrium suggests that any integration should be holistic and balanced. This generally requires that all parts of our worldview be internally consistent and coherent with each of the remaining four canons. We should not overly rely on any one cannon. Second, the Canon of Logic requires that the integration cohere with known rules of logic and reason. Thus, for McKenzie, logic and reason form the perimeter and boundaries of acceptable beliefs. Third, the Canon of Information reminds us that integration must be reasonable and justified—substantiated by evidence, data, experience, and the empirical senses. No amount of empirical information can provide certainty, however a lack of information can be instructive. Fourth, the Canon of Self-Reference requires that the process of integration continuously and critically examine each of the current assumptions that are present in one’s current worldview and which may serve to filter out information or experiences before they are processed. Finally, the Canon of Pragmatism requires that the suggested integration be tested based upon both its predictive and explanatory consequences and its coherence with future experience. Is the change "workable" within concrete situations(pp. 51-54 )?
These canons, according to McKenzie (1991) require that we consciously engage in worldview integration. However, arguably portions of our worldview are held subconsciously. These are typically our prejudices and presumptions. Thus, a primary requirement for integration to occur is a willingness to raise these aspects of our worldview to conscious consideration. Integration requires that we volitionally examine our prejudices. What are their origins? What are their consequences both as currently applied and as applied to the very process of integration? Are they consistent with our basic cornerstone beliefs? Finally, do they intuitively feel accurate? While there will be times when the rational and the intuitive conflict, the intuitive should not simply be ignored (McKenzie, 1991, pp. 102-105 ).
But are there extenuating factors that limit or excuse our failure to engage in conscious integration? McKenzie (1991) believes that there are three. The first is a lack of freedom. While human beings are essentially responsible beings regardless of the world’s imposed limitations, there are some limitations imposed by culture, inheritance, biological characteristics, day to day situations, current motivations and immediate feelings that directly affect (and sometimes prevent) our ability to engage in appropriate integration. Second, ignorance may provide a limitation. One may find it difficult to consider or integrate a worldview that one has never examined or been exposed to. Yet, arguably our lack of motivation or the creation of filters that shelter us from readily available worldviews does not constitute defensible ignorance. Finally, the choice to integrate depends upon decision and intention. Certain moral dilemmas may exist at times that require a choice to integrate, at least temporarily, the better of two improper worldviews.
While the foregoing describes what a worldview is, some of its varied components and our need (and possible duty) to continually reconsider and overhaul it as reality demands, our next concern is to discover how that integration process typically proceeds. Here, much work is needed. It is here where the concepts of intrinsic motivation, personal epistemology and subjective well-being may interact in a practical and observable way. It might be helpful to look at a possible model.
The Worldview Cycle of Integration
In a heuristic attempt to investigate human worldview integration, I have developed the Worldview Cycle that is attached as Figure 1. This model assumes several things. First, humans are constantly engaged in a worldview integration process. Second, we are not provided innately or ab initio with a fully functioning worldview at birth. It is developed over time through our interaction with the world. Additionally, not every person is equally active in engaging the process. Our degree of engagement is determined by a combination of our volition, our selected goals, our developed motivation, and the filters that have been put into place by our currently operative worldview. The existence of these filters, a lack of desire (or discipline), or a lack of motivation may limit our progression through the cycle, sometimes yielding a retreat or shortcutting of the process. Finally, the cycle recognizes that there may be a difference between our actual worldview (both conscious and subconscious components) and our claimed or public worldview.
The process begins with whatever innate worldview may be embedded in our being at birth. While some [such as John Locke (1632-1704)] believe that man is born with a tabula rasa(blank slate—at least concerning the contents of his mind), others believe that man is embedded with an implicit knowledge of first principles (Thomas Aquinas), a direct acquaintance with God (John Calvin’s sensus divinitatis), a basic belief forming faculty ( Plantinga), or an initial belief filter that defines what is epistemically acceptable. While Scripture (Romans 1 in particular) does not directly resolve this question, it does make it clear that all people obtain an unavoidable knowledge of God through simple observation of his creation. Chapter 3 will develop an in-depth biblical and theological analysis of our initial knowledge of God.
