UP

Worldviews

By Ronald W. Leigh, Ph.D.
Bible and Cross
Jan. 17, 2017
Copyright © 2012, Ronald W. Leigh
Bible quotations are from the New International Version
——————————— Contents ———————————
A. Introduction
B. Low View of Christ
C. Gospel Revisionism
D. "Christian" Existentialism
E. Low View of the Bible
F. Pseudoscience and Scientism
G. Pluralism and Diversity
H. Postmodernism
I. New Age / New Spirituality
J. Gay Rights and Same-sex Marriage
K. Goth Subculture
L. Liberation Theology
M. Open Theology
N. Emergent Church
O. Green and Sustainable, Agenda 21
P. Conclusion
   General Annotated Bibliography
——————————————————————————

A.  Introduction

Every adult has a worldview.  In simple terms, a worldview is that set of basic beliefs about life and the world which helps us interpret our experiences, tells us what is important, and thus drives our attitudes and actions.  Other terms closely related to this concept include philosophy, ideology, system of thought, convictions, culture, dogma, doctrines, and weltanschauung.  In this paper we will use the terms worldview and philosophy interchangeably.

Whenever we face unexpected situations or hear new ideas, our worldview guides our response.  Sometimes we are fully aware of our worldview, but often it operates in the background.

When Paul wrote to the Colossian believers, encouraging them regarding the treasures they had in Christ, he also gave some warnings about worldviews.

I tell you this so that no one may deceive you by fine-sounding arguments. … See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.  (2:2-4, 8)

These phrases, "fine-sounding arguments," "hollow and deceptive philosophy," "human tradition," and "basic principles of this world" refer to the various philosophies which are contrary to a sound, Christ centered, biblical philosophy.  Paul's warning is not a general warning against all philosophy, for there is good philosophy that is based on Christ and his teachings (verse 8).  The warning is against any philosophy that is built upon human tradition and the principles of this world.  This distinction was also made by James when he described wisdom "from heaven" compared to "earthly" wisdom (James 3:15-17).

The Christian believer needs to be aware of, not only a wide variety of world religions and cults, but also the various worldviews that swirl around him.  Paul states the reason clearly – "so that no one may deceive you" and take you "captive."

The purpose of this paper is merely to identify and briefly describe a number of destructive philosophies.  Most of these worldviews are based on faulty theology and biased scholarship.  To help you explore any of these philosophies further, you will find an annotated bibliography at the end of most of the sections.  Also see the general annotated bibliography at the end of the paper.

We encounter these worldviews all the time through both private conversation and public media such as movies, literature, and many programs shown on the so-called Discovery Channel, and the so-called History Channel.

Of course, the following list is far from complete.

B.  Low View of Christ

Ever since the time of Christ there have been people with a low view of Christ.  But today, with the influence of the various worldviews mentioned in following sections, a low view of Christ can be found everywhere.

Those who hold what we are calling a "low view" of Christ would naturally think that their view is the correct view.  But we consider any view of Christ to be a low view if it does not match up to the very high view of Christ presented in the Bible, based on a straightforward interpretation of passages such as the following.

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn over all creation. For by him all things were created: things in heaven and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or powers or rulers or authorities; all things were created by him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together.  (Colossians 1:15-17)

For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him …  (Colossians 1:19)

For in Christ all the fullness of the Deity lives in bodily form …  (Colossians 2:9)

Christ Jesus … being in very nature God …  (Philippians 2:5-6)

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  (John 1:1)

This topic is too important and too complex to be summarized in a short section here.  See the following papers.

C.  Gospel Revisionism

Here we are concerned with, not only the charge of revisionism as it applies to the four gospels, but also as it applies to the gospel message as explained in the epistles.  Compare these two views:

Traditional Biblical View Modern Gospel Revisionism View
The gospels are historically accurate. The gospels are "faith documents" that embellish the story by adding miracles and a resurrection
Jesus claimed to be God. The apostles made up those claims and added them to the gospels and epistles.
The Christology of the epistles reflects the true Jesus. The apostles' Christology was actually their revision of history.

The issues raised by those who claim gospel revisionism have a long history, but they have become especially popular in the last several decades.  Such views are standard fare at many state universities.  The Jesus Seminar gave voice to these same opinions.  And popular media, both documentaries and fiction, repeat the same claims.

Of course, we cannot counter by using the passages we quoted in the previous section (Colossians 1:15-17, 19; 2:9;  Philippians 2:5-6;  John 1:1) because, according to the revisionists, those very passages are the result of revisionism.

Similar to the previous section, this topic is too important and too complex to be summarized in a short section here.  See the following paper.

Bibliography

Eddy, Paul Rhodes and Gregory A. Boyd, The Jesus Legend: A Case for the Historical Reliability of the Synoptic Jesus Tradition (Baker Academic, 2007)
Explains the strengths of the case for the historical reliability of the gospels, and the weaknesses of the "legendary-Jesus thesis."  The material is presented in a cautious and fair-minded manner.  Thorough treatment of the content, methodology, and assumptions used by those who make skeptical claims regarding the gospels.  Thorough documentation.

