Encountering Worldview

Lesson Materials

In this session, David looks at differences in culture from a Western Perspective. Sharing stories from his own travels and others, David illustrates how culture is every part of our lives through how we dress, how we interact with others and more.

TEACHING ON CULTURE | Session 4 - Encountering Worldview


1/ Introduction


2/ Definition of Worldview

    • Worldview is a set of presuppositions (or assumptions) about the basic make up of our world” James Sire.  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 manifestations.


“Entering another culture can be like playing a game without knowing the rules.  What’s more, there is no complete written record of the rules, and the other participants cannot tell you the rules, though they immediately know when you have broken one.”[1]


    •  “The way a people characteristically look out on the universe.  It consists of general and comprehensive concepts and unstated assumptions about life. [2]
    • “Fundamental cognitive [thinking], affective [feeling], and evaluative [judging] presuppositions a group of people make about the nature of things, and which they use to order their lives.” [3]
    • Worldview reflects a story about our past, our origins and our destiny.
    • Several authors refer to the questions that worldviews answer. [4]


      • Who are we?
      • Where are we?
      • What is wrong?
      • What is the solution?


Note:  Worldview is essentially a narrative not a list of abstract propositions.


3/ Worldview Diagram


3/ Worldview Examples

    • Western:
      • Consumerist.
      • Materialist.
      • Scientific rationalism.
      • Democratic.
      • Tolerant.
      • Separation of spiritual and secular.

    • Islamic:
      • Corporate – Umma, tribe, clan, family yet divided, “I and my brothers against my cousins; I and my cousins against my tribe; I and my tribe against the world.”  Arab proverb.  One consequence of this is to equate “West” and “Christian”.
      • Honour/shame.  Honour may come from:-
        • Lineage.
        • Piety.
        • Wealth, success.
        • Age “He who is one day older than you is wiser by one year”.  Arab Proverb.
        • Family.
        • On issues of sex, female honour and male honour are different – e.g. story of Judah and Tamar. Gen 38.
      • Honour can cause what we would call “lies” to “save face” and to protect honour.
      • Family (group) clan solidarity rather than individual decision.
      • Fatalistic.
      • Yet manipulative of magical powers etc.  
      • Legalistic – law and ritual.  The 3 enemies of grace are legalism, ritualism and mysticism.


    • Post Modern:
      • Relational
      • No absolutes
      • Not based on a logical system 
      • “Spiritual”
      • Sub-cultural tribalism.


5/ A biblical Christian worldview


Who are we?  Humans made in God’s image – this gives us certain responsibility and ethics consistent with being made in God’s image.  Not fundamentally determined by race, social class, geographical location etc, and male and female are both created in God’s image.  We have responsibility and are not pawns in a deterministic universe (fatalism).  


Where are we?  In a beautiful though transient world, the creation of the God in whose image we are made.  Not an alien world as the Gnostic believes or a world which is divine like the Pantheist suggests.  


What is wrong?  Humanity rebelled against a creator – this reflects a cosmic dislocation between creator and creation and the world therefore is out of tune with its intention to be a place where the creator is glorified.  The evil is more than the product of environment or psychological explanations but rooted in the rebellion of humanity and of supernatural evil powers – but God is still sovereign over his creation.


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 focussed 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.  

However, “Many Christians affirm Christian truth with regard to the gospel and supernatural matters such as sin, salvation, miracles, and prophecies, but they use scientific theories to explain and respond to immediate “natural events” such as illnesses, technology and business decisions.  This leads to an other-worldly Christianity and to the secularisation of everyday life.” [5]




© David Devenish

Encountering Worldview - Teaching on Culture - Session 4 - Bournemouth - March 2015

[1] Tim Chester, “Unreached”, p.29

[2] Muslim Evangelism - As per footnote 47 p273  - Phil Parshall

[3]  Paul G Hiebert, “Transforming Worldviews”, p.15

[4] The New Testament and the People of God – NT Wright – ISBN 0-281-04593-3, The Mission of God – Christopher J H Wright – ISBN 10 0-8308-2571-1, “Truth Is Stranger Than It Used To Be” – J Richard Middleton and Brian J Walsh – ISBN 0-8308-1856-1

[5] Paul G Hiebert, ibid, p74