We live in a very practical-oriented world. Pragmatism was born in the US—although it is probably that we just gave a name to something that already existed. The main theme of pragmatism “if it works, use it” has opened the door to a lot of good things since the opposite “if it doesn’t work, don’t use it” seems like an obvious truth.
In reality, however, the world is dominated by philosophy that trickles down to the practical level. One of the first uses of philosophy is ideology, when a philosophical perspective becomes a political, religious, or economic system. After discussing the highly theoretical ideas of Whitehead, Oppenheimer, Rousseau, Kierkegaard, and Wittgenstein, Francis Schaeffer remarks: “these things are not just theoretical in their effect” (He is There and He is not Silent, 53). These philosophies are
changing the world. They have a profound effect upon our daily life even though we are not aware of it.
What people think can work its way into very practical agendas. Karl Marx studied Hegelian Idealism and the end result can now be seen in Marxist revolutionary guerilla movements that are very active in our world today. Some of them are persecuting Christians. We live in a world dominated by ideologies that clash and create tremendous tension in society. Many of these ideologies are contrary to the teachings of Jesus; consequently there is some natural tension between the Christian view and particular ideologies. Some of these ideologies seek to be all-inclusive, believing that everyone should believe their ideology and they will do whatever it takes to bring everyone into their fold. Radical Islam fits in this category. Holding on to our faith and worldview can get us killed in some places.
In the same way, pragmatism can lose sight of moral bounds and appropriate parameters of action when it advocates doing whatever needs to be done to succeed, stepping on human dignity, bypassing justice, and dismissing fairness. It has much in common with the more radical ideologies that desire to conquer the world and ruthlessly endeavor to coerce everyone into their mold. These radical ideologies do not tolerate well the Christian faith, if they tolerate it at all. Christians stand in the way of dominating the minds and hearts of the world. Christians hold Christ as their ultimate loyalty and this is an impediment to radical ideologies that demand total allegiance. North Korea is a perfect example of this intolerance. They have replaced God with their own ideology. This is in reality the essence of the original sin that sought to be autonomous from God. With all their ‘progressive, revolutionary rhetoric,’ they have managed to land back in the Garden of Eden, making the same wrong choice.
For further reading on the subject of philosophy and persecution, go to www.vomclassroom.com and go to the class on “God’s Mission to the World: The Occasion for Persecution—Part 1 Theology of Mission.”
Roy Stults, PhD, is the Online Workshop Coordinator and Educational Services Coordinator for The Voice of the Martyrs. He graduated from Olivet Nazarene University (BA and MA), Nazarene Theological Seminary (M.Div.), Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (Doctor of Missiology), and The University of Manchester (England) with a PhD (theology). A Vietnam veteran, Dr. Stults served as a missionary for 19 years and pastored U.S. churches for eight years. Prior to joining VOM, he was a Professor of Religion at Oklahoma Wesleyan University.