Wednesday, August 8, 2007

Do We Live What We Think?

Last night my neighbor came over and we decided to start reading How Should We Then Live: The Rise and Decline of Western Thought and Culture. One of my sisters may read along too, though she is in about 47 book clubs herself right now.

Anyway, I don't have the book in front of me, so I can't quote his language, but he said that people's lives are driven by their world view and their preconceptions about the world to an extent even they do not realize. He said that we act according to the way we think both personally and collectively ("politically").

Here is my thorny question: if this is true, why is it that people's actions so often do not match their words? I'm inclined to think that the author is correct. The book of Proverbs says "As a man thinks in his heart so is he." But why is there such a disconnect between words and actions if this is true? Are the things we say just a bunch of empty platitudes that we don't really mean? It seems we say things, and we mean them, but then we often do not act accordingly. Could it be that we often are unaware of our own preconceptions/world views? To quote another scripture that might appear to contradict the proverb, St. Paul talked about the war within his flesh etc. and said "what I want to do I do not do, and what I do not want to do I do."

Are the contradictions only in my head? Am I confusing things? Have I missed the author's true intent?

This is the book:


Civis said...

Brilliant question!

I would respond by saying that both you and Schaeffer are correct. That is to with this one minor point... our real worldview is not what we express with our mouth, but rather, what we believe, in our heart-of-hearts, to be true about the world around us. That is, I never live as good as the worldview I espouse with my mouth because that is not my true worldview. My true worldview is the beliefs I hold in the deepest part of my being. In my case this worldview is worse than the worldview that I express with my lips. I hope that everyday my true worldview, that is in my heart-of-hearts and drives my everyday actions, is being more and more conformed to God's worldview, by the power of His Holy Wind.

Lastly, some people actually live better than the worldview they speak with their mouth. Think of an evolutionist that tries to save endangered species of animals from extinction (what happened to natural selection and survival of the fittest). But, in my case, I know that I live worse than the worldview I express with my mouth.

Posted by B.A. at

See B.A.'s blog at

Civis said...

Thank you for addressing my question regarding worldviews at THE DAWN TREADER. Not only was it helpful, but I found out about your blog which wasn't pulled up when I googled Schaffer.

I'm just learning about the whole "worldview" thing. One of my friends got me interested and I'm trying to learn more about it and pique the interest if some of my Catholic frinds. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears that worldview studies is more of a Protestant phenomenon.

B.A. said...


Sorry about the lack on comments on my site. Since I have stopped blogging (for quite a while now) I shutdown the ability to comment on the site.

Jeff is right that if you keep asking questions like these you will come up to speed quickly on worldview studies.

I would suggest a book by James Sire that is a bit easier to read than Schaeffer and addresses some of the contemporary arguments. It is called "Naming the Elephant". It is a quick read but will round out your understanding of worldview.

If I had to recommend those to read it would be:

Abraham Kuyper
Chuck Colson
James Sire
David Naugle

Just a few names to get started with...

Civis said...


Thanks for the list of books. It's funny how things work. I have been thinking a lot about people say things but then don't really act in accordance with what they claim to believe. I'm not talking so much about hypocrisy as that in certain areas people's alleged philosophy of life and the way they live are going in opposite directions.

Then I come accross this book by Francis Schaffer.

It's funny.

Anonymous said...

Dawntreader had the following responses to my questions on his blog, The Voyage of the Dawntreader:


Thanks for the great questions. I am glad you found this blog while Googling for Francis Schaeffer. Once you complete Schaeffer's How Should We Then Live?, I would recommend tackling Colson and Pearcy's How Now Shall We Live? It will build on the concepts of Schaeffer.

Now, let me address your questions and B.A's comments.

"But why is there such a disconnect between words and actions if this is true? Are the things we say just a bunch of empty platitudes that we don't really mean?"

One reason is inconsistency ... or if you like the darker term, hypocrisy. Hypocrites exist both in the church and out of the church. B.A. correctly points out the hypocrisy of secularists that believe we are genetically predetermined biochemical machines destined to compete for survival ... and then turn around and fight to prevent species from going extinct ... or claim that morality is the product of evolution and then turn around and make absolutist moral claims about the evil of slavery (even when we find examples of slavery rampant in nature). Sadly, Christians espouse beliefs and live differently too.

I concur with B.A. that your worldview is determined by what your really believe about God, man and reality. Not what you say you believe ... but what you really believe.

