In American society today there is a massive culture war going on. Just to be clear, a culture war can possibly be expressed in outward acts of discrimination and even violence; but make no mistake, its root is not discrimination or violence – it is ideology. And the ideological clash in modern America is a clash between Christian Theism and Naturalism.
When put in terms of ideology, many people immediately think that we are talking about things related to politics. Of course, there will be political (as well as economic, moral, legal, and other outward) expressions. But in its essence, ideology is not an outward category of any stripe – it is spiritual. The culture war expressions are actually a clash of values between two opposing religions. There are many people who would chafe at this characterization, as they don’t consider themselves religious. However, the characterization is absolutely true.
Some of the more common outward expressions of this war being played out in society include such things as:
- The war against the police,
- The fight over abortion,
- The fight over control of health care,
- Attempts to limit free speech on college campuses and other places,
- The fight about “separation of church and state,”
- The battle over various attempts at wealth redistribution,
- Use of force and violence to accomplish political ends in protest marches and other places.
While the culture war is, at its core, a spiritual war, the most prominent outward expressions tend to be political. The traditional American political expression based on Christian Theism is the promotion of individual liberty. The other side of the conflict in this war is based on Naturalism, and expresses itself in political terms that promote various forms of collectivism (Socialism, Communism, and the like).
Before we look specifically at the outward expressions, though, it will be helpful to understand the foundations. So, the first thing we will do is to look at the essential worldview beliefs of Christian Theism and Naturalism.
Christian Theism expresses the beliefs of biblical Christianity. The essential worldview beliefs of Christian Theism are:
Christian Theism believes that the God who has revealed himself in the Bible is the Creator and Sustainer of the natural universe.
Christian Theism believes that man was created in the image of God, but is fallen.
Christian Theism believes that human beings can enter into an eternal relationship with God based on the atoning death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. Salvation is achieved by acknowledging and repenting of sin, and inviting Christ to enter one’s life.
Naturalism is the belief that the natural universe is all that exists. The essential worldview beliefs of Naturalism are:
Naturalism believes that the natural universe is all that exists, and all life emerged and developed into its current form through natural evolutionary processes.
Naturalism believes that human beings are merely natural animals that have evolved to their current state.
Naturalism believes that the ultimate one can achieve in this life is survival and personal fulfillment; since there is nothing beyond this life. It is achieved by seeking after survival and personal fulfillment in this life.
Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness
With and understanding of the essential worldview beliefs of the two worldviews, it is now possible to see how the political expressions of these beliefs relate to the American values listed in the Declaration of Independence – Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness.
The American values of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness (property) derived specifically from the Christian faith. These are values that are based on core beliefs from the Bible.
Human life, based on Christian Theism, is considered sacred because it is created by God. Beyond that, the Bible teaches that human beings are created in the image of God specifically for personal relationship with him. The Bible also clearly teaches that it is immoral to take innocent human life.
The beliefs of Christian Theism concerning liberty is based on the belief that mankind was created with free will. God’s purpose for giving this attribute to humanity is based on his purpose for creating mankind in the first place – for personal fellowship with himself. In order for there to be an actual relationship, both parties must freely choose to engage one another. Individual liberty is the core of that possibility. It is this characteristic of mankind that is at the root of why American values promote liberty.
In Christian Theism, God is recognized as the owner of the entirety of his creation. However, he has also chosen mankind to partner with him to accomplish his purpose in the world. In doing this, he has appointed humans to be stewards (managers) of the world he made. As stewards, individual humans are given various forms of property to manage for God. It is this principle of stewardship that is behind the American value of private property ownership and free market expression.
Because of its belief that the entirety of reality can be explained by the natural laws of the universe, Naturalism has an entirely different way of evaluating the meaning of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (property). It begins with the belief that the ultimate in life is survival, so the collective has a higher value than the individual. With that as a starting point, a socialist/communist (or some other totalitarian) approach to life naturally emerges as the best means to protect and provide for the collective. As it relates to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we find the following beliefs:
For Naturalists, humans are nothing more than one species of natural animal. It is born, it lives its natural life, and it dies – the end. In naturalistic philosophy, life is definitely considered important, but not the life of any particular individual. The focus is on the collective; it is the survival of the collective that is critical. Life is considered important – but that would be collective life, not individual life. This focus on the collective is expressed as “the survival of the species.”
Since the collective, rather than the individual, is what is important, what happens to particular individuals takes a secondary position. Thus, if any given individual’s life is not considered helpful for the advancement of society in general, it is not a problem to remove the offending individual. As such, when society’s leaders consider that there are too many babies being born, or if having a baby creates problems for the collective, then abortion is considered a perfectly acceptable practice. The exact same principle applies as it relates to the elderly or people who have various physical or mental handicaps. It is acceptable to terminate their lives if it becomes too much of a burden on society.
Individual liberty is not an important value in a naturalistic worldview environment. In fact, it is often seen as a detriment to the smooth operation of society. Once again, the idea that the collective takes priority over the individual is the key principle that informs the Naturalist’s thinking about liberty. In a society dominated by naturalistic beliefs, someone (or group) must decide what a smoothly operating society looks like. When that is determined, those who don’t agree are seen to be harmful to the collective and must be suppressed. Individuals are free to do as they like as long as it conforms to society’s smooth operation (the survival of the species) based on the dictates of those who hold power.
Based on naturalistic philosophy, since the priority is the collective, it is only natural that property, and the means of production, be owned, or at least controlled, by the state. It is considered that a central authority is best able to coordinate the production and supply of goods and services in a way that promotes the welfare of the collective.
Spiritual Must Have Priority Over Material
At this point, it is very easy for individuals to put their focus on the outward results that are expressed in society – the riots, the animosity and false reporting we see in the news, the political correctness, the sexual immorality, the devaluing of life, the lurching toward socialism, and on and on. Of course, we can’t ignore what is going on in society because that is the environment we live in. We must engage at that level. But the reason Christians should engage is not simply to “make a better society.” Rather, it is to accomplish the purpose of God.
Dealing with outward expressions is only a stop-gap measure. Unless hearts and minds are changed, all of the evils in society just continue. The root of naturalistic thinking is a rejection of God. The only cure is for those people who reject God to turn to him. It is okay to engage the culture war in society, but when you do, always drill down and give the reasons for your point of view. You must share why the evil is wrong, along with the solution to the evil (a personal relationship with God through Jesus Christ). Only then is there even a possibility for success.
© 2017 Freddy Davis