Posted in Christian Witness

Where have all the Christians Gone? An Analysis of the Movie, Woodlawn

This past Monday my wife and I enjoyed a little down time with our six children. After a delicious Japanese style stir-fry with homemade “yum yum sauce,” we all ventured downstairs to the entertainment room for a movie. The movie was Woodlawn. An inspired true story of a Birmingham, Alabama High school football team whose faith helped bring their community and the community of a rival school together.

To be honest, my first thoughts, and the reason why it has taken so long to watch the film—the movie has been on video for a while now— was “Oh no! Another football movie.” Don’t get me wrong, football was at one time the love of my life. From the ages of 14 till about 28 there was not a weekend that did not go by that I did not watch a game. If football was on TV, then my butt was on the couch.

When I was younger, after watching a game on a Saturday or Sunday afternoon my buddies and I would get a pick-up game going in a nearby field. When I was a senior in High school (Van, West Virginia) I’d even have the upcoming weekend game scheduled. Making sure all that were interested knew when and where we were playing. Of course, this was after the regular season, because our coaches did not want us playing backyard football during the season due to the risk of injury.

For a long time, football was an intricate part of my life. Soon after accepting the call into the ministry, though, that changed. I slowly lost the desire to watch games on Saturday and Sunday afternoons. No longer did I keep up with my favorite player’s stats, and the days of watching NFL matchup on ESPN were over. Evidently, my love of football was an idol that need to be torn down in my life, and God over time replaced that pastime with more constructive means of spending my days. Oh, I still watch it from time-to-time. My oldest son plays junior high ball and when I watch those games I still feel a stirring to get out there play, but the game is no longer a dominant force in my life.

So, when it came to another football movie inspired by true events, I had my reservations. One of the things that did peak my interest was the Christian element within the film. In the past, movies like Fireproof, Courageous, Facing the Giants, and God’s Not Dead turned out to be fairly decent in regards to their Christian message.[i] I’m glad we picked this movie up from the local library, because the time watching it was not wasted.

Woodlawn, as was mentioned earlier, was a film based on events surrounding a High school in Birmingham, Alabama. The years that were focused in the film were 1973-74. This period in history was not too far separated from the teachings of Martin Luther King Jr. and the Civil Rights movement of the 1960’s. The United States was still suffering from her past sins of slavery. Though the Civil War eventually gained emancipation for Blacks in the south, the cultural dogma of Segregation was still practiced and held to with great conviction. Violence broke out in certain quadrants of this country, and evidently Birmingham, Alabama was one of the worst places for hatred based on skin pigmentation,[ii] or ethnicities. Woodlawn High school was evidently a social experiment. The walls of segregation had been torn down, and the integration of blacks and whites had begun. People, because of their deep-seated convictions, reacted in anger towards one another. The populace did not like the changes being enforced upon them, but those changes were nonetheless necessary and good.

From the outset, it appeared as if this newly forced way of life was destined to fail. The administrative head of the school threatened to close the school if things did not settle down both inside and outside of the school. A fear of media backlash, and being put back in the national spotlight drove such considerations to the forefront. The assistant/vice principal, who also happened to be the head coach of the football team was growing ever more frustrated with the dilemma before him. He loved the school, he loved the kids, and did not want to see things shut-down, for the experiment to fail, but he failed to see a solution in sight.

In walks a chaplain played by Sean Austin (Lord of the Rings; the Goonies), who asks the coach for permission to speak to his team about Jesus. He tells of his own conversion experience during a Billy Graham Crusade, shows the coach a time magazine cover speaking a Jesus Revolution, and asks for just five minutes with his team. At first the coach declines, but due the persistence of Austin’s character and the loaming preaching of collapse, the coach relents. The team is gathered in the school’s gymnasium and a five-minute talk turns into an hour message of the gospel. All but three students are seen coming forward to repent of their sins, putting their trust in Jesus, who Austin’s character said is “the way, the truth, and the life” in reference to the first half of John 14:6.

