The Secret Battle of Ideas about God asks five simple questions that cut to the heart of what it means to be human: Am I loved? Why do I hurt? Does my life have meaning? Why can’t we just get along? Is there any hope for the world?…
The Secret Battle of Ideas about God: Overcoming the Outbreak of Five Fatal Worldviews by Jeff Myers (240 pages, David C. Cook, 2017)
Over the years, I have had the privilege of speaking for dozens of churches, schools, groups, and conferences on the subject of the Christian worldview and why it is better equipped than any other worldview to answer those most vital and human of questions: Who am I, why am I here, and what is my purpose? What is the nature of the good man, the good life, and the good society? How is one to define, and to attain, the Good, the True, and the Beautiful? All across our nation, I have discerned a growing interest in apologetics and a growing desire to be able to understand and articulate the many facets of our faith: not only in terms of theology, but in terms of history, philosophy, ethics, psychology, sociology, politics, science, and the arts as well.
Excellent programs have sprung up from coast to coast, but the one that stands head and shoulders above them all, the one that I have eagerly returned to speak for three times, and with my eager children in tow, goes by the name of Summit Ministries. Nestled in the hills of Manitou Springs, Colorado—just a few miles from Colorado Springs, home of Focus on the Family—Summit ministries guides large groups of high schoolers and undergraduates through a packed, two-week curriculum that trains them to understand the many dimensions of the Christian worldview and distinguish it from those of secularism, Marxism, postmodernism, new spirituality, and Islam.
Founded and run for fifty years by David Noebel, whose interest in Christian worldview was inspired by Abraham Kuyper and Francis Schaeffer, Summit is currently run, ably as well as charismatically, by Noebel’s successor, Jeff Myers. Dr. Myers holds a Ph.D. from the University of Denver and has been actively engaged in apologetics and leadership development for the last twenty years, took over the reigns of Summit in 2011 and has maintained its well-deserved reputation for equipping young people to face the challenges of counterfeit worldviews. Much of that equipping comes in the form of inoculating them against what Dr. Myers calls “idea viruses,” false assumptions about the nature of God, man, or the universe that worm their way into the minds and hearts of believers and so reprogram their genetic material as to lead them, often unknowingly, away from the core teachings and promises of the Christian worldview.
For those unable to make their way to Manitou Springs, Dr. Myers’s new book, The Secret Battle of Ideas about God: Overcoming the Outbreak of Five Fatal Worldviews, offers a compelling, energetic, highly accessible overview of the Summit curriculum that invites its readers to enter into an arena of ideas where winning or losing is a matter of life and death, truth and lies, health and disease, joy and despair.
Rather than organize his book around different academic disciplines or different divisions of apologetics, Dr. Myers asks five simple questions that cut to the heart of what it means to be human: Am I loved? Why do I hurt? Does my life have meaning? Why can’t we just get along? Is there any hope for the world? (22-23). He first explores, in a manner and tone that smoothly and effectively combines motivational speaking with pastoral concern, the full nature of each of these questions, and then shows that only the Christian worldview offers adequate answers.
Secularism, with its core belief that only the material world exists, can only offer Darwinian-type answers to why there is suffering in the world and what it means to succeed. It cannot offer us God’s self-giving love (agape), but only sexuality and the pursuit of worldly happiness.
Marxism, that posits the rich as the cause of all evil and revolution as the only cure for our social ills, promises a worker’s utopia of peace, but it has never managed to get us there. Class conflict, not love or hope or faith, lies at the heart of Marxism, a conflict that never ends. “In a cruel irony, Marxism promises an end to pain, but in practice it is perhaps history’s greatest source of human-caused suffering, extinguishing the lives of more than one hundred million people” (79).
Postmodernism rejects all meta-narratives, all grand stories that would suggest that, though fallen, we were created good, and that God is working in the world to bring salvation and restoration. In place of this meaning- and hope-giving sacred narrative, postmodernism can only offer millions of fragmented stories that have neither a beginning nor an end. We are not purposeful creatures made in the image of God, but “ever-evolving, highly sexual, social animals with multiple subjective interests crying out for recognition and acceptance” (109).
New spiritualism seems to offer us hope, but only if we will give over our ego and become one with the universe. Conflict will be erased from the earth when we unite ourselves with the all…but then so will our individual personhood. Islam also calls for an emptying of ego, but in the form of “unquestioning obedience to Allah” (167). Neither counterfeit worldview allows us to grow into the unique, one-of-a-kind person we were created to be. Loss of self does not lead to a greater self, as it does in Christianity, but to an emptying that absorbs and swallows or an obedience that crushes and conforms.
Only Christianity offers a God of Love who affirms our value, soothes and comforts us in our pain, fills us with meaning and purpose, and delivers an active peace (shalom in Hebrew) that builds community by giving rather than taking. And He accomplishes those goals by entering into our world, by becoming one of us, by taking upon himself our sin and guilt, our pain and loneliness, our confusion and despair. Only the God who revealed himself in the incarnate Christ turned “redemption from an idea into a person and [did] it through suffering to end suffering” (90).
The Secret Battle of Ideas about God is an important book that should be widely read, but there is an aspect of it that I find both troubling and sadly ironic. While carefully guarding against the idea viruses of the five counterfeit worldview he so deftly analyzes and critiques, Dr. Myers, or perhaps his editor, allows himself to be infected, unwittingly, by one of the most subtle and successful viruses of the last three decades. I refer to the book’s use of gender-natural language: that is, language that refuses to use he/him as the inclusive pronoun and man/mankind to refer collectively to the human race.
Just as many Christians who would distance themselves from the teachings of Marx have absorbed, without realizing it, Marx’s key teaching that we are products of our socio-economic milieu, so Dr. Myers, while boldly resisting the family-destroying teachings of radical, anti-essentialist feminism, has inadvertently allowed into his book an aspect of the feminist agenda that has become so normalized that it, like the plethora of gay couples on television and movie screens, no longer raises an eyebrow. (The evangelicals whose outcry led to the removal of the gender-neutral TNIV translation seemed not to notice when a ninety-percent-neutered version of the NIV was released shortly after in 2011.)
But the idea virus of neutered language does not only uphold radical feminism. By incessantly referring to man as human or humanity or humankind, The Secret Battle ends up reinforcing a bedrock belief of both secularism and Marxism—that we are humans who stand eye to eye with the other animals, rather than that noble creature known as Man who was made in the image of God. (In Genesis 5:2, God himself refers to the human race as man: that is, Adam.) Further, the use of neutered language fosters the deconstruction of gender, and even of personhood, that has been one of the darkest legacies of both new spirituality and postmodernism.
Again, in no way does Dr. Myers or Summit Ministries support the breaking down of gender or the reduction of man to the status of a mere animal; to the contrary, they hold up for the students who come to Manitou Springs a noble and God-breathed image of man and marriage that is based on the rich complementarity of the sexes. Still, the idea virus of gender-neutral language subtly works against this high goal.
Having attempted my own inoculation against this widespread but almost invisible idea virus, let me close by affirming once again the importance of Dr. Myers’s book and of the much-needed Summit curriculum that undergirds it. Read this book and share it with others, especially young people bound for that arena of germ warfare that we call college! The battle is real, and Christian families need all the weapons and resources available to protect themselves and their children.
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