Talking To Atheists


“Black holes are cosmic objects that harbour a gravitational field so powerful that nothing, not even light or radiation can escape.”

Atheists and Christians look at life and the world from diametrically opposed views, so having a conversation between those who hold to those divergent opinions is not easy. On one hand, atheists, believing only in scientifically verifiable substance, are convinced that God does not exist. Some even question the historicity of Jesus. These fundamental positions lead them to dismiss the Bible as more myth than an accurate historical source.

In contrast, Christians know that God and an entire supernatural realm beyond the scope of science, exist. This fundamental position leads us to accept the Bible not only as accurate but authoritative since the words and thoughts are God’s, written by humans through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Most of that last paragraph would be nearly unintelligible to atheists. After all, from their perspective there is no God, therefore no Holy Spirit, no inspiration, leaving the Bible to be a book of made-up stories and rules.

Generally conversation between those holding the two opposing positions means one side creates a “convincing” argument dismantling the position of the other, only to have the reverse occur during rebuttal.

So does that mean there is no way the two can discuss the big issues of life? There certainly is a barrier. From my perspective as a Christian, I feel as if I’m trying to convince someone who is colorblind that the sky is blue. It’s an obvious fact to me, but he has no knowledge of blue and therefore considers everything I say to be nonsense.

From his perspective I imagine he has what seems to be the most obvious, basic, clear, tangible standards by which reality can be determined, but Christians claim truth on the basis of those standards plus something intangible, unclear, obscure, and convoluted.

If I’m right, both sides shake their heads at the other and say, how can they be so ignorant?

In reality, I as a Christian would like to learn to talk to atheists, but to do that means bridging this worldview divide. Oh, sure, we can talk at each other—I can quote Scripture, which they don’t believe, and they can quote “Bible scholars” who don’t believe the Bible. I can throw out names of Christian scientists and they can list three times as many atheist scientists. I can present archeological data supportive of the Bible, and they can point to detail after detail in the Bible for which no historical evidence exists. I can discuss cosmology and the need for an intelligent designer to explain intelligent complexity, and they can discuss evolution and the natural development of all life.

The point is, we aren’t actually talking to one another. Rather, I’d like to find out, beyond theory, why atheists believe as they do.

Some, of course, believe they have come to the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible, but that presupposes that the human mind can know all that is or is not in the vast cosmos, including the multiverse and the possible different dimensions, should string theory prove to be true.

Ah, but there lies the problem. We humans don’t know if string theory is true. We don’t know if there are other dimensions. And if there are? Why would those dimensions have to be like ours? Might not there be a spiritual dimension filled with the supernatural?

Humankind is still looking for evidence of life in space though we don’t know for sure if it exists or if it will be intelligent should it exist. Despite that uncertainty, atheists are certain God is not there. Life maybe; God absolutely not.

All the above to point out that claims to “the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible” are hardly sufficient to answer the question why someone is an atheist.

On the other hand, if someone asks a Christian why they believe as they do, I think the answer might also be categorical—something along the lines of, I’m convinced Jesus is who He said He is: Son of God, Savior, Lord.

And where’s the evidence, atheists will answer.

Where indeed? Within the pages of the Bible the atheist doesn’t believe in; by the witness of the Holy Spirit living in each Christian, which the atheist doesn’t believe in; through the power of a changed life which the atheist has no way to measure or to ascribe cause.

It seems we’ve returned to the impasse. But I keep coming back to the question why the atheist can’t accept what he can’t see for himself—at least when it comes to God. He can’t see gravity, but believes in it; can’t see black holes, but (most) would agree they exist.

When it comes to God, however, inferring His existence from the effect He has on life (which is how we know about gravity and black holes) is insufficient evidence. So “a cosmic accident” is a better explanation for the existence of life than is an intelligent designer.

Why?

Maybe if I understood that, I’d understand atheists better.

This article is a re-post of one that first appeared here in October 2014.

A Look At The “Nicer Than God” Position-Reprise


Child_survivors_of_AuschwitzAtheists are eager to dismantle the framework of Christianity and to deconstruct the Bible. Sadly, it seems some in the self-styled “Progressive Christians” crowd aren’t far behind.

One point in particular has come through in various on-line discussions by those who don’t believe in God as He revealed Himself in the Bible–the God of the Old Testament is too wrathful, too vengeful to really be God. My God wouldn’t do that or say that, is a statement I’ve seen more than once.

Often a verse in Psalm 137 gets pulled out as evidence that God is too horrible to worship or that the Bible is inconsistent and can’t possibly be taken at face value or that God had to have repented of such a heinous attitude because it isn’t in line with how He showed Himself through Jesus in the New Testament.

