Worldviews transformed:

How God and His people can change worldview

S. Joseph Kidder, DMin, is a professor of pastoral theology and discipleship, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.
Katelyn Campbell Weakley, MDiv, MSW, is the pastor of the Mount Tabor Seventh-day Adventist Church, Portland, Oregon, United States.

Here’s the problem,” writes Scott Allen, author of Beyond the Sacred-Secular Divide: A Call to Wholistic Life and Ministry. “We turn to the Bible as our authority on spiritual topics like faith, salvation, and evangelism—the kinds of things Barna deals with in his research—but we leave it behind when thinking about almost everything else. . . .
As a result, we develop a kind of quasi-biblical worldview—a syncretistic worldview that embraces biblical truth for some things, while adopting prevailing cultural assumptions for everything else. Tragically, this has prevented the church from being salt and light in a dying world that God loves and is working to redeem.”1

Christian leaders have a duty to constantly examine themselves to ensure that their worldview is biblically consistent. This article will briefly show the influence of culture on worldview, what a biblical worldview is, how God works to change our worldview, and how we can help to change the worldview of others.2

The influence of culture

Worldview can be defined as the basic assumptions and beliefs we hold about life that help us interpret and engage with the world around us. Theologian Kevin J. Vanhoozer said, “A worldview is a way of thinking and living that pursues a way of life intended to achieve or maintain wellness in as many domains as possible: physical, financial, psychological, professional, social, and religious.”3

Culture has been defined as “the ideas and physical objects (or ‘things’) that represent a group or society.”4 Many aspects that influence worldview can be included in the overarching concept of culture.5 Sociology professor Diana Kendall expounds, “Whereas a society is composed of people, a culture is composed of ideas, behavior, and material possessions.”6

Culture expresses and influences ideas, knowledge, behavior, and attitudes. While a worldview is made up of the deep assumptions of a group of people, every individual has personal variations. Our worldview is shaped through many factors, such as relationships, media, education, and religion (see chart below). The culture around us can influence our thoughts and behaviors, but as Christians, we want to be sure God is our primary influencer.

Biblical worldview

A biblical worldview is grounded in “the infallible Word of God. When you believe the Bible is entirely true, then you allow it to be the foundation of everything you say and do.”7 A biblical worldview is a way of thinking that identifies and explores the biblical paradigm, builds a biblical truth framework, develops a biblical philosophy of life, and evaluates any new input through the biblical worldview grid one has developed. Simply put, a biblical worldview is a scripturally based outlook on life. The more grounded you are in a biblical worldview, the less likely you are to partially or completely adopt assumptions found in other worldviews.8

George Barna has found that having a biblical worldview can have a positive impact on a person’s behaviors and practices. Those who have a biblical worldview are less likely to use tobacco products, 9 times more likely to avoid adult-only material online, and 3 times more likely to avoid a movie due to objectional content. Likewise, people with a biblical worldview are, in a typical week, 2.5 times more likely to read the Bible, 2 times more likely to attend a church service, and 2 times more likely to volunteer time to help the needy.9 Holding a biblical worldview leads to a more Christlike life. Therefore, our worldview is one of the biggest aspects God would like to transform in us because it affects everything else in our lives.

How God changes our worldview

Supernatural revelation. One of the ways God changes our worldview is through a supernatural encounter with Him. At the burning bush, Moses was changed from a shepherd into a leader. With the glorious light that blinded Saul on his way to Damascus, a persecutor became an evangelist. Scripture is filled with stories where people encounter God in a big way and find their worldview changed.

In Acts 11, Peter describes the vision that God gave him about a sheet full of unclean animals. The Lord was clearly opening Peter’s mind to an entirely new phase of work to be entered upon by the church of Christ in which Gentile converts were to be regarded as equals with the Jewish disciples.

Peter changed from a prejudiced church leader with a narrow-minded worldview of exclusivity to an inclusive leader with a embracing worldview, patterned after the love and acceptance of Christ—all instigated by a divine encounter.10

The Holy Spirit. Another way God changes us is through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. The Spirit has been given to us to teach, direct, and guide our lives (John 14:26; Ps. 119:105; Prov. 2:6). Through the leading of the Holy Spirit, our hearts and minds are softened, our eyes move from an earthly focus to a heavenly focus, and we become prepared to take on the worldview of God. In addition, through the Holy Spirit, we are empowered to live the Christian life (Eph. 3:16).

Jesus also said that “ ‘when He, the Spirit of truth, has come, He will guide you into all truth’ ” (John 16:13).11 When we are filled with the Spirit, our desire is for spiritual things (Eph. 5:18–21). As our hearts are changed, so, too, will our worldview change.

