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!!



  1. paigebritton said,

    March 10, 2011 at 2:49 pm

    Given the not very unlikely possibility that there might only ever be ONE Tree in our arboretum here, it had better be the very best one, hadn’t it? One that is surely “pleasing to the eye and good for food.” So, to the Inventor of all Trees, Whose “beauty is past change, praise Him”:

    The Biblical Worldview Tree

    THERAPY: How do we get better?

    Because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions – it is by grace that you have been saved. (Eph. 2:5)

    It was [Christ] who gave some to be apostles, some to be prophets, some to be evangelists, and some to be pastors and teachers, to prepare God’s people for works of service, so that the body of Christ may be built up until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ. (Eph. 4:11-13)

    AXIOLOGY: What is right and wrong / good and bad?

    Against you, and you only, have I sinned
    and done what is evil in your sight.
    (Ps. 51:4a)

    I have hidden your word in my heart, that I might not sin against you. (Ps. 119:11)

    “The most important commandment is this: ‘Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” (Mark 12:29-31a)

    TELEOLOGY: What is the goal or purpose?

    For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. (Col. 1:19-20)

    And he made known to us the mystery of his will…to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment – to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, namely Christ. (Eph. 1:9-10)

    Speaking the truth in love, we are to grow up in every way into him who is the head, into Christ…(Eph. 4:15)

    ANTHROPOLOGY: What is a human being?

    In the image of God…he created them. (Gen. 1:27)

    You knitted me together in my mother’s womb…(Ps. 139:13b)

    Surely I was sinful at birth,
    sinful from the time my mother conceived me. (Ps. 51:5a)

    For since death came through a man, the resurrection of the dead comes also through a man. (1 Cor. 15:21)

    EPISTEMOLOGY: How do we know things?

    The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom, and knowledge of the Holy One is understanding. (Prov. 9:10)

    No one has ever seen God, but God the One and Only, who is at the Father’s side, has made him known. (John 1:18)

    These are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God. (John 20:31)

    For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. (Rom. 1:19)

    METAPHYSICS: What’s really going on in the universe?

    [Christ] is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities – all things were created through him and for him. And he is before all things, and in him all things hold together. (Col. 1:15-17)

    ONTOLOGY: What is the ultimate thing that BE’s?

    In the beginning God…(Gen. 1:1)

    In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. (John 1:1)

    (If you scroll back up from the bottom, then, you can see how the Trinity and love run from roots to fruits…)

    How about the other trees? How do they answer the seven questions? What runs from their roots to their fruits?

  2. Richard Tallach said,

    March 10, 2011 at 4:39 pm

    For those of us that are more visually oriented could we have a picture of such a worldview tree as a tree.

  3. rfwhite said,

    March 10, 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Paige: here’s a current one that we may hear more about: what would the Tree look like if it belonged to … the world of The Adjustment Bureau.

  4. paigebritton said,

    March 10, 2011 at 6:37 pm

    Richard: It’s in the works. ;)

    Dr. White: be my guest! :)


  5. axisoflogos said,

    May 26, 2011 at 7:45 pm

    Restated and abbreviated form of your Biblical Worldview Tree for review and comments…

    THERAPY: Doctrine of Grace
    AXIOLOGY: Doctrine of Sin
    TELEOLOGY: Doctrine of Redemption
    ANTHROPOLOGY: Doctrine of Man
    EPISTEMOLOGY: Doctrine of Scripture
    METAPHYSICS: Doctrine of God
    ONTOLOGY: Doctrine of Creation

    Any better ideas for Axiology and Teleology labels?

  6. paigebritton said,

    May 26, 2011 at 7:57 pm

    Hey, thanks for those ideas. Yes, they match up pretty well with what I understand them to mean: maybe Teleology is more eschatology, though, of the Ephesians 1:9-10 variety (i.e., “in what direction is everything headed?”). Axiology is more about Law & Wisdom than sin — “what is right and wrong?” — so maybe I’d place the Doctrine of Sin in with Anthropology. (But they are related, since sin is the result of answering the Axiology question wrong.)

    Epistemology probably ought to be broader, there, BTW, because you’ve got to take General Revelation (and Historical Revelation, of the direct sort) into account, too. So, “Doctrine of Revelation.”

    Thanks for giving the little arboretum your thoughtful attention. (If you come by again, could you give us your name?)


  7. axisoflogos said,

    October 20, 2011 at 10:28 pm

    Dang, I was hoping there would be a forest when I came back here!

    Anyway, Paige, I am sorry that I did not see your response. I must not have checked the notify box. Thanks for your comments.

    I have used a tree analogy when teaching apologetics at my church. When thinking presuppositionally, driving the conversation to the base of the tree keeps one from getting entangled in the leafy-branches. Spending too much time debating around the periphery of the tree often requires specialized knowledge. Previously trimmed limbs seem to regenerate with vigor while one’s attention is directed towards other branches.

    The trunk and roots of the tree are where most “fruitful” conversations occur. It is also the place where any Christian can build a structurally sound and rational worldview that achieves dominion and provides shade to others.

    People online just call me “Axis.”

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