In all honesty, the verse is horrible. Writing about the Babylonians who took Judah into captivity and razed the temple and the walls of Jerusalem and its homes and businesses, the psalmist said

O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock. (Psalm 137:8-9)

Shocking!

That last verse in particular seems out of place in a book centered on God’s work of reconciliation and forgiveness achieved through Jesus.

As I’ve pondered this Psalm and particularly verse nine, a couple things have come to mind. First, I am reminded of some of the heinous things that came to light after 9/11–people parading through the streets of cities in the Middle East, cheering the deaths of several thousand people they considered the enemy; beheadings; hundreds upon hundreds of people unassociated with fighting, blown up as they went about living life; rulers firing upon their own people; hundreds of bodies discovered in mass graves.

All these rather gruesome modern day events make it clear that nothing has changed in the law of revenge in the Middle East from the time of the Old Testament.

Back then, God initiated the “eye for an eye” principle–one capable of stopping blood feuds before they got started. Particularly, God said sons weren’t to die to pay for the sins of their father. Such laws were necessary because people held grudges and sought to get even when they’d been wronged.

Today, nearly seventy years after the Jewish state came into being, certain countries in the Middle East have the stated objective of wiping out that nation. Simply put, they want revenge on their enemy.

To put this into perspective, a comparable situation would be England determined to wipe out the fledgling United States seventy years after the Revolutionary War–somewhere around 1850 when the US and England were becoming key trading partners. Or Mexico, seventy years after the end of the Mexican-American War–right around World War I–determining to retake the land they had ceded in the peace treaty.

My point? The Middle Eastern worldview is different from the worldview in the West.

Couple that fact with this: the Bible was written by people, inspired by God. However, God’s authorship does not mean He condoned everything recorded in those pages.

Jacob’s son Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute. The men in a city of the tribe of Benjamin gang raped a woman, killing her, and this led to war with the other eleven tribes. Samson, a judge of Israel, picked a Philistine to be his wife. David, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder.

The Bible records all these events and more, not as a list of things God’s children today are supposed to emulate, but as part of the grand scheme, the big picture, the overarching story showing us who God is, why we have a broken relationship with Him, and how He went about fixing it.

Psalm 137:9 is no more a statement of God’s desires than the verses that tell about Eve’s deception and Adam’s disobedience.

Let me pull some threads together. The Middle East had a culture of revenge, and in fact, much of what’s happened in the last ten-plus years would indicate that this worldview is still in place. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 137:9 wrote from that worldview. As such, the verse is not an indication that God condoned the get-even mentality.

Here in the West we have a different worldview, informed by two thousand years of Biblical teaching to love our enemies, pray for those who misuse and abuse us, refrain from vengeance, refuse to curse but give a blessing instead.

Those “nicer than God” proponents, then, are simply reflecting a Biblical worldview, whether they recognize it and embrace it, or not.

They claim God is someone he is not based on a verse or verses taken out of context, and they claim for themselves teaching He brought into the world, normalized through centuries of Church influence, so that today even atheists believe loving our neighbor is a good thing, that mistreating the weakest and most vulnerable in society is wrong, and that enemies ought to be given trials and treated humanely rather than tortured.

Surprise, atheists and progressives! You’ve embraced a Biblical worldview–the one which has shaped Western thought. You just didn’t know it. You thought you were nicer than God, but who enabled you to learn what “nice” meant? God Himself in the instruction that shaped the philosophical underpinnings of Western society for generations.

This post first appeared here in February 2013.

Published in: on December 15, 2017 at 5:57 pm  Comments Off on A Look At The “Nicer Than God” Position-Reprise  
Tags: , , , ,

The Atheist’s Shallow Worldview


engineers-scales-335147-mRecently in a discussion with some atheists, I asked, if all life descended from a common source as many evolutionists claim, why do atheists care for humans more than for other species?

The exchange stemmed from the oft-used assault on God based on the lack of prohibition against slavery in the Ten Commandments. Why, I asked, were atheists so intent on human rights but not on animal rights (though a growing number are moving in that direction). Now that I understand this common descent theory, I would expect those who hold to it to follow the logically consistent position that all life was worth fighting for or that no life was worth fighting for. But to advocate for human rights over and above animals seems inconsistent.

The answer I received was that there’s species identification—we treat those like us more favorably.

