Science-Creation Debate

The highly publicized debate between Ken Ham and Bill Nye was disappointing to many people on many levels. Both men spoke past each other to push their message instead of truly engaging over the substantive issues regarding faith and science.

When discussing these subjects, we could all benefit from more humility and honesty — on both sides of the debate. Scientists, for example, should be honest enough to acknowledge that he cannot test the philosophy that the physical world is a self-contained system of impersonal natural laws without any outside involvement from a God or a Creator. Honest scientists realize this but often face significant social consequences for admitting it.

Students should not be taught that philosophical naturalism is based on scientific research. When teachers suggest that the science of evolution leads to the philosophy of naturalism, they give students the misleading impression that science offers more than it is capable of telling us.

Church leaders must also be more circumspect when speaking on matters of science. I’ve heard plenty of religious leaders suggest that evolution is an enemy of God that contradicts the account of creation. This is a careless statement because it fails to distinguish the actual science of evolution from the philosophy or worldview of evolution being used to explain ultimate origins.

Church leaders also must be careful not to make the Genesis account say more than it does. The Bible does not require belief in a certain age for the earth and the Church should not make such an issue a test of orthodoxy. We need Church leaders and Science teachers to exemplify mutual respect and serve their students well by distinguishing the fields of faith and science.

Science is an amazing discipline that has resulted in both blessing and tragedy for humanity. Before the influences that came with postmodernity, science held the seat of authority in academia and much of culture. Postmodernity, however, increased the tensions between the science and the humanities departments in the academy regarding intellectual authority. Unfortunately, efforts to unseat science were not so much about the nature of truth itself as about advancing the modern demand for relativism. This is a subject deserving more attention. 

I think we need more transparency about what science can and cannot do/prove. This will then require more honesty about ways that Theophobia has bound the academy to a philosophy of naturalism. I am troubled by the use of the tag “science” for what is really philosophy or religion.

When scientists claims that the physical world is a self-contained system of impersonal natural laws without any outside involvement from a God or a Creator, they should have the intellectual integrity to admit that this opinion is beyond the reach of science and belongs to the discipline of philosophy or even religion. It cannot even be offered as a “theory” because, in terms of science, this word implies a tested and proven postulations (which obviously can’t be done).

When scientists are willing to acknowledge the shift of categories on questions of ultimate origin, then we can have an honest debate about the data used to suggest the plausibility of the philosophy. This would also require more honesty and humility about the validity of discovering truth in disciplines outside of science. A valid epistemology is not bound by one discipline.

Truth about “how it all began” cannot be resolved in scientific labs, but faith offers a different kind of evidence on the subject. A helpful line from Scripture states that, “every house is built by someone, but God is the builder of everything” (Hebrews 3:4). Whether one visits a construction site or a nature site, the logic consistently demands the same conclusion.

The science of evolution is not meant to offer a “story” that parallels the biblical account of creation. It’s not that scientists cannot postulate on the subject based on assumptions or patterns. They can do this in the same way that the science of intelligent design postulates origins based on design.



When we confuse faith and science, we fail to respect what each one contributes. On the science end of the discussion, perhaps a better question to ask is whether the idea that the material universe is all there is, was, or ever will be is more rational than believing an intelligent being created the world.

Steve Cornell

 

Eight truths for all people

 

  1. We are all sinners who receive the penalty of death (Romans 3:10235:12).
  2. God has demonstrated His love for all (John 3:16;Romans 5:8).
  3. God desires salvation for all (I Timothy 2:3-4;II Peter 3:9).
  4. God has made provision for salvation for all (I Timothy 2:5-6;4:9-10Titus 2:11I John 2:2).
  5. God commands all people to repent (Acts 17:30).
  6. God will hold all accountable for their response to His provision (Romans 2:4-11;14:11;Acts 17:31).
  7. God takes no pleasure in rejection of His provision (Ezekiel 18:23,32).
  8. God will save all who place faith in the Lord Jesus Christ (John 3:16;11:26Romans 10:13).

Steve Cornell

The dignity and worth of human beings

Viktor Frankl endured three years of anguish in the Auschwitz concentration camp. After his rescue, he became a professor of Psychiatry and Neurology in the University of Vienna. Frankl recounted his horrific experiences and some lessons to be learned in his book, “Man’s Search for Meaning.”

Among his observations, he noted that inmates at the concentration camp were most likely to survive if they “knew that there was a task waiting for them to fulfill.” Frankl suggested that, “striving to find a meaning in one’s life is the primary motivational force in man.” Writing in the late 1950’s, he suggested that, “The mass neurosis of the present time is the existential vacuum” (i.e. a loss of meaning in life). 

What Frankl observed almost five decades ago became a widespread philosophy of despair. Some called it nihilism. This label  was popularized by the German Philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche. “Nihilism literally has only one truth to declare, namely, that ultimately nothingness prevails and the world is meaningless” ( Helmut Thielicke, Nihilism: Its Origin and Nature, with a Christian Answer).

