July 7, 2014 Broadcast

Only Two Worldviews

A Message by R.C. Sproul

Every person in every different culture has some sense of right and wrong, meaning and purpose, dignity and value.  But where does this understanding come from? What grounds our ideas in reality? In this lesson, Dr. Sproul exposes the radical difference between a theistic worldview, and one that embraces atheism.

From the series: Ultimate Issues

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Further Study On This Topic

  1. article

    A Supernatural Faith

  2. question and answer

    What is the relationship between a Christian education and a public education?

  3. article

    One or Two?

A Supernatural Faith

R.C. Sproul

"The God hypothesis is no longer necessary to explain the origin of the universe or the development of human life.”

This assertion was at the very heart of the movement that took place in the eighteenth century that we call the Enlightenment or the Aufklärung. This movement spread from Germany to France and then to England. The French Encyclopedists (writers of an encyclopedia during the eighteenth century that promoted secular humanism) were militant in their denial of the need for the existence of God. His existence was seen as no longer necessary because He had been supplanted by the “science” of that period that explained the universe in terms of spontaneous generation. Here we see an example of pseudoscience supplanting sound philosophy and theology.

Added to this, we have the agnosticism of the titanic philosopher Immanuel Kant, who argued that it is impossible for science or philosophy to acquire knowledge of the metaphysical realm of God. It was declared that all knowledge must be restricted to the realm of the natural. With the combination of Kant’s agnosticism and the hypothesis of the Enlightenment, the door was open wide to a thoroughgoing philosophy of naturalism. This philosophy captured in its wake the academic theologians of Europe in the nineteenth century. 

Out of this came nineteenth-century liberalism with its militant anti-supernatural perspective. The liberalism of that era denied all of the supernatural elements of the Christian faith, including the virgin birth of Jesus, His miracles, His atoning death, and His resurrection. The supernatural was stripped altogether from Christianity. Commenting on this in the twentieth century, the Swiss theologian Emil Brunner described nineteenth century liberalism as mere “unbelief in disguise.” 

The twentieth century saw a continuation of the impact of naturalism with the so-called neo-liberalism of German theology, particularly as it was manifested in the writings of Rudolf Bultmann. Bultmann saw the Bible as a mixture of history and mythology. He believed that which was mythological had to be removed from the text of the Bible in order to speak relevantly to modern people. Of course, from Bultmann’s perspective, the supernatural trappings of the New Testament were all a part of the mythological husk that had to be stripped away from the ethical core of the Bible. The impact of liberalism and neo-liberalism on the church left it basically as a worldly, nature-bound religion that sought refuge in a humanitarian social agenda. This is the approach to Christianity that has all but completely captured many of today’s mainline churches throughout the world.

However, in the last few decades, we have witnessed a comeback of sorts of the supernatural. Yet this increasing interest in the supernatural has been driven in large measure by a fascination with the occult. People are now interested in demons, witches, spiritualists, and other occultic phenomena.

The Christianity of the Bible is a religion that is uncompromisingly supernatural. If we take away the supernatural, we take away Christianity. At the heart of the worldview of both Testaments is the idea that the realm of nature is created by One who transcends that nature. That God Himself is “supra” or above and beyond the created universe. The first principle of the Bible is that God must never be identified with the realm of nature but always and everywhere be seen as the Lord over nature. The difference between the natural and the supernatural is the difference between that which is restricted to this world and that which participates in the realm of the divine, the realm that is above and beyond the reach of what is found in simple nature. 

In no way does this affirmation of supernature in the Bible denigrate the importance of the natural. The natural realm is where God’s work of redemption is played out in space and time. But that work of redemption is not a natural process of human evolution or development; rather, it involves an intrusion from above, from the transcendent realm of God, which addresses the spiritual nature of our humanity.

With the renewed interest in the supernatural that comes with the occult, we must be ever vigilant to make sure that whatever understanding we have of the supernatural is an understanding that is informed by the Bible and not by paganism. Sheer naturalism is paganism with a vengeance, but so is the occult. What we need is an understanding of the supernatural that comes to us from the supernatural, from the Author of the supernatural, who reveals to us in His Word the content of the supernatural realm — so that our understanding of angels, or demons, or of spiritual beings comes from God’s self-revelation and not from human speculation, neo-gnostic magic, or other forms of pagan intrusions. Again, we must insist that without the supernatural, Christianity loses its very heart, and this writer cannot understand why anybody would attach any great significance to Christianity at all once it’s been stripped of its supernatural elements. 

What is the relationship between a Christian education and a public education?

In recent years we have seen the beginnings of sectarian schools in numbers that are unprecedented in American history—save for the manifestation of parochial schools sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church. In the case of Catholic theology and practice, the church has always seen education as an extremely important aspect of its whole program. For the most part, Protestants have been content with the public school system. Part of the reason for that is that the Protestant church was intimately involved in establishing the systems and structures that were communicated through public coeducation years ago.

