As a Christian, are you prepared to live in radical confrontation to society by obeying true biblical teachings?
[Gary Petty] To be deceived is to be tricked into believing something that’s not true. When a person is deceived, he believes the lie he’s been told.
Now most people believe, “I could never be deceived.” We tend to see ourselves as too smart or too logical to be deceived.
Well today, we want to challenge you to honestly and prayerfully explore your own Christianity to see if you are being seduced by the subtle conventional wisdom of society.
Are you, as a Christian, prepared to live in radical confrontation to society? Prepare to be challenged as we explore the question, can you be “Seduced by Conventional Wisdom?”
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[Gary] All societies have a “conventional wisdom”—a shared belief in what is important, how problems should be solved, cultural customs, and what determines right from wrong. Conventional wisdom in the United States includes concepts of democracy, capitalism, personal freedoms and individual rights.
Now when a person questions a society’s conventional wisdom, he or she can be seen as radical—maybe even a little threat to the stability of the culture.
Now here lies the challenge to the Christian who wants to understand and live by what is taught in this Book, the Bible. Many times, the teachings of the Bible defy society’s conventional wisdom. In fact, true Christianity is often a radical confrontation to the conventional wisdom of any culture.
If you are complacently accepting the culture around you, then you need to ask yourself this hard question, “Am I practicing true Christianity or am I being seduced by conventional wisdom?”
The apostle Paul presented a radical confrontation to the conventional wisdom of his day. Now just think about some of the cultural issues that he would have faced. At the time of the New Testament the conventional wisdom of Rome declared that there were multiple gods, bloody gladiatorial games were good for society, abortion and cruel slavery were acceptable, and running water carried in lead pipes was the latest advancement in technology. They didn’t know that their new technology was actually poisoning their water supply.
Now to most people who lived in New Testament times, all of these things seemed quite normal.
Paul compared the wisdom of their age with the wisdom of God when he wrote to the Christians in Corinth, “However, we speak wisdom among those who are mature, yet not the wisdom of this age, nor of the rulers of this age, who are coming to nothing. But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, the hidden wisdom which God ordained before the ages for our glory…” (1 Corinthians 2:6-7 1 Corinthians 2:6-7 6 However, we speak wisdom among them that are perfect: yet not the wisdom of this world, nor of the princes of this world, that come to nothing:
7 But we speak the wisdom of God in a mystery, even the hidden wisdom, which God ordained before the world to our glory:
American King James Version×).
A little later in this same letter he wrote, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He takes the wise in their own craftiness.
American King James Version×).
Well it might be easy see how Christians would have lived different lifestyles that were a radical confrontation to the culture of the Roman Empire—with all the violence, and its greed, and its despotic rulers and persecution of Jews and Christians.
But what about the culture and society you and I live in today?
Christians must confront any aspect of culture in the light of the Word of God. The problem is conventional wisdom seems so obvious and right to the people living in that culture. Anyone who disagrees is seen as maybe a little bit strange, even dangerous. When Christians confronted the culture of the Roman Empire they were accused of turning “the world upside down” (Acts 17:6 Acts 17:6And when they found them not, they drew Jason and certain brothers to the rulers of the city, crying, These that have turned the world upside down are come here also;
American King James Version×). But actually, they were trying to turn it “right side up!”
Now, that’s radical confrontation of conventional wisdom.
And when we read the New Testament we find that Christians turned their world upside down without violence or even public protests. They influenced society simply by the example of how they lived their faith.
What was it about Roman culture that caused people to see Christianity as so radical? Why was the teachings of Jesus turning their world upside down?
You know, some aspects of Roman culture might seem recognizable today, like the acceptance of cultural diversity and free trade. There was even freedom of religion—well, as long as you tolerated and accepted all other religions as equal.
But you know, the Romans also subjugated other peoples with violence and cruelty. Anyone who publicly disagreed with the superiority of Roman rule could face imprisonment or even painful death by crucifixion.
Millions of people were enslaved. Slaves had no rights and could be beaten, families broken up and sold, or used by their masters as sex toys. In the Roman world, a fetus was considered personal property and abortion was considered not illegal but quite moral. If a newborn baby was thought unacceptable for any reason, the parents could abandon the child on the side of the road where it was left to the elements to die or be picked up by someone and maybe raised as a slave.
In this environment, Christians were tortured and killed because of their radical beliefs; beliefs like there is only One true God, or that the Roman emperor was not a god. And especially offensive was their belief in Jesus as the Son of God who would return to establish a Kingdom on this earth where all people would worship the same God.
Now if you study the evolution of any society, you find that over time as values change, the conventional wisdom changes.
