Friday, September 2, 2022

On Joe Rogan, Aaron Rodgers, and Why Christianity Is True

I was listening to Joe Rogan’s interview with Aaron Rodgers last night and something Rogan said struck me. 


First, let me be clear: I enjoy Joe Rogan’s podcast because he often engages social issues with his own alternative takes that don’t neatly fit into either a conservative or liberal point of view. While my conservatism is based on my reading of Scripture’s diagnoses of man, how peace comes, and what God wants from us, that doesn’t mean I only listen to conservative voices. And it often is the case that if someone comes with a take that would probably make enemies on both CNN and Fox News, I’m interested. I don’t watch either channel, but usually get my news from a mixture of Daily Mail, Tim Poole, Twitter, and Real Clear Politics. What endeared Rogan to me over the last couple of years was that he, like me, wasn’t buying the COVID keep-up-with-appearances anarchy. Even though I had COVID about 10 months ago, and still from time to time have minor inconvenient symptoms, I think the virus was weaponized politically and was sensationalized based on a naturalistic worldview, forcing a lot of decisions in the public sphere that were driven entirely by appearances. 


That is part of the reason I was interested in listening to Rogan’s interview of Rodgers. Rodgers, undisputedly one of the greatest NFL quarterbacks of all time (no other player has more NFL MVPs except Peyton Manning, both having inexplicably won separate MVP awards ten years apart), got COVID from a vaccinated teammate in late October 2021 about the same time I had it. Since Rodgers is allergic to one of the ingredients in the mRNA vaccines, he had to go about immunization a different way. When it came out that he was therefore “unvaccinated,” he had a slew of criticism from right and left, and a stain on his integrity in the public eye that, as he states in the Rogan interview, will probably never go away. All that to say that I find him to be an interesting guy not just for his football abilities. 


But before I move into the main reason I’m writing, let me make a second disclaimer: Aaron Rodgers and Joe Rogan both believe in using natural psychoactive and entheogenic drugs to connect at a spiritual level with reality. They talk about this around 1:40:00 in their interview (it is a long interview), and it is a very clear endorsement of a brand of transcendentalism: A view of the world that depersonalizes God, instead opting for a framework that says that we all comprise God as aggregate humanity, and once we accept this, it will foster peace among us. Such a framework is similar to various Hindu religions, and has some things in common with the practice of yoga and with George Lucas’s Force, popularized in the Star Wars franchise. In the practice of these psychoactive drugs, people feel that they connect with reality at a deeper level, which is why many view such drug use as a type of religious experience. Indeed, in one sense, it is.


It should be no surprise, then, that Rodgers has been extremely critical of his Christian upbringing and with Christianity in general, calling religion a “crutch” that people use to make themselves feel better. I can’t say I disagree that some people use it as such; I just think that to reject Christianity based on that observation alone is extremely dangerous: What if while some use it as a crutch for good feelings, others adhere to it because Jesus of Nazareth really is who he says he is, and he initiated an experience with them? This is the question that still eludes so many people: Despite the alleged abuses of Christianity by so many adherents ("alleged" because, do our failures really abuse it as much as prove it?), is Christianity, nonetheless, after all is said and done, true? And further, what standard are you using to judge the wrongness of said Christians’ behavior, if not a standard given to us? Do you really think we created right and wrong? Rodgers and other critics of religion say Christians have questions to answer. I say the atheists and religion critics have more questions to answer, including these ones. 


But this leads me to the point I wanted to reflect on. Around 00:26:00 of the interview, Rogan and Rodgers come to a place where they agree that people just don’t know how to treat others anymore. And Rogan ponders, “Whatever happened to being a charitable and forgiving person?” 


It’s interesting that until five minutes ago in history, it was the Christians who were known as the charitable and forgiving people in society. I would argue (as would Charles Taylor) that the only reason that charity and forgiveness are considered such virtues in Western society today is because of the influence of the Christian framework over the west. 


But the real reason that Christianity exploded in the first few centuries CE, and why it currently exists in an unprecedented global way, is not primarily because of missionary zeal or because of aggressive evangelism that guilts people into converting (although that does happen). The real reason is that Christianity uniquely explains that what is wrong with humanity is not that we are uncharitable, unforgiving, and socially ugly by nature, but that we are all of those things as a result of the Fall. We were created peaceable and peaceful, but an Enemy came in with a crafty plan to cast doubt on the trustworthiness of the God who created us. And if He can’t be trusted, neither can others. The effect is that now our “feet are swift to shed blood” (Prov. 1:16), and now we “turn each one of us to our own way” (Is. 53:6). 


