Worldview Clustering


Delivered at the Center for Cultural Leadership West Coast Symposium on “The Brave New Sexual World(view), October 24, 2015  

Did you even notice how people often line up together on an entire range of seemingly unrelated social and political issues? Why are socialists usually pro-same-sex “marriage”? Why are most environmentalists against capital punishment? Why are the strongest advocates of gun control usually pro-choice? Why are most pro-life Americans also committed to American exceptionalism? Why are the chief defenders of the traditional family usually also defenders of the free market? Why are the most vocal opponents of the theory of man-made global climate change also opponents of judicial activism? At the recent Democratic Presidential debate in Las Vegas, why did every candidate express or imply reluctance to confront the spread of radical Islam and also castigate Wall Street? Of course, there are exceptions to these pairings, but these kinds of “people-belief clusters” — people clustering around a cluster of beliefs — are too widespread to be an anomaly. The anomaly, in fact, is when this clustering doesn’t happen. When is the last time you heard of a leading pro-abortionist that also strongly supported capital punishment? A long time ago, I’d venture.

The reason for these “people-belief clusters” is worldview. That word is not hard to understand. It just means how we view the world. Worldviews are like pancreas. Everybody has one, even if we don’t know it. We tend not to see separate issues in their own light, but in light of our entire worldview. This is why so many people hold to the same cluster of beliefs as other people, not just the same beliefs. Lots of people don’t just agree on an issue; they agree on a cluster of issues. This is certainly true in the case of sex.

Socialism and Sex

Think for a minute about socialism and the Sexual Revolution. I re-read recently a 1952 article from a socialist magazine. It appealed to fellow socialists to champion the cause of gay rights. Until that time, the socialists had opposed homosexuality. But the author appealed to his fellow socialists that homosexuals should be their natural allies. Why? Because they were both in the social transformation business. Specifically, both wanted the egalitarian (as opposed to hierarchical) society. The author wrote:

Propaganda aimed toward the sexual individualist [he mainly means the homosexual] should stress his importance as a political concern; it should point out his right to what the Declaration of Independence called the “pursuit of happiness.” This soon will make more and more people aware of socialism as a constructive force in the transformation of America into a truly happy country where the individual rights of all its people (regardless of their departure from the Puritan “norm”) are both observed and respected.[1]

The socialists want economic equality. Homosexuals want sexual equality. Both hate hierarchies, specifically the “Puritan ‘norm.’” The author could have simply said: the Christian norm, because opposition to homosexuality wasn’t limited to the Puritans. But he knew one important fact: both socialism and homosexuality are part of a larger worldview. That worldview includes egalitarianism.

The Christian worldview (by contrast) is based on hierarchy. The basic hierarchy is God, who is superior to man and woman, created in his image; and man and woman are superior to the rest of creation. If you’ll think about it, the popular anti-Christian worldview (especially environmentalism) completely levels that hierarchy. God is a part of nature, and man and woman are no more important than animals and plants. We might at this point call it the egalitarian worldview. It’s embraced by political radicals — and has been since the French Revolution.

Today the priorities have changed for the egalitarian worldview. This shift first started in the 60s.[2] Until then they wanted economic egalitarianism (socialism). But pretty soon they figured out that what they really wanted was cultural egalitarianism. They didn’t just want equal incomes; they wanted equal morality. And they began to understand that it wasn’t necessity first to capture politics in order to redistribute wealth. All you had to do was capture the culture: the major media, elite universities, prominent foundations, the national legal and medical associations, the entertainment industry, and even the mainline denominations. Then capturing politics would be easy.

This is why homosexuality and socialism need each other. It’s why most socialists and big-state advocates support “same-sex marriage,” and why most supporters of “same-sex marriage,” also support increased government intervention in the economy. They share an anti-Christian egalitarian worldview.