There has been a growing secularism in this country and a new understanding of the concept of separation of church and state, which many people understand to mean a separation of the state from God. Classically, both were seen as being under the sovereignty of God and were committed to a basically common value system. That’s no longer the case. Now the state has to walk a tightrope of human rights to make sure it doesn’t do anything that will establish one religion over another in the school system.

The concept of antiestablishmentarianism historically has argued against establishing a particular Christian denomination as the state-endorsed church, as in the case of the Church of England. Now it has come to mean that Christianity has no particular benefit over Judaism or Islam or Hinduism or anything else. It tends to be the understanding of the state that public education is not to be religiously oriented in any way; it is to be neutral. This, of course, is manifestly impossible because you cannot have a curriculum of any type that is totally neutral. Every curriculum has a perspective, and that perspective is either theocentric or it is not. Either it acknowledges the ultimate sovereignty and supremacy of God or it does not. It may remain silent, but that silence is a statement.

I would say the great difference between Christian education and public education right now is in their commitment to their ultimate perspectives, whether it is God centered or not God centered. Christians have to make a decision as to whether to receive an education that’s competitive in the other disciplines or to pay twice as much to get that God-centered perspective. Frankly, many Christian schools are not excellent in the academic disciplines, and so it becomes a very difficult decision to make.

One or Two?

Peter Jones

An ideology is taking over the West that is both very spiritual and self-consciously anti-Christian. It intends, ever so subtly, without ever saying so explicitly, to grind the gospel into the dustbin of history. The 1960s was an incredibly formative decade. In 1962, Mircea Eliade, the world expert on comparative religions, observed: “Western thought [he meant Christendom] can no longer maintain itself in this splendid isolation from a confrontation with the ‘unknown,’ the ‘outsiders.’” As if on cue, the “Fab Four” met the Maharishi and introduced the “wisdom of the East” to popular Western culture. In the same decade, the “Death of God” theology arose, which turned out not to be the final triumph of secular humanism over the God of the Bible but instead the arrival of “the new polytheism” in the rebirth of the gods and goddesses of ancient Greece and Rome. Bob Dylan sang, “The Times They Are A’Changin,” and we heard for the first time of the “dawning of the Age of Aquarius,” an age of pagan utopian spirituality. This was the age when many became aware of the ancient heresy of Gnosticism through the discovery of ancient Gnostic texts and the psychological theories of the modern, very spiritual Gnostic Carl Jung, who called Christian orthodoxy “systematic blindness.” Jung followed the ancient Gnostic god Abraxas, half man, half beast, as a deity higher than both the Christian God and the Devil. His secular biographer recently stated that Jung, like the Roman Emperor Julian in the fourth century AD, succeeded in turning the Western world back to paganism.

The results of this pagan invasion of the West are stunning. In August 2009, Newsweek announced that “we are all Hindus now,” meaning that the Western “Christian” soul has been profoundly and definitively altered by Eastern spiritual one-ism, the seductive message of which is bound up in the Hindu word advaita, meaning “not two.” Here is the massive clash of two fundamentally opposed worldviews. Whereas Scripture affirms two-ism (the Creator/creature distinction and all the distinctions God creates in the cosmos He made), Hindu one-ism categorically affirms that things are “not two” but “one.” In a cosmos without a Creator, all distinctions collapse and man is god.

The conversion of the West has had practical effects. California is now mandating, in the name of oneist fairness, that gay history must be taught in all the schools, including grade school. The effect on Christian teachers will be devastating. If they leave, we hand over public education to the pagans. The same is happening in the military chaplaincy, just the way it happened in the fourth century under Julian the Apostate, who turned the empire back to Isis worship and purged Christians from the imperial administration.

Pagan territory is new for us. The theological binary (two-ism) is being ineluctably undermined by the rejection of the normative male/female binary. In a Swedish, tax-funded preschool, teachers can no longer use the pronouns him or her and must address the children as “friends.” “Homophobic,” gender-specific children’s stories such as “Thumbelina” or “Cinderella” are forbidden. A Toronto couple is raising their baby, Storm, without telling anyone the child’s gender.

While only 1.4 percent of the U.S. population claims a same-sex orientation (see the National Center for Health Statistics and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, March 2011), this minuscule tail wags the massive dog of Western culture because the agenda of homosexual oneness fits the “new ideology” of advaita — “not two.”

The one-ism of secular environmentalism is capturing the mind of the rising generation, raised in grade school through college on the notion of “sustainability” that worships Mother Earth and flattens the difference between creatures made in God’s image and those that are not.

What will happen to gospel witness when Western culture is “purified” of its literary canon and its Christian ethical past? The church must still speak and live out all issues of fundamental truth, whatever the cost — not to save America but to save souls from eternal doom. Without a clear understanding of the biblical worldview of two-ism — especially without the unambiguous embodiment of gender distinctions — as part of the image of God, we lose the essence of who we are as human beings, and the gospel loses its clarity.

It is time for people everywhere to hear that the good news concerns the amazing grace of reconciliation with God, the great Other, who, while transcendently different from us, redeems sinful creatures like us and restores to us personal fellowship with Him through the atoning death of His Son.

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