How Worldviews Shift – Part 3

            In my last post I noted that I would look at the process in personally shifting our worldviews. While Peter’s worldview shift required a dramatic intervention, as did Paul’s initial change, his ‘Road to Damascus’ experience, they needn’t be that dramatic or intense. Paul and Peter’s were thrust upon them. I suggest we embrace the option of choosing ours and here I lay out how.

            As I highlighted in my worldview book, our tendency is to ‘think with rather than about our worldview.’ Essentially, ‘we don’t know what we don’t know.’ While that is obvious, moving beyond it requires intention and effort on our part. I am going to go a bit deeper than we usually do in normal discourse to highlight this issue. Presently in our Western culture there is a tendency to highlight feelings over facts. The absurdity of this can be seen in the sadly popular idea of ‘speaking our truth.’ Truth is something that coheres with reality but we have undergone a cultural shift where many have relabelled their experiences and perspectives as ‘truth.’ The precursor to this was the idea ‘that may be true for you but it’s not true for me.’ Perspectives have been labeled truth, which is a falsehood. We may believe a falsehood to be true but that won’t magically make it so.

            In the cultural quagmire that we find ourselves in it can be difficult to discern the right road and recognize the impact our culture has on shaping our worldview. To engage in thinking about our worldview we begin looking at the ideas of presuppositions and plausibility structures. Presuppositions are part of our worldview, ideas that we hold to be true. Plausibility structures are ideas we hold about what is possible or probable. Here are scriptural examples of both presuppositions and plausibility structures. We begin with Paul and then move to a distraught father.

3 As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. 4 Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?” 5 And he said, “Who are You, Lord?” Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.” 6 So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?” Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.” Acts 9:3–6 (NKJV)

23 Jesus said to him, “If you can believe, all things are possible to him who believes.” 24 Immediately the father of the child cried out and said with tears, “Lord, I believe; help my unbelief!” Mark 9:23–24 (NKJV)

Paul believed that in persecuting the Christians he was doing God a favour when in fact his presupposition, what he held to be true, was the opposite of reality. He was even daily praying to the one he was persecuting! This is an example of someone believing something to be true that was in fact false. The belief system Paul was persecuting was in fact the solution, not the problem he believed it to be. The distraught father held that it was plausible for healing to take place, he just needed to see it happen for his son to shift from the plausible to the actual.

            In both cases a worldview shift took place. Personally, I have gone through many over the years. I believe that is because of two factors. One, I have pursued truth and understanding in and of the scriptures. Two, I am open to being wrong. I used to tell my staff at work to feel free to challenge my thinking because I had no illusion that I was right all the time. Many did and collectively it led to better decisions. Yet, this wasn’t always the case, when I was younger, I used to believe that there was the way I did things then a number of wrong ways!

            The shift for me was a combination of life experience and reflection. Which brings us to how we shift our worldviews. Paul didn’t recognize that his worldview was wrong until confronted by a reality he was denying. Yet had he reflected and studied the scriptures with an open rather than an angry heart (Acts 9:1-2) he may not have needed to be confronted by Jesus on the road to Damascus, he could have had the same experience as the Bereans he later shared the gospel with.

10 Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. 11 These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so. 12 Therefore many of them believed, and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men. Acts 17:10–12 (NKJV)

            If we want to align our worldview with the view of scripture, which should be what we all desire, then we need to take the time and reflect on what the scriptures teach. For my worldview book I developed a Worldview Assessment Tool with a rating scale so we could do just that. I won’t reproduce all of it here, however the questions below are a useful tool for our own reflection and assessment. I introduced the idea with a couple of reflective questions followed by a statement of faith and some further questions to assess how we practice and live out our worldview. I encourage you to set aside a bit of time and go through this process. If you find that you need to better align your worldview with scripture, I encourage you to put forth the effort to do so. Keep in mind that part of your worldview is the presuppositions you hold (for example, do you believe the scriptures are your guide for faith and practice?) and your plausibility structures (do you believe it is possible to live by scriptural values?) that affect your choices. We begin here with two reflective questions.

