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Worldview and Truth Print E-mail

Written by Kerby Anderson

Each day Christians are confronted with a bewildering array of choices in ethics, actions, and lifestyles. The only way to make sense of this data is to have a consistent worldview. And Christians should be operating from a biblical worldview. As we will see, that is often not the case.

The Barna Research Group conducted a national survey of adults and concluded that only 4 percent of adults have a biblical worldview as the basis of their decision-making. The survey also discovered that 9 percent of born again Christians have such a perspective on life.{1}

Everyone has a worldview, but relatively few people (even religious people) have a biblical worldview. This explains a great deal about behavior. One reason so few people act like Christians is because they don’t think like Christians. Behavior results from our values and beliefs. Thinking biblically about the issues of life should ultimately result in living biblically in society. Conversely, not thinking biblically should result in not living biblically within society.

Nancy Pearcey, in her latest book Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, tells the story of Sarah, a practicing Christian who worked for years as a counselor for Planned Parenthood. She did not try to talk women out of an abortion, but merely was content to make sure they knew what they were doing. She said that after she graduated from college, “My Christianity was reduced to a thin veneer over the core of a secular worldview. It was almost like having a split personality.”{2}

Unfortunately, there are millions of Sarahs in the world who willingly live with a split personality. The split is between the sacred and the secular. Or the split is between fact and value. In their personal lives they try to live as Christians, but in their public world they think and act just like the non-Christians around them. They do not have a Christian worldview even though they are Christians.

Now you might wonder where the pastors are in all of this. After all, shouldn’t pastors and church leadership be calling people to think and behave according to Christian principles? It turns out that part of the problem is the lack of sound biblical teaching about a biblical worldview.

The Barna Research Group found in a nationwide survey of senior pastors that only half of the country’s Protestant pastors have a biblical worldview. The gap among churches is reflected in the outcomes from the nation’s two largest denominations. Southern Baptists had the highest percentage of pastors with a biblical worldview (71 percent), while the Methodists were lowest (27 percent).{3}

Obviously we need to do a better job within the church thinking about the array of issues that confront us from a biblical perspective. Unfortunately, there is growing evidence that we have not been doing this effectively.

Absolute Truth

One of the foundational aspects of a Christian worldview is the matter of absolute truth. The Bible rests upon belief in it. Yet surveys by George Barna show that a minority of born again adults (44 percent) and an even smaller proportion of born again teenagers (9 percent) are certain of the existence of absolute moral truth.{4}

Even more disturbing is the growing evidence that even adults have abandoned their belief in absolute truth. By a three-to-one margin adults say truth is always relative to the person and their situation. This perspective is even more lopsided among teenagers who overwhelmingly believe moral truth depends on the circumstances.{5}

Social scientists as well as pollsters have been warning that American society is becoming more and more dominated by moral anarchy. Writing in the early 1990s, James Patterson and Peter Kim said in The Day America Told the Truth that there was no moral authority in America. “We choose which laws of God we believe in. There is absolutely no moral consensus in this country as there was in the 1950s, when all our institutions commanded more respect.”{6}

Researcher George Barna, writing ten years later in his book Boiling Point, concludes that moral anarchy has arrived and dominates our culture today.{7} His argument hinges on a substantial amount of attitudinal and behavioral evidence, such as rapid growth of the pornography industry, highway speeding as the norm, income tax cheating, computer hacking, rampant copyright violations (movies, books, and recordings), increasing rates of cohabitation and adultery, Internet-based plagiarism, etc{8}.

When asked the basis on which they form their moral choices, nearly half of all adults cite their desire to do whatever will bring them the most pleasing or satisfying results. Although the Bible should be the basis of our moral decision-making, the survey showed that only four out of every ten born again Christian adults relies on the Bible or church teaching as their primary source of moral guidance.{9}

The survey also found that the younger generation was even more inclined to support behaviors that conflict with traditional Christian morals. “Among the instances in which young adults were substantially more likely than their elders to adopt a nouveau moral view were in supporting homosexuality, cohabitation, the non-medicinal use of marijuana, voluntary exposure to pornography, profane language, drunkenness, speeding and sexual fantasizing.”{10}

Clearly, Christians are neither thinking nor behaving as Christians. And a large part of the problem centers on this abandonment of a belief in absolute truth. If Christians believe that morality is relative and determined by the situation, then they have changed biblical moral principles. Today there is a critical need for Christians to think and act biblically in every area of life.

