By Jun P. Espina | Last updated on March 26th, 2021 at 06:26 pm
Dispelling the Worldview Noise
Most Christian missionaries in many countries believed a common stopper or worldview noise somehow barred Gospel preaching.1 What is it? On the surface, it means miscommunication or a preconceived notion of deity. Or a culture practiced by a tribe or class of people in opposing, rejecting, or ignoring the message of the Christian Gospel. Many hold the story of the death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ, for example, as just similar to their myths and fables except in few angles. Preaching Christ thus requires the preacher to understand the varying obstacles or worldview noises present in most gospel opportunities.
Every non-Christian or non-biblical religious teaching and practice is in a way a worldview noise. The Mary worship of the Catholics, for example, or the Seventh-day Adventism’s salvation by perfect obedience to the Ten Commandments is a gospel-obstacle. We need to puzzle it out first if we want our Christian message to bear fruit.
The Mouk People
The conversion to Christianity of the Mouk people in Papua, New Guinea, by the white missionaries, has been commented negatively by non-Christians over the Internet. Says one commenter that it was but the destruction of the Mouk’s primitive culture. The one who was defending such a mission work, however, wrote about the difference now that the Missionaries converted the Mouks. He also wrote about the erstwhile cultural and religious practices of the Mouks.
Here is one commentary on the Mouk’s faith system:
I watched this documentary of the Mouks’ conversion. They danced for two hours and a half after learning about Jesus and His forgiveness. There was regular preaching for over two months before they received the Lord. My observation was that the white preachers addressed adequately their “worldview noise”.
For example, they presented a map of their village first to give them a mental picture of their land in relation to the whole big world, and also to Israel where the story of Jesus happened. Then the missionaries took pains in presenting the Gospel from the types of Christ as mentioned in the Old Testament. Such stories as the Passover Lamb and the brass snake on a pole, etc. were examined without even mentioning the name of Jesus Christ.
After studying the foundation of the Gospel from the Old Testament, the missionaries then presented the Good News from the witness of the New Testament. The Mouks discovered for themselves the truth about immortality in Christ logically outside of the usual preach-the-cross-right-away approach of traditional Christian evangelists.
Dealing appropriately with the worldview noise, first of all, was the primary factor used by the Holy Spirit that resulted in the conversion of the Mouks to the Christian Faith.
The Gospel Versus the World
Dr. Jeremiah’s study outlines the difficulty Christians are facing in effectively spreading the Gospel of Christ, not only to the Muslims but to the global audience as well. The Buddhists, for example, have the noise that is preventing them from clearly understanding the Gospel that in Christ, we can have eternal life and immortal bodies in heaven. They are teaching, for an illustration, a doctrine “that attachment to a permanent self in this world of change is the cause of suffering and the main obstacle to liberation.” 3 We are dependent on Christ, through faith in Him, for our salvation. But the Buddhists are dependent on their mental powers to be able to beat “the main obstacle to liberation” from sufferings. The Hindus, the Judaists, even the Catholics, the Seventh Day Adventist, the Jehovah’s Witness, the Mormons—all of them have their own version of worldview noise. Rejecters of Christ as the only Giver of eternal life always have good reasons for their unbelief. How to stop this noise for the Gospel to be heard clearly?
Well, I don’t think we have a canned solution, for as long as the devil is free to deceive the world. Understanding a particular noise is our only available avenue where we can effectively communicate the Gospel, not to mention the anointing power of the Holy Spirit. A worldview noise, in reality, is even heard within the household of worshipful Christians. The love for this world embattled the children of believers, even the children of pastors. The Herculean influence of the TV, the computer, and the Internet is there to choke the gospel of free salvation from ever spreading. But defeat in this arena of worldview noises is not an option, for everyone must hear, commanded God, the good news of free entrance to heaven through faith in Jesus. We need to understand any worldview noise, any obstruction to the preaching of God’s Good News, as what the apostle Paul did in every place where he preached Christ for his church-planting missions.
Noise of Ignorance
In Athens, for example, Paul tried to connect the people’s natural religiosity with the Gospel of Jesus by addressing the people’s “noise of ignorance.”
So Paul stood in the Areopagus and said,
In this very beautifully crafted speech, Paul told his audience that since they worshiped an unknown God, he would proclaim to them who that God is. The “unknown God” noise is quieted by the excitement of hearing who is He really, the known God of Paul. The noise of ignorance can be calmed down if we have a way of pointing out the people’s needs and supplying the answer to such a need. I think there is always a way of penetrating a thick noise if we will only apply the wisdom of biblical experience. Deacon Philip, for example, followed the same approach by trying to connect the Ethiopian eunuch’s noise of ignorance with the Gospel. Wrote Luke: “Then Philip opened his mouth, and beginning from this Scripture, he preached Jesus to him.” (Acts 8:35) Starting from the very verse the eunuch found himself confused; Philip preached the Gospel of Christ.
Noise About the Wrong God
Paul understood and thus emphasized in his Areopagus discourse the truth that one’s ignorance about God is ignorance about His primary attributes, namely, that He is All-knowing, All-present, and Almighty. Before unveiling who is this unknown God that Paul promised to tell his audience, he first gave them doctrines about God’s powers, and that He is not a mere work of art. From this worldview noise of having a wrong god, Paul gave the people the truth in a way within the bounds of their experience.
In Lystra, for example, Paul addressed the people’s worldview noise of believing that he and Barnabas are gods by saying, “In the generations gone by He permitted all the nations to go their own ways; and yet He did not leave Himself without witness, in that He did good and gave you rains from heaven and fruitful seasons, satisfying your hearts with food and gladness. Even saying these things, with difficulty they restrained the crowds from offering sacrifice to them.” (Acts 14:16-18)
The crowds were being controlled, for the people understood the truth that the “rains from heaven and fruitful seasons” and good food that they enjoyed for long years could not have been given by their visitors, Paul, and Barnabas. The wrong-god noise is always neutralized by the power of truth that is presented in a manner understandable to the people as it is connected to the nature of their daily existence.
