A Biblical Worldview: Culture & Worldview
David gave this talk at Woodside Church (Bedford) in 2010, as part of their "A Biblical Worldview" series. Click here to download it.
“Worldview” is an expression that's often used today. As I travel I am wanting to help plant churches and grow churches that stand in contrast to the worldview of their culture and display a Biblical worldview. There is a need for this too here in the UK and therefore what I will be teaching today are some of the things I teach in seminars etc all over the world.
This message is the first part of a series that looks at some relevant issues to life today, not just giving a few texts, but rather seeking to demonstrate from a Biblical worldview how we can think and practice rightly.
A dictionary definition of worldview is “comprehensive conception or image of the universe and of humanity’s relation to it” – it's a big idea. Each culture reflects a different worldview.
Today we are going to look at:
- The Bible
WHAT IS CULTURE?
It's from Latin ‘cultura’ meaning behaviour, education, development, and includes for example:
Relationships between culture and human beings is similar to the relationship between water and fish! Humans are totally and inextricably immersed in culture – Charles Kraft.
‘Culture can be defined as the way of life of a particular society, including its patterns of thought, beliefs, behaviour, customs, traditions, rituals, dress, language, art, music, and literature. These particular systems of beliefs and practices are based on the assumptions people make about themselves, about the world around them and about ultimate realities. Cultures involve the worldviews, social structures, and institutions that give meaning to life. Cultures provide people with the means of expressing their deepest feelings formalised in ways understood and accepted by those around them.’
WHAT IS WORLDVIEW?
It is the deepest level of culture, reflecting the underlying assumptions and outlook on life. It is like the foundation of a building – essential but unseen. Everybody has a worldview as to what is right, wrong and how things should function to be normal. It includes very basic beliefs and expectations and outlook. It is the basic level of culture which is more than the obvious external manifestation.
Disciple making involves a worldview change and not just external behaviour changes. Without a worldview change, repentance and conversion in the biblical sense has not really taken place (that is not to say that a person is therefore not “born again”; they could still definitely belong to Christ – “The Lord knows those who are His” 2 Tim 2:19, for people can be saved on a fragment of knowledge). Our mission is to “make disciples” or, expressed differently to lead the nations “to the obedience of faith”. Trying to change external behaviour without worldview change leads to “legalism” and “externalism”
WORLDVIEW ANSWERS BASIC QUESTIONS
Several authors refer to the questions that worldviews answer.
- Who are we?
- Where are we?
- What is wrong?
- What is the solution?
Thus, for example, a Western, materialist worldview on these questions would be:
- We are purely physical beings, the product of an evolutionary process, started by random events.
- We are on an earth and universe which have no point of reference outside of themselves. There is no 'creator'.
- Because of certain psychological processes we do not manage ourselves or our environment very well.
- We need to call upon our essential goodness and learn how to manage things better – various formulae can be put forward to help us do that in the realms of, for example, ecology, communism, capitalism, psychoanalysis and psychotherapy etc.
Worldview is essentially a narrative not a list of abstract propositions. Because worldview is a narrative, a story of our world, the Bible gives a different narrative in order to undermine wrong worldviews and give a Biblical worldview. So the Bible is one single narrative with a definite beginning and conclusion. Jesus told lots of stories to try and change the worldview of the people who were listening.
HOW DO THE SCRIPTURES WE READ APPLY TO WORLDVIEW?
All our conclusions on doctrine, practice, what is right and wrong, ethical issues come from the fact that God created the world, the 1st creation, we were created by God in his image and we are therefore accountable to God as to how we live in his world and how we take care of it. If we discriminate against somebody then we are implying that they are less than made in the image of God. If we abuse somebody likewise. This is how the narrative of the Bible starts.
The Bible is an Eastern book and therefore reflects Eastern culture much more than it reflects Western culture. Often it affirms an Eastern way of doing things, such as in in its attitudes to hospitality. However it also challenges any aspects of that worldview which is not consistent with a Biblical worldview. This is what Jesus is doing in the story of the two sons in Matthew 21:28-32. Eastern culture is a shame/honour culture not a law/guilt culture. The 2nd son did not shame the father by rebuking him to his face or refusing to do what he wanted to his face (there were probably other around looking on). Not to shame your father is a very important principle in an Eastern culture. The 2nd son did shame his father by saying he would no go. However as Jesus comments, the 2nd son actually did his father’s will. Hence there was opportunity for repentance and what fruit we bear in our lives is actually more important than our initial reaction. The religious leaders gave God honour in what they said but actually did not repent and do the will of God. That is why prostitutes go into the Kingdom ahead of them. So this is not just a nice story, it is a worldview story, a story that hits at the fundamentals of what we believe and therefore how we live.
The Bible story is also a narrative with an end. The new creation. Whatever the sin of man, God has acted to redeem them and save them through Christ and through the new creation of all who are in Christ produce a new heaven and new earth. God will then live with man in this new creation and fill the earth with His glory. He has done that through amazing redemption so that even those who offended against God, whatever they have done, can be part of this new creation.
HOW DOES THE BIBLICAL WORLDVIEW ANSWER THE BASIC QUESTIONS OF LIFE?
A Biblical Christian Worldview (not intended to cover everything Christians believe!) shows us these answers to the earlier questions:
- Who are we? Humans made in God’s image.
- Where are we? In a beautiful though transient and fallen world.
- What is wrong? Humanity rebelled against a creator.
- What is the solution? The creator God has acted, is acting and will act to deal with evil set up by human rebellion and to bring the whole world to its true purpose, in a new creation resonating with God’s presence and glory. This action is focused upon Jesus, His death and resurrection and the continued work of the Holy Spirit amongst God’s people i.e. those who have already been made part of God’s new creation by being placed in Christ instead of in Adam.
During this series, we're going to look at the book of Genesis for foundations of the Biblical worldview on lots of important issues. We will then show how that is developed through the Bible but the foundation for our worldview is drawn from the book of Genesis.
Some of the subjects we are going to look at are:
- Blessings and Curses
- Marriage and Family
- Individual and Community
- Honour Guilt Shame Anxiety