Freedom, kindness, progress, and equality are all fundamental to our Western way of understanding the world. And whilst for many these are deemed ‘self-evident’ truths, work by Tom Holland, amongst others, shows that a quick look around the cultures of the ancient world, let alone the contemporary one, prove this is simply not true. Rather, Glen Scrivener contends that these are fundamentally Christian ideas that have so saturated the way we understand the world that Westerners are akin to goldfish swimming in water, only this time the water is Christianity.
And this all begs the interesting question, if these are Christian ideas then what will happen when the Christianity that underpins them is removed?
We have built our entire culture, at least nominally, around these ideas and concepts and yet we have rejected the God who gives them their meaning. Whilst some elements of our political culture are willing to recognise (and perhaps even embrace) ‘Christianity’ as the key foundation of our liberal society, often this doesn’t extend beyond a mere lip service to Christianity’s benefits. This stance is rather utilitarian and values the Christian tale only as a useful myth, not as literal truth.
At the same time, secular liberals wish to make these values (rather than the God from whom they stem) the only universal and unassailable truth – completely missing the fact that these have only emerged in countries steeped in a Christian way of seeing the world. They are unwilling to give credit to their source and instead parade such principles around as abstract notions devoid of any substance.
But it is clear that these abstract principles are only that. They hold no universal weight and are not ‘self-evident’. Nevertheless, our society continues to (rightfully) uphold these ideas as good for people and good for the world. We love the fruit of these values.
However, if we want to see our society flourish and grow, we need to return to that which birthed its principles. Neither a vague lip-service nor a secular abstraction is enough to enshrine these values as key foundations of our culture and society moving forward.
As we have mentioned before in these pages, the great reformer William Wilberforce recognised that to divorce Christian morals from Christian doctrines is to rob the moral system “of that which should have supplied it with life and nutriment, [and thus it] began to wither and decay.”
And as Christians this all presents a very exciting chance to speak about our foundations, why they are good, and how they can benefit everyone (not just believers). As we do so, let’s be praying for opportunities to point people to the gospel, and Christ the rock upon which we stand.
At UCCF we outline our foundations in the Doctrinal Basis (DB), and we uphold these truths as good news not simply for us, but also for the world. These statements stand in marked contrast to those of our secular society, but in a world of contested beliefs let’s have a conversation about our foundations, and let’s see what fruit different stories produce.
God is sovereign in creation, revelation, redemption and final judgement.
Our culture today doesn’t like objectivity, does it? Look at how we interact with the idea of God: He can be Allah or Jehovah or mother nature, depending upon your inclination. More specifically, the Christian God can be transgender, or racist, or as Ariana Grande put it, a woman. The sacred rule is this: believe what you want, just don’t object to other’s beliefs. ‘God’ is your own subjective notion.
This is problematic, because God simply becomes a self-projection of the values and desires an individual holds. You love nature, ‘God’ is nature. You are a pacifist, ‘God’ upholds pacifism.
But with only subjective impressions of ‘God’, society loses its foundation for objective morality. One person’s ‘God’ might view murder as acceptable, but with a secular relativist mindset, there is no legitimate way to challenge to this viewpoint; you lay no claim to objective truth, and so you cannot declare murder to be morally wrong. This is bad territory to occupy, especially when your conscience is screaming that murder is objectively wrong.
Fortunately, the Christian God does not bow to subjectivity. He is the objective King of the universe, and of morality. In the book of Exodus, when God reveals himself to Moses as a terrifying fire in a bush, God says “I AM WHO I AM”, not “I AM WHO YOU WANT ME TO BE”.
God is not someone we can subjectively define; He is objectively Himself. The DB reminds us that He is our sovereign creator. As Christopher Watkin writes, “the creator-creature distinction is... important because it shows that God is not just a bigger version of us”. Rather, God is fundamentally different and greater than us, and this solves the secular lack of objective authority.
And not only is God a source of authority as creator of the universe, but He’s also a good source of authority. When God created us, He created us “very good”, designed to enjoy the wonders of Eden and to be in intimate relationship with Him. Yes, the Fall has temporarily marred this beautiful picture, but as the DB reminds us, God is also sovereign over redemption. Our good God provides a way back to this relationship, despite our own sin.
