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The Battles over Truth, State’s Rights, and Our Eyeballs

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Today we’ll see the persistence of truth in an age of untruth, we’ll ask is the truth really more important than ever before, we’ll see the cultural rift between California and Washington D.C., we’ll look at the battle for our eyeballs in modern television programming, and we’ll ask what we can learn from those constant drug ads.

The persistence of truth in an age of untruth: Is truth more important than ever before?

The most noteworthy aspect of yesterday’s edition of the New York Timeswasn’t a news story, it was an advertisement. An ad placed by the New York Times about the New York Times about truth. Yesterday’s edition included a full page with these few words,

“The truth has power. The truth will not be threatened. The truth has a voice.”

At the bottom of the page, the simple iconic masthead the New York Times.But just the day before in Sunday’s edition of the paper, timed for that evening’s Golden Globes Awards program, the New York Times on the first of these pages had the words,

“He said. She said.
He said. She said.
He said. She said.”

And then 144 more times, an unbroken,

“She said.”

Very clearly was the New York Times signaling its own virtue associating with the #metoo campaign and the political messaging sent at the Golden Globes concerning the issues of sexual harassment. It was a pretty unnuanced message. Again,

“He said. She said.
He said. She said.
He said. She said.”

And then 144 times,

“She said.”

The second full page in the New York Times about the New York Timessimply had the words,

“The truth has a voice.”

At the bottom of the page, again, the iconic masthead of the New York Times.Now it’s really clear what’s going on here, the New York Times is signaling by means of these ads that it is the authoritative voice for truth in the culture, that it cares deeply about truth, that it — perhaps alone — is committed to finding the truth and giving the truth a voice. This follows last year’s first effort in this series by the New York Times, that time it was scheduled to coincide with the Academy Awards presentation. The messaging back then in 2017, I quote,

“The truth is hard. The truth is hard to know. The truth is more important than ever.”

That last line is the most important of the claims made by the New York Times, and in accordance with this particular advertising campaign it actually draped those words around its building.

“The truth is more important than ever,”

claims the Times.

Well, before looking further and more deeply at the issue of truth in our contemporary moment, it is really important for us to recognize that from a biblical perspective it simply is not true that the truth has never been more important. It is true to say that it’s never been more important and it’s never been less important. For Christians, according to a biblical worldview, truth is always the paramount question. It has never been less important. It’s actually a fairly ludicrous claim on the part of the New York Times, are they really suggesting that going back to that paper’s own history, if you look at the last decades of the 19th century, the truth wasn’t so important? When you look at two cataclysmic world wars during the 20th century, the truth wasn’t so important. When you look at the depression, the Cold War, and everything that followed, the truth was less important then than it is now. Of course, that’s not a serious claim that they would make. It is, however, the background impulse to their current advertising campaign. We know what’s going on here, it’s very similar to the kind of campaign and posturing undertaken by the major newspaper in the nation’s capital, the Washington Post. Just several months ago that paper began printing under its own masthead the words,

“Democracy dies in darkness.”

In both cases you have two major newspapers, two of the most influential newspapers in the world, claiming their priority in terms of the business of truth telling, and in the words of the Washington Post implicitly, saving democracy. Saving democracy from what or from whom? Defending truth against what? Well of course the most immediate challenge that is reflected in these campaigns is what is referred to as fake news, it’s the destabilization of the entire truth and information and media universe. But this is where Christians really do need to think a bit more deeply about this than the New York Times and the Washington Post. Is it because we are less invested in truth? No, to the contrary; it is because we are far more invested in truth. It’s also because we understand that the New York Times really does pride itself, along with the Washington Post and other major media, in being very concerned about the truth; they have entire journalistic teams of reporters and writers and editors and levels of editors and then publishers and all the rest, all supposedly working together in order to reveal and to report the truth. And of course when it comes to a story, let’s just take a routine story like a break-in in a neighborhood, if we’re looking for report on that break-in, we want to know the factual answers to who, what, when, and where, of course, why would help also. But as we’re looking at that we recognize that the very secular reporters and editors and publishers of the news media, they really do believe in the facts, they want to get to those facts when it comes to a break-in in a home. But when it comes to bigger and more complex questions, well at that point, the editors and the reporters and others tend to mix up their own categories. The New York Times when they’re claiming to be the voice of truth, they’re not just speaking about what they take pride in in terms of their rather objective reporting about major events. No, they’re implying that also about their analysis; they’re claiming truth for their own worldview. This is where Christians also have to understand that one of the hallmarks of the modern age as we know it is the denial of certain forms of truth, the existence of objective truth when it comes to morality, and, furthermore, when it came to the movement known as postmodernism, the denial of objective truth at all.

Now as we’re looking at this, we understand that no society can actually operate in any same way while denying all objective truth. So what you have in the contemporary world are two rival visions of truth, sometimes in the very same mind. You have a level of objective truth, and that’s understood to be, well to go back to our story about a break-in in a home or the robbery of a store, there are facts and those facts are merely be taken as facts, they’re facts because they are true because they correspond with reality. But when it comes to a question of morality, well, there’s a second dimension of truth, and that’s often hand-in-hand with the rejection of the fact that there can be any moral facts there are only moral opinions. The Christian thinker Francis Schaeffer pointed to this in his most important book, that book was written in 1968, the title, Escape from Reason. Schaefer famously argued that in the modern secular mind there was actually a two-story picture of truth; a lower story that consisted of facts and an upper story that merely contained opinions. The lower story was cognitive, the upper story was noncognitive. As Schaefer indicated, the denial of objective truth in matters of morality was the modern age’s way of putting all those questions, that it wanted to answer in a very different way, beyond the cognitive level of facts into the noncognitive level of mere opinion.

So we have to recognize that the modern age has been trying to argue that there are some facts, those facts are understood to be true, true in the sense that they correspond with reality. In the modern cultural moment you see this especially affirmed amongst persons who reduce all matters of fact to what’s often limited to science, fact-based research they say. But when it comes to questions of morality such as whether or not an unborn human life is actually human, whether or not abortion is right or wrong, whether we can know that abortion is either right or wrong as moral facts, well at that stage everything’s simply kicked up into the second story into a matter of opinion, then it’s just a matter of which opinion gains majority status and support. We need to understand that that is the essence of modern politics and cultural conversation. We need to understand that that is the worldview that drives those identified as the cultural creatives, those who are the producers and the directors and the storytellers in Hollywood and beyond. We need to understand what Francis Schaeffer warned about as this two-story picture of truth, it is being drilled through every level of the culture, it is being drilled especially through every level of education, particularly higher education, but there’s plenty of evidence these days that it is also being drilled down even into kindergarten and grade school in terms of much of the official curriculum.

It is encouraging, in one sense, that the New York Times is so interested in truth, even if it comes in the form of a self advertisement, but when it states that the truth has never been more important, Christians agree with every single word so long as it’s followed by the fact that the truth has never been less important either. For Christians, the truth is not just important, it is ultimate.

California learns to sing the anthem of states rights as the rift grows between California and Washington D.C.

Next, I turn to looking at that deep cultural divide we see an America, we’re not the only ones who see it, the New York Times and others see it as well, sometimes referring to not just one America but two Americas speaking of that very deep moral and cultural divide. Recently, the New York Times ran a front-page article by Tim Arango, the headline,

“One America Fights Another As Rift Widens.”

The subhead is interesting,

“California pushes back against White House.”

Now it’s not just California and the White House, but that particular dynamic is the initiating catalyst of the story. It’s really about that great worldview divide that separates Americans, and when it comes the state of California there is no doubt where the majority of the political leaders in that state stand, almost all of them are California Democrats. But when it comes to the rest of America, is California now foreign country? Arango writes,

“In many ways it feels like that these days, as the growing divide between California and the Trump administration erupted this past week over a dizzying range of flash points, from immigration to taxes to recreational marijuana use.”