In his sermon on Mars Hill in Athens, Paul also tried to connect the known God he promised to unveil by way of presenting a quite engaging argument. What was it? That judgment was sure because the Judge had been risen from the dead by God. The teaching about the resurrection of Christ is one dominant doctrine used by Paul throughout his ministry. As Christ’s clear evidence of His deity, His resurrection is always a very sharp tool in crippling the might of the noise of the wrong god.
Noise of Fanaticism
I want to confine our thesis to this section on fanaticism or the evil of shallow faith. For religious fanaticism “comes not from deep faith, but from a lack of it . . . . The more he believes, the more he has to do to show it . . . . The fanatic believes that his simple faith is not enough. He must do more. And if there is nothing reasonably more to do, he’ll invent something.” 4 It happened as Paul was preaching the Gospel at Ephesus. The people “shouted for about two hours, ‘Great is Artemis of the Ephesians!’” (Acts 19:34) They were just irrationally fearful that their goddess would be dethroned as the Apostle was saying that “gods made with hands are no gods at all.” According to the Scripture, the people joined in the uproar understanding nothing.
There are fanatics even among Christians whose unscriptural practices would sometimes manifest during Christian weddings or birthday parties. Faithful Christians are also charged by some liberals as being fanatical. A Christian’s opinion, for example, against gay marriage or evolutionism—including obscene movies, liberalism in the church, or unfaithfulness in marriage!—is seen by most people as sheer fanaticism. Observed Timothy Keller:
We should treat the worldview noise we call fanaticism as the result of man’s natural religiosity that he practices even outside of the bounds of Scriptures. Second, the devil is the author of all forms of fanaticism as he is the father of lies, making this noise more complex to calm down.
The reality of worldview noise as a gospel stopper is there, and all that we can do about it is to understand and face it. I heard a story about the desperate ship captain calling “Mayday, Mayday . . . we are sinking” of which the German control tower replied: “What . . . are you thinking?” From this incident, we can glean one lesson about miscommunication as an active factor in being not able to reach people with the Gospel of Christ. Contemporary church leaders want to dispel worldview noises, which include fanaticism, by using the services of one grand solver I’d like to call sensuous faith.
I attended a prayer meeting one time where I noticed our leader wanting to arouse our emotions first before ever giving his highly namby-pamby prayer. What he wanted to hire was the power of sensuous faith, which is now standard in most Christian pulpits, particularly within the Charismatic and liberal groups. Affect the five senses, or so goes the principle, and so you’ll become an effective preacher.
Today’s healing crusades, speaking in tongues, drums and worldly music in the church, etc. are seemingly invented to effect a sensuous faith. If this principle is one reason for the Charismatic Movement’s fast growth, then it may be concluded that, despite some of its dubious teachings, it is somehow effective in presenting Christ’s Gospel amidst varying worldview noises.
But is it the command of God for the church to compromise sound doctrines just the Gospel be pushed through the thickness of various obstacles and objections? Catholicism embarks on a pattern of introducing Christ by meeting halfway with people’s indigenous culture and belief system. Idolatry, for example, is never supported in Scriptures, and yet Catholicism teaches it, perhaps to tone down the “idolatry” noise. The amalgamation of the worldview noise into the teachings of the Holy Bible is adopted by most church leaders to be seen as being relevant to the times.
The identification of a particular worldview noise is essential in our gospel presentation. Millions of people in Russia or China, for example, are ignorant about the gospel message. The substitutionary death of Christ is meaningless to them. However, the compromising of sound doctrines to penetrate them and their own worldview noise only complicates the problem. Teaching people, for instance, sensuous Christianity won’t save them from hell; it rather buries them deep into spiritual malnourishment, confusion, and carnality.
Thomas’ sensuous faith is better explained in this verse: “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into His side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) Of this verse, the senses of touching and seeing have been required by Thomas for him to believe that Christ rose from the grave. Blessed are they, said Jesus, who did not see, and yet believed. Blessed are they whose faith is not sensuous, but is rather purely dependent on the blessed Word of God. In short, Christ is against the teaching of sensuous faith, even if it proves to calm down the worldview noise.
Continue to Find Ways
Pastors and Christian missionaries will continue to reach the world for Christ notwithstanding peoples’ varying, let alone deafening, noises of rejection. But there’s no antidote for worldview noises more powerful than the truth of Scripture being given by a godly man as he is used of the Holy Spirit of God.
1 Corinthians 2:1-5
“And when I came to you, brethren, I did not come with superiority of speech or of wisdom, proclaiming to you the [a]testimony of God. For I determined to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and Him crucified. I was with you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling, and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith would not [c]rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God.”
Evangelism & Discipleship Training Manual (Copyright © 1. 2007 by Sow and Harvest International – info@SowAndHarvest.com) pp. 7-12. Said Manual was distributed by Gil Thomas, et. al., during a training on February 11-13, 2010 held at Harvest Baptist Church, Davao City, Philippines. Visit www.GoodSoil.com for more information.
2 https://www.unexplained-mysteries.com/forum/topic/137593-story-of-the-mouk-tribe/, (accessed 3-11-2010/7-27-2015/2-27-20).
3 http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Buddhist_philosophy (accessed 4/30/2015).
4 www.leegruenfeld.com/essays/fanatics.htm (accessed 4/30/2015).
5 Timothy Keller, The Reason for God (New York: Dutton, 2008), pp. 56-57.