Next, as Hegel and Dilthey recognized, the culture and historical era in which we are born and participate provides an instilled worldview. Our initial operating worldview is predominately inherited from our environment (family, culture, society). As McKenzie (1991) recognizes, “worldviews are given to us, handed over to us, when we are young, and later reformulated and constructed when we reflect on experience" (p. 15). This becomes what is known as tradition (tradition: meaning "handed over"). While controversy rages regarding whether or not tradition unnecessarily indoctrinates our
Figure 1. The Worldview Integration Cycle - (See separate Website Page)
children , it does have both a purpose and an indelible effect. For those who are not developmentally able to perform their own worldview integration, “tradition establishes patterns of preferred thought and behavior to enable people to respond to situations without taking the time to re-think in precise detail what the appropriate response should be” (p. 23). As a result, Kierkegaard held that a considered lifeview is a “prerequisite for parenthood and an essential component of the Christian education of children” ( Naugle, 2002, p. 78). Kierkegaard further complains that children from nominal Christian homes suffer as a result of their parent’s failure to develop and impart a well thought out Christian lifeview (p. 79).
This initial operating worldview, developed from a combination of tradition and immature thought, becomes the foundation of future integration. Thereafter, those foundations will allow for appropriate tweaking and modification. A child who is provided with no foundation at all will have difficulty grasping the very concept of a foundation. As McKenzie (1991) points out:
Tradition may incline a person in this or that direction but tradition does not deprive a person of choice. And while tradition is something that a person can never completely outrun, there can come a point in the lifespan where the tradition is almost completely transformed by new experiences. (p. 27).
New experiences, if consistent and coherent with one’s operating worldview, lead to little change and are seamlessly integrated. However, if disequilibrium or dissonance is observed, the effect may yield a new set of beliefs to be investigated. If these newly formed beliefs are epistemically justified, then these new beliefs may be committed to and then integrated by either the process of assimilation into the existing operating worldview or by accommodation of that worldview, yielding a new modified worldview.
Here, although not the focus of this study, a word must be said about belief formation. First, as a propositional state, beliefs cannot be changed. They may only be discarded or replaced. Second, as a present state, beliefs entail a commitment with a component of strength that one cannot easily change by an instant exercise of the will ( Swinburne, 2001, p. 39). As much as I would like, given the current strength of the opposite belief, I cannot will myself to believe that I am a frog. The commitments I hold are often too strong and intricately intertwined into my existing network of beliefs. Yet, belief is “not identical with an action of assenting” (Moser, Mulder & Trout, 1998, p. 45). This entailed commitment requires more than simple belief formation. Third, a belief may be unconscious and non- occurent. This implies a component of availability. Certain beliefs may be so strong, so reinforced and/or so embedded that they are difficult to recognize and nearly impossible to bring to the surface. In addition, the process of integrating beliefs into our operational worldview may, on occasion, occur in an unconscious (or at least non-deliberate) manner. Thus, a belief may be tacit [here representing beliefs that are unspoken or unrealized ( Polanyi, (1958; Searle, 1992) as opposed to beliefs that cannot be articulated ( Ryle, 1949; Chomsky, 1986)] because the content is currently unavailable for consideration or because the process of considering it is not available.
Yet, even tacit beliefs seem to be formed. The important question is whether they can be re-examined (Searle, 1992). Arguably, the will can effectuate change by explicitly bringing the integration process into operation. It may formulate new beliefs or bring non- occurent beliefs to immediate consciousness. It may evaluate this now occurent belief through the process of justification to provide strength and commitment to that belief ( Swinburne, 2001), and it may then complete the integration process by reorganizing the current operational worldview accordingly.