ART’s and Abortion

Let me take another example: ART’s — assisted reproductive technologies. You might know them as artificial insemination, in vitro fertilization and surrogate childbearing. These are all means of enhancing the chances of a live childbirth for people who otherwise can’t have children. Interestingly, however, the leading proponents of ART’s also support abortion. How can this logically be? Abortion snuffs out a life. ART’s foster a life (using the wrong techniques). The two views seem to be mutually exclusive. But they’re not. What holds these apparently disparate views together? Both are committed to individual autonomy, specifically radical sexual autonomy. The pro-abortion vision believes “a woman has a right over her own body,” her own “reproductive rights.” The pro-ART vision believes a person should have the right to a child at any virtually time and under virtually any circumstance. It’s the radical sexual autonomy that’s the commonality.

At least two basic anti-Christian ideas are at work here. Let’s call the first “constructivism.” We might know it best from the famous existentialist philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche. He held that since man had, in effect, killed God, he’d also killed God’s morality. You can’t rely on God’s morality if there’s no God. Therefore, a race must emerge that creates, or constructs, its own morality. Nietzsche called this a race of “overmen,” or supermen. The bravest humans create their own morality, their own “values.” This is a root of postmodernism.[3]

The Christian idea, and even the Enlightenment idea, is that morality isn’t created. It’s given by God in revelation — in the Bible and in the very structure of creation. Morality isn’t constructed; it’s recognized. Postmodern man has turned away from revelational morality and devised a constructivist morality.

This means: we’re the makers of our society, of ourselves. And in making ourselves, we make the world.[4] The most popular example of this self-invention is “gender.” This once meant male and female, but gender today necessitates literally infinite variations: transgender to bigender to gender nonconforming to pangender to androgyny. Facebook now offers 51 gender identifications.

Over the last few years, ontology (being) itself has been forced to surrender its God-givenness. As Brian Mattson once commented to me, “Ontology is now a social construction.” Not merely human society, not merely culture, not merely categories of life, but reality itself is up for grabs. Sinful man is the artist, and reality is his creation. Ultimately, this means not simply the reordering of the given reality, but the re-creation of reality. “What imparts order by binding and unbinding,” one writer noted, “is neither something in the cosmos itself nor a transcendent creator and source of being. It is the human mind that defines and creates the order of being it encounters.”[5] Man is himself the creator of the universe.

This leads to the second idea: Gnosticism. Gnostics believe the material universe is bad or inferior, and disembodied existence, release from the body and the material world, is superior. The human body is one of the greatest barriers to re-creation (God, after all, the Creator, is spirit), so the body must be circumvented (remember the movie starring Johnny Depp Transcendence?). But the present human body seems to have been adapted for Earth. Therefore, overcoming the limitations of this planet will become the artist’s latest project. Autonomous human imagination – the body and its earthly environment = a new godless universe.

Abortion destroys the God-created human body, and ART’s circumvent the God-created human body to construct humanity. Radical individual autonomy is the root of both.

So we have egalitarianism, constructivism, Gnosticism, environmentalism, socialism — and many other ideas all combined to create a (the) prominent worldview. What should we call this overarching worldview? Different people have different names, but maybe we can just call it the elite worldview. Thomas Sowell derisively calls these folks, “The anointed” [6] (self-anointed, of course). They constitute the vast majority of our cultural leaders in the most culturally influential places: mainstream media, Ivy League universities, Hollywood, the American Bar Association, the American Medical Association, the pulpits in mainline denominations — in other words, the “enlightened” ones who are in a position to influence how everybody else thinks and acts. And their view of sex is a critical part of their worldview.

In light of this situation, how do we act?

A Worldview Agenda

First, don’t make the mistake of seeing sexual issues as stand-alone problems. Abortion is a part of a worldview. Socialism, and environmentalism and man-made global climate change and judicial activism are a part of that same worldview. Make no mistake: single-issue campaigns are indispensable. Groups that oppose abortion, surrogacy, same-sex marriage, pornography, socialism, and radical environmentalism play a pivotal role. However they, and we, must never forget that it’s unlikely any of us will win on a single issue for a long without being obliged to address the worldview behind all the other issues. And we should be encouraged that to win on one issue likely signals impending victories on others. These issues tend to stand and fall as a cluster. You only defeat worldviews with other worldviews. Now perhaps you understand why CCL is about Christian culture, not simply about this particular Christian or conservative issue or that one. It’s restoring Christian culture that must be the ultimate objective, the entire cluster. There are always fruit issues, and root issues. Worldview is a root issue.

