The Integrated Life

It was an editorial in the Los Angeles Times that got my attention this week. The editorial, Just How Crazy are the Dems? profiles a Rasmussen Reports survey indicating that 35% of U.S. democrats believe that President Bush knew about the 9/11 attacks in advance (intimating that he let it happen or was part of a conspiracy to let it happen); and that 26% of democrats “were not sure” if Bush was involved or not. Put that together and that means that 61% of U.S. democrats subscribe to a view of 9/11 that has nothing to do with reality, or are not even sure about what reality is. What’s going on that fully 1/4th of the American electorate (democrats are about half of the U.S. electorate) subscribe to such bizarre views?

While my purpose today is not to engage in a political commentary for today’s entry, I think it offers us a look at the symptoms of a dysfunctional society where the basis for making decisions—political, personal, social, etc.—seemed to be divorced from reality.

I’ve been greatly privileged to meet a lot of Christians from all over the world. My family has friends and acquaintance on every continent in the world—we’ve even met people from Antartica from the research station there. How cool is that? One of the things that has always interested me is how believers from so many cultures hold so many different views on politics, economics, and freedom. I wrote about this in my book, Faith & Freedom: How the Missionary Principle Facilitates Political Freedom.

Evangelicals in Latin America and other developing areas have been strong proponents of Liberation Theology, guerilla movements, and even Marxist ideologies. These Christian’s faith in Jesus Christ is not being questioned, but their political ideals are not what many well-studied American Christians would view as normative. Why? We all read the same Bible. We all have the same examples from scripture. We all interpret scripture to the same basic conclusions, don’t we?

No, we don’t. In fact, it’s not even close

Evangelicals all over the world hold a variety of views from representative republics, to economic socialism, and even monarchies and dictatorships. Some justify their views from the Bible but many do not, and in fact many divorce their understanding of the scriptures from their political and social views. For such people Christianity is put away in Al Gore’s lockbox to be accessed only when they feel a need, while the rest of life moves on around it.

The Bible’s idea of life at every level is very different. The Bible requires that a Christian lead what is known as an Integrated Life. This means that the values and truths from the scripture inform and guide a Christian’s life in every area, with no exception. Part of our “job” as believers is to reflect God’s character and will not only in our personal lives and relationships, but in our societies as well. God cannot be God of man if that man does not view God as the God of all the Earth. His supremacy and superiority require and demand that we give him preference and obedience in all things. I think Jerry Falwell, who recently went to Heaven, is an excellent example of this.

Falwell was usually criticized in the media for his more controversial statements, especially where his opposition to homosexual preferences in the law were concerned (strange how something that was once considered a normal view of society is now controversial). But when you take a look at the whole of Jerry Falwell’s life he accomplished some remarkable things and became a catalyst that changed the nature of both American politics in the late 20th century, and the Christian higher education. I won’t spend time to go over the details of his life here, you can do that elsewhere. What is important to note is that Falwell was a man with an Integrated Life. At every turn he integrated his views from the Bible into everything he did. If he discovered later on that his ideas or interpretations were incorrect he changed them to bring them in line with the scriptures. The scriptures were his highest authority and he used the scriptures as his guide, as a preferential model of principles to guide all of his ideas and activities. Sadly, this is not the case with many Christians today who try to keep their faith and their other views in separate compartments.

What’s this have to do with the “unreality” of U.S. democrats who believe George Bush had something to do with 9/11? Everything.

