You can handle the truth about different worldviews. As we’ve noted, various religions and philosophies can be distilled down into a few basic worldviews – including naturalism, pantheism, theism, spiritism & polytheism, and postmodernism.
Naturalism holds that the physical universe is all that exists. There is no spirit or soul – therefore man is simply the chance product of evolution. All things are explained on the basis of natural law. Truth is based solely on scientific proofs like the law of gravity. Morals are simply individual preferences – there is no objective standard.
In contrast, Pantheism maintains that only the spiritual dimension exists. All else is illusion. God is impersonal – more a concept than a person. According to pantheistic thought, God is everything and everything is God. Man is one with ultimate reality, that reality being God. And as such, he is spiritual, eternal, and impersonal. Truth is an experience of ‘oneness’ with the universe and is beyond all rational description. There are no moral absolutes – therefore any behavior that displaces the ‘unity’ of everything is simply called ‘unenlightened’ – not wrong or evil!
Theism declares that an infinite, personal creator God exists. He created the physical universe, yet reality is both material and spiritual. The universe, as we know it, had a beginning and will have an end. People were created “in the image of God,” which means that we are personal, eternal, spiritual, and biological. Truth about God is known through revelation. Moral values are the objective expression of an absolute moral being.
Spiritism and Polytheism professes belief in a world populated by spirit beings that govern all things. Because gods and demons are the powers behind the natural order, material things can be interpreted spiritually. For example, the ancient Canaanite god Baal, with whom we’re familiar, was considered the of god fertility and agriculture. Within Spiritism and Polytheism, man is a creation of the gods like all other creatures. Often, tribes or peoples have a special relationship with certain gods who can protect, provide for, or punish them. Moral values are based upon taboos in order to appease the gods to get what you want or need.
Lastly, Postmodernism asserts reality is simply a construct of our particular cultural paradigms. Truths are mental constructs of the individual within that unique cultural paradigm. Therefore truths are relative – I have my truth, you have your truth, and so on. Postmodernism questions everything, except its’ own assertions! Tolerance, freedom of expression, inclusion, and refusal of any absolutes are the universal values.
As we ponder our witness to others in light of these worldviews, we first need to discover the position of our audience before proceeding. The simple road to discovery is posing questions and active listening. For questions are the means of opening conversational doors and so much more. And as we listen, we learn, we affirm those we’re seeking to reach, and we are better prepared to give an informed witness when we do speak.
As stated, questions provide a wonderful platform to helps us and affirms others. Inquiry communicates that we care about what another thinks, believes, and feels. You and I know full well that as Christians, we are sometimes accused of only wanting to talk and be heard. Yet a winsome and humble witness will include the willingness to listen. And listening will be the result of asking questions. What a simple way to “get the ball rolling.”
As we listen, we learn! And the more we learn about another person’s spiritual paradigm, the better equipped we’ll be to speak in a language they can understand. For example, once, while conversing with an unbelieving Jewish man at a coffee shop, I learned we both shared the same religious upbringing as me – reform Judaism. As he began asking me questions about my faith in Jesus I asked him, “Do you know that the words Messiah and Christ are synonymous?” He said surprisingly, “No.” That revealed a limited religious vocabulary that benefitted me as I continued to share.
Here are examples of a few questions that can open up a conversation and provide lots of valuable information:
- What is your spiritual orientation?
- What was you religious tradition, if any, growing up? Where are you now?
- Do you think much about faith?
More direct questions may include:
- What do you think about God?
- Who do you think Jesus is?
- What do you think about the bible?
- What do you think happens when you die?
Finally, here are two questions that can keep you in control of the conversation, while allowing you to gather more valuable information:
- What do you mean by that?
- How did you come to that conclusion?
As we learn through questioning and active listening, we gather valuable information about another’s worldview. And as we do, we’ll have a greater capacity to find out how open they are to engaging the truth claims of Jesus and the Bible. For everyone is different.
There are a plethora of specific resources to support our witness to others, as I’ve mentioned in previous submissions. We must be prayerful, discerning, and sensitive as we listen, learn, and take next steps in our evangelistic efforts.
I pray this series on worldviews has been a benefit to you as we ponder together our witness for Jesus in an ever-changing religious landscape.
So, “Walk in wisdom toward those who are outside, redeeming the time” (Colossians 4:5). And as you do, may God be glorified in and through you and may others be blessed because of your evangelistic engagement! Amen.