Worldviews and the Family

The Point John Stonestreet

Monday and Tuesday, I was at Le Tourneau University (Longview, TX) as a contributor to their spring chapel series “Why I Believe…” What a great idea for a series, by the way! The students were terrific in engaging with the four areas I covered:

  1. Why I Believe Christians Should Dive Into Culture Rather than Avoid It,
  2. Why I Believe God is Good, despite the Evil and Suffering in the World,
  3. Why I Believe in Imago Dei, and
  4. Why I Believe Christianity is Necessary to Engineering, Emerging Technology, and Bioethics.

The most enjoyable discussion I had at Le Tourneau (impressive school, by the way) was in an Ethics class I led Tuesday afternoon. Having just completed a section on the issue of homosexuality, we looked into why it is so difficult in our culture to argue for the Biblical family, and against things like same-sex marriage.

Our discussion quickly moved to how the failure of heterosexual marriages in the West has deeply damaged the idea that there is, in fact, any moral high ground to this issue. Don’t get me wrong: we were not being utilitarian here. Marriage between man and woman is God’s design, whether it “works” or not. However, when it doesn’t “work,” our ability to argue for it is gutted.

So, why isn’t marriage working in the west? I wrote last week that secularism is still the greatest enemy of the Christian worldview, mostly due to its deeply embedded presence in Western culture. Secularism, the main contribution of the modern period, has resulted in the elevation of three values in the west: convenience, efficiency, and choice.

This makes sense if you trace the development of the scientific enterprise. The fathers of modern science were seeking to discover. (Kepler: “God, I think your thoughts after you.”). As knowledge grew so did potential technologies, and the goal of scientific inquiry shifted from discovery to control (see Craig Gay’s excellent book The Way of the Modern World). In the late 19th century, the emergence of the industrial revolution shifted the focus further to production. Today, we have more stuff than we know what to do with. So much stuff, that the focus seems now to be consumption (“we live to eat, not eat to live!”).

I must say here, that I approve of technology and production, and love where it has brought us in terms of our ability to solve problems, heal diseases, raise standards of living, etc. I only add that certain values have emerged that seem to go unquestioned. A culture seeking control will highly value convenience; a culture focused on production can absolutize efficiency as the measure of all things; and a culture addicted to consumption is tempted to make choice an inalienable right. After all, this is what the founders meant by “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness,” right?

Back to marriage then. Marriage, of course, is not convenient or efficient. And, if we have the absolute right to choose whatever we please, marriage can be (and often is) chosen and then unchosen. Enter no-fault divorce, co-habitation, and alternative definitions of marriage.

By the way, we cannot let Darwin off the hook here… The issue of design is worth looking at too. More on that later.