I call upon You, Lord, God of Abraham and God of Isaac and God of Jacob and Israel, You who are the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the God who, through the abundance of your mercy, was well-pleased towards us so that we may know You, who made heaven and earth, who rules over all, You who are the one and the true God, above whom there is no other God; You who, by our Lord Jesus Christ gave us the gift of the Holy Spirit, give to every one who reads this writing to know You, that You alone are God, to be strengthened in You, and to avoid every heretical and godless and impious teaching.

St Irenaeus of Lyons, Against the Heresies 3:6:4

Saturday, December 12, 2009


In the last post on worldview, we set forth several solid definitions of worldview, appropriately concluding with Abraham Kuyper’s, which is our starting point today. Kuyper said:

“As truly as every plant has a root, so truly does a principle hide under every manifestation of life. These principles are interconnected, and have their common root in a fundamental principle; and from the latter is developed logically and systematically the whole complex of ruling ideas and conceptions that go to make up [a] life and world-view” (Christianity: A Total World & Life System, 113—14).

Transparently, Kuyper’s term “principles” is synonymous with the more common term “presuppositions,” which last time we defined as: “one’s deepest heart commitments and attitudes about how things really are. Presuppositions are first principles; the foundation stones upon which the entire edifice of one’s other beliefs are built.”

However, Kuyper insists that these various principles or presuppositions all “have their common root in a [single] fundamental principle.” This means that within every worldview there is a single, controlling first principle or presupposition. Intuitively, this makes sense.

William Halverson explains.

“At the center of every world-view is what might be called the ‘touchstone proposition’ of that world-view, a proposition that is held to be the fundamental truth about reality and serves as a criterion to determine which other propositions may or may not count as candidates for belief. If a given proposition P is seen to be inconsistent with the touchstone proposition of one’s world-view, then so long as one holds that world-view, proposition P must be regarded as false” (A Concise Introduction to Philosophy, Random House, 1976. 384; emphasis original).

So, to borrow again from Kuyper, that fundamental principle (or presupposition, proposition) serves as the “root” of every other belief that goes on to make up the rest of one’s worldview. It is from, through and unto this “touchstone proposition” that, however consistently, one will answer the deepest questions of metaphysics, epistemology, ethics and eschatology; the “root” informs every answer to James Sire’s list of questions.

But does not Scripture teach us the same? Proverbs directly warns us, “Keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (4:23). Jesus asks the rhetorical question, “Are grapes gathered from thornbushes, or figs from thistles?” (Matt 7:16). Why is it that this question so jostles us; why is it silly to ask? Because the branch and fruit are determined by what is their root.

These observations bring us full circle to an underlying point in the first post, WORLDVIEW 101 (which can be found here). And that point is that, though our discussions of worldview tend toward philosophical analysis and academic parlance, it is a phenomenon of personality. Worldview, as a reality, is realized in and permeates one’s whole personality. Thus, Kuyper’s categorizing of the domains of worldview in personal and relational, rather than abstract philosophical, terms as: 1) our relation to God, 2) our relation to man, and 3) our relation to the world (Christianity, 6).

Also for Kuyper, this is a hierarchical ordering, made obvious by the enumeration. The “root” or “touchstone proposition” of every worldview is, according to Kuyper, one or another attitude and expression of # 1, our relation to God. Kuyper clarifies this, saying,

“Hence the first claim demands that such a life system shall have its starting-point in a special interpretation of our relation to God. This is not accidental, but imperative...Here alone we find the common source from which the different streams of our human life spring and separate themselves” (Ibid.).

Every worldview is therefore intensely personal, beginning with an attitude, a “touchstone” presupposition. Moreover, that presupposition is relational in nature; it is a manifestation of one’s relation to God, with every other of one’s beliefs growing from this root relationship. From this, then, it follows that there are essentially only two worldviews available. As Jesus said, “He that is not with me is against me” (Matt 12:30). In the nature of the case, our fundamental relation to God forces the dilemma of antithesis upon us; there are only two ways before us. (For a straightforward demonstration of this, click here.)

In the next post on the topic of worldview, then, we’ll examine further this principle of antithesis. And why it is that Kuyper can conclude, “Two life systems are wrestling with one another, in mortal combat” (Christianity, 2).

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