Of course other names for “species identification” would be prejudice, partiality, favoritism, bigotry, intolerance. I mean, if it’s OK to identify favorably and advocate for one species over the others, then why not do the same for one gender over the other, for one race over the others, one religion over the others, one language, one ethnicity, one hair color or eye color or height or weight or favorite sports team? 😉

In fact, it seems few atheists think past their assertions to the logical next step or subsequent consequences of their worldview.

In truth what ground do atheists have for ethical living? Why, from their perspective, is pedophilia wrong or murder or rape or car jacking or terrorist attacks? One atheist says the “human community decides,” but on what basis? If more people, or more powerful people, want to have sex with children, than want to protect children from abuse, would the “human community” simply change the laws as if wrong has become right? This is precisely what the movement to change the definition of marriage is doing.

Atheists apparently see nothing wrong with such a moving scale of right and wrong (unless, I suppose, the scale should move to a point where atheism was a crime). Rather, the moral imperative is simply the will of the people (or of the powerful people). This position reflects what life is like without God. There is no authoritative standard and ultimately we descend into caveman thing: might makes right.

What else is there? Self-sacrifice for others becomes a foolish act if this life is all there is. Why give to the needy instead of hoarding all we can get? After all, survival of the fittest should prevail.

And yet, there are impressively generous atheists who seem to derive some pleasure in thinking of others and not just themselves. How does that fit with their worldview?

There’s no absolute standard of right and wrong, and yet almost unanimously all peoples would stop to help a crying child, give directions to a stranger, thank the man who changes a tire deep in the American desert.

The atheist can’t explain the compunction to do what is right. They don’t believe that humans have been made in God’s image.

At the same time, they have no answer for why an atheist would gun down three Muslim students or curse Christians at every opportunity or act in other hateful ways. They don’t believe humans have a sin nature.

In essence, atheists can only go skin deep because that’s where science stops. It doesn’t examine the intents of the heart. What can atheists say about the basic philosophical questions of human existence: who am I, why am I here, where am I going, what is truth, how do I know what is right and wrong (and where did the sense that there is a right and wrong come from)?

The answers I’ve heard are these: humans are a product of chance and evolution, without purpose, ending at death (therefore going nowhere); and truth, like right and wrong, is whatever you make it to be. In that shallow, simplistic worldview, there’s no explanation for the self-sacrifice of a Jim Elliott or for the forgiveness of a Corrie ten Boom or for the selfless service of a Katie Davis. No. The best atheists can can do is rail at the God they say does not exist.

He, on the other hand, extends grace and mercy to whoever believes.

Published in: on February 13, 2015 at 6:17 pm  Comments (31)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Why Atheists Think Christians Are Arrogant


Preaching God's wordMy post today is actually in response to a comment from an atheist on another site. We had a brief exchange of ideas, and in his last comment, he said I shouldn’t bother responding because he wouldn’t be reading on that thread any more. Then he repeated his charge that I, like other Christians, am arrogant.

This individual isn’t saying anything I haven’t heard before, but it’s not a charge I’m willing to accept in the context he’s delivering it.

As it happens, I am arrogant—it’s a part of my sin nature which causes me to be deceived into thinking I’m better than I am, more truthful, more intelligent, more kind-hearted, more . . . you name it, and I’ve probably thought it if it puts me in a good light.

But that’s not the arrogance I, and other Christians, am being accused of. Rather, the idea is that because I believe there’s a right and true view of the world and am unwilling to say, “If it works for you, then it’s all good,” I’m arrogant.

By that definition, everyone is arrogant (which is actually right on the money) because clearly this commenter thinks I’m wrong, so words of tolerance (“as long as it works for you”) only mask a smug attitude (stupid Christians).

The truth is, not all worldviews can be right. Consequently, Christianity can’t “work for me” and Buddhism “work for you” because the two systems aren’t different flavors of ice cream. They’re not even languages. They are more like differing addition facts.

But in reality there is only one of those.

To say, in my system one plus one equals three, may be “true for you,” but it isn’t true. You may believe it, but in so doing you aren’t going to increase the number of apples if two people each give you an apple. Believing that one apple and one apple equals three apples still only leaves you with two apples.

So too when it comes to the philosophical understanding of the world. There aren’t multiple truths and each person gets to pick and choose the one that fits there personality best. The world doesn’t work one way for Christians and a different way for atheists. If God is real, then, like the sun, He shines on us all—the just and the unjust. Believing in Him does not increases His reality, and disbelieving in Him does not detract from His existence.

Anyone taking a “whatever works for you” view, simply doesn’t believe that there is Truth; consequently, according to this outlook, it really doesn’t matter what you believe in—as long as you don’t believe that there is an absolute Truth.