Let’s look at one example. For many centuries in Christian societies, homosexuality was considered to be an issue of morality—practices condemned by the Bible. In the early development of modern psychiatry, homosexuality was considered a mental illness. But in 1973, the American Psychiatric Association modified their diagnoses to “sexual orientation disorder.” In 1987, homosexuality was accepted by the majority in the mental health community as normal human behavior.
Now we find the same challenges taking place in the Western world’s conventional wisdom concerning transgenderism. Now although transgenderism is still classified as a “mental disorder,” there is a strong movement to declare it as normal and acceptable behavior.
So how does a society move from accepting transgenderism as a moral issue and even a mental illness to accepting the behavior as normal?
Remember, if you study the gradual development of any society you find that the conventional wisdom changes over the passing of time as the values of the society change. These kinds of changes don’t happen overnight. They are part of a long history of shifting ideas, definitions of morality and what is considered “normal” behavior.
So let’s explain how the U.S. society got to this point on transgenderism.
In the mid-1600s to the early 1800s, the Western world experienced a dramatic sea-change known as the Age of Enlightenment. The Protestant Reformation had broken the absolute power of the Catholic Church. The European monarchies were being challenged by new political concepts of republics and democracy. Ideas like personal conscience, separation of church and state, and the right of common people to own property created an upheaval throughout Europe and actually helped create what we know as the United States of America.
The Enlightenment was spread through the groundbreaking technology of the printing press. There was a revolution in the arts, sciences, and education. The intellectual debate caused by these movements created biblical skepticism. Many humanists began to teach that ethics—the rules of proper human behavior—were a matter of human reason instead of issues of religion or theology.
In 1859, Charles Darwin published the Origin of Species . Within a hundred years, the theory of evolution became the conventional wisdom of the age.
Now this is really important. For many educators, the biblical concept of a Creator God was relegated to myth. The theory of evolution promoted the “scientific” study of human sexuality without any religious influences.
We now come to the last 75 years in Western society.
A technological explosion in media—now think about it, film, video, webcasting—allowed people to watch sexual behavior that just a few years before, no one would even speak about in public. Public education, influenced by humanist philosophy, promoted the abandonment of biblical ideals. Increasingly, the Bible was seen as ancient writings with little or no application to the modern world.
Now this led to changes in definitions of good and evil, and the exposure to behavior once considered evil created societal tolerance. And then as people “came out of the closet,” fellow students, neighbors, co-workers—it became easy to accept the once forbidden actions. Eventually, the values of enough people changed that there was a change in the conventional wisdom.
Just like the acceptance and then promotion of homosexuality, we are now headed towards a society where transgenderism will be considered a normal human condition. To be against transgenderism will mean that you have a phobia—you are the one with a mental illness. Ever hear of the word, homophobia? It wasn’t a word in the English language until the 1960s.
How much has the theory of evolution affected the moral concepts of our society?
Here’s an example of how the theory of evolution has dramatically affected the legal system of the United States. Scientific study has shown that different species of animals participate in some kind of same sex activity. This has been used in legal proceedings to “prove” that human homosexuality is a natural part of the evolutionary process.
Think about what is wrong with this reasoning. We are going to use the instinctive behavior of animals to determine human behavior?
Understand, the secular humanist goal was to relegate the status of human beings as nothing more than the highest form of animals. It’s at the core of the philosophy.
The Bible claims that human beings are made in the image of God (Genesis 1:26 Genesis 1:26And God said, Let us make man in our image, after our likeness: and let them have dominion over the fish of the sea, and over the fowl of the air, and over the cattle, and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.
American King James Version×). We are unique creations as children of the Creator. I mean, if we are going to use animal behavior as our standards, then why can’t people kill their neighbor’s children? I mean, lions kill the cubs of other lions. Some animals eat their young. Most animal species participate in incest and even what humans would define as rape. Is that okay?
I mean, does this mean that this kind of behavior is acceptable for humans?
You might be saying, well he is being a little ridiculous. But if animal behavior is the legal criteria for human behavior, where do we draw the line?
As Christians, we have a responsibility to live in radical confrontation to the ever-changing conventional wisdom of our age. You know, the sad reality is that many Christians don’t really know what the Bible teaches.
It is time to rediscover what Jesus really taught. He did not teach that all religious ideas are equal. He taught that the God of this Book—the God of the Bible is God, and He expected His followers to obey God’s commandments.
Now Jesus did warn about judging others, but He didn’t teach us to avoid making all moral judgments. When Christians follow God’s judgments, they are not hate mongers—they are disciples of Jesus Christ. It takes moral courage to stand for truth in the face of conventional wisdom.
Jesus did not teach that it doesn’t matter what you believe as long as you’re sincere. You know, this is one of the great lies of conventional wisdom. A study of the Gospels show that Jesus taught absolute truths and the reality of the God of the Bible.
