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Truth-Tests for Choosing a Worldview

- R. Totten - (c) '04


Preliminary Issues
In considering the main worldviews held by most all of mankind, how does one go about deciding which ones must be more false, and which one (if any) has a likelihood of being true? ("Truth" is that which matches up with reality --above and beyond mere personal opinion.)

To begin with, we must recognize and assume that something actually exists in reality. Every full-orbed worldview sees this fact. (If real existence is denied, then all reasoning and discussion are over; and any denier is denying his own existence anyway.)
--Next, we must assume that we can actually know something real, and that we are able to think true thoughts. A reasonable starting-point for this might well be that of Descartes' line of reasoning: "I think, therefore I am." This is a logical assertion that we do actually exist, since we are doing the thinking --and in addition, we know something which is self-evidently true: we exist.

Along with recognizing that we can know something true, come the three laws of logic (or laws of thought), which are: the law of identity, the law of opposites, and the law of non-contradiction.

  • 1. The "Law of Identity": States that "A is A." : In a certain specific context (set of facts and circumstances), a proposition (thing, idea or situation) has only one real meaning. --For example, a pencil is a pencil. It is not an apple or anything else that is a non-pencil. "It is what it is." Any actual thing has a set of characteristics consistent with what it really is. Something may need to be described in exacting detail, but this law must stand nonetheless. -- Also, the next law is an outgrowth of this first one.

  • 2. The "Law of Opposites" (or "the Excluded Middle"): States that "A coherent proposition (thing, idea or situation) is either true or false at one time and in a certain respect." --For example, the statement: "I am pregnant" is either true or false at a certain time; it cannot be both at the same time and in the same respect. --And the third law is an outgrowth of this one:

  • 3. The "Law of Non-Contradiction": States that "a proposition cannot be both true andfalse;" OR "A is not also non-A at the same time and in the same respect." -- So, a thing cannot possibly be what it also (in the same respect) is not. -- So, a thing (or coherent statement) cannot possibly be what it also is not (at one time and in the same respect). That would be nonsense. For a statement to be both true and false at the same time and in the same respect, is a "contradiction." --Real truth cannot be a contradiction.

If these laws of thought are denied, then all meaningful thinking, knowing, communication and existence are destroyed --and our existence proceeds into nonsense and nihilism. --Discussion and reasoning are over.

The Three Truth-Tests
Logical thinking allows us to list three distinctive qualities which test the truthfulness of any worldview:

FIRST, an adequate worldview must be consistent within itself, and non-contradictory. Any self-contradiction is a definite indication that the worldview contains at least some untruth; And if the self-contradiction involves an essential element of the worldview, then the worldview must be false, having failed the first truth-test of "consistency."

SECOND, an adequate worldview must fit basically all the relevant data and facts of reality (as opposed to fantasy) in the world/universe and human experience. The worldview which accounts for the greatest number of facts, with the fewest difficulties, has the highest probability of being a worldview which is true. A worldview which is inconsistent with human experience and with the empirical facts of history, nature, and the universe, fails the second truth-test.

THIRD, an adequate worldview must be subjectively satisfactory, practicable and livable on an every-day basis. We must ask: When a man is done talking and "philosophizing" about the nature of his worldview, can he consistently live it out, and does he actually practice it in his every-day life? --If not, then the actions of his life reveal his true inner conviction of the untruth of his professed worldview --that it is not livable, and therefore (by his actions and life) he rejects his own worldview so that it fails the third truth-test.

So, we will study various worldviews, such as those addressed on this website, and evaluate them with these truth-tests in mind.


By way of review: A worldview is a person's set of assumptions and assertions about the basic makeup and nature of the universe and humanity.

A fully developed worldview gives answers to the foundational questions of human existence:

1.) What is the ultimate and prime reality? (...such as "God", or Matter/Energy)
2.) What is the essential nature of the universe and everything?
3.) What is the basic nature and condition of man?
4.) What is the reason and basis of ethics and morality?
5.) What is man's basic purpose and ultimate destiny?

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References:

  • Testing Christianity's Truth Claims, by Gordon R. Lewis, (c) '76, Moody Bible Institute, Chicago.
  • The Universe Next Door, by James W. Sire, (c) '76, Inter-Varsity Press, Downers Grove.
  • PERSPECTIVES: Understanding & Evaluating Today's World Views, by Norman L. Geisler & William Watkins, (c) 1984, (out of print), pgs. 236 -239.

Further Discussion:


Questions or Comments? :


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