So no one is immune to this problem. No one, except one man who lived in Judea in the first century CE. His life was a perfect one that flawlessly demonstrated what life is supposed to be: Perfect life-giving love. Hence he is Himself “the life” that was “made manifest” (1 Jn. 1:2). But instead of demanding the respect that he deserved, he let the very people he came to serve crucify him on a Roman cross so that the penalty of man’s sin would be fully paid. It makes sense actually: If all are fallen in Adam, none can pay the price (that is, none can make atonement). So in Jesus of Nazareth, the Word made flesh, God paid it in the ultimate act of charity and forgiveness. 


The irony here is that while both Rogan and Rodgers rightly see that humanity needs to be more charitable and forgiving, both Rogan, who identifies as agnostic, and Rodgers, who purposefully doesn’t identify with any religion, are rejecting the only One in history who has been truly and fully charitable and forgiving. If these men would look inside themselves they’d see that they, too, are neither as charitable or forgiving as they should be (and I think they’d admit this). But that is a proof of why the Christian gospel is true and why it is so needed: We should be charitable and forgiving, but we aren’t. And only Jesus, the only One who ever truly was, can get us there. 


You might remember that in 2005, Tom Brady famously wondered in a 60 Minutes interview why he, in chasing Super Bowls, keeps chasing something that he knows won’t satisfy him. He was dancing around the gospel. Similarly, these other prominent voices seem to also be dancing around the gospel that alone can truly save the world. While I respect that Rogan and Rodgers are seeing through the noise, propaganda, agendas, and narratives that plague American (and more and more, global) society, I echo C.S. Lewis’ famous conclusion to his Abolition of Man: The purpose of seeing through something is seeing something on the other side. To say “People are not loving enough and everyone is a liar” doesn’t go far enough. The next question is, “Why are we like this, and how can we change?” And that is when Jesus walks into the room. 

Friday, July 29, 2022

Jordan Peterson, and the Importance of Spiritual Discernment

A brother in the Lord recently asked for my thoughts on a viral video by Dr. Jordan Peterson. In the video, Peterson delivers a charge to the Christian church. Peterson, himself not a professing Christian, probably feels a certain comfort level with doing so because of a shared sentiment with the likes of Ben Shapiro: The church is an ally to cultural and political conservatives for the health of Western civilization, and should therefore be treated as an ally. 


Those generally conservative-minded people do well to pay respect to the church’s influence over Western thinking. Philosophers like Charles Taylor have clearly shown that the Western way of thinking traces its origins back to the influence of the Christian gospel over the conscience. While much of Western thought has forsaken the Christian metaphysic of earlier times, the conservatives of the day are trying to uphold and support it. Thus there is a lot in common between the church on one side and the Shapiros, Petersons, Candace Owens’, Larry Elders, and Thomas Sowells on the other side. 


In Peterson’s video, he seizes on this alliance and calls on the church to stop worrying so much about social justice and worry more about saving peoples’ souls, which is the church’s job. While it is the church’s job to advocate for justice where it is lacking, Peterson’s point is well-taken. We are to be more focused on the gospel’s ability to speak peace to peoples’ relationship to God. Thus we should focus more on souls, and, theoretically, justice should follow. No argument there. 


Further, and this gets more to Peterson’s general occupational focus, the church is told to focus on discipling and training up young men. Peterson says, “Place a sign out front that says ‘Men welcome here.’” Similar to above, a corrective point is worth making: It was Christianity that uniquely established the equality of the genders such that women were regarded as of equal importance to men. This is because Christianity said that men and women were created in God’s image (Gen. 1:26-27), and that, in the gospel work of the One who is himself the Image of God (Heb. 1:3), “there is neither…male or female” (Gal. 3:28). 


Nevertheless, men were created first, and thus occupy a more responsible position in God’s economy. So whereas Eve was deceived unto sinning (1 Tim. 2:13-14), Adam is the one held responsible (Rom. 5:12-21). Thus the New Testament places such an emphasis on the importance of training up godly men to lead and shepherd the home and the church. The texts are too numerous to list. But it is a plainly significant priority to the NT church. The point is this: Peterson’s charge is well-said. We need to train up young men to be men. 


All of that to say, there are some issues with Jordan Peterson correcting the church in any way. There are two that I see (and there will probably be more that I think about after I publish this post). 


First, Dr. Peterson is not a Christian. And since when does the church let outside voices steer its mission? Now, it is clear, as I have outlined above, that there is much in Peterson’s words that are consistent with God’s truth. Because of that, there is a lot in there which Christians can “amen.” It just seems to me that the things he is calling for are things that true churches are already doing, meanwhile, the churches that are overly focused on the world’s opinions are at least capitulating and at most are not true churches. You can tell a true church by its attentiveness to Christ’s Word. “My sheep hear my voice…they follow me” (Jn. 10:27). “The church submits to Christ” (Eph. 5:23). 


