By / Sep 23

Editor’s note: This is the first article in a series on what Christians should know about worldviews and worldview analysis.

Whatever happened to “worldview”?

There was once a time when the term was ubiquitous within American evangelicalism. After the Second World War, the term was popularized by thinkers such as Carl Henry and Francis Schaeffer and rapidly spread throughout the movement. Hundreds of resources—from conferences and classes, to articles and books—were produced to explain why thinking in terms of worldview and analyzing worldviews was necessary for apologetics and missions. Philosopher David K. Naugle even claimed that, “Conceiving of Christianity as a worldview has been one of the most significant developments in the history of the church.”

Sometime around the early-to-mid 2000s, though, the concept fell out of favor. Part of the reason may have been that worldview analysis wasn’t as effective as a tool against unbelief as we had assumed (for reasons we’ll consider in a future article). “If you are already a Christian, then worldview is a revelation,” wrote J. Mark Betrand in his 2007 book Rethinking Worldview, “but if you aren’t, the concept alone will not move you. In fact, it might do the opposite, driving you to the other extreme where everyone has a worldview and all worldviews are equally valid.”

The ineffectiveness of worldview analysis for apologetics has likely only grown worse since society has become even more accepting of relativism. But for evangelicals, there is a reason the concepts of worldview and worldview analysis are worth recovering: they help us understand what is going on today in our own churches and communities. 

The purpose of this series

Recent surveys have uncovered attitudes and beliefs among Christians that are concening and inexplicable. For example, almost 1 in 4 Americans who say they are Christian believe in reincarnation. Many who attend church regularly also believe in astrology, psychics, and that spiritual energy can be located in physical objects. Worldview analysis can help us to understand why ideas incompatible with biblical Christianity are increasingly accepted by people who sit beside us in the pews. 

In this series, we’ll consider a number of concepts related to worldviews and worldview analysis and explain how they can be of use to you. The goal is to help you develop a framework for identifying, clarifying, and communicating aspects of worldview that are becoming increasingly common in our era.

While you should be able to gain a better understanding of the key concepts by reading this series of articles, you should also keep in mind that every explanation is a simplification necessitated by the limitation of brevity. The explanations of the concepts are more like simple line drawings, which can show the contours and outlines, than like a high-definition photograph, which can reveal more nuance and detail.   

What is a worldview?

Let’s start with the concept of “worldview.” Despite ​​the term being used for more than 150 years, there is no single agreed upon definition of what the word means. A common thread that connects the uses of the term is that a worldview is a particular perspective on reality that affects how one forms beliefs and behaviors that affect how a person lives. 

In The Universe Next Door, James Sire defines worldview as “a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true, or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move, and have our being.” 

Sire’s definition is the way we’ll be using the term “worldview” throughout this series.

Worldview as a way of life

A worldview includes the “head, heart, and hands”—what we think and believe, what we feel and desire, and how we act and react. Too often, though, evangelicals have focused on the cognitive aspects of worldview without giving due consideration to how it forms a way of life, or a Christian ethic. 

As Brian J. Walsh and J. Richard Middleton have said, “A world view is never merely a vision of life. It is always a vision for life as well. Indeed, a vision of life, or world view, that does not actually lead a person or a people in a particular way of life is no world view at all. Our world view determines our values. It helps us interpret the world around us. It sorts out what is important from what is not, what is of highest value from what is least.”

In future articles we’ll consider how worldviews function in a way that give meaning, purpose, and clarity to our lives.

The categories of worldviews

Between 1960 and 2000, evangelicals tended to think of worldviews as competing systems of belief. For example, in his influential book The Universe Next Door, Sire identified nine common worldviews: 

  • Christian theism
  • Deism
  • Naturalism
  • Nihilism
  • Existential­ism
  • Eastern pantheistic monism
  • New Age spirituality
  • Postmodernism
  • Islamic theism

This type of categorization is still useful as a general framework. But a 10th worldview needs to be added to the list, which we’ll call syncretism

Syncretism is the combining of different beliefs and various schools of thought. While evangelicals have not typically considered it a separate worldview, it is helpful for our purposes to think of it as a unique entity. Sycrestic views have become so prevalent that it should be considered a separate category.

