Weltanschauung, the German word for worldview, allows us to interpret our otherwise confusing world. Our metanarrative, the overarching story, provides our weltanschauung, and gives meaning to our existence by answering four existential questions:
- Who are we (am I)?
- Where did we (I) come from?
- What went wrong in the world?
- Where are we (am I) going?
Answers to these questions come from a variety of sources. A believer in Jesus with a thoroughly Biblical worldview would answer as follows:
- Who am I? A being created by God in His image for the purpose of glorifying Him and enjoying Him forever.
- Where did I come from? The human race created by God beginning with Adam, extending to Noah, and continuing through my ancestors in space and time until today. This accounts for the people, places, and cultures that contribute to who I am and to whom those around me are.
- What went wrong in the world? Mankind broke fellowship with God by disobeying Him, introducing evil into all existence, and culminating in universal suffering and death.
- Where am I going? Due to the substitutionary atonement provided by God Himself in the person of Jesus Christ, I can be purged of sin and reunited with my Creator in eternal bliss.
A Muslim might suggest that he was created by Allah for the purpose of submitting to Him, coming from the original people, tempted to rebel against Allah (though there is no original sin), and destined for a paradise of beautiful and accommodating women, a cool well-watered garden, and everlasting repose. A Hindu would affirm that the universe exists forever so there is no need for creation, he has lived millions of lives in various forms in the cycle of Samsara (birth, death, and rebirth), that individual and corporate failure to follow dharma is the problem in the world, and that eventually he will attain moksha and merge with the supreme being. A Buddhist might argue that such questions are meaningless because nothing actually exists, while a materialist could posit an eternal universe (or eternal multiverses), existence caused by the process of evolution, inherently good human nature corrupted by societal dysfunction, annihilation for the individual, and continued evolution into perfection for the human race.
This summary is by no means exhaustive. There are as many metanarratives as people, though in my experience most people have not thought through their metanarratives are hazy in their minds. Though I have framed these metanarratives in a question-and-answer format, individuals would understand them as a story. Christians follow the Bible story and Hindus (like Gandhi) follow the story in the Bhagavad Gita. Each person believes that their metanarrative provides a better explanation for existence than all others, though few would admit it. Postmodernists and Marxists have historically argued that there is no grand metanarrative explaining existence and that to hold a metanarrative is to try to oppress other people.
While a fundamental question that must be answered is “does anything exist?” the answer has to be “yes” because it is impossible to live in the world while believing that nothing exists. How can a non-existent being sit in a chair that itself is non-existent? If a metanarrative is to be useful for explaining real life, it must assume some kind of reality. A more important question is “does God exist?” If the answer is “yes,” then God, not man, is the Supreme Being. We are beholden to Him, and not the other way around. If the answer is “no,” as in Marxism and other atheistic philosophies, man is the supreme being, either as individuals or as a corporate “human race.” The Humanist Manifesto argues that “mankind” is preeminent, but most of us live as though we ourselves are supreme in our own lives.
Each of us should examine our weltanschauung and our resultant metanarrative, and then compare our style of living to what we say we believe. Though not an easy task, it will help us become more consistent in our beliefs, our thoughts, and our actions. Our lives will improve in a thousand ways.