I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.
In London last week there was another arrest in what’s described as an attempted terror plot. In this case a man who had been watched by British authorities was found within 300 yards of Number 10 Downing Street, the residence of the British Prime Minister, and in his bag were found a myriad of knives. This is setting London and much of Europe back on the expectation of some major pattern of terror attacks. Scotland Yard yesterday reported that they are tracking at least two possible terror plots that are believed to be under way in the United Kingdom. The arrest at the end of last week of this man who is believed was undertaking a terror attack indicates at least something of the level of surveillance within a major world city such as London known to be an area of terroristic activity. For example, he was arrested after days and weeks of being under surveillance by Scotland Yard and other British and international authorities. As the report in the Daily Telegraph of London tells us,
“The ‘lone wolf’ suspect had been under close surveillance when counter-terrorism officers ordered his immediate detention as he came within 300 yards of the gates of the Prime Minister’s residence.
“It is understood that the suspect’s family had become concerned about his behaviour and reported him to the authorities several weeks ago. Investigators believe he was about to launch an attack.”
From a worldview perspective, the important thing here to recognize is that this man had also come to the attention of the authorities in recent years because of his participation with activities linked to those who have been behind Islamic terrorism.
As The Times of London reported, Khalid Mohammed Omar Ali, age 27, the man who was arrested so near the Prime Minister’s residence is believed to have previously been a volunteer on an aid convoy to the Palestinian territories in particular to Gaza. All this came just five weeks after another man, Khalif Massoud, was shot and killed just 100 yards from where this man was arrested, that is within the grounds of the Palace of Westminster where the British Parliament meets, having mown down bystanders in a rented car driven over London’s Westminster Bridge.
One of the things that we as Christians need to keep in mind is that even as we have known that we live in a dangerous world, these kinds of headlines point out that there are ideas and worldviews, indeed theological ideas, behind these dangers. Once again, we face a lamentable reality that many among the intellectual elites in the west, those who have disarmed themselves in terms of theological conviction and even theological knowledge find themselves seemingly unable to understand that they do not understand how there are many in the world who are operating out of theological ideas, even some very dangerous theological beliefs.
Next, we’ve been watching the clash of worldviews in terms of the recent elections in France, we’re now looking at a runoff in that nation which will be held on May 7. But here in Great Britain, the Prime Minister Theresa May, representing the Tories of the Conservative Party, has called what is known as a snap election, that means an election of Parliament to be held on June 8. This kind of snap election means it’s going to happen in a hurry. You’re talking about just a matter of a little over a month in terms of organizing a national election.
The calculation behind the calling of this election is indeed political, the Prime Minister Theresa May clearly hopes to enlarge her parliamentary majority to give her an even stronger hand in terms of negotiations both inside and outside the country, outside most importantly to strengthen her hand in terms of negotiations for what is called Brexit, that is of course the exit of Britain from the European Union, a move that was authorized indeed mandated by Britain’s voters in 2016.
There are some really interesting patterns in terms of worldview and the battle of ideas to observe within this upcoming British election. For one thing we’re talking about three major parties, but the two smaller of these parties have become virtually endangered in terms of Britain’s current political moment. Leading in terms of the numbers of those in Parliament and thus having formed the government was Theresa May representing the conservative party. That was a party that was elected largely with David Cameron at the head of the ticket; he was then the Prime Minister and he was reelected. However, having failed to exert leadership in terms of the Brexit crisis, Cameron resigned and the party elected Theresa May, thus she became the nation’s Prime Minister.
The Conservative Party is indeed expected to gain a considerable number of seats in this election, but behind that is a pattern that is really interesting. Over the course of especially the last half of the 20th century until the present, the major political dynamic in the United Kingdom has been in electoral contest between the Labour Party and the Conservative Party. Over the course of those decades, those two parties have not only been locked in something of a permanent contest, but they have also been the expected leadership party, one way or the other, in terms of elections. But in the current situation, the Labour Party has been almost decimated and the leader of that party at present, Jeremy Corbyn, is a man of the left, so far of the left that he has basically cratered the electoral prospects of his party.
But in this situation we notice something very interesting. If we’re looking to compare British politics in this case with American politics, it would be quite easy to see Jeremy Corbyn as someone who might be represented in the United States by Senator Bernie Sanders. The interesting thing to note is this: even as in the United States Bernie Sanders was running for the Democratic presidential nomination last year and had widespread support, it’s really interesting that Jeremy Corbyn is the party leader of the Labour Party, because the elected parliamentary members of that party elected him as their leader. That tells us something. But what we also see is that Jeremy Corbyn is leading his party so far to the left that the party is losing what might have been considered to be moderate members and seats held by those members. That’s a parable, you might think, of what might have happened in the Democratic Party had Bernie Sanders become the presidential nominee.
The difference especially here in the United Kingdom is that socialism is not just an idea, it was the official policy of several British governments. And the important thing to recognize now is that that kind of socialism is now largely and widely discredited in this nation. That’s not the way the intellectual leaders of Britain thought that their nation was going 50 years ago. Fifty years ago today, a group of liberal British intellectuals put out a manifesto that was known as the Mayday Manifesto. As is reported, it was considered to be a cry of the hard, far-left wing intellectuals and what they were hoping for was a leftward lurch on the part of the British government and a lurch from what to what? A lurch from something like socialism to a more hard-core ideological socialism. That didn’t happen. But 50 years later, it is clear that Britain has learned some bitter lessons from the flirtation with socialism that it experienced during the 1960s and 70s.
