Thinking Right in a Wrong Thinking World
Recently I read a strange story, a cross between a fable and science fiction. It told of a man who made magic glasses that would enable one to see other people and events as they really were. They were truth glasses. But it seemed that few people really wanted them. Some said they didn’t work, and others that they made everybody look very ugly. The moral of the story is that some people were so prejudiced by their own twisted views that even truth glasses didn’t open their eyes, while others so hated the sight of the truth that they blamed the glasses and condemned the maker.
Now that is just a story, but it set me thinking. You must have noticed that we are bombarded by an endless array of “facts” about the world and how it came to be what it is and about the great moral issues of life. Despite all the “facts”, there is little agreement on what they really mean. Let me explain. The Bible tells us that God created the heavens and the earth, yet many learned men look at the observable facts and conclude that there is no Creator and no creation. Everything is the result of evolution. On the moral issues, we meet the same kind of differences. The Bible speaks very clearly about such things as abortion, sexual immorality, homosexuality, drunkenness and pornography, defining them as sinful and inexcusable. However, the prevailing view in modern society is that these statements represent an unscientific view of life that we should discard.
Perhaps the most telling difference of outlook is how we view people. The Bible teaches that though God created man sinless and upright, he fell into sin by disobeying his Creator, choosing the devil’s lie over God’s truth. As a result, fallen man is depraved in nature; he is born a sinner; his heart is deceitful and desperately wicked; his mind is darkened and his will corrupted, so that he is “dead in trespasses and sins” and in urgent need of being saved from the wrath of God. Most people today treat all this as a fairy tale. Indeed, the very idea of “sin” is foreign to their thinking. If it exists at all, it is no more than doing something that hurts other people. God doesn’t come into the picture. Pornography is harmless as long as it doesn’t hurt others. Sexual promiscuity and perversion are natural expressions of “love”. Indeed, the notion that the sexes are fixed as male and female by the creative act of God is now widely rejected. Instead of two sexes, we may have three or four—and some who are biologically male or female may “choose” an opposite gender, or no particular gender at all.
Now how can there be such differences of opinion? We have been conditioned to accept that all we need to do is follow the facts, but here we learn a very important lesson: mere facts prove nothing. Beyond the facts lies the truth. The problem is that everybody comes to the facts with his inbuilt bias. Everyone’s view of reality—including his moral and ethical decision making—is filtered through what is called his worldview. A worldview is simply the lens through which we interpret reality, what we put on as “truth glasses”, if you will.
The worldview of the Hindu or the Muslim is different from that of the Communist, which is different again from that of the typical Westerner. But they have one thing in common: they reject the Bible, and especially the gospel of Christ it reveals, as the lens through which they should interpret facts and arrive at truth and reality. Their views are so distorted by their chosen “glasses”, or they so hate the truth about themselves presented in Scripture, that they utterly reject it.
As Christians we have received Him who boldly proclaimed, “I am the light of the world” (John 8:12). He assures us that He is “the truth” (John 14:6) and that following Him we “shall not walk in darkness”. So here is our Christian worldview: truth on any subject is what God’s word says it is; right is what He declares to be right; people and things are what He says they are. Thus we must not judge truth and error, or right and wrong, according to popular culture, or even the views of men of science. We may profit a lot from their researches and discoveries, but we must never forget that our Lord said of unregenerate men that the light that is in them is darkness (Matthew 6:23). “Having the understanding darkened, being alienated from the life of God through the ignorance that is in them, because of the blindness of their heart” (Ephesians 4:18) is not a good basis for arriving at truth, nor for making right decisions on moral issues. Yet that is what is happening all around us. Christians must recognise that the beliefs and actions of the unbelieving world are not simply differences of opinion. They are the inevitable product of minds darkened by Satan’s lie.
We are not immune from this way of thinking. Every element in popular culture—its educational system, its entertainment industry, its advertising campaigns, its means of mass communication—aims at instilling the world’s values in our minds. We are engaged in fierce spiritual warfare (Ephesians 6:10-20), for what controls our thinking will control our lives. Thus Paul’s epistles lay great emphasis on the mind, on how we are to think and then on how we are to behave. The Apostle tells us what to think (Philippians 2:5; 4:8). He also tells us how to think right. Here we can only summarize his teaching.
First, we should understand that what we believe must govern how we behave. This is what it means to live by faith. Therefore, we must “learn Christ”, being taught by Him, “as the truth is in Jesus” (Ephesians 4:20-21). That includes what He says about creation, marriage, sin, morality, even things like our dress and associations. It deals particularly with our words—something that many seem to forget when they get on social media!
That brings us to the vital matter of how we are to make right decisions and behave as becomes Christians. Romans 6 deals with the subject of yielding our bodies as instruments of righteousness, but it doesn’t immediately rush to say, “Yield yourselves to God.” No, it starts by emphasizing our knowing the Gospel. This is vital. At the heart of all Christian living lies clear Christian thinking, which must always be Gospel thinking. So when you are facing a decision about what is true or right, go back to the Gospel, our “truth glasses”. In the light of what you believe about Christ and what you are and have in Him, how should you decide? Put simply, ask yourself, “As I stand in the shadow of Calvary, what should I do?” Let your life be one grand reaction, not to popular culture, but to Christ and His cross and you will live victoriously in a sinful world! Let the Gospel you believe govern how you think and act.
Dr. Alan Cairns