For those who would accept the working of the Spirit in their lives, great change can be made. Author Ellen G. White states, “But those who have genuine faith in Christ will be worked by the Holy Spirit. The soul in whose heart faith abides will grow into a beautiful temple for the Lord. He is directed by the grace of Christ. Just in proportion as he depends on the Holy Spirit’s teaching he will grow.”12 When we encounter the Holy Spirit, God can mold our hearts and minds, helping us to grow into His worldview.

The Word of God. A primary way to have a biblical worldview is to meet God in His Word. Through studying the Scriptures, we can learn what God’s perspective and thoughts are (2 Tim. 3:16, 17). We can see that everything Jesus thought, spoke, and did was rooted in Scripture. To be a whole Christian, we must take the Word, apply it, and let it change us. In this way, Christ’s worldview permeates our own existence as we become more like Him.

When I, Joseph, was studying engineering, I often daydreamed about the business I would start and the great money I would make. But one day, a friend shared the text in 2 Peter 3:10, which says that ultimately everything will burn and go up in smoke at Jesus’ return. This verse really struck me—all the wealth that I could accumulate would be nothing in the end! My worldview began to shift. Instead of thinking about how I could use engineering to gain wealth, I began thinking about how I could use it for God. Later, when I began pastoring, I continued to keep this verse in mind. When I was tempted to think successful pastoring meant huge churches, God reminded me that success simply means being faithful to Him and serving others.

If we want to really change our worldview to match God’s, we must spend frequent and quality time with His Word. When we study the Bible diligently, it changes our thinking, beliefs, actions, life, and worldview.13

How we help change the worldview of others

Relationship. The early church believers spent time in intentional relationship. They ate, prayed, and studied the Bible together. Through spiritual discipline, they grew in one accord (Acts 2:42–47). This shows us how great an impact the beliefs and behaviors of others can have on us, and how community significantly affects our worldview.14

The people who influence the most change in our lives tend to be those with whom we have established relationships. After moving to a new city, I, Katelyn, met a new friend at a coffee shop. During the third or fourth time we got together, I mentioned that I was a Seventh-day Adventist. Unbeknown to me, he had heard bad reports about the denomination. Later, he told me that at that moment, he had a choice: to change what he thought about me based on what he’d heard about Seventh-day Adventism or to change what he thought about Seventh-day Adventism based on what he experienced with me. Because of our established friendship, he was open to new perspectives on the denomination.

In Scripture, we can see the impact deep connections and relationships have on changing the worldview of others. For example, Naomi’s relationship with Ruth caused Ruth to forsake all other gods to follow the God of her mother-in-law (Ruth 1:8–18). When Naaman contracted leprosy, it was through trust in a young servant girl that the commander of armies received miraculous healing from God. The life and conviction of this young girl demonstrated to her master belief in the power of the one true God
(2 Kings 5:1–14).

Changing worldview through relationships is best exemplified in the life of Christ. He mingled with others, always having in mind that they would follow, imitate, and be transformed by Him.15 Jesus modeled what having a biblical worldview looks like. He called and challenged people to change their worldview. We can see this when He invited fishermen to reframe their whole lives. “ ‘Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men’ ” (Matt. 4:19). If we are to follow Christ, it would do us well to pattern ourselves after His example as we seek to influence the worldview of others. It is through a community of faith that we can best be influenced and influence others.

Prayer. Intercessory prayer is important, as we clearly see modeled in the life of Christ. Jesus depended upon prayer as He used it to change the worldview of His disciples through the influence of the Holy Spirit. Jesus prayed to His Father, asking for a worldview change in the hearts of those who would follow Him, a work done through the power of the Spirit. “ ‘And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent’ ” (John 17:3). Jesus has prayed for all of us, that we would know Him and His Father—something we can experience through reading His Word through the guidance of the Spirit.

Pastor and author John Piper writes, “The amount of transforming good you can do by prayer is incalculable. Don’t neglect this great work God has put into your hands. . . . Let’s work to change people’s minds with truth and people’s wills with prayer.”16 Prayer releases the power of the Holy Spirit to guide and change lives. We cannot neglect prayer as we seek to help others come to hold a Christlike worldview.

