Getting a World That Does Not Get It
Getting a World That Does Not Get it
When we look at the news we see deep fractures in western democracies around the world. Time-honoured institutions foundational to their success are being questioned; our governments and public leaders are not trusted; our freedom to express our views without recrimination and live lives consistent with our faith are under threat; we have concerns about our educational institutions; large corporations agitate for social changes to be forced upon the population; the media no longer distinguishes opinion and journalism; truth is ignored.
Postmodernism and its values are everywhere. Postmodernists are disillusioned with the failure of modernism to find solutions (or their own preferred solutions) to key issues such as the meaning of life, the problem of immortality and poverty. Democracy has not resulted in righteousness or justice. We are connected but lonely. We travel more but are isolated. Postmodernists reject the truths of the modern era, embracing a random view of the universe in which truth is relative, order is oppressive, chaos is freedom and reality is personally determined. This is in sharp contrast to modernism which espouses linear progress, absolute truth, rational planning of ideal social orders and the standardisation of knowledge and production.
Christianity has also come under attack. Christian teachings are assumed by many to be evil and oppressive. At one time the Christian moral code underpinned the morality of western societies and provided the foundation upon which democracies have flourished. It enabled the building of cohesive societies with a common set of shared moral values. We are now in a post-Christian era. Today’s culture espouses that there are no transcendent realities to which we must conform. We choose our own values, create our own meaning in life and determine our own identities.
Our news feeds bombard us with secular narratives. Timothy Keller in his book How to Reach the West Again identified these narratives as:
You need to be true to yourself (Identity).
You should be free to live as you choose, as long as you don’t hurt anyone (Freedom).
You must do what makes you the happiest. You can’t sacrifice that for anyone (Happiness).
We can only solve our problems through objective science and facts (Science).
Everyone has the right to decide what is right and wrong for themselves (Morality).
We are obligated to work for the freedom, rights and good of everyone in the world (Justice).
History is bending toward social progress and away from religion (History).
Even though these narratives sound very attractive, they are fragmenting our society. Keller states that this fracturing is “one of the bitter fruits of the secular project, the first effort in history to build cohesive societies without a common set of shared moral and religious values.”
That said, as human beings we long to find purpose and meaning in our lives. We long to find satisfaction, freedom, identity, forgiveness, real connection, justice and a hope for the future.
The current narrative will fail to deliver principally because we rely on ourselves for the answers (a huge responsibility) and fail to look to the all-wise transcendent God. The Bible has a better way to answer these universal yearnings. If we go back to the Bible we will have a sure foundation from which we can confidently speak about God’s moral framework. Our Christian worldview is distinctive and we as Christians need to be distinctive in how we live our lives and speak the truth of the gospel in love. We therefore need to stop watering down the gospel or fitting it into a secular framework. Indeed we need a deeper understanding of how moral values come from the gospel so that we can present the superiority of the gospel in answering people’s fundamental yearnings.
Over the next few months we will be exploring how the Bible answers these fundamental questions and deep, universal yearnings. We will also explore the secular worldview and moral codes so that we are prepared to engage in meaningful conversations; conversations that will help us build real connection based on respect; conversations that help to us to understand their perspectives and underlying values and beliefs, that will deepen our discussions; conversations that will inform how we can best present the biblical perspective; conversations that enable us to talk to them about the saving love of Jesus in a way that is meaningful to them; conversations that answer the questions of the human heart that the secular narratives cannot.
The objective of this series is to help us understand both the current worldview and the Christian worldview and to provide us with skills that enable us to have informed and meaningful conversations with family and friends. We are not advocating any particular party-political position. We are however striving to equip Christians to have a faithful presence by bringing together some of the best videos, podcasts and written materials available on the subject. We will tackle some of the big topics: What gives our lives purpose and meaning? What is truth? What does it mean to be tolerant? We will also be exploring human rights, the value of human life and love and divine judgement. We will look at core values such as truth, tolerance, love, forgiveness, freedom, submission and identity and see how the Christian worldview is different. And we will learn that the biblical definitions provide a better foundation for living.
Many commentators say that our society has lost the motivation and the skills to engage in respectful dialogue and discussion, and so we will be devoting a unit to this topic. David Robertson will be recording two training videos that provide practical skills and approaches for respectful, effective, deeper conversations. And in our final week we will have a Q&A with John Woodhouse and David Robertson where you get to ask the questions.
Our journey will be launched by John Woodhouse, our Acting Senior Minister who will set out the challenges we face in reaching the world with the good news of the gospel and provide a framework for moving forward. John initially presented his address at the Pricilla and Aquila Conference in February 2020. This series is based on John’s paper. We hope that you enjoy this series and are challenged as we journey together.