THE CULTURAL IDENTITY CRISIS
The central battleground of worldviews was Darwinism in the late 1800s, the reliability of Scripture in the early to mid-20th century, and truth for the Gen Xers. While these issues are still very important, most of the contemporary worldview battles are rooted in a basic disagreement of what it means to be and live as human.
Today’s students enter a world of runaway biotechnology, postmodern social constructions of gender, virtual online identities, family redefinition, distorted understandings of beauty, and multiple sexual orientations, each of which fundamentally challenge our concept of humanness. Further, our culture has largely embraced Darwin, trivialized Scripture, and relativized truth, and has therefore left few stable resources to negotiate this corporate identity crisis.
At the same time, clear teaching on what it means to be imago Dei is largely neglected in the church. Conservatives, as Nancy Pearcey noted in Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity, often begin the redemption story in Genesis 3 rather than Genesis 1. The fall, though taught, lacks context. (From what have we fallen? To what will we be redeemed?) On the other hand, liberalism replaces the rule and responsibility endowed upon humanity by God with muddy concepts of “freedom” and “self-image.” The depth and breadth of the fall is trivialized or ignored.
What it means to be human is a critical touch point for students in relationship to the Christian worldview.
THE ISSUE OF DEFINITIONS
The battle of ideas is often the battle over definitions. Asking students, “What do you mean by that?” has never been more crucial. Assuming that we share definitions, or that traditional definitions will go unquestioned, with the emerging generation is a mistake with significant consequences. Among the more crucial words needing careful definition include God, human, truth, faith, Gospel, Kingdom, evil, tolerance, male, female, pro-life, justice, marriage, family, freedom, rights, responsibility, and the good life.
Further, the concept of worldview needs clear definition if it is to be preserved. Having been used and misused in a variety of ways, it is dismissed as a modern concept from one side and is in danger of dying the death of the “we already tried that” program from the other side. Abandoning the concept would be wrongheaded, given its rich history and its biblical foundations.
The important thing to remember is that the best legacy you can leave your children is constant exposure to what you believe and why you believe it. Teenagers whose parents avoid discussing the big issues in life are left to drift in the currents of cultural evolution.