Archive for the ‘ Christians & Culture ’ Category

This Is Why I Write

TruthOne of my concerns for those who read my posts is that they won’t grasp the real reasons why I desire to share my views. It would be easy, from a superficial reading, to think I’m just a conservative who doesn’t like Obama specifically and Democrats/liberals in general. I do oppose Obama and his policies, and I’m also opposed to the Democrat agenda. But there are foundational principles that guide my opposition. I believe in objective truth, and that it exists through the God of the Bible. I want to stand strong for truth.

Obama’s policies are merely the open manifestation of deeper problems plaguing our culture. They rest, as does the whole worldview that motivates him and his political allies, on a number of falsities that need to be exposed. Let me deal briefly with each one.

  • False Theology: This takes many forms, but each form denies the real character of God as revealed in Scripture. It may, for instance, say the Scriptures cannot be trusted; that a different God is portrayed in the New Testament than in the Old; that his primary concern is social justice through government programs; that Jesus was His son in purely a human way, and all we do is follow Jesus’ example to “liberate” people from poverty; that since God is a God of love, there is no hell to which those who reject His love will be consigned.
  • False Psychology: Rather than understanding man as a unique creation made in the image of God, we instead view him as a social animal who needs to be studied to figure out why he does what he does. We replace the reality of sin with other explanations—excuses primarily—for his evil actions. Perhaps he’s just a product of his environment, or maybe there are deep-seated, hidden reasons for his actions that can only be brought to the surface through lifelong psychoanalysis. Maybe society is to blame, not the individual. Could it be that we simply need to remove the impediments in our lives so we can attain self-actualization? Bottom line for all these theories: man is not accountable for his actions; someone or something else is to blame.
  • False Anthropology: Ancient civilizations were crude and rudimentary, but now we have evolved into complexity. We know more than our ancestors; we are the enlightened ones. Yet we honor all cultures, believing that it would be wrong to try to change them because all cultures are equally valid. Never mind that some practice cannibalism; look past cultures that burn widows on their husbands’ funeral pyres, and hundreds of other sadistic and horrible actions. No, we cannot judge. Who are we to say that we know best? And by all means, don’t preach a gospel that says the culture must change. That is insensitive.
  • False Soteriology:  We are “saved” by education. We are “saved” by the government. If we believe at all in an afterlife, we believe we can get on God’s good side through our own actions; as long as we have more positive deeds than negative, it will all work out in the end. He couldn’t possibly exclude “good” people. After all, we fed the poor, we gave money to help those in need, and we collected every ribbon for every cause that crossed our path. We were good Pharisees.
  • False Eschatology: The world is going to come to an end because we are polluting Mother Earth. Unless we stop using aerosol sprays, we will all burn up. We’re going to exhaust all our resources because we selfishly want cars and heat during the winter. Overpopulation will doom us as a race; we must limit the number of children or we all will die as we run out of food and space. Evil corporations are raping the planet; they must be shut down. Unless government comes to our rescue, all is lost. Sovereign nations must be replaced by a government that will unite all peoples and create an earthly paradise. We are the world.

There are undoubtedly more, but those stand out to me. I see these false ideologies as the cornerstones of the modern “progressive” state and culture. My task, and the task of all Christians, is to speak out against these while simultaneously promoting the truths that counter each one. This is what the Lord has placed on my heart. This is why I write.

The Moral Majority?

My main reason for writing this blog—its only real purpose—is to bring the Christian message to the forefront as we contemplate the state of our culture and the society in general. Within me resides a hope, which I trust comes from the Giver of All Hope, that what I write can aid, in whatever small way, in restoring a Biblical pattern of thinking that will, in turn, strengthen the foundations upon which our society is built.

I believe there are two chief impediments that are making it difficult to make progress. The first is a misperception that guides some of us hoping for societal restoration; the second is a profound personal failing on the part of those who claim the name of Christ.

What is that misperception? We seem to think that there is a silent majority out there just waiting for the re-emergence of Christian culture. What we fail to understand is that we are living in a post-Christian nation. Whereas, in decades past, most Americans would have subscribed to some type of Christian morality, we are now a nation bitterly divided over the nature of morality—or indeed whether such a thing as morality even exists.

Jerry Falwell, as he attempted to get Christians involved in politics back in the early 1980s, started an organization he called The Moral Majority. It rested on the assumption that most Americans believed in Biblical morality.

That was the case at the Founding of the nation; even those who cannot be classified as Christian believers lived in a culture that expected people to adhere to the basic moral teachings of the Scriptures.

