SECULAR FUNDAMENTALISM IN TODAY’S CHURCH
It was your skill and your science
That led you astray
And you thought to yourself,
“I am, and there is none but me.”
Never before in the history of Christianity has there been such a massive drift from Christian values by Christians themselves! Christians no longer in significant numbers appropriate Christianity as a life informing system to problems they face day by day. There is a shift from Christianity to an idol–an idol because it is given ultimate credence.
An illustration Erwin Lutzer gave regarding another point in his book Exploding the Myths That Could Destroy America illumines this unconscious drift:
During one of his many polar expeditions, Rear Admiral Robert Peary headed north with one of his dog teams. At the end of the day when he stopped to take a bearing on his latitude, he was amazed to discover that he actually was farther south than he had been at the beginning of the day.
The mystery was eventually solved when he found that he had been traveling on a gigantic ice flow. Ocean currents were pulling it south faster than the dog teams could drive north.1
The gigantic ice flow today for the Christian is secular fundamentalism. This ice flow is so massive that the Christian does not realize that he is moving with it. Christian values are losing ground because the Christian is not aware of nor concerned about the dangers of secularism. It is time for Christians to take a bearing on where they are actually heading.
Except for issues that relate to evangelical pursuits, many Christians essentially operate on secular beliefs and values. Living in a post-Christian culture they continue as if today’s culture is still influenced by Christian culture and thereby are deceived as to what is real.
Many Christians live secularly in their experience while holding to a Christian view of life in theory. This is self-deception. It is a pattern found in Israel’s past apostasy from God. She did not blatantly repudiate monotheism per se; she simply mixed other religions with it. This raped the unique, mutually exclusive nature of Israel’s one God. Consequently, her values were distorted for her foundations crumbled. By immersing themselves in their Canaanite culture they did not detect their desertion from truth. Failing to grasp the nature of their God, they embraced syncretism. From God’s viewpoint this was spiritual adultery–apostasy.
Carl F. H. Henry makes a startling statement about the drift of our twentieth century society:
The most sudden and sweeping upheaval in beliefs and values has taken place in this century. No generation in the history of human thought has seen such swift and radical inversion of ideas and ideals as in our lifetime.0
Along with society, the church has plunged pell-mell into this radical inversion of ideas. By the 1920’s the liberals had stolen Christianity from Christ; by the 1980’s secularism had stolen Christianity from liberalism (secular religion). Today the consensus has shifted to the point where God is no longer a significant integrating factor in society. Instead, morals and values independent of God are hierarchized according to preference.
Christianity is in crisis. What many Christians do not adequately realize is that a flood of warlike anti-Christian creeds are assaulting the foundations of Christian values. As Christianity submerges in this flood, secular humanistic debris come to the surface: the abortion tragedy, the absolute state, the AIDS epidemic, venereal disease, divorce, dishonesty and a host of other evils.
Christians are so submerged that they do not realize that their children are being indoctrinated with a value-ridden secular humanism in public schools. Secular humanism assumes there is no God, and man is his own god. An increasing attack upon Judeo-Christian views of ethics has been mounting for years. It is a combat of value-system verses value-system.
Why is it that only a smattering of Christians allow God to fundamentally influence their values? Once a person believes that his daily needs are met by humanistic processes, his biblical world-view is fundamentally subverted. His pragmatic world-view will penetrate into every value-informing decision of his life. Consequently, Christians adrift on this massive ice flow called secular fundamentalism need to confront the prevailing cultural consensus by a substructural and foundational understanding and action upon God and His Word.
AFFAIR WITH SECULARISM
In his book, The Great Evangelical Disaster, Francis Schaeffer put his finger on the central reason why evangelicals have not challenged secular fundamentalism–accommodation. Evangelicals carry such great desire to be held in high repute by their culture, they are game to relinquish the genius of their convictions. There is reluctance to confront this culture with Christian values. Reticence to show our flag and declare distinctive values erodes our influence on culture. We want to show the world we are not obscure so we hide distinctives which may offend the secular system. By attaining this we prostitute belief.
If the church accommodates her values to the world, the world will indeed accommodate the church! Os Guinness, in his book The Gravedigger File: Papers on the Subversion of the Modern Church, offers three systems by which western societies leverage and restrict the church:
(1) secularization, diminishing religion into smaller sphere
(2) privatization, the narrowing of religion to individual affairs;
(3) pluralization, the reduction of Christianity to one among many options that society offers.
Because the church has not understood adequately the shift of society into secularism nor her own sexual embrace of secularism, she is averse to abandon her lover. She has slipped into secularism by prostitution of absolute truth to modern philosophical fads. This perversion does not allow Christianity to fundamentally arouse her values. Truth to the secular generation is relative, pragmatic, experiential and subjective; absolute truth is an evil. A pure church speaks clearly and confidently for God based on an objective system of truth. But because the church has embraced the assumptions of secularism, there is little to distinguish secularism from biblical Christianity. Intercourse with secular assumptions is at the heart of the church’s lust.
Pure Christianity rests upon absolutes. These absolutes are derived from the assumption that God has revealed Himself in the Bible; the Christian has absolute truth because “absolute truth is the monopoly of infinite knowledge.”0 There is a correlation between absolute truth and an infinite, transcendant God. But it is equally true that secularism and humanism have based their view of life on certain finite assumptions. To mix ultimate assumptions is spiritual adultery.
Fundamental to any marriage is an initial commitment. All major systems of thought have assumptions (previous commitments) behind them. Each assumption is a religious belief system for it holds a presupposition about how life is to be viewed. Since secular fundamentalism holds a presupposition about how life is to be viewed (a fundamental belief-system), it cannot approach truth neutrally for inherent in its method are delimitations which preclude ultimate truth. This system for finding reality necessarily adulterates Christianity.
Western civilization has lost its consensus of values. Its infinite polarizations of beliefs disintegrate values. Its plethora of viewpoints strip society of coherence and meaning. Nothing is true in secularism because everything is asserted to be true. Secularism is a homemade universe with no true universal which governs all particulars. There is no center of truth to give it a cohesion of values. This breakdown of belief in absolutes is the belief-system whereby the church subtly subscribes to the secular streetwalker.
Herbert Schlossberg succinctly states the sinking of the church into the assumptions of secularism:
Ecclesiastical structures that depart from the faith do so by the loss of distinctiveness, the gradual conformation of their thought and life to that of the larger community. Sociological observations confirm that, by and large, the religious institutions of the United States do not teach values that are distinctive to their own traditions but rather use religious terminology that ratifies the values of the broader society. There is little to distinguish what the churches say from what other institutions teach, and we are left therefore with only an indistinctive religion-in-general. The public school, for example, will be found to be teaching little that is different from the ecclesiastical structure. Survey information suggests that people brought up in such churches, and the clergy trained to work in them, find that traditional Christian doctrines seem implausible. They are so accustomed to deferring to society’s norms as their norms that anything else seems odd.0
This subtle shift from the authority of the Bible to secular authority for informing values is at the heart of value shifting among Christians. There has been such a massive inculcation of exclusively secular methods for determining what is true that Christians find embarrassing Christian methods for ascertaining truth.
Again, Schlossberg indicts the church itself as a chief mechanism for the secularization of its people.
Thus, the master of the American church is likely to be whatever cultural or intellectual fad has gained the ascendancy. Christology displays this tendency when the Gospels are used selectively to show that the `real Jesus’ was an exemplar of the American middle class, or perhaps a guerrilla fighter, a social democrat, or a model of psychological fitness. That is a recipe for intellectual and spiritual sterility, for by accepting the dead end of the reigning assumption, the church absorbs whatever conclusions `enlightened’ people consider current. In sociological terms, the church functions as just another means used by the political and social establishment to integrate society’s values into the next generation. The support it receives depends on the extent to which it uncritically transmits values. Its passivity makes it acceptable and ensures its irrelevance.0
The church “uncritically transmits values” of secularism because she has not administered her values based on her own presuppositions but upon whore presuppositions foreign to God’s Word. The church passively prostitutes herself to foreign ideas.
Reginald Bibby, the leading authority on the sociology of the church in Canada, clearly documents the secularization of the church. In his book entitled Fragmented Gods: the Poverty and Potential of Religion in Canada, Bibby explains why Canadian churches are declining in attendance. Canadians imbibe current values of culture resulting in a consumer approach to the church. People pick and choose what isolated aspects of the church they prefer–baptism, burial and marriage services, etc. However, they do not embrace the church as the central influence of their foundational values. This is the “fragmented gods.” Not surprisingly, therefore, this decline
has not been signaling disenchantment with conventional religion and religious leaders. Few people, young or old, are `mad’ at the churches or critical of their leaders. Contrary to widespread belief, the overwhelming majority of Canadians are neither leaving nor upset.0
How can people still identify with churches even though they sporadically attend? They choose fragments consisting of isolated beliefs, practices and professional services but do not pretend that religion fundamentally informs their lives.0 Christianity is incidental to their values; “secular Christians” prefer a splintered view of life.
At the same time, Canadians appear to be moving away from Christianity or other religions as meaning systems addressing all of life. They are opting for Judeo-Christian fragments. To borrow a phrase of one of France’s sociologists used in telling me about religion in his country, Canadians are into `religion a la carte.’ The national drop-off in attendance at services is merely a symptom of the increasing tendency of Canadians to consumer religion selectively.0
To inform all of life by religion is fraught with problems to those living in an industrial society. This is the reason why people opt for options over commitment.0 Bibby sees industrialization as key to understanding the trend toward specialization.