"I'm just learning about the whole "worldview" thing. One of my friends got me interested and I'm trying to learn more about it and pique the interest if some of my Catholic frinds. Correct me if I'm wrong, but it appears that worldview studies is more of a Protestant phenomenon."

Wonderful! You will be blessed. Keep coming around and keep on asking good questions.

In terms of the history of the term "worldview" and the study of "worldview" as a category, I will cut and paste from Dr. David Naugle ....

"The use of the term in evangelical circles can be traced to James Orr, a nineteenth-century Scots Presbyterian familiar with the German Weltanschauung. Orr was convinced that there was a "naturalistic" worldview and a Christian one, and that they did not gibe. Thus, he endeavored "to show that the Christian view of things forms a logical whole which cannot be infringed on, or accepted piecemeal, but stands or falls in its integrity, and can only suffer from attempts at amalgamation or compromise with theories which rest on totally distinct bases." The two worldviews were engaged in a "cosmic and intellectual battle for the soul of the Church and the Western world." Since Orr, the idea has been taken up and debated by evangelical theologians such as G. H. Clark, Carl Henry, Abraham Kuyper, and Herman Dooyeweerd."

World view: The History of a Concept

By David K. Naugle

Grand Rapids, Eerdmans, 2002. 384 pp. $26.00.

"I have a second question about worldview. Do those of you who study world views in Schaffer’s line of thinking, at times recognize another person’s world view better than they do? In other words, is an outside observer sometimes better able to identify a person’s worldview than the person himself?"

Worldviews are like glasses you put on to see things. They are interpretive filters. Like glasses, they can have blind spots.

We all have a worldview ... you cannot not have one. The question becomes, does your worldview match reality?

God has the only view of reality that is wholly true. Given that, in Schaeffer's words, "God Is" and "God has spoken" ... we ought to use God's revealed word as our starting point in understanding reality. Will we ever have a complete understanding of all of reality? No. But we do have a good idea of the major pillars of worldview. We can answer THE four worldview questions definitively.


The Biblical answers to those questions cohere with one another, correspond with human experience, and work. No matter what your test for truth is, the Biblically shaped worldview ... which Francis Schaeffer had ... passes the truth test. No other worldview has this.

Visit Dawntreader's blog at

Civis said...

Thank you for the book recommendations.

Also thank you for the information on the history of this idea. Somewhere I got the impression—maybe it was on another blog—that Schaffer was the originator. So if I wanted to start with the beginning, I would go to James Orr? Do you have a title by him that would be on point? I see Amazon has THE CHRISTIAN VIEW OF GOD AND THE WORLD, which sounds promising, though it looks like a more modern work and Amazon doesn’t have a lot of information about it.

Maybe I am reading too much into it, but let me quote the first chapter of HOW SHOULD WE THEN LIVE: “People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize.” To me, this would exclude hypocrisy. Today at lunch, my friend suggested also that, in addition to hypocrisy, there is also the fact that living a moral life is often difficult. I’m still pondering that in light of the above quote. But Schaffer is saying, as I read him, that people generally do act according to their worldview. Maybe I am taking too much of a literal/fundamentalist approach to what he is saying. If I am, perhaps you can put me back on track.

If my reading is correct, then considering the disconnect we see, a problem is posed. Remember also, that I’m not just talking about moral issues. Let me take an example from G.K. Chesterton:
“Once I remember walking with a prosperous publisher, who made a
remark which I had often heard before; it is, indeed, almost a motto of the
modern world. Yet I had heard it once too often, and I saw suddenly that
there was nothing in it. The publisher said of somebody, “That man will
get on; he believes in himself.” And I remember that as I lifted my head to
listen, my eye caught an omnibus on which was written “Hanwell.”
[Hanwell was an insane aslylum]
I said to him, “Shall I tell you where the men are who believe most in
themselves? For I can tell you. I know of men who believe in themselves
more colossally than Napoleon or Caesar. I know where flames the fixed
star of certainty and success. I can guide you to the thrones of the
Super-men. The men who really believe in themselves are all in lunatic
asylums.” He said mildly that there were a good many men after all who
believed in themselves and who were not in lunatic asylums. “Yes, there
are,” I retorted, “and you of all men ought to know them. That drunken
poet from whom you would not take a dreary tragedy, he believed in
himself. That elderly minister with an epic from whom you were hiding in
a back room, he believed in himself. If you consulted your business
experience instead of your ugly individualistic philosophy, you would
know that believing in himself is one of the commonest signs of a rotter.”

