It has been 32 years since Frances Schaeffer, the Christian philosopher, wrote his Christian Manifesto. When he wrote it in 1981, America was in the midst of a huge change. For the better part of the previous century, the various manifestations of a naturalistic worldview were becoming increasingly prominent in American culture. When Schaeffer wrote his manifesto, we had just reached the tipping point.
Fast forward to today and we are seeing the results of Naturalism increasingly taking over the culture. The things that Schaeffer pointed to have become reality. As such, it is important for Christians to take a look at where we are and refocus for the road ahead. The purpose of this new manifesto is to give some direction.
The first thing we need to know is that the status quo in the Christian community will not work for the future. The naturalistic worldview, which is the foundation of our current culture, is vicious. It is based on the law of the jungle where those in power get to set the rules. If those in power see Christians as obstacles to their desires, their belief systems allow them to remove the obstacle any way they see fit.
As Christians, since our beliefs run contrary to the beliefs of a naturalistic worldview, we can expect increasing persecution because of our beliefs. This persecution will take the form of social ostracism as well as legal punishments related to business practices and personal conscience rights. It has already begun in many arenas and we can expect it to get worse.
Many Christians have tried to avoid being in the fray up until now. This avoidance has taken the form of simply staying out of the conversation. Too many have retreated within the four walls of their churches and avoided speaking of the many anti-Christian policies which modern society has put forth. These people have refrained from speaking up in the public square when topics related to morality have arisen.
The day is soon coming when we will have to choose to either receive our persecution while standing for our faith or as we run from the battle. Straddling the fence is no longer a legitimate option for those who name the name of Christ.
Modern Society’s Moral Norm
From the founding of the nation until around the 1960s, the dominant worldview belief foundation in America was Theism – more specifically, Christian Theism. This was the belief that the biblical teaching about God was true. It was a belief that not only did God exist, but that he created the world and mankind for a purpose. It went on to acknowledge that he was accomplishing that purpose through the course of history. Along with that was the belief that God had revealed himself and his ways in the Bible. The founders, then, drew out the principles of that belief and used them to form the various institutions of American society. As such, not only were its major institutional structures formed based on those principles, but also its moral foundation. At that time, most understood that an objective moral reality existed which should be adhered to by the nation and its citizens.
Beginning in the late 1800s, with the biggest boost coming from Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species, Naturalism began to emerge as a competing worldview system. It was around the 1960s when this belief system had gained enough strength to begin forcing Christian Theistic beliefs to the sideline. Since that time it has only grown stronger so that now, in early 21st century America, it is the dominate worldview system in the nation. Based on this belief system, the moral foundation has shifted from the absolutism of Theism to the relativism of Naturalism.
Naturalism is, essentially, the dominant faith system in modern American culture. It dominates virtually all of the major institutions in the country. And even in the places where it is not dominant, its influence is still profound. It is the underlying belief system in our educational institutions, political establishment, and in the news media. It is also dominant in the pop culture through TV, movies and music. Even in many Christian schools and churches, the atheistic presuppositions of Naturalism exert influence to the extent that they accept as normal that which the Bible calls sin.
Naturalism is the belief that there is no supernatural. That is, all that exists is the natural universe. Based on that presupposition, Naturalists believe that there is no God, man is purely a naturally evolved physical animal, and the most that anyone can expect out of life is to achieve the highest level of personal fulfillment they can manage. Some of the more prominent belief systems which are based on the naturalistic worldview include: Secular Humanism, Atheism, Scientism, Existentialism and Postmodernism.
While most Naturalists truly believe that their belief system is based completely on science, nothing could be further from the truth. Certainly, the presuppositions of Naturalism assert that conclusion, but when we actually dig into the assumptions, it quickly becomes evident that they are built on unsupported beliefs, not science. It is this contradiction which points us to a way we can help usher in the ultimate demise of the naturalistic worldview system – if we are willing to put ourselves in a position to do so.
In order for Naturalism to be true, there are several things which must be experimentally provable. These can be addressed using the following questions.
1. What is the origin of the energy/matter which exists in the material universe?
As Naturalism requires that everything be explainable based on experimental science, it is necessary that this question, too, have that kind of answer. Certainly Naturalists asserts that there is a natural explanation for the existence of energy/matter, but there is no science to show what that might look like. All they have is the assumption that it is true.
