Nicholas Krostof documents the intolerance of conservative opinions in colleges and universities in his New York Times article. Well worth the read!
Nicholas Krostof documents the intolerance of conservative opinions in colleges and universities in his New York Times article. Well worth the read!
Michael Kruger, a world-class scholar on the New Testament and the canon of Scripture, brings to our attention the decision by the Society of Biblical Literature to disallow the Christian publisher, InterVarsity Press, from displaying their books at the annual meeting in November in San Antonio, TX. This includes Kruger’s excellent books on the canon. The reason? IVP decided to maintain their policy of upholding their employees to maintain a biblical view of marriage.
The SBL membership is a mixture of Christian and non-Christian scholars who study the biblical text at the highest academic levels. While there is strong disagreement over interpretation of Scripture, the two sides in the SBL have generally coexisted, even as the number of evangelical scholars has grown through the years. This move can be interpreted as nothing but an attempt to exclude traditional Christian belief regarding sexuality from even being discussed.
This is well worth the read to understand the growing intolerance of the “tolerance” warriors of the “intellectual left.”
“What’s going on in a world where, when children are married off as brides, conscripted as soldiers or forced to work in sweatshops, we rise in condemnation. Yet those who beat their breasts about such violations of human dignity advocate as rights unrestricted access to abortion, physician assisted suicide and gender-reassignment surgery? What’s going on? Confusion. We are reaping the harvest of a generation’s long societal worship of the idol of personal autonomy.”
When children as young as three years old are given the choice of their gender, and subsequently undergo surgery to mutilate their genitals, we have truly descended into cultural madness. See the full article here: The Age of Consent in a New Age.
I was reading an interview with seven philosophers about the SCOTUS decision legalizing gay marriage in all 50 states, and in none of their short essays, save one, did the philosophers who responded actually apply any serious philosophy. Their answers are mostly opinion pieces lauding justice and dignity, with no attempt to define those terms philosophically, or to justify their importance. As K. Scott Oliphint says, Philosophy is largely well-articulated unbelief.
Only one philosopher, Cheshire Calhoun of Arizona State University, asks the right question. She notices that Justice Kennedy, in his majority opinion, referred several times to the “transcendent purpose of marriage.” As a non-Christian Calhoun questions where Kennedy gets the notion of the transcendent, and why that notion should be binding. The transcendent smacks of religion, and that cannot be tolerated, so she suggests that we do away with the concept and the vocabulary.
If any law is based on a concept of transcendence, there is a danger that transcendence may interfere with the next sexual taboo to fall, be it polygamy, incest, etc. Best to drop the language of transcendence, she advises, because it legitimizes marriage too much, and it’s high time we stopped considering marriage to be anything more than a misguided relic of the hateful past.
Calhoun is right about one thing. If there is a transcendent to which we can appeal, we are all in deep trouble. That transcendent may demand of us things we don’t want to do. It may hold the specter of future judgment. Like many of her philosophical peers, Calhoun is eager to jettison the notion. Also like many of her peers, she forgets the prescient words of one of her own comrades in the philosophical guild, albeit of a different century.
Friedrich Nietzsche’s parable of the madman confronts the hubris of those who discard the divine. He knew that ridding ourselves of the transcendent did not bring bondage, but a loss of the foundations of society, dignity, and rationality.
“Where has God gone?” he cried. “I shall tell you. We have killed him – you and I. We are his murderers. But how have we done this? How were we able to drink up the sea? Who gave us the sponge to wipe away the entire horizon? What did we do when we unchained the earth from its sun? Whither is it moving now? Whither are we moving now? Away from all suns? Are we not perpetually falling? Backward, sideward, forward, in all directions? Is there any up or down left? Are we not straying as through an infinite nothing? Do we not feel the breath of empty space? Has it not become colder? Is it not more and more night coming on all the time? Must not lanterns be lit in the morning? Do we not hear anything yet of the noise of the gravediggers who are burying God? Do we not smell anything yet of God’s decomposition? Gods too decompose. God is dead. God remains dead. And we have killed him. How shall we, murderers of all murderers, console ourselves? That which was the holiest and mightiest of all that the world has yet possessed has bled to death under our knives. Who will wipe this blood off us? With what water could we purify ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what sacred games shall we need to invent? Is not the greatness of this deed too great for us? Must we not ourselves become gods simply to be worthy of it? There has never been a greater deed; and whosoever shall be born after us – for the sake of this deed he shall be part of a higher history than all history hitherto.”
