If you come from a town in the South like me, you’ll notice that the majority of people have an opinion about what it means to live a good life. Most of the older generations of folks where I live believe that living a godly life is equivalent to living a life as if you were on the Andy Griffith Show or a life exactly how their parents lived (“back in the day before the world got so bad”). Most of the younger generations retort that living the godly life might be most accurately summarized in the generic “Faith Hope Love” text that they’ve tattooed to their den walls. Don’t worry, I love ole’ Andy and I don’t think that there’s anything wrong with unspecific wall tattoos.
Neil T. Anderson in The Bondage Breaker has argued that the default Western worldview assumes a two tier system with an almost platonic flavor to it. The upper level, or the realm of spirit beings and the supernatural, is comprehended through religion. The lower level, or the realm of material and the physical, is known through science and the empirical senses. In the Western mindset—no doubt a result of naturalism and an influence of Kantian thought—these two have little to do with one another. On this view, spirit beings exist on a different plane and do not interact with us in the here and now, at least not in any meaningful way.
Recently, I had someone write me to ask a series of questions about prayer. Here was their central question: “About 80 percent of my prayer requests have not helped me at all. I do not believe I have asked for anything against Scripture or against the will of God. How can I believe in the power of prayer when so much of it seems to go unanswered? If your answer is that God doesn't owe us anything, then I say why pray at all?”
There are two harmful tendencies that I think characterize many of our conversations with our lost family members. The first is our tendency to trivialize our doctrinal convictions. Very often it is easy to withhold discussion of our beliefs, especially those related to the doctrine of sin, from our conversations for the sake of maintaining the status quo. When we “reveal our cards” by explaining our beliefs about the wickedness of men—and, by extension, our own wickedness—there can be a personal backlash.