The onset of evolutionary theory severely undercut that consensus, which eventually led to the holocaust of abortion, the drive for same-sex marriage, and a general philosophy of postmodernism, where each person constructs his own concept of morality. Polls seem to indicate that nearly two-thirds of Americans rarely gather in a church on Sundays.

Yet we continue to act as if what we promote is generally accepted by the society at large. No, it is not. Promotion of the homosexual lifestyle shows up in nearly every television program, in one way or another. It is just assumed by the media that couples live together and engage in sex routinely before marriage. Unfortunately, there’s plenty of evidence to bolster their assumption.

The myth of the moral majority must be shattered before we can make any real progress. We have to see reality for what it is first so we’ll know how to proceed.

The second problem, though, is deeper, and it’s the primary reason we don’t have the kind of influence we seek. It has to do with personal holiness. Now, I know that word—holiness—has become a turn-off. It reeks of past attempts to focus entirely on externalities: don’t wear makeup, don’t watch television, etc. Christians have been their own worst enemy by making holiness into a repellent idea.

True holiness, though, is beautiful. It simply means one’s love for God inspires our thoughts and actions. Holiness is an attitude of the heart that seeks to please God in all we do, and it’s a joyful thing. Yes, a heart for God will lead to changing our external actions, but not because we follow a list of rules. We change because we want our lives to honor the One who brought us out of darkness into His light; we change because it connects us to His heart; we change because it brings harmony and His love into the lives of others with whom we associate.

Christians who live holy lives are attractive; they draw others to them, thereby providing an opportunity to deliver the message God has placed on their hearts: personal salvation first; societal salvation as a result of the permeation of Biblical principles into the society.

My concern is this: too many people who claim the name of Christ don’t portray the Christ they claim to know. I’ve been a Christian now for many decades. I’ve seen true holiness in action; it does exist. Yet it is not the norm. We don’t talk much about sin anymore; it’s an embarrassment to mention the word in our culture. If we mention it, we’re accused of being judgmental.

But I want to say something very direct: sin is killing us. I am saddened almost daily by “Christians” who don’t act much differently than the world around them, whose language is filled with the same crudeness that we say we deplore, whose attitudes show forth in gossip, slander, and revenge.

Those who name the name of Christ have no problem with “shacking up,” accepting homosexuality, or allowing the government to become God. They are endorsing the very sins that are sending our nation into spiritual darkness. Is it any wonder we hardly make a dent in the culture?

I am grateful for those who stand for righteousness; they do make a difference. But far too many who say they want to make a difference are not different themselves. That will never work. What we need is this reminder from Scripture:

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us. …

But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. For this you know with certainty, that no immoral or impure person or covetous man, who is an idolater, has an inheritance in the kingdom of Christ and God.

Let no one deceive you with empty words, for because of these things the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience. Therefore do not be partakers with them; for you were formerly darkness, but now you are Light in the Lord; walk as children of Light (for the fruit of the Light consists in all goodness and righteousness and truth), trying to learn what is pleasing to the Lord. Do not participate in the unfruitful deeds of darkness, but instead even expose them.

Those are not my words. They come from Another. My job today is simply to deliver them. Your responsibility, if you say you are a Christian, is to ponder them and act upon them.

Exposing Planned Parenthood’s Evil Deeds

PP ProtestLast Saturday, people nationwide stood outside Planned Parenthood centers to protest this organization’s abominable practices. The protest was not only about defunding but about the seared conscience our country has developed about abortion itself. The bottom line is that abortion is murder, and it must be stopped.

The utter callousness of the abortion industry—and “industry” is the correct term—must be exposed for what it is. Most of the national news media is not going to help get out this message. An informal censorship on the issue has dominated; anyone not already informed and depending on the major networks to be informed will learn virtually nothing about what is happening.

Oh, but we’re very informed about trivial matters:

Sister Planet

Evil tries to disguise itself. Planned Parenthood has a history of deception. The only way to battle this deception is with an assault of truth.

Has a Heart

The pro-life message has been making inroads in our culture, despite the degenerate drift in our society. Now is not the time to give up. Now is the time to shine even more light on the evil deeds of darkness.

Doing Away with Childish Thinking

“All politicians are the same.” “We need to fire all of the bums.” “There’s not a dime’s worth of difference between the parties.” “We need someone outside of politics to lead us.”