And so, when we look to society and see the damage done by a rejection of external authority, we can look to the One who is good and authoritative as a better alternative.
The Bible, as originally given, is the inspired and infallible Word of God. It is the supreme authority in all matters of belief and behaviour.
In our culture, there is no higher voice, no greater authority, than ourselves. What we think, feel, and say is our gospel – it’s our truth. How we define ourselves, how we express ourselves is all that matters.
Descartes famously said, “I think therefore I am”, we say “I feel therefore I am”. Imperial’s SU has recently been advertising a poster with these words: “There’s power in allowing yourself to be known and heard, in owning your unique story, in using your authentic voice.”
In this culture, the Word of God is not considered good news because the Word of God challenges our own voice as the highest authority. What’s more it warns us that our “hearts are deceitful above all things and beyond cure”. In other words, our own authentic voice is not necessarily reliable nor even good. It does not give us a clear picture of what is good and right and true.
Besides it gives us no pattern for living with other people. If I am to listen only to myself, if I am only ever to look inwards then how on earth do I have real relationships with anyone else? How on earth do I live alongside other people?
In such a framework, relationships are liable to become mere transactions, interactions based on convenience and comfort more than thick, selfless, bonds in which one gives of themselves to another.
For example, the sexual revolution of the 1960’s is considered the start of a great time of liberation from the stuffy forces of religion that we might follow our own authentic voices and desires. Yet there is an absolute wealth of evidence showing that free love and its side-effects such as divorce, hook-up culture, and pornography are all deeply destructive to human flourishing, relationships, and community.
In contrast, it is a consistent theme of the Bible that the Word of the Lord is good, infallible, and the supreme authority. And this is good news, for it gives us a reliable foundation for life. It gives us a clear picture of what is good and right and true. It gives us a basis for deep flourishing relationships. And finally, it is the means by which we know God Himself for Jesus, the Word, became flesh to this very end.
Sinful human beings are redeemed from the guilt, penalty and power of sin only through the sacrificial death once and for all time of their representative and substitute, Jesus Christ, the only mediator between them and God.
Today’s society believes in human goodness, doesn’t it? Our culture’s moral efforts seem to be reflected in the world of consumerism; we’re into sustainable fashion, shown by the rise of Vinted and Depop, and companies are investing in improved workplace practices and product sourcing. Shopping aside, society is also more accepting of those previously found on the margins, whether due to disability, sexuality, or ethnicity.
But our moral goodness is not always as deep-seated as it first appears; the virtues we often celebrate have darker sides.
Where sexual liberation has become a cornerstone of society, we’re seeing a third of children exposed to porn by age twelve, the vast majority of which contains violence against women. Where Just Stop Oil activists campaign for the environment, we see them leaving behind rubbish which ruins farmland. Where a woman’s right to choose is made sacrament, abortion has become the unacknowledged leading cause of death worldwide.
Why this darkness lurking near the surface if we’re fundamentally good? Because society has misunderstood goodness, trying to derive it from ourselves rather than the One who is good.
The Bible says, and the DB underscores, that we are naturally sinful, fundamentally corrupted. The backward joy at someone else’s flop, the jealousy over a successful friend, these are indications that we possess the same tendency to darkness as our broader society. We have corrupted hearts.
If we’re secularists, the realisation that we might be fundamentally bad, not good, can leave us in a dark place, despairing at the grim reality of the world, but paralysed without an escape plan.
This is where Christianity swoops in. “Yes, you are messed up”, it says, “but there’s one who isn’t. And He can save you.”
You see, Jesus’ death and resurrection bring hope to those who despair at the wrongs in society, and their own heart. Christianity offers an answer to questions society cannot answer, and in Christ we’re free to both acknowledge our failing and free from despair, knowing we’re cleansed by the cross and adopted by our Father.
The Holy Spirit lives in all those he has regenerated. He makes them increasingly Christlike in character and behaviour and gives them power for their witness in the world.