“From the nihilist’s perspective, one can conclude that life is completely amoral, a conclusion, Thielicke believes, that motivates such monstrosities as the Nazi reign of terror. Gloomy predictions of nihilism’s impact are also charted in Eugene Rose’s Nihilism: The Root of the Revolution of the Modern Age (1994). If nihilism proves victorious–and it’s well on its way, he argues–our world will become ‘a cold, inhuman world’ where ‘nothingness, incoherence, and absurdity’ will triumph.” (Ibid.).

More recently, apologist Ravi Zacharius observed that,

“One by one the generation that refused to be bound by the Pope, and refused to be bound by the Church, decided in an ecstasy of freedom that they would not be bound by anything–not by the Bible, not by conscience, not by God himself. From believing too much that never did have to be believed, they took to believing so little that for countless thousands human existence and the world itself no longer seemed to make any sense. Poets began talking about the ‘wasteland’ with ‘ghostly lives’ as Stephen Spender put it, ‘moving from fragmentary ruins which have lost their significance.’ Nothingness became a subject of conversation, nihilism a motive, frustration and despair a theme for novelists and dramatists…yet all is not lost” (Can Man Live without God)

The full biblical doctrine of humanity

In 1992, John R. W. Stott wrote about the pervasive effects of nihilism that Frankl warned against decades earlier. Stott noted that,

“Millions of people do not know who they are, nor that they have any significance or worth. Hence the urgent challenge to us to tell them who they are, to enlighten them about their identity, that is, to teach without compromise the full biblical doctrine of our human being – its depravity, yes, but also its dignity” (The Contemporary Christian).

The basis for Stott’s urgent challenge is that, “Christians believe in the intrinsic worth of human beings, because of our doctrines of creation and redemption. God made man male and female in his own image and gave them a responsible stewardship of the earth and its creatures. He has endowed us with rational, moral, social, creative and spiritual faculties which make us like him and unlike the animals. Human beings are Godlike beings. As a result of the fall our Godlikeness has indeed been distorted, but it has not been destroyed. Further, ‘God so loved the world’ that he gave his only Son for our redemption. The cross is the chief public evidence of the value which God places on us.”

My journey

I picked up a copy of Stott’s book in 1993. When I read his balanced treatment of human dignity and depravity it helped me tremendously (He also addressed these themes in the early chapters of Decisive Issues Facing Christians Today).

In my background and training in theology, most of the emphasis was placed on human depravity. Although thankful for that training, this was clearly an area lacking in balance. It narrowly focused on certain theological emphases without placing them in a larger biblical framework. No doubt this emphasis was itself forged in reaction to erroneous contemporary thinking.

During my years of training, a surge of contemporary thinkers both secular and religious began promoting views of humanity that downplayed depravity by offering more utopian notions of humanity. Perhaps they were trying to correct the philosophy of despair with a more positive perspective. But, on the popular level, it produced a kind of self-esteem movement with an emphasis on self-love as the greatest human need.

As this “new” emphasis became mainstream, it filtered into seminaries and Churches, ignoring large and important portions of biblical truth about the sinfulness of humanity. “Self-esteem or pride in being human” one minister wrote, “is the single greatest need facing the human race today” (Robert Schuller, Self-Esteem: The New Reformation, p.19). “Once a person believes he is ‘an unworthy sinner’ it is doubtful if he can honestly accept the saving grace God offers in Christ.” (Robert Schuller, Ibid., p. 98).

Lack of success on every level of life (at work, in school, in relationships) as well as almost every form of evil and destructive behavior would soon be traced to low self-esteem. So the agenda in education, counseling and parenting became focused on the goal of encouraging self-esteem and self-love.

This no doubt prompted reactions in the opposite direction from those committed to a biblical worldview. Biblical perspectives on depravity and the sinfulness of humanity were put on the defensive as they were often dismissed as archaic and even dangerous(see Karl Menninger’s Whatever Became of sin?).

Forming beliefs in reaction is never a good idea and I came under the influence of such reaction in some of my earliest ministry education. Gratefully, God used the teaching of the late John R. W. Stott to help me be more faithful to the entire witness of Scripture on these matters (see: Holistic Ministry and Fundamentalism).

Stott suggested that, “Christian teaching on the dignity and worth of human beings is of utmost importance today… for the welfare of society.”

”When human beings are devalued, everything in society turns sour. Women are humiliated and children despised. The sick are regarded as a nuisance and the elderly as a burden. Ethnic minorities as discriminated against. The poor are oppressed and denied social justice. Capitalism displays its ugliest face. Labor is exploited in the mines and factories. Criminals are brutalized in the prisons.”