The fact is, believing that there is no Truth is the truth in which this person believes. The idea that anyone who says “whatever works for you” is not arrogant, but whoever says, only one thing works, is arrogant, simply demonstrates how deceived people are who take this “whatever works for you” position.

But atheists also believe Christians are arrogant because we “send people to hell.”

This, of course, is inaccurate. No human sends anyone to hell. I dare say, God Himself doesn’t send anyone to hell in the way the atheists mean it.

Jesus said clearly in John 3 that our rejection of God and His Son condemn us:

For God did not send the Son into the world to judge the world, but that the world might be saved through Him. He who believes in Him is not judged; he who does not believe has been judged already, because he has not believed in the name of the only begotten Son of God.

It’s this “not believing” that sends people to hell.

The patrolman waving people away from a downed bridge is not thought of as responsible for sending someone who ignores him into the icy river. And generally speaking no one thinks he’s arrogant for doing his job.

Christians have more incentive than the patrolman does, in many instances, because we know the people we’re warning—or we’ve had some level of interaction with them. They are rarely anonymous faces whizzing past our “Bridge Down, Take Alternate Route” signs.

We aren’t shouting warnings because we want to rub it in the faces of others that we’re right and they’re wrong. We also aren’t sticking our tongues out and Naa-naa-naa-ing them because we’re in and they aren’t, or that they will never get in since we have the secret and aren’t telling them what it is.

Paul lined up with this position when he said, The wages of sin is death but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord (Rom. 6:23). Those ultimate wages belong to each of us, and the free gift is offered to us all:

for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

Where then is boasting? It is excluded (Rom. 3:23-27a, emphasis added)

In short, the charge of arrogance is true of all people, but doesn’t apply to Christians as a group. 😉

We all have deceitfully wicked hearts, but Christians have been washed by the only cleansing agent that can deal with the stain on our souls. Jesus Himself took our guilt and shame and put it on His own shoulders, then went to the cross and died in our place. Here’s how Jesus Himself put it:

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life. (John 3:16, emphasis added)

It’s an open invitation, one that Christians feel compelled to pass along.

Is it arrogant to invite people to believe? On the contrary, I think it’s a humbling thing to stand exposed before the world, saying, I’m a sinner, you’re a sinner, we’re all sinners. It’s a lot more comfortable to think I’m good enough on my own. It’s a lot easier to say, “Whatever works for you.”

But the truth is, there’s a day of judgment awaiting and only one thing will work for you—faith in Jesus Christ. Any other notion is a lie.

It’s not arrogance that drives Christians to speak the truth. It’s obedience to God’s command and love for those who still need to hear.

Talking To Atheists


"Black holes are cosmic objects that harbour a gravitational field so powerful that nothing, not even light or radiation can escape."

“Black holes are cosmic objects that harbour a gravitational field so powerful that nothing, not even light or radiation can escape.”

Atheists and Christians look at life and the world from diametrically opposed views, so having a conversation between those who hold to those divergent opinions is not easy. On one hand, atheists, believing only in scientifically verifiable substance, are convinced that God does not exist. Some even question the historicity of Jesus. These fundamental positions lead them to dismiss the Bible as more myth than an accurate historical source.

In contrast, Christians know that God and an entire supernatural realm beyond the scope of science, exist. This fundamental position leads us to accept the Bible not only as accurate but authoritative since the words and thoughts are God’s, written by humans through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Most of that last paragraph would be nearly unintelligible to atheists. After all, from their perspective there is no God, therefore no Holy Spirit, no inspiration, leaving the Bible to be a book of made-up stories and rules.

Generally conversation between those holding the two opposing positions means one side creates a “convincing” argument dismantling the position of the other, only to have the reverse occur during rebuttal.

So does that mean there is no way the two can discuss the big issues of life? There certainly is a barrier. From my perspective as a Christian, I feel as if I’m trying to convince someone who is colorblind that the sky is blue. It’s an obvious fact to me, but he has no knowledge of blue and therefore considers everything I say to be nonsense.

From his perspective I imagine he has what seems to be the most obvious, basic, clear, tangible standards by which reality can be determined, but Christians claim truth on the basis of those standards plus something intangible, unclear, obscure, and convoluted.

If I’m right, both sides shake their heads at the other and say, how can they be so ignorant?

In reality, I as a Christian would like to learn to talk to atheists, but to do that means bridging this worldview divide. Oh, sure, we can talk at each other—I can quote Scripture, which they don’t believe, and they can quote “Bible scholars” who don’t believe the Bible. I can throw out names of Christian scientists and they can list three times as many atheist scientists. I can present archeological data supportive of the Bible, and they can point to detail after detail in the Bible for which no historical evidence exists. I can discuss cosmology and the need for an intelligent designer to explain intelligent complexity, and they can discuss evolution and the natural development of all life.

