We see what happens in society and the various notions and ideologies out there through the lens of our worldview. And that should be based on actual truth found in Scripture. Yet there are widespread viewpoints that would dismiss the Bible. We need awareness of these to combat them.
Think about how you would answer these questions: Can “white lies” or “situational ethics” ever be justified? Are you for or against abortion? What about same-sex marriage? When you take a walk in nature, do you reflect on God’s creative abilities, or does it make you feel “at one” with Mother Earth? Do you routinely check your horoscope? What gives you more hope—scientific advances or the Bible? How you respond to these questions depends largely on your worldview.
Simply put, a worldview is how a person perceives reality and the world. It’s a set of foundational beliefs about life that helps you determine how to think and behave, governs how you treat other people and provides a sense of direction and purpose. Everyone has a worldview, whether we know it or identify it as such or not.
Your worldview acts as a filter through which you process the information you take in. What you think about the transgender movement, artificial intelligence, genetic enhancement, claims of alien encounters, euthanasia, prayer in public schools, the use of fossil fuels, carbon footprints or any other topic in the news is shaped by your worldview more than anything else.
Traditionally, most Americans have held, at least loosely, to what’s known as a biblical worldview—seeing life through the lens of the Bible as it’s understood. Reverence for God and His truths is viewed as the starting point for all knowledge and understanding, as we’re told in Proverbs 1:7. While there are differences in interpreting Scripture, those who claim a biblical worldview generally agree that God is Creator of the universe, that the Bible is His inspired and infallible Word, and that absolute moral standards exist, being spelled out in Scripture.
But in recent decades, increasingly fewer people are professing belief in God, and consequently the biblical worldview has been declining in acceptance. Other worldviews are filling the vacuum and becoming more dominant.
The alternative worldviews many are turning to are in direct opposition to the true God and biblical teachings. What follows are three of the most prevalent. Even if you aren’t familiar with terms for these worldviews, you are probably aware of the ideas associated with them, as they are increasingly being promulgated by the media, educational institutions, corporations and governments.
1. Secular humanism
Secular humanism is a belief system seeking to advance society solely through human reasoning and intellect. It’s built on the acceptance of evolution—the theory that mankind and all other life forms emerged through random chance and natural selection—and materialism, a philosophical stance maintaining that everything that exists is ultimately only physical in origin and nature. This leads to secular humanism rejecting the existence of God, a spirit realm and the hope of an afterlife.
A major tenet of secular humanism is that humanity is capable of solving its own problems through science, without any help from a divine being. This is clearly seen in Humanist Manifesto II (published in 1973 by the American Humanist Association), which reads: “Using technology wisely, we can control our environment, conquer poverty, markedly reduce disease, extend our lifespan, significantly modify our behavior, alter the course of human evolution and cultural development, unlock vast new powers, and provide humankind with unparalleled opportunity for achieving an abundant and meaningful life.”
The secular humanist movement also advocates “freedom” for people to “make their own rules” for how to live. Humanist Manifesto II boldly asserts: “We find insufficient evidence for belief in the existence of a supernatural; it is either meaningless or irrelevant to the question of survival and fulfillment of the human race . . . There is no accountability to God and no fear of judgment from Him . . . Ethics is autonomous and situational, needing no theological or ideological sanction.” If this life is all there is and there’s no Creator to obey, secularists see no reason to abide by biblical precepts and every reason to decide for themselves what’s right.
Advocates of secular humanism want to completely remove religion from the public sphere. The same manifesto states, “The separation of church and state and the separation of ideology and state are imperatives.” In the United States, “the separation of church and state”—
a phrase not found in the U.S. Constitution but that has become part of Constitutional debate—was historically understood to mean that religious belief and practice should be protected from government interference. Secularists invoke the phrase to argue there should be “no references to God in government venues” and “no public displays of faith.”
Another one of their goals has been to push for the replacement of the “traditional values” long held by society with “alternative lifestyles.” The manifesto further states, “Individuals should be permitted to express their sexual proclivities and pursue their lifestyles as they desire.” Very often, those who accept or promote unbiblical, ungodly practices—like gay relationships, gender reassignment, adultery, abortion, pornography, pedophilia, recreational drug use and the legalization of assisted suicide—espouse a secular humanist worldview.
This ideology has its roots in the Enlightenment—the intellectual movement of the 17th and 18th centuries when Western societies began to prioritize science and materialism over religion and faith. Still, secular humanism did not really start gaining widespread acceptance until the radical political and social change of the 1960s. And today, secular humanism continues to spread in American culture, likely leading to further decline in morality.
While secular humanism rejects the Bible as a source of truth, postmodernism balks at both the Bible and scientific teachings, claiming that objective, timeless or universal truths do not exist. Postmodernists argue there are only “relative truths” that apply to some individuals and cultures or in certain situations, but not others, and these are subject to change over time.
In Why Social Justice Is Not Biblical Justice, Scott David Allen explains that postmodernism emerged in the mid-20th century as a reaction against the “grand narratives” of modernism (the system of thought that arose during the Enlightenment, which downplayed belief in God and saw science as the only path to truth). Some people were now seeing limits to the insights science could provide. The postmodern worldview that emerged, Allen writes, grounds “reality not in God or in the material universe, but in man himself—in the sovereign, autonomous individual. ‘Truth’ is now internal, personal and subjective—a product of human imagination” (2020, p. 45).
Postmodern “truth claims” deal with ethics, morality and the nature of reality. Postmodernism asserts that because each person or social group has a unique way of perceiving and interpreting the world, individuals and cultures should be able to construct their own “truths.” This is exemplified in the “What’s right for you is not right for me” mindset that has become common today.
