Yes, there is, and you might be surprised at what it is!
The Gatekeeper of American Culture is The Definition of Truth
What is a cultural gatekeeper and what is its purpose?
The Gatekeeper of any culture is like a filter that sifts out what is considered “truth” and what truths are considered absolute or universally accepted.
In the following, I will elaborate on how the false definition of “Truth” in our present culture is our Gatekeeper. I will also address how the Christian buy-in to this false notion is impacting us as followers of Christ. If we desire to speak Biblical Truth into a variety of issues that are facing our society today, we must understand this insidious false definition.
Before I explain this false definition, let me explain a clear biblical definition of truth.
Consider 2 Timothy 3:16, 17.
“All Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching (doctrine), for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness; 17 so that the man of God may be adequate, equipped for every good work.”
In these two verses, the word “Scripture” is referring to the Old Testament, as the New Testament had not yet been written. It is actually more staggering to realize that the Apostle Paul believed that when the Hebrew Bible was used correctly, it addressed every area of life and how we ought to live.
As Christ-Followers we believe that all of the Bible – Old and New Testaments, address all aspects of life. This is essentially a Biblical Total Truth Worldview (BTTW). Restating this to cement it in our minds and hearts, a BTTW is a biblically informed perspective on all reality. This worldview is like a mental map that tells us how to navigate the world effectively and biblically. It is the imprint of God’s objective Truth on our inner life. Christianity functions as a unified, overarching system of Truth that applies to social issues, history, politics, anthropology, and all other subject areas.
When the truths of Scripture are practiced individually, or collectively, a person and/or an ethic group, will not only survive, but also prosper and thrive. Please remember that the following definition of truth is a false definition. This is how the world defines truth and not how we, as Christ followers, define it. Pause for a moment and imagine a 2-story house.
The Upper Story (Private Sphere) of Socially Constructed Meanings:
On this story we find values, personal choice, individual freedoms, no absolutes, existential (experiences in life that are personal) decisions that are awash with moral relativism. Here, people find their own personal meaning. As you might guess, this is where our cultural places religion, the arts, sexual preference, philosophy, psychology and sociology. Religious preferences, especially Christianity, belongs here because it is not considered “objective truth” to which one ought to submit. In fact, if you profess Christianity to the world, outside the walls of our churches, you might be considered to be intolerant. Why? Because you are so convinced about what you believe and what the Bible teaches is absolute.
The Lower Story (Public Sphere) of Publicly Verifiable truth:
Now, in your mind, visualize the lower story of the house. If the upstairs is the “value floor,” in this false understanding, the downstairs is what the world defines as the “fact floor,” or the “public sphere.” Here you find so-called objective truth where reason rules supreme. In this sphere is science, politics, education, medical field,evolution, economics and business institutions. In this story facts are verifiable, things are rational, and considered universally valid and binding. This is where cognitive thinking people live; where the intelligent and rational people render their opinions and live out their behaviors. Only the irrational cling to fantasies such as religion.
Let me briefly comment about evolution at this point. Evolution is considered to be a fact in this lower story and, therefore, cannot be challenged as a theory about origins. It is considered to be universally binding and is taught as absolute fact or Truth. Technically, evolution is not science but in the world of academia it is demanded to be so. It is not science because according to the scientific method science must be observable, measurable, repeatable, and experimental by repeated testing in order to form a hypothesis (which is an educated guess based on experimentation). As of today repeated valid testing does not prove that evolution, is evident let alone possible.
Sir Arthur Keith who wrote the forward to the “Origin of Species, The Preservation of Favored Races in the struggle for Life, the 100th edition, admitted, “Evolution is unproved and unprovable. We believe it only because the only alternative is special creation, and that is unthinkable.”
If we listen to and observe our culture carefully you will see the principles of Darwinism reaching into all areas of life, not only the biological area as it was originally intended. For example, we now hear about an “evolving Constitution,” or our “evolving” culture. Social Darwinism is shaping Theology, law, education, and philosophy.