I think that if those championing Dr. Peterson’s message would look around, they’d see that there are churches everywhere that are doing the very things he is acting like are not occurring. These things just are not covered by the media because the Kingdom of God grows in a way less like a darling athlete's popularity and more like leaven hidden in dough gaining an expanded roll over time (Mt. 13:33; misspelling of "role" intended). Our church, for instance is doing what we can do to shepherd souls and train men to be godly men. As long as I’m the pastor here, our church will be imperfect in such endeavors! But we are trying, and will try. 


But the second issue, and this is the main one, regards something Peterson says in his charge to men to find a wife, tend a garden, build a family, etc. That run of points was a beautiful way of stating priorities that are priorities to God and should be for Christians. 


But towards the end of these comments, Peterson adds that man’s job is to “build a ladder to heaven.” In such a statement, he shows that he still, sadly, has not understood the Christian gospel. It is not only principially true that one becomes a Christian when they see that they cannot build a ladder to heaven but that they need Jesus to do it, but it is explicitly true, because this is exactly what Jesus said: Echoing the story of Jacob at Bethel seeing the angels of God walking up and down a ladder to heaven (Gen. 28:10-17), the end of John 1 has Jesus telling two of his new disciples that the essence of saving faith is to see the angels of God ascending and descending on Him (Jn. 1:51). What is Jesus’ point? That He IS the ladder to heaven, and that the only way one gets to God is if Jesus takes them to Him. He came from heaven not only to “show the way” (as one old worship chorus says) but to be the Way (Jn. 14:6). By ascending the cross outside of Jerusalem around AD 35, he was constructing a ladder between heaven and earth whereby men and women can be taken to God if they come and bow the knee to the thorn-crowned King who was crucified. Man does not build a ladder to heaven. Man does not even climb the ladder to heaven on his own. Man humbles himself under the Christ-King, who then, by his cross, takes man up the ladder to God (1 Pet. 3:18). That’s why when Jesus says that the disciples know “the way,” and they respond, “What is the way?” He can respond by saying, “I am the Way”: There is a way to Heaven, it is the only one, and it is clear. But it is Jesus Himself. He is the Way, the very Kingdom of God consisting in Himself.


So you can see why Peterson’s claim is problematic. To so place the responsibility on men to build a ladder to heaven that you jettison that Jesus already has already done so is to replace reverence for him with reverence for us. While such a humanitarian impulse is understandable and even appreciated to some degree, a Christian is one who looks at humanity and sees only cause for poverty of spirit (Mt. 5:3), and then looks to Jesus and meets hope, blessed living hope (1 Pet. 1:3). A Christian refuses to bypass the cross on the way to training men to be responsible men. Truly, without the cross, we only build in vain (Ps. 127:1). 


I hope that if you found yourself saying, “Amen” to Peterson’s points, you were doing so because he was upholding a lot of important points about responsibility, manhood, ministry, etc. which have been minimized in the present day and need to be recaptured. But I hope that if you’re a Christian, you were also able to sit back and say, “See, this is where the limits of my agreement are found.” Because the Christian message is that we don’t recapture integrity, responsibility, or manhood by reaching up and grabbing them ourselves. We recapture them by looking to Jesus who came to give them to us. 


I suspect something, and since I don’t know peoples’ hearts, I could be wrong. But here it is: I suspect that much of the celebration of Peterson’s points stem from a desire among conservative Christians to see these godly priorities recaptured in the public sphere. And Peterson, one of our “cultural allies,” might be one of the most able voices to recapture them. Just remember one thing, believer: If we leave Jesus’ finished work out of our desire for cultural transformation, we are no different than the liberation theology that dominates progressive thinking, with their minds set on earthly things (Phil. 3:19). How are we any different if all we are focused on is things pertaining to this life? But if we start with the cross, a new creation follows (Gal. 6:15), then a new life permeated with peace, blessing, and yet trial, but in the end, eternal bliss with God (Mk. 10:30). I guess I’m just trying to say this: Don’t let cultural allies who don’t have a spiritual mind rob you of yours. It is useless to win the cultural battle but lose your soul. 

Thursday, July 21, 2022

Peter Kreeft, and 10 Lies of Contemporary Culture

What follows is Dr. Peter Kreeft's "10 Lies of Contemporary Culture", delivered as the commencement address at Steubenville's Fransiscan University on May 14, 2022. Kreeft is a Roman Catholic apologist, and I just thought that he knocked it out of the park with this list. You can read the full transcript here, and view and listen to his speech here. Note that Dr. Kreeft's Roman Catholicism shines through throughout his speech, and my sharing of the outline of his speech is not an endorsement of Roman sentiments. I am unashamedly a Protestant and Reformed Christian.** But Dr. Kreeft is extremely astute in his cultural analysis, and he should be taken seriously by all who love the Lord and love the truth. 

10 Lies of Contemporary Culture: 

1. You can be whatever you want. No; we are hemmed in by limits on every side. This is not hard to see though it might be hard to admit.