Anyway, how do we explain the disconnect? One way would be to say that Shaffer is wrong and he misinterprets the proverb “As a man thinks in his heart so is he.” A second way would be to say that people are out of touch with their worldview; it is not what they think it is. A third way would be that there is a breakdown in communication.

Are there other ways of explaining it?

So I am considering three questions. First, is it true, taken literally, that “People have presuppositions, and they will live more consistently on the basis of these presuppositions than even they themselves may realize.”

Second, if the answer to the first question is “yes”, then the second question is how do we explain the disconnect? Is it that people do not know their own worldview? This is what the quote would seem to suggest.

Third, if the answer to the second question is also “yes”, the third question is how do we identify a person’s worldview and is it better seen from the inside or from the outside? How do we trace the worldview?

There is wisdom in the counsel of many.

Anonymous said...

Ron at Universitas Veritas says the following:

Well that is my point! I say at the outset that most Christians don't have a Christian worldview or even know what that means. Most people, whether Christian or not, have a hodge podge worldview, a little of this, a little of that. They hold contradictory view and are not aware of it until someone points it out or it has a direct impact on their lives. Abortion is a prime example. There is no way to reconcile abortion with a Christian worldview, yet many Christians support abortion. How can that be. The answer is twofold. First, even though they claim to have a Christian worldview, they do not and are unaware of the fact because they don't understand what a Christian worldview is. Second, they worldview they do hold allows for people to make personal decisions that "affect only themselves." I put that in quotes because the reality is, nothing we ever do affects only ourselves. Even I tend toward somewhat libertarian views yet libertarianism is contrary to a Christian worldview. But at least in my case I am aware of my leaning and so am able to take it into account. Most people, however, never examine their own veiws critically, if at all.

You can visit his blog and read his post about Christian worldviews and abortion at

Civis said...


Thanks for your comments.

Ron said...

To the list of recommended reading I would add Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey. Pearcey studied under Schaeffer and was the primary author of Chuck Colson's book How Now Shall We Live, a take off on Schaeffer's title.

Ron said...

By the way, I am Ron from the Universitas Veritas blog. SOmeone pointed to the discussion forum for the blog but the blog itself can be found at

Civis said...


Thanks for your book reccomendations--my list is growing!!!

Sorry about the mixup on your address.

BTW My interest is piqued by the concept of a “Biblical worldview”. Schaeffer says the list of worldviews is short. I’m assuming that perhaps different writers have different lists of worldviews, and if this worldview stuff goes back to the nineteenth century I assume there are probably some slightly different schools on the subject—something to explore later. But my friend was listing the different worldviews according to some writer and one of the worldviews he named was, I think, the “biblical Christianity” worldview, and I asked him what that meant. He didn’t give a real specific answer, I said that I might have this worldview depending upon what is meant by the worldview. Would you refer to your “worldview” as “biblical Christianity”? This is just a matter of terminology of course. Then second, how would you describe this (your) worldview, however you prefer to refer to it?

Ron said...

I'd agree with Schaeffer's assertion that there aren't many worldviews. People may come up with many but really they will be variations on a few or some combination of those few. The terms may be somewhat different but matters little to me.

I would say I have a biblical Christian worldview. By that I mean that the filter or prism I use to interpret the world and make sense of it is that of a universe created by the sovereign, personal God of the Bible. That means that I am responsible to Him for what I do and I am not free to make up my own rules to suit my whims. He has already set the rules, that is morality, right and wrong, and I am bound by them. And for the most part there isn't a lot of wiggle room. Right and wrong are absolutes, not subject to circumstances or what feels good or is convenient.

That is about as concise as I can get. Of course it doesn't do justice to the subject but I am attempting to do more on my blog.

Civis said...


Thank you for your answer. As always, I like the way you are direct and open. If this is the biblical worldview, then I have a biblical worldview as well. I was concerned that the "biblical worldview", as those who claim to have it would define it, might include predestination and other stuff.

I have ordered a book by James Sire as a few people have recommended it. I can't recall if you were one of them. I'd also like to read what Schaeffer says about this topic. Someone said that if I want to read more about Schaeffers thoughts on the topic I should read THE GOD WHO IS THERE. Would that be the best Schaeffer book?

Everybody else:

Ron, like myself, is in the process of studying the topic of worldview. You will see a link to his site on my blog under “Other Blogs”. Check it out. WE have also been discussing this topic in a forum he set up which you can access if you follow the above-mentioned link.