Christians who conducted the Inquisition were sincere—it doesn’t erase the fact that they were committing crimes against God and humanity. A Muslim terrorist who blows himself up and kills dozens of innocent people is very sincere—he is still committing crimes against God and humanity.
To live in radical confrontation with society’s conventional wisdom, we have to be honest with ourselves and humble before the teachings of God. It’s easy to condemn rampant divorce and abortion in society, and ignore our own issues of resentment, hatred, self-righteousness, covetousness, envy and greed. We can become indignant about the person who robbed the convenience store, but convince ourselves not to pay our taxes because the government is evil. But by the way, Jesus said to pay our taxes.
We just can’t say the words of Jesus, Christians must live by the words of Jesus.
The earliest Christians didn’t turn the world upside down because they were involved in political and social movements. They turned it upside down because they lived their Christianity. Their faith was so real, they couldn’t help but influence others through their radical lifestyles.
The radical Christian lifestyle is summed up by the apostle James. He wrote: “But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does” (James 1:22-25 James 1:22-25 22 But be you doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves.
23 For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like to a man beholding his natural face in a glass:
24 For he beholds himself, and goes his way, and straightway forgets what manner of man he was.
25 But whoever looks into the perfect law of liberty, and continues therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed.
American King James Version×).
Now before we go to the Beyond Today panel, let’s summarize what we’ve talked about so far today.
1. All societies have a “conventional wisdom.”
Conventional wisdom is a shared belief in what is important, how problems should be solved, cultural customs, and what determines right from wrong.
2. Society’s wisdom can be foolishness to God.
The apostle Paul wrote, “Let no one deceive himself. If anyone among you seems to be wise in this age, let him become a fool that he may become wise. For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God” (1 Corinthians 3:18-19 1 Corinthians 3:18-19 18 Let no man deceive himself. If any man among you seems to be wise in this world, let him become a fool, that he may be wise.
19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written, He takes the wise in their own craftiness.
American King James Version×).
3. Christians will turn the world upside down.
The earliest Christians lived lifestyles that were in radical confrontation with the conventional wisdom of their day. So much so, they were accused of turning the world upside down.
4. Conventional wisdom changes over time.
Behavior that once was considered immoral is first tolerated, then accepted and when enough people participate it becomes “normal.”
5. Live in a way that defies conventional wisdom.
True disciples of Jesus Christ don’t go along with all societal norms.
We’re joined by fellow Beyond Today hosts Darris McNeely and Steve Myers. We’ve been talking about conventional wisdom.
What are some of the ways that people can be seduced into conventional wisdom that seem “normal” but actually are against what Jesus taught or what the Bible teaches?
[Steve] Well when you consider where we are right now in society, especially here in America, these things start so small. You go back 75 years and we’re basically a Christian country. We have prayers in our schools. Ten Commandments are everywhere. And yet, once we get to a point that says, you know, not everybody is a Christian so we should cut out prayer in our schools. Okay, we don’t want to offend these people so that sounds like a good thing. But it certainly started a downward spiral. And so, you cut out prayer in school, you cut out God and now, that’s normal. That’s normal. And so, we’ve worked into the situation where we have left God and that becomes normal, then when we compare it to where we were.
[Gary] So people who now pray in school are seen by conventional wisdom as being the bad ones.
[Darris] Another one is abortion. In 1973, the United States Supreme Court legalized abortion and something that in another generation of the past, people would never have even dreamed of legalizing or recognizing at the highest level as a right of a woman biologically has now, was at least at that point enshrined—now it’s still a very divisive issue. Still actually battled back and forth. And people have different views on that.
But a more recent one is same sex marriage. And again, just a short time before, no one would have ever imaged that that would have been something again, legalized, in the United States. But it did, and a majority of people by polls go along with it—easily changed.
[Gary] Yes, conventional wisdom evolves. So how can Christians not be unwittingly seduced by conventional wisdom?
[Steve] The challenge is, this has become our standard in the world or our country’s standard. Well is that really the standard that we live by or do we have a higher standard? God gives us His standard in the Bible. If we begin to walk away from that standard and make excuses about why we don’t follow it, we’re going to lead to trouble. We are going to be in trouble when we don’t follow what’s there. So we cannot even begin to take those first steps. We have to stand back and live by the standard of God’s Word.
