Chapter 1

 

Breaking Out of the Grid

“How can anyone remain interested in a religion which seems to have no concern with nine-tenths of his life?” -Dorothy Sayers

 

  • Every member of the Body of Christ has been gifted for the benefit of the whole, and when those gifts are suppressed, we all lose out.
  • So long as we’re allowed to hold our Bible studies and prayer meetings, we’ve turned over the content of the academic fields to the secularists.
  • The hubris of the Enlightenment lay in thinking that Reason was just such a transcendent power, providing infallible knowledge. Reason became nothing less than an idol, taking the place of God as the source of absolute Truth.
  • Humans are inherently religious beings, created to be in relationship with God–and if they reject God, they don’t stop being religious, they simply find some other ultimate principle upon which to base their lives. 
  • Faith is a universal human function, and if it is not directed toward God, it will be directed to something else.
  • Our calling as Christians is to progressively clean out all the “idols” remaining in our thought life, so that we may pursue every aspect of our lives as citizens of the City of God.
  • Every system of thought begins with some ultimate principle. If it does not begin with God, it will begin with some dimension of creation–the material, the spiritual, the biological, the empirical, or whatever. Some aspect of created reality will be “absolutized” or put forth as the ground and source of everything else.
  • This starting assumption has to be accepted by faith, not by prior reasoning. (Otherwise it is not really the ultimate starting point for all reasoning–something else is, and we have to dig deeper and start there instead.)
  • Every alternative to Christianity is a religion. It may not involve ritual or worship services, yet it identifies some principle or force in creation as the self-existent cause of everything else.
  • If Christians do not develop their own tools of analysis, then when some issue comes up that they want to understand, they’ll reach over and borrow someone else’s tools–whatever concepts are generally accepted in their professional field or in the culture at large.
  • The tools shape the user. In other words, not only do we fail to be salt and light to a lost culture, but we ourselves may end up being shaped by that culture.
  • The Christian message does not begin with “accept Christ as your Savior”; it begins with “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.”
  • God’s creative word is the source of the laws of physical nature, which we study in the natural sciences. It is also the source of the laws of human nature–the principles of morality (ethics), of justice (politics), of creative enterprise (economics), of aesthetics (the arts), and even of clear thinking (logic). That’s why Psalm 19:91 says, “all things are your servants.” There is no philosophically or spiritually neutral subject matter.
  • We cannot simply borrow from the results of secular scholarship as though that were spiritually neutral territory discovered by people whose minds are completely open and objective–that is, as though the Fall had never happened.
  • God does not save only our souls, while leaving our minds to function on their own. He redeems the whole person. Conversion is meant to give new direction to our thoughts, emotions, will, and habits.
  • Redemption is not just about being saved from sin, it is also about being saved to something–to resume the task for which we were originally created. 
  • The task for which we were originally created is to “Be fruitful and multiply and fill the earth and subdue it.” The first phrase “be fruitful and multiply” means to develop the social world: build families, churches, schools, cities, governments, laws. The second phrase, “subdue the earth” means to harness the natural world: plant crops, build bridges, design computers, compose music.  This passage is sometimes called the Cultural Mandate because it tells us that our original purpose was to create cultures, build civilizations–nothing less.  This means that our vocation or professional work is not a second-class activity, something we do just to put food on the table. It is the high calling for which we were originally created.
  • The Fall did not destroy our original calling, but only made it more difficult. Our work is now marked by sorrow and hard labor. In Genesis 3:16 and 17, the Hebrew uses the same word for the “labor” or childbearing and the “labor” of growing food. The text suggests that the two central tasks of adulthood–raising the next generation and making a living–will be fraught with the pain of living in a fallen and fractured world. All our efforts will be twisted and misdirected by sin and selfishness.
  • Because of Christ’s redemption on the cross, our work takes on a new aspect as well–it becomes a means of sharing in His redemptive purposes. In cultivating creation, we not only recover our original purpose, but also bring a redemptive force to reverse the evil and corruption introduced by the Fall.
  • The lesson of the Cultural Mandate is that our sense of fulfillment depends on engaging in creative, constructive work.
  • Martin Luther liked to say that our occupations are God’s “masks”–His way of caring for creation in a hidden manner through human means. In our work we are God’s hands, God’s eyes, God’s feet.
  • By God’s grace, we can make a significant difference within our sphere of influence–but only as we “crucify” our craving for success, power, and public acclaim.
  • About people’s conversion stories–“it’s not always a big emotional experience, you know”
  • Worldview is not an abstract, academic concept. Instead, the term describes our search for answers to those intensely personal questions everyone must wrestle with–the cry of the human heart for purpose, meaning, and a truth big enough to live by.
  • There is no need to avoid the secular world and hide out behind the walls of an evangelical subculture; instead, Christians can appreciate works of art and culture as products of human creativity expressing the image of God. On the other hand, there is no danger of being naive or uncritical about false and dangerous messages embedded in secular culture, because a worldview gives the conceptual tools needed to analyze and critique them. Believers can apply a distinctively biblical perspective every time they pick up the newspaper, watch a movie, or read a book.
  • Artists are often the barometers of society, and by analyzing the worldviews embedded in their works we can learn a great deal about how to address the modern mind more effectively. Yet many Christians critique culture one-dimensionally, from a moral perspective alone, and as a result they come across as negative and condemning.
  • Our first response to the great works of human culture, whether in art or technology or economic productivity–should be to celebrate them as reflections of God’s own creativity.
  • Even when raising serious criticisms, Francis Schaeffer expressed a burning compassion for people caught in the trap of false and harmful worldviews. When describing the pessimism and nihilism expressed in so many movies, paintings, and popular songs, he demonstrated profound empathy for those actually living in such despair.

This post contains quoted and paraphrased passages of Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey.

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