“I Done It Already”: Why ‘The Revenant’ Doesn’t Fear Death

The fear of death grips us all. It can feel like a large gaping hole in our field of knowledge and experience. We are born with the instinct to self-preserve, and fear can be one of our biggest motivators. In the award-winning film The Revenant, the fear of death is a central theme, especially as displayed through the antagonist, John Fitzgerald (Tom Hardy), whose methods and motives of self-preservation contrast those of the protagonist Hugh Glass (Leonardo DiCaprio).What is the biggest indicator of fear in Fitzgerald’s life? It’s his hoarding.The word “revenant” originates from the French verb revenir, which means “to come back” or “to return.”

Leonardo DiCaprio is a haunting apparition in his Oscar-winning role as Hugh Glass. He primarily haunts Fitzgerald, but in a way he also haunts all of us. Glass is living proof of a battle with death. He fights death in the form of a bear and continues the battle for life as he seeks revenge for the death of his son. Glass haunts us all because he has faced one of the biggest fears of mankind—death. Yet by the end of the film, Glass is able to say, “I ain’t afraid to die anymore. I done it already.”

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The False Reality of Social Media

We live in a world of false realities. Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest all offer an alternate view of who we are as individuals. We can tweet spiritual tweets and show off our immaculate houses or perfectly cooked food on Instagram. We can either judge or feel judged as we scan our Facebook timelines, and Pinterest shows us how far we fall from perfection…

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Glorifying God with Autism

By: Teresa Chen

In the summer of 2012 we welcomed our first child. We didn’t realize that he was behind most kids developmentally and struggled to meet many of his milestones. He received a diagnosis of autism at age three this past summer. Some signs seemed to point towards this direction but we were never quite sure.

“He’s quirky,” one of his therapists would say, “but I don’t think he’s autistic.” Also, because autism is a spectrum, there are many different experiences of it and children with the diagnosis don’t always look the same. I’ve wrestled with this diagnosis in the past. On one hand, he has many things about him that are “normal”. On the other hand, he’s struggled socially than most other kids. As we have walked down this path with our son, here are some things that God has shown us.

1. It’s completely ok to say it’s not ok.

Raising an autistic child is a form of real suffering, and it’s ok to say it’s hard. 1 Peter 1 says we have living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, and yet are grieved by various trials. Life is not what it should be, and yet we hope in something better for all eternity.

Our son’s inflexibility and outbursts are a real part of our daily lives and are emotionally draining at times. During those times I’ve found freedom in admitting, “This is really hard!” without feeling guilty that it IS hard. As Christians, our lives are lived sorrowful, yet always rejoicing (2 Cor 6:10). This sorrow helps us cling to Christ in our weakness, and that is a true gift.

2. A diagnosis is a tool, not an identity.

The word autism is a scary word in today’s world. It certainly was to us. Over time, we’ve realized that this diagnosis is both helpful and unhelpful. While it highlights that our child is different than others, it also has opened up doors to therapies and schools that have served our son a lot. Also, it helps those meeting our son for the first time to be more understanding and patient with him.

His diagnosis doesn’t change who he is, but is merely a tool that describes aspects of who he is. Autism doesn’t have the final say in who our son is, because Scripture paints a fuller story of his identity. In the world’s terms, a diagnosis traps him into saying, “I am autistic.” He instead can say, “I have autistic tendencies, but I am a son, an image bearer, of my Creator and King.”

3. God is not limited by autism.

As we prayed for God to provide children, God heard our cries and provided our son for us. He is the exact son that we were supposed to have. God didn’t make a mistake in giving him to us.

While it would be great if he could catch up with his peers, Scripture tells us that there is a greater “human-ness” than achieving academic or social success; being truly human is glorifying God and enjoying Him forever. Our son is included in this calling. Our biggest desire for him is that he knows God and lives for Him in the context of who God made him to be. Faithfulness to God may look different for him than us, but we are called to raise him and guide him in figuring out what that looks like.