2. The most important person in the world is you. No; you're very small compared to the grand scheme. Embrace it if you want to find happiness.

3. The world needs you and you can save the world. No; similar to #2, you'll live, die, and the world will continue on without you, with all the same problems (see Ecclesiastes 1). 

4. You need education in creative thinking, ie, the ability to create new realities. No, you cannot create realities, only organize God's reality. The most creative of us are only creative in a limited sense.

5. You need education in critical thinking, ie, not to seek positive truth but to cultivate a negative skepticism towards anything claiming to be truth. But this leads, as Lewis said in Abolition of Man, to so seeing through everything that you end up unable to see anything. You end up like Pontius Pilate: "What is truth?" (Jn. 18:38)

6. All peace is good peace. Is it? To say so is to say that there is no place for war, and that includes war against Satan, sin, the flesh, lust, greed, pride, etc. Kreeft notes that the Bible uses the word "enemies" 272 times. How can all peace be good peace if Scripture says we have enemies? Even God has enemies (see Psalm 2:1-3). 

7. If you want peace, seek justice. How has that worked throughout world history, and how is it working in the world currently, especially in angry revenge-driven America now? 

8. The end of all ends is open-mindedness and tolerance. Kreeft notes that an open mind is a good means but a bad end. It is a good means to learning truth, but it is disastrous if it is the end of all learning, ie, just having an open mind. Then what is true? Again, we're back to Pilate. If you have too open of a mind, everything in it will fall out. Eventually your soul will be empty, too.

9. All you need is love, sweet love, and no truth. Such "love" clearly refers not to God's love, which is defined Scripturally as that which God finds lovely (see 1 Jn. 5:2-3), but as a feeling. So the feeling of love is exalted. Thus "if it feels good, it must be right." Kreeft notes that that's what Hitler felt. 

10. Freedom is an end, not a means. That is, our being free is is the end of all pursuits of justice. But freedom for what? Scripture says freedom is the means to the end of serving God (Rom. 6:22). If we have freedom, it will be, as Bob Dylan said, to serve somebody. We'll either serve ourselves and the world, or God. But freedom is never an end; only a means. 

Kreeft then notes what holocaust survivor Victor Frankl said about how America should balance the Statue of Liberty in New York with a Statue of Responsibility in San Francisco. (Can you imagine?) But, as Kreeft concludes, to do so would violate the current day's Ten Commandments, which state: Don't be 1. Judgmental, 2. Repressive, 3. Dogmatic, 4. Intolerant, 5. Uncompassionate, 6. Unfeeling, 7. Insensitive, 8. Narrow-minded, 9. Hypercritical, or our new f-word, 10. Fundamentalist.

But regardless of the strength of the lies, truth will remain. Like John the Apostle said, darkness tries to strangle the truth, and it always has, and, until the end, it always will (Jn. 1:5). But it cannot and will not win. As Luther wrote of Christ, "He must win the battle." So be truthful and faithful, and, as Rod Dreher's recent book was entitled, Live not by lies. 

--

**For an interesting case that Protestants should, on the basis of the Apostle's Creed, use the word "Catholic" to refer to the global gospel-preaching church, because otherwise we let the Roman Church hijack the word, creating the oxymoronic "Roman Catholic" term, see R. Scott Clark's article "Catholicity, Confusion, and a Corrective," here. Clark cites Puritan William Perkins as well as other Reformed confessions to show that Protestants have historically refused to cede the term "catholic" to the Roman church, because the term, contrary to their own historical narrative, far predates them. Protestants who have the gospel are catholic in the original sense of the term. But a protestant cannot say that the Roman Church is catholic, because their message has changed from the original Apostolic church.

Friday, June 24, 2022

Cultural Shifts and Personal Shifts

This will be a cheap blog post in that I am encouraging you to read this other blog post instead of mine. There, James Wood helpfully articulates the shift that many of us have experienced over the last 5-6 years since the Western world (in particular, in America) has become what can be called a "negative world." In the negative world, Christianity is no longer seen by the culture as an "eccentric lifestyle option among many" (to quote Wood), but as the problem from which there needs to be cultural evolution. In other words, Christianity used to just be there as a part of society, but now it is viewed as the problem from which society needs delivered.

Such a shift has meant that committed (and culturally engaged) Christians have had to make a decision about how to stay engaged. Many of us have felt forced to adopt a position that holds that the once-beloved winsome third-way-ism of giants like Tim Keller (still one of my favorite preachers) is less and less plausible. We have therefore had to take harder and more dogmatic-sounding stances because we feel that if we don't, that which we have stood for in the Lord will be lost. While we have not wanted to "return evil for evil" (Rom. 12:17, 1 Pet. 3:9), we also know that there are times when the threat requires a tonality and lucidity that other moments don't (as with Jesus in Matt. 23 and Paul in Galatians). 

