In professional tennis matches, the ball moves so fast that players have to swing at it before their conscious minds have time to process what’s happening. I asked a friend who played against many world champions how top tennis players master this. He explained that through thousands of hours of practice, they learn to spy subtle signs given off by their opponents, and they fine-tune their reflexes to respond.
The same is true in today’s battle of ideas, when culture rapidly fires fake worldviews at us. If we don’t respond quickly enough, we risk being taken captive by hollow and deceptive philosophies (Colossians 2:8).
By all accounts, Christians today are losing this battle of ideas. But we don’t have to. It is possible to be alert to fake worldviews and maintain spiritual vitality. But first, we need to understand what a worldview is, how today’s fake worldviews affect us and how to share the truth of Jesus with others.
As Jesus said in John 8:31-32, “You will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
How to Spot Bad Ideas
A worldview is our view of God, humanity and the world. A Biblical worldview is one that is based on God’s infallible Word. It shows us what God is really like and where to turn for true answers to our big life questions. Fake worldviews, on the other hand, trick us into looking for answers in all the wrong places. And they’re everywhere—on television, in books and magazines, at the movies and in conversations with friends and family. We absorb them like we catch colds. We don’t even know we’re sick until it’s too late.
According to Barna surveys conducted over the last 20 years, fewer than one in five churchgoers has a worldview based on the Bible. Where do they get their worldview, if not from the Bible? New research offers startling answers to that question.
Five Fake Worldviews
Working with Barna, our team at Summit Ministries surveyed people from different Christian traditions and ethnicities who live in every region of America, in both rural and urban communities. We asked questions about the influence of five fake worldviews.
Here’s what we found:
- 61 percent of those who say they are practicing Christians agree with ideas rooted in new spirituality, which claims that the material world isn’t real and that what we do in this life will come back to us in future lives.
- 54 percent resonate with postmodern views that say that we should be suspicious of anyone who claims to know the truth, because absolute truth cannot be known.
- 38 percent are sympathetic to some Islamic teachings, including the idea that people in rebellion against God should be made to submit—by force, if necessary.
- 36 percent accept ideas associated with Marxism, the belief that the current system must be overthrown because it exploits the poor to benefit the rich.
- 29 percent believe ideas based on secularism, the belief that the material world is all there is, and that God is irrelevant to what is important.
Tragically, fake worldviews ruin people’s lives, leading them to wrong values and harmful practices. What can we do?
How to Stop Fake Worldviews
We can combat bad ideas by thinking of them as viruses that trick us into living lives that are contrary to the teachings of the Bible. When faced with potentially catastrophic viral outbreaks, doctors have learned how to take these four decisive steps to curb a virus’s growing impact: identify, isolate, inform and invest.
First, we have to identify bad ideas generated by fake worldviews. These bad ideas, simply put, are lies. Lies about the nature of reality, lies about morality, lies about values and lies about how we should relate to one another. At the root of all these fake worldviews and their lies is none other than Satan, whom Jesus called “a liar and the father of lies” (John 8:44).
Bad ideas often spread by hitching a ride on something or someone that otherwise seems harmless. Just as viruses trick the body because they’re coated with proteins, something the body finds beneficial, bad ideas attempt to make themselves believable by coating lies in bits of truth. For example:
- “The physical world is all we can see … therefore, anything spiritual is merely a creation of the imagination.”
- “Some rich people are greedy … therefore, we are justified in confiscating wealth.”
- “Some religious people lie … therefore, no religious message should be believed.”
- “Forces are at work beyond what we can see … therefore, God must be a force—like in Star Wars—not a person.”
This isn’t just an intellectual exercise. As C.S. Lewis said, “different beliefs about the universe lead to different behavior.” The consequences of bad beliefs can cause horrific pain. Some ideas have led to the death of millions. Nazism and communism, for example, are responsible for systematically exterminating more than 100 million people.
Will such tragedies occur again in the future? It depends on whether we will be able to identify bad ideas in time to curb their deadly influence.