I would suggest if you are reading this teaching attempt to communicate this false split to another person in your sphere of influence. Perhaps draw them a picture 🙂
In this brief summary I laid out for you the false definition of Truth which is the gatekeeper of our culture. In other words, all ideologies and systems of thought are viewed through this grid. As Philip Johnson, the great Christian thinker said,
“This false split is the number one barrier that keeps Christianity in its cultural captivity.”
Why? Because this cultural lie relegates Christianity to only the upper-story. As long as Christians stay confined to their Bible studies, evangelistic crusades, church services, youth camps, concerts, and yes, even benevolent service to our communities, all is fine. But as soon as Christ followers think that they can speak biblical truths into arenas that reside in the lower story…there can be resistance.
In a debate over embryonic stem cell research the late Christopher Reeve told a student group at Yale University, “When matters of public policy are debated, no religions should have a seat at the table (Total Truth p. 22), referenced from, “Reeve: Keep Religious Groups out of Public Policy,” April 3, 2003. The Associated Press.
To recover a place at the table of public debate, then, Christians must find a way to overcome the dichotomy between public and private, fact and value, secular and sacred. We need to liberate the message of the kingdom of God from its cultural captivity, restoring it to the status of public truth. “The barred cage that forms the prison for the gospel in contemporary western culture is [the church’s] accommodation…to the fact-value dichotomy,” says Michael Goheen, a professor of worldview studies presently at Covenant Theological Seminary. Only by recovering a holistic view of Total Truth can we set the Good News of the Kingdom of God free to become a redemptive force across all of life. (For an insightful discussion about the impact of a Biblical Total Worldview the Introduction and the first four chapters of Total Truth by Nancy Pearcey will enhance your understanding. If you choose to read only one of the chapters, your walk with Christ will be profoundly enriched!
As I have become more knowledgeable about what the Bible says about the issues in the lower story, and when I communicate these truths with receptive people, the truths resonate with the and I find that non-believers are more open to listening to the relevance of Christ and His teachings. Grasping and communicating these powerful truths allows me the opportunity to step down to the “fact floor” and influence the discussion with a biblical perspective.
In some ways Christendom has created its own split in how we treat the Word of God. This split is between our understanding and application of the Old Testament (Book of the Covenants), which teaches us how to govern, influence, and share truth for broader society. Because we have relegated the “law” (which are all the OT principles) to be considered a “strange thing,” or placed it in the category as “something alien,” we are losing our voice in the public square. I quote below two passages that address this errant belief and practice.
“I wrote for them the many things of my law, but they regarded them as something foreign (strange, alien)” – Hosea 8:12 NIV
Even more poignant to our church culture today is the NLT rendering of this verse.
“Even though I gave them all my laws, they act as if those laws don’t apply to them” – Hosea 8:12 NLT
Alan Hirsch provides one the best comments about the Law:
“The Hebrew word Torah has traditionally been interpreted as “law,” that is a set of rules or legal codes. This is somewhat a misleading interpretation as it implies the rigid approach to life that distorts the inner intention of the idea of Torah. A truer translation is that of “instruction” or simply “teaching.” A better way of looking at it is to see the Torah as an orientation course in the ways of God. The instruction aims at the harnessing and directing of the community’s resources toward a redemptive end.
There is a profound logic going on in the Torah, a logic that attempts to relate all aspects of life to God. Therefore, everything—one’s work, one’s domestic life, one’s health one’s worship, —has the same significance to God. He is concerned with every aspect of the believer’s life. While in the Western spiritual tradition we have tended to see the “religious” as one category of life among many, the Hebrew mind incorporated “religious” existence into all of life. As such there is no distinction whatsoever between the secular and the sacred in the Hebrew worldview. All of life is sacred when it is placed in relationship to the living God. The Hebraic mind can draw a direct line from any and every aspect of life to the eternal purposes of God—this is the logic of Torah.” – The Shaping of Things To Come, Page2 125-126
A most staggering reality is, if we neglect God’s Laws (His instruction manual for life), the consequences impact our offspring.
