This is the fourth post in our series on Walt Mueller’s book, Engaging the Soul of Youth Culture. I would encourage to look back at where we have come from before reading on.
This post is on worldviews. A worldview is the grid through which we make sense of the world. It’s our filter for understanding the good and the bad. Through our worldview critical decisions are made regarding the way we live and what we believe. There are major worldview categories. The first is “premodern”. This was a worldview where most cultures and peoples were united under the belief of a central divine source. It was “God(s)-centric”. In this worldview “there is a God; therefore conform to him. (59)”.
The second worldview is the modern worldview. This is the period dominated by the “enlightenment”, the American revolution, the dominance of science and empirical understanding. Human reason was key and there was a belief that human beings can understand and reason our all the questions that face us in the universe. Therefore the modern lives “as if there is no God; therefore we play God in the world. (61)”
The third worldview is the postmodern worldview.
In February of 2006, a college student in Detroit, Michigan sent this email:
“Your reasoning for the existence of God seems very poor. I’m not a believer or disbeliever because I concluded that is the only thing that there is sufficient evidence to conclude. There is no possible way of confirming any truths in any religion or the bible. There is no way for a living mortal to know what happens after death or of the existence of our creator. People can believe whatever they want to make them feel better about their life here on earth, but there is no real way of knowing. The sooner people accept that the better. There has been too many conflicts because of religion and too many brainwashed people in my opinion. I think if there is a God, he/she wouldn’t want to rule out of fear or even rule at all. I don’t think he/she would make a set of rules and the idea of getting sent to Hell if you don’t obey. If he/she really wanted to make a set of rules and such, why would he/she give us a free thinking complex mind? There are too many uncertainties and no one will ever know one way or another until they are dead so there is no real reason to debate it. Believe what you want but don’t push it on others. Do whatever makes you happy as long as you aren’t harming others in the process. This is what I came to believe by myself. Comments or ideas? I’m open to new ideas and love learning so please tell me what do you think.”
These are the thoughts of an average college student from Detroit, Michigan. There are no edits for dramatic effect. This statement shows the cynicism, skepticism, doubt, frustration, and the potential hope that resides in the worldview of the average student in America today. This student could be black or white, male, or female, top of their class or bottom of their class, it does not really matter. The fact is that this is the normal response to the statement of anything perceived as Christian. There is a clear disdain for the absolute for, “There are too many uncertainties.” In Colossians Remixed by Brian Walsh and Sylvia Keesmaat they record a conversation with William a young man who declares that he is a theist but then quickly goes on to state that does not mean that he is a Christian because he has a problem with the Bible. “My problem with the Bible is that as soon as I open it I bump up against the absolute. Actually, it more that the absolute punches me in the face whenever I read this book.” This is the very issue with which the student above struggles. The generation struggles with this issue in relationship to the church! They are attracted to Jesus, to his compassion, to his justice, to his sacrificial love, but the Bible’s continual thrust of the absolute repulses them.
This raises a critical question for the church today. How can the church communicate the gospel with its clearly defined absolutes and be heard by a culture that rejects the absolute out of hand?