Tim Keller on Worldview & Narrative

As you may know (by consulting the GoodReads widget to the right!) one of the books I am currently working through is Tim Keller’s work: Every Good Endeavor. I’ve got about 80 pages left in the book and thus far I’ve thoroughly enjoyed it! While some of the “practical application” sections leave the reader wanting a little more, the foundational issues the book addresses are really quite helpful. One such piece that I recently read addressed the concept and importance of “worldview”. Worldview has become a buzzword these days and that is unfortunate. Because of the overuse of the word it is beginning to loose much of its meaning. Keller’s treatment serves as ballast for the idea of worldview!

In particular, Keller attaches the idea of worldview to the concept of narrative and story and detaches the idea of worldview from mere philosophical or intellectual ascent. Here’s his take:

The significance of stories is this. While many stories are often no more than entertainment, narratives are actually so foundational to how we think that they determine how we understand and live life itself. The term “worldview”,  comes from the German word Weltanshauung, means the comprehensive perspective from which we interpret all of reality. But a world view is not merely a set of philosophical bullet points. It is essentially a master narrative, a fundamental story about (a) what human life in the world should be like, (b) what has knocked it off balance, and (c) what can be done to make it right. No one can really function in the world without some working answeres to those big questions, and so, to provide those answers, we adopt a worldstory, a narrative that explains things—a worldview. (pg. 157)

I think this paragraph helps shape the worldview discussion in a couple ways (already hinted at above). The two ways are really one way but the first is positive and the second is negative; the first adds to our conception of worldview while the other takes away. Firstly, a worldview is a type of narrative. Too often we tend to detach the philosophical and the narratival. This cannot truly be done. This attempted detachment is essentially gnosticism. Something helpful that Keller points out a little later in this chapter is that even Plato understood this by framing his philosophy in narrative form. In the same light, the second way this paragraph helps shape our worldview discussion is by showing that a worldview is not merely philosophical ascent to an idea or a set of ideals. You do not “get” a worldview. You live inside of a worldview. In our day we tend to take our consumer markets and apply them to the worlds of faith and ideals. We treat salvation in the church as something that you can “get”. Likewise, many marketing strategies for books on “worldview” are marketed as a commodity, “Read this book and acquire a Christian worldview!” Keller helps us see that you do not get a worldview but you live and act through one!

Food for thought!

Micahel

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