I think in many ways it’s that last issue that has the front place attention here. Last week Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced that the federal government would be reversing a few Obama era executive orders that it indicated that the Department of Justice would not pursue investigations and prosecutions of federal marijuana laws. There are now about eight states that have legalized recreational marijuana, and the Obama administration had announced that where the states had done so, the feds would not prosecute even though in all 50 states and in all American territories the use, the possession, the distribution, and the sale of marijuana remains a federal crime. So you now have a dynamic between those states that have legalized marijuana and the federal government, but what’s really interesting is what this shows us about how, in a moral Civil War, people or states for that matter can change sides and change arguments pretty quickly. Back during the 1950s and 1960s it was largely southern states using a state’s rights argument who sought to defend segregation laws and the larger nation, especially led by those who were ardently anti-segregation, argued that the states had no right to violate federal laws or federal decrees. That was a major dynamic, on the one hand you had an argument about states rights, on the other hand you had a prevailing argument about federal supremacy on such questions, but when it comes to marijuana all of a sudden California is singing a very different tune. California has learned to sing the anthem of state’s rights over the issue particularly of legalized marijuana.

We have often observed that the closer you get to one of the oceanic coasts the more liberal the society becomes on many moral and cultural issues. That’s true on the East Coast, but particularly in the Northeast, but it is true on the entirety of the West Coast, the United States Pacific Coast. Just consider this political profile,

“In California, every state leader is a Democrat, including the governor and the leaders of the State Senate and Assembly. Of the state’s 53 members in Congress, only 14 are Republicans, and,”

the article in the Times goes on to say,

“analysts believe several of them are in [serious political] jeopardy [in the 2018 midterm elections].”

One of the interesting dimensions of this article in the Times is that it identifies a certain impulse in this liberal direction in the state of California and traces it back to the Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger. He had begun to use the language of California being

“an almost nation-state. And,”

Then, as the paper goes on to say,

“many Californians feel that way.”

The most important issue for us is to understand that the worldview distinction is real and that eventually it becomes tangible in politics, in laws, legislation, and policies. California knows that; frankly, we all know that, but what you’re looking at in this article is the recognition of a very deep divide that seems only to be getting wider and deeper at the cultural moment. Interestingly, with many other issues also on the table, marijuana has emerged as one of the key issues of contention leading even a state like California all of a sudden to begin talking about state’s rights reversing the very kind of arguments it had made decades ago. But that really goes both ways when you consider the fact that the current US Attorney General Jeff Sessions was making many of the same arguments in terms of very different issues also a matter of decades ago. What makes the story even more interesting to Christians is our understanding, just as we were discussing on the previous story, that that divide is actually deeper than the secular mind can understand.

The costly battle for our eyeballs intensifies in modern television programming

Meanwhile, as we’re the thinking about the media programming and advertising, a story in yesterday’s edition of the Times indicated that more TV shows are now vying for our eyeballs than in any previous time in history. Last year, John Koblin tells us, there were 487 original scripted programs, that’s a record breaker that follows last year’s record breaker of 455. Koblin explains,

“The staggering growth largely comes from the seemingly endless budget lines that help produce new shows for streaming services.”

Now one of the things we need to note is that we are looking here at streaming services primarily. The big three producers of scripted programs on television now are FX, HBO, and Netflix. Now just remember that that’s contrasted with what we would’ve understood even a matter of just a decade ago. Where are CBS and NBC and ABC, not to mention the major cable networks of yore. But from a Christian perspective, one of the most interesting aspects here is what this underlines in terms of the continued influence of television programming, it’s not going away, it’s not going away in terms of influence in the culture, it’s also not going away in terms of the competition for our eyeballs because this is where we always need to remind ourselves that programming is not really to entertain us, it is to entertain us in order to send advertising to us. That’s what pays the bills. Make the mistake, Hollywood does want to send moral messages in its entertainment but it can only do so successfully if it gets advertisers to foot the bill, and it’s a big bill. We are told in this news article that Netflix is going to spend over $8 billion in terms of production for this programming in just the next 12 months; $8 billion. I also found it interesting to find embedded in this article that just about every one of these individual programs cost on average $3 million. Somebody’s got to pay for a lot of advertising to make that commercially worthwhile.

What can we learn—about ourselves and advertisers—from those constant drug ads?

Meanwhile our advertising does reveal a great deal about ourselves, that’s why I was drawn to another article this time in the advertising column of theNew York Times. Joanne Kaufman writes that if you think you’re seeing more drug ads on television, you actually are. Koplin tells us that

“According to Kantar Media, a firm that tracks multimedia advertising, 771,368 [drug] ads were shown in [the last year documented, which is] 2016.”

There is every reason to believe there were more in 2017 and will be more in 2018. That number again over, 770,000 drug ads. She goes on to report by means of citing John Swallen,

“TV ad spending by pharmaceutical companies has more than doubled in the past four years, making it the second-fastest-growing category on television during that time.”

Now one of the interesting things is what’s documented in this article about this shift in these drug ads. It’s no longer primarily driven by pharmaceuticals for what would be called minor health problems, it’s now for major and massive health problems. Why? Well the article the Times argues it is because the television audience is trending older and because we are living longer, and as we do so more serious health problems represent themselves and the drug companies are battling amongst themselves in the war for our health and more urgently for our health dollars.

It’s also perhaps interesting to note that these health advertisements, drug ads, are directed primarily at television viewers for dramas and news shows. Speaking of the newly more serious drugs addressed in these ads, we are told by Thomas Lom, a consultant,

“In the old days, it was allergies and acid reflux and whatnot. …  Now, it’s cardiology issues. It’s cancer.”

Now if you’ve been looking at these ads you’re probably thinking what I’m thinking, how would anyone want to take these drugs once they have to tell us what the FDA requires, which is about the potential side effects, some of them truly horrifying, some potentially clarifying, others, admittedly, mystifying. But one of the interesting dimensions of what’s reported in this story is that all of those dreaded side effects the FDA requires to be cited don’t seem to have much of an effect upon the impact of the advertising. Part of this is because, authorities say in the article, that drugs that are to have a dramatic effect, well, are understood to sometimes come with dramatic other effects. But there’s something else in the article about the confusion that comes with white noise. That is to say we find ourselves tuning out what we’re not really interested to hear, and it tells us something about human nature, that we are more interested to hear the benefits of the drug than what might be the unavoidable side effects. But authorities in the article also say that the advertising might actually appear to be more credible and more truthful if the side effects are listed along with the primary benefit, but that takes us back to where we started on the issue of truth. It turns out that even a society in a modern age that wants to escape the question of truth simply can’t.

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.)

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America’s Cultural, Political and Theological Divides from a Christian Worldview

I’m Albert Mohler and this is The Briefing, a daily analysis of news and events from a Christian worldview.

Today we’re going to talk about why America seems to be moving in one and in only one cultural direction. We’re going to talk about why America seems to be so deeply divided and what that division tells us. And we’re also going to look at why America is increasingly divided on the question of abortion and what that tells us about ourselves and our country.

IS THE LEFT WINNING? WHY AMERICA SEEMS TO BE MOVING IN ONLY ONE CULTURAL DIRECTION

In trying to understand America today, we are looking at a country, we are looking at a culture, a civilization that requires some very careful thinking, and at least a part of this is something that requires a certain historical distance. That historical distance is hard to get when every day we are barraged by a series of headlines and events and elections and decisions and all the things that tend to happen around us that accentuate the urgent at the expense of getting a bit of perspective. David Gelernter is a professor at Yale University. He is a computer scientist. He’s also another of America’s most prominent public intellectuals. Even as he teaches at Yale, he was also the inventor of life streams, which is now understood to have been the first social network online. He was also, we need to note, not merely as an historical footnote one of those targeted by the uni-bombers several years ago.America’s Cultural, Political and Theological Divides

He recently wrote about America raising a very important historical point. He says that the right –  that is the conservative side in America’s cultural divide,

“has never made one significant move against the liberal culture machine.”