In the process, one’s worldview tends to develop foundational or cornerstone beliefs that I refer to as filters [what McKenzie designates as prejudice and others (Berger, 1969; Moreland, 1997) may refer to as plausibility structures] controlling what new information may be allowed through and considered. Note that these filters are not necessarily a negative structure that excludes or blocks beliefs. They may also establish a propensity to seek out and accept beliefs meeting certain requirements or criteria. One of the more crucial roles served by the integration process is the reconsideration of any existing or recently created filters. Arguably, these filters (referred to by Kraft, 2001, as “blind spots”) may affect what the person considers as a valid observation, may influence the beliefs formulated from that observation, and may alter the methods deemed appropriate for knowledge and belief justification. As Moreland (1997) reminds us, “I will never be able to change my life if I cannot even entertain the belief needed to bring about that change” (p. 75).
While some believe that a person’s complete set of beliefs are, if desired, available for consideration ( Swinburne, 2001), others suggest that some beliefs may be locked away over time—beyond the reach of personal introspection (Moser, et al., 1998). Arguably, regardless of whether the belief content or consideration methodology has become tacit, this may be the result of filters that prevent later accessibility or consideration on demand. In addition, the filter may affect the perceived value of the new observation and may control a person’s motivation to continue pursuit of the integration process. If the filter allows the observation to pass through, the integration process may continue. If not, one would suspect that the person will become either amotivated or retreat back to his old operating worldview without further consideration.
It would seem reasonable that these filters are often a product of a person’s beliefs regarding ultimate concerns, especially those concerning epistemology and learning. If one believes that learning is valueless, difficult, inefficient, or personally deficient, we would not be surprised to see the integration process cease, or continue in a haphazard manner. If truth is believed unstable, relative, unavailable, or derived only from authority, we would also expect that the person’s integration process and any orientation toward intrinsic motivation to learn would be affected accordingly. These, in turn will further effect a person’s goal construction, their degree and style of motivation—and ultimately, their perception of their subjective vitality and well-being. The very foundational assumption of worldview integration is that proper and consistent integration will eventually yield a worldview that corresponds more closely with reality, thereby resulting in a better life and increased vitality and well-being. If we accept a biblical definition for the word heart (a wholistic center of being including not only the emotions, but also the center of wisdom, intellect spirituality, desire and volition) (Saucy, 1993), then Naugle (2002) seems correct when he concludes that “the heart of the matter of worldview is that worldview is a matter of the heart” (p. 269).
Many people equate one’s worldview with that person’s religious beliefs. While one’s religious beliefs are simply one component of a fully-orbed worldview, issues of religion often do incorporate a variety of ultimate concerns and beliefs that infiltrate other aspects of one’s worldview. Like a worldview, one’s religion generally attempts to provide an organized interpretation of both reality and the basic issues of life. Among these fundamental issues are those of the existence of God, a spiritual world, creation, order, the nature of man, and teleology (purpose). Thus, one’s religion is, in itself, a worldview. Although, sadly, the recent trend has been to reduce religion from its former status as a true and operative worldview to a “claimed worldview” that is only professed when pragmatically useful, it is hoped that participants in this study will provide honest insight into their current operational religious worldview.
In this study, we will be specifically investigating and measuring one’s personal epistemic worldview—an aspect of one’s worldview that is the subject of the domain of personal epistemology. Likewise, it would seem helpful to measure one’s religious worldview. Such information may allow us to determine if certain religious worldviews are more disposed toward certain epistemological worldviews, toward intrinsic motivation to learn, toward personal vitality and wellbeing, and/or toward a disposition to engage in worldview integration. As a result, it is important to consider the selection of constructs to be used in differentiating one religious worldview from another. Are they meaningful and do they included all of the possible religious worldviews that a respondent may exhibit?
Selecting a Measure of Religious Worldview
It has proved nearly impossible to find an instrument that measures all possible religious worldviews and even more difficult to find a measure that will provide data that allows for a correlational analysis. Many of the instruments that were initially reviewed simply located the participant within an already presumed worldview. For example, is the person a liberal or conservative Christian? While there are a number of religious instruments available, many of which are discussed in the treatise, Measures of Religiosity (Hill & Hood, 1999), a large majority of those presented are targeted at measuring a specific religious concept such as prayer or within a specific religious belief system such as Christianity.
