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What is Happening?, Part 2

From the series Hope of Nations

Our world has experienced a radical moral shift. Right and wrong are interchangeable… and truth is considered relative. So how should Christians respond? In this program, our guest teacher John Dickerson continues talking about the ideologies that vie for attention, and why truth standards are so divisive.

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Message Transcript

In every century, in every civilization, on every continent, sets of ideas are competing for the domination of humanity.

And Scripture makes it really clear that as followers of Christ, our warfare, our spiritual warfare is not in the physical realm so much, it’s in the spiritual realm and in the realm of ideas. We wrestle not against flesh and blood but against principalities and powers.

And in 2 Corinthians chapter 10, Paul writes and says that, “The weapons of our warfare as followers of Christ are not of the flesh, but we destroy arguments” – ideas – “and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God.” In other words, in the Church and in our thoughts and in our families we acknowledge that ideas are what will determine the destiny of our children and grandchildren. And so, we fight for truth and rightness and for what is pure and good in the minds of ourselves and of our kids.

I’m going to move from Scripture to my reporting as a research journalist. And so, if you disagree with some of these next things, know that you’re disagreeing with me and not with the Bible, okay?

But what I’ve done in the last few years is through these lenses of knowing that ideologies are at war, I have tried to look at what is happening in the world today and what I’m about to show you comes from dozens of sociologists and other researchers and lots of statistics that I have put into a book called Hope of Nations. And if you’re a nerd like me, you might enjoy reading it all.

But if you’re not a nerd like me, I’ll just simplify it here. Here’s what, for me, make sense of the world right now is understanding that in the United States right now, there’s a civil war of ideas that is happening every day.

And there are two dominant views. There are thousands of ideologies, but there are two dominant ones that are butting heads right now and a lot of the cultural conflict we see and social division that we see traces back to this civil war of ideas.

And this is the first of two idea sets that are competing for domination of the American mindset today is what I call, and other researchers, the post-truth view of reality. Post-truth very simply says there is no objective truth standard in the world, what is right or what’s wrong really is kind of up to you. You have your truth; I have my truth. I won’t judge your truth if you don’t judge my truth. This is really common in a lot of our leading universities, out where I have lived on the coast, in the major metropolises, this is very common in mainstream media where I used to work fulltime, this is very common.

About fifty-three percent of Americans right now view reality through a post-truth lens. They don’t know they are viewing it through a post-truth lens, per se, but researchers have asked the kind of questions about: “What is the standard for truth?” that lets us know it’s about fifty-three percent.

But this fifty-three percent are almost all my age and younger. It’s the Millennials and younger Americans who largely have been taught this or absorbed this through culture that truth is kind of – your truth is your truth and my truth is my truth. You have heard of Relativism or Post Modernism. That all overlaps here.

That’s one view of reality that is very common in America right now. But there’s another view that forty-seven percent of Americans hold to and that is a truth-based view of reality. A truth-based view of reality says there exists an objective standard for truth outside of my feelings and outside of what celebrities are posting on Instagram and moral evil is not necessarily defined by a celebrity’s selfie on Instagram, it’s defined by some objective standard that is written.

And whether or not I agree with it, whether or not I feel like I like it, what is right and what is wrong are written down somewhere. Now, of course, as Christians, for us that truth standard is the Word of God. And I’ll just give you a really simple example of the difference between post-truth thinking and truth-based thinking.

And one example would be, “What did Jesus teach?” If you ask an American, “What did Jesus teach?” well, some Americans will be like, “Well…” they won’t necessarily know, they’ll just kind of say things they believe and it’s like, “Well, how do you know Jesus taught that?” “Well, I know Jesus was good so…” essentially the assumption is He would believe what I believe because He was good.

And so, what did Jesus teach? Well, kind of whatever I – there’s this kind of floating scaffolding of what is right and wrong, what is socially acceptable, and it’s moving. It’s not fixed. And it’s really kind of whatever all the people are saying is right or wrong right now, that’s what’s right or wrong. “And I think Jesus would probably agree with that.” That’s a post-truth view of reality.

A truth-based view of reality says, “What did Jesus teach?” Well, it’s written down in the gospels and I can look it up here and I can read it for you and here’s what Jesus believes. And if I disagree with it, well, it’s true whether I agree with it or not. Does that make sense?
So, that’s just one example of post-truth versus truth-based. Now, I’m not up here to go after any group or any generation. It’s not like the Millennials are going to ruin the world. I hope not, because I’m one of them, okay? I’m not up here saying all of the young people are terrible. That’s not at all what I’m saying. What I’m saying is there is an ideological divide and what happens around Thanksgiving dinner tables and on Facebook and social media is truth-based thinkers get into debates with post-truth thinkers and they are operating from totally different values and assumptions and they start to debate and it always turns out nasty.

