“Worldview”, the first time I heard this phrase was in the office of a campus chaplain at a Canadian university. My fiancee, J, and I were there for premarital counselling. We were young students, in our second and third year, looking forward to sharing our lives together, dreaming of adventure, and an exciting career in the world of agriculture. We weren’t all that interested in understanding anything about our worldview, what it was or should be, and after three sessions, where we also planned our wedding service and wrote our vows to each other, we didn’t come much closer to actually understanding what this very well-meaning pastor was talking about, what “worldview” meant.
This particular pastor was likely a little ahead of his time in the Christian Reformed landscape of 1980, trying out new terminology, and concepts, on his student congregation. The Contemporary Testimony hadn’t been written yet, applying the CRC’s understanding of God’s sovereignty in real terms to real life. We intrinsically understood the concept, since we both grew up in very Kuyperian atmospheres, interacting with, and transforming the world were givens, but we lacked the tools to be able to draw from ourselves a description of our individual worldview. Maybe we were surprised that everyone didn’t see the world as we did, didn’t understand the concepts of career and calling, industry and stewardship, pleasure and piety in the same way we defined them. We wore our worldview like a skin, it was who we were, not something we had thoughtfully delineated for ourselves.
It’s because we wear our worldview like a skin that it is hard to describe. We have difficulty being self aware at all levels of our lives. I sometimes find myself surprised when I look in the mirror. The person looking out at me, the one seen by others, is not the same as the image of myself I hold in my own mind. The way I would describe my voice is different than what I hear on a recording of myself. Even the way I would describe my temperament is likely quite different from the way others experience me. My worldview, unlike my appearance or voice or temperament, defines more than the way in which others perceive me. It defines how I react to the situations around me, to the actions and ideas of others, even to others without actions or ideas. My worldview is sort of like my constitution, and as such, I should be able to describe it, shouldn’t I?
In reality, I can now vocalize some of the aspects of this interior description of myself, my worldview. I can do it much more thoroughly than I could have over thirty years ago when hormones and life were propelling me down the road, bounded by ditches which were in fact my world view. We had our heads up high, looking to the future, too busy to be trying to describe what those ditches look like.