I. Why an understanding of world view is important to apologetics.
A. World view entails the sum total of propositions a person believes.
1. It is common for believers to regard Christianity as merely a
collection of life-changing truths rather than as a total
conceptual system. (Christianity is a total world and life view, biblical theism is a total system.)[i]
2. Definitions of world view by several authors:
a.) James Sire, “A world view is a set of presuppositions (or
assumptions) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously)
about the basic makeup of our world.”[ii]
b.) Phillips and Brown state, “A world view is . . . an explanation and interpretation of the world and second, an application of this view to life.”[iii]
c.) Walsh and Middleton explain a world view as follows: “A world view provides a model of the world which guides its adherents in the world.”[iv]
d.) James Orr, the 19th century church historian, said that a
world view encompasses the widest view which the mind can
take of things in the effort to grasp them together as a whole
(the whole is viewed from the standpoint of some particular
philosophy or theology). A developed world view supplies
answers to questions of origin, purpose, and destiny.[v]
B. Presuppositions play a vital role in world view.
1. Central to one’s thought forms (or noetic structure) are beliefs
that are presupposed without support from other beliefs, or
arguments, or evidence. These presuppositions are taken upon
2. Such presuppositions or assumptions are necessary in order to
think at all. (When we think, we simply take some things for
granted. Even scientists in order to do science, make certain
important assumptions: 1.) They make ethical assumptions
(honesty is good, even vital in research). 2.) They make
metaphysical assumptions (the universe is regular, nature is
uniform). 3.) They make epistemological assumptions
(knowledge is possible, there is a real correspondence between
physical phenomena and the human mind).[vii]
3. The assumptions one makes that are most important to world
view are in philosophy and religion. The reason for this is that
philosophical and religious assumptions “put us on a set of
tracks” that lead to certain inevitable destinations.[viii]
a.) People are never neutral with regard to God. They either worship Him as Creator and Lord or they reject the rightful claims He has upon His creatures.
b.) Apart from the sovereign grace of God, anti-theistic assumptions that shape a person’s world view will inevitably lead that person to the philosophical “destination” of hardened unbelief.
c.) According to Romans 1:18-32, people reject Christianity under the influence of non-rationalfactors. The ultimate commitments of their hearts find expression in the studious suppression of God’s truth. (The presuppositional apologist will “dig” below the surface to uncover the unbeliever’s irrational presuppositions)[ix]
II. The major elements of a world view.
A. There are certain commonalities when speaking of world views.
1. Each world view has an ultimate reference point (or authoritative
2. In a world where the law of non-contradiction is universal, two
contradicting statements cannot both be true. (This is most
obvious to the believer, but in a culture that is increasingly
relativistic, it is a needed reminder. It is of special importance
when dealing with the internal inconsistencies of the natural
man’s world view.)[x]
3. In order to reason at all, every person presupposes certain
things to be true without absolute proof.
4. Only one world view mirrors reality. Like a key to a complex
lock, one world view fits the lock (with its unique combination of
slots and tumblers). Only the Christian world view opens the
locked barrier that separates experience from truth and
B. The elements that make up a person’s world view can be broken
down into five categories.
1. THEOLOGY – What does the person believe about the existence of God? What is God’s relationship with nature? Is God personal? Can He be known? If so, how may He be known? What are God’s attributes?
2. METAPHYSICS – What is the nature of ultimate reality? What is God’s relation to the universe? Is the universe sustained by God or is it self-existent? Is the universe created? Is the universe co-eternal with God? Is the universe mechanistic, solely material, non-purposeful, closed?
3. EPISTEMOLOGY – Is knowledge about the world possible? Can man trust his senses? Does man’s abstract reason correspond with the physical universe so that meaning is possible? Is all truth relative and none absolute? What is the proper role of reason? Can God reveal Himself? Has God infallibly revealed Himself? What is the ultimate authority in the realm of knowledge? What is the source of man’s innate ideas?
4. ETHICS – Are moral laws the same for all people? Are moral laws to be discerned by investigation? Are moral laws constructed by human beings? Is there an absolute source external to humans? (Do morals transcend culture, history, and individual boundaries?) Are morals always changing?
5. ANTHROPOLOGY – Are humans “pawns” controlled by deterministic forces? Is man material only, or does he have a soul? Does man’s existence end at death or is there an afterlife? Is there a heaven and a hell where individuals are conscious and physically present?[xii]
III. The unbeliever’s world view is like a fortress that “locks out” the
truth of the Gospel.
