Quotes from N.T. Wright’s The New Testament and the People of God (Wright, 1992), Part II: Tools for the Task

“Worldviews have to do with the presuppositional, pre-cognitive stage of a culture or society.  Wherever we find the ultimate concerns of human beings, we find worldviews.” (p. 122)

“‘Worldview’, in fact, embraces all deep-level human perceptions of reality, including the question of whether or not a god or gods exist, and if so what he, she, it or they is or are like, and how such a being, or such beings, might relate to the world.” (p. 123)

“There are four things which worldviews characteristically do, in each of which the entire worldview can be glimpsed.  First, as we have seen throughout this Part of the book, worldviews provide the stories through which human beings view reality… Second, from these stories one can in principle discover how to answer the basic questions that determine human existence: who are we, where are we, what is wrong, and what is the solution?… Third, the stories that express the worldview, and the answers which it provides to the questions of identity, environment, evil and eschatology, are expressed (as we saw in the previous chapter) in cultural symbols… Fourth, worldviews include a praxis, a way-of-being-in-the-world.  The implied eschatology of the fourth question (‘what is the solution?’) necessarily entails action.”  (pp. 123-24) [Italics original]

“Worldviews are thus the basic stuff of human existence, the lens through which the world is seen, the blueprint for how one should live in it, and above all the sense of identity and place which enables human beings to be what they are.” (p. 124)

“Worldviews, as I said earlier, are like the foundations of a house: vital, but invisible.  They are that through which, not at which, a society or an individual normally looks; they form the grid according to which humans organise reality, not bits of reality that offer themselves for organisation.  They are not usually called up to consciousness or discussion unless they are challenged or flouted fairly explicitly, and when this happens it is usually felt to be an event of worryingly large significance.  They can, however, be challenged; they can, if necessary, be discussed, and their truth-value called into question.” (p. 124)

“But worldviews normally come into sight, on a more day to-day-basis, in sets of beliefs and aims which emerge into the open, which are more regularly discussed, and which in principle could be revised somewhat without revising the worldview itself.” (p. 124)

“These basic beliefs and aims, which serve to express and perhaps safeguard the worldview, give rise in turn to consequent beliefs and intentions, about the world, oneself, one’s society, one’s god.” (p. 125)

Quotes from N.T. Wright’s Paul and the Faithfulness of God (Wright, 2013), Part I

“… worldview/mindset (the ‘mindset’ being the individual’s particular variation on the parent ‘worldview’ of the community to which he or she belongs)…” (p. 23)

“… to worldviews, building on the exposition in Part II of The New Testament and the People of God.” (p. 24)

“The reason why it is important to study worldviews is that human life is complicated, confusingly multifaceted, and often puzzling – much like Paul’s letters, in fact.” (p. 24)

“Part of the reason for welcoming the much wider socio-cultural investigations of the early Christian movement that have been taking place in recent decades is because they are helping to redress the balance, reminding us that history and theology, though important, do not stand alone.”  (p. 25)

“Worldview-models of various kinds have been tried out.  What counts is not some abstract theoretical sophistication – that would be heavily ironic, here of all places! – but the heuristic effect, seen quite pragmatically and indeed always provisionally: as we map the landscape, are we able to explore and understand it more effectively?” (p. 25)

“If the reason for studying worldviews is the recognition that life is complex, multi-layered, and driven by often hidden energies, the method for such study must be appropriate to that quest.  Those who engage in this work increasingly insist on the centrality of what may be called a ‘symbolic universe,’ a world of artefacts (buildings, coins, clothes, ships) and habitual actions (what I have called ‘praxis’) in which people sense themselves at home and without which they would feel dangerously disorientated.  Worldview-study has also insisted, with strong support from some recent work in linguistics and its sociological, cultural and political implications, on the importance of underlying narratives, the scripts by which people order their lives, the ‘plays’ in which they assume themselves to be actors.  Within this matrix of symbol, praxis and story, worldviews can be brought to expression using the elemental questions which Rudyard Kipling referred to as his ‘six honest serving men’ who ‘taught him all he knew’: What, Why, When, How, Where and Who.  The way I have asked those questions in this project up to now (and it will be as well to stick to this for the sake of continuity) is: Who are we?  Where are we?  What’s wrong?  What’s the solution (= ‘How?’, i.e. “How do we get out of this mess?’), and ‘What time is it?’ (= ‘When?’).”  (p. 26) [Per the footnote: N.T. Wright added ‘What time is it?” in Jesus and the Victory of God.]


Wright, N.T. (1992).  The New Testament and the people of God, Christian origins and the question of God, vol. 1.  London: Fortress Press.

Wright, N.T. (1996).  Jesus and the victory of God, Christian origins and the question of God, vol. 2. London: SPCK.

Wright, N.T. (2013).  Paul and the Faithfulness of God, Christian origins and the question of God.  London: SPCK.

See also

The Worldviews, the Bible and the Believer course on N.T. Wright online.

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