D.  "Christian" Existentialism

Soren Kierkegaard, the Danish philosopher and theologian, lived from 1813 to 1855, only 42 years.  He is regarded as the father of existentialism and, as such, has had a major influence on all modern philosophy.

Kierkegaard considered Hegel's dialectic method (thesis-antithesis-synthesis) to be too abstract, rationalistic, and disconnected from the reality of personal existence.  In contrast, he emphasized such things as the individual's emotional anxiety, paradoxical thinking, despair, passionate choice, and committed action.

Kierkegaard's brand of existentialism is often described as "Christian" or "theistic" because he wrote frequently about faith and what he thought it meant to be a genuine Christian.  He also wrote against the shortcomings of the official Church of Denmark with such intensity that he destroyed his health, leading to a lonely death at an early age.  But the label "Christian" existentialism serves only to distinguish his focus from that of the "secular" (atheistic) existentialists such as Martin Heidegger and Jean-Paul Sartre.  Despite the label, Kierkegaard's views are far from true biblical Christianity.

Kierkegaard emphasized the extreme transcendence of God, holding that it was impossible to formulate a coherent system of theology.  He thought of the eternal as so radically different from the temporal that one could bridge the gap, not with words or propositions or understanding, but only with a leap of faith.  Thus he completely separated faith from reason and claimed that the juncture of the finite with the infinite will always involve paradox, that is, what seems absurd to the reason.  So faith cannot be based on formal beliefs.  Rather, faith involves heartfelt commitment in the absence of reason.  Indeed, for Kierkegaard, faith must be placed, not in ideas based on scriptural or rational evidence, but in ideas that are contradictory.  According to Kierkegaard, faith operates

by virtue of the absurd, not by virtue of human understanding, otherwise it is only practical wisdom, not faith.  (S. Kierkegaard, Fear and Trembling and the Sickness Unto Death, trans. Lowrie, Doubleday, 1955, p. 10)

Of course, Kierkegaard agrees that ordinary life experiences, mundane events and the like, require organized knowledge based on evidence (what he calls "practical wisdom"), but he would insist that for this one area – matters of religion, eternity, and God – reason must be replaced with paradox and a leap of faith.  And when one makes this leap of faith, his experience, because it is not a rational one, cannot be verbalized either to himself or to others.  This is rash subjectivism which, not surprisingly, leads to despair and hopelessness.

Carnell counters with the point that, when the matter under consideration is highly important, that is the most crucial time to rely upon good evidence and sound reason.

The obligation of the will to clear with the verdict of the understanding rises in direct ratio to the importance of the value at stake. … If God's existence is of infinite concern to us, we ought to express infinite determination to obey, rather than defy, the understanding  (E. J. Carnell, The Case for Biblical Christianity, edited by Ronald Nash, Eerdmans, 1969, p. 51, italics in original)

When it comes to important, eternal things, existentialists value the personal and shun the propositional.  They claim that propositions (declarative statements) about God are meaningless and that God does not reveal himself through statements, but only through actions and personal encounters.  Packer explains the folly of such thinking:

Some modern divines posit an antithesis between 'personal' and 'propositional' revelation, arguing that if revelation were propositional it would not be personal, and that since it is personal (God revealing Himself) it cannot be propositional (God talking about Himself). But this is absurd. Revelation is certainly more than the giving of theological information, but it is not and cannot be less. Personal friendship between God and man grows just as human friendships do – namely, through talking; and talking means making informative statements, and informative statements are propositions. … To maintain that men may know God without God actually speaking to them in words is really to deny that God is personal … .  (J. I. Packer, God Speaks to Man: Revelation and the Bible, Westminster Press, 1965, p. 34)

There are three very basic truths from the Bible that are missing in this so-called Christian existentialism.

  1. Man was created in God's image and likeness (Genesis 1:26-28).
  2. God has revealed himself to man through the prophets and apostles, and this revelation is in a form which man can understand and act upon (Deuteronomy 29:29).
  3. God enlightens man and draws him to himself (John 1:9;  12:32).

Based on these biblical doctrines we can say with certainty that so-called "Christian" existentialism is entirely bogus.

Francis Schaefer, in his He Is There and He Is Not Silent (see the bibliography at the end of this section), provides a short but helpful illustration of the difference between biblical faith and the existentialist's leap of faith.   He tells of an inept hiking party, on a high and narrow mountain shoulder, standing on ice and stuck in thick fog where they cannot survive the night.  One member hangs over the edge and drops, hoping (but not knowing) that he will land on a safer ledge a short distance below.  His faith is entirely unfounded, a leap of faith.  In contrast, suppose the group hears the voice of an experienced local climber on a different shoulder – a climber who is thoroughly familiar with the terrain and with the group's situation.  He tells them about a protected ledge just below that they could drop to and be safe for the night.  After asking enough questions to become confident that the other hiker was in fact local and knew what he was talking about, they decide to drop to the safer ledge.  Their decision to do so is an example of biblical faith, based not on guesswork, despair, or paradox, but on reasonable information.

