Engaging with others about their worldview
Young children are known for asking this same question over and over again: “Why? Why is the sky blue? Why do I have to go to bed? Why do we have to go to school? Why do we go to church? Children have a God-given desire to understand the world they are in; thus, they LOVE asking questions. And when the parent answers the questions, the child takes him at his word. This simple trust in parents and strong desire to know things has been traditionally called “Child-like faith.”
As we grow older, the desire to understand never really goes away. We may not incessantly ask our parents questions now, but we still want to understand why certain things work the way they do. Now, however, our standard of who, what and why we will ask something has changed. It may or may not be our parents on certain subjects. We want to ask someone we can trust, someone who is knowledgeable, and we want to know for our own purposes. Every one of us is trying to find answers to make sense of the world that we live in.
Every answer we give to any question is affected by our ultimate view of the world: our worldview. It is the lens through which we interpret all our experiences and explain all of reality. A worldview is a set of truth claims through which we interpret the world. A worldview seeks to answers questions like these:
How did humans get here?
What is humanity’s greatest problem and how can it be fixed?
What happens to us after we die?
Our answers to these key worldview questions are the glasses through which we see all of our life. Depending on our worldview, we will spend our time thinking about and pursuing certain activities that we value over others.
So what do you think your worldview is? What about your neighbor? Why do you disagree with so many ethical issues with your friends or family members? The root reason is a because a difference in worldviews. There can be nothing more important than thinking through why you believe what you believe and if it best lines up with reality. Moreover, discussing worldview issues with others is vitally important.
So, do you really want to engage with others about their view of the world?
First, you must stop being afraid of asking each other hard questions.
Second, you do not need to wait around for people to ask you about your beliefs. You can take the first step to initiate the conversation and ask them what they believe and why.
Third, you must be willing to humble yourself and listen to why someone holds another view. A key to effective engagement with others is learning how to talk WITH people and not just AT them. Good questions and listening will always do the trick.
Questions are an invitation to a conversation. They invite others to think critically and explore why they hold a particular viewpoint.
Here are a couple of worldview questions that you can ask your children, friends or random stranger to get the conversation going:
Question about our origins:
1. How do we know what we know? Does absolute truth exist or is truth relative?
2.How did humans Get Here? God? Evolution? Something else?
3. Who or what is God (if they are not an atheist)? Separate from creation? One with nature? Something else?
4. Who or what is man? An evolved animal? A special creation made in God’s image? Where do human rights come from?
Questions about what is wrong in the world:
5. What is humanity’s greatest problem and how can it be fixed?
6. How do you know what is morally right or wrong? Why is something right or wrong? By what standard do we measure something to be right or wrong?
Questions about how the problem can be fixed and the afterlife:
7. What do you do with your guilt when you do something wrong?
8. What do you think is the purpose of life? What are things that you find beautiful? What defines what is beautiful and what is not?
9. Who do you think Jesus is? Do you think he really rose from the dead? What do you think are the implications if he did?
10. What do you think will happen to you after you die?
After asking one of these questions, make sure you always follow it up with something like:
“Oh, thanks for sharing that with me. Would you mind if I shared a few of my answers to those questions as well? Also, I’m curious, why do you believe ________ or how did you come to that conclusion on _______question?”
These worldview questions will help you gather more information about their position and give you more time to process exactly why they hold to their views.
You may not want to ask all these questions in one encounter with your friends or family. However, choosing one or two questions to discuss during a drive together, coffee break, or general hangout can prove to be beneficial if we are truly willing to hear their honest answers.
Give people space to think and reply when they are ready.
We must be willing to listen to others honest, awkward or confused responses. You may find that your friend has not really thought through these worldview questions and may become embarrassed about their unclear response. It not our job to shame, but to encourage them to explore these important issues.
If they think that these worldview questions/answers don’t really matter, you can begin by asking them “why do you say that?” From there, you can say some things like this:
“Have you considered how bad beliefs have consequences? If you believe that you don’t have cancer, but your doctor tells me that you do, wouldn’t that be an example of a bad belief having bad consequences? Shouldn't beliefs conform to reality (the way the world really is)? Believing something doesn't make it true, does it? Likewise, what if your worldview says that there is no objective right or wrong in the world and rights only come from governments? Do you think that there are consequences to this view (particularly if the government is an evil an oppressive one)? Additionally, what if your worldview says that there is no God; yet, there are actually good reasons to believe that He does exist? What if Jesus has, in fact, risen from the dead and will return to earth someday to judge all of the living and the dead? What do you think the implications are if Jesus has risen from the dead? Would you be willing to hear one or two of my answers to these questions and why I think it ultimately matters?”
We need to be committed to having many short conversations with occasional lengthy ones. Most of the time we avoid these worldview topics because we are afraid of the time commitment it will take to hash it with our friends or family. However, I believe that we will engage in more worldview conversations if we think about simply planting seeds, or as apologist Greg Koukl puts it, “putting a rock in someone’s shoe.” When someone has a rock in their shoe, it seems very small and insignificant, but eventually it will cause them to stop and take it out. In the same way, we want to plant a seed in people’s mind through questions or comments that will cause them to eventually stop and think about it in more detail. We have a simple goal for every conversation: put a rock on their shoe. This simple goal will also help re-awaken your friends and family member’s child-like curiosity to know and understand the world in which they live.