Tuesday Truth: What Does it All Mean? How Your Worldview Can Help You

Portrait of very serious African-American teenager on a black background. High quality photo
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“I can’t believe it! He’s really gone…I mean we were just hanging out yesterday, and then…I mean…how can he…be…dead?!”
The question, of course, was totally rhetorical, but it hung in the chair about as thick as the heat during the summer in the South. Darnell had just learned that J.J., his best friend, since Kindergarten, had suddenly died. I purposefully didn’t break eye contact with Darnell, an incoming high school Freshman. I knew better than to try to say anything, so I just was there with him and let the pain and grief of this horrible loss wash over him.

I could tell that he was fighting back tears. He tried to open his mouth to say something, but the sound, locked in his throat, came out more like a whimper. I reached across the coffee table and put my hand on his shoulder—and that’s all it took. The emotional dam broke and he cried hard for half an hour. After he got done, he blew his nose, wiped his eyes, sighed deeply, looked me right in the eyes, and asked me “ I mean…what’s the point of all this?”

Before I could respond, his words exploded out of his mouth: “I mean, he was my boy! We had both just made the J.V. football team! This was gonna be our summer! We were gonna hang out! I mean, what’s the point of it all? All the parties, all the music, all the movies, all the fun, all the girls, all the sports, all the clothes, and the shoes, and the money…I mean what’s the point of it all if in the end we all just end up like…” he angrily crumpled up a piece of paper and threw it in the garbage.

I thought that he was going to start crying again, but he gathered himself, cleared his throat, and seriously asked: “what happens when we die? I mean, you know, like my parents would, like, force me to like go to church and stuff, but we never took it seriously. I mean, we never really paid any attention. But I’ve come to realize that all this God stuff’s for real. It’s all really important, and I really need to figure out what it’s all about, cause, next, it might just be me!”

Darnell looked up at me and waited for a response. I just sat still and quiet, trying to be respectful and give him the emotional space that he needed to unload and express whatever he was dealing with. He was slouched over, and suddenly sat up like someone shocked him. He reached out his hand to hit my knee but instead spontaneously kicked my foot with his (I love working with teenage guys!) while simultaneously blurting out: “Hey Mr. O, what do you think? What happens when we die? What do you believe? I mean, you’re a pretty serious Christian guy. You seem to take all this Jesus stuff pretty serious and you’re still pretty chill!”

I stammered. And I never stammer. I politely declined to answer his questions about my personal perspectives on God, faith, life, death, and Heaven and hell. I clearly explained to him that I was his counselor and if he wanted those specific questions answered, then he would have to speak with his pastor. He insisted, stating, that he didn’t know or trust any of his church’s pastors, because, up until this exact moment, he hadn’t taken any of that—or anything important–very seriously.

“But now all this has really got me wanting to be sure about being sure.”I knew exactly what he meant, because I had a similar experience my Freshman year of high school. At the beginning of my Freshman year I had a classmate in my Freshman class die in a freak car accident, and it caused me to ask a lot of the same questions that Darnell was asking. So, I took a deep breath, and I made a deal with Darnell, that I would gladly and happily answer any and all his questions about life, death, God, religion, Heaven, hell, and anything else related to this issue, but only under two very specific conditions:

1. I had to be able to honestly inform his parents of his wishes to speak with me specifically about these issues.
2. Darnell had to read all the Bible verses himself, while we were together. I’ve had tons of Bible studies with tons of people, and sometimes, when people are hit with life-altering truths—or even the prospect of it—they tend to procrastinate; and I didn’t want that to happen with Darnell. God would do the rest: “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it” (Isaiah 55:11, NLT).

It’s super-cool to be able to experience someone coming into a spiritual situation with uncertainty and no peace, to then have them emerge on the other end with certainty and peace. His parents couldn’t stop thanking me over and over and over, because of the positive life change they saw in Darnell. But I couldn’t take any credit for any of it. As a Christian, I was just doing my job, because: “ . . . if someone asks about your hope as a believer, always be ready to explain it. But do this in a gentle and respectful way.” (NLT, 1 Peter 3:15, 16).

Pandemic Pandemonium

Admittedly, the pandemic has caused teens more than any other people group, to be pushed deeper into the search for meaning, that we all have at some point in our lives. After all, King Solomon, with all his wisdom was only able to scratch the surface of our soul’s longings, when he wrote:

“He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end” (Ecclesiastes 3:11, NLT).

Translation: each of us knows that we were made for something better and bigger than each of us. And each of us must do the work of searching for and finding the truth.