The point is, we aren’t actually talking to one another. Rather, I’d like to find out, beyond theory, why atheists believe as they do.

Some, of course, believe they have come to the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible, but that presupposes that the human mind can know all that is or is not in the vast cosmos, including the multiverse and the possible different dimensions, should string theory prove to be true.

Ah, but there lies the problem. We humans don’t know if string theory is true. We don’t know if there are other dimensions. And if there are? Why would those dimensions have to be like ours? Might not there be a spiritual dimension filled with the supernatural?

Humankind is still looking for evidence of life in space though we don’t know for sure if it exists or if it will be intelligent should it exist. Despite that uncertainty, atheists are certain God is not there. Life maybe; God absolutely not.

All the above to point out that claims to “the only rational, intelligent conclusion possible” are hardly sufficient to answer the question why someone is an atheist.

On the other hand, if someone asks a Christian why they believe as they do, I think the answer might also be categorical—something along the lines of, I’m convinced Jesus is who He said He is: Son of God, Savior, Lord.

And where’s the evidence, atheists will answer.

Where indeed? Within the pages of the Bible the atheist doesn’t believe in; by the witness of the Holy Spirit living in each Christian, which the atheist doesn’t believe in; through the power of a changed life which the atheist has no way to measure or to ascribe cause.

It seems we’ve returned to the impasse. But I keep coming back to the question why the atheist can’t accept what he can’t see for himself—at least when it comes to God. He can’t see gravity, but believes in it; can’t see black holes, but (most) would agree they exist.

When it comes to God, however, inferring His existence from the effect He has on life (which is how we know about gravity and black holes) is insufficient evidence. So “a cosmic accident” is a better explanation for the existence of life than is an intelligent designer.

Why?

Maybe if I understood that, I’d understand atheists better and we could talk.

Living For The Weekend


night_clubLiving for the Weekend or the summer or vacation or the next holiday… I’ve been there, even lived there you might say. 😉

But I’ve been thinking about the culture in America that can’t wait to be away from work, that can’t wait to do the Next Great Fun Thing. For it seems that the race to leisure time actually means a race to fast-paced, adrenaline-rushing, heart-pounding Entertainment of some sort.

Not too many people talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can have a nice chat with their spouse or so they can clean out the garage as they promised last week. Not too many kids talk about looking forward to the weekend so they can play board games as a family or read the novel they checked out from the library.

And does anyone talk about looking forward to the weekend, the summer, an upcoming holiday so they can have a longer, more relaxed, uninterrupted quiet time alone with God?

Somehow, this cycle of enduring the workweek in order to get to the Fun Times seems off to me. It strikes me that moms don’t live by this cycle. Their families still need to eat, still need clean cloths, still need the hurt of bumped elbows and skinned knees kissed away.

The difference seems to be that moms don’t live for themselves. But what about everyone else? Is selfishness what drives people to live for the weekend?

I don’t think it’s that simple. From my own experience, I can say, living for the weekend has more to do with medication than it does exhilaration.

So much of our American culture finds normal life wanting. Work isn’t satisfying, problems exist at home, the news is always bad, and the government is a mess. What good thing can we look forward to on a Monday morning?

Better to grit my teeth and survive until I can get to the weekend when I’ll be able to immerse myself in sports or shopping or movies or parties or … something, anything mind-numbing.

Except, that worldview is the world’s, not the Christian’s. God gives us plenty to look forward to on Monday and every day. He Himself is new every morning. He gives us purpose and joy in fulfilling it. He puts a song in our hearts and invites us to “offer in His tent sacrifices with shouts of joy.”

Christians, of all people, have life to celebrate, because we’ve been born and reborn. Even if we sit in the doctor’s waiting room or at the bedside of a dying loved one, we still have available to us the peace that passes understanding, the fruit of the Spirit, and His comfort. We have forgiveness in Jesus and the hope of Heaven. We have a Savior who will never leave us nor forsake us. We have His unending love.

Yet we find Monday too wearying? Too mundane? Too tedious?

Perhaps the problem has more to do with where I’m fixing my eyes which reveals my true worldview, no matter what I say my perspective is.

Here’s what Scripture says:

Therefore if you have been raised up with Christ, keep seeking the things above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth. For you have died and your life is hidden with Christ in God.

When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory …

Let the peace of Christ rule in your hearts, to which indeed you were called in one body; and be thankful.