One major problem in measuring religious worldview is to decide which constructs help define the different worldviews. Construct definition and delimitation is crucial. While I might measure a person’s attitude toward prayer or faith, there are still distinctions concerning “prayer to whom” and “for what purpose” or “faith in what?” Measuring attitude or belief in the Trinity may be important to distinguish between two theologians with years of study, but may simply confuse or measure different constructs when evaluating a typical undergraduate college student. The measurement items must be universal, cross-cultural and basic.
Finally, in order to investigate correlations, it is best to locate an instrument that provides interval or ratio data. Not only are there some conceptual difficulties in constructing a measure that will provide anything other than basic categorical and descriptive data, we also discover that there are few general religious belief measures available that have made any serious attempts to investigate their validity or reliability. Yet, despite these limitations, some means of discriminating these beliefs is necessary if any comparisons are to be made based upon these beliefs.
There appear to be three scales that may be useful to this study. They are the Religious World View Scale (McLean, 1952; Jennings, 1972), the General Beliefs inventory ( Coan, Hanson and Dobyns, 1972), and the Religious Belief Questionnaire ( Apfeldorf, 1972). A short examination of each will help in determining which to use.
Religious World View Scale
McLean (1952)’s “Religious World View Scale” simply asks the participant “What do you believe” regarding a number of religious constructs. The instrument has undergone a number of changes and was later incorporated into a larger “Inventory of Social and Religious Concepts” (Wright, 1956). It was originally published in Motive magazine, a now non-existing publication of the Division of Higher Education of the Board of Education of the United Methodist Church ( McLean, 1952). The inventory initially consisted of 99 items, with 52 dealing with religious concepts thereby providing a “religious” score. Later, it was distilled down to the Religious World View Scale consisting of 25 items (12 of which are reverse scored) using a Likert scale ranging from 1 “1 - agree” to “4 - disagree” and including a separate category of “undecided or no opinion expressed (0 pts).” The person’s score on the “agree vs. disagree” items was used to categorize religious worldviews on a theological belief continuum ranging from 0 to 100. Here, the scores progressively indicate differing worldviews running as follows (Davies, 1977):
0 to 35 Naturalistic Humanism
0 to 15 This present life should be the sole object of man’s concern
15 to 25 Scientific “humanism”
25 to 35 Tries to synthesize liberal religion and natural worldviews
35 to 65 Religious Liberalism
35 to 45 Belief centers on a universal God, rejects the notion that Christianity is the final religion.
45 to 55 Considers themselves “liberal” Protestants
55 to 65 Appropriates both a liberal and conservative faith
65 to 100 Christian Orthodoxy
65 to 75 Interpret Bible historically, reject literalism
75 to 85 Accept historic Christian creeds and sacraments
85 to 100 The Bible is literally God’s word
Initially, the problem was that scores were tallied using a formula that would seem highly affected by the number of “uncertain” answers. Undecided–no opinion answers were scored separately in a computation of “certainty” and received a zero score. The certainty score essentially equaled the percentage of the 25 items that were not marked as “undecided.” McLean indicated that the typical college student would have a “certainty” score between 72 and 80. If so, a person with a typical “certainty” score of 76 (6 uncertain answers) could score no higher than 76 (19 answers x 4 pts) and no lower than 19 (19 answers x 1 pt) on the overall scale. This causes obvious problems with measuring a person with typical certainty at either end of the spectrum. As might be expected, a “certainty” score below 52 would invalidate the measurement (Davies, 1977).
Jennings (1972) modified the scale (RWVS) to eliminate the middle or undecided option and suggested the incorporation of a six point Likert scale that would more effectively account for a person’s intensity concerning an item. It is the Jennings version that is addressed in Measures of Religiosity ( Boivin, 1999, p. 59-61). While the instrument is recognized and documented, it appears that all versions are currently available for use in the public domain.