Living in larger and larger cities, we relate to other people in very specialized ways. In our occupations, for example, we act different, feel different, and are different from when we play our additional roles of husband or wife, parent, friend, community leader, consumer, and parishioner. There are major role adjustments to be made as one moves from businessman to grocery buyer to Little League coach to United Church elder. Specialized settings call forth specialized roles.0
Again, Bibby identifies the reason why people switch commitment from Christianity to fragments–role conflict. Commitment causes discord with roles people play:
In view of this role conflict, it is therefore not surprising that many Canadians find that commitment creates problems. Commitment complicates things by calling for a level of role consistency that is very difficult to achieve. Business ethics are frequently incompatible with religious ethics. Sexual inclinations are commonly in conflict with religious expectations. People very often are not particularly responsive to the `nice guy’ approach. Many frustrated people have, somewhat defensively, protested that religion is simply not relevant to life as they know it–a simple way of saying that what it frequently enjoins in belief and behaviour is inappropriate to or dissonant with the roles one plays.0
Secularist thinking in Christians causes a divided approach to life. We think one way when we relate to Christianity and another when we connect with the world. We compartmentalize Christianity from life outside the church. We fly in the face of the terminal values of the Bible and more freely integrate with secular values. Why? We buy into the current view of God; God is not relevant to values we face day by day. We adjust our concept of God to fit a value system which precludes a God who is absolute and transcendent, who has absolute authority over our lives and values. Absolute values cannot fit into our lives because they conflict with the goals of an industrialized society.
Bibby places the cause of this shift from religious commitment to religious consumption squarely on the shoulders of an accommodating church.
Fragments are thriving. Consumers are wanting them and religious companies are obliging. But the gods are becoming increasingly silent in Canadian life. The reason is simple. Religion has always claimed to bring something from beyond to culture. The gods, so believers have claimed, have spoken to us about life and death. However, when religion is drawn upon in accordance with the whims of customers, the gods are dismantled. They are custom-made according to individual taste. Rather than looking to them for direction, we direct them, as if we were ventriloquists and they our dummies.0
A further tragedy womanizes the church when even the so called committed capitulate to secularism. The church teaches the committed to determine truth from their own subjective view of reality as if they were oracles who originate their own reality. This is a subjective view of truth. With this assumption, the Christian originates the nature of truth; truth is put up for popular vote. If the church votes for the ordination of homosexual ministers, then it is proper to place active homosexuals in ministry because the majority make it so. Rather than retaining the integrity of its own inviable belief-system, the church creates its own world-view from preferences in society. The church is in bed with a foreign god:
The main reason is that the groups have responded to social and cultural change by offering religion as a range of consumer goods. Rather than saying to culture, `This is what religion is,’ they have been much more inclined to say to culture, `What do you want religion to be?’0
The foundational belief-system of these churches is a pluralism which determines truth by personal preference:
Canada’s dominant religious groups have taken a pluralistic view of religious belief and practice, leaving much up to the individual. Consequently, few beliefs and practices are regarded as normative.0
Bibby stingingly indicts religious groups for this slide into secularism, “They have not provided a religion based on what religion is, but a religion based on what the market will bear.”0 Churches in Canada are so successful in their own contribution to the secularization of the church, they create their own demise:
The result is that service attendance is just another fragment to be drawn on when customers find it convenient to do so. Ironically, religious groups are losing active attenders not because they are failing, but because they are succeeding.0
Churches are “selling” their body of truth to fragmented secularism:
If it is true that the gods call for religion to be a system of meaning that addresses all of life, then their representatives are `selling them out’ by dismantling religion and offering it as a piecemeal consumer item.0
According to Schlossberg the church is failing to fulfill its role as an institution due to its capitulation to the seductions of secularism:
If we consider churches in their role as institutions, they exemplify the common ailments of institutional failure in a declining society. Families fail to nurture, governments fail to provide justice, schools fail to educate, and so churches fail to represent Christ.0
Secularism is not a comfortable world for those who cherish faithfulness and stability in the family.
Bibby claims the “buzz words” of Canada created by politicians are bilingualism and multiculturalism to reflect the diversity of the country.0 Truth is not important to Canadians but the appreciation for diverse views is central to Canadian value.
Solution for the church: go back to the biblical life-embracing system which significantly impacts the terminal values of the Christian. His Christianity will confront culture. He will be able to stay out of bed with secularism. He will stand autonomous from powerful, pervasive influences with which secular culture bombards the Christian.
THE SEX PARTNERS
What is behind the slide of the church into illicit sex with secularism? It is important to identify the church’s sex partners:
Definition–man is autonomous from God. There is no eternal, only time. Reality is in the clutch of time and there is nothing else.
Definition–the means by which awareness of God, institutions which represent God and actions in society which portray God lose social significance.
Foundational to the secularist viewpoint is denial of the eternal and God. To them there is no eternity, no ultimate purpose, no ultimate answers, no ultimate values. History has no final goal. Because there are no answers, the result is a philosophy which escapes into drugs and other forms of sublimation due to despair of purpose and meaning. Life must be lived with temporal values and understood in terms of the immediate.
This culture has nothing to say about transcendent values of eternal life and a God who intervenes daily in issues of the individual. Transcendent value, on the other hand, is the unique message of the church, yet the church merely echoes the barren non-message of culture.0
Speaking sociologically and not theologically, I would suggest that the reluctance of Canada’s religious groups to speak on the subject is a poignant commentary on the extent to which they have become spokespeople for culture rather than for the gods.0
Definition–man is autonomous from God and sufficient unto himself. Man is the supreme center and foundation for reality.
Out of the premise of secular humanism comes a plethora of other beliefs:
pluralism (there is no one truth; all viewpoints are equally valid),
positivism (truth is only what you can sense with senses),
pragmatism (whatever works for you is right),
relativism (no absolutes),
hedonism (pleasure is the measuring stick for the validity of life).
A myth proposed widely in the twentieth century is that secularism is not a religious belief-system. Schlossberg dispels that assumption:
Max Weber rightly argued that each major aspect of human action is dependent on a distinctive set of religious attitudes. The religious outlook influences the institutions of society in ways that cannot simply be accounted for in material terms. Sociologist Gerhard Lenski’s studies in American society confirm Weber’s hypothesis. The religious character of human ideas and institutions is all-pervasive, even in nontheistic systems like Buddhism, communism and humanism. All social phenomena, Lenski says, constitute systems of faith, not being based on logical or empirical demonstration, and all seek to respond to the most basic problems of human existence. Thus, all normal adults are religious. `Human existence compels men to act on unproven and unprovable assumptions, and it makes no exceptions.’ One of Jacques Ellul’s most important contributions has been to show that modern Western society is awash with religiosity, that the much-vaunted secularization process means the flourishing of anti-Christian religions.0
Central to the idea of humanism is man is the measure of man. If this is true, man is worshipping himself! Man is his own authority. If there is a sovereign, transcendent God, the man is usurping the prerogative of God. When Christians enter this idolatry, they do it unwittingly. Yet this is a religion of man’s own creation. Man worships himself, a religion he himself has created! Humanism is not then exempt from religious assumption:
Humanism has become the most messianic of the idolatrous religions of the West. Anthropologist Margaret Mead included in her autobiography a frank acknowledgement that it was a religious belief and called urgently for its spread throughout the world. That is why Milton Friedman described Galbraith as `a missionary seeking converts.’ The same urge was behind Erich Fromm’s tour de force, the transformation of the Old Testament into a defense of radical humanism.0
The assumption that secularism is the neutral party where it negotiates independently between various viewpoints and is the arbiter between various systems of truth is an illusion. Secularism itself is a belief-system fraught with religious assumptions.
It should be clear from all this that what is widely regarded as a struggle between the religious and the secular is really a struggle between religions. The current strife over such issues as abortion is perfectly in order, because it is an attempt by both sides to establish a rule of order in accordance with basic religious precepts. Man is the autonomous ruler of himself, able to define right and wrong and frame statutes according to whatever he defines as just. Or else man is created and sustained by a holy and just God who declares on matters of right and wrong in form of law. Both are religious views held by faith. In the most basic sense there is no such thing as a secular culture. This is not a call for religious warfare; it is an assertion that religious warfare exists, and inevitably so if one religion does not simply surrender. 0
Secularism, pluralism and humanism are value laden belief-systems.
The church uncritically and naively has come to believe in this religion of the twentieth century. The subtle, stupid acceptance of this belief is her demise. Unless the church outrightly rejects this apostasy, she will yield Western civilization to a destructive system which owns no absolutes except the absolute of its own system.
A TOOL FOR SEDUCTION
A principal organ for conveying secular humanism to society is the public school. By humanism’s control of the school, youth are caught at a tender age while they are vulnerable to the subtle assumptions of secularism. By this dissemination of humanistic values over the early decades of the child’s life, Christian values dramatically disintegrate from the foundational structure of his thinking. Parents who themselves have been inculcated with this system so identify with it they cannot even decipher humanism from Christianity themselves. Their own familiarity with humanism makes it appear innocuous and innocent. Through this blindness they deprive their children eternal values. It is a vicious cycle which their own children will repeat.
