An accidental blog

"If God is sovereign, then his lordship must extend over all of life, and it cannot be restricted to the walls of the church or within the Christian orbit." Abraham Kuyper Common Grace 1.1.

Monday, 14 January 2008

B J van der Walt: Transformed Ch 2

Culture, worldview and religion

This is a paper delivered at the International Symposium of the Society for the Reformational Philosophy on Cultures and Christianity AD 2000 held at Hoeven, the Netherlands, 21-25 August 2000. A shorter version without reference to development was published as part of the conference proceedings in Philosophia Reformata 66 (1) (2002)23-38, with the subtitle 'A perspective from the African Continent'. An edited version also appeared in African Journal for Transformational Scholarship 1 (1) (Nov 2002) 1-26.

Here van der Walt starts and ends by briefly looking at development. The origin of the idea is Western and the word development was first mentioned in 1944; this had the effect of splitting the world into two: the developed and the undeveloped. He also itemises some of the dubious motives behind development. The zeal behind development can only be understood when we see it as 'a secular form of salvation' (p. 47). He then turns to the concept of 'culture'. He examines two definitions of culture: the segmental and the comprehensive. The first sees culture as something that bestows 'lustre upon life'; the second regards it as 'human life in its totality' (p 49). He rightly asserts that 'every human being is a cultural being'. Development he notes is a cultural product. Each culture has aspects that are good, but also each culture has its own blindspots; each culture has a mixed nature.

Using a diagram of five concentric circles he examines five aspects of culture. The inner circle is the religious dimension, the next the worldviewish dimension, followed by the social, the material or technical and then the behavioural dimensions. As with all models it has limitations, but t serves well to illustrate the relationship between religion, worldview and culture: 'Religion and worldview influence (the remainder of) culture, but culture (for instance socio-economic-political circumstances) also influences worldview and religion' (p. 53). Religion he defines as 'the cultural directedness of all human life towards the real or presumed ultimate source (God/god) of meaning and authority'.

Worldview - our perspective on created reality - next comes under scrutiny. He makes an excellent observation on the difference between a worldview and an ideology: '' a wolrdview and an ideology have the same structure, but different directions. A worldview is normal and healthy; an ideology can be dangerous' (p. 58) Any worldview can degenerate into an ideology. He identifies six aspects of a worldview:

1. God/god

2. norms or values

3. being human

4. society or community

5. nature

6. time and history

Two of possible options between Christianity and culture, conformity and isolation, are dismissed in favour of a reformation or transfromation of culture. Our culture task, then, is to serve God (the direction) according to his will (the normative) in his creation (the structural) (p.62).

The six aspects of a worldview are identified in the Western, African and Christan worldviews. These are summarised in this table:

He then concludes by offering a definition of development:

Development is the (1) balanced unfolding of (2) all the abilities of the human being and (3) the potential of material things, plants and animals (4) according to God's purpose and (5) His will, to enable the human being (6) within his/ her own culture, (7) to fulfil his/ her calling (8) as a responsible steward of creation (9) in a free society (10) to the honour and glory of God.

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