A recent study found that only 4% of U.S. adults have a solid biblical worldview. What does this mean? Well, your worldview affects every aspect of your life, which in turn affects the lives of those around you. In an age where Satan is becoming a star in pop culture, children are being surgically mutilated in the name of protecting their mental health, and public schools are slowly trying to replace parents, it is more critical than ever to prioritize building a biblical worldview.
This week on Family Policy Matters, host Traci DeVette Griggs welcomes Joseph Backholm, Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview at the Family Research Council, to discuss the importance of having a biblical worldview and how we can cultivate one.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Thanks for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. What does it mean to be in the world but not of it? How can living our faith make us salt for the earth? And is it enough to focus on our own personal relationships with Jesus and build a foundation of faith in our own homes, or are we called clearly to go out into the world? Well, Joseph Backholm, Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement at the Family Research Council, writes extensively on these very questions. Joseph will also be the featured speaker at NC Family’s November Major Speaker Series dinner in Winston-Salem. Joseph Backholm, welcome to Family Policy Matters.
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: Great to be with you.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: A lot of the answers to the questions that we just posed are naturally answered if we have a holistic biblical worldview, which I’m just gonna guess a lot of Christians don’t have. Could you give us some background on that and how our worldviews are formed?
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: Yeah, well, in fact, to agree with the point that a lot of Christians don’t know that, George Barna, who is a pollster who asked a lot of questions about the church, has done some research on this. And he’s concluded that only 21% of people who attend church regularly on Sunday morning have a biblical worldview in the sense that they can understand how the gospel applies to things like salvation and sin and the deity of God and sexual ethics and all of those things. So yes, that is a real challenge within the church. But how is a worldview formed? It’s not mostly academic, it’s true that in order to have a biblical worldview, you need to understand who God is, and what the nature of sin is, and what the solution to the sin problem. But really, I would say a biblical worldview is formed more by the things that you learn to love. Your worldview, any worldview, is, do you love and aspire to holiness and righteousness and goodness and truth? Or does your heart, is it really drawn toward things that are superficial and carnal and self-serving and really more than just our head knowledge? Those are the things that form our worldview because your affections are really what ends up driving your behavior. And we all know that there’s a lot of people who know the right answer to the question in a biblical sense, but they’re not making decisions consistent with that because they don’t love the things God loves. So, I think when it comes to forming a biblical worldview, really the key is, what are your affections drawn toward?
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: So how do we get away with this? I mean, I’m assuming these are people that sit next to us in the pews who don’t have a biblical worldview or don’t translate the things that we learn in church into how we act out there in the culture. How do we get away with this do you think?
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: The reality is we are just consuming so much information that is loaded with the ethos of a secular culture. We’re learning to love the same things that they are learning to love. And you know, Romans 12, I think, is helpful in this, the first couple chapters where it says, “Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewing of your mind.” And that idea of being transformed by the renewing of your mind recognizes that all the thoughts, all the inputs, all the things that we’re consuming, have a huge effect on how we feel about things. And teenagers, young people right now consume like eight hours a day of media of various kinds. And that really affects what your heart is desiring and what you think is beautiful, and what you think is admirable, and all of those things. And so you go to church and try to get a little dose of truth. But if the ratio is 100 to 1, which it literally is in terms of time consuming information from a particular source, if you don’t read your Bible, you go to church, maybe on Sunday, and you spend dozens of hours over the course of the week, just kind of taking in whatever Instagram or Facebook or Netflix is feeding you, your heart is not going to be able to overcome that even if you intellectually wish it would. So that whole process of being transformed by the renewing of your mind means that your mind has to be taking in more good stuff, more truth than it does lies so that your spiritual intellectual immune system is prepared to recognize a lie when you see it and defeat it so that you’re living in the truth.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: If we aren’t running counter to the culture, then, based on what you just said, then maybe we need to take a really good look at ourselves. How should the individual worldviews that we hold impact our society and culture at large?
