The Kuyperian Commentary

Politics, Economics, Culture, and Theology with a Biblical Viewpoint

Archive for the category “Theology”

Why Drug Decriminalization is Central to Liberty

Stigmatize Liberty

This past week alone I’ve seen two attempts by mainstream conservative pundits to stigmatize liberty by portraying it as some obscure liberal ideal. It goes like this: somehow liberty is great, but the drug stuff takes it too far. They suppose that freedom is a value that must be reined in by the government, because if we go too far with that dangerous idea – like in the area of drugs – society could be negatively affected if the state stopped regulating certain drug commerce. That there would be no negative effect on society if the state regulated drug commerce, is presumed. Read more…

Bill O’Reilly, Robert Jeffress, “The Bible,” and the Truth of God’s Revelation

Bill O’Reilly had on Pastor Robert Jeffress of The First Baptist Church of Dallas, TX. Jeffress gained a lot of attention during the 2012 presidential elections when he opposed Romney—in favor of Perry—on the grounds that Romney was a Mormon. Jeffress argued that we needed an evangelical in the White House.

O’Reilly’s segment focused on whether the Bible should be understood literally or allegorically. The unstable Fox News host began the segment with an irresponsible remark:

“The Bible,” which was co-created by Mark Burnett and his wife, Roma Downey, “highlights fundamentalist Christian beliefs.”

The History Channel show can be debated (at another time), but the opening assumption already triggers the insult of ignorance of anyone who believes such events to be literal. “Fundamentalist Christian beliefs” is the media’s way of perpetuating evangelical Christians as theological dinosaurs. Further, it carries on the abusive stereo-types usually addressed towards Islamic radicals. If you are a fundamentalist, you are in some way capable of doing things the typical enlightened human being would never do. Read more…

The End of the World as We Know It

We are a worldly people and we know it. Trouble is, we don’t know it well enough.  As the broader western culture sinks more deeply into the moral abyss, as even our anemic and apologetic Christianity is vilified and judged it becomes all too easy to awaken to the dangers of worldliness. And of course our worldliness is easy enough to find.

Consider the evangelicals at your local abortion mill. One study, referenced here-http://www.heartlink.org/prodevelopment/A000000409.cfm suggests that evangelicals represent one of every six procurers of surgical abortion. Why? Sometimes it’s an unmarried young lady who wants to put her shame behind her, or whose father wants to put it behind him. Sometimes it is a young married who fears the baby will cramp the lifestyle she would like to lead. Other times it’s a mom whose doctor has told her about a fetal abnormality. The baby may be suspected of having Downs, trisomy-13, or something rarer still.

Now if I posed those three circumstances at most evangelical churches I can count on disapproval in the first two instances. Murdering your baby due to shame or to avoid giving up your second car, data plan, cable movie package, vacation is wicked. But the third instance, that too many of us find at least understandable. That said, we like to believe that if we ever found ourselves in such a situation, we would bravely do the right thing and not murder the burden. We would stiff-upper lip our way to obedience because we know it’s wrong to murder babies, even ones we don’t want.

Which is just as compelling proof that we are worldly. The world murders its babies because they believe the baby will get in their way of having a good life. Good life is defined by financial freedom, peaceful relationships and health for ourselves and those whom we love. Too many in the church murder their babies for the same reason. And those who don’t, those who spare their baby’s life well, they just decide they won’t have a good life, if it requires killing their baby.

It’s a good thing to have a strong conviction against killing babies. But it is also a good thing to understand how the Bible, as opposed to the world, presents the good life. It’s not wealth and health, but joyful service, not receiving the respect of our neighbors, but giving love to our “neighbors,” those in need whom the Lord has set before us. The good life is less the triumph of our merit scholar, beauty pageant, volleyball state champ daughter, more gratefully wrestling your daughter’s wheelchair through the sand at the beach so she can smell the salt water and watch the seagulls. The world lies, but Jesus is the truth, and He says not just that we must lose our lives, but that in losing them we will find them.

The Christian faith is not pursuing the world’s ends the Lord’s ways. It is instead pursuing the Lord. And we find Him amongst the widows and orphans. Indeed when our Lord wanted to show us the goal, what the complete man of God looks like, when He wanted us to see what we are to strive for, what maturity, integrity and success look like, He put a child on His knee.