The principal vehicle for the dissemination of humanistic philosophy is the public school system. This is the clear strategy of the humanist. He insists that the only way we can progress is by educating people. If humanistic philosophy is going to shape the values of modern man it must capture the institutions of education. Humanism has done a masterful job of that capture. Christians, after decades, are beginning to wake up and see that our children are being taught one set of values in the home and in the church, while they get another philosophical system through public education….It has taken a long time for the Christian community to begin to understand what has been happening. This is where the decisive battle lies in the struggle for the modern mind.
The dominant influence on public school education in the United States today is humanistic philosophy. I am not saying that there is anything necessarily unfair in that, and I am not advocating that the government enforce Christian values in public school education. We can hardly expect a secular state to inculcate Christian values through public education. The values of public education are not created by theologians or the church. Public school curricula are made up largely by secular people with a secular perspective.0
Christian parents and teachers often measure the validity of what is taught in church through the lens of their own secular humanistic public school training. They do not possess tools with which to evaluate secularism because of their own secular given. By this, the church’s view of God’s Word subordinates to another primary truth.
Obviously there are varying degrees of humanism in different school systems. Many school systems have significant numbers of Christian administrators and teachers. Their influence, however, is dwindling due to restrictions upon what they teach with proportionally fewer numbers to teach. In addition, humanism is becoming more aggressive toward Christianity in recent years making it more difficult for a teacher or student to be a testimony within the system. As well, many school curricula has become outrightly blatant against Judeo-Christian values.
The great ideal of the humanist is to eliminate the world of suffering through education. He views Christianity as holding people to the past with rigid ideas not relevant to the values of modern society. Personal pain will continue to perpetuate in people as long as Christianity informs society. However, the humanist himself holds to humanitarian values arbitrarily chosen without an adequate philosophical base to validate those values (generally admitted by the humanist himself). Education for education’s sake is an inadequate starting point for forming values. How has the humanist established his values?
Ironically, humanists hold to reason as a basic method for establishing values but provide no philosophical basis for forming those values. The closest they come is arbitrary preference. Mortimer Adler believes that without something in addition to the material universe humanism has no basis for forming an ethic. Why should we love in a world which has a mutually exclusive natural and material view of life. If there is an intrinsic or inherent quality of law as over against an externally imposed law from God, self-determination is god. Man then is the maker of his universe. He worships himself as his own god.
While humanist sentimentality says that whatever is felt to be right is right, historicist fate says that whatever is is right. Unable to bring the historical fact into the judgment of transcendent principle, it can only defend the historical trend it judges to be dominant, while deprecating dissent as the voice of the past, destined for the trash can of history.
Most attempts at evaluating society are materialist in orientation, considering economic and statistical data but not taking into account sufficiently the content of the belief systems that determine motivation.0
Nevertheless humanist public education is becoming the property of the federal government thereby institutionalizing secularism. Under biblical tenet the custodianship of the child’s education is the home. It is the responsibility of the parent to guide the child’s value system. In years gone by schools were much more local community oriented. Parents in that context could influence the school system. But with the powers of education given over to provincial or state and federal governments, the custody of a child’s education has switched from parent to state. During the formative years, the state has a predominant time influence on a child’s life.
Schools are the mechanism whereby children are conditioned into a humanist monolith. As the state became the parent, the scheme became the socialization of the child into group-orientation. Values not universally held were deleted from the curriculum. Then the theory was advanced that education should not be content-oriented but child-centered focusing on personal development. The process of education became all important for the humanist, not the content.
As secular humanistic education escalates, Christian parents will send their children off to vultures who will devour their values and what defense will a child hold in such a massive secular system? The dramatic growth of Christian schools may slow this process down. In any case, even if new Christian schools continue to explode in number, Christian school children will continue to attend the secular system in significant numbers. With that, it is incumbent upon us to constantly influence the school system.
It is in the schools, however, that we are likely to see the struggle joined most fiercely. As Peter Berger, among others, has argued, the public schools are the principal agency in the United States for spreading the established cultural religion. The burgeoning Christian school movement and the decline in public school enrollments have excited the alarm of many in the educational and political establishment who believe–with good reason–that the two are connected. Christian schools are potent alternatives to the established schools, because the intellectual decay and lack of discipline of the latter are related directly to the humanist assumptions that inform them. The emotional intensity of the struggle is a direct function of its status as a form of religious warfare.0
The enculturation of children into secularism via a “neutral school system” gives the impression to the students that the educational process is without bias. The public school system aspires to educate children as if God did not exist or at least is not relevant to what is taught. The impression is left that God is inconsequential to life.
As court cases remove from the schools the last vestiges that remain from the nation’s Christian heritage, under the doctrine of the separation of church and state, it will throw into sharp relief the dogmas of the civil religion: materialist and selfist psychologies; relativist ethics; the policies of statism, and so on. The strategy is to brand as religious whatever remains of the old traditions while maintaining resolutely that everything in the dominant civil religion is really secular and thus inviolable.0
The deception in a so-called “neutral school system” is the hidden massive religious belief (world-view) underlying its premises not readily apparent because people in North America have been indoctrinated exclusively with these assumptions by the school system itself. At the base of this “neutrality” is the belief that man is the measure of man (humanism) and that man is independent and isolated from God. If the state should exclude religious viewpoints in secular schools the only alternatives remaining are nonreligious viewpoints. Should the state expound the nonreligious, the religious would sense a partiality and feel prejudiced against. Should the state favour the religious, the nonreligious would sense discrimination. “Neutral” education, therefore, is not the answer. The humanist dilemma: either they bring God into their discussion of reality or they do not.
A clear example of the imposition of secular religion through the public school is values clarification. Humanism pervades values clarification. Its subjectivism, relativism and assumption that man is neutrally autonomous in his values is evident in the following definition:
Values clarification is a process which helps people arrive at an answer. It is not concerned with an ultimate set of values (that is for you to decide), but it does stress a method to help you determine the content and power of your own set of values. It is a self-audit, and an inventory of soul and spirit. A tool to help you freely decide between alternatives or among varied choices. It is a methodology to help you make a decision, to act, to determine what has meaning for you.
Values clarification is part of a much larger humanistic movement [italics mine–This sure does not look like neutrality!], one of a number of individually directed psychological and sociological theories that also embrace Re-evaluation Counseling and what has become known as Encounter or Interaction Groups.0
The blindness of secular religious education’s own presuppositions is seen here. This learning process itself is a presupposition. It is based on the assumption that there is no objective truth; if there is a truth it is reached by strictly human means; values are relative to each individual. If man has only himself to clarify his values, that is practical atheism. Humanism has one fixed absolute: truth is relative, it arbitrarily precludes the possibility of an ultimate absolute. Underlying this humanism is the premise that life is worth living. Where did they derive this assumption? How do they defend this capricious optimism philosophically?
As a system, values clarification provides a structure for moral judgment (the why). If there is no freedom to learn, moral choice may be weak. However, there is a greater issue than moral process–the issue of moral truth. Unfortunately, moral education used by secular society carries its presuppositions into the school system with devastating implications such as teaching a child to be suspicious of his parents’ values and authority, to prefer selfishness above commitment to others, to be a law unto himself in any judgment of behavior and to reject any absolute standard of right and wrong. Without the presupposition of Christianity, it must approach moral issues with a hostility to Christianity. Without authority children are therefore taught to be suspicious of the absolute values they receive from home. The underlying premise is that man is autonomous and should not conform to any given. The product is a highly cerebral coward with tepid convictions who accommodates himself to personal comfort, group approval and social advancement.0
Much of what is called values clarification is really psychological education, a re-socialization of children. But feelings, needs, and desires are not equivalent to values. The theory is inadequate for supplying objective values.
Humanism not only pervades the process of education but its content as well. Carl Sommer spent 10 years researching solutions to the national educational crisis in the United States. Taking a year off from teaching, he investigated 5 boroughs of New York City (where he taught full-time) as a substitute teacher in 27 different schools grades 1 to 12. He also examined textbooks to find reasons for the drastic changes taking place in schools across the nation.
After reading in the American School Board Journal, the New York Times, the Wall Street Journal about a group represented as narrow bigots raging war against a school board in Kanawha country West Virginia, Sommer decided to fly to the scene to determine the facts for himself. He found that children were asked to justify cheating; parent-child relationships, morals and religious faith were undermined. Children, for example, were asked to make their own myth:
There are a lot of puzzling things in our world:
1. Why do we have pain?…
One way to make up a myth is to think of a question like one of these. Suppose your question is Why do men have pain? Now, imagine a time when man did not have pain. Pretend that the first men on earth went around without ever feeling pain. Next imagine that some kind of god walked among men and something happened. Maybe a man did something bad or made a bad mistake. Because of this the god punished men, giving them pain for the rest of their days0
The obvious reference to the creation account of the Bible as myth is clear. The greatest deception about this is that the material was found only in the teacher’s edition so that parents could not obtain access to what was taught. Is this divergent education where all viewpoints are equally taught by people from both points of view? Hardly. This is not education, it is deceitful indoctrination.
