The following is an adapted excerpt from chapter 1 in Dr. Jeff Myers’ new book, The Secret Battle of Ideas about God.
We’re in a Secret Battle
We live in a time of war. There are no soldiers in this battle. There are no landing craft, no bombers flying in formation, no artillery emplacements. Yet attacks occur every minute of every day. The battle we’re in is a battle of ideas. Ideas are thoughts and suggestions about what we ought to do. Our ideas largely determine our understanding of life’s meaning and guide us in the way we live. Everyone forms ideas about questions such as the following:
- Am I loved? If I were to disappear, would anyone miss me?
- Why do I hurt? Bad things have happened to me. Can I overcome them and find joy?
- Does my life have meaning? Is it possible for me to find direction in life?
- Why can’t we just get along? What will it take for us to stop fighting and find harmony?
- Is there any hope for the world? So many things seem to be going wrong. Are we doomed?
The set of ideas that we form in answer to these questions is called a worldview. A worldview monitors the ideas we are exposed to and isolates the ones that appear to be destructive. But it’s possible to have a worldview that is porous, letting through some of the most damaging ideas. Or a worldview might be skewed in some way, welcoming ideas bent on doing us harm. The battle of ideas never lets up, so how can we remain standing against such an onslaught? We need a healthy worldview that accurately identifies the ideas that come at us from every direction. We catch ideas from church, from culture, from family, and from friends. Billboards, speeches, songs, video clips, memes, pictures, Facebook posts, and lines from movie dialogue all present us with fragments of ideas that assemble themselves in our minds. If we are to live whole, satisfying lives, we need to do two things. First, we have to catch good ideas, and second, we have to avoid catching bad ones. Unfortunately, bad ideas are easy to catch because they share a distinguishing characteristic with one of the deadliest things in the physical world.
Bad Ideas Are Like Viruses
The battles we face are more like germ warfare than like military warfare. That’s because bad ideas are like viruses. A virus is genetic material coated by protein. Genetic material is common and ordinarily not harmful. Proteins are necessary for the body to do its work. Separately they’re harmless. When combined, however, they can be deadly. Bad ideas can multiply out of control, like the spread of a virus that becomes a pandemic. And even though idea viruses cause mass destruction, the battle we face is a secret battle because it’s hard to accurately identify bad ideas until after they have struck.2 Idea viruses hover around us like secret agents waiting to infiltrate. Is there anything we can do to prevent them from sickening our souls and ruining our lives? I believe there is. That’s what The Secret Battle of Ideas about God is about. We’ll learn how to identify the bad ideas that target us. We’ll learn how to immunize ourselves with good ideas that assure us we are loved, enable us to be patient in suffering, help us find our callings, bring us into peaceful community with others, and replace despair with hope.
Five Declarations of Freedom
My life revolves around boosting the power of good ideas and blunting the effects of bad ones. Through a program called the Summit, I help prepare people of all ages to strengthen their Christian worldview and become leaders. Once my students tune in to the world of ideas, they can see the way bad ideas fill their hearts and minds with wrong answers to life’s biggest questions. In the end, most of them learn to trust what God has revealed about himself, the world, and humanity. I have seen the Summit change thousands of lives. As a graduate of the Summit myself and now as its CEO, I have lived in the world of ideas, receiving bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from leading universities. Decades of reading, studying, and interacting with others have led me to believe that some of the ideas to which I have been exposed are genuine and some are counterfeit. I have studied secularism, Marxism, postmodernism, new spirituality, and Islam, among other worldviews. I have learned that some idea viruses are crafted in primitive training camps. Others are assembled on prestigious college campuses, in distinguished-looking legislative chambers, in libraries, or even in buildings covered with religious symbols. Knowing a little about how viruses work has helped me prepare students to develop a simple set of good ideas based on what Jesus taught and deftly counter the attacks of bad ideas. Long experience shows me that our deepest heart questions revolve around love, hurt, meaning, peace, and hope. Here’s a simple set of “declarations of freedom”—five truths that release us from the grip of idea viruses that intend to do us harm. These declarations help us get a proper view of the world and for the world and resist the bad ideas trying to penetrate our defenses:
- I am loved. Deep, unconditional love exists, and I can have it.
- My suffering will be overcome. Hurt will not win. Indeed, it already has lost.
- I have an incredible calling. My life has meaning. I bear God’s image.
- I am meant for community. I can overcome conflict and live at peace with those around me.
- There is hope for the world. I am not doomed. What is right and just and true will win.
In The Secret Battle of Ideas of God, we’ll see that these declarations of freedom are not just positive self-talk. They have deep roots in the teachings of Jesus and his culture. Nor are they theological platitudes. They’re very practical and livable. That’s the good news. But the bad news is that these declarations are under attack. Bad ideas flood our minds and hearts every day, trying to convince us that love isn’t real, that suffering is meaningless, that our lives have no purpose, that we are all alone, and that despair is our lot. Bad ideas are on the attack. We need a strong worldview to keep them at bay.