“But when human beings are valued as persons because of their intrinsic worth, everything changes. Men, women and Children are all honored. The sick are cared for, and the elderly enabled to live and die with dignity. Dissidents are listened to, prisoners rehabilitated, minorities protected, and the oppressed set free. Workers are given fair wages, decent working conditions, and a measure of participation in both the management and the profit of the enterprise. And the gospel is taken to the ends of the earth. Why? Because people matter. Because every man, woman and child has worth and significance as a human being made in God’s image and likeness.” (The Contemporary Christian).

The balance in Stott’s teaching is often missing in local Church ministry. We too easily become one-dimensional. We focus on the spiritual needs and overlook the physical and social. Or, as in the case of many mainline protestant Churches, the spiritual needs of mankind are de-emphasized. 

The priority should be placed on the gospel and the human need to be reconciled to God in the context of a holistic view of humanity. Stott widened this concern when he suggested that,

“There is a cluster of popular attitudes which are fundamentally incompatible with Christian faith: e.g. the concept of blind evolutionary development, the assertion of human autonomy in art, science and education, and the declarations that history is random, life is absurd and everything is meaningless. The Christian mind comes into direct collision with these notions precisely because they are “secular”—that is, because they leave no room for God.  It insists that human beings can be defined only in relation to God, that without God they have ceased to be truly human.  For we are creatures who depend on our Creator, sinners who are accountable to him and under his judgment, people who are lost apart from his redemption. This God-centredness is basic to the Christian mind” (Your Mind Matters: The Place of the Mind in the Christian Life).

In Auschwitz, Victor Frankl painfully experienced the darkest side of human depravity. Yet he also observed the deepest reserves of human dignity. We live in a world where both sides to humanity will be experienced. As we seek the peace and prosperity of the city of our exile, let us not reduce or minimize the sweep of the gospel as God’s power to address the whole reality of human need.

Without faithfulness to the gospel, one cannot claim to respect human dignity. 

Steve Cornell
Senior pastor
Millersville Bible Church
58 West Frederick Street
Millersville, PA 17551

They still want to know what it means

 

I must admit to being a little surprised that a post I wrote in 2007 (one of my first for the blog) remains one of the top five visited. More than 6000 people viewed it from this source since being posted (half of them in the last year).

I realize this might not be much compared with bigger blogs, but I remain curious. Let me explain.

A recent writer suggested that postmodernism is dead but not gone. He opened the piece with these words:

“No obituary appeared in The New York Times. Television newscasts offered no tribute. But make no mistake: postmodernism is dead. Even those who could foresee this end could do nothing to prevent its suicide. Demise was built into its very DNA” (Colin Hansen).

To be fair, Hansen qualifies this introduction a bit (thus the title, “dead but not gone”). Yet he is not alone in the assertion that postmodernity has had its day in the sun. This is what makes it curious to me that people still want to know how to think about the term postmodern (at least the ones who come to my post on it). 

On one level, I have no doubt that the internet has produced a shorter shelf life for most information. A writer recently wrote about the dismal shelf life of a blog post and it wasn’t too encouraging for the blogosphere! Philosophies come and go but it is premature to dismiss the realities of postmodernity.

I decided to repost (below) my earlier blog piece on the meaning of the term postmodern (unchanged). Based on earlier assessments, I believe it is obvious that we still live in a postmodern era.

Do you agree?

_______________________________________________________

What does “postmodern” mean? (February 22, 2007)

We live in a postmodern world. Or, so we’re told. But what does this mean? Postmodern is a word used to describe major changes in the underlying ways people think—especially the way people view truth and reality. Correctly accessing postmodernity requires an understanding of the modernity that proceeded it. But, taking things a little further back, before we lived in a modern era, the world was considered pre-modern. It helps to consider the main differences in these three eras.

Pre-modern and modern:

The pre-modern era was one in which religion was the source of truth and reality. During this era, God’s existence and revelation were widely accepted in the culture. In the modern era, science became the predominate source for truth and reality. During this period, religion and morality were arbitrarily demoted to the subjective realm. In the present, postmodern era, there is no single defining source for truth and reality beyond the individual.

Post-modern:

In postmodernism, relativism and individualism are radicalized and applied to all spheres of knowledge—even science. In a postmodern world, truth and reality are individually shaped by personal history, social class, gender, culture, and religion. These factors, according to postmodern thinking, combine to shape the narratives and meanings of our lives as culturally embedded, localized social constructions without any universal application.

Postmoderns are suspicious of those who make universal truth claims. All claims of universal meaning are viewed as imperialistic efforts to marginalize and oppress the rights of others. The most important value of postmodernity is the inadmissibility of all totalizing ways of viewing any dimension of life.

Postmodernity, as a worldview, refuses to allow any single defining source for truth and reality. The new emphasis is on difference, plurality and selective forms of tolerance. Postmodern thinking is full of absurdities and inconsistencies. It is, for example, the worldview that says no worldview exists. It is an anti-theory that uses theoretical tools to neutralize all theories. It demands an imposed uniformity in an effort to resist uniformity. It employs propositional statements to negate truth based on propositional statements.