According to Davies (1977), McLean “makes a fairly strong claim to have developed an interval scale” (p. 10), however Davies suggests that it should likely be viewed as an ordinal scale. If it is interval, there is no evidence presented that there is there any equidistant unit that ensures that the difference between a 70 and 80 on the test is the same as the distance between 10 and 20. Still, this scale provides a good effort at improving upon the typical nominal scale.
Although the instrument is over 50 years old, the items do seem relevant to today’s American culture. The continuum from a naturalist through orthodox Christian is generally useful; however its focus on Christian concepts might yield some interesting results if the instrument were administered to a Muslim or Buddhist. For example, a conservative Muslim (a true theist) would typically strongly agree that the Gospels contain some legendary material or disagree that Jesus was born of a virgin, thus inappropriately placing him further down the continuum towards naturalism.
Sadly, there is little information concerning the reliability and validity of the final instrument. Scarborough and Wright’s (1956) use of the larger inventory to measure change in world view over a three week period encompassing the DePauw University’s Religious Evaluation Week (n = 255) showed that mean pre-test scores (66.26) and post-test scores (67.30) were correlated at r = .93. The correlation was statistically significant and the study provides informative mean scores based on gender, religious denomination and academic major. However, the differences measured over time did not establish any significant change. In addition, this study used the pre-Jennings test with the questionable “certainty” score. Jennings (1972) used a sample of 364 junior college students in Dallas, Texas to test the correlation between the RWVS and the Scriptural Literalism Scale ( Hogge & Friedman, 1967). Jennings found a significant correlation of .91 between the two scales, arguably providing some construct validity. In addition, he was able to provide normative figures for his sample. He found overall cumulative scores (based upon a total score of 100) for those under 25 years of age of 79.7 (SD=20.1) for men and 89.3 (SD = 19.3) for women; and scores of 86.9 (SD = 21.2) for men and 84.1 (SD = 22.5) for women over 25. Validity seems both rationally and intuitively clear and the reliability would likely not be as dependent upon the measure as upon the simple mutability of one’s religious beliefs.
The Coan, Hanson and Dobyns’ (1972) General Beliefs inventory was obtained from the Educational Testing Service’s microfiche test collection in Princeton, N.J., but is not mentioned in Measures of Religiosity (Hill & Hood, 1999). It investigates a number of basic beliefs held by people concerning six factors. Each factor consists of a continuum between two viewpoints. These continua include a) conventional theistic religion versus nontheistic viewpoint; b) future–productive versus present–spontaneous; c) detachment versus involvement; d) relativism versus absolutism; e) scientism versus determinism; and f) optimism versus pessimism.
This is a 73 item test that uses a four point Likert scale of strongly agree, agree, disagree and strongly disagree. There is no documentation providing any statistics supporting either reliability or validity. Nor does it appear to have been reviewed in any major publications. A number of other impediments exist. First, it includes more factors than I require. For example, while scores on the scientism–determinism, detachment–involvement, and optimism–pessimism would be interesting to analyze, they reach beyond my simple research goal of globally measuring one’s theistic religious worldview. While the factors dealing with absolutism vs. relativism and theistic vs. nontheistic would be helpful, the Religious World View Scale seems better focused on these issues. In addition, there is little available information on the interpretation of the measure. No norms are provided and it is unknown what the typical means or deviations are for each separate factor. I scored a 1.8 on the relativism/absolutism factor, but what does this mean? Are the individual factors true dimensions that can be added together to formulate a cumulative index? A continual ordinal or interval scale from 0 to 100 would seem much more useful than a scale yielding a mean score between 0 and 4 for a myriad of factors.