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: Well, a Christian worldview should recognize things like the fact that God made us, He’s the one who determines what is right and wrong, He knows what’s best for us, and ultimately, we’re going to be accountable to him for the things that happen when we die, which means people who have a biblical worldview will live in radically different ways. We will make very different choices. The things that get us bothered, the things that don’t get us bothered. Where our money goes, where our money doesn’t go. Where our time goes, where our time doesn’t go. We should live differently if, in fact, we are committed to the idea that God is ultimately the source of truth, the Gospel is the solution to all the world’s problems. That is very different than just the passive, consume whatever feels good, do whatever feels good attitude that the rest of culture is presenting to us. And that should lead to much more disciplined lives, much more joyful lives, lives of much greater service because we’re ultimately not living for ourselves. So we should look different. The world is always going to have challenges, and Jesus promised us that until he comes and defeats sin and death, ultimately, but the life of the person whose mind has been transformed, and who is living out a biblical worldview should look very different than those who are not.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Are there some of these concepts that are more dangerous than others, do you think? Some people call them the big lies. And if so, what are those?
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: There are certainly some ideas that are more dangerous than others. I would say today, we have to respond to and make sure our kids understand is a lie is the idea that our feelings determine what is truth. And that’s kind of the foundation of what’s happening culturally on a whole range of so-called political issues and spiritual issues. It’s this idea that what I’m supposed to do, ultimately, is to live authentically, to be true to myself, and my feelings are the thing that will tell me what is ultimately true for me and about me, and I need to listen to those feelings. And that is a super insidious lie because Scripture is really clear about the fact that sin has essentially damaged our feelings. So our feelings are really unreliable. And feelings, of course, are not bad, and feelings come from God, and God gives us emotions in ways that can be really glorifying to him. But feelings are really unreliable, as Jeremiah reminds us, the heart is deceitful above all things and desperately wicked. And we all know that we have been misled by our feelings at certain times.
And so, to me, the key to even being able to enter the universe of a biblical worldview is recognizing the idea that the fact that I feel something does not make it true. And the reason we need to have a source of truth that’s outside of ourselves is so that we can take our feelings and compare them to God’s truth and say, “Are my feelings right now affirming the truth that God has revealed to us in Scripture? Or are my feelings right now tempting me to walk away from God’s truth as he revealed them to us in Scripture,” and without that point of reference that we can examine our own feelings by, we are governed and controlled and owned by our feelings. And we live in a world where that is largely the case, and we see the consequences of that all over.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Well, clearly, it is important what happens in our churches, and there needs to be good teaching, people need to be examining their hearts. But I think you make the case that it doesn’t need to stop there, that we do need to be concerned about what is happening outside the church.
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: We are ambassadors for Christ. And that’s Paul’s language in 2 Corinthians 10, when he says, we as ambassadors for Christ, our job is to call the world to be reconciled to God. And that has certainly gospel spiritual implication in the sense that we come to Jesus, confess our sin, and accept His righteousness in exchange for our sin, and we enter into the Kingdom of God. That’s not the end of the journey. That’s the beginning of the journey. Salvation is the beginning of then becoming what God has intended us to be. And you know, we see references in Jeremiah to the fact that even in exile, even if you live in wherever you think of is kind of the darkest places in America, we are to seek the welfare of the city to which he has sent us. When Jeremiah said that to the Israelites, they were living in exile in Babylon. He intends His people to be a force for good wherever He places us. And what that means is that we also, borrowing from 2 Corinthians 5, will pass down every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God. That we as Christians will have no part with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them, and that we don’t live a passive life once we enter into the kingdom of God and just wait for Jesus to come back and take us to Heaven. He has things for us to do here, which include, in addition to mercy ministry, and evangelism, and just loving people, it also includes defeating darkness and showing people an alternative to the lies that they have been living so that they can enter into something better because inevitably, when you live according to the lies, you suffer the consequences of that and we live in a world filled with people who have believed the lie. They have faithfully lived out the lie, and they have suffered the consequences of living in the lie, but many of them don’t know why it didn’t work. And that’s what we as believers have the honor and blessing of the opportunity to do is explain that because we know a better way, because we actually know the One who created us and who told us what’s good for us. And we should be living that out in our own lives in a way that’s self-evidently better. But we also have the chance to just tell people about it.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: You had an experience where you created some YouTube content that explored the logic of gender identity, and that was a learning experience for you, right?
