on February 1, 2008
The author purposes to equip Christians with insight into the presuppositions of differing worldviews (Secularism, the Traditional Religionist, as well as Hindu, Theravada Buddhist, and Islamic) across the religious spectrum to unearth underlying assumptions and thought patterns so that Christians may effectively perceive, understand, empathize with and so be effective communicators of the Gospel message. Burnett himself comments, "The book was written to provide thinking Christians with a way of understanding the underlying thought patterns of communities. In so doing I trust that a deeper understanding and respect for all people will result" (7). Burnett also desires readers to understand how worldviews clash and morph into differing systems, as well as to re-enforce Christian readers with their basic worldview assumptions in light of competing philosophies.
Burnett achieves this goal by careful research and much missionary experience. Practical illustrations, pertinent quotes, and aptly organized categories fill his descriptions of various thought systems. He also fulfills his purpose by relating how worldviews and thought systems come into existence, as well as showing their syncretistic nature among other beliefs.
Burnett introduces readers to the arena of worldview study by describing and defining worldview, and he also gives missionaries research tools so that they may know their own worldview and so have the ability to explore others' more objectively. Burnett inaugurates his exploration of worldviews by relating the presuppositions of the western mind through an exposition of Secularism. Then he describes the traditional worldview, a polar opposite to the western mind, and how it operates within a supernatural world that includes spirits, witches, charms, shaman, and magical rites. The world of the traditional religionist, according to Burnett, is not segmented into natural and supernatural; all of life exists within the reaches of supernatural power and beings who affect daily life.
By describing the substance of various philosophical categories, all of which together form a paradigm for reality, Burnett uncovers each worldview. These categories include: the cosmos, the self, knowing, community, time, and value. Accordingly, Burnett relates each category to the major world religions and gives readers insight to how the members of each navigate their existence.
The author also describes motivations for social change and the process of conversion amidst those changing societies. Burnett defines, illustrates, and differentiates between New Religious Movements and Sects and Cults, each of which are results of a spiritual deficit or dissatisfaction within a community. Here he describes the New Age Movement as a flight from Secularism and the Neo-Pagan as those seeking a return to traditional beliefs and practice.
In Clash of Worlds Burnett has written an applicable explanation of worldview as a field of study and has provided excellent examples through his own research. Particularly favorable are the categories of reality through which he relates the underlying assumptions of each worldview. Seeing religious behavior through those lenses proves fruitful, and will no doubt help many in communicating Christ.
Burnett begins by describing the Secular worldview, and this greatly increases objectivity in reading the following chapters; it helps readers to see their presuppositions. Burnett includes a needed section on worldview change and conversion; these help Christians see spiritual co-factors which contribute to transfer of worldview.
While the author's research method and presentation of material is practical and insightful, he poorly explains the diagrams included to help readers understand phenomena. Sadly, these illustrations need illustrations. Some diagrams are obtusely abstract, and so further exposition may have provided deeper understanding. This blemish is one small tick on an otherwise well groomed dog.