The rise of secular religion

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The rise of secular religion

January 19, 2022 -

Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman explore how Christians have lived faithfully in their cultural moment for thousands of years, how we must break free from the Sunday/Monday heresy, the importance of a personal relationship with Christ, how Christianity is a bad religion without such a personal relationship, and how the culture has created a new religion of humanism and self-affirming authenticity.

Show notes:

Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss the intended audience of Jim’s new book, The Coming Tsunami, which is for all Christians, and particularly for those in places of cultural influence. Christian movements in history start with a small number of people, “faithfully manifesting” where God put them. They discuss the third and fourth great awakenings (or the Welsh revival), which began with “regular, average” Christians.

Mark discusses how we often don’t see the results of our faithfulness in our lifetime, and we must leave the results to God’s providence. Faithfulness takes patience, and, as Jim has written, “You can’t measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness.” They delve into the Protestant Reformation, how it began, and some of the key believers in the movement.

They then address the “Sunday/Monday heresy,” which refers to the view of many Christians who live as Christians on Sunday morning but have their own lives every other day of the week. Christ calls us to give every minute of our lives over to him. 

This leads them to discuss the essential part of Christianity as being in the relationship with Christ, not the religion. While religion is important, i.e., going to church, singing hymns, liturgy, etc., without the relationship, religion is an empty shell. Jim reveals a time when, as a pastor, God convicted him that while Jim loved Jesus, he wasn’t in love with Jesus. 

They then delve into what has become the overarching ideology or creed of our culture: personal authenticity. They discuss the evolution of this creed over time: how Christianity was at first important and culturally encouraged, then it became a personal hobby, then irrelevant, and now it’s considered dangerous. The culture has almost fully bought into humanism. 

They consider the implications of this creed, how nowadays everything is centered around feelings and our experience. 

Sometimes, true repentance is harder than religion. Often, having a relationship with Christ is more difficult than following an empty creed. Many issues in our culture stem from the transference of responsibility to anything and everyone but ourselves. There’s a sense in the culture now that “I” cannot be at fault; it must be the system or other people. While there are complex issues here, the gospel ultimately relies on the submission of oneself to Christ, no matter our circumstances. 

P.S. Pre-order The Coming Tsunami today and you’ll be invited to an exclusive, virtual, live Q&A with Dr. Denison discussing whether Critical Race Theory is biblical. Visit TheComingTsunami.com to pre-order and follow the directions on that page to receive your invitation to this book launch event on January 25. 

Resources and further reading:

About the hosts 

Dr. Jim Denison CVO and cofounder of Denison Forum and a cultural scholar. He received his Ph.D. in philosophy and Master’s in Divinity from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary. 

Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church. 

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai

 

Mark Turman  00:00

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. We’re excited for you to be a part of this with us today. Mark Turman, the executive director of Denison forum, we’re going to be talking again today about Dr. Denison’s book, The coming tsunami, why Christians are labeled intolerant, oppressive and dangerous, and how we can turn the tide. We also anticipate that the Denison Forum Podcast will be a regular offering for us going forward. So we hope that you’ll look for that and that you’ll give us a good rating. We love five star ratings. And we hope that you’ll share this with others so that they can be a part of the conversation as well. As we talked with Dr. Denison in a moment about the coming tsunami want to remind you that you can pre order this book at the coming tsunami calm. And we’ll hope that you’ll do that and join us as we learn about our culture and how we can live redemptively in it. Dr. Jim, how are you today? I’m doing well. Mark, how are you doing? Great. Glad to be a part of this with you today as we continue and specifically talk about the book, The coming tsunami, and just want to thank you for writing it and then had the question, when you were putting this book together in recent months. Who did you have in mind? Who were who were you thinking really needs to hear this? Maybe first or most? I you know, I would imagine anybody that writes or books as I want everybody to read it. But was there somebody that you kind of typically had in mind needs to hear this message? Right now?

 

Jim Denison  01:30

That’s a great question. And one of the things that I learned years ago as a writer was how important it was to have a specific audience. In fact, sometimes Mark, I even have specific people in mind, I’ll have a face in mind when I’m writing my daily article, or writing a blog or writing a book or whatever.

 

Mark Turman  01:43

You know, we probably did that when we were pastors trying to think, Who are these individuals in our congregation? They’re not all the same. They have a lot of different context, but I’m trying to write or speak something for all of them.

 

Jim Denison  01:56

That’s right, exactly right. And you want everybody obviously, to benefit from the Word of God as he’s speaking through you in that space. But there are typically people that are especially your target for a particular sermon, or a particular Bible study, or whatever. And that was the case with us. So really, the short answer to the question would be Christian influencers have angelical influencers, people who know Christ as their Lord, that book is an individualistic book, per se, although we’d certainly love people to, to come to Christ through it and through the biblical content that’s there. But the presumption is that a person reading the book is following Christ that they believe the Bible to be true, and they want to live for Jesus and want to make Him known in the world. They want to know him and make him known in a way that really is transformative. And so if that’s their desire, then the purpose of the book is to help them understand the cultural moment where we are, understand why we are where we are understanding why the culture is doing what it is, understand the opposition that we’re facing right now, and find redemptive ways to make a difference. So if on the other side of the book, somebody is using their influence more effectively, for Jesus, we will have been successful, if people using the influence God has entrusted to them, and where they go to school, where they work, where they live, if they’re thinking more positively more proactively, about ways that they can make a kingdom difference in their culture, then we’re doing exactly what we think the book is designed to do.