What Calhoun celebrates, the idolization of desire, will not only be the destruction of her trade, philosophy, but civilization as a whole, the very thing she thinks has been saved by SCOTUS’s decision. If desire reigns, there is no need for philosophy, because each one’s own peccadillos are all that matters. Philosophy’s task is rendered irrelevant. There is no more room for the questions of universal good and justice. Such questions themselves become as oppressive as a transcendent idea of marriage.
The concept of civilization, too, will have to be redefined or discarded, once the most deviant in society realize that the holy grail of hedonism, consent, is nothing more than a preference. If there is no transcendent, there can be no argument that consent should be the guiding ethic of sexual expression. Once consent is lost, it’s a quick fall to chaos and destruction.
Bible believers know what happens when everyone does what is right in his own eyes. The biblical book of Joshua recounts the horrors of life without restraint. As one Puritan divine prayed, “O God, it is amazing that men can talk so much about man’s creaturely power and goodness, when, if thou didst not hold us back every moment, we should be devils incarnate. This, by bitter experience, thou hast taught me concerning myself.”
While those in favor of the SCOTUS decision praise it for its grant of justice and dignity, they pull the rug out from their own feet. Do away with the transcendent God, and terms like mercy and justice become meaningless. Only by beginning with the triune God of Scripture can the genuine dignity and justice in the world be possible.
Nineteenth-century Christian missions exploded across the globe with the general expectation that the gospel would penetrate the whole world, and that the evangelism of the world would conceivably be completed within a century or so. That sense of optimism is not so prevalent today, probably in part because of the decline of Christianity in parts of the world that were at one time the fountainhead of Christian faith. A review of the past century reveals that regions in which Christianity had at one time taken root have not always remained Christian for long (think Europe). In contrast, Islam’s progress has tended to be more stable, rarely giving up territory once it has been claimed.
In his book, The Cross-Cultural Process in Christian History (T&T Clark, 2002), Scottish historian Andrew Walls explains the difference between the expansions of the two major religions:
Islam can point to a steady geographical progression from its birthplace and from its earliest years. And over all these years it has hitherto not had many territorial losses to record. Whereas the Jerusalem of the apostles has fallen, the Mecca of the prophet remains inviolate. When it comes to sustaining congregations of the faithful, Christianity does not appear to possess the same resilience as Islam. It decays and withers in its very heartlands, in the areas where it appears to have had the profoundest cultural effects. Crossing cultural boundaries, it then takes root anew on the margins of those areas, and beyond. Islamic expansion is progressive; Christian expansion is serial (p. 13).
If Walls is correct, this raises some troubling questions. Why does Christianity wax and wane so consistently, while Islam rarely experiences the same fluctuations? Why do the faithful of Christianity possess what seems to be a more tenuous faith?
Walls asks and answers some of his own questions to provide some answers:
Do the resiliency of Islam and the vulnerability of Christianity reflect something of the inherent nature of the two faiths? Does the very freedom of response inherent in the Christian gospel leave it open to ultimate rejection? Is the Christian impact durable only when there is sustained, unceasing penetration of the host culture? Christianity has no culturally fixed element, as is provided by the Qur’an fixed in heaven, closed traditions on earth, perfection in law in shari’a, single shrine in Mecca, and true word every where in Arabic. If the acts of cultural translation by which the Christians of any community make their faith substantial within that community cease—if (if one may use such language) the Word ceases to be made flesh within that community—the Christian group within that community is likely to lose, not just its effectiveness, but its powers of resistance. Most cultures are in frequent change or encounter with others, so the process of translation is endless (p. 13).
