By Joel Lund
The Culture War, Finally Unmasked
If you, like me, are really tired of (and from) 2020, you may also be wondering if 2021 will be the sequel…or the antidote. Because the coronavirus, among all of its medical horror, completely removed the curtain that had been hiding the extent of the culture war.
There are two competing worldviews prevalent today. There is a war between them. From the look of things, there is no peace on the horizon. It’s been a culture war that’s been smoldering for decades – centuries, really – but is now fully engaged.
Let me share with you how we discuss these opposing worldviews in my home. Each has an avatar, if you will. The first is Gene Roddenberry; the second is C.S. Lewis. For people of a certain demographic, we were watching Roddenberry’s Star Trek around the same time we were reading C.S. Lewis. If we were attentive to the differences between their worldviews, the contrasts could not have been greater.
Roddenberry’s worldview, as displayed in the now-iconic TV series, can be described as humanistic. Although he’d been raised a Southern Baptist, he rejected a theological worldview for a pantheistic one, where humanity is forever evolving to a better future – a progressively better version of itself. And to achieve that, Roddenberry argued there is not only no need for God, but humanity must utterly reject all religion, mysticism and superstition. Only then will we truly ascend.
In opposition to such a lofty, positive view, Lewis argued that the story of humankind is one of descent. From the very beginning, it was humans’ rejection of God that brought sin, disease, violence and death into the world. Moreover, our descent accelerates as time goes by. Lewis warns believers to pay close attention to the world in which they live, in both his non-fiction and fiction. He especially warns of mindlessly accepting whatever is the popular worldview of the day.
In God in the Dock (1948), his writing is stunningly relevant today:
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. … To be ‘cured’ against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level of those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals.”
And from his classic and chilling science fiction novel, That Hideous Strength (1945), Lewis writes prophetically:
“The physical sciences, good and innocent in themselves, had already… begun to be warped, had been subtly maneuvered in a certain direction. Despair of objective truth had been increasingly insinuated into the scientists; indifference to it, and a concentration upon mere power, had been the result…”
The Church’s Embrace of “Love”
The church’s failure – beginning in the 1960s – led us to where we are today. Far too many believers have absorbed the popular worldview that there is no objective truth. In doing so, they’ve grown indifferent to Truth in favor of trusting not-so-innocent science because that’s where the power is concentrating.
And here we are. The culture war is raging. The evidence is everywhere. And it is due in large part to the church accepting the tyranny of love rather than defending the Truth.
The failures are many, but four are critically problematic behaviors:
- Toward Unbelievers:Although it is commonplace now to find professing Christians arguing that “Love is love,” they can only do so by rejecting clear biblical teaching. And in doing that, they elevate themselves over Scripture and millennia of church teaching, making their beliefs the standard for living, insisting that those who disagree are clinging to outdated beliefs and must be “cured against one’s will.”
- Toward Believers:Rather than obey clear instruction on how to engage with fellow believers, it is commonplace now to ignore our obligations to each other. It costs nothing – materially and spiritually – to declare “I’ll be praying for you!” But it checks the box markedlove, while utterly failing at obeying God’s commands.
- Toward Life:There is no biblical defense for standing against the unborn. Yet, it is commonplace to seecountless Christians argue for the right to do just that. They do so by leaning entirely on the deification of science. However, they proclaim it is the most loving position to take on the subject.
- Toward Death:For as long as I can recall, marking someone’s death has been an occasion for celebrating that person’s life. The cultural sensibility, apparently, is “Who wouldn’t prefera celebration of life? Funerals are depressing!” But again, believers have lurched away from clear biblical guidance regarding mourning in favor of a cultural norm. Let’s be clear: Death is not natural; it is a horror…a tearing away. Nowhere in Scripture do we see any death-celebrations; we see grieving. The pandemic has brought tremendous grieving to so many. It reminds us all of the utter fragility of life, as well as the devastation of death. Jesus still wept for Lazarus, right before raising him from the grave.
The Truth Is At Stake
Alistair Begg, the brilliant Scottish preacher, argues that Christians should stand apart from the commonplace and instead be known for their unfiltered expressions of joy. Of all people, have we not the most to be joyful for? Even in the midst of great difficulties, we have a Savior who lives! Be joyous! Celebrate life, even as you protect it.
But Begg also says that they should be known for their deep expressions of grief. Of all people, we know that it is sin that brought death into the world. Consequently, death is the final enemy each of us will face. Death’s sting is already removed and death’s fate already sealed. Nevertheless, we do well to never pretend it’s not our enemy, even though vanquished. Grieve deeply. The neverness of death is real. Our own death is required to be reunited with those departed.
Live into your obligations to fellow believers. Don’t ignore them. Don’t pretend that your breezy promise of prayers will somehow improve their lives without real interaction and sacrifice from you.
Engage the false and horrific narrative of our day that “love is love.” It is the ultimate proclamation of narcissism. However, it comes from the same place that all sin comes from – our impulse to elevate ourselves and to be the unchallenged source of “our own truth.” It is also the place from where we wish to “cure” others from their wrongheaded worldviews. Remember, we’re sent “out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves.” (Mt. 10:16 ESV)
Further Up and Further In
By now you have discerned that the culture war we’ve been discussing is actually not new, but as old as humanity itself. And, in fact, it is to its core a spiritual war being played out within our culture. Ultimately, the war demands our taking a side. One either chooses to live by the Roddenberrian worldview that we’re progressively evolving past the quaint (at best) “need” for God into a utopian, humanistic future. Or you choose to live by Lewis’s worldview that there is a God, we’re not Him, and understanding that distinction is central to your eternal future, as well as whatever happiness you might have here on earth.
In The Last Battle, Lewis’s final installment of The Chronicles of Narnia (for which he is best known), he describes the true human condition this way:
“I have come home at last! This is my real country! I belong here. This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now… Come further up, come further in!” ~ Jewel, the unicorn
We are all, every last one of us, finite and mortal creatures. If we observe the world around us today – honestly and unflinchingly – as well as consider the past, as far back as you wish to go, the story of humanity does not align with Roddenberry’s worldview. However, it absolutely lines up with Lewis’s assertions that over time, humans have only grown less tolerant, less progressive, more hostile, more narcissistic and more power hungry, masters of our own little universe.
But we are all, every last one of us, also looking for our real country, the one where we truly belong…the place where we are finally and fully who we were meant to be.
It is a fool’s errand to seek that country here on earth. But not everyone knows that. Like Jewel, they don’t know that’s what they’ve been looking for their whole life. As believers, we have the opportunity – especially during this pandemic era – to live fearlessly as if we know that, believe it, expect it and eagerly await it.
Now is the time to resist the prevailing humanistic worldview, but to do so winsomely because responding in kind only empowers the unbeliever’s false understanding. Now is the time to resist the religious virtue-signaling of being no earthly good to your fellow believer, but commit to actually sacrifice a little for each other. Now is the time to take a stand for life rather than hide behind silence, because in this arena, silence really is violence. And now is the time to reject the notion that death is natural. Grieve with those who grieve. Weep with those who weep.
Time is short and our day draws near. Soon, we will be journeying further up and further in. Rejoice!
Joel is a certified master coach, business strategist, and author. Most importantly, he’s worked with a lot of people just like you. Chat with him. There’s no charge. Schedule here: http://bit.ly/Curious-PFR.