A recent survey of practicing Christians was, to say the least, enlightening. By “practicing Christians,” the study included those who self-identify as Christians, attend church at least once every month, and say their faith is very important in their lives.
They were asked to rate their agreement or disagreement with various statements.
Nearly 1 in 3 practicing Christians agreed with the idea that “if you do good, you will receive good, and if you do bad, you will receive bad.” In other words, the idea of karma.
28% believe that “all people pray to the same god or spirit, no matter what name they use for that spiritual being.” Welcome to New Age thinking.
27% believe that “meaning and purpose come from becoming one with all that is.” Can you say Hinduism?
Wait… it gets worse.
1 in 5 believe that “meaning and purpose come from working hard to earn as much as possible so you can make the most of life.” Can there be a clearer statement espousing raw materialism?
23% believe that “what is morally right or wrong depends on what an individual believes.” Yes, that is raw postmodern relativism.
Overall, the study conducted by Barna Group and Summit Ministries claims:
- 61% agree with ideas rooted in New Spirituality
- 54% resonate with postmodernist views
- 36% accept ideas associated with Marxism
- 29% believe ideas based on secularism
I do not believe these “practicing Christians” are purposefully jettisoning Christian ideology for another worldview. The better answer is simple ignorance. They do not have a firmly developed Christian worldview and, as a result, have ideas without an anchor. They simply sit on top of the cultural ocean, drifting with the tide.
So what is meant by worldview?
The term itself is from the German Weltanschauung (literally: “world perception”), but the definition goes beyond just a set of ideas by which you judge other ideas. Rather, it is, as Gene Edward Veith has written, “a way to engage constructively the whole range of human expression from a Christian perspective.” Or, as Jonathan Edwards – arguably the greatest intellect America has ever produced – once contended: the basic goal of any intellect is to work toward “the consistency and agreement of our ideas with the ideas of God.”
Consider the worldview questions posed by Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey based on creation, the fall and redemption: Where did we come from and who are we? What has gone wrong with the world? What can we do to fix it? How now shall we live?
Reflect on the response to the first and most foundational of these questions – “Where did we come from?” There are a limited number of answers at our disposal: we came about by chance (the naturalist contention); we don’t really exist (the Hindu response); or, we were spoken into existence by God. Even if one makes more obscure suggestions, such as Cambridge physicist Stephen Hawking who intimated that we were seeded here by another race of beings from another planet, one would then have to account for their existence.
So for the Christian, the answer to “Where did we come from and who are we?” gives a foundation for thinking that no other answer gives. Because we were created, there is value in each person. There is meaning and purpose to every life. There is Someone above and outside of our existence who stands over it as authority.
This is the power and force of a biblical worldview, and how it cuts through the cultural morass of clouded thinking. It is just such a worldview that allows prophetic voices to ring loud and clear, such as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s voice who penned these immortal words found in his jailhouse correspondence:
“... there are two types of law: just and unjust... A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is a code that is out harmony with the moral law... Any law that uplifts human personality is just. Any law that degrades human personality is unjust. All segregation statutes are unjust because segregation distorts the soul and damages the personality.”
King’s argument was based on the worth of a human being bestowed by God regardless of what other humans might have to say. King laid claim to a law above man’s law. No other worldview would have given King the basis for such a claim.
And from such a worldview, the world was changed.
So rather than simply denounce those “practicing Christians” for embracing ideas in opposition to the faith they claim to embrace, consider another investment of energy:
... introducing them to the worldview that goes with their faith.
James Emery White
Gene Edward Veith, “Reading and Writing Worldviews,” in The Christian Imagination: The Practice of Faith in Literature and Writing, ed. by Leland Ryken.
Jonathan Edwards, “Notes on the Mind,” in The Works of Jonathan Edwards: Scientific and Philosophical Writings, edited by Wallace E. Anderson.
Charles Colson and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live?
Martin Luther King, Jr., Why We Can’t Wait (Letter from a Birmingham Jail).
About the Author
James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, where he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, Meet Generation Z: Understanding and Reaching the New Post-Christian World, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church & Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.