 

Mark Turman  03:13

Right. And by particularly connecting this to leaders influencers, there’s kind of a drip effect, kind of what we talked about that tipping point relative to 25% of the evangelical community. If you can get it into the hands of the influencers, then they will extend its influence, they will extend its message. We talk a lot around Denison forum about what it means to build a movement of culture changing Christians. When you reflect on just that phrase, do you look back in history and say, Okay, this is when the church really was being a culture changing movement, from New Testament times to now? Or is there a period in history that you’ve studied that you look at and go that’s, that’s what I’m talking about? We need to see that again, in our culture.

 

Jim Denison  04:03

That’s a great question. You go back ultimately to Jesus ministry, of course, at the starting point. Remember Robert Coleman’s classic book, the master plan of evangelism? Essentially, Jesus spent three years with 12 Men, knowing that through that multiplying effect, they would reach others who would reach others who would reach others. The math is that if you were the only Christian on the planet, and you want me to Christ today, and tomorrow, each of us wants someone so there’s four. And the next day each of us wants someone so there’s eight and 1632. In 32 days, the numbers more than 8 billion. It’s amazing how multiplication, that is really that was God’s plan in a month, we could win the whole planet to Christ, just like that. That’s why Jesus spent three years on 12 men, because he knew the cultural changes top down James Davis and hunters book changed the world, I think has documented that as well. If you achieve your highest place of influence and live there faithfully calls it manifesting faithful presence. So I think that’s a documented fact of Jesus ministry to begin with and thinking forward about all of this. Then when you go forward You look at these points of great awakening of great spiritual awakening, they’ve been the same thing that we’re describing right now is typically a small group of people who decide that they’re going to go all in for the Lord, they’re going to be completely committed to Him and use their influence effectively in the lives of others. A quick example that comes to mind for me is the third great awakening, what sometimes known as the business man’s prayer meeting movement in 1858. That was a small group of people at a church in New York City, who began on Wednesdays to pray together for a great movement of God’s Spirit. And what started in one church led to other churches and still others. Churches began doing this on Sundays as well as Wednesday’s this movement and started in New York City and eventually swept the country. They were known as businessman’s prayer meetings. They weren’t led by specific individuals like a William Wilberforce or a St. Augustine. It was just people coming together in small groups, to repent of their sin to seek the face of Jesus and to be used for His glory. And the third grade Awakening was the result of that. The fourth grade awakening goes to Evan Roberts, a converted coal miner in Wales, who became deeply concerned burdened about the sinfulness of his life in his culture. He asked if he could preach in his church on a Sunday, the pastor wouldn’t let him do that, but gave him permission on a Sunday night to address the youth group. That youth group went up staying there all night. One that praying through the night and repentance and calling up to God and asking for God’s spirit to move in their hearts in their lives. And out of that came the Welsh Revival known as the fourth Great Awakening, it swept the nation of wells first, with some great examples of that the police made barbershop quartets to sing in churches because they had no one to arrest, the saloons all shut down, right, the coal miners got into difficulty the coal mine shut down for a time because the miners all got converted, stop using obscene language, and the meals could no longer understand their commands. It came to the United States in Portland, Oregon, right? Not known as the buckle of the Bible Belt 200 stores closed everyday for prayer meetings as a result of this fourth, great awakening. So typically, it’s been a small group of people willing to use their influence, we’re sold out for Jesus. And that’s what we’re praying for now, is a fifth Great Awakening in our culture. And we’re praying for God to use this book to that

 

Mark Turman  07:14

end, you know, and I suspect when pastors hear stories like that, when Christian Christian businessmen or Christian Medical Professionals hear those kinds of stories, they’re like, Okay, that’s what they have in their heart, when when they suggest that we start another new prayer meeting that, hey, we’re going to, we’re going to decide to be like those people. And we want to see that happen. And we all kind of end up scratching our heads as to why didn’t that happen with the pastor down the street, or the businessman down the street that was trying to put together a prayer meeting? A year before that, or five years before that, or five years after that? Why didn’t that ignite? The Next Great Awakening. And the truth of it is, I guess that that’s just sovereign work of the Spirit, we don’t have control over when that spark might become that kind of a fire. But as you know, I’ve talked a lot, this really goes back to what I think is a core scripture for us, which is Jesus in Matthew five, talking about being salt and light. And that’s where this idea, this phrase of bringing culture changing Christians that that is really the mandate that Jesus gave to us in the Sermon on the Mount, to live our lives like that faithfully. And that’s where we can be a redemptive influence absolutely

 

Jim Denison  08:34

true. And then trust God with his providence on the other side of it. I’m thinking about Jeremiah Lamphere, who was one of the great catalysts of one of the spiritual awakenings who said he had to pray seven years in his church, before all of his deacons were converted, it’s good to have your deacons convert yet and once your deacons to be, we would hope that to be true. We would like that to be true. Exactly. So So seven years of just praying inside his own church, before ultimately through his church began movements that we think of as a spiritual awakening, a lot of the great spiritual movements of human history, were started by people who never lived to see the results of them. You know, CS Lewis is far more famous now than it was even in his lifetime.