Because when one person believes in a truth standard and another one doesn’t, you’re not really going to have a very successful debate about what is right or what is wrong, because the post-truth person, they don’t even really know why they believe what is right or wrong. They just know they feel strongly about it. And the truth-based person, sometimes we truth-based people – Jesus came full of grace and truth – but sometimes we truth-based people, we kind of skip over the grace part, right? And we’re like, “I’m right and you’re wrong.”

So, but if we understand that there’s this civil war happening in the realm of ideas in the U.S., it really explains a lot of the crazy things that we see happening. It doesn’t make it less painful or less disturbing, but at least we understand why it’s happening.

Now, prepare to have your minds blow, okay? Fellow nerds, raise your nerd flags high, okay? Because here’s the thing, here’s the thing, the U.S. is a big deal, it’s a big country, but there are seven billion people in the world, and the U.S. is about three hundred and twenty-five million. So, there are a lot more people out there than us, okay? Or just think of thirty compared to seven hundred, if that makes it easier, okay?

And so, there’s a lot more people out there than us and while we are having this civil war of ideas in the U.S., there are other ideologies outside of the U.S. competing for global domination, as has been true in every generation.

And so, I want to show you from the research what those four ideologies are that are competing for domination globally right now according to researchers. This comes from the Pew Research Center.

Hindu, which if you have ever been to India, it’s the predominant religion there. It’s pretty much India. Hindu is about a billion people. So one out of seven people in the world today are Hindu. It’s ironic to me some of my friends who have master’s degrees in global culture who don’t even know the core beliefs of Hindu or Islam.

Like, what did you learn in your master’s degree about global culture if you don’t understand how one out of seven people think or almost one out of five people with Islam, okay?

But the point is this: all four of these ideologies, Hindu; Communism, which is essentially Atheistic Communism, this is China more or less; Islam, which is not in one, just one nation, it’s about one in five people in the world right now; and Christianity.

We are the largest ideology in the world right now, actually in world history. One in three people in the world today believe that Jesus is God and died on the cross for the sins of the world. That includes Catholics, Orthodox, all sorts of different Christian groups.

But here’s the point. All four of these ideologies are what I describe as a muscular rigid ideology. And here’s what that means, very simply, all four of these say, “We are right and whoever disagrees with us is wrong.” And this is mind blowing for many Americans of my generation and younger, because we have been taught so much: never judge anyone. Never disagree with anyone. Your truth is your truth; my truth is my truth.

Now, tolerance in the biblical sense is absolutely a Christian idea that we allow people to disagree with us and we don’t attack them and we are not prejudiced against them, okay?
So, I’m not at all saying that people who disagree with us should be punished. But the reality is that Christianity claims to be exclusively right in its view of the world. And so does Islam, which contradicts Christianity. And so does Hindu, which contradicts both of them. And so does Communism. All four of these claim to be the only right way.

And if you don’t understand that, then you’re going to be confused when you interact with people from any of these ideologies. Because there are Hindus and Muslims and Christians who are gracious about disagreeing, but there are also some who aren’t.

And to me, what makes Christianity unique and noble is not that it claims to be exclusively true. Because if you look at world history, almost every ideology claimed to be exclusively true. What’s unique about Christianity is how it treats the people who disagree.

Because if we are true Christians, we read the words of Jesus and we are bound to His words when He says, “Love your enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Forgive seven times seventy times.” We are bound to the Word of God when it says in Romans chapter 12, “As much as it is possible, live at peace with all people.”

So, Christians are peaceable, kind, forgiving, patient people, not because we think that our beliefs don’t matter and not because we think it doesn’t matter if you disagree with us, but it’s because of our beliefs that we are peaceable and patient and forgiving.

And if you look at world history, whether it was under Nero in Rome or under a Pharaoh in Egypt, or under the Soviet Union or today in China, most world cultures, if you disagree with it, are not so kind.

Many world cultures, if you disagree with what the government says, you go to jail. Okay? So, Christianity is unique in accepting the people who disagree with us…

Out of seven billion people, one in three are Christians, one in five are Muslims, almost one in five are Atheistic Communist, Hinduism, and then “other”. So, here’s what’s kind of crazy, in the United States, Australia, New Zealand, Western Europe – England, France – Atheism, Agnosticism, the belief that there’s no one right way, that’s the rising tide in our culture, right?

But that is just a little fraction on the global scene. Atheists and Agnostics will shrink and the reason for that is they don’t have a lot of kids, ironically, okay? Islam is by far the fastest growing and that’s because Muslims do have a lot of kids. Christianity has slowed way down in its growth and it’s just a P.S. footnote but one of the reasons for that is most of the nations that were formerly Christian adopted abortion policies within the last forty or fifty years and they are no longer keeping up with global population growth.

But let’s look at what is going to change here between now and 2050.