Inevitable in a culture of self-affirmation, in which the authentic voice is heralded, and the individual celebrated as ‘god’, is the pursuit of one’s desires and whims. I am free to do what I want, when I want, with whomever I want.
Yet, if the fulfilment of my desires and wellbeing are the chief ends of our lives it becomes incredibly difficult to encourage restraint or moderation when some of these pursuits lead to personal or societal harms. We have no solutions to our societal strife.
We often try to get around this by blaming either “a few bad apples” or “system” (both code for “the problem is someone or something else”). There are various iterations of these, and our criticisms range from critiquing bankers to algorithms and everything in between.
But we are unwilling, unlike Jesus, to recognise that the problem might start far closer to home. Jesus does not affirm our very self as fundamentally good, he warns us that us our inner hearts are not moral paradises. Rather, each one of us has the capacity for the evils we deride in others.
He says, “what comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”
And yet we live in a society that distances itself from accountability and responsibility. The problem remains out there. We are corrupted by society. And we see this most obviously in our therapeutic culture which encourages us to view all our strife as the result of trauma exerted on us by the expectations, behaviour, or ills of another.
Coupled with a society built on atheistic materialism, which takes a decidedly mechanistic and deterministic view of human behaviour and responsibility, we are left powerless and adrift to the forces that be.
Orthodox Christian Paul Kingsnorth puts it like this: “Cut loose in a post-modern present — with no centre, no truth and no direction — we have not become independent-minded, responsible, democratic citizens in a human republic. We have become slaves to the self and to the power of money”.
Yet, the gospel sets us free from this sludge. It sets us free from being enslaved by our desires. And in giving us His Spirit, Christ gives us the means by which we might produce “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.” 
The Holy Spirit offers real transformative solutions from moral relativism in which rights are claimed and responsibilities forsaken. The gospel offers an ambition for better people and a better world. And it offers hope in the face of death.
And perhaps one of the most under-appreciated joys of the Spirit’s work in our individualistic age is that He creates us into a new people, holy and pleasing to God.
In an age which says fulfil your desires and don’t worry about others too much, the Spirit subverts and says control your desires, worry about and serve others. Rather than living in a world where everyone chases after their own interests, the Spirit is in the business of building a community out of sacrificial love.
The Lord Jesus Christ will return in person, to judge everyone, to execute God's just condemnation on those who have not repented and to receive the redeemed to eternal glory.
The pursuit of justice has enraptured us in the West. Since George Floyd’s wrongful murder in 2020, the necessity for justice has been underscored. Combined with the unjust invasion of Ukraine, and social justice causes, justice has become a cornerstone cultural value.
Simultaneously, however, judgement is a dirty word. ‘No judgement culture’ is a commonplace phrase, whether describing looks, or lifestyle choices, or even just fashion sense.
Naturally, some aspects of being non-judgemental are genuinely virtuous; it is right not to look down on others for inherent characteristics, for example. Nevertheless, this tension between desiring justice and despising judgement can create problems for the secular relativist.
It is impossible to have justice without proclaiming some kind of judgement. The Nuremburg Trials would have made no sense if they’d ended with people being demonstrably guilty but let off scot-free. How can we be for justice but not for judgement? Truthfully, we can’t, which is perhaps why we see hypocrisy within the no-judgement movement.
“We won’t judge you for what you believe, unless you’re pro-life, and then we will.”
“Do what you want, but if you wait for marriage to have sex, you’re archaic and outdated.”
Slight caricatures, sure, but ones which underline the confusion within this way of thinking. How then can this justice-judgement tension be resolved? As Christians, once again, we can hold out the Bible as a better foundation for justice.
Of justice, Revelation tells us that every individual is to be “judged according to what they had done”. And as already touched upon earlier, God is the good, incorruptible source of moral authority. What this means is that when His final judgement comes, it will be perfect.
God will not be corrupted. Nothing will go unseen or slip through the cracks, neither police brutality, nor unsolved crimes, nor whispered insults. God is the perfect Judge the world longs for, and he even patiently delays the day of judgement because in His love he desires “everyone to come to repentance”.