Thinking of it this way will help us better understand and discuss what is occurring in  the modern world. For instance, if they were asked to choose from the above list, many Americans would say their worldview is Christian theism. But included in their Christian faith may be a deistic view of morality, a naturalistic view of science, a nihilistic and/or existential view of culture, a pantheistic view of reincarnation, a New Age view of astrology, and a postmodern view of truth.

In this series, we’ll consider a broad range of worldviews but focus primarily on syncretism and how it affects the American church. For example, rather than examining Eastern pantheistic monism in its totality, we’ll consider how the samsara paradigm has been adopted by Christians. We’ll also consider such aspects as the functions of worldviews, how seemingly obscure concepts such as coherentism and plausibility structures are necessary for understanding modern life, and how we can develop a more biblical worldview. 

By / Aug 5

Phillip Bethancourt sits down with Russell Moore to get some perspective on how we, as Christians, should engage in the public square.

By / Jul 29

How should we as Christians, respond to the secular arguments regarding homosexuality, while maintaining a Biblical perspective? Andrew Walker, director of policy studies at the Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission discusses three big arguments the world uses to combat the church on homosexuality.

By / May 25

Book review: Damaged Goods: New Perspectives on Christian Purity by Dianna Anderson

Whether surfing the internet or strolling the aisle of a local bookstore, the average Christian could be refreshed to catch a glimpse of Dianna Anderson’s book Damaged Goods. The cover, highlighting an all-American girl donning a whimsical pink skirt and peep-toe shoes with black graffiti crudely splashed across her legs, encapsulates a painful reality within modern Christianity: women (and men) who are plagued with shame over sexual sin while longing for hope and healing.

One such desperate soul might crack the pages of Anderson’s book and wonder, “Can I find the answer here?”

A new Christian ethic on sexuality?

Anderson clearly intends to provide a new, Christian ethic on sexuality that will free the hearts and minds of those guilt-ridden over their sexual choices. In fact, the author beckons the reader to “listen to the Spirit of Truth about what sexual purity really is” (7). But the unquestionable truth is that her ethic falls far from the tree of Christian orthodoxy.

Throughout the book, Anderson is vulnerable about her own life. Having grown up in the “purity culture” of the 1990’s, she reassessed her beliefs about God’s standards for sexuality in early adulthood. Her efforts to develop a new sexual ethic are propelled by her determination to speak out against the evangelical purity movement. Anderson wants to dismantle this movement’s teachings and replace it with her opinion of how its principles command judgment and unrelenting shame for the sexual sinner.     

She spends an entire chapter outlining her interpretation of how the purity movement developed. Anderson concludes that the movement makes sexual abstinence the primary marker of holiness while forcing strict, legalistic rules on Christians. She also claims it paves a “destructive path” leading to the hatred of women (22).

But foundational to her personal ethic is Anderson’s attempt to disprove what she claims are five biblical myths about sex taught by purity proponents. This chapter highlights her misguided method of interpreting Scripture, which makes it easy for her to conclude that God has given his people carte blanche in the area of sexuality.

Her bird’s-eye view of the Bible relies heavily on Old Testament passages, failing to consider the entire scope of Scripture. Her method doesn’t take the Bible on its own terms but, rather, on hers. And while she often references “many scholars” who back her theological claims, I found myself often wondering to whom she was referring. By the end of chapter three, Anderson states that because the Bible contains “numerous instances of polygamous marriages, premarital and extramarital sexcapades, and complicated and complex gendered relationships” then a Christian journey of sexuality equals one where the individual decides for themselves what to do with their own body and mind (41).