Sommers documents in the Kanawha situation blatant sexual portrayal0, using God’s and Jesus’ name in vain0, favoring legalizing homosexuality0, downgrading free enterprise, traditional American standards, religion, prayer, home and family0, and argues for children’s liberation.0 A quote from the January/February, 1976 issue of The Humanist magazine refers to the Kanawha incident:
Something wonderful, free, unheralded, and of significance to all humanists is happening in the secondary schools. It is the adolescent literature movement. They may burn Slaughter-house Five in North Dakota and ban a number of innocuous books in Kanawha County, but thank God the crazies don’t do all that much reading. If they did, they’d find that they have already been defeated. Adolescent literature has opened Pandora’s box…
Sommers says that a course called MACOS attempts to reshape American children into humanistic values:
MACOS is not just an anthropology course. It is a subtle social engineering and psychotherapy program whereby 10-year-old children are molded to accept humanistic concepts. The course suggests environmental pressures as opped to theistic principles. MACOS implies an evolutionary and mechanistic philosophy of relativism that denies traditional American values based on the Judeo-Christian heritage. Consequently, it dehumanizes man and humanizes animals by implying that man has evolved from lower animals and has received his social behavior from them. Then, through open discussions, man’s antisocial actions are rationalized.0
The single alliance which represented the Humanist Manifesto of 1973 were university-tiered educators who persist to this day to promote Dewey’s instrumentalism. Dewey himself was the chief architect of the 1933 Humanist Manifesto. As the greatest influence on the public school system, Dewey intentionalized his humanism in the public school system. The school system still seeks to build a new social order to this day.
John Dewey advanced the most fundamental presupposition which underlies modern secular education–instrumentalism. In his writings process is more important than product. Ultimate truth is the product most precluded in this system. Fundamentally, instrumentalism is an ethical system because its purpose is to settle life’s dilemmas. Knowledge for the sake of knowledge is taboo. There are no fixed norms for the determination of human actions for Dewey. Values to him are illusive and need to be determined on the basis of conditions and consequences. Nothing is intrinsically valuable. One value differs from another on the basis of its consequences. The consequences are not good in themselves either. Their only good is as a means to something else. Nothing is true in itself; everything is instrumental to something else. Truth is always determined by a particular situation. The experience of the value rather than the value itself is what is important. There is no absolute upon which everything else relies.
Dewey admitted that there are evils in society but did not provide scientific proof (his requirement) that they are evil. He could not presume murder is bad. To do so would assert an intrinsic value. Each case must be decided individually; some cases of murder are beneficial. Dewey believed that the most profound problem of human existence was the integration of human values with beliefs about the material world. Because modern life had left the influence of theology, a new system for determining values was needed. Former transcendental values were impotent to address issues of this century; the church lost its influence with most people. To him men may talk God but they behave secularly. To this day this is the conflict of modern thought. Man should harmonize this clash by adjusting his thought to the reality of his experience. But Dewey’s problem was not how to secure values but how to pick values. Again, the humanist has no philosophical base for choosing values.
Dewey’s influence on the values of the latter part of the twentieth century is incalculable. His impact on the way Christians and the church determine the valuable and the true is staggering.
THE JILTED PARTNER
Not only do Christians not understand secularism but they do not even understand the nature of absolutes. The extent to which most Christians view absolutes is a surface belief that the Bible simply teaches them. For the most part, even church leaders lack insight as to why the Bible asserts absolutes.
Man, without a supernatural intervention of God’s values into time and space, cannot assert absolute values. Christianity can assert objective values because morality is a byproduct of an absolute God. Moral absolutes are not themselves the essence or substance of Christianity, but ethics are based on the existence of an absolute, transcendent God. Determination of right or wrong comes from the nature of God. There is objective truth because there is an eternal objective being.
This does not imply that a Christian should only think convergently and not divergently. It means that the beginning point of truth (the ultimate epistemological presupposition) is God’s Word which comes from the transcendent God. If revelation precludes the reasoning process, that will produce irrationalism. On the other hand, reason autonomous from God will ipso facto preclude God. Reason should supplement revelation. Not all truth is found in God’s revelation. All that is in the Bible is true as to its record but not all truth is in the Bible. Truth may be found in many places. Christians must learn to live in this world both as Christians and as rational human beings. This philosophical premise should not preclude any method of education: deductive, inductive, Socratic, analytical-synthetic, etc. Any system of teaching which precludes people from free investigation is also anti-Christian. Secular education has in many arenas lost this fair approach to education.
The foundation of the Christian outlook on the world is an absolute God. An absolute God is all-encompassing, uncaused and unconditioned. Since God has no cause and there is no condition imposed upon Him by someone else, all truth and morals flow from Him.
For of him, and through him, and to him, are all things; to whom be glory forever. Amen. (Romans 11:36)
Absolutes are derived from this foundational premise. Moral absolutes never change because God never changes. The only way they could be changed is to do away with God (which is what secular fundamentalism has done). These moral absolutes are binding upon all people everywhere in every culture during every period of time. Christian ethics follow Christian theology. Christian theology begins with the doctrine of God. To detach values from God is fatal for there can be no absolute without an absolute being.
God’s absolutes are objective, not subjective, since they depict the nature of God (not simply his will). They are not arbitrary or capricious according to the whim of individual opinion. Since God made all things and is sovereign over history (including concurring with every occurrence or circumstance in time), He has the capacity to declare absolutes which govern any situation at any time. Since God never changes His absolutes are universally applicable in all places at all times. This is ethics founded on revelation, not the self-law of humanism. Non absolute approaches fall into arbitrariness, relativism and friendiness because they do not have a universal. Christian absolutes are based on a God who is not arbitrary for He Himself is perfect, absolute and unconditioned. God cannot be arbitrary in his decree about creation. As the Creator, God possesses authority over creation. God’s authority over values are not arbitrary because He is absolute; God’s principles do not change because He does not change.
Jean-Paul Sartre, who spent his life denying absolutes, quotes Dostoyevsky: “If God is dead then anything is possible.” If God is dead there is no ultimate purpose, no absolute, no truth. Anything goes, given the right circumstance. However, there is a unity between a true secular viewpoint and the Christian life. Christianity is not irrelevant to daily life nor is secular life irrelevant to the Christian life. But because there is no God for Sartre, anything is possible and there are no guarantees.
Christianity stands in the face of a society which does not have a place to stand (pou sto). Without a knowledge of God man cannot transcend his finite perspective. If the doctrine of God is put in a subordinate role to the practical, the material or the relevant, the values of Christianity cannot continue invulnerable. In fact, what many church leaders believe is that Christian values are vulnerable. By believing that, they undermine the fundamental essence of Christianity. If the doctrine of God serves a subordinate role to issues of society, it will be a valet to any windbag of ideas the churchman fancies.
Many non-Christians understand the implications of this more than most Christians. Secular humanists who educate our children certainly understand this issue. To the man who has not come to God, an absolute God with His absolute values is a radical idea. Man today possesses a deep vacuum–to him there are no absolutes and thus no ultimate meaning to life.
The Christian world view has also a dramatic impact on the idea of freedom. Freedom and rights issues pervade our society. Since God is absolute He is the only being who possesses absolute freedom; He is subject to no restrictions; He has no bound except that which is self-imposed. Man merely possesses a derived freedom, a freedom which God has designed for him. God does not exist for the sake of man; man exists for the sake of God. God holds Himself up as the goal for man because there can be nothing greater for man. When man experiences God he reaches his purpose for creation; he arrives at the whole of meaning. Any philosophy which does not take God into account must in some sense cut itself down to the finite. The essence of humanism is that man is the measure of man.
Without a moral absolute no action can point to guilt.
In affirming the independence of God, classic education denied the comprehensive contingency of all reality: the Creator of the universe has the ground of his being in himself, whereas the universe in its totality is dependent upon its Maker and is pervasively contingent. The current view, by contrast, depicts all reality as a matrix of contingency; it reduces all existence ultimately to nature in some form, that is, to physical processes and events0
When Christians buy into this system great distortions occur in their perspectives on living. At the center of these distortions is the disregard Christians have of their creaturehood–their dependence upon God. At the heart of their belief is a conviction that personal experience is the essence of reality; there is little else. Many Christians live as secularists sharing the same values and philosophy of life here. There is the future eternity for the Christian, but that is a different issue; they will deal with that then. For now they live like everybody else, amending morality for their own ends. There is little apparent distinction between Christians and their neighbors. They may have a devotional life before they go to work but at work Christ does not substantively impact their lives.
The cultural underpinnings of values for society are TV, rental movies, drink, magazines, etc. Where is the difference in how the Christian exercises his values in everyday life? Pursuits of success as ultimate purpose are the same for both Christian and non-Christian alike. Friendships in the secular domain are so far removed from the Christian and his beliefs and values that he despairs even sharing his faith. He has little distinctiveness to differentiate him from his friend.
Christians ought to collide with many values of culture. Their values should be distinctive. Yet most Christians are able to hold the two so that they are spheres which seldom meet. Is it any wonder evangelism is ineffective?
Another distinctive value for the Christian is his attitude toward pain. The summum bonum for the secularist is personal health, wealth and well-being. For the Christian personal failure is transcended by his relation to God. Personal prosperity is not his ultimate aim; that is incidental to his life. This is why a Christian does not yield to divorce so readily; he can endure an unresolved conflict in marriage for he knows his personal happiness is not all there is. The secularist, however, must deal quickly with unhappiness for he must get as much “gusto” out of life while he has it.
