What Is Success?

An article entitled, How the public views the secret to America’s success, was posted July 1, 2016 on the Pew Research Center web site http://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2016/07/01/americas-success/ . It focused on two views: “Reliance on principles” and “Ability to change” and used this graph to illustrate the percentages of which view were held by four different generations (age groups).

Screen Shot 2016-07-30 at 11.18.32 AMAt http://www.pewresearch.org/quiz/how-millennial-are-you/ the Pew Research Center has a quiz that helps you determine how Millennial you are. Just for fun, I took the quiz and barely registered on the scale. I didn’t even come up to the level of the “Silent Majority”. That’s because my views are so old-fashioned they aren’t considered relevant — old-fashioned, traditional, and Bible-based.

When you consider the oppositional views of principles vs. change, you enter into the comparison of world views. A world view is simply the way we choose to see reality. World views are more fundamental than philosophies. They reflect our values by giving us a framework of basic assumptions upon which to base our understanding of life and the world around us.

What this bar graph tells me is that Americans are deeply divided in their world views. It also shows that the trend is for younger persons to adopt the “change” view over the “principled” view. There is a reason for this.

Francis Schaeffer referred to what he called “the Christian consensus,” which was the general acceptance of Biblical values in society, even though not everyone was Christian. In the 60s this began to dramatically change as people increasingly rejected the Bible as authority and sought to replace God with the humanist authority of secular world views. Historically, this came at a time when the idea of absolute truth was being rejected and was being replaced by relativism.

In her book, Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity, Nancy Pearcey wrote, “Having a Christian worldview means being utterly convinced that biblical principles are not only true but also work better in the grit and grime of the real world.” So, coming from the principled position of a Christian world view, the so-called “change” or variability of secular world views is seen as a poor substitute for the absolute truth.

Thus the two opposed world views of principle and change. One small detail Millennials and other relativists seem to overlook, is that principles are not opposed to change. Changes refer to specific circumstances or other factors, while principles overarch all circumstances and factors, thereby allowing for change. But for someone to consider specific changes more important than principles requires a rejection of the need for moral compass.

In Western Civilization generally and in the United States specifically, Christian principles have held together the fabric of society while allowing for a great deal of change. Essentially the rejection of principles by Millennials reflects society’s rejection of absolute truth and the authority of God.

Also from Total Truth are these words by Nancy Pearcey: “Religion is no longer considered the source of serious truth claims that could potentially conflict with public agendas. The private realm has been reduced to an “innocuous ‘play area'”, says Peter Berger, where religion is acceptable for people who need that kind of crutch- but where it won’t upset any important applecarts in the larger world of politics and economics.”

No wonder Millennials see nothing substantive in principles, but consider change more important — changes like gender selection and the definition of marriage. Another Pearcey quote from Total Truth is, “Morality is always derivative. It stems from one’s worldview.” The huge numbers of people today who adopt a pro-change view over one of principles do so because they are not that concerned with principles in their own lives.

That prevailing secular view stems from the rejection of absolute truth, the rejection of the God of the Bible and the rejection of his authority over all humanity. As a nation, we are turning our backs on God.  And We are doing a complete turn-around from our origins.

One of the reasons for this is that our public schools have done an inadequate job of actually teaching our history. History has intentionally been rewritten and students are not taught about the foundational principles that created and sustained this nation during its first two centuries. Instead, they are taught about what needed to be changed and what needs to be changed.

Even the principles that make up the warp and woof of our Constitution are discarded by modern legal philosophy as specifics of a bygone age that need to be superseded by  contemporary changes. That’s why they like calling it a “living” document — lib-speak for they can change its meaning to suit whatever their agenda requires. They hate principles because principles hold them accountable to something bigger, something higher, something grander than they themselves.

Our history notwithstanding, we live in a largely godless nation where younger generations look no further than what is expedient for their moral compass. In the post-modern age of relativism, deconstructionism, reductionism, utilitarianism and all the other godless isms, is it no wonder that our national presidential election has devolved into its current ignoble form of “statesmanship”?

