What Is the Culture War?
There is a lot of talk these days about the “culture war” going on in modern society. What immediately comes to mind are the opposing views people have concerning topics like sexual morality, who has responsibility for people who need charity, the existence of God, the nature of human beings, and the like. But these various issues are only the outward manifestations of the culture war going on in today’s world. To really understand it, we have to move beyond these outward expressions and understand the source.
The source of the modern culture war is a clash of worldviews. And when we say a clash of worldviews, we are not simply talking about differing opinions about various subjects. A worldview is, literally, a way of understanding reality. Thus, when worldviews clash, it is a battle between different ways of understanding how reality is actually structured.
For instance, a Christian worldview believes God is an objectively real person that human beings can know in an actual personal relationship. A naturalistic worldview believes that there is no such thing as God. As is quite evident, these are not merely different opinions about God. Rather, they are different understandings about how reality is actually structured. If the Christian worldview is correct, there is such a thing as an objectively real right and wrong based on what God has revealed to mankind, and which human beings are compelled to follow. If the naturalistic worldview is correct, there is no such thing as an objective right and wrong, so morality is based on a relativistic foundation. It follows, then, that human beings must develop their own moral code based on personal preference or the exercise of power. These differences are not mere differences of opinion, they are entirely different ways of ordering society based on how its leaders understand reality.
As such, there can be no genuine compromise when it comes to beliefs at the worldview level. Different realities literally contradict one another and cannot coexist. A person cannot believe in God and believe God does not exist at the same time. A society cannot consider biblical morality to be right and not be right at the same time. The only possibility is for one side to capitulate to the other.
How Is the Culture War Fought and Won?
As stated above, many people think of the culture war simply in terms of conflicting ideas. In truth, it is much more than that. It is the conflict of two opposing beliefs about the actual structure of reality. Conflicting worldviews literally contradict one another and cannot coexist. At some point, one MUST dominate the other.
For instance, can a person who doesn’t believe in God accept the concept that God exists? No! By definition, the two ideas exclude one another. It is true on the other side, as well. One who believes in God cannot accept the concept that God does not exist without giving up belief in God.
In the culture war that exists in America, one of these two beliefs will become the foundation upon which national morality is built. If America’s traditional Christian Theism holds sway, other points of view can be allowed in the public square, since this worldview supports freedom of conscience and individualism. That does not mean that the worldview beliefs of other worldviews can be the actual basis for how the society is organized. It only means that individuals are free to have other beliefs if they wish while living in a society with rules based on Christian Theism. If, on the other hand, Naturalism comes to dominate, this kind of “tolerance” cannot be maintained. Naturalism is based on the law of the jungle where opposing points of view must be totally eliminated. As such, the worldview foundation of the nation does matter.
Figuratively speaking, the culture war is, literally, a fight to the death. One side will win and the values and beliefs of that side will be imposed on the other. That said, one side produces freedom while the other produces bondage.
What Weapons Are Used to Fight the Culture War?
The Culture War is fought, first and foremost, in the arena of beliefs and ideas. At some point, it is certainly possible for battles to spill over into other areas. But it is the winners in the arena of ideas who ultimately come out on top. That being the case, the culture war fight begins with the promotion of beliefs. For Christians, those beliefs (our weapons) fall into three basic categories: worldview knowledge, Bible knowledge, and a personal knowledge of Christ.
Worldview knowledge is that which gives us an understanding of our own beliefs and the beliefs of other people. A worldview is, literally, a particular understanding of how reality is structured. It is these differing beliefs about reality which are the root of culture wars. The big problem is that it is very difficult for people to grasp that other people can actually conceive of a reality that is different from their own. As such, culture war clashes are generally fought based on ignorance of an opponents worldview beliefs. This understanding, though, is critical for effectively fighting the war.
Thus, Christians need to gain a knowledge of worldview in order to know how to interact with the people who are fighting against Christian beliefs in American culture. When America was more homogenous, this kind of knowledge was not necessary. In today’s culture, it is essential.
The second area of knowledge Christians must master is Bible knowledge. It is the Bible which lays out the beliefs of the Christian worldview. This is the set of beliefs which represent the actual way reality is structured and has been the foundation for American culture from its founding. Too many Christians, however, are not conversant with their own beliefs, and this has led to a situation where it has become more and more difficult to counter the attacks of those on the other side. For those Christians who truly wish to fight the culture war on the side of biblical teachings, it is not enough to simply attend weekly worship services. Christians must put in extra effort to study the Bible and truly grasp the revelation that God has given to us.
Personal Knowledge of Christ
The third essential area of knowledge Christians must take hold of is a personal knowledge of Jesus Christ. This, though, is not mere intellectual knowledge. It is very possible to know a lot “about” Christ, but never know him personally. Personal knowledge is experiential – that is, actually living life in relationship with him. This means spending time with him not only in corporate worship, but personally, as well. It is more than just reading the Bible, it is conversing with him in a two-way conversation as one lives life. This is the knowledge that makes all other kinds of knowledge meaningful. Without the connection with Christ in a personal relationship, all other knowledge becomes nothing more than legalism. It is this relationship which puts life and meaning into our culture war fight.
Why Can’t We Just Live and Let Live?
Many people in our day advocate for everyone to just live and let live. You do your thing and I’ll do mine. While this sounds all warm and fuzzy, it is not realistic – for a couple of reasons.
First, the worldview beliefs of those who embrace Naturalism will not allow it. What they mean when they say “live and let live” is you give up your values and allow me to have mine. A Christian worldview does not accept the immorality of non-Christian worldview beliefs. A Christian worldview advocates for putting the responsibility on the individual rather than on the culture as a whole. A naturalistic worldview does not provide for that kind of freedom. For Naturalists, it is “my way or the highway.” They will look you in the eye and expect you to give up your morals and values while they keep theirs.
The other reason a “live and let live” approach will not work is because when society is dominated by that attitude, it inevitably produces evil influences which destroy it. And it is not just the various collective groups which end up being destroyed, it is the individuals within the communities, as well. It results in more crime, sexual immorality, out of wedlock children, drug and alcohol addiction, and the list goes on. And when the younger generation is raised in that kind of environment, they don’t develop the self discipline or the moral fiber to create a stable and just society.
While Christians must powerfully fight against the forces of evil in the world, we cannot do it the way Naturalists do. We must fight and win in the arena of ideas. And for Christians, this means not only being able to share the gospel message, but also to share why the gospel is the only way. This will require Christians to aggressively take a step beyond “live and let live” and proclaim the truth about Jesus Christ to all the world. And to do that, we must become equipped beyond what is normal and average in the Christian community. Until enough Christians make that effort, things will continue to slide into greater and greater degradation.
© 2013 Freddy Davis