Those are the refrains I’m hearing constantly. They stem from anger and frustration with the current mess. I agree that we currently have a mess. Yet I don’t use those phrases. Why not? I find them to be emotionally driven, intellectually lazy comments.

Christians, in particular, need to forego superficial analyses like those. Do we really believe that every last congressman, senator, and governor is a bum? Should we throw out every person in government simply because we don’t like the overall direction of the country?

If we do, we will lose a lot of principled people as well. We will lose many whose experience with the system can make them effective. Novices may arrive en masse with no idea of how to make things happen. How is that an improvement?

And when we lump everyone together into the stereotype of “the crooked politician,” we are condemning the innocent along with the guilty. Christians are to judge each person on an individual basis, just as God does. The kingdom of heaven consists of individuals who have submitted to the Lordship of Christ.

Are we saying there are no such individuals in our government?

Righteous JudgmentWe are to judge, to be sure. That’s what I’m doing with these comments also. But our judgment is to be an honest one, not merely a flip statement that condemns everyone involved with politics.

Look carefully at the Republican candidates for president. Can you not find even one who has a record of achievement in politics based on principle? If you say you cannot, I would have to respond that you are not taking enough time to investigate the field.

Another problem is that we—and this applies to Christians also—are drawn to celebrity and other outward forms of “strength.” Instead, we should concentrate on personal character in the candidates, not their ability to be bombastic and anti-establishment.

We should examine what they have accomplished, not whether they know how to get attention or use catchy phrases. Neither should we be impressed by anyone who descends into juvenile behavior in response to criticism.

It seems that with every approaching election, I, and others, say that this one could be the most crucial of all. Is that the case for this next round of elections? If so, we need to be sober in our judgments and choose as wisely as possible.

“When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child,” notes the apostle Paul. Then he says, “When I became a man, I did away with childish things.”

It’s time to stop acting like petulant children. It’s time to be men and women of principle and sound judgment. Truly, the fate of the nation depends on that. Christians are to be the salt of the earth. When we speak and act like everyone else, we are useless.

The Senate & Planned Parenthood

The Senate’s vote on the bill to defund Planned Parenthood went the way most people expected. Fifty-three senators, mostly Republicans, voted to end the debate and move to a straight up-and-down vote on the funding. That’s a majority. But, according to Senate rules, 60 votes are needed to get past the debate stage. A grand total of two Democrats voted to go on to the vote.

Two.

Senate Chamber

Now, some of my conservative friends will spend all their time critiquing the Republicans for this. Please know that I’m aware of how the politics of this works. Not all of those Republicans who voted in favor of taking the vote are really on board in their hearts. They knew this strategy wouldn’t work, but they are now free to tell their constituents they voted in favor of defunding Planned Parenthood. It helps keep them in office.

Same for those two Democrats who come from more conservative states—Indiana and West Virginia. They can now boast of their conservative credentials and win reelection.

I also know that Mitch McConnell, supposed leader of Senate Republicans, denied having the defunding effort attached to another bill, which would have made it far easier to pass. Did you know that his wife, Elaine Chao, is on the board of the Bloomberg Foundation, which is stridently pro-abortion and sends millions to Planned Parenthood? (By the way, Jeb Bush was on the board of that same organization until he started his run for the presidency—more on that in a later post).

Yes, I know all of this. Yet there still is a significant difference between Republicans and Democrats on issues like this. And this vote is better than the one held in 2011, when the Democrats controlled the Senate and only 42 senators voted for defunding.

Why all the ire toward Republicans when only two Democrats, for political reasons, voted against Planned Parenthood? Put the onus for this failure squarely where it belongs.

Besides their worldview ideology, some Democrats don’t want the campaign financing they get from Planned Parenthood to end. I have no problem saying at this point that the Democrat Party is in bed with pure evil.

All the Services

By the way, the bill wouldn’t have cut a single dime from what is sometimes euphemistically called “women’s health.” All it would have done is shift the money to other organizations that don’t perform abortions. So the real reason here for opposing the bill is not “women’s health” but false ideology and financial ties to Planned Parenthood.

Just remember what this organization really does:

Good Price

On Second Thought

Of course, it’s not the politicians only who are downplaying the ghastly, grisly, and ghoulish practices revealed in the latest videos. They have their helpers:

Nothing to See

So this current attempt to move our society a step closer to sanity has failed. But I am not in despair. I think the cause has been aided by all the attention brought to it, despite the efforts of evil men and women to distort, falsify, and deceive the public. Now is not the time to fold our tents and go away. Now is the time to push forward with even greater boldness.

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.