What’s he talking about here? David Gelernter is a very serious man. And he’s looking at the American moral landscape, and he’s looking at the reality and saying conservatives may talk about electoral wins, they may talk about appointments and nominations and laws, they may talk about certain areas of the culture that still continue in a certain cultural and moral conservatism, but he says when you look at the big picture and you look over the last generation, conservatives haven’t really won anything in terms of the big battles the liberals continue to win them all. He concludes his article by saying this,

“The left wrapped up the culture war two generations ago. Throughout my own adult lifetime, the right has never made one significant move against the liberal culture machine.”

Now I want to ask a basic question. Is he right? I think the answer is yes. But that’s not the only question. The question would have to be not only has the cultural right won any victories over the cultural left in terms of recent American history, the question would also have to be what victories would the cultural left have won if there had been no activity and no engagement by the cultural right. But looking at David Gelernter’s point, there’s a very important judgment that’s embedded here. And that judgment is that conservatives never actually win victories. Now the earliest conservative thinkers would have said that’s exactly right. There are never any ultimate victories, and this is deeply rooted in a Christian worldview. The ultimate victory comes only with the kingdom of Christ. Until then, there’s a continuation of battle after battle after battle.

Now in the political sphere that comes down to the fact that when you win for example a legislative victory, well, don’t celebrate it too much because there will be a new Senate, there will be a new Congress, there will be new voters, and the situation can change rather rapidly. That doesn’t mean that a legislative victory isn’t important. It just means that it isn’t ultimate and no legislative victory is destined to last. When there’s a budget battle, many people looking at it, especially driven by interest in the cable news networks and all the rest, they will either lament or celebrate a budget as adopted by the Congress and say well the battle is won. No it isn’t. The battle for the budget is going to come up next year, and the year after that, and the year after that. And one of the major moral attributes of Congress is as they say to kick the can down the road to defer action in terms of anything painful into the distant future when someone else will have to face the electorate and the math.

But looking at David Gelernter’s point, there’s something else here that’s really important, and that is that over the last generation, you might say going back to the 1960s especially and going forward, the left has had an onward march that is more spectacularly successful than even many liberals in the culture might recognize. And that’s because the most fundamental bases of the culture, the most fundamental ways of thinking, have shifted so remarkably. It’s not just the so-called liberation movements that have included the liberation of sex and the liberation of gender and the liberation of well you can name it, but it’s also the fact that people are now living in a moral world that is barely recognizable from the moral world that existed in the 1950s and the 1960s. Are there gains in that? Well certainly massive corrections were needed of the moral worldview of America in the mid-20th century, especially on issues of race and the quality.

But when it comes to many other issues, well just consider what’s happened to marriage and what’s happened to the family. The breakdown of marriage and the family has had devastating consequences. One of the interesting things going on right now is that the left and the right in America are increasingly united on a certain set of facts. Those facts having to do with the breakdown of marriage and the family and its consequences, especially for children. But it’s just a very interesting point that David Gelernter makes. The point being that the right may win battles but it seems always to lose the war.

And that’s a fairly modern thing. Because if you’re looking back at the 17th, 18th, 19th centuries, even the early 20th century, it would have not have been at all clear that this would be the story of the last half of the 20th century and what we know of the 21st century. That tells us that something very significant changed. Something seismic shifted in terms of how Americans look at the world, look at truth, look at morality and understand themselves. And that’s very, very true. That’s exactly what has happened. Failing to take that into account is to fail to understand that those who are behind this very liberal movement in the society are the people who now generally populate almost exclusively the tenured ranks of American universities, who populate the senior board rooms of most corporations, who populate the centers of cultural production. It’s no accident that it is that way. The left had a very long strategy, and that means that this is going to be a very long struggle. But it also means that at any given moment we’re not going to know who might have won the battle. We will know eventually who has won the war.

WHAT DOES A DIVIDED AMERICA TELL US ABOUT DISAPPEARING POLITICAL AND THEOLOGICAL CENTERS?

But next dealing with that deep divide in America, a divide that’s at the level of worldview. It’s not just on politics and morality. It’s an even deeper level divide. We understand that. A recent interview that appeared in the Wall Street Journal is very important. It’s with Allen Guelzo who is the professor of civil war era studies and the director of that program at Gettysburg College. He is a major American historian. I’m glad to say he’s also someone I’ve had a conversation with my program Thinking in Public. In this interview article James Taranto of the Wall Street Journal, Professor Guelzo makes an astounding, but I think arguable claim and that is that America’s now more divided than at any point in its history with the singular exception of the Civil War. That’s a pretty sobering assessment. But as he says in this interview,

“today’s divisions are worse than those of any time in American history except the 1850s and ’60s. Today,” he said, “‘there are a lot of unhappy personalities, and there are divisions of cultural values.”

He goes on to say that there have been divides throughout American history and the divides have loomed larger and smaller. And he’s right to point to the Civil War, the 1850s and 1860s is the time of the deepest moral divide in the United States, but it is very chastening to consider the fact that here you have a major American historian saying that right now appears to be the time when Americans are more divided than at any time other than the Civil War.

In terms of the disappearance of a moral or political center, he points to the fact that there has also been a shift in identity. As Taranto says Guelzo’s,

“argument is that Republicans think of themselves as Americans first, whereas today Democratic localism takes the form of subnational identity politics.”

In Guelzo’s words,

“A sense of belonging to an American nation is much more attenuated. Do you identify yourself as being a woman, transgender, black, Latino—you go down the list—or do you identify yourself as an American?”

Professor Guelzo said,

“That has actually now become an issue. This would have been unthinkable two generations ago.”

Now that’s really, really important. It tells us a great deal about our country. It tells us that there are many who do not identify themselves first and foremost as Americans. That’s not their identity, but rather their identity is in some subset that might or might not have anything to do with being an American at all. Now what’s really insightful in that is the fact that a political center requires that sense of shared identity. That’s what creates the center. The center is representative of people who say before I’m a Democrat before I’m a Republican I’m an American. We’re all Americans one way or another. We’re going to solve this problem. We’re going to see this through. That is what produces a political center. This ought to cause Christians to ponder a moment if the disappearance of the center is one of the major facets of America today, then how did that happen? And it appears to have happened precisely because there are other identities, political and moral identities, or as in the case of those listed by Professor Guelzo gender and racial and ethnic identities that simply trump everything else.

Now that raises a huge question. If indeed all of those identities trump the identity of being an American, where does that leave us as a country? And of course as Americans ponder this with deep ramifications for what it would mean for our country. Even as this does give us a pretty intellectually satisfying explanation for the disappearance of the political center. It also points to the great challenges faced by the church of the Lord Jesus Christ because we understand that our first and primary identity isn’t American it’s as a follower of Christ. We also understand that we are here in the United States those who are Americans and we understand that that is a part of our identity, even as the apostle Paul was very proud to say that he was a citizen of the Roman Empire and to claim the rights and responsibilities of one who was a citizen of Rome. But it is the primary citizenship in heaven in the city of God that defines who we are as Christians, and it points to one of the great challenges the church faces even as it is faced in its own way by our nation.

It’s not just the political center that has disappeared. In some ways it is theological center that has disappeared as well. And that shouldn’t really surprise as we think about what’s at stake theologically on questions concerning the gospel, the exclusivity the gospel, the identity of Christ, the authority and inspiration of Scripture. These are issues in which over the past decades we have seen the disappearance of an artificial theological center. We’re left with the understanding that theology really matters, and of course it also ultimately matters that we are faithful followers of the Lord Jesus Christ. Our identity is first and foremost in him. There are other identities, but one of the great struggles for America is going to be understanding how to exist with the disappearance of the political center and with competing identities. And for the church of the Lord Jesus Christ, it’s going to come down to this: how can the church demonstrate what it means to live with those identities but not marked only by those identities, rather than having the primary identity of being a disciple of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Finally even as we’re thinking about these divides in the United States and what they tell us and how we ought to think about these things, one of the points made by Professor Guelzo in that interview article with the Wall Street Journal is that even the issue of abortion has not become the kind of focal issue that the Civil War represented with the issue of slavery. And of course that’s historically very important. He goes on to say that as much opposition as there was to the Roe v. Wade decision, it at least didn’t lead to a civil war in terms of a sectional division in battles. But here’s what I think might be missing in that analysis. One of the things that did create the Civil War, an actual fighting war, was that sectionalism. You had America divided North and South over this question. It’s complicated, but it still comes down to a map and that made that kind of fighting war with the secession of states and the claim of the Confederacy at least plausible in terms of an explanation for why the Civil War came about.