And on this premise, Anderson spends the rest of the book outlining her sexual ethic using six, self-defined principles. Given her permissive biblical conclusions in chapter three, she proposes an ethic with very broad boundaries where almost anything goes: premarital sex, homosexuality, bisexuality, transgender relations and abortion are all on the table. Anderson promotes a view of progressive gender identity where one’s personal gender preference and sexual attractions will change over time. She attempts to defend her ethic as being fail-safe to guard against pedophilia, yet she boldly encourages teenagers to be the sole voice of authority in their personal sexual development.

Anderson identifies with Liberation theology and compares the purity movement’s treatment of women to racial discrimination found in American history. She genuinely sees her book as an effort to free Christian women enslaved to the teachings of the purity movement. In the end, she defines “grace and the gospel” as seeing that “our stories have worth because they are ours” with no mention of Christ’s death and resurrection on behalf of desperate sinners.

While Anderson attempts to provide a fresh, new look at sexuality, her book is a prime example that there really is “nothing new under the sun” (Ecc. 1:9). Her postmodern, humanistic, self-authoritative perspective mirrors the same messages seen in other secular material available today—messages the church must unapologetically pronounce as anti-gospel.

Recognizing legitimate needs

However, the church would do well to recognize the legitimate needs reflected in works such as Damaged Goods and stand prepared to respond proactively in grace and truth. Unfortunately, Anderson’s book has a void of the biblical gospel. For reasons beyond our understanding, Anderson, sadly, emerged from the evangelical purity movement believing her holiness was based on her sexual purity and not on Christ’s sacrificial work on her behalf. Nowhere does Anderson voice an understanding of her inherent guilt before God and rebellion against him or of Christ’s sacrificial offering on behalf of his enemies. Such a deficient view of the gospel inevitably leads to disheartened failure as individuals strive to obey Christ in their own strength rather than in the power of the Spirit.

Anderson’s personal testimony gives voice to an understandable response when faced with the crushing weight of a rules-based system: change the system until it’s personally manageable. As the church continues to hold high the torch of sexual purity, this book stands as a reminder that a call to purity alone is hollow. The first call must be to Christ in all his beauty and splendor based on his righteousness accomplished for us and his resurrection life given to us. The call to say “no” to sin without saying “yes” to Jesus will inevitably lead to shame and defeat. It’s only when Christ is at the helm of the believer’s heart that sexual purity can be a victorious expression of loving obedience (1 John 5:1-5).

Second, the sexual temptation and spiritual dissonance that Anderson personally recounts is becoming a prominent experience for those within the evangelical church. Even for individuals raised under Christian values and sitting in our pews on Sundays, the temptation toward sexual sin and the confusion surrounding sexual identity is pervasive. As a church, we must be prepared to compassionately acknowledge these temptations as par for the course in our culture rather than standing in shock and awe when they come to the surface within the four walls of our church or our homes. We will serve our brothers and sisters well by being armed with an understanding of the gospel that communicates the blood of Christ is sufficient to cover sexual sin just as it covers other seemingly “lesser” sins, such as unrighteous anger or covetousness.  

Books such as Anderson’s hold forth the lie that freedom is only found when you change the message.  But the blessed truth is that the Messenger, Christ Jesus, changes us!  Freedom is not found in a community that dilutes the truth. Lasting freedom is witnessed in a covenant community that is honest about the truth, honest about our sin, brings that sin together to the foot of the cross, and sees Christ supernaturally transform his people to reflect his image. That’s when the church can authentically say, “This is the victory that has overcome the world — our faith” (I John 5:4).