 

Mark Turman  09:10

I remember, just a few years ago, right before the 500th anniversary of the Protestant Reformation, I got to be in Germany gotten to be in this little village called Wittenberg, where Martin Luther lived his life to his ministry and and made such an impact on history. Just this one literally one mile of cobblestone Road, where a essentially the Protestant Reformation was ignited. But in being there and learning some of its history, some of the things that led up to it. We learned a little bit more about somebody I’d heard in seminary heard about in seminary, John Huss and hell has was ultimately burned at the stake right, for essentially many of the same things that Martin Luther is now famous for. Exactly. Like a John Wycliffe and I and I yeah, I do imagine them being in heaven going come on God, what’s the deal? You know Martin Luther has become a household name and Lutheranism Lutheran Church, why

 

Jim Denison  10:07

isn’t there a Hasidism? Yes, exactly. Yeah. John Wycliffe, one of my favorite stories in the early reformation, who was one of the leaders in translating the Bible in English, was so rich, and the Lawler movement that came out of that was so rejected by the Church that when he died a natural death, it went and found his body, dug it up, burned it, and scattered the ashes into the

 

Mark Turman  10:25

river. That’s being an unpopular path. That’s

 

Jim Denison  10:27

right. So they’re, you know, kind of a thought so yeah, I mean, Wickliffe lived and died, never knowing the contribution he was making to what we call the Protestant Reformation. John has the same way. John Knox in some ways, you know, whereas Luther is the one that gets the credit, and deservedly so. Right. Remarkable. But even at his death in 1546, the Protestant Reformation wasn’t what we think of it as now. And so it’s being faithful, really, as William

 

Mark Turman  10:51

Yeah. And I and I quoted, I’ve heard you say this, I quoted you, I had the opportunity to preach recently, and just tried to stress and tell me where this came from. If you remember this idea that you cannot measure the eternal significance of your earthly today, faithfulness.

 

Jim Denison  11:09

Yeah, that’s just really kind of a thought that occurred to me one day, as I was writing an article, and I really wanted to test that a little bit wanted to push on, you cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness. And then I began to realize on a logical level, first of all, that’s true. I can’t see the future. I have no way to know tomorrow based on today, this is the only moment there is right. We think of history as a spacetime continuum with a past, present, and future. But none of that’s really true. I mean, today is the only day that in our experience can exist, how much does tomorrow weigh? What color is tomorrow? So on a logical level, I can’t measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness, but also on a spiritual level. The Holy Spirit is doing things with us that we can’t see this side of eternity. He is using our lives His word never returns void. Heraclitus said you can’t step in the same river twice. I think it was Oswald Chambers that said, the river touches shores the source never sees. That’s just how the Holy Spirit works in and through our lives. We’re going to be in heaven and meet people, we had no idea we influenced on Earth. That’s just how the Holy Spirit works. So logically, and even providentially. I think it really is true, that we humans, we finite humans have no ability to measure the eternal significance of the faithfulness we’re offering God today. That’s why present faithfulness is such a great investment in eternity,

 

Mark Turman  12:25

and is such a tremendous act of faith. That, that we read the testimonies of both church history and in scripture of people who did exactly this. And we could envision that when somebody gets to heaven, when any Christian gets to heaven, they’re surprised to find out that they influence things much more than they ever thought that they did. I can imagine Martin Luther or Wickliffe, or hast or any of those people being just amazed that even hundreds of years later their work in their ministry, their story is still being told in some ways. And my pastor used to say, I never never forgot the first time he said this, in my hearing, he said, you know, Christianity goes forward on the shoulders of plain vanila Christians. And you, you just don’t know its full impact. But perhaps the most important thing that we’ve talked about in these first few podcasts about your book is that call to be faithful. Whatever your level of influence if you’re a pastor, or a doctor, or a business leader, if you’re a mother at home, taking care of children and raising them faithfully that one of the most important things, if not the most important thing is to know Christ and to live diligently and faithfully for him. That’s where culture changing Christians come from,

 

