Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

The New Weirdness Illustrated

In the spirit of my last post, “When the Weird Becomes Normal,” I’ve decided to dedicate today’s blog to a litany of weirdness, amply illustrated by some of our best cartoonists, political and otherwise. I’ll let the cartoons speak for themselves.

On the political front, there’s always the Obama administration to demonstrate supreme foolishness:

Cold-Blooded Killers

Never Felt Better

The sad state of education helps to show why we are in decline as a nation:

Enough Is Enough

As we move further into the culture, we see a radical feminism that has undermined men and the family in society and contributed to our redefining of terms:

Benevolent

Finally, there is the lethal combination of a depraved culture, redefinition of terms, and pure political opportunism:

Poor Progressive

That’s about all I can take for one day. Lord, give us Your strength and wisdom for how to respond to all that is happening around us.

Lewis: Modern Man & the Sense of Sin

C. S. Lewis 11C. S. Lewis’s “God in the Dock” essay exposes one of the biggest obstacles we face in transmitting the Gospel message: the unwillingness of people to acknowledge they are guilty of anything and are in need of a savior. What Lewis says in this essay has become even more conspicuous in our day.

He writes of what he learned when he spoke to Royal Air Force (R.A.F.) audiences during WWII. One of the first things he learned was that they were skeptical of anything historical. They knew about “the pseudo-scientific picture of the ‘Cave-man'” and had some “picture of ‘the Present.'” But between these, there was nothing. I can affirm that the current generation of students is somewhat similar to this, except they perhaps have no knowledge of the ancient as well. They kind of know what happened during their own lifetimes, and that is all.

Then we come to his discussion of the awareness of sin, or rather the lack of awareness:

The greatest barrier I have met is the almost total absence from the minds of my audience of any sense of sin. . . . The early Christian preachers could assume in their hearers . . . a sense of guilt. . . . Thus the Christian message was in those days unmistakably the Evangelium, the Good News. It promised healing to those who knew they were sick. We have to convince our hearers of the unwelcome diagnosis before we can expect them to welcome the news of the remedy.

HumilityThis is a great deception, of course, and one we actively cultivate. I believe everyone does realize the problem, but we do our best to convince ourselves that we are, nevertheless, acceptable to God regardless of our shortcomings. We love to use words like “shortcomings” and “mistakes” rather than “sin.” They sound much less accusatory.

Even though we are the ones who are to be condemned for our rebellion, we use all manner of twisted logic to make God the one who should be ashamed of Himself. As Lewis notes,

The ancient man approached God (or even the gods) as the accused person approaches his judge. For the modern man the roles are reversed. He is the judge: God is in the dock. He is quite a kindly judge: if God should have a reasonable defence for being the god who permits war, poverty and disease, he is ready to listen to it. The trial may even end in God’s acquittal. But the important thing is that Man in on the Bench and God in the Dock.

What hubris. What obnoxious vanity. What utter illusions we create. What we really need to do is humble ourselves before the Lord of all, devastated by the knowledge of our supreme selfishness, and earnestly plead for His mercy. For some reason, He loves us anyway and pours out that mercy on the most undeserving. He is not a God who should be in the dock, rebuffing our accusations. We should be eternally grateful He is willing to listen to us at all.

Campolo’s Betrayal of Scripture

Tony CampoloThere may be those among my readers who are not familiar with the name Tony Campolo. He has been a sociology professor at an evangelical Christian university for many years. I believe he is now about 80 years old and has been in the limelight in evangelical circles for quite some time.

In his earlier years, he wrote books that always pushed the envelope with respect to evangelicals’ more conservative view of culture. Then he began to be even more pushy. In the 1990s, his controversial ways became more prominent when he took on the role of one of President Clinton’s spiritual advisors. When I went to the Clinton Library recently, letters between Clinton and Campolo were part of my research. They showed his definite liberal/progressive tilt, even to the point of offering advice on how to counter groups such as James Dobson’s Focus on the Family.

I engaged in public dialogue with Campolo back in 1999 when he spoke at Regent University when I was a professor there. I challenged him on a couple of his views: his preference for the UN’s Declaration over America’s Constitution and his support for homosexual rights. It was frustrating because I was not allowed any followup questions; the rules for that public dialogue were much too restrictive.