  • Have we chosen our worldview and values or absorbed them?
  • Are we drinking from the cup of the Lord or the cup of our culture? 

Below is a generic Evangelical Statement of Faith from the National Association of Evangelicals.  

National Association of Evangelicals (NAE) Statement of Faith

  • We believe the Bible to be the inspired, the only infallible, authoritative Word of God.
  • We believe that there is one God, eternally existent in three persons: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.
  • We believe in the deity of our Lord Jesus Christ, in His virgin birth, in His sinless life, in His miracles, in His vicarious and atoning death through His shed blood, in His bodily resurrection, in His ascension to the right hand of the Father, and in His personal return in power and glory.
  • We believe that for the salvation of lost and sinful people, regeneration by the Holy Spirit is absolutely essential.
  • We believe in the present ministry of the Holy Spirit by whose indwelling the Christian is enabled to live a godly life.
  • We believe in the resurrection of both the saved and the lost; they that are saved unto the resurrection of life and they that are lost unto the resurrection of damnation.
  • We believe in the spiritual unity of believers in our Lord Jesus Christ.[i]

Reflective Questions regarding the NAE statement that can be used by an individual or discussed in a group.

1) Do you believe these statements to be true?

2) If you answered yes, is there a gap between your beliefs and behaviour compared to one or more of the statements in the Statement of Faith?

3) If there is a gap, do you want to close this gap?

4) If you answered yes to 3

A) What do you need to let go of and leave behind?

B) What steps do you need to take?

C) What will it look like when you have succeeded?

Take some time and reflect, imagine the gap has been closed, now list the steps you took to close it.

[i] Accessed February 29, 2020

How Worldviews Shift – Part 2

            Peter’s worldview shift was comprised of three events. The first was his vision, the second the visitors who confirmed his vision and last the outpouring of the Spirit on the Gentiles as Peter shared the gospel. As previously noted, even though Jesus instructed all of the apostles to preach the gospel to everyone everywhere, their worldview filter basically said, ‘the Jews everywhere.’ The Jews in general did not mingle with Gentiles, particularly in spiritual/religious matters, as they considered them unclean. Thus, Peter who was a religious and cultural Jew, stilled followed the Mosaic dietary laws, as reflected in his response to Jesus in his vision, and kept himself separate from Gentiles.  

9 The next day, as they went on their journey and drew near the city, Peter went up on the housetop to pray, about the sixth hour. 10 Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance 11 and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. 12 In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. 13 And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” 14 But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” 15 And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” 16 This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again. 17 Now while Peter wondered within himself what this vision which he had seen meant, behold, the men who had been sent from Cornelius had made inquiry for Simon’s house, and stood before the gate. Acts 10:9–17 (NKJV)

Applying the common process of Revelation, Interpretation and Application, we will look at what happened to Peter. The revelation was the vision he saw while in a trance. It was repeated three times for emphasis. Peter was adamant that as an observant Jew he had never eaten any of the unclean animals on the sheet. The Lord said that he was not to call common or unclean what He had cleansed. Peter then tried to puzzle out the interpretation.

19 While Peter thought about the vision, the Spirit said to him, “Behold, three men are seeking you. 20 Arise therefore, go down and go with them, doubting nothing; for I have sent them.” Acts 10:19–20 (NKJV)

Here we have a vision with an event repeated three times and as Peter begins to think about it three men arrive at the door, not a coincidence, particularly given that they were three unclean Gentiles. The Spirit told Peter they were there and he was to go with them. When they shared their story and told Peter of the angel visiting Cornelius, he invited them in as guests and they spent the night (Acts 10:20-23). Peter now had the interpretation and application of his vision. He was to fellowship with these Gentiles and to go and meet with Cornelius and company. Peter described it this way.

28 Then he said to them, “You know how unlawful it is for a Jewish man to keep company with or go to one of another nation. But God has shown me that I should not call any man common or unclean. Acts 10:28 (NKJV)

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. Acts 10:34–35 (NKJV)

            As we reflect on these events it is obvious that Peter went through a worldview shift. His interpretive lens changed and he now saw the Gentiles as potential recipients of the gospel. He understood that his vision was about fellowship with Gentiles not forbidden food.  