Jim Denison  13:52

and is 24/7. Right? One of the huge you know, one of the huge challenges we face in our culture is this western idea we get from the Greeks and the Romans, that we can separate Sunday and Monday, spiritual and secular religion in the real world. If the enemy can’t get you to deny Christ, he can’t get you to do that. He’ll want you to segregate Christ. If he can’t get you to stop reading the Bible. He’ll want Bible study just to be one of the things you do. If he can’t make you stop praying, he’ll want to make prayer one of your god chores, you know, so we live our lives, I do the same thing. We all kind of make these lists for the day of things that we’re going to do. So we put on the list quiet time check the box, I did the grant part, you know kind of a thing is the temptation of our culture of the secular versus sacred kind of heresy. That is part of a Western philosophical tradition goes back to the orphic, Colton, and Pythagoras and Plato and Aristotle and all of that. Jesus says, If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, take up his cross daily and follow Me were to present our bodies a living sacrifice, not just our harm or our leg. Were to give every minute of every day to Georgia be crucified with Christ and when you when you’re crucified, all of you is crucified. So we’ll get past this Sunday Monday spiritual secular heresy and Jesus wants all of us every minute of every day, then we’ll understand that so Jesus can bless all of us every minute of every day. And Jesus can use all of us every minute of every day. I’ve often said in sermons, if you only spent more time with your spouse than you spend at church, you don’t have a strong marriage, right? If you only spend the amount of time being a good parent that you spend in the church building, you’re not a good parent. If you only ate physically, as often as you ate spiritually, you’d be pretty famished. So let’s please set aside this way that segregates the spiritual from the secular and understand that the more submitted we are in a Jesus, a more blessed bubble we are the more usable than we are, as for position ourselves, to walk in His presence to stay connected to him, like you plug a drill in and keep it plugged in, the more we’ll do that the more will be filled with the Spirit, the mobile experiencing Abundant Life of Christ, the more will abide in Christ, the more will bear will bear the fruit of Christ. But it’s refusing that Sunday versus Monday sort of heresy that’s so rampant in our culture, and deciding I want all of God the rest. And I want God to have all of me there is

 

Mark Turman  16:05

right and my, one of my leaders, when I was a teenager used to say, on a daily basis on a moment by moment basis, that you would give all that you know, of yourself to all that Christ, and to live that way. And I think, I think that that idea of not doing that, if separating them, as you talked about, is a part of that cultural Christianity that is really wearing thin and now we see it in surveys where we see that the nuns, those who have no religious affiliation, are the fastest growing religious demographic, I think it’s, in part a good thing that we’re seeing that people are saying, Look, if it’s not that, if it’s not this consuming, driving reality of my life, then it can’t be real. I don’t want to just be a part of an organization. I don’t want to be converted to Christianity as a an organization or an institution. If there is no such thing as being converted to the person of Christ, that’s the difference. And I think that is a good thing for us. In many ways.

 

Jim Denison  17:10

I couldn’t die. I’m passionate about this market, something that in recent days and weeks has really gripped me. I saw a quote that had to do with the Shanghai revival back in the 1930s, where one of the real crises that they came to when they began praying in this revival came as a result was they realized the 1000s of people in their phrase as the CEO Cole pepper writing the book, The Shanghai revival, made the statement that the missionaries came to realize that 1000s of people have been converted to Christianity, but not to Christ. They be converted to a religion not a relationship. Well, I’m here to say and I hope this doesn’t sound heretical. Christianity is a bad religion. Yeah, if all you’re looking for is a religion, if you’re looking for a building to go sit in and think that you’ve done your god stuff well that’s not Christian it was never built to do that. That’s flying a plane without wings, right that’s driving a car with no gas. We it was built to rely on depend on know intimately personally transforming lead the Lord Jesus Himself. Christianity is not Christ. And so I think one of the reasons we’re seeing so many in our culture, turning away from the church denominational church turning away from what they think of as Christianity is they’re not seeing Christ. They’re not seeing the real thing. They’re seeing this counterfeit spirituality this watered down Sunday versus Monday compartmentalised faith and their thing, well, that’s not changing your life, how would that change my life? Right? I bother making a difference. Why would I bother? I’m too busy for that. Why would I go bother with that. But if I see Jesus, change your life, I’m going to want Jesus to change my life. I became a Christian, as I mentioned in a previous conversation with you, because I saw Christ changing the lives of my friends. And I came to my Sunday school teacher and said, How can I have what you have? It wasn’t that I wanted Christianity. I didn’t want a religion. I didn’t want a church. I want a Jesus. We’re all built to want Jesus. Every person you know, has a God shaped emptiness, the hearts restless till we arrested him. And so what you can know is, if you’ll walk with Jesus, other people will see Jesus in you. If you’ll walk with Christ, Christ will make himself known through you. And people, whether you know it or not, will be drawn to him because of the faithfulness they see in you. Quick example of that I read years ago, there was a family that lost two members in a horrible influenza epidemic over the winter, the next spring, it’s Easter Easter came early that year. It’s an Easter Sunday, the remaining family members of their church, they’re singing the hymns, they’re singing the triumph, they’re singing the victory. They’re participating in the worship, in spite of this horrible grief that they’ve been through. After the service. A boy pointed at them as a walking out of the church and said to his dad, they really believe it, don’t they? And the father said, Believe what? And the boy said Easter, they really believe it. Well, I don’t know that that family ever knew the influence they were making on that young boy’s life, who saw them show up on Easter in their grief, and celebrate the risen Christ. You can’t know the eternal significance of present faithfulness.

 

Mark Turman  20:00

Right, this podcast will air just a few weeks or so after Christmas makes me think about the Christmas story. And part of the story that I’ve been focused on is Luke to the story of Simeon this person who we typically think of as an older, wiser man, maybe it was, but nothing tells us what his age was just tells us that he was righteous and devout. And that God guides him to marry and Joseph and the baby Jesus. And when he poetically speaks or sings about this baby, he doesn’t talk about it in institutional ways. He’s talking about this child. And for years, I’d read this passage at Christmas time thinking that Simeon was looking up to God, but he might have been just looking straight into the eyes of Jesus, as he spoke these words, and says to basically, to Jesus into God, I’m ready to die. Now I’ve seen, I’m not just seeing the plan of salvation, I have seen the person of salvation, that it is the person of Jesus, before any of these things, and there’s reasons why we have a religion called Christianity and institutions that are built out of Christianity, but if it’s not centered in him as a person, then you’re gonna miss the whole point.