However, I came away from it convinced that Campolo was only dancing around the issue of homosexuality. He was promoting the idea that people are simply born that way and as long as they are celibate, no problem. I couldn’t see at the time how not challenging their lifestyle would ever lead someone to salvation. The root issue, of course, is whether homosexuality is a choice.

The Biblical message is clear: it is a choice. To believe otherwise, for whatever reason, is to deny Biblical truth.

Wedding CakeThis week, it was no surprise to me that Campolo came out with a ringing endorsement of same-sex marriage. If you read his explanation for why he did so, a couple of points are abundantly clear.

First, he said, “I place my highest priority on the words of Jesus, emphasizing the 25th chapter of Matthew, where Jesus makes clear that on Judgment Day the defining question will be how each of us responded to those he calls ‘the least of these.'”

That may sound good, but notice this: he is saying that Jesus’ words are a higher authority than what is written elsewhere in the Scripture, as if there is a discrepancy. I believe there is a solid message throughout, and both Jesus’ words and the rest of the Scripture are in harmony.

Also, how does the phrase “the least of these” include homosexuals? That’s hardly the context of the passage. He has to want to read that into Jesus’ words. At the very least, it’s awful exegesis of Scripture.

What are his other reasons?

He compares his relationship with his wife with homosexual relationships he has observed and concludes,

I have come to know so many gay Christian couples whose relationships work in much the same way as our own. Our friendships with these couples have helped me understand how important it is for the exclusion and disapproval of their unions by the Christian community to end. We in the Church should actively support such families.

Finally, to top it all, he adds,

As a social scientist, I have concluded that sexual orientation is almost never a choice and I have seen how damaging it can be to try to “cure” someone from being gay. As a Christian, my responsibility is not to condemn or reject gay people, but rather to love and embrace them, and to endeavor to draw them into the fellowship of the Church.

When we sing the old invitation hymn, “Just As I Am,” I want us to mean it, and I want my gay and lesbian brothers and sisters to know it is true for them too.

Two major problems here: first, he has given his training as a social scientist greater authority than Scripture; this is a common malady among evangelical academics.

Second, he twists the meaning of the hymn “Just As I Am” to exclude changing one’s life after we come to Christ. Yes, you approach Him in all your sins, but with a repentant heart, ready to make Him Lord of all. Sin must now be banished, including homosexual sin.

Right-Wrong Street SignBut that’s the rub, isn’t it? Homosexuality is no longer considered a sin. And for someone like me to continue to say it is wrong, that it is deviant behavior contrary to the will of God, is to commit the supposed greater sin of “intolerance.”

I will not change my views on this because I not only trust God’s Word on the issue, but I also understand why He considers it sin—it destroys the essence of sexuality as He created it. It is man’s attempt to place sinful desire above God’s loving guidelines for how to use the gift He has given us.

I don’t hate Tony Campolo. I want him to see the light. But he has now positioned himself against the clear teaching of Scripture on this issue and will help lead others into their souls’ damnation. May God have mercy on him for doing so.

Lewis: Christianity & Education

I’m preparing to begin my twenty-seventh year of teaching college this fall. One of the joys I’ve had is the free hand to develop upper-level courses for history majors. Due to all my research on C. S. Lewis this year (and my still-hoped-for book on him), I will be teaching a course on him in the upcoming semester.

Lewis and education go together. He had many wise and insightful comments on the aims and limits of education. For a good summary, everyone should read The Abolition of Man (which my students will read this fall). Yet he sprinkled gems about education throughout his writings.

One, in particular, an essay called “On the Transmission of Christianity,” offers the kinds of thoughts that make me say, “Yes, exactly!” For instance, he comments,

C. S. Lewis 4None can give to another what he does not possess himself. No generation can bequeath to its successor what it has not got. You may frame the syllabus as you please. But . . . if we are sceptical we shall teach scepticism to our pupils, if fools only folly, if vulgar only vulgarity, if saints sanctity, if heroes heroism. Education is only the most fully conscious of the channels whereby each generation influences the next. It is not a closed system. Nothing which was not in the teachers can flow from them into the pupils. [emphasis mine]

Teachers are the key. You can tell them what they are supposed to teach (as state authorities try to do), but even if those authorities want them to teach things that are consistent with Christian faith, it will not come across the way it is intended if the teachers themselves have none of that faith. The whole system of government-controlled education, in my view, is flawed. Lewis tackles that as well:

It is unlikely that in the next forty years England will have a government which would encourage or even tolerate any radically Christian elements in its State system of education. Where the tide flows towards increasing State control, Christianity, with its claims in one way personal and in the other way ecumenical and both ways antithetical to omnicompetent government, must always in fact . . . be treated as an enemy.