Keep in mind that Kierkegaard's subjective approach makes validation impossible.  One can never check to see if his ideas are sound.  In such an approach, historical evidence (even the resurrection of Christ) means nothing.  But Paul reminds us that

… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.  (1 Corinthians 15:17)

Kierkegaard's existentialism, particularly its disassociation of faith from rationality, heavily influenced Karl Barth, the father of neo-orthodoxy and thus also influenced many "Christian" groups today.  (See the next section, "Low View of the Bible," especially the portion on neo-orthodoxy.)

Bibliography

Schaeffer, Francis A., The God Who Is There: Speaking Historic Christianity into the Twentieth Century, Inter-Varsity Press, 1968
(See the General Bibliography at the end of this paper.  Schaeffer's chapter 2 is especially pertinent to the current topic.)

Schaeffer, Francis A., He is There and He Is Not Silent, Tyndale House, 1972, 100 pages.
A primer on Christian epistemology, in straightforward language.  Schaeffer was one of the earliest to warn believers about the philosophical trends affecting Christianity, and still one of the most helpful.

E.  Low View of the Bible

Liberalism and Higher Criticism

During the late 1800's and early 1900's liberal theologians built their case against the reliability of the Bible.  According to the liberal, only the natural exists – no God, no soul, no miracles.  Thus, they took the approach that all religions are man-made ideas that evolve over time based on large cultural, sociological, and psychological forces.  And Israel's religion and the religion of the early Christian church were no different – everything could be explained on humanistic and naturalistic grounds, and their writings (the Old and New Testaments) also came about through naturalistic means.  The doctrine of the inspiration of scripture was out.  The documentary hypothesis (JEDP) denying the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch was in.  Theories about the redaction of other historic and prophetic books of the Old Testament were in.  A favorite target was the book of Daniel, with its long range predictions that, according to the critics, were too accurate to be made by Daniel – they just had to be written after the fact.  The entire Bible was turned into a mere human production.

However, liberal pastors continued to use God-words and other common theological terms, but the meanings were empty when compared with the historic meanings.  They also continued to use the Bible, but it was now seen as a mere human book, full of inaccuracies and mythical stories.  They would continue to talk about God, but God was no longer the objective, personal God of the Bible.  He became an imminent God, infused in all of nature, especially man.  This was the basis of the liberals' belief that everyone has the "divine spark."

This liberal, higher-critical view of the Bible is still around and being promulgated today.

Neo-orthodoxy

Neo-orthodoxy, also called Crisis Theology and Dialectical Theology, is a child of four parents:

To understand neo-orthodoxy, one must understand the ideas that were prevalent at the turn of the last century.  World War I did not fit into the liberal theory of the goodness of man.  Karl Barth (sometimes called the father of neo-orthodoxy) and others saw this inconsistency and attempted to restore the supernatural and faith.  But they tried to do so without re-establishing the historical basis.  The liberal critics (German higher critics) had claimed to discredit the historical reliability of the Bible, everything from creation, the exodus, and the virgin birth of Christ, to Christ's resurrection.  However, the neo-orthodox theologians failed to show that those views were incorrect.  Instead they accepted the higher critical views, but continued to say that faith was still important.  So in attempting to restore the objective transcendence of God, neo-orthodox theologians went too far and fell into a different type of subjectivism.

They claimed that the Bible was still the Word of God, not because it is literally true, but because God uses it to encounter individuals.  They claimed that God is "wholly other," that is, so transcendent and different from man that man cannot think about God in rational thoughts, nor can man communicate with God or about God using human language.  And since God encounters individuals directly, spirituality does not need to be tied to history.  For them, real “truth” regarding God could be found only by going beyond the Bible and experiencing God directly in a personal encounter.  (This mistaken notion was uncritically borrowed from Soren Kierkegaard's existentialism, explained in the previous section.)  Thus truth in the traditional sense does not matter, but faith does matter.  Of course, this "faith" turns out to be faith-in-faith – extremely weak when compared with faith in a faithful almighty and loving God.

So their approach was to let the higher critics have their way, but still try to have their religion.  God reveals himself to an individual, they say, in an experience that cannot be understood nor described in words.  They ignore the logical "law of contradiction" and emphasize paradox.  In their view, this is the true faith experience.  But, according to Paul, it is a false religion, for true Christianity is dependent on historical fact and communicated in words.  This is the heart of Paul's argument:

that we may understand … we speak … in words taught by the Spirit  (1 Corinthians 2:12-13)

… if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile. (1 Corinthians 2:12-13;  15:17).

Neo-orthodoxy has a low view of scripture.  The claim is that the Bible contains "salvation history" which is not the same as ordinary history.  And even this salvation history is not God's revelation.  That is, the words and sentences in the Bible are not necessarily God's revelation, but God can use them to personally encounter the individual, and that subjective experience is the real revelation.  Thus, the Bible, rather than being revelation, is merely a witness to revelation.  Thus neo-orthodoxy denies the historic fall, is confused over the nature of the atonement, affirms universal salvation, and makes other basic errors.  Was Jonah really swallowed by a large sea creature?  The neo-orthodox would answer that it doesn’t really matter exactly what happened, just respond in faith to whatever moral intent you find in the story.  Did Moses part the Red Sea?  Same answer.  Did Jesus rise from the dead?  Same answer.