 

Jim Denison  21:18

That’s right. And then he can’t do in you what he’s not doing through you, and vice versa. Frederick Buechner, I think said that before the Lord can work through us, he has to work in us, right? You know, I have to preach my sermons to myself first, well, if I’m not being changed, how could God use me to change you? Why would you want something? How can I give you what I don’t have? How can I lead you where I’m not willing to go. But the positive side of this is, if I’m in love with Jesus, it’s an overflow to share that love with others. I don’t have to work hard to do it. I don’t It’s not drudgery. For me. It’s not guilt motivation, I simply want to give what I’ve received, were made that way. If you see a great movie and tell people about it, or read a great book, you tell people about it.

 

Mark Turman  21:55

And it happens to us relationally all the time, most of us would say that what’s most changed us in whatever way had been the people in our lives, certainly ideas about that. But ideas coming through people ideas being manifested, embodied by people. Most of us, when we get closer to our dying day, we start thinking about the people who have most shaped us. And that is in complete alignment with what we should think about Christ. It’s the person of Christ, right, which should always take us back to the Scripture always take us back particularly to the Gospels, and to the story of Jesus. Because it’s about a, it is sometimes hard for us to communicate what we mean the difference between a relationship with Christ and the religion of Christianity. We have both there’s a reason why we have both. But it has to be primary. What’s most important to God is that relationship

 

Jim Denison  22:52

and the religion is a means to the relationship, isn’t it? People see us externally in church and they say, well, that’s your religion, you’re showing up in a church building, just like a Buddhist would go to a temple or a Muslim or go to a mosque. Well, what we’re doing in that church service, if it’s a relationship is we’re not just singing hymns. We’re singing hymns to God, right? We’re not just reading a book, we’re reading a book inspired by God as the Holy Spirit speaks that truth into our hearts. We’re not just sitting listening to a sermon, we’re listening, we pray, trust, to God speaking to us through that sermon. It’s a vertical experience with God that looks like a horizontal experience with others. That’s the difference. It can be a religion, if I’m simply sitting through a sermon, it can be a relationship, if I’m listening for the Holy Spirit to speak to me through that sermon. If when that pastor gets up to speak, my prayer is Lord, speak for your servants listening. Lord, speak to me through this, then really whatever the sermon is, the Holy Spirit can speak to you through that, if you listen to that, if you’re simply singing hymns or singing choruses, or whatever it is, because that’s your religion, well, then that dies when you’re done. If you’re singing to God, that changes your heart changes your life. I remember being at a silent retreat years ago, marking when I was pastoring. In Atlanta, we were there on a Monday. And one of the things that the Holy Spirit made me realize in that experience, it was life changing for me was that I loved Jesus, but I wasn’t in love with Jesus, that I had more religion than a relationship. And one of the ways he got there by asking me, it was a very tangible experience on Monday. But we had sung in church the previous day on Sunday, and I couldn’t remember couldn’t remember what we sung could barely remember what I preached. And it was in our realize that a after I had not experienced God on Sunday, I could barely remember the religion. The box, I’d checked the day before. And it was then sitting on a bench looking at a waterfall at a Jesuit retreat center in North Atlanta on that Monday, that the Holy Spirit made me realize that I love Jesus, but it wasn’t in love with him. I couldn’t remember the last time I told Jesus, I loved him. I couldn’t remember the last time I took 10 minutes just to listen to him. Not to talk to him not to go through a prayer list, couldn’t remember the last time I read the Bible just to hear His voice, not to prepare a sermon or a Bible study or check the box of a quiet time, but just to be with Jesus. I remember it like it was yesterday, it was a life changing moment for me when it religion became a relationship.

 

Mark Turman  25:18

Well, yeah. And that’s, that ought to be the passion and the experience the hope of every believer, which does bring us back in some ways around to some of the things that are in the tsunami book. We, we have talked in previous podcasts as the book talks about what it means to to see these four earthquakes kind of coalescing together at this moment in history of being a post truth, a post morality, culture now that is dealing with things like critical theory. And then part of what you do in the in the book is wrap this into a conversation about what you’re seeing and understanding is the rise of secular religion. You talk about also as a secular ideology. Help us get our hands around that a little bit better from the standpoint of what do you mean by an ideology, a secular ideology? And when does an ideology become a religion?

