Archive for the ‘Culture’ category

Perspective and Worldviews

January 25, 2019


It’s always interesting to listen to people who come from outside our own circles. I have become a religious listener of the Unbelievable Podcast hosted by Justin Brierley in the UK. The difference of perspective that is driven by our different experiences, individual, familial and cultural, is the subject of this piece.

Two recent podcasts come to mind. The first included two Christians, one with an egalitarian view on women and the other with a complimentarian view on women (Unbelievable? #MeToo and the Church: Egalitarian vs Complementarian • Natalie Collins & Phil Moore). The egalitarian position is the progressive view, and the complimentarian position is the conservative view. That seems obvious enough. What interested me was not only the difference in opinions, but the influences that shaped those opinions.

The other podcast (Unbelievable? Render unto Caesar – Should the church keep out of economic politics? Andy Walton vs James Price) involved two more Christians, one with a view that the church should speak to politics, and another with a view that the church should not speak to politics, but should stick to theological things. These guys, being from Great Britain, turn the American views of these things on their heads. Thus, a difference in perspective that prompts me to write this blog piece.

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The Intersectionality of Jesus Christ

December 24, 2018


A recent podcast hosted by Justin Brierley, Debating the Statement on Social Justice – Jarrod McKenna and James White, sparks my thinking this morning. One might wonder what social justice has to do with Christmas Eve that I should be thinking about it. Quite a lot actually.

Before tying up that loose end, though, I feel the need to comment on the discussion. James White was a drafter of the Statement on Social Justice and the Gospel. The express purpose of the Statement is to clarify the meaning of the Gospel in order to guard against false teachings creeping into the Church through modern “sociological, psychological, and political theories”. Certainly, concern over false teachings and false gospels is a theme we find as far back as the Gospels, themselves, and the Pauline letters. We are right o be concerned.

On the other hand, as I listened to the discussion, another concern occurred to me. Yes, we are not of the world, but we are in the world, and the world is our mission field. Jesus left the 99 to search for the one lost sheep. Paul was a Jew to the Jews and a Greek to the Greeks, becoming all things to all people so that he could reach them with the Gospel. (1 Corinthians 9:19-23) Though Paul was concerned about false gospels creeping into the Church, he was also concerned about relating to the lost world.

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Responding to the Journalism Crisis

October 25, 2018

business man, aggressive businessman with typewriter and hammer


via Responding to the Journalism Crisis

We need to find a way to talk to each other, and not just at each other. We need to listen to each other, and not be so quick to respond with a put down or a label or an accusation.

Does the present state of journalism reflect our current attitudes toward “others”? Or does it drive our attitudes towards “others”?

Maybe its both.

We wouldn’t “buy” what they are dishing out if we didn’t want it. The biased, clickbait journalism that we consume is, sadly, just a reflection of who we have become. Maybe it’s who we always were?

At the same time, the hyped up “news” outlets of the left and right variety to a good job of stirring up the division among us and agitating us to fight with other. We toss meme hand grenades into the social media foxholes of our “enemies”, while we rally the troops hiding in the trenches, and they are fueled by a nonstop barrage of media assault.

What are coming too? Where does this end? Is there any hope?

Maybe, but we need to become better news consumers and demand more integrity from our news sources. We need to become more astute in our vetting of fact and eschew the clickbait headlines that dangle in front of our faces like garish posters advertising the wolf boy at a carnival.

We need to stop ourselves from posting knee-jerk responses on social media, labeling those we disagree with and parroting our talking points without really listening or engaging in independent thought. We need to stop the us-against-them mentality when it comes to politics and worldviews and see ourselves as neighbors who have different perspectives.

Yes, worldviews matter, but relationships matter more. No one is winning the social media debates. We are losing our connectedness in a sea of disjointed, clamorous rancor.

Followers of Christ should seek to set a better example. We should be salt and light. We should have a different flavor. We should not defined by the political positions that we hold, but by the love and character of Christ.

Is Belief Merely the Product of Geography & Culture?

September 14, 2018


Hugh Ross, an astrophysicist turned Christian minister and apologist, was interviewed on Justin Brierley’s podcast, Unbelievable!, with Peter Atkins, the famous Oxford professor of chemistry and avowed atheist. If you haven’t listened to Justin Brierley’s podcasts, I heartily recommend them. He handles very difficult subjects with people on opposite ends of the spectrum in a very gentlemanly, informed and thoughtful way.

The Hugh Ross/Peter Atkins interview (debate) was no exception, though Peter Atkins was a bit less civil in his discourse than Hugh Ross and the host. Brierley, who seems unflappable, didn’t miss a beat, but I was particularly impressed by the kind patience of Hugh Ross, though disappointed that he was often interrupted and not allowed to finish what he was saying.

I recently read a post interview statement from Hugh Ross that puts things in perspective. It provides some background and insight into the interview and the reason, perhaps, of the hostility evident in Peter Atkins demeanor. But first, let’s consider the position that Peter Atkins takes before we consider why he was so hostile.

Peter Atkins takes the position, that Richard Dawkins also takes, that people largely believe what they are conditioned to believe. People’s religious beliefs, therefore, are dictated by where they grew up, the culture and tradition to which they are exposed and other conditions that have nothing to do with the truth of the particular religious or philosophical proposition. Belief, according to them, is entirely an accident of external circumstances and conditions.