The Word. If we want to see positive worldview change in our churches, we must educate members on the importance of diligently studying Scripture. This should both be verbally encouraged and tangibly modeled. The more we read the Bible regularly, the more this transformation will naturally take place in our lives. Theologian Martin Luther stated, “The Bible is alive, it speaks to me; it has feet, it runs after me; it has hands, it lays hold of me.”17 He knew that Scripture is an active and powerful force in the lives of men and women, possessing the ability to shape thoughts, ideas, beliefs, and attitudes. The Bible is our direct access to the voice of God.

I, Joseph, was influenced greatly by the story of Josiah. When the king discovered and publicly read the Scriptures, his people made radical life changes. One year as a pastor, I emphasized reading the Bible and living by it through preaching and testimonies. During that year, we saw many people’s lives change. We had no problem with people volunteering for ministry and evangelism, and our offering and tithe more than doubled from the previous year. As spiritual leaders, we must constantly encourage the reading of the Word so that it will bring changes in the lives of others.

Transformation

We saw in this article how culture can insidiously impact a Christian’s worldview. Vigilant adherence to the Word of God leads to the adoption of a biblical worldview that can radically transform our lives and positively impact our community. Start living by this worldview today. “Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; old things have passed away; behold, all things have become new” (2 Cor. 5:17).

  1. Scott Allen, “What’s All the Fuss About a Biblical Worldview?” Darrow Miller and Friends, September 21, 2017, http://darrowmillerandfriends.com/2017/09/21/biblical-worldview-needed/.
  2. Authors and scholars from many different disciplines, e.g., theology, education, business, and social work, have discussed the significance of worldviews in our daily lives: Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008); William H. Bishop, “The Genesis of Values in Genesis,” Journal of Human Values 19, no. 2, 127–132; Toby A. Travis, “Core Values & Worldview Affect School Outcomes,” Transforming Teachers, https://transformingteachers.org/en/articles/philosophy-of-education/498-core-values-worldview-impact-school-outcomes; McGraw-Hill Education, “Environmental Case Study: Worldviews and Values,” http://www.mhhe.com/Enviro-Sci/CaseStudyLibrary/Topic-Based/CaseStudy_WorldviewsAndValues.pdf; David A. Sherwood, “The Relationship Between Beliefs and Values in Social Work Practice: Worldviews Make a Difference,” in Christianity and Social Work, 5th ed. (Botsford, CT: North American Association of Christians in Social Work, 2016), 51–70.
  3. Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “Being Biblical in a Pluralistic Age,” Andrews University Seminary Studies 57 no. 2 (2019): 310.
  4. Open Education Sociology Dictionary, s.v. “Culture,” accessed June 3, 2021, https://sociologydictionary.org/culture/.
  5. Some argue that worldview itself influences culture. Paul Hiebert has called worldviews “unseen structures underlying the entire explicit culture.” Hiebert, 32.
  6. Diana Kendall, Sociology in Our Times: The Essentials, 5th ed. (Belmont, CA: Wadsworth, 2006), 42.
  7. Del Tackett, “What’s a Christian Worldview?” Focus on the Family, January 1, 2006, https://www.focusonthefamily.com/faith/whats-a-christian-worldview/.
  8. “Competing Worldviews Influence Today’s Christians,” Barna, May 9, 2017, https://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/.
  9. George Barna, Think Like Jesus (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 2003), 20.
  10. Even after he accepted God’s lesson, Peter had a relapse to his old way of thinking. We see in Galatians 2:11–14 that Paul corrects Peter, reminding him not to separate himself from the Gentiles.
  11. All Scripture in this article is quoted from the NKJV.
  12. Ellen G. White, Our Father Cares (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Pub. Assn., 1991), 136.
  13. Tobin Crenshaw, “Transformation Starts in the Mind,” Christianity Today, February 16, 2010, https://www.christianitytoday.com/biblestudies/articles/theology/thatisreallylife.html.
  14. A church community can tremendously support the growth of a biblical worldview. “A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Peron’s Life,” Barna, December 3, 2003, https://www.barna.com/research/a-biblical-worldview-has-a-radical-effect-on-a-persons-life/.
  15. Ellen G. White, The Ministry of Healing (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1905), 73.
  16. John Piper, “Prayer Changes People’s Wills,” Desiring God, January 7, 1996, https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/prayer-changes-peoples-wills.
  17. Martin Luther, Luther’s Works, vol. 9, ed. Jaroslav Pelikan (St. Louis, MO: Concordia Publishing House, 1960), 24.

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S. Joseph Kidder, DMin, is a professor of pastoral theology and discipleship, Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, Andrews University, Berrien Springs, Michigan, United States.
Katelyn Campbell Weakley, MDiv, MSW, is the pastor of the Mount Tabor Seventh-day Adventist Church, Portland, Oregon, United States.

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