What's is a Worldview?

A “worldview” is not your knowledge of global geography, but a set of assumptions about reality within a cultural context. It is how people seek to make sense of life; it impacts their values and behavior relative to relationships, family, morality and the supernatural world. Worldview, like culture, has been shaped by generations passing down core beliefs for literally centuries. One’s culture is their way of life: customs, how they dress, social order, etc. Their worldview is a certain way of thinking regarding God, man, sin, the universe and how it all fits together. 


Western and Middle Eastern Values

Until a few hundred years ago everyone believed the world was flat, and people who disagreed lost their lives as heretics. Americans and most westerners are individualistic whereas Muslims and most other cultures are very communal. It is unthinkable that one would make a personal decision apart from the community. Most cultures have a “shame” and “honor” perspective of behavior. It is not a matter of what is right or wrong, but does one’s actions bring shame or honor to the family or the clan. That has something to do with why a Muslim may be ostracized from his family or even killed if they leave their traditional religion and bring shame to their community. It explains why women must be covered, men wear beards and many other customs that are carried out with conviction.

Sacred and Secular

Western worldviews easily make a distinction in the sacred and the secular; there is a distinct difference in religious preference and practice and the rest of life. Not so, with Islam and most other world religions as religion is something that is relevant, practical and intertwined with all of life. One’s worldview determines what they understand about God and the spiritual world, their concept of life after death, and how one deals with the problem of sin. It is difficult to communicate these concepts from a Christian “theistic” worldview with Hindus or Buddhists who hold to an eastern mysticism, to tribal animists who are dealing with an ubiquitous world of spirits, or to a secular humanist who has a naturalistic and materialistic worldview.

Divergent Theism

Christians and Muslims both have a theistic worldview, believing in one, monotheistic, all-powerful sovereign God, though they have a radically different worldview perspective on the nature of God and practical religious expressions. Explaining one’s beliefs in skillful apologetics may impress, but it doesn’t communicate or convince in the context of a cross-cultural mindset; in fact, it doesn’t make sense. Our witness is problematic because it is not just a matter of getting them to believe in God as you present Him; it is requiring them to change their life’s orientation and knocking the legs out from under their understanding of reality. It is possible to win the battle (argument) and lose the war (harden their resolve and resistance).


Understand Communication Barriers

Even as we talk about God with Muslims we may use similar words but mean different things. A Christian knows God as loving, merciful and compassionate; He is a personal God who desires a relationship with us, took the initiative in our salvation and dealt with the problem of sin. A Muslim sees God as a lofty being that cannot be known and is punitive and arbitrary. Prayer is not communion with the Holy One but repetitive ritual. While there is a concept of sin, the Muslim has no sense of personal responsibility for wrongdoing, sees no need of a Savior and is completely at the mercy of the whimsical judgments of God. While there is much to be said about theological differences and dealing with distorted Muslim ideas about Jesus and the Bible, the barriers to communication are not so much religious issues as cultural clash of worldviews.

Build Bridges through Understanding.

In order to build a faith bridge in which one can come to know the true and living God through Jesus Christ, we must build a worldview bridge and communicate the gospel in the context of their understanding of God, sin and man’s nature. That comes through asking questions and respectfully seeking to understand what one believes and why? What do you believe about God? What is the nature of man relative to God? What is your concept of sin? What do you believe about life after death or man’s ultimate destiny? How does one gain salvation or hope of life after death? What is the basis of what you believe?

This is not for the sake of arguing and or seeking to prove the concepts wrong, but for genuine understanding. Seeking an understanding of one’s worldview will help to put explanations of the gospel in a context that makes sense, and, inevitably, will give one an opportunity to explain a Christian worldview and the reason for the assurance and hope in what we believe. To engage in a worldview discussion usually depends on a relationship of trust. So, one must build a relationship bridge, in order to build a worldview bridge of understanding, and in that context, present the gospel and build a faith bridge that makes sense.