De-conversion

You have no doubt known of young people who go off to college and end up rejecting their faith. The story is more common than we might imagine. Nancy Pearcey, in her book Total Truth, tells the story of two such people.{11}

One said, “In my senior year of high school I accepted Jesus as my Savior and became a born-again Christian. I had found the One True Religion, and it was my duty—indeed it was my pleasure—to tell others about it, including my parents, brothers and sisters, friends, and even total strangers.”{12}

But his religious convictions waned when he confronted the theory of evolution. The student underwent “a de-conversion in graduate school six years later when I studied evolutionary biology.” Who is this person? He is Michael Shermer, the director of the Skeptics Society and publisher of Skeptic magazine. He has dedicated his life to debunking Christianity and defending evolution against people who believe in intelligent design.

Another prominent atheist tells a similar story. “I was a born-again Christian. When I was fifteen, I entered the Southern Baptist Church with great fervor and interest in the fundamentalist religion.” But he also found that his religious convictions were adversely affected by the theory of evolution. He says that he left the church “at seventeen when I got to the University of Alabama and heard about evolutionary theory.”{13}

This person described his encounter with evolution as an “epiphany” and was enthralled with the implications of evolution. Who is this person? He is E.O. Wilson, Harvard professor and founder of sociobiology (which attempts to explain everything in life from an evolutionary process).

Sadly, these stories are repeated year after year at universities throughout this country. The students who go through this de-conversion may not grow up to become famous skeptics or atheists like the ones we just mentioned. But they will grow up without a solid, Christian faith.

Teenagers who are raised in stable Christian homes, educated in Christian schools, all too often go to college and reject their Christian faith. They fall prey to the naturalistic, evolutionary foundation of modern education. Or they adopt one of the current intellectual or cultural fads on campus.

So how are we to better prepare these young people for their college experience? A key element is to teach a Christian worldview. As our secular culture becomes more hostile to Christian ideas, it is more difficult to live out our Christian worldview consistently. When the culture was more hospitable to Christian values, a Sunday school understanding of Christianity could survive. Now we live in a culture hostile to those values. A rudimentary understanding of Christianity in such a hostile culture will soon wilt and die.

Young people, and youth ministry to young people, must be more intentional if Christian beliefs are to survive. Teaching a Christian worldview and training young people in the basics of apologetics are absolutely crucial if their faith is to survive.

Dichotomy of Truth

A Christian worldview should encompass all of reality. But the world today (and even most Christians) has divided truth into two categories. Francis Schaeffer used the concept of a two-story building. Science and reason are found on the lower story. Religion and morality can be found in the upper story.

Nancy Pearcey says that the upper story is the realm of private truth. This is where we hear people say such things as “that may be true for you, but it isn’t true for me.” Or to put it another way, the lower story is modernism, while the upper story is postmodernism.

This dichotomy of truth has served to marginalize Christianity. When Christians attempt to speak to moral issues of the day, their perspective is dismissed because critics believe that it is in the realm of private truth. So when they speak on subjects ranging from bioethics to science to public policy, the world perceives these comments as merely subjective value assumptions.

Unfortunately, Christians have also accepted this dichotomy of truth. They assume that science deals with facts and their faith deals with values. And they also assume that the two can exist simultaneously and independently of each other.

A good illustration of this can be found in a recent article in which a young writer described her first day in a theology class at a Christian high school. “My theology teacher drew a heart on one side of the blackboard and a brain on the other side. He informed us that the two are as divided as the two sides of the blackboard—the heart is what we use for religion, and the brain is what we use for science.”{14}

Even more disturbing was the fact that in a classroom of some two hundred students, she was the only one who objected to the teacher’s division of truth. Sadly, this is how more and more Christians have decided to deal with the conflicting and confusing facts of the modern world. And this is how we are supposedly “preparing” young people for college and society.

We need to give young people more than just a “heart” religion which will most certainly fail to equip them for the hostility towards Christianity found in modern society. They need a “brain” religion that includes at least training in worldview and apologetics.

Christian education and youth ministry must be more than opening the session in prayer. It must address this dichotomy of truth that places science and reason on one story of the building and leaves religion and morality on another story of the building. If we don’t address this problem, we will continue to turn out students who are Christians in their private life but essentially secular in their public life. And ultimately, their brains win out over their hearts so they end up living and thinking like non-Christians.

Christian Worldview

There are many elements to a Christian worldview, and the Probe Web site is full of articles that will help you in the development of a Christian worldview. A key verse in this endeavor is Mark 12:30: “And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind, and with all your strength.”

Jesus is telling us that we cannot live with a dichotomy of truth. We are to love God with our heart, soul, and mind. We cannot live our Christian life out on two different floors of a building where science and reason are on one story of the building and religion and morality are on another.