Therefore, many of us have lost friends or at least experienced a widening gap with some friends over such stark differences in outlook regarding cultural issues. For example, I have challenged many of my Christian friends who seem have an ax to grind against conservative Christians for behaving in ways that turn non-Christians off. I don't think that such a criticism from my Christian friends is ever unwarranted--sometimes it's very warranted--but I think that their anger toward conservative Christians is often misguided. While some in the world reject a warped faith that needs challenged, others in the world, that is, most worldly people, would reject Jesus if he showed up in the flesh right in front of them, with his eyes and hands of love. 

So, many of us have been so blessed by the type of spirit that Keller employs in ministry, because it was important in bringing us to faith. But we've come to see that we've shifted into a different cultural moment that requires a different type of engagement; in particular, a moment that requires clarity, lucidity, and insistence on the truth. Wood, in his essay, helpfully clarifies why we have shifted, and he does so in a way that is respectful toward those worthy of respect. 

Finally, let me encourage you if you have time to watch or listen to Dr. Martyn Lloyd-Jones' interviews on British and Welsh radio/TV in the late 1960s and 70s. MLJ saw a similar cultural shift happening in England in his post-parish ministry years, and he was willing and ready to engage and be engaged on matters of faith and their place in public life. But he was insistent, clear, and convicted. Here is one interview that is done in black and white, and in which the Doctor explains more of his testimony toward the beginning (for those unfamiliar). In this one, he is interviewed by Dame Joan Bakewell, and I think that this interview was broadcast more widely. Note in both cases how the Doctor is clear and convicted while also being gracious and kind. I think we can learn a lot from the Doctor.

I'm also thankful for all I've learned from Keller. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2022

Politics and Church

I highly recommend all Christians read this article from Tim Alberta of The Atlantic. My recommendation shouldn't be read as an endorsement of everything that the news outlet is known to support (and neither is it a full endorsement of the writer himself). But Alberta breaks down an exceedingly difficult issue in a way that I think is instructive for church-attending Christians (there is no other kind). 

All of that said, let me give my response using the format of an academic analysis. This might sort of double as a guide in reading the article, for those interested: 

Pros: 

1. The writer notes the extremism present on both the right and left. 

It is very clear that in the current day, many people on the right and on the left have moved further to their sides on social issues than they were 15 years ago. There is a growing right-wing extremism and there is a growing left-wing extremism. Further, these sides do this in response to what they perceive to only be extremism on the other side. In other words, such moves are reactionary. A type of what Coldplay called "a battle from beginning to end, a cycle of recycled revenge." 

2. The writer rightly criticizes the news and media over-consumption present on both sides. 

As a conservative Christian pastor (in a denomination that used to have "conservative" in its name), I find myself constantly warning my people that they need to guard their hearts better regarding their Fox News consumption. This past Sunday from the pulpit, I said that the news stations keep you watching by keeping you, first, scared (that is, scared that the opposite side is winning), and secondly, flowing the first, angry (that is, that no one is doing anything about it). And while I preach (hopefully) helpful messages that serve to disciple my people well, they're listening to me talking for 40 minutes on a Sunday morning (or 100 minutes if they come to adult Sunday school and evening service), while they're consuming maybe dozens of hours of media a week, filled with takes, narratives, etc. based on ungodly worldview. No wonder we're so taken in with political concerns.  

3. The writer emphasizes that healthy churches treat the gospel as superior to world issues. 

Christians should be gospel people first and foremost, viewing themselves as ministers of reconciliation, imploring the world to "be reconciled to God" (2 Cor. 5:20), themselves concerned with living lives that reflect the beauty and humility of their Master (1 Pet. 1:15; on humility and quietness, 1 Tim. 2:1-2). That is, they labor for people to find the risen Jesus and to follow Him. If He rules and reigns even in the present, then that means that he is not surprised by current events, nor can those events not serve His eternal purpose in the end. If this is the case, why are Christians--right and left--SO concerned with the cultural moment? This is a passing moment, and nothing is new under the sun, 

4. Finally, the article does a good job of explaining the tension a lot of pastors are facing.

While my congregation has been very supportive of a gospel-oriented and God-focused ministry in an age of political tension, I know many pastors who have either left ministry or been close to it because they face a palpable tension within their congregations regarding political and social issues. This aspect alone, whether construed pastorally as I have, or just noticing the tension present in so many churches and among so many believers, makes the article worth reading. 

Weaknesses: 

1. In warning against both right and left extremism, the writer conflates the right and the left as being equally dangerous (TRIGGER WARNING).

