Right inside the front cover of the book The Universe Next Door (5th ed.), James W. Sire has written these words:
For any of us to be fully conscious intellectually we should not only be able to detect the worldviews of others but be aware of our own–why it is ours and why in light of so many options we think it is true.
Sire is saying that intellectual maturity comes in knowing what you believe and why you believe it. For the Christian, this means that we will not only be aware that many do not believe as we do, but that we grasp why–among so many other ways of believing–we have chosen to believe in Christ, and all the implications of that belief.
Near the end of his book, Sire gives four characteristics of an adequate worldview–four criteria by which we may evaluate whether a worldview is worth believing. I think these characteristics are helpful if they are prefaced with two important qualifications.
First, my being a Christian is not merely a matter of “choosing” a worldview. It is far more than that. It is a personal relationship with Christ–a relationship for which it can be truly said I was “chosen” (Ephesians 1:4).
Second, this relationship does not depend on my ability to defend it intellectually, since “the Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are the children of God” (Romans 8:16). While it is intellectually defensible, I can be legitimately convinced of my relationship with Christ apart from intellectual argumentation.
With these two qualifications in mind, here are Sire’s four characteristics of an adequate worldview, which I have reworded as questions:
1. Does this worldview possess inner intellectual coherence?
2. Does this worldview comprehend the data of reality?
3. Does this worldview explain what it claims to explain?
4. Is this worldview subjectively satisfactory?
When you judge the major worldviews by these criteria, Sire explains,
“all but theism were found to have serious flaws. If my argument has been correct, none of them–deism, naturalism, existentialism, Eastern pantheistic monism or New Age philosophy, nor the postmodern perspective–can adequately account for the possibility of genuine knowledge, the facticity of the external universe or the existence of ethical distinctions. Each in its own way ends in some form of nihilism.”
Again, while being a Christian does not depend on one’s ability to defend Christianity intellectually, Christians who want to mature in both their worship and witness should seek to explore the grandeur, coherence, and satisfaction of what it means to believe in Christ. We should not only know what we believe, but understand why we believe it.