GETTING A WORLD THAT DOES NOT GET IT
DO YOU GET IT?
Secularism and the Christian Worldview
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. Continue reading…….
DO YOU GET TODAY'S CULTURE?
It has been stated that if we are to truly engage with our non-Christian neighbours we need to understand their worldview and their underlying values and assumptions. This introduction to the series provides an overview of these worldviews and some perspectives on pitfalls for Christians as we seek to engage with people who hold them.
John Woodhouse outlines a framework for viewing the world through a biblical lens. He demonstrates that we need to have a deeper understanding of key values such as freedom, love, justice, sexuality and forgiveness from both a Christian and a secular perspective.
We gain a deeper understanding of the values underlying the secular worldview as we listen to a conversation between John Anderson and Professor Stephen Hicks. We have included two articles from the Gospel Coalition which will challenge us as Christians to understand both the gospel and secular metanarratives. They also challenge us to live out the gospel faithfully and engage with our neighbours with truth and love.
We have also included some questions that will help you and your home-group focus on the content.
Timothy Keller has recently published a short book called How to Reach the West Again. It is available free to download at https://redeemercitytocity.com/reachthewest. Keller outlines the challenges we face as a church and a vision and strategy for 21st Century evangelism.
Getting a World That Does Not Get It
In this address, John Woodhouse provides a pragmatic view on the cultural environment in which we, as followers of Jesus Christ, currently live. Over the past years the world has become increasingly hostile to Christians. Christianity is seen as evil and oppressive. Christians are called unjust, bigoted, hateful, intolerant and cruel. Faithful Christians find themselves feeling uncomfortable and embarrassed by some teachings and we fail to see the goodness in God’s ways.
While many of us would like to avoid the problem or revise it away John challenges us to engage with the world. He encourages us to understand prevailing worldviews and their underlying values and assumptions as well as gaining a deeper understanding of the values underlying the teachings that we are finding so difficult to explain. In his address John looks at some of the core secular values such as human rights, equality, identity and freedom and shows how their meanings have been changed and distorted. He also compares them with the biblical values and meanings and in doing so demonstrates that the moral underpinnings of Christianity are best for the flourishing of individuals and our society.
We thank John for preparing and delivering this address to launch this series of Christians Engaging Culture.
This video has been republished as a podcast on the Christians Engaging Culture podcast channel. Because of its length, it will be published over two weeks. You can subscribe to the Christians Engaging Culture Podcast in your favourite podcast app.
Getting a World That Does Not Get ItPodcast duration: 1’47”Speaker: John WoodhousePublisher: St Thomas’ Anglican Church, North Sydney. (used with permission)Originally published at: https://youtu.be/-G01WOiVaPwDate accessed: - 23/07/2020
Conversations with John Anderson: Professor Stephen Hicks – Postmodernism and Nazism.
A core objective of this series is to provide us with knowledge that will help us think critically about the world and gain greater clarity about our Christian faith. This video, which is foundational to the series, provides insights into the reasons why western democracies are experiencing increasing social conflict. Professor Hicks has the insight to explain our world from many interrelated perspectives.
Hicks clearly articulates an intellectual and well-researched understanding of the philosophies which have emerged over the 20th and 21st centuries and the factors underlying their development. He also exposes how different understandings and beliefs about human nature result in different worldviews that cannot be reconciled or synthesised. One view of human nature is based on a belief that individuals can think for themselves; that we are rational; that we seek the truth; that we gain knowledge and understanding through discussing and contesting ideas; that we have agency over our own lives. The alternative view is that humans are irrational and moulded by a social context and we can be used as vehicles for social reform. That is, we do not have agency over our lives.
These viewpoints result in very different political and social systems. The bottom line is that the underlying values behind what we often describe as the far right and the far left are based on the clashing of rights and based on the belief that the use of power leads to change. Through this framework Hicks explains the development and rise of identity politics and the rights culture that is self-evident today.
Professor Hicks is a Canadian-American philosopher who teaches at Rockford University Illinois, the Director of the Centre for Ethics and Entrepreneurship, is the Senior Scholar for the Atlas Society and has lectured world-wide.
We thank John Anderson for permission to use this video and commend his extensive series “Conversations with John Anderson”, in which he interviews experts about many aspects of our society today. You can subscribe to them on your favourite podcast app and YouTube.
This video has been republished as a Christians Engaging Culture podcast. You can subscribe to the Christians Engaging Culture Podcast in your favourite podcast app.
Conversations with John Anderson: Professor Stephen Hicks – Postmodernism and Nazism.Podcast duration: 58’14”Speaker: John Anderson and Professor Stephen HicksPublisher: Johnanderson.net.au (used with permission)Originally published at: https://johnanderson.net.au/professor-stephen-hicks/Date accessed: - 23/07/2020
In this short, summarized article Shenvi and Sawyer provide an overview of critical theory, an ideology more popularly known as cultural marxism, and considers it from a biblical perspective. He identifies two metanarratives; the Christian metanarrative that runs from creation to redemption and the critical theory metanarrative that runs from oppression to liberation. He identifies those things within critical theory that are not false, the differences between the two worldviews, how power is central to critical theory (and one of the reasons Christian privilege is seen as oppressive) and the use of “lived experience” to determine truth.
Shenvi sees critical theory as a serious and growing threat to the church and provides wise, practical advice for Christians in how to discuss these issues.
Finally he challenges us to be a church that demonstrates true neighbour-love and fellowship across line or race, class and gender, thereby demonstrating the credibility of Christianity as a path to human flourishing.
We encourage you to dig deeper. Neil Shenvi is an apologist and has significant resources available on his website https://shenviapologetics.com/. You will also find additional discourse on critical theory.
