Someone has said, "The only thing not changing is the fact that everything's changing."
Some changes are good. Who wants to go back to the wood stove? The horse and buggy? Window fans for cooling? Two lane highways? Or, black and white TV?
However, many of the changes that have occurred within our culture over the past three or four decades have not been good. There has been a major shift away from an appreciation for Judeo-Christian values, and away from strong, cohesive, disciplined families.
What is going on in our culture? Why the shift? Why the slide?
In many ways, the changes have occurred so slowly and inconspicuously that almost no one became alarmed. A little here. A little there. But, an accumulation of little things eventually amounts to big things!
Why have so many things in our culture changed so rapidly--in a wrong direction?
Perhaps, we should define what we mean by "culture." A culture is a particular way of living that is shared by a group of human beings. The term refers to ideas, ideals, customs, and patterns that characterize a given community of individuals. Cultural patterns affect the way people think, talk, and act. Can we account for some of the unwholesome and unhealthy changes that are occurring in our culture?
The English word "secular" comes from a Latin word, "saeculum," which means "this present age." Think about this. Secularism is a process that influences people to be focused on "this present age." It teaches that life and reality beyond "this present age" is a hoax. Reality is what you can perceive with the five senses. What you see is what you get according to the secularist.
The secular viewpoint rejects any thought of there being supernatural and invisible reality beyond a natural realm. Thus, belief in God is eliminated. A concerted effort is made to deliver people from what is viewed as the unscientific and foolish notion that human beings were created by God. Furthermore, secularism creates a cultural atmosphere in which values and standards based on a supernatural revelation like the Bible are ridiculed and rejected.
Secularism is a belief system designed to make the human being "autonomous." What does that mean? The Greek word "autos" means "self." The Greek word "nomos" means "rule or law." Thus, an "autonomous" human is one that is "self-ruled."
In brief, secularism is a cultural phenomenon that eventually eliminates faith in a supernatural Creator God to whom all beings are accountable. From your vantage point, do you see that our modern-day culture--higher and lower courts, media, politics, cities, entertainment, homes, schools, churches, and personal lifestyles--has been and is being... secularized?
Look at the word. HUMAN...ism. When God is moved out, MAN moves in! This way of thinking and living has had an enormous influence on our culture. God has been "dethroned." Man has been "enthroned." Secular humanism promotes the idea that belief in God is the highest form of self-deception. There is no God who created the universe. The world merely evolved out of chaos and is itself a chaos until, through human genius, a way is found to organize and manage it.
There is no Divine purpose or providence for the human species. We must save ourselves. Humans are not answerable to any Higher Power or Divine Law. Each individual must pursue happiness while being careful not to offend a neighbor. There are no absolute standards for determining right and wrong--humans must create their own standards as they go, changing the rules whenever necessary. Happiness and peace in this world are all that humankind can hope for--no life hereafter!
This is secularistic humanism which ultimately creates a culture free of God. Strange! Once we believed in God. Then we didnít believe in God. Now, we think we are God!
With "secularism moving God out, and "humanism" moving humans in, the way is opened for a culture that embraces "pluralism." This is a world view that emphasizes the necessity of tolerating all differences of cultures, religions, lifestyles, and beliefs--all are of equal value so long as you are happy or on the way to happiness.
Under the banner of "pluralism," the flag of truth and the flag of falsehood fly side by side. Good and Evil occupy the same stage, and their coexistence is applauded. Pluralism says, "You have the right to believe and become anything you want so long as you do not reach a point where you feel that what you know and believe is what others should know and believe."
Our base of tolerance must be broad and inclusive. No revelation, no Scripture, no Bible gives one any authoritative basis for saying that something is wrong or right for everyone.
The effects of pluralism are obvious. What should be labeled as intolerable is tolerated. The individual's rights are given priority over the community's good. Pluralism has infected many mainstream religious groups. Let every person believe what he or she wishes to believe--doctrine is just a matter of opinion anyway. Truth is gray. No black and white. You "bend" so you can "blend!" In the name of religious tolerance, many religious groups have given up any sense of responsibility to articulate the Christian faith in a clear and Biblical manner. Today, There is a strong movement which promotes the idea that the claims of Moslems, Hindus, Buddhists, and others must stand alongside the claims of Christianity. Such a trend ignores or denies Christianity's unique claim of the bodily resurrection of Jesus Christ. Often, a hunger and pursuit for truth is neglected because the desire to be accepting of everybody is most important.
Pluralism has promoted a surge of religious privatism and subjectivism. Each person is encouraged to develop his or her own beliefs subjectively with little, if any, guidance from the Bible as the Word of God. Many in the culture have reached a point where they do not want to hear or read anything with firmness, conviction, or surety about God and His will. And where has this led us? If it really does not matter what one believes, then why should anyone care? No wonder there is an abundance of spiritual and religious indifference!
When any culture is influenced by the forces of secularism, humanism, and pluralism as defined, there is sure to be an increase in the spirit of "narcissism." Our English word, "narcissism," is rooted in a story of Greek mythology. Narcissus was the beautiful youth of Greek legend who was content to sit and incessantly stare at his own reflection in a pool. Daily he was focused on...himself. Based on this story, can you guess the meaning of the word--"narcissism?"
Narcissism means excessive self-love and self-gratification. It is a way of thinking and living that is characterized by an inflated sense of self-importance which can lead to a lack of regard for others. It describes a trend in modern-day culture for individuals to be self-centered,self-absorbed, and self-obsessed. It amounts to "self-worship." The "New Age" philosophy is teaching the idea that you are your own god, and that you must look deeply within yourself for meaning and power in life. It is the idea that each human being has the right and power to control and master his or her own life. Self-discovery, self-actualization, self-fulfillment, and self-gratification are primary goals in life.
This way of thinking and living has insidiously promoted a spirit which results in a preoccupation with one's own comforts, pleasures, and rights. While looking out for #1, we tend to become arrogant, rude, and insensitive. Religiously, we look for a church that "meets my needs" and "helps me to feel good about myself." This fixation on self has undermined many marriages and destroyed many homes.
Is There a Better Way?
Secularism... Humanism... Pluralism... Narcissism...
These are very powerful and influential forces that are affecting today's culture. Such philosophies are having a major impact on the local communities in which we live everyday. They are not merely dangers that we may face in the future. They are realities affecting us today.
There has to be a better way!
In the next lesson of "The Seeker" series, the question for investigation will be, "Is there a voice of authority to which all humans should submit?" An effort will be made to determine who is to have the "last word" in all human affairs.
The goal will be to encourage and deepen the conviction that the Bible is to be viewed, respected, and approached as the inspired, inerrant, and authoritative Word of God. Our next lesson will show that the principles and practices taught in the Bible always enrich and improve the quality of human life. Have you really give the Bible a fair hearing? Have you examined the claims of the Bible for yourself?
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