“The further a society drifts from truth the more it will hate those who speak it.”
– George Orwell –
Western culture, an idea derived from the tenants and teachings of the Christian faith, has been “under direct and unremitting cultural assault form those who want to destroy the bedrock of values of Western civilization.”[i] “We see the effect of this everywhere in the West,”[ii] and “without a basis for moral authority, no moral consensus can be reached, which is why we are in an ongoing and increasingly strident cultural war.”[iii] This cultural war over Western civilization is a struggle over which governing philosophy or ideology will prevail to dictate the cultural values and norms of civilized society. Will it be “the core values of Western civilization [which] are grounded in religion,”[iv], or moral relativism, which rejects the thought of absolute truth itself? For those of you thinking, “Wait a minute, Western Civilization is a Christian idea? Yes it is! Although the Kingdom of God is neither a Democracy nor a Republic, the very idea of a free society is derived mainly from Christian thought, and the primary reason why we should stand and contend for Kingdom principles to prevail and shape our culture.
In a direct way, Christianity finds itself totally immersed in a cultural war over worship. How is this so? The very root word for culture is “cult”, meaning “a particular form of worship.” Since we all worship someone or something, this someone or something determines how you and I create and order our lives, govern self and our family; how we approach the workplace, and even how we see, interpret and impact culture at large. Those in positions of influence tend to influence the values and mindsets of large segments of society. Culture then receives either an upgrade or downgrade depending on “who” leads and “what” worldview, values or philosophy are being translated to the masses to influence and shape culture. You see, every culture offers a unique expression distinct from other cultures. This exclusivity is their particular brand of worship. Why is a certain way of worship more important than others? It’s simple, you become like the object of your worship, for ‘those who make [idols] will be like them, and so will all who trust in them.”[v]
This struggle over worship originated in the pre-material world, when Lucifer attempted to exalt himself over God’s throne (Isaiah 14:12-17; Ezekiel 28:11-19) to divert worship from its rightful proprietor. Lucifer’s treasonous act cost him a position and place as God’s “anointed cherub”. As a result of his disloyal conduct, Lucifer was cast out of heaven to the depths of Sheol, which is the abode of the dead. This war over worship manifested itself once again in the Garden of Eden, where Lucifer acting as Serpent tempted Eve, sweeping her and Adam into a forbidden path, which opened the floodgate of evil into God’s material world. Mankind, though created in the image of God, was now tainted by sin with the propensity for evil works. Lucifer’s destructive brand was transferred from a timeless dimension to a limited one, from God’s abode to His material creation. In a brief sentence found in Genesis 6:5, evil’s manifestation within the heart of mankind and its geographical spread throughout the earth realm reached its full measure:
‘Then the Lord saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.”
Since then, this war over who controls culture, and who is to have the supremacy in worship has been fought on various fronts throughout history. This struggle has been the central theme of history’s struggle over good versus evil, which is evident in the visible and invisible worlds; a battle between God’s angelic hosts and Satan’s hordes of demons, God’s chosen remnant and the unredeemed; the righteous who live by faith, and the wicked who live by their own evil creed.
This struggle over which worldview will dominate to dictate the culture norms and trends continues to the present moment; a struggle between the Judeo-Christian worldview and a post-modern, secularized mindset. This cultural crusade is most noticeable in our arts and entertainment, the so-called artistic arena of sitcoms, movies, music, and print media. You just have to visit the magazine racks of your local bookstores to see the evidence; covers glorifying scanty clad women, narcissism, gossip, betrayal, and weekly portraits of break-ups and infidelity among the Hollywood elite. You can also watch daily soaps and nightly sitcoms abounding with immoral scripts, overflowing with sexual innuendo, lust, adultery, and the “new normal” arising in popular culture are same-sex themes. More demonstrative are the movies released in theaters, which are watched by millions of viewers each day spewing a barrage of soft to hard-core pornographic scenes, profanity, the illicit use of drugs and displays of extreme violence. For example, a beloved children’s movie had a scene of a male toy soldier humping another male toy soldier, taking the position for gays to openly serve in the armed forces. The sad part of this embedded piece of propaganda, particularly in a child’s movie, was that it was viewed by millions of young people, and children along with their parents. It was Hollywood’s way of demeaning and rejecting the deeply held values of the traditional family, and the long held views of the nation’s military policies and priorities.