And this dangerous approach to "truth" is still raising its ugly head in many places today including the emergent church movement.  Many mainline denominational churches today espouse a blend of liberalism and neo-orthodoxy.  They talk a lot about faith, but de-emphasize the object of faith (and completely ignore, or deny, the historical fact that Jesus died for our sins).  Their language, since it uses such words as "God" and "faith," sounds very religious, but the real meanings of their terms call forth Paul's condemnation,

Even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!  (Galatians 1:8)

Bibliography

Archer, Gleason L. "The Pentateuch" (p. 45-54) in Encyclopedia of Bible Difficulties (Zondervan, 1982)
Concise argument in favor of the Mosaic authorship of the Pentateuch and against the Wellhausen, JEDP, documentary hypothesis.

Ryrie, Charles Caldwell, Neo-Orthodoxy (Moody Press, 1966)
A brief conservative evaluation of neo-orthodoxy in non-technical language.

E.  Pseudoscience and Scientism

On the one hand there is true science.  On the other hand there is pseudoscience, the counterfeit of true science.

Science   Pseudoscience
observation and experimentation (or, depending on the field of science, other careful procedures) basis speculation and generalization arising from a naturalistic world view
follows all the evidence evidence selective use of evidence

recognizes its ability to observe only the physical realm and thus makes pronouncements regarding only the physical realm

limitation
of authority
feels free to make pronouncements on the non-physical (spiritual) realm
straightforward use of scientific terms language use of scientific terms in pseudoscientific manner
honest, careful, objective pursuit of knowledge of the real world bottom
line
adoption and dissemination of the "scientific" views that favor one's prior beliefs

Pseudoscience is a philosopher wearing a scientist's lab coat.  (The term egghead may be more appropriate than philosopher, but we will continue using philosopher.)

This philosopher quickly accepts the big bang as a replacement for God the creator because that fits his presuppositions.  In contrast, the true scientist recognizes the extreme extrapolation involved in arriving at the big bang, the unexplainable nature of the starting "singularity," and the fact that no one knows how physics works inside this singularity.  The true scientist also recognizes that the idea of the big bang is supported solely by mathematical projection rather than observation or experiment.  But the philosopher will promote the big bang idea, welcome it in textbooks and through the popular media, and frowns upon anyone who raises a question about it.

This philosopher also quickly accepts evolution for the same reason.  Here again, the true scientist knows that all the evidence cited for macro-evolution is really merely evidence for micro-evolution (variation within a given species, genus, or family).  The true scientist recognizes the complete lack of evidence for transitional forms at higher levels, which should be abundant if macro-evolution is fact.  And if he knows anything about the ordered and irreducible complexity of the cell, the sun, the human brain, and the human reproductive system, he recognizes the validity of the arguments for intelligent design.  But here again, the philosopher will preach evolution and label the non-evolutionist non-scientific.

Thus, in its extreme form, pseudoscience involves the denial of anything supernatural and results in scientism, the worship of science.  At this stage science is seen as the source of all knowledge, the answer to all the world's problems, and the principal goal of education.  In other words, science becomes the savior and takes the place of God.  It should be clear to anyone that scientism is more religion than science.  And if pseudoscience is false science, then the religion built upon it is also pseudoreligion, false religion.

Specific scientific topics are covered in the papers Cosmology and the Age of the Universe and Geology and the Age of the Earth.

Bibliography

Schaeffer, Francis A., No Final Conflict: The Bible Without Error in All that It Affirms (InterVarsity Press, 1975)
This little booklet (48 pages) is packed with helpful comments defending the infallibility of scripture in general and the historicity of Genesis in particular.

Mortenson, Terry and Thane Ury, editors, Coming to Grips with Genesis: Biblical Authority and the Age of the Earth (Master Books, 2008)
Argues for the view that the creation week involved six literal days, the earth is only a few thousand years old, and Noah's flood explains much of the geologic record.

F.  Pluralism and Diversity

There is a general trend in our culture to be inclusive of all different beliefs and cultures.  But as you might expect, knowing the problems all of us humans have with sin, this claimed inclusiveness turns out to be very selfish – it does not really include everyone.  The past, with its "narrow" religious attitudes is rejected, as is present biblical Christianity.

Like the well-known idealism of youth, it is utterly juvenile to think that all truth is subjective, that everyone is right.  Perhaps without knowing it, those who promote pluralism and diversity have failed to come to grips with the important law of non-contradiction.  This law holds that opposing statements about any given thing or idea cannot simultaneously be true.  In other words, regarding statement "A," if A is true, not-A must be false.  Without this law, it is impossible to identify truth.  If one does not accept the basic notion of non-contradiction, it is impossible to operate in society, or even to think properly and communicate.

Those who say we should accept all beliefs and cultures appear to be blind to the fact that those various beliefs and cultures contain major differences.  Similarly, there are many contradictions between different religions.  So, in truth, one belief may be true and another false.  When the preacher of pluralism and diversity refuses to deal with such differences, he reveals his postmodernism (explained in the next section).

Rather than blindly accepting every culture, our responsibility is to evaluate every culture.  In fact, this is exactly what the proponents of pluralism and diversity have done – they have evaluated the supposed narrowness of the past and rejected it.  Now they want everyone to accept their judgment, and make no further judgments!  But making such careful judgments is everyone's responsibility.  Is every culture OK?  The drug culture?  The organized crime culture?  The human trafficking culture?  Is every belief system OK?