It’s interesting to note that in recent decades the Labour Party has won only when it is run as a moderate party, but in recent years it has basically eliminated that reputation and the moderates in the party. It’s going to be very interesting to see if the same thing happens in the Democratic Party, but at least even now we can see that it has largely happened. Just take the fact that a generation ago there were a significant number of leaders and officeholders in the Democratic Party who were clearly pro-life. Now as we’ve seen even in recent days that is no longer the case. Not hardly.
So, in terms of worldview and intersection of worldview and politics in the Western world, Europe and North America in particular, it really is interesting to see how the same kinds of questions, the same pressures, and the same kind of political patterns tend to show up on both sides of the Atlantic.
But in terms of the British scene, one recent development is worth our attention more than any other. And it has to do with a man who almost assuredly is not going to be the next British Prime Minister. That is Tim Farron, who is a leader of the Liberal Democratic Party. The Liberal Party was a very powerful party in the beginning of the 20th century in Britain, not so much now, but it has had a very important role as a dealmaker in terms of British politics. But the really interesting thing is that its leader Tim Farron has identified as an evangelical Christian. And this has led to some controversy in a party that is identified as both Liberal and Democratic.
What’s the problem? The problem is twofold. In the first place he is believed to believe in the sanctity of human life, not in terms of a policy that in any way would restrict abortion, but it is suspected based upon some of the comments he has made that he just might believe in the sanctity of all human life, including the unborn. Now to just pause for a moment, we have to question just how serious that kind of belief can be when it is stated in such a way that the man clearly in this case is supportive of abortion rights. That leads us to suspect that his pro-life convictions are not very deep convictions, or at least that he doesn’t understand that those convictions, if rightly held, have to be translated into public policy.
But the headline news in recent days isn’t actually about abortion, it’s about homosexuality. And it turns out that Tim Farron got himself into a situation in recent days in which his leadership of the party became untenable until he clarified himself on the question of the sinfulness of homosexuality.
Having identified himself as an evangelical Christian and a member of an evangelical church, he had been asked in times past as to whether or not he believed that homosexual behaviors were sinful. And he was largely evasive; he didn’t exactly say yes, but he certainly didn’t say no, and that led to a complete meltdown to the British political process until Tim Farron clarified his position. He did so just before the end of last week and he did so in such a way that he stated very clearly that he does not believe that homosexual behavior is a sin.
Now this is a really big story. We need to look at it pretty carefully. In the first place, we can’t read this man’s heart. We don’t know what his beliefs actually are. But it is very instructive, although tortuous, to see this man who is trying to negotiate a position in the midst of British politics and his religious conviction is clearly going to be a deep problem, his Christian conviction in particular, and especially when he has, going against the strain of so many in Great Britain, identified himself as an evangelical.
Now what exactly does that mean for Tim Farron? Again, at some point he’s going to have to define that, but at this point what’s really interesting is how quickly he capitulated on the issue of homosexuality. He went in a matter of hours from a calculated non-answer, tortuous enough, to a very definitive answer. He had to give an answer, and we know in advance the answer that he had to give in terms of this current political moment, that is, the answer he had to give under the current political pressures. He had to come out and say, as he did on the floor of the House of Commons, that he does not believe that homosexual behavior is sinful.
Now let’s just pause for a moment to consider that word ‘sinful.’ We’re talking here about a word that seems to be very awkward in the context. We’re talking about a conversation in terms of a secular government in a secular culture that seems to be unable to tolerate the very idea of sin, much less a biblical definition of sin. And what we saw here was the capitulation of a political leader that went all the way down to that leader having to give an answer on theological terms in Britain’s House of Commons. But the only reason theology was important here is because it was suspected that this man, even though he was very politically supportive of the LGBTQ agenda, just might be harboring a deep dark secret. And that is that somewhere in terms of his own religious beliefs was the belief that homosexual behaviors are sinful.
Now on this issue we have to note the so-called Conservative Party isn’t very conservative at all. Under David Cameron, he basically tried to eliminate all social and moral conservatives from the party, or at least from leadership in the party. And other headline news was made just this past week, the very same week that the Tim Farron story broke when the Tory Party made one of its own members of Parliament resign in terms of the upcoming election, simply because he had been found guilty of holding a position and making a public statement about the sinfulness of homosexuality.
But going back to the Liberal Democratic Party the question is, is it actually liberal in terms of being open-minded by their own definition and is it Democratic? That was a question that was openly asked by some observers and some of them raise some very important questions.
One of the most important of these responses came yesterday in the pages of the Sunday Telegraph. The column was by Simon Heffer; he asked the question,
“Who would vote for the Liberal Democrats, a party whose name itself is a lie?”
He says this party in terms of this controversy has shown itself to be neither Liberal, as in open-minded, nor in his words Democratic, even responsive to the people. He says this,
“First, a political class that cannot help grandstanding about minorities pressed the party leader, Tim Farron, about whether he believes homosexuality is a sin. As an atheist, I find the idea irrelevant; but as a genuine liberal, I believe Mr Farron must have complete freedom of conscience, in a supposedly free society, to hold whatever religious views he wishes.”
Mr. Heffer then says,
“None of us is compelled to agree with him,” but he says, “I do not wish to live in a country where those with traditional Christian views are bullied out of them.”
Here we need to note we have an atheist who understands exactly what’s going on. We are looking at people who are being bullied out of their traditional Christian beliefs, or at least it’s safe to say they are being bullied into a situation where they publicly repudiate or deny the Christian beliefs that they might otherwise claim to hold. Heffer continued by writing about Mr. Farron that he apparently is also “uneasy about abortion.”
