The familiar term “secularism” is often used today to define the ideology of western civilization, for it refers to the absence of any binding theistic authority or belief. Theologian Albert Mohler further defines its companion, “secularization,” as “a concept and a sociological process whereby societies become less theistic and they become more modern. Secular societies therefore drift toward conditions where there is little if any theistic belief and the rejection of any binding authority at all.”
Culture & Wordview
Princeton Theological Seminary has a rich heritage, often intertwined with the history of the United States. Founded about 1726 by William Tennent (then known as the Log College), it contributed to providing a real need for colonial Presbyterianism—college-educated ministers. In colonial America, most prospective pastors needed to study in Europe and then return to the colonies to serve. Over the next several decades of the 18th century, numerous connections developed between the Log College and the founding of the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton University (and Seminary). . . But the Princeton of history is not the Princeton of today.
The movie, The Shack, has just been released in American theaters and is generating a similar level of discussion among Christians as did the book by the same title, which was published in 2010. William Young is a compelling, imaginative writer and the movie seeks to capture on film the same imaginative presentation of tragedy and God’s involvement and answer to such tragedy.
The debate over the ethics of euthanasia within western civilization has taken a new turn. In London, a musical in the British theater scene has received rave reviews over the last year or so. It is “Assisted Suicide: The Musical,” created by Liz Carr, who suffers from a genetic disorder that prevents her from extending her muscles, among other impairments. That “Assisted Suicide: The Musical” is being received so well (often to standing ovations) is puzzling, for western civilization is embracing assisted suicide with a passion.
Among the various voting blocs in the United States, 81% of Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump for president in 2016. There were undoubtedly many reasons for this unbridled allegiance to a man who, in terms of character, honesty and lifestyle, only a few years ago would never have earned their vote. But his opponent was Hillary Clinton and most evangelicals viewed her as a worse choice. In my reading and in my conversations with evangelical Christians, the consensus among evangelicals seems to be that God has given us a political “savior” who will lead America back to its roots. He will bring about an America that is great economically, culturally and spiritually.
For many years, ethicist Peter Singer served as Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. Author of many books, including his important Animal Liberation, Singer has championed ideas that are now cherished and central to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization. He lives a frugal lifestyle and does not eat meat, fish or wear leather. Arguably controversial and provocative, Singer has advocated among many other things the following:
According to a 2015 Pew survey, 36% of those born between 1990 and 1996 in the US are religiously unaffiliated. Further, church attendance is collapsing among young people—only 27% of millennials attend religious services regularly. With the triumph of a secular worldview, American Christianity is in crisis. The Renaissance, the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution and the digital revolution have all combined to produce a diluted, superficial, shallow Christianity. For many, the Modern and now the Postmodern nature of culture have made God not only irrelevant but no longer necessary.
American civilization and the broader western civilization have embraced a radical re-definition of marriage and family. This is beyond the culture’s accommodation to same-sex marriage. For example, the approval of unwed parenthood is now at 61%; the approval of divorce at 71%; and the approval of premarital sex at 53%. Rather shockingly, support for plural matrimony (i.e., polygamy) has risen from 7% to 16%. The logic of this change is obvious: Given the accommodation to same-sex marriage, on what ethical and legal basis is American civilization going to deny the right of citizens who wish to have multiple partners in a marriage?
“I believe; I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” These familiar words were spoken by young Susan Walker in the popular Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Today, her words accurately reflect how faith is commonly portrayed—a blind leap in the dark; believing for no reason at all. The shepherds, the wise men, the Bethlehem star, the babe in the manger make us feel warm, comfortable and happy, but whether it is all true or not is irrelevant. But what if it is true—all of it? What if the angels, the virgin birth, the Incarnation are true? What difference would it make?
Oxford Dictionaries has selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year. The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Oxford dictionary’s editors noted a roughly 2,000% increase in the usage of “post-truth” over 2015, especially with far more frequency in news articles and on social media in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The choice of “post-truth” is actually rather astonishing as a word choice, but, in light of the 2016 presidential campaign where “truth” was not a term one would use to describe either candidate’s campaign, it makes sense: Intentional lies and misrepresentation of facts were the norm.