By Ron Boehme
Recently I saw a copy of a letter from a young, zealous, French Marxist that was written to a friend who had become a Christian. What he had to say was both intriguing and very sobering. Here is the essential body of that letter:
“The gospel is a much more powerful weapon for the renewal of society than is our Marxist philosophy, but all the same it is we who will finally beat you. We are only a handful and you Christians are numbered by the millions. But if you remember the story of Gideon and his three hundred companions, you will understand why I am right … We Communists do not play with words. We are realists and seeing that we are determined to achieve our objective we know how to obtain the means.
“Of our salaries and wages we keep only what is strictly necessary, and we give the rest for propaganda purposes. To this propaganda we also ‘consecrate’ all of our free time, and part of our holidays. You, however, give only a little time and hardly any money for the spreading of the gospel of Christ. How can anyone believe in the supreme value of this gospel, if you do not practice it, and if you sacrifice neither time nor money for it?
“Believe me, it is we who will win, for we believe in our communist message and are willing to sacrifice everything, even our life, in order that social justice may triumph. But you people are afraid to soil your hands.“1
This young man knew something, as a Marxist, to which most people on earth are totally oblivious. In the world today, a great battle is taking place for the hearts and minds of men and nations. For this young man it was a battle that was worth fighting for, and worth winning.
This committed young Communist had made his commitment, and was doing everything in his power to change his society. He chastised his Christian friend for the shallowness and apathy of the brand of Christianity that he was familiar with. He questioned whether Christians really believed in the value of the gospel. He ridiculed their unwillingness to give time and resources to their cause. He said they were “afraid to soil their hands.” And he boldly proclaimed that he and the cause of communism would ultimately win because they believed in their message and were willing to sacrifice for it.
This young man was right about one thing: There is a great contest going on in the earth for the prize of world dominion. This has always been true, and has its basis in the two competing kingdoms, but in terms of reality and manifestation, it has come down to a war between a number of competing worldviews. In many ways, the direction that the 21st century will take boils down to the outcome of this battle.
As Christians, we first of all need to understand the war that we are in. Then we need to commit ourselves to participate in the army of the Lord Jesus Christ. The war is well into motion, and many troops and platoons have taken the field. But the outcome is far from settled, and in this, we have the privilege of participating on the victorious side.
Worldviews in Conflict
Abraham Kuyper said near the turn of this century that he believed there were five primary worldviews that were battling for dominion upon the earth. There are, of course, many more religions and philosophies than that, but Mr. Kuyper believed that the majority of them fit into one of five categories (the others were so insignificant that they weren’t worthy of mention): They were:
- Paganism – (including Hinduism, Buddhism, other Eastern religions, New Age philosophy, etc.)
- The Institutional Church – (consisting of “mainline” Protestant denominations and Catholicism.)
- Modernism – (which includes Marxism, humanism, and any other carryovers from the Enlightenment.)
- Biblical Christianity
Dr. Kuyper believed that these religions or philosophies basically encompassed all of humanity. At the least, these five competing worldviews were the most powerful forces for the development of culture and change that existed in the world. Let’s take a brief look at these five worldviews. Their ideas and concepts give birth to a myriad of consequences!
Paganism – This overall Eastern concept of reality teaches that God is actually in creation, making all idols and human beings a part of the “divine.” This is classic pantheism, and gives birth to a panorama of idolatry as evidenced in the Far East. In this framework some men rise to become “god-men” (maharishis, the Buddha, etc.), and in ancient cultures were known to rise to a place of divine despotism (as in Egypt, Greece, Rome, India, Japan etc.). Since divinity is found in all creation, any development of resources and the environment is upsetting the “divine ecology.” Progress and development is thus discouraged, and the result is poverty and backwardness.
Islam – The Islamic view of life teaches that there is a God (Allah) that rules all of life, but he is distant and distinct with no essential link with his creation. The Moslem religion has generally a low view of man, and believers are encouraged to subjugate, convert, and even exterminate unbelievers as an act of worship to Allah. There is little individual conscience and human rights here. Women are inferior to men, and thus become exploited as in the Western playboy philosophy.
This idea carries over into the Islamic idea of the world, which is also a plaything to be exploited and not developed. For this reason, most Moslem nations are poor and undeveloped, and would be, if it were not for oil, the most impoverished nations on earth.
The Institutional Church – This primarily Catholic view of Christianity teaches that the Church is the mystical link between God the Creator and His creation. As the source of God’s revelation on earth, only the Church can accurately interpret God’s ways and designs in history.
This idea tends to produce a hierarchy or class system among men, with a class of priests, bishops, and pope giving leadership at the top. It also produces the concept of the divine right of kings and the state church structures which Lutheranism carried on. In this view, the world and the church are in total conflict which will not be resolved until the coming of Christ’s future and perfect kingdom. This hope in the future tends to create a large feudal class, and does not encourage much development in this present sinful world.
