Chapter 4

 

Surviving the Spiritual Wasteland

[A Christian worldview] involves three fundamental dimensions: the original good creation, the perversion of that creation through sin, and the restoration of that creation in Christ. -Albert Wolters

  • A Christian worldview involves 3 fundamental dimensions: the original good creation, the perversion of that creation through sin, and the restoration of that creation in Christ. -Albert Wolters
  • One of the most important reasons for developing as Christian worldview: to protect against absorbing alien philosophies unaware.
  • Without the tools of apologetics, young people can be solidly trained in Bible study and doctrine, yet still flounder helplessly when they leave home and face the secular world on their own. The tragedy is replayed over and over again, as Christian teenagers pack their bags, kiss their parents goodbye, and head off to secular universities, only to lose their faith before they graduate, falling prey to the latest intellectual fads.
  • It is not enough to teach young believers how to have a personal quiet time, follow a Scripture memory program, and link up with a Christian campus group. We also need to equip them to respond to the intellectual challenges they will face in the classroom. Before they leave home, they should be well acquainted with all the “isms” they will encounter, from Marxism, to Darwinism to postmodernism. It is best for young believers to hear about these ideas first from trusted parents, pastors, and youth leaders, who can train them in strategies for analyzing competing ideologies. At the very least, these ideologies should be stripped of the mystique of forbidden ideas. In many cases, students are never exposed to competing ideas within their families, churches, or Christian schools, and as a result they go out into the world unprepared for the intellectual battles they are about to encounter, especially on secular college campuses.
  • Christianity gives the basis for a higher view of human nature than any alternative worldview that begins with non-personal forces operating by chance.
  • In any field, the way to construct a Christian worldview perspective is to ask three sets of questions:
    1. CREATION: How was this aspect of the world originally created? What was its original nature and purpose?
    2. FALL: How has it been twisted and distorted by the Fall? How has it been corrupted by sin and false worldviews? Cut off from God, creation tends to either be divinized or demonized–made into either an idol or an evil.
    3. REDEMPTION: How can we bring this aspect of the world under the Lordship of Christ, restoring it to its original, created purpose?
  • Education
    • CREATION tells us that children are created in the image of God, which means they have the great dignity of being creatures with a capacity for love, morality, rationality, artistic creation, and all the other uniquely human capabilities.
    • The FALL teaches us that children are, like all of us, prone to sin and in need of moral and intellectual direction. In the aftermath of the Fall, God gave verbal revelation to enable us to order our lives by timeless and universal truths that would otherwise be unavailable to fallen, finite creatures.
    • REDEMPTION means that education should aim at equipping students to take up their vocation in obedience to the Cultural Mandate. Each child should understand that God has given him or her special gifts to make a unique contribution to humanity’s task of reversing the effects of the Fall and extending the Lordship of Christ in the world.
  • Family
    • CREATION tells us the family is a social pattern that is original and inherent in human nature itself. It is therefore normative for all times and all historical situations. Any Utopian scheme that seeks to cast the family into the dustbin of history will find itself working against human nature itself.
    • Utopians who deny Creation also deny the FALL, totally rejecting the idea that human nature is corrupt and prone to evil. Instead they redefine all social problems as temporary disorders that can be resolved through education and social engineering. Most Utopians wish to “be as gods” (Gen. 3:5) through self-will and human engineering, not through the blessings of heaven.
    • Thus is born a seductive image of REDEMPTION through the creation of a new Eden–a return to the original state of innocence.  Ironically, virtually every actual historical attempt to improve on Genesis has ended in a coercive, totalitarian state. Why? Because, contrary to the Utopian vision, sin is real and cannot be simply engineered out of existence. Thus the state always finds itself having to force people to fulfill its Utopian schemes.
  • The balance of unity and diversity in the Trinity gives a model for human social life, because it implies that both individuality AND relationship exist within the Godhead itself. Humans are made in the image of a God who is a tri-unity–whose very nature consists in reciprocal love and communication among the Persons of the Trinity.
  • Certain values necessary for spiritual maturity–such as faithfulness and self-sacrificing love–can be practiced only within relationships. That means individuals cannot fully develop their true nature unless they participate in social relationships, such as marriage, family, and the church.
  • Every worldview or ideology has to answer the same three sets of questions:
    • CREATION: Translated into worldview terms, Creation refers to ultimate origins. Every worldview or philosophy hast to start with a theory of origins: Where did it all come from? Who are we, and how did we get here?
