By JOHN FORTMEYER
YAMHILL — He now lives in Florida, but Dave Richardson grew up in this small Willamette Valley town and came back to visit family a few weeks ago. However, even while taking a brief break, Richardson couldn’t help but enthusiastically share his faith journey and also his own unique new tool to help bolster one’s faith in Christ.
Richardson is founder and president of the Assumptions Institute, through which he promotes a simple chart or app called The Assumptions Sorter. It is outlined in his new book, Transparent: How to See Through the Powerful Assumptions that Control You.
According to Richardson, it provides a way for students, parents, pastors and professors to identify the hidden assumptions in a book or article, a movie or TV show, or a lecture or conversation on talk radio.
At a recent weekly men’s prayer and fellowship gathering in Newberg, Richardson said he defines assumptions as what people believe to be true, without question, and with little or no proof.
“The assumptions are the most dangerous of all ideas,” Richardson said. “They’re at the bottom of our reasoning process.”
That is why it is important to discern the “hidden messages” from various sources of information or education, he said. “What is it that teachers, the media or politicians are not telling you, but are assuming to be true, but really isn’t?’ Richardson asked.
By identifying what is true and what is not, toxic ideas that destroy the spiritual lives of young people can be confronted. Richardson says this can be the key to helping families and churches reduce the number of Christian youth leaving their faith.
The chart lists three types of basic assumptions people hold on what constitutes reality:
Type 1 is only nature, only physical reality. It requires a belief that only nature made nature, that natural laws operate the universe, that everything is headed toward annihilation or death, that man is nothing more than a highly evolved animal, that knowledge begins with the self, that each person determines what is good or evil, and that man’s basic problem is religious belief that ignores physical-only reality.
Type 2 is only mental or spiritual non-physical reality. It sees the universe as nothing more than a projection, that everything evolves toward conformity with a mental or spiritual ideal, that man is one evolving expression of that ideal, that knowledge begins with the mental/spiritual self, that good is whatever achieves that ideal and that there is no universal evil, and that man’s basic problem is ignorance of the ideal.
Type 3, which reflects orthodox Christian belief, accepts the reality of both Creator and creation, and that God made both physical and non-physical creation. It acknowledges that God runs creation with natural laws that reflect God’s character, and that everything is headed either toward life with God or without Him. Man is seen as a free steward made to reflect God, and that knowledge begins with God. Good is manifested through the person and character of God, and that man’s basic problem is that people are not inherently good.
Richardson said the problem with much of education today is that so much of what is taught at all ages is not sufficiently linked to the truths behind Type 3. For example, when young children learn about letters or numbers, or when older ages learn about chemical equations, in both cases they are never taught how those fundamental truths point to God.
“So it creates a division in all areas of life,” he said.
Sadly, even Christian schools fall short in conveying how God is behind all knowledge, Richardon said. He recalled asking a department chair at one Christian school, “How does God inform what you do?” The educator struggled to give an answer.
“Talk about seeing someone squirm in their seat,” Richardson said.
An obvious reflection of Richardson’s upbringing in the Northwest is that he uses the historic journey of Lewis and Clark to this region as an analogy throughout his book for how life’s assumptions are navigated.
“I’m exploring the unexplored territory of assumptions, and I’m making a map easy enough for people to follow,” he said.
A 1979 graduate of Yamhill-Carlton High School, Richardson came to faith in Christ while a student at the University of Portland, where he earned a bachelor’s degree in interdisciplinary studies. He went on to earn a master’s degree in theological studies from the International School of Theology and a master’s degree in applied theology from the University of Oxford in Great Britain.
He worked for 30 years with Campus Crusade for Christ — now known simply as Cru — spending most of his time with professors. The premise of Transparent came about from Richardson’s 20 years’ work with university and college professors, helping them connect faith with what they do.
While he has an extensive background in Christian theology and apologetics, and can defend the faith well, Richardson is more interested in helping bring the Gospel to the unreached and believes The Assumptions Sorter can be a great tool.
“I don’t like just de-fending stuff,” he said. “I want go to on the offense. I ing the Kingdom (of Christ).”
For more information, go to assumptionsin-stitute.org or daverichard-son.org