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Where did you come from, Cotton-Eyed Joe?

C. S. Lewis wrote, "The character of evidence depends on the shape of the examination… It determines how much of that total truth will appear and what pattern it will suggest" (Lewis, The Discarded Image, 223). In other words, we understand truth in light of the questions we ask and how we ask them.*

C. S. Lewis wrote, "The character of evidence depends on the shape of the examination… It determines how much of that total truth will appear and what pattern it will suggest" (Lewis, The Discarded Image, 223). In other words, we understand truth in light of the questions we ask and how we ask them.*

Because of this, there’s not a Christian worldview but many Christian worldviews. Worldview includes many components such as economics, politics, knowledge (or epistemology), science, ethics, etc. Religion is one part of worldview. Christianity both is influenced by worldview and influences worldview. Christianity cannot exist outside of culture, but it also transforms culture.

For example: are only arranged marriages correct or only marriages that result from a couple meeting and falling in love? Or can both be transformed by Christianity and reflect the relationship of Christ and the church?

I say this so we realize we come to the Bible with preconceptions. What kinds of questions we ask shape how we understand truth. And what kinds of questions we ask emerge from our culture and worldview.

What kind of economic background do we have? What kind of understanding of family roles? What understanding do we have of science? How do we approach and what do we believe about music? How do we enter into marriage, and what roles do men and women have in marriage and family?

In fact, because of the filters we have through which we see the Bible, we cannot have an objective view. 

This isn’t always bad: God meets us where we are. The Scripture is alive and works in each culture. We also have the the Holy Spirit to guide us in our reading of the Scripture and the universal Church (global and historical) to offer different perspectives.

So we approach the Bible with humbleness. We strive in community to understand the nature and work of God. However, we also know we won’t have full understanding. Understanding my cultural or worldview filters doesn’t raise obstacles in my relationship with God. On the contrary, it frees me to praise him in my tongue, in the way in which he’s created me.

Consider what in our history and surroundings influences our understanding of the Bible (e.g. the Industrial Revolution’s influence on work and family, capitalism, democracy, the Technological Revolution, science). What do you think are some influences?

*Note: to reveal my background which influences this understanding of worldview–before entering seminary, I studied ethnomusicology as an undergrad. I continued cultural studies in seminary by entering the cross-cultural missions track where I took cultural anthropology classes. Post graduation, I became fascinated with the Medieval and Renaissance eras. As I learned more about how people during those times approached and understood truth, I better understood how people during Modern and Postmodern times approach and understand truth. All of these studies increased my awe of our creative and magnificent God who cannot be contained to one culture but who uses many cultures to reflect different aspects of himself.

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Heather Goodman received her Th.M. from Dallas Theological Seminary and currently homeschools her three children. Her writing can be found in If:Equip, Art House, and other publications.

4 Comments

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    Michael Taylor

    Heather, one interesting
    Heather, one interesting thing that your piece brought to mind is the freedom and joy that a person brings to the Word and the relationship with God who was not raised in a Christian or religious home. Being unfettered by denominational restrictions or traditional mores allows them to approach God with a joy and freedom of a child. There is also a sense among many brought up “in church” that they were “not that bad” those who come with a real sense of sin and lostness – those “forgiven much” have more joy in salvation. I know this theology is flawed, but its a reality that informs our approach to God and the Bible.

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      Heather A. Goodman

      I’m so thankful you find

      The truth is none of us approach the Bible without some sort of filters or baggage. We attempt to balance that by both seeing the joy in our backgrounds and learning from other perspectives (denominational, cultural, those raised outside the church and those raised inside the church).

      I’m so thankful you find joy in your background and how it affects your approach. This is exactly what I mean–understanding how your background affects your reading and allowing that to bring joy rather than frustration.

      I was raised in the church, and I also find joy in how I approach reading the Bible because of the heritage in which I was raised.

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    Mary Snead

    Where did you come from…
    Heather,
    I agree with your premise that no matter the history or background, God, in His Sovereign election and calling can reform, transform and conform us to the image of His dear Son. My personal testimony is all about His wooing, His patience, His Providential preservation though I remained an alien and enemy; yet He loved me and while still a sinner, died for me!
    Much like Michael, I once thought those coming out of “unchurched” backgrounds had a more passionate expression of gratitude for salvation. However, as I progress in my journey with Him, I encounter those who know the amazing love of our Lord, the expense of displaying that love for us, and have an experiential knowledge of His Supreme grace at work THEN and NOW. We are from every tribe, kindred, tongue and a myriad of messy life situations and choices. Praise God for His indescribable gift of Jesus Christ!