Jesus is also telling us that we must strive to know God intimately. He describes this as a whole-hearted, consuming desire to know God. Christianity isn’t a hobby; it’s a lifestyle. We are to love Him with all of our heart, soul, mind, and strength.

Another important verse is 2 Corinthians 10:5: “We are destroying speculations and every lofty thing raised up against the knowledge of God, and we are taking every thought captive to the obedience of Christ.” The apostle Paul wrote these words because he knew how important it was for Christians to have a Christian worldview in the midst of the pagan, secular culture of his day.

Notice that he describes the Christian mind in terms of warfare. We are engaged in a battle of worldviews and must be prepared for battle. We are to put all things under the Lordship of Jesus Christ. Ultimately, he is our commander in this battle of worldviews.

Another key verse is Colossians 2:8: “See to it that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deception, according to the tradition of men, according to the elementary principles of the world, rather than according to Christ.” The apostle Paul’s words warn all Christians not to be “taken captive” by false philosophy. How true that is especially for young people headed off to college.

When we consider these last two verses, we notice an interesting contrast. Either we take every thought captive (2 Cor. 10:5) or we run the risk of being taken captive (Col. 2:8) by false philosophies.

A final verse is 1 Peter 3:15: “But sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence.” The Greek word apologia is where we get our word apologetics. It does not mean to apologize. But it does mean to provide reasonable answers to honest questions and to do it with humility, respect, and reverence.

Christianity requires both offense and defense. While 2 Corinthians 10:5 focuses on the “offensive” nature of Christianity, 1 Peter 3:15 focuses on its “defensive” nature. We must always be ready to give an answer for our faith as we engage a world that is often hostile to the Christian worldview.

Notes

1. "A Biblical Worldview Has a Radical Effect on a Person's Life," The Barna Update (Ventura, Calif.), 1 Dec. 2003.
2. Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity (Crossway Books, 2004).
3. "Only Half of Protestant Pastors Have a Biblical Worldview," The Barna Update (Ventura, Calif.), 12 Jan. 2004.
4. "The Year's Most Intriguing Findings, From Barna Research Studies," The Barna Update (Ventura, Calif.), 12 Dec. 2000.
5. "Americans Are Most Likely to Base Truth on Feelings," The Barna Update (Ventura, Calif.), 12 Feb. 2002.
6. James Patterson and Peter Kim, The Day America Told the Truth (New York: Prentice Hall Press, 1991).
7. George Barna and Mark Hatch, Boiling Point (Ventura, Calif.: Gospel Light, 2001).
8. "Research Predicts Mounting Challenges to Christian Church," The Barna Update (Ventura, Calif.), 16 Apr. 2001.
9. "Practical Outcomes Replace Biblical Principles as the Moral Standards," The Barna Update (Ventura, Calif.), 10 Sept. 2001.
10. Ibid.
11. Pearcey, Total Truth, 223-4.
12. Michael Shermer, How We Believe: The Search for God in an Age of Science (New York: W.H. Freeman, 2000), 2-3.
13. E. O. Wilson, "Toward a Humanistic Biology," The Humanist 42 (September/October 1982), 40.
14. Mary Passantino, "The Little Engine That Can," Christian Research Journal, April 2003.

© 2005 Probe Ministries


About the Author

Kerby AndersonKerby Anderson is president of Probe Ministries International. He holds masters degrees from Yale University (science) and from Georgetown University (government). He is the author of several books, including Christian Ethics in Plain Language, Genetic Engineering, Origin Science, Signs of Warning, Signs of Hope and Making the Most of Your Money in Tough Times. His new series with Harvest House Publishers includes: A Biblical Point of View on Islam, A Biblical Point of View on Homosexuality, A Biblical Point of View on Intelligent Design and A Biblical Point of View on Spiritual Warfare. He is the host of "Point of View" (USA Radio Network) heard on 360 radio outlets nationwide as well as on the Internet (www.pointofview.net) and shortwave. He is also a regular guest on "Prime Time America" (Moody Broadcasting Network) and "Fire Away" (American Family Radio). He produces a daily syndicated radio commentary and writes editorials that have appeared in papers such as the Dallas Morning News, the Miami Herald, the San Jose Mercury, and the Houston Post.

 

What is Probe?

Probe Ministries is a non-profit ministry whose mission is to assist the church in renewing the minds of believers with a Christian worldview and to equip the church to engage the world for Christ. Probe fulfills this mission through our Mind Games conferences for youth and adults, our 3-minute daily radio program, and our extensive Web site at www.probe.org.

Further information about Probe's materials and ministry may be obtained by contacting us at:

Probe Ministries
2001 W. Plano Parkway, Suite 2000
Plano TX 75075
(972) 941-4565

info@probe.org
www.probe.org
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