Wednesday, 19 October 2011


Have you ever borrowed somebody else’s sunglasses and been surprised at how yellow (or pink, or red, or blue…) the world looks, when you had always thought that the world had a definite brownish hint? We all look at the world around us through different coloured glasses. The different colours are our different worldviews. Have you ever thought about how your upbringing in a particular culture that is underlined by a particular worldview affects how you see everything? It affects how you view society, how you view relationships, how you view time, the cosmos, the mind, morality etc.

I work in an office where Tanzanians, Europeans and Americans work closely side by side. This week and next we are holding a workshop at our office to help our Tanzanian colleagues understand the way we (Europeans and Americans) think, as well as various other things (such as helping them understand Wycliffe better, team building etc). As part of that, we have been thinking about the differing worldviews that we come from, and today I had the dubious privilege of being the teacher and talking about secularism and God’s Word. As I prepared for this, I was struck again by just how much our understanding of our faith is actually affected by the worldview of the society in which we grew up. When I read the Bible, I read it through my secularism spectacles, whether I mean to or not, as they are impossible to take off completely. Equally, my African colleagues read the Bible and act out their faith through the worldview of their environment, which is primarily animistic. It is impossible to acquire a purely Christian/Bible based worldview, because we don’t ‘acquire’ a worldview, we grow up in a worldview and imbibe it subconsciously. Most of my colleagues have grown up in Christian families, but despite that, we can all see how our secularist worldview has affected our faith, from making us sceptical of supernatural healing to being afraid to speak the truth of the Bible into a Christian friend’s life when they need to hear it because we mustn’t be ‘intolerant’. While for my African friends, their worldview may lead them to believe without measuring the truth of what they hear to blaming everything on the spirit world rather than acknowledging personal sin or nature’s input.

Of course, the question then is, how do we determine truth? Well we certainly have to come back to the Bible and test our thoughts and actions against it, but even as we do that, we are always going to be reading it through our worldview specs. I think those of us who work in a cross-cultural setting are in a privileged position to start seeing God’s Word from different perspectives, and hopefully to find our understanding of God deepened as a result. I am looking forward to more conversations with my colleagues so that we can come to understand each other and our differences better and so I can see ways of interpreting and applying the Bible that I just haven’t noticed before. May the Spirit of truth guide us into us all truth (John 16:13)!