Recently, God graciously gave me a picture of how the Gospel includes people with autism. Another family’s teenage autistic son sat two rows in front of me at church and took part in communion. He was included in the kingdom of God and was remembering what his Savior had done! I was reminded that God isn’t limited by autism in His ability to save. I can look up from weakness and dream big for my son because his God is so big.

4We must all make room in our lives for people with disabilities. 

Raising our son has challenged me to make room in my life for other people who are different or hard to love. I am thankful for those who have been compassionate and welcoming to him, and have been humbled in my pride to want to love others like I would want people to love him.

Many times I just want to be comfortable and to be around people who are like me. However, true unity in Christ includes diversity in age, race, culture, socio-economic status, and physical and mental abilities. Through Christ we are united to His church, which transcends all boundaries and unifies us. We must make room for diversity in our lives and in the church, including those who are relationally difficult, because the Gospel is for such as these.

Beyond the Mystique: Domesticity and the Proverbs 31 Woman

She has dinner ready by six o’clock. The steam from roast chicken with carrots and mashed potatoes dances under the nostrils. Lamps and end tables are free of dust and clutter, kitchen countertops are shiny and slick, the sink is empty; not a hair is out of place on this woman’s head, and her lipstick perfectly kisses her wide smiling lips. She serves food to her husband and children, who are seated around the dining room table. Her children smile, laugh, and act affectionately towards each other and towards their parents. All is right in the perfect little world of this happy housewife, a scene akin to a family sitcom from the 1950s called Leave It to Beaver. June Cleaver was the iconic image of a 1950s housewife, and the show centered around her youngest son’s boyish mishaps and adventures.

The Cleavers were the quintessential post-war American family: the dad worked, while the mom stayed home and cooked and cleaned. They embodied traditional family values and stuck up for morality. For the most part, everybody in the household got along. If there were any familial or outside skirmishes, they were confronted with ease and perfectly resolved. Watching the show can feel like entering a time warp to a by-gone era. It is pure, innocent, and clean compared to some family sitcoms of today. I’ve known some Christians who wistfully look back on the show and decry the perceived corruption of our modern world. They would say our society is now less “Christian” than the 1950s. But was the show truly Christian? Was the portrayal of a happy housewife through June Cleaver something Christian women should strive to embody?

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The Language of Absurdism in the Abortion Industry

In Greek mythology there was a King named Sisyphus who – as a form of punishment- was condemned to repeatedly roll a boulder up a hill only to watch it come back down. It was a lather, rinse, repeat type situation for him. The philosopher, Albert Camus, employs this mythological character in his book, The Myth of Sisyphus. In this work Camus explores the concept of absurdity as the simultaneous contradiction of the human quest for value, purpose, and meaning amid the human inability to find any. Philosopher Daniel Dennett describes this philosophy well:

Postmodernism, the school of ‘thought’ that proclaimed ‘There are no truths, only interpretations’ has largely played itself out in absurdity, but it has left behind a generation of academics in the humanities disabled by their distrust of the very idea of truth and their disrespect for evidence, settling for ‘conversations’ in which nobody is wrong and nothing can be confirmed, only asserted with whatever style you can muster.

We can see this philosophy take root in literature. In fact, the Irish playwright Samuel Beckett — one of the founders of the Theater of the Absurd —published his own absurdist work, Waiting for Godot, in 1952. The play is centered around two male characters who banter in nonsensical ways. There is no connection between their words and actions, they name objects however they feel — like calling a hand a foot and a foot a hand. One character is constantly taking his boots on and off throughout the play. Like Sisyphus, these men are condemned by their habitual actions.

For the average play-watching audience accustomed to a traditional story arc, it appears as if nothing is happening: no real plot, action, character development, climax, and resolution. The two men in Beckett’s play are unable to move or think — they aren’t even sure what day it is. All these two men do is wait. Who or what are they waiting for? They are waiting for Godot, believed by many literary scholars to represent God. Their waiting is marked by uncertainty. Will Godot come? Has he come and they’ve missed him? What should happen in the meantime? What’s the point of all the waiting? The curtain closes and Godot never comes; at least they think he never came. Of this they cannot even be sure.

