RELIGIOUS/PHILOSOPHICAL WORLDVIEWS

A Worldview is a set of underlying assumptions that all individuals have because they belong to a certain group of people. As James Sire says in The Universe Next Door:

“A worldview is a commitment, a fundamental orientation of the heart, that can be expressed as a story or in a set of presuppositions (assumptions which may be true, partially true or entirely false) which we hold (consciously or subconsciously, consistently or inconsistently) about the basic constitution of reality, and that provides the foundation on which we live and move and have our being.”

One way of classifying world views is by their view of the nature of Reality (including the unseen):

  • Naturalism/Rationalism: the material universe is all that exists. Reality is ‘one-dimensional.’ There is no such thing as a soul or a spirit. Everything can be explained on the basis of natural law.
  • Theism: an infinite (sometimes personal) God exists. He created a finite, material world. Reality is both material and spiritual. The universe, as we know it, had a beginning and will have an end.
  • Pantheism: only the spiritual dimension exists. All else is illusion,  Spiritual reality is eternal, impersonal, and unknowable. It is possible to say that everything is a part of God, or that God is in everything and everyone.
  • Spiritism & Polytheism: the world is populated by spirit beings who govern what goes on. Gods and demons are the real reason behind “natural” events. Material things are real, but they have spirits associated with them and, therefore, can be interpreted spiritually.
  • Post Modernism: reality must be interpreted through our language and cultural ‘paradigm.’ Therefore, reality is ‘socially constructed’ and highly subjective, depending on an individual or cultural interpretation. This leads to “expressive individualism”, which leads to the belief that the highest good is one’s own freedom and happiness found in self-discovery and self-realisation leading finally to self-actualisation. This is ultimately summed up by the phrases, “be true to yourself” and “follow your heart”.

WHAT QUESTIONS DOES A WORLDVIEW ANSWER?

In one way or another, every worldview answers the following questions: ‘Where do I come from?’, ‘Where am I going?’, ‘Who Am I?’, ‘How can I know?’, and lastly, ‘What is my purpose?’  In this sense every worldview and religion, as well as philosophy, all form part of our core beliefs that govern how we approach what the Father is calling us to. We believe that a relationship with the Father God of the Scriptures through Jesus Christ will answer all these questions.

This is an important understanding about humanity. We have in the Gospel of Jesus Christ a message that satisfies the whole of humanity and every human heart, that enables all humans to have a relationship with the Father through Jesus. No matter when or where they live. No matter what their cultural background, gender or language.

CULTURAL/SOCIOLOGICAL WORDVIEWS

A second way of understanding worldviews is through the lens of human interaction. It is here that Worldviews meet study of Cultural anthropology and sociology.  How do I relate to other humans (and the unseen world) and on what basis?  Three views (which are broad, overarching, generalised concepts and so should not be used to pigeon-hole individuals) help us understand:

Look at the following descriptions of 3 major worldview cultures:

1In an honour/shame culture your standing before other people depends on your level of shame or honour. There is a scale which has shame on one side and honour on the other,  and the things you do and say, and the ways you behave can tip the scale in one direction or the other. If you have been shamed, the way to recover your reputation is to do something that will restore your honour.

2In a guilt/innocence culture your standing depends on your level of guilt or innocence. These cultures are preoccupied with justice, with keeping people in-check with standards of right and wrong. So from their earliest days children are taught to follow the rules and are told they will be innocent if they obey those rules or guilty if they disobey them.  Society and its people are kept in-check with sets of laws and, when contravened, charges against are enforced with the goal of finding them guilty, thus providing equilibrium in society. Every person experiences the desire to avoid guilt and protect innocence.

3In a power/fear culture your standing depends on your level of fear or power. These cultures are usually tribal and animistic and it pressures individuals with the fear of consequences meted out by supernatural spirits. The way to overcome fear is to gain power—power over those spirits and, through them, power over other people. They can do this through curses, incantations, charms, or even sacrifices. Each of these is a means to draw power from those supernatural forces, those angry spirits, and in that way to gain power over people. Fear is what controls people and forces them to conform to the culture around them.

THE GOSPEL AND WORLDVIEWS

These cultural worldviews all have their root in the effects of sin, as recorded in Genesis 3. Adam & Eve rebelled against the ‘law’ ( cf Rom. 1:32) of God and experienced shame – shown by the sudden knowledge that they are naked and their desire to cover themselves.  They experienced fear as they run and hide from God, desperate to escape his gaze. They experienced guilt, knowing that they have gone from innocent to guilty in the eyes of God. In every case they were right—they had every reason to experience shame, fear, and guilt because they had behaved shamefully, they had offended a powerful being, and they had become objectively guilty of a divine law.

In the same way we find that the gospel of Jesus addresses all of these. Jesus was shamed (Rom 10:11) on our behalf to restore our honour. Fear is met by assuring us that Christ has defeated every power (Col. 2:15) and how he even gives his power to us. Finally, the gospel addresses guilt (Rom. 8:1) by assuring us that Christ took our guilt upon himself so he could give us his righteousness.  The gospel removes shame, it removes fear, and it removes guilt, it restores honour, it restores power, it restores innocence. The gospel speaks to every person in every culture and addresses their every need, both in terms of reality (the seen & the unseen) and of human interaction (the societal & the relational).

We believe that The Gospel of Jesus is able to meet all these worldviews and the effect that Sin has had on individuals and humanity as a whole. In a multi-cultural society, like the UK (and Western Democracies in general) we would expect that we will encounter people with all these world-views.  In addition within peoples who have a certain overarching world- view we will find aspects of other worldviews present.  Furthermore we will find that the mingling of peoples with different worldviews will actually have an effect on that people, making the understanding of people’s needs to more complex. We will therefore need to have a gospel that reflects the ‘fullness of Jesus’ so as we can respond to all of those around us.  We want to present Jesus as the first among many brothers, (Rom. 8:29), the last Adam, the life-giving Spirit, the true second Man from Heaven (Rom. 15:47) who is able to be the hope of all mankind.

Author

  • Andrew Berry

    Marcia and Andrew were with OM in the 80’s and rejoined in 2012. Ordained by the Christian & Missionary Alliance, they served churches in the USA and then in France and are blessed with 2 children, their respective spouses and grandchildren. Their experience pastoring local churches has given them a passion to assist and encourage church planting.