Where Do Our Desires/Ideas/Beliefs Come From?

Why do you think the way you do about a given issue? Why do you feel the way you do about a particular product? Where did you get the goals you have for your life? Where did you come up with that last project proposal?

My guess is that the answers to those kinds of questions are usually complex. But I can’t help but think that this video speaks to at least part of the equation—a part we rarely think much about. Take a look to see what I mean. (You’ll need to click on the YouTube logo at the bottom of the video.)

No, you and I don’t usually encounter situations that are so carefully planned and executed, but what plays out the with the advertisers in the video is a dynamic illustration of what happens in our own lives all the time: we’re shaped by the world around us in ways that often escape our conscious attention.

What you consider to be reasonable, what you prefer, what you passionately believe—all these things can be influenced to one degree or another by the numerous small interactions you have with your culture every day: the way your coworkers talk about an issue, that commercial you’ve seen a hundred times, what you see and hear along the route you take our kids to school, the music your gym plays when you work out, the magazines you look at in the checkout aisle when getting groceries, the “fake news” comedy show you sometimes watch, that movie that all your friends are talking about, the fact that you regularly communicate with others using 140 characters or less. We could come up with a virtually endless list of examples.

But while the fact that our culture influences us in this way is not really in doubt, the quality of that influence often is. I say that simply because our culture is the collective product of people. And as we’ve all learned from the person who stares back at us in the mirror, people are mixed bag. Are there times when our culture makes a positive impact on our lives? Sure. But is the opposite true as well? Most certainly. And again, we may not even realize it’s happening.

What then, should we do? Simply resign ourselves to being the unthinking products of our environment? Or, on the opposite extreme, try to escape it all by moving to a deserted island?

Thankfully, we have a better option: we can intentionally seek out the perspective that originates from outside the jumbled mass of thoughts and desires that we accrue from a thousand different sources. We can look to something that provides a genuine understanding of what is true, good, and beautiful. In fact, that’s exactly what we find when we turn to the pages of the Bible. And its what we experience in concrete ways (however imperfectly) when we’re a part of a church community that takes its shape from biblical truth. By doing these things, God’s thoughts and desires will gradually find more and more purchase with our own. And that, I’m convinced, is something that no follower of Christ will ultimately regret.

At the end of the day, we’re going to be influenced by something. The only question is what—or better, who—is doing the influencing.

2 Comments

  1. Mike said:

    Been reading Knowing Christ Today by Dallas Willard. He offers great insight into the connection of worldview questions that often go assumed or lack reflection on our part with how we can consider the answer that Jesus offers to those questions as knowledge. Knowledge on par with other things we take be knowledge.

  2. Jack Bragg said:

    Thought provoking post. It raises several questions. Should we be more aware of the influences we encounter daily? Are there areas/locations/sources we should completely avoid? Are we as Christians more or less susceptible to certain influences? Can or should we limit the non-Biblical or non-Christian influences we allow in our lives?
    I’m assuming that, as the video seems to demonstrate, nearly everything we see and hear impacts us to some degree. I also assume that none of those influences are neutral. They either support or oppose a Biblical worldview.

    While the Scripture doesn’t talk much about cultural influences, other than in general (Col.2:8), it does talk about attitude, (Matt. 6:1-4), belief, (Matt. 7:10-13), and behavior, (Matt. 6:33). So I would answer all of the above questions with “yes.” We are called to be “in the world but not of the world” (Matt. 5:13-16) and that entails exposure to the world’s view of life that has little to do with God. Knowing that we need to be attempting to influence sinners for Christ and that we need to maintain a strong faith it would seem necessary, as Nathan points out above, for us to ensure first of all that we do what’s necessary to strength our faith (worship services, personal prayer time and Bible study, fellowship with other believers) and second, to be aware of what we’re exposed to and limit that exposure, especially when it won’t help us to understand the world’s view of some subject or give us a witnessing opportunity.

    I have interests in various fields that allow me to forge relationships with unbelievers, areas such as music, politics, history, motorcycles, medicine and the like but my first area of interest always has to be Jesus and his word and he must be the filter through which all other influences come to judge them worthy of shaping my worldview or not. An awareness of our surroundings and careful evaluation of them, for our spiritual health, is a responsibility of all believers.

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