Waiting for Godot is driven by a lack of truth — hence all the uncertainty. It is a play which denounces meaning and purpose in life, but the play itself cannot escape meaning and purpose. For the play’s very purpose is to show there is no meaning and purpose in the play, as well as in life. In Beckett’s created world there is no certain truth, so the next logical step leads to meaninglessness. And much like Beckett’s characters who contemplate suicide, meaninglessness leads to death.

Absurdity in Culture

The absurdist ideas presented in Waiting for Godot have continued to flourish in today’s culture. In a society where anything goes, where do we end up? Where do these ideas take us? If we accept this philosophy we have most likely rejected an eternal and objective standard of right and wrong —  we have no center, no reference point outside of ourselves. Thinking this way means there is no longer any objective truth that can be found or discerned in this world, instead we devise our own standards in accordance with our subjective desires. “To each his own,” “Live and let live,” are the mantras of our time.

With so many different ideas of right and wrong around us that appear contradictory at times, meaninglessness makes complete sense. Life is messy and doesn’t make sense; it can feel like punishment. Are we doomed to be Sisyphus all our lives? Will we ever stop waiting for Godot to come? Will he come? Has he come? Why bother with any quest for truth and meaning when personal responsibility feels hopeless?  Yet, this is exactly how our culture thinks and lives. Today we see Beckett’s characters playing out all around us; acting out their own absurdity devoid of truth and meaning. In a culture of absurdity death sprouts in many forms.

Cultural death can be found in one of the abortion industries strongest leaders: Planned Parenthood. Applying absurdism to abortion makes abortion seem right. In Beckett’s world where daily actions have no meaning, why not take away a life? (Our own or another.) Or even more mercifully, why not spare a life from the absurdity of a Sisyphus destiny?

Language Breakdown

In Waiting for Godot there is a breakdown of language due to a loss of meaning. This is why there is no true logical discussion in Beckett’s play. Once life is stripped of value and meaning it makes sense words would no longer have intrinsic value – words become arbitrary and subjective – and language becomes absurd.  We can even see this philosophy applied to the language utilized by Planned Parenthood. One way Planned Parenthood (perhaps unknowingly) attempts to extract meaning away from loaded abortion terms is through euphemisms. They have traded the word “death” for “termination”, “baby” for “fetus” or “embryo”, all the while leaving out the key word “human” in front of these terms.

In the recent undercover filming of Planed Parenthood executives, we can see glimpses of Beckett’s characters engaging in absurdity through language. Planned Parenthood executives refer to baby body parts as “fetal tissue”. “Products” are the names given to the tiny human body parts up for bid on a sale ledger. Dr. Nucatola – the first exposed PP executive from the undercover videos – describes the crushing of a baby in an abortion procedure in an effort to retrieve intact body parts:

So then you’re just kind of cognizant of where you put your graspers, you try to intentionally go above and below the thorax, so that, you know, we’ve been very good at getting heart, lung, liver, because we know that, so I’m not gonna crush that part, I’m going to basically crush below, I’m gonna crush above, and I’m gonna see if I can get it all intact. And with the calvarium, in general, some people will actually try to change the presentation so that it’s not vertex, because when it’s vertex presentation, you never have enough dilation at the beginning of the case, unless you have real, huge amount of dilation to deliver an intact calvarium. So if you do it starting from the breech presentation, there’s dilation that happens as the case goes on, and often, the last, you can evacuate an intact calvarium at the end.” 

Dr. Nucatola calls a baby’s head a “calvarium”. She is using the same nonsensical jargon Beckett’s characters use, by naming things as she sees fit. Part of the reason pro-choice and pro-life advocates have a hard time engaging with one another is because – like Beckett’s characters – we can’t even agree on terms. Language is a barrier in this battle for the unborn.