First, my observation is that most people without God tend to lead some kind of an integrated life. Yes, you read that right. Most people who do not subscribe to the Bible’s truth allow their worldview to guide their judgments. Their worldview may be a scattered one, or it may follow a particular philosophy, but they tend to integrate those views—somewhat transparently—into their lives. Christians though seem to have a harder time of it, though I’m not sure why. There are a variety of reasons for this: Sinful rebellion, spiritual immaturity, etc. But I think that part of it probably goes down to people not knowing how to read. By that I mean that some people read the scriptures and “over-spiritualize” things. Or they reinterpret what the writers intended based upon their personal desires or other worldviews instead of letting the scripture speak for itself. Or they don’t know how to interpret the differences between narrative, law, poetry, etc. and thereby make mistakes in judgment about what the scriptures mean in certain instances such as American slave owners in the 1800s who wrongly justified the permissibility of slavery based upon the scriptures. Many Christians look at the Bible like a book of magic or formulas for success. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As an example I think the democrats cited in the aforementioned survey do represent an integrated life—one integrated with a worldview where truth and reality is subjective, and therefore what is real is not necessarily real. A lot of this has to do with the influence of postmodernism (democrats lean heavily toward postmodernism), and the growth of eastern religions which have no objective basis in reality (like Buddhism) as philosophical forces. These all question, and in fact deny the fundamental view that certain things are true or false and cannot ever be anything but true or false since they wrongly perceive reality as flexible or deny reality altogether. In other words, what is real becomes a matter of perception instead of a matter of fact regardless of perception. Therefore democrats can come up with these kinds of ideas because they tend toward a worldview that shuns absolutes and fixed reality. Thus to many democrats Bush can be a 9/11 conspirator while at the same time defending a murderer like Osama Bin Laden as a freedom fighter—and to them it is all perfectly logical and rational.

But what about the Christian who compartmentalizes his faith in one area, his politics in another, and his family in yet another, and so on?

The Christian life requires a full integration of biblical truth into all areas of life. You cannot be a Christian on Sunday and a pagan Monday through Saturday. You can’t cuss up a storm on the weekdays and claim to worship Jesus during the morning service and Sunday School sharing time. Similarly, how can a Christian who claims to uphold the moral values found in the scriptures regard something like abortion as socially acceptable when the scriptures view on murder are crystal clear? How can a Christian claim to uphold the truths of the Bible and yet sleep with a boyfriend or girlfriend and pass it off as okay because “they are in love?” How can a Christian accept homosexual unions in light of Romans 1? How can a Christian claim to love the Lord Jesus but look upon the poor with derision. How can a Christian claim to know the One True God and yet not think twice about lying or acting deceptively?

The answer to all of these is you can’t. If a person claiming to be a Christian has not integrated the admonitions of scripture into his or her life through obedience, or is not in the process of doing so, then they are either not a Christian, or have not yet matured into a fuller understanding of the Bible and Christianity. Or they may just be in plain old-fashioned rebellion to God.

I’ll never forget one of the most powerful sermons ever delivered by my pastor in Arizona. After a session of meaningful music and worship he took to the pulpit with a crowd of nearly 1,000 people looking on and delivered a sermon that was as shocking for some people as it was life changing. With everyone’s attention focused on him, their Bibles at the ready, he looked at the crowd and said, “It is not possible to live in sin and still be a Christian.”

Then he walked off the stage.

That was it, nothing else, no multimedia, no scripture reading, just a single statement and a walk off. For the next 30-45 minutes most attendees sat in their seats stunned. Hardly anyone got up to leave. But that moment marked a turning point in many people’s lives. They realized that they had to integrate their testimony about Jesus and the truth of God’s word into their whole lives. Anything less isn’t Christianity. Anything less is a perversion of what Christianity is supposed to be.

You will notice that in this commenterry that I did not state or imply which political view is the “biblically preferred.” I left that out on purpose. By reading this you may think that I view a particular system as the biblical norm or the “only right one.” Such an assumption would be just that, an assumption. For what I really think on the matter you’ll just have to read my book. You will probably be surprised. If you’re an evangelical you’ll probably be very surprised.

The world is filled with competing worldviews based on different “unreal” ideas. Christianity is something different. It is based upon historical events and the historical testimony about Jesus Christ. Christianity is a rational religion and requires a fixation on the real. But if we compartmentalize or divorce our religious ideas from the other parts of our lives, then Christianity becomes worthless to us. Only a life, which integrates the scriptures into every area of our existence, can be truly described as a Christian life.

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