PARTISAN DIVIDE GROWS WHEN IT COMES TO ABORTION, BUT IT’S MUCH MORE THAN A PARTISAN ISSUE

But when it comes to the issue of Roe v. Wade, I think Professor Guelzo may have underestimated the reality, and that’s because it isn’t simply defined sectionally. And thus it has never really led to that kind of fighting war and we should be very thankful, by the way, that it hasn’t led to that kind of conflict at that level. But we should also recognize that at the moral level it’s as deep a conflict as we can imagine. It’s becoming constitutive of the identity of Americans politically. And that’s to say that a recent report coming from the Pew Research Center indicates that if you know what someone believes about abortion you can almost absolutely predict where they stand politically in terms of identification as either Democrat or Republican. This recent report released in July by the Pew Research Center tells us that on abortion the persistent divides and within the two parties have grown only more clear in terms of contrasts. And the contrast is extreme.

The numbers here tell the story, and they’re very easy to understand in the pew data. The vast majority of Republicans here 65% hold to a virtually absolutist position against abortion. And on the other hand, the vast majority of Democrats here 75% hold to a virtually absolutist position for abortion. Not only that, but the percentages are increasing between the two parties – that is the percentage of affirmation of these issues and the distinction and distance between the two parties. This has become very, very clear in the 1980s, 90s, and now all the way into the early decades of the 21st century.

But even as you take a closer look at the data coming here from the Pew Research Center, it’s clear that there is something deeper than abortion, even as important as the sanctity of human life is, as central as it is to our moral concerns into the Christian worldview, it is that Christian worldview that is prior to the understanding of abortion. And that’s why looking at this data, one of most interesting things is that even if it’s very easy to predict if one is pro-life, that one is a republican, if one is pro-abortion, one is Democratic, it’s also very clear, perhaps even more clear, we’re talking here at least seven out of 10, it’s very clear that if one is pro-life, there’s a very good chance that that person identifies as a Protestant evangelical.

I can understand why the Pew Research Center wants to ask this question primarily in partisan terms, but for Christians, that’s never enough. As we know, there’s always, always something deeper than just that partisan identification.

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Unorthodox Pain

He was scared to death. He knew he shouldn’t be here. He knew that if he got caught he could get beat up, or arrested, and if things got crazy he could even be killed. But he already knew there were things worse than death. He wasn’t quiet sure if the stories were even true, or if this whole crazy plan was going to work, but he had to try.

He had put on clothes that he normally wouldn’t wear. He pulled his hat down tight hoping no one would recognize him, hoping that no one would see his face. All he wanted was to blend in and go unnoticed. If just for one day he could fit in and be normal, not get laughed at, not get ridiculed, not get ignored like he wasn’t human, not feel ashamed just for being alive, just for one day somebody would care… God, that would be a miracle.Unorthodox Pain

You ever feel like that? Embarrassed, ashamed, afraid, alone? You feel like I don’t belong here, man I don’t fit in, if these people really knew who I was, if these people knew what I’ve done. If these people really knew what was going on, they wouldn’t treat me the same.

That’s a feeling this guy knew all to well. For years he felt like that but today he was going to take a risk, today things were going to change. With each step he took his heart pounded harder, with each step he second guessed himself, with each step he got just a little more nervous. But to with each step he got closer to his moment of truth.

And with one final step he was there… it was too late to turn back now

“When Jesus came down from the mountainside, large crowds followed him. A man with leprosy came and knelt before him and said, “Lord, if you are willing, you can make me clean.” Matthew 8:1-2

Back in the day if you had leprosy you were considered the walking dead. No one cared for you no one touched you. No one talked to you. No one looked at you like a human. You were considered a piece of filth, trash. No one wanted you around; you were forced to live out side of society, not allowed to talk to the normal people. You were forced to wear black robes, symbolizing death and if any one came close to you, you had to yell UNCLEAN. So everyone knew you were different and needed to be avoided.

This guy knew he could be killed just for walking into town. But like I said, something’s are worse than death. Like being alive but not having anyone who cares, like feeling totally alone, like being sick of being you.

So now he falls down in front of Jesus crying out for help. “God please help, I am nothing, I am done I have no where else to turn. God please.” He pours it all out and waits to see what happens.

Everywhere Jesus went he always had a crowd follow and this time was no different. So now every one is watching, what is Jesus going to do? Is he going to turn his back on this guy? By law he had every right to walk away. He could call the cops, he could have the crowd throw this guy out like trash.

Or is Jesus going to help this guy and risk everything he had. Would Jesus run the risk of becoming UNCLEAN himself? And then Jesus wouldn’t be allowed back in town, he would be considered dead also.

So the crowd watched and the leper waited.

Like I said moment of truth no turning back. 

Jesus reached out his hand and touched the man. “I am willing,” he said. “Be clean!” Immediately he was cleansed of his leprosy. Then Jesus said to him, “See that you don’t tell anyone. But go, show yourself to the priest and offer the gift Moses commanded, as a testimony to them.” Matthew 8:3-4

Jesus reached down and touched the leper. When every one else had walked away from him, when everyone else called him names, when everyone else insulted him, Jesus touched him.

With one touch Jesus said, “I don’t care what everyone else thinks, I don’t care if you are dirty, I don’t care if you are ashamed or scared or afraid. I don’t care about all of that. I want to touch you because I care about You.”

As soon as Jesus touched this man, his body started to regenerate, cells reformed, and healing began. But the healing continued as this nameless leper gets to return home to family he hasn’t seen for a long time. He starts to feel physical contact for the first time. And deep down in dark corners of a hopeless heart faith is restored.

That’s who Jesus was and that’s who Jesus still is. He cares more about individuals than the crowd. He cares more about the hurting than the popular norm. And He loves at all costs even if that cost is His reputation or ultimately his life.

You know the worse part of leprosy? I don’t think it’s the disease, actually the nerves start to die so you don’t even feel it – I think the true pain is being looked at, mocked, feeling less than human, just being walked by and going completely unnoticed.

You ever felt like as leper?

Like we are outsiders, like we have nowhere we fit in, nowhere to turn. Or we feel ashamed or embarrassed scared. You feel like just being here is a bad idea. If the people in this room knew what I was into they wouldn’t want me here. If they knew what I think, or know what I’ve done… God I’m unclean.

The worst part isn’t being physically hurt – it’s being alone.

I grew up in a house where I woke up every day – wondering would today be the day some one notices? Someone cares? Weeks & months of just floating through life – like I wasn’t there, there were always people there and yet I always felt alone.

I’ve always loved this story – because I can relate, I want to stop and talk about this story and look at our lives…

The thing that I love about the Bible is the fact that the story is the fact that I have always loved how timeless this story is. Even though there have been many years since this healing took place and we are in a different world now, the truth of this story still remains.

Though it’s been a few thousand years and we live in a different time and culture three things are still the same today.

  • God/Jesus

He’s the guy everyone talked about, this leper knew the stories, the promises, but he didn’t know Jesus until he stepped forward and risked everything.

And I love how Jesus responds, “I am willing” and Jesus risks everything. And it wasn’t just lepers or that time, but all of us all the time.

Promise – Matthew 11:28-30 – Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest. 29 Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am gentle and humble in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. 30 For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.”

 

Unchanging powerful, loving cared more for us that his own feeling, passionate about us, no matter what we feel like, he simply asks us to respond to him – Come and I’ll give, I’ll heal now go and do this, are you willing to go to him? Are you willing to respond?

