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Do You Have a Theology, Philosophy or Worldview?

Few people have anything approaching an articulate philosophy—at least as epitomized by the great philosophers. Even fewer, I suspect, have a carefully constructed theology. But everyone has a worldview, whether we are conscious of it or not. It’s what we believe. Not necessarily what we profess.

Quite simply, our worldviews contain the ideas that actually control our lives - often without our realizing it. They are what motivate and influence our every thought, our every decision, every move we make. Worldview affects how we relate to other people, what we feel, and what we do under pressure. They inform how we spend our money and how we spend our time. The essence of a worldview lies deep in the inner recesses of our human selves. A worldview involves the mind, but it is first of all a commitment, a matter of the soul and spirit.

Worldviews led us to become spiritual leaders. which necessitates our obligation to examine, articulate, refine, communicate, and consciously and consistently maintain an awareness of our beliefs. Whether you are a congregational minister, a chaplain or the director of an non-profit organization, your worldview will influence your approach to leadership, the risks you are willing to take, your pastoral care interventions and how you make decisions about budgets. The more you can define the elements of your worldview, the more integrated you become as you serve others in ministry. Understanding the elements of a worldview can help you distinguish what the next right question you should ask a care-seeker. Questions like, “Tell me more about what that belief looks like in the everydayness of your life,” can lead to deeper relationships and provide you with a significant toolbox of spiritual leadership skills.

The elements of one's worldview, the beliefs about certain aspects of reality, include:      

epistemology: beliefs about the nature and sources of knowledge;
metaphysics: beliefs about the ultimate nature of reality;
cosmology: beliefs about the origins and nature of the universe and life;
teleology: beliefs about the meaning and purpose of the universe, its inanimate elements, and its inhabitants;
theology: beliefs about the existence and nature of God;
anthropology: beliefs about the nature and purpose of humans in general and oneself in particular;
axiology: beliefs about the nature of value, what is good and bad, what is right and wrong

Core questions about one’s worldview can be seen through the lens of any of the orientations on the left

Is there a physical world, a spiritual world, both, or neither?
What is prime reality—the really real?
What is the nature of the world or universe around us?
What is a human being?
What happens when a person dies?
Is there such a thing as truth?
What do you value? 
How do we know what is right and wrong?
What is the meaning of human history? 
What are your personal, life-orienting core commitments and promises?


The people we serve -- and will serve in the future -- may not use the words theology, philosophy or worldview, but worldviews are like cerebellums: everyone has one and we can’t live without them, though not everyone knows what to call it. Keep preparing for these future conversations!

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Rev. Karen Hutt

Karen Hutt is Vice President for Formation, Vocation and Experience at United Theological Seminary of the Twin Cities.

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