Dear Theophilus: What Is the Relationship Between Worldviews and Cultures?

Posted on April 16, 2019  in  [ Theology & Ministry ]

Dear Faculty,

What is the relationship between worldviews and cultures? How does our culture shape our worldview?

Sincerely,

Theophilus

Dear Theophilus,

Everything affects our worldview in one way or another, but only how we view ultimate reality defines our worldview. However, in defining our worldview we not only use the question of ultimate reality or what we believe about God, but an additional six questions to clarify what we believe about ultimate reality and identify our worldview.

Those questions are:

  1. What is the nature of ultimate reality?
  2. What is the nature of the universe?
  3. What is the nature of humanity?
  4. What happens when we die?
  5. How is it possible to know anything?
  6. How do we know right from wrong?
  7. What is the meaning of human history?

While it is those seven questions that help identify or classify our worldview, everything affects our worldview. Since our worldview is how we look at the world, the sum of all of our beliefs, experiences and knowledge impacts how we view the world to a greater or lesser extent depending upon the person and the importance of the belief, experience or knowledge to the person.

The worldview of each person is as unique as a fingerprint since no two people have an identical worldview. Even birth order impacts the way we view the world, but it does not define our worldview and birth order only has a minor effect on our worldview. The geographical area where we live also impacts our worldview, but again it does not define it.

The concept of worldview belongs to the academic disciplines of philosophy and theology. It is a concept that philosophers and theologians use to help explain what we believe, why we believe what we choose to believe and why what we choose to believe is important to us while the concept of culture belongs to the academic disciplines of anthropology and sociology and is used to help identify human societies and groups.

Essentially this means that our worldview and our culture are two different ways of explaining how we view the world, but each is unique and different from the other. Our worldview affects our culture and our culture affects our worldview, but worldview does not define culture and culture does not define worldview.

Since culture is the art, customs, social institutions and achievements of a society, nation or people, while our worldview is the way that we look at the world it would seem that one has little impact on the other. Since the concepts of worldview and culture belong to different academic disciplines, who are attempting to understand humanity in different ways, they do have little influence on each other. Perhaps an accurate way of expressing the relationship would be that our worldview is how we define what we believe and how we look at the world, while our culture is how we express and live out our view of the world.

Interested in having a question answered by Dear Theophilus writers? Send them all to cotblog@gcu.edu with “Dear Theophilus” in the subject line. You can learn more about GCU’s College of Theology by visiting our website or clicking the Request More Information button.

Joe Stanley, M.Div.

Faculty, College of Theology

Joe Stanley is a proud Texan from San Antonio. He has 25 years of experience in small church pastoral ministry. He has a degree in Christian Education, a Master of Arts in Theological Studies, a Master of Divinity and is currently working on his Doctor of Ministry. He and his wife Glenda have 2 children and 1 grandchild.

Learn more about Joe Stanley, M.Div.

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