The Objective Truth of the Resurrection

As Christians fighting for the unborn we must call the bluff and reveal the true playwright behind every action, word, and story: the God of truth. God has chosen to reveal himself to us primarily through the medium of language in his Word, so if the meaning of language is altered in anyway our perception of God radically changes. This is why objective truth is so important and such a counter-cultural idea today. Because the absurd language in Waiting for Godot is a threat to the foundation of our faith, which is based on the objective reality of God. He is the reference point for all of life, and he infuses purpose and meaning in the world through his main character, Jesus Christ.

Unlike Waiting for Godot, which doesn’t have a discernible climax, the climax in God’s play was when Jesus came to Earth as a man, lived a perfect life for us, died on a cross, and rose from the dead. Christ’s resurrection proved objective truth exists. Just like what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 15:14-19:

And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished.  If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Our faith is futile without the proven objective truth of Christ’s resurrection. If none of this is true, then like Paul says, we are of all people most to be pitied. Yet, unlike absurdist philosophy, Paul says in Christ we have hope beyond this life. We are not stuck in the futility of Beckett’s main characters or the punishment of Sisyphus. Eternity comes calling down upon all of our actions here on earth, including the killing of the unborn. Jesus came to abolish the meaninglessness of death and do away with the Becketts of our culture. Our Godot has already come, and of this we can be certain.

Domestic Violence (Intimate Partner Violence) Non-Profit Interview

Jenny Delacruz serves as the Executive Director of Hazael Haven, Inc. She is passionate about serving women and children experiencing domestic violence, and founded Hazael Haven in 2011 with the help of five women. Jenny is a licensed professional counselor for the state of Pennsylvania. She has served in the social sector field for 10 years as a senior social worker, child and family therapist, and clinician.

Jenny has volunteered as a Life Coach at Epiphany Fellowship Counseling, an Agency Representative for the Division of Social Service, an Events Coordinator at Faith, Hope, and Love Ministry, and an Advocate at Women Rights Humanity & Dignity. She resides in Philadelphia with her husband and son.

Jenny can be contacted at: jdelacruz@hazaelhaven.org or (267)291-4558.


Tell us a little bit about your non-profit.

Hazael Haven’s mission is to provide a safe refuge to women and children who have been affected by intimate partner violence. We offer hope and healing through Christ-centered, biblical approaches to counseling, education, prevention, and outreach.

Why did you start Hazael Haven?

As a family therapist, I came face to face with broken families and the prevalence of intimate partner violence that exists in these families. I began to have dreams of serving victims and prayed for direction.  My burden to serve this vulnerable population grew as I conducted research and discovered the public health crisis that exists in Philadelphia as a result of intimate partner violence.

In 2012, due to lack of a safe shelter, 8,535 requests for shelter were turned away in the Philadelphia region. I shared my ideas of establishing a safe refuge — that would incorporate biblical counseling — with a few friends and they eventually supported me and became our first board members. The Safe Refuge Project and Hazael Haven’s first Board of Directors were established in 2011.

How does the Bible apply to intimate partner violence?

The Bible makes it clear that God is grieved by abuse and that He hates violence. The scriptures offers hope to victims, because God is near to the brokenhearted and revives the crushed in spirit. A few scriptures that can be applied here are: 1 Cor. 3:16-17, and Col. 3:19.

Hazael Haven is a resource to the church as it addresses issues of intimate partner violence in the church and surrounding community.

Why should Christians care about this issue?

Christians should care about domestic abuse (now coined as intimate partner violence), because God hates violence and will judge violent behavior. Intimate Partner Violence destroys marriages and families.

Christians should care because:

  • 1 in 3 women and 1 in 4 men, in their lifetime, will experience intimate partner violence in the United States.
  • 1 in 15 children are exposed to intimate partner violence (90% are eyewitnesses).
  • 20,000 calls a day nationwide are placed as a result of domestic violence.
  • 72% of all murder/suicides are a result of intimate partner violence.
  • The cost of intimate partner violence  exceeds $8.3 billion a year.
  • Most cases of intimate partner violence are never reported. (Statistics from the National Coalition Against Domestic Violence).
  • Lastly, Christians should care because marriage is a portrait of the gospel, and intimate partner violence shreds that picture apart.