By / Oct 14


  • Definition: Suicide is to purposefully take one’s own life out of misdirected self-love. The term “suicide” was coined in 1651 and literally means “self” (sui) “to kill” (cide).
  • There is a moral difference between volitional suicide and suicide due to psychological or physiological factors such as a chemical imbalance, clinical depression, an altered mental state, etc.
  • A distinction should be made between suicide and willful self-sacrifice of one’s own life.
    • Examples of self-sacrifice include: military service, dying in defense of a friend (cf. John 15:13), ministering to the infectious sick, dangerous missions work (cf. 2 Cor. 4:7–18; 11:16–23).
    • In regard to his own self-sacrifice Jesus declared, “No one takes [my life] from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down, and I have authority to take it up again. This charge I have received from my Father” (John 10:18).
  • There are roughly 29,000 successful suicides in the United States each year; compared to 19,000 murders and 13,000 AIDS related deaths.
  • Roughly 500,000 people will attempt suicide each year.
    • Suicide is the third leading cause of death for people ages 15 to 25.
    • 72% of successful suicides are white males.
    • Females are more likely to attempt suicide; however, males are four times more likely to successfully commit suicide.
  • Suicide almost always occurs in response to suffering or anticipated suffering.
    • Suffering could be physical, mental, emotional, or spiritual in nature.
    • Major reasons for suicide include: depression, financial trouble, dissolution of a relationship, a form of protest, sexual gender confusion, religious ritual, escape from punishment, and escape from pain.
  • Some may wrongly argue that suicide ought to be allowed, as a right, if one’s body is viewed as one’s own property.
    • The body is not our own (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19–20).
    • As image bearers, human beings live in community. As such, suicide grieves those left behind, as well as producing guilt and strained relationships.
    • Encouraging suicide communicates that there is no answer to despair and no comfort in affliction. This is the opposite of what the gospel promises.