So go while there is still time, proclaim to society this wonderful fount of justice, telling them of their need for salvation, so that when all is done, this perfectly loving Judge can also gently “wipe every tear from their eyes”.
As we finish, we recognise that justice cannot be done in such a limited space to either the value and public merit of the core doctrines of Christianity, nor the true factors and ideas at play in the ‘secular creed’. Yet we hope that this piece has begun to demonstrate that at the very least our so-called ‘private’ beliefs have massive public ramifications and that this is true regardless of whether they are ‘religious’ or ‘secular’.
What is needed then is a mature conversation about the differing belief systems and their respective fruits. In our contested public square, Christians ought to put in the work of understanding the public implications of the gospel that we might articulate with boldness and grace that Christ is good for our country, good for our communities, and good for human flourishing.
 See Glen Scrivener’s book The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality.
 See Dominion by Tom Holland.
 Glen Scrivener, The Air We Breathe: How We All Came to Believe in Freedom, Kindness, Progress, and Equality, p.11.
 See the recent National Conservatism conference for a flavour of this.
 One need only look at the radically divergent attitudes of the Taliban from the US-led mission in Afghanistan towards things such as women’s education and rights to see an example of this.
 William Wilberforce, A Practical View of Christianity, p. 297.
 See https://www.uccf.org.uk/about/doctrinal-basis [accessed 06/07/23].
 In the interest of time and space we will not cover all 11 points of the UCCF Doctrinal Basis but give a flavour of how the core doctrines of the Christian faith might shape public life.
 See ‘Jesus was trans’ by @JeGaysus https://m.youtube.com/shorts/edzr7WPKCoI [accessed 23/06/23], ‘Jesus a racist?’ by revbrandonrobertson https://www.tiktok.com/@revbrandanrobertson/video/6936268413010464005?lang=en&is_copy_url=0&is_from_webapp=v3&sender_device=pc&sender_web_id=6940438139509196294 [accessed 23/06/23], ‘God is woman’ by Ariana Grande https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=kHLHSlExFis&pp=ygUOZ29kIGlzIGEgd29tYW4%3D [accessed 23/06/23].
 Exodus 3:14.
 Christopher Watkin, Biblical Critical Theory, p.57.
 Genesis 1:31
 Quote from a poster displayed in Imperial College London’s Student Union during February 2023.
 Jeremiah 17:9
 Tom Kendall, ‘The Tragedy of the Sexual Revolution: An Experiment in Rejecting Christian Moral Norms’, The UCCF Politics Network, https://politicsnetwork.uk/live/the-tragedy-of-the-sexual-revolution-an-experiment-in-rejecting-christian-moral-norms.
 See for example Luke 10:21, John 14:6-14, and John 1:14,18.
 See the website ‘Culture Reframed’, https://www.culturereframed.org/ [accessed 23/06/2023].
‘Just Stop Oil ‘sorry’ for leaving plastic rubbish near protest site on farm’, Emma Gatten, The Telegraph, https://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2022/09/21/just-stop-oil-sorry-leaving-plastic-rubbish-near-protest-site/ [accessed 23/06/2023].
 See the World Health Organization’s own data on abortion and the top 10 causes of death, https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/abortion;
https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/the-top-10-causes-of-death [accessed 23/06/2023].
 It is one thing to identify issues, it is another thing entirely to correctly diagnose their cause and therefore provide the correct solution. We are good at identifying issues, correct diagnoses and therefore correct prescriptions are far harder to come by.
 Mark 7:20-23.
 There are obvious exceptions such as the ‘white guilt’ argument which is flawed in elevating the sickness of one ethnic group as worse than all the others rather than recognising our common humanity in our shared capacity for evil.
 Paul Kingsnorth, ‘Why the West Will Collapse’, Unherd, https://unherd.com/2021/08/why-the-west-will-collapse.
 Galatians 5:22-23.
 LOVE DON’T JUDGE, for example, is a show which exists entirely on this premise, https://www.youtube.com/@lovedontjudgeshow, [accessed 23/06/2023].
 Revelation 20:13.
 2 Peter 3:9.
 Revelation 21:4.