  • The Leper

Hurting looking for help

Moved forward – took the challenge

Take the first step – call on Jesus, ask for help, start reading the word, change your thought pattern.

Easy – no, scary – yes, hard – yep, worth it – oh yes

Days I hated life I just needed to hold on to God, I knew what I earned me, I needed to try something different (Proverbs 3:5-6)

 Paul tells us in Philippians 4:8:

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthythink about such things.

Change our process – change our out come

  • The Crowd

You know what makes a person a modern leper? The crowd, not their situation, but the people who do or do not respond to them.

My crowd was my family, maybe yours is at school,

Maybe you are the crowd – so I need to ask, how are you going to respond?

Are you going to keep watching? Mocking? Walking By?

Or are you going to help? Are you willing to live like Christ and reach out to touch

Help others – listen, don’t judge, point to the truth, support not ultimatum, communicate

You might be hurting right now – reach out to a God who loves you more than anything, trust in His promises and his people for help.

You might not be hurting – maybe you need to be the hands of Jesus and reach out to the hurting.

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We recently received this question from a soon-to-be pastor in the UK: “Greetings Pastor John! I’m about to graduate from seminary and start a job as an associate pastor in four months. I am a complementarian. However, from observing local churches in my county, it’s discouraging as it appears more and more of them are submitting to egalitarianism simply out of social norms and expectations of church leadership from a secular point of view. With the legalization of gay marriage rights, this move seems even more harmless now to a lot of churches in the west. With that in mind, what do you view the future of male headship in the home and church? Is it now a lost cause? A losing cause? Or do you think it will endure?”

Is Male Headship A Lost Cause?Complementarianism will endure. It is not a lost cause. The reason I think it will endure and is not a lost cause may not be exactly what you think. Let me give you three reasons it will endure that are not the reason I’m going to give. I think there are a lot of reasons why it will, but these three are the ones you probably thought I would give, so I’m going to give them and then give the one I really want to give.

  1. Reason number one why it will endure: It will endure because it is true to God’s word. Paul says in Ephesians 5:22–25that wives take their cues in submission from the church’s relation to Christ and husbands take their cues in love from Christ as the Head of the church. Then he quotes the Old Testament foundational text fromGenesis 2:24, “A man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh” (Ephesians 5:31). And then in Ephesians 5:32 he gives the explanation, “This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church.” When all of that happens, he’s teaching that manhood and womanhood, in marriage, are a parable of the covenant love of Christ and the church.

This complementarian role of man and woman in marriage is deep, historical, biblical, beautiful, satisfying, and in harmony with our true nature. Therefore, it will not go away. It is too profound, too integral with both nature and grace, both creation and salvation. That’s reason number one that it won’t fade away.

  1. Complementarianism will endure because this deep embeddedness of the meaning of manhood and womanhood in creation and redemption carries over explicitly into the way God has ordered his never-dying church for her greatest flourishing. “I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man” (1 Timothy 2:12). That’s Paul’s way of ordering the church.

This call for the authoritative leaders and teachers of the church to be spiritual, Christlike men is not random or arbitrary or merely competency-based or cultural. It is rooted in the created nature of manhood and womanhood. Paul argues from creation, here in 1 Timothy 2 as well as in Ephesians 5. He does not argue from culture. This complementarian vision for the church is seamlessly part of the fabric of complementarianism in the home.

Complementarianism is not a fringe on the fabric of home and church. It is part of the single fabric that binds the two together. That’s number two.

  1. The one that I didn’t want to give but am giving. Complementarianism will endure because God is good and God is sovereign. He loves his church and the people that make it up. He cares for us. I love that sentence from 1 Peter 5:7. He cares for his church. He cares for us and he designed complementary relationships between men and women for our joy. If God stops loving us, then complementarianism will cease. But as long as God is good and strong and loving, he will see to it that there is a remnant who embrace his design for men and women.

Now, those three reasons why complementarianism will endure and is not a lost cause are not the main reason I want to focus on here. The reason I want to focus on here is that when we look at the future long-term, we know there are terrible times coming for Christians. There always have been terrible times for Christians somewhere in the world, but there’s good reason to think, from the Bible, that near the end, there will be unusually terrible opposition. What will become of complementarianism in the hardest of times when it is most difficult to be a Christian, let alone be a complementarian?

Here’s a description of the sort of thing I think we can expect. This is Matthew 24:9–13:

“They will deliver you up to tribulation and put you to death, and you will be hated by all nations for my name’s sake. And then many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another. And many false prophets will arise and lead many astray. And because lawlessness will be increased, the love of many will grow cold. But the one who endures to the end will be saved.”

Here’s what’s remarkable about those words, “The love of many will grow cold.” “Many will fall away.” Some will be put to death, but in all that opposition, all that falling away, all that coldness of heart, some will endure to the end and be saved — and who are they? They are not the ones who grew cold. They’re the ones who did not grow cold. Christians with cold hearts don’t make martyrs. Those who endure to the end remain red-hot with trust and love for God. That’s why they’re willing to die rather than compromise. That is why they would suffer rather than stop believing.

We read about them in Revelation 12:11, “And they have conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony, for they loved not their lives even unto death.” Which implies that these amazing Christians who are willing to give their lives rather than compromise their faith will be the kind of Christians who do not surrender the truth of complementarianism under cultural pressure. I’m not saying that only complementarians have the courage to be martyrs. Let’s get that distortion out of the way. I’m not saying that. I’m saying that those martyrs are the kind of people who are not blown around like leaves in the wind of changing culture. Therefore, those in that number who see complementarianism as biblical and beautiful and true will be the kind of people who hold fast that truth to the death.

So, the reason among all the other reasons that I mentioned and could mention that I believe complementarianism will endure is not a passing fancy — is not going to go away — is that no matter how great opposition to Christianity becomes, there will always be a remnant of complementarians willing to die for the truth, and they will be the kind of people who will give their lives rather than conform to a nonbiblical culture.

 

Find other recent and popular Ask Pastor John episodes here.

John Piper (@JohnPiper) is founder and teacher of desiringGod.org and chancellor of Bethlehem College & Seminary. For 33 years, he served as pastor of Bethlehem Baptist Church, Minneapolis, Minnesota. He is author of more than 50 books, including A Peculiar Glory.

(By Desiring God. 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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Big Picture Slider

So much has been thrown at us, as a society, such as biased media pushing their agenda instead of objectively reporting the truth, Black Lives Matter and police officers being shot and killed on a regular basis. It begs the question: how do we deal with this, as Christians? As followers of Jesus, we want to deal with it in the proper manner – in a way that is pleasing to God and that serves our fellow man. In my pursuit of an answer to this, I haven’t seen anyone asking police officers – especially Christian police officers for their perspective. Many Christian leaders are telling us that we need to listen to what the protesters have to say and take it seriously, but on the other hand, some of the things that are being thrown at cops today are testing the limits of their service. As Christians, this tests our commitment to truth. And, I want to make sure that we don’t get caught up in the lies that our culture and our media is throwing at us. We need to hear from honest, Christian police officers who are out on the front lines of society – our brothers and sisters in Christ who put themselves on the line for us. That’s why I have asked my neighbor and friend, Chris to come and share his thoughts.

Jefferson Drexler, e2 media network producer: If we just had a standardized set of rules that our law enforcement would adhere to on a national level, wouldn’t that make police-life and civilian-life much easier?

Chris, Southern California Police Officer: I’m a 28-year police officer, and I do not want to live in a police state or a police society. Police have a role – and it should be a small role – in society. We have the FBI, the DEA, and several other Federal law enforcement entities, but it is so important that local communities maintain local control over their law enforcement agencies.

Image: Cristian Soler

Image: Cristian Soler

For example, the style of policing that exists in San Diego County wouldn’t necessarily work in other regions of the country any more than the style of policing that might work in say Oklahoma City, Peoria, or New York would necessarily work here. We must maintain local control over the people whom we trust to enforce the law.

