Western Thinking vs Eastern Thinking

 In Bible Studies

hen I started my journey toward discipleship, I was introduced to a teacher named Ray Vander Laan. He came at the Bible from a very different perspective. The statement he made that kept playing over and over in my head was, “The Bible was written for us, but not to us.”

He proceeded to explain the difference between Eastern and Western thinking. Eastern thinking is native to Africa, Asia, Native Indians, the Middle East, and Eastern Europe; whereas, Western thinking descended from Greek tradition and the rest of Europe. Further, he stated that understanding the different mindsets and realizing that the Bible was written to an Eastern audience was key to understanding many things in the Bible.

  • A Western mind communicates information in an organized manner and often pulls individual truths out of context in order to study them.
  • An Eastern mind communicates information based on topics, purpose, and importance.
  • A Western mind looks at information about God.
  • An Eastern mind wants to know God.
  • A Western mind wants to find the meaning of life.
  • An Eastern mind is not interested in the meaning of life – it is interested in the purpose of one’s life.
  • A Western mind describes things abstractly – God is love, God is omnipotent, God is good, God is just.
  • An Eastern mind describes things concretely – God is my rock, God is my fortress, God is my shepherd. The devil can state abstract ideas about God too – because they are truth. However, he cannot claim the concrete ideas because they are personal.
  • A Western mind believes “If I can get your head, I may capture your heart.”
  • An Eastern mind believes “If I can reach your heart, your head will follow.”

After teaching, a Western preacher will ask, “Do you believe this?” After teaching, an Eastern rabbi will ask, “Will you practice this?”

Seventy percent of the Bible is story. Why? Because it was written to an Eastern audience.

Mark 4:24 literally says, “Look carefully at what you hear…”

How can you look at what you hear? You can if it is a picture… It is classic Hebrew.

This perspective has changed how I read the Bible. I want to know Him, not just know about Him. I want my relationship with Him to be personal, not abstract. I want to give Him my heart. And I want to put His words into practice.

It isn’t that one way of thinking is superior to the other, and I am not suggesting that one should never study the Bible from a Western perspective. However, I believe much can be gained and many truths can be understood if we can learn to see what we hear.

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