What is Christianity? Part 14

Here are the main conclusions and claims that I have argued for or asserted in previous posts:

  1. A religion is fundamentally about ideas, claims, and beliefs (see post #1).
  2. Christianity is a religion (see posts #2 & #3).
  3. Christianity is NOT a relationship with Jesus Christ, because Christianity can be true or false, but a relationship cannot be true or false (see posts #2 & #3).
  4. In his book Worldviews, the religious studies scholar Ninian Smart asserts that there are six different dimensions to a religion, and the philosophical or doctrinal dimension is only one of those dimensions (see post #4).
  5. In his earlier book The Universe Next Door, the Christian apologist James Sire defines the term “worldview” in terms of beliefs or presuppositions, in keeping with my cognitivist view of religions and worldviews (see post #4).
  6. In a more recent book called Naming the Elephant, Sire challenges his previous conception of worldviews, and he proposed a revised conception of the idea of a worldview, one that runs contrary to my cognitivist view of religions and worldviews (see post #5).
  7. In Naming the Elephant, Sire proposes the idea that a worldview is a kind of commitment, but this understanding of worldviews seems incorrect, because a worldview (e.g. the Christian worldview) is something that can be true or false, but a commitment is NOT something that can be true or false (see post #5).
  8. Christianity is NOT a kind of religious expereince, because Christianity can be true or false, but an experience is NOT something that can be true or false (see post #6).
  9. Although I agree with Ninian Smart that a religion has a number of dimensions that include more than the doctrinal or philosophical dimension,  the doctrinal or philosophical dimension is more important and more basic than the other dimensions, and there are various indications of the centrality of this dimension in Smart’s discussions about worldviews in his book called Worldviews (see post #7).
  10. The doctrinal or philosophical dimension of a religion is more important and more basic than the narrative or mythic dimension, because we can recognize and identify a story as being a RELIGIOUS story only because we can recognize and identify stories that have a religious meaning, and we can recognize religious meaning only  by recognizing and identifying religious beliefs that are expressed or reinforced by a particular story (see post #8).
  11. The doctrinal or philosophical dimension of Christianity is more basic and more fundamental than the ritual or practical dimension of Christianity, because what makes something a religous ritual or a Christian religous ritual as opposed to being a non-religious ritual, is that the ritual has a religious meaning or significance and such a meaning or significance is necessarily and unavoidably tied to religious beliefs or doctrines (see post #9).
  12. Ninian Smart uses the word “worldview” in order to emphasize the fact that there are secular analogues to religions (e.g. Marxism and Secular Humanism). Given the way that Smart uses the word “worldview”, a religion IS a worldview, namely a religious worldview, as opposed to a secular worldview.  However, I intend to use the word in a narrower sense than this. I intend to use the word “worldview” to refer to the doctrinal or philosophical dimension of a religion or of a secular analogue to a religion (see post #10).
  13. One can have a philosophy of life, without that philosophy being clearly and logically and systematically developed.  James Sire’s point here seems reasonable and plausible; however, this does not constitute a good objection to his earlier concept and definition of “worldview” (see post #10).
  14. “What is missing from my seven questions is not content but existential relevance.” (NTE, p.97).  This objection can be re-stated in terms of practical concerns: Sire’s seven worldview questions lack a proper emphasis on practical and ethical concerns.  If we broaden Sire’s question (6) just a bit, then that would help Sire’s seven questions to have a proper emphasis on practical or ethical concerns. Here is my suggested alternative:  (6A) How should I live my life? (What are the main criteria for judging that a life is/was a good life, a well-lived life? What are the main obstacles to acheiving such a life?).    Although Sire’s seven questions might not have done a great job in capturing the heart of ethics, I think if we revise his question (6) to (6A), and if we understand that there are ethical aspects to questions (3) and (7), then Sire’s set of worldview questions would provide a proper emphasis on practical and ethical concerns (see post #11).
  15. The third objection that James Sire raises against his older conception of worldviews, is that it makes more sense to understand a worldview as being “a way of life” (NTE, p.97) rather than to understand a worldview as being “a system of thought” (NTE, p.98) because of “the practical, lived reality of worldviews…” (NTE, p.100).  Sire appears to believe that there is a conflict between understanding worldviews in terms of “intellectual categories” and recognizing that worldviews are “tied to lived experience and behavior.” Since beliefs are an “intellectual category” and since our beliefs–especially our worldview-related beliefs–impact and influence our choices and actions, it is clear that Sire’s third objection fails. Worldviews can be understood in terms of “intellectual categories” such as beliefs and assumptions and propositions and presuppositions, and this does NOT imply that worldviews are disconnected from “lived experience and behavior” (see post #12).
  16. Walsh and Middleton (Christian theologians quoted by James Sire in NTE) put forward two different metaphorical expressions (“incarnated in a way of life” and “a perceptual framework”) as challenges to the clear and common-sense concept of a worldview as “a system of beliefs”.   However, both metaphors, when examined more closely, support my cognitivist view of worldviews and disconfirm Sire’s claim that a worldview is “a way of life.” (see post #13).

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