Second, and finally, our job is to work within our own sphere of influence to press for just this Christian worldview. John M. Frame has spoken about “little transformations.”[7] We sometimes think that there must always be a big transformations or none at all. But most of the time, big transformations are simply a series of little transformations. Wherever God has placed us, we should both declare and model just this worldview, this way of living. I have said that CCL, in our present culture, is an adversarial intelligentsia. Our job is intellectual. We’re a think tank. But everybody has a role, and in the end, every soldier, every calling, is indispensable. You can and will influence people that I never could. And vice versa.

One thing we must make clear. The Christian worldview, the Christian way, is not simply one option among many. We live in postmodern times. This means that people tend to be egalitarian even about the truth (which is really weird, if you think about it). But the fact is, Christianity is not an option. It will be Christian culture or, in the end, it will be death (Prov. 8:36). We’re not simply asking everyone to think that Christianity might be slightly better than the alternatives. Jesus Christ came not to offer the best among essentially good alternatives. He came to declare the only way, that all other ways are frauds (Jn. 10:7–8).

Say it nicely or say it firmly, say it argumentatively or say it diplomatically, but say it: Jesus Christ is the only true way, and Christianity is the only true culture.

And know this. We will win. We will win first because the Bible promises it.[8] And we will win because the universe is God-rigged. God created the cosmos so that you cannot violate his moral law and get away with it. The universe is stacked against the rebels. As Charles Krauthammer reminded some of us in San Francisco two years ago: “If something can’t continue, it won’t.” Man’s successfully breaking God’s moral law can’t continue.

And it won’t.

[1] H. L. Small, “Socialism and Sex,” New Politics, Vol. XI, No. 5 (summer 2008), 18, originally published in the 1952 discussion bulletin, The Young Socialist.
[2] Richard Wolin, The Wind from the East (Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press, 2010).
[3] David Harvey, The Condition of Postmodernity (Malden, Massachusetts: Blackwell, 1995), 3–65.
[4] Thomas Molnar, Utopia, The Perennial Heresy (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967).
[5] Charles Guignon, Being Authentic (London and New York: Routledge, 2004), 63.
[6] Thomas Sowell, The Vision of the Anointed (New York: Basic Books, 1995).
[7] John M. Frame, John Frame’s Selected Shorter Writings, Volume Two (Phillipsburg, NJ: P & R, 2015), 315.
[8] John Jefferson Davis, Christ’s Victorious Kingdom (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1986).

Dualism: “Christian” Enemy of Christian Culture


One of the greatest enemies of Christian culture within the church is dualism.

Broadly speaking, dualism is the division of life into two overarching spheres or principles, generally antithetical to one another. Likely the earliest dualism was Gnosticism,[1] which posited two gods, the good god of the mind and spirit and the evil god of nature and materiality. The Gnostics perceived salvation as deliverance from the material world by means of secret knowledge (gnosis) to a few, select initiates. Gnosticism was a pagan invention, but it did not leave the church unaffected. Prime early heresies in the church were gnostically tinged (an example was Docetism, which denied that Jesus had an actual body).

Dualism comes in many forms, but it almost always privileges one aspect of created reality and devalues its polar opposite. Dualism is an example of apostate thinking, which always begins when sinful man turns away from worshipping the true God and absolutizes one aspect of the created order.[2] In the church, this dualism comes in at least five forms.

Ideal-Historical duality. We immediately think of Plato. He taught that the eternal world of Forms (or Ideas) stands behind our material world. More than about anything else, the ancient Greeks feared disorder and chaos. They had suffered from deprivations of war and the violence of anarchy. They saw the world as constantly changing, and this fact frightened them. Above all else, they wanted order, immutability, and permanence. This is what Plato’s doctrine of the eternal Forms provided. All the flawed, impermanent things on earth had a perfect, permanent Ideal in eternity. Every earthly chair reflected the ideal chair; every historical expression of justice or beauty was a diluted clone of its eternal Form. You might think that one impetus this doctrine gave rise to was reordering this world in light of the world of the Forms. This rarely happened. What usually happened was a desire for escape from this present world to the Ideal world. This is why death was the great longing for philosophers. Plato believed in preexistent souls. Your eternal soul is encased in a human body and at death is released to return to the ideal world. You can easily understand why Socrates wasn’t afraid of death and, in fact, invited it.[3]

