Thursday, February 14, 2008

Theology and culture: Worldview

What is worldview and how important to study it when you are doing cross cultural ministry? According to Charles Kraft worldview is inherent in culture. It is a culturally structured assumptions, values and commitments or allegiances underlying a people’s perception. It is the structuring of the deepest level presuppositions on the basis of which people live their lives. It provides cultural bases for the structuring of people’s actions and perceived reality.

Worldview can be characterized as follows. Firstly, its assumptions or premises are not reasoned out, but assumed to be true without prior proof. These assumptions are deeply embedded in the culture. These assumptions are taught from generation to generation so persuasively that they seemed to have become absolute and not subject to questioning. Second, a people’s worldview provides them with a lens by which they see the world through. In terms of which reality is perceived and interpreted. Thirdly, people organizes its life and experiences into an explanatory whole that it seldom (if ever) questions unless some of its assumptions are challenged by experience that the people cannot interpret from within that framework. And finally, of all the problems that surface when people from different cultures come into contact with each other, those that arise from differences in worldview are the most difficult to deal with.

A person who comes from a homogeneous country usually falls in category of having mono-cultural perspective. This means that their worldview is limited to their own point of view only. Consciously or otherwise they have the tendency to be ethnocentric. They have the idea that their culture is the best and they are the best human being created by God. They think their ways are superior to other cultures in many ways. This perspective lacks respect for other people’s way.

It has the tendency to be absolutistic and believe that the only way to do things is their way. If others do things differently they think it is wrong. A good example of this is using spoon and fork in eating. They smirk when they see people eating with their hands and think that it is barbaric and primitive.

Mono-cultural perspective buys into naïve realism. If I were a mono-cultural person, I would think that my values are far more advanced and thus I think I had arrived. I would have the habit of evaluating other people’s customs and perspectives in terms of my own culturally learned assumptions and values. I have developed my own lens in which to assess other people. I would measure their intelligence and effectiveness based on what my culture has set for me. I would readily use pejorative terms to contrast my ways with those of others. I may even think that my culture is biblical. This is ethnocentricity. Then I don’t have a business to be in the mission field. I should pack and go home.

The image is from worldview site.

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