“…my people are destroyed from lack of knowledge. Because you have rejected knowledge, I also reject you as my priests; because you have ignored the law of your God [God’s syllabus for life], I also will ignore your children.” – Hosea 4:6 NIV
Because of the richness and wisdom of the Torah in particular, I have discovered strategic ways to bring the Good News of the Kingdom of God to those within my interactions. In everyday relationships, social media posts, and my teaching blog and seminars that I lead I’m able to have an impact. Friends, the direction, solutions, and wisdom to address all areas of life has been right before us in the whole counsel of God. Acts 20:27 includes both the Old and New Testaments! As I write this I am thrilled and excited because we really do have answers to the questions and misinformation espoused by the so-called, “intellectual elites” (inside and outside the church). We can also respond to the the anti-biblical pontificators in our culture as well as the everyday people who have sincere questions or misunderstandings. We do have a way to break through the “false split” and that is through the Torah, Old and New Testaments. We must, however, be people who study God’s Word! We must truly know the truth by engaging the Scriptures on a regular basis. If you need additional help, like I do, read biblically based books like: The Forgotten Ways and The Shaping of Things to Come, by Alan Hirsch. Also, the Founders’ Bible which will equip you with the knowledge of what God’s Word says about a myriad of public issues being debated in the public square. Also, three books by Nancey Pearcey: Total Truth, Finding Truth, and Love Thy Body.
However, even though I read books my primary study source is the Bible. I go to the Bible first and research the passages and the context of those passage that address the subjects.
It is ironic to me that the holistic understanding of truth, one that permeates all of life, is taught and understood in the Islamic concept of truth defined as political Islam, and in the Jewish concept of truth. Even Christianity, for its first 300 years, believed in the application of truth to ALL of life, probably because the make-up of the first Christian converts were primarily Jewish and steeped in Torah. The tragic news, however, is that modern Christendom has slowly developed a privatized faith which has crippled our impact on cultural transformation.
When I speak up regarding a biblical area in the lower story, usually an in-depth positive conversation ensues with people of differing opinions. What is most sobering is when I began to address areas in the public story, from a biblical perspective about cultural issues, I get kick back primarily from evangelical church leaders and influencers, many of whom are fearful of potential backlash from the constituents they serve. At first I thought that this opposition was simply in my own experience and perhaps my fault for being too assertive, too literal regarding the creation account, or too provincial when talking about gender or race issues. However, this seems to be the trend from “so-called Evangelical leaders.” Observe the humbling statement from Joe Dallas who wrote in his book, Christians in a Cancel Culture:
“Yet the rejection of and opposition to these doctrines (sinfulness, judgment, salvation) comes less from secular opponents and more from professing believers. While many nonbelievers find them offensive, those doctrines are more in danger of being dismantled by progressive Christians than by the Cancel Culture. That is not to say that secular influences don’t come into play here. Most likely they provided a template of thought and approach for progressive Christians, who seem to have adopted social trends and baptized them in religious terms.” (Page 148).
As our cultural is drifting towards a more aggressive hostility toward Christianity, more and more Christ-Followers are learning how to address these areas in the lower story with both the OT and the NT. As a result, Christians are emboldened, people outside of Christ are recognizing the credibility of God’s Truth and how it applies to our society’s needs. This is encouraging!
Here are several ways you might consider making this teaching pertinent to your experience:
#1 Draw a picture of a two-story building with the upper story representing the value story and the lower story illustrating the so-called, fact story. Place ideologies, behaviors, disciplines in each of the levels.
# 2 Please make an effort to explain this false definition of truth to a family member or friend. You will find this a little more challenging than you might think, but the exercise will benefit you as well as the recipient.
#3 Take notice of the world around you in regard how Christians and Non-Christians have bought into this false notion of this split as they attempt to describe truth. Also, reaffirm fellow Followers when they address lower story issues from a Biblical worldview. We all need to be encouraged when we obey God and succeed!
#4 Discover biblical answers as to how to address the variety of ideologies in the lower story. At the present time the men I weekly meet with are writing out Biblical Total Truth Worldviews regarding ideologies and Scriptural principles. It is so rewarding!
Helping to Advance the Kingdom of God with you!