    • FALL: Every worldview also offers a counterpart to the Fall, an explanation of the source of evil and suffering. What has gone wrong with the world? Why is there warfare and conflict?
    • REDEMPTION: To engage people’s hearts, every worldview has to instill hope by offering a vision of Redemption–an agenda for reversing the “Fall” and setting the world right again.
  • Marxism
    • For Karl Marx, the ultimate creative power was matter itself. He proposed that the material universe is not static but dynamic, containing within itself the power of motion, change, and development. That’s what he meant by dialectical materialism. He embedded the Prime Mover within matter as the dialectical law.  In short, he made matter into God.
    • CREATION: Marx’s counterpart to the Garden of Eden was the state of primitive communism. The ultimate origin of everything? Self-creating, self-generating matter.
    • FALL: Humanity fell from the state of innocence into slavery and oppression due to the creation of private property. From this economic “Fall” arose all the evils of exploitation and of class struggle.
    • REDEMPTION: Destroying the private ownership of property. The “redeemer” is the proletariat, the urban factory workers, who will rise up in revolution against their capitalist oppressors and recreate the original paradise of primitive communism.
    • By incorporating all the elements of a comprehensive worldview, it taps into a deep religious hunger for redemption. Marx’s idea of the end of history, when communism will triumph and conflict will vanish from the world “is transparently a secular mutation of Christian apocalyptic beliefs,” writes philosopher John Gray. It is “myth masquerading as science.”
  • Rousseau and the French Revolution
    • Rousseau said the way to grasp the essence of human nature was to hypothesize what we would be like if we were stripped of all social relationships, morals, laws, customs, traditions–of civilization itself–which he called “the state of nature.”
    • Rousseau’s view of society was that if our true nature is to be autonomous individuals, then society is contrary to our nature: It is artificial, confining, oppressive.
    • The implication of the doctrine of the Trinity is that relationships are just as ultimate or real as individuals; they are not the creation of autonomous individuals, who can make or break them at will. Relationships are part of the created order and thus are ontologically real and good.
    • CREATION: The state of nature. He realized that to propose a new political philosophy, they had to ground it in a new creation story.  In his state-of-nature scenario, the individual is stripped not only of social ties but of human nature itself. The earliest human is unformed, indeterminate, nothing more than a beast–a gentle, peaceful, and happy beast, but a beast nonetheless. Thus Rousseau’s definition of human nature is, paradoxically, not to have a nature at all–to be free to create oneself. Humans have the distinctive ability to develop and transform themselves. The reason social relationships are oppressive is that they interfere with the individual’s freedom to create himself.  So, if human nature is indeterminate and can no longer be defined positively, then there is an unlimited space for the state to impose its own definition of human nature.
    • FALL: Society or civilization in general.  Any relationships not a product of choice are oppressive–such as the biological bonds of family, the moral bonds of marriage, the spiritual bonds of the church, or the genetic bonds of clan and race.
    • REDEMPTION: The state. The only social bond where individuals retain their pristine autonomy is the contract–because there the parties are free to choose for themselves how they wish to define the terms and the extent of their agreement. The terms are not preset by God, church, community, or moral tradition but are strictly voluntary. That’s why Rousseau, Hobbes, and Locke all called for a state based on a “social contract.” In it, all social ties would be dissolved and then reconstituted as contracts, based on choice. This was always presented in terms of liberating the individual from the oppression of convention, tradition, class, and the dead hand of the past.
    • It may seem paradoxical that a philosophy of radical individualism would lead to radical statism. But as Hannah Arendt points out in The Origins of Totalitarianism, disconnected, isolated individuals are actually the most vulnerable to totalitarian control because they have not competing identity or loyalties. That’s why one of the best ways to protect individual rights is by protecting the rights of groups such as families, churches, schools, businesses, and voluntary associations. Strong independent social groupings actually help to limit the state because each claims its own sphere of responsibility and jurisdiction, thus preventing the state from controlling every aspect of life.
    • According to Michael Sandel in Democracy’s Discontent, the background belief of modern liberalism is the concept of the “unencumbered” self–by which he means “unencumbered by moral or civic ties they have not chosen.”  Thus for liberalism the core of our personhood is our ability to choose our own identity–to create ourselves. That is why relationships and responsibilities are often considered separate from, and even contradictory to, our essential identity–why individuals often feel they need to break free from their social roles (as husband, wife, or parent) in order to find their “true self.” It is Rousseau redux.
