I hope you will bear with me if this letter is a little long. I’ll try to keep it as short as possible, but there is so much I want and need to tell you, that I know it won’t be a one-pager. You told me some things about you--and I have observed other things--that may allow me to share some helpful thoughts with you. Well, we’ll see.
In a nutshell, you are a child of your culture. Don’t be offended--so am I (a product of my culture). We are all--to some extent anyway.
Part of maturation consists of identifying the false aspects of our culture and rejecting them--and also finding truths missing from our cultural fabric and embracing them. And that’s what I want to talk about in this letter. I guess I could call what follows “Lies Our Culture Taught Us to Embrace as Truth.” (In this letter, I will not try to name every cultural falsehood, just some of the more important ones.)
In what follows, I will not introduce each statement with “In my opinion….” I’m writing this, so it should go without saying that it is my opinion. But be aware that the opinions that follow were reached over decades of observing, of reading, of discussing with others (some of whom agreed, some of whom disagreed), and of prayerfully thinking. Also, none of these opinions is private--many other people share these conclusions. I doubt even one of the ideas that follow is original with me.
The list that follows describes the results of gradual changes that have been occurring in our Western Culture over about the last 50 years--approximately since the end of the Second World War. Some of the changes began even before that. Suffice it to say that the world (culture) you grew up in was radically different from the world that your parents and I grew up in. (I’ll explain this a little more at the end.) So let me get to it….
Lies Our Culture Taught Us to Embrace as Truth
Lie #1. God--the God of the Bible--does not exist.
Not only does God not exist, the concept of God is superfluous--not necessary or useful. We don’t need God--we don’t need to believe in God. Why? Modern science has rendered the concept of God as useless. The idea of God was simply used to explain things people did not understand a long time ago (in a pre-scientific era) Ancient, ignorant people explained many things by appealing to God and other spirits. Today we know better.
Lie #2. There is no such thing as absolute truth.
Our culture claims that all truth is subjective and relative. What is true for you may not be true for me. Truth is only in the mind of the individual. On the other hand, while claiming that there are no absolute truths, our culture also tells us that all religions contain some truth, and all are merely different paths to the same destination, to the same God. So which religion you choose--if any--hardly matters. Science is our best (some say only) hope of acquiring useful truth (even if these truths are not universal), but science is not able to address religious claims.
Lie #3. There are no meta-narratives.
Closely connected to this second lie (that there is no such thing as absolute truth) is the idea that there are no meta-narratives. Now there’s a big word—meta-narratives. Let me tell you what it means. A meta-narrative is a “story” (account, narrative) that is universally true--true for all humans everywhere.
So this lie would have us believe that all “truths” are culturally bound. One culture (or subculture) may embrace one truth, while another embraces another truth. All of these so-called meta-narratives are really only local narratives, because they are not universal. Further, anyone who proclaims a meta-narrative (a universal truth) is merely trying to use it to dominate and control another group of people.
Lie #4. People are able to solve all of our own problems.
It does not matter that God does not exist--we don’t need Him anyway, because we humans are able to solve all of our own problems. This idea grew out of the philosophies of “The Enlightenment” with its excessive confidence in human reason. This is summed up at the end of poet William Ernest’s Invictus. He wrote: “I am the master of my fate; I am the captain of my soul.” (Invictus means Unconquered One.) That people are able in themselves and by themselves to solve all of humankind’s problems is the message proclaimed by the “secular humanists” for at least the past 70 years, and most Americans embrace it either consciously or subconsciously.
Lie #5. People have a right to happiness.
Every schoolboy knows that “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness” is the God-given right of every American. And for many people, happiness depends on our appearance, our possessions, and our pleasures. Since this is our right, anything that limits our happiness, then, is wrong.
Lie #6. Complete personal freedom is prerequisite to true happiness.
Any and all restraints on my freedom rob me of my patriotic, inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. No one has the right to function as an authority over me--my thoughts or my behavior. In whatever way my freedom is diminished, by happiness is diminished too. I must be free--free to be me!
Lie #7. The existence of all life on earth--including humans--is just by chance.
How else, if there is no
God? Science (they argue) has eliminated all rational arguments
in favor of the existence of God and 2. against atheistic evolution.
claim to know that all life is just the result of random
Life, they claim, arose spontaneously from non-life, and the evolved
the variety of life that exist today. Humans are just another
species that evolved from other life forms.
Did you notice how these lies are all interconnected? Together they form a web that traps us into a worldview that prevents us from discovering the truth about ourselves and the Creator.
By embracing these lies as truth, many people are deceived into reaching certain conclusions (either as conscious, thought-out conclusions, or just as general feelings that they never consciously recognize). Let me summarize for you some conclusions provoked by these cultural lies.