            Could things have turned out differently? Potentially if Peter had not made the shift that he had. Granted, it was a pretty dramatic series of events that created this shift but Peter had seen many things that shifted his worldview while walking with Jesus. This was the latest and a crucial one in the spread of the gospel. These shifts often take time to consolidate, as is evident in later events in Galatians 2:11-17 where Paul publicly rebuked Peter for breaking fellowship with Gentile believers. Yet over time Peter became consistent in his faith as we read of no further issues and we find Peter defending Gentile inclusion at the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15:6-11.

In my next post we will look change our focus and look at the process of personally shifting our worldview.

How Worldviews Shift: Part 1

There is a lot of talk these days about worldview. While the term has come into common use, two things are generally missing. First, it is used but generally as a soundbite, and rarely if ever defined in social media and newscasts. Second, should we engage further in understanding worldview in general, and ours in particular, do we know how to change it if we so desire? That is a significant missing ingredient. I wrote a book on the subject of worldview (Worldview: The Adventure of Seeing Through Scripture) where I did both, I defined it and I discussed how we could change ours, should we so desire. In this series I will delve into that change process.

            We begin with a definition followed by a scriptural example of a worldview issue. There are a number of definitions of worldview, some simple, and others very complicated. I prefer the simple and direct so in my book I defined Worldview as, “The lens through which we view and interpret reality.” The definition is simple and clear and can be applied to a variety of faiths or belief systems. It simply acknowledges what we all implicitly do. We hold and use a mental model that both influences what we see, and how we interpret what we see.

            Having said that, we now turn to the practical in understanding the impact of the worldviews we hold. Here is an example from scripture of how our worldview influences our behaviour. Just prior to His ascension Jesus provided some specific instructions.

8 But you shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be witnesses to Me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the end of the earth.” Acts 1:8 (NKJV)

This directive from Jesus aligned with the Great Commission (Matthew 28:18-20) where they were directed to take the gospel to every nation/nationality. Remember the same group heard both directives from Jesus.

In Acts 1:8 Jesus had promised the enduement of power from the Spirit, which happened on the day of Pentecost. He told them that following this empowerment they were then to be His witnesses in Jerusalem, Judea, Samaria and to the ends of the earth. However, when we read the first few chapters of Acts, we see how their worldview affected their hearing. In essence Jesus told them to begin at Jerusalem and take the gospel from there to everyone everywhere. However, the lens through which they interpreted and viewed reality, their worldview, was that Jesus was the Jewish Messiah sand that the gospel was for the Jews, with a small exception for the Samaritans (Acts 8:5-8), who were half Jewish. So they only shared it with the Jewish community.

            Even following the breakthrough in Samaria, contrary to Jesus’ direction, the gospel wasn’t taken to the Gentiles at that point in time. It took a significant worldview shift on the part of Peter for the gospel to go to the Gentiles. It is in Acts that we discover what brought about this worldview shift. In Acts 10:1-48 the Lord first spoke to Cornelius through an angel, then to Peter in a vision. When Peter began to speak at Cornelius’ house part of what he shared was the following.

34 Then Peter opened his mouth and said: “In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. 35 But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. 36 The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ – He is Lord of all –37 that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: Acts 10:34–37 (NKJV)

In verse 37 Peter points out that Cornelius already knew the gospel. Yet because Cornelius also had a worldview issue, he knew the gospel, but based on the practice of the followers he didn’t know it was available to he and other Gentiles! This was contrary to what Jesus directed.

            In spite of clear instructions, overcoming worldview blindness required an angelic visitation and a God given vision before the worldview of Peter and others was shifted. It is important to note here that in his incorrect worldview Peter believed he was carrying out what Jesus had instructed. Thus, in the next part of this series we will dig a little deeper into what created the shift for Peter and how we can create worldview shifts in our own lives.