If you are one who still believes in principles, may you break up your soil, plant your seeds, water, weed and care for your tender sprouts and sing, “This land is your land, this land is my land…” But don’t be amazed when your blessing is rudely interrupted by a strident voice yelling, “You kids get off the lawn!” The big change is that it was Hillary’s land all along. (Oops.)


About retiredday

I am Michael D. Day, a regular, everyday guy -- retired. I stand for God-given freedom, which means I think for myself. I believe in being civil, because the Bible teaches that we should love our enemies. But I also believe in saying it how I see it, and explaining just why I see it that way, sort of like 2 Timothy 4:2.
This entry was posted in Change, Principles, Truth, World View and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

8 Responses to What Is Success?

  1. messiah gate says:

    Two points:

    Not only do they make the Constitution say what they want it to say, but also the Bible. Oh, they retain the Biblical message of love and forgiveness, but excise the part about sin and judgment.

    With regards to the humanist worldview emerging in the 60’s, I recall the famous speech delivered by President Kennedy on June 10, 1963. Titled “A Strategy of Peace”, it was the president’s commencement address to the graduating class at American University:

    “Our problems are man-made. Therefore, they can be solved by man. And man can be as big as he wants. No problem of human destiny is beyond human beings. Man’s reason and spirit have often solved the seemingly unsolvable — and we believe they can do it again.”

    Where is God in that equation? Though it was a lofty speech, full of high ideals, it was well-received by the Methodist university.

    I always thought that humanism was born out of youthful idealism, and there certainly was a lot of that in the otherwise turbulent decade of the 1960’s.


  2. retiredday says:

    Your comment made me remember that on June 6, 1963 JFK gave a commencement speech for the graduating class of San Diego State. I was a graduating senior that year, but from high school, not from college. I went there with friends from school because we wanted to actually see the President in person. I can’t remember a thing he said now, although I remember at the time I kept thinking, “This is so cool. It’s the President, and he’s really here.” Back then I wasn’t a believer, so I wouldn’t have been very concerned about the humanist slant of his speech.


  3. mc the blue says:

    I’m afraid I don’t agree much with this piece Mike, but I did want to acknowledge your use of “warp and woof”, a great phrase.


  4. retiredday says:

    In light of our “looming” disagreement, was it some particular “thread” that chafed at you or the “whole cloth”?


    • mc the blue says:

      I see what you did there. ;) In general I tend to wrinkle my brow at views that rely on the idea that things were “better back in my day” or some such (Eccl 7:10).

      I also think in this particular article you might have taken the principles vs change too far. The Pew question itself was rather generalized, and I believe there is a compelling case that change is what has allowed this country to progress when we’re talking secular or political stuff. Changing so that black people and women are no longer property, and that they can vote. Changing from isolationism to the Truman Doctrine just after WW2. Changing from an agro-industrial economy to a service-knowledge economy.

      Younger people tend to embrace change, while older people tend to like things to stay the same. Everyone has rose-colored glasses about how things used to be, and they are almost never factual or borne out by data. That is simply our psychological biases remembering good times and not bringing up the bad.

      Anyway, just my two cents.


      • retiredday says:

        You can wrinkle your brow all you want, but I did not say, that things were “better back in my day”. I was not wearing “rose-colored glasses about how things used to be”. As far as “some such”, there is no possible way I can intelligently reply to that, since it is a vague value judgment you are making, based on your mischaracterization of what I did in fact say in the article — that according to the sources I cited, there are generational differences in how people judge the “success” of America. Please notice the title of the article. How one defines success is linked to the relative significance one gives to principle vs. change.

