A Worldview Tree Arboretum

(Posted by Paige Britton)

Here is an interesting thinking exercise for our interesting and thoughtful readers:

A while back I described a graphic organizer, shaped like a tree, which is a potentially helpful tool both for apologetics and for teaching the flock about different thought systems. I’ll review the levels of the “Worldview Tree” and the corresponding questions below, but for more information on the origin and use of the Tree see this post. (And don’t miss Jared’s suggested alternative configuration in the comments of that post, as well as my further explanation about the usage and order of the terms on the original Worldview Tree.)

Here is a link to a PDF of the Tree — please feel free to use it in your ministry. (If I get around to creating a b&w version I’ll let you know.)

After sketching the Tree-as-graphic-organizer again, I’m going to list potential “Worldview Trees” to plant in our virtual arboretum – and I invite you to plant one! (I’ll start off the comments with one example.) If you take me up on this project by filling out a Tree for a thought system you happen to know something about, I think you’ll be offering other readers tools for their own (and others’) edification. I know that I will make use of the best ones whenever I have the chance, so please share the wealth of your knowledge with us. (And if someone else plants the Tree you were thinking of planting, you get first dibs on its pruning.)

The point of the Tree is that a consistent thought system can be shown to run organically from “roots” to “fruits.” Not that people generally walk around with well-articulated or particularly consistent thought systems in their heads – but as an apologetic tool, this graphic organizer can be used to visually emphasize inconsistencies in somebody’s system (e.g., the fact that certain “fruits” were stolen from the Christian Tree and duct-taped onto a non-Christian one) and also to display the beautiful consistency of the biblical worldview. As a teaching tool for Christians, the Tree can be used to present identifiable worldly thought systems over against the biblical view of reality, and it can be used to organize data gathered from a speaker or author in order to figure out what Tree he or she is sitting in.

Here are the levels of the Tree (which looks pretty cool if you draw it — see below!! – notice I have reversed the order I gave previously so the Tree comes out right-side-up this time):

(Leaves or fruit)THERAPY: How do we get better? (This could be construed ultimately or regarding a specific concern.)

(Main branchy area) AXIOLOGY: What is right and wrong / good and bad?

(First branch divisions) TELEOLOGY: What is the goal or purpose ? (This can be construed either as an ultimate – “What is the purpose of everything?” – or as a specific that leads to an ultimate – e.g., “What is the purpose of wealth?”)

(Trunk) ANTHROPOLOGY: What is a human being?

(Ground line) EPISTEMOLOGY: How do we know things?

(Main roots) METAPHYSICS: What is the nature of ultimate reality? (Or, What’s really going on in the universe?)

(Root tips) ONTOLOGY: What is Ultimate Being? (Or, What is the ultimate thing that BE’s?)

Now, you can just cut and paste bits of that list to fill out your own Tree, as I have done in the first comment below. Don’t even worry about the html stuff – I’ll come back through and set that up for you after the fact. Just plant us a Tree! Share around your knowledge a bit.

Here are some interesting sources of thought systems to start with – feel free to borrow from this nursery, or come up with your own variety. No need for doctoral dissertations here, either; these are just saplings after all. Just give us the main ideas (in your own words, unless otherwise noted or you know some good quotes). And leave blank what remains unknown if necessary.

So what would the Tree look like if it belonged to…

Peter Singer
The world of The Matrix
Chairman Mao
Jehovah’s Witnesses
Westminster Standards (yes, this is also the biblical Tree, but use phrases from the Standards to fill it out)
Richard Dawkins
Thomas Jefferson
Joel Osteen
Joseph Stalin
Arminian Theology
Osama Bin Laden
John Calvin (give us some good quotes)
The other Calvin (“& Hobbes”)
& etc.

Have fun!!