    • Instead of being reverenced as a social good, marriage is now feared as an economic risk. “Today’s singles mating culture is not oriented to marriage,” the study says. “Instead it is best described as low-commitment culture of ‘sex without strings, relationship without rings’.” Clearly, the ontological individualism of Hobbes, Locke, and Rousseau remains at the heart of America’s social and political crisis.
  • Margaret Sanger’s Religion of Sex
    • Sexual liberation itself has become nothing less than a full-blown ideology, with all the elements of a worldview.
    • Sanger portrayed the drama of history as a struggle to free our bodies and minds from the constraints of morality–what she called the “cruel morality of self-denial and sin.” She touted sexual liberation as “the only method” to find “inner peace and security and beauty.”  Her promise was that “Through sex, mankind will attain the great spiritual illumination which will transform the world, and light up the only path to an earthly paradise.”
    • CREATION: Evolution–She was an avid proponent of both biological and Social Darwinism.  What did this mean for Singer’s view of human nature? If we are products of evolution, then our ultimate human identity is located in the biological, the natural, the instinctual–especially the sexual instincts.
    • FALL: The rise of Christian morality. 
      • It is Christianity, with its repressive morality, that prevents people from finding their true sexual identity, which is the core of their being–and this in turn causes all sorts of other dysfunctions. Sanger condemned “the ‘moralists’ who preach abstinence, self-denial, and suppression.” 
      • Of course, not all sexual liberals come right out and condemn Christian morality so openly. A more common strategy is to claim that they simply want to be scientific, and that science requires a morally neutral stance.
      • Alfred Kinsey repeatedly emphasized that sex is a “normal biologic function, acceptable in whatever form it is manifested.” But of course, that statement itself expresses a moral stance.  He was completely committed to a form of ethical relativism based on Darwinian naturalism–and he was smuggling his own values masked as objective and natural science.
      • Kinsey often insisted that science is only descriptive–that it cannot prescribe what people should do. But in reality, writes historian Paul Robinson, he “had very strong opinions about what people should and should not do, and his efforts to disguise those opinions were only too transparent.”
    • REDEMPTION: Sexual liberation.
      • In the New Yorker article on porn studies, one professor explained that “the cultural left” has turned from changing society to “inner change”–defined primarily as discovering the true nature of one’s sexuality.   In short, sexual liberation has itself become a moral crusade, in which Christian morality is the enemy and opposition to it is a heroic moral stance.
      • Some couples who are not married may get offended when referred to as married. Why would anyone consider it an insult to be regarded as married? By rejecting marriage, the couple means to take a high-minded stand for freedom against an oppressive moral convention.
  • New Age pantheism
    • There is no personal God in Eastern religions like Buddhism and Hinduism. The divine is a nonpersonal, noncognitive spiritual force field. The ultimate goal in these religions is not so much happiness as relief from the burden of the self: Nirvana is the merging of the individual spirit with the universal spiritual substratum to all things–losing your individuality in the pantheistic One.
    • When Eastern thought came to America in the 1960’s, it combined with Western elements to form the New Age movement. But the core of pantheistic concepts remain essentially the same.
    • CREATION: The Absolute, the One, a Universal Spiritual Essence.  In pantheism, ultimate reality is a unified mind or spiritual essence pervading all things. It is an undifferentiated Unity beyond all human categories of thought–beyond the divisions of good and evil, subject and object.
    • FALL:  Our sense of individuality.  In pantheism, the great dilemma of human existence is not sin. The human dilemma is that we don’t know we are part of a god. We thing we’re individuals, with separate existences and identities. This is what gives birth to greed and selfishness, conflict and warfare. In Hinduism, our sense of individuality is even called “maya,” which means illusion. The goal of spiritual exercises is to free our minds from the illusion of individuality.
    • REDEMPTION: Being reunited with the Universal Spiritual Essence from which we all came.  The goal of Eastern religious exercises is to reunite with the god within–to recover a sense that we are all god. This analysis helps make more sense of the bewildering proliferation of techniques in the New Age movement–yoga, transcendental meditation, crystals, centering, tarot cards, diets, guided imagery, and all the rest. In spite of their vast variety, the purpose of all these techniques is to dissolve the boundaries of the self and recover a sense of universal oneness.
  • As Christians, we are called to be missionaries to our world, and that means learning the language and thought-forms of the people we want to reach. In America, we don’t have to master a new language, but we do have to learn the thought-forms of our culture. We need to speak to the philosophers in the language of philosophy, to politicians in the language of public policy, and to scientists in the language of science.

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