October 4, 2015

Five Worldviews

In the introduction to his book Engaging the Powers, Walter Wink describes five different worldviews.1 Here is a short explanation of these worldviews, some of which I will be referring to in future posts.

1. The Ancient Worldview 

This is the worldview of the Bible and, according to Wink, "everyone in the ancient world" (this is a bit of an exaggeration; the next two worldviews were also held by some people in the ancient world). It is neatly summarized in a Christian text called The Ascension of Isaiah: "And as above, so also on earth, for the likeness of what is in the firmament is here on earth." (7.10)2

Earth is down here, heaven is up there, and there is a close correspondence between the two. As Wink explains, "If war begins on earth, then there must be, at the same time, war in heaven between the angels of the nations involved on earth. Likewise, events initiated in heaven would be mirrored on earth."

2. The Spiritualistic Worldview 

Like the Ancient Worldview, this worldview affirms a realm of spirit over and above the realm of matter. But it sees this spirit world as good, and the world of matter as evil. 

The human being may be divided into "body" and "soul," and one is to identify oneself with one's soul, and disidentify with one's body (in which the soul has been entrapped). "The body is a place of exile and punishment, but also of temptation and contamination. Salvation comes through knowledge of one's lost heavenly origins and the secret of the way back." 

This worldview was found in Gnosticism and Manichaeism. A variation of this is found in some Eastern traditions, but these traditions tend to see the world of matter as illusory, not evil. Nevertheless, it is something one wants to escape.

3. The Materialist Worldview

This worldview existed in the ancient world (it was affirmed, for example, by the pre-Socratic philospher Democritus, among others), but came to prominence only in the Enlightenment. "[It] is in many ways the antithesis of the world-rejection of spiritualism. In this view, there is no heaven, no spiritual world, no God no soul--nothing but material existence and what can be known through the five senses and reason." Everything immaterial is considered illusory. Even the human mind is reduced to mere brain activity. Wink notes that this worldview "has penetrated deeply even into many Christians." This worldview is sometimes called "physicalism." This is a more accurate term, but "materialism" is more familiar, so that's the one I tend to use.

4. The "Theological" Worldview

"In reaction to materialism, Christian theologians invented the supernatural realm." Having conceded the physical universe to modern science, theologians created a spiritual, supersensible realm that is "immune to confirmation or refutation." Wink notes that this modern invention came "at the cost of an integral view of reality and the simultaneity of heavenly and earthly aspects of existence." He adds, "This view of the religious realm as hermetically sealed and immune to challenge from the sciences has been held not only by the Christian center and right, but by most of theological liberalism and neoorthodoxy."

5. The Integral Worldview

This new worldview "sees everything as having an outer and an inner aspect." Wink names a number of thinkers whose insights have contributed to this emerging worldview, including Carl Jung, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, Morton Kelsey, Thomas Berry, and Matthew Fox. He also credits process philosophy (i.e. Alfred North Whitehead and his followers).

According to Wink, this worldview "attempts to take seriously the spiritual insights of the ancient or biblical worldview by affirming a withinness or interiority in all things, but sees this inner spiritual reality as inextricably related to an outer concretion or physical manifestation."

As you may have guess from the title of this blog, this is the worldview I am most interested in, and so I am going to describe it at length, drawing mostly from the work of Ken Wilber. Then I will return to Wink and his quite brilliant interpretation of "the Powers" described in the Bible.

[1] The images in this post are adapted from Wink, Engaging the Powers, 4-6. All of the quotations attributed to Wink are also found on those pages.

[2] Charlesworth, OTP 2.166.

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