At my daughter’s birthday celebration when she was a little girl, she beamed, “I feel so special.” It is a moment I cherish. We had achieved our goal—to show her how much she is loved.
People flourish when they are loved and appreciated, when they understand they have value. Strange then, that so many voices in our culture repeatedly tell us otherwise. Their message is “You are not enough. You are not special.”
Here is where the Gospel can make contact with a hurting culture. Believers can show that the Christian faith and worldview provide the best ground for human flourishing.
How do we do that? Apologetics gives us help here.
Joshua D. Chatraw and Mark D. Allen, in their book Apologetics at the Cross, recommend the “inside out” approach. Believers can step “inside” another worldview, look at its beliefs, show where those beliefs fall short and are inconsistent, and offer the Gospel in its place.
Here is a good place to start: Who am I?
Helping others see what their worldview says about humans can be eye-opening and can lead to fruitful conversations. Does that worldview say I am the product of blind forces, of chance and time? Am I a biological machine? Do I matter in this world?
Believers can show that the Gospel gives deeply satisfying answers to this question. We are created by an all-powerful, all-loving God who put his imprint on us. When we bask in God’s love, we become what we were intended to be.
Where other worldviews fall short, the Gospel shines brilliantly. Here are some examples.
The Naturalist’s Worldview – ‘You are not special.’
Cosmologist Carl Sagan saw a vast universe and a tiny Earth and decided we are too small to be significant. He wrote this:
Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves. (Pale Blue Dot, 1994)
Lonely. Dark. Obscure. This is where the naturalist’s worldview ends.
Naturalism begins by saying you are the result of outside forces and processes, without free will or real control over your life. At naturalism.org, Tom Clark writes this: “ … all our thoughts, feelings, experiences and behavior happen without there being a non-physical supervisor or soul in charge … You are the experiences and behavior carried out by your brain and body, not something extra exerting control.”
No soul. No God. No real you. It’s hard to find meaning in a worldview that reduces a person to chemical processes of the brain. How then could we trust our decisions? More so, why should we trust the naturalist’s brain and his conclusions? For that matter, why should we value other people at all?
Naturalism requires denying basic human intuitions about ourselves and our world. Naturalism says, “You are not special.” Atheist philosophers such as Camus and Sartre seemed to realize this, and despaired.
Yet, no one can live this way. We all do act as if our lives and actions matter.
Compare the Gospel message that says our deepest longings are real and that our desires to create, love, and seek justice are not chemical processes but instead show the imprint of the good and personal God who created us. The Biblical worldview can and does lead to human flourishing.
Naturalism leads to a dead end.
The Sexual Revolution worldview– ‘You are not special.’
The sexual revolution insists that science is wrong, that your body tells you nothing about the real you. Instead, you are your ever-shifting thoughts and emotions. It too demands that you deny your deepest intuitions.
Consider what Chelsea Clinton recently said, as reported by DailyMail.com, Oct. 14, 2019. The article reads that Chelsea Clinton “emphatically” affirmed that a fully biological male can be a woman.
But if a man can be a woman, then no one is. There’s no longer a definition of “woman” that fits. No longer are women distinct, unique, and identifiable. Even the word “mother” loses all meaning.
Nancy Pearcey points out how dangerous this thinking is:
If, as postmodernism claims, human nature itself is merely a social construction, something we make up as go along, then there is nothing in the individual that is a given—and therefore there is no basis for unalienable rights. Natural rights are reduced to legal rights, which the state can change at will. (Love Thy Body, p. 215)
Strange that those who think they are standing up for the rights of others are tearing down the very guardrails that protect us all. What Chelsea Clinton’s remarks mean for women is, “You are not special. Any man can replace you.”
The Christian worldview is a breath of fresh air. Jesus raised the status of women as he spoke to them acknowledging their ability to think, reason, and testify. In Christ, women (and men) are truly free. In Christ, the bondage of striving always to “be enough,” to be someone else, is over.
The Pro-Abortion worldview – ‘You are not special.’
If women understood what the abortion industry is truly selling, abortion would end today. Big abortion tells a woman, “Your baby is not special. You are not special.”
Women are told that abortion gives them control over their lives. Far too often, though, a woman who decides on an abortion has already given over control to someone or something else—a boyfriend, a parent, a career. To go through with an abortion, a woman must suppress what is perhaps the strongest of human intuitions—a mother’s instinct to protect her child.
The path to abortion begins with a culture that tells women they are not special.
Nancy Pearcey writes that today’s hookup culture “devalues the body and drains relationships of their moral and emotional depth.” It insists, “Don’t get attached.”
Pearcey points to a September 2015 Vanity Fair article that carries this quote from a young co-ed: “It’s a contest to see who cares less … But if you say any of this out loud, it’s like you’re weak, you’re not independent, you somehow missed the whole memo about third-wave feminism.” (Love Thy Body, pp. 118-120)
Pretend you don’t care; give up looking for commitment; repress your deep desires. A worldview that embraces abortion must ignore the human heart’s deepest desires. It says, “You are not special.”
The Biblical worldview – ‘You are special.’
How refreshing, how healing then is the Gospel message. The Gospel resonates with the human heart and soul that longs for meaning. (Matthew 6:25-26; John 15:9; 1 John 3:1; 4:9-10)
The Christian faith and worldview can bind up the broken-hearted. Each person is worth the cost God the Son paid on the cross, regardless of a person’s past or failed choices. The message believers have to offer overflows with hope, a message that in Christ a person is truly free and life can be lived to the fullest.
We can go, tell, and serve a hurting world knowing that the Gospel is the salve a hurting world needs.
This article was first published at New Orleans Baptist Theological Seminary’s official blog, Geaux Therefore, on Nov. 4, 2019.