Heffer says he doesn’t blame him and he goes on to mention that abortion has become one of the major means of birth control in this very secular society. But Heffer then says,
“Such subjects were once questions of conscience and cut across party lines. If we are saying that no one with a conscience or with principles based on religion should be in politics, then we’re becoming an offensively illiberal society indeed.”
Another very important response came from Rod Liddle in the pages of the Sunday Times, again a London newspaper, he referred to the controversy about Farron and what he described as Farron recanting his beliefs last week. And as he writes,
“What we’re looking at here is a situation in which a political leader was humbled, cut off at the knees in terms of accusations of religious conviction that corresponded to biblical teaching.”
And then he went on to say that the excruciating picture of watching Tim Farron capitulate indicated that here we are looking at a leader who identified as a Christian, but in Liddle’s words came up “short of the full Cranmer when it came to loyalty and conviction, but it’s saved,” he said, “his political skin.”
What did he mean when he said that Farron came up a bit short of the “full Cranmer”? Well he’s referring there to Thomas Cranmer, a former Archbishop of Canterbury and one of the most ardent and committed convictional reformers in the Church of England during the time of Queen Mary known as Bloody Mary. He was also one of the three famous Oxford martyrs, he died for his Reformation beliefs during the reign of that Queen known as Bloody Mary. Liddle went on to write,
“Drop your beliefs just so the gibbering Twitter monkeys don’t get you. Sell out your God for an extra five seats in the House of Commons. Anyone ever tell you at Bible class about Judas?”
The New Statesman, a left-leaning periodical in Great Britain, openly asked the question last week in an article by Stephen Bush whether or not Tim Farron’s religious views, even newly re-clarified, might repel liberal voters. Bush wrote,
“Farron declined the chance to clarify his views with us in a follow-up phone call, but told the BBC on 25 April: ‘I don’t believe that gay sex is a sin,’ adding, ‘On reflection, it makes sense to actually answer this direct question since it’s become an issue.’”
But then says Bush,
“For his critics, Farron’s faith and politics are intertwined.”
Farron sees it differently, he explains, as he said in an interview in the journal Christian Today in 2015, where he said, “the danger is sometimes that as a Christian in politics you think your job is to impose your morality on other people. It absolutely isn’t.”
Well, what we need to note here is the back in 2015 when Tim Farron made that statement, he was trying to act as if he were living in two different worlds, a religious world in which he identified as an evangelical Christian and a political world in which he said, never mind, don’t worry, those convictions won’t be translated into public policy. But now you’ll notice that that division which might have worked even in 2015 in terms of politics doesn’t work anymore in the current political moment, and we need to note it wouldn’t work in today’s leftward culture in the United States any more than it worked for Tim Farron here in the United Kingdom. It’s not enough to say, here are my religious convictions, but they’re going to stay in church, it is now required that one say I don’t hold those biblical convictions whatsoever. And as we now see, Tim Farron did that in both a BBC interview and on the floor of the House of Commons.
In another article published last week, Liddle, writing forThe Spectator, that’s a relatively conservative magazine in the United Kingdom, pointed out that there are millions of people in Britain who actually agree that homosexuality is sinful, and they clearly identify that belief with the clear teachings of Scripture. Liddle points out that it’s not exactly a marginal position even now in post-Christian, overwhelmingly secular Britain. But the important thing to recognize here is that in the current political climate a political leader or, in this case, as we’ve seen in the Conservative Party, even just a member of Parliament cannot hold to this kind of position even in a way that is so meek and mild as Tim Farron had at least presumably held it. Liddle then writes,
“What was interesting to me was the point-blank refusal even to consider that his view might be allowable — a view shared, to a greater or lesser degree, by a great many people.”
The other thing we need to recognize in the midst of this controversy is that even as there have been so many on both sides of the Atlantic who have tried to talk about a clear separation between church and state, between religious conviction in public policy, you will note here that we have a government and political parties that are now stating what is and is not allowable in terms of the doctrine of sin and in interpretation of the holy Scriptures. So in our secular age we’re going to face the fact that there is now in the hands of largely secular authorities an official doctrine of sin and an official interpretation of Scripture to which all are supposedly going to have to bend the knee, at least all those who intend to serve in political office and public influence. To say we’re living in interesting times would be quite clearly to make an understatement.
Finally also at the intersection of worldview, ideas, public policy, and headlines, we have this headline also from yesterday’s edition of the Sunday Telegraph,
“Rise in middle-age spinsters as women are scarred by parents split.”
Yes, that’s the headline. The story is by Olivia Rudgard who is the social affairs correspondent for The Telegraph, and she tells us is this,
“There’s been an incredible spike in the number of women who have never married who are now in their 50s in Great Britain. Something of a rise also in terms of men who have never married, now also in their 50s, but the incredibly notable thing is the remarkable rise, a rise beyond all expectation in the number of women in Great Britain who have never married and are now in their 50s which means they were coming to adulthood in the 1970s.”
Now what happened in Britain in the 1970s? Well, as Olivia Rudgard points out, what happened is what is known as the Divorce Reform Act that was passed and at least came into law between 1969 and 1971. What did that law do? It authorized what in the United States is known as no-fault divorce, and that led to an absolute avalanche of divorce in the United Kingdom. What is being pointed to here is the reality that if not in terms of causation, at least in terms of correlation, statistically speaking, we can note a parallel between women who came into adulthood and were in their teenage years during the time that no-fault divorce first became legal in Britain and the fact that they never married.