Plato’s fanciful dualism has been widely discredited philosophically. Almost no educated people believe it today — except Christians. Most don’t know what Plato believed, but they do see eternity and time in expressions remarkably analogous to Plato’s. They know about and long for heaven, and they see earth as a pale reflection of the eternal state. Like Plato, they don’t use this view as a springboard to conform the earth to heavenly patterns (“Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”). Rather, like Socrates, they long for escape — not to the world of the Forms, but to their heavenly home.

It’s not hard to grasp how this earth-heaven dualism hinders Christian culture. If one of the Christian’s prime objectives is escape from earth, Christian culture can hardly be a priority.

Immaterial-Material duality. I noted that Plato saw the body as a form of prison from which man’s main goal was escape at death. This is one exhibition of the immaterial-material duality. Many ancients, following the Gnostics, posited materiality as evil or at least sub-par. The truly good and virtuous things were beyond our sensory world. It’s not hard to see why Christians would purchase stock in this view. After all, God himself is immaterial; so are faith and hope and love and prayer. Most of the things we hold most dearly are immaterial. But not all. Recent Christianity cares about redemption, but it has a deeply impoverished view of creation (nature). To many Christians, nature just isn’t that important — the only thing important is getting souls saved. They actually don’t want escape from sin; they want escape from their bodies; they want to escape from their humanity; they want to escape from this world. They think that prayer and Bible reading and quiet contemplation are “spiritual,” but trees and the ocean and good food and making lots of money and enjoying nature and basketball are not spiritual. But in the Bible, the conflict is never between physical and non-physical; it’s between righteousness and sin. Sin is the problem; materiality is not the problem. The most evil being in the world is pure spirit, and the godliest man who ever lived (Jesus Christ) lived and died and rose again in a body. If you don’t care about the material world, you can’t care much about culture, even Christian culture.

Soul-Body duality. The Immaterial-Material duality fosters the Soul-Body duality. Plato held to a tripartite view of man, but almost all the ancient Greeks posited a soul-body division of some sort. To the ancient Greeks man is made up of several distinct, and potentially independent, parts. The soul is the principal part of man — it is his insubstantial existence, which conforms to eternal, supra-temporal Forms. It existed before his body did, and it will exist after the body is gone. The body, in fact, is simply the house of the soul. In fact, it is the prison of the soul. According to the Greeks, the body is unnatural for man. It is an alien part that prevents him from realizing what he could if he were not imprisoned within it. The body was a troubling vexation to the pagan Greeks — it constrains man to time and space, subjects him to sickness and weariness, and gives him all sorts of fits. The soul, however, is the “good ghost in the machine.”

Traditional Christian anthropology has been either bi-partite or tri-partite. In any case, it has preserved the soul-body duality, which it inherited from the Greeks. The ancient Hebrews, by contrast, held, as the Bible itself does, a unified view of man.[4] They were not materialists, certainly not in the modern sense. They believed that man consists of both materiality and non-materiality. However, these two were interwoven. Man isn’t man without his body.

A soul-body duality need not (and often has not) hindered Christian culture, but it certainly can, and it has. The soul corresponds to heaven, while the body corresponds to earth. Man is made for heaven, not earth, so Christian culture isn’t a priority.

Internal-External duality. Perhaps even more of a hindrance is the internal-external duality. This duality gets to the heart of dualism’s aversion to Christian culture. Man is made for a vertical relationship with God, and this relationship is a heart matter. Most Christians realize that the Bible places great emphasis on man’s heart. Some believe this term is a synonym for emotion, but this belief is false. They speak of “head” religion versus “heart” religion, a false antinomy.[5] The heart is the inner core of man’s being — “heart” is roughly synonymous with “the synthesis of belief, intellect, will, intuitions, and emotions that govern the person.” In other words, “head” religion is heart religion. Even if Christians do understand the right definition of heart, they sometimes set it in radical opposition to man’s exterior. In fact, they even buy into the vast interiorization project that has afflicted our world since Romanticism. This “interiorization project” is a retreat from the objective realities of God’s created world into the subjectivism of human experience. Romanticism revolted against the cold, sterile impersonalism of the Enlightenment, which highlighted objective, universal reason; objective, universal experience; and objective, universal standards. Romanticism tried to recover the uniqueness of the individual, but it did this in an unbiblical way — without God’s Word. Therefore, it simply replaced autonomous, objective, universal, standards with autonomous, subjective, individual standards.[6] For Enlightenment, man was the measure of all things. For Romanticism, men (individuals, each one) were the measure of all things. We sometimes call this historical transition “the inward turn.”

