Worldviews and abundant life


Fragments of worldviews scatter around individuals and institutions like pieces of puzzles. Pieces float around in individuals’ heads even as some try to piece them together like incomplete three-dimensional puzzles.

Worldviews consist of beliefs about oneself, community, nature, meaning and purpose and perhaps transcendent realities. Worldviews are complex, imperfect, and diverse. No perfect worldview exists in this imperfect world. However, without some anchor, we are tossed to and fro in every storm. That’s why we try to piece the puzzle together.

The question, “Who am I?” leads to great human diversity. Moreover, our DNA is distinct from other things, making each of us unique. We are also shaped differently by social and natural environments.

We are communal by nature and are unable to survive apart from relations with mother, parents, families, neighbors, identity groups, political associations, and humanity.

We exist in an imperfect world bound by time and space. That leads to questions about our relations with other animals and inanimate things and our place in the expanding universe. The worldview might include affirmations about change, progress, and the end of everything.

The question, “Is there any meaning or purpose of existence?” leads to issues of freedom and responsibility. Or, is everything accidental or determined so that individuals are not free or responsible and unable to affect the future?

Most human societies throughout history claim affirmations about transcendent reality beyond the material. Many individuals and groups have denied any reality or meaning beyond our material existence.

Worldviews are very diverse and contradictory, and we learn from that diversity. Nevertheless, individuals cannot affirm everything. Some worldviews, even partial ones, are more positive than others. Free individuals do have choices. Worldviews function to help us know what is true to believe and affirm and what is good to do.

How do you put together your fragments of opinions, beliefs, and affirmations into a more positive unity? The aim of this column purpose is reached if you ponder that question.

It seems proper to provide an example of one feeble, imperfect summary by a Christian.

We are created as rational beings with volition, both more sophisticated than other created beings, and, therefore, moral creatures with ability to distinguish right from wrong. God is the infinite, transcendent Creator of all things in this finite world. Humans are created “in the image of God.” As Psalm 2 indicates in poetic terms, “made a little lower than the angels” and “crowned with glory and honor.” Humans are suspended between the transcendent and the finite, with a bit of both in us. Each of us is fearfully and wonderfully made and valuable in God’s sight. Even though imperfect in our thoughts and actions, we strive to understand our Creator.

The history of religions and philosophy provide examples of humans understanding General Revelation and responding to our Creator. As communal beings, we create norms and rules based on natural revelation to govern relations with other people and things, torn between egoism/selfishness and altruism/generosity.

Christians affirm Special Revelation given by God, culminating in the life and work of Jesus Christ. His conduct and teachings provide the best guide about what is true to believe and what is good to do. Because of Jesus, we affirm the goodness of God and creation. Because of faith in God through Jesus Christ, our Lord, we strive to follow Him by living faithfully, looking forward with hope, not despair, and loving all God’s children. That leads to more abundant life for each of us and our neighbors.


Raymond B. Williams, Crawfordsville, LaFollette Distinguished Professor in the Humanities emeritus, contributed this guest column.