This just in: Wiccan holy days are now part of Vanderbilt University’s school calendar. The purpose of this calendar is to help professors know how to deal with absences and make up tests when students claim a religious reason for missing school. It should be noted that the religious days on the calendar already include holidays for Jews, Muslims, Shinto believers, Sikhs, Buddhists, Baha’is, Taoists, Hindus, Zoroastrian believers, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Jains, and Mormons, as well as Christians. It should also be noted that the university was founded as a Methodist institution.
My purpose in noting all of this is not to condemn the university’s “thoughtfulness” for making this information available. Rather, it is to highlight the point that the America we live in is not the same as the one that existed when I was growing up – and I’m not that old. In my early school years, the Christian Theistic worldview completely dominated American culture. For the most part, even people who were not Christians still believed in a transcendent creator God. As a result, the religious holidays on school (and government) calendars primarily revolved around Christian holy days. Not so any more. We really do live in a post-Christian society.
As Christians, we cannot continue to stick our heads in the sand as if our world is the same as it was. And it is not just the way we think about the situation in the culture that we must adjust. The way we live out our faith in the world and the way we witness must also undergo a dramatic transformation.
The knowledge base required of Christians who are serious about living out their faith in the world must expand beyond simple knowledge of Christian doctrine. We need to understand several other things, as well.
First, we must have a general understanding of worldview so we can understand the people of other faiths who are all around us. This worldview understanding is also what shows us why these other faiths do not represent the truth.
Then, we must have a solid understanding of the Christian worldview. This gives us more than just a doctrinal understanding of our beliefs, but also equips us with a knowledge of why our Christian faith is the truth.
Finally, we must have a knowledge of worldview so that we can effectively witness to people of other faiths. We cannot simply use our old witnessing methods which assume that the hearer already believes in the God of the Bible. Many of them do not, and starting with that assumption will not make sense to them.
Vanderbilt University’s policy is not an anomaly. It is the norm in modern Western society. If Christians are to be serious about holding up and living out the Christian faith in this brave new world, we will have to get serious about building a knowledge foundation that allows us to do it.