Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

Lewis, Tolkien, WWI, & Hope

Hobbit, Wardrobe, Great WarA Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War. What a great title. And what a great book. Joseph Loconte, professor of history at the King’s College in New York City, has crafted a masterpiece that weaves knowledge of the impact of WWI on a generation, and then offers an insightful analysis of how the war affected the thinking and writing of both C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien.

For me, as a professional historian, the book was a delight on two fronts.

First, WWI has not been a particular focus of my studies. Yes, I know the basics, but I’ve never delved into the kind of detail Loconte provides here. So this book has deepened my bond with the generation that endured that horror.

Second, even though I knew that Lewis and Tolkien had served in the Great War (as it was called at the time), and I am familiar with Lewis’s account in Surprised By Joy, Loconte’s description of what he experienced expands on the barebones treatment Lewis gives. As for Tolkien, this was my first encounter with what he suffered during the war.

Tolkien was a faithful Catholic at the time, and remained so for the rest of his life. Lewis was an atheist, sometimes bordering on agnosticism. They didn’t know each other while the war was going on, but when they met at Oxford for the first time in 1926, their shared experience, not only of literature, but of the war as well, created a deep friendship.

Lewis-TolkienLoconte shows how this Great War dashed the utopian hopes of Progress in the 1920s generation and replaced those hopes with cynicism. Then he concentrates on how Lewis and Tolkien bucked that trend in their writing. Once Lewis converted to the faith (helped along by key conversations with Tolkien), he became the most noted Christian apologist of his time.

Lewis’s works—from the Screwtape Letters to his science fiction novels to The Chronicles of Narnia—recognized evil for what it was, yet always offered the Christian remedy for that evil. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings painted a horrible portrait of evil, and the descriptions he offers of the terrible battles derived directly from his WWI experiences. Lewis drew on that same background for his works.

A Hobbit, a Wardrobe, and a Great War is eminently readable. I breezed through it in less than three days. As the cliché goes, I couldn’t put it down. My next goal is to figure out how to use it in one of my courses because it is that good.

This is not a book for Lewis and Tolkien admirers only. It is for anyone who seeks to understand the false hopes humanity tends to cling to, the awfulness of human evil, and the way in which Christians can communicate the truths of the Good News to any “lost generation.”

The current generation is just as lost as the one Lewis and Tolkien addressed; the solution to that lostness has not changed. God’s truth is still the message that must be trumpeted to a world that has exchanged the truth for a lie.

Christian Colleges–Are They?

I’ve been involved with Christian higher education for a long time; I’m beginning my 27th year of teaching next month. I can’t imagine trying to do what I do in the classroom in any other setting than a Christian college or university committed to upholding Biblical standards.

CCCUThe primary organization that acts as an umbrella for these Christian educational institutions is the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities (CCCU). All Christian colleges that are part of this organization are supposed to maintain a basic fidelity to the essential teachings of Scripture regarding Christian faith, committed to a high view of Biblical authority.

Now, two of those institutions, Goshen College in Indiana and Eastern Mennonite University in Virginia, have decided, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision on same-sex marriage, to alter their view of Biblical marriage. Both are now allowing same-sex married couples to be on the faculty.

This is a radical departure from Christian orthodoxy. One would assume these institutions would immediately be suspended from the CCCU, yet the official statement from its board of directors is that they will continue deliberations.

What is there to deliberate?

The rationale for suspending judgment on the matter is that all member colleges and universities will be contacted and consulted first. I am trying to give the benefit of the doubt here, but if an organization that says it is committed to Biblical authority cannot emphatically declare from the outset that what these two institutions have done is clearly unbiblical, one must be excused for having doubts about that commitment.

The CCCU may come to the correct conclusion after all its consultations and deliberations. Goshen and Eastern Mennonite may no longer be part of the organization as a result. Yet I cannot help but be dismayed by the slow nature of decisionmaking on a subject that should not be a matter of debate.

Christian EducationI’ve had my concerns about Christian higher education all along, primarily the willingness on the part of some of these institutions to show a Christian face to prospective students and their parents, while allowing some of their faculty to teach on the fringes on genuine Christianity—and in some cases to hold forth blatantly unbiblical positions.

Do I have a problem with academic freedom? Not at all. I want to be able to teach what I believe to be Biblical without undue scrutiny. But there is a limit when you agree to a statement of faith before being hired. If you then teach contrary to that statement of faith, you have demonstrated infidelity and a distinct lack of integrity.

Christian education needs to be uniquely Christian. We are here to serve the Lord and help lead our students into a Biblical worldview. If we do anything less than that, we are unfaithful to the One who called us.

