Jurisprudential Worldviews

A person’s worldview, or Weltanschauung, ‘is a way of viewing or interpreting all of reality’.[1] Geisler and Watkins call it ‘an interpretative framework through which or by which one makes sense of the data of life and the world’.[2] Noebel compares it to ‘a pair of glasses through which you view everything.’ The lens through which one views the world can include any ‘set of ideas, beliefs, or values that provide a framework’[3] or perspective on how one understands something in the universe.[4] Thus, the jurisprudential worldview lens through which one views the world determines how one perceives life, liberty, law and constitutional governance. All individuals, including legislators, judges, and other government authorities, make decisions informed by some worldview.

Basically, two competing jurisprudential views of the world exist in contemporary Western Culture.[5] An objectivist Unalienable Worldview sees God as the source of law and rights—where ageless moral absolutes or objective reference points provide an inviolable fixed measure. Conversely, a subjectivist Alienable Worldview sees man as the morally-relative evolving measure—and measurer—of all things.[6] Thus, on generally either embraces that law and liberty are moral absolutes God reveals for us to discover—or that it is something humans deem into existence and evolve solely by our own reasoning apart from any divine revelation.[7]

If the source of the law and liberty is God, the underlying presumptions are very different than if the source is man alone.  If the source is God, the presumption is that His assertions of truth exist, effectively providing objective moral reference points for law and governance. This includes the principle that God created human life in his image. Because God did so, human dignity is inviolable and all government actions must acknowledge and respect it.[8] Liberty, therefore, is seen as an unalienable and unchanging objective inviolable limit on government action.

Conversely, government authorities viewing the world through a subjectivist Alienable Worldview adopt some form of legal positivism. Viewing the jurisprudential world through this lens enables authorities, on either the political left or the right, to see rights as subjective human creations unconnected to any moral or ethical underpinnings. As such they, as humans, are free to re-define, transfer, take away, or evolve rights without regard to any moral considerations. Here, liberty can be seen as the alienable, morally relative, subjective, evolving preferences of those holding power.[9]


[1] D Noebel, Understanding The Times, Harvest House Publishers, Eugene, OR, 1991. [2] D Noebel, note 10 above, quoting N L Geisler and W D Watkin. [3] D Noebel, ‘What is a Worldview?’, Worldview Times (Online), 26 August 2009 http://www.worldviewweekend.com/worldview-times/article.php?articleid=5324. [4] For an exhaustive scholarly review and analysis of competing worldviews see F Schaeffer, The Complete Works of Francis A Schaeffer: A Christian Worldview, Volume Five, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 1982; N Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, Crossway Books, Wheaton, IL, 2004; D Noebel, note 10 above; Moreland and Craig, Philosophical Foundation for a Christian Worldview, Intervarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 2003. [5] A plethora of variations on this primal dichotomy of worldviews exists, and there are many modern and post-modern and post-post-modern attempts to ‘bury’ the natural law view. But reports of this tradition’s demise are greatly exaggerated. Stout defenses have been raised by numerous jurisprudential and philosophical experts. See, e.g., D Beyveld and R Brownsward, Law as Moral Obligation, Sheffield Academic Press, London, 2005; J Finnis, Natural Law and Natural Rights, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 2005; R George, Natural Law Theory, Oxford University Press, Oxford, 1994. [6] See generally, A Zimmermann, ‘Evolutionary Legal Theories—the Impact of Darwinism on Western Conception of Law’ (2010) 24(2) Journal of Creation 103; See D M Crone, ‘Assisted Suicide… A Philosophical Examination’’ (1997) 31 USF Law Review 399, p 422; see also M W McConnell, ‘The Right to Die and the Jurisprudence of Tradition’ (1997) Utah Law Review 665, pp 667–669. [7] See, C E Rice, note 2 above. [8] See eg, Madison’s Remonstrance 1785; D M Crone, 1997, note 15 above, p 422. [9] Keyes correctly observes that ‘relativism works at two levels…. On the one level, it is a philosophical doctrine, one among other contenders. But on the other level, it is a meta-philosophy, telling us how to understand all doctrines from all sources…. It is one view, but demands to be the paradigm through which all views are known’. D Keyes, ‘Pluralism, Relativism, and Tolerance’, A Series of L’Abri Lectures, No.2, L’Abri Fellowship, Southborough.