Estimated read time: 6’55”Author: Neil Shenvi and Pat SawyerPublisher: The Gospel Coalition Date accessed: 21/07/2020
This article is important because it challenges us as Christians to apply the whole Gospel narrative as we seek to understand and discuss issues that are currently occupying the media – issues such as racism.
As Christians we are called to follow the Gospel metanarrative of Creation, Fall, Redemption and Restoration. You may have noticed that among church leaders, Christians and within Christian media there are differing views on issues such as justice and gender. We are tempted to try to fit Christianity into prevailing worldviews. Reidel argues that some Christians will focus on creation and restoration from the gospel narrative. This ignores the atoning work of Jesus. It is based on an underlying assumption that humans have the power to fix oppression and it ignores sin. Others focus on the fall and redemption and they miss the beauty and significance of creation and the hope of God’s restorative work.
Riedel argues that we need to apply the entire gospel narrative as we seek to understand alternative worldviews and how they play out into the world. He states that Christians who lean right and left have both deemphasized points of the complete gospel narrative.
He concludes that the gospel has the power to speak to our needs now. All things are made by God to reflect his glory, and all people bear his image and likeness and are worthy of dignity and love.
This is another excellent article from The Gospel Coalition. You can subscribe to receive their emails by visiting their website https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/
Estimated read time: 4’25”Author: Bill RiedelPublisher: The Gospel CoalitionDate accessed: 21/07/2020
TWO QUICK THINGS YOU CAN SAY
Perhaps you could pose a moral dilemma. Below is an example of two questions and a statement that you could use to frame a discussion with a non-Christian friend.
When we find ourselves in conflict about moral issues, who do you think is qualified to have the final say about what is right or wrong? ………. If that ’qualified’ person made a decision that you did not agree with, would you be happy to accept it? ...........
As a Christian, I follow the moral code given to us by Jesus. He is God who created the universe, He understands what is best for human flourishing and has given us this wisdom in the Bible. Have you looked at the Bible to know who Jesus is and whether He can be trusted to determine what is moral?
I’m concerned with the current rights culture where different groups who have genuinely been treated poorly are singled out with the objective of being made out to be the oppressed and the only solution given is to bring down their oppressors. Not only does this cause conflict but, by doing so, we are diminishing them as people. We fail to see them as the people they were created to be by God and diminish their identity to just one part of who they are, be it race, sexual preference or gender. As humans we are much more than that. Instead of seeing ourselves as the oppressed and oppressor I would rather see us all treat each other with dignity and respect and get beside people to understand them and show genuine love and friendship.
TWO WAYS TO TURN DISCUSSION TO THE GOSPEL
The moral framework underlying the secular worldview is power. Jesus calls us to love and this value underpins the gospel. Jesus is God and has all the power, and yet he chose to give up his power when he died on the cross and opened the way for us to enjoy a very personal relationship with God. His was the most costly expression of love we will ever see.
As humans, we think that we have the ability to find solutions to everything that is wrong in the world. The Bible says that we are not called to solve the problems that we cannot solve. In the end we all feel that what we are doing is not enough, no matter how hard we try. Jesus has the power to set us free from continuously trying to solve the world’s problems. He has the responsibility for renewing the world. He is the one with the power to save the world. We are called to love each other. I find that very freeing.
THREE BIBLE PASSAGES
1 Peter 2:12 Live such good lives among the pagans that, though they accuse you of doing wrong, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day he visits us.
Isaiah 5:20 Woe to those who call evil good and good evil, who put darkness for light and light for darkness, who put bitter for sweet and sweet for bitter.
Matthew 5:11 (Jesus said) “Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me.”
GROUP OR PERSONAL REFLECTION
Using 1 Peter 3 think through John Woodhouse’s explanation of submission as one based on love rather than power. You may wish to listen to his sermon on this passage at https://www.st-thomas.org.au/podcast/the-pattern-of-a-privileged-life-part-two/.
How are husbands and wives called to be like Christ in their relationship? What is the basis of our marital relationships from a biblical perspective?
Why do you think the world sees submission in marriage as being based on power? What is the impact of basing our closest relationships of power?
What biblical rationale did John Woodhouse give for how we should relate to our spouse?
How is the biblical perspective of submission good and better than the secular view? Think through how you could explain the basis of Christian marriage and the idea of submission to a non-Christian friend.
Christians are increasingly seen as bigoted, homophobic, evil etc. How do you think Professor Stephen Hicks and Neil Shenvi help explain the reasons behind this? To what extent is this preventing you from speaking about these issues and about your faith with your friends? How can we stay encouraged to speak the truth of the gospel and engage in conversations when we face people thinking of us in this way? You may wish to read 1 Peter 4:12-19 and listen to a sermon by John Woodhouse at https://www.st-thomas.org.au/podcast/dealing-with-fear/.
How important is it to have an understanding of secular worldviews today and a deeper understanding of what the bible says about these issues, especially as we engage in conversations about topical issues?
PRAYER FOR SPEAKING INTO OUR CULTURE
Jesus warned us that we would be called evil and we would suffer as we share our faith with others. Thank you that our suffering is not in vain, but that through suffering we are proving that our faith is real (1 Peter 1:7). We ask that your Spirit works in us, giving us the boldness, knowledge and skills we need to speak your truth in love to others. We also pray that your Spirit helps us to live lives that show your love to the world. May our church family be a community where everyone can find acceptance, love and rest. May people be attracted to join our church family and place their trust in you. Father, please prepare the hearts of those we speak with so that they may have open minds and hearts, that they may come to a living faith.
In Jesus' name. Amen.
This page was posted on: 23/07/2020