Modernism – This is the modern tree of atheism with its offshoots of humanism and Marxism. God is dead, and man is alone in the universe to rise to leadership and divinity. He must be his own savior. Men are all equal (except in Marxism where some men are more equal than others), and there is no God to raise up some and put others down. This is the role of the state, either throught humanistic democracy, socialism, or the total authoritarianism of communism.
In this view the world has been constantly and randomly evolving, and needs movements of radical change through revolution to aid it along. Revolution is viewed as progress and development, regardless of the effects on the environment and physical world.
Biblical Christianity – This is the non-institutional approach to Christianity as revealed in the Scriptures and seen in the life of many Bible-believing movements. God the Creator and His creation are historically linked together through Christ, brought together by the Holy Spirit, and intellectually linked through the Bible. God is available to every believer. Men are all equal before God and His Word, and many authorities have been given to create harmony and freedom. Regarding the world, man is responsible for culture, and is to bring all aspects of the world under Christ’s Lordship.
It is within these worldviews that the battle for planet earth has been waging for thousands of years. Every once in awhile a new offshoot of a certain form comes into existence (like the 20th century phenomenon of Marxism-communism), but the main roots have been there for eons of time. Each of these systems, despite their great differences, is a total worldview that produces a comprehensive orientation toward life.
As Dr. Kuyper surveyed this truth, and analyzed the need of the day in which he lived, he came to the conclusion that if true Christianity were to win the war for the minds of men (world evangelism) it needed to be taught and lived out as a total way of life – not a half-baked philosophy that was tucked away in the religious cubby-hole of the mind. To triumph it had to be true. To be true, it had to be more powerful and comprehensive than the rest. Comparing it to the assault of modernism, he proclaimed:
“If the battle is to be fought with honor and with a hope of victory, then principle must be arrayed against principle; then it must be felt that in Modernism the vast energy of an all-embracing life-system assails us, then also it must be understood that we have to take our stand in a life-system of equally comprehensive and far-reaching power.“2
It had to be the truth of the Bible lived out in every dimension of life. Then and only then would it be worthy to compete in the battle of the times.
The Essentials of a Victorious Worldview
As I have pondered these different life-systems, and analyzed their appeal and historical effectiveness, I have come to the conclusion that there are certain elements within them that are crucial to their success. All of these aspects come from biblical Cristianity, and are either borrowed or perverted. After all, it is only God’s ways that work, but men can take them as truths and apply them for selfish gain in everyday life. The good things of God can be used wrongly by men, and in doing so, the strengths of the principles themselves will often shine through the evil of the motive involved.
There are principles of leadership and principles of victory. To the degree that a religion of philosophy lives out those truths, will be to the degree that their worldview rises to prominence in human affairs. Let us now look at these essential ingredients:
A victorious vorldview must first be able to provide a sense of destiny and hope. It has to be able to look into the future and offer its adherents a plan of victory and a spiritual sense of the inevitability of its cause. It has to be seen as progressive, and that which offers the greatest amount of hope and purpose to the individual or society. Ray Sutton explains, “The major ideologies of the world have all held to some concept of destiny: Christianity, Islam, Marxism. All three implicitly espouse a doctrine of destiny. That is, each person believes that the world belongs to him, and that someday the world will be dominated by his religion.“3
Without this concept of destiny or determination, it will not be viewed as worthy of extensive propagation. And the spreading of its sound to many others is central to its plan – it wants to, and believes that it can conquer the world. It is out of this fountain of inevitable triumph that its rallying cry builds momentum and power.
Secondly, a victorious religion or life-system must inspire a great degree of zeal, commitment, and character. Without the strength of a strong ethical base, it cannot begin to accomplish its task. The world is a big place. There are many people in it and many obstacles to overcome. So a triumphant worldview must be successful in creating in its people a willingness to sacrifice, work tirelessly, and have the strength of character and diligence to achieve its goals. Commitment of character becomes the ultimate advantage in the war of competing ideologies. In the end, in most cases, those who want the victory the most will rise to possess it. This is the law of labor and discipline. A successful life system has found a way to make its goal appear worthy of sacrifice unto victory.
And lastly, a victorious worldview needs to find strength and continuity in a written absolute. It needs to have a “book” to guide its movement and development. It cannot span the generations without a written ideal that makes its way into the hearts and minds of its followers. Without some guiding light of “revelation” it cannot stand the test of time and debate. It must be worthy of scrutiny. A written manifesto for the adherents to live by is an essential source of strength and continuance. Without it, the emotions can die and the passions be lost. It needs a foundation that it percieves to be “true,” and this usually takes the form of its written doctrine and beliefs.
