In 2009 an interesting book came out called, Hidden Worldviews: Eight Cultural Stories That Shape Our Lives. It is important because it exposes and uncovers many of the worldviews we live by that compete with the gospel of Jesus Christ in our lives. The authors call these worldviews “cultural stories” and make the case that we all live out parts of these various cultural stories whether we recognize them or not. By “story” the authors mean all the many influences that drive us to think and behave the way we do.
One problem with the eight cultural stories mentioned in the book is that they are rooted in a worldview that over-promises but under-delivers. The other problem is they are partly true and that’s why they are so compelling, but, if you are a follower of Jesus, these stories will refuse, suffocate and even kill the gospel story of Jesus in your life. It’s only in the gospel story that we find what God wants for our lives and what leads to true human flourishing. It’s the gospel story that delivers what we really want which is purpose, meaning, identity, fulfillment and a hope for the future. The gospel story of Jesus also helps us resist these false stories by announcing a truer and more life-giving story. The gospel story of Jesus is one that always focuses on his life, death and resurrection.
The stories we believe end up dictating the stories we live. If we want to live as followers of Jesus, knowing and believing His story is most important. That means we need to embrace the gospel story of Jesus if we want to be transformed. If we have any hope of counteracting the false worldviews and stories our culture tells us, we will need a better, more life giving story and that is the story of Jesus.
The gospel story speaks into each of the “Eight Cultural Stories” the book mentions. The first story is Individualism and is the story that “I” am the center of the universe. The gospel says no, it’s not about you at all. It’s all about Jesus and he is at the center of it all. Once we acknowledge that, we then seek to form our life around Him.
Next is Consumerism or the story of “I am what I own.” The gospel says you are not what you own. In fact, you were bought at a price. The gospel says you don’t need to accumulate stuff or climb the corporate ladder to feel validated because God is already pleased with you! Actually it’s more blessed to give than receive.
They then discuss Nationalism, the story that “My Nation is God’s one true nation.” The gospel is the story for all nations, people, languages, tribes and tongues. God created and loves all people and all nations. There is no one particular nation he favors more than another. Your heart allegiance only belongs to God and not to any empire.
Next, they discuss Moral Relativism–the story that we can’t know what is universally good, so if it makes you happy, it must be good, so long as you don’t hurt anyone. The gospel reminds us that we can know what is universally good. God gave us the Ten Commandments to help guide our morals and ethics. The gospel also tells us that happiness is only temporary, but in Jesus, we can discover a joy not based on circumstances.
The authors also talk about Scientific Naturalism or the story that only matter matters, so if it can’t be tested by the scientific method then it can’t be trusted. The gospel is not opposed to science or facts, but the gospel is also about faith.
Next is New Age, the story that we are all gods, so search within yourself so that you can find and live out your true self. The gospel teaches us that it’s only in Jesus that we find and live out our true self. The gospel is about self-denial and you finding yourself by denying yourself.
Postmodern Tribalism is next and is the story that I should only listen and participate with my tribe and the people with my worldview. The gospel brings us into a new family, the body of Christ and while we are in many ways exclusive, we are also radically inclusive. We believe nobody is perfect, everyone is welcome here and anything can happen here! Your primary identity is in being God’s son or daughter and your primary tribe is the beautiful but broken Church.
Lastly, the authors talk about Salvation by Therapy, the story that I can find my fullest potential by working on my inner self. The gospel teaches us that we need the power of the Holy Spirit to form us into the image of Christ. Therapy is good and has a place, but sanctification, the process of becoming more like Jesus, is a life long, Holy Spirit driven process.
When we embrace the gospel story of Jesus, we are able to combat these cultural stories and we are set on the path of lasting transformation. If we want to be transformed, we need to embrace the gospel story of Jesus. One practical way to do that is by immersing yourself in the four Gospels- Mathew, Mark, Luke and John. Start reading and meditating through the Gospels today!