Planned Parenthood: Defund Now

What does it take to inform the American people of a holocaust? Planned Parenthood performs approximately 330,000 abortions annually, yet surveys show that while the organization has a near 100% name identity, only about 45% of those questioned know that its primary function is to promote abortion.

Cecile RichardsNow that’s not what the organization says, of course. It’s all for “women’s health.” Cecile Richards, the head of this butcher shop, went on ABC’s “This Week” for an interview, in which she did the usual thing—attack the integrity of those who caught Planned Parenthood doctors bartering for the sale of babies’ body parts. You see, those are the real perpetrators of evil in her view, not the organization that would feel comfortable in Hitler’s Germany.

Margaret SangerLest you think I’m exaggerating, keep in mind that the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, had ties with Nazi doctors who even wrote articles in her journal. She also, like Hitler, was a great advocate of eugenics, and she sought, like Hitler, to exterminate certain races of people who were, in her mind, too backward to benefit society. African Americans were high on her list. Planned Parenthood even had something called “The Negro Project,” the purpose of which was to limit the number of black babies born.

We like to think of ourselves as more civilized in the 21st century. Where did we ever get that idea? More than 56 million innocent lives taken by abortion since 1973 and now the revelation that we treat the body parts of those innocent children as commodities to be sold should put to rest that lie. Those who do such things are depraved human beings, and we have become more barbaric than in the past.

Progress

Another awful truth that goes along with this is that the federal government funds this atrocious organization to the tune of half a billion dollars per year.

Blood Money

No wonder Planned Parenthood comes out swinging and trying to position itself as a savior for women and the victim of highly edited videos. It doesn’t want its cozy little relationship with the government and the money it provides to be altered in any way.

Bundle of Joy

Republican leadership in the Congress has dropped the ball on the defunding effort. Despite promises that they would lead the pro-life fight, both Speaker of the House John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell have stalled those efforts. Boehner says he needs more evidence first; McConnell refused to allow a defunding amendment to be added to another bill that would have required only 51 votes to pass. He now says he will offer a stand-alone bill to defund the organization, but that requires 60 votes for passage. Is it any wonder there is a brewing conservative revolt against this type of “leadership”?

As for the Democrats, if you will go back up to the photo of Cecile Richards, you will see the logo behind her is “DNC.” That stands for Democratic National Committee. Democrats are fully on board with the Planned Parenthood agenda.

As I’ve noted before, but bears repeating again, Barack Obama was the first president ever to speak to a gathering of Planned Parenthood backers and gave them his blessing for their “work.” He also invoked God’s blessing on them.

Never Mind

Then there’s the current frontrunner for the Democrat nomination who has linked herself closely with Planned Parenthood, who has publicly praised Sanger, and who has received the Margaret Sanger Award. What an honor to be tied to a racist eugenicist.

Hillary-PP

This monstrosity needs to be defunded immediately, and anyone who claims the name of Christ as Lord and Savior must roundly denounce Planned Parenthood for the sinful, depraved organization that it is. Anything less is a denial of Christ Himself.

Planned Parenthood: The Culture of Mass Murder

The bad press being given to Planned Parenthood couldn’t be more appropriate. Not only is this organization the primary promoter of the mass murder of children, it is now exposed as, if possible, even more mercenary than many believed.

Two videos have now surfaced with Planned Parenthood officials talking about the price that needs to be paid to obtain body parts from dead babies. Note I said “babies,” not fetuses. I believe fervently that a child is created from the moment of conception, so that all abortion is a horror. But keep in mind that when they talk about selling body parts, they are referring to well-developed babies ripped from their mother’s wombs.

The callousness of the whole abortion industry is now open for all to see. I’m encouraged that Republicans in Congress and Republican governors of some states are now taking action against this depraved organization and its practices.

The only comment from the White House is that Planned Parenthood does everything ethically. That’s exactly what one would expect from a president who stood before that organization and asked God to bless their “work.”

I’m also gratified that many political cartoonists are coming forward to make the case. Here are some examples:

PP Guide

Buy Your Choice

Not a Child

That cartoon is in response to the latest video in which the Planned Parenthood representative “joked” about wanting to buy a Lamborghini with the funds she would receive for selling babies’ organs.

Then there is this one that requires some knowledge of history:

Ghost of Evil Past

Joseph Mengele was Hitler’s ghoul who carried out ghastly and grisly experiments on those imprisoned in concentration camps. The comparison is apt.

Brit Hume on PPFinally, I want to commend Fox News analyst Brit Hume for his hard-hitting commentary the other night. No one in the media has more fully taken Planned Parenthood to task, not only for selling body parts, but for promoting the whole notion that it is somehow right and moral to take the lives of innocent children.

