• The Gospel According To Culture - Part 1
  • Anne Clark
The Gospel According To Culture - Part 1

We're now witnessing a significant worldview revolution in which the primary moral foundation of our culture is changing from Cultural Christianity to Humanism. Neither worldview represents the Kingdom proclaimed by Jesus, but this change affects every facet of society and the Church.   

Cultural Christianity teaches us to behave according to God’s commands, or at least to look like it. This worldview emphasis right appearances, often to the neglect of meaningful heart change. Ultimately, Cultural Christianity is based in the power of humans to behave, and thus is doomed to fail. Increasingly, people see the flaws and are rejecting it en masse.

Unfortunately, walking away from one flawed worldview has led many to walk straight into the arms of another. Humanism is less overtly spiritual and it’s rise is displacing the role of Christian teaching in society.

Humanism begins and ends in man. It teaches that the purpose of life is to find our true selves, to live our best lives, to do what feels right—all while doing good to others. It embraces tolerance and empathy while rejecting objective morality, as long as you don't hurt anyone else. Humanism appears moral, but if you affirm it, then you completely undercut the Gospel. Humanism strives to live the Second Greatest Commandment while rejecting the First.

This has profound implications for the Church, all of which need to be discussed, but more than anything we need be aware that is happening. I'm not worried by what is occurring in the world around us—the Church always thrives on the counter-culture edge, but I am deeply worried by what is happening within us. I believe large numbers of Christians have embraced humanism, and I fear most don't even realize it.

The differences between the Humanist ethic and the Kingdom ethic are both subtle and profound. Both desire to serve others. Both embrace compassion for those in need. Both desire to protect the marginalized. We agree on a lot, especially how we should relate to people. This masks the massive difference between the two competing worldviews.

Humanism rejects the Divine, believing people are born inherently good. You are welcome to have faith if it works for you, but there is no Greater Power to whom we all must give account. The role of God is limited to how He might support you; there is little concern for your need to obey Him. This philosophy is internal, being true to self, and horizontal, living a socially responsible life.

By contrast, the Christian life is vertical. We are accountable to God, independent of man, and believe life and beauty are found in Him alone. Sin is man's attempt to live apart from God, and it always leads to death and destruction, both in us and in others. Christians believe every person is born with a sinful nature. Though we may have a desire to do good, we are incapable of actually living it.

The Christian view of man's condition is terribly depressing, but I submit that a mere cursory view of human history is even more so and lends credence to this belief. As a result, we believe sin must be dealt with before mankind can reach its full potential. The Cross and Resurrection provide the only doorway by which mankind may enter to rediscover our true self.

For many issues, there is little obvious distinction between the competing beliefs, but I believe this is changing. Sexuality is perhaps the greatest flashpoint today, and with each successive generation, the gap between the two will continue to widen. I fear too many believers attempt to straddle the ever-growing cultural rift in order to maintain relevance on each side of the cliff. Make no mistake, you will have to choose. This is the same choice every generation has faced, just with a different context: Who is your Lord? Is it the surrounding culture? Is it you? Or is it Jesus?

Humanism is doomed to fail. It sounds good. It has the appearance of virtue, especially in the age of online philosophical warfare that prioritizes nice sounding arguments and catchy "clap backs" over real virtue lived out in real life, dealing with real people. Humanism doesn't conquer sin and as a result cannot lead mankind into goodness.

If we embrace the right to live true to ourselves then we will never be genuinely good to others because we are fundamentally flawed. We may desire it, we may intellectually affirm it, but we are powerless to live it. The First Commandment is first because only by embracing it, do we have any hope of living the Second.

A solid foundation is the most important part of the house; everything else rests on its strength. A foundation problem will only worsen with time as the plumbing, wiring, walls, and more all gradually feel the increased strain. Every day you wait to fix the problem increases the cost. Start today! Stop seeking affirmation from the world and resolve to let the Word of God define your perspective.

Take a moment to examine your worldview: How much of it is rooted in humanism? How anchored are you in the Gospel?

We can no longer expect society to affirm and prop up our beliefs. Cultural Christianity is a relic of the past, and revival is now our only hope. Fortunately, for the Church, this is a wonderful place to live.

  • Anne Clark