Cultures

Cultures are a mixture of good and bad - often in the same thing. For example, my English / pakeha culture can be proud of its spirit of independence. Yet in the works of John Donne, we read: "No man is an island". Independence is a good thing - if we wait for consensus we'll never do anything. But at some times and in some ways, our sense of community is diminished by it.

As part of a group called "Bible and Treaty" I've been privileged to learn so much (still just a beginner) about issues from the Maori perspective, although even the nature of an online group is a partial obstacle for many Maori. My ignorance started with the education I received, both formal and informal. It wasn't helped by my relative isolation from Maori. The only Maori I knew were in some way separated from their roots and so more pakeha than Maori.

The name of the group has two parts. As one who is just beginning to learn about the Maori way of being, at least I know the Bible fairly well. I started reading it and taking it seriously from my second year at university and have read it through every year (except the year of my stroke) and have spent time studying and reading about it.

When I was 65, I found an economics book (Small is beautiful) written in my second year at university (I studied economics in my first year) by a colleague of Keynes at Oxford. It presents economic views which, had they been followed might well have minimised some of the social and environmental tragedies we face today. Muldoon, being an economist, probably knew of this when he named his plan "Think big".

In the same way, I have come to see that my knowledge of the Bible was misinformed by my culture. Just in case people aren't aware, it wasn't written in English. Even the Greek NT was mostly written by Jews, so what was written was born out of Jewish culture. I had previously learned (Wolfgang Simson, Frank Viola, et al) that so much of what is regarded as normal church life is not in the Bible (buildings, staff, programmes etc), but now I see that even the way of thinking that drives the church comes from Greek rather than Hebrew.

When I was 65 I heard a man (Howard Eberle) challenge much that is accepted in Western culture as "biblical" when in fact it is developed from the thinking of Plato and cohort rather than the Bible. Suddenly the Bible, and indeed Christianity as it started, are much more consistent. It also means that so much of Western Christian culture may be Western culture, but cannot be called Christian. Of course just because something's not in the Bible doesn't make it wrong, but it can't be held as Biblical truth.

I was telling a friend about this speaker, and he said he sounded like Tom Wright. I watched Tom on YouTube and bought one of his books. My friend was quite correct, although, near the end of the three-part systematic theology by Eberle, I finally came across a comment disagreeing with Tom's view on something relatively minor. Given Eberle is a US charismatic and Wright is an English former CofE bishop (hearing him makes me imagine CS Lewis), I'd expect more difference, but the similarities of their views is striking.

It seems there is a closer way of seeing the world between the Hebrew and Maori ways of thinking than between the English and either. The standard Christian position in the 21st century has so much that is not in the Bible that it's ironic that so much of Maori thinking is perceived either as being inconsistent with the Bible.

My ability to see with the eyes of others (at least partially) started with my stroke. When my mind returned after 2.5 years, I immediately started acting as I used to. Change is difficult. I recognised this and am still working on it. I have learned so much since reaching 60, and I know there is still so much more to learn. My challenge is what have you learned in the last 5-10 years? If your ideas haven't changed much, I suggest you get out of your comfort zone. Some ideas are plain wrong, but it's likely that includes some of yours.

 

Last Modified

Last modified: 27 January 2021.