One strange cultural passion is getting advice. This is not the same as taking advice, mind you. As a culture we seem to love to be told, “the right thing,” or, “what I should do,” even if we don’t generally follow through. The success of Oprah is a great example, but despite her massive empire she is just the tip of the iceberg. Thousands of radio shows, newspapers, and websites hire people whose ENTIRE job is to give others advice on how to live. When we watch a movie like Dan in Real Life, nobody questions the fact that his job includes helping a high school kid to better understand his parents.
A fun exercise is to take several of these advice columnists and the problems they deal with, and then compare their answers to the answers a famous philosopher might give. A question about whether to confess infidelity would receive a much more interesting answer if Ayn Rand were the advisor rather than Dear Prudence!
Do this exercise several times, and you begin to see a consistent pattern. Advice columnists, for the most part, do not have a consistent and well-articulated worldview (whereas a philosopher, though they can be just as wrong, usually tries to be more consistent). In other words, they practice (and preach, as an occupation!) a morality that does not square with their beliefs and basic assumptions about the world. This inconsistency is, I think, descriptive of our culture as a whole. We tell ourselves that the Moralistic Therapeutic Deism we grew up on is rational, but really it is lazy.
In terms of a Christian response, let me get a little aggressive here. I do sometimes listen to or read secular advice-givers, because I am interested in expanding my understanding of the pain and loneliness in our country. However, I think it is dangerous and very close to being wrong for a Christian to consistently heed the, “wisdom,” of a non-Christian adviser, even if that adviser seems to have a conservative philosophy (in other words, do NOT let Dr. Phil tell you how to live!). It is submission to worldly wisdom rather than godly wisdom, and it subtly alters your morality from the joyful obedience of the Christian to the lazy humanism of the American public.
When you come to an important moral decision, will Christ guide your footsteps, or will Oprah whisper in your ear? Will you worry more about your child receiving right guidance through discipline, or self-esteem through constant affirmation? Will you confess sin, or share how your mother ruined your life? Do your kids need a friend or a father? Will you honor godly leaders or will you join a church that makes you feel more at home and less judged?
Christian, don’t listen to secular advisers in the area of morality. Don’t hold them up as examples for your kids. Don’t share their pseudo-psychology, however philosophically conservative, if it isn’t based on the truth of the Gospel. Don’t treat those whose goals are different as though they are close allies.
We as Christians must reject false advisers if we desire to proclaim the separate uniqueness of a Gospel-centered worldview to a culture too lazy to know the difference.