Accommodation to secularism is common among Christians. If the agenda for the world is feminism then that sets the agenda for the evangelical. If feminism is a genuine issue, where was the evangelical when the world did not present it as an issue? If feminism is fraught with implicit anti-Christian assumptions, why is not the Christian speaking against them? Answer–the Christian wants acceptance with the world. To prove that evangelicals are academically acceptable, they allow the world system to set their agenda and become tag-alongs with no distinction, no special message, no genuinely Christian life-style. Accommodation to the world system probably comes from good but misconceived motives. The motive is that if we gain the respect of the world, then the world will turn to Christ. What actual distinction is there if all we offer is a variation of their agenda? We have bought into their system; we have accepted their belief system, not vice versa.
The genius of Christianity is the nature of God. If we function devoid of the doctrine of God by not bringing God’s values into confrontation with the world, then we have dislodged ourselves from the heart of what we are. If the ultimate purpose for the Christian is the glory of God, he should live under that principle as His basic frame of reference for life. To live with absolutes is to glorify God because God is absolute.
SAFEGUARDS AGAINST SPIRITUAL ADULTERY
It is one thing to discern the disorders of evangelicals in society, it is another to forge a new course. Since identifying disorders is one thing and correcting them is another, I would like to suggest principles for evangelicals seeking to address issues in a secular fundamentalist society:
1. Begin to erect a new consensus of Christianity in our communities and country.
At one time Western civilization held to Christianity as the consensus of values. If it was done once it can be done again. When the apostle Paul moved into the Roman empire with his missionary enterprise there were very few Christians. He met a stubborn and obstinate polytheism. Yet he formed a beachhead for Christianity that persists to this day in the Western world. Paul encountered a massive societal bias against theism; today, we confront a pervasive secular humanism. Paul’s dynamic message defeated polytheism; our message is the same, why must Christians yield to a secular society? If we understand the nature of the new nemesis we can contest it with the right biblical weapons.
A primary reason why Christians do not form this consensus is their uncritical endorsement of pluralism. The essential earmark of pluralism is the view that the final account of things is to be sought in a great variety of distinct units and not in a unity of belief that makes them real. To the pluralist the world consists of finite units. A radical pluralism would require a distinct world-view produced by each unit living side by side with other distinct world-views. Pluralism must resolve all reality into finite centers. But where does pluralism find its answers? Is there some inherent meaning in fragments? Is there an inherent structure in the universe? True non-theistic pluralism must answer that in the negative. Are individual minds the only things ultimately real? Is there a system of relations beyond them? If not, then that is solipsism–the self alone exists; mind is the final word. Solipsism produces individualism and this greatly impacts, for example, church life. Individualism, as opposed to living as a body of people, characterises the church today. Among Christians the sense of belonging to a corporate body (church) is waning dramatically. Kenneth Gangle expresses concern about the effect of individualism upon corporate worship:
Modern-day individualism has diminished and diluted the communal emphasis in Scripture. Piety has been compartmentalized, relegated to a private personal pocket of life. The result is a religious consumerism which describes worship as `attending the church of your choice.’ Western culture drowns in humanistic religion with its focus on `getting something out of the service.
Biblical worship, on the other hand, sees the Shepherd gathering the sheep, the Father gathering the children. The relational unity which God’s people have with Him is, by its very strength, an antidote to individual loneliness (Ps. 106:47; Isa. 11:12; John 11:52; Eph. 1:7-10).0
Evangelicals should carefully distinguish between democratic pluralism and ethical pluralism. There is a distinction between a pluralism which says all views should be accepted in terms of rights and a pluralism which insists that all views are equally valid. The latter is syncretism and syncretism itself is an assumption. If mutually exclusive views are both held to be true simultaneously, truth is preempted. Political pluralism which converts to moral pluralism can hold to nothing as exclusively true. To preempt moral consensus as an option, even a dominant option, violates a valid political pluralism. Man is left without one unifying system which ties political reality together. He can only defer to a moral pluralism which holds to all views as equally valid. The only remaining cohesion is an absolute state which arbitrarily suppresses any consensus other than itself.
The assumption that democratic pluralism requires an ethical pluralism undermines the possibility of a Judeo-Christian consensus of morality in society. No society operates without values which inform its ideals. The chief question is who forms the values. A state or community virtually without any values necessarily issues chaos and anarchy. Modern Western society functions on moral relativity and government by cultural consensus. Because there is a lack of clear social consensus, an abstruse, ambiguous, vague, obscure and ambivalent approach is taken to issues such as homosexuality, abortion, euthanasia, sexuality, etc. The major flaw in the strict social consensus method for determining morality is that it offers no criteria for measuring the validity of the consensus. The majority can be wrong. “Majority rule is preferable to minority rule in that it provides a shelter against tyrants, but it does not of itself guarantee the rule of justice.”0 It is futile for a pluralistic government to affirm public morality without some previous belief (a religious world-view), the assumptions of secularism or otherwise. Religious assumption should not concern government in a democratic society. Should the state patrol beliefs within its citizenry? That is the reverse of Christians imposing their beliefs on the state. Should government impose upon Christians a non-Christian value, the Christian must counter this intrusion with the will of God: “We must obey God rather than men” (Acts 5:29).
Public dissent, challenge and plea are the Christian’s active options. The greatest opportunity is to appeal to the volition of individuals to receive Christ. When a maximum number of individuals respond to the gospel, the moral codes of a national entity will change and a true democratic consensus will result.
However, to expect a pluralistic nation to convert into a theocracy (a nation which rules for God) is both unrealistic and without biblical foundation. There are no commands for pluralistic nations to convert to theocracy in Scripture. As God in His own sovereignty accepted a Chaldean nation with all its injustices, and used it in His own way (Jeremiah 27:6), so He has concurred in His sovereignty to allow for pluralistic nations. It is important that Christians not fall into the trap of believing that secular political systems will ratify Christian values. The history of the world is against that. This premise does not preclude persuasion by the Christian, for secular ethics will not produce justice in a vacuum. The state needs to hear from Christians the underpinnings of what informs justice–divine absolutes. Without that, secularism is adrift in a sea of meaninglessness, immorality and injustice. God Himself is the foundation for all law. Unless national life begins to move toward God and His absolutes values, it will remain in a vacuum and in active hostility to Christianity. Outward constraint through law cannot in the end produce the real motivation that is necessary for godly living. Regeneration, not reformation, is the most effective answer to man gone awry from God. Politics is not the answer for that.
Bibby comments on accommodation churches have made to moral pluralism:
Canada’s dominant religious groups have taken a pluralistic view of religious belief and practice, leaving much up to the individual. Consequently, few beliefs and practices are regarded as normative. At the same time, the nation’s religious organizations have gradually enlarged and diversified their program offerings, their `religious menus.’ Beyond conventional activities, the major groups now cater to virtually every interest of every individual. And if a program or committee does not exist to deal with one’s interests or concerns, it can readily be created.0
There is futility in portraying democracy as an entity to itself without moral assumptions; democracy always operates on a consensus of some sort, the preferences of secularism or the absolutes of Christianity. The real issue in resolving this debate is addressing the consensus issue. Under the assumption of political democracy the majority of votes determine (hopefully) the outcome in theory. However, sometimes an elite group can influence values irrespective of a majority opinion.
As this issue relates to public schools, Christians should try to form a consensus in the community on such issues as
-identifying textbooks which impose secular viewpoints upon Christians without redress
-encouraging school systems to “eliminate sensitivity training that invade the privacy of children for the purpose of desensitizing them for humanistic resocialization.”0
-taking a stand for the historical consensus based on Christianity that it should at least represent fairly the Christian viewpoint in the classroom.
-realizing evangelism is the real potential for changing the consensus with clarity and conviction.
Some sociologists say that uncritical tolerance of a divergence of views is the essence of democracy. In rejecting absolutes secular education anticipated that common values would integrate modern learning. Carl Henry says what they actually have is
…a normless tolerance of diversity, of deviation which is linked with a democratic outlook and often with respect for minorities; moral absolutes are associated only with totalitarian bureaucracies. A relativistic morality given to self-assertion lampoons the truth that tolerance without norms destroys even tolerance and that democracy without norms invites chaos.
Not only have the pluralistic gods and shared moral values become pale ghosts of the campus, but confidence has broken down as well in education and politics as dynamic catalysts of social change.0
They cannot curb aberration and degeneracy in society for their ultimate assumption is pluralism. As a first principle an absolute tolerance of any view would ultimately destroy itself should it not concede norms of some kind. Should democracy preclude absolutes, democracy would contain no moral consensus and would disintegrate in disorder and discord. Democracy without absolutes has the seeds of its own destruction. Secularism is not able to protect human rights without absolutes. Barring confrontation against the bias of these social assumptions and penetration of Christian absolutes, democracy without some semblance of biblical values will disintegrate. On the other hand, Christians who use politics as their principal method for addressing absolutes to society, such as imposing a theocracy, have left their primary biblical priorities. This is the use of Caesar to defeat Caesar and distorts the purpose of the church.
Christians need to discern that a moral consensus of some kind will inform the public school system. As well, educators need to know that to argue for a Christian consensus is just as valid as secular humanists arguing for their assumptions. Christians have been intimidated on this issue too long. We have lost significant ground by a false assumption about pluralism.
2. Christians need to understand that absolutes and the nature of God are corollaries.
Not only is there a malaise by Christians in the understanding of secularism but there is also a malaise about Christianity itself. This has diluted effective attitudes and actions against secularism.