In other words, Islam survives in a given culture because it remains unchanged and sees itself as embattled against cultural difference or change. As a result it can remain monolithic and isolated from the culture. In a world distressed by the culture-destroying power of technology, secularization, urbanization, and other such forces, the unchanging nature of Islam provides a rare sense of security and stability. There is no need to contextualize or adapt. Americans, who have grown up in a constantly changing culture, often forget that not everyone in the world embraces cultural change or the overturning of traditional practices to the same extent that they do.
On the positive side, Christianity has thrived in many parts of the world precisely because the gospel is a message to every tribe and tongue, and while the message must remain the same, the medium and the method are readily adaptable to other cultures.
Walls explains further:
This vulnerability [of Christianity] is also linked with the essentially vernacular nature of the Christian faith, which rests on a massive act of translation, the Word made flesh…Christian faith must go on being translated, must continuously enter into vernacular culture and interact with it, or it withers and fades. Islamic absolutes are fixed in a particular language, and in the conditions of a particular period of human history. The divine Word is the Qur’an, fixed in heaven forever in Arabic, the language of original revelation.
For Christians, however, the divine Word is translatable, infinitely translatable. The very words of Christ himself were transmitted in translated form in the earliest documents we have, a fact surely inseparable from the conviction that in Christ, God’s own self was translated into human form (p. 29).
A charitable reading of Walls reminds us that the success of Christianity throughout history in so many cultures has been the gospel’s ability to reach people in any culture while maintaining the positive aspects of common grace in that culture. The vernacular nature of the Christian faith presents a temptation and an opportunity. The temptation is to contextualize the message of the gospel, and thereby to lose it. For this, Christians are rightly criticized by Muslims. The diluted gospel of much of
evangelicalism and fundamentalism under the guise of being relevant or old-fashioned, respectively, bears constant witness to this tragedy. The temptation, however, is not necessary, and Christianity can be adapted to various cultures successfully, without compromising the message. Walls concurs:
Christian faith is repeatedly coming into creative interaction with new cultures, with different systems of thought and different patterns of tradition; that (again in contrast to Islam, whose Arabic absolutes provide cultural norms applying throughout the Islamic world) its profoundest expressions are often local and vernacular. It also means that the demographic and geographical centre of gravity of Christianity is subject to periodic shifts. Christians have no abiding city, no permanent sacred sites, no earthly Mecca; their new Jerusalem comes down out of heaven at the last day (p. 30).
At least two implications arise from these distinctions between Christianity and Islam. First, all of us, not just missionaries, need to translate the faith into the local vernacular in which we find ourselves without compromising the gospel. Christianity is not Islam, and so is not culturally monolithic. Second, rather than seeing the expansion of Christianity as a necessarily universal progressive missionary certainty, perhaps we ought to realize that the spread of the faith will probably always be influenced by the currents of culture and the degree to which Christians in a particular location remain faithful. The survival of the gospel in a particular area is not assured apart from the faithful preaching and teaching of the Word. This is an especially poignant reality for the church in America where attention and commitment to sound doctrine has fallen precipitously, and simultaneously, Islam has expanded exponentially. If Islam is hardly ever dislodged once it is established in a region, the only hope for the spread of Christianity is the wholesale commitment of the church to the centrality of the gospel.
Every time I hear about another school shooting I am sickened. Sickened as a parent, as a citizen, as a gun owner, and as a Christian. But just as sickening as the loss of life and terror that school shootings produce is the response by the experts who do not believe in cause and effect. They do not believe that what our society has told children and teens will have any effect on them. This only ensures that shootings will continue to happen, over and over again. As Steve Turner says in his poem, “Creed,” school shootings are merely the sound of man worshiping the god we told him exists.
“We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.
We believe in sex before, during, and
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.
We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.
We believe there’s something in horoscopes
UFO’s and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher though we think
His good morals were bad.
We believe that all religions are basically the same-
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.