There are a number of other things that are important to a victorious worldview, but I believe that these three things: destiny, character, and a written absolute are the most foundational and essential. In the end, the worldview must work to be victorious, but this is not essential to its primary spreading and initial effectiveness.
Which Philosophy Will Rule?
The philosophy of pantheism and its many Eastern offshoots (including the current New Age movement) has millions of adherents, but no gripping appeal. Especially in the New Age version, it possesses a general sense of destiny, but in its true Eastern forms, this destiny is simply the continual cycle of life that is monotonous and endless. Very few are willing to propagate for very long a philosophy without a clear vision of triumph. Even less will be willing to give their lives for a cause this germane. And paganism by definition contains so many gods, that there is no way of verifying its accuracy and absolutes. Especially in written form!
Likewise, the institutional church will not rise to give major leadership in the coming years. Those years of supremacy and infallibility are behind her, and many peoples and nations have been left with a very dry taste in their mouths. The church as an institution possesses the “Book” that contains a sense of destiny, power for character, and is her written absolute, but her mystical understanding of relationship to Christ, and her relegation of the Bible to the priesthood and hierarchy have kept its power out of the lives of the common man.
As to the conflict with the world, the church has given up, and rather placidly awaits the return of Christ’s kingdom. But there is nothing in this world to live and die for – there simply is a “wait,” and this lack of vision and practical power only condemns the religious to a life of either asceticism, or in the norm, mediocity.
As we near the 21st century, the battle lines are increasingly being formed and clearly drawn. Three major religion-philosophies:
- and biblical Christianity
will vie in mortal combat for supremacy in the earth. They will do so through varying means and methods. But nonetheless, a war will be waged for the hearts and minds of the billions who must choose. Everyone must choose. The further we go, the narrower the choices will become.
I believe that we are living in a day that will be the church’s finest hour. Though the polarization will be great, and the problems be multiplied world-over, an opportunity will be presented to us to take the dominion of Christ into all the earth in love, in strength, and in glory.
To do so, we must have a true worldview that presents the comprehensive plan of Christ’s salvation to every person on earth. We will need to rise up as biblical Christians and present the claims of the Lord Jesus Christ to every dimension of life.
Lee Grady is right when he says, “It is imperative for Christians in this generation to lay hold of our biblical philosophy of world dominion. God has not purposed for the Communists to rule the world, and they will not succeed in their plan to do so. The Bible speaks clearly that a generation of Christians will take dominion over the world, and if we could commit ourselves wholly to that idea, we could be that generation.4
Biblical Christianity – the seeking of the true kingdom of God on earth as it is in heaven – is the answer to the needs of the hour. This has always been true, and the war for supremacy has always been fought over this reality. But many of us have not seen it as a comprehensive worldview that alone can subdue the earth.
A generation ago, this lack of understanding had a staggering result. Listen to this amazing story told by the great Methodist preacher Dr. E. Stanley Jones:
“I was speaking in a cathedral in West Germany on the kingdom of God. On the front seats were prominent German leaders. As I spoke they kept pounding their benches with their fists. I was puzzled. I did not know what it meant. Was it for me or against me? But at the close they revealed what the beating of the benches meant: ‘You seem to sense why we turned to Nazism. Life for us was at loose ends – compartmentalized. We needed something to bring life back into wholeness, into total meaning and goal. We thought Nazism could bring that wholeness. But it let us down, let us down in blood and ruin. We chose the wrong totalitarianism. We now see that what we were seeking for was the kingdom of God, but we didn’t know it. That’s why we pounded the benches, we missed the kingdom of God.’
“That opened my eyes. I saw in a flash the meaning of these various revolts – the totalitarian revolts, the revolts of youth, the revolt of the races. Are they not all seeking for the kingdom of God and don’t know it? The answer is yes … Someday it will dawn upon them and then we will have the greatest spiritual awakening that this planet has ever seen. For men need nothing so much as they need an absolute from which they can work out to the relativisms of the hour – some master light of all their seeing.“5
They missed the kingdom of God, and a world was plunged into war. In the coming mighty battle, will we as biblical Christians so reveal Christ’s kingdom to the earth that the results will be quite different?
This article was taken from a forthcoming book entitled Leadership for the 21st Century by Ron Boehme. If you would like to pre-order the book, which will be published in July of this year, send $7.95 to Frontline Communications, P.O. Box 55055, Seattle, WA 98155.
1 As quoted by Lee Grady, The Contest For World Dominion, (Maranatha Publications, 1985), p. 7, 8.
2 Abraham Kuper, Lectures On Calvinism, (Grand Rapids, MI: 1931), p. 11.
3 Ray Sutton, Who Owns The Family?, (Fort Worth, TX: Dominion Press, 1986), p. 112.
4 Lee Grady, p. 9.
5 E. Stanley Jones, The Unshakable Kingdom and the Unchanging Person, p. 16, 17.