In this section, I have briefly touched only upon the entertainment sector but I can go on with other sectors of culture such as science, education, politics and a variety of media outlets spewing venom and misinformation every day to undermine Christian virtue, and uproot the founding principles, which formed a nation under God.
Therefore, it is critical today, more than times past, for Christian leaders to cultivate a governing philosophy of leadership, which is most commonly known as worldview. A worldview, according to Christian apologist and author Norman L. Geisler is simply a way a person “views or interprets reality.” Geisler adds, the concept of “Worldview is derived from the German world Weltanschauung, meaning a ‘world and life view,’ or ‘a paradigm’… the framework through which or by which one makes sense of the data of life. A worldview makes a world of difference in one’s view of God, origins, evil, human nature, values, and destiny.”[vi] Chuck Colson’s examination of Christianity led him to this insightful summary:
“Christianity is a worldview that speaks to every area of life, and its foundational doctrines define its content. If we don’t know what we believe – even what Christianity is – how can we live it and defend it?”[vii]
Colson concludes his summary on worldview with the obvious reality that “our ignorance is crippling us,” meaning that without framing a cohesive and comprehensive worldview among Christian leaders today, we will keep losing the cultural war over the biblical values, which have shaped our culture and sacred institutions for generations.
Whether we know it or not we all approach and interpret life through a philosophical lens consisting of a set of presuppositions grounded in our existing reality, which forms our belief structures and value systems. Our value system dictates how you and I live, how we commune with our world, and how we apply God’s moral law and ethics to everyday life. Our approach to solving the problems arising in our world, such as poverty, defining biblical sexuality, marriage, human rights, even preserving human dignity in all phases of life from the mother’s womb to a person’s last breath are derived from a person’s worldview.
Significant Research – Worldview Metrics and Optics
To prove my point, let’s take a look at sound research by the Barna Group, a respected Christian research organization. The Barna Group claims a “worldview serves as a person’s decision-making filter, enabling them to make sense of the complex and huge amount of information, experiences, relationships and opportunities they face in life. By helping to clarify what a person believes to be important, true and desirable, a worldview has a dramatic influence on a person’s choices in any given situation.”[viii]
The distressing reality is that many Christians are not on the same page when it comes to viewing reality through a biblical lens. Research seems to indicate Christians do not possess a comprehensive and cohesive biblical worldview.
In 2009 The Barna Group conducted a study called, Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years, which revealed astonishing factoids, such as – “Only 9% of all American adults have a biblical worldview”, and “among born again Christians, less than one out of every five (19%) had such an outlook on life.”[ix] Now, you can begin to grasp the American Christian dilemma. In other words, Christianity in America is floundering to influence and shape culture? Other critical facts of the same survey reveal, “Varying numbers of Americans embrace the different aspects of biblical worldview thinking.” The survey found that:[x]
▪ One-third of all adults (34%) believe that moral truth is absolute and unaffected by the circumstances. Slightly less than half of the born again adults (46%) believe in absolute moral truth.
▪ Half of all adults firmly believe that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches. That proportion includes the four-fifths of born again adults (79%) who concur.
▪ Just one-quarter of adults (27%) are convinced that Satan is a real force. Even a minority of born again adults (40%) adopt that perspective.
▪ A minority of American adults (40%) are persuaded that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life while He was on earth. Slightly less than two-thirds of the born again segment (62%) strongly believes that He was sinless.