 

Jim Denison  26:15

It’s a great question. And that fourth earthquake really is the one that wraps the others together in some ways, and is yet not as obvious in the culture as the first three art, although it’s really driving a lot of what’s in the culture, because we

 

Mark Turman  26:26

like Yeah, so it’s people that will, will connect immediately more to when we have conversations about sexual revolution, and trying to relate to the LGBTQ community, conversations about critical race and where we’re seeing that play out, particularly in school districts right now. Those are the more obvious things kind of on the on the outside are the bookends of what it means to be in a post truth culture and what it means to secular ideology. So didn’t mean to interrupt you, but no, not

 

Jim Denison  26:53

at all. No, you’re right, those first three are more visible to us for that reason. But a lot of what’s behind it is this fourth earthquake, as we’re describing it, so basically starts with the premise that personal authenticity is the path to flourishing. That’s really the ideology. That’s the creed of this rising secular, I

 

Mark Turman  27:09

have to live my truth. That’s right,

 

Jim Denison  27:11

you have your truth, I have my truth, I have no right to tell you what your truth is, or to get in the way of your truth. Your personal authenticity is the path to your flourishing. And so if I insist back to the first earthquake on biblical truth, that isn’t your truth, then I’m violating your personal authenticity. In that second earthquake. If I insist on biblical morality, that isn’t your authenticity, I’m violating your authenticity, on that. Third, if I’m not willing to admit the degree to which I’m an oppressor, of the culture, especially if you’re in a minority status, then I’m impeding your authenticity. So this rising secular ideology is centered on personal authenticity as its creed, as it were. The Christian creed is Jesus’s Lord, the Muslim creed is there is no God. But Allah, Muhammad is his prophet, I think I could say, the secular ideologies, Creed is personal authenticity is the path to flourishing. And so because it believes all other competing ideologies, to be dangerous, not just to be irrelevant, not just to be outdated, but to be oppressive and dangerous, because it, for instance, believes that my understanding of biblical morality is dangerous to LGBTQ individuals. It therefore believes that my ideology should be replaced by its,

 

Mark Turman  28:21

and it’s really around this key idea of dangerous That’s right.

 

Jim Denison  28:25

We’re more than just seeing how to read. That’s right. There was a day, just to illustrate this quickly. You know, you’d build a town back in the old days, and the first thing you do is put up a church, try to be central to culture, the pastor was the person which meant the person, everybody went to church, or at least knew they should. You had these blue laws where nothing was open on Sundays, right? Because everybody well, yeah, everybody went to church, then in the 60s with the rise of post truth and the rise of the sexual revolution, all that now the church starts becoming peripheral to culture. Now the idea is if you want to go to church, fine, just don’t tell me I have to go to church right now. It’s a hobby. God’s a hobby. You might like classical music. I might like jazz. Well, don’t tell me I have to like your music or your I have to play golf just because you play golf. I have lived most of my life in that version of a cultural understanding to the faith where religion is kind of peripheral to culture. It’s a it’s a hobby, it’s what you do with your free time. Well, now we’re in this third place that says that we now know religion flies planes into buildings, and causes nine elevens religion causes clergy abuse, scandals, wars and all wars. Exactly. The Wars of the Middle East are caused. It’s said this isn’t true, but it’s set by religion, so to speak, whether it’s radical Islam, or it’s radical Hinduism, Buddhism, whatever it is, what you’re seeing on the temple mount the divisions between Palestinians and Israelis. These are all examples of how dangerous religion is. It’s Christopher Hitchens book how religion poisons everything. It’s Richard Dawkins, saying religion is a virus and the software of humanity that must be expunged. Now we know that religion as a category is dangerous. believing in the supernatural diverts you from the natural spends time on buildings instead of people in heaven instead of Earth. And so now we’ve progressed in this secular ideology, we’ve evolved to a place where we now understand religion as a category to be dangerous. Unless your religion affirms everything that the secular culture affirms, unless you’ll make the Bible the die religious experience, unless you agree with cultural morality, unless you agree with the oppressor status unless you agree with all of that and embrace the core value of tolerance. That’s right, yeah, as the as the key value in all things, right. Unless you’ll do that your religion we now know is dangerous. It’s like white supremacy, back in the Civil War era might be your Jim Crow, sort of proof of kind of prejudice, as you might think of it, we now know it to be dangerous. And so what we need to do is replace it with a secular ideology that has all the manifestations of a religion, it’s got a creed. Authenticity is a path to flourishing. It’s got a way of expressing itself that looks like a religious expression. You’re seeing it in social media, you’re seeing it in so many of what could almost be sermonic kinds of books and articles and podcasts and videos that are all trumpeting this. It’s very holistic, just as a religion is supposed to be holistic. The secular ideology touches every dimension of life, it touches marriage, touches children, it touches sexual identity at Tuck touches, gender, and sexual orientation. It touches every dimension of how the legal system relate to what we’re describing Equality Act and other things out of all of that. So it’s an all consuming worldview.

 

Mark Turman  31:38

So would you would you say that this is I remember years ago reading some of Francis Schaefers work about humanism is this is this the full manifestation of what we talked about? When we talk about secular humanism,

 

Jim Denison  31:53

it absolutely is, its humanism, to its ultimate degree, is where this thing is going. We’re not there yet fully in its fullest expression, but we’re getting closer than we’ve ever been.

 

Mark Turman  32:02

And to the even to the point of God is dangerous. And and we need to, we need to remove the idea of God because of the problems that obviously is created in the opinion of these people, and, and put right rightfully, in its place, human beings in all of their individuality.

