A worldview is the perspective through which one views the world. By definition, a biblical worldview is derived exegetically from the pages of the Bible. Philosophy and theology have long been perceived as rivals in worldview, but if we define those terms lexically and through a Scriptural lens, then we find no friction between the two disciplines. In fact, the two are complementary.
Philosophy as a discipline is recognized as “the systematic and critical study of fundamental questions that arise both in everyday life and through the practice of other disciplines.”* Philosophy the discipline is often confused with philosophy as a worldview. The discipline is informed by the worldview (or the perspective by which the philosopher is viewing philosophy), but the discipline is distinct from worldview.
For example, many of the early Greek philosophers set out to find answers to life’s great questions using only naturalistic evidences. To their credit, they were in part motivated by a desire to move away from superstition and unwarranted belief in a pantheon that was hardly explanatory. The naturalistic worldview of these thinkers shaped much of what we understand as philosophical inquiry, but it is important to note that it was their worldview that was naturalistic, not the discipline of philosophy itself.
The Apostle Paul cautions against any philosophy that would deceive, and contrasts between philosophy rooted in humanism (or according to the traditions of men) and philosophy rooted in Christ (Col 2:8). Paul’s warning illustrates the distinction between a worldview and the discipline. A biblical philosophy is one that acknowledges Christ’s identity (2:9), explanatory value (2:10a), and authority as Creator (2:10b). One inference from Paul’s statement is that one’s philosophy is correct insofar as it is Christologically correct. For Paul, theology and philosophy are intertwined.
The biblical worldview applied to philosophy helps us understand philosophy in its lexical sense as the love of wisdom, and points us to the first principles of that wisdom as the proper perspective of and response to God (Prov 1;7, 9:10), and to the source of that wisdom as the word of God (Prov 2:6). As theology is the study of God, the theological discipline of Bibliology (the study of the Bible) is paramount at this introductory stage of worldview and philosophy.
The process of doing philosophy includes beginning with answering questions related to how we acquire knowledge, truth, and certainty. These are questions of epistemology. Every worldview (and philosophy) must first identify its source of authority—who or what it will trust to provide knowledge, truth, and certainty. In the biblical worldview, that source is God revealed through Scripture. Another vital component of epistemological enquiry is how that source of authority is interpreted or understood—hermeneutics. Without a proper hermeneutic framework as the capstone to epistemology, it is difficult to find either transparency or consistency in a worldview.
Once the epistemological questions are answered, there is a matrix for addressing the metaphysical questions—those questions pertaining to the nature of reality. Metaphysics considers four major areas: ontology (the nature of existence), axiology (the nature of value), teleology (the nature of design and purpose), and eschatology (the nature of the future). These four areas of study overlap the major categories of theology (Bibliology is not in this list, as it is addressed in Epistemology):
- Theology Proper - the study of God the Father
- Christology - the study of Christ
- Pneumatology - the study of the Spirit of God
- Angelology - the study of angels, demons, and the spiritual world
- Natural Theology - the study of nature as substance (natural sciences) and as revelatory device
- Anthropology - the study of humanity and everything directly related to human existence (for example, the discipline of psychology would fit in this category)
- Hamartialogy - the study of sin and its impact
- Soteriology - the study of salvation and its impact
- Ecclesiology - the study of the assembly we call the church
- Israelology - the study of the nation of Israel, as unique and chosen, and where it fits in God’s plan
- Eschatology - the study of last things, the future, and ultimate fulfillment of biblical promises
Each of these theological topics fit within the greater discipline of metaphysics, and without attention to each one, the overall metaphysical understanding would be woefully incomplete.
Epistemology and Metaphysics provides the is of philosophy—the descriptive aspects of reality. Flowing from that is there is an ought. Ethics provides the ought on an individual scale, and socio-political on a societal scale.
In a biblical worldview, there are two major categories of ethics—one for unbelievers (to become believers), and one for believers (to become more like Christ). Socio-political concepts round out the philosophical discussion, as various distinctives in society are considered, including the nations in general, Israel specifically, the universal church, and local fellowships of the universal church.
A reasonably ordered philosophy, seen from a biblical perspective, overlaps major theological concepts and provides a broad and comprehensive backdrop for enquiry in any discipline. In a biblical approach, philosophy and theology are interconnected, and in some cases even interchangeable. This close relationship between the two disciplines of philosophy and theology invites inquisitiveness and pursuit of knowledge in every area, and nothing about the biblical approach to these disciplines would restrict or de-incentivize learning and discovery. Approaching any discipline from a biblical worldview perspective invites the enquirer to examine thoroughly, and to “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Ps 34:8).
Dr. Christopher Cone serves as President of Calvary University, and is the author or general editor of several books including: Integrating Exegesis and Exposition: Biblical Communication for Transformative Learning, Gifted: Understanding the Holy Spirit and Unwrapping Spiritual Gifts, and Dispensationalism Tomorrow and Beyond: A Theological Collection in Honor of Charles C. Ryrie. Dr. Cone previously served in executive and faculty roles at Southern California Seminary and Tyndale Theological Seminary and Biblical Institute, and in pastoral roles at Tyndale Bible Church and San Diego Fellowship of the Bible.