Before long, it is not only the team that is converted, but the entire coaching staff, and in the fall of 1974 a large portion of the school is seen praying together in the same gymnasium. At some point in the summer of 1974 the coach of the rival school is seen confessing to being a believer, along with his team. The communities that were just a year ago fighting of a former way of life that was steeped in hate, is now seen unified under the banner of Jesus. A name, we are told in the film, that was given under heaven and on earth through which men might be saved; a clear reference to Acts 4:12.

As a whole the movie is filled with a lot of emotionally charged subject matter. Many passages of the Bible are either spoken or clearly alluded to. As far as a Christian film goes, this was one of the best in recent years. Were there parts that one might find fault with theologically? No doubt. Were there areas where the overall gospel was somewhat watered down? Yes. However, generally speaking this film was several notches above “God’s Not Dead.”

The one area that I found most interesting was the underlying message of the whole film. Most Christians when they think of God-honoring, God-glorifying service today a comparison is made between what is deemed spiritual versus secular. A false dichotomy is presented. Someone serving as a janitor has a less holy position (less important), than the individual who is a missionary. However, such thinking is unbiblical.

When people were getting baptized by John the Baptist during his ministry the question was asked, “Now that I am right with God, what do I do?” To the soldier he did not say quit serving in the military, but rather “Take money from no one by violence or by false accusation, and be content with your pay” (Luke 3.14).[iii] To the tax collector he said, “Collect no more than you are required to” (Luke 3.13). To understand the dynamic here you need to understand the cultural context. Tax collectors worked for the Roman Empire, who had enslaved Israel. Normally, the tax collector would take a little extra for himself and the government would look the other way, as long as they got their money. The Jews despised these individuals and thought they were the worst sort of sinners. The soldiers on the other hand were either employed by Rome or by Herod and his brother Philip, who in turn worked for Rome. Again, the Jews did not like these individuals either as they were or worked for those who enslaved them. Yet, the point John is making to them, is that they bear fruit of repentance by doing what is right in God’s eyes. They adhere to biblical revelation, the Law of God, and treat their neighbor with the same sort of love that they expect to be treated with. In short, they were to honor and glorify God through the occupations they have, not go find another one to please him.

In Woodlawn, the message is clear and is often repeated. The young black football star “Touchdown” Tony, who went on to play for Alabama and several years in the NFL was given his gifts to do good for God through football. His High school coach had likewise, found his God-given purpose by coaching these kids, being a leader for them. A person to look up to and model after. The point is this. Wherever you are at, whatever you do in this life God has put you there for reason. Not to glorify and honor yourself, but glorify and honor Him.

As I watched the film, I was continually bothered by the question: “Where have all the Christians gone?” The general idea in the church today seems to be that we invite people to church and let the pastor or the Sunday school teacher witness to them. We bring them to the building and then we let someone else get them saved. Unfortunately, that is not the lesson that the parable of the Sower teaches (cf. Matt 13.3). The sower is the one who sows the seed in the field. The field is the world—people. The seed is God’s Word—Holy Scripture. The sower is you—wherever you are at.

Christians have grown silent. They have compartmentalized aspects of their life into the “holy,” and the “secular.” The truth, however, is that this is my Father’s world. He is the Creator, and if Christ is my redeemer, then I am charged to spread the gospel wherever I am found. A few years back I read a book entitled, “The Vanishing Ministry in the 21st Century.” When I first read the book I made the false assumption that people were neglecting the call into ministry, as in not becoming pastors, evangelists, missionaries, chaplain’s, etc. However, the truth is people are neglecting the call into ministry wherever they are at.

You see, if you are a janitor at a school, then you do that job to the best of your ability and you give God all the credit for it. If you are a nurse, or a radiologist, or a dental hygienist, or a school teacher, you are called to do the same. Christians in this nation have grown silent. We have been bullied into thinking that our faith is personal and not made for the workplace. We have allowed the world to push us in a corner believing that we may invite them to church, but we dare not speak of our faith in a bold and courageous way where we work, where we do the things that we do.

The vanishing ministry in the 21st century is not a dwindling clergy, but a dwindling testimony of salt and light in the areas of life that God has gifted us in and placed us in. The underlying message in the movie is that we need to speak of the way, the truth, and the life so that the world will hear it. Not the globe, but the world around you in your everyday life. If we stop hiding the light within us, and allow the world to see that light, then not just individuals would be saved, but whole communities.

The world is not silent pushing their worldviews on us, why should we?

ENDNOTES

[i] The film, God’s Not Dead, however, was more in line with popular evangelical culture than a true orthodox Christian message. The idea of putting God on trial allowing people to judge whether or not He is in fact foreign to the biblical concept of God. In the Bible, God the Triune Creator is presupposed from the very first verse: “In the beginning God created the Heavens and the Earth” (Gen 1.1). Never throughout Scripture do we find God on trial, but rather mankind. The question of God’s existence is of atheistic origin, for it is the “fool who says in his heart there is no God” (Psalm 14.3). Not to mention the fact that the film does not make mention of the need to turn from (repent) sins. In fact, I do not recall the word “sin” being mentioned in the whole film. And the idea that the “red letter” portions of the Gospel carry greater weight than the rest of what the Bible says, is to pit Jesus’ words against the prophets/apostles who wrote as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2Pet 1.19-21). The same Holy Spirit that Jesus said would speak the Father and the Son’s words (cf. John 14.26; 16.13-15).

[ii] I did not have the time to do research on this period of history.  Much of the discussion here will focus on the films premise. The assumption is being made that the writers and director of this film did their own homework. If I were writing a research paper on this topic more effort would have been made on my part; however, this is a blog not a scholarly work. Please bear this in mind. Also, the reason “skin pigmentation” is used is because the term “race” is inaccurate. All human beings are members of the same race—the human race. To argue in any other manner makes a distinction of classes between the species, which is why segregation was argued against in the first place. Why the Civil Right movement was fought and won. We are all of one race, from one blood. We are all equal and have the same inherent dignity. The color of our skin, the shape of our eyes, the coarseness or softness of our hair, etc. shows variation within the same kind of people; it does not offer a distinction between different types or classes of individuals.

[iii] All Scripture unless otherwise noted will be from the New English Translation (NET). Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org All rights reserved.Used by Permission. All rights reserved

 

Posted in Salvation

Whose Life is it to Give? Only the Humble truly understand

How often have you heard the phrase: “give your life to Jesus?” If you’re a person that attends church on a somewhat normal basis odds are you have heard a Sunday school teacher say it, or the preacher speak it. Perhaps you are one of those individuals that has been merely on the receiving end of such a statement. A person you know is concerned about your eternal welfare and they say to you, “Come on, why don’t you give Jesus a chance? He died on the cross for your sins, he loves you and he wants what is best for you. Why, don’t you just give your life to Jesus and I promise that your life will be better for it.” In fact, a very popular mega-church pastor once said in an interview, “Give him [Jesus] a trial. See if he’ll change your life. I dare you to try trusting Jesus for 90 days. Or your money guaranteed back.”[i] In short, just let Jesus in, give your life to him and I promise you will not be disappointed.

I’d be a liar if I had not said something similar when I was a youth leader speaking to teens, or early in my preaching ministry. I was raised in a theological tradition that taught that very thing. Much of the evangelical world today is saturated with that type of mentality. If you listen to Christian radio, odds are you’ll hear it at the end of the program. The idea that we just need to give our lives to Jesus. That we just need to let him in to our lives, and then things will be all better. Then we will be saved and have life eternally.

Thankfully, the Lord opened my eyes to the truth. Through His Word my assumptions were corrected, and I came to realize an important truth that continues to allude many well-meaning Christians: our lives are not our own.

Look again at the statement—just give your life to Jesus or just let him in—and ask yourself, “What does this phrase imply?” Take a moment and contemplate the true meaning behind the words.

Time’s up!

The statement implies that you own your life. That your life is yours to keep or to give. That you have authority to either give it to God or to keep Him out of it. The claim, however, is a false view of reality. The truth is you do not own your life. Your life is not yours to give. I realize that may be a startling revelation to many of you, it was to me at one time. Nonetheless, the truth is the truth whether you want to accept it as such or not.

All of Scripture testifies to this fact:[ii]

  • Genesis 1:26-27 explains, “Then God said, ‘Let us make humankind in our image, after our likeness, so they may rule over the fish of the sea and the birds of the air, over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over all the creatures that move on the earth.’ God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them, male and female he created them.”[iii]
  • Isaiah 64:8 reads, Yet, LORD, you are our father. We are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the product of your labor.”
  • Psalm 100:3 declares, “Acknowledge that the LORD is God! He made us and we belong to him; we are his people, the sheep of his pasture.”
  • And Jesus said in Mark 10:6, “But from the beginning of creation he [God] made them male and female.” (emphasis in original).

So, if we are already God’s handiwork, then how should one properly explain the “gospel” and salvation of men? What is the correct way to say it, and why is it important? The gospel is essentially the good-news of God, but only to those whom embrace it. To those who reject the message, it is the worst sort of news. As Paul explains in 2Corinthians the gospel is a “sweet aroma…to life” for those who believe, and a “stench…to death” for those who do not.

In order to properly respond to the Gospel, we must first admit that we are God’s creatures, that this life that we have is not our own, but a gift from our Creator. Secondly, we need to face the facts: we are all sinners, not one of us is righteous or good, and without His aid we only have the promise of wrath resting on our heads (cf.  Eccl 7.20; Rom 3.23, 10; 1.18 respectively). Thirdly, we confess that we are not worthy, we do not deserve life and therefore, throw ourselves at the mercy of a just and holy God (cf. Job 22.29). As the writer in Proverbs explains, “Surely [God] mocks the mockers, but he gives grace to the humble” (Prov 3.34).

This is the type of man, woman, or child that pleases God. Such individuals receive the gift of life. They do not merely “let Jesus in.” They do not “give their life to Jesus.” They beat upon their chest crying out to a Holy God saying “God, be merciful to me, a sinner!” (Luke 18.13). Those are the ones that Jesus says go home “justified…[for] everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted” (Luke 18.14).

We cannot give what is not ours to give. Unless we admit this. Unless we acknowledge this truth, then we are without hope. The only one who had authority to give his life and take it up again is Jesus Christ (cf. John 10.17-18). He died for His sheep (John 10.14-15). His sheep hear His voice (John 103-5). And His sheep, and only His sheep willingly respond in the way that I just described (John 10.26-27). All else are to hardened and proud to do so, and their reward will be just.

This is the truth that Christians should teach when speaking to lost sinners. Any other version of the truth is not the truth at all. You cannot give what you do not own, but you can receive what you do not have. This by admitting your are powerless to do so; such is the stuff of true humility.

 

ENDNOTES

[i]Rick Warren Interview Sean Hannity and Alan Colmes, “Hannity and Colmes: Pastor Rick Warren Details New Book,” 2008 Fox News, December 04, 2008, accessed September 15, 2016.  http://foxnews.com/story/2008/12/04/pastor-rick-warren-details-new-book.html.

 

[ii] This sampling of biblical texts is taken from the historical accounts (Genesis), the wisdom writings (Psalms), the prophets (Isaiah), and the New Testament (gospels). All areas of Scripture declare this truth consistently and without equivocation.

[iii] All Scripture unless otherwise noted will be from the New English Translation (NET). Scripture quoted by permission. Quotations designated (NET) are from the NET Bible® copyright ©1996-2006 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. http://www.bible.org All rights reserved.Used by Permission. All rights reserved.

 

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Foundations of Life: Shifting Sand or Solid Rock?

Suppose for a moment that you are in a position in your life where your financial status enables you to build your dream house. When it comes to money, there are no boundaries. I know, I know very few people have this luxury, but dream with me for a moment, if you will.

Okay, you’ve picked the perfect location, you’ve hired the best engineers and architects to design this modern marvel you plan on living in for the rest of your life. The materials chosen are pristine and the workers who will be doing the construction are the best in the business. After a few months of construction, you see how things are going and you are dumbfounded and awestruck by what your eyes behold. Your dream house looks better in person than it ever did in your dreams. Just a couple more months to put the final touches on this home and it will be move-in ready. You try to squelch the zeal in your heart, but you can barely contain this overwhelming excitement bubbling up inside of you.

That was a year ago. You are now in your home and it is everything you hoped for. When you get home from a hard day’s work you feel like a King (or Queen) coming to your palace of splendor. And then one day that all changes. You come home and notice a small crack going through some of the stonework on the outside of the house. Realizing that homes settle overtime, you try to calm the uneasiness rising in your mind. You try to coax yourself that it’s probably nothing major, just something that the builders can quickly fix.

So, the next day you call the company that warranted the work on the house, and they promise to send someone out in the next few weeks to appraise the damage and get it fixed. However, every day you come home you notice more cracks in the stonework. One morning, as you are making your way through the den your eyes catch something horrible. You stare in utter disbelief. A crack has begun to form in the drywall! By the time the appraiser has made it out to assess the damage, things have gotten a lot worse.

Without stretching this scenario out any further the homeowner (you) has discovered that the builder did not take the necessary steps in forming a sure foundation on which to build your home. The water table in that area is a little higher and required a deeper hole to be dug and more stone to be put in to ensure a solid foundation on which to build. In just a short amount of time, that which you invested your livelihood—you dumped every dime you had in this build, sparing no expense—into will come down into one crumbling heap.

Now suppose for a moment that we are talking about your life. This scenario was told to illustrate one simple truth, what you build your life upon (represented in the analogy as your home) can have devastating effects. You see, the truth is you can have the best materials, the best workers, and the best designers in the world building your dream structure, but if the foundation is shoddy that building will fall. It will come tumbling down on the very ground on which it is built. This is the problem with the infamous Tower of Pisa.[i] The only reason that monumental tower is still standing is because it is artificially manipulated to stand. You may do that for a while, substituting what God has given you with something else, but in the end your life will suffer the same fate.

When last we met I tackled a subject that the average person probably does not give much thought to—the subject of worldviews. Some may wonder why I spent such a considerate amount of space/time in a blog post to discuss such a thing? If people are not regularly thinking about the topic, why write about it? The short answer is that is precisely why I wrote about it.

People are not thinking about it. People do not take the time to consider why they have the opinion they do about a given subject, let alone why they are so passionate about it. By nature—here I mean our created nature—we are driven to communicate with others. If we hope to communicate effectively we need to be aware of our own biases, assumptions and convictions. For, not only do those presuppositions act as an intellectual lens through which we view and interpret the world around us (i.e. worldviews), they also act as the foundation by which build our lives.

Now what is true of physical structures is likewise true of philosophical constructs, or in laymen’s terms our worldviews. Thus, the importance of knowing the foundation upon which we build our worldviews is very important.

Think about this for a moment. Everything you know, everything you believe to be true about reality—those things you see and do not see—is built upon a foundation. Something, we might call an ultimate authority. At the back of every human being’s worldview is something they depend upon as absolutely true.[ii] Something that stands as a foundation for which they “believe.” While it is true that worldviews differ between one individual to another about as much as there are differences in one strand of human DNA, the fact remains that all worldviews can be broken down to two ultimate foundations of knowledge—either Man’s Word or God’s Word.

That is to say all people build their lives—the way they think, the way that they act—on the knowledge of another. Either their view of the world, of reality is built upon the word of other people, or it is built upon the Word of God disclosed in the 66 books of the Bible. Bible-believing Christians are often berated for their stance on Scripture by non-believers.

I remember a conversation I once had with a fellow who made light of what the Holy Bible had to say about Jesus Christ. This person said he could not believe what the Bible said about Jesus, because the Bible was written by men. A little later in the conversation he admitted that he was going to vote for John McCain for President because he was a war hero, a decorated P.O.W. I asked him how he knew that Senator McCain was really a war hero that had served time in a P.O.W. camp? He responded because of the witnesses that testified to it. I then asked, using the same line of logic that he had just used, how that was any different than my stance on God’s Word? He had just confessed that he believed the testimony of some men, while denying the testimony of others.[iii] He could not offer a justification for his belief, but held to it nonetheless. When I showed him the inconsistency of his own thoughts he responded with laughter. He had been caught in a net of his own making and admitted to me that he really did not have an answer for his own arbitrariness.

Jesus explains this reality to his hearers during his earthly ministry, and those of us today are still faced with the implications of his words. He said that the wise man builds his house upon the rock (Matt 7.24), but the foolish one builds his house upon the sand (Matt 7.26). One home will stand when the storms of life prevail against it (Matt 7.25), the other will come crashing down (Matt 7.27). In his analogy the home is the life of the individual, the foundation that they choose to build their lives upon is either God’s Word or human opinion. Jesus declares that if any chose to build on any other foundation than His Word, that person has acted foolishly and their foolishness will be demonstrated when their lives experience destruction.

In the picture above you see my youngest daughter and I holding hands on the beach. What you do not see is that our feet, which are are being lapped by the waves. The reason I am holding her hand is because as the waves hit our feet they erode the sand beneath them. The foundation on which we are standing is shifting away and the two of us are becoming unstable. If I had not held her hand, she would have eventually fallen. God has provided you a means to stand firm in this life. He has offered you a foundation that will never erode, never crumble, and he promises that the man, woman or child who builds upon it will stand to the end. In short, through His Word He promises life to all who will listen to His Words and take heed.

What are you standing on? What is your life built upon? What are the presuppositions (assumptions, biases, and convictions) that govern your view of reality? Life is too precious a gift to not take the time and consider the foundation on which it stands.

[i] “Leaning Tower of Pisa,” En.wikepdia.org

[ii] The funny thing about deniers of absolute truth is that in order to deny absolute truth, they have to make the truth claim that there is “absolutely” no absolute truth. Even though such individuals rarely, if ever, admit this. Regardless, to make the claim that “there is no absolute truth” is still to make a universal truth claim and thereby a glaring contradiction.

[iii] People who say they believe something because science tells them it is true are faced with the same dilemma. Science does not actually say anything, nor does it lead people anywhere. To say otherwise would be to commit the logical fallacy of reification—to give life like qualities and abilities to an abstract idea. Science is a conceptual tool that enables us to learn or come to knowledge about the physical world. Scientists, however, are the ones that interpret the evidence based upon their own assumptions, biases, and convictions (Presuppositional-worldviews), and then relay their conclusions to the rest of us. However, their “findings” are often incorrect and open to reinterpretation as we see they are continually adjusting their theories and so-called facts of reality.

Posted in Worldview Analysis

Worldview Lessons from Grandpa

[i] Growing up I learned very quickly that one of my grandpa’s favorite statements was that certain people lacked what he called, “common, ordinary sense.” This phrase normally followed a particular event perpetrated by some individual(s) that my old granddad was disgusted by. In truth, when people failed to think and act like my grandpa, this infamous mantra of his was not far behind. Closely related to this saying was a couple others that were often found strung with it, if the individual(s) in question had managed to truly flair up his ire. He’d say, “That person[s] is a college educated idiot!”; “They are book-smart, and brain-dead!”

I suppose a prudent writer would have placed some disclaimer or gave their reader’s a fair warning for the inflammatory comments recorded here. If you are one of those politically correct individuals who is easily offended, or are continually worried about offending some poor soul, then I apologize. The truth is, however, you’ll have to excuse my grandpa and get over it. Please recognize that he grew up in an entirely different era. A time when getting your hands dirty, calling someone an idiot for being an idiot, and working until the sun went down just came with the territory.

In truth, I believe if we can get past our own sensitivities for a moment we may see that there is a thread of truth to my grandfather’s meanderings. The question we need to be asking ourselves, is what does he mean? What does it mean to have common sense? What’s so common about it? And, why should we think of it as ordinary? What makes it so?

Before becoming a minister for the gospel of Jesus Christ, I was for many years a construction worker. In fact, it was during my short tenure with my grandpa when I got out of high school that introduced me to the terms you have become acquainted with now. Oh, how I hated those scathing words. I still remember the excessive frustration and irritation that I had towards him during those early years of learning how to be a builder. He would often tell me to go do this project or that project without any further instruction. The assumption he always seemed to make was that if he knew how to do it, so should everyone else. If he understood (saw) how it was supposed to work (go), then so should everyone else.

Herein lies the real meaning of common sense. It is not that common. It is learned. Learned behavior. Learned thoughts. My grandpa grew frustrated with my lack of understanding (know how; thinking) and my inability to do what he did (work as he did it). There was a huge disconnect from his view of reality and my own. Somewhere along the line he forgot that he too had learned these things. He too had received instruction sometime in the past that shaped his thinking.

His underlying assumption that followed was that everyone else had received that same instruction and as a result viewed the world and how it worked in exactly the same way. From there his own frustration grew. In some aspects he was right. Knowledge from books, while great, is very limited in a practical sense. Education will only get you so far. In real life application, there will be circumstances that will come up that one cannot solely depend upon book knowledge to get them out of. There may be underlying principles that help individuals make better, informed choices, but even then we may still do something wrong having to learn from the event.

However, on the flip-side there is nothing common, nor ordinary about “sense.” “Sense,” as it were, is learned. The education that we receive does give us insight into practical experiences. If someone had not taught my grandfather how to read a tape measure, he would not have been able to cut a board to its proper length on a consistent basis.[ii]

My purpose in bringing this up is not to poke fun at the old-timer. Nor is it to belittle the educated masses. And no, I am not going to teach you how to read a tape measure, plumb your house, or wire up your basement home theater system. My point is really very simple: We have in our daily lives often forgotten or falsely assumed that people think like we do. That what I look at or think of as “common ordinary sense,” may not, in fact, be that common or ordinary to everyone else around me.

Think about this for a moment. How many times have you gotten into an argument with a co-worker, a close friend, or even a family member because the two of you do not see the same thing from the same vantage point? To you wearing a bicycle helmet when riding your bike is a no brainer; whereas, your spouse does not see it as necessary. Why the difference in opinions? Is it because the spouse who does not see wearing a bicycle helmet as a necessity is a fool? An uneducated simpleton? Or is it perhaps that growing up wearing a helmet while riding their bike was not an option. Their parents did not provide one. The league of pediatricians[iii] did not advice every parent to make sure their child wore one. And let’s not forget the simple fact that from their point-of-view a bicycle helmet was unnecessary because they are alive. Therefore, the mentality of “what did not harm/kill me, will not harm/kill my own children,” is heavily motivating the decision making apparatus.

The truth of the matter is that we are all wired a little bit differently in the way we think and act. We have over the years developed biases and assumptions that govern the way we live our lives. Our worldviews color every aspect of reality. My grandpa grew up working with his hands, sweating through the long hours of the day, coming home completely drained physically. Thus, the common question he always asks me when he sees me is “Are you working?” “Yes, grandpa, I’m pastoring a church.” “No, I mean are you working anywhere else?” You see from his point-of-view if work is not physical labor, then it is not truly work. How can sitting behind a desk, reading volumes of books, pouring over the Scriptures for hours, and then taking all of those thoughts and put them into writing constitute real, hard work? According to my grandfather’s worldview pastoral work is not real work. Therefore, every time we see each other, like clockwork I am asked the same question.

Most people do not give the above topic much thought. They either try to avoid arguments at all costs—because who in the world would want to offend someone in our day and age? Or, they assume that the person they are talking to, who does not agree with their viewpoint is a dunderhead, a numskull or down and out bonehead. The reality is, however, we are all governed by presuppositional thinking.

A presupposition is something that people presuppose to be true. They are normally labeled biases, assumptions, and/or convictions. When someone argues about a topic, or looks at evidence in the world around them, these presuppositions act as intellectual lenses that color our view of the world. Together as a unit they form what is referred to as a worldview.

Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino describe a worldview as “analogous to an intellectual lens through which people view reality and that the color of the lens is a strong determining factor that contributes to what they believe about the world.”[iv] Jason Lisle adds, a person

Cannot avoid…having a worldview—but it is crucial to [have] the right [one]…a person wearing red glasses might erroneously conclude that everything in the world is red, so a person with a wrong worldview will draw incorrect conclusions about [reality]. But a correct worldview can prevent us from drawing the wrong conclusions and can improve our understanding of the world.[v]

In the past I have often heard the refrain from unbelievers, “why are there so many denominations? If Christianity is true, if the Bible that you stand upon is truly authoritative, then why all the differences of opinion?” The answer is right here. Christians like everyone else have a worldview, and a lot of the disagreements one find denominationally and theologically is directly tied to their varying presuppositions that make up their worldviews.

As a Christian, I am called to preach/teach the gospel to every creature. If you share that same calling as a Christian—and this is not limited to those who are only ministers or what others might deem as full-time ministry—then you need to be aware of what I have been speaking about today. Even if you are not a Christian, but you have friends who are Christians this brief post should help you as well. We need to realize that in order to truly communicate with one another we have to understand where the other person is coming from. We have to be willing to ask questions of one another, in order to learn where we truly stand on an issue. It does a Christian no good to say to someone who believes “abortion is a woman’s choice; an individual right” that it is wrong and cold-blooded murder of the innocent, if we fail to share with them our reasons for believing so.[vi]

Being aware of your own worldview, being aware of another’s worldview will not necessarily settle an argument. It will not necessarily win that person to your side, convincing them of the rightness of your convictions. We need to remember that a person’s presuppositions are deeply coveted (cherished), and they will not give them up without a fight. However, it will better equip you as a person to speak with “gentleness and respect” (1Pet 3.15). And that’s really the point. If we are going to effectively reason with people and we are going to do it in a God-honoring way, then we need to understand the underlying issues of what make us tick. We should not assume that what is “common, ordinary sense” for me is going to be all that common or ordinary for the person that I am conversing with.  Although, my grandpa did not intend it at the time, he taught me a very valuable lesson. One that I would like to think has helped me better understand people as a whole, and the need for clearer communication as I continue to witness to a lost world for Christ.

[i] Photography provided by FreeDigitalPhotos.net; published 24 May, 2013 by Foto76.

[ii] I add the phrase “consistent basis,” because the truth is there may be times when we know or do things by coincidence, but not necessarily from “know how.” Thus, my grandpa may have cut a number of boards correct, even though his knowledge of how to read a tape measure was not truly developed.

[iii] This is as far as I am aware a fake entity, although pediatricians do seem to promote and push with a fervency a self-professed dogma of their own.

[iv] Norman Geisler and Peter Bocchino, Unshakeable Foundations: Contemporary Answers to Crucial Questions about the Christian Faith, (Grand Rapids, MI: Bethany House Publishers, 2001), 55.

[v]Jason Lisle, The Ultimate Proof of Creation: Resolving the Origins debate, (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), 27.

[vi] I suppose that there are some who would assume that this only applies to morally charged issues, as the aforementioned abortion, however that is not the case. Our worldview affects our interpretation of everything we come into contact with. This is why you will have disagreements between individuals on politics (conservative vs. liberal), in science (various theories regarding reality as we know it), parenting (discipline, number of after school activities kids are involved in, how they are to dress), finances (what to spend money on, how much to save or blow it all), etc. Literally every subject that you can think of, that can be disagreed on, is fair game when it comes to worldview conflicts.