Worldviews matter. More than two decades ago, Francis Schaeffer wrote his landmark historical survey, How Should We Then Live? In it, the seminal thinker, writer, and social reformer traced the extraordinary rise and distressing decline of Western Civilization. He argued that more troubling than any of the problems that are now undermining the remarkable freedom and prosperity of our culture is the fact that we no long quite know how to think about those problems. Indeed the most basic problem, which lay behind all other problems, was the fact that most concerned parents and community leaders are only able to see things “in bits and pieces instead of totals.” The result has been a kind of hesitant hit-or-miss approach to dealing with the dire dilemmas of our society. Thus, he says, we have “very gradually become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion.” But we have not seen these issues “as a totality—each thing being a part, a symptom, of a much larger problem.”
Part of the reason for this is that, as he argued, we have failed to see “that all of this has come about due to a shift in worldview—that is, through a fundamental change in the overall way people think a view the world and life as a whole.” In other words, according to Schaeffer, part of the reason it has been so difficult to solve the grave cultural crises of the day is that we have largely ignored the fact that changes in our society have occurred first and foremost because of changes in our thinking. We’ve not only failed to recognize the fact that ideas have consequences; we’ve failed to recognize the existence of the ideas themselves. We’ve failed to see the central importance of worldview to all that we are and all that we do.