Dr. R.C. Sproul Jr. is special contributing scholar to the Kuyperian Commentary. The End of the World as We Know It was originally published at RCSproulJr.com

A Prologue to Apologetics: A Layman’s Introduction to Presuppositionalism, Part I

Introduction

Both apologetics and evangelism have the same goal. Both witness to the truth of God’s word in Scripture to unbelievers. Both the evangelist and the apologist desire to be an instrument through which God powerfully draws a non-Christian to see and savor his Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Yet, in distinction from evangelism, apologetics seeks to defend Christianity against various attacks from unbelieving thought, whether religious or secular. Apologetics is a term derived from the Greek word apologia. This word refers to a defense, a reason for holding some conviction. In 1 Peter 3:15 the Apostle states, “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.” An ever-present danger in this field of study is that of defending or ‘proving’ the existence of a generically defined God, what I’ll call ‘theism in general.’

We need to allow the conclusions drawn from biblical study and exegesis to set the parameters of how we go about defending our faith. We must present to those whom we wish to evangelize God as He testifies to Himself in the Bible. God has given us valuable, life-giving, information, and we shouldn’t edit his word. Any God other than the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ is an idol. So, if the Bible teaches a Trinitarian God, then we should settle for nothing less than persuading our listeners of that conviction.

In this introduction of apologetics we should cut the ‘apologetic pie’ into at least two pieces: defensive and offensive apologetics. Defensive apologetics is the apologist’s attempt to respond to attacks against the truth or/and rationality of the Christian faith. Offensive apologetics seeks to demonstrate the rationality, coherence, beauty, and truth of the biblical worldview. It presents positive reasons, and not simply defenses, why our listeners should adopt the Christian worldview as opposed to all the other philosophies of life available to them.

In summary, we’ve quickly looked at three things. First, apologetics is the form of Christian witness that seeks to engage in both rational defense as well as present rational proof for the truth of Christianity. Second, Christian apologetics, in order for it to be worth its salt, needs to defend Christianity as it’s presented in Scripture, not a generic, or possibly watered-down fashion that makes it easier for the unbeliever to accept. And last, the practice of apologetics can take one of two forms, defensive and offensive apologetics. The former “blocks” attacks against the faith, and the latter constructively builds a case for the Christian worldview.

The message of the apologist

Now that we’ve drawn a quick sketch of the discipline of apologetics, let’s take a quick look at what Scripture says about “the big picture.” After all, we need to know what it is that we’re called upon to present and defend. Here are a couple of notable points:

The ultimate purpose of God in history is to display His own beauty, majesty, and glory throughout the nations for His own exaltation and the good of His people. While mankind was created morally upright and pleasing to God, the sin of our first parents (Adam and Eve) has destroyed the fellowship that was enjoyed in the Garden of Eden. When our first parents rebelled they lost, and therefore could not pass on to us, that which would promote peace and joy with God, that crucial aspect of divine-human interaction, namely spiritual life. The results of the Fall had cosmic repercussions. Sickness, decay, ‘natural’ disasters, and death have affected us all in one way or another. On the individual level sin has ravaged us at our very core, the image of God that we bear. Since in one way or another we reflect who God is in everything we are (this is what is means to be created in God’s image), a defacing of this image likewise taints every aspect of our being. Our mind, will, and emotions are all effected in such a fashion that we now are quite comfortable in exalting just about anything to the status of godhood, whether that be self, money, image, sex, or power.

God is not pleased. We were created in order to reflect and echo His beauty, to “love God and enjoy him forever.” As rebels against His purposes, slandering His character and using His image to misrepresent Him, we must be punished; and rightly so. Since God is an infinite being, the very fountainhead and supreme standard for goodness and love, then to despise, revile, and reject Him is an equally infinite crime; it is cosmic treason!

