CULTURE WATCH: The Impact of Toxic Ideas (1 of 3)

Losing Our Minds

toxic mindsBy Wendell Cantrell

I had intended to end this series, but then I read another book (remember the admonitions at the end of last month’s article). In it, Anthony Selvaggio1 explores seven toxic ideas polluting our minds these days. As we continue this series, I want to highlight three of these toxic ideas the author clearly lays out that can literally become idols for us: neophilia, individualism, and consumerism. We all would readily agree that we have an adversary that is shrewd and cunning (see Genesis chapter 3). If he could deceive Adam and Eve before the fall, just imagine how easy it is to deceive us in this broken world after the fall. One key advantage Satan has in his deceptive work with modern man is the foothold he has in the current world’s mindset. His worldview is so pervasive; we must be constantly on guard against absorbing it merely by mental osmosis.

Neophilia may be a new word to you.  It basically means “love of the new.”  Your first thought along this line might be the current obsession with technological gadgetry.  Culture Watch has addressed our “new media idolatry” if you wish to review it.2  In these remaining articles, we are looking within the realm of ideas, and how we are so prone to forget history and tradition while embracing any progressive idea that our adversary sends our way. Are new ideas always bad? The answer is “no,” as long as they embrace a God-centered worldview. A great older example was the Reformation, which broke with tradition but brought the church closer to a biblical worldview. A more recent example was the civil rights movement basing equality on biblical evidence.

We are advised in Proverbs 22:28 to, “…not move an ancient boundary stone set up by your forefathers.”  Our grand old book of wisdom makes the case for two types of people: stone movers and stone preservers. The stone preserver is committed to retaining a biblical worldview in spite of the constant call of our culture to get on the right side of history. God’s Word calls us to preservation rather than progress while our adversary argues the exact opposite, always touting the “new and improved.”  We need to be ready for the constant call to get off of the wagon train of traditional marriage and get on the gay marriage rocket. Pray for me as I work on a “stone preserving” series on marriage.

It has been noted that our cultural fascination with progress is nothing more than a reenactment of the Tower of Babel story we read about in Genesis 11. Here we see a proud community denying any natural limits on their power and freedom as they sought to build the impressive tower. The divine consequences of their actions were remarkable (the immediate language changes and the scattering). Our commitment to progress invariably entails accepting our own abilities and often rejecting God’s sovereignty over history.

Meanwhile, let’s look at two crucial areas where neophilia is currently having an impact: education and the modern church. According to Cornelius Van Til, the goal of education is to “think God’s thoughts after Him.” How do you think we are doing at preserving and conveying God’s truth as revealed through His word or His world? For the majority of modern educators, the task is all about progress as they literally eviscerate biblical principles from their worldview. They see it as their job to magnify the wisdom of the world. The scary part of this toxic idea is how the adversary is taking aim at our youth using their teachers’ anti-religious agendas. Richard Dawkins berates Christian education by saying, “Isn’t it a form of child abuse to label children as possessors of beliefs that they are too young to have thought about?” Thank God for our committed brothers and sisters in the education field who see their role as one of preservation and conveyance of truth to our next generations.

Surely the church isn’t suffering from neophilia, is it? Sadly, many churches have embraced relevance at any cost. With the emerging church movement, it is all about tolerance and pluralism.3 The evangelical church, in general, is on a quest for progress, with a commitment to build their churches on “sola cultura” rather than “sola scriptura.”4  We should give thanks daily for being a part of a local body that is committed to courageously guarding the “ancient boundaries.”

The next issue will address the toxic idea of individualism.

Questions or comments may be directed to


1)    7 Toxic Ideas Polluting Your Mind by Anthony Selvaggio

2)    Culture Watch articles – New Media and Our Soul: Is 21st Century New Media the Good Way?

3)    Being Conversant with the Emerging Church by D. A. Carson  

4)    Prophetic Untimeliness by Os Guinness