These Cultural Lies Promote These Conclusions
Conclusion #1. Anyone (or
anything) who lays claim to an absolute truth (meta-narrative) is
Not only are these people wrong, but they are trying to dominate and control me or some group of people. And conservative Christian groups all fall into this camp, because they claim a biblical meta-narrative. We should ignore all people making religious claims; they are all grasping for power in order to dominate others. Since there is no God, the Bible cannot be the authoritative Word of God. But just as important, since it claims a meta-narrative, the Bible cannot be trusted as truth. It may contain some interesting or useful stories, but that’s all.
Conclusion #2. The only
we can trust as true are things that have scientific proof.
Even though there are no absolute truths, science is our only hope of finding even local truth. The successes of science like engineering (including flight--even to the moon) and modern medicine (including surgery and a long list of drugs) demonstrate the superiority of science over all other sources of knowledge. No other method or discipline can offer useful knowledge, that is knowledge worth embracing--only science.
Conclusion #3. People
little, if any, intrinsic value.
If I do not have much value, other people don’t have much value either. This makes it easy for me to accept abortion and euthanasia. But then, I don’t feel too good about myself. If all the cultural lies above are really true, what value does a human life have? Only the worth that I deem it has.
Conclusion #4. If I don’t
feel “happy” all the time, something is wrong with me.
Happiness becomes the value by which I measure the value of everything else.. This drives me to spend most of my time and money pursuing pleasure with the hope that this one added pleasure will make me feel “happy” and give me a sense of self-worth. So sexual pleasure, drug induced euphoria, and the joys of ownership are all embraced as acceptable roads to the happiness that I deserve.
Conclusion #5. I am able
to solve all of my problems.
I may need some help from a friend, but I don’t need supernatural help. It really doesn’t matter if I think I need supernatural help--there is no God to help me. In any case, humans have all we need to solve all of our problems.
Conclusion #6. Anything
would limit my freedom is wrong and my enemy.
This is what religion--especially Christianity--wants to do: give me a list of things that I must not do. The Christian church wants to limit my freedom, so it is my enemy. God wants to limit my freedom and the Bible want to limit my freedom, so they are wrong.
I might risk becoming a Christian (some folks think), but God might require me to marry an ugly person or go to the jungles of Africa as a missionary or some other repulsive requirement.
Conclusion #7. My life
no real meaning or purpose.
Since there is no God, there is no Creator, and we are here as the result of random chance. Thus my life, in fact any person’s life, will have only the meaning that I (he or she) give it.
Did you notice how all these ideas are also interconnected? (More of that web I spoke of above.)
Well, the best response to a lie is the truth. I want to describe below the truths that our cultural lies have displaced. I’m not trying to prove to you in this short letter (time to smile) that these are true; I only offer them to you as true.
Instead of a web that traps and destroys us, these truths form a net that catches falling humans and saves us from destruction by helping us understand ourselves and our Creator.
If Those Are Lies, What Is the Truth?
Truth #1. God does exist.
Not only does the God of
the Bible exist, but He has revealed Himself to people--and He wants
to know Him and His will and purpose for your life.
God has revealed Himself to us in at least two ways:
1. He is revealed in what He has made (the physical universe), and
2. He has revealed Himself in His Word, the Bible.
Most people who have rejected the Bible as God’s Word have not honestly examined the Bible’s claims--they just accept what others have said about it.
Not only God does exist, not only has He revealed Himself, but He also wants to communicate His love for you--He wants to have a friendship relationship with you.
Now, just because you believe God exists does not mean that you have not been fooled into accepting some or all of these other cultural lies. Many people who say, “I believe in God,” do not believe in the God of the Bible (they do not believe what God reveals about Himself in the Bible).
This truth of God’s existence--and of Who He is and what He has done--establishes the next truth.
Truth #2. There are some absolute truths.
And that statement is one
of them. Notice that the statement “There is no such thing as
truth” is self-refuting--the idea itself is stated as an absolute
(Time to smile again.) The fact that some “truths” are not
does not alter the fact that some are.
The lie that there are no absolute truths has had a profound effect on ethics (morality). If there are no absolute truths, who is to say a behavior is wrong? If I receive great pleasure in torturing babies, who is to say I ought not do that? The lady who has been raped may label it as wrong, but the rapist found it exhilarating. It’s all relative, right? Wrong.
This also touches on the ideas that all religions are true and are paths that lead to the same God. The idea that all religions are equally right cannot be true, since many of them make contradictory or exclusionary claims. We should not be surprised to discover that there is only one true religion. Many questions have only one right answer. What is the sum of 3 and 4? The correct answer--the only correct answer--is 7--all other answers are wrong.
Truth #3. Many things are as important as your happiness--maybe more important.
What could be more important that your happiness? How about feeding starving children, or stopping senseless murders, or preventing cruel rapes? Perhaps the entire world does not exist to bring you or me happiness.
Truth #4. Happiness is not the same as pleasure.
Our definition of happiness has changed over the last 50-100 years. When we are asked about our happiness, we often think in terms of immediate pleasure. Past generations included the ideas of honor, integrity, service to others, and fulfillment. Consider the lives of the people who can afford every pleasure our culture has to offer. Are they happy? Very often they are not, and often these people admit that pleasure does not produce happiness. Most people would benefit from trying to accurately describe happiness.
