East vs. West worldviews. As I’ve mentioned before, one’s cultural upbringing directly influences one’s worldview. Eastern and Western cultures are very different in many ways and these differences affect our perceptions in life, our societal relationships, and interpretations – especially those of Scripture. Scripture was written by people who were raised in a very eastern (Hebraic) worldview, but we tend to read it from a western worldview perspective, so often times we miss the little nuances that would otherwise impact how we might interpret the text.
A graphic designer, Yang Liu, wrote an article displaying these differences visually. Below are a few examples that Yang Liu points out regarding specific perceptions.
The boss in western culture is seen as one of the workers. But in the eastern culture the boss is extremely important and held in the utmost regard. Now think about how this plays in our relationship to God… or Jesus for that matter. While most of the west is Christian, we sure don’t fear God or display an attitude of respect as much as we should.
Me, Myself, & I
In the East, people are much more humble and tend to make themselves smaller and less noticeable. In the West, it’s all about “me”. We talk about ourselves on social media, we take ‘selfies’ and post them everywhere, we do things that benefit our personal gain. We’ll even conform Scripture to fit our lifestyles rather than submitting ourselves to what the Word says.
In the West, people line up in single file lines to wait, while people in the East just shove their way in a crowd around the door. This reflects on the order of things in general. I see this in church too. We’re very orderly and need to do things a certain way, and if not, someone yells something to correct it. In the East, I’ve been to churches there that are much more relaxed and concerned more about the feeling.
These are just a couple points made, but there are others in the article that are equally interesting. These aspects have a direct influence on how we perceive the world, and we need to take note that our perception is very different from the perception of the writers of the books of the Bible. So what do we do?
Well first, we need to understand the culture and people for which the text was originally written. How would the people of the time understood what was being written to them? Because we’re so far removed, this is much more difficult than it appears. It takes work and study. Secondly, we should pray and ask the Spirit to guide our understanding. This second part can be achieved by the Spirit guiding you to converse with someone who has a deeper cultural understanding of how the text would have been originally interpreted, or maybe the Spirit might direct you in conversations with others who have more historical context. Either way the Spirit will cause you to study, to grow, and to learn which is vital as a believer who desires knowledge and wisdom as indicated in Isaiah 28:9-10. But what it’s not going to do is wrap everything for you in a nice little package for you to open up. You need to put in the work. You need to study precept upon precept, line upon line, here a little and there a little.