Note: I may use this blog to think out loud about the relation of torah and worldview as part of a larger project called, “Discerning Culture: Wisdom and Worldview.” I welcome thoughts and challenges via email or comments.

How might we speak or think about torah and worldview? We might first ask, “What is worldview?” In James Sire’s classic text, “The Universe Next Door,” he suggests that a worldview might be understood as follows:

“A worldview is 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) that 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.” [1]

Instead of beginning with philosophical propositions of Christian worldview, I’d like to peer at worldview via the periphery.  As Sire uses the language of story, David Naugle talks about narrative signs,

I suggest that a worldview is best understood as a semiotic phenomenon, especially as a system of narrative signs that establishes a powerful framework within which people think (reason), interpret (hermeneutics), and know (epistemology).[2]

These narrative signs surround us from birth. We are born into a world of language, story, song, jokes and more. The idea of worldview speaks to the compulsion of the mind to grasp our world as a whole. James Orr, one the early writers on worldview, suggested that Christian faith provides a standpoint to view the world as an ordered whole (see Naugle for a good summary of Orr’s thought).

Our worldview is shaped in the family, in the church, in the culture. In other words, it is shaped in the background, on the periphery. Michael Polanyi suggests that “we know more than we can say.” [3] From the moment of birth, we enter a field of knowing. Our view of the world, our standpoint begins being shaped long before we can speak.

With this brief overview in mind, we can begin to think of torah and worldview. Torah is God’s Word sounding forth in this world, his people and the surrounding cultures. It comes as judgment, deliverance, instruction and fundamentally as relationship. Torah is a set of commandments and instructions as well as a set of prescribed rules for worship and sacrifice. It is communicated in law but also in story and song. The Old Testament tells a grand story of a people that God’s calls to Himself and promises to bless all families of the earth through these people.

By reading and reflecting on the stories and songs and wisdom and even laws of the ancient Hebrews, we can find a way to consider worldview through a family, a culture, “a system of narrative signs.” By re-flecting upon these stories, we might be able to see hints of worldview in our own stories, our own family, and our own culture.  In our peripheral vision, we may also catch glimpses of patterns of thought that are enslaving, dehumanizing, anti-creational and more.

[1] Sire, James W. (2009-08-20). The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog (p. 20). InterVarsity Press. Kindle Edition.
[2] David K. Naugle Jr.. Worldview: The History of a Concept (Kindle Locations 146-147). Kindle Edition.
[3] Michael Polanyi. The Tacit Dimension. London, Routledge. (University of Chicago Press).

Image by Dirk Knight (used by permission via Creative Commons).