Religious Belief Questionnaire
This instrument was also obtained from ETS in Princeton, N.J and is also not reviewed in Measures of Religiosity (Hill & Hood, 1999). It is designed to be a “multi-denominational” assessment of an individual’s “religious beliefs, attitudes, feelings and practices” ( Apfeldorf, 1972, p. 2) and was one of three tests originally designed in 1969 for use in a study to investigate how and to what extent religious beliefs influence behavior among medical patients. The other two tests are more behavior oriented and are entitled the a) Religious Behavior Questionnaire (self-report) and the b) Religious Behavior Checklist (third party observations).
The test consists of 64 items based upon a five point Likert scale of agreement versus disagreement. There is also a “?” category. Apfeldorf never seems to define whether the “?” is meant to be an indication that the person is undecided, uncertain, unwilling to give an opinion, on the fence between agree and disagree, or simply ambivalent. The test is expressly designed to be used within a theistic tradition, thus causing concern whether the test would be useful in measuring naturalistic, humanistic or non-theistic religious traditions. Yet, according to Apfeldorf, one merit of the questionnaire is that “it is composed of statements that have relevance for individuals of all major faith groups” ( Apfeldorf, 1972, p. 9).
The items are broken down into nine sub-categories; 1) God’s existence and control of the universe; 2) prayer; 3) the Bible; 4) good and evil; 5) reward and punishment; 6) life after death; 7) organized religion; 8) religious practices; and 9) duties of daily living. Validity was investigated by comparing test results to the observed behavior results for the participants (Religious Behavior Checklist) and by correlating the patients’ scores against their score on a Study of Values test suggesting that both instruments are measuring similar core values or religious beliefs ( Apfeldorf, 1972). Correlation coefficients were found to be .95 or higher while test/retest reliability also showed a satisfactory correlation coefficient of .93. Split half reliability resulted in correlation coefficients of .88 or higher. Inter-rater reliability based upon multiple observations of the patients by different chaplains showed coefficients ranging from .76 to .90 which are also satisfactory and likely reflect simple differences in how patients react to different chaplains ( Apfeldorf, 1972).
While the Religious Belief Questionnaire appears to be the most researched and validated of all of the instruments, it also has its drawbacks. First, it is a bit longer (64 questions) than the Religious World View Scale (25 questions) and yet it includes fewer questions that would help in distinguishing a naturalistic or humanistic position. Second, I was unable to find any normative scores or range of scores within the categories. Finally, although validity and reliability statistics indicate that the test does measure what is intended, there is some question as to how this information may be used. Do these categories consist of true sub-scales that can be totaled and used to provide an ordinal or interval scale useful for correlational analysis, or must each of the sub-category scores be used separately? This would require a more comprehensive factor analysis.
Conclusion Regarding Measuring Religious Worldview
Each of the tests exhibit serious deficiencies. None provide normative data or cumulative score ranges. None truly measure all known classifications of religious belief. Coan’s General Beliefs questionnaire is a bit too broad and unverified. It measures factors and subscales that are either unhelpful or duplicative and the applicable subscales are simply not as useful or informative as the remaining two measures. The Religious World View Scale, while wanting in statistical proof of validity and reliability, would yield a useful scale that can easily be used in correlational analysis. However, it has no subscales that may be individually analyzed. Based on the suggestions of Jennings (1972), it would make sense to abandon the undecided / no opinion category. In addition, one might wonder whether its use on an evangelical Christian sample might have problems with ceiling effect. In fact, my first attempt to experiment with it showed very high scores with my evangelical pilot sample. As a result, Jennings (1972) additional suggestion of using a 6 item Likert scale with no middle value would also be advisable.
The Religious Belief Questionnaire, on the other hand, may be a bit long at 64 questions considering that I would eventually be combining two or three other instruments, together with necessary demographic items. I am also unsure how or whether the subscales may combine in forming a cumulative index. Finally, none of the individual subscales appear to be very useful standing alone. Based upon the foregoing, I have decided to use the Religious World View Scale incorporating the suggestions made by Jennings to measure this domain.
Copyright 2005 Mark E. Henze - BBuilders.org