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May 15, 2010

tandoori chicken and worldview changes

Roots. Fruits. What's the difference, and what's the connection? Recently I was shown a tree diagram with a person's worldview as the hidden roots and his culture as the visible part of the tree. Assumptions, values and allegiances made up the worldview, while behaviour, attitudes, commitments and beliefs stemmed from the worldview, forming the person's culture. The tree looked something like this:
worldview // culture tree

The tree was shown in the context of cross-cultural work, and the question was asked "What problems happen when changes only take place on a cultural level and not in a person's worldview?" This question has to bear on the telling good news. Some messengers have seen the problem of syncretism when people add new behaviours or practices to their old worldview. The message has no real roots, and trials and testings evidence how shallow the supposed "new belief system" really is. I understand this concept as it relates to cross-cultural work.

But then I realized that I'm a syncretist, too.

Each of my sinful fruits evidences a problem in my spiritual roots--in my worldview. I keep falling back on a human, carnal view of life, which leads to sinful living. My sins in my attitudes, behaviour, expectations and commitments stem from a false worldview. For example, I see in myself attitudes like selfishness, resentment and disappointment. I need to get to the root of those issues and discover what my false assumptions and values are. God's Word and Spirit must continually wash and renew my mind.

As I thought about a current set of sins that I am struggling with, I realized that it wasn't too difficult to spot the false roots. For example, I have valued human relationships over my relationship with God. This has shown itself in a craving for human attention at the expense of fostering a deeper relationship with Christ. I've made good human relationships a false saviour and God wants to change my worldview. He wants me to realize that He is all I need.

Are you wondering where the tandoori chicken comes into this? Well, this lesson was further illustrated to me as I made tandoori chicken recently. I've been a bit bored with same-old groceries and cooking, and wanted to try something different. Marinated in a deep red Indian spice mix, the chicken thighs I prepared took on the intense colour for which India is known. But as I later ate the chicken, I realized that inside, it looked just like any other chicken. The outside was doused in the spices, but the inside not visibly affected.

I wondered, is this me? An intensely Christian exterior with an inconsistent interior?

Changes in culture are easier to observe than changes in worldview, and we like statistics. Therefore, we look for those culture changes in ourselves and others. New beliefs, new practices. A raised hand, a filled-out commitment card. We have churches of deep red tandoori chickens. We buy Christian books, go to Christian concerts and post Bible verses in our Facebook statuses. Our outsides look like the real deal. But I wonder, when you poke us, what juices you will find? When we're cut, what does our flesh show? Are we soaked to the bone in Him? What do trials and persecution bring out of us? Are we as transformed as we think we are?

God's goal is that we would be "fully pleasing Him" (Col. 1:10). Fully pleasing to Him. He doesn't just want to see a Christian culture, He wants to see a Christian worldview. He wants to transform my assumptions, my values and my allegiance. Where necessary, a changed culture will flow from a changed heart. But let us never assume that a changed culture proves a thorough uprooting of false assumptions.