Some quasi-religious pluralists might try to appeal to Paul's teaching that "Here there is no Greek or Jew, circumcised or uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave or free" (Colossians 3:11, compare Galatians 3:28).  But Paul is not saying that the differences between these pairs of groups don't exist.  Rather, he is saying that, no matter what your background, your new status in Christ (same verses) brings about a new unity.

Note that true pluralism and the true diversity is within the church, among those who are in Christ, who can now see the insignificance of their former life when compared with their new life in Christ.  Indeed, Paul's major contrast is between those who are in Christ and those who are outside of Christ, where the differences are as big as the difference between life and death, heaven and hell.  But, of course, the pluralist will not want to hear any such idea.

G.  Postmodernism

The term postmodernism has been used for decades in fields such as art, literature, and architecture.  But here we are talking about postmodernism in general philosophy.  This postmodernism is notoriously difficult to define, but the contrasts in the following table will highlight some of its characteristics.

Traditionalism (pre-modernism)  Revealed truths
  • The God of the Bible exists
  • Nature reveals truths about God
  • God has spoken and the Bible is true
  • Absolutes are affirmed
  Modernism (19th & 20th centuries)  Discovered truths
  • Naturalism
  • Human reason supreme
  • No absolutes
  • Scientific answers, not church/Bible/God
  • Replace old "truths" with new discoveries
  Postmodernism  Truth non-existent or not important
  • Common presuppositions and language are replaced by radical relativism and subjectivism
  • No one can discover the "truth" about anything or any event
  • Everyone's opinion is a good as anyone else's, the only significant aspect is how you feel about it
  • "Truth claims" are merely ways to try to control people
  • Scepticism of all big ideas (meta-narratives)
  • Truth is replaced with personal opinion and social power

Although postmodernism is a slippery issue, we are attempting here to describe certain key features by highlighting the contrast between postmodernism and its two predecessors, modernism and traditionalism.  We have avoided placing these three "isms" in side by side columns because we do not want to suggest that the earlier ones have been completely left behind.  On the contrary, there are many who still hold to traditionalism and modernism in the 21st century.

Of course, the postmodernists' rejection of the idea of truth is self-defeating.  If someone says to you "There are no truths," simply ask him "Is that true?"  Postmodernism, based in part on both philosophical idealism and Marxism, is essentially a poor attempt to avoid important (and self-convicting) ideas.  The postmodern approach to any traditional truth is – it's not universal, it’s not certain, it's not significant, it's no big deal.

The modernist argued that the Bible is false, therefore don’t believe it.  At least the modernist understood that truth and belief are both important, and that belief should be based on truth.  (By the way, the neo-orthodox response to modernism said that the Bible may be false, but you should still believe.  So, only belief was important, but belief had lost its connection with fact.  See the earlier section on "Low view of the Bible; Neo-orthodoxy.")  But the postmodernist has an entirely different response to modernism.  He says that neither truth nor belief is important, and opts out of any such debate.

Today's culture not only is post-Christian but also is rapidly becoming postmodernist, which means it is resistant not only to Christian truth claims but to any truth claims.  Postmodernism rejects any notion of a universal, overarching truth and reduces all ideas to social constructions shaped by class, gender, and ethnicity.  (Charles Colson, How Now Shall We Live, Tyndale, 1999, p 23-24)

Post-modernism has some of its roots in existentialism, which among other things considers life meaningless so each individual has only the "meaning" of his own desires and choices.  Here, too, meaning is separated from external reality.  Since it is totally subjective, any one person's meaning is just as good as that of the next person.

In postmodernism, all viewpoints, all lifestyles, all beliefs and behaviors are regarded as equally valid. … Tolerance has become so important that no exception is tolerated.  But if all ideas are equally valid, as postmodernism insists, then no idea is really worth our allegiance; nothing is worth living or dying for -- or even arguing about.  And this climate of apathy can actually make it harder than ever to witness to the truth of Christianity.  In the past, Christians proclaiming their faith might expect to encounter a vigorous debate over the rational grounds for belief, but today the same message is likely to be met with bored indifference.  (ibid.)

The Bible counters,

how shall we escape if we ignore such a great salvation? (Hebrews 2:3).

Bibliography

Sokal, Alan and Jean Bricmont, Fashionable Nonsense: Postmodern Intellectuals' Abuse of Science (Picador, 1998)
A well documented expose of the mathematical and scientific nonsense found in the writings of French and American postmodern intellectuals.  Sokal and Bricmont are not sympathetic to Christianity, which makes their debunking all the more interesting.

H.  New Age / New Spirituality

The New Age movement is also commonly referred to as New Spirituality.  Here are a few excerpts from carm.org/new-age-what:

The New Age (NAM) movement has many sub-divisions, but it is generally a collection of Eastern-influenced metaphysical thought systems, a conglomeration of theologies, hopes, and expectations held together with an eclectic teaching of salvation, of "correct thinking," and "correct knowledge." It is a theology of "feel-goodism," "universal tolerance," and "moral relativism."