The idea is that all ethical standpoints are equally valid, except for an absolutist viewpoint, and no behavior can be labeled as “sinful” or “unacceptable.” Viewing pornography, for instance, could never be deemed wrong; the strongest statement that could be made about it is, “I personally don’t like it.” The same thinking rejects calling adultery wrong. Postmodernism would claim that such a perspective might pertain to Christians but not to those who don’t believe in the Bible.
One other major tenet of postmodernism is “The end justifies the means.” In The Truth About Worldviews, James Eckman explains that from a postmodernist standpoint, “morality comes from the needs of society . . . Since there are no absolutes and every decision is based on the moment, whatever works becomes ‘the new truth’” (2006, p. 5). He gives two examples of this kind of thinking: deeming an unethical politician a “good leader” as long as he keeps the economy going, and justifying the destruction of human embryos as a source for stem cells in medical research.
In contrast, the Bible clearly states that God is the one source of absolute ethical truth (see John 17:17), and it delineates what behaviors are right and wrong. There are no exceptions—even if doing something immoral would bring about desired results from a human perspective.
3. Cosmic humanism
Also known as the New Age movement or New Spirituality, cosmic humanism is a conglomeration of extrabiblical and pagan religious beliefs and practices rooted in Eastern mysticism (notably Buddhism and Hinduism), Gnosticism (the teaching that physical matter is evil) and occultism (astrology, channeling, numerology, divination, witchcraft, etc.). While these ideologies have been around for millennia, they became packaged together when the New Age movement emerged in the 1970s.
Adherents of cosmic humanism (commonly known as New Agers) believe in a higher power and an afterlife, but not the kind the Bible teaches. The movement downplays the Bible. Some New Agers may use it in limited fashion but typically take it metaphorically and not literally. Much of what’s taught comes from self-appointed New Age gurus—who promote their ideas through books, websites, seminars, etc. Even then, New Agers are typically encouraged to listen to their “inner voice” and come up with their own “truths.”
That said, there are core ideas that New Agers embrace. God, the universe and everything that exists are thought to consist of one fundamental essence or spiritual energy. Usually New Agers adhere to either pantheism (meaning everything is God) or panentheism (meaning God pervades everything that exists). Either way, these ideologies assert that the universe and all that’s in it collectively constitute God. Thus, human beings as part of the universe are considered presently divine, explaining why some New Agers declare, “I am god.” Nature, too, is typically considered sacred, which is why New Agers often practice earth worship.
God is regarded as the “Ultimate Reality,” or “Universal Energy”—a cosmic force from which all living beings originate and into which all living beings will eventually be absorbed. In other words, the ultimate destiny for human beings is believed to be the return of their “life energy” back into the collective cosmic consciousness that is God, and become engulfed in it.
New Agers view the world’s problems as a reflection of human beings suppressing or forgetting their own divinity. Therefore, the New Age solution is for people to cultivate self-realization, experience enlightenment and awaken “the God within.” They pursue this through such practices as transcendental meditation, hypnosis, attempting astral projection (an out-of-body experience, reaching beyond the physical realm into a spiritual dimension), chanting, aura cleansings (to clear away negative energy) and crystals (to achieve “harmony” with the universe).
They might also engage in occult practices (like using spirit mediums, consulting with astrologers and psychics, and having tarot card and palm readings) to make contact with “spirit guides” and “ascended masters”—spirit entities (which when real are actually demons) who they believe will assist them with their spiritual growth. They may also seek alien encounters, as they believe extraterrestrials can be spirit guides.
A very real danger is that the blatantly supernatural practices used in New Age spirituality (like consulting spirit mediums, attempting astral projection and transcendental meditation) put participants in direct contact with evil spirits, which could result in demonic influence or possession. Scripture explicitly forbids these kinds of practices (Leviticus 19:31; Deuteronomy 18:10-14).
Another serious concern with cosmic humanism is that it obscures the true God, as He is regarded not as our Father, but merely an impersonal force, explain Steven Bancarz and Josh Peck in The Second Coming of the New Age: “A personal relationship with this force is impossible because it is not a person, meaning it has no awareness, free will, rationality, etc. It cannot reciprocate or interact with you and your intentions. It is like turning on a microwave and trying to have a relationship with the frequencies it emits” (2018, p. 130).
The identity of Jesus Christ is also dismissed, note the authors, as he is viewed as “either merely a wise, human teacher or something quasidivine, such as an Ascended Master, spirit guide, or even an extraterrestrial being who came here to teach us how we can ascend and reach the same level of consciousness” (p. 6). The bottom line is that cosmic humanism steers people towards the demonic realm when what humanity really needs is a connection with God.
We must be on guard
The philosophies behind each of these three worldviews might vary, but the end goal for each is the same: to remove God and His laws and truths from people’s lives, so they can feel justified thinking and doing whatever they want.
Undoubtedly, Satan is behind these belief systems. The Bible tells us that he “deceives the whole world” and refers to him as “the god of this age,” “the prince of the power of the air,” and “the ruler of this world” (Revelation 12:9; 2 Corinthians 4:4; Ephesians 2:2; John 12:31). Satan knows how to make his twisted ideas look true or good though they are in fact very destructive.
We need to be aware of Satan’s ploys so we don’t get taken in by hollow and deceptive philosophies (2 Corinthians 2:11; Colossians 2:8). It’s not that we need to become experts in all the false worldviews that are out there, but we do need to know something about them so we can better combat them. We also need to work hard to maintain a true biblical worldview—and we achieve this by making time for regular Bible study, meditation, prayer and even having “iron sharpens iron” conversations with fellow believers (Proverbs 27:17). Only then will we be ready to confront all the unbiblical messages coming at us on a daily basis!