Postmodern concern for plurality, diversity and tolerance have not led to a more stable and secure society. Instead, the postmodern era exchanged one misguided mood for another. Postmodernity was fueled by a shift from the human optimism of modernity (based on scientific certainty and technological progress), to a pessimistic mood of skepticism and uncertainty. One observer noted that,  “Modernity was confident; postmodernity is anxious. Modernity had all the answers; postmodernity is full of questions. Modernity reveled in reason, science and human ability; postmodernity wallows (with apparent contentment or nihilistic angst) in mysticism, relativism, and the incapacity to know anything with certainty.”

This mood change was fueled by the devastation and disappointments of two world wars. Philosophies of despair and nihilistic existentialism became popular fare throughout Europe. These philosophies would later provide the ideological framework for the rejection of authority and institutionalism in America.

During the 1960’s and 70’s, the prevailing attitudes against authority, institution and establishment produced overwhelmingly negative effects on our nation. During this same period, we experienced a massive societal shift away from the institution of marriage and family with exponential increases in divorce rates and widespread acceptance of non-marital co-habitation.

As a result of these changes, pastors, counselors, psychologists, psychiatrists and therapists are stretched to the limit as they try to help overwhelming numbers of people pick up the broken pieces of their lives and become whole again. Yet many of these helpers are equally lost because they accept the postmodern lie.

What is the lie? It is the wholesale rejection of universal reason and absolute truth. It is the delusional mindset that there is no objective goodness and rightness. These prevailing opinions have led to the dismissal of an absolute deity. Don’t misunderstand; God is warmly welcomed in the postmodern world as long as he doesn’t try to play God.

“Postmodernity returns value to faith and affirms the nurturing of our spiritual being as vital to humankind. Unfortunately, with the loss of truth, people will now seek faith without boundaries, categories, or definition. The old parameters of belief do not exist. As a result, people will be increasingly open to knowing God, but on their own terms.” (Graham Johnston).

Yet the true and living God will not be defined by finite creatures. While postmodern guru-philosophers like Richard Rorty have tried to write the obituary of the “God’s eye view of the world,” the Creator of the universe still determines the standard of truth, goodness and beauty.

Steve Cornell

Subversive Gospel-centered Communities

If we hope to compel others with a gospel that is “the power of God that brings salvation to everyone who believes” (Romans 1:16), we must display this power in humble, loving, truth-telling communities of mutual affection and honor:

“Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10, NLT).  

When our Churches are filled with people who treat each other with honor, deference and humble service (foot-washing love), we will be the needed (and desired) alternative to the uncertainty, anxiety, and angst of postmodern times.

If the Biblical story is told truly, it will subvert the alternative stories. But to tell it truly, you have to be living it(N. T. Wright, emphasis mine). 

When Churches are living out the gospel narrative, they offer tangible plausibility for the authenticity of the gospel. (I suggest that most of the letters of the New Testament are aimed at this concern, see: Purpose of the book of Romans).

 In the words of Jesus

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another” (John 13:34-35).

We must not overlook the narrative Jesus provided for these words. His example of foot-washing love (John 13:1-5 and 12-17) modeled the kind of community one should find in gospel-centered fellowships. We are called (and profoundly privileged) to be communities of humble service where mutual affection and honor are deeply experienced.

Legalistic churches will destroy this kind of community because of their addiction to externalism, manipulation and control. These kinds of Churches watch each other instead of watching out for each other (see: Hebrews 3:12-14). The first contradicts and defies the gospel; the second is at the heart of the gospel.

I am not suggesting it’s easy to be these loving, truth-telling communities. But there is something intentional about this difficulty that is essential to living it. God chose to put His treasure (the gospel) in vessels of clay so that the greatness of the power would be from God and not from us (II Corinthians 4:7). The very essence of the gospel narrative is grounded in this reality (see: Ephesians 2:8-9; Titus 3:3-6). As we live in shared dependence on the power of God in Christ, we can experience the radical transformation of true gospel-centered community. 

Telling the story by living it:

The Christian worldview is based on one overarching story for all people.  And on this, N. T. Wright noted:

“Postmodernity is bound to object: metanarratives are controlling, dominating, and we all know the ways in which this story too has been used politically, socially and personally to bolster this or that power-trip. But the Biblical metanarrative itself resists being abused in this fashion, because it is the story of love.”  

“The Biblical metanarrative offers itself as the one story which cannot be deconstructed, to which the criticisms of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud are not relevant.  (Look at Jesus on the cross – was he doing that for money? Was he doing that for power? Was he doing it for sex? It was an act of love.) The story speaks from first to last of a God who did not need to create, but who did so out of overflowing and generous love. It speaks of a God who did not need to redeem and recreate, but did so as the greatest possible act of self-giving love.”

“Somehow if we are to address contemporary culture with the message of the Bible we must get used to combining two things which are normally at opposite poles—humility and truthtelling.”