Yet (thankfully!) God has not left us in this dismal state. God chiefly asks but one thing of us, obedient childlike trust. As the One who created both us and the universe around us God knows exactly what it is that we need. We can liken God to a doctor who knows just what ails us and provides life to all who would follow His prescription. Unfortunately mankind has decided either 1) we’re not really diseased, or 2) we’re not really that diseased and can help ourselves. We can’t follow either one of these paths. We trust not only in God’s diagnosis but also His cure. We look to the perfect life, which demonstrated the truth of God’s supreme value and worth, and to the punishment-absorbing death of Jesus Christ, the Jewish Carpenter who walked the dusty roads of Palestine two thousand years ago.

It is our firm belief that in the Bible, God speaks to us of only one way of connecting our cancer to His cure, namely a loving and trusting reliance upon the completed work and guidance of God’s only unique Son, Jesus Christ.

Guest Post by Joe Torres. Mr. Torres earned an M.A. in Christian Thought at Reformed Theological Seminary in Orlando, Florida. He blogs at KingdomView

Audio Series: How to Read the Bible for the First Time…Again

Just this past weekend (04/22/2013), Steve Jeffery, minister of Emmanuel Evangelical Church in Southgate, North London, England, hosted a colloquium for those who wish to experience the Word of God with new eyes.
The event featured special guest speaker Reverend James B Jordan, director of Biblical Horizons and soon to be joining Dr. Peter J Leithart at the Trinity House Institute for Biblical, Liturgical, & Cultural Studies in Birmingham, AL, who gave a four-part lecture entitled How to Read the Bible for the First Time…Again. Read more…

Why Your Christian World View Blinds You

worldviewYou are a committed Christian. You’re not just nominal. And you aren’t simply emotive or thoughtless. You know you are supposed to love the Lord with all your mind. The Bible applies to all of life. You want to take every thought captive to Christ. You have a Christian worldview.

And for that reason, you may be blind.

This is not because the Christian world view is false (thought the visual metaphor may need some balancing). It is because you are taking shortcuts and are too confident in what you know to think that you need to check yourself.

Just because the Christian world view is essential to fully understanding the truth doesn’t mean you need nothing else to learn the truth. You are called to take God’s word and apply it to all of life. But you are perfectly capable of taking God’s word and applying it to your imagination—or to some fictional constructs that you have been taught and have never investigated for yourself.

Think of the culture war and American politics. There are people who need your vote in order to gain their place in the political structure of the United States of America. They know you are a Christian. They know they need the support (at least on Election Day) of people who possess a Christian World and Life View. Do you really think that, even if they plan to go in an entirely different direction, they don’t have ways of appealing to you to deceive and manipulate you to get your endorsement? If you wave the Bible, you are inviting people to use your values to lead you in a direction that might end up being the exact opposite of where they claim they are going.

It is simply not enough to know the truth about God, Jesus, and his ethical directions. You have to know something about your world, your time in history, and the people around you.

Is Islam the biggest threat to Christianity? Knowing that Islam is a false religion and that Christianity is true does not mean you have enough information to decide that question. If Islam is an independent international power, it may be such a threat. If, in fact, Islamic power is dependent on the cooperation and sponsorship of Western governments, then you might need to adjust your estimate and give first place to modern secular totalitarianism.

Should American Christians support Israel (or to what extent and in what way)? Should they support the Federal Government’s containment policy against China? Should Christians regard Putin as a thug and demand more civil liberties for Russians, or perhaps regard him as a thug and figure he shouldn’t worry about “Western” secular civil liberties? Unless they have done due diligence on the history, Christians have no right to hold an opinion on such topics. Knowledge of the importance of the Trinity to the question of the one and the many or the importance of private property to a social order won’t be enough to tell you anything.

Another complication is that Christians may not correctly understand the Christian world view, and they might actually profit from correction on those points from a non-Christian, despite the non-Christian’s central error. It is quite easy to prevent a Christian from receiving such correction by pointing to the unbeliever’s destructive beliefs and practices. I think virtually every Christian critique of Ayn Rand I have seen on the web could easily be used in this way.