Above all, Christians need to understand how the doctrine of God unalterably denotes absolutism. They need to grasp the practical implications of theism and comprehend that the doctrine of God is the central problem of our day. No matter how inane talking about God to contemporary men may seem, not talking about the nature of who He is would be even more insipid. Many today regard the study of God as remote from fashionable concerns. If they understood truly who God is, they would see that the doctrine of God influences more areas of qualitative living than any other doctrine. We must reach our society by showing to modern man how God can manage everyday human affairs in a superior manner to secularism. We need to show them that without God and His absolutes, human life lacks meaning and quality of life that can only come from God. God’s terminal values must confront the values of secular society at this point for every activity a person takes is based upon his basic assumption about life.
Though secularism does not have philosophical coherence, it does have a coherence of despair –there are no ultimate answers. To leave that assumption untouched as a given in our society is heresy. Belief that our neighbor cannot go beyond this despair undercuts what God can do for him. If God is the final meaning to human life, do Christians believe it? Do they believe that their neighbors are impoverished behind their beautiful homes? Secular fundamentalism is deeply vacuous. There is a tendency to believe the world’s lies about itself. Our non-Christian friends believe that success, friends and pleasure will ultimately fulfill them. There is a fulfillment in success0 but that is not the issue for temporal issues tend to blunt the emptiness for which man truly longs. Man needs the finite but he needs more than the finite. After his days of striving for success, what then? Man inevitably arrives at a point where his finite values begin to decay and he is left a vegetable at the end of it all and finally dies hopeless in a bleak, black terminus of his existence. To deny the practicality of God in one’s life is to refuse the only basis for an ultimately qualitative life. The term “eternal life” has as its first meaning a quality of life then a quantity of life. “Eternal life” is God’s life and that is why it has quality. That is why Jesus called it an “abundant life.”
Because Western society does not have a consensus of belief in an absolute God in its institutions, there has been a change of consciousness in world-view. Man no longer orients his life by a belief in God, he orients it by a consensus of opinion in society and finds himself in a vacuum that does not give adequate values for life. When secular man tells us that God is not an issue to him, we should not regard that as authentic. Nothing in the secular realm can meet all of man’s needs. Many disappointments will come his way. Shallow insensibility to life’s ultimate needs will blunt the desire to know God. But man can run only so far without facing the question that he is meaningless without God. This shallow insensibility toward God is the greatest obstacle in evangelism. The more the church understands the implication of the doctrine of God, therefore, the more she will be able to address the needs of modern man.
3. The Christian school is a strong viable option to teach absolutes and confront secularism.
The Christian school is one of the best options to confront secularism. Vulnerable children without critical powers cannot possibly discern the religious assumptions of secularism. Christian educators who honestly and divergently set forth all claims for truth can give a more academically honest education than the biased secular system which, to this point, has not acknowledged its own presuppositions. With educational standards slipping due to progressive but unproven educational methodologies and the erosion of morality in general, the rise of the Christian school has a bright future.
The sheer weight of the mass of secularism taught in public schools is too formidable for either the parent or church to completely contravene. Due to limited time in both the home and church, a Christian school can permeate its entire academic agenda with the doctrine of God. As an extension of the home and church, the school can inculcate a child with enough volume of truth that he develops a Christian world-view and orientation.
For many years I did not believe in Christian schools because I regarded them as “hot house” in their approach to reality. However, in recent years, that is exactly what secular education has become. It heavily biases secular humanism in its educational methodology. In addition, I now believe that a child should be understood from the standpoint of God and not simply from the uniqueness of his rational faculties or his relation to nature.
Some may argue that this prejudices the child against a free investigation of truth. The problem with this argument is that all approaches to reality have assumptions for finding truth.0 The uncritical assumption that a neutral and objective process of learning exists that has no presuppositions or biases about reality, is naive. A major task of the Christian school is to show the assumptions of all systems including the Christian. The Christian is committed to truth wherever it is found. This presumes that the child in the Christian school will be able to think for himself rather than respond to cues of reality already set up for him. It is important to teach Christian children to critically investigate assumptions about life for themselves.
We also need to recognize that no matter how many Christian schools we may start, the reality is that most Christian children will be educated in the public system. If this is true we need to train our parents to help vulnerable children cope with flagrant attacks against Christianity. We also need many more Christian teachers to address rampant secularism by the “spin control” of their presence. An exception to a “living within the system” approach, is when educators cross the line from a more discriminating to a more blatant secularism.
4. Christians should maintain the integrity of their viewpoint by balanced attitudes.
Many Christians handle injustice immaturely. With flaming anger and impulse they charge into situations with little thought and invalidate their claims by poor attitudes. Christians can move on a spectrum from indifference to anger, from anxiety to aggression. By displaying anger to a secular society we neutralize the claims of Christ. Quite often administrators and teachers in the public school system, even though they are not Christians, sympathize with Christian values and feel frustrated themselves.
On the other hand, apathy and indifference may cut the heart out of confronting a problem that should have been addressed years ago. We need balanced aggression.
Anxiety that pervasive evil will consume eternal values and that a dynamic Christianity will not survive will not advance the cause of Christ. The church thrives even under the worst form of secularism such as found in Russia or China. God’s sovereignty always allays apprehension.
5. Christians should evaluate how much secularism has influenced their own personal values.
A parent or church leader who is oblivious to the dangers of the secularization of society needs to understand the mounting impact of this belief system upon children today.
The eclipse of the idea of God in Western society is at the heart of fundamental value change: God is seen as an obstruction to relevance; the good life avails oneself of pleasures afforded now; the church is seen as remote from real life. With the power of modern media comes a massive voice which constantly shouts its message of secularization while the church is relegated to a remote voice in modern society. Media has captured the attention of the masses. No formalization of a secular philosophical position is apparent in the media but a practical appeal based on endless appeals. Little formal rejection of truth is evident but a swamping of it by soliciting basic human drives.
One of the first studies of moral education was conducted by Hartshorne and May (Columbia University). From their study of schools and churches, their research concluded in part that what people say about their moral values has little connection to how they act. Why is it that Christians persist in non-Christian values? Why is there such entrenchment and resistance to change to Christian values?
Bryan Wilson, a renowned Oxford sociologist, quoted by Bibby says
…the very fact that religion becomes an optional matter, the fact that there is freedom of religion, tolerance, and choice, is an indication that religion is apparently of little direct consequence to the functioning of the social order.
When it comes to sexuality, the country’s religious groups are frequently both ignored and stripped of any unique claim to authority by the committed and the uncommitted alike.0
The effect of massive secularization of society is value convergence; values of society look the same. Central to the average person’s values is a system free from Christian references. The movement away from a dominance of Christian underpinnings for values in society with a corresponding decline in the role of church life has enormous impact on values. Distinctly Christian values such as love and mercy have changed to an emphasis on values such as freedom, universal equality and social justice. The person in the pew and the person in the general public are beginning to think more and more alike. Christians who reduce their values to love, honesty, the work ethic, and family life are no different from the secularist. To hold to a value system that is religious, philanthropic, social but not centrally located in the values of Christian revelation negates the genius of Christianity.
If Christianity simply images society’s current values then Christianity will be relegated to serve secularism. Christianity, then, would carry virtually few distinct values for she would take her clues from society and mirror the prevailing culture.
A religion that merely reflects culture is without a unique message–it is only a mirror. To simply meet the new with the new is to run the risk of acknowledging that there is nothing of substance to one’s faith that transcends both space and time.0
If Christians desire effective Christianity, they should commit to the unique and authentic values of the Word of God. If there is an absolute God, Christians should inform the public of Him and His values. However, Christians consume non-Christian values because they are bombarded with them. Biblical values are besieged with the sheer volume of data in an information explosion dwelling on the latest oil spill, sports scores and political crisis. Time and energies are given to these concerns because the structure of society pivots around secular education, personal secular experience, TV, radio and newspapers (a rare few read substantive books). Because we give time to these sources, we structure personal agendas and values in that direction.
When Christianity is cut down to religious “fragments” such as Christmas and Easter attendance, baptism and communion, then value systems will not substantively change. The AIDS crisis will direct value quicker than the Word of God. What are Christians communicating to culture that culture is not conveying to itself? What difference is Christianity making in the lives of those who are committed to Christ
By faith Moses, when he had grown up, refused to be known as the son of Pharaoh’s daughter. He chose to be mistreated along with the people of God rather than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a short time. He regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ as of greater value than the treasures of Egypt, because he was looking ahead to his reward. (Hebrews 11:24-26)
In the above passage, Moses regarded disgrace for the sake of Christ of greater value than the treasures of Egypt. The reason for this was that “he was looking ahead to his reward.” He possessed a value that transcended pain. That transcendent value caused a significant impact on his behavior.
Christians often affirm that they should “love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind and with all your strength”, but, in fact, with most Christians, God takes a place on the outer edge of the periphery of our lives. One reason God is not at the center of our lives is that we are divided, we hold to more than one system of values. Another is that we isolate the content of what we believe from the internalization of values.
The primary function of scripture is to reveal the ultimate value–the absolute God. If God is who He says He is, the value of knowing Him should radically change lives, but the process of getting the idea of who God is from the pages of scripture into the actual values of the believer is a skill which very few pastors and teachers understand. Many leaders cajole or raise guilt in order to obtain their desired end, but motivation originates in the grace of God.