Church History

    • The Christian church has always viewed suicide as a grave sin.
      • The church has viewed suicide to be the prime example of self-idolatry.
      • The difference between suicide and other sins is that successful suicide allows no time for repentance.
    • Early church councils denied Christian burial to those guilty of suicide.
    • Southern Baptists have passed resolutions expressing concern about suicide in 1972, 1983, 1992, 1996, and 2001; yet, all of these statements are tangentially related to suicide, focusing upon things such as euthanasia, alcohol and drug use, and assisted suicide.
  • Suicide in the Bible;
    • General Scripture references;
      • Satan tempted Jesus to commit suicide (cf. Matt. 4:5–6; Luke 4:9–11).
      • The Philippian jailor purposed to commit suicide (cf. Acts 16:27–28).
      • Some of God’s ministers, especially his prophets, became so frustrated with their ministry that they asked God to kill them, including: Moses (cf. Num. 11:12–15), Elijah (cf. 1 Ki. 19:4), and Jonah (cf. Jonah 4:1–11).
      • During the Great Tribulation many will attempt to commit suicide, but will be unable to find death (cf. Rev. 9:6).
    • Examples of suicide in the Bible;
      • Saul (cf. 1 Sam. 31:1–6; 1 Chron. 10:4–5)
        • The first king of Israel.
        • Suicide by falling on his sword once wounded.
        • 1 Chron. 10:14 says that the Lord killed Saul.
        • 2 Sam. 1:10 says an Amalekite killed Saul.
        • 2 Sam. 21:12 says the Philistines killed Saul.
      • Saul’s armor–bearer (cf. 1 Sam. 31:1–6; 1 Chron. 10:4–5)
        • Suicide by falling on his sword.
      • Ahithophel (cf. 2 Sam. 17:23)
        • A counselor to David and Absalom.
        • Suicide by hanging when his advice was spurned.
      • Zimri (cf. 1 Ki. 16:15–19)
        • The fifth king of Israel.
        • Suicide when deposed, after a week, by structural fire.
      • Judas Iscariot (cf. Matt. 27:3–5; Acts 1:15–19)
        • One of the twelve apostles.
        • Suicide by hanging after betrayal of Jesus.
      • Disputed examples;
        • Abimelech (Judg. 9:52–54)
          • The son of Gideon and sixth judge of Israel.
          • Killed by armor-bearer at his request once wounded.
          • Perhaps an example of assisted suicide
        • Samson (cf. Judg. 16:23–31)
          • The thirteenth and final judge of Israel.
          • Suicide by building collapse.
          • Cited as a hero of faith in Heb. 11:32.
          • An example of divinely-enabled self-sacrifice after repentance.
    • Observations;
      • All of the biblical examples of successful suicide are men.
      • All of the biblical examples are dubious characters and none are personally praised for their actions.
      • All were spiritually bankrupt or went through a period of spiritual collapse before their suicide.
      • Many of the biblical examples were in pain and/or afraid before suicide.
      • Scripture generally presents these examples of suicide as a fitting end to a wicked and unrepentant life (cf. Judg. 9:56; 1 Ki. 16:19).
  • Toward a Christian Perspective;
    • Suicide is not the unpardonable sin, however suicide is sinful (cf. Matt. 12:31–32; Mark 3:28–29).
    • Reasons why suicide is wrong;
      • Suicide is a sin against God as the creator and sustainer of life. It rejects God’s sovereignty and usurps his prerogative in regard to life and death (cf. Job 12:10).
      • Suicide is a violation of the sixth commandment (cf. Ex. 20:13; Deut. 5:17).
      • Suicide disregards the image of God and the sanctity of human life (cf. Gen. 1:26–27; 9:5–6).
      • Suicide is poor stewardship of one’s body (cf. 1 Cor. 6:19–20).
      • Suicide demonstrates misdirected love and is injurious to others (cf. Matt. 22:36–39; Eph. 5:29).
      • Suicide overlooks the value of human suffering (cf. Rom. 5:3–5; 8:28; 2 Cor. 4:17–18; 12:10).
        • Believers are called to suffer with Christ (cf. Rom. 8:17).
        • The present life is not one of earthly glory and conquest. Believers are called to have joy and hope in the midst of current trials, looking forward to the age to come.
      • Suicide fails to recognize the unnatural nature of death (cf. Rom. 5:12; 1 Cor. 15:26; 1 Thess. 4:13–18).
      • Jesus refused to commit suicide and Paul prevented it (cf. Matt. 4:5–6; Luke 4:9–11; Acts 16:27–28).
  • Ministry
    • To those contemplating suicide;
    • Recognize signs of suicide, which include: talking about suicide; statements about hopelessness, helplessness, worthlessness; preoccupation with death; sudden happiness and calm; loss of interest in material things; disposal of material things; visiting loved ones; setting one’s affairs in order.
      • Practical response;
        • Ask pointed questions if you suspect someone is suicidal.
        • Persuade them—even take them—to get help (e.g., crisis hotline, emergency room, family, counseling, etc.).
        • Refer them to available resources and stay involved in their life (e.g., support group, church, etc.).
      • Gospel
        • The gospel itself is a response to the conditions that lead many people to consider or to attempt suicide.
        • Christianity acknowledges the emptiness and brokenness of the world and offers hope, newness, and abundant life. Jesus shared in man’s pain and suffering and provides redemption and restoration.
    • To those who have been affected by suicide;
      • Treat as normal death.
      • Grieve
      • Listen
      • Pray
      • Meet material needs.



Biebel, David B. and Suzanne L. Foster, Finding Your Way after the Suicide of Someone You Love. Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2005.

Black, Jeffrey, S., Suicide: Understanding and Intervening. Phillipsburg, NJ: Resources for Changing Lives, 2003.

Cox, David and Candy Arrington, Aftershock: Help, Hope, and Healing in the Wake of Suicide. Nashville: B&H, 2003.

Hsu, Albert Y, Grieving a Suicide: A Loved One's Search for Comfort, Answers & Hope. Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2002.

McDowell, Josh and Ed Stewart, My Friend is Struggling with Thoughts of Suicide. Ross-shire, UK: Christian Focus, n.d.

Powilson, David, Grieving a Suicide: Help for the Aftershock. Greensboro, NC: New Growth Press, 2010.