One might recommend that Christians simply confess their ignorance and stay out of matters they know nothing about. But that is impossible for Americans today. Everyone—everyone—is recruiting Christians to a foreign policy or domestic cause on the basis of the alleged demands of the Christian worldview. If man-made global warming is real, then Christians must participate and support whatever scheme might fix it on the basis of “stewardship.” But the Bible doesn’t tell you whether it is real or not. If the agricultural developments of the twentieth century were the natural and spontaneous progress of scientific development providing cheaper food on the free market, that will demand one stance from Christians. If those developments were a patent monopoly used by US cold war policy to destroy indigenous agriculture and make other nations dependent on petroleum fertilizers and other purchases from a cartel, that will demand a different stance. Again, the Bible doesn’t tell you any of it.

And many don’t want to face up to how complex our situation really is. They want to add the Bible to a few unquestionable facts. You learn what those facts are, typically, when you hear your favorite Bible teacher or worldview think tank leader refer to anyone who questions or denies them as an “idiot.”

Calling people idiots and denying that they should ever be heard or considered has a far greater role in the “Christian world and life view” as it is actually practiced by Christians than anyone wants to admit.

I realize no one can know everything. But if you’re going to express an opinion on what God thinks about something, you’re going to have to study not only God’s Word but also that “something.” As much as Americans need to read more of the Bible, they also need to read more history and international politics. There’s no way to do otherwise and still claim to have a Christian view of the world as it actually is.

John Calvin famously compared the Bible to the lenses of eyeglasses. That is the point. You are supposed to look through them at the world. Too many Christians stare at the lenses or use them to stare at pictures a few influential Christians have painted for them.

(Cross-posted at Christendom Underground)

Valentine’s Day: Christian Marriage, Cheap Love, and Sex

St. Valentine Day Valentine was a third century pastor who was imprisoned for his faith. He wrote small pastoral notes to members of his congregation on leaves he was able to pluck from a maple tree just outside his cell.  These little “Valentine’s cards” expressed his love for the flock, and his desire that they demonstrate like love toward one another. Gradually the tradition grew up for Christians to exchange notes of love and encouragement to one another every year on his birthday, February 14.

Dr. George Grant, http://grantian.blogspot.com/2013/02/st-valentines-day.html

We’ve seen baseball stadium proposals where a guy’s urgent question is slapped on the Jumbotron for all in attendance to see. Some men even think it’s romantic to shout their devotion in front of thousands of strangers. Several years back, Adam Sandler and Jack Nicholson even tried to convince us that women would actually want this type of proposal. In case you might be contemplating this type of proposal, let me tell you that it is about as tasteful as the rest of Sandler’s work.

In many ways, American romance is Jumbotron romance. Valentine’s Day is a good example. We couch our love in the impersonal and to the cheap. When did the standard fall so low that somehow chocolate and flowers become the epitome of devotion. We should understand these are good things. Any man who forgets them will enjoy the spurn of his wife. But this type of impersonal devotion once a year is akin to attending Easter and Christmas services, yet claiming to love Christ.

A culture of cheap grace produces cheap love. 

“Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without requiring repentance, baptism without church discipline, Communion without confession. … Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without Jesus Christ, living and incarnate.” – Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Cheap love is giving chocolate without cordial affection, flowers without real delight and pleasure, “I Love Yous” without contentment and satisfaction … Cheap love is love without submission, love without crucifying-self, love without Jesus Christ, living and Incarnate. Cheap love teaches, “Sex is such a hassle, talking is even worse.” Christian love teaches, “rejoice in the wife of your youth.”

Our romance should be modeled after Christ’s self-giving devotion to his bride, which is why St. Valentine is such a beautiful saint. This is not to say that the mark of Valentine’s Day is simply reading verses over flowers-rather that marriage is an image of loving tension. The tenderest love on one side, and loving obedience on the other. This means that romance is an adventure, not a commute. We don’t travel through life enduring the “trial of marriage,” but through the exploration of Godly marriage we are transformed by the circumstances of our love story.

Valentine’s Day is a day for us to look at our adventure, where we’ve been, and where we are going.

Valentine’s Day is a time for Christian men who once belonged to the old Adam to become priests of the New Adam. Where the old Adam betrayed the love of his bride, we -as Priests of the new Adam- guard, nurture, and protect our redeemed garden-helper.  And as such have been called to wash our wives in Christ’s love.

Valentine’s Day is a time to celebrate together as we see God transforming our brides into a holy bride without wrinkle, spot, or blemish.