One of the things that is quite explicit in this article is that there are those who are now saying that a significant number of girls who became young women at this time decided that they “did not see marriage as something they wanted to achieve.”
It should tell us something that this article in a major British newspaper makes an immediate link between the Divorce Reform Act of 1969 and the fact that in 2017 a record number of women now in their 50s have never married. Ideas, as we know, have consequences, and so do laws.
Thanks for listening to The Briefing. For more information, go to my website AlbertMohler.com. You can follow me on Twitter by going to @albertmohler. For information on The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary go to sbts.edu. For information on Boyce College just go to boycecollege.com.
(This podcast is by R. Albert Mohler, Jr. 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.)
According to the doctrines of nihilism, nothing at all is sacred. In fact, nothing really matters except that which gives momentary pleasure or excitement. Christianity, on the other hand, starts with a completely different premise. This world is God’s world, and everything we do matters.
So what are the implications of these two views? Do ideas like these just float around in a person’s head, or do these beliefs shape us in ways we can’t even comprehend? The hosts will discuss these issues and more as they continue their series, “Finding Yourself in God’s Story,” on this episode of the White Horse Inn.
“According to the doctrines of nihilism and secularism, nothing is sacred; and, in fact, ultimately nothing really matters at all except for that which excites you for the moment. Nothing’s transcendent and we become like beasts with only base instincts. Christianity, however, presents a completely opposite picture. You are significant. You are bought with a price. This matters for you today. For as we become immersed in this story and understand the doctrines that connect us to it, we find ourselves experiencing the joy, hope, and confidence – that doxology – which makes us disciples of Christ throughout our lives.” – Michael Horton
Narrative collapse is the loss of linear stories and their replacement with both crass reality programming and highly intelligent post-narrative shows like The Simpsons. With no goals to justify journeys, we get the impatient impulsiveness of the Tea Party, as well as the unbearably patient presentism of the Occupy movement. The new path to sense-making is more like an open game than a story.
Narrative Collapse is what happens when we no longer have time in which to tell a story. It is the experience of living in this fast-moving, chaotic information environment which destroys our capacity to conceive of our lives as stories, with a beginning, middle, and end. (Adapted from Douglas Rushkoff, rushkoff.com/present-shock)
To purchase the entire Summit Lecture Series, Vol. 1 on DVD, go to: summit.org.
Nihilism comes from the Greek word nihilo, which means “nothing”. Therefore it can be defined as a philosophy of “nothingism”. Some of its most popular proponents are Albert Camu, Samuel Beckett, and in a lot of ways Friedrich Nietzsche – particularly when he said:
“You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.”
So, where Existentialists would tell you to seize the day, Nietzsche and other Nihilists would tell you to just do whatever you want. There’s no right way to do anything in life. In fact, what happens is Nihilism takes one of two directions: One direction almost always leads to depression; the other leads to an obsession for power.
You see, if there is no meaning nor morality in life, then you might as well either stop participating or just live for power over others.
One perfect example of a Nihilistic worldview in our own history is what happened on April 20, 1999 at Columbine High School in Littleton, CO. Two young men planned an attack on their fellow students for over a year. In this time, they recorded themselves spouting off Nihilistic perspectives. And, according to their worldview, they pulled off the perfect crime – They walked through the school campus, shooting people – murdering twelve students and one teacher – laughing at their victims before killing themselves.
And that’s that.
According to their worldview, when you die… you die. That’s it. Therefore, there were no consequences for their actions, nor should there be any concerns after their terrible deeds.
Another famous Nihilist, as I mentioned, was playwright Samuel Beckett. Beckett was part of the Theater of the Absurd, which expressed what happens when human existence has no meaning or purpose and therefore all communication breaks down. For example, in his work Waiting for Godot, the entire first act is two guys sitting by a tree discussing why they are waiting so long for someone named Godot and the things that must be delaying him. The second act is a complete repeat of the first – word for word – emphasizing that there really is no point in life.
Another play Beckett wrote is titled “Breath”. In it, the curtain is down and the lights are lowered, when from behind the curtain, you hear an incredible scream. As the curtain opens, the stage is filled with tons and tons of garbage, and you hear a series of deep breaths. All this is followed by another ear-piercing scream. The curtain closes and that’s the end.
The entire play lasts 30 seconds.
This 30 second “work of art” depicts Beckett’s take on life: It begins with a scream, ends with a scream and all of our breaths in between them are worth nothing but a heap of garbage.
Now, as we have said many times before:
So, if we go back to our list of ideas that are vying for the hearts and minds of people across the world, Atheism connects with Scientism, Secularism and Nihilism or Hedonism depending on an individual’s take. Also, Atheism is connected to Neo-Darwinism and Socialism – the Naturalistic assumption that the world is a fixed set of resources. Since this amount of resources cannot be expanded, then everything must be divided up properly amongst the right amount of people for human sustenance. But, what happens when there aren’t enough resources to be divided, due to too many mouths to feed? This is where Socialists begin talking about population control, selective abortion and assisted suicide. Now, don’t get me wrong… I know that there are situations where overpopulation can stress an environment. But, nine times out of ten, human ingenuity eventually provides a way to overcome this stress.
However, when people try to take measures like China did to control their population, a whole brood of new consequences arise, such as an over abundance of men within a generation who cannot find wives.
You see, Socialism holds that since the world’s resources are finite and cannot grow, then everyone is entitled to an equal share of these limited resources… even if that means that either that amount is too small for the population to be sustained or the population needs to be decreased in order to match with the resource supply.