In the church’s version, this meant that internal piety — prayer and Bible reading and love for God, a vertical devotion to God — was most important, and external piety — especially the visible church and its ordinances or sacraments, and visible adherence to God’s moral law took second chair, at best. Less important still was concern for God’s moral law in society itself. After all, God wants the heart, not external adherence to law, which can easily lead to Phariseeism (or so it has been thought). So, God judges everything by our pious interior, and isn’t as much interested in our visible actions, and particularly with the visible actions of the society in which he’s placed us. If anything, the external world is dangerous, since it can seduce us from God, whom we find in the internal world. The fact that the Bible says it’s man’s heart — his interior, not the external — that’s the source of his sins seems not to be a part of their mental calculation. But, in any case this Christian “interiorization project” obviously leaves little room for Christian culture, which is manifestly external and as a result, that project is a hindrance to Christian culture.

Private-Public duality. This dualism is largely the effect of a creditable development in the West, the rise of classical liberalism, whose roots are in medieval Christendom and Protestant Christianity.[7] Perhaps the fundamental distinctive of classical liberalism was its insistence on a zone of privacy for the individual.  The state and the rest of society do have claims on the individual, but these claims aren’t exhaustive. Man must be free to practice his religion, express his opinion, protect his property, assemble with like-minded people, and so on. Classical liberalism is therefore the source of much of our modern political liberty. It also happens to have been shaped largely by early Protestant Christianity with its stress on man made in God’s image, the inviolability of man’s God-given conscience, and  the right of the individual to interpret the Bible for himself.

In time, however, this liberty surrendered its Christian roots. It degenerated into a radical individualism and privatism.[8]  The zone of privacy came to mean liberty from Christian society and its law and morality, the very factors that fostered liberty in the first place.  The zone of individual privacy from moral law expanded, while the zone of privacy from state interference on other matters (like economic ones) contracted.  The state became known as the “public” realm, purged of Christianity, and the individual’s own moral and religious choices became entirely “private.” This was a far cry from classical liberalism.

Privatization is the intentional reduction of Christianity by Christians to the very places that secularists declare it’s safe to exist: the prayer closet, family devotions, and church on Sunday, or, at most, church social programs throughout the week. Privatization has had supporters from very early in church history (mystics, for example), but it became a widely accepted and practiced view only in the last two centuries. Christians come to believe that culture is inherently evil and cannot be Christianized, that the most spiritual Christians are those least engaged with the culture, that the Christian life can be exhausted by Bible reading and prayer and personal evangelism, and that anything much beyond these is “worldliness.”

Privatization, therefore, works in league with non-Christian forces to reduce Christianity to what Stephen Perks describes as a “personal worship hobby.”[9] Remarkably, many Christians and secularists agree about this privatization. Secularists say, “Christianity should stay private.” Christians respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Christians should stay out of politics.” Christians respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “God’s Word has nothing to say to our society.” Christians respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Unbelievers should be calling all of the shots in society and culture.” Christians respond, “We agree.” Secularists say, “Christianity is a ‘private worship hobby.’” Christians respond, “We agree.” This is an odd and unsettling alliance in opposition to Christian culture.

When Christians purge these forms of dualism from the church, Christian culture might then start to become again a historic reality.