After identifying the counterfeit worldviews that compete for our loyalty, we must isolate the false ideas that might be hidden behind a façade of truth. The Bible warns us that “Satan disguises himself as an angel of light” (2 Corinthians 11:14). For example, we may wonder if we are loved. It’s clear that God loves all of us. But we must recognize the ways in which the culture twists the idea of love by making it all about sex. The lies of fake worldviews have convinced many people to base their whole identity on their sexual attraction, and they mistake sexuality for love. We must isolate the counterfeit idea that we are solely sexual, and not spiritual, beings.
We can isolate bad ideas by asking questions like, “What do you mean by that?” “How did you arrive at that conclusion?” and “How do you know that is true?” The next time you’re in a discussion about big ideas, try asking these questions to generate discussion and get to the source of why people believe as they do.
Third, we must inform others of how to find love, healing, purpose, peace and hope through Jesus. To do this, we must go beyond just learning the truth; we also must be aware of the enemy’s lies. In writing to the church at Corinth, the Apostle Paul said he wanted to be certain that “we would not be outwitted by Satan; for we are not ignorant of his designs” (2 Corinthians 2:11).
William McGuire, a psychology professor in the 1950s, suggested that if you want to inoculate people against bad ideas, you don’t just teach people the truth; you also inform them about the lies that would stand against the truth, and show them how to respond to those lies.
In the same way that inoculation works against deadly viruses such as polio and smallpox, exposing people to bad ideas and preparing them with arguments against those ideas is the best way to keep them from being tricked into adopting wrong beliefs. Many apologetics websites exist to help believers grapple with today’s issues and sort out truth from lies in a compelling way.
Finally, we must invest in those who’ve been sickened by bad ideas so they can emerge stronger than before. The Bible says, “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Galatians 6:1). At the same time that we help people to see the truth, we want them to feel safe and cared for. This process intertwines truth and relationship, like two strands of a DNA double helix, allowing Christians to begin developing healthy spiritual DNA in their lives to replace the distorted genetic code fed to them by idea viruses. It’s not a one-time act. It’s an everyday, all-of-life process.
Can We Know the Christian Worldview is True?
Christianity’s grasp of reality has enabled it to profoundly influence the world. That influence has led to human rights, freedom, education, healthcare and more. But that alone does not establish that it is true.
When we say that the Christian worldview is true, we are affirming that it best describes the world as it actually exists. For example, Christianity says that the universe is a product of God’s design (Genesis 1:1-2:23). Further, Christianity points out that this fact of design is observable by everyone (Romans 1:19-20). People may try to deny it, but they do so only by ignoring the overwhelming evidence that this complex and finely tuned universe could never have come about by blind chance.
Christianity also presents us with moral absolutes. In the Bible, God tells us what is right and what is wrong. And though many try to pretend otherwise, God’s moral absolutes have consistently proven to be the standards that make human life and society possible.
So why do people base their lives on fake worldviews? From a Biblical viewpoint, it is not that the truth is unknowable or that we are confused; it is that truth is knowable and we have rebelled.
But there is reason for hope. Today, world-class Christian instructors from the top ranks of academia and business present powerful evidence for a designed universe. They show how a Biblical understanding of right and wrong leads to flourishing in society. They demonstrate that society functions best when the institutions of family, church and state exercise their proper authority within their God-ordained spheres, just as described in the Bible. And they encourage Christians to reject failed utopian schemes and instead use their talents to glorify God and make the world a better place.
When we combine these teachings with personal friendliness and a listening ear, we can make an impact on the hearts and minds of thousands of children, teens and adults.
It makes sense why this happens. Only the Christian worldview describes the contours of the world as it actually exists.This is great news in our perilous times. We are all at risk. But we canknow the truth, and the truth will set us free. ©2018 Jeff Myers
Scripture quotations are taken from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version.
Jeff Myers, Ph.D., is president of Summit Ministries (Summit.org). His book and video small group course The Secret Battle of Ideas About God is available online or at your local Christian bookstore.