A criticism leveled at Christians is that we are narrow-minded because we believe in one God, the Creator of the material world and also a spiritual realm that is beyond this world. Because we believe in a spiritual realm, we are accused of being superstitious. Belief in the spiritual world and in an unseen God can be a cause for persecution because it challenges the pervading worldview in many places of the world. Our belief put a lot of Christians into prisons in the old Soviet Union, and it continues to do so today in other world areas.
The naturalistic world view is a narrow view of reality which believes that nothing exists outside the material world. This view, they believe, liberates humanity from superstition. It is a closed universe where there is no God to interfere from outside, and it runs on a pure “cause and effect” basis within time and space. Things happen in the world because they are an effect of a prior cause. This cause and effect principle is built into the universe. God is not needed. The naturalistic worldview includes both science (rather scientism, the belief that science alone can discover truth about reality and the universe) and occultism. This seems like a strange combination but both have limited reality to the material world, except in different ways.
The naturalistic view believes in “the uniformity of natural causes in a closed system, namely, that everything is a machine” (Schaeffer, He is There and He is not Silent, 63). This is the view of many non-Christian scientists but is also to a certain degree the view of the occult. We assume occultists believe in a separate world of spirits distinct from the material world but, in fact, their ‘spiritual’ realm is merely another dimension of the material world. Magic, for occultists, is the supreme ritual and functions by cause and effect. If you perform the ritual just right (or put the magic potion together exactly as instructed), one can expect certain effects. It is a narrow, confined system of cause and effect, and not an intervention by a spiritual being from outside the material world but from within the spiritual realm of the material world. The gods are of this world. To believe that there is a God distinct from the material world and that he is the Lord of the universe is not an acceptable idea for those who adamantly refuse to believe or bow. Those who deny God and adhere to the naturalistic world view are usually not tolerant of Christians and, if they have power, will use that power to suppress Christian teachings. Suppression is a form of persecution.
Christians believe that the material world is real but is the result of a supernatural act of God, through Jesus Christ, who holds the world as we know it together. Cause and effect works within a greater reality, where God exists, as do spiritual beings who are outside the material world and are not affected by cause and effect. The Christian view, because it is not narrowly defined by the confines of the material world, is actually broader in scope than the world’s view. We believe that God is free to interact with this world and can suspend cause and effect, working miracles (like allowing Peter on one occasion and Paul on another to be released from jail, raising people from the dead, and allowing Peter to walk on water)!
Totalitarian, godless regimes see the Christian view as regressive (they call us narrow-minded!) and a threat to their desire for total control. If they think the Christian God is beyond their authority, they seek to destroy any semblance of God in their midst. Communists see Christianity as counter-revolutionary; but how can Christian truth be counter-revolutionary when revolutionary thought is based on the narrow, naturalistic view of dialectical materialism, a very narrow, confining box indeed! It is not so revolutionary—it is an intellectual and spiritual prison. This narrow ideology seeks to supplant an open system where God can interact with creation (a belief that allows for true freedom) with a narrow system that restricts freedom to worship the true God. Such a narrow ideology persecutes Christians because Christians will not conform to this belief system, even if it is the belief of those in power. We are seen as incorrigibles because we cannot accept their “progressive” view, because it is actually regressive. They are, in fact, narrow-minded.
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.