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: You know, when you go to a college campus, and you have a conversation with those who are spending most of their time there, you realize what is being inculcated in these institutions. And the idea that self-identity is reality is pervasive. And it’s this strange world that we’ve created, largely through the education system. And it’s not just colleges and universities, that’s just where it’s most fully metastasized because it’s now beginning in kindergarten, where people are believing that if you want something to be true, then it is true. And we’ve seen this in gender identity. But we also see this in conversations about things like abortion, where people say, well, whether life begins at conception, where that begins, it kind of depends on the feelings of the people involved, and if you feel like it’s a baby, then it’s a baby, if you feel like it’s not a baby, but it’s not a baby. And scientifically and logically, those are completely insane things to say.
But the culture has embraced this idea that if I want something to be true, then it is, if I don’t want something to be true, then it’s not true. Which means I can be a woman, I can be a pet, I can be six foot five, I can be Chinese, I can be seven years old, whatever that question is, and it starts at this ridiculous premise that my feelings determine what is true. As a matter of logic, we know it’s not real, but we’ve been so thoroughly catechized with this idea that just tolerate whatever people want. Because the best thing that they can have is happiness. And we just want them to be happy, and following their feelings makes them happy. So just don’t oppose it. And it leads to truly absurd outcomes in many cases.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Let’s talk a little bit we know that worldview begins at very early ages, what are some practical recommendations if people are listening, and they’re like, “Wow, I just really want to start young with my kids. I take them to church. But clearly, that may not be enough.” What are some recommendations for them?
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: We’ve got to build the foundation, and we have to do it consciously. And mom and dad, and the grandparents, and pastors and the youth pastors and the teachers, everybody needs to understand the competition. And we’ve talked about the lie that your feelings determine what is true, that reality is self-created, and those things. When you build a biblical foundation around the understanding who God is, that He’s the creator, that He’s the source of truth, understanding the nature of sin, that we are in need of salvation, that Jesus is the means to that, that the Bible is a reliable source of truth that we can compare our feelings to, if you start building that foundation, and children believe those things, by the time they get to 12 and 13, and in very natural ways, they start looking for independence, they start asking questions, they will have an understanding of the fact that I can’t just count on the fact that things are true because I want them to be true. And I’m not supposed to tolerate everything that happens in the world. So it’s really a proper understanding very early in life of who God is, who we are in relation to God, what the problems of the world are, and how we solve those problems. Scripture has an answer to that. But secularism and naturalism also has an answer to that. They’re just totally different answers. And if we lay that foundation out for our young people, then we have a framework to process all the information. We’re not trying to protect people from the world. We’re trying to equip them so that they can go into the world, defeat lies, rescue people from the lies, and welcome them into the truth. So it’s not about creating a bubble and making sure kids are never exposed to ideas we don’t agree with, it’s about making sure that they understand the foundations of reality from a biblical perspective, who God is, who we are, what the problem is, what the solution is, and then they can be launched into the world to be advocates rather than just being afraid that they’re going to deconstruct.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: Joseph Backholm, where can our listeners go if they want to follow your good work and all the good things that are happening at Family Research Council?
JOSEPH BACKHOLM: Well, I am a senior fellow there in the Center for Biblical Worldview very specifically, and you can find that work there at frc.org/worldview, and I write for the Washington Stand, which is WashingtonStand.com. And you can also find me on Twitter, I guess we call it X now, at @JosephBackholm, so that’s where a lot of my stuff is.
TRACI DEVETTE GRIGGS: All right. So as we mentioned at the start of the show, Joseph Backholm is our speaker for the NC Family Major Speaker Series dinner in Winston-Salem coming up very soon in November, visit NCFamily.org for information on that. Joseph Backholm, Senior Fellow for Biblical Worldview and Strategic Engagement for the Family Research Council, thanks so much for being with us today on Family Policy Matters.
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