When In Doubt: How Culture Determines Plausibility

Although only 3% of Americans claim to be atheists according to a recent survey, belief in God can be problematic in a culture awash in secularism. In our media, education, and entertainment God is persona non grata. Here are three examples:

  • It’s amazing how many movies or TV shows you’ll watch, seeing people deal with the deep and profound issues of all kinds, and God is totally absent. If he, or Jesus, is mentioned at all it’s in the passing form of a curse.
  • In media and journalism of all kinds, unless it’s specifically Christian, it’s the same. God is an idol curiosity, or something deeply personal that has no place in the public square.
  • In public education, both in the K-12 and higher variety, God is separated from the classroom for the most part by that wall made famous by Thomas Jefferson, and completely distorted by the United States Supreme Court.

Culture is almost an all-powerful plausibility maker. In other words, it has the power to make things seem real or not to us. Whether the thing is real or not isn’t the point; the seemingness is. So for many Americans because of our dominant secular culture, God sometimes bears a passing resemblance to Santa Clause; he seems no more real than jolly ol’ Saint Nick. Culture obviously communicates, but culture also cultivates, and if we’re not careful we’ll allow the culture to determine our reality, or what seems real to us.

I myself went through a period of what I call “plausibility insanity” not too many years ago. I could never not believe in God or Christianity because I am convinced on too many levels that it is The Truth, but I had a little problem with it’s plausibility. I even remember thinking how I could understand why atheists see this religion thing as so strange. A few years before I decided to write Keeping Your Kids Christian, I wrote these words in an exercise I had to do for our church:

When I first became a Christian my faith was so dynamic and fresh and exciting. After 10 years or so it seemed like any relationship goes after a period of time, not as intimate and real. I continued to go to church as our family grew, read the Bible and prayed here and there, but it was nothing like those early days. I suppose every relationship can’t be always be novel and exciting, where it moves into a type of maturity that requires love that takes a decision and commitment. God doesn’t always seem “real,” but I can’t help but believe in a living God who is actually there.

Not even realizing it I was using the concept of plausibility. I didn’t understand how powerful a plausibility generator is the secular culture we live in. Even someone as convinced as I was about the veracity of Christianity’s truth claims, couldn’t help but be effected by the culture. It wasn’t any new arguments that I’d come across that made God seem less real to me; it was the culture! Unfortunately we live, eat, and breath this culture, and it will have its effect on us. So whenever we go through our own bouts of plausibility insanity I suggest we make use of the secular culture’s greatest enemy for the Christian: explanatory power. I’ll explain this “secret” to having your own personal powerful plausibility structure for your faith in my next post, so stay tuned . . . .