James Orr: Pioneer in Weltanschuuang

As David Naugle explains in his book Worldview: The History of a Concept, James Orr stands as a pioneer in using the concept of Weltanschuuang to commend the Christian faith. Orr recognized something that many of his peers didn’t—that fighting with secular ideologies over particular truth claims was not gaining ground for the reason that these particular differences were merely outcroppings of massive underlying and antithetical perspectives.

Naugle explains, “While defending Christian doctrines atomistically may have its place, [Orr] believed that the worldview concept enabled him to deal with Christianity in its entirety as a system” (Worldview, p. 7). Of course, seeing Christianity as a total-life impacting “system” is as old as Christianity itself. Yet what Orr had struck upon was the discipline of bringing the concept of worldview to bear upon this system to make explicit its undergirding assumptions, and to provide way to contrast those with the assumptions of conflicting ideologies.

Orr’s groundbreaking innovation opens the door for Christian apologists to commend the Christian faith, not only as a head-to-head combat with unbelievers that marshals propositions, evidence, and argumentation, but also as an “ecology” of sorts—a world of interconnected ideas into which we may invite the unbeliever, thus demonstrating not only the truth, but also the beauty and goodness of the Christian faith in all its implications.

At this point, someone may object that putting it this way makes Christianity less about personal conversion to faith in Christ, and more about accepting a particular set of ideas. However, it is exactly the centrally personal component of Christianity that gives rise to the importance of worldview. Indeed, a person does not embrace Christianity truly without embracing Christ personally—that is, turning in faith to him. In Orr’s words:

“He who with his whole heart believes in Jesus as the Son of God is thereby committed to much else besides. He is committed to a view of God, to a view of man, to a view of sin, to a view of Redemption, to a view of human destiny found only in Christianity. This forms a ‘Weltanschauung,’ or ‘Christian view of the world,’ which stands in marked contrast with theories wrought out from a purely philosophical or scientific standpoint” (Orr, On the Chrisitan View, p. 4).






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