Let the word of Christ richly dwell within you, with all wisdom teaching and admonishing one another with psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing with thankfulness in your hearts to God. Whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks through Him to God the Father.

– Col 3:1-4, 15-17 (emphasis mine)

Nothing in there about a separate focus for Monday through Friday.
– – – – –
This post originally appeared here at A Christian Worldview of Fiction in June 2010.

Published in: on June 25, 2014 at 5:12 pm  Comments Off on Living For The Weekend  
Tags: , , , , , , ,

The Prevalence of the Christian Worldview


Police_brutality.svgSome in the US would say the heart of the nation was broken in Sandy Hook when a gunman opened fire on a classroom of kindergartners. That response is only one instance of many that shows the values of our society.

Here in SoCal, the public rose with one voice to demand justice for a homeless man, mentally challenged, who was beaten to death by police officers. Despite the fact that our definitions have become far too murky, we stand against “cruel and unusual punishment.” We decry gang members gunning down a beloved grandmother or the drunk driver who cripples the little old man on his way home. Hospitals pledge never to turn away a sick child, and donors make that promise good. Our government has passed laws to provide the disabled with access to the same venues as everyone else.

Why? Why would we care about the poor, the sick, the weak, the needy? Because we have a Christian worldview.

By “we” I mean Western culture—the places in the world where Christianity took hold for hundreds of years. Most certainly, we can’t claim to have done Church right. The Dark Ages were called “dark” for a reason. The Reformation happened because there was a need in the Church for reform. People continued to miss what Jesus was about and tried to set up His kingdom on earth using human resources and schemes.

In addition, we are now living in the post-Christian era of Western society. I won’t say “a post-Christian world,” because as it happens, Christianity is spreading rapidly in places where it once was little more than an afterthought.

What, then, am I going on about?

The message of Jesus Christ changed who we in the West are as a people, as a society, as a culture. Love your enemy, forgive those who misuse you, becomes a creed about how to treat prisoners of war, and policy about not discriminating. Give a cup of cold water to the thirsty becomes a Salvation Army of people on a Rescue Mission to provide for the hungry and hurting and hopeless.

And not just Christians do these things, to the degree that some believe the Government should actually step in to insure that no one in America goes hungry or lacks health care or grows old with no means of support. We believe in what Jesus taught, even though many, if not most, have stopped believing in Jesus.

The sad thing is, the Western world seems oblivious to the fact that our core values have come from what Jesus Christ said. And because we’ve lost the basis for these values, it’s only a matter of time before our culture starts looking more and more like the rest of the world (unless, of course, the rest of the world becomes more and more infused with a Christian worldview).

Tolerance slips to tolerance of only those who think like us. Health care applies only to those who don’t inconvenience the rest of us. Forgiveness is supplanted by revenge.

But for now, when those who care little for God rally to provide for widows of police officers slain in the line of duty or work to stop human trafficking or give to a project to stop AIDS in Africa, we’re witnessing the effects of living in a country shaped by a Christian worldview.

Because the nations in the West are unique.

The way we look at the world is still marked by the revolutionary way Jesus lived and by the Power that inflamed His followers, enabling them to go and do likewise.

Published in: on February 26, 2013 at 7:42 pm  Comments Off on The Prevalence of the Christian Worldview  
Tags: , , , , ,

A Look At The “Nicer Than God” Position


Child_survivors_of_AuschwitzAtheists are eager to dismantle the framework of Christianity and to deconstruct the Bible. Sadly, it seems some in the self-styled “Progressive Christians” crowd aren’t far behind.

One point in particular has come through in various on-line discussions by those who don’t believe in God as He revealed Himself in the Bible–the God of the Old Testament is too wrathful, too vengeful to really be God. My God wouldn’t do that or say that, is a statement I’ve seen more than once.

Often a verse in Psalm 137 gets pulled out as evidence that God is too horrible to worship or that the Bible is inconsistent and can’t possibly be taken at face value or that God had to have repented of such a heinous attitude because it isn’t in line with how He showed Himself through Jesus in the New Testament.

In all honesty, the verse is horrible. Writing about the Babylonians who took Judah into captivity and razed the temple and the walls of Jerusalem and its homes and businesses, the psalmist said

O daughter of Babylon, you devastated one,
How blessed will be the one who repays you
With the recompense with which you have repaid us.
How blessed will be the one who seizes and dashes your little ones
Against the rock. (Psalm 137:8-9)

Shocking!

That last verse in particular seems out of place in a book centered on God’s work of reconciliation and forgiveness achieved through Jesus.

