WP Banner

Remaining Faithful Christians in Today’s Culture

Christians are increasingly becoming a minority in America. While a 2019 study by the Pew Research Center found that 65% of Americans identify as Christians (a 12% decrease from the previous decade),[1] a study by Barna Research found that only 17% of Christians “who consider their faith important and attend church regularly” hold a biblical worldview.[2] The number of those who both identify as Christians and believe the Bible to be the authoritative word of God is on the decline. 

Christians are also facing growing hostility toward our biblical beliefs. Western culture is dominated by secularism, and we can see its effects in our lives. But the apostle Paul tells us to “not be conformed to this world” (Romans 12:2). Now, Christians were never expected to be the majority. Jesus said that following him would mean being hated by the world (John 15:18-25). But throughout the Bible we see followers of God remaining faithful in their respective cultures. Just think of Daniel in ancient Babylon.[3] So, how do we remain faithful Christians today? To answer this, we’ll explore secular culture, its influence, and how to prepare ourselves for faithfulness in the midst of it. 

What is Secularism? 

Sometimes, the best place to start is a definition. One way Merriam-Webster defines “secular” is “not overtly or specifically religious.”[4] In other words, “secular” means irreligious. But it’s important to recognize that secularism isn’t neutral. Secularism and biblical Christianity are different worldviews. This is particularly clear with regard to God, mankind, and morality.[5]

God: Secularism accommodates a generic god who is content to remain in the distance. If there is a god, he leaves mankind to its own authority. According to Scripture, however, God does exist, he created the world and everything in it (Genesis 1), he specifically revealed himself through the Bible (2 Timothy 3:16), and he’s humanity’s ultimate authority.

Humanity: Secularism finds its answers from mainstream science. Mankind is thus the chance result of a naturalistic evolutionary process. While Christianity is not at war with science–Christians have long understood the natural world to be a “book” alongside Scripture that reveals God and truth (Psalm 19:1-4)—the Christian view has a different understanding of humanity than what results from mainstream science. In the Christian view, humanity is valuable, purposefully created in God’s image. God desires relationship with humanity.

Morality: Secularism determines morality by popular consensus. In other words, popular agreement decides what’s right or wrong for everyone. Christians, on the other hand, view God as the moral lawgiver. Objective moral truth is based on God’s perfectly good, unchanging character. Truth and morality are not subjective in Christianity, while secularism tends to lean the way the cultural tide leans.

Secularism and biblical Christianity are clearly at odds with one another. 

Secularism’s Influence 

Despite its differences with Christianity, secularism is still influential among Christians. Why is this? Since humanity’s fall in the garden of Eden, we have lived with a fallen nature, desiring to be our own authority. Paul writes in Romans 3:10-12, “None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one.” Now, Christians are a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17) and no longer slaves to sin (Romans 6:6), but we’re still tempted by our old natures. And the desires of our fallen nature are in line with a secular worldview. Simply put, secularism reinforces the authority of the self. 

This can be seen in the main messages of secularism, as summed up by Christian author Natasha Crain: “Feelings are the ultimate guide, happiness is the ultimate goal, judging is the ultimate sin, and God is the ultimate guess.”[5] We’re all familiar with the saying, “Follow your heart.” Following our hearts entails being guided by our feelings. As our feelings are only felt by ourselves, this appeals to self-authority. Happiness is seen as life’s goal in secularism, and since happiness is subjective (based on feelings), it appeals to self-authority as well. According to secularism, questioning another person’s understanding or pursuit of happiness is seen as judgmental and, consequently, hateful. When it comes to the question of God, secularism tells us that we don’t know with any confidence that he exists or what his will is. Such confidence would contradict the notion that we’re only accountable to ourselves.[7]

Secularism’s messages appeal to our desire to be accountable only to ourselves. Moreover, we’re bombarded by these messages everywhere we go. Things like social media, mainstream media, and entertainment make secularism’s messages inescapable. 

Knowing the Bible

Aside from understanding secularism and its influence, Christians can prepare for faithfulness in additional ways. We can begin by reading the Bible and understanding what it says.[8] Otherwise, popular but unbiblical ideas may seep into our beliefs. The biblical understanding of love, for instance, differs from Western culture’s understanding of love. Jesus said the greatest commandment is to “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” and the second greatest commandment is to “love your neighbor as yourself” (Matthew 22:36-40). We love others within the greater context of loving God first and knowing what God desires for people as revealed in Scripture. As C. S. Lewis put it, “Love is…a steady wish for the loved person’s ultimate good as far as it can be obtained.”[9] This “ultimate good” is based on a biblical understanding of our Maker’s will. 

In contrast, the culture appeals to the self rather than the Bible to be the authority on what love means. The resulting definition of love is “affirming whatever journey a person wants to be on, such that they don’t feel judged.”[10] In other words, we love others when we affirm them and their choices regardless of any possible consequences. 

Since Jesus is at the very center of the Christian faith, understanding who he is according to the Bible is crucial to differentiating him from the way culture views him. The Bible informs us that Jesus is Lord (Romans 10:9), fully human and fully God (Colossians 2:9), that he died for our sins (1 Peter 2:24), and that he was raised from the dead (1 Corinthians 15:14-17). 