Truth #5. Freedom does not produce happiness.
Unbridled freedom (acted out in your doing whatever comes to your mind) does not produce happiness--either in our lives or the lives of our family and loved ones. Some folks have been extremely happy even though they were wrongly imprisoned. Unbridled freedom produces guilt and chaos. And the next truth offers the reason for this.
Truth #6. God designed humans for a purpose.
The reason that the three previous statements (#3, #4, and #5 above) are true is found in this truth #6. Humans are not the result of a freak cosmic accident. God designed us--and He designed us for a purpose. So our only hope of genuine happiness--fulfillment and peace--in this life depends on our fulfilling the purposes for which God designed us.
Think of something you own that was designed for a purpose.
A can-opener, a hammer, or a camera. You may be free to use your
camera as a hammer, but you will have to pay the consequences.
your hammer as a can-opener results in a mess. If you try to use your
as a camera, you’ll get lousy pictures and everyone will know you’re
Similarly, only when our lives are lived within the boundaries of God’s design can our lives have meaning and purpose. People who insist on exercising their freedom to live in a way contrary to God’s design will pay the price, both in this life and the life to come. This is true for you and me too.
Truth #7. Every human life should have meaning and purpose.
The meaning of human life
is connected to the value of human life. Two things address the
of human life. 1. God created humans in His likeness (no, you are not a
god, and you are not just like God--but you bear His image). 2. God
humans so highly that He sent His only son, Jesus, to die to pay for
sins. This determines the real value of any person.
Since God designed people for a purpose, we can hope to have a meaningful life if and only if we live according to God’s design and purpose. And we cannot hope to find meaning in this life unless we discover this purpose.
God’s laws (as recorded
in the Bible) are not intended to suppress our freedom. Rather
are intended to show us the “design limits” the Creator built into us
that we can live “abundant” lives that are fulfilling, meaningful, and
“happy.” Consider this example. Why does God tell us to
sexual intercourse only with a husband or a wife? Because that is
the way that He designed us. While we have the freedom to choose
to live outside His design limits, we will suffer the consequences of
actions. If we choose homosexual freedom, we will pay the price
living outside God’s design limits. I could repeat this many,
times--but I hope you get the point.
All of this brings me to address the claim that New Testament Christianity is the only true faith. I did not invent this claim. Jesus said it like this in John 14:6: “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” Sounds exclusive, huh? Other Bible passages reinforce this message, but my point is that anyone who claims to accept the Bible as God’s Word is forced into embracing this position that Christianity is the only true religion.
Unfortunately, there are
so many examples of fake, cultural Christianity, that many people doubt
the existence of the real McCoy. If fakes exist, you better
the genuine article also exists.
What is genuine, New Testament Christianity? Real Christianity centers on the person and work of Jesus of Nazareth. Jesus is the unique Son of God who lived a sinless life and died on the cross. If we place our faith in Him, then His death will be accepted by God as payment (punishment) for our sins. If we refuse to place our faith in Him, then we will have to pay the penalty for our own sins--and that penalty is everlasting separation from God. So, you are free to choose. While there is much more, that’s it in a nutshell.
As I said, the world (culture) you grew up in was radically different from the world that your parents and I grew up in. We grew up in modernism, with its excessive confidence in human rationality. You grew up in a postmodern world that has much of this same excessive confidence in human rationality but is also willing to embrace mutually contradictory premises. If you like, at some time we might discuss other characteristics of our postmodern world, but I think this is enough for now.
Both of us (you and me) must learn to discover which parts of our
are wrong but that shaped our worldviews--and reject them. We
also work to discover what truth is missing from our culture and
it. And this can take some time and could require some work--it sure
Our culture conditions us to embrace other lies too--this list is not complete. And though this letter is incomplete, I think it could serve as a great beginning! What do you think?
firstname.lastname@example.org February 2001
Lie Conclusion Truth
|1. God does not exist||The only things we can trust as truth are things that have scientific proof||God, the God of the Bible does exist.|
|2. There is no such thing as absolute truth||Anyone who claims an absolute truth (or meta-narrative) is wrong||Perhaps some things embraced as "truth" are relative, but there are also some absolute truths|
|3. All meta-narratives are false||People don't have much intrinsic value||All humans have value because God created us in His image|
|4.People are able to solve all of their own problems.||If I have problems I should be able to solve them.||God is our source of all we need. Some of the things we need can only be supplied by God.|
|5. You have a right to happiness||If I don't feel "happy" all the time something is wrong with me.||Many things are as important as our happiness--maybe more important|
|6. Complete freedom is a prerequisite to true happiness||Anyone who would limit my freedom is wrong and an enemy||Freedom does not automatically produce happiness. Happiness is not the same as pleasure|
|7.The existence of all life on earth--including humans-- is by chance||Life can have no real meaning or purpose||Since God designed humans for a purpose, every human life should have meaning and purpose|
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