By Mary Ann Collins
those who call evil good, and good evil; who put darkness for light, and
light for darkness.... Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and
prudent in their own sight!" Isaiah 5:20-21
The worldview of Christians should be based on the Bible and on our relationship with the Lord Jesus Christ. However, we live in a world that offers a vast diversity of beliefs and values that clash with Christianity. Those views are continually bombarding us through television, newspapers, magazines, movies, books, games, and secular education.
Worldviews have practical consequences. John Dewey, the Father of Modern Education, was an atheist who wanted to replace belief in God with the religion of secular humanism. Therefore, it is not surprising that many children who were raised in Christian homes no longer practice their family's faith when they become adults.
Competing worldviews can influence the beliefs and practices of Christians. Three decades ago, the New Age movement (for example, "the New Spirituality") was already popularizing moral relativism. This is directly opposed to the moral absolutes of Christianity
By now, we are so accustomed to Postmodernism that we hardly even notice its influence on churches from coast to coast. The Emergent Church illustrates it well. Led by a group of influential men "who are incorporating elements of Postmodernism within their theology," it denies the inerrancy of Scripture and undermines foundational Christian doctrines.
THEN AND NOW
Non-Christian worldviews (especially humanism) have influenced the beliefs, assumptions, and daily lives of Christians in America and other western nations. We have changed more than most people realize.
To get some idea of how much our thinking and behavior has changed, let's compare some modern beliefs and behavior with those of times past.
Go back to 1950. Sixty years ago, the most common disciplinary problems in public schools were chewing gum and talking during class. The overwhelming majority of people were virgins when they got married. Divorce was highly unusual. When people got married, they expected to stay together, no matter what.
Back in 1950, watching sex was not an acceptable form of entertainment. In the movies, if there was a love scene, you saw the couple together and then the picture changed or faded out. You might see a kiss, but that was it. Parents back then would have been appalled if their children saw the kinds of scenes that have become commonplace in movies and television today.
Charles Spurgeon preached until his death in 1892. That was 116 years ago. When he preached, every seat in his church was filled, and people who couldn't get seats stood in the aisles. Some people walked for miles to get to his church, stood for a two-hour service, and then walked home again. And they were grateful to be able to do it. There was no fellowship hall, no coffee, no smiling greeters at the doors, and no opportunity to shake the pastor's hand or talk with him. Back then, people took God seriously.
Sometimes people radically change their thinking based on one sermon, or one book, or one movie, or attending one conference. When the whole culture begins to flow with such change, it is known as a "paradigm shift."
It is possible to have this kind of radical change in individual and collective thinking without being aware that it has happened. Here is an example from my life.
One day I was eating at a restaurant in the middle of the afternoon, when there were few customers and the waiter had time to talk with me. He was a nice young man, a college student who was raised in a Christian home. He said some strange things. I responded with Christian truth. Then he replied, "But the Alchemist said..."
My waiter had read a novel with a character called "the Alchemist" who was portrayed as being a wise man. He encountered people with problems, and spoke words of "wisdom" that helped them.
I told the waiter that the Alchemist's statements were New Age teachings. Even though he had been raised in a Christian home, and went to church in his youth, that had no impact on him. When he said something reflecting New Age teaching, and I countered with a Christian perspective, he would reply, "But the Alchemist said..."
I finally told him that "alchemist" is an old-fashioned word for a sorcerer, and the "wisdom" of this sorcerer was New Age thinking, and it was contrary to the teachings of Christianity. But even that had no impact on him.
The "wise" sayings of a make-believe character in a novel had more impact on that young man's thinking than all his previous years of Biblical instruction in a Christian home and a Christian church. Although he still called himself a Christian, he now had a New Age worldview instead of a Christian worldview. And he didn't even realize that his thinking had changed.
The problem is that he accepted the new way of thinking without examining it. If he had prayed while reading the book, and compared what he was reading with Scripture, then that book would not have had such a profound impact on his thinking. As we read in the Bible,
"...they [the Bereans] received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures daily to find out whether these things were so." (Ac 17:11)
Had he followed this example, he soon would have recognized that the book's message clashed with God's Word. At that point, he would have been wise to stop reading it. If for some reason he felt that he had to keep on reading it, then he would have been cautious, and compared what it said even more carefully against Scripture. And hopefully he would have asked God to protect him and give him wisdom.