A. In order to gain access to the heart of the unbeliever, the apologist
must “war” with the ideas that shield the heart from the truth.[xiii]
1. The exhortation to apologists in 2 Corinthians 10:5, 6 reveals
our approach to blinding error. We are to “take captive” – that is to defeat it by means of exposing its falsehood. The apologist’s task is to “blow holes” in the fortress of lies so that the heart can be exposed to the light of the truth.[xiv]
2. The apologist wages an offensive against the ideas that are
raised against the knowledge of God. The apologist knows that
Satan holds people behind fortress wall by means of lies and deception. The “spirit of this age” is energized by Satan. It manifests itself in world views that give the unbeliever a “grid of understanding.” By means of the “grid” the unbeliever rejects the gospel because he does not relate to it as a true idea.[xv]
3. The goal of the apologist is to identify “the spirit of this age” so
that he may engage in ideological warfare. The apologist,
according to 2 Corinthians 10:5, 6, is proactive; he challenges the confidence people have placed in their “grid of understanding.”[xvi]
4. The apologist’s ultimate goal is not simply to “win” the
ideological argument, but to commend the Savior as the only One in whom the sinner may rest for salvation, knowledge, personal relationships and life.[xvii]
B. The apologist uses a method of argumentation that does not grant
legitimacy to the assumptions inherent in the unbeliever’s world
view. (Cornelius Van Til summarizes this apologetic method in a
statement known as “My Credo.” The following is a condensed
paraphrase of Van Til’s own summary.)
1. Our principle of apologetics is consistent with that of theology;
we affirm the self-attesting, self-explanatory Christ of Scripture.
2. We refrain from making an appeal to “common notions” upon
which believer and unbeliever agree. Instead we challenge the
non-Christian’s principle of rational autonomy. We set the
natural man’s autonomous view of himself against the Christian
principle that man’s knowledge is dependent upon God’s
knowledge as revealed by the Person and by the Spirit of Christ.
3. The claim that Christianity alone is reasonable for men to hold.
Any other position than that of Christianity is irrational. We
argue therefore by presupposition. We contest the very
principles of the opponent’s position. Unless the truth of
Christianity is presupposed, there is no possibility of proving
anything at all. “The actual state of affairs as preached by
Christianity is the necessary foundation of ‘proof’ itself.”
4. The apologist preaches with the understanding that the sinner
is alienated from God and seeks estrangement from Him. The
apologist knows that the acceptance of Christ is dependent
upon the Holy Spirit who, in the presence of inescapably clear
evidence, opens the eyes of the sinner so that he sees things as
they truly are.
5. We present the message and evidence of the Christian position
knowing that, because man is what the Scriptures say he is, the
non-Christian will be able to understand, in an intellectual
sense, the issues involved. Thus, we will, to a large extent, be
telling the unbeliever what he “already knows” but seeks to
IV. The Christian world view.
A. God is Creator. He created the universe in six days out of nothing (ex nihilo).
1. The universe is not self-existent, eternal, or self-
2. There is a Creator-creature distinction. Humans are made in
the image of God. The fate of every person depends upon the relationship he has with God.[xix]
3. God is infallible. God is the source of all truth, knowledge and
ethics. God is self-aware, personal, holy, knowable, omnipresent, omniscient, omnipotent.
5. God’s creation of the universe reveals His mighty attributes. The universe discloses God day by day.
B. Mankind fell into sin soon after creation.
1. Wickedness and evil are not the product of a chaotic, chance
universe. Evil is present in the world because of man’s fall into
sin. The fall of Adam brought sin, guilt and death to the whole
human race. Because of Adam’s representation of the human
race, everyone who is born is born with a sinful nature.[xxii]
2. Adam were created good. They were created in God’s image.
They were rational, moral beings who could communicate, love
and be creative. They were commanded by God to populate the
earth and conserve it for future generations. Adam and Eve’s
fall into sin literally happened in human history. The biblical
authors, under divine inspiration, attested to the historicity of
3. The greatest tragedy of the fall is separation from God. The fall
produced the consequence of man’s spiritual death and loss of
fellowship with God. Human sin is a declaration of rebellion
against God (and His law).[xxiv]
4. The loss of fellowship with God produces spiritual death which
leads to physical death and ultimately eternal suffering in hell
(Rom 6:23; Mark 8:12).
C. In God’s sight, sin is the universal condition of the human race.
1. All men are born spiritually dead. If a person dies in that
unsaved state, he will be cast into outer darkness (Matt 25:30).
2. Unsaved, spiritually dead sinners are so judged because they
have sinned against an infinite and holy God. Sinners are
transgressors of God’s law. They have enmity in their hearts
toward God and His law (Rom 8:7; 1 Jn 3:4-6).[xxv]
3. A person in a state of spiritual deadness is blind to the things of
the Spirit of God. They are foolishness to him. He cannot know
them, because they are spiritually discerned (1 Cor 2:14).