Islam, Muslims will increase by seventy-three percent. Fastest growing ideology in the world by far.

So, here’s what’s interesting to me as a former journalist and reporter is if you just watch FOX News, CNN, New York Times, USA Today, whatever your news outlet is, you get a really small view of reality and you would think from watching the American news that religion doesn’t really matter. Religion is a thing of the past.

But the reality is, and these are just fact, whether or not you believe in God, the majority of the world is religious and the majority of the world holds to muscularly rigid religious ideologies that say if you disagree with me, you’re wrong and I’m right.

And then the question for us is how we handle those disagreements. And what we can know according to today’s projections is that the world my kids will inherit is a world where one in three people is Muslim, the other one in three is Christian, and then the other one in three will be either Communist or Hindu or a small fraction of atheists, etcetera. So, it’s a changing world. It’s a changing world.

Now, this fourth point I told you of the five factors, four of them are always true and are from Scripture, one of them is from me and my research. And this is the one from me and my research. So, again, if you disagree with it, you’re just disagreeing with me and you’re free to, by the way. I am peaceable and forgiving and it’s okay. You’re allowed to disagree with me, okay?

Western civilization, in my assessment, and this is speaking in centuries and decades, not because of a sound bite clip on the Internet is unraveling. What I mean by this is that we have inherited a machine of a society and civilization that was built by people.

And many of the core beliefs and values that are at the center of the machine are now being kind of tossed out the window. And at some point, the machine stops running if you remove enough parts.

We have inherited a civilization that to us is normal, but as I mentioned before, historically is very unique.

When I think of a Scripture to represent this, which again, is my assessment, but this Scripture in Joshua 24 says, “I gave you a land, which you did not toil on and cities you did not build. And you live in them and you eat from vineyards and olive groves that you did not plant.”

What happened here in Joshua is that there was a generation who sought God and they lived through hard times and they worked hard and they sought God and God blessed them. And then their kids inherited that wealth and they taught their kids, “This wealth all came from God. Keep working hard. Keep fearing God.” And their kids kind of taught their kids, “This all came from God,” but by the time it got to the fourth generation, the fourth generation inherited it, but they never got taught this all came from believing in God.

And Joshua says, or God says to them, “You have inherited these fields that produce fruit,” and in our case, these courts and these laws and these rights that are not perfect, but are far above the historic human norm. And you have inherited them.

Very many of these things were put in place by people who believed in the truth standard of Scripture.

So the idea that all people are made in the image of God was key in the founding of a culture that has more human rights than any other culture has in history. It’s not perfect, but it’s further above the historic norm because of a belief in Scripture. But now the inheritors are saying, “Let’s do away with the foundations.”

I think of it this way: when I lived in California, we had some fruit trees in our backyard. And I loved these orange trees, I’d often make orange juice. They were – it seemed like they were producing year-round because there’s not really a real winter there.

And you could go out almost any time of the year, pick off an orange, and just eat it or make orange juice with it. They were delicious. And one day I realized, You know what? I didn’t plant these trees. I have never watered these trees. But I get to enjoy the fruit from these trees.

And it was just kind of a metaphor, a picture for my generation in world history. What we have inherited in our prosperity, our freedom, our courts, our laws is like a massive vineyard or a massive orchard of fruit and we didn’t plant the trees. But this is my opinion, what is sad is seeing some of my friends and peers at leading universities and leading media outlets essentially say, “Get out the axes and hack at the root of the trees,” even while we keep enjoying the fruits from the trees.
Here’s according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, you finance people will know who that is. It’s a big accounting firm. The order of world economies in 2050.

Number one will be China, number two will be India, then the United States. Now, there’s no one alive today who has not lived in a world where the United States was the number one economy. Okay? Now, our hope is not in the United States as followers of Christ. Our hope is in the kingdom of God.

But here’s the deal: when these shift in world history, things happen. There are global implications of who is the number one economy in the world for currency, for militaries, for all sorts of things.

We’re going to see something that hasn’t happened in a hundred and fifty years, and that is two major shifts in the top three. That China will rise to the top is on trajectory to overtake the U.S. in the next ten years or so. And then in the next ten years after that, India. The U.S. will be third. And then Indonesia is going to kind of kind of come out of nowhere, it’s a massive population, as number four.

Now, here’s what is interesting for us looking at this not as economists but as people who understand from the Word of God that ideas matter, is that three of these four have rigid ideologies, don’t they?

China is the Communism that we saw, India is Hindu, Indonesia is Muslim, and while it will be a massive nation, it’ll just be a small part of a Muslim world at that point in the future. But my point here is that we don’t know what the implications will be, but the world is going to move in our lifetime and in the lifetime of our kids and our grandkids.

So, what have we learned so far? We have learned humans are sinning always. Satan is scheming always. Ideologies are warring always.

