Darrow Miller and Friends

Every Conflict is Rooted in a War of Ideas

Our colleague Dwight Vogt recently pointed us to an article at The Daily Signal by Helle Dale, “In the War on Terrorism, We Must Win the War of Ideas.”

Asked recently by CNN what the United States needs most to fight ISIS on the Internet, James Glassman former under secretary of state for Public Diplomacy under President George W. Bush answered, “A commitment to the war of ideas.” Fighting the terrorists on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria will not be enough. We need to engage in the ideological war, “just as we did during the battle with Communism.”

Put down our response as a resounding Amen. It’s heartening to see public officials recognize where the real battle is fought. Every Christ follower should be operating at this level, as informed by the apostle Paul when he wrote, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Cor. 10:5 ESV. The word translated “thought” is “the psychological faculty of understanding, reasoning, thinking, and deciding – ‘mind.’”[1] Paul is not merely endorsing positive thinking; he is identifying the mind as the battlefield of ideas.

war of ideas one theme of Emancipating the WorldDarrow treated this aspect of the relationship between Islam and the West in his 2012 book, Emancipating the World:  A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism. Here’s one excerpt very relevant to the discussion.


Three Competing Narratives

The politically correct view is to frame this conflict in criminal terms: terrorists like bin Laden are criminals who must be brought to justice. But this is war, not just criminal activity. Soldiers, terrorists, and civilians—innocent mothers and children, including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, secularists, Jews, and Christians—are being killed. Cities are being bombed.

The clash we are facing is a battle for the hearts and minds of people and souls of nations. It is a clash of civilizations, to use the provocative title of Dr. Samuel Huntington’s book.[2] It is a battle of conflicting visions shaped by three metaphysical big ideas: moral anarchy, tyranny, and freedom.

Moral anarchy, or license, is the product of the atheistic materialism and secular humanism of the West.[3] This ideology regards truth, morals, and beauty as relative; people are free to do what is right in their own eyes. Another dimension of this worldview is hedonism: “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The symbol of this way of life is the condom.

Another big idea, one that has enveloped many nations throughout history, is tyranny. This was the reality of communism and fascism in the twentieth century and is currently espoused by the jihadist minority of fundamentalist Islam.[4] Tyrants rule over others in oppressive and often violent ways. The symbol of tyranny is the sword.

Secularists and jihadists are not irrational. They are functioning rationally but from faulty assumptions. They may be sincerely motivated, thinking that they are advocating and working toward “good for mankind,” but sincerity does not make their convictions or actions right.

The third big idea, freedom, comes from Judeo-Christian theism— the biblical worldview—which is the root of Euro-American civilization. Freedom is the foundation of all thriving cultures and nations. It flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ, lived and proclaimed.[5] The symbol of this way of life is the self-sacrificial cross of Christ.

Looking at these three narratives, we understand that this clash of civilizations is a struggle between the disorder (license without order) of modern and postmodern atheism, the tyrannical order (without freedom) of the jihadists, and the freedom (the order of internal self-government based on biblical principles) found in the kingdom of God.

This war will not be won by swords, bullets, or bombs. It will be won by the side most convinced of the truth of their moral vision. It will be won by lives lived well and even sacrificed for others. It will be won by truth over falsehood, justice over corruption, freedom over tyranny, liberty over license, love over hate, and beauty over vileness. It will be won by those with the best set of ideas or “theology,” a theology fleshed out in the midst of our poor and broken world.

[1] Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd Edition, Edited by J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida.  Copyright © 1988 by the United Bible Societies, New York, NY 10023. Used by permission.

[2] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

[3] We must distinguish between moral anarchy as the absence of moral restrictions and political anarchy as the absence of government. Most Western secularists are moral anarchists but not political anarchists.

[4] As we will see later, moral anarchy ultimately leads to tyranny: when all values are relative and there is no objective truth, those in power will impose their values on others. Communism and fascism were both atheistic ideologies that led to tyranny.

[5] Luke 4:18–19.

– Darrow Miller

See these related posts:

Who Will Win the War of 9/11?

LOVE NEVER FAILS: The Christian Response to Jihadism

LOVE CELLS: The Christian Answer to Terror Cells

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Darrow is co-founder of the Disciple Nations Alliance and a featured author and teacher. For over 30 years, Darrow has been a popular conference speaker on topics that include Christianity and culture, apologetics, worldview, poverty, and the dignity of women. From 1981 to 2007 Darrow served with Food for the Hungry International (now FH association), and from 1994 as Vice President. Before joining FH, Darrow spent three years on staff at L’Abri Fellowship in Switzerland where he was discipled by Francis Schaeffer. He also served as a student pastor at Northern Arizona University and two years as a pastor of Sherman Street Fellowship in urban Denver, CO. In addition to earning his Master’s degree in Adult Education from Arizona State University, Darrow pursued graduate studies in philosophy, theology, Christian apologetics, biblical studies, and missions in the United States, Israel, and Switzerland. Darrow has authored numerous studies, articles, Bible studies and books, including Discipling Nations: The Power of Truth to Transform Culture (YWAM Publishing, 1998), Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women for Building Healthy Cultures (InterVarsity Press, 2008), LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day (YWAM, 2009), Rethinking Social Justice: Restoring Biblical Compassion (YWAM, 2015), and more. These resources along with links to free e-books, podcasts, online training programs and more can be found at Disciple Nations Alliance (https://disciplenations.org).