The writer seems to make right and left more similar than different, such that both need equally avoided. I cannot say that this is accurate. As a conservative Christian, my view is that the right and the left are not the same. Both have issues, and neither can save America or the free world. But regenerate Christians can not support the legalization of infanticide (read: abortion), which the left is closely identified with. I am not saying that every Democrat is a supporter of infanticide - many are not; I have several in my congregation who despise the practice. It is clear that America has many pro-life Democrats, for which I am thankful. But the Democratic Party has positioned itself (to many pro-life Democrats' chagrin) as the party of abortion. This alone, among other reasons (such as the courting of LGBTQ and CRT ideologies, as well as, more broadly, the all-out assault on the traditional family), is reason I can't conflate right and left. 

Instead, there is a type of cautious conservatism that I'm convinced Christians should pursue, one that votes for healthy policies that support peace, the traditional family unit, and free speech, without automatically writing off other Christians who have questions or differences in definitions. The problem is not, as the article suggests, that today we are told that we must "pick a side." The problem is that so many Christians are so afraid to do so that they refuse to think through how to. And other Christians are so sure of themselves that they never stop and question themselves, so they don't think either. The problem is that we're too busy to think. 

2. The writer bolsters weak theology, which is the church's biggest problem, in my estimation. 

While the writer himself didn't make this claim, he did mention endearingly a center-leaning pastor's argument to his congregation that believers should know that Jesus came to save everyone, even, as the pastor said to his congregation, Ilhan Omar. I have no clue Mrs. Omar's eternal destiny, only that if she doesn't bow the knee to Jesus (as far as I know, she is not a Christian), she will enter eternal judgment alongside of every other conservative or liberal who didn't embrace King Jesus (Mt. 25:46). It is weak theology to assume that Jesus "came" for everyone. There are two things that the Bible says are true, regarding this topic: First, sovereign election is true (ie, Lk. 10:20, 18:7); that is, in the divine purposes of God, He has a particular regenerate people whom He freely and graciously drew to his Son (Jn. 6:44, 65) who truly bore the penalty for their sins at the cross. Second, I don't know who all of these elect are. But I know I should pray that the Lord works on Mrs. Omar's heart to draw her the same way that he drew me. I just don't think it's productive to say "Jesus died for you," to her or any lost person; the Apostles never preached the gospel that way. Instead, it is much more theologically healthy to put it like this: "Mrs. Omar needs Jesus the same as I do, and Jesus is just as willing to receive her if she were to ask" (cf. Jn. 6:35). 

As it is, "Jesus died for you" theology is just as weak in my view as Left Behind/Rapture theology. Both are built on faulty exegesis, and neither are life-giving: To tell people who are rebels against God that Jesus died for them is to confirm them in their pride (ie, "look at how valuable you are"); and to hold to Left Behind theology is to all but confirm that you will soon be sitting in judgment on the world outside. 

Overall: 

The article is extremely helpful in parsing out the various issues that people are doubtlessly struggling with in local churches today. Thus, I highly recommend you read it and give it some thought. 

If I had any advice for pastors and church leaders, it would be this: Cultivate Kingdom-mindedness in the churches. Do this, first, by focusing the peoples' attention on missions, in particular, how the gospel is more global than it ever has been. Do this, secondly, by preaching and teaching the Trinity. Get them focused on God's glory in the face of Jesus Christ (2 Cor. 4:4). Finally, be Kingdom-minded by preaching idolatry and sin. Calvin said that idolatry is proof of our need for God: We are made to worship and enjoy him, but until he finds us, we give our attention to other "gods." Therefore, in order to keep their eyes on the God who is "slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love," (Ex. 34:6), show them the reality of sin within all of us and our need for God's grace in His Son. Confront their news and media addictions, their guilt-driven leftist ideologies, and their past-driven America-first mentalities. Show them that a healthy diet of media is helpful, compassion for the poor is Biblical, and a desire for a country that practices righteousness before God is a good desire (just as being thankful for such a wonderfully blessed country is good, too). But these things will only be experienced in a healthy and balanced way by being Kingdom-minded first. In showing your people this, you are taking every thought captive to obey Christ; and in time, they will, too.

Friday, April 1, 2022

Ideologies and Revolution

What follows is an unrolled Twitter thread from Josh Daws, host of the Great Awokening Podcast, a pod devoted to explaining the various concepts that comprise the tapestry of today’s Western zeitgeist, commonly called Woke Ideology. 


I usually try and write my own material, but this thread was so good and helpful that I wanted to share it across platforms, and I thought it made the most sense as a full blog post. Thanks to Josh for such insightful explanations. 


To start, Josh alludes to a meme with the bus driver from the Simpsons saying “Don’t make me tap the sign,” which sign contains a tweet that says, “It’s not rocket science guys. They’re just evil and want to diddle kids.” This is obviously referring to the current movement to indoctrinate kids in school with radical gender ideology. Doubtless you’re familiar with the fight in Washington and Florida over this, where the lines have been drawn clearly. The funny meme alluding to the battle might make a interesting point worth considering. But, as Josh explains, it is likely shortsighted and oversimplified. 


