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5 Baseline Narratives in Modern American Culture

posted Sep 1, 2015, 12:11 PM by First Baptist


In Scripture, we are encouraged to understand the times in which we live (I Chronicles 12:32; Romans 13:11).


The “times” are certainty a challenge to our Christian values & sensitivities. Just this past weekend:


§  A sheriff’s deputy was shot 15 times while putting gas in his patrol car.

§  At a rally in Minnesota, protesters called for the death of more police officers.

§  A popular entertainer exposed herself on national television and extolled the virtues of smoking marijuana.

§  A bombastic casino-owner, thrice-married, continues to lead in the race for the presidency and is even the favorite among evangelical Christians.


What is going on? Who can explain what is happening in our culture?


One of the leading “thinkers” (in my opinion) is Timothy Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City.


Pastor Keller refers to our age as “late modernity” and suggests there are 5 issues that comprise the so-called “baseline narrative” of our society & culture – i.e., what most people believe or assume to be true.


1)      The rationality narrative


The assumption that the natural world is the only reality. Everything has a physical cause and explanation – even love & moral feelings are functions of brain chemistry – and material prosperity is the only prosperity there is.


2)      The history narrative


The assumption that history is automatically making progress in every stage. New is always better and our greatest problems will be solved through advances in science & technology.


3)      The society narrative


The assumption that society’s purpose is not to promote any particular values or virtues, but rather to set all individuals free to live as they choose without hindrance. Choice is the one sacred value and discrimination is the only moral evil


4)      The morality or justice narrative


The assumption that moral ideals are not based on any absolutes in the universe, but rather determined by our own choices.


5)      The identity narrative


The assumption that our self-worth comes from the dignity we bestow on ourselves as we express and fulfill our desires, regardless of what the community might say. We must “be ourselves” regardless of social expectations.


Our challenge is twofold: One is to avoid being swept along with society’s way of thinking. The other is to be able to engage our culture and effectively challenge its assumptions – for the purpose of pointing people to Christ. Obviously, to do both of these things requires us to observe our world thoughtfully through the prism of the Bible.


Pastor Dan