Given these measurements, what optics emerge concerning the Christian believer? The truth concerning the state of our culture is found in the lack of belief in “absolute truth” even among Christians. In addition, the skepticism among the same group that Satan is a real entity is incomprehensible. These numbers should not only cause alarm among our church leaders but should also sound the alarm to rally around making Christ-centered disciples. We must go from a “Disneyland faith” to demonstrating a sound biblical faith, which is grounded on reality and truth. As believers, we cannot be ashamed of Jesus, the author and perfector of our faith, and the central tenets of the faith once delivered to the all saints for every generation.
Now, let’s take a look at what I call a Transformative Worldview.
The 3 DNA Strands of a Transformative Worldview
Today’s leaders, who desire to have a drastic affect upon culture, must understand and consistently manifest the three DNA strands of a transformative worldview. The American version of our Christian faith is not working to transform culture. Therefore, we must go back to the foundations of our faith, grounded in the reality of the gospels, the historical narrative of the book of Acts, and the epistles written by the apostles. In my understanding, a comprehensive Christian worldview must instill a firm belief, power and the ability to transform culture. These strands of a Judeo-Christian worldview are demonstrated time and time again, commencing with the four Gospels, and continuing with the apostolic movement in the Book of Acts, and throughout key places and seasons in history. Today, the transmitters of this worldview should note these strands are deeply intertwined, much like a chord of three strands; each part producing a powerful synergistic affect translating to extraordinary results among individuals, society and culture at large. Here are a few samples:
‘And truly Jesus did many other signs [power] in the presence of His disciples… these are written that you may believe [instill belief] that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life [personal transformation] in His name.”
This pattern was also a common during the early apostolic age:
“At Iconium Paul and Barnabas… spoke so effectively that a great number of Jews and Gentiles believed [grounding belief]… So Paul and Barnabas spent considerable time there [transforming a city], speaking boldly for the Lord, who confirmed the message of his grace by enabling them to do miraculous signs and wonders [power].”
–Acts 14:1 & 3
“Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months [grounding belief], arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God… This went on for two years, so that all the Jews and Greeks who lived in the province of Asia heard [a transformative message] the word of the Lord. God did extraordinary miracles [power] through Paul.”
–Acts 19:8, 10 & 11 (NIV)
As you can see, the dynamics of a transformative worldview are evident in scripture. Therefore, as Christian leaders, we must reassess our worldview and examine if we, ourselves, and, or our ministry is aligned properly to the biblical pattern. Does your ministry bring people into a personal and practicing faith? Does your ministry manifest power via signs, miracles and wonders where people are in awe of God’s majesty? Is His presence evident in your congregation, compelling a curious community to your doorstep on Sunday mornings and other gatherings? Is your ministry spreading its influence by transforming the local neighborhood, city and region? If you can answer, “yes” to all these questions, then you are operating within the bounds of a transformative biblical worldview. If not, then you must reassess your ministry, humble yourself and seek God’s face for His presence and power to be released upon your life and your ministry.
[i] Philips, Melanie (2010) The World Turned Upside Down – The Global Battle Over God, Truth and Power. Encounter Books, New York, New York.
[ii] Colson, Charles W. (2008) The Faith. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pg. 68.
[iii] Ibid, pg. 68.
[iv] Philips, Melanie (2010), pg XII.
[v] Psalm 115:8
[vi] Giesler, Norman L. (2000) Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics, Baker Book House, pg. 785.
[vii] Colson, Charles W. (2008) The Faith. Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI; pg. 28.
[viii] The Barna Group. Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/21-transformation/252-barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years, accessed 2-3-2013.
[ix] The Barna Group. Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years: http://www.barna.org/barna-update/article/21-transformation/252-barna-survey-examines-changes-in-worldview-among-christians-over-the-past-13-years, accessed 1-21-2013.
[x] Ibid: The Barna Group. Barna Survey Examines Changes in Worldview Among Christians over the Past 13 Years.