The big difference I’ve seen is that it seems that usually the teenage years are when people begin to feel that truth itch, so to speak, and begin to get a sense that there’s something more to life than what they can see, touch, taste, smell, or hear; they search for meaning in all the wrong places and ways, by making poor life decisions based upon a temporary or passing external problem that shocks them and “wakes them up” so to speak. But the consequences of this generations’ search tends to be a lot more serious than any previous generation I’ve ever worked with.

Frankly, I think a large problem is that social media and a smartphone promises freedom, connection, emotional intimacy, and happiness, but it delivers none of those things. In fact, just the opposite happens.

People who use technology as a tool to build and maintain relationships will find that it doesn’t deliver. It tends to leave them with a bad emotional taste in their collective mouths and a lot of soul scars.

This issue has become such a problem, that the U.S. Surgeon General, in a June 17, 2024 New York Times  editorial, called for social media to have warning labels on them, like those put on cigarettes and alcohol, in order to alert young people of the danger social media poses to their mental wellbeing and development.

Whoa! This is an epidemic and it will only continue to get worse! This is exactly why the topic of apologetics is so critical to rightly comprehend, because if you’re a Jesus follower, I’m convinced that God will put you in a position where either you can share Jesus and His message of love, grace, salvation, and mercy with others (evangelism), or you’ll be thrust into a situation where you’ll have an opportunity to defend your views and perspectives about who Jesus is in your life, how and why you follow Jesus, and most importantly, why others should do the same (apologetics).

Unapologetic about Apologetics

The term “apologetic” is a fancy name for the legitimate arguments or the defense we make about Jesus and His gospel. We not only inform others of the good news of the gospel (evangelism) but also defend it in a way that is true, correct, kind, respectful, intelligent, and logical.

In every case, when we begin the process of arguing our position, it is God and only God who ultimately brings around the heart, working through us (1 Corinthians 3:4-9). In the study of apologetics we confirm our faith–both for ourselves and for others who are truly searching for the truth. And we never know what life situations God will use as a catalyst to “drive someone over the edge” so-to-speak in order to get them to the point where they’re ready to have that conversation.

Worldview Wars

The term “worldview” might be new to you. What does that mean? A worldview is, well, how you view the world.
The apostle Paul warns us in Colossians 2:8: “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (NLT).

We need to be very careful that we don’t think ourselves out of our faith. I’m not telling you that you shouldn’t study different faiths and what others believe; after all, how else are we to win people over (Acts 17:16-34) if we don’t know where they are coming from? All I’m saying is that you need to be careful so that you are well grounded in your Christian faith, constantly praying for wisdom when reading and studying, and have several people grounded in their Christian faith with whom you can bounce all this information . I speak from experience: I spent the better part of 10 years being fooled by “empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense.”

So what are worldviews all about? Well, every human being has a worldview, a framework for understanding and interacting with the physical world, other humans, and the Divine. Every worldview tells a story—an explanation of life and our place in it—that makes sense to the one who holds it.

The story line of a worldview typically answers five questions: Where did we come from? What kind of beings are we? Why are we in our condition? How do we improve our condition? Where is all this headed?

In the Christian worldview these answers come to us by revelation from God, as He speaks to us from His Word, the Bible:

• Where did we come from? God made us and all things.
• What kind of being are we? We are His creatures, and human beings are His image-bearers.
• Why are we in our condition? The creation suffers, and so do people, because of the fall into sin.
• How do we improve our condition? The only way out of our sinfulness into a renewed, restored, and abundant life is through the redemption accomplished by Jesus Christ.
• Where is all this headed? Ultimately Jesus will bring His followers home to dwell with Him in a new heaven and new earth, where righteousness dwells.

So why is understanding what we believe and what others believe so important? Well, the simple answer is that our thinking controls our beliefs, and both these elements control our behavior.

Do the Reading

Here are the most influential worldviews. As Christians our worldviews are often so different from those in the secular culture. Thus we should know at least something about the worldviews, especially as they may conflict and collide with our own worldviews.

Look, let me be honest with you: this is going to be like attending a TED Talk or like reading a textbook, and I won’t apologize for it, because I want you to understand that if you want to reach other people with the gospel, you’ve got to do some “homework” to understand who they are and what they believe. There, I’ve said it, and I feel better.

The most influential worldviews are (in no particular order): Christian theism, deism, naturalism, nihilism, existentialism, and New Age pantheism or New Consciousness.