Substitute America for England in that comment and you have our current state of affairs. He continues,

Like learning, like the family, like any ancient and liberal profession, like the common law, it [Christianity] gives the individual a standing ground against the State. Hence Rousseau, the father of the totalitarians, said wisely enough, from his own point of view, of Christianity, Je ne connais rien de plus contraire à l’esprit social [I know nothing more opposed to the social spirit].

In the second place, even if we were permitted to force a Christian curriculum on the existing schools with the existing teachers we should only be making masters hypocrites and hardening the pupils’ hearts.

This is why I’ve never been excited by attempts to force public schools to be Christian. Instead, I’ve always advocated alternatives to the public system. The only hope for real Christian education is outside government control. It appears Lewis may have been in agreement with that position.

The Duggars, the Media, & Salvation

I’d really rather not write about this today. I’m concerned that what I write may be misunderstood. However, because I believe in the life-changing power of faith in Christ, I have to say this.

Duggar FamilyThe news media seems to have zeroed in on the latest example of hypocrisy in the Christian world—or what they deem to be hypocrisy—by focusing with laser-like aim on the Duggar family. Let me say from the outset that I have never watched their program and had little knowledge of them prior to the current frenzy over what one of their sons did to some of his sisters when he was a teenager. I was aware that some who hate the idea of a large family, and one that promotes Christian faith at that, were critical of them. I had no idea just how venomous that criticism would be now that some—I emphasize “some”—facts have come out.

What did this son do? It’s sketchy. Two of his sisters are going public to deny most of the allegations floating around. They certainly don’t seem to have been traumatized, and they appear to want to set the record straight. Are they victims who don’t really understand their victimhood? The professionals are already jumping on that bandwagon.

There’s another possibility. The son, in deep remorse for what he did, might have gotten his life straightened out through the transforming power of the Holy Spirit. From what I read, he has a fine marriage now. He even told his bride-to-be ahead of time what he had done as a teenager, but that he received forgiveness from God and has walked in His ways since then.

Now, I don’t know for sure if that’s true. But here’s what is most bothersome about the whole episode: the critics will never believe it is true, no matter how much proof can be brought forward to affirm it. They think “once a sex offender, always a sex offender.” There’s some validity to that view, since recidivism in that realm is high. Yet if we, as Christians, don’t believe God can turn a life around, perhaps we should stop saying He does.

I want to give the family time to make their case. I also want to know why those sealed juvenile records were released when it is against the law to do so. What agenda is at work here? Is this another attempt by the anti-Christian forces in the nation to undermine the faith?

Any type of sexual harassment or abuse is sin. Christians are clear on that. Let’s just be sure we have all the facts first, though, before we cast our stones. Jesus’ words to the woman caught in adultery still ring: Go and sin no more. If the Duggar son has taken Jesus’ words to heart and lived his life since then on that basis, we should be rejoicing in a transformed life, not digging up old dirt.

Jesus came to call sinners to repentance. He came to bring eternal life to those who don’t deserve it. That applies to all of us. When we come to repentance and receive His forgiveness and our hearts are changed, that’s called salvation.

Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound

C. S. Lewis 10C. S. Lewis, in his essay “The Humanitarian Theory of Punishment,” takes aim at the idea that evil behavior is only a disease that needs to be treated. No, he says, evil actions come from evil hearts and deserve punishment, not “treatment.” But that won’t stop the “conditioners” who want to rule society by somehow using therapy to make people better. As he puts it,

To be “cured” against one’s will and cured of states which we may not regard as disease is to be put on a level with those who have not yet reached the age of reason or those who never will; to be classed with infants, imbeciles, and domestic animals. But to be punished, however severely, because we have deserved it, because we “ought to have known better,” is to be treated as a human person made in God’s image.

