Worldview and Story

I just listened to a message by David Devenish on "Discipling those of different cultures" from last summer's Brighton conference (review to appear soon). He makes some very interesting points about worldview, and tells the story of missions work in the Philippines: Missionaries unintentionally gave the people only a layer of teaching on top of their underlying worldview which was spiritism. Successive waves of missionaries, both Protestant and Catholic, only succeeded in changing their formal beliefs while the underlying spiritism remained intact.

This got me thinking. There are four levels at which we operate:

  • behaviour
  • teachings
  • attitudes
  • worldview

Behaviour can be altered to some extent by external pressure (although ultimately it flows from the underlying layers). Teachings can be taught. Attitudes are far more difficult and need to be taught by example, as Paul and Jesus did. Worldview, however, and this was the interesting part for me, is changed by telling stories.

That is why so much of the Bible is story, and when Paul lays out the gospel, he does in terms of the new story (not in Adam but in Christ/new creation/died with Christ/raised with him). The theological term for this is a "redemptive-historical" presentation of the gospel.

That is why the declining Biblical knowledge among Christians is so serious. It is not just that it is "good for us" to know all the Old Testament stories, and the story of the New Covenant. It is foundational to a new worldview (mindset of the Spirit in Rom 8:5,6).

Christians who do not know their Bible, (and I am not just talking about remembering a few stories told in Sunday-School), are seriously weakened in their walk. What is needed is a grasp of the big story. Christians need to know Biblical Theology and the grand plan of redemption. Cultures are fundamentally shaped by their "big stories" yet so much of Christianity today is a set of Christian teachings built on the shaky foundation of today's culture: a melange of postmodernism and humanism. No wonder the church is "blown around by every wind of doctrine".

So I decided to try and put these thoughts into action in yesterday's sermon and tell the story of David and Goliath from a different perspective—one that is redemptive-historical and aimed at changing our worldview. I think it worked, but if you want to hear for yourself it is on the Newlife Church sermons page.