The crucial point to consider in the determination of values is the issue of subjectivity vs. objectivity. All values are subjective in the sense they belong to individuals but the greater question whether values are part of the nature of things must be determined (i.e. are values objective?) It was not until recently that values came to be viewed as purely subjective (within the individual himself). Brownfield, a leading author in values clarification, states the issue of subjective vs. objective values clearly:
Not so long ago, most of us believed that values were fixed and immutable, the eternal verities. It was that way, certainly, if one were a good American, even more so if one were a good Catholic. We valued God, country, cleanliness, work and its rewards, motherhood, forty hours, the underdog, J. Edgar Hoover, the common good, General Motors, individualism, justice, the Legion of Decency, progress, and whatever Sister said…0
Yet further, he speaks to the superficiality of those “values”:
The truth is: so many of our values were of a terribly thin fabric, if values at all. Many of our values simply were habitual attitudes, props supporting the status quo, customary ways of avoiding uncomfortable involvements.0
A Christian philosophy of values, however, bases its objective values upon the theocentric premise which unifies and makes coherent God and His Word to man and nature. Therefore, the theistic world view is the fundamental and central integrating factor in values. The centrality of God in all of life is expressed in Romans 11:36, “For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things” (N.I.V.). God is the source, means and end of truth. All truth, therefore, is God’s truth.
The Christian thesis for the foundation of objective values is found in an absolute God. God is absolute because He is all-encompassing, uncaused and unconditioned. Since God has no cause, all derivative and ensuing morals flow from Him. Creation accords with His character because God’s holy nature never changes; His moral absolutes never change. They are binding upon all people everywhere in every culture during every period of time. If God is the Creator, no creature ever has had the liberty to choose whether or not he is responsible to conduct his life according to God’s moral absolutes; he is responsible to them whether he wants to be or not.
These moral absolutes can be doubted, questioned and even denied; their validity can be debated, and men can attempt to change them, but he only way that they could be changed or abolished would be to intrinsically change or abolish God.
From the Bible point of view God is the all-comprehensive reference point from whom all objective values originate. Man derives his design for meaning from God Himself for no one has caused God to do or be anything, thus all creation is put in relation to Him. Since God is absolute, He is the only being who possesses absolute freedom; He is subject to no restrictions; He has no boundary except that which is self-imposed. Man merely possesses a derived freedom; a freedom only within the framework of God’s design for him. Therefore, from a biblical world-view, all value relates to the ultimate whole–God.
If a person adopts a God-centered world-view, this affects his judgment on the worth of the world. It gives him place in time and space. By possessing an overall principle for life, he owns an objective structure for values and an integrated life.
If God is the center of reality, adjustment must be made to His character, for God cannot adjust or adapt His being to man otherwise He would not be absolute; He would be finite if He were not perfect in His character. How can an unchanging God modify Himself to some situation? Can an all-powerful God become inept even to the smallest degree? Since God is God, the whole process of viewing life must change and man should see the world as God sees it. Hope then takes on a new field of view; man is no longer lost in the despair of self.
6. Christian leaders/teachers need to take care not to place God’s Word in a servant position to secular truth or secularism itself.
In earlier decades of this century Christians held definitions of worldliness which were narrow and inadequate because they were not broad enough to include all aspects of worldliness. Championing distinct Christian values was the heart of their concern. With significant change in perspectives on worldliness by ensuing evangelical generations, distinct Christian values succumbed to secularism.
There are two extreme views of worldliness:
1. Being secular or human is wrong; culture is inherently wrong.
2. Secularism is not worldly to the Christian in any sense.
Worldliness is to accept from any source values which are not God’s. If we do not judge every value by God’s values, we are worldly. The component which divides Christians from others is belief in God’s universal absolutes.
What are the limits to which culture should assimilate into Christian values? Is secularism equivalent to worldliness? To what degree should Christians dissent from culture? Can culture constitute both good and evil?
Romans 12:2 says that Christians should “not be conformed to this world.” “Conformed” means with form. Worldliness, then, is to form or fashion values apart from God.
In a rush to defend Christian humanism and a true view of secularity, many Christian leaders underestimate how an undiscerning secularity impacts Christians who imbibe the aberrant values of secularism. An example of this lack of discernment is found in Christian colleges and seminaries where the desire to compete with secular philosophies by using almost exclusively secular tools and methodologies to integrate Christianity with true humanism. To place Christianity principally at the service of finite tools flip flops the authority of God’s Word in lieu humanistic assumptions. On the other hand, integration of what is true in the human realm with what is true in God by viewing the more limited human truth with unlimited divine truth is the biblical methodology.
In another field psychiatrist John White gives his personal experience with Christian counselors who buy in to non-Christian world-views.
It troubles me that Christian counselors trained to the doctoral level should have their clinical training under the supervision of secular psychologists in secular universities, many of whom are soaked in pop psychology. My own contact with such counselors, while not extensive, is sufficient to convince me that Christian counselors are influenced more than they realize by such psychology which, besides being shoddy, is at its roots profoundly anti-Christian in a deeper sense than either psychoanalysis or behaviorism.0
Yet another example of worldliness among evangelicals is the preacher who compromises the integrity of the Word of God to preach selfist psychology in order to gain numbers. This preacher departs from applying principles of God’s Word to preach pop psychology. This betrays a disbelief in the effectiveness of God’s Word to change today’s society. Some church growth leaders encourage preachers to move away from anything negative or content oriented to appeal to the unchurched. Robert Schuller preaches self-love as foundational to Christianity which is anthropocentric to the core. Selfist psychology leads to indulgence and preoccupation with self. Power, eroticism, accumulation of wealth are manifestations of selfism which is self-lust, not self-love: “lust of the flesh, lust of the eyes and the pride of life”.
Absolutes cannot be fashioned to current cultural standards otherwise the unity of God’s character is compromised. In the secular magazine Maclean’s, Barbara Amiel castigates a compromising current Christianity:
Of course, the church is not without blame itself. Long ago, when churchmen of all persuasions were asking the question “How can we make God relevant to contemporary society?” the whole pack should have been excommunicated. The legitimate question was “How can we make contemporary society relevant to God?” As the apologists for the worst tyranny on earth [communism] continue to influence the church, the answer to that question may lie in finally making their ideas heresy.0
There is a fear by certain Christian thinkers of compartmentalizing the secular and sacred and thus losing a unified world-view and thereby deny the unity of truth. Taken as a given that “all truth is God’s truth”, and that all of life’s activities are sacred, does this mean that man cannot live autonomously from God by living a holistic secular life?
On the other hand, Christians may withdraw to a Christian subculture and stick their head in the proverbial sand or fail to confront the world system with the Word of God. This form of monasticism does not recognize that even the Christian is part of a culture (an integrated system of beliefs, values and customs). Culture is the total context of a man’s life within a national entity or a concept. Culture is broader than society; society is the result of culture. Culture shapes behavior of its participants for good or evil. For a Christian to compartmentalize his Christianity from the world he faces day by day is to distort what God wants for him. To deny inclusion in culture is to deny the self. But there is a clear distinction between the secular and secularism. Secularism seeks to dismiss Christianity from its agenda and values. Christians whose almost sole emphasis is the need to participate in a secular world and yet ignore the reality of sin, displace the need for a commitment which transcends secular living. The sheer volume of secular orientation devoid of God engulfs Christians from the transcendent focus. This does not preclude the Christian from conforming his whole life, secular and eternal values, to the will of God. Even mundane secular tasks done under the will of God glorifies God and expresses eternal value. A “Christian life” isolated from God in the secular world is worldliness.
True nonconformity for the Christian originates from transformation, “Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). The Christian does not conquer worldliness by becoming a monk; he conquers worldliness by renewing his mind with Christian values. This transcends the fashion of the world. The transformation of the mind comes from a personal knowledge of and experience with the God of the Bible. That influences every class and subject a person takes in school whether it is mathematics, chemistry or psychology. God cannot be eradicated from reality. Every class and every teacher has a value system. Either God is in that value system or He is not; for that subject He is conceded as a reality or He is overlooked. In any case, a value system is assumed.
7. The church needs to be aware of the secularization of her belief-systems.
The church needs to beware of the secularization of its theology. Robert Schuller’s selfist psychology results in anthropocentrism; Paul Tillich’s “method of correlation” accommodates existentialism; Harvey Cox’s The Secular City says metaphysics and religion are disappearing forever.
The shift of society from thinking about both the present world and the coming world to an exclusive ruling interest in the present world is the heart of secularism.
As secular religion is a distortion so is civil religion. Attempts to impose a Hebrew type theocracy on a modern nation have no biblical ground. Christians who use politics as their major method for changing values have left their biblical priorities. Bibby sounds a warning to the religious liberals who accommodate their message to secularism:
This position of an ever-changing, dynamic faith is not without potential problems. In attempting to meet the new with the new, religious organizations come precariously close to letting culture dictate the content and the forms of faith. The demands of the market can become the key criteria for determining the nature and the shape of religion.