This is the stark opposite of a Market Economy. In a Market Economy, when human ingenuity, creativity, and hard work are added to the existing amount of resources, then that sum of resources will actually grow to meet the needs of even an increasing population. In other words, resources can be developed.
Now, if you look at Genesis 1:27-30,
So God created human beings[d] in his own image.
In the image of God he created them;
male and female he created them.
Then God blessed them and said, “Be fruitful and multiply. Fill the earth and govern it. Reign over the fish in the sea, the birds in the sky, and all the animals that scurry along the ground.”
Then God said, “Look! I have given you every seed-bearing plant throughout the earth and all the fruit trees for your food. And I have given every green plant as food for all the wild animals, the birds in the sky, and the small animals that scurry along the ground—everything that has life.” And that is what happened.
God told Adam and Eve to be fruitful, multiply, fill the earth and subdue it. This command doesn’t sound like Socialism at all. Rather, it sounds like a Market Economy. God wants use to use our human ingenuity to make a difference in the world around us.
To purchase the entire Summit Lecture Series, Vol. 1 on DVD, go to: summit.org.
Previously, we discussed Scientism, Neo-Darwinism, Naturalism, Atheism, and Agnosticism.
Secularism is the idea that God does not belong in the public square. He must be kept separate from all public life. He is okay, as long as He remains a private, personal belief system.
An example of this is the Freedom From Religion Foundation, who fights for a strict separation of church and state among other things. I grew familiar with the organization’s co-president, Dan Barker, shortly after September 11, 2001, when he attempted to sue a college where I was working at the time. Some students asked him to answer some worldview-type questions, and what stood out was one of his answers:
“There is no evidence for God, no good argument for God, no need for a God, also I learned that the Bible is not reliable nor is it inspiring and any one of us is smarter and kinder than the God of the Bible. The terrorist attack was a faith-based initiative… Besides attacks are proof that prayers already failed us; it would not have been difficult for an all powerful God to divert those jets – I would call Him something of an accomplice if He truly existed.
In this tragic situation, religion was not the solution: religion was the problem. The solution then is to be found in reason, common sense, and hard work.”
Besides clearing stating his atheistic perspective, he also purports what is known as the “Problem of Good and Evil”. But moreover, he reveals that he is a Secularist – one who believes that no one should bring God into the public square, introduce Him into any debate, nor include Him in any rationale for anything.
This brings me to Hedonism.
Hedonism is based on the philosophy of: Eat, drink, and be merry. For tomorrow we die. Most people think that someone along the lines of Shakespeare or even Dave Matthews came up with this phrase, but it was actually Israel’s King Solomon in Ecclesiastes 2:24, while he was going through a hedonistic stage; and Paul rhetorically quoted him in 1 Corinthians 15:32. The main thrust of Hedonism is “you only live for a short time, so you might as well live for pleasure.”
Next on our list of various worldviews is Existentialism. While Hedonism says that we should live for mere pleasure, Existentialism claims that we need to find something that is meaningful, since life itself is not meaningful. Therefore, in order to live with purpose, we must make or find something that has meaning and purpose. A classic example of this is depicted in the movie Dead Poets Society. Robin Williams plays, John Keating, an English teacher at a New England prep school where the students there are trained and groomed to go to Ivy League Academies. Mr. Keating encourages the boys to “Carpe Diem” or “Seize the Day!”. As he puts it:
“…seize the day… because we are food for worms, lads. Believe it or not, each and every one of us in this room is one day going to stop breathing, turn cold and die… so seize the day, boys. Make your lives extraordinary.”
I find this interesting because as one of the boys, in particular, pursues this ideology, he runs into conflict with his father and ultimately commits suicide. Now, the boy’s killing himself is never determined as right or wrong within the context of the film. While tragic, it’s merely judged as the thing that had to happen because of the nature of the boy’s existential philosophy. It’s very much akin to the writings of Jean Paul Sartre.
For a more recent example of Existentialism, we need to look no further than Katy Perry’s lyrical masterpiece Firework.
Do you ever feel like a plastic bag,
Drifting through the wind,
Wanting to start again?
Do you ever feel so paper thin,
Like a house of cards,
One blow from caving in?
Do you ever feel already buried deep
Six feet under screams
But no one seems to hear a thing
Do you know that there’s still a chance for you
‘Cause there’s a spark in you
You just gotta ignite the light
And let it shine
Just own the night
Like the fourth of July
‘Cause baby you’re a firework…
What does a firework do? You light it, there is lots of light and lots of noise, and it ultimately explodes. Then it’s gone. That’s an existential perspective of our lives: lots of noise, lots of light, and then you’re gone. To an Existentialist, that’s what life is all about.
To purchase the entire Summit Lecture Series, Vol. 1 on DVD, go to: summit.org.
So, why aren’t Europeans having babies at a sustainable rate?
You can tell a lot about what people and governments believe their problems are by looking at what they offer as solutions.
France’s solution to their low birth rate was to give families money and other financial benefits, therefore, we can deduce that they thought their problem was finances. This has helped them to a degree, but they are still below the rate of sustainability.
Russia had a different solution, and therefore thought the problem was not finances, but a different problem. Russia’s solution was to institute a new national holiday.
They created National Conception Day.
The day itself takes place on September 12th, and couples who then have a child on June 12th are rewarded by the regional government. June 12th (nine months after Conception Day) is Russia Day, their main national holiday. In 2005 Govorner Sergey Ivanovich Morozov of Ulyanovsk, a region about 800 kilometers east of Moscow where Vladimir Lenin was born, added an element of fun to the national campaign by declaring September 12th the Day of Conception and giving couples time off from work to procreate and produce the next generation. The 2007 grand prize went to Irina and Andrei Kartuzov, who received a UAZ-Patriot, a sport utility vehicle made in Ulyanovsk. Other contestants won video cameras, TVs, refrigerators and washing machines.