Jefferson: So, while all politics should remain local; law enforcement should definitely remain local as well in order to be effective.

Chris: I absolutely believe that to be the case. Yes.

Joel Fieri, Big Picture Podcast Host: And, we also need to realize that, throughout history, whenever anything akin to a nationalized police force comes to be, it has attracted the worst elements and has led to a police state society. These nationalized officers have always turned into nothing more than political street muscle.

And another thing – we can’t be naive about history. We must constantly be remembering history accurately and learning from the lessons of those who came before us.

And this gets back to the Black Lives Matter issue. Political street muscle is what Black Lives Matter smells like to me. When you have these riots and an obvious disregard for what the true facts are – that young blacks are NOT systematically being hunted by police officers. And when you have Black Lives Matter people screaming that they demand justice without realizing that justice happens through a process. Then, without allowing for the process – in less than a day after a contested incident – they are burning down neighborhoods.

All this is making a lot of people think that the Black Lives Matter movement is being pushed in order to promote a national police force. They want to discredit local police officers so that the politicians can say, “See! Local police departments are too corrupt. We need to bring it under a national branch. It would be easier to have a standard set of rules for policing all across the country.”

Well, if that is the case, you might as well take the Constitution and use it to start your fires at night, because you won’t have a society where electricity is available.

And this all goes back to what we were saying in our previous episode, in relation to a black teenager who only sees a corrupt view of police officers. That’s a legitimate point, and any young man in those shoes are in a tough spot in life. But, he also has members of his community – older men and women – who are telling him, if he listens, that police are here to protect and to serve us and they are not the enemy. These messengers of truth need to be supported, encouraged and legitimized.

If you have a society like inner-city Chicago, where many police officers don’t even dare to go down certain streets because they know they will be targeted, then you will have a war-zone for a community. And who is taking the brunt of this? Who is being killed repeatedly in these Chicago neighborhoods? Young black men.

blm-chart2

Image: Bethany Blankley

So, the counter argument for Black Lives Matter seems to be: Is it worth sowing the seeds of chaos in society when it will only truly turn around and hurt the community that you purport you are trying to bring justice to?

Therefore, as a nation – as a responsible society – we need to think hard about these questions and not be so afraid to face them. We need to stop being afraid of any blowback that may come our way for questioning the narrative – lies, even – that the liberal media and pop culture is pushing.

If we question their narrative and call “TRUTH” on their lies and distortions, we will get a great amount of blowback. We will be called racist, bigoted, and all sorts of terrible things.

But, the more you are called these things when you seek truth, these insults will have less meaning and they will have less impact as well. Because, as Christians, we believe that truth sets us free. Therefore, the best thing we should be pursuing is that which is true.

In my mind, the biggest tragedy is all these communities that are being destroyed and all these young men that are being killed for something that is a lie. They could be set free, if they only knew the truth.

So, for that young black man who only knows the perspective that all police officers are hunting him down, we need to do everything we can to communicate to him that HIS LIFE DOES MATTER! In the United States, we have a society where each life matters.

Sadly, for this young man, the people who influence him either don’t know this – or worse, they know it and they don’t want him to be aware of the truth!

Chris: And really, we need to change the idea of Black Lives Matter to the truth of All Lives Matter. Even Rodney King was quoted as saying, “Can’t we all just get along?” And, I think that there is a lot of veracity to that.

We need to get members of the Faith Community to come together as Believers in Jesus Christ – regardless of race, creed, or denomination – and counter this lie from pop culture and liberal media. We need to educate our youth. That’s the only way we will be successful in turning things around and changing the direction of our society.

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The Summit Lecture Series Slider

I had the extreme pleasure of doing some speaking engagements in New Zealand. The first time that I spoke there, I had the time of my life. But, my return flight didn’t go as I had expected.

Have you ever had one of those moments when you have a great spiritual experience, but you are also physically exhausted?

I’ve found that when you put these two together, you can quickly lose touch of reality. After having the time of my life, I quickly realized at the Auckland Airport that I was about to spend the next twelve hours of my life in a space half as big as a guy my size requires.

Instantly, I began thinking, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?!

So, I squeeze myself into my seat and I begin to talk with the lady next to me. The reason I do this is because I figure that if we’re going to be all snuggled up next to each other for the next twelve hours, we should probably say “hi” first, right?

So, I asked her three questions.

I said “Where you going to?”

“I’m flying to Orlando.”

“Great! What’s in Orlando?”

“I’m going to an Avatar Conference.”

I said, “What’s an Avatar Conference?”

And we were off! Another three hour conversation ensued!

Now, the moral story, I think, is stop talking to strange ladies on airplanes. But it really was fascinating.

She said, “An Avatar Conference teaches you how to find your truth. We all get distracted by people trying to force their views on us, especially all these religious people trying to tell us what to believe. When actually, we have all the truth we need inside of us. We just need to learn how to find it.”

Image: Hope Walls

Image: Hope Walls

I couldn’t resist, so I’m playing the devil’s advocate with her. And we continued to go back and forth. And, of course, the first thing that came to my mind was, “So, the truth is inside you… then, why are you flying halfway around the world to have someone tell you the truth is already inside you? They could send you an email and you could save a couple thousand bucks!”

But, of course, I didn’t say that… I don’t always say the first thing that comes to my mind.

So, I was just going back and forth, playing the devil’s advocate, and she kept saying…

“John, don’t let anyone tell you what’s right and wrong. Just look inside yourself.”

“But, what if I look inside and it’s confusing?”

She said, “Look deeper. You have all the truth inside you. Because, you’re God. And I’m God. That flight attendant is God.”

I was thinking, “If was God, I’d have an exit row seat with more leg room!”

But anyway… it’s really awkward when someone calls you God, too. It kind of stunts the conversation. What you say when someone says that you’re God?

“Thanks!”

Anyway, she had a worldview. But the problem is that she, like most people, did not think “worldviewishly”. Most people don’t make the connection between ideas and their consequences. We don’t understand where ideas take us.

So, she kept saying, “John, don’t let anyone tell you what’s right or wrong… John, don’t let anyone tell you what’s right and wrong… John, don’t listen to anyone who tells you what’s right and wrong… John, don’t listen to anyone who…”

She essentially was telling me that it would be wrong for me to listen to someone who tells me what’s right and wrong.

She then walked that back and said that it wouldn’t be wrong for me to do this, but that I just shouldn’t do it.

But, let’s imagine that her view was correct and I was determined to look inside for my truth and I look deep inside…  and I determined that what was true and right and good for me is to torture little babies for fun.

The people to seats in front of us quickly turned around! It suddenly got really awkward.

Now, according to what she said so far – that the truth lies within – then, logically, she should answer the question of, “Is torturing babies wrong?” with an absolute “No”.

Instead, she said, “Oh, why do you have to talk in extremes?”

I asked, “Why is that an extreme?”

“Well, you don’t actually believe that.”

“Clearly, I don’t believe that. I believe that there are certain things that are right and certain things that are wrong. My question is, why don’t you believe it?  Because, I pick up the newspaper everyday and read that there are people who think their own pleasure is the highest good and the most important thing in life. And they torture little babies for fun. I think they’re wrong. Do you?”

So, she had a worldview, but she did not think “worldviewishly”.

Which brings me to my next point: Every cultural expression communicates worldview ideas.

Every movie, every TV show, every political speech, every sermon you hear, every commercial, every bumper sticker, every everything… is telling you something about what to believe and how to live.

One of our goals, by the way, here at Summit Ministries, is that you never listen to another song, you never watch another movie, you never listen to another sermon by a preacher, you never listen to another politician give a speech, you never read another book, and you never look at another bumper sticker or billboard without asking yourself, “What is it saying?”

And, hopefully, you won’t be able to turn this stuff off.

In fact, I had one student email me and tell me that he had a great time here at Summit. But, afterward, he was exhausted – he had never thought for two weeks straight before – and so he went out with some friends to veg out and see the movie The War of the Worlds with Tom Cruise.

