There is a seismic change happening in the UK right now. For many years there have been significant cultural shifts that have occurred, many of them under the radar of society watchers. But now the results of these changes are evident everywhere. Two camps have been formed, each pitted against the other. Each seemly unable to understand the other side’s view, or give ground and work out a compromise.
The dividing line is not political or ideological, it cares not whether you are on the right or left, or centre. The dividing line in the UK is not between the haves and the have-nots, or between different social classes. It is not between the north and south or between public or private schools. It is not that these divisions no longer exist, but that this divide runs deeper than any social distinction, to the very thought processes of our minds. It goes so deep that many are even unaware that they have imbibed the assumptions, views and attitudes of the group they find themselves in.
Importantly, the dividing line is not even between those who claim an allegiance to God and those who do not. For it even splits right through the middle of the church. The most significant differences lie not between the various denominations of Catholic, Baptist, Pentecostal or Presbyterian, but rather within each, for it divides each of these denomination in two.
However, despite the differences between the camps being so profound, there are very few external indicators of membership in each camp. From the outside it is virtually impossible to recognise members of each camp, as the differences between the two groups are not easily articulated, or visibly displayed. In his book God In The Wasteland David Wells speaks of this dividing line. Read the following slowly and carefully:
“There are, then, two opposing ways of thinking about the world that can be found in the West today. The one belongs to those who have narrowed their perception solely to what is natural; the other belongs to those whose understanding of the natural is framed by the supernatural.
The one takes in no more than what the senses can glean; the other allows this accumulation of information to be informed by the reality of the transcendent. The one indiscriminately celebrates diversity; the other seeks to understand life’s diversity in the light of its unity. The one can go no further than intuition; the other pierces through to truth.
The one presumes that everything changes and that change is the only constant; the other measures the things that change by the standard of things that are changeless. The one looks only to the shifting contents of human consciousness, which differ from one individual to the next; the other holds the individual consciousness up for comparison to the larger realms of meaning in which are rooted those things that are common to all human nature.
The one acknowledges no ultimate certainties; the other places the highest value on ultimate certainties. All of these differences arise from the simple fact that the one perspective receives its meaning from God and the other does not.”
Of course those who are in the “no absolutes” camp will deny that anything like certainty is ever possible and that we are wishing on fairy stories that we want to be true. Only an encounter with the living God can convince anyone of anything different. We believe that God has, and does, and will, break through into our finite world to communicate his unchanging truth. However, we must seek him, if we are to find him: “You will seek me and find me, when you seek for me with all your heart” Jeremiah 29.13.
The question for those of us who have met the one who is Truth, is, “how to live as a marginalised minority in the light of this knowledge?” We can and should try to explain why we hold to the beliefs we do, we should try to understand why we will, on the whole, not be heard. We should give a reason for our faith; gently and lovingly. But ultimately we must recognise that we are powerless to change anyone else’s mind. Only God can do this, we must pray for a spiritual revival in our land, for God to reveal himself in power.
Because the differences are below the surface, and originate in our different views of the world, the leaders of the other camp often make the mistake of questioning our motives. They assume that we believe what we do because we don’t like the people in their camp. We are prejudiced and bigoted and that’s why we hold to the things we do. This is a mistaken view based on a superficial understanding of our position. Unfortunately very few people take the time to dig deeper before making their judgement.
In one of the moving final scenes of The Last Battle, CS Lewis describes a small group of dwarfs who are in Paradise, but believe they are in a small, smelly, dirty, pitch black stable. The children try to convince them otherwise, but are unable to help them due to their cynicism. Chillingly, Aslan tells the children that the dwarfs are “so scared of being taken in, they cannot be taken out“. My prayer is that it is not too late for many in our nation.
My challenge for those of you who are sceptical about God and do not find the arguments for his existence convincing – “are you willing to open your mind and heart to him just a fraction?” Are we more scared of being considered gullible and naive by our peers or more scared of being wrong? Jesus said that we would know if he spoke the truth by following him (John 7.17). My challenge to you is to begin to follow Jesus of Nazareth. Then you will find out which of these worldviews is really true.