“Somehow we have to tell the truth but to tell it as the liberating story, the healing story, the true story. And of course… the best way we can do this is by telling, again and again, in story and symbol and acted drama, the biblical story, focused on the story of Jesus himself, the true story of the Word made flesh. (That is why the great symbol at the heart of Christianity is the symbol of the eucharist; it is the symbol of that story.

But, “it is our task not just to tell but to live out the story—the model of God’s self-giving love in Christ must be the basis for our self-understanding, our life, and our vocation” (N. T. Wright).

Steve Cornell

* Please share this message with others.

See also: Understanding Legalism (parts 1,2,3,4)  and Watching out for one another

See: Experiencing community

How people experience guilt and shame

Have you ever heard of the term elentics

Don’t bother with google because you won’t find much about it. Elentics comes from a Greek word translated into the english word “convict” ( ἐλέγχω / elencho). It means to expose, convict or reprove. Jesus used this word in relation to ministry of the Holy Spirit:

“…when he (the Holy Spirit) comes, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment concerning sin, because they do not believe in me” (John 16:8-9).

I was first introduced to elentics when asked to review a paper titled: The Application of Missionary Elentics to Preaching to Postmoderns by David A. Ridder. Elentics is concerned with how people experience guilt and shame. It’s especially important in relation to evangelism (particularly in a  cross-cultural context) because the gospel is experienced from conviction to conversion. Confession of sin leading to salvation must involve sincere acknowledgement of sin in contrition and conviction.

Elentics (in a theological context) is concerned with how people experience conviction about sin. All who care about reaching others with the goodnews of salvation must care about elentics. Taking this subject seriously will help us avoid the risk of offering a solution to people who do not understand the problem. The good news of salvation is only good because the bad news about our sin is very bad.

Salvation unfolds experientially through a series of experiences which find a connecting point in guilt, shame and conscience. It includes four elements: conviction, confession, contrition and conversion.

All people experience guilt and shame. All people feel conviction based on a moral conscience. This is related to the fact that God made humans in his own image. Although that image has been profoundly marred by sin, it remains an important part of what it means to be human (Genesis 9:6; James 3:9). Even those who do not know God and His revealed will experience guilt associated with divine standards of right and wrong.

An example of the universal experience of guilt: Romans 2:14-15

“(Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.)”

Conscience always involves a degree of cultural conditioning but it provides connecting points for God’s truth.

“In initial evangelism the missionary should stress sin, guilt, and repentance principally with reference to native conscience – particularly that aspect of their conscience which is in agreement with Scripture…We must preach in such a way that native conscience functions as an independent inner witness to the truth of what is being proclaimed about sinful selves. In this fashion conscience works with the missionary message.”  (Robert J. Priest, 1994. Missionary Elentics: Conscience and Culture. Missiology: An International Review  XXII (3): pp. 309-310)   

Application to Postmodernity

In Toward a Cross-Cultural Definition of Sin, Wayne T. Dye noted that,

“In order to speak to the postmodern conscience effectively, we must do what any good missionary does when initially engaging a new host culture. We must learn how sin is defined for the particular culture (Dye, p.29). This is the fundamental starting point for missionary elentics. As applied to postmoderns, we may safely assume that even those who reject the notion of moral absolutes, especially as revealed in Scripture, still have consciences, experience guilt, and are aware that they don’t measure up to their own sense of right and wrong.  We may safely assume on the basis of Scripture that the Spirit of God is still convicting postmoderns.”

“The missionary should systematically note when and why people feel offended, unfairly treated, or exploited.  What makes them seek revenge? What do they think is fair? What sorts of offenses do they think cause illness or crop failure? From such clues he can learn the ethical system and thus better understand the consciences of those he is trying to reach.”  (Dye, T. Wayne. 1976. Toward a Cross-Cultural Definition of Sin, Missiology: An International Review  IV (1): p.38).

Based on careful research, Ridder’s paper offers insightful contributions about how postmoderns experience guilt and shame. As one who has ministered in a University town for 30 years, I found his conclusions perceptive and helpful. 

Steve Cornell

See also: “Exploring Unbelief: Why do people refuse to believe?”

Perhaps truth matters to them

 

Downloads of sermons by Mark Driscoll, (the preaching pastor of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Washington), number more than 100,000 each week. More than 10,000 attend his Church and the majority are young people. Driscoll is very intelligent and not afraid to tackle deep subjects. Yet he is mostly known for his no non-sense, in-your-face preaching style.

So why would large groups of young people who have been force-fed large doses of tolerance want to listen to a preacher like Driscoll? Is it his raspy voice, black skateboarder’s jacket and white T-shirt? Perhaps it’s his fearless willingness to talk about anything in public? He openly rejects the image of “weepy worship dudes” and has little patience for those who “sing prom songs to a wussy Jesus who took a beating and spent a lot of time putting product in his long hair.”

