“You may be a Southsider if you remember….”
I was invited to join the above group. I am a Southsider—from the southside of Des Moines. We have talked about geographies, landmarks, people and events that shrouded my life 8-18. SW 9th and Leland is two blocks north of Mom’s restaurant. That corner is still there, if not Vi’s Café. There was a supermarket on the SW corner, on the SE corner is a Methodist church. On the NE corner was/is Noah’s Dry Cleaners and in the 1950s an ice cream parlor filled the NW corner. One of my Southside friends posted a picture of the ice cream place. In the courtyard between the storefront and sidewalk was an operating clock—8 feet tall.
That clock impressed me when I was ten, and decades later it fills my memory, experiences and education. A Gospel song says, “Time Has Made A Change in Me,” and the evidence pushes forward in how those stores, schools, streets today are anything but matches for the pictures from my youth. And that clock keeps clanging—or it would except it is also now gone, which points to the point. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bZh6jm1Dsj8
For several years, I been asking how two relatively smart people can look at a situation or historical event and describe it in contradictory words. In recent weeks I’ve been listening to news reports and conversations, reading commentaries on world events and hearing reports that contradict what I know to be different. How is that possible?
It may have been a dream, perhaps a daydream or something even more weird. In my mind, I was on the front lawn of Ft. Des Moines Methodist Church staring at that clock across the intersection. A word dominated my mind as I stared: worldview. I wondered how the days around that business neighborhood affected my worldview in the years following. Then! Almost like a surprise, I heard another question—what was my worldview that filled my first ten years?
“Worldview” had no significance for me until I was in college and then I resisted the concept. The concept seemed an easy way to box up beliefs and then dismiss them or trivialize them. I grabbed onto teaching about Reticular Activating System, which has a physical location in the brain stem. I am not educated in science of the brain, so my conclusions and opinions grow out of my experience, observation and minor-league research.
Reticular Activating System manifests in day-to-day experience by blocking out what we do not believe. If we don’t believe an answer to a problem or need will show up, we would not see it if it were delivered to us by Fed-Ex. Quite literally. I’m learning that R.A.S. is connected to worldview. This is important because our worldview impacts or determines faith, politics, what is right/wrong and whether you are involved in ministries of miracles, signs and wonders. No kidding.
“What we now see is like a dim image in a mirror; then we shall see face-to-face. What I now know is only partial; then it will be complete—as complete as God’s knowledge of me” (1 Corinthians 13:12).
Worldview: “A set of presumptions (or assumptions) which we hold (consciously or unconsciously) about the basic makeup of the world.” James Sire.
Charles Kraft has been influential in my thinking in several areas of study. He defines worldview:
“…our worldview consists of thousands of assumptions we hold concerning time, space, causality, relationships and even how to classify the data of life.
“When things happen to us, we assume that either there was a cause or that they happened by chance. Some life experiences can modify one’s worldview but, barring life-altering events, one’s worldview changes little.” (Charles H. Kraft, Confronting Powerless Christianity, Chosen Books, 2002, page 29)
John Wimber adds:
“Every society has presumptions. Some are conscious, but most are unconscious. We acquire paradigms—thinking patterns through which we interpret experiences—from our parents, the media, art, education and so on. Our worldview is like a lens; it colors, clarifies, classifies, warps or partially excludes the world.” (Power Evangelism, John Wimber, Kevin Springer, Regal Books, 2009. Page 125).
This discussion is not just about how we interpret the Bible or whether we see angels. The current cultural and political discussions about gender, Socialism vs. Capitalism, education, race, and religion is guided by diverse worldviews. The attempt to change America’s history is driven by a different worldview. The brutal facts are that many cannot see or hear or think what their opponents are saying due to their differing worldview.
Charles Kraft’s larger definition of worldview:
“…culturally structured assumptions, values, and commitments underlying a people’s perception of REALITY. Worldview is the major influence on how we perceive REALITY. In terms of its worldview assumptions, values, and commitments, a society structures such things as what its people are to believe, how they are to picture reality, and how and what they are to analyze. People interpret and react on this basis reflexively without thinking.” (Christianity With Power, Charles H. Kraft, Wipf and Stock Publishers, 1989, page 20)
Kraft speaks as a Christian and an Anthropologist. He says only God fully knows REALITY. However, everyone has a perception of an objective REALITY and we make it our own—a subjective reality. We assume everyone accepts our reality as REALITY and when they don’t we also assume they are crazy or evil.
SO WHAT? !!
The current battles waged for America’s future is about worldview—how shall we determine REALITY? Whose reality will be empowered and enthroned as the official REALITY?
Back to the SW 9th & Leland intersection. I was aware that my worldview had been impacted by the age of ten by my parents’ divorce which shook my securities and how to process events, experiences, eventualities. Worldviews motivate, explain and draw lines usually without our awareness. Until and except for life disruptors that throw us into serious, life-changing questioning mode. Things like—
A worldview can be adjusted with new information that we intentionally consider. God’s direct revelation to us may stimulate us to change. The books above were written to show worldviews determine whether you will accept and work in Biblical Spiritual Gifts in the 21st Century. I have also learned that we will be most effective in evangelism if we understand the worldview of the person with whom we share the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
It is possible to be locked in to an evil or closed worldview. Romans 1:27-29 speaks of a “reprobate mind.” Worldviews have consequences for this life and the next.
For a long time, we suggested people use the Wesley Quadrilateral when seeking if something were true: Ask what Scripture says on the subject. What does Tradition say? How about Reason and Experience? These are no longer adequate for those who doubt the veracity or have a different understanding of the words. Over the past half-century, our society has been taught mental and philosophical systems that have changed the way reality and truth is determined and lived out. There appears to be only one acceptable worldview in present education, media, government, entertainment and in portions of religion. Those arenas are where worldviews are learned.
As you know, I am not an expert in this, but it seems serious enough to demand conversation and study, perhaps change. The books referenced above would be chosen resources if I were to teach a class or lead a discussion.
In my next post, I will talk about the four most dominant influences in today’s worldview structuring.
How important is truth? Truth?
©2021 D. Dean Benton
This post comes from my ebook Seizin’ The Season, chapter 4—“Don’t Hunker Down in Dismayed.”