So, if Russia thinks that giving everyone a day off of work on Conception Day to stay home and have sex, what can we conclude the Russian government thinks their problem is? They believe that their people aren’t having sex.
But this is not accurate, and there are other statistics that prove it.
For over a decade, Russia had more abortions than live births.
So, Russians are having plenty of sex. They just don’t want to have babies.
As I’ve repeatedly said, ideas have consequences.
150 years ago, Europe embraced an idea. Now, there are reasons it embraced this idea, particularly all the bloodshed that came out of a result of revolutions and ongoing battles between religious groups, but there came about a de facto platform of Secularism. Secularism is a cultural reality which says, “You can believe in God, but God is nothing but a personal, private friend.” Therefore you can’t bring God into the public square. You can have God and take Him off into your corner by yourself, but you cannot bring Him into politics, economic theory, schools, history, or the law. God has to be personal and private for each individual who chooses to believe in Him. And in the 19th century, Europe embraced this.
What could possibly go wrong?
Well if you make God merely a personal, private friend, then what God is NOT is the designer of the universe. And, if you take away the DESIGNER of the universe, you also remove the DESIGN of the universe, and all things within it. One of these things that was designed is sex.
Sex was designed within a particular context: marriage. And sex was designed with particular consequences, one of them being babies. In other words, sex got a divorce. Sex was divorced from its context, consequences and design. So, sex became a personal, private right that you can do whenever you want, however you want, with whomever you want, wherever you want, as if it does not have a context nor consequences to worry about.
So, here we are today with unsustainable birth rates and sexual moral decay where people only think about the here and now and their own immediate urges instead of the long-term benefits and consequences. All this leads to the end of Western Civilization.
Do you think that 150 years ago, when Europe embraced Secularism, they thought, “I know, let’s embrace an idea that will end our civilization.”
No, of course not.
So, here’s the other thing. When I say, “Ideas have consequences”… another aspect of that is that a lot of times ideas have unforeseen consequences. We don’t always see where the road is going to go.
(Author’s note: This post originally appeared in January 2013. It was part of a series about the huge changes that are rocking Western society – and their impact on men and the church. I am not advocating these changes; I’m simply trying to explain why they’re happening, to help believers respond with greater understanding to those they may disagree with.)
I’m one of the millions of viewers enchanted by one of TV’s hottest show – Downton Abbey. It’s the story of an aristocratic family and their servants, set in England a century ago. (Guys, I know it sounds boring, but it’s actually terrific.)
Downton takes us inside a society built on formality. Every human interaction is carefully scripted. There’s proper dress for every occasion. Dinner must be served an exact way. Conversations are diplomatic and indirect. People control their passions and lusts (for the most part). Manners matter. Duty reigns supreme. The characters consistently do what they think is right, even if it costs them everything.
But as the show progresses through the 1910s and 20s, the formal society slowly fades, yielding to the informal world we know today.
The Crawley family would not recognize the world we live in. There are no formal class distinctions. We say whatever we want. We rarely dress for any occasion. Manners matter little. We indulge ourselves. Etiquette, social conventions and duty have taken a backseat to familiarity, convenience and practicality. We celebrate the exploits of those who lack self-control.
Let me be clear: I do not mourn the passing of the Edwardian era. I see little value in changing clothes six times a day, following traditions that have lost all meaning, or beating about the bush. The servant-and-master model has run its course, and good riddance.
But I am curious as to why our world became so informal so fast. Why, even in my lifetime I’ve seen people stop dressing for all but the most solemn occasions. Why so many aspects of politeness have gone by the wayside. Why expediency almost always trumps “doing the right thing.”
Downton Abbey is so unusual because it runs counter to the informal, anti-institutional bias that’s been the lifeblood of television since the 1970’s. Hit comedies such as M*A*S*H, All in the Family, The Simpsons and Seinfeld and won huge ratings by lampooning long held social norms. Meanwhile, TV dramas (viewer discretion advised) have been busy desensitizing audiences to mayhem, cruelty and unrestrained passion.
Then an uptight drama like Downton Abbey dominates the ratings. What gives?
I believe the success of Downton reflects a longing among Westerners for a more genteel, controlled era. Downton represents a time when the lines were bright and the penalties for stepping outside them were severe. Such rules may seem oppressive or silly to us, yet they fostered the peaceful, prosperous, liberal society we enjoy today. Only God knows how many of these rules can fall before our society falls as well.
And speaking of liberal, how is it that Downton has found an audience on PBS? Among its most ardent fans are the very counter-culturists who spent their youths rebelling against the oppressive social rules Downton celebrates. At some level liberals must realize the government they lionize cannot exist in a world with no cohesion. Someone has to maintain the institutions that make the welfare state possible.
One more thing Downton offers that almost no other show does – morally upright male characters. Lord Grantham and his heir, Matthew Crawley, are men of impeccable integrity. Their servants, Mr. Carson and Mr. Bates are equally principled. It’s been a long time since a TV drama offered such an array of kind, noble men in the lead roles. (Meanwhile, the show’s bad guy is a vindictive, devilish homosexual. Why liberals aren’t screaming about that plot element is a mystery to me.)
