Pastoral Q & A:  Should We Study Other Worldviews?

9 August 2023 by Wes Bredenhof

woman in yellow long sleeve shirt lying on couch
woman in yellow long sleeve shirt lying on couch

Before we get to the question itself, what is a worldview?  A worldview is a way of looking at and understanding the world.  It’s the perspective from which you understand reality.  Everyone has a worldview, whether they articulate it or not. There is also a biblical, Christian worldview.  It answers big questions like:  who are we?  Where are we?  What’s the problem?  How is it fixed?  Opposed to the Christian worldview are a host of unbelieving worldviews.  They have their own answers to those big questions. 

One of my parishioners asked me, “Are the benefits for Christians to familiarise themselves with the enemies’ worldviews & their positions on important social issues greater than the risk of having their faith shaken (or even abandoned) as a result of studying the opposite side?”  My simple answer:  yes.  Let me explain.

One can find stories online of people who once were Canadian Reformed or Free Reformed (FRCA) Christians.  Some of those stories relate how the individual began exploring the world of thought outside of Christianity.  I remember one story in particular from a man who told his elders about his reading during a pastoral visit.  He was reading science, philosophy, and literature.  According to this man, his elders sternly warned him against reading non-Christian authors.  They’d only confuse him, they allegedly said.  Of course, their admonitions only made him more curious and more determined to read widely.  This led him to leave Christianity and his local Canadian Reformed Church.

You might hear that story and say, “Well, that’s exactly why people shouldn’t study unbelieving worldviews!  They’ll be led astray.  We have to stay away from the world so we don’t get confused by it.”  However, such a response betrays a lack of confidence in the truth of the Christian worldview.  It seems to emanate from a subliminal fear that the Christian worldview can’t stand up to scrutiny when compared with other worldviews.  Well, I don’t have this lack of confidence and I don’t have this fear – and if you’re a Christian, I don’t think you should either.

Every Christian should be prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks a reason for the hope we have (1 Pet. 3:15).  Every Christian should be trained in how and why the Christian worldview is the only true way to account for reality.  Every believer should be equipped to understand why all unbelieving worldviews fall short in accounting for reality.  If we’re training our churches in basic Christian apologetics, we have no reason to fear other worldviews.  They’re false and they pose no threat to the truth of Scripture.  If what we believe is the public, objective, truth revealed by God, why should we be afraid of anything which opposes that truth?  As Psalm 2:4 says, “He who sits in the heavens laughs; the Lord holds them in derision.”  God doesn’t feel threatened by his enemies – why should we?

So assuming someone has a reasonable grasp of the Christian worldview and biblical apologetics, I see no reason why they should be afraid to read widely.  Go ahead and study other unbelieving worldviews from their own perspective.  Read philosophy, science, and literature.  Sometimes you may even be surprised by what you find.  Despite themselves and their faulty worldviews, sometimes unbelievers will articulate something true, good, or beautiful.  That’s exactly the sort of thing you would expect to see if the Christian worldview is true (which it is).  We believe that, because God restrains the wickedness in this world, fallen human beings can and do sometimes produce what is true, good, and beautiful.  We can account for that from within our worldview.

If someone doesn’t yet have Christian worldview training, I’d say that should come before digging into other worldviews.  Before one begins looking at the counterfeits, one should be intimately familiar with the real deal.  I would be afraid for churches that don’t offer that kind of training.  Their members are vulnerable to be swayed by every wind of false teaching, whether from ostensibly Christian sources or otherwise.

In 2 Cor. 10:4, the Holy Spirit says, “For the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds.”  Do you believe that?  Do you believe that you have a spiritual weapon that can destroy arguments and lofty opinions?  God says that if you’re a Christian, you do.  That weapon is found with the Sword of the Spirit, the Word of God, and everything it teaches.  When you’ve got that weapon in your hand, there is nothing to fear from any of God’s enemies.