Worldview examples include; Christian Theism, Deism, Naturalism, Nihilism, Existentialism, Eastern Pantheistic Monism, New Age, Postmodern, and Islamic Theism. This article is designed to be a quick reference guide to nine distinct worldviews described by James Sire in his seminal work “The Universe Next Door.” To learn more, you can take the Worldview Survey to determine you own worldview and how it relates to the others.
Example 1: Christian Theism
The greatness of God is the central tenant of Christian Theism. Nothing is prior to God or equal to him. He created the universe, and is the original source for metaphysics. His character is love and goodness, so he is the source of ethics. God is both transcendent (existing outside the universe) and immanent (existing everywhere within the universe), and omniscient (knows everything), so he is the source of epistemology. It is a complete worldview.
When a person recognizes the greatness of God, and consciously accepts and acts on it, God becomes the rock. God is the transcendent reference point that gives life meaning and makes the joys and sorrows of daily existence significant an unfolding drama of God’s plan for the universe. The Christian Theist expects to participate forever in this plan; with both joys and sorrows while on earth, but after death the participation continues with eternal life.
The first act of the Christian Theist is towards God – a response of love, obedience, and praise to the Lord of the Universe, their maker, sustainer, and through Jesus Christ, their redeemer and friend.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (p. 46) IVP Academic
Example 2: Deism
Deism deeply influenced the intellectual world of Enlightenment France and England from the late seventeenth through the early eighteenth centuries, before losing cultural significance and declining. To the Enlightenment thinkers, human reason replaced the Bible and tradition as the authority for the way ultimate reality was understood.
Autonomous human reason also replaced the Bible and tradition as the authority for morality. In the early years, Deists placed confidence in the universality of human nature. Therefore, people using logical reasoning would tend to agree on what was right and wrong.
Deists reject the biblical notion of the Fall and assume that the present universe is in its present, normal, created state. Therefore, one can derive one’s values from clues from the natural order, often referred to as “Natural Law.”
Deists believe that God created the universe, and then stepped back to let it run. It is a “closed” universe that does not experience divine intervention or miraculous events. People become like cogs in the clockwork mechanism of the universe.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 64-65) IVP Academic
Example 3: Naturalism
Naturalism was born in the eighteenth century, came of age in the nineteenth century, and grew to maturity in the twentieth. The appeal of naturalism is that one is asked to believe what appears to be based on facts and the assured results of scientific investigation or rigorous scholarship. Naturalists view their perspective as honest and objective.
Naturalism assumes no god, no spirit, and no life beyond the grave. While it disallows that humanity is the center of the universe, it does see humans as the makers of value. Naturalism views humanity’s ability to influence, alter, and control nature as both factually true as well as implying evidence of our special place within nature.
Naturalism dominates our universities, colleges, and high schools. It provides the framework for most scientific study. It poses the backdrop against which the humanities continue to struggle for human value as writers, poets, painters and other artists explore its implications. In philosophy Naturalism manifests as secular humanism, in politics it manifests as Marxism. The allure is that it will lead to a social utopia, and even allow humanity to direct the course of its own evolution.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 92-93) IVP Academic
Example 4: Nihilism
Nihilism takes the tenants of Naturalism; that only matter exists, there is no god, and that death is the extinction of individuality and personality, and follows them to their natural conclusions.
Perfect Nihilism can be understood as a denial of all worldviews. Nihilists think that the universe, including their own thoughts, lacks any meaning whatsoever. The problem is that at every moment, at every step, Nihilists think (and their thinking has substance) so they cheat on their philosophy.
From meaninglessness nothing (or anything) follows. If the universe is meaningless, then nothing is immoral, and any course of action is open. One can respond to meaninglessness by any act whatsoever.
Yet whenever we set ourselves on a course of action, even putting one foot in front of the other in a haphazard way, we are affirming a goal. We are affirming the value of a course of action, even if to no one but ourselves. Thus we are not living Nihilism, we are creating value through choice.
To make matters worse, every time Nihilists think (and trust their thinking) they are inconsistent, for they have denied that thinking is of value or that it can lead to knowledge. At the heart of Nihilism is a self-contradiction. They scream “Life has no meaning!” But that means only that their affirmation is meaningless, for if it were to mean anything it would be false.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (p. 113) IVP Academic
Example 5: Existentialism
The essence of Existentialism’s most important goal is to transcend the meaninglessness of Nihilism. Existentialism begins by accepting Naturalism’s assertions that only matter exists, there is no god, and that death is the extinction of individuality and personality. However, Existentialists reject the insignificance of human nature and the meaninglessness of our relationship to the cosmos. Therefore, Existentialist’s major concern is in our humanity and how we can be significant in an otherwise insignificant world.
The inner awareness of the mind is a constant present, a constant now. “I think, therefore I am.” Existentialists recognize that people can know the external, objective world through careful observation, scientific hypothesis and experimentation. However they also know that in the world of the mind, consciousness, and awareness, that time has no real meanings. The subject is always present to itself, never past, never future. Science and logic do not penetrate this other realm; they have nothing to say about subjectivity.
