[Originally published as the first section of A Clash of Worldviews]
CULTURE WAR? WHAT CULTURE WAR?
Oftentimes in the mainstream media, the term “culture war” is shown with quotes, implying that the battle over values is just an invention of right-wing zealots. Although many seem oblivious to it, a culture clash is taking place.
America is becoming more polarized each year over the future direction of our country. Political debates grow increasingly vitriolic as we are becoming more divided on issues such as education, abortion, drug use, religion in public life, homosexuality, the homeless, euthanasia, premarital sex, and pornography.
At one time teachers, parents, pastors, and public officials were more or less agreed on how children should be raised. Most everyone agreed on what was right and what was wrong. No more. There is wide disagreement on all of these issues, sometimes to the point where the disputes erupt in name calling, smear campaigns, property damage, and threats.
What changed? When did the differences begin to emerge so sharply?
What’s a Worldview?
The deepening polarization may be attributed to shifting worldviews. Worldview may be defined as
An outlook on life or philosophical basis. It’s how we see things.
There are two basic worldviews, each with its own underlying assumptions. One system of thought has evolution as its basis, the other, creation. One of the reasons for the increasing polarization is the increased emphasis on teaching evolution in school with the exclusion of any opposing viewpoint. Also contributing is the generally one-sided approach taken by the popular media, which marginalizes other viewpoints.
The seeds for these differences were actually planted many years ago, but just now are coming to fruition. I don’t have the space to trace these lines of thought back to their beginnings but will start with an important landmark in American history.
A Turning Point: The Scopes Monkey Trial
In Dayton, Tennessee, in 1925 John Scopes was accused of teaching evolution in school contrary to state law. The resulting trial was one of the most publicized legal battles of the 20th century—a real media circus, the first to be broadcast on the radio. Scopes was defended by the famous criminal lawyer Clarence Darrow, an agnostic. The prosecution was led by William Jennings Bryan, a three-time Democratic presidential candidate, and a Christian.
The trial was a setup, staged and financed by the then-fledgling American Civil Liberties Union. The ACLU recruited Scopes, a substitute biology teacher, and had him claim he taught evolution.
The trial was really an attack on Christianity and the Bible. Whether or not Scopes actually taught evolution was scarcely even discussed. Rather, it was a string of testimonies from scientists on the “scientific” basis for evolution, and from liberal theologians about how evolution and the Bible don’t contradict each other.
Bryan was well versed on the subject of creation vs. evolution, including the scientific evidence for and against. Darrow on the other hand gave the impression that he had little understanding of what the term meant. He was condescending, rude and arrogant toward Bryan, the witnesses, the jurors, opposing lawyers and even the judge. He was cited for contempt of court for repeatedly interrupting the judge. Testimony by evolutionists was actually prevented by Darrow because he didn’t want the “experts” cross-examined by Bryan.
At the end, Bryan allowed himself to be cross-examined on the witness stand by Darrow, who asked him questions on the Bible, such as, “Where did Cain get his wife?” Darrow ridiculed him and Christianity as ignorant foolishness and superstition before the court and the media. He did everything possible to deride belief in the Bible and to humiliate Bryan. After Bryan’s testimony, Darrow abruptly ended the trial by asking the court to instruct the jury to find Scopes guilty! This was to avoid having to take the stand to be cross-examined as Bryan was.
Scopes was found guilty by the jury and fined $100, which was paid by the ACLU. Although the defense lost the case, it won a huge propaganda victory. They succeeded in convincing the media and, to a large degree, the public, that evolution is based upon scientific evidence, but Christians are ignorant, clinging to blind faith in a book they can’t defend.
Bryan was embarrassed and ridiculed in court and in the press. He died a crushed and broken man five days after the end of the trial.
This was an important turning point because after that time evolution began to creep into school curricula, at first being taught as a theoretical possibility, then as fact.
The movie “Inherit the Wind” was based on the Scopes trial but was a gross distortion of the facts, blatantly slanted to make Christians look ignorant and intolerant.
What does this have to do with a person’s worldview?
Evolutionism, by its very nature, requires a worldview in opposition to biblical Christianity. If evolution is true, then the Christian faith is worthless! This is because then:
Adam and Eve were only mythological.