We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then its
compulsory heaven for all
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn
We believe in Masters and Johnson
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.
We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and
Americans should beat their guns into tractors .
And the Russians would be sure to follow.
We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.
We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth
excepting the truth
that there is no absolute truth.
We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.
If chance be
the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky
and when you hear
State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!
It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.”
Steve Turner, (English journalist), “Creed,” his satirical poem on the modern mind. Taken from Ravi Zacharias’ book Can Man live Without God? Pages 42-44
No one chooses that lifestyle. No one asks to be raped, exploited, trafficked, paraded, blackmailed, or abused. I never use the word prostitute because it doesn’t matter to me how much money a girl, or her captor, pimp, father, brother, or trafficker, is getting for her body: she is not the one making a living there.
Sometimes you need to read a book or watch a movie that vividly portrays the tragedy that is the human experience in order to be reminded of the sorry state from which we are delivered in Christ. Last weekend I happened upon a little-known recent movie starring Matthew McConaughey and Reese Witherspoon with the forgettable title of Mud (2013). Actually, the real stars of the movie are the pair of adolescent actors that portray two young teens, Ellis and Neckbone (yes, Neckbone), in the deep South. This virtually unknown film that showed on limited release earlier this year scored a whopping 98% rating among movie critics on Rotten Tomatoes, a respected movie ratings website. McConaughey and Witherspoon turn in solid performances as two washed-up losers, Mud and Juniper, whose youth and hope have faded with every bad decision they have made. In contrast, the two boys from broken and worsening family situations cling to sanity and virtue by a thread, as the adults in their lives come apart at the seams.
The movie is gritty, but not extremely so. Like all coming-of-age movies (think of 1986’s Stand by Me) the reality of teen boys coming into adulthood includes profanity, violence, and sexual references (although they are not as bad as they could have been in this movie). This is a movie that will make you think about the tragedy of sin and foolish choices long after the credits roll. It depicts the confusion, anguish, and sense of betrayal that so many children experience when their families disintegrate and adults disappoint them. And yet hope springs in the story even as the plot darkens. After years of failing to make things work, Mud and Juniper find peace in a brief, but loving gaze across a short distance, where volumes are spoken before they finally go their separate ways. Mud’s manipulation and betrayal of the boys’ trust is redeemed in the end when he saves Ellis’ life not once, but twice. The violent storm of Ellis’ parents crumbling marriage calms to a drizzle, and we see him smile for the first time at the end of the movie. The viewer is left with a sense that in the midst of the curse of sin that rests on this world, hope is still present.
Mud reminded me of how awfully destructive sin is. It keeps people who love each other apart. It robs life of innocence and joy, leaving only bleakness and hopelessness. But redemption is available. The movie does not have many overt spiritual references, although the few subtle allusions are meaningful. There is no Savior offered, so don’t look too hard for Christian themes. The hopelessness of much of the plot is what I find thought-provoking. Just like There Will Be Blood and No Country for Old Men, there are no real answers found in the world of men, only despair and meaninglessness. Only outside of us is there hope. Only in Christ is life more than a round trip from dust to dust, or in this case from mud to mud.
It is not possible to build a culture around a denial of God-given standards, and then arbitrarily reintroduce those standards at your convenience, whenever you need a word like evil to describe what has just happened. Those words cannot just be whistled up. If we have banished them, and their definitions, and every possible support for them, we need to reckon with the fact that they are now gone. Cultural unbelief, which leads inexorably to cultural nihilism and despair, is utterly incapable of responding appropriately to things like this, while remaining fully capable of creating them. In the prophetic words of C.S. Lewis, “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”
Douglas Wilson, Blog and Mablog
Here’s a collection of great links on the election.
Included in this collection are some notable links, such as:
Joel Beeke’s “Why My Conscience Won’t Let Me Not Vote for Romney”
Wayne Grudem’s 24 Moral and Spiritual Issues at Stake in this Election
Al Mohler’s view of the election as The Great American Worldview Test