But, the whole time while he was watching the movie, he kept thinking, “Wait a minute… That’s not true. That’s postmodernism. Wait a minute… that’s Secular Humanism…” He went on to tell me, “Mr. Stonestreet, you ruined my movie! I couldn’t turn it off.”

Then, he went on to say that he was just kidding, it actually made the movie better.

After the movie, he went out with his friends. Then, they started to talk about all this stuff. It was a great conversation. They thought he was a little weird, but it was a great conversation!

My point is: Don’t turn your brain off. If you turn your brain off, somebody else thinks for you. The quickest way to be deceived is to not think. And, if you’re deceived, those ideas will have consequences.

So, here’s the last thing: We need to be intentional to think at the same level of worldviews.

If you are not intentional about your worldview, you will have one. It just won’t be the right one. Many people get their worldview like they get sick – they just catch it like a cold from the culture around them. Whatever is popular or appear “normal” shapes their worldview. But, we do not want you to be a passive recipient of the culture’s worldview. We want you to be intentional.

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The Summit Lecture Series Slider

There was a recent study with collegiate grad students in a variety of fields: biology, history, education, economics, law, politics, religion, theology, healthcare, engineering, etc.. Now, higher education (masters and doctorate level) does not have very many values left these days. But, there is one big value that is held throughout higher education: Do Not Plagiarize!

It is commonly held throughout all of higher learning that you may not turn somebody else’s work as your own. So, if anyone should be deeply rooted in those values, it should be masters and PhD level students at Universities. Right?

This survey asked its participants: How many of you have cheated?

Across the board, over 50% admitted to cheating in their collegiate studies. That’s just the amount who admitted to it.

Guess which area was the worst of the worst in cheating, in the environment where you’re not supposed to cheat.

Biology? No. Not Criminal Justice. Nor Journalism. I would have thought Law, because they are aspiring lawyers. But, I think what happened was the law students looked at the study and they’re like, “What you mean by cheating?”

No, the group with the highest amount of admitted cheaters was Business. By the way, this survey was taken about 15 years ago. And when they followed up with the question, “Why did you cheat?”, the business majors replied, “Because that’s how you get ahead in the real world.”

Now, what has happened in the last 15 years in big business across America? We have seen Enron, WorldCom, and Tyco facing corruption charges at ridiculous levels.

I wonder where that came from!

My favorite story from Chuck Colson – an enormous Christian leader of the 20th and early 21st Centuries – was this: One of Chuck’s friends donated $3 million to Harvard Business School to start an Ethics Program.  Chuck, in his very soft-spoken way, called his friend and said, “Hey man… you just wasted $3 million!”Chuck Colson

“Why?” his friend asked.

“Because Harvard Business School can’t teach ethics.”

“No, Chuck. I’ve seen the curriculum. It’s great.”

Chuck said, “No. Harvard can’t teach ethics because they are committed to relativism. They don’t think that ethics, or right and wrong, actually exist.”

So, Chuck’s friend sent him the curriculum and Chuck points out that none of it covers ethics. It was all about compliance.

You know what’s ironic? WorldCom, Tyco and Enron and all the corporations that got busted for corruption and insider trading… they all met all the ethics compliance requirements. Every year, they had an ethics review and they sat down with a list of compliances, and they checked off the list.

They thought that by complying, they were ethical.

So, what we have seen in the last 15 years is that Harvard Business School can’t teach ethics, unless they actually believe something is true, false, right and wrong. Objective standards must exist in order for ethics to exist.

By the way, the second-highest group of masters students that admitted to cheating were in Engineering. Yeah… that’s not good. The third area? Healthcare. Put those two together – bad engineers with bad doctors – what could go wrong?

So, here are the summary points regarding worldviews:

 

  • Everyone has a worldview. The question isn’t “Do I have a worldview?” The question is “Which one do you have? Which ideas are you embracing about reality?”
  • Most people do not think “worldviewishly”.
  • Every cultural expression communicates worldview ideas.
  • We need to be intentional to think at the same level of worldviews.

 

We will address the final three summary points in the weeks to come.

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Our description and prescription of the world is based on what we think about these basic believes.
But what are these basic beliefs?
Our worldviews are made up of what we fundamentally think about questions in a couple of different areas.
First of all, questions about origin: Where did everything come from? What’s the story of the world? Is the world an accident or is the world a creation? Is the world designed? Is the world not designed? Is the world an illusion, like certain branches of Hinduism say?
Questions about identity: What does it mean to be a human being? Are humans different than animals? Are males different than females? These are all very important questions. Are we God, like Oprah says, or are we animals like the atheists say? Which one are we?
Questions about meaning: What’s the purpose of life? What wakes me up in the morning? What makes life worth living? What is the purpose of life?
Questions about morality: What is right and wrong? How do I know? Who makes the rules? Whose rules do we have to follow?
Questions about destiny: What happens when I die? Where is history headed?
Now there are different ways to frame these questions. I like these five categories because I find them very simple. The Russian novelist Leo Tolstoy once came up with a similar list of questions and he said, “If I don’t find answers to these questions, I’m going to kill myself.”
So, guess what he did? He became a Christian.
You see, these questions are not just random things about the world. How we answer these questions gives us our sense of who we are. How we understand these questions answers how we understand ourselves and it gives us our view of how we see the world… like a pair glasses.
All of us have a worldview. All of us have a “pair of ideological glasses”.
Here’s the thing: If I took my contacts off and put your glasses on, am I gonna see the world better or worse? Probably worse. And this is what a worldview does. A worldview either allows you to see the world as it is; or a worldview keeps you from seeing the world as it.
Have you ever spoke to someone who is absolutely, fundamentally committed to a different worldview than you? You’ll find that you don’t even use the same words. Or, perhaps you use the same words, but have completely different definitions. For instance, when you say “God” and they say “God”, you don’t mean the same things.
You see, worldviews are made up of definitions about reality. The battle of ideas – the battle for your heart and mind – is the battle over the definition of words. What is meant by “love”? What is meant by “truth”? What is meant by “God”? What is meant by “male” and “female”? What is meant by “human being”?
This matters because our worldview is the foundation of who we are and how we interact with the world. Based on our worldview – how you understand the world – come your values. And then, based on your values are your actions.
So, you do the things that are important to you, and they are important to you based on how you see the world.
As the Proverb says:
Even a child is known by what he does. (Proverbs 20:11)
So, if you say, “Oh no, I’m a Christian!”, but your actions are no different than anybody else, what does that say about your actual worldview? It’s no different than anyone else’s worldview. This is what Barna tells us: for the first time in recorded history, there is fundamentally no difference between the way Christians and non-Christians live their lives, how much debt they go into, the difference in the divorce rate is negligible – it’s different, but not as much as it should be.
If our actions are no different, if our spending habits are no different, if the way we treat other people is no different, then our worldview is also no different.
This is why we want you to really examine this concept. Because this is the third thing about ideas…Faith Hope Love Foot Tattoo
  • Ideas have consequences.
  • Ideas have stories.
  • Ideas have feet.
Ideas walk right into the world and they manifest themselves into the real world of human interaction and human activity. That’s what I mean by “feet”.
A lot of us may be think that what it means to be a Christian is to believe certain things, have certain values, and to behave in certain ways. In other words, what it means to be a Christian is to have certain beliefs and to have certain behaviors.
I grew up with this. I knew what I’m supposed to basically assent to and what I was essentially supposed to agree to, in terms of how I live. Those were the two things I was supposed to be committed to.
But here’s what we’re finding out: if all you understand about Christianity is, “This is what we believe and this is how we behave”… If actions and values are not rooted into larger issues of truth with a “Capital T”… what happens when the environment changes? Those values and actions also change.
There are far too many young people today who grew up in a Christian home and they were good Christians when they were in a Christian home, attending a good Christian school; and then, when they went off to college where those values and actions aren’t celebrated or even tolerated, everything changes.
You see, it’s one thing to believe that God created the world when everybody else around you believes that God created the world. It’s another thing to do that when, if you say that out loud you’re thought of as a wacky, uneducated person. It’s even worse when it comes to marriage. It’s one thing to say marriage is between a man and woman at your church where everyone else agrees that marriage is between a man and woman at your church, where everyone agrees with this; but if you say that on your college campus, you’re not only considered wrong, you are considered intolerant and evil.
So, the question is: Are your values and your actions rooted in truth and knowledge about REAL reality?