Existentialists emphasize the disunity of the objective and subjective worlds. They choose to assign more value to the subjective world. Our significance is not up to the facts of the objective world over which we have no control. Our significance is based entirely upon the subjective world over which we have complete control.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 117-121) IVP Academic
Example 6: Eastern Pantheistic Monism
Eastern Pantheistic Monism transcends the impasse of Western thought which provides only a choice between an infinite-personal God on one hand, and a meaningless existence on the other. Eastern Pantheistic Monist rejects the presupposition that reason can lead to truth. It can be considered anti-rational.
The east and west operate on two very different sets of assumptions. Western technology has made modern war possible. Western economics has led to gross inequality and the economic oppression of masses of people. Western religion seems largely to support those who control the technology and economics, so that route is a trap. Western thought appears ugly to the Eastern mind.
That is not to say that Eastern Pantheistic Monism arose as an answer to Western thought. In fact, Eastern Pantheistic Monism predates Western modes of thought to a significant degree. With its syncretism, its quietism, and uncomplicated lifestyle it provides an exotic and radically different religious framework that many people find extremely attractive.
Eastern Pantheistic Monism is, by its very nature, difficult to label and categorize in Western thought. We must realize that worldview categories do not neatly fit the various modes of thought (or lack of them) that characterize Eastern thought. Also, we must be aware of the vast differences among religious and cultural embodiments of Eastern Pantheism. We must not conclude that because people identify themselves as Buddhist of Hindu, they hold any of the propositions identified here as Eastern Pantheistic Monism.
With that in mind, we can say that God is the cosmos. God is all that exists; nothing exists but God. If anything appears to exist that is not God, it is Maya, illusion.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 144-149) IVP Academic
Example 7: New Age
New Age Spirituality is not yet completely formed; it contains rough edges, inner-tensions, and even flat-out contradictions. But despite its inherently eclectic character, it has taken shape and we can visualize it in a series of propositions, as we have done with other worldviews.
The New age bases much of their hope on the evolutionary model. Human beings evolve towards higher consciousness, societies and cultures evolve towards greater comprehensiveness. Many futurists are in this category and visualize progress towards a “Type I High-Level Civilization” in which our descendants will routinely travel to other planets.
New Age Spirituality is highly syncretistic and borrows from every major worldview. There is no Lord of the Universe (unless it be each of us). Each person is capable of God-consciousness and of creating our own reality. The universe is “peopled” by beings of enormous intelligence and power. In this manner it is similar in form (and ritual) to Animism. New Age Spirituality frequently employs the use of psychedelic drugs to achieve altered states of consciousness.
History is of relatively little importance to New Age Spiritualist, but cosmic history is of great importance. The great hope is that the human species is on the verge of a quantum leap into a whole new way of being.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 167-180) IVP Academic
Example 8: Postmodernism
The acknowledgement of the death of God is the beginning of Postmodern wisdom. It is also the end of Postmodern wisdom, for in the final analysis it is not “post” anything. It is simply the last dying gasp of the modern.
Our age, which more and more is coming to be called Postmodern, finds itself afloat in a pluralism of perspectives, a plethora of philosophies, but with no dominant notion of where to go or how to get there. A near future of cultural anarchy seems inevitable.
Postmodernism can be defined as “distrust of metanarratives.” No longer is there a single story that holds culture together. With Postmodernism no story can have any more credibility than any other. We cannot determine the “truthfulness” of language, we can only assess the “usefulness” of language.
Truth is whatever we can get people to agree to. Language is power.
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 215-223) IVP Academic
Example 9: Islamic Theism
The basic responses to the eight worldview questions from Islamic Theism are quite similar to the responses generated by Christian Theism.
Both worldviews hold the central concept of a transcendent and personal God who is omniscient and whose character is sovereign and good. Because the worldviews are close together in many ways, this description of Islamic Theism will highlight important differences that contrast it from other worldviews.
To approach the study of Allah and Islam on a comparative basis is not to do it an injustice. A great amount of the Qur’an is devoted to demonstrating Islam’s superiority to other religions. The very foundation of Islam is the conviction that Allah’s greatness is understood by way of contrast to all other inferior beings. Anything that could be construed as detracting from His unequaled greatness must be considered false, or offensive.
Islam arose in the context of rivalry. Muhammad proclaimed Islam against the polytheism of Mecca in his day, against the monotheism of Judaism which he considered to be hypocritical, and against the Trinitarian monotheism of Christianity, which he considered both idolatrous and absurd.
It is the Qur’an which not only contains Allah’s thoughts, but also mediates Allah’s thoughts to humanity. Consequently, one has to think of the Qur’an on two levels, distinguishing between it as the content of the mind of Allah (which is never accessible to us) and as divine revelation (which is the only way to have accurate knowledge about Allah).
Paraphrase: Sire, J. (2009) The Universe Next Door. 5th ed. (pp. 247-254) IVP Academic
What is your Worldview?
Take the quick Worldview Survey. There are only eight multiple-choice questions, but they are hard questions! You will be emailed your own personalized report that will allow you to learn where you lie on the spectrum of thought, and how your worldview relates to all the others.