For example, an approach that stresses cultural relevance can easily find itself asking, not `What should people believe?’ but rather, `What can people believe?’ Symbols and theology may then be rewritten largely in accordance with what the public views as credible and palatable. If some have difficulty with supernatural elements, then those elements may be `demythologized.’ If people cannot believe in `a God in the sky,’ then he may be grounded–with `he’ becoming gender-inclusive if people object to a masculine term. If people cannot believe in the divinity of Jesus, then he may have to be humanized. If life after death sounds too far-fetched for some people to handle, it, too, may have to be reinterpreted in more digestible terms. Such rewriting of concepts and theology is `legitimized’ on the basis of everything from revelation through the need to translate to the sheer need to update.0
Accommodation transforms the substance of truth itself and Christianity becomes the servant of societal values:
Sociologically, what is significant about these attempts to get in step with modernity is that culture calls most of the shots, and there is a fine line between translating the message and transforming it altogether.0
Christianity needs to retain distinct authority from culture. Otherwise, culture becomes god:
When religion becomes so wedded to culture, it finds that its authority is further eroded. If culture is going to be allowed to inform and instruct, then culture also insists on being admitted to the priesthood.0
Churches which accommodate so completely to culture are absorbed by culture:
But the practical result of the effort to meet the new with the new is that religion can be almost totally determined by culture…it seldom bargains as an equal…0
8. The church should beware of philosophical pragmatism, relativism, accommodation and pluralism.
Pragmatism is a philosophy of life, not simply a practical approach to life. It claims ultimate truth cannot be known and results in skepticism about God. Fundamentally, it assumes a subjective approach to truth placing a personal tension between what is right and what is expedient. The implication for public school children is that they will become more and more secular-pragmatic with each succeeding generation unless they become deeply committed to Jesus and His Word.
Moral pluralism is the ideal or fundamental value in modern society. Nothing is exclusively true to moral pluralism. Aggression against abortion or homosexuality in a pluralistic school incurs disfavor because Christianity is a mutually exclusive viewpoint holding to objective, independent values. Since Christianity is deemed as an optional to pluralism, it is stripped of authority.
But to speak against the world system is an important agenda of the Word of God. For Christian leaders to adopt the philosophical positions of the world system to win the world is worldliness. To accommodate the message to current philosophical fads is to adulterate the integrity of the message. As Bibby says, “…the overall picture is one of value convergence.”0
Relativists hold that it is impossible to bring the absolutes of an ancient book to apply to a very different and diverse society as we have it today. However, if we radically isolate public schools from moral absolutes, we condemn them to relativism.
Relativism holds no absolutes, denies universals and asserts particulars. If there is no ultimate truth, truth cannot be attested. Truth is not normative for everyone but changes from time to time and from person to person. Because universal truth is rejected in today’s society, little concern is given to find ultimate or universal truth. People are more concerned about earning money and personal enjoyment. Some lose hope in society and turn to drugs or sex to dull the pain of emptiness. These people regard those who concern themselves with absolutes as impractical and irrelevant. Indifference to truth is the conventional wisdom of today. The pervasiveness of the practical issues that faces each individual in life is the major preoccupation. Pervasive secularism so saps time and energy it is a waste of effort to concern oneself with ultimate issues. If people are concerned at all about morals, it is in the realm of how issues immediately affect them personally: “Will the politicians raise taxes?” “Are my fellow partners honest with me in business?”
If the state insists that children who hold to moral absolutes attend schools which are exclusively committed to relativism, tyranny against them ensues and pluralism produces its own uniformity of thought because pluralism is the ultimate presupposition. Pluralism becomes the central governing philosophical premise. The school may take sides in matters of religious disputation only by disregarding religious freedom. Unless a method for validating transcendent values exists, moral alternatives have no persuasive epistemological ground. But this is not the task of public schools.
World-view assumptions lie beneath both Christian and non-Christian positions. It would be out of place for either the Christian or the non-Christian to impose their world-view on the school system. The public school is a civil institution even though it may be privately informed by world-views. However, if that private influence be one-sided without opportunity for redress, then civil discrimination is the result.
Christians who seek to find consensus in public schools for biblical values are at risk of losing their perspective on the consensus. The majority viewpoint on an issue may protect Christians from a tyrannical dictator but it will not insure justice. No sectarian world-view should relate exclusively to public education. If either the secular humanist or the Christian exclusively control public schools, the schools become a mechanism for implementing bias. However, today it is abundantly clear that secular fundamentalists have a one-sided hold on the school system.
This does not mean that Christians should legally impose their viewpoint upon secular schools. However, neither is it the role of public schools to determine values. Christians should champion causes which provide fair and honest education.
Os Guinness, speaking of seditious secularism against and by Christians, says that we need to cultivate an “authentic rage” and an “authentic radicalism” against the injustices of our society:
Because it lacks this element of outrage, the modern church needs to be reminded that if her life and institutions are being strangled by a dying culture, then she is choking on the very truths which she has herself betrayed.0
Pervasive pragmatism in the pressures of modern society is the reason the average church person has slipped into bed with secularism. By giving himself so extensively to values imbibed from society, his life fragments into an agenda of ambitions, goals and desires set by secularism. This effectively voids a life which encompasses the coherence only God can give. When this focus is lost, the Christian loses divine integration for life and he lives in the same vacuum as the secularist. If God is always the same, and His truth is universal and absolute, then a Christian who lives by those absolutes integrates to the most coherent way of life possible. This integration comes from a comprehensive philosophy of life derived from a supernatural intervention into time and space–God’s Word. The doctrines of Christianity claim that ultimate values are knowable and objective. They are knowable because a truly universal being has chosen to make them known to us. They are objective because they come from an absolute being.
If Christians buy into the idea that Christianity is private business of the heart and that God does not influence the total life, they fragment their philosophy of life. Such splintering of values collapse biblical belief.
Man governs his life, not by his knowledge solely, but by what he loves with all his person, his terminal values. To value is a division of believing. Value of truth is a condition for belief. A Christian may repress belief in God’s value because he owns his own system of values more than his love for Jesus Christ. To repent from a false belief-system which virtually excludes God from life is at the heart of need for the modern church. Repentance is a transformation of values.0 When “heart” and “soul” are combined in commands in Scripture, “heart” always comes first. The reason for this is that the entire undivided person must share in what he knows and believes. Division of loyalty, or spiritual adultery, needs confrontation in and by the church. Spiritual adultery with secularism violates intimacy with God.
If Christians are to save their children from the pervasive premises of secular fundamentalism, they must confront their culture with an unadulterated allegiance to God and His Word. If Christians employ essentially secular means to determine values, they will continue their slide into secularism.
1Erwin W. Lutzer, Exploding the Myths That Could Destroy America, (Chicago: Moody Press, 1986), p. 189.
0Carl F. H. Henry, The Christian Mindset In A Secular Society: Promoting Evangelical Renewal & National Righteousness (Portland: Multnoma Press, 1984), p.81.
0Os Guinness, Dust of Death (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1973), p. 336.
0Herbert Schlossberg, Idols for Destruction: Christian Faith and Its Confrontation with American Society (New York: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1983), p. 235..
0Ibid, pp. 236, 237.
0Reginald W. Bibby, Fragmented Gods: The Poverty and Potential of Religion in Canada (Toronto: Irwin Publishing, 1987), p. 54.
0Ibid, p. 80.
0Ibid, pp. 80,81
0Ibid, p. 138.
0Ibid, p. 139.
0Ibid, p. 140.
0Ibid, pp. 148,149.
0Ibid, p. 111.
0Ibid, p. 126.
0Ibid, p. 134.
0Ibid, p. 134.
0Ibid, p. 135.
0Schlossberg, op. cit., p. 258.
0Bibby, op. cit., p. 56.
0Ibid., p. 250.
Ibid, p. 251
0Schlossberg, op. cit., p. 273.
0Ibid, p. 275.
0R.C. Sproul, Lifeviews: Understanding the Ideas That Shape Society Today (Old Tappan, New Jersey: Fleming H. Revell Company), pp. 71-72.
0Schlossberg, op. cit., p. 287.
0Ibid, p. 275, 276.
0Ibid, p. 276.
0Sidney B. Simon, Meeting Yourself Halfway (Niles, Illinois: Argus Communications, 1974), p. xiii.
0David D. Stewart, Moral Values Education in Ontario: The Crisis of Consent (St. Thomas, Ontario: Renaissance Ontarior; April, 1978), p. 12.
0Carl Sommer, Schools in Crisis: Training for Success or Failure? (Houston: Cahill Publishing Company, 1984), p. 158.
0Ibid, p. 160.
0Ibid, p. 159
0Ibid, p. 162.
0Ibid, p. 162.
0Ibid, p. 165.
0Ibid., p. 173.
0Henry, op. cit., p. 84.
0Kenneth O. Gangel, “Reexamining Biblical Worship,” Bibliotheca Sacra 142, (April 1985): 169.
0 Bibby, op. cit., p. 126.
0Sommer, op. cit., p. 276
0This does not propound a Platonism which says that we are to become so consumed with eternal things that we neglect the material world (I Tim. 4:4). True spiritual life persists best in everyday life.
0Bibby, op. cit., p. 164.
0Ibid., p. 256.
0Howard Kirschenbaum and Sidney B. Simon (ed.), Readings in Values Clarification (Minneapolis, Minnesota: Winston Press, 1973), p. 231.
0Ibid, p. 232.
0John White, Flirting with the World (Wheaton: Harold Shaw Publishers, 1982), p. 117.
0Barbara Amiel, “How churches go astray,” Maclean’s, (February 14, 1983), p. 13.
0Bibby, op. cit., pp. 252-253.
0Ibid, p. 253.
0Ibid, p. 254.
0Ibid, p. 255.
0Ibid, p. 169.
0Guinness, op. cit., p. 387.
0Our values need to be coherent within themselves and with other beliefs we hold. Prior beliefs can shape succeeding beliefs: values link different sets of belief.