The Lenses We Wear

During my time at Seminary I took quite a few courses on missions. There is a saying that “Missions is the mother of Theology”. It all starts with God’s love for us humans and his invitation to participate in his mission of reconciling the world. The questions and challenges around how to communicate the Gospel in the context of a global world excited me. How do you share the good news of the fullness of life found in Christ with business people in Manhattan? And, how do you work for justice and peace in a society that is shape by the cast system? How do we share the freedom in Christ with people who live in constant fear of being punished by evil spirits? Honestly, I learned more just as much about my own beliefs and views on the world as I learned about different worldviews. However, what I also learned is that one key to effective communication of the gospel and poverty alleviation is understanding worldviews.

Everyone Sees The World With Their Own Eyes.

So what is worldview? In our video series we talked about how worldview is like a set of glasses through which we see the world.

The Mennonite anthropologist Paul G. Hiebert put it this way: “Worldview is the fundamental cognitive, affective and evaluative presuppositions a group of people make about the nature of things, and which they use to order their lives.” 1Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding Of How People Change, (Baker Academics, 2008), p.15 This means worldviews define our reality and are a model for our actions.It’s what we think with, not what we think about. However, we not only need to understand our own worldview, but we also need to understand what shapes our worldview. Often we are not fully aware of the things that influence our thinking, our actions and beliefs. The environment we live in shapes our worldview. It is a product of our socialization – education, family, media, religion, etc – all impact our worldview. Thus, everyone sees the world through their own lenses.

Depending on where we grew up, and the culture that surrounded us, our worldviews will not be the same. Even if we grew up in the same culture, our worldviews will differ as culture is not the only factor defining worldviews. As we search for meaning and purpose we find that our worldview is embedded in a bigger and often supernatural story. Religions, myths and science determine the way we act, think, and how we view others. Naturally, then, the way we view issues such as poverty and injustice will differ, as will our proposed solutions.

The Conflict of Worldviews

In a global world the conflict of worldviews is apparent. Our perspective on the world is not the only one. We are surrounded by a flood of ideas from around the world that are telling us how we should live and what to believe. One trend is following another trend at a pace that I find it hard to follow what’s hip and exciting. Technological advancement, economic power, cultural progress and personal success are the new gods of this age. World politics and war encourage an increasing flow and mixing of peoples. We basically live in an everchanging world. Thus, our worldview is constantly challenged and informed by the multitude of culture, religion and technological progress available to us.

Our reality shows that worldviews are entwined with social systems. Nations and societies are build on values that are shaped by the worldview of those with power. If our worldview lets us dehumanize “other” people groups, it is easy to oppress and exploit them for our benefit. Tragically, our news are full of examples how different worldviews lead to conflict and violence. Nationalistic movements are on the rise, discrimination is still part of societies around the world and our luxurious standard of living leads to separation. The importance of worldviews becomes visible as norms are being broken and our identities are questioned. Therefore, we don’t only need to understand our own worldview, but also the worldviews of those who are around us. Only then can we effectively communicate with each other and work towards reconciliation and justice. This allows us to relate to the problems, fears and needs of our neighbors far and wide.

God’s Worldview

As different and challenging worldviews can be, we need to understand that we can change our worldviews. We are never going to be able to completely shed our own cultures or mindsets. But as Christians our desire should be to see the world and people from God’s point of view. In doing that, we can start to see the world through the most truthful of lenses. God, however, doesn’t wear glasses. His worldview is not shaped by culture, media or family. He sees the world exactly the way it is. He has the original worldview. As followers of Christ, it is our duty to lay down our glasses and to try and see the world, in all its imperfection, the way God sees it.

We can start aligning our worldview to God’s vision by being rooted in the biblical tradition and the worldview it provides. A biblical worldview restores our broken views of people, culture and the world, while it gives meaning to life and history. Furthermore it is essential to developing global understanding and networks between communities and people. Imagine how different the world would look like, if we would see the world through God’s eyes. If we would truly treat the people around us as neighbors and love them with the self-sacrificial love that Jesus has shown us. Let’s start by being transformed in our own worldviews.

Reflection

Take some time to think about these questions.

  • What does impact your worldview – the way you see, think and act?
  • How does you worldview influence your daily life?
  • What if you would have God’s view on the world?

The Challenge

In Matthew 6:22.34 Jesus talks to the crowd: “The eye is the lamp of the body. So, if your eye is healthy, your whole body will be full of light, but if your eye is bad, your whole body will be full of darkness. If then the light in you is darkness, how great is the darkness!” We are shaped and influenced by the things we see around us. The world is constantly changing and so are we. In order to hold on to a biblical worldview that brings us closer to God’s vision, we need to carefully examine the world, expose ourselves to the truth of God and create our worldviews accordingly.

Footnotes   [ + ]

1. Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding Of How People Change, (Baker Academics, 2008), p.15