As I’ve pondered this Psalm and particularly verse nine, a couple things have come to mind. First, I am reminded of some of the heinous things that came to light after 9/11–people parading through the streets of cities in the Middle East, cheering the deaths of several thousand people they considered the enemy; beheadings; hundreds upon hundreds of people unassociated with fighting, blown up as they went about living life; rulers firing upon their own people; hundreds of bodies discovered in mass graves.

All these rather gruesome modern day events make it clear that nothing has changed in the law of revenge in the Middle East from the time of the Old Testament.

Back then, God initiated the “eye for an eye” principle–one capable of stopping blood feuds before they got started. Particularly, God said sons weren’t to die to pay for the sins of their father. Such laws were necessary because people held grudges and sought to get even when they’d been wronged.

Today, nearly seventy years after the Jewish state came into being, certain countries in the Middle East have the stated objective of wiping out that nation. Simply put, they want revenge on their enemy.

To put this into perspective, a comparable situation would be England determined to wipe out the fledgling United States seventy years after the Revolutionary War–somewhere around 1850 when the US and England were becoming key trading partners. Or Mexico, seventy years after the end of the Mexican-American War–right around World War I–determining to retake the land they had ceded in the peace treaty.

My point? The Middle Eastern worldview is different from the worldview in the West.

Couple that fact with this: the Bible was written by people, inspired by God. However, God’s authorship does not mean He condoned everything recorded in those pages.

Jacob’s son Judah slept with his daughter-in-law, thinking she was a prostitute. The men in a city of the tribe of Benjamin gang raped a woman, killing her, and this led to war with the other eleven tribes. Samson, a judge of Israel, picked a Philistine to be his wife. David, the man after God’s own heart, committed adultery and murder.

The Bible records all these events and more, not as a list of things God’s children today are supposed to emulate, but as part of the grand scheme, the big picture, the overarching story showing us who God is, why we have a broken relationship with Him, and how He went about fixing it.

Psalm 137:9 is no more a statement of God’s desires than the verses that tell about Eve’s deception and Adam’s disobedience.

Let me pull some threads together. The Middle East had a culture of revenge, and in fact, much of what’s happened in the last ten-plus years would indicate that this worldview is still in place. The psalmist who wrote Psalm 137:9 wrote from that worldview. As such, the verse is not an indication that God condoned the get-even mentality.

Here in the West we have a different worldview, informed by two thousand years of Biblical teaching to love our enemies, pray for those who misuse and abuse us, refrain from vengeance, refuse to curse but give a blessing instead.

Those “nicer than God” proponents, then, are simply reflecting a Biblical worldview, whether they recognize it and embrace it, or not.

They claim God is someone he is not based on a verse or verses taken out of context, and they claim for themselves teaching He brought into the world, normalized through centuries of Church influence, so that today even atheists believe loving our neighbor is a good thing, that mistreating the weakest and most vulnerable in society is wrong, and that enemies ought to be given trials and treated humanely rather than tortured.

Surprise, atheists and progressives! You’ve embraced a Biblical worldview–the one which has shaped Western thought. You just didn’t know it. You thought you were nicer than God, but who enabled you to learn what “nice” meant? God Himself in the instruction that shaped the philosophical underpinnings of Western society for generations.

Published in: on February 11, 2013 at 6:48 pm  Comments (17)  
Tags: , , , , ,

Seeing Worldviews behind the Art – Should Fiction Be Safe?


After his introduction in Hollywood Worldviews (IVP), Brian Godawa moves at once to “Sex, Violence & Profanity” in chapter one, explaining that this topic is the first raised whenever he speaks on this subject.

In addressing these issues, his views dovetail with mine. First he acknowledges that many movies seem preoccupied with integrating evil into the stories. He also verifies that many studies show a connection between the vile acts of violence, sexual perversion, and profanity and an increase in degenerative social behavior.

However, Godawa also points out that those studies do not differentiate between movies that put such behavior in contrasting contexts. For example, Schindler’s List, a movie about the horrors of the Jewish Holocaust, is filled with man’s inhumanity to man. And so is Friday the 13th. The point and purpose of depicting violence in the two, however, couldn’t be more different.

But the question remains. Should Christians be a party to either kind of film? Godawa makes it clear that a decision about this issue should not be one we arrive at based on our own wisdom:

The ultimate sourcebook for most media watchdogs is the Bible. And it ought to be—without its definition of a universal objective morality, we have no absolute reference point for right or wrong … The Bible alone provides a justifiable objective standard for making moral judgments that transcend the whims of personal opinion.