Ron said...

Since Schaeffer was a Presbyterian minister it is probably safe to assume he held to reformed theology. Based on my reading of him I'd say he considered the issue of predestination to be tertiary, as do I. I've personally struggled with reformed theology and while I lean toward a free will view, I am not at all certain I'm correct. But in the end, my view is that God is sovereign and I am not. That is all that really matters and it is the bottom line for my worldview.

Civis said...


Well, it sounds like you take the same approach as I do. I think that there is a basic Christian worldview that is shared by people who have varying ideas on marginalia.

Civis said...


I’m not that knowledgeable about Protestant theology—I wish I were—so forgive me if my argument is simplistic, but here is my problem with Predestination (with a capital P): If I don’t have free will, if I do something evil I cannot be responsible for what I do. If we do these evil things, it is because God made us to act this way. If God made me to act this way, then the responsibility would lie with God. This would mean that God is evil.

If my argument is stupid, maybe you could explain it to me and this could be my entrance into a better understanding of Predestination.

One of my friends who reads this blog (but doesn’t comment) is a Protestant and way more knowledgeable about Protestant theology. He is 100% against Predestination. Perhaps he would like to share why he rejected Predestination.

David Howard said...

Found your discussion on, "as a man thinks so he is", and world views.
I am currently preparing an art exhibition based on, "as a man thinks so he is", called, "as".
Tonight, trying to write 100 word exhibition description for promotion brochure.
I think ultimately, that what we really believe, whether we know it or not, will become apparent as time moves on.

This externalization of our deepest motivation, will manifest itself in all that we do, although that may seem veiled and contradictory at times.

My exhibition deconstructs my own art, through analysis of my images underlying influences and beliefs.

Good and very relevant discussion.


Civis said...


So you are an artist? What do you think about some of the art that Schaffer praises and says (I'm paraphrasing), "In case you missed the point, the artist writes ..... at the bottom left of the painting." Isn't that bad art?

On a related note, Walker Percy said in one of his lectures that the language that we would ordinarily use to express the truths of the Gospel have been hijacked by so many shysters and demagogues that they have become useless for thier true purpose, and not those of us who want to spread the good news must use other words and images to get the message across. What do you think?

David Howard said...

If language or meaning was that hijacked then advertisers and film makers would be out of a job.
They base there success on meaning being transferred to the viewer.
I agree though that language changes and needs careful definition. Sometimes the medium used to transmit the message has a tendency to nullify . Television and pop music can do that a bit. But the Holy Spirit prepares the heart of those who will come to him. I not a fond believer in marketing the message.
I think by memory that the artist who wrote on the painting was Gauguin.
Art needs no justification.
I think Schaeffer was demonstrating his point about, "as a man thinks so he is." The painting in question is a great artwork.

Civis said...

Walker Percy didn’t say all language was hijacked. He was talking about religious language. Maybe it is more of an American phenomenon. I think there is some truth to it, especially in the South. There is a church on every corner, one out of every five radio stations is a religious station, two or three of our cable stations are religions, street preachers walk up and down the street in front of bars and at the “free speech” area on our university shouting “You’re going to hell. Repent for the end of the world is near”, you go into a public restroom and there is a religious tract on the back of the toilet, you go into a BBQ place and there is a rack full of religious tracts, businesses have religious messages on their marquis, various and sundry businesses advertise as being a “Christian business” many of our politicians will go into a church and give the sermon, up and down the highway messages are painted on old rusty pieces of tin, berma shave signs and the tops of barns saying, “God is love”, “Go to church or the Devil’s going to get you”, “Hell is hot” and “Repent”.

I can tell you for sure that (at least around here) the words “repent” and “hell” have been so often used and misused, that if you want to talk to someone about these things, you better use a different word. Use them and the person to whom you are speaking will immediately write you of as a nut.

“Marketing the message” I like that phrase. I’ve noticed that a lot of churches try to put clever messages on their marquis as if some clever point is going to get through to someone who drives by. It could have an impact, but to me it is kind of dreary how often religious people put so much effort into trying to come up with clever slogans and campaigns. Slogans and talk are a poor substitute. It’s a timeless truth that actions speak louder than words. As St. Augustine (and others) said, “Preach the Gospel at all times, but use words only when you have to.” I think the motto for artists is a good motto for Christians: “Show don’t tell.”