Have you ever been totally wrong about something you thought you saw? Maybe you were driving down a hot highway and thought you saw water in the road, or it looked like a stick in the water was bent, but in reality it was straight. I remember waking up in my dorm room one night and seeing a man standing over my bed. It was as clear as day. But I was wrong. There wasn’t anybody there, as my room mates were quick to point out when I started yelling in my half awake state. Our minds can play games with us. They are so impressionable that it becomes easy to confuse the mind. Among the many factors that can contribute to our perceptions of reality, the one that is probably the most influential is our world view. It has been said that our worldview is the lens through which we see reality. It is like looking through the lens of a pair of glasses. If the lens is orange, we will see everything around us as orange. If the lens is shaded, everything will appear shaded. So with that understanding, a basic definition of world view would be that set of beliefs by which interpret the world around us. If we are theistic, then we will be more prone to seeing God in the word than an atheistic person would. A materialist only sees matter, whereas dualist senses both body and mind as distinct yet related. Each of these belief sets determines how we interpret the evidence for the Christian faith. If worldview is the key factor in a persons acceptance or rejection of the Christian message, then it is of utmost importance that Christians arm themselves with the tools needed to help the lost person put on the right pair of glasses, so they can see the evidence clearly.
To illustrate what it takes to get to the worldview at question, I will use an encounter I had with a man fairly recently as an example. For sake of privacy, we will call him Todd. I met Todd in Los Angeles, and a friend and I struck up a conversation with him about Jesus and the word of God. Though Todd claimed to be a Christian, it didn’t take long for me to feel like he wasn’t on the same page as my friend and I. He seemed to be using the terms of Christianity in a different sense than we were. So I started to ask him what he meant by some of the things he was saying. This is where we come to the first step in unearthing a worldview. It begins with a thorough knowledge of your terms. Though that may seem rudimentary, it really is critical. Good philosophy begins with good terminology. I never would have been able to recognize that Todd and I weren’t talking about the same things if it wasn’t clear in my own mind what I meant by words like “Christian”, “salvation”, or “believer”, and you won’t either. You can not distinguish what someone else means unless you know what you mean. When you thoroughly understand the meaning of the words you are using, it will be obvious to you when someone else is using them differently. Of course this means study. Nothing will help your witness like acquiring more knowledge, and striving to refine your own understanding of the subjects you discuss.
Preparatory work is very important. But what do you do when you’re actually engaging someone? This is where questions come into play. Engage the person with leading questions. The goal here is to passively determine what sort of worldview the person holds. Returning to Todd, I got the sense that he wasn’t exactly an orthodox Christian. He seemed to be speaking more speculatively and more along the lines of the New Age movement. One of the things I asked him was, “What do you believe about Jesus?”. If he was a Christian, he would have said, “He’s God.” Instead, Todd emphasized the teaching of Jesus. “He was a good teacher, but I’m not sure about whether or not he’s God” were his words. When someone makes a claim, or articulates a belief, it is usually helpful to throw in the classic follow up question: “why?” Why do they believe that? This does two things: it gives you time to recover a response, and it forces them to think through the reasons that they hold these particular beliefs. Most people haven’t thought through their beliefs, so this can be devastating to their belief system. As the conversations get deeper and deeper into the reasons they hold their beliefs, their world view will emerge more clearly. In the case of Todd, what I found as I kept asking questions about the elements of his worldview was that at the heart of the matter was a distrust of the scriptures. Turns out he is rather mystical, who questions whether or not the Bible is trustworthy. That idea opened the door for a whole discussion on the reliability of scripture, and it will for you to.
Now you have prepared in advance. You have set the stage with leading questions. You know, in a clear way, some of the specifics of their worldview. Now you can bring the apologetic knowledge you do have to the front. You can begin to engage that particular worldview with the confidence that you are speaking to the core of that persons belief. If they are materialists, engage with evidence for mind-body dualism. If they are naturalists, speak about real abstracts, and the evidence for the miraculous. In Todd’s case it involved me sharing evidence for the accuracy of the New Testament. Whatever the case, share the truth; and, share it in love.
Worldview is hyper critical in sharing the gospel. As apologists I want to encourage you to utilize these tools, and any others you may have, to engage the worldview. Take off their glasses, and give them a pair that can see the gospel for the clear truth it is.