Empty Suits and Unholy Rage - ISIS vs. the Secular West (Part 2)

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Two Competing Worldviews

Secularism is a religion which makes no reference to God or morality. It is a worldview in which God has no place. If He does exist at all, He lives in quiet, unassuming little churches and never causes a row about anything. He is a private deity. He stays tucked safely away behind closed doors like a fragile china doll. He is never spoken of. He is not allowed to inform anything about us, our actions or how we ought to live our lives.

For example, a new judge was recently appointed to the Wisconsin Supreme Court. The new judge opposes homosexual “marriages” and believes authority is derived from God, a position which a leftist rag labeled “extreme.” The new judge hastened to reassure reporters, “The oath that I will take will guarantee to you that my personal political beliefs and my political philosophy will have no impact on me whatsoever… [t]hose things simply have no place inside a court of law.”1

It’s doubtful the judge actually believes this, but it is telling that it was even necessary to issue that disclaimer. This is the Western world in 2016—ashamed of God and anxious to sanitize Him from all public discourse. This is the feckless, feeble and sickly worldview which the Global Engagement Center, the Obama administration, and Madame Benraad would have us wield to combat the ideological pull of the Islamic State.

A worldview which cannot speak of God, sin, morality and eternity without blushing and stammering apologetically is no match for ISIS. Fundamentally, at its core, secularism has nothing to offer its followers—no purpose, no meaning, no future, no hope and no eternity. It’s an empty suit. What “enchantment” does modern France offer those who flock to ISIS’ banner? What secular hopes and common goals define the implicit social contract between citizens and their government? What has this modern twist on “openness and tolerance” given us, but a pathological aversion to any position or opinion which might cause offense, a new generation of fragile “snowflakes?”2 In the battle of worldviews, secular propaganda is always destined to lose to militant theology.

What Is a Worldview?

A “worldview” is a lens through which we view, interpret and judge reality. Douglas Groothuis wrote that, “[t]hrough a worldview, one orients oneself intellectually to the universe.”3 He continued, “Our worldview shapes who we are and what we do. We are driven by our deepest beliefs and interpret the world according to them, often almost automatically.”4 Ronald Nash observed, “Of course, many people have little or no idea what a world-view is, or even that they have one.”5

Everybody has a grid, a lens, a filter through which they interpret the world around them. This means the good judge’s pledge of unspotted neutrality is absurd. It means President Obama is correct; this propaganda war is about better ideas and a more compelling vision. It also means the Global Engagement Center cannot hope to actually achieve anything without addressing the issue of worldview. Nor can President Hollande or academics like Myriam Benraad. Nor can Secretary of State John Kerry, who recently declared, “if they don’t have jobs, if they don’t have opportunity, if their political space is confined, then all of those things can feed extremism… We’re aware that people can become radicalized for any number of reasons. And that is why it is so important that we tilt the odds further in the right direction by countering Daesh’s hate-filled narratives with facts and by giving hope to people who are the most vulnerable and the most open to despair.”6

These platitudes are remarkably abstract; as concrete as a cloud of diesel exhaust at a filthy bus stop. They’re meaningless words. Could it be that a secular West finds itself unable to communicate what, exactly, it stands for in this new age of “tolerance”? For perhaps the first time in human history, nation states are too secular to invoke the name of God (or gods) even for propaganda purposes! Can the modern secular West actually offer a more compelling worldview than the twisted theology of ISIS?

Ronald Nash identified several key components which make up a generic worldview.7

  • First, there is theology. What does your worldview say about God? Does He exist? What kind of God is He? How many “gods” are there? How has this God revealed Himself? What has He told us about Himself? Is this God a personal Being who can be known, who has given us a way to know Him, and can love, be loved, and act?
  • Next, there is metaphysics. What is the ultimate reality? Was the universe created by God? Is this God eternal, omnipotent and personal? Is there purpose in the universe, or is everything which happens in the world random and meaningless? Can God intervene in His own creation in miraculous ways?
  • Then, there is epistemology. Is there such a thing as objective truth? Can it be known absolutely? Can it be tested? How do we gain knowledge about God (if He exists), the universe or morality? Is such a thing even possible?
  • Then there is ethics. Are there absolute moral laws which govern human conduct? Or, are these just objective constructs? How can morality be known? Where does it come from? Is morality tied to a particular historical epoch or culture, or is it much more objective and concrete?
  • Last, we have anthropology. And, what about humanity itself? Who are we? Where do we come from? Who (or what) are we beholden to? What are we like? Were we fashioned by a personal and intelligent Creator? Or, are you and I the fortuitous result of natural processes? Is there life after death? What does it look like, and what are our responsibilities in light of this?

These are fundamental questions, and they determine how you look at the world, how you make value judgments and how you live your life. The Christian worldview tells us that the universe and everything in it was created by a personal, infinite, knowable and holy God. Human beings were created “a little lower than the angels” (Ps 8:5) and given responsibility and authority from God to serve Him. The first man and woman deliberately rebelled against God, and their wickedness corrupted all of humanity and ruined all of God’s perfect creation. But God…

…who is rich in mercy, for his great love wherewith he loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come he might shew the exceeding riches of his grace in his kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them (Eph 2:4-10).

To that end, the eternal Son of God came to do His Father’s will. “He came down out of the heavens for the benefit of us men, even for our salvation, and was made flesh by the Holy Spirit and the Virgin Mary. He took on human form, was crucified for our sake during the time of Pontius Pilate, and was tortured. He was buried, yet rose the third day according to the Scriptures. He ascended into the heavens, is sitting down at the right hand of the Father, and He shall come again with glory to judge the living and the dead; whose kingdom shall never end.”8 Those who repent and believe the Good News are saved, forgiven, reconciled and adopted into God’s family.

This discussion will conclude in the next installment.

Notes

1 Bill Lueders, “Walker’s Supreme Court Pick: Affirmative Action as Bad as Slavery,” in The Progressive. 25JUL16. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/ns3dp2.

2 See, for example, the article by Claire Fox, “Generation Snowflake: how we train our kids to be censorious cry-babies,” in The Spectator. 04JUN16. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/x3K7A9. See also the satire video entitled “Modern Educayshun,” by the comedian Neel Kolhatkar. Like all good satire, it’s funny because it parodies the awful truth so closely.

3 Douglas Groothuis, Christian Apologetics: A Comprehensive Case for Biblical Faith (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2011), 74.

4 Ibid, 75.

5 Ronald H. Nash, Faith & Reason: Searching for a Rational Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1988), 24.

6 Department of State, “Remarks at the Counter-ISIL Ministerial Meeting.” 21JUL16. Retrieved from http://goo.gl/XATtsd.

7 Nash, Faith & Reason, 30-33. The following discussion is extremely brief and condensed! For more on worldviews, see Nash (Faith & Reason, 21-66) and Groothuis (Christian Apologetics, 45-116). See also Dr. Paul Henebury’s excellent 14-part series on Biblical Worldview.

8 This is a portion of my own translation of the Nicene-Constantinople Creed (381 A.D.).

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