The NAM is difficult to define because "there is no hierarchy, dogma, doctrine, collection plate, or membership." It is a collection, an assortment of different theologies with the common threads of toleration and divergence weaving through its tapestry of "universal truth."

The New Age god is impersonal. An impersonal God will not reveal himself nor will he have specific requirements as to morality, belief, and behavior.

The term "New Age" refers to the "Aquarian Age" which, according to New Age followers, is dawning. It is supposed to bring in peace and enlightenment and reunite man with God. Man is presently considered separated from God not because of sin (Isaiah 59:2), but because of lack of understanding and knowledge concerning the true nature of God and reality.

Though not all New Agers adhere to reincarnation, most believe in some form or another.

We are no more or less important or different than our cousin the animal, bird, or fish. We must live in harmony with them, understand them, and learn from them, is the general philosophy of the New Age.

Because the average New Ager believes himself to be divine, he can then create his own reality. If, for example, a person believes that reincarnation is true, that's fine because that is his reality. If someone he knows doesn't believe in it, that is alright too because that is someone else's reality. They can each have a reality for themselves that "follows a different path."

Though the NAM is tolerant of almost any theological position, it is opposed to the "narrow-mindedness" of Christianity that teaches Jesus is the only way and that there are moral absolutes.

Also see the website of the Theosophical Society (ts-adyar.org).

Closely associated with new spirituality are such practices as contemplative prayer (or centering prayer) and prayer labyrinths.  See spiritual-research-network.com/contemplativespirituality.

I.  Gay Rights and Same-sex Marriage

There exists a wide variation in the laws around the world regarding the legitimacy of gay rights and same-sex marriage.  It ranges from those countries which are strongly against it, such as the Moslem countries throughout northern Africa and the Near East, to those countries which favor its legitimacy such as Canada, most of South America, Europe, and Australia. In the United States, the law had varied from state to state, but same-sex marriage was declared a nationwide right by the Supreme Court in 2015.

In a system where there is no absolute right and wrong (and thus no sin), the only thing that is left to determine morality is either public opinion, or complete subjectivity.  It is obvious that this is increasingly the case in the United States.

According to popular opinion, anyone opposed to gay rights is discriminating against gays and placing a cruel stigma upon them.  This means that the discussion of this topic will always be heated.

For those who believe that God makes the rules, and that the Bible is God's statement on the matter, there is a clear answer: gay activity is wrong (as is extra-marital heterosexual activity), and marriage is limited to one man and one woman.

What will be the church's response to this world-wide phenomenon?  Here are a few thoughts from R. Albert Mohler Jr.

In less than a generation, homosexuality has gone from being almost universally condemned to being almost fully normalized in the larger society. …

The cultural pressure is formidable, and only churches that are truly committed to Scripture will withstand the pressure to accommodate themselves and their message to the new morality. …

The easiest way to summarize the Bible's teaching on sexuality is to begin with God's blessing of sex only within the marriage covenant between a man and a woman. Then, just remember that sex outside of that covenant relationship, whatever its form or expression, is explicitly forbidden. …

Redefining marriage is never simply about marriage. It leads to the redefinition of reproduction and parenthood, produces a legal revolution with vast consequences, replaces an old social order with something completely new, and forces the adoption of a new morality. …

While doing everything else required of us in this challenge, the faithful church must center its energies on the one thing that we know we must do above all else – preach, teach, and live the gospel of Jesus Christ.  (R. Albert Mohler Jr., "The Challenge of Same-sex Unions," Tabletalk, Ligonier Ministries, April 2012, page 82-83)

J.  Goth Subculture

As with most groups, the goth subculture has many variations and different levels of involvement, which makes generalizations difficult.  Nevertheless, here are some basics.

The goth subculture grew out of the punk scene of the 1970s.  It started around 1982, focused initially in the Batcave nightclub in London.  From there it spread worldwide and is especially strong in Germany.  The anti-Christian flavor of the movement is readily seen in the following phrases from the liner notes of the 1983 vinyl album, The Bat Cave, Young Limbs & Numb Hymns:

For some (not all) the goth scene involves a preoccupation with sex, the macabre, violence, blood, vampires, graveyards, horror movies, black makeup and clothes, and music groups such as Bauhous.  Being goth is often associated with a rejection of "regular" society (or, as some would insist, rejection by society).  Here is a self description from goth.net/goth.html:

the goth scene has a large proportion of gays/bisexuals, and followers of non-mainstream religions and views. This of course is the most important aspect of gothdom, and why most goths became goths in the first place, tolerance.

Bibliography

gothicsubculture.com
Helpful and objective description of the goth subculture.

K.  Liberation Theology

Liberation theology is a politicized version of social Christianity.  It deals mostly with the need of the poor and other marginalized groups to be liberated from whatever system (economic, political, or religious) oppresses them.  It has hijacked some of the teachings of Jesus and forced them into a socio-political context resulting in a form of Marxism that emphasizes class struggle while using a lot of Christian terminology.

Liberation theology arose during the second half of the 20th century in the Roman Catholic Church in Latin America.  It then expanded to many other countries and religious groups and is currently promoted in some liberal seminaries.  Even though Pope Benedict has written and acted against full blown liberation theology, it is still promoted within Roman Catholicism by such groups as the Maryknoll, Paulist, and Jesuit orders.

