Worldview and Christian mission
have a friend who was once a committed Buddhist.
Wonderfully, he has come to know the Lord Jesus as his saviour. But he had a lot of questions. The trouble was that his Christian friends kept answering questions he wasn’t asking. One of his big questions was, “How can you say God suffers?” He was given lots of great answers explaining why people suffer – but he wasn’t confused about that. He knows people suffer. My friend couldn’t get his head around the idea that God might suffer on the cross. The reason this was such a big issue for him was because of his worldview. Imagine a Christian doing street evangelism in Paris. They ask a group of French uni students: “If you died tonight and God said, ‘Why should I let you into heaven?’, what would you say?” Every single student looks confused and replies: “That wouldn’t happen because God doesn’t exist”. The evangelism approach isn’t working because of worldview. Imagine a gospel worker in a strongly Islamic country, chatting with a Muslim woman and telling her Bible stories. The woman seems very interested in the gospel. The worker says, “You can choose to follow Jesus”. The woman replies, “No, I am not free to 22
make choices like that”. The conversation ends as it does because of worldview. So, what is a worldview? It is a metaphorical pair of spectacles. My spectacles enable me to focus on what I’m looking at so I can see clearly. A worldview is the set of cultural values and assumptions that enable people to see and focus clearly on the world they live in. We all have a worldview. And because none of us (apart from the Lord Jesus) have reached a state of sinless perfection, we are shaped by the cultures we live in – in helpful and unhelpful ways. It is easy for me to focus through my worldview – to look at you and the world around me through a set of cultural values and assumptions. But it is much harder for me to focus on my worldview because, unlike a pair of spectacles, I can’t easily take off my worldview and examine it.
WORLDVIEW AS A MAP When we try to get somewhere new without a map, we quickly get lost. And, as mission historian Andrew F. Walls so helpfully observes in his book Crossing Cultural Frontiers: Studies in the History SouthernCross
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