 

Jim Denison  32:23

That’s right, that’s really the future that we ought to all be striving for. Because God as a category, as Karl Marx taught us, is the opiate of the people believing in God. It’s a way of diverting you from what matters. It’s a way of spending your time, your money, your attention on that which doesn’t exist, and their mind and their thinking, it’s mythology. If you and I were here doing this podcast, writing this book, to try to get people to worship the gods of Mount Olympus. If we were here to try to plead with people for sexual orientation, gender identity to be aligned with Homer’s myths, if we were here to claim religious freedom, exemptions, to be able to discriminate against people in employment or any other dimension, who disagreed with Homer’s Mount Olympus sort of Pantheon, that sort of thing. The culture would look at what we’re doing as ridiculous, right? It would say what we’re doing is not only outdated, we got over Homer’s miss a long time ago, not only irrelevant to daily life, but is actually dangerous to the future. And I would agree with him. If somebody wanted to bring that forward, I would agree that that’s dangerous to the future. That’s precisely my 100% how they see my commitment to biblical worldview, biblical morality today.

 

Mark Turman  33:33

Well, and that, and that’s, again, where this whole idea of, of positioning this conversation that Christianity, all religions are dangerous and need to be removed. And kind of a, what feels like a corollary to me in this conversation is something that that you refer to in the book, which is the idea of people aligning, aligning their truth to their experience, which ties back into kind of the the first premise of the book of being in a post truth culture. And this idea that we no longer say, I think, or I believe, but we now say, I feel talking about that a little bit, and just just that idea, of, if I feel it, then that automatically makes it legitimate. And I’m going to align my beliefs to what I feel rather than what might have been true. A generation ago or further back in the past, where people didn’t do that. They didn’t say, coming out of their own authenticity and individuality. Well, if I feel it, then that legitimizes it. And I can proceed forth with anything that my desire carries me toward. People didn’t always live that way. Now, you’re

 

Jim Denison  34:55

right, absolutely true. It’s really on three pieces. I think the first piece goes back to the post truth Now that we’ve talked about, we go back to Immanuel Kant. And the idea that truth is how my mind interprets my senses. Right? Well, my senses are different than yours my feelings are might be different than yours, and how I feel about the world looks different than how you feel about the world, and our process true through my senses, through my sensory experience, and therefore through my feelings. So my feelings are the pathway to truth, as I understand truth. So it’s no longer how I think it really is how I feel, because my mind is just how I process my feelings. My mind is the Microsoft Word software sitting on my laptop and my feelings of the keyboard. Well, Microsoft Word doesn’t write papers, my keyboard writes papers, right? It’s what I put into Microsoft Word through the keystrokes, that actually becomes my truth that goes on the hard drive or the cloud or gets printed, or whatever it does. Well, now we know the culture would say the wrong about this, but they would say this, that really the only part of the world I can understand is what I feel of it, what I experience of it. So that’s one piece of it. A second piece is the therapeutic turn, that we made with Sigmund Freud, going forward with the idea that the best way to be happy, the best way to flourish is to be in touch with your feelings, to know your feelings, to be authentic about your feelings, to express your feelings to others, to tell people when they have violated your feelings in some way. And so in a counseling session with a couple, for instance, there’ll be typically taught to say to a person who’s doing things that are hurtful for them, not to say you’re wrong about that. But to say this, I feel like this, not even you made me feel right. But rather just to use language that says, Well, right now I’m feeling violated right now. I’m feeling betrayed. Right now. I’m feeling unheard. And there’s some truth in that there’s some value in that in a counseling perspective. But that’s brought forward into how you relate to everybody all across the board is in the sense of my experiences with others, my relationship center in feelings. So first of all, my experience of reality is feeling centered. Then second, my experience of other people relationally becomes feeling centered. And then on the third place, it becomes that claim to truth with which you can’t disagree. Because you have no right to tell me, I don’t feel this way. And so at Trump’s all, at the end of the day, I can come to you and say, look, I can prove you historically, Jesus existed, I can demonstrate all this evidence for his resurrection. I can give you all of these logical reasons you need to trust in Christ as your Savior and Lord. And you can just say, well, that’s your truth. I don’t feel that way myself, right. And the thought is what you just said, trumps everything I just said, because I have no right to tell you your feelings are wrong, I have no way to tell you don’t feel that way. So by living life around my feelings, that legitimize is my being in charge, it’s the will to power, I get to be my own god, we’re back to Genesis three, where you can be your own God, because of a feeling centered epistemology or way of knowing truth, almost a feeling centered ontology. That reality is what I experience it through feelings, I get to be in charge of the world myself. It’s a wonderful place to be, except it doesn’t work at the end of the day, but

 

Mark Turman  37:59

which is really the point, right? That’s right, it just doesn’t work. And because we’ve taken a place where now we, we have lowered the understanding of Scripture to love this phrase that, that I’ve heard you coined that, that the Bible is now just simply a diary of human experience, rather than a divine book with divine truth that is unlike any other book. And, and so we’ve diminished the place of objective biblical truth. And we have also essentially dethroned Christ as Lord. And by doing that we’ve installed ourselves,

 

Jim Denison  38:39

it’s human nature to want this all the way back to Genesis, I’ll tell you, Mark, there’s a part of me that wants to do this to absolutely follow him as anybody else’s sure I would love to be my own god, I’d love to be in charge of my world. I love for my religion to be a means to my ends. I’d love to be able to pray on Sunday. So God bless me on Monday, I’d love to start the day with Bible studies. And God bless my day, I’d love to be like that old Mount Olympus, sort of a deal where you place a sacrifice on the offering so that God bless your crops, sort of a transactional religion, that is what so much religion today seems to be, I don’t want to have to repent, I don’t want you to come tell me I have to be crucified with Christ. I don’t want to present my body a living sacrifice.