The bottom line is that liberation theology is both an illegitimate offspring of the church, and a distraction from evangelism and true social work.

Bibliography

home.earthlink.net/~ronrhodes/Liberation.html
Ron Rhodes provides a thorough discussion of liberation theology from an evangelical perspective.

L.  Open Theism

Open theism, which appeared at the end of the 1900's, contends that God takes a major risk in dealing with human beings because he does not know how any one individual will respond.  It rejects the notion of God as an "aloof monarch" and favors the notion of God as a "caring parent" with "openness and vulnerability"  (Pinnock, Clark, chapter on "Systematic Theology" in The Openness of God, InterVarsity Press, 1994, page 103).

The movement is primarily a reaction against Calvinistic determinism and in favor of a God who not only does not determine an individual's fate, but also does not know an individual's fate ahead of time.  While it is always helpful to recognize an extreme view, it is always dangerous to swing the pendulum all the way to the opposite side and adopt an equally extreme view, which is what the openness movement has done.  The balanced biblical view is that God is responsive, offers salvation to all, and knows ahead of time who will believe.  See the papers Calvin and Arminius and The Order of Salvation and Divine Foreknowledge.

Those who hold to open theism equate foreknowledge with control, so when they reject control, they also reject foreknowledge.  But that conclusion is reached without giving any weight to the New Testament's direct statements about divine foreknowledge.  In essence, it applies a human limitation to God.

Bibliography

Pinnock, Clark, Richard Rice, John Sanders, William Hasker, David Basinger. The Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God (InterVarsity Press, 1994)
Views God as open, meaning that God takes risks with humans, who are free agents, so he does not foreknow their actions.  Bases conclusions on philosophical reasoning, equating divine foreknowledge with control.  Fails to examine the explicit New Testament passages on foreknowledge.

Geisler, Norman L. and H. Wayne House, The Battle for God: Responding to the Challenge of Neotheism (Kregel Publications, 2001)
Geisler and House use the term Neotheism to refer to open theism.  Much of the book reviews the classical understanding of God's characteristics, such as omniscience, eternality, immutability, simplicity (unity, indivisibility), impassibility (the notion that God cannot suffer from an external cause) and sovereignty, and highlights the differences between these characteristics and open theism.  Unfortunately, while these authors are much closer to the truth than the authors of "The Openness of God," they argue more from theology than from exegesis, presenting their case from a Calvinistic perspective rather than from a more sound biblical perspective.

M.  Emergent Church

The emergent church movement is another phenomenon which has so many branches that it is difficult to define.  Nevertheless, there are certain common features.  Two of the most recognized spokesmen for the movement are Rob Bell and Brian McLaren.

It is a reactionary movement with a very poor methodology.  They tend to find, or make up, the worst description of some church that they call traditional, then they swing the pendulum to the other extreme.  Here are some of the areas of contrast.

Traditional, 20th century church focus Emergent church focus
the destination the journey
certainty, authority, objectivity dialog, questions, subjectivity, introspection, agnosticism
propositional truth mystery and the narrative story
defined systematic theology narratives, ambiguities, and experiences
Bible is inspired and inerrant Bible is a means of personal inspiration
Spirit led conclusions based on proper hermeneutics uncertainty and individual interpretations
traditional or 20th century worship style informal and contemporary, cutting edge worship style
attend and listen participate
sin and repentance appreciating Jesus
Jesus' substitutionary atonement "cosmic child abuse"
Jesus the only way of salvation one's religion is not all that important
evangelistic missions and church planting social concerns such as poverty and racism
believers to heaven, unbelievers to hell perhaps everyone goes to heaven (universalism)

If it appears to you that the tendencies of the emergent church point in the same direction as neo-orthodoxy and postmodernism, you are correct.

For example, on the subject of mystery (3rd line in the above table), DeYoung provides the following warning:

Mystery as an expression of our finitude is one thing. Mystery as a way of jettisoning responsibility for our beliefs is another thing. Mystery as radical unknowing of God and His revealed truth is not Christian, and it will not sustain the church  (Kevin DeYoung and Ted Kluck, Why We're Not Emergent, Moody Press, 2008, p. 39)

The emergent agnosticism about truly knowing and understanding anything about God seems to be pious humility.  (op. cit. p. 36)

This is a form of "false humility," about which Paul warned us in Colossians 2:18.

Also consider the subject of universalism (last line in the table), which is widespread because of the continuing influence of neo-orthodoxy in today's churches.  Those who sit under neo-orthodox preaching and teaching get the idea that they are already forgiven, not because they have repented of their sins and accepted Christ, but because God has already applied the work of Christ to everyone.  The founders of neo-orthodoxy (Barth, Brunner, etc.) placed the heart of redemption in Christ's incarnation rather than in his atonement, which leads to their assertion that all human beings are elect in Christ and identified with Christ in his death, even if they are not aware of it (see, for example, Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics II, Part 2, p. 167 and Church Dogmatics IV, Part 1, p. 53).

It is true that Christ died for the sins of the whole world (1 John 2:2), which means that his substitutionary death is sufficient for all.  However, that does not mean that everyone is automatically saved, as Jesus clearly taught when he said that many take the road that leads to destruction  (Matthew 7:13-14).