He correctly states that we, as a nation, have become numbed to this horrific practice. Here is what Hume said.

This holocaust must stop. A first step is the defunding of Planned Parenthood by the federal government. The next step is the defunding of this organization by forty-one major companies, all the way from American Express to Ford to Starbucks.

Even as we lose our collective mind on issues like same-sex marriage, there is still hope that we can curtail this particular abuse. We must not allow the furor of this day to abate; we must continue to speak out and act.

Standing Athwart the Culture Yelling “Stop!”

What is left to say about our president that I already haven’t said in this blog? I’ve done my best to be honest and forthright about his radicalism, both culturally and politically, yet I don’t feel I can stop and say, “Well, that about covers it; on to the next topic.”

Actually, I do make a conscious effort not to make Obama the subject each day, but he keeps on doing things that force me to focus on him again. His choices for when to interject himself into the news, for instance, are always worthy of comment:

Obama Speaks Out

And we would all be hearing a whole lot more all the time about his many attempts to destroy political enemies, if not for the connivance of the press corps to avoid mentioning such embarrassing episodes:

Confidentiality

Richard Nixon was an amateur in these matters compared to Obama, yet the former was driven from office while the latter gets virtually no pressure from those who like to call themselves the “watchdogs” over politicians. They’re more like well-trained poodles.

The latest fiasco is also the most dangerous and foolish, simultaneously—the pending deal with Iran.

Have you noticed that Obama seems to have less difficulty working with terrorists who continue to chant “Death to America” even while he’s speaking with them than with Republicans in Congress?

Finally

Then, when one member of the press goes off the rails and actually questions Obama’s lack of concern for the American hostages who are still being held by Iran, he becomes sarcastic and does his best to demean the reporter publicly. No one likes to have a complete “cave” pointed out:

Keep the Hostages

The only place where there is any rejoicing over this “deal” is in Iran:

Hard Bargain

The ultimate insult to the Congress is that the deal is going to be presented to the United Nations first, to get its approval to lift all sanctions. This is just another example of Obama’s utter contempt for America’s Constitution. He’s a Citizen of the World in his heart, not the United States.

So why do I continue to write about our president? Even if it does no good, there needs to be an ongoing witness to the truth.

I’m reminded of a conversation William F. Buckley had with Whittaker Chambers back in the mid-1950s when he was trying to bring Chambers aboard as a contributor to his new magazine National Review. Here’s how Buckley described what transpired in that talk:

Whittaker Chambers 1A year before National Review was founded, I spent an evening with Whittaker Chambers, and he asked me, half provocatively, half seriously, what exactly it was that my prospective journal would seek to save.

I trotted out a few platitudes of the sort one might expect from a twenty-eight-year-old fogy, about the virtues of a free society. He wrestled with me by obtruding the dark historicism for which he had become renowned. Don’t you see? he said. The West is doomed, so that any effort to save it is correspondingly doomed to failure. . . .

But that night, challenged by his pessimism, I said to him that if it were so that providence had rung up our license on liberty, stamping it as expired, the Republic deserved a journal that would argue the historical and moral case that we ought to have survived: that, weighing the alternative, the culture of liberty deserves to survive.

So that even if the worst were to happen, the journal in which I hoped he would collaborate might serve, so to speak, as the diaries of Anne Frank had served, as absolute, dispositive proof that she should have survived, in place of her tormentors—who ultimately perished. In due course that argument prevailed, and Chambers joined the staff.

Even if, ultimately, we don’t win the argument with the culture, it is imperative that the argument be made. For me, it’s a matter of being faithful to what God has called me to be—one of those voices standing athwart the culture yelling “Stop!”

Only when there are enough voices doing so, and enough courageous individuals who will act on what they are saying, will we have any hope of successfully challenging the spirit of this age.

Planned Parenthood & God’s Righteousness

In a week that has been filled with national security foolishness—a.k.a. the deal with Iran—and the ISIS threat come home—the murder of Marines in Chattanooga by a Muslim terrorist—some of the mainstream news outlets have barely mentioned the most grisly event.

Planned ParenthoodA video showing a top abortion “doctor” with Planned Parenthood detailing how the organization sells body parts of dead babies (who were murdered during an abortion) hardly even makes the radar screen as news that everyone needs to hear.

Let me just say it outright: Planned Parenthood is an evil organization dedicated to snuffing out the lives of unwanted children and, in the process, overturning all Biblical morality.

And it gets federal funding.

The latest figures show that 94% of the money that flows into Planned Parenthood goes toward abortion “services.” More than 330,000 abortions are performed annually through the auspices of this vile organization.