Is it possible that Driscoll connects with so many young people because they have a deep sense that truth matters? These “kids” have lived under the social demand, “Be nice, or else!” Their education has been in a context of imposed tolerance (with no exceptions tolerated!). They’ve endured a required civility prohibiting them from being too passionate about anything that upsets others. Yet all along they were smart enough to see through the agenda-driven, political correctness that celebrated only the approved perspectives.

Although forced to check their religious beliefs at the school door, they weren’t fooled by what was happening. They saw through the hypocrisy that made some information and areas of discussion off-limits. They knew what was going down when only one perspective was permitted for public expression and discussion?

Perhaps they’re just fed up and Driscoll offers a kind of “I’m fed-up with it!” style and tone that resonates. He’s a “Cut with the crap and be real!” communicator. The previous generation would have responded to Driscoll with more skepticism. But the “whatever” generation has been forced to ride through storms without an anchor. They’ve watched their families and communities disintegrate while being socialized to put on a facade that says: “We have no disagreements with anyone and everybody likes everybody.”

Not surprisingly, The Office became one of their favorite television shows. It takes the ultimate “whatever?” approach to all things political, social and moral. The main characters use low-key, sarcastic humor on every imaginable issue of political correctness. Race, gender, sexuality, class association, religion, all is fair game for humor! After years of being forced to affirm all religious, moral and political viewpoints, it makes sense that they enjoy the genre of The Office. Most of them are tired of having the boundaries of passion defined for them by politically approved beliefs. Humor simply became their language of dissent, and perhaps, their means of detox.

Most of these young people have come up through an educational environment that assumes the physical universe is all there is, was, or ever will be. The only real world, as the assumption goes, is the world of the five senses. This is a version of reality without transcendence, mystery, and especially — without God.

For more than 26 years of ministry in a college town, I’ve worked closely with this age group. Each Sunday, I teach their class between our two worship services. In the last decade, I’ve noticed some clear changes among younger singles. I see a growing hunger for what is real, lasting, hopeful and spiritual.  Unlike many of the stodgy, self-appointed intellectual custodians of the academy, these students are tired of being forced into the culturally mandated, narrow little world without windows.

Truth matters to this group and I think this is partly why they like to listen to preachers like Driscoll. More importantly, it’s why so many of them have decided to follow the one who said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6).

Steve Cornell


See: Whatever Happened to Tolerance?



What is your worldview?

There are many different ways of understanding the world. A worldview is simply a way of looking at the world. And, whether we know it or not, we all have a worldview and we use it to navigate through life.

Worldviews embrace a set of convictions about life and the world: convictions that shape our purposes, values and lifestyles.

Our goal should be to formulate and live by a worldview large enough to address the realities and complexities of life. I believe that a Christian worldview offers the best, most satisfying and most comprehensively consistent answers to the main issues of life.

Four main questions of life

  1. The question of origin: Where did we come from?
  2. The question of meaning: Why are we here?
  3. The question of morality: How should we live?
  4. The question of destiny: Where are we going?

The Christian worldview is based on God (the Creator) as He reveals Himself in Scripture and nature. It’s the most adequate for explaining and directing life in this confusing and difficult world. It enables one to “think with Christian integrity about the problems of the contemporary world” (John Stott). 

“Human beings need to orient their lives by means of some sort of comprehensive perspective that helps them comprehend life’s particulars. Our profound yearning can be met only by a spacious narrative, personal enough to help us find our particular place in it and enduring enough to make that place significant.”

“The Biblical chronicle of the Triune God is the perfect narrative to empower us to envision the meaning of our lives. The Scriptures enable us to discern our most profound longings (expressed or not), to name who human beings are and what we want to do, to fathom even more clearly who God is, and to perceive how all these things connect. It is a meta-narrative large enough, thorough enough, and promising enough to give us the hope we need to live courageously in the midst of an unbalanced, technologically driven, co-modification-distorted world.”

“The Bible offers a grandly sweeping meta-narrative. That is one of the thrills of reading scriptures, for they paint an account of God’s action on our behalf from the beginning of the world to the culmination of God’s purposes in the recapitulation of the cosmos” (Marva J. Dawn,Unfettered Hope: A Call to Faithful Living in an affluent Society).

The Bible uses a fourfold context for thinking about life and the world.

Four pillars of a Christian worldview

  1. Creation: the good — Question: Where did we come from? - the image of God (dignity)
  2. Fall: the evil — Question: What went wrong? - the image marred (depravity)
  3. Redemption: the new — Question: What can we do about it? - the image renewed
  4. Restoration: the perfect — Question: Is there hope? - the image fully restored

Each pillar in the Biblical account addresses a specific reality of the world and a specific question in human hearts. Together they offer the most comprehensive and satisfying view of life. If you remove any of these pillars of Biblical truth, the world becomes more difficult to understand and potentially more painful to endure.

