In this series, we’re exploring the question: How do we live faithfully in a post-Christian culture? By “post-Christian” I mean simply that the primary institutions that shape our culture, specifically the educational system (K-12 and higher education), the media, the entertainment industry, big tech, big business, and much of the government, institutions that formerly functioned from biblical worldview presuppositions, are now functioning almost entirely from a non-Christian worldview I call “ideological social justice.”
As Darrow Miller reminds us, the principles, curricula, policies, and values that emanate from these institutions are determined by a deeper worldview, or religious belief-system. 150 years ago, it was the Judeo-Christian worldview. Starting in the late 1800s and early 1900s, secular materialism began to emerge as the dominant worldview, and since the 1950s, secular materialism is being displaced by a new religious orthodoxy; the postmodern, quasi-Marxist worldview of ideological social justice.
This certainly doesn’t mean everyone in America is a devotee of this new religion. In fact, it may be that a majority of the population still adhere, in some measure, to Judeo-Christian beliefs. But the Judeo-Christian worldview no longer animates the key institutions that drive the culture.
This isn’t a happy reality, but it is one we have to face with clear-eyes.
I’m writing as an American, but “post-Christian” applies to far more than this country alone. It certainly applies to Western Europe and much of the English-speaking world. In our globalized world, American big business, entertainment, big tech, and the influence of our systems of education impact nations all over the world.
Africa, Latin America, and much of Asia are blessedly not “post-Christian.” In these regions, the church is growing rapidly. Yet the influence of a post-Christian America is making its influence felt all over the world. And certainly, many of these regions are far more acquainted with persecution at the hands of hostile, non-Christian powers than Christians in America are.
So with that clarification on what I mean by “post-Christian,” let’s return to the question: How do we live faithfully in a post-Christian culture?
There is certainly much that we must do, but here, I want to focus on how we should think. Right thinking always precedes right action. Before we take action, we have to get our head on straight.
Thinking rightly about the times
Faithful living in a post-Christian culture means thinking honestly about our current reality. For many Christians, the cultural revolution happening around us—the statue-topping, street violence, and digital book banning and censorship—is understandably disconcerting. The idea that a powerful oligarchy is colluding to undermine things like free speech, the rule of law, and even the male-female binary isn’t pleasant to consider, so it is tempting to deny it, or simply not think about it, and go on with life as if these changes were not happening. We can all-too-easily convince ourselves and others that things really aren’t that bad after all. This attitude, however, will only prevent us from preparing ourselves as we ought to for thoughtful, appropriate action.
Instead, we have to actively live in reality. We must refuse to live as if the false worldview of atheistic, ideological social justice is real. This demands that we carefully understand the difference between the two, which is why I wrote Why Social Justice is not Biblical Justice, to help Christians gain knowledge of the worldview of our opponents. This knowledge brings clarity, lowers fear and confusion, and enables us to know how best to respond.
Think Biblically About Culture
For decades, Christians could take it for granted that their general views on marriage, family, sexuality, and freedom were reflected and reinforced in popular culture, entertainment and media. No more. Now, almost uniformly, these cultural mediums are reinforcing the values of the sexual revolution and ideological social justice. Christians can no longer be passive consumers of popular culture, instead, we must be be active, thoughtful, vigilant, and discerning about the ideas and values we are picking up from social media, peers, teachers, books (particularly the books we read to our children), films, advertising, and institutional policies and practices.
To be a passive consumer of a culture dominated by ideological social justice is to invite its core ideas, vocabulary, definitions, and presuppositions to simply wash over us and shape our thinking unawares.
As social beings, all of us are deeply influenced by our surrounding culture—particularly our immediate communities—our parents, friends, and peers. Because we all participate in cultural institutions and use technologies of various sorts, none of us are immune from their influence. We are all far more likely shaped by the dominant culture than we are aware.
But as I write in Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice:
As followers of Jesus Christ, the apostle Paul exhorts us to be attuned to [cultural] lies and false cultural presuppositions: “See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the elemental spiritual forces of this world rather than on Christ” (Colossians 2:8). We must no longer “conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of [our] mind” (Romans 12:2). In short, we are called to think and act differently—not in accord with the accepted norms, attitudes, and behaviors of our surrounding culture, but in accordance with reality as presented in God’s Word.
We must be intentional about discerning false worldview assumptions, by exposing them to the light of Scripture. In other words, we must determine to “take captive every thought to make it obedient to Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5).