And in the assessment of John, who hopefully is wrong, Western civilization is abandoning its core tenets and may be unraveling within our lifetimes.

I’m about to give you the fifth force, which is our hope. But before I do, I just want to give you a picture. Here’s a picture of Hurricane Florence as it was approaching South Carolina and the, well, the whole East Coast. And Hurricane Florence, what good leaders did is they said, “A storm is coming. So, don’t panic, don’t freak out, but because a storm is coming, here’s how you need to prepare.” And so, because of good leadership, people boarded up their windows. And people bought bottled water and bought generators and in certain areas, evacuated because they knew a storm was coming.

And here’s my heart as a shepherd and as a leader for us as a movement of God’s people in this series not to cause panic, not to have you freak out, not to be doomsdayists, okay? But to understand there are some massive changes that are going to happen in our lifetimes within the U.S. and globally and if we understand that that’s coming, we can be a little less shocked, a lot more prepared.

And the biggest preparation is spiritual. And that’s why if you look on the back of your notes, these nine manifestos, I will not unpack today. But these are essentially: what can you do? What can we do as a movement of people to be prepared spiritually and to prepare our kids for whatever might happen in the next thirty years? And really, we can take action spiritually by saying, post-truth culture, we are going to say true to the Word of God.

In a culture where human dignity is being lost when people disagree and they are just pulling out all the stops and calling each other terrible things, we are going to treat all people with dignity because they are made in the image of God. We are going to love our persecutors.

For those of you who are ready for some good news and that’s the fifth force that is always shaping human history, an unstoppable force, and it’s that Christ and His people are prevailing.

Christ and His people are prevailing. It doesn’t always look like it. It didn’t look like it in the Soviet Union, but the Soviet Union fell apart. It didn’t look like it in Rome, but then Rome became Christian. It doesn’t look like it sometimes, but Christ and His people are prevailing. And here’s what Jesus promised as a prediction in Matthew chapter 16. He said, “I will build My church, My kingdom, My movement and the gates of hell will not prevail against it.” Amen?

When Jesus made this prediction and we have ancient records, this prediction is two thousand years old. You know how many Christians there were in the world? A few hundred. You know how much land they owned? None. You know how many armies they had? None. They were a small, scattered, persecuted movement with no human resources and it’s a fact of history that Jesus predicted this movement will go to the ends of the earth and it’ll try to be stamped out and stomped out and you will have difficulty in this world, but you will overcome the world, “And My movement will continue growing.”

Here we are two thousand years later and after the Soviet Union fell, after Rome fell, after all sorts of tyrants and rulers have said, “I’m going to stamp out Christianity,” Christianity is the largest movement in human history and one in three people in the world today believe it to be true, that’s a prediction that came true and will continue to come true in our lifetime.

So, how can we prepare our children and grandchildren? The biggest thing we can do for them is to teach them the Word of God and to teach them how to love their enemies and follow Christ no matter what happens around them, because the reality of history and of eternity is that Christ will prevail, His Church will prevail, His kingdom was not stopped by Soviet tanks, His kingdom was not stopped by Nero, His kingdom has marched on. When Bibles are burned, Christianity grows. When Christians are jailed, the Church explodes. No movement in all of history has grown to the size of Christianity and there’s no force on earth or in hell that can stop the movement of Christianity, because it’s a kingdom that will not be shaken and it’s an eternal kingdom.

Well, I want to just give you guys a picture of this. Yesterday morning I went out, the kids were on the trampoline, they were doing this game called “crack the egg” where they try to stay in a little egg shape and you bounce around them and when they fall apart that person loses and you take turns.

And the point is this, when you come in as an adult, it’s no fair, because I weigh three times as much as them. You know? I’m of a different magnitude when it comes to “crack the egg.” I’m of a higher order. They have no chance, okay?

And here’s the thing about God. The Word of God tells us over and over, “Why do the nations rage? Kings and kingdoms rise and fall.” Psalm chapter 2 describes this time in the future before Christ returns when all the nations of the world and all their rulers and all their tanks and all their atomic bombs, they’ll all gather together and raise their fists against God and say, “We are all against You,” and it says God looks down at them and laughs.

Because that’s just how much bigger He is. And He loves us, which is amazing, but He’s not threatened. And as followers of Christ we are not threatened by anything that could happen in this life.

And I want to just close by just giving us a sense of mission as a body of Christ’s followers, that of all the times in world history, He chose that we would live now. And we don’t know what’s going to happen in the next thirty years, but we know that things are kind of set up for big things to happen globally and in the culture where He has placed us.

And He planted us here, not to merely survive. We will survive. But much more, to thrive and to be on mission and to set captives free, because while all these ideas are competing, we have neighbors and we have relatives and we have classmates who are enslaved to ideas that lead to death. And Christ sent us here to love them and to set captives free.