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a link is given.

In the past few months I’ve posted two articles on sexuality and marriage, you can read those here:

First Black Pope? Sign of End Times?

On Monday, Pope Benedict XVI announced his resignation effective Feb. 28, citing poor health, speculation is already mounting about his potential replacement.

Cardinal Peter Kodwo Appiah Turkson, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace,  Archbishop emeritus of Cape Coast (Ghana), was born on 11 October 1948 in Wassaw Nsuta, Ghana.

And Cardinal Peter Turkson, is qualified enough to be a potential option. He is President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, Archbishop emeritus of Cape Coast (Ghana), was born on 11 October 1948 in Wassaw Nsuta, Ghana. He was ordained for the Diocese of Cape Coast on 20 July 1975 and holds a doctorate in Sacred Scripture from the Pontifical Biblical Institute, Rome.

At a 2009 news conference, Turkson was asked whether he thought the time was right for a black Pope. “Why not?” Turkson replied. He argued that every man who agrees to be ordained a priest has to be willing to be a Pope, and is given training along the way as bishop and cardinal.

He could be the first Black Pope!

This is more significant than just being the first Black Pope. Many prophecy wonks believe that a Pope named ‘Peter the Roman’ will be the last Pope. “The Prophecy of the Popes,” attributed to Saint Malachy, is a list of 112 short phrases in Latin. The prophecy claims that this pontificate will end in the destruction of the city of Rome.

He could be the last Pope!

This prophecy is interesting, we have to hope in a sense that it is true. The end of the papal seat would be the first great step toward a truly catholic church. This is an opportunity for Reformed Christians to call the Roman communion back to the Scriptures (having called ourselves back first, of course). We pray that Roman Catholics would return to the tradition of Gregory – who refused the title “Universal Pope.”

Our prayer for the Roman Catholic Church should be that of St. Clement:

“For it is to the humble that Christ belongs, not to those who exalt themselves over his flock. The scepter of the majesty of God, the Lord Jesus Christ, did not come with the pomp of pride or arrogance, though he could have, but in humility”

Is this the End Times?

Evangelicals and Catholics will now begin to speculate on how today’s news will be a sign of the “end times,”  but we know that the end is NOT yet. We need to read the future in the context of what our Lord has said in His word, not human events. The newspaper is not God’s means of relaying prophesy. Everything we need to know has already been printed and we can find comfort and boldness in His word. The sky is not falling. St. John’s Apocalypse teaches instead that Christians will overcome all opposition through the work of Jesus Christ. Most of the confusion over the meaning of the prophecy has resulted from a failure to read this book in the context of the entirety of scripture.

St. John writes that the book concerns “the things which must shortly take place” (1:1), and warns that “the time is near” (1:3). In case we might miss it, he says again, at the close of the book, that “the Lord, the God of the spirits of the prophets, sent His angel to show to His bond-servants the things which must shortly take place” (22:6). Given the fact that one important proof of a true prophet lay in the fact that his predictions came true (Deut. 18:21-22), St. John’s first-century readers had every reason to expect his book to have immediate significance. The words “shortly” and “near” simply cannot be made to mean anything but what they say. Some will object to this on the basis of 2 Peter 3:8, that “one day is with the Lord as a thousand years, and a thousand years as one day.” But the context there is entirely different: Peter is exhorting his first-century readers to have patience with respect to God’s promises…

David Chilton,  Days of Vengeance

Days of Vengeance David Chilton Steve MaciasDavid Chilton wrote the most comprehensive verse by verse treatment of the Book of Revelation. His book The Days of Vengeance  still remains one of the most helpful tools at truly understanding what is meant by the “end times.”

Revelation remains, though, a challenging and relevant book for us, not because it gives an outline of world history with special reference to our era, but because it shows us that Christ is in control of world history, and how we should live and pray and worship. In vivid powerful imagery it teaches us what it means to believe in God’s sovereignty and justice.

Gordon Wenham
The College of St. Paul and St. Mary Cheltenham, England 

Buy today: The Days of Vengeance: An Exposition of the Book of Revelation

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a link is given.