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As Nancy Pearcey says in her book Total Truth,

“A Worldview is not the same thing as a formal philosophy; otherwise, it would be only for professional philosophers. Even ordinary people have a set of convictions about how reality functions and how they should live…”

Everybody has a worldview. Therefore, it’s not just some intellectual exercise that academics do. It’s a real thing that each of us possess in one shape or another.

I’m reminded of one time when I was sitting next to a woman on an airplane. She asked me what I did for a living and I told her that I work for a Christian leadership organization. She then said:

“Huh. I’m an atheist. Prove me wrong.”

We haven’t even lifted off the ground yet. I could tell right away that this was going to be an interesting flight. What was scheduled to be a simple three-hour flight turned into a three-hour fight.

Image: The Bluegrass Skeptic

Image: The Bluegrass Skeptic

After about thirty minutes, I paused for a second and told her:

“Look, I find these types of discussions fascinating. But, if you actually just wanted to sleep or simply enjoy your flight, we can end this now. Are you okay?”

She replied, “Are you kidding me?! I’m having a great time! Are you okay?”

“Yeah! Let’s get back to it!”

So every half hour or so, we’d check that the other person was alright, and then we’d get back to fighting.

But, what I found most interesting is that we started out talking about God, but before we reached our destination, we had discussed God, morality, science, truth, history, the Nazis, the Pope, sex… we talked about nearly everything!

The reason why this happened is because there are some ideas that we have that are just ideas. Some ideas are just simple, non-life affecting ideas while others are controlling ideas. For instance, I believe that Tim Tebow can someday become a really good NFL quarterback. This is an idea that I hold, but does not change the way I live.

However, when it comes to controlling ideas, these ideas shape everything else. If I say, “I believe in God,” this idea doesn’t merely “add to my life”. This idea acts as a controlling foundation and permeates through every other belief and decision I make.

What we believe to be true about God is actually what you believe to be true about everything in the world.

A worldview is a set of convictions about reality, about how we should live and other fundamental issues upon which we think and behave.

In other words, a worldview is the framework of basic beliefs we have (whether we know it or not) that shapes our view of the world (description) and for the world (prescription).

So, the question is not “Do I have a worldview”, because we all have one. The question is “Which worldview do I have?”

When I say that our worldview descriptively gives us a view of the world around us, what I mean is that it all boils down to this fundamental question:

Which world do we actually live in?

You see, we don’t simply disagree on things like God, morality, or truth. We actually disagree about which world we live in.

The lady on the airplane that I mentioned thought that we live in a world in which there was no morality. I believe we live in a world in which there are moral norms that apply to all people at all times. She thought that we live in a world that is undesigned – just a product of random chance processes. I believe everything in the world has a design and has a purpose. She thought we live in a world in which certain human lives were expendable. I believe we live in a world in which all human life is worthy, has value and dignity because everyone who has ever existed was made in the image and likeness of God. She believed that we live in a world that is essentially headed to another “big bang” in which everything will blow up again. I believe that our world history is headed somewhere because it is being managed by God.

Which world we live in makes a huge difference. If you ask a secular college professor, “What is the history of the world?”, you will get one answer, but if you ask the same question of a Bible-believing pastor, you will receive an entirely different answer. Then, if you go to a local Buddhist temple and ask the same question, you will get a third completely different answer to the exact same question, all stemming from their different worldviews.

When I say that our worldview prescriptively shapes our view for the world, I mean this: Based on how we understand the world, we then determine how we should live.

The British Punk band The Sex Pistols put it this way in their song, God Save the Queen:

“When there’s no future, how can there be sin?”

In other words, if you live in a world where you believe that there is no future, then how you live day to day becomes wide open. If you live in a world like the one that Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the mass murderers at Columbine High School, believed in, then you can go shoot people, laugh at them and then shoot yourself, and you would consider it a legitimate act. Because, according to their worldview, there were no ultimate consequences for doing such a thing.

You see, the world you think you live in determines how you live in that world.

Or, as my friend and mentor, Bill Brown, puts it: You may not live what you profess, but you will live what you really believe.

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It’s often said that, “It doesn’t really matter what you believe, but it does matter.

Ideas have consequences. As G.K. Chesterton said,

“The modern habit of saying ‘This is my opinion, but I may be wrong,’ is entirely irrational. If I say that it may be wrong, I say that it is not my opinion. The modern habit of saying, ‘Every man has a different philosophy, this is my philosophy and it suits me,’ – the habit of saying this is mere weak-mindedness.”

Does that not almost exactly describe the philosophy of our culture today?

Chesterton also said that,

“A cosmic philosophy is not constructed to fit a man; a cosmic philosophy is constructed to fit a cosmos. A man can no more possess a private religion than he can possess a private sun and moon.”

Lewis Carroll, wrote something very similar in the great philosophical treatise Alice in Wonderland:

Alice: Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?

The Cheshire Cat: That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.

Alice: I don’t much care where.

The Cheshire Cat: Then it doesn’t much matter which way you go.

Alice: …So long as I get somewhere.

The Cheshire Cat: Oh, you’re sure to do that, if only you walk long enough.

This is actually very, very profound. If you don’t care where you end up, take whatever road you want. However, you need to keep in mind that every road that you take has a destination. The same is true for ideas. You can say, “I’m going to believe whatever I want. It doesn’t matter what’s right and wrong. I’m just going to make these things up and choose for myself.” You need to understand that ideas you embrace in life have consequences. They have consequences for you as an individual, and when these ideas are embraced by enough people, they have consequences for the culture.

We live in world where Ahmadinejad counts as a world leader, Perez Hilton counts as news source, Oprah counts as a spiritual guide, and Richard Dawkins counts a philosopher.

This is the destination of ideas.

Let me give you a few questions that are significant for our culture and worry me as a dad:

Where do we find truth?

You’d that think in a world with all this information, it’d be easier to find truth. Does Google make it easier to find truth? It depends. If you want to know how to fix your car, you can Google it. If you want to know how to improve your golf swing, you can Google it. What do you do want to know what the meaning of life is? Well, a lot of people just Google it. Then, when you Google something, you only pay attention to the whatever is on the first page of results. So, the good stuff might be buried without ever being found.

How do you find truth in world that’s bombarded with so many competing ideas? Have you ever flipped back in forth between CNN and Fox News? It’s like you’re watching completely different universes. They don’t talk about the same things, and if they do, they don’t talk about in the same way. What does it even mean to find truth in our culture that is so confused?

What is beauty?

There’s a piece of art that was rumored to been part of an art revue as a joke. It’s called The Fountain, and it’s a urinal. People loved it. What happens in a culture when we can’t tell difference between great works of art and urinals? What is it like to live in a culture that can’t tell the difference between beauty and non-beauty? It’s one thing when we’re just talking about something like the arts; it’s something completely different when we talk about what makes humans beautiful. As the dad of three little girls, this deeply bothers me. Girls are being compared to other women who don’t actually exist. Just watch the Dove Evolution ad. You can see that the woman who is on the billboard, whom you are supposed to be compared to, looks nothing like the actual woman who modeled for the photo.

This is what has happened in this Britney Spears culture. I’m not specifically calling her out, since she’s sort of irrelevant now. I’m just using her name because she is the one who drove this pop diva nonsense into our culture and the popular mindset. The worst thing about this whole mindset is not that it set the quality of music back by 35 years, but it convinces an entire generation of young women that their value lies in what they look like on the outside. That absolutely devastating. This is what happens in a world of information where all these ideas of truth, goodness, and beauty are just thrown at us from so many different directions.

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