This article is part 3 of a series about the current events. Find part 2 here.
Have you checked your heart lately? It’s a good thing to do. David pleaded with the Lord, saying “Search me, O God, and know my heart! Try me and know my thoughts!” (Ps. 139:24). We need the Lord to expose our sins so we can grow in Christlikeness. A couple weeks ago, I wrote an article asking you to start there.
Last week I wrote an article calling upon our church to prepare to think. The church is not endangered by obvious and blatant heresy, but rather subtle and insidious ideologies that lead to the undermining of the gospel itself. Remember, our enemy has “schemes” (Eph. 6:11). False teachers “secretly bring in destructive heresies” (2 Pet. 2:1). Satan “disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Cor. 11:14). That is to say, disruptive ways of thinking don’t announce their arrival. The disease of false ideology is often asymptomatic as it spreads throughout the body. And if it’s not identified, it kills.
Ideas have consequences. There have been seismic shifts that have happened in our culture over the last decade, and if you’ve been unaware of them, the last couple months have made it clear. In this article I want to make you aware of some of the big ideological shifts that have taken place in people’s thinking and how the church is vulnerable to being swept up into an anti-Christian worldview, sometimes called “critical theory.” Here are some of the big ideological changes we’re seeing.
The whole universe was created by God and for God. Paul summarizes the heart of the Christian life in Romans 11:36: “For from him and through him and to him are all things. To him be glory forever. Amen.” God is ultimate. He created all things for his own glory. That is why we exist. All our lives are to be toward this great end: to glorify God and enjoy him forever.
Our world, however, has adopted a secular worldview, which means that no longer does the reality of God weigh into the lives and decisions of those in our society. Since there’s no God to fear, people do what is right in their own eyes.
The church is not free from the influence of an increasingly secular society. Often, the church has tried to win the world by becoming like it, and has tried to avoid making God “too holy” or sin “too serious.” Many churches have adopted what David Wells described as a “Weightless God.”
But man, made in God’s image, designed for worship, cannot live with a void in the heart. If God is not the center, something else will be. If the grand story of redemption is not the interpretive and cohesive narrative, some other interpretive narrative will fill the void.
Self-Expression the New Virtue
A godless ideology inevitably leads to the elevation of man. Man begins to see itself not as God does, but as he wants to see himself. Rather than seeing himself as depraved, he just needs to be himself. Rather than seeing his carnal desires as needing to be denied, he is taught to pursue his desires no matter what. Rather than seeing his base desires as sinful, he sees them as righteous expressions of the way God made him. Man is no longer a sinner in need of a Savior, but men see themselves as little gods lusting for glory.
Jesus says: “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me” (Luke 9:23). The world says, “Deny your neighbor, take up your comfort, and follow your heart.” Self-expression is the exact opposite of Christ’s invitation to discipleship and the clarion call of a godless society.
What happens when humanity starts living that way? What happens when the is overrun with false human gods who deem their highest good to be self-expression?
A New Oppression
The elevation of man in the place of God creates a new value system. Not only does self-expression become the highest good, but any hindrances to self-expression (restrictions, limits, authorities, or less obvious forces) become the greatest evil. Any systems or constructs that hinder a person’s ability to be “themselves” are a form of oppression.
Therefore, in this worldview, everybody is viewed as a member of a group that is either oppressed or oppressive. The majority group is always oppressive because it, whether intentionally or not, is imposing its norms on the minority group. Every people-category you can think of, then, has a corresponding oppression associated with it: wherever there is race, there is racism, wherever there is gender, there is sexism or homophobia; wherever there is masculinity and femininity, there is patriarchy. For every human category there are oppressors and oppressed.
This is where we need to think carefully. There certainly has been (and currently still is) true oppression in our world. Our nation in particular has committed grievous acts of oppression from chattel slavery up to Jim Crow. Today, there is no doubt that the same sins that created those systems exist in the hearts of men today. Racism, partiality, fear, and insensitivity are sins that must be dealt with in our day. It’s important to make that clear.
At the same time, embracing an ideology that denies God’s rightful authority, places self-fulfillment at the center of life, and views all obstacles as forms of oppression will most certainly wreak havoc. The church must be able to identify and refute it.
What We’re Seeing Today
It’s vitally important that we, as Christ’s church, stay humble and remain vigilant. Much of the uproar we’re seeing today could be linked to our society’s embrace of critical theory. In upcoming articles, we’re going to see how this ideology tampers with our language and, if we fail to uphold the truth, could end up redirecting the church’s mission and redefining the church’s message.