What NOT To Give Up For Lent

Everyone will soon be sharing what they will “give up” for this Lenten season. And whether you’re Roman Catholic, Methodist, Presbyterian, Anglican, or Lutheran, it is easy to predict that most people will choose silly things to “give up”.

Christianity Today posts a list from Twitter of the top 100 Lenten sacrifices, I’ll post the top ten here to show what I mean.

1. Twitter
2. Chocolate
3. Swearing
4. Alcohol
5. Soda
6. Facebook
7. Fast food
8. Sex
9. Sweets
10. Meat

These are great examples of what NOT to give up for Lent. Lent is not a 40 day long New Years resolution, yet this is what “fasts” like these above make it out to be.

Like all the Church Calendar, Lent is modeled after the ministry of Christ. Forty days, in commemoration of the forty days Jesus spent fasting in the desert, enduring temptation by Satan before the beginning of his public ministry.

Rev. Steven Wilkins describes the abuses of Lent as such,

I know that traditionally, Christians have “given up” something for Lent and usually that “something” has been something they particularly enjoy. This may be seen as a form of “fasting” I guess, but if it is, it’s a very pale shadow of what “fast” (doing without food of any kind) really means. I understand the rationale for the practice, but given it’s very limited focus, it seems to me to miss the point of fasting in general and is easily metamorphosed into something like a “Pharisaical” act (i.e. “God surely must be pleased with me since He sees me foregoing my usual afternoon grande chocolate-caramel-cinnamon mocha latte with extra foam, which I’m absolutely dying to have right now!”).

Read his Post Why Lent? here

The heart of Christian reality is a society – a trinity- of persons living with and for one another. Our Lenten sacrifices should remind us of how we have sinned against the Triune God, and our neighbor-not serve as some superficial monastic flagellation.

As we develop our Lenten sacrifices we should move away from petty moralism and understand that as a Reformed Protestant, Lent is going to look much different for us than for the Roman Catholics. The early protestants were accused by the Roman Catholics of having a faith that was, “too glad to be true,” as C.S. Lewis once said. The Bible tells us that Jesus, “for the joy set before Him endured the cross” (Heb. 12:2). If the gruesome cross was a joy, what does that say about his fast in the wilderness?

All of Christian living is joyous, not morbid. Fasting and somberness in themselves do not contribute to holiness, and the council of Nicaea even forbade fasting on the Lord’s day.

In closing:

And if you fast, let your fasting and prayer be toward particular ends, particular needs, particular hurts, not vague feelings. Fasting does not benefit us. Fasting is a bodily posture. Just as you might kneel or lift your hands in prayer, so too fasting is a posture of humility and urgency… abstaining ought to always be pointed toward some sort of giving. If we celebrate Lent as a community it ought to be an obvious blessing to everyone around us. – Pastor Toby Sumpter

Remembering that we are to:

Go, eat your bread with joy, and drink your wine with a merry heart.
Ecclesiastes 9:7-10 (NKJV)

Permission to reprint in whole or in part is gladly granted, provided full credit and a link is given.

Not Looking Over Our Shoulders

The mean God of the Old Testament asks us to take a second look at the word “mean.”

Last week I read a post from Rachel Held Evans in which she criticized Evangelicals for having a heart-less faith. By this she means that Evangelicals are quick to accept the severity of God in order to retain doctrinal ease. For many an evangelical, a doctrinal card trumps the joker of doubt that shows up when confronted with the hand of God’s judgment. Such answers, she said, “never sat right with my soul.” Some things the Bible pins on God are at least, “morally reprehensible at an intuitive level.” Don’t we know what she means?

Let’s not kid around here – we all know what she means. But is she right that there is no answer to satisfy the question? No answer that actually resolves the problem? Mrs. Evans has done well to live with the doubt rather than leaving the faith. For that I am glad. Many of us have done this. Doubt makes Christians feel guilty. If we were to actively deal with doubt we would have to admit that we are actively questioning God. So we ask the doubt to please, Pipe down!

But the monster of doubt, I believe, does not like to sit quietly in his office minding paperwork. Doubt is a debt collector – wicked and persistent. You may not open the bills. You may even drop them into the filing cabinet without a thought. But the debt collector will hunt you down. He knows where you live, and he will eventually insist that you reconcile the math.

