Thank God he uses us in our ignorance. I’ve been thinking about worldview and I now consider my former approach to betray a cultural arrogance.
I used material on worldviews for a number of years.
First, it was really just an ice breaker to use on a uni campus, a way of helping people to think about how they view the world and to own a label – just a discussion starter really.
Over time, I thought more about it and developed some training on it which I used in a number of contexts. It focused in particular on how to move someone to reconsider their current worldview. I even had an illustration about how you can’t have two worldviews any more than you can put two feet into one shoe. The thought was that if you don’t dismantle the first worldview first, evangelism doesn’t make sense. You need to bring a person to a point of crisis with their current worldview before you start talking about another one.
But now I think that was misguided.
First, the idea that there is some sort of ‘Christian worldview’ is questionable. The people of the Bible had a variety of worldviews because they came from a diversity of cultural backgrounds. The Bible speaks from a variety of cultural viewpoints into a variety of cultures.
Second, my doctrine of scripture is robust enough to believe that the Bible is relevant to every culture. I don’t need to dismantle someone’s culture or worldview first in order for the Bible to speak into it.
Third, I now believe that worldview is incredibly hard to change. Compare Tanzanians’ and Australians’ approach to the spirit world. In the former, the animistic worldview lies behind Christians’ understanding of the world. In the latter, our difficulties with prayer and believing in the supernatural owe more to the Enlightenment than the Bible. In either case, it might actually be impossible to dismantle the first worldview!
Fourth, I think that the way to help someone to know Jesus is to speak in categories they understand. I think this was what was behind the idea of doing a worldview survey in the first place, but I think I still wanted to bring people around to my way of seeing the world rather than choosing to see Jesus in a different way in order for it to make sense to them.
So where does that leave me with worldview? At the very least, it leaves me with looking for points of connection with a worldview rather than a chance to bring someone to a point of crisis. Of course there will be things in any worldview which the Bible critiques but I think I now have a greater appreciation that there are things in every worldview which the Bible affirms as well.
Tamie Davis is an Aussie living in Tanzania, writing at meetjesusatuni.com.