I recently read a fascinating article in Messiah Magazine.
The article is called, “My Big Fat Greek Mindset,” and it talks about the huge differences between Western and Eastern thought. The reason this difference is important to us (Christian Westerners) is because the people who wrote the Bible and Jesus, Himself, were all Easterners. This means that they approached life from a different worldview perspective than we do. This is not to say that their conclusions about truth were different from ours at all, but it does mean that they approached Scripture and God in a way that we’re not accustomed to.
The article pointed out that the Greek (Western) worldview promotes ideas above the physical world — which is opposite from how the Hebrew (Eastern) mind does it. The way the Greek thinks about God is in idea form; the way the Hebrew thinks about God is in physical form.
This fact was so interesting to me because I have seen it demonstrated first-hand numerous times here at the Focus on the Family Institute. Each semester a speaker on biblical Israel named Ray Vander Laan talks with the students and points this out to them.
“Close your eyes and imagine God,” he says. “Now shout out some descriptions of who God is.”
The students begin and every time I hear things like: “God is … love, good, omniscient, omnipresent, holy, righteous, omnipotent …”
All of these things are true, right? Of course! However, if you asked the same question of a group of Hebrews, they would say: “God is a rock, an eagle’s wing, a consuming fire, a shield …”
Notice the difference? And really, if we’re going to be technical, the Hebrew way is more biblical because these descriptions of God are actually found in Scripture. I just did a Bible Gateway search and “omniscient” is nowhere to be found. 🙂
Another interesting point is one I have brought up before. To us Westerners, “faith” is mainly what you believe. As the article points out:
Once the person has agreed that they believe in Jesus, they are pronounced, “saved.” As a result, salvation is viewed as granted to those who agree with a given theological statement or confession of faith. What one believes is more important than what one does.
The Hebrew perspective sees it differently:
Yeshua [Jesus] does not say “you will know them by their creeds” but rather “you will know them by their fruit” (Matthew 7:16, 20, emphasis mine). When Yeshua speaks of fruit, He is talking about how one lives — one’s actions. In other words, what one does is the fruit of what one truly believes, and therefore deeds not creeds are the true measure of faith.
The article then goes on to point out that confession of truth is crucial, but if our lives do not conform to that confession, then what’s the point?
What do you all think? Have you studied the differences between Western and Eastern thought? If so, has it changed the way you approach the Bible and your faith? If not, do you think it’s even all that important to know this stuff?