The culture, on the other hand, has various views on Jesus. Some downplay Jesus’s divinity, for example, focusing instead on his human qualities. A 2020 study found an increase in a humanized perception of Jesus, with 44% of Americans thinking Jesus sinned while on earth.[11] But when we’re familiar with Scripture, we know that Jesus affirms his divinity in several ways. In John 8:58, Jesus uses the same name God used for himself when speaking with Moses (Exodus 3:14). Jesus’s audience understood he was claiming to be God and sought to kill him for blasphemy (John 8:59). Jesus affirmed his divinity by applying the names and attributes of God to himself, accepting worship (Matthew 28:17), and performing miracles.[12] The New Testament accounts attest to Jesus’s sinless nature; even his critics could not find fault with him (Luke 23:14, 15, 41, 47). If Jesus was merely a good moral teacher, then he was no more authoritative than any other human moral teacher. 

Knowing what the Bible says will help us discern truth from popular misconceptions and falsehoods. We’ll additionally be better equipped to address these issues as they arise in our conversations with others. 

Having Doubts?

And yet many today are leaving biblical Christianity behind. We’re growing increasingly familiar with stories of deconversion. Such stories often begin with questions or doubts that don’t get resolved. What should we do when doubts arise? Are doubts necessarily bad things? 

Let’s first take a look at faith. Biblical faith isn’t the opposite of reason, as is often supposed in our culture. Rather, it’s trust. We put our trust in something because we have good reason for doing so. This is the sort of confident faith described in Hebrews 11. We’re also called to love God with all our minds (Matthew 22:37). This is a faith filled with reason, using our hearts and our minds.

But doubts can arise. We even see this happen with John the Baptist. John personally knew Jesus (they were cousins!) and had proclaimed his coming. Yet after he’d been imprisoned, doubts came, and he sent his disciples to ask if Jesus was really the expected Messiah (Luke 7:18-20). See how Jesus responds: “Go and tell John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive their sight, the lame walk, lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have good news preached to them” (Luke 7:21-22). Referring to the Messianic prophecies in Isaiah 35:5-6 and 61:1, Jesus affirms that he’s the Messiah; he provides evidence to support his claim. Notice also that Jesus doesn’t rebuke John for expressing doubts. We should be like Christ, showing gentleness to ourselves and others when doubts come up.

If we have doubts, we should be honest about them rather than suppress them. And even if people around us can’t answer our questions, that doesn’t mean there aren’t any answers at all. Numerous resources are available to those seeking answers. We need to be willing to investigate the truth claims of Christianity for ourselves. If Christianity is true, it can withstand questions and doubts. As we examine the evidences for Christianity, we may find that our doubts lead us to a deeper understanding of why we believe what we do. A more confident faith may result, as was the case with Christian apologists Sean McDowell [13] and Alisa Childers. Even those who were skeptics, like journalist Lee Strobel, detective J. Warner Wallace, and astronomer Hugh Ross, have come to faith after investigating Christianity for themselves.

Conclusion

In order to combat the pressures of the secular culture, Christians need to first understand the culture and its influence. It’s also imperative that we know what the Bible says and be willing to investigate popular claims and even our own questions for ourselves. Christians are to be the “light of the world” (Matthew 5:14), not to compromise our beliefs for the present culture. 

Footnotes

  1. “In U.S., Decline of Christianity Continues at Rapid Pace: An update on America’s changing religious landscape,” Pew Research Center, October 17, 2019, accessed July 17, 2022, https://www.pewresearch.org/religion/2019/10/17/in-u-s-decline-of-christianity-continues-at-rapid-pace/.
  2. “Competing Worldviews in Today’s Christians,” Barna, May 9, 2017, accessed May 30, 2022, https://www.barna.com/research/competing-worldviews-influence-todays-christians/. 
  3. See Daniel 6, for example.
  4. Merriam-Webster, s.v. “secular,” accessed June 8, 2022, https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/secular. 
  5. Natasha Crain, Faithfully Different: Regaining Biblical Clarity in a Secular World (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 2022), 42-44.
  6. Crain, Faithfully Different, 52.
  7. Crain, Faithfully Different, 53-57.
  8. For further reading on biblical reliability, see Jonathan Morrow, Questioning the Bible: 11 Major Challenges to the Bible’s Authority (Chicago: Moody, 2014).
  9. C. S. Lewis, God in the Dock: Essays on Theology and Ethics (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1970), 37.
  10. Crain, Faithfully Different, 95.
  11. Pew Research Center, “AVWI 2020 Results – Release #3: Perceptions of God,” Arizona Christian University, April 21, 2020, accessed September 10, 2022, https://www.arizonachristian.edu/wp-content/uploads/2020/04/CRC-AWVI-2020-Release-03_Perceptions-of-God.pdf. 
  12. For further reading, see Robert M. Bowman Jr. and J. Ed Komoszewski, Putting Jesus in His Place: The Case for the Deity of Christ (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2007).
  13. Sean McDowell, “I Thank God for My Doubts: A Personal Reflection,” seanmcdowell.org, November 23, 2017, accessed June 8, 2022, https://seanmcdowell.org/blog/i-thank-god-for-my-doubts-a-personal-reflection. 

article categories

Share this post

Article Categories

JOIN THE WIA TRIBE

Become a WIA volunteer and enjoy the many benefits that come with it! Check out our current needs on the volunteer page.

BECOME A KEY PARTNER

Help us in our mission to educate, equip, and encourage women in Christian apologetics.

Copyright © Women in Apologetics. All rights reserved.

Scroll to Top

2024 WOMEN IN APOLOGETICS CONFERENCE

Reasons for

HOPE

9000 Stewarts Ferry Pike Mt. Juliet, TN 37122

September 13-14