Lord Grantham, the patriarch, does his best to stand firm as the first waves of modernity begin washing away the foundations of the old agrarian order. (Spoiler alert: If you haven’t watched the show, don’t read the rest of this paragraph). His youngest daughter breaks social ranks and marries one of the servants. His eldest daughter has a one-night stand that threatens to bring disgrace on the family. And his middle daughter learns to drive a car and becomes a suffragette.
Lord Grantham objects vehemently as his daughters begin dismantling the cultural framework that underpins their noble status. Yet even as his children reject his ways, he does not reject them. Grantham is a true Christ figure – a loving father, a generous provider and a fierce advocate for his children. He clings to traditions not for traditions’ sake, but because he believes that’s what is best for his daughters, and for the world.
That Downton Abbey is so popular tells us something about modern viewers. We long for men like Lord Grantham, Matthew, Carson and Bates. Our anything-goes generation is looking for limits. As the baby boomers age, that old agrarian ethos is looking better and better.
As C. S. Lewis said, the basic moral law is written on our hearts. We don’t really want to be our own gods. We’re like toddlers – eventually we tire of being in charge and we long to submit ourselves to a higher power that will take care of us and tell us what we’re supposed to do. We want a Lord in our lives who will look after us – whether his name is Grantham or Jesus.
The Gospel grants us freedom and autonomy – but it also provides a framework in which the followers of Jesus are supposed to live. Such a framework may seem oppressive in our choice-driven age. As Christians, we don’t always understand why God tells us to do certain things, but we walk by faith — not by sight. We do as our Lord commands, whether we understand or not.
Rather than weaken this framework (as some churches are doing in the name of “inclusiveness”) we would do well to maintain it. Obedience to God is not oppression – it’s the only way to experience true freedom. Like Lord Grantham, we must object vehemently when truth is compromised, while at the same time responding with love to all of God’s children.
(Author’s note: This post originally appeared in January 2013. It was part of a series about the huge changes that are rocking Western society – and their impact on men and the church. I am not advocating these changes; I’m simply trying to explain why they’re happening, to help believers respond with greater understanding to those they may disagree with.)
For five thousand years homosexuality was taboo in virtually every culture on earth. In many societies the penalty for having sex with a person of the same gender was death. As recently as the 1960s, homosexuals were widely reviled even among progressives and liberals.
Most societies have either persecuted homosexuals or turned a blind eye to their activities. This was the case in the United States and Europe until about 40 years ago, when the tide of public opinion began turning. Today, Western elites are openly embracing homosexuality, and the broader society is quickly following suit.
Why have most civilizations been hostile toward homosexuality? Why does the Bible call it “an abomination?” Why is the modern world suddenly accepting this long forbidden practice? And what impact will this have on the church and its men?
Here are several reasons why gay is suddenly becoming OK in Western society:
Against this backdrop, homosexuality was seen as a threat. If men and women were having sex with each other, that meant fewer childbearing unions.
Fast forward to today. For the first time in history the world is widely believed to be over-populated. Modern medicine and nutrition have greatly extended human lifespan. Experts tell us the world no longer has too few children – it has too many.
In an overpopulated world, homosexuality is no longer a threat – it’s coming to be seen as advantageous. Among urban progressives, childbearing is now viewed as a liability to the earth, straining precious resources and contributing to pollution and global warming. I can foresee a time in which gay relationships may become the trendy choice among city dwellers. Straights may come to see same-sex marriages as morally superior to opposite-sex unions because they cannot produce a child.
For example, if two soldiers or monks or professors became romantically involved there was a potential for favoritism. Professors could reassign their pets to choice posts. Directors could cast their boyfriends in choice roles. Monastery love triangles could result in a homicide. Officers could protect their paramours by pulling them off the front lines. Even worse – if a man refused the advances of his superior he could find himself fired, flunked or even sacrificed in battle.
Preferential treatment bred resentment and fueled anti-gay animus in all male institutions. The Catholic priesthood is still cleaning up the mess from a crop of closeted priests who used their positions of power to stalk and sodomize boys. Homosexuality has always been an enormous distraction from the mission of these institutions, so it has always been banned.
Today there are very few all-male institutions left. With the military and the University co-ed, men can fraternize with women. Recently enacted sexual harassment and anti-discrimination laws keep predatory men (both gay and straight) accountable for their crimes.
These are some of the reasons gay is suddenly becoming “OK” in Western society. How do we as Christians respond?
First, we must acknowledge that the scriptures were given to us in a time when homosexuality was a grave threat to society. Childbearing was imperative to survival. All-male institutions were the backbone of civilization. In this context it’s not difficult to see why sex between men was seen as an abomination.
In fact, this is the very argument liberal theologians use to interpret the Bible’s prohibitions surrounding homosexuality. They believe that if Jesus were to walk among us today he would accept committed, same-sex relationships. After all, God is love, and if two men love each other, who are we to say no?
But even if you accept the notion that homosexuality is not the societal threat it once was, it’s another thing entirely to assume that God has changed his mind on the issue. Perhaps our creator has other reasons for restricting sex to a monogamous, male-female relationship. Humans are famous for embracing practices that seem benign in the micro but produce negative consequences in the macro. (Who would have thought driving your car to the grocery store could contribute to a global warming apocalypse?)
On the issue of homosexuality, Christians find themselves defending a shrinking island. They no longer have the culture on their side. Their position seems illogical to more and more people. Society can’t understand how Christians can love gays without accepting their lifestyle. Gay activists have convinced the press that disagreement = hate.