“Here, then, are four events, which correspond to four realities—first the Creation (“the good”), secondly the Fall (“the evil”), thirdly the Redemption (“the new”), and fourthly the End (“the perfect”). This fourfold biblical reality enables Christians to survey the historical landscape within its proper horizons.  It supplies the true perspective from which to view the unfolding process between two eternities, the vision of God working out His purpose. It gives us a framework into which to fit everything, a way of integrating our understanding, the possibility of thinking straight, even about the most complex issues” (John R. W. Stott).

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There is clearly a God-centeredness to the Christian worldview.

“…it is God who creates, judges, redeems and perfects.  The initiative is his from beginning to end.  In consequence, there is a cluster of popular attitudes which are fundamentally incompatible with Christian faith: e.g. the concept of blind evolutionary development, the assertion of human autonomy in art, science and education, and the declarations that history is random, life is absurd and everything is meaningless.  The Christian mind comes into direct collision with these notions precisely because they are “secular”—that is, because they leave no room for God.”  

“It insists that human beings can be defined only in relation to God, that without God they have ceased to be truly human.  For we are creatures who depend on our Creator, sinners who are accountable to him and under his judgment, people who are lost apart from his redemption. This God-centredness is basic to the Christian mind.” (John R. W. Stott).

Steve Cornell

Key to ministry in postmodern times

by Steve Cornell

Times have changed and churches must be aware of those changes if they desire to be faithful to the mission of Christ.  A generation has come up that doesn’t see the world the same way their predecessors see it. But how much should the church adjust?  And, at what point does adjustment become misguided accommodation or a betrayal of the gospel?

A needed warning: “It is good to be willing to innovate and adapt for the sake of the gospel, but when sociological reality is taken as the given to which church strategy and tactics must adjust, the church is in danger of becoming market-driven in an attempt to create a particularly attractive religious boutique within which a variety of goods and services must be offered for personal choice.”  (Joseph Small)

What is this sociological reality? Three areas of cultural expectation affect Churches in relation to three aspects of Church life:

1. Building: Creature comforts are expected in affluent cultures.

2. Program: Entertainment-driven (the wow factor!)

3. Message: Mitigating absolute truths and morals

Postmodern times involve these cultural realities but also include some other issues. I plan to frame out a broad description of these issues but first I offer what I believe to be the key alternative for postmodern times.

It is to be humble, loving, truth-telling Christians in community.

“If the Biblical story is told truly, it will subvert the alternative stories. But to tell it truly, you have to be living it” (N. T. Wright). Or, to tell it with effect, you must be living it.

And the church is a community that cannot be deconstructed when it is a community of love. Jesus’ words in John 13:34-35 take on powerful meaning in postmodern times. And Jesus’ words followed His example (John 13:1-5 and 12-17). Jesus set the tone for what a community of Christ followers should look like. When lived, it is a community filled with mutual affection and honor.

We’ll come back to this but let’s review the path to postmodernity and some prominent features of it.

I. Pre-modern era – religion is the reigning voice of authority for truth and reality.

(God is a given of pre-modern culture.)

II. Modern era – science is the reigning voice of authority for truth and reality.

(God is pushed to the outside in modern culture.)

III. Postmodern era – rejection of any single defining source for truth and reality.

(God is accepted in all variations equally in postmodernity)

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Modernity enthroned science and dethroned religion.

Modernity adopted a grand story of human progress based on measurable realities of scientific, technological and social advances for the good of humanity.

Modernity became an assault against all things supernatural with humanistic naturalism as the reigning ideology.

The old grand story of religion was no longer needed and actually considered unsustainable in the face of scientific progress. Sweeping and rapid changes seemed bound to make the world a better place as mankind took over and human reason reigned. But hopes of the utopian dream of modernity soon became a human nightmare as the 20th century became the most violent one of human history—-without religion to blame (see: The Most violent Century).

“The supposed objectivism of science easily became a cloak for political and social power and control.”

The transition:

“The growing skepticism in regards to anything supernatural was matched by growing faith in human ability to know the world, control it, and reap the inevitable benefits. The “Big Story” of the world was not given by revelation; rather, it was to be discovered and perhaps even determined by science, reason and technology. This major transition was at the heart of the modern period.”

“However, from our 21st -century perspective, it is clear that the predictions of utopia guaranteed in the modern period never materialized. Instead, modernists became disillusioned as military increase brought world wars, failed development policies led to class oppression and colonialism, economic idealism resulted in communism and the Cold War, and our best science created nuclear weapons and the threat of global devastation.”

“Postmodern writers, beginning with Nietzsche, began to question the integrity of modernism’s metanarrative of progress. In fact, the main casualty of a postmodern perspective is the very idea of a metanarrative.  Postmoderns are skeptical of any and all claims to an authoritative comprehensive worldview, absolute truth about reality, and an overarching purpose to the human story.”

Why? Because of a basic untrustworthiness of humans—a tendency to manipulate, control and oppress.