The answers they give fall into two categories. The first is simply to speculate on how a natural origin might be possible, so we have various theories about how it happened. Of course, speculations are not science, they are only guesses. The second way many address this problem is simply to say we don’t know yet, but as science advances we will find the answer. This, of course, assumes, by faith, that there is a possible answer from science. So in other words, the answers Naturalists give don’t even meet the requirement of their own system. There simply is no science to back up the assertion that there is a natural answer to this question. It is a belief based on blind faith that Naturalism is true.
2. What is the origin of life?
Naturalists do no better when trying to answer the question about the origin of life. There simply is no experimental science to demonstrate how life came to exist. And again, the best Naturalists can do is to speculate about it or assert that science will one day know. There is no basis for believing that a natural explanation for the origin of life exists except for blind faith in the presuppositions of Naturalism.
3. What accounts for the diversity of life forms which exist on earth?
When it comes to accounting for the diversity of life forms on earth, Naturalists quickly tout the Theory of Evolution. But once again, there is no experimental science to demonstrate how this could actually work. All that exists is a theoretical model which takes data and arranges it based on naturalistic presuppositions. To do this, Naturalists begin with the observation that natural selection operates in the physical world (this part actually is based on experimental science), then project that concept beyond what is observable and assert that what happens at the micro level also happens at the macro level.
But again, all we have is a belief. There is no experimental science. To prove their case, Naturalists must first prove that the presuppositions of naturalism are true – which they cannot do. There simply is no experimental science which has been able to demonstrate that macro evolution actually takes place.
4. What is the origin of consciousness?
Finally, Naturalists cannot account for the existence of consciousness. Certainly they observe that it exists, but there is no science to account for how it came into existence. In Naturalism, the only possibility is that it came into being based on naturalistic evolution. This would require the viability of macro evolution.
But the same problem raises its nasty head once again. There is no experimental science to show that it is even possible. As before, all that exists is the belief that it is true. Naturalists simply will not acknowledge the possibility that it could have happened any other way. By fiat, they dismiss the possibility of a supernatural existence and, by faith, assert Naturalism.
When it comes to morality, a naturalistic worldview has no absolute basis upon which to make determinations. In order for an absolute right and wrong to exist, there must be some unmoving standard by which to measure it. Since Naturalism does not acknowledge any such thing, it is left to human beings to make up their moral standards as they go along. As such, morality changes based on the circumstances. It must be relative to the situation as interpreted by the ones who have influence within society.
For instance, in previous generations in America, it was nearly universally understood, based on biblical teachings, that abortion, homosexual marriage, and sexual relations outside of marriage were morally wrong. In modern pop culture, however, the Bible is not recognized as containing any kind of absolute standard of morality. The naturalistic worldview beliefs which inform pop culture are based on the desires and opinions of those who are acknowledged as its leaders. This includes those who hold the levers of power in the political arena, the entertainment industry, our educational institutions and the news media. Right morality becomes what they deem it to be.
Since Naturalism is an exclusive belief system, it must not only promote its own beliefs, but seek to exterminate competing systems. As Christian Theism is the most prominent belief system in America which opposes it, the most aggressive extermination efforts by Naturalism are directed toward Christians. The expressions of these efforts are manifested in numerous areas.
One area is the simple attempt to shame Christians for their beliefs. The language of political correctness is the tool for doing this. In modern culture, anyone who is against abortion, for traditional marriage, for biblical sexual morality, or for belief in God are viewed as the enemy. Any Christian who dares express Christian values is verbally pilloried to make it seem that they are ignorant, intolerant and bigoted.
Another way Naturalists try to put down the Christian faith is to infiltrate Christian institutions. This has been done in many places by individuals who have brought non-biblical theological beliefs into many formerly Christian theological schools in order to indoctrinate up and coming ministers. These indoctrinated students, in turn, become the pastors of churches and leaders of denominations who lead their organizations to disavow Christian teachings. We see the result of this in several major Christian denominations which have literally substituted non-biblical teachings for biblical ones.
A third way that Naturalists are attempting to destroy Christians is to put them out of business. This is being done by passing laws which force Christians to choose between their beliefs and their livelihoods. This is what happens when, for instance, Christian pharmacists are forced to sell abortion inducing drugs or quit their profession. It is also the tactic used when Christian bakery owners or photographers are forced to provide goods and services for homosexual weddings or be sued out of business.