Yet, some may protest, isn’t is more humane to “treat” people who are diseased than to tell them they are evil creatures who deserve punishment? Lewis will have none of that:

For if crime and disease are to be regarded as the same thing, it follows that any state of mind which our masters choose to call “disease” can be treated as crime; and compulsorily cured. It will be vain to plead that states of mind which displease government need not always involve moral turpitude and do not therefore always deserve forfeiture of liberty. For our masters will not be using the concepts of Desert and Punishment but those of disease and cure.

How might this play out in practice? Well, he postulates, suppose that being a Christian should someday be considered a “disease” that needs to be cured. How will that work?

No one will blame us for being Christians, no one will hate us, no one will revile us. The new Nero will approach us with the silky manners of a doctor, and though all will be in fact . . . compulsory . . . all will go on within the unemotional therapeutic sphere where words like “right” and “wrong” or “freedom” and “slavery” are never heard. And thus when the command is given, every prominent Christian in the land may vanish overnight into Institutions for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound, and it will rest with the expert gaolers to say when (if ever) they are to re-emerge. But it will not be persecution. Even if the treatment is painful, even if it is life-long, even if it is fatal, that will be only a regrettable accident; the intention was purely therapeutic.

I hope you caught the wry humor within the wording. What’s scary about this scenario is that we are far closer to its reality today than when he wrote this. Christians, you see, are not playing along with the new morality. They must be diseased in mind; they need treatment. Let’s “help” them by forcing them to accept the new age of enlightenment, whether it be by law or by enrolling them in our Institution for the Treatment of the Ideologically Unsound.

C. S. Lewis was prescient. We need to understand where our society is headed, and it isn’t pretty.

The Way Is Still Narrow

FaithA flurry of news reports of late are touting polls that show fewer Americans identify as Christians. Good. We’re finally being honest. I mean, let’s get serious—more than 70% of Americans are really Christians?

Don’t misunderstand me. I’m just as concerned about the decline in public profession of Christian faith as anyone, but there’s a clear difference between some type of acknowledgement of a vague definition of Christianity and the real thing.

In the past, it always helped to call oneself a Christian because the culture embraced the general tenets of the faith. Now that is changing, and those who are on the outer fringes of what they think is Christianity are more willing to distance themselves from it.

Why is that? Because they were never genuine Christians to begin with. Of those 70%-plus of Americans who have said they are Christian, one finds a large segment of “God-believers” who have either a deistic view of God or just some notion of “the Man upstairs.” That’s not Christianity. Another segment consists of those who have more knowledge of the truth but whose lives don’t measure up because they have never surrendered their wills to God and made Jesus Lord.

Cross & FlagThere’s also a segment that mistakes “God and Country” for the real deal. I’m as patriotic as anyone when it comes to the original intent of America’s mission under God, but that also is not Christianity if one simply uses God as a prop for love of country.

Here’s the good side of this shift: those who are on the fringes and not actually Christians are slowly (and in some cases rapidly) disowning the faith they never had in the first place, leaving those who have committed themselves to the Lordship of Christ to stand out as the beacons of life and hope God intends for them to be.

Perhaps one of the silver linings in this “falling away” is the clarity with which one can see the difference between real Christians and those who are fake. Real Christians believe (and act upon) the following:

  • Sin is a disruption of the entire order and intent of God for the universe;
  • Our willful sinfulness has caused a break in the relationship between God and man;
  • The only remedy is God’s love revealed through His Son as a sacrifice to wipe away our sin;
  • We receive His forgiveness and new life through repentance and faith in what He has done for us;
  • We now strive to obey His every command out of gratitude for lifting us from the pit of selfishness and despair;
  • The only enduring improvements in this world of darkness come through faith in Jesus Christ, and those improvements start within us, then spread to the culture around us.

TruthJesus taught His disciples that the way to life was narrow, and few would find it. The way to destruction is broad, and most will take that path. If anything, the latest polls are still skewed—there are far fewer Christians than they indicate. But if you are one of the redeemed, your task remains: shine the light of Christ wherever you are. The culture may be careening toward self-destruction, but we still can impact it for the Truth, and that Truth still sets people free.