Here is Josh’s helpful take, unrolled: 


“I’m seeing a lot of people on the right share this meme. While it may be a strong satirical response to those who get lost in nuance, it fundamentally fails to recognize why the left wants to talk to your kids about sexuality. Let’s connect some dots: 


“The left doesn’t want to diddle kids. They want to create little revolutionaries. To do that they need to sever the bond between students and the parents they believe are raising their children to be hateful bigots.


“In order to sever the bond between parents and their children, the left is using a two-pronged approach. Critical Race Theory and radical gender ideology (properly known as Queer Theory) are not two unrelated sets of ideas. They are two parts of the same strategy.


“CRT is usually the first set of ideas to be introduced. This is often enough to radicalize racial minorities, but it’s merely step one for white (or white adjacent) students. 


“CRT instills in these students a negative self-identity as they’re taught to believe they’re recipients of enormous privilege that was stolen from others and that they are complicit in historic and ongoing injustice. In child terms, they’re taught to believe they’re bad.


“Apart from shame and guilt, this also gives them a worldview at odds with the one their parents grew up with and are trying to pass on to their kids. Step one is complete.


“Once CRT is done tearing down these kids and leaving them with a negative self-identity, Queer Theory (QT) is introduce and offers them a wide assortment of positive self-identities to choose from.


“Instead of living with the shame and guilt of being a member of the oppressive dominant culture, these students can be celebrated for coming out as gender nonbinary or pansexual.


“In an instant, these kids can trade their negative self-identity and all the accompanying guilt and shame of being an “oppressor” for a positive self-identity as a much-venerated “oppressed” minority.


“At this point, the left desperately wants this new identity to stay at school so it has time to be cemented before the parents find out. In the guise of helping these students, schools withhold this information about their child’s new identity from mom and dad.


“Once the parents do find out about their child’s new identity it is firmly in place and an adversarial relationship between the child and parents has been manufactured. It takes extraordinarily deft parenting to repair the relationship once it has reached this stage.


“The parents’ tendency will be to overreact and push the child further into the arms of the woke radicals who now have the little revolutionary they wanted from the beginning. The bond between the parents and child has been severed, ending the perpetuation of hate and bigotry.


“The left is determined to replicate this process in as many families as they can, using whatever means at their disposal. It is not about diddling kids. It is about capturing the minds of impressionable children.


“Unfortunately, this creates environments where actual predators can thrive. When young children are isolated from their parents, encouraged to adopt different beliefs, and keep secrets from their parents, they are made easy targets for abusers.” 


(You might say, “But my school has Christian teachers and a Christian principal. They couldn’t possibly have this agenda.”) 


“Hear me loud and clear on this. Most teachers love the kids in their classrooms and want only the best for them. (But) they have had their empathy for these students weaponized against them by leftist activists promoting educational programs that sound nice and caring.


“Highly empathetic teachers are being used to promote this agenda unaware of its insidious purpose. An example: I recently saw a teacher at a Christian school announce that she would no longer be using the words “mom,” “dad”, or “parents in her classroom. Her reason? She had just read a paper on the importance of making kids from non-traditional families feel included. She suggested replacing “Donuts with Dads” with “Bagels with Buds” or something of the such.


“This sounds like a very considerate thing to do for kids who might feel different because they don’t have a dad or they liv with their grandparents, but its purpose is to subtly chip away at the very idea of the normative nuclear family (a stated goal of the BLM organization.) 


“Christians who think that we can embrace the ideas from CRT and reject the radical gender ideology need to realize how the former is used to prepare kids to accept the latter.


“These are your kids we’re talking about. The left wants them. They would love to sever your bond with them. They think your appeals to childhood innocence are an attempt to force heteronormativity on them. Seriously. They write papers on it. It’s not a secret agenda.” (Click here for James Lindsay’s three-part series walking through the whole agenda, looking at primary sources. Click on the channel name, and find the "videos" page to find the other videos in the three-part series; they're all called "Groomer Schools.")


“The meme I opened this thread with” (the “diddling your kids” meme) “is an easy response to the insanity we’re seeing today, but it is not a great explanation. We should take the time to help people see how nice-sounding programs are being used in the classroom to create little activists and put kids in danger.” 


Wow. I’ve written in the past about the troubling examples I’ve seen of adults who represent the uber-liberal ideologies of the day, saying explicitly that they want to come after kids and convert them to their ideologies (similar to Hitler telling German parents that their kids already belong to him.) This whole endeavor, whether we’re talking about racial issues or issues of sexual freedom, is not about justice or personal identity. It is about cultural revolution against the God of order (1 Corinthians 14:30) and true justice (Psalm 97:2). They do not want to just be heard or listened to, nor do they want fairness. They want power. They want to break off God’s chords from the world that is His, and in which His gospel has penetrated so far, so that they can live autonomously and continue in rebellion against him, while bringing as many along with them as possible. 


