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Improving Your Observation Skills

Improving Your Observation SkillsWe live in a world of screens that compete for our attention. Though it’s easy to be attracted to the things competing for our attention on our phone, television, or computer screen, it takes a little more work to really notice things that are going on all around us. The same can be said for the way we approach the Bible. We often have a superficial understanding of a given passage because we rarely take the time to really observe what the text is saying.

On this program, Michael Horton discusses this issue with Jim Gilmore, author of Look: A Practical Guide to Improving Your Observation Skills. Join us for this special edition of the White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

“If we consider reflection, I think at one level, the difference between, let’s say, watching a video and reading a book is you seldom stop the film to say I’m going to think about this scene right now. You’ll do that with a book but there’s even a further step away as to not have anything that’s in between and observing your surroundings. I think we’re losing our sense of reflection.

“We’re losing a sense of quietness. Sometimes you put those ear buds on because it’s noisy, so you’d rather listen to your own music than the street noise, not a bad decision. So part of it is a call not just for more reflection but for more quietness. I think what’s happening with social media particularly is just making the world increasingly noisy, noisy being the lowest form of intelligence that exists. It’s not even data or information. It’s just this random stream of just blah, blah, blah. It all to me sounds like what the adult sounds like to the kids on Peanuts. It’s the getaway from that world.” – Jim Gilmore

Term to Learn:

“Therapeutic Culture”

The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.

Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic. Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of well­being under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Is Trying to Be Good, Good Enough?Imagine a person standing in a courtroom and pleading before the judge, “I’m sorry, Your Honor, I tried not to steal that car!” If this wouldn’t work with a civil magistrate, why do we think it would work before the judge of all the earth? On this program, the hosts discuss what it means to be good from the perspective of God’s infinitely holy standard, and the solution that God provides in light of our inability to live up to that standard. Our hosts discuss this and much more on this episode of the White Horse Inn.

Host Quote:

“We need to think not merely about justice here on earth and how we look to each other but to the ultimate justice before God. That is, our laws are reflections of ultimate right and wrong. Apart from that kind of an ultimate standard, we can only say things like, ‘I don’t like genocide.’ If good and evil don’t exist, there’s only subjective opinion. According to Christianity, however, God is the ultimate standard and we, as his image bearers, reflect that standard. The God of Scripture describes himself as the judge of all the earth who is infinitely holy, righteous, and good. So, is trying hard to be good, good enough for God?” – Michael Horton

Term to Learn:

“Therapeutic Culture”

The move to the therapeutic in society has been induced by several cultural developments. The intense psychologization of men’s attitudes and feelings as the primary subconscious level of “who we are,” the altering definitions of justice as primarily the accommodation of society to remove all barriers from self-expression and empowering fulfillment of the self, and the movement to the individual subject as the arbiter of that freedom to happiness apart from external structures and forces. The good life of justice, freedom, happiness have been internalized to such a degree that boredom and the external forces which upset that interior life are now seen as the greatest of evils. Justice has been re-defined in the last century as the removal of external barriers and the material empowerment of the individual towards the good life perceived to be desirable.

Men’s attitudes and feelings have come to arbitrate justice and goodness in the late modern society. Safety and security have been held out as the primary good of Western culture above what previous generations saw as essential to promoting the good life, namely liberty, self-reliance, and responsibility. Conventional ideals of moral responsibility have gradually become subordinated to state interpreted therapeutic ideals. “Modern culture is unique in having given birth to such elaborately argued anti-religions, all aiming to confirm us in our devastating illusions of individuality and freedom,” writes Philip Rieff in his magisterial, The Triumph of the Therapeutic.

Jacques Ellul argued in the mid-century that whenever a culture’s ethical outlook could not keep a pace with its technological developments, propaganda was the fated result – the subconscious alteration of men’s attitudes and feelings through technological means of domination. Modern cultural production has moved into the business and technique of manipulating a sense of well-being under what Jürgen Habermas has called a “therapeutocracy.” (Timothy W. Massaro, “Therapeutic Culture,” WHI [blog], October 05, 2015)

(This podcast is by White Horse Inn. Discovered by Christian Podcast Central and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not Christian Podcast Central, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.)

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Let me beat Eric Metaxas to the punch and wish you all a very healthy, happy New Year. Here are some thoughts as we look ahead to 2017.

Many people are glad 2016 is behind us, and I understand why. But of course, the issues that made last year a struggle are not behind us. Let me explain.

We talk a lot on BreakPoint about what the French philosopher and theologian Jacques Ellul called the “political illusion”—the idea that our problems are primarily political ones with political solutions. Or that, as Chuck Colson put it so pithily, salvation will arrive on Air Force One.

Many Americans, Clinton and Trump supporters alike, fell for the political illusion during the presidential campaign. Many continue to today: some by thinking that all is lost, and others by thinking that all is well.

This is why, during the campaign, I made the statement—and let’s just say I got a lot of feedback on it—that the state of our elections reflected the state of our nation; that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was right when he said during his famous speech at Harvard,

“There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen.”

Now, make no mistake. With Donald Trump in office, it’s possible, even likely, that we’re going to get a reprieve from the aggressive anti-Christian policies of the Obama administration. We can dare to hope that nuns won’t be forced to buy insurance for contraceptives and abortifacients, for example, and that federal funding for Planned Parenthood can be curtailed, maybe even eliminated. We can hope for a Supreme Court justice or two who will uphold the Constitution and not invent rights out of thin air.Christian impact on our culture and politics

Now all of that is good. But please remember this: As the Democrats learned the hard way, what goes around comes around. The election was a reaction to extreme secular liberal policies. After Republicans attempt to dismantle the Obama agenda there may very well be an equal and opposite reaction. National elections happen every two years, after all.

So as we head into 2017, remember: “Beware the political illusion.” That doesn’t mean we withdraw from politics. Far from it. That leads me to another key teaching here at the Colson Center, received from the hands of Chuck himself: Politics most often is downstream of culture. Culture will shape politics. And as Chuck said during his final speech, the culture is shaped by “the cult,” its belief system, what people truly believe and care about.

And that’s where the Church must come in. As we go about “being the church” as Chuck liked to say, loving God, loving our neighbors as ourselves, letting our light and good deeds shine before men, pointing toward every human’s true hope in Jesus Christ and God the Father, then we’ll have a greater and greater impact on those around us, and on the culture, and in the end, our local and national politics.

And of course, we can do this only by drawing nearer corporately and individually to Jesus, seeking fellowship with Him and with each other.

Everything we seek to do at the Colson Center is to equip you to make sense of the world, and to take your place as a restorer in the sphere of influence wherever God has placed you. On BreakPoint, we’ll do our best to help you and your family make sense of the shifting sands of culture. On our BreakPoint podcast and at our newly designed website, which will be coming later this month, we’ll be introducing new writers and a new set of short courses you can take. In the summer, we’ll be welcoming a new class of Colson Fellows, which you can still join. All of this is to help you “go deeper” into your understanding of Christian worldview, cultural engagement, and ultimately your relationship with Jesus.

So please, stay tuned. Follow us at BreakPoint.org, on Facebook and on Twitter. Sign up for our podcast. And don’t miss this year’s Wilberforce Weekend, which features Ravi Zacharias and Os Guinness. It’s going to be quite a year.

Visit Breakpoint.org to get further information about the many great books and other resources available there and you can link up to our social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.

By Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Discovered by e2 media network and our community — copyright is owned by the publisher, not e2 media network, and audio is streamed directly from their servers.

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