Both Atkins and Dawkins claim to base their worldviews entirely on the scientific evidence and on the scientific evidence alone. Both claim that Christians believe what they want to believe, ignoring the actual evidence or in spite of the actual evidence (“in the teeth of the evidence” as Dawkins puts it). If we know a little bit about their own stories, though, we see an immediate disconnect. And, if we think about the story of Hugh Ross, and others, that disconnect gets even more pronounced.

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The False Promise of Pleasure

August 12, 2018

Statue of writer and playright Oscar Wilde in Merrion Square in Dublin, Ireland.

“Meaninglessness does not come from weariness with pain. Meaningless comes from weariness with pleasure….  No one is more fed up with life than one who has exhausted pleasure. Some of the loneliest people in the world are those who have lived indulgent lives and emotionally and physically drive themselves to impotence.”

This is a quotation from Ravi Zacharias in a talk he gave titled, the Problem of Pleasure. If you listen to Ravi Zacharias much, you will note that he returns to this theme often, and he often mentions Oscar Wilde, the famous Irish poet and playwright. He was a brilliant writer and thinker who was an outspoken atheist and lived a hedonistic lifestyle.

Wilde is described as “the supreme individualist”. The Picture of Dorian Gray, is described as a “novel of vice hidden beneath art” tinged with “self-conscious decadence”. The Importance of Being Earnest, commonly believed to be his best work written at the height of his career, is more subtle and nuanced, but continues the same theme, as do all of the works of Oscar Wilde. (See Wikipedia)

We know much of Wilde’s private life, ironically, from a much publicized court case that publicized his private life when Wilde sued the Marquess of Queensberry for libel. Queensberry was also an outspoken atheist. Queensberry’s son, Lord Alfred Douglas, was the person who introduced Wilde to “the Victorian underground of gay prostitution”. Queensberry’s defense was to prove his statements true by hiring private investigators to uncover the “salacious details of Wilde’s private life”. The trial that Wilde initiated left him bankrupt as the defense proved the truth of Queenberry’s statements.

Wilde, the “colourful agent provocateur in Victorian society”, spared himself no pleasure and wasn’t shy about his lifestyle. Like Solomon, though, he retained a sort of wisdom borne of experience. Having been baptized as a child, he often used biblical imagery and characters in his writing, though his use was, perhaps, sacrilegious.  During a two year prison sentence for homosexual actions, he requested the Bible in multiple, languages, Dante’s Divine Comedy and other works with Christian themes. When he was released from prison, the Catholic Church turned down his request to spend six months at a monastery, and Wilde wept at the news.

As I sit here thinking of these things, I am also thinking of the unfolding story of a friend, a very enthusiastic and committed believer in God. He is a lover of the stage, a former Shakespearean performer. In that sense, he shares something in common with the playwright, Wilde. My friend is in the ICU as I write, having suffered a series of strokes that could leave him incommunicative and paralyzed. Even in his desperate physical situation, he and his family have experienced the presence of God sustaining them in faith. They exhibit a transcendent joy and peace even in the middle of the difficulties they face.

We are naturally attracted to pleasure and pull back from pain, but sometimes the pleasures we seek cause us pain. We tend to think that pleasure is good and pain is bad, if not in a moral sense, then certainly in an experiential sense. God gives us the ability to experience pleasure and pain. In that sense, God gives us both pleasure and pain. Neither one is intrinsically good or bad. CS Lewis implies this when he says that God whispers to us in our pleasures, but He shouts to us in our pain.

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Are Christians Hypocrites?

July 14, 2018


The charge that Christians are hypocrites is a common one. Many people cite the hypocrisy of Christians as a reason they don’t go to church or consider themselves Christian. According to Webster, a hypocrite is “a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion” or “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings”. As a Christian, I take this charge seriously, and so I feel compelled to address it.

In this world of fake news, we seem to be on hyper alert to what is fake. If Christians claim to be virtuous or religious, but they act like everyone else, most people would consider them “fake”. If Christians have ascribed to certain standards of morality and conduct, but don’t live up to those standards themselves, most people would call them hypocrites.

As I survey the Christians that I know and have known in my life, I find myself having to concede that Christians are guilty as charged. In fact, I need look no further than myself to come to that conclusion. I fail in my life on a regular basis to live up to the standards I believe in, though I recoil at the thought of putting up a false front about it.

Still, the answer is clear and obvious: Christians are hypocrites.

We are religious. It isn’t a pretense, for most of us. We try to be virtuous. That usually isn’t a pretense either, but we fail to live up to the standards we hold out. There can be no doubt of that.

Calling Christians hypocrites is like shooting fish in a barrel. It’s that easy. You literally can’t miss.

But, that isn’t the end of the story. Not by a long shot. It’s only the beginning.

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Following Jesus on Immigration

July 11, 2018


“If you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself,’ you are doing well. But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law is transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point he has become guilty of all of it…. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty. For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.” (James 2:8-10, 12-13)

The immigration issues in the United States are much on everyone’s mind, if for no other reason than Donald Trump and media are making a big to do about it. Most thinking and empathetic people, however, have watched with some angst as the treatment of families and children crossing the border has brought a moral crisis to our daily awareness.

What should we do with these illegal immigrants and asylum seekers? How should we be treating them and handling the situation? As the videos, photos, stories and reports stream in day after day, we can’t help but notice what is going on and to react to it. How does a Christian respond to the immigration issues that face our country?

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