A world view is a set of assumptions that we hold in our mind (consciously or unconsciously) that help us understand how the world works. It is these assumptions that determine our expectations from the reality that we interact with daily. These assumptions give our mind a model with which to interpret what we take in through our senses. They provide a model to guide us. This world view is essential to us as it provides the basis for a unity of our thought and life. It guides us to define what is a good life and what has meaning in life. This helps us make choices instantaneously as we face the abundance of external stimulus from our environment. These assumptions guide our thoughts and our actions. Without a world view we would not be able to make sense out of all the sensory inputs we receive at each moment. We all have a world view out of necessity. The question is, do we know what assumptions ours is based on?
Paul is very clear in his warning to Christians in the letter to the Colossians:
"See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ." Col. 2:8
What are the common assumptions that underlie our current culture?
Listening to Paul’s warning, what are the philosophical deceptions that are give to us through the tradition of men and physical properties of the world instead of according to Christ?
Here are a few:
Rationalism puts full trust in the conclusions of our logical mind. “I think, therefore I am” is a common quote from Descartes. We tend to think that our thoughts is who we are and that we are the sum total of our thoughts. We feel that we have to have absolute trust in our thoughts, or rationalizations, and to defend them as if they were our own flesh and blood. This approach tends to make us ego-centric as we think our thoughts are the truth and others who do not share them are incorrect and need to be taught our way of rationalizing the world. This view is in conflict with the Orthodox world view in that God’s will becomes secondary to our will. It becomes “Our will be done” instead of “Thy will be done.” It also leads us to many other “isms” that dominate our way of thinking.
Empiricism assumes that the basis of knowledge is our experience from sense perception. This is the basis of the scientific method. This world view assumes that it is through the systematic study of what we know from the senses that yields us the absolute truth. It rejects the truth of divine revelation that is recorded in scripture.
Humanism and individualism is based on the assumption that truth and morality is sought through rational means. It assumes individual autonomy and the idea that each individual must find his or her own truth. This conflicts with the Orthodox World View in that it rejects a dependence on faith, the supernatural and divinely revealed texts. The Church authority is rejected in favor of the subjective judgement of each individual. It leads us to secularism where the state is separated from religious or spiritual qualities.
Relativism maintains that the basis of all judgement is relative, differing according to the situation, person or events one is dealing with. It assumes that the beliefs and religion of a person or group of persons is “true” for them, but not necessarily for others. Under this set of assumptions there is no religion that is universally or exclusively true. Likewise there are no moral absolutes, no objective ethical positions that are right or wrong. All moral values are true for some but not for others. This conflicts with the Orthodox World View that Christianity is an absolute truth. Christianity is widely rejected because it claims to be True. We often deny our own truths because of relativism.Modernism: Modernism rejects all tradition. It assumes that what has gone before and the previous age is the “Dark Ages.” This view discredits the Church Fathers and all of the Holy Tradition of the Church which is not included in the Bible.
When we take all these together, they can lead us to agnosticism, atheism or what is know as cafeteria Christianity where we are free to pick and choose which parts of the Bible we are to accept. We need to realize that we are influenced by all of these “isms” and that they have within them hidden assumptions that go against the Orthodox Way of Life. We need to explore our own world views, surface our hidden assumptions, examine them and allow them to change if need be so we can fully embrace the teaching of Christ and the Church. We have not yet faith until we can embrace all that has been revealed and trust the Church as a place for the healing and nurturing of our soul. Often this is called “surrender.” We give up our own mental constructs and say, “Lord have Mercy on me your unworthy servant. Help me in my ignorance and guide me in Your Truth.”
This surrender is not easy and can lead to confusion in one’s life if one is not careful. This is why you need to become part of a strong Christian community such as the Orthodox Church and surrender to her unchanging teachings and find a spiritual guide to help you as you surrender to the Truths of the Church. The Church has all the necessary tools within its boundaries to help you open your heart to God and follow the path to theosis or salvation and eternal life with Him. Remember our history, Orthodoxy is the teachings of our Lord and Savior through the Apostles without change. It can be trusted as an unchangeable source of Truth.
What is the Orthodox World View?
As Orthodox Christians we have faith in what is beyond the comprehension of our rational mind. We know that God is beyond all rational knowledge. We have no difficulty in embracing miracles that cannot be explained by rational process or by the scientific method. Our religion is based on the absolute revealed truth and we embrace what is mystical and invisible. We believe in and totally trust a loving God. We seek salvation and union with Him for eternal life in a world that is beyond this physical world. Ours is not a way of life based on seeking happiness through our material well being. We embrace the tradition of the Church and regard the Bible as the gift of the Church. We interpret it within the context of the Church and its Traditions. We cannot simply throw out the past wisdom of our Church Fathers. We have to consider it in our interpretation of Scripture.
As a member of the Church we are members of the mystical Body of Christ. We need to beware of false assumptions as we can easily fall into the trap of following false truths and traditions promoted by our modern society and become blocked from a union with God, denying us salvation and eternal life. This is no small matter. We must accept that to follow the truths and traditions of the Church we may be out of step with almost everyone else.
Our present reality is that built into our minds are hidden assumptions based on all these “isms” given to us by our modern culture, promulgated by non Orthodox Christians, and permeates our educational systems. These underlying assumptions will undermine our faith. It is important to uncover them and to consciously reject and change those which are not congruent with our faith. This demands a process of surrender and repentance or metanoia, which means a change of mind. The Orthodox way of Life guides us to uncover our sinful ways of living, to uncover our misguided assumptions, and to change our behaviors. The Church has all the powers and tools that are needed to help us in this endeavor.
Uncovering these hidden assumptions is an individual process. Take some time for introspection to identify some things about our culture that conflict with what you know about the Orthodox Way of Life. Then ask yourself, how can the Church help you with these conflicts?