Another way Naturalists attempt to exterminate Christian beliefs is to create laws which directly violate the consciences of Christians and punish the ones who dissent with fines and jail sentences. The most prominent places where this kind of legislation has been seen in the past was in Muslim or Atheist dominated countries. In recent times, however, we have seen a pastor put in jail in Canada for preaching against homosexuality, and we are beginning to see efforts to do the same in America.
Essentially what is happening is that people’s freedom of expression is being taken away and replaced with a type of repression. The very concept of freedom of conscience and freedom of expression comes from a biblical worldview. The biblical understanding of man is that we are creatures who have free will and that freedom of conscience is absolute. That is why the American concept of freedom of religion and freedom of speech are enshrined in our founding documents. But those ideas are not important in a naturalistic worldview system. In fact, just the opposite. Opposing views must be exterminated. As such, naturalistic belief promotes the suppression of truth and biblical morality. The end result is bondage rather than freedom.
The Current State of the Church
As American Christians consider what we need to do to correct the situation which has emerged in modern culture, the first place we need to look is at ourselves. What has happened to cause the church to become so weak in the face of the onslaught of Naturalism in the last 40 years? This is not to say that every church is weak in this way, but the trend is obvious and the evidence is overwhelming.
Perhaps the first thing we need to acknowledge is that we are ignorant of the fulness of truth. Back when America was more religiously homogenous, the most important knowledge Christians needed to be conversant with was the basic Christian doctrines. While not everyone was a Christian, it used to be that, at the very least, nearly everyone was a Theist. Virtually everyone believed that God existed. So, with that presuppositional base, all we needed to know was how to lead a person to enter a personal relationship with God.
Today’s environment is totally different. The nation is more pluralistic with a very high percentage of people actually holding different worldview positions. In this environment, it is not enough to simply know “what” we believe. We must also know “why” our Christian faith is the truth.
Essentially, the church has not recognized this need and definitely has not equipped believers to deal in this arena. As such, the naturalistic worldview has progressively taken over the culture unopposed.
A second problem within the church is that we have become compromised – both morally and theologically.
The moral compromise is the result of naturalistic beliefs infiltrating the lives of those who claim to be a part of the church. Some of it is truly blatant. There are many, though most of these do not actively participate in church, who live in open sin. Some live with a partner outside of marriage, some are not faithful to their marriage partner, and some do not practice integrity in the workplace. Others lie, use profane language, cheat and steal.
That said, there is a more subtle moral compromise that is, perhaps, more prominent among those who are active in churches. It happens when we allow ourselves to be sucked into approving anti-Christian entertainment, participate in gossip, or refrain from standing up for truth and right when we see wrongs committed in society.
Theological compromise has also infiltrated the church. Again, there are both blatant and subtle versions. The blatant compromise relates to what was discussed earlier where false teachings have been brought into our theological schools and churches. The subtle version happens when Christians do not take seriously the need to know the beliefs of their Christian faith. Too many Christians believe that simply sitting in a worship service and/or Sunday school class is enough to grasp an understanding of their faith. In most cases it is not! As a result, false teachings from errant TV preachers and pop culture philosophers creep into the beliefs of even faithful church goers and compromise their theology.
Because of the widespread ignorance and compromise we see in the modern American church, it has become weak and ineffective. We simply do not influence the morality of the surrounding culture to become more godly. It is very easy to be offended at these strong words, but all we need to do is look at our ineffectiveness in the world. We see the naturalistic beliefs that are opposed to our faith becoming more prominent, and our Christian influence becoming weaker.
The result of it all is that very few Christians, relatively speaking, are able or willing to boldly stand up and proclaim the gospel to be the exclusive truth about reality. Those who are morally compromised or who don’t know how to share the truth of the gospel and falsity of Naturalism, are simply not able to stand up to the onslaught we see happening to the church.
The Christian Cure
In spite of the depressing state we find ourselves in, things are not hopeless. Something can be done about it, but it will require a type of aggressive boldness that has been lacking over the last several generations. There are three things, in particular, that must happen
1. Aggressive Education
Christians in America are notorious for not having in-depth knowledge of their faith. It is admirable that the most faithful among us are active in church and take advantage of the opportunity to listen to the teachings of their pastor and Sunday school teacher week in and week out. But that kind of exposure only gives us a superficial knowledge of our faith. It is not that our teachers are not good, it is just that these kinds of environments only provide for short snippets of truth rather than in-depth study. To get at the real meat, it is necessary to dig much deeper, and this is not something that most Christians do.