Yet this doesn’t bother the Left, of course. Some consciences are seared.

Feel-Good Story

That’s the way of the world, and I expect it. What’s more disturbing is the attitude of those on the so-called Christian Left (personally, I think that’s an oxymoron) who seem unperturbed by the abortion holocaust. Yet they find it quite easy to point fingers at those who stand firm on Biblical truths such as the sanctity of life and God’s design for sexuality and accuse us of self-righteousness.

What I have witnessed in my interactions with such people is that one can use the old cliché appropriately: when you point your finger at someone else, remember that there are four fingers pointing back at you.

The attitude that I see all too often is illustrated very well in this classic comic:

If God Is Pleased

It’s all too easy to fool oneself. I know I have to keep a constant watch on my own attitudes. Some will, of course, read what I have written here today and accuse me of self-righteousness. No, I’m merely grieved over the butchering of innocent children. I’m simply trying to call us all to mirror God’s righteousness.

Rules for the Rule of Law

I am a firm believer in the concept of the rule of law. Most of my students seem ignorant of the concept, so I try to explain that if we don’t follow the law, we become a society that is ruled by the whims of whoever happens to be in charge at the moment.

Yet I am also a firm believer that there are times when we must obey God rather than men. How, then, do I reconcile this?

God & GovernmentI take my students to Romans 13 (which I can do because I teach in an evangelical university) and offer them a lesson in the rules for the rule of law.

The first part of the chapter makes a strong statement about obeying government:

Let every person be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God.
Therefore he who resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves.

At first glance, this might seem to say that government must be obeyed at all times, without exception. I’ll come back to that.

It also has been interpreted by some to say that every person who is in authority is a God-picked person—that whoever is ruling is the one God has chosen.

Be careful here. Do you really want to find a rationale that makes Lenin, Stalin, Hitler, and Mao God’s choices? Do you really want to say that all the millions they have murdered in the name of a godless ideology is what God wanted?

While there may be some who, in the light of their theology, are convinced that everything that happens is, in some mysterious way, God’s will, I am not one of that number.

While God may use evil rulers, they have chosen to be evil, and He does not approve of what they do. To believe otherwise would be to make God into someone who is in favor of sin. That is not the God of the Scriptures.

Gavel & ScaleWhat this Romans passage is saying, I think, is that God has established civil government and the positions in that government that people should obey, not every individual who holds one of those positions.

So this first part of Romans 13 makes it clear that government is to be obeyed—the rule of law is the norm.

Yet this first part is only that—the first part. There is a greater context. The apostle Paul continues:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good, and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath upon the one who practices evil.

Now we are given the mission of civil government: it is to be a minister of God, carrying out His will by punishing those who do evil. We are told that if we do good, we have nothing to fear from government.

That is true in normal circumstances. But what if the government is violating its God-given mission? What if a government is doing just the opposite of what God intended? What if it is, in effect, promoting evil and punishing those who do good?

Is that a government that is to be obeyed?

If we obey that kind of government, we have made this institution into “god.” We cannot do that. The government—i.e., those who are responsible for its actions—is also supposed to be under God, and it will be held accountable for what it has done that is contrary to His will.

Whenever civil government disobeys God, we are duty bound to resist that government action. When told to stop preaching in the name of Jesus, the apostles told the authorities that they had to obey God rather than man.

Let’s bring it up to our time.

When the government says it’s just fine to murder innocent children in the womb, are we to go along passively with this atrocity?

When the government says homosexuality is good and acceptable and then redefines marriage, are we to submit without a complaint?

In both of these cases, government has overstepped its boundaries and violated its God-given mission. We can use whatever legal means are available to us to challenge these decisions, and we can raise our voices in the public square to convince others to join with us to overturn unjust laws.

Any man-made law that conflicts with God’s eternal law in inherently invalid.

What about other types of laws with which we disagree? Must we always be quiet about them and simply obey?

Christians & PoliticsWe have another recourse. Take Obamacare, for instance. There certainly is nothing in Scripture that tells us directly that this is an evil, sinful law. However, we do still have a Constitution, which is supposed to be the standard for our rule of law.

Any law, whether passed by Congress or decreed by the Supreme Court, that violates the authority given to the federal government in that Constitution is fair game for dissent on our part, and for public argument against it, alongside active measures that can be taken to overturn such a law.

So, as Christians, we have both God’s law and the Constitution as our guidelines for when we obey the government and when we do not.

I believe in the rule of law, but there are rules for when something is a legitimate law that we should obey. When a law is illegitimate, we have a Christian duty to do whatever we can—in the proper Christian spirit—to undo that law.

God’s law is paramount. Constitutional boundaries come next. We must always make those our priority.