It’s a near certainty that the church will come under increasing pressure to accept same-sex relationships in the coming years. Journalists are already calling for churches to lose their tax exempt status if they refuse to hire or marry gays. Polls show that one of the main reasons young people dislike the church is the perception that “Christians hate gays.” Some churches may conclude that it makes sense to embrace homosexuality as a way of being more welcoming to the next generation.
Yet this is a fool’s approach. Those churches that have opened their doors widest to gays are hemorrhaging members and money. They have very few young families. Men are leading the exodus from these liberal congregations.
In today’s podcast I am continuing my focus on social issues, these are issues that challenge our faith and our God in some very different ways.
Today’s podcast is part three of my three podcasts on social issues. On my previous podcast I focused on what I call megaphone social issues, specifically the homosexual/LGBT lifestyle and culture, and also gay marriage and abortion. I
The subject of today’s podcast is what I’ll call ear bud issues, those issues we face on a much more subtle level, challenging us more as individuals, families and local churches.
We all know and have used ear buds. An ear bud is a cool little device; it fits snuggly in our ears and fills them with words and music that only we can hear. Ear buds are designed to block out the larger world around us, so we can listen in peace and in secret. That’s the way it is with many of the social issues we face as individual Christians today. I want to focus on three such issues, issues that snuggle into our ears and lives, appealing to us, at least for a while, in secret, but that challenge our faith and our proper view of God and His will for our lives. Each of these issues has two facets that I’m going to try to expand on and explain the challenges they present.
The first of these issues are pornography and promiscuity. These two issues together challenge both the humanity and the love of those involved. Pornography is a shallow, one-dimensional representation of an individual, usually female, that we see on a screen or on paper. We don’t see these women as humans, they are simply bodies presented for our pleasure in a very de-humanizing format. Promiscuity, and I’ll add prostitution, is the other side of the coin to pornography. It challenges the love and union that God designed the sexual act to represent. When two bodies come together outside of that design, as an exchange of benefits or even money, or to simply satisfy an appetite, God’s design and will are corrupted.
Next on our list of ear bud issues are drugs and alcohol. These two substances challenge the Holy Spirits control over our minds and bodies. God’s desire is for us to present our bodies to Him as living sacrifices, and to hold our minds captive to Him and His Word and Spirit. If our bodies and minds are controlled by substances, legal or not, then we are taken out of the Holy Spirits control.
And the final set of ear bud issues I see today are Secularism and Materialism. The previous issues were activities, while these two issues represent our frame of mind and our values. Together they challenge the notions of God glory, eternity and His plan of salvation. In the secularists view, obviously there is no God; therefore there is no need to glorify Him as God. Self is glorified and becomes the center of existence. Secularism also leads directly to materialism, where all we have is what we can see, feel and touch. There is no eternal context for our lives; therefore there is no need for eternal salvation and reward, and certainly no concern over eternal punishment.
Now I mentioned in part one of this podcast series that we need to somehow cut through the noise of megaphone social issues to see the deeper challenges they pose to us as a Christian community. With these subtler ear bud issues, we need to avoid the temptation of keeping their volume low and secret. We need to find ways of turning up the volume so that we as individuals, and as a community, can resist their appeal and ultimately the damage they do in our lives, families, relationships, and ultimately our churches and the larger Body of Christ, which He has set apart from the world for His glory.
On my next podcast I’ll be wrapping up the trilogy with what I feel is the ultimate social issue we all face as a society, in a category of it’s own. It’s an issue we face not only as a society, but also as a Church and as individuals, and its consequences have only begun to rock our culture, our faith and our personal lives and relationships. So please stay tuned.
In closing, it’s time for the Great Cloud Of Witnesses, the segment of our podcast where we meet and hear the stories of those who have given, and some who are still giving, their lives by faith in the promises of God, and of whom the world was and is not worthy (if you don’t know that reference, please check out Hebrews chapter 11 in your Bible). Today’s witness is an unnamed group of students who were brutally attacked by Islamic bombers. Twelve children ages nine to 16 were killed in the horrible, bloody, senseless attack. Seven more students died in the days following from wounds inflicted by the bombing; and three endured amputations in order to survive.
But, amazingly, children showed up for school as usual the very next day. The exhausted and despondent schoolmaster told them to go home: “I cannot tell you when or if we will resume classes.”
Then he was approached by a ten-year-old boy who plead, “Please let us continue. We want to learn. And if it’s God’s will, then today we won’t die.”
Even amid the horrors of a brutal attack he sought God’s will and not his own.
To purchase the entire Summit Lecture Series, Vol. 1 on DVD, go to: www.summit.org
John Stonestreet continues his list of answers to the question:
What lifestyles do a Naturalistic worldview promote?
– Secularism: The idea that God does not belong in the public square. It’s okay, so long as it remains private and not included in any public setting. It often holds that religion is actually at the root of the world’s problems.
– Hedonism: “Eat, drink and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The idea that we only live for a short while, so we ought to live for our own pleasure first and foremost.
– Existentialism: Life itself is not meaningful, therefore we need to find something – each to his own – that brings meaning to each of our lives.
– Nihilism: (“nothing-ism”) Do whatever you want since there is no one single right way to morally or directionally live. When you die, there is nothing afterward, so what you do while on earth is irrelevant to any other reference point or anyone else’s priorities, morals or perspectives.
– Socialism: Assumes that the world is a fixed set of resources that ought to be divided up evenly to the population.
From these ideas come worldviews such as:
– Secular Humanism: Science can bring about a better world. Culture and mankind in general can be advanced through scientific achievement and application.
– Utopianism: A perfect society can be created by man’s efforts.