On the rare occasions when its god is allowed to be seen or heard from, the secular West offers up an apologetic, impotent and dewey-eyed theology—a cosmic butler who lives to serve. One Christian commentator quipped that the popular conception of Jesus Christ is that of a “European metrosexual with the hair of a shampoo model.”1 A researcher has coined a term to refer to this blasphemous phenomenon; “moral therapeutic deism.”2 ISIS, for all its fiendish perversity, has something to say about their false version of God. They have a theology and they wield it.
The naturalistic, secular West offers a world without hope, without a future, without light and without God. The universe is the result of natural processes. There is no eternal decree of God. Jesus is not “upholding all things by the word of His power” (Hebrews 1:3), and miracles such as the virgin conception, the incarnation and the resurrection are absurd myths. There is nothing but the melancholy, barren abyss of ultimate irrelevance—what Bertrand Russell called “the firm foundation of unyielding despair.”3
William L. Craig observed, “[u]nable to live in an impersonal universe in which everything is the product of blind chance, atheists sometimes begin to ascribe personality and motives to the physical processes themselves.”4 We see this reflected in Russell’s pitiful attempt to wring meaning from his own willful rebellion against God. “In the spectacle of Death, in the endurance of intolerable pain, and in the irrevocableness of a vanished past, there is a sacredness, an overpowering awe, a feeling of the vastness, the depth, the inexhaustible mystery of existence, in which, as by some strange marriage of pain, the sufferer is bound to the world by bonds of sorrow.”5 What can damned men trapped in a waterless pit (cf. Zech 9:11), enslaved to Satan and their own lusts, offer to people who are enchanted by a worldview which actually offers hope and meaning?
ISIS has answers to these questions. Its worldview, though satanic and wicked, is robust. The Christian also has answers; “[m]ade in God’s image, we are personal beings who can detect God’s fingerprints in creation and His voice in conscience and through Scripture.”6
The worldly West offers nothing but relativism and vague platitudes about peace and happiness. Penn Teller, who claims to be “beyond atheism,” quipped, “believing there is no God gives me more room for belief in family, people, love, truth, beauty, sex, Jell-O, and all the other things I can prove and that make this life the best I will ever have.”7 It is a worldview predicated on willful rebellion, on breaking asunder the bands and casting away the cords of the Lord and His anointed which tie us to their sovereign jurisdiction and authority. Salaman Rushdie wrote, “To my mind religion, even at its most sophisticated, essentially infantilizes our ethical selves by setting infallible moral Arbiters and irredeemably immoral Tempters above us: the eternal parents, good and bad, light and dark, of the supernatural realm.”8
God is not allowed to exist in public discourse, so all that remains are the bleak tentacles of hopelessness and self-delusion. This is the crippled worldview the West seeks to brandish against the theology of the Islamic State. Thus, very recently, a French diplomat dutifully murmured these empty words before the United Nations, “We must fight terrorism and resolutely counter its propaganda of hatred with the greatest determination and with the necessary means and always with the weapons of the law and with respect for human rights and fundamental freedoms. For it is precisely those rights that terrorists want to destroy because they lie at the heart of our democracies.”9
Madame Benraad asked, “what do we do to prevent people from adhering to this message and preventing them from acting?”10 Potential terrorists do not need to be reminded about a “social contract” or the “openness and tolerance” of the secular West. They need to hear the Gospel from Christians who care about their souls. The light of the glorious Gospel of Christ is the only “narrative” which will defeat this vile theology.
1 Voddie Baucham, “The Modern Church’s Sissified Jesus—A Need for Proper Christology in Our Ecclesiology,” at 2014 G3 Conference. Main Session #9. Retrieved from http://www.g3conference.com/archives/g3-2014/.
2 See the article by Christian Smith, “On ‘Moralistic Therapeutic Deism’ as U.S. Teenagers’ Actual, Tacit, De Facto Religious Faith,” in Religion and Youth, ed. Pink Dandelion & Sylvia Collins-Mayo (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2010). “Moralistic Therapeutic Deism is also about providing therapeutic benefits to its adherents. This is not a religion of repentance from sin, of keeping the Sabbath, of living as a servant of a sovereign divine, of steadfastly saying one’s prayers, of faithfully observing high holy days, of building character through suffering, of basking in God’s love and grace, of spending oneself in gratitude and love for the cause of social justice, etc. Rather, what appears to be the actual dominant religion among U.S. teenagers is centrally about feeling good, happy, secure, at peace. It is about attaining subjective well-being, being able to resolve problems, and getting along amiably with other people.”
4 William L. Craig, Reasonable Faith: Christian Truth & Apologetics, 3rd ed. (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 2008), 82.
5 Russell, “Free Man’s Worship.”
6 Groothuis, Christian Apologetics, 80.
7 Penn Teller, “There is No God,” in The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, ed. Christopher Hitchens (Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo, 2007), 350.
8 Salaman Rushdie, “Imagine There’s No Heaven,” in The Portable Atheist: Essential Readings for the Nonbeliever, ed. Christopher Hitchens (Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo, 2007), 383.
10 National Public Radio. “French Men Attracted To ‘Anti-System Utopia’ In Drive To Join ISIS.”
Tyler Robbins is a graduate of Maranatha Baptist Seminary, a DMin student at Central Seminary (Plymouth, MN) and a pastor at Sleater Kinney Road Baptist Church, in Olympia WA. He’s also an Investigations Program Manager with the State of Washington. He blogs as the Eccentric Fundamentalist and is the author of What’s It Mean to be a Baptist?