His Kingdom

The gospel, the good news of the kingdom, is the extension of the rule and reign of the kingdom to disrupt, shift and transform culture so that the love, mercy and justice of God are on display. It is more than simply a message about salvation. Jesus shared a number of parables about the kingdom and how it functions. Yet prior to looking at the New Testament we begin with an Old Testament description of how the kingdom in will function.

34 You watched while a stone was cut out without hands, which struck the image on its feet of iron and clay, and broke them in pieces. Daniel 2:34 (NKJV)

44 And in the days of these kings the God of heaven will set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the kingdom shall not be left to other people; it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand forever. Daniel 2:44 (NKJV)

For context, this was Daniel interpreting Nebuchadnezzar’s dream about the statue. Daniel explained that the statue represented a series of earthly kingdoms but said that the stone “cut out without hands’ would break the power of these other kingdoms. Later in his explanation Daniel clarified that this stone is the kingdom that God would set up.

What Daniel knew was that this would take place, what He didn’t know was that this future king would be born to a young virgin, raised in Nazareth and crucified and resurrected in Jerusalem. We know from scripture that there will be an ultimate consummation of this coming kingdom. We see some of this expressed in the following scriptures, beginning with the first parable that Jesus taught.

3 “Listen! Behold, a sower went out to sow. 4 And it happened, as he sowed, that some seed fell by the wayside; and the birds of the air came and devoured it. 5 Some fell on stony ground, where it did not have much earth; and immediately it sprang up because it had no depth of earth. 6 But when the sun was up it was scorched, and because it had no root it withered away. 7 And some seed fell among thorns; and the thorns grew up and choked it, and it yielded no crop. 8 But other seed fell on good ground and yielded a crop that sprang up, increased and produced: some thirtyfold, some sixty, and some a hundred.” 9 And He said to them, “He who has ears to hear, let him hear!” Mark 4:3–9 (NKJV)

13 And He said to them, “Do you not understand this parable? How then will you understand all the parables? Mark 4:13 (NKJV)

There are two important aspects of this parable. The first is that the seed is good. The fruitfulness and ultimate harvest depend on the condition of the soil the seed is sown into. We know from Matthew 13:19 that the seed is the message of the kingdom. We find in Luke that the soil is our heart and we are responsible for the condition of our hearts.

15 But the ones that fell on the good ground are those who, having heard the word with a noble and good heart, keep it and bear fruit with patience. Luke 8:15 (NKJV)

Another aspect of the kingdom is that while His kingdom will be fully consummated, the time leading up to this is a time where the kingdom grows. We see that in the parables.   

31 Another parable He put forth to them, saying: “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed, which a man took and sowed in his field, 32 which indeed is the least of all the seeds; but when it is grown it is greater than the herbs and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and nest in its branches.” 33 Another parable He spoke to them: “The kingdom of heaven is like leaven, which a woman took and hid in three measures of meal till it was all leavened.” Matthew 13:31–33 (NKJV)

In both of these parables we see that in the earth the kingdom of heaven/God (the phrases are interchangeable in the gospels) starts small and then begins growing and continues to grow. When we move forward to Revelation we see John’s vision of the consummation.

1 Now I saw a new heaven and a new earth, for the first heaven and the first earth had passed away. Also there was no more sea. 2 Then I, John, saw the holy city, New Jerusalem, coming down out of heaven from God, prepared as a bride adorned for her husband. Revelation 21:1–2 (NKJV)

What we learn from this final piece regarding the kingdom is that when the tree is fully grown and the leaven has fully done its work, the kingdom will be revealed in fullness, beauty and glory. All this time prior to it being revealed it was growing, being built and being prepared to be revealed.

            We can thus be confident that no matter how things look from the perspective of earth, this kingdom is and has been actively growing in the earth and will one day be revealed in fullness. Our present task is to reflect it well in how we live our lives. We are then doing our part to build this growing heavenly city that will one day be revealed in glory.

His kingdom is like the image below. Cracks in the world are evident and part of the tree has been revealed. At a point in time the tree will be fully revealed as the cracks break fully open.