He then explodes the myth that some people might entertain that the Bible does not contain any sex, violence, or profanity. While I think the “profanity” section is a little weak, he adds a section of blasphemy that I think is helpful.

But the strength of his argument, in my view, isn’t that the Bible contains activities such as incest, rape, murder, adultery, and so on. I suspect most Christians know this is true, at least on a limited basis, if not as extensively as Godawa demonstrates.

Instead, the key for me is his handling of a verse often used to support “sanitized stories,” Philippians 4:8 – “Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.”

From Hollywood Worldviews:

Readers of Bible passages like this one often misunderstand the language to be expressing a “hear no evil, see no evil, speak no evil” approach to spirituality. But ignoring the dark side is not at all what the verses are indicating.

It is not only true, honorable and right to proclaim that Jesus is the way, the truth and the life, but it is also true, honorable and right to proclaim that Satan is the father of lies (Jn 8:44) and that false prophets are his minions (2 Cor 11:14-15). It is not only pure, lovely and of good repute that Noah was depicted in the Bible as a righteous man, but it is also pure, lovely and of good repute that all the rest of the earth around him were depicted as entirely wicked (Gen 6:5). It is not only excellent and worthy of praise that Lot was revealed as a righteous man, but it is also excellent and worthy of praise that the inhabitants of Sodom were revealed as unprincipled men “who indulge[d] the flesh in its corrupt desires and despise[d] authority (2 Pet 2:10).

Godawa next addresses the scriptural admonition (Ephesians 5) to expose the deeds of darkness and to bring them to the light.

I think this exhortation applies not only for wicked deeds but also for false belief systems—the very reason why I feel so strongly that Christians need to look behind our culture’s art to the worldviews each piece espouses.

But I see I haven’t answered the question, Should fiction be safe? I’ll try to wrap up my summation of this chapter of Hollywood Worldviews and give an answer tomorrow.

Published in: on February 25, 2010 at 11:07 am  Comments (4)  
Tags: , , ,

Seeing Worldviews behind the Art


I’m reading a wonderful book by screenwriter Brian Godawa entitled Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment (IVP Books). The thing I appreciate most, at least in the first half of the book, is the balanced position Godawa takes.

He identifies those he calls cultural anorexics—individuals who “withdraw from culture because of its imperfection.” He postulates that these folks no longer understand the way others think or speak; in essence they have raised a barrier that makes it impossible for them to “interact redemptively” with the guy living across the street or the mom sitting beside them at the youth soccer game.

In his posts or comments, Mike Duran over at Decompose raises the issue of the “Christian ghetto” from time to time in regard to the world of fiction, and I think he may be speaking of “cultural anorexics” who want to withdraw into the safety of sanitized stories.

But there’s another extreme that Godawa identifies—the cultural glutton. These are the people who say things like this:

“I just want to be entertained.”
“You shouldn’t take it so seriously.”
“It’s only a movie.”
“The sex and violence don’t bother me.”

Hollywood Worldviews, p. 20

Individuals with this view, Godawa says, agree with Samuel Goldwin’s famous saying: “If you want to send a message, use Western Union.” (I realize that soon this statement will need some explanation to those coming after the demise of the telegraph. 🙄 ) Goldwin’s point is that movies are about story, nothing else, especially not an idea!

Well, even expressing that view in the way I did in that last sentence exposes the fallacy. Interestingly, when I wrote about the movie Avatar back in January, some of the articles I quoted (written by Christians professionally reviewing the movie) and some of the comments to my various posts espoused this same opinion.

Godawa takes a radically different—and balanced—view of movies. They are stories, but not devoid of meaning. That is, they actually are about something—chiefly, redemption.

One of the simplest ways of understanding worldview is as a belief system or web of beliefs, that contains a creation-fall-redemption motif … Every worldview has some understanding of the original state of reality (creation), what went wrong with that original state (fall) and how to recover or return to that original state (redemption).

Hollywood Worldviews, p. 22

In addition, Godawa believes that thinking about a movie’s worldview doesn’t have to consume a viewer so that he can no longer enjoy the cinematography, acting, plot line, humor, or special effects. The fact that movies communicate worldviews and values

need not spoil the joy in entertainment or justify total withdrawal from culture. Rather, it can deepen one’s appreciation and sharpen one’s discernment, helping the reader strike a balance between two extremes: cultural anorexia and cultural gluttony.

Hollywood Worldviews, p. 27

I’m in favor of balance striking! 😀

Published in: on February 22, 2010 at 1:42 pm  Comments (7)  
Tags: , , , , ,