There it was on the front page of our local paper – the graduation speaker at a local high school telling students the oldest untruth in history – “…seniors told they’re ‘the boss’ of the journey that awaits them.” I wondered how many people reading it thought “That’s not right.” How many people’s “there’s something wrong with this worldview” detectors went off? I know mine did. It was the same line that Satan gave to Adam and Eve in the garden of Eden…and it is still in heavy use today. The basic problem of most worldviews outside of the Christian worldview is that they place man at the center as opposed to God/Jesus. Let’s look at four examples:
Moral relativism – what I believe about truth is a personal preference, there is no absolute truth – a popular philosophy in the age of postmodernism where all beliefs, values, behaviors, and ideas are seen as being equally valid. This philosophical position is reflected in Smith and Denton’s assertion that the predominant religious view of today’s youth (see my post of 11/11/06) can be labeled “moral therapeutic deism.” This concept helps to explain why we have such a large number of people professing Christ in this country, but not accepting the truth claims of Jesus and not dealing with the issue of making him Lord – a cheap grace position that does not count the cost of discipleship. Evangelicals with a worldview who are dealing with Lordship issues make a difference. Therefore this is the hard stuff, the Lordship piece that we must take on with our kids.
Materialism – our culture reflects a “get all I can for me” mentality. In a fascinating book called The Progress Paradox Gregg Easterbrook points out that “the percentage of Americans who describe themselves as ‘happy’ has not budged since the 1950’s, though the typical person’s real income more than doubled through that period.” Are we demonstrating something different to our kids? Materialism leads to isolation and leads away from community and submission to others. Materialism needs to be countered by gratitude and humility.
Utopianism – the belief that human nature is basically good and the existence of sin is denied – one of the main findings of the Smith and Denton study is the belief by teens that “good people go to heaven when they die.”
Fatalism – “whatever will be, will be”, a “this world only” perspective. Smith and Denton refer to teens who lack a “morally significant universe.” These are youth who have not received or have rejected strong moral grounding. In his book The Road to Whatever: Middle Class Culture and the Crisis of Adolescence Elliot Currie paints a bleak picture of these type of middle class students who have been raised in high demand, low support homes and who then turn to drug use, binge drinking, destructive violence, and suicide as a respond to a culture that doesn’t seem to care.
If we accept the research/thinking of Barna (and others throughout history) that a child’s spiritual identity is mostly set by age thirteen, then what does this mean for us as school and church educators dealing with the issue of worldview? Where should we be putting our efforts?
Colson has pointed out that there are four basic questions that everyone deals with in constructing their worldview:
- Where did I come from?
- Why am I here?
- Where am I going?
- Does life have any meaning and purpose?
How will we help our youth deal with these questions?
A helpful teaching tool that has been used in business, law, and medicine has been the case study. Case studies are basically stories with an educational message. They deal specifically with people in action and the consequences of their actions and behavior. Case studies help us compare what values are being applied and what worldview is being advanced. The example at the beginning of this post could be considered a simple case study.
There are a couple of excellent resources I recommend you consider for work with older students: A book for use with teens and young adults called No Easy Answers: Making Good Decisions in an Anything-Goes World written by Bob Rozema and Dan Vander Ark – available from Faith Alive Christian Resources and also the Exploring Ethics book for grades 9-12 that is available from CSI.
Are there other case study resources that you have found helpful?