[1] Thomas Molnar, Utopia, The Perennial Heresy (New York: Sheed & Ward, 1967).
[2] Herman Dooyeweerd, The Twilight of Western Thought (Ancaster, Ontario, Canada: Paideia Press, 2012), 31.
[3] Richard Tarnas, The Passion of the Western Mind (New York: Ballantine Books), 43.
[4] Oscar Cullmann, “Immortality of the Soul or Resurrection of the Dead: The Witness of the New Testament,” Immortality and Resurrection, Krister Stendahl, ed. (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1965), 9–53.
[5] Gordon H. Clark, Religion, Reason, and Revelation (Jefferson, Maryland: Trinity Foundation, 1986), 92–94.
[6] Isaiah Berlin, The Roots of Romanticism (Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1999).
[7] M. Stanton Evans, The Theme Is Freedom (Washington, D. C.: Regnery, 1994).
[8] J. G. Merquior, Liberalism Old and New (Boston: Twayne, 1991), 15–36,
[9] Stephen C. Perks, The Great Decommision (Taunton, England: Kuyper Foundation, 2011), 12.

Why the Culture Wars Cannot Possibly Be Over

Behind the “culture wars” lies a foundational biblical premise: that man’s creational calling is to steward the earth for God’s glory (Gen. 1:26–28). Man is God’s deputy in stewarding the entire created order to bring all glory to him. We denote this calling the “cultural mandate.” This means that God’s interests are larger than the church, and that, consequently, man’s calling is wider than the church. The church is God’s agency for propagating the Gospel and discipling the nations and edifying the saints and protecting and perpetuating orthodoxy (1 Tim. 3:15), but it’s not the kingdom of God, which is the reign of God in the earth.[1] The church is only one aspect (though a vital aspect) of that kingdom. Reducing man’s calling to the church is to surrender vast reaches of the world to satanic reign, the kingdom of Satan. This kingdom vies for the same territory as the kingdom of God. This is also why Jesus commanded his disciples to pray that God’s will be done on earth as it is in heaven (Mt. 6:10). On earth, not just in the church or family.

If Jesus Christ isn’t Lord everywhere (Acv. 2:22–36), he soon won’t be Lord anywhere. To retreat into the church and erect a firewall against sinful culture with the hope that the church will thereby preserve its holiness won’t protect the church. Satan is rapacious, a roaring lion (1 Pet. 5:8), the first and ultimate boundary-violator (Gen. 3). He will not leave the church in peace just as long as the church leaves the culture in peace. Sin and righteousness are mutually exclusive and fundamentally irreconcilable; each by its nature must root out the other. One will be servant and one will be master (Rom. 6:16). Sin won’t be satisfied with cultural hegemony; it wants to destroy everything godly and pure and holy, and that includes the church and the family and marriages.

This means that any strategy for opposing sin that limits that opposition to only one sphere of life is doomed to failure. Sin is too powerful to resist any opposition but full-fledged evisceration. God is in the sin-evisceration business, not the sin-marginalization business.

Churches that wish to preserve “traditional marriage” but refuse to stand against unsuccessful and unloving — and perverted — definitions of marriage in the culture will soon discover those depraved marriages beating down the church doors. This is as much as to say that cultural transformation by the power of the Gospel is essential to preserve the long-term health of the church, and that a strategy of church renewal alone as the means to cultural renewal is doomed to failure. The course of the church in 20th century Western culture hasn’t been the successful protection of its walls from increasing incursion by social depravity. All to the contrary: as the church abandoned its earlier Reformational paradigm of active cultural engagement,[2] it gradually accommodated itself to the increasing cultural depravity surrounding it. If Christians refuse to confront evils in the culture, we will soon confront them with a vengeance in the church.

And Jesus is not Lord only of the church; he’s Lord of all things. As Lord of all things, he’s progressively trampling down evil in his present, post-resurrection reign (1 Cor. 15:22–25), and even though the days are dark, and we don’t yet see all things subordinated to him (Heb. 2:8c–9), we join with our Lord in stewarding his earth for his glory. This stewardship doesn’t stop (or start) at the four walls of the church or family, and if we want to vanquish the present cultural evil, we had better steward widely indeed.

[1] Herman Ridderbos, The Coming of the Kingdom (Phillipsburg, New Jersey: Presbyterian and Reformed, 1962), 354.
[2] Doug Frank, Less Than Conquerors (Eugene, Oregon: Wipf & Stock, 2009).