One of the principal causes for the loss of Christian influence in Western civilization has been and continues to be a lack of commitment to a renewed intellect operating under the direction of God. This, I believe, would explain in large part why our salt has become tasteless and our light is hidden under a bushel. We are no longer a transforming force in culture and the result has been an ideological shift away from biblical revelation as the guiding source of ultimate truth to one in which "man is the measure of all things" as the Greek philosopher Protagoras once proclaimed.
The tyrant who said, "It is the luck of rulers when men do not think" was none other than Adolf Hitler demonstrating the profound dangers associated with ignorance. I believe it could also be stated another way: "It is fortunate for the rulers of darkness, the powers and principalities, and Satan when men do not think."
I fear that many today who claim the name of Christ do so on strictly an emotional level. They seek experiences with God or "Holy Ghost goose bumps," but never relate to God intellectually through reason, seeking knowledge and true understanding. As a result, too many Christians lack discernment and therefore find themselves swept away by a godless culture. They "perish for lack of knowledge." The dictionary defines discernment as "the power to see what is not evident to the average mind, stressing the power to distinguish and select what is true."
As followers of Jesus Christ and recipients of God's grace our minds are no longer "average." We now have the mind of Christ, (1 Cor 2:16) unbelievers do not. 2 Corinthians 4:4 says, "...the god of this age has blinded the minds of the unbelievers." They, in and of themselves, are unable to distinguish and select what is true. However, the Holy Spirit can most certainly and often does use the believer to expose Satan's deception and open the minds of the lost or at least begin to tear down those false beliefs that enslave them (2 Cor 10:5).
This is what the development of the Christian mind is. It is the discipline of developing your mind to distinguish, select and act upon that which is true so that you may honor God with your mind, which in turn leads you into obedience. Willful ignorance of the world according to God does not honor Him. By remaining ignorant of the totality of God's principles for every aspect of life we look foolish and worse, we make God or at least His principles look foolish and irrelevant.
The first step is to know thoroughly the foundation
of all truth: scripture, which is God's revelation to man. God has
spoken to humanity through the written word, not some unverifiable
mystical experience, but through objective language rooted in verifiable
history. The fact that God would exist in and through the written
word was an unprecedented concept requiring the highest order of
abstract thinking. The written word is accessed through our intellect
and not our passions. It is an exclusively intellectual medium that
demands analysis, reflection and thought, which in turn produces
understanding. In other words, you've got to read if you want to
The challenge in our ongoing study of scripture is relevance. According to Webster's Dictionary, relevance is defined as, "the practical and social applicability." We need to understand that the Bible speaks either directly or by implication to virtually every issue confronting humanity. The Bible can provide perspective on those issues that it does not directly address, such as abortion, cloning and political issues, governmental forms, economic systems and even the creative arts. The Bible also provides practical principles for how to live as individuals - how to spend our time and money, how to dress, how we should relate to our employer, friends and family, etc. The Bible provides comprehensive instructions designed to improve and protect the quality of our lives. This is what we mean by the Christian worldview; developing a biblically-centered understanding of all reality followed by the practical application of biblical truth to living for both our personal lives and society as a whole.
"Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone." Colossians 4:5-6
However, let me clarify that God's Word is much more than simply a book of wisdom or principles for living. It is most importantly God's revelation of Himself to humanity. It tells us about God and His character; about our alienation from Him and why, and about His redemptive plan which He through Christ alone completes. If we only study God's Word looking for "practical" application to our lives and not for intimacy and understanding of the Author we do not grow in our knowledge of God. Frankly, I think we often read the Bible as if it is ultimately about us when in fact it is ALL about Him! According to Romans 1:28; a complacency toward learning about and truly knowing God exposes us to God's judgment; "...since they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, He gave them over to a depraved mind, to do what ought not to be done." Accordingly, it is a dangerous thing indeed to approach the Word of God seeking only how we may use it for our temporal gain.
It is this broader understanding of theological and doctrinal truths revealed in scripture that we must develop to render the Bible relevant and applicable to those areas I have mentioned: morality, politics, education, etc. However, these truths are more difficult to discover and to do so requires a more intensive and systematic approach. This approach requires that we not only simply read the pages of our Bibles, but also that we incorporate appropriate theological and doctrinal references into our study. We also draw from biblical commentaries by reputable theologians and gain a working knowledge of Christian doctrine and the various perspectives that have developed through the centuries testing all of these against scripture.
In this age so many denominations, churches, and individual Christians de-emphasize doctrine and theology opting instead for experience and relevance to the point of compromise. Consequently too many Christians are ill-equipped to "give an answer for the hope that lies within them" much less engage the culture effectively. In the absence of rational doctrinal and theological understanding, Christians often issue religious rhetoric and moralizing rants in response to the social and cultural challenges of the day. Furthermore, those Christians who lack theological and doctrinal knowledge are often left floundering in the world, uncertain and prone to doubt when confronted by serious challenge from skeptics and critics. These reactions, ambivalence, and doubts only serve to further marginalize the Christian perspective in a world that has already reduced Christianity to nothing more than wishful thinking by the "unenlightened."
Part 3 of 5, to be continued..
This essay is available in the 27-page booklet, The Christian Mind: The Key to Cultural Relevance and Renewal by S. Michael Craven by calling the National Coalition at 513-521-6227
Copyright 2006 S. Michael Craven, All rights reserved. For reprint permission contact Philip Barnett at [email protected].
S. Michael Craven is the vice president for religion & culture at the National Coalition for the Protection of Children & Families and leads the work and ministry of Cultural Apologetics. Through the Cultural Apologetics ministry Michael works to equip the Church to assert and defend biblical morality and ethics in a manner that is rational, relevant and persuasive in order to recapture the relevance of Christianity to all of life by demonstrating its complete correspondence to reality. For more information on Cultural Apologetics, additional resources and other works by S. Michael Craven visit: www.CulturalApologetics.org
Michael lives in the Dallas area with his wife Carol and their three children.
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