Linguist and author of Dalek Christianity Tom Schwarz explores what factors influence our perception of truth. He also looks at how we can celebrate different perspectives 

Over the recent past, global society has been brought closer together by technology, but at the same time been pushed into competing groups by the very same technology. Like Pontius Pilate, it is very tempting to ask: “What is truth?” and wash our hands of the whole thing.

We can have a tendency to retreat into our ‘tribe’ and surround ourselves with like-minded people who see the world through the same lens as we do. Both Christian believers and non-believers can easily be drawn into this way of thinking and acting. However, in John 17, when Jesus is giving his final message to his disciples, he prays for them and also for us:

My prayer is not for them (the disciples) alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” (John 17:20-21)


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It seems to me that the answer to this prayer cannot be fulfilled by all believers believing exactly the same things in all areas and at all times in history. So, how can it then be fulfilled?

Over the past couple of years, I have been pondering this question and jotting down ideas and stories as they came to me. These ideas have now come to fruition in the book Dalek Christianity. Why Daleks? The fictitious Daleks of the Dr Who Universe destroy anything that is not exactly like them. This book aims to do the exact opposite. It explores ways in which we can celebrate and appreciate different perspectives. It does this by exploring various lenses or filters by which we perceive truth. 


The first lens is testimony

We have a story to tell, which may resonate with some but not others. What do we do when our story doesn’t relate to someone else we are talking to? For example, I needed a meaning and purpose in life, but this may not be the itch other people have.

The second lens is history

We are currently in the 21st Century, but the Bible was written for all centuries, so which bits are for us now and which bits are just for us to appreciate what God did in the past?  

The third lens is perspective.

This looks at the incredible variety of perspectives that there are on faith. I identify over 20 areas Christians usually see differently, and demonstrate that trying to get agreement is statistically very unlikely. 


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The fourth lens is culture.

Here, I explore how our cultural background shapes our beliefs and preferences. It also encourages us to celebrate our culture and explores the fact that we may well have several cultures.

The fifth lens is language

This celebrates language’s richness and limitations. I also analyse the words we use for God and where they originate from.

The sixth lens is listening

How do we listen and how can we improve? I’m sure there are better books on this, but this is very important. I know, because I have had to learn!

The seventh lens is judging

…or should I say not judging. How can we actually do this when we disagree with someone? I include a little story about how we were occasionally treated when we had a pet Rottweiler.

Finally, I draw on Romans 14, where the apostle Paul pleads for greater diversity within the Church. For example, he points out that special days are important to some people but not others. 

This book raises some big questions about our cultural identity and how we communicate. It makes us confront the fact that what we believe may well be shaped by the period of history we are in or the country in which we live. 

Unity in diversity

I try and answer some of these questions in Dalek Christianity, but the good news is that Jesus is actually praying for us as we journey on the path towards unity in diversity. My own prayer is that we will have a better understanding of how to appreciate and even celebrate the differences we can see in God’s family across the globe and through the timeline of history.


Tom Schwarz is author of Dalek Christianity. He is a language and culture expert who spent nine years in Ghana. A brain stem stroke in 2020 has not slowed him down much. He plays keyboards, bass and guitar in a global worship band. He lives in Oxfordshire in a four-generation household with his chickens, dog, cat and grandson, all of whom are ginger.


[Article image: BBC]