The deficit I am describing is “cognitive dissonance.” That’s the name for when you believe two things simultaneously that logically cannot both be true. The distance between your illogical beliefs is a debt that someday must be paid if you will ever have peace of mind. Between the contradictory views you hold, one will eventually solidify and edge out the other one. But notice that it is dangerous for us to resolve this dissonance by asking our own hearts, our own minds, and our own surroundings to show us the truth. All these sources are fallen and will lead us to unfaith rather than faith. Since we have become used to allowing our hearts or our culture to trump scripture, we are set up for solidifying against scripture when we resolve the cognitive dissonance. And this means we have effectively prepared ourselves for loss of faith when doubt comes to collect. I believe a whole generation of Christians have bought a bill of goods on bad credit. Like the youngsters a decade ago who bought adjustable rate mortgages because they were cheap, we have bought the mindset of our culture because it is easy. And now, a whole generation of Christians will be surprised when life changes the rates on them, and now they owe more than they can pay, and they have to call mom and dad and say, “I just don’t believe anymore.”

As I look at the current landscape of especially Evangelicalism, I believe it is helpful to identify three lines of thought that are going to continue to drag a lot of young Christians out of the church. I intend to look at one of these lines each in three separate posts.

1) Sexual Liberty — One such belief is the belief that sexuality is personal and cannot be judged. Once we are emotionally committed to a sexual situation which the Bible calls unlawful, it becomes nearly impossible to just “snap out of it.” Sex sells. And the first good sold by unlawful sex is doubt that anyone could judge us. Especially not a God who made us with these feelings. This debt is reconciled by accepting the lie that our desires tell us what God must have really meant.

2) Contra-theistic Science — A second belief that vies for our people is the belief that the only good explanation for the data of our material makeup is evolution. A great cloud of witnesses from Richard Dawkins all the way down to Koko’s kitten will tell us verified facts about our Genome. No problem. One little adjustment will render us safe: Tada! Genesis 1-11 is now a new genre of Bible literature: “true myth.” Now we Christians have discovered that we indeed did come from a common ancestor of the chimpanzee. However, Noah’s ark and Adam’s naming of the animals is somehow “theologically true,” even if they are not intended as history. We float along accepting that the Bible is cool with evolution, and then one day we happen to read Roman 5 or Acts 17 out loud, and it hits us that the New Testament also is laboring under the delusion of Genesis as fact. The debt monster makes us pay up by forcing us to decide between a flawless Jesus and the ease of believing NPR Science Friday.

Those are really great topics, by the way, for future discussion. And before I continue without dealing with the first two areas, let me say that if you are being hauled out of the church by these issues, I am not mocking your pain. This pain is so real that if we don’t deal with it, it will overwhelm many of us, and many of our children. Our culture, and our churches need to work all that out. But the third area is the one pertinent to this post.

3) Autonomous Justice — The third belief is that morality can be had without submission to a revealed will of God. We are not splitting hairs to point out the difference between saying that Atheists act as moral beings, and saying that Atheist possess logical grounds for supporting their moral actions. But it is hardly atheists with whom I wish to argue in this moment. Christians, we ourselves have gotten so used to being shown morality apart from scripture, that we too are willing to believe that morality is defined on its own, or according to our feelings, or by any means other than the revealed word of God.

When this happens, there is a funny game that happens. It’s kind of like when a dog runs in circles, trying to catch its own tail: we start with what we think the bible says, and let a partial reading of the bible to judge the actual rest of the bible as wicked. We say we accept the Bible, but we limit our knowledge of what the Bible means to a few feel-good prooftexts from Jesus. We come to the conclusion that Jesus was about being nice, and about “not-judging.” Because we are sure we know how Jesus was a pacifist and a sweetie, we form a view of what Christianity ought to be like, and how God would act if he were true to form, and this solidifies in our heads.