        As to my having “taken the principles vs change too far,” how far is not too far? I have made a conclusion based on an evaluation of Pew’s general question and formed my own analysis, backed up by thinkers I respect. In presenting principles as superior to change, I wrote, “…principles are not opposed to change. Changes refer to specific circumstances or other factors, while principles overarch all circumstances and factors, thereby allowing for change.” Thus, it was the principles found in the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution that allowed for and paved the way for, “Changing so that black people and women are no longer property, and that they can vote.”

        You also specifically mention “Changing from isolationism to the Truman Doctrine just after WW2. Changing from an agro-industrial economy to a service-knowledge economy.” These belie your bias. Apparently these changes are part of what you would consider America’s “success”. After WW2 the entire world changed. Not everyone equates global change or global success with American success. I in fact do not. But that is another issue to be discussed at another time.

        “Younger people tend to embrace change, while older people tend to like things to stay the same.” This is not relevant to the observations I make in the article. In one sense, you are correct. However, older people are experts at change. They’ve had to make more changes in their lifetimes than younger people have yet to make. That aside, I did not say I want “things to stay the same”. That is your own mischaracterization.

        According to you, I said something that I actually didn’t say. You’ve also reduced the sense of my article to a generalization that misses my entire point. I’m not against change, nor do I think the Pew research says anything about older people being against change. What I’d like to say is this. I’ve been observing life for seven decades and I’ve noticed a trend. People in general are caring less and less about principles — even principles that can effectively guide change. People increasingly want changes made — so much so that they don’t care how those changes come about, just as long as change happens. This is called pragmatism. It’s unprincipled. When society disregards principles for the sake of change, per se, then society will disintegrate, crumble and die. And that would be real change!

        Liked by 1 person

      • mc the blue says:

        I am sorry for offending you, Mike. When I see words like “old fashioned” and “younger generation/persons” and “kids get off my lawn” sprinkled in with how schools these days aren’t [xyz] and other concepts, be they direct quotes or inferred paraphrases. Coupled with other articles you’ve written and stuff we’ve talked about, it led me to thinking about conclusions that perhaps you didn’t intend.

        Rebutting my reply on a phrase-by-phrase basis is not necessary. Please note my final paragraph used terms like “everyone” and “our”, not “you”. Not every word I write is intended to reflect on you specifically, pal. Again sorry to have offended you or even implied putting quotations in your mouth, as that was not my intention.


      • retiredday says:

        Apology accepted. No hard feelings. The reason I replied on a phrase-by-phrase basis is that my article, and the thoughts that motivated me to write it, focus on specific concepts, not vague impressions, preferences or feelings, which is primarily what you seemed to be commenting on. It is important to me to be as clear as possible in expressing my thoughts. While I did confess my own personal perspective (“my views are so old-fashioned they aren’t considered relevant”) my intention was not to make that the point of the article, but to be genuine, which also carries with it the risk of becoming personally vulnerable. Yet this wasn’t a personal article so much as a conceptual article.

        I do confess that my use of the phrase, “You kids get off the lawn!” in the conclusion was in fact intended to express my personal impression of Ms. Clinton’s strident voice when making political speeches. I knew when I wrote it that it was an oblique reference, and that not everyone would get it, in relation to the principle vs change dialectic. I see politics in general, including both the Republican and Democrat parties, as having gone over to the change side. And I see this in contravention to what can be considered American “success”.

        My reference to “This land is your land, this land is my land…” (representing American “success”) was intended to contrast with today’s popular acceptance of a two-party system that convinces us they are looking out for us while throwing out principles and assuming whatever power they need to do whatever they please. They treat citizens like children, whether by distracting us with candy or telling us what we can and can’t do.

        Social engineering, at the hand of politicians, jurists and educators, is a method of change that cannot result in the “success” of America. To the degree that principles (particularly Biblical principles) are sacrificed for the good of “change”, such change can only lead to destruction and decay. Example: All of the life processes of living organisms follow principles that allow for changes that sustain life. When those processes are no longer in line with life-giving principles, the organism continues to change, but that change is death, not life. I suppose I’m beating a dead horse.


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