 

Mark Turman  39:17

I don’t want to submit. And that’s why I align myself with the Lordship of Christ as it’s revealed in the Scripture.

 

Jim Denison  39:23

And the downside of it is, and we’re starting to see this now, if you’ll let me be in charge of my own world long enough. What’s going to happen ultimately, as I’m going to wreck it, I’m going to ruin it. And then ultimately, I’ll need to come back to the Lord and ask him to heal me, forgive me, put me back together. And only then do I learn that submission is the path to freedom. That being submitted to Jesus as my Lord is the path to my best life. If I’m back to flourishing, if I want authenticity is the path to flourishing. I would say it’s not personal authenticity, it’s personal submission is the path to flourishing. So think about this for just a moment. If God is all knowing All loving and all powerful, then by definition, his will for me must be the best will for me, right? By definition, his character won’t let his will be anything other than God’s best for me, Satan’s the opposite. Satan’s a murderer, Jesus said, he’s a liar and the father of lies. So any temptation he brings me must, by definition be bad for me, his character won’t let him tempt me to anything that isn’t for my bad. In Satan’s economy, the cost always outweighs the benefit in God’s economy, the benefit always outweighs the cost. But our culture doesn’t see that they see the cost of submitting to Jesus, they see the cost of repentance of the cost of worship, or the cost of Bible study or spiritual discipline, they don’t see the benefit outweighing the cost. So they’re unwilling to pay the cost. And they’re missing God’s best for their lives because they think they’re in charge of the best for their lives. I’ve tried it as well, it doesn’t work.

 

Mark Turman  40:56

Right. And we’re, we’re currently in this season. And maybe this is the precursor, possibly to the next great awakening, where currently, if I’m not being fulfilled based on my understanding of my feelings and my experience, then it must not be my fault. It must be other people or other systems, it, it must be something else. But it cannot be that I’m the problem.

 

Jim Denison  41:26

It’s a great point. And we’re still there at this point, we’re still there. Right? It’s the transference idea, right? It’s my parents fault. Or it’s my employers fault or the cultures fault or the church’s fault, right, whatever it might be. I happen to be listening this morning to a radio program as I was on the way into the office. And they were talking specifically about some things that were in the news and senators and positions they were taking, and they were demonstrating how the senators decisions were going to harm the states that they represent was the other side of it was the argument that they were making that the senators are acting in their personal best interest rather than the state’s best interest. And that whole argument as I’m listening to it unfolding, of course, that’s how politics is typically understood in the culture, I’m thinking we become so politically centric, so politico centric, you could say that we’ve come to believe that politicians in Washington are the means by which our states succeed or fail, that our future depends on what Washington does. Now, there’s some degree of truth in that, obviously, I’m not trying to say Washington, they’re relevant to our daily lives. But we’ve transferred responsibility to Washington for what the states themselves should be engaged with. And then I’ve transferred responsibility to the state capitol for what my local government ought to be involved in, or I’m transferring responsibility to the mayor for what I should be doing in my own community. At the end of the day, as Tip O’Neill said, All politics are local, but we want to transfer to somebody else, right? It’s human nature, it’s again, Genesis three, where the man blames the woman, the woman blames the snake. At the end of the day, I am responsible for my stuff. The Bible says a soul that sins shall die. And ultimately, if I won’t take that responsibility, I’m a cancer patient, that woulda Midians cancer, the physician can’t heal my cancer, if I won’t admit I have cancer, right? If I won’t get on the plane, the pilot can’t take me to my destination. So it starts with this genuine submission that says, Lord, I am broken and fallen, I need you to be my father, I need you to be my king, I need you to be Lord of my life. And the good news is he’ll put me together and use me in ways I could never imagine on the other side of that commitment to him.

 

Mark Turman  43:26

And that’s really a great place for us to land today in terms of the the goal and purpose of this book, either by the person reading it or by a person who possibly gets influenced by somebody who reads this book, and listen to this podcast. So thank you for the conversation today. Always enjoy our time exploring these ideas, and just want to remind our listeners that they can pick up a copy through their favorite book source. The book will be available on January 25, the coming tsunami, why Christians are labeled intolerant, irrelevant, oppressive and dangerous, and how we can turn the tide. That’s our hope and our our goal for this ministry as well as for this book. Jim, thank you for the conversation today.

 

Jim Denison  44:10

My privilege. Thanks so much, Mark.

 

Mark Turman  44:12

We look forward to talking with you on future podcast and remember to share this like this through your podcast source and we look forward to seeing you again soon.

 

 

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