This is a discipline. We have to develop the habit and practice of thinking “worldviewishly.” But we are not without powerful help in this endeavor. God provides all that we need to be successful. He fills us with His Holy Spirit—the Spirit of Truth who guides us into all truth (John 16:13). He gives us His precious and divinely powerful Word that reveals truth to us, and serves as a lamp to our feet and a light to our path (Psalm 119:105).
As John Stott says, “If we want to live straight, we have to think straight. If we want to think straight, we have to have renewed minds.” This is not an academic exercise. It is the essence of Christian discipleship. It is an essential part of the ongoing, lifelong process of sanctification. It is necessary if we are to be “salt and light” in the world (Matthew 5:13–16). For believers, there is nothing more important than the integrity of living according to God’s revealed truth.
Think Rightly About God
In the words of A.W. Tozer, “What comes into our minds when we think about God is the most important thing about us.” In a post-Christian culture, this quote takes on a powerful relevance. Something is deeply wrong if we spend an inordinate amount of time thinking about the gathering storms around us, and the earthly powers now being arrayed against Christ and His Church, and almost no time thinking about God. Rather, we should discipline our minds to think on the fundamental reality of the Triune God. He is not some distant and removed deity. He has not abandoned us. He is not intimidated by earthly powers. He laughs at them (Psalm 2:4). Here are some fundamental realities to fix our minds on:
Jesus Christ is on the throne over all rulers, powers and authorities. “Then Jesus came to [His disciples] and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me’” (Matthew 28:18). Jesus Christ is King of kings, and Lord or lords, “far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every name that is named, not only in the present age but also in the one to come” (Ephesians 1:21).
Jesus loves you and is for you. “For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord” (Romans 8:28-29).
For these reasons, we need not fear. We can trust in God, and abide in his promises, love, strength and protection, for “greater is He who is in you than he who is in the world” (1 John 4:4).
Thinking Rightly About Persecution
Persecution is the norm for the church this fallen world, not the exception. Those of us in the West have been blessed to live in exceptional times, but that is no guarantee that such times will continue indefinitely. So we shouldn’t be surprised to face persecution, but rather, to expect it, and expect God to work through it for His glory, and His purposes, as He always has.
When the early church faced persecution, the Apostle Peter urged them to have a “wide angle” view of reality, instead of the “zoom lens” view of their present persecution. A wide angle view takes into account the big picture of Christ’s certain return, and ultimate victory over evil. It takes into account the reality of the New Heavens and New Earth as our future home
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. This inheritance is kept in heaven for you, who through faith are shielded by God’s power until the coming of the salvation that is ready to be revealed in the last time. In all this you greatly rejoice, though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed (1 Peter 1:3-7).
Hope is one of the great Christian virtues. That’s principally our eternal hope of course. But there’s also hope in this world too. Someone described to me that hope is the intersection of the recognition of a fallen world with the reality of the resurrection of Jesus Christ. That’s a good way to think about it. Jesus is alive and active in our lives and in this world. If God pleases, things can change for the better, and can do so more quickly than we realize.
Think rightly about our opponents
It’s simply a reality that a growing number of powerful people have turned us into enemies. Along with that comes hostility, anger, and bitterness. Given this, it is all-too-easy for us to see them as our enemies as well, and treat them accordingly. But that is now how we are to think about them. Instead, we are to see them as human beings, created by God, and loved by Him. When we were lost in our sins, Christ showered us with His redemptive grace, mercy and love. He then asks us to treat others in the same way. We do have an enemy, but it is not flesh and blood. Rather, it is principalities and powers in the spiritual realms (Ephesians 6:12).
With this knowledge, God commands us to overcome evil with good (Romans 12:21) by loving our enemies and praying for those who persecute us (Matthew 5:44). We are to actively seek their good, and this starts with how we think about them. We should be quick to forgive, and ready to pray for them—for their repentance and salvation.
Katy Faust, in a recent article in The Federalist, wrote:
Today, there are endless reasons for [Christians] to fear—social ostracization, job threats, and being literally blacklisted, to name a few. Those legitimate fears will intensify in coming years, so courage is needed.
The only antidote I’ve found for my default posture of trembling is to fear God more. To do so, I must imbibe deeply the living Word, let the Psalms become my daily bread, and use 1 Peter as my field guide. Only then do I find the courage to become steadfast and immovable in the face of a [hostile] ideology that demands total fealty.
Everyone fears something. You will either fear God, or you will fear and bow down to something else. I choose God… every single day in small, faithful actions. You can, too.
This is incredibly wise counsel. It begins with how we think. Do we fear powerful worldly powers, or do we fear God? Let’s join with Katy and choose to fear God. As we do, our fear of man will diminish.
Thank you for your encouraging words to help us stand firm.