Missions Across Cultures
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Culture, as defined by Paul G Hiebert (1985), is "the more or less integrated systems of ideas, feelings, and values and their associated patterns of behavior and products shared by a group of people who organize and regulate what they think, feel, and do" (Hiebert 1985:30).
This definition looks at culture as consisting of ideas, feelings, and values that make up the three dimensions of culture: cognitive, affective, and evaluative. Cognitive dimension refers to the knowledge shared by members of a group or society in which knowledge is categorized and used to sort our reality. Affective dimension refers to the feelings we have, our attitudes, notions, tastes, and other emotional expressions. Evaluative dimension refers to the values by which human relationships are judged as moral or immoral, true or false, right or wrong.
All these dimensions play an important aspect to the work of missions because the gospel has to do with all of them. On the cognitive level, it means understanding and accepting biblical truths and theological information. On the affective level, the emotions such as guilt and shame for our sins, gladness for our salvation, and other feelings. On the evaluative level, the gospel has to do with values and allegiances. All these are essential in conversion (Hiebert 1985:34).
Understanding culture involves ideas, feelings, and values that differ across cultures, it is important for us to be able to tell the difference between cultural practices and biblical truth, to understand what is permissible practices and what is not, and with informed knowledge, nurture and teach the young in faith according to their cultures, sanctioning only practices that are against the principles of biblical truths, but at the same time not overstepping customs that are their ways of lives.
Hiebert, G. Paul (1985), "Chapter 2: Gospel and Culture", Anthropological Insights for Missionaries. Michigan: Baker Book House, pp 29-58.
For the complete e-book of this article, please read Introduction to Christian Missions.
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