[Darris] Another way Gary is—what I tell young students at our Ambassador Bible College that we have teaching Bible classes—I always tell them that, believe it or not there was history before the day you were born. And, people when it comes to conventional wisdom have got to understand that what is accepted today in another time, and many cases not so long ago, there were whole bodies of thought. Churches and institutions, schools and families that believed in and people taught and lived by differing values and ideals and standards than what is now commonly accepted today in terms of behavior, morality, and ethics. And it’s been a tremendous change in a very, very short period of time in recent years. And therefore, people think “well its always been this way” and “it’s the right thing” and “we’re progressive,” but no. For the longest time, it wasn’t.
[Gary] You know, one of the problems is even as Christians we can promote that and not even know it. How many times have you heard the statement, “well Jesus said, judge not?” And we’re not supposed to go around judging everyone, but that almost has become a way to erase all standards. You can’t judge the way God judges. Well the truth is, as Christians, we are supposed to promote God’s judgments. Now, and well we’re not going to persecute people of other religions, but we’re going to stand for what we believe. That’s different, you don’t persecute people but you do make a stand for what you believe. And so that judge not statement of Jesus has been twisted to mean not at all what He meant. And anyone who reads the Sermon on the Mount, where He said it, knows that’s not what He means if they read the whole thing.
[Steve] What a great reminder that those discrepancies between what society believes, what conventional wisdom is and what God teaches—we have to as Christians take that stand. We can’t allow that because our world has gotten to a point that if we don’t support no prayer in school, or we’re not supportive and behind these things, we become the bad guys. But that’s the way it is. That’s the way it is. And if we don’t stand for the truth then we’re going to be thrown in with everybody else and we’ll compromise the truth of God.
[Darris] Yeah, you mentioned, you both use this concept of standing for something. Stand for the truth, or standing for something. And what has happened, the way it has all been turned upside down today, at least among a new generation, this accepted wisdom is that if you stand for something that’s contrary to what I believe, you’re a hater.
[Darris] That’s hate speech. And I cannot tolerate that, I cannot be around that. I don’t feel safe. And, so a generation is coming on accepting that approach and you standing for a standard and trying to hold to something is then tried to turn back. And frankly, we don’t need to be intimidated by that. We do not need to allow that to become something that we shy away from. It’s all right to stand for something. It’s all right to be for something value based and biblically based and do not be ashamed of it. Do not be intimidated by it.
[Gary] Radical conformation.
[Gary] So what do we do? We take a new Christian and say here’s where you start to be able to learn how to confront and understand when conventional wisdom is wrong.
[Steve] I think one of the keys—you brought up this idea of judgment; oh, we shouldn’t judge. But you know, when it comes to it, we don’t condemn people. That’s God’s job. But I do have to discern and judge by God’s standard. So, I have got to get back to the Word. I have got to get back to the stature, the measure of Christ. That’s the standard and I have to live by that standard. And that should be our goal. And so, I am discerning things in my own life especially so that I don’t fall into those conventional way of doing things, rather the spiritual way of doing things.
[Darris] Let God judge the others. You certainly evaluate behavior, make your decision, stick to it. Don’t be again, as I said, intimidated. But, the fruits will be there in your life for good. And unfortunately, fruits can be bad if people don’t live by righteous standards. And help where you can, be encouraging, but live your life that will by example be enough of a judgment for anyone and the fruits will be there.
[Gary] When you think about it, Christianity, I mean, Jesus actually taught love you enemies. So the very people that we’re saying, we’re standing against what you believe, that doesn’t mean we can mistreat them, hate them, persecute them. But we have to make the stand. We have to say: no, this is what I believe as a Christian. This is what I live by. This is what I stand for and that’s not being a hate monger.
[Darris] Don’t be ashamed.
[Gary] That’s right. During today’s program, I’ve explained that the real challenge to the Christian is to live by what is taught in the Bible. The fact is, most of the teachings of the Bible and true Christianity itself stands at odds—indeed defies—the conventional wisdom of any culture.
But, how can you know for sure what is true and what is not? How can you grasp whether or not you are practicing true Christianity or being seduced and misled by conventional wisdom? You know, the answer is not found in blindly accepting preconceived ideas and long-held traditional views, but by personally and sincerely studying and understanding God’s Word, here—the Bible.
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Here lies the challenge to the Christian who wants to understand and live by what is taught in the Bible. Many times, the teachings of the Bible defy society’s conventional wisdom. In fact, true Christianity is often a radical confrontation to the conventional wisdom of any culture.
The earliest Christians were accused of turning the world upside down. They didn’t turn the world upside down because they were involved in political movements. They turned it upside down because they lived their Christianity. Their faith was so real that they could not hide their radical lifestyles.
Are you, as a Christian, prepared to live in radical confrontation to society? Jesus did.
Join us next week on Beyond Today as we continue to discover the gospel of the Kingdom. We also invite you to join us in praying, “Thy Kingdom come.” For Beyond Today I’m Gary Petty. Thanks for watching.
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