But then we read Psalm 58. We read the command to sacrifice Isaac. We read Psalm 137. Let’s not kid around here, we all know what I’m talking about. God is bloody and judgmental, and very unlike Jesus.  Right? At least, we are starting to have trouble after reading that “Samuel hacked Agag to pieces before the Lord at Gilgal” (1 Sam 15.33). And that is how the doubt sets in. But let us look at this situation again and realize that this doubt is produced by fallen judgment,  by our lack of knowledge of Jesus, and our lack of submission to the text as a whole. And especially it is produced by our inability to see ourselves as fallen. We are unable to be good judges without the transformation of God’s word.

Is Jesus a nicey? If we really read the Gospels, we would here: “Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword,” (Matt 10.34). If we listened to Jesus we would hear: “I came to cast fire on the earth, and would that it were already kindled!” (Lk 12.49) That’s from the mouth of Jesus.

Are we submissive to the word we confess to believe? If we really used the Old Testament, and did not just read it, but if we really used it like we should, we would be singing Psalms. Psalm singers don’t just see vast portions of the Old Testament, but they actually confess the content of the Psalms as articles of faith. They confess that Yhwh is a warrior. They confess that God extracts vengeance. They confess that God is angry every day. They believe that God abhors the wicked. And not least – they believe that God is good and just.

Is all that blood and judgment talk making us queasy? Is it solidifying our doubt on the side that there just can’t be a God because all this uncomfortable stuff is so obviously bad? Is the supposed God of the Bible really a description of a being who would be vile if he did exist?

Here’s the trouble with that – You can’t judge the standard to be false while using the standard to judge. God can’t judge sin by his own authority and then be judged as a sinner by the authority of the sinners. If God is the standard, then God is also righteous. If there is no God for a standard, then nothing is wrong at all. ABSOLUTELY NOTHING could actually be wicked. Since God’s standard judges wickedness, we need to allow God to be a lethal God, and still call him righteous.

But we can’t easily hear that news…. because we are fallen in all our parts. We are fallen in our own ability to judge. Which is precisely why when our own sensibilities come screaming out against scripture, we had better ask God to change us. If you don’t believe the Bible already, that’s different. But if you do, then you need to recognize that the God who raised Jesus from the dead is also the God who damns the unrepentant.

Here’s a final review of the logic in short, starting with a presupposition that we have all already admitted, that evil exists:

There is evil. I participate in evil, and am affected by it (internally and externally). While I can sense that there is a difference between good and evil, I may not claim personal superiority, because I am part of it. There is a standard, and it sits over me, not I over it.

If I say there is evil, I admit the presence of a standard. I admit that the standard is real (otherwise evil is not evil), and that the standard is universal (or it is not “true”). So if we suppose good and evil are real, then there is necessarily a universal and always true goodness. We are saying then, that we believe in God. That we think the standard is real.

And as one of the billions of people in the world who are able to sense the difference between good and evil, I am also one of the people who can quite simply tell that I am part of the problem. I am a sinner, and it reaches as far as my heart. What Jeremiah says, I can sense to be consistent with my experience: “The heart is deceitful above all else, and is desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer 17.9)

Guilt, then, is a very true friend. It tells me both that there is a God, and that I am not him.

I have a conscience – sensing evil, but my conscience is flawed – “desperately sick” because I am part of the evil I sense in the world. There must be a God who universally and really arbitrates good and evil, because he is the sole cause of the standard, and he himself is good. If I am ever to have true wisdom, rising above my sinfully flawed conscience, I must ask God for that wisdom. I must submit to the word of his wisdom if I hope to overcome the desperately sick heart I have inherited. He must defeat me.

The very fact that humans make and enforce laws is imitative of the presence of the God we all naturally know to be present. I am not, of course, saying that no one is convinced otherwise, but rather that even the lawful atheist has a conscience. He knows good and evil are real. He therefore admits that a universal standard of goodness is present – even if he says he doesn’t.

Now, there are atheists who say there is no standard but who want to enforce one anyway, and there are also Christians who say that there is a standard, but they have decided the human conscience is a higher arbiter of truth than the word of the God they believe to be the source of that wisdom. These two share a bodyless soul: a conscience that has no source.

And that disembodied conscience is what our culture and our politics reflect. A conscience that still bothers us because of God, but a people who can’t be bothered to look at him. We want the “values,” but we want to have values in a world without specifics. Without historic realities. And most importantly in a world where Jesus himself is not looking over our shoulders.

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