They didn’t disobey God and introduce sin into the world.
“Sin” is then just undesirable traits left over from the lower stages of evolution, which humankind will eventually outgrow.
If therefore there’s really no such thing as sin, we don’t need a Savior to pay for them.
Jesus then becomes merely a good man, highly evolved ahead of his time, rather than the Savior and cornerstone of our faith.
Therefore Genesis isn’t really literally true. This casts doubt on the accuracy of the whole Bible, such as the passages where Jesus indicated that He believed in Adam and Eve and the creation.
Worldviews in Contention
The creation-evolution debate highlights the two basic worldviews or belief systems: one in which God is at the center of the picture, and one that places man at the center.
The liberal-humanist view is that man’s nature is essentially good, and that if given enough time we will eventually outgrow the problems that society faces. This view states that we need to throw off past restraints (especially religious and moral restraints) so that we are free to explore and develop toward a higher state of being.
The conservative-Christian view, on the other hand, is that man is a fallen creature—essentially flawed, selfish, and in need of a savior. Without God prominently in the picture, culture and society inevitably degenerate to a state of disorder and decay (de-evolution).
These two views are the basis of today’s culture clash. Generally on the liberal-humanist-evolutionist side are the news and entertainment media, public schools and universities, government institutions, and other liberal groups. On the conservative-Christian-creationist side are the evangelical and fundamentalist churches, and conservative, pro-family groups.
The clash is becoming more vocal as liberal groups demand ever more freedom from traditional moral values. Evolution is the rallying point of liberal-humanist groups. If, as they claim, we’re just accidents in space, then we can set the rules and don’t have to be accountable to any God.
The Culture War
These two trends of thought may be plainly seen in our society today, resulting in a war between the two cultures when they clash. The liberal viewpoint has successfully challenged the accepted standards of behavior in virtually every aspect of life today.
One of the ways the humanist viewpoint has made itself manifest in today’s culture is the concept of “moral relativism” or relative morality. This is the notion that there are no absolute standards of behavior because what’s wrong for you may be perfectly normal for someone else. Moral relativism says that it’s okay to do anything you want as long as it doesn’t hurt anyone.
The fact that there is a battle at all is only because traditional values groups are fighting to hold on to a vanishing concept of morality in public life.
Christians are routinely accused of seeing things in black and white because we subscribe to rules given to us by the Lawgiver, which clearly define standards of right and wrong. In contradistinction to those laws, some trendy terms have been adopted by liberals and subsequently become associated with modern pop culture. Here are some of the most prominent:
Tolerance=don’t judge anyone’s moral behavior, no matter what it is, because there are no absolute standards of behavior. Christians are viewed as intolerant because we believe that God has given us certain laws, which if not followed will lead to moral chaos and decay of society.
Diversity=the fact that there’s biological diversity in God’s creation is extended to mean that every type of belief and morality is equally valid; we need to have every type of aberrant behavior or special interest group equally represented to avoid any hint of discrimination.
Multiculturalism=all cultures and religions are equally valid; no one of these is better than any other; therefore there is no such thing as absolute truth, rather all beliefs are subjective.
These terms are so widely used in popular culture that, along with evolution, they’ve become accepted as absolute truth, not to be questioned. If anyone dares to challenge their validity they’re labeled as intolerant bigots.
Evolution: Existence of Life through Death and Struggle
Evolutionism says that through constant struggle, the fittest survive. The best are selected out to reproduce, and through this process, beneficial traits accumulate to propel us to higher stages on the evolutionary ladder. Though not often stated, the goal of the evolutionary process is envisioned as a humanistic utopia, in which war, disease, and poverty are vanquished.
Creation: Death Is a Result of Man’s Actions
The Bible teaches that because of our fallen nature we are separated from God.
Our tendency to want to question what God has said started in the Garden of Eden and has carried over to modern culture. Instead of trusting God, we’d rather have our own way, and find out what evil is all about by experiencing it:
- Genesis 2:17 “but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat of it you will surely die.”
- Genesis 3:1b He [the serpent] said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?”
- Genesis 3:4 – 5 “You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
- 2 Thessalonians 2:10b -11 NIV They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie …