Culture Shift (book by Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Pres. Southern Seminary) is the main source for this lesson series.
Parents & students are encouraged to visit AlbertMohler.com for insightful teaching & audio interviews on current issues.
Aristotle proposed the analogy of a fish to describe mankind. The fish, having been born in the water & knowing nothing other than that environment, doesn't know he is wet. So it is with mankind, we have been born into this culture & we don't even know we are saturated with our environment - with our cultural context.
Our culture today bombards us via media & the internet with information. This information usually comes to us in micro-bytes, rarely giving the whole picture, & often we cannot know for sure if the source is reliable. Most of the information we process today is opinion - random thoughts & loose gossip from people who may not even acknowledge God or His standards of right & wrong.
Jesus was once asked by a lawyer, who was part of the ruling elite of his day, what the greatest commandment of the Law was. Jesus answered: Love God first & then love others. The love Jesus spoke of is love that isn't based on feelings, but honor, allegiance, submission & self-sacrifice. Jesus said that all the law & word of the prophets were fulfilled in these two rules.
Does the answer Jesus gave the 1st Century lawyer of the Scribes & Pharisees inform the church of today in addressing the question about how to properly engage our culture?
1. What does it mean to love God?
2. How do we love others based on loving God?
This 2-part command is God's foundational rule for us as Christians in engaging our culture.
Augustine - Among this 4th century bishop's incredible writings is a famous work entitled The City of God. In this work there are two opposing communities vying for man's attention & allegiance: The City of God where God's Word & His will reign supreme & citizens live for His Glory; & The City of Man where confused passions, mixed allegiances & compromised principles are the norm as citizens live for themselves. In The City of God, there are no popular votes to determine right from wrong or legal from illegal, but all determinations are made by God Himself. In The City of Man there is confusion & strife as its citizens lobby, lie, & manipulate to persuade popular opinion. Whichever way the popular wind may blow on any given day determines the outcome of man's law. What was true one day may not be true the next in The City of Man. What was once true is always true in The City of God. While society's opinions change, God's do not. Which city are you a citizen of? If a citizen of God's city, that citizenship affects every decision for yourself & your society.1
Some in our culture argue that it's OK for churches to believe anything they want as long as they keep those beliefs in the church & don't bring them to bear on society. A secular state is what they promote, but the definition of the word secular means "without God", so to say you want a secular or neutral (amoral) society is to say you want a society without value judgments. In any society, decisions must be made - some are based on fact, others mere preference - regardless, when decisions are made they innately possess mandates that bear consequences. Once a person or a group of people make decisions, they have moved away from secular / neutral methodology into the realm of VALUES. How can an amoral, secular society make value claims? By definition, it can't.
All societies must deal with questions of life, death, right, wrong & the meaning of existence, & these questions are innately engaged in the realm of VALUES. For example, for an atheist to say there is no God is a religious statement. The atheist has just made a values judgment, & if God did exist, that would place immediate demands upon the atheist which he must choose to obey or ignore. There is no such thing as neutrality. Every law is a moral law. The question simply is: Whose morality is it?
Throughout history, to have law has been synonymous with having a moral basis.2 It was inconceivable, even in recent history, to claim a separation between civil & moral law, yet this is where we find modern culture. The alarm of "separation of church & state" is sounded anytime someone disagreeing with traditional Judeo-Christian tenets is challenged with its inherent moral values. Think about value judgments we make everyday in our culture: Traffic, theft, taxes, private ownership of property (from houses & land to guns & gold), marriage (polygamy / monogamy), sexual relationships (rape, sodomy, pedophilia), slander, murder, etc... Every one of these legal issues must be decided in the context of morality - values judgment.
Natural vs. Moral Law: We assume the physical laws of the universe will operate tomorrow just as they do today. We make our plans & build our lives on this assumption: That buildings built on mathematic principles will still be standing from one day to the next, not having fallen down or lifted from the earth due to changing physical laws. That water from our faucets will run faithfully downhill & water in our swimming pools will remain once placed there - not floating upward due to arbitrary shifts in the law of gravity. That a basketball will arc as expected when shot toward the basket & not drop to the floor like a lead weight or float into space due to a flux in natural law. Why do we expect Natural Law to be fixed & unchanging but Moral Law to be relative & flexible? Do we think the God who made both Natural & Moral Law is fickle? Are He & His creation unreliable?3
Relativism & the Law of Non-Contradiction: Many enjoy arguing in support of relativism. They like to believe that natural law will always be in place working for them (gravity, etc.), but when it comes to moral, social, & ethical issues for them personally, the same rigidity doesn't apply. They use feel-good phrases like: "What's right for one may not be right for another" or, "Who am I to say what should or shouldn't be done in a given situation?" The relativist likes to make-believe that he/she is taking the moral high ground because he/she is non-judgmental, tolerant, & encouraging others to decide for themselves what is right or wrong. In reality, the relativist is neither moral nor truly relativistic.
He is not moral because God has declared universal morality for all people & all cultures - not man. For one to say there is no such thing as objective, absolute truth is denying the very commands of God - this is immoral - and to refuse to make a judgment on sin (unethical or immoral behavior) is not tolerance, it is cowardice. John Piper says, "Relativism is rebellion against Divine Law."4 R.C. Sproul repeats this idea in a profound manner, "There is no such thing as an innocent person. 'All have sinned...', and sin is cosmic treason against a Holy God."5
The relativist isn't, in reality, a relativist. Case in point: I have never seen a relativist at the bank, or in a court of law. The very one who may argue for relativity in God's moral law so that he might engage in whatever illicit activity he desires without guilt, will be the same one arguing against relativity at his bank or court of law. When this one signs a loan contract, he expects the rules of the contract to be binding (that would be fixed law); but if he were a true relativist, he surely would not mind then if one month, or one year into the loan agreement the bank repossessed his house due to an arbitrary change in the law. Again, if the supposed relativist were truly a relativist, he would not mind having the rule of law applied in a relativistic way for him in a court of law; i.e. the guilty party convicted ahead of him for running a stop sign was fined $50, but he himself is charged $100 for the same offense. If relativism is one's philosophy, why would one mind this legal result?6
The Law of Non-contradiction alone is enough to explain the illogical argument of relativism. Non-contradiction simply says that something cannot be what it is & what it is not at the same time. So, when the relativist says there are no universal standards for what is true, he is assuming some universal standards simply in making the statement. One being the law of cause & effect - he believes that in making this statement, a cause is created that has effects.7 Even the supposed relativist does not believe speaking his mind is pointless, but according to his philosophy of relativity, why speak if it doesn't have any fixed meaning? Relativism is dishonest, immoral & illogical.
Tertullian said (c. 200 AD): "My first principle is this - Christ laid down one definite system of truth which the world must believe without qualification."8
Dr. A. Hoffecker (current professor of church history at Reformed Sem. Jackson, MS) said: "Our worldview must extend to all of life, for all of life is religious."9
Psalm 19:1-3 & 7-9 the creation declares God's glory & His Word enlightens & makes wise; Psalm 53:1 the fool says there is no God; Prov 13:13 he who despises the Word is destroyed; I Cor 1:18 the Word is foolishness to those who are perishing; I Thess. 2:13 the Word is from God & not man; I Tim. 6:3-5 anyone rejecting biblical doctrine is proud, ignorant & corrupt; II Tim. 3:16 all Scripture to be used for teaching & correction; Heb. 4:12 the Word is living & powerful to discern hearts; II Pet. 1:20-21 the Word is not open to man's private interpretation because it is from God & discerned through the Holy Spirit.
Free Speech & the "right" not to be offended: Never in our history have we as a people believed that we had a constitutionally-protected, inalienable right "not to be offended". Yet our culture is awash in this assumption today. In 1988, a British-Indian named Salman Rushdie wrote a novel entitled The Satanic Verses. He was threatened with death by Muslims worldwide because they said the book offended their religion. Then, in Feb. 1989, The Ayatollah of Iran issued a fatwa, or Islamic ultimatum made by a supreme leader based on Sharia Law, calling for the kill or capture of Rushdie. Rushdie went into hiding to avoid death. He eventually fled to the U.S. where he still lives freely today.10
In 2006, a Danish cartoonist published a cartoon in the newspaper which Muslims said "offended the prophet Muhammad". The Muslims rioted in the streets in several nations claiming that they, their religion, & their prophet must never be offended in anyway.
In the United States, authors, cartoonists, reporters ... all citizens, have the protected right to freedom of expression (free speech) & freedom of religion from any & all potential oppressive entities.
The U.S. Constitution mandates that U.S. citizens also be protected from tyranny (religious or otherwise) by the government. It protects the exercise of free speech by the people. It does not, however, protect people or the government from being offended. Think about it - why would there need to be a First Amendment guaranteeing the protection of free speech unless someone (government or citizen) might be offended? No offense - no protection needed.
It's the same with tolerance - what is there to tolerate if there is no offense? The very definition of the word "tolerance" denotes disagreement. The Bible says that the message of the Cross is offensive; so if we as Christians cannot offend anyone in our speech, then we cannot preach the Gospel. This issue is critical in the United States today as constitutional freedoms are being challenged & even denied by revisionists in our universities & courts of law. This should be of great concern for all free believers.
Not-so-free Speech: The American college campus, billed as a bastion for free speech & diverse ideas, is one of the most hostile environments for Christians who wish to speak freely about their faith. Brandishing a false humility, collegiate campuses have effectively squelched the free speech of religion in the name of "tolerance".11 (Even though atheists & other belief systems are able to speak & publish their views freely - it's only Christianity that is targeted). This is also being experienced on a national scale in our public schools as students are being told in many places that they can not bring a Bible to school, pray over their lunch, or share Christ with a classmate. These statements are all false.
The Constitution guarantees citizens (including students) the right to read their Bible, pray publically, & to share their faith. While students should be respectful & obedient to school rules & boundaries at all times, they should also be equipped with the knowledge that the law has always been, & remains on their side supporting their right as American citizens to exercise these freedoms. One of the reasons the rights of Christians are under such assault today is because too many believers are ignorant of their constitutional freedoms & apathetic in standing their ground in the face of resistance.
"Separation of Church & State": This phrase is one of the most misunderstood & misquoted of all time. Most Americans (historically ignorant as many are due to decades of intentional historical revisionism by liberal educators) think this phrase is constitutional. In fact, it is not only absent from the Constitution, but has been hijacked from its original meaning & context by liberal justices of the Supreme Court. The landmark case came in 1947 in Everson v. Board of Education. In this case, Justice Hugo Black writing the majority opinion, argued that in the words of Thomas Jefferson the First Amendment itself had erected "a wall of separation between Church & State".12 Black & the court majority knowingly twisted the words of Jefferson to say that the intent of the First Amendment was to protect government & society from the influence of religion, rather than the actual intent which is clearly to protect the people's free speech & religious freedoms from the government.
The origination of the phrase "separation of church & state" came in a letter by President Thomas Jefferson in response to a group of Christians from the Danbury Baptist Association. During the election of 1800, as national debate arose concerning the extent to which government should influence religious practice at all, it was understood by all parties that the First Amendment, already ratified in 1789, clearly established that Congress should not interfere. As concerned Christian citizens heard that there was talk by a few in government about possibly establishing a "public religion" in addition to private religions which were allowed, many took action. In response to the Danbury Baptists, who wrote Jefferson encouraging him to continue his firm stance for complete religious freedom against any government meddling whatsoever, Jefferson penned this now legendary phrase. In his letter dated Jan. 1, 1802, President Jefferson assured the Danbury Baptists that, "...religion is a matter solely between man & his God... & that ...their legislature should 'make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof' thus building a wall of separation between Church & State."13
U.S. Public Education: John Dewey, the most influential figure in the formation of the public school system in America, sought to establish a centralized school system that erased the prejudices & values of parents.14 Dewey was once head of Columbia University's Dept. of Education which positioned him to have a profound influence in the formation of U.S. public education. Dewey, a devout humanist, in his book A Common Faith ,advocated for a humanistic worldview & indoctrination of all students toward devotion to the collective & away from independent religious loyalties & theological authority. Dewey wanted to replace Christianity as the dominant worldview of America. Dewey said in A Common Faith that a secular devotion to the state has, ...always been the common faith of mankind. It is up to us to make it explicit & militant."15
Dewey was influenced by Charles Darwin's evolutionary theory & he applied Darwin's principles to education. Dewey believed that through education children would evolve upwardly into potential perfection. Horace Mann was the first Secretary of Education, taking office in June of 1837. Mann was a practicing Unitarian who believed like Dewey that mankind could be perfected if given the right environment & education. He believed that man was innately good, not evil as the Bible claimed. Instead of children being responsible to God, parents, teachers & society, Mann's philosophy was reversed - that these entities were responsible to the child instead.16
According to Mann & Dewey, society's duty to the child is to help him discover what his beliefs & loyalties are through existential learning. This education occurs through personal interaction with environments, not from preconceived ideologies or religious constructs of the past. The student was to be engaged as a blank slate with as little interference as possible, thereby allowing the individual child to form his own intellect & value systems.17 Of course "any" values were acceptable to Dewey & Mann except biblical ones. Dewey & Mann's vision for U.S. public education is alive & well today in our schools.
The God Gene & the Gay Gene: Dean Hamer, a geneticist with the Nat'l Cancer Institute & Nat'l Institute of Health, claims to have found a God gene in humans. According to Hamer, this gene has the ability to regulate dopamine & serotonin which triggers pleasure in our brains whenever one has a feeling of self worth & realization of his/her place in the totality of the universe.18 Hamer says that human religious convictions are not based on revelation from, or interaction with a Supreme Being, but rooted in DNA. Belief in God, according to Hamer, is purely biochemical.
Hamer is also infamous for his 1993 "discovery" of the Gay gene, propagating the idea that being homosexual is purely biochemical as well & a natural part of human genetics. Unfortunately for Dr. Hamer, his reported results could not be replicated by any other geneticists in order to establish scientific credibility.19 Bad science is bad because it's false science.
The acceptance of homosexual behavior in our society today is a profound departure from biblical teaching & moral understanding. The fact that a behavior so obviously unnatural, even by simple biological standards, would be embraced by a substantive percentage of the heterosexual population is ominous. (Especially the population of a nation where 90% claim to believe in God - mostly in the context of Christianity). Even as some states recently had anti-sodomy laws remaining on their books, the U.S. on the whole is moving toward legal status & acceptance, not only of the behavior, but for homosexual marriage as well. The arguments supporting homosexuality & gay marriage are not made from biblical revelation. (See verses on the subject at the end of this section).
Some facts on homosexuality:
· Male homosexuals are almost 1,000 times more likely to acquire AIDS than the general population.
· Hepatitis B is about 5 times more prevalent among homosexuals than among heterosexuals.
· 78% of gay men have had, or currently have an STD.
· The average life expectency of gay men is 20 yrs less than hetro men. Only 9% live past age 65, while the median age of a married heterosexual man is 75.
· 40% of homosexuals report they have had more than 40 partners. 24% report they have had more than 100 partners.
· Homosexuals account for 60% of all syphilis cases in the U.S.
The U.S. Census Bureau in 1990 found less than 1% of the population to be homosexual; then in 1994 the American Sex Survey found 2.7% of the population to be homosexual men with only 1.3% homosexual women. These statistics clearly disprove the myth propagated by a 1993 Newsweek poll that portrayed 10% of the U.S. population as gay. (Newsweek used a poll taken among a prison population only).20
Disinformation abounds in our culture as people repeat the myths that one is "born gay", and that "it's genetic & who I am" (rather than "what I do"). The Scriptures speak clearly to these fabrications as does the section above concerning Dr. Hamer's non-discovery of a gay gene in 1993. In addition, Tufts University Medical Center utilized brain mapping technology not many years ago to determine if homosexuals are genetically predisposed to same-sex attraction & behavior. Tufts' results showed that homosexuals were not attracted to the same gender nor did they act out in homosexual behaviors because they were genetically wired that way, but that the inverse was true ... homosexuals imagined & then acted upon their same-sex imaginations which resulted in a change in brain activity. 21
Gen 19:4-7 men of Sodom evil; Lev 18:22-23 sodomy forbidden; Judges 19:22 / I Kings 14: 24 & 15:12 sodomites perverted; Rom 1:24-27 unrepentant given over to perversions like sodomy; I Cor 6:9-10 sodomites (among others) will not inherit the Kingdom; I Tim 1: 9-10 sodomy is opposed to sound doctrine.
Abortion & the Sanctity of Life: Katha Pollitt, a writer for the liberal publication The Nation, referred in 2006 to a "zygote / embryo / fetus" as "not having a claim to be born". 22 Ms. Pollitt's stance on abortion is popular thinking among a certain percentage of the populace today. The foundational ideology among the abortionists is that a zygote / embryo / fetus is not an actual life worthy of protection until it is outside the womb breathing on its own; but how does this thinking align with Scripture? Increasingly, we have political push from the left in this nation to make abortion more readily available to younger girls - even into the third trimester.
Ultrasound technology has had a profound effect on the abortion industry since more women can see that the "tissue mass" in their womb is actually a human being. The tax-funded organization Planned Parenthood is adamantly opposed to ultrasound being used among crisis pregnancy organizations like the Door of Hope, stating that it's used purely as "propaganda" to coerce women into having their babies. 23 Why would Planned Parenthood care about objective, medical information being given to pregnant girls? Could it be that the religious right is correct in its claims that Planned Parenthood is primarily a tax-funded abortion business? Scripture is clear about the identity of the unborn - be they zygote, embryo, or fetus - he/she is a PERSON created in God's image.
Psalm 139:13-16 God made us in the womb for His glory; Jeremiah 1:5 Jeremiah chosen before birth; Exodus 21:22-23 death penalty levied for death of unborn; Proverbs 6:16-17 God hates the shedding of innocent blood; Luke 1:44 & 2:12,16 same Greek word used for the unborn in the womb & a living infant .
1. Mohler Jr., Dr. R. Albert Culture Shift Co. Springs, Multnomah Books, 2008
2. Mohler Jr., Dr. R. Albert Culture Shift Co. Springs, Multnomah Books, 2008
3. MacArthur Jr., Dr. John You Can Trust the Bible Commencement message at UCLA, 1988
4. Piper, John Think: The Life of the Mind & the Love of God Wheaton, Crossway, 2010
5. Sproul, Dr. R.C. The Holiness of God Carol Stream, Tyndale House, 1985
6-7 Piper, John Think: The Life of the Mind & the Love of God Wheaton, Crossway, 2010
8-10 Mohler Jr., Dr. R. Albert Culture Shift Co. Springs, Multnomah Books, 2008
11 Mohler Jr., Dr. R. Albert Culture Shift Co. Springs, Multnomah Books, 2008
12-13 Carson, Dr. D.A. Christ & Culture Revisited Grand Rapids, W.B. Eerdmans Publishing, 2008
" " Barton, David Original Intent Aledo, Wallbuilders, 1996
14,15,18,19 Mohler, Dr. R. Albert Culture Shift Co Springs, Multnomah Books, 2008
15 Dewey, John A Common Faith New Haven, Yale University Press, 1962
16 Deuink, James W. & Herbster, Carl D. Effective Christian School Management Greenville, Bob Jones Univ. Press, 1986
17 Knight, Dr. George Philosophy & Education Berrien Springs, Andrews Univ. Press, 1989
20 Ingram, Chip livingontheedge.org Living on the Edge Ministries, Suwanne, GA
21 SBC Life Periodical published by Lifeway, Nashville, TN
22-23 Mohler, Dr. R. Albert Culture Shift Co Springs, Multnomah Books, 2008