Before we dive into secularism in particular, it is helpful to talk about the concept of worldview. As missionaries, we are ready to learn about the “religion” of the people to whom we are called. But what happens when the people have neither a “religion” nor a committed philosophy like Marxism? How we are to understand the perspective of the peoples whom we wish to serve with the gospel? This is where the idea of worldview comes is useful. So, what do we mean by “worldview” and how does a worldview work?
Everyone has a worldview. It is the means by which we decide right and wrong, determine value, respond emotionally to an experience or find purpose and meaning. It is our interpretive grid. It is the “default setting” through which each person views and lives in the world. The scriptures primarily use the word “heart” to express the idea of worldview. Heart is the seat of emotions, thoughts, and will. A worldview is “an orientation and commitment of the heart”. It is conscious and subconscious, logical and illogical.
We can illustrate worldview by what we like to call the “ick factor.” What a culture thinks of as cuisine differs. One culture will eat dog, another locust, and another fried cheese curds. The “ick response” to those foods varies depending on how you were socialized to think and feel. There is an automatic, heart-felt response. While it applies to food preferences, it can also be applied to deeper issues of what constitutes murder, cheating, or the idea of what makes a good citizen or a good daughter. It is what is in our hearts.
A worldview is created through the process of enculturation and socialization, at the family and society level, working with the basic personality, which includes the fallen nature and the residual image of God. This means that our fallen nature is shaped by the context into which we are born, and it further “squeezes us into its mold.” We live and work and play and rarely reflect on why we do what we do. This is because like an iceberg, most of who we are lies below the surface. We may not know what lies below, but it still drives who we are and what we do.
When we talk about someone coming to Christ and being transformed, we are talking about a re-orientation that touches the deepest regions of the heart. Repentance includes recognizing that we are wrong at every level, receiving forgiveness, and turning toward Christ as we allow His Spirit to begin to re-wire our hearts – our worldviews. Human cultures are a mixed bag; just as men and women are all sinful, so too every culture is twisted and broken at some point. While we will always retain the marks and habits of the particular human culture and family we were raised in (and many of those habits are God-honoring), sanctification is the life-long process of allowing Jesus’ goodness to correct, heal, and renew our desires, thoughts, and actions – our worldviews.
There are several reasons why understanding worldview is important for us.
It takes seriously the profundity of the human person and the necessity of deep transformation. It motivates us to immerse ourselves in our target culture in order to better understand people and better communicate the gospel. It keeps us humble, as we recognize that we are influenced by our worldviews and can be blind to the brokenness in our own cultures and family backgrounds. It challenges us to make disciples and not simply converts, relying on the Scripture and the Spirit to guide the new believer in the life-long process of heart transformation.
We are called to “Make Disciples - by baptizing and teaching ALL the things Jesus has commanded.” “All things” is not simply a list of teachings, but an all-encompassing vision of the kingdom-kind-of-life. Our vision is to see a revolution of the heart, a recreation of worldview. Therefore it is necessary for us to understand a secularist’s worldview to help them turn and follow Jesus. The more specificity we have in our understanding of the society to which God has called us as missionaries, the more dynamic our preaching, teaching and discipleship becomes. Paul was willing to lay aside his Jewish worldview in order to try to think like the Gentiles, for the purpose of their salvation.
“To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law” (1 Cor. 9:21)
Speaking someone’s language is far more than learning a foreign vocabulary; it is trying to see and feel the world as someone else does, as far as that is possible, in order to better communicate the hope that is in Jesus Christ.