“Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity”
Part 1: the problem
A teacher drew a heart on one side of the blackboard and a brain on the other side. He told the class that the heart is what we use for religion while the brain is what we use for science. Out of a class of 200, only one girl objected. We need to give our children (and ourselves) more than just a heart religion. Otherwise it won’t be enough to counter the lure of attractive but dangerous ideas. They also need a brain religion so they can critique the different worldviews they’ll encounter when they leave home. As adults, we need this to. Way too many times our mind is made up by our emotions, what sounds right to us.
In developing a Christian worldview we first need to reject this division of heart and science. Other ways of saying this division is the dividing up of life into the sacred and secular dichotomy. Or the private sphere (where personal preferences are like our opinions, morality, values or religious views) and the public sphere (where science and government policy are). Yet another way of looking at it is to picture a 2 story house where the upper story is made up of personal preferences (what’s true for me may not be true for you) and the lower story is made up of objective facts, like science.
Religion is not considered an objective truth, something that’s true for all of us, all the time. So it’s put into the subjective, upper story while science is put into the lower story. But, according to Christianity, God is a rational, logical God. So He will have made the physical laws of the universe in a rational way….i.e., so we should be able to figure them out…and this is exactly what we have done. That’s why Johannes Kepler could say that he’s just thinking God’s thoughts after Him.
But Jesus is the Lord of our WHOLE life. This includes our physical world, our moral life, our political life, our economic life, our career, our parenting, our marriage, etc. So, as Christians, we must find a way of overcoming this dichotomy between sacred and secular, personal preference and fact, public and private. In other words, we need to liberate Christianity from it’s cultural captivity in the upper story.
Christianity serves two purposes:
1) it’s a message of personal salvation
2) it’s a lens thru which we learn to interpret the world
We’ve been good at the first but not so good at the second.
A secularist thinks his views are unbiased and rational (and in the lower story) while thinking religious views are biased and not necessarily rational and should be put in the upper story. Their mistake lies in thinking there is such a thing as theories that are unbiased, neutral and unaffected by any religious or philosophical assumptions.
Humans are inherently religious beings. If we reject God, we don’t stop being religious. We just find some other ultimate principle on which to base our life, like financial security or success or political cause. Whatever form the idolatry takes, according to Romans 1:18, they are suppressing the truth of God. They are far from religiously neutral. It is impossible to approach facts from a purely neutral position. We all come to science as whole persons with our personal beliefs, ambitions, prior experiences, assumptions and preconceptions. These basic assumptions color every aspect of our scientific endeavors.
Faith is a universal function. If it is not directed toward God, it will be directed toward something else. So the question is not which views are secular and which are religious; it is which view is true and which is false, which view matches up with reality and which one doesn’t. It is the believers task to identify and critique the dominant idols, then construct biblically based alternatives. The danger is if we do not consciously develop a biblical view of the subject, we will unconsciously absorb the prevailing popular approach.
Paul said that “Everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving” (1st Timothy 4:4). While hating sin, we should have a deep love for God’s creation, seeing thru its brokenness and sin to its original goodness. That’s why we should love the beauties of nature and the good accomplishments of God-given human creativity. Things become unclean and ugly only when people use it to express rebellion against God or for sinful purposes.
For example, music is good but can be used to glorify moral perversion. Books and movies, even non-Christian ones, that speak of biblical themes can be great but can also be used to convey non-biblical worldviews and moral decadence. Science is a gift from God but can be used sinfully also. Splitting the atom allowed us to have a great source of energy but we also made a weapon with it. Sex was God’s idea but can be easily distorted for selfish, hedonistic purposes. Work is a calling from God but can turn into an addiction. Whatever we give our time, energy and self over to becomes our idol.
Christian thinkers label this distinction ‘structure’ versus ‘direction’. Structure refers to those subjects that are good even after the ‘fall’ of Genesis 3…music, art, science, work, entertainment, etc. Direction refers to the direction we take these structures in. We need to mask ourselves the following questions:
1) what is the original purpose or structure that God created this subject for?
2) How is it being directed? Is it being perverted for sinful purposes?
For His Kingdom,