I went to Barnes & Noble to look for that book. On their "Required Reading" table, there was a book titled "The Alchemist." So that young man had probably been required to read the book as an assignment in a class he was taking. It's possible that the professor who gave the reading assignment did so precisely in order to create a paradigm shift.
When it comes to physical food, we are careful about what we eat. If something smells rotten, then we throw it away instead of eating it. We need to be even more careful when it comes to mental food and spiritual food.
INCREMENTAL CHANGES IN WORLDVIEW
Another way that people can change their worldview is incrementally -- gradually -- one small step at a time. Little by little, so that they don't notice the change. It requires constant vigilance and prayer to avoid being incrementally moved away from a Christian worldview. The Bible warns us to be "sober" and "vigilant" (watchful, on guard).
"Be sober, be vigilant; because your adversary the devil, as a roaring lion, walketh about, seeking whom he may devour:" (1 Peter 5:8)
Those who drink too much often act impulsively, based on emotion. Sober people are capable of reflective thinking, discernment, self-control, and basing their actions on Scriptural principles rather than on fleeting feelings. Of course, it takes time and practice to learn to do that. But if we are sober and vigilant, then we are able to do it, even though we may not always be consistent about it.
The best way to learn to recognize counterfeit money is to study good money. And the best way to learn to recognize false teachings is to study Scripture. There have been times in my life when a teaching sounded reasonable, but I felt that there was something wrong with it, so I didn't take it in and apply it. And then later (perhaps many days later), all at once a Scripture passage jumped out at me, and suddenly I realized what was wrong with that teaching.
That illustrates a combination of the value of knowing Scripture, and the nudging of the Holy Spirit. Jesus told His disciples that He would send the Holy Spirit to them (John 16:7-15). In this passage, Jesus describes the Holy Spirit as being "the Comforter" (verse 7) and "the Spirit of truth" (verse 13). And one of the things that He does for followers of Jesus Christ is to guide them into truth—in other words, to enable them to discern truth from error. Jesus said,
"Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth…" (John 16:13a, emphasis added)
In the epistle of Jude, we are told that God is able to keep us from falling away from Him.
"Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen." (Jude 1:24-25, emphasis added)
Now this is not a reason to act as if vigilance is not needed. These two Scripture passages balance each other. The first tells us what we need to do. The second assures us that God will give us the grace to do it.
Here is an example of incremental change, from the world of popular music. In January 1971, George Harrison (of the Beatles) released the song "My Sweet Lord." It was his first solo record, and it was immensely popular.1
The music is beautiful. The melody and instrumentation, and the soothing quality of George Harrison's voice, draw you into the song. It sounds so devout, so full of loving worship. The words seem to epitomize the goal of contemplative prayer—to really know God, to be with Him, to see Him. As George Harrison sings about longing to know God, the background vocals sing "hallelujah." It sounds so Christian.2
But then the song changes. At first the change isn't obvious, because it is in the words of the background vocals.
George Harrison keeps singing about the same longing to know God. In addition, the instrumentals are so beautiful that when the "halle" of "hallelujah" changes to "hare," you barely notice it. After a while, you realize that the background vocals are singing "Hare Krishna" instead of "hallelujah." But then you hear some more "hallelujahs," so it seems as if it must have been "hallelujah" all along, a song honoring the God of the Bible.
Then the background lyrics become stronger and more noticeable, and it sounds as if they are singing in a foreign language. In reality, they are singing the names of some Hindu gods. They are also singing phrases from the "Hare Krishna" mantra.3
The song has morphed from seemingly Christian devotion to Hindu devotion. But it still sounds so sweet and beautiful that it is difficult to believe that the change has occurred.
That is a picture of what can happen when Christians become involved in contemplative prayer, mysticism, and things that come from Eastern religions or modern New Age practices. People can start out longing to know the God of the Bible, and wind up being drawn to Hindus and Buddhists and New Agers, and to the gods and goddesses that they worship.
"Beware lest anyone cheat you through philosophy and empty deceit, according to the tradition of men, according to the basic principles of the world, and not according to Christ." Colossians 2:8
1. "My Sweet Lord," Wikipedia.http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/My_Sweet_Lord
2. "George Harrison: My Sweet Lord Lyrics." http://www.lyricsfreak.com/g/george+harrison/my+sweet+lord_20059071.html
3. "Songfacts: My Sweet Lord by George Harrison." This gives the date as 1970. It probably refers to when the song was recorded, as opposed to when it was released, which would be a little while later. (Wikipedia says that it was released on January 15, 1971.) http://www.songfacts.com/detail.php?id=1172
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