“…postmodernism has cast a large shadow of skepticism (and has offered a strong dose of humility) on the modern belief in the efficacy and near inerrancy of human reason. As was seen during the modern period, human reason can be quite productive, especially in the arenas of science, medicine, and technology. However, human reason can also be manipulative and destructive, especially when it produces the totalizing ideologies (e.g. communism, Nazism, colonialism, etc.) that characterized the modern period.”

“…postmodernism has demonstrated that objectivity and certainty are not exclusive to the realm of science as was claimed during the modern period. In fact, science is often quite biased and agenda- driven, and is therefore in no place to claim to be the final arbiter on all matters of knowledge.”

Note: The overreaching use of evolution as a philosophy or religion doesn’t settle well with postmoderns.

Finally, “…postmodernism rightly reminds us of the power of our culture, and especially the language of our culture, in creating our frames of reference.  The modern period demonstrated that this power can be used to marginalize and oppress others at the personal and the systemic level. For the Christian, then, care should be taken to distinguish scriptural teaching from our cultural perceptions.”

(Quotes above compliments of John Stonestreet at Summit Ministries. This is a revised excerpt from Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview, co-authored by William E. Brown, W. Gary Phillips, and John Stonestreet.  Used with permission)

Be sure of this:

Legalistic churches won’t make it because of their use manipulation and control. Loving and truth-telling churches will flourish.

The Christian or Biblical worldview agrees with important major concerns of postmodern thinkers:

  1. limitations of unaided human reason
  2. effect of the fall on objectivity and certainty
  3. the human tendency toward evil and oppression.

But the Christian worldview clearly offers one overarching story for all people.  And on this, N. T. Wright noted:

“Postmodernity is bound to object: metanarratives are controlling, dominating, and we all know the ways in which this story too has been used politically, socially and personally to bolster this or that power-trip. But the Biblical metanarrative itself resists being abused in this fashion, because it is the story of love.  The Biblical metanarrative offers itself as the one story which cannot be deconstructed, to which the criticisms of Marx, Nietzsche and Freud are not relevant.  (Look at Jesus on the cross-was he doing that for money?  Was he doing that for power? Was he doing it for sex? It was an act of love.)  The story speaks from first to last of a God who did not need to create, but who did so out of overflowing and generous love.  It speaks of a God who did not need to redeem and recreate, but did so as the greatest possible act of self-giving love.”

“Somehow if we are to address contemporary culture with the message of the Bible we must get used to combining two things which are normally at opposite poles—humility and truthtelling.”

“Somehow we have to tell the truth but to tell it as the liberating story, the healing sory, the true story.  And of course… the best way we can do this is by telling, again and again, in story and symbol and acted drama, the biblical story, focused on the story of Jesus himself, the true story of the Word made flesh.  (That is why the great symbol at the heart of Christianity is the symbol of the eucharist; it is the symbol of that story.

But, “it is our task not just to tell but to live out the story—the model of God’s self-giving love in Christ must be the basis for our self-understanding, our life, and our vocation.”  (N. T. Wright)

We must be humble, loving, truth-telling Christians in community– a community filled with mutual affection and mutual honor: “Love each other with genuine affection, and take delight in honoring each other” (Romans 12:10, NLT).  When our fellowship is filled with people who treat each other with honor, esteem, deference and humble service (foot washing love), we offer the badly needed alternative to the uncertainty, anxiety, and angst of postmodern times.

Modern to Postmodern

During the Enlightenment, authority shifted from traditional institutions to human reason. A scientific approach to the world yielded tremendous advances in medicine, technology, and communications and challenged the centrality of theology and religious belief as the paradigm for learning. Free from the restrictive shackles of traditional beliefs (thus, modernism), progress seemed inevitable. Immanuel Kant described this period of time in this way: “Sapere aude! ‘Have the courage to make use of your own mind!’ is thus the slogan of the Enlightenment.”

The modern period had begun. The growing skepticism in regards to anything supernatural was matched by growing faith in human ability to know the world, control it, and reap the inevitable benefits. The “Big Story” of the world was not given by revelation; rather, it was to be discovered and perhaps even determined by science, reason and technology. This major transition was at the heart of the modern period.

However, from our 21st-century perspective, it is clear that the predictions of utopia guaranteed in the modern period never materialized. Instead, modernists became disillusioned as military increase brought world wars, failed development policies led to class oppression and colonialism, economic idealism resulted in communism and the Cold War, and our best science created nuclear weapons and the threat of global devastation.

Postmodern writers, beginning with Nietzsche, began to question the integrity of modernism’s metanarrative of progress. In fact, the main casualty of a postmodern perspective is the very idea of a metanarrative. Postmoderns are skeptical of any and all claims to an authoritative comprehensive worldview, absolute truth about reality, and an overarching purpose to the human story.

From: Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview, co-authored by William E. Brown, W. Gary Phillips, and John Stonestreet