Imagine you don’t know you have COVID-19 but experience fever and nasal drip. You take a Tylenol for the fever and an antihistamine for the nasal drip. You begin to feel better after a day, but soon the symptoms return. Plus, you start coughing and feel short of breath. You could address the new symptoms, but what you begin to realize is that you have a more fundamental problem—a virus—that is the root of all your problems. Unless you get at the core issue and kill the virus, the symptoms will keep presenting themselves.
That’s the problem with our current cultural symptoms. “Cancel culture,” “intersectionality,” “white privilege,” “microaggression,” and many other buzz words today are the logical consequences of an idea—critical theory—that has taken a foothold in our society. Unless we address the problem at its core, no amount of symptom alleviation will solve the problem.
This isn’t only the case with critical theory; it’s the case with any worldview. If someone has swallowed postmodernism (the idea that truth is relative), you won’t get very far trying to convince them that sex outside of marriage is wrong. To them, they are the arbiter of right and wrong. The critical discussion that needs to take place is at the worldview level so they can see that right and wrong are objectively—not subjectively—true.
If someone has adopted naturalism (the idea that nature is all there is), you’ll struggle to show them that Jesus rose from the grave. To them, there is no God who can cause supernatural events. The critical discussion that needs to take place is at the worldview level so they can see there is a God who can act in creation.
If someone has bought into critical theory, you won’t get very far showing them the problems with cancel culture and intersectionality. To them, the world is divided into oppressors and the oppressed (a social binary). The critical discussion that needs to take place is at the worldview level so they can see that critical theory presumes a faulty view of reality. Consequently, its proposed solutions are also mistaken.
Trying to change someone’s mind without addressing the underlying worldview feels like hitting your head against a wall. That’s why I love Francis Schaeffer’s insight (from A Christian Manifesto) into the futility of only addressing the symptoms of a worldview.
The basic problem of the Christians in this country in the last eighty years or so, in regard to society and in regard to government, is that they have seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.
They have very gradually become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion. But they have not seen this as a totality—each thing being a part, a symptom, of a much larger problem. They have failed to see that all of this has come about due to a shift in world view—that is, through a fundamental change in the overall way people think and view the world and life as a whole....
What we must understand is that the two world views really do bring forth with inevitable certainty not only personal differences, but also total differences in regard to society, government, and law.
This explains why you might discuss cancel culture or intersectionality with an advocate of such ideas but fail to make any meaningful progress. I know I have. The problem, as Schaeffer so eloquently articulates, is that we see and address the bits and pieces of a much more fundamental worldview. We fail, though, to address the underlying problem.
So while I’m suggesting the correct course of action is to get equipped on critical theory so you can address cultural concerns at the more fundamental level, we Christians need to learn a lesson. It’s currently late in the game to learn about critical theory so we can undermine its effect on culture. I still think we should do it, but Christians are responding to a problem rather than preemptively addressing it.
Therefore, let’s start learning about the worldview and ideas that will revolutionize our culture in 10 years, 20 years, and 50 years. Let’s develop a system of training Christians so we’re not caught off guard like we are today (Col. 2:8). It takes effort and energy to make education a priority, but we need to do it so we can destroy false ideas (2 Cor. 10:3–5). After all, there’s no virtue in being late to the party when it comes to corrosive ideas that degrade our culture and make it more hostile to the gospel and Christian worldview.