4. If a person fails to understand the doctrine of sin, Christianity
will not make sense. No man comes to an understanding of his
spiritual condition before God apart from God’s self-revelation,
D. God sent His only begotten Son to die for all those who would
believe upon Jesus Christ.
1. Christ offers man eternal hope. Mankind’s state is hopeless
from the standpoint of human resources, for all are under
ethical guilt and are enslaved to wicked behavior.[xxvi]
2. The most important, significant and loving act in history is the
life, suffering, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As the
Messiah, promised in the Scriptures, His sinless life and
atoning death is the foundation of man’s salvation.[xxvii]
3. Sinners are totally unable to propitiate God’s wrath.[xxviii] They
cannot, by religion or philosophy or good works construct a
place of protection from God’s wrath.
5. The righteousness of Christ’s Person and work is imputed to
the believing sinner so that in God’s sight he is “clothed with the righteousness of God.” The favor, position, and status that the believer possesses before God is by divine donation. God’s
declaration of “forgiven and righteous” concerning the believing
sinner is grounded upon the righteous life and substitutionary
death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
6. Jesus Christ is the perfect Savior. He is fully God and fully man. The sins of those who would believe upon Him were laid upon Him (imputed to Him). The punishment sinners justly deserve was transferred to Jesus Christ (Gal 3:13; 2 Cor 5:21).
7. God who authoritatively revealed Himself in Scripture has sent His Holy Spirit to regenerate and sanctify His people.[xxix] The Holy Spirit brings the gift of faith enabling the sinner to understand and believe the gospel and flee to Christ for salvation.
8. The believer’s ultimate joy is to be in heaven with Christ. Carl F. H. Henry sums up the crowning work of the Holy Spirit in His use of the Word of God, “Scripture itself is given so that the Holy Spirit may etch God’s Word upon the hearts of His followers in ongoing sanctification that anticipates the believer’s final, unerring conformity to the image of Jesus Christ, God’s incarnate Word.”[xxx]
E. The Day of the Lord brings this present age to its consummation.
1. Christ’s return from heaven to earth will be as the glorious,
triumphant, all-powerful, King of kings and Lord of lords (Rev
2. Jesus will sit as Judge of every person who has ever lived (Rom 14:10-12). He will pronounce the destiny of every person.
3. In order to have a proper understanding of the present, one must have a proper understanding of the future (Phil 2:9-11; Acts 17:30, 31). If a person really understood the future, he would submit to Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior (John 3:36).
F. The believer’s world view flows from God’s ultimate authority, the
Scriptures. Our world view is not formed in a “revelational vacuum.”[xxxi]
1. Christianity’s touchstone proposition cast in one sentence is,
“Humans and the universe in which they reside are the creation
of God who has revealed Himself authoritatively in Scripture.”[xxxii]
2. It is unfair to separate God from His self-disclosure. The Lord
speaks to man with an absolute authority. The idea of
Scriptures cannot be separated from the message of
3. When the apologist clearly and plainly sets forth the Christian
world view, it is incumbent upon him to stress that all other
world views are not only irrational, but logically incompatible
[i] Ronald H. Nash, Faith & Reason, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Publishing, 1988), pp. 21-25.
[vi] Ronald H. Nash, Faith & Reason, p. 26.
[vii] Ibid., p. 27.
[viii] Ibid., p. 28.
[ix] Ibid., p. 29.
[x] Jerry Solomon, World Views, p. 2.-
[xi] Ibid., p. 2.
[xii] Ronald H. Nash, Faith & Reason, 30-32.
[xiii] Jim Leffel, The New Challenge in Christian Apologetics, (From a presentation to the Faculty of Cornell University, April 1999), p. 2.
[xv] Ibid., p. 3.
[xvi] Ibid., p. 4.
[xviii] Cornelius Van Til, “My Credo” Jerusalem and Athens, E. R. Geehan, ed. (Phillipsburg: P&R Publishing, 1971), p. 21.
[xix] Ronald H. Nash, Faith & Reason, p. 35.
[xxi] Greg L. Bahnsen, A Critique of the Evidentialist Apologetical Method of John Warwick Montgomery, p., 9.
[xxii] Brian Schwertley, p. 2.
[xxiv] Ibid., p. 3.
[xxvi] Ibid. p. 4.
[xxvii] Ibid., p. 5.
[xxviii] Greg L. Bahnsen, p. 9.
[xxx] David A. Noebel, Understanding the Times, (Colorado Springs: Assoc. of Christian Schools and Summit Ministries, 1995), p. 49.
[xxxi] Ronald H. Nash, p. 47.
[xxxiii] Greg L. Bahnsen, Van Til’s Apologetic, p. 551.