  • Deism, an important worldview during the eighteenth century, has almost entirely left the scene. The deist believes that God exists, but He created and then abandoned the universe. A famous deist we all know well was Benjamin Franklin. And William Miller, a founder of the Advent movement in the 1830s, was once a deist.
  • Nihilism, a more recent worldview, is alive among many young people and some intellectuals. Nihilists see no value in reality. To them, life is absurd. Famous nihilists are philosophers Soren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche
  • Existentialism is prominent and can be seen frequently, even among some Christians who don’t think they are existentialists. The existentialist, like the nihilist, sees life as absurd, but sees man as totally free to create himself in the face of this absurdity. Here we see Satan’s Garden of Eden lie rearing its ugly head: “You shall be like God” (Genesis 3:4-6). Probably the most famous existentialist was Plato.

Christian theism, naturalism, and New Age pantheism are currently the most influential worldviews in the United States. We’ll look more closely at each of them:

  • Christian theists believe that an infinite, personal God created the universe out of nothing. Man was originally created good in God’s image, but chose to sin, thereby infecting all of humanity with what is called a “sin nature.”So man is endowed with value by his Creator, but his sinful nature causes rebellious behavior.  Death is the gate either to eternal life with God or to eternal separation from Him. The destination is dependent upon the response we give to God’s provision for our sinfulness. The guidelines for our conduct are revealed by God, and God is the only being who can tell us what is ultimately right or wrong. Our reason and our experience through the five senses can be legitimate teachers, but an immutable, transcendent source (someone or something outside of ourselves that never changes) is necessary. We know the most important things only because we are told of them by God, mainly through the Bible and His Holy Spirit. History is linear (goes in a straight line) and is a meaningful sequence of events leading the human race to the fulfillment of God’s purposes.

Christian theism has a long history in Western culture. However, this does not mean that all people who have ever lived in Western culture have been Christians. It simply means that this worldview was once the most influential and dominant, even among non-Christians. But this is no longer the case. Western culture has experienced a transition to a worldview called naturalism.

  • Naturalism in various forms is ancient, but we will use the term to refer to a worldview that has recently risen to considerable influence in a relatively short time within Western culture. The seeds were planted in the seventeenth century and began to flower in the eighteenth. Most of us have been exposed to naturalism through what is called secular humanism.  Under this world view, God is irrelevant. This idea is the direct opposite of Christian theism, which is based on supernaturalism (whatever is outside of the natural).  Progress and evolutionary change are inevitable. Man is autonomous, self-centered, and will save himself.  Education is the guide to life; intelligence and freedom guarantee full human potential. Science is the ultimate provider for both knowledge and morals.

These principles have permeated our lives. They are apparent, for example, in the media, government, and education today.

Remember what Paul said to the Colossians? “Don’t let anyone capture you with empty philosophies and high-sounding nonsense that come from human thinking and from the spiritual powers of this world, rather than from Christ” (Colossians 2:8, NLT). We should be constantly alert and on guard for the influence of naturalistic principles.

After World War II, postmodernism began to replace naturalism. Postmodernism is the idea that truth, in any real and absolute sense, doesn’t exist. This appears to be the next major worldview that is taking hold of our culture. It is very popular in high schools and on college campuses.

At the same time, though, the past few decades have brought to us another ancient worldview, dressed up in Western clothing: New Age pantheism.

  • New Age pantheism, and various forms of pantheism have been prominent in Eastern cultures for thousands of years. But it began to have an effect on Western culture more in the 1950s. It took the form of what became known as the New Age movement. When I learned and taught martial arts, I was introduced to and involved in a lot of this type of thinking and philosophy, and for many years I struggled to combine these beliefs with Christian theism, and couldn’t. I ended up getting entangled in the New Age ideas of pantheism.
    What are the basic principles of the pantheist worldview? All is one. There are no ultimate distinctions between humans, animals, or the rest of creation. Since all is one, all is god. All of life has a spark of divinity.  If all is one and all is god, then each of us is god. Humans must discover their own divinity by experiencing a change in consciousness. That’s why a lot of people do things such as yoga and transcendental meditation. Humans must travel through unending cycles of birth, death, and reincarnation in order to work off what is called “bad karma.” New Age disciples think in terms of gray, not black and white. Thus they believe, like the postmodernist, that two conflicting statements can both be true.

On the popular level, these tenets of belief are presently asserted through media such as books, magazines, television shows, and movies. Perhaps the most visible teacher is George Lucas in the Star Wars movie franchise. But these beliefs are also found increasingly among intellectuals in fields such as medicine, psychology, sociology, and education.

Next Steps

See, reading that wasn’t so bad, was it? Now that you’ve been informed about the major worldviews, what will you do with the information?

I’m hoping that as you interact with others, read stuff, or watch TV, you’ll be more alert to how sneaky the devil is, but even more important, learn how you can bridge the differences between you and another person in order to share the life-saving meaning, and answers. This is what Darnell was looking for, the awesome hope of the gospel of Jesus Christ!

Additional Resources
Apologetics for Students

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