Most of our church leaders have the opportunity to receive some kind of intense formal theological study at a Bible school or seminary. But these kinds of opportunities for average Christians are few and far between. It is not that the information is not available, it is that most churches have not created a platform for that kind of in-depth study. And generally, the main reason this is so is because most Christians will not put forth the time and effort to support these kinds of opportunities when they are afforded.
In our day, Christians need in-depth knowledge about our faith. First of all, we need to know the basic doctrines and other background information that our faith is built upon. Beyond that, we need to get solidly grounded in why our Christian faith is the truth about reality and why other belief systems are not. Without this kind of knowledge, we have no way of credibly speaking to a culture which is increasingly steeped in non-Christian beliefs.
2. Bold Witness Based on Knowledge
The second thing we must do is become proficient and active in our witness to the world. God has revealed himself and his ways to us, but it is not simply for the sake of increased knowledge. When a person comes to know Christ, God creates a miraculous spiritual transformation within the individual. We are not seeking to merely become agents of greater knowledge. Rather we are called to be agents of God to change the world.
But to effectively do this in a world which adheres to a non-Christian worldview, our witness must be informed. This level of knowledge not only gives us the ability to make our points, but also gives us the confidence to be bold in our witness.
And it is this boldness that is becoming increasingly important if we intend to be effective in sharing a witness in our progressively hostile world. Christians are increasingly coming under attack by people who hold beliefs which are contrary to the Christian faith. This hostility is not only related to our intellectual understanding of faith and truth, it has come to be about our ability to raise the next generation in an environment which is free. There is only one cure for the hostility which is before us, and that is for a massive number of people to have their lives transformed by a relationship with Jesus Christ. That, in turn, requires that an army of Christians become bold in their witness for Christ.
3. Aggressive Action
There is one more thing that must happen if we, as Christians, plan to turn the tide in our culture. We must take the implications of our faith to the world. Changed lives result in people living out life based on their faith in Christ. So, when people change, the world they influence changes.
That being said, we have to take aggressive action to work on changing the world while we are seeking to share a witness. The environment that people live in has a profound effect on even the ability to share a witness. We cannot wait until a majority of people become Christians before we begin working toward creating a moral environment based on Christian beliefs. This does not imply that political effort alone will do the trick. That has been tried and has failed. In addition to political effort, we must strive to make changes in every part of the culture based on biblical beliefs, all the while using right motives. Nothing less will do.
To illustrate this point, all we have to do is look at what is happening in the culture right now. The entertainment industry glorifies sexual immorality. This has created an environment where more and more people see immoral behavior as normal. Because of that, it has become very hard for the majority to swim against the moral tide and our young people are getting swept away. We see the same thing happening in our schools where Naturalism’s Theory of Evolution is taught to all of the younger generation. This has become the default environment that our youth must swim in. The result is that many of them are led away from God without even realizing what is happening. All the while, believers in Christ are excluded from even the possibility of countering these wrong beliefs in the public square. And we could go on and on listing things such as the promotion of abortion, the normalization of pornography, the acceptance of homosexual marriage, the attempts to push the Christian faith out of the public square, the lack of integrity in politics, and lying and deceit in the news media. The list is endless.
Christians simply cannot afford to sit on our hands and watch the culture become increasingly godless and expect that it will not effect us and our descendants. We must include this third leg of aggressive action in the culture as a part of our effort to reach out and change the direction of the nation. Somebody’s belief system will dominate the culture. It is only Christian beliefs which are able to create the kind of environment where everyone is free to promote their beliefs.
Be It Declared
The change that has occurred in America did not happen in a day. It has taken over a century to get where it is now. But the change was incremental and happened under the radar until it got to a tipping point. As it was happening, most of the church was not aware that it was even going on.
We cannot afford to keep our heads in the sand any longer. It has been said that God has no grandchildren. Every person of every generation must be regenerated personally by coming to faith in Christ. We don’t get a relationship with God by claiming the faith of those who came before. Every individual has to make their own decision. And if we, as Christians, have any intention of renewing the faith of our fathers in this land, we are simply going to have to exert effort in ways we have not done before. We are going to have to put aside the desire for ease and comfort and substitute effort and principle. When we do, we can be an influence to bring our great nation back to Christ. If we don’t, we will see its destruction.
© 2013 Freddy Davis