Bibliography

DeYoung, Kevin and Ted Kluck, Why We're Not Emergent (Moody Publications, 2008)
Good introduction to and critique of the multi-faceted emergent church movement.  Pay attention to DeYoung's chapters and skip the others.

Bell, Rob, Love Wins: A Book about Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived (HarperOne, 2011)
Promotes a watered down version of Christianity.  Bell is a universalist who is very weak on God's holiness, man's sin, and the need for repentance.

N.  Green and Sustainable, Agenda 21

Conscientious campers and citizens have been earth friendly for centuries.  Now it is called being green.  Farmers and business men have also known for a long time that every enterprise must be sustainable.  This is all common sense, and is all good for mankind.  But Agenda 21, which loves the slogans "green" and "sustainable" is a new radical environmentalism promoted by the United Nations and the global elite that sees man as the problem and worships Gaia (Mother Earth).

The movement became "official" in 1992 when the United Nations held its Conference on Environment and Development in Rio de Janerio, Brazil.  The United States signed this UN agenda.  Here is the UN's statement of purpose:

Agenda 21 is a comprehensive plan of action to be taken globally, nationally and locally by organizations of the United Nations System, Governments, and Major Groups in every area in which human impacts on the environment.  (www.un.org/esa/dsd/agenda21)

Part of the "program" is to move major portions of the population off privately owned land (particularly single family homes and privately owned farms) and into government run urban housing, and in the process to reform the family unit.

Although the surface focus is the environment, those who are promoting this movement are committed to New Age thinking.  In other words, this is not just a political movement, it is essentially a religious movement.  If Agenda 21 is fully implemented, the result would be

Education (more accurately, indoctrination) is the means for gaining support for this agenda among the next generation. 

Bibliography

youtube video: Agenda 21 for Dummies

newswithviews.com/Morrison/joyce36.htm

democratsagainstunagenda21.com

O.  Conclusion

There are a number of common themes running through many of these worldviews.  Perhaps the three most detrimental are (1) the rejection of the personal, holy, loving God, (2) the rejection of the idea of sin, and (3) the rejection of the deity of Jesus Christ.  But Paul states that

God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us.  (Romans 5:8)

And since Paul defines the gospel as "Christ died for our sins" (1 Corinthians 15:1-4), it is easy to see that the principal effect of non-Christian worldviews is that they negate the gospel.  However, for the sake of anyone who adopts a non-Christian worldview, we can be thankful that

A person's worldview really does matter, and believers should understand the views of those around them and be ready to explain the Christian worldview (1 Peter 3:15).

General Annotated Bibliography

carm.org
This apologetics website provides many helpful articles on world religions, religious groups and cults, and secular movements.

testingworldviews.com
Contains separate articles on various worldviews, including evaluations and comparisons with biblical Christianity.

Yeats, John and John Blase, Worldviews: Think for Yourself about How to See God (Think Books / NavPress, 2006)
A brief survey of a number of major religions and worldviews from Hinduism to Postmodernism.  Generally good evaluations and contrasts with Christianity.  A good first reader.

Nash, Ronald, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Zondervan, 1992)
Good introduction to worldview thinking and tests for worldviews, dealing in particular with naturalism and New Age thinking, and with the problem of evil and the deity/humanity of Christ.

Schaeffer, Francis A., The God Who Is There: Speaking Historic Christianity into the Twentieth Century, Inter-Varsity Press, 1968
One of the earliest (and still one of the best) books explaining the devastating effects of the philosophical movements of the past two centuries – effects on belief in God and thus on all other biblical doctrine.  Documents the intellectual ruin springing from the death of antithesis and absolutes and the rise of subjectivism and existentialism.

Sire, James W., The Universe Next Door: A Basic World View Catalog, 2nd ed. (InterVarsity, 1988)
A well organized survey and evaluation of worldviews, both Eastern and Western, from nihilism to pantheism.

Guinness, Os, The Dust of Death: A Critique of the Counter Culture (InterVarsity Press, 1973)
An exposition of the failure of modern thought.  Excellent chapters on Eastern thought and the occult.

Smith, David L., A Handbook of Contemporary Theology: Tracing Trends and Discerning Directions in Today's Theological Landscape (Baker, 1992)
Provides introductory coverage of eight old and ten contemporary theological systems.

Colson, Charles and Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We Live? (Tyndale, 1999)
Although Colson has an understanding of Christianity that is broader than many evangelicals would like, this volume raises many important issues related to a Christian worldview and the interplay between Christians and our culture.

Lewis, C. S., Christian Reflections (Eerdmans, 1967)
A collection of Lewis' essays on various topics relevant to worldviews.  His essay on "Modern Theology and Biblical Criticism" is especially enlightening.

Lewis, C. S., God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Eerdmans, 1970)
A large collection of Lewis' essays on various topics, many of which are relevant to worldviews and apologetics.

Strobel, Lee, The Case for Faith: A Journalist Investigates the Toughest Objections to Christianity (Zondervan, 2000)
A defense against various common objections to Christianity.  A conversational approach using interviews with well known writers in various fields.