Let me be clear: In a fallen world, sexuality struggles will occur, seen in the fact that the New Testament speaks so much about it (see especially Romans 1:18ff.) But Jesus can redeem even from in the midst of such struggles (the point of 1 Cor. 6:9-11). Also, where there is actual injustice being practiced, especially along racial lines, Christians should be the first ones to point it out as wrong. But neither of these things are the aim of the Revolutionaries. They want kids to think that if they have a stray desire (maybe a sexual or gender one), it is legitimate, and only an oppressive religious framework would hinder their exploration; and in order to start this conversation, the Revolutionary has to use CRT to convince the kid that the framework of yesterday, with its traditional gender norms, is wrong and oppressive, so they had better be on the right side of history (hence "progressive" - we have progressed from the Christian past.) It’s a scam; although it is an effective scam. But before anything, it is rebellion against the God before whom we live (Daniel 5:23). 


It has been this way since the beginning: “The rulers take counsel together, against the Lord and against his Anointed, saying, ‘Let us burst their bonds apart and cast away their chords from us,’” David wrote thousands of years ago (Ps. 2:2-3). But what is God’s response? “He who sits in the heavens laughs” (2:4). He laughs. They’re fools, and He’s laughing at them.


Still, be discerning. These are not innocent ideologies, but the maturation of a cultural rejection of the risen Christ. And if you’re not careful, you might be guilted into believing it as well. 


May the Lord protect His sheep. 

Wednesday, March 16, 2022

Moses, and the Extra Long Test

This morning reading through the early chapters of Exodus, I was struck by a few factors in Moses’ calling: 


-God’s miraculous protection of the man before he was ever “on the scene.” He was set apart well in advance - anyone else in the story before Moses comes to the foreground might not understand why this one child was protected. But God knew, and that’s what mattered most.


-Moses’ pre-calling (and in-calling) foibles, a la his ancestors: Similar to Jacob’s earlier birthright and blessing thefts, Moses was a murderer. There is no one who God calls to His work who has a squeaky clean past. In fact, it is often the case that they’re messy people, and that’s part of why God can use them: there is an Adam-ness about them that motivates them for the last Adam’s Kingdom. Moses’ foibles also include his famous hesitation to enter into God’s labor, famously ending by saying, “Please Lord, send someone else” (4:13). Note, God isn’t calling a man with an initially strong faith. Like his ancestor Abraham (cf. Rom. 4:20) Moses’ faith was going to have to grow over time. He accepts the call and begins the trek to Egypt. 


-Moses’ first—strange—test: On his way back to Egypt, he again follows his ancestor Jacob’s pattern by getting into a nighttime wrestling match with God who “sought to put him to death” (4:24). Such strong language is doubtless the text’s way of telling us how brutal the fighting was. Since Moses’ son’s foreskin getting cut off deescalates God’s pursuit (4:26), it seems clear that this is God’s way of making sure that Moses knows he’s a part of a grander story that includes his circumcised ancestors. In God’s targeting us, He teaches us. Moses and his wife Zipporah learn the lesson.


-Moses second—and much unexpected—test: When he gets to Egypt and tells Pharaoh to let the people go to the wilderness to worship, the latter doesn’t listen, and he orders heavier work on the Israelites, because how dare this Moses make such a suggestion? The Israelites understandably turn on Moses. At this point Moses cries out to God, “Why have you sent me here? You haven’t delivered the people yet, and now they want to kill me” (5:22-23 my loose paraphrase). It is only at that point that God tells Moses, “Now you’ll see what I’m about to do… Go back to Pharaoh” (Ex. 6:1ff.) What immediately follows is Moses and Aaron’s genealogy, which is the text’s way of telling us that God is about to begin working powerfully with these men.


But don’t miss what has happened in this last test: Moses the murderer, who has begged God to send someone else because of his own weaknesses, is taken through a night of wrestling with the Lord that most of us can only imagine in horror; when he survives, he obeys God by speaking with Pharaoh, only to then have God let him sit there with egg on his face while Pharaoh, instead of complying, gives the Israelite’s heavier burdens; for a time, everyone is against Moses.


This inexplicable scenario—that is, Why did God delay his fulfilling his promise one more scene, and with such disastrous and terrifying consequences?—is never explained in the text. 


But we know that the testing of our faith is often “necessary” (1 Pet. 1:6), and that it is given to us for our maturation and growth in grace (Jms. 1:3-4). Without such dark nights of the soul we wouldn’t truly depend on God; we only would talk about depending on God (see 2 Corinthians 1:3-8).


The lesson is simple: If you want to follow God’s call, be ready for twists, turns, and extended times of testing that you won’t understand, maybe ever in this life. But trust the hands of the Potter who only fashions beautiful vessels. He knows not only the right temperature, materials, and time needed to make  the vessel, but also the right amount of pressure. And it will be perfect in the end.