What’s the best way to help someone in a case of intimate partner violence?

The first thing to do is to listen with compassion and immediately address the victim’s safety. Hazael Haven offers resources and support to individuals and churches in developing a safety plan. Developing a safety plan is crucial, because it’s challenging for the victim to be able to think clearly in a crisis.

What should one do if they find themselves in this situation?

Call the domestic violence hotline for help.  1-800-799-SAFE (7233). It’s operated 24 hours a day. Trained advocates are available to assist you.

How can abused women heal and cope?

A victim can find healing in community. We stress the importance of developing a support system. A woman who is abused is overwhelmed by guilt and shame. She blames herself for the violence done to her. She is wounded emotionally and physically. She feels isolated from the world. Christ, working through a safe and loving community, promotes a sense of safety and hope.

In this atmosphere of community, healing is possible. On September 22nd, we will have an Open House to increase awareness about developing support groups and other resources. We encourage any woman who is interested to contact us via email kwest@hazaelhaven.org or call (267)-291-4558 for more information.

How have you seen God at work so far in this non-profit and what are your plans for the future?

With God’s help, we have been able to support women in crisis and provide education and outreach to universities and elementary schools. We have participated in numerous awareness campaigns during community outreach events.

Our vision is to establish a network of safe homes across the Delaware Valley. Hazael Haven is raising funds to launch our pilot project: Safe Refuge. Safe Refuge will serve as a haven for women and children escaping intimate partner violence. See our website for additional information.

Margaret Sanger, Adolf Hitler, and Jesus Christ

I can’t tell you how many times I’ve seen the sci-fi film Gattaca. Back in the 90’s Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, and Uma Thurman were the main cast of characters who starred in a film about a future world ruled by genetic manipulation. Ethan Hawke’s character was conceived without genetic manipulation, thereby making him weaker than his brother, and deemed unfit by society at large. Hawke’s character seeks help from Jude Law’s character who has stronger DNA, but ironically is now wheelchair bound for the rest of his life.

The film poses poignant questions about the social philosophy of Eugenics, a philosophy concerned with improving the genetic quality of the human race. The practice of this philosophy purports either increased sexual reproduction rates of those with desirable genetic traits or the reduction of sexual reproduction for those with undesirable traits. This sounds as far-fetched as a futuristic sci-fi film, but the spirit of Eugenics is alive and well in our culture today.

Adolf Hitler

It was about 75 years ago an Austrian with a toothbrush mustache inspired millions to cry, “Heil Hitler!” Adolf Hitler practiced eugenics in many of his concentration camps. Hitler idolized the idea of an unadulterated purebred German people, but felt that his beloved Germany (though he was Austrian, go figure), had grown weak with mixed blood. For his vision to become a reality Hitler made Jews the scapegoat. Considering Hitler’s ideology, it’s not shocking that not all concentration camp deaths were Jewish people. The great German cleansing that Hitler foresaw had to include Nazi Eugenics practices, which meant getting rid of physically and mentally disabled people. This was executed through either death or sterilization of people who were arbitrarily deemed “unfit” to live.

Hitler ordered Action T4, which was the name given post-war to a program of forced euthanasia in wartime Germany. Under this program roughly 70,000 people were killed at various psychiatric hospitals in Germany and Austria. Part of this program was even dedicated to killing children with physical and mental illness. These “unfit” children were registered, and doctors and midwives were required to report all cases of newborns with disabilities. Reports were then assessed by a panel of medical experts, three of whom must give their approval before a child could be killed. Action T4 was the social experiment that paved the way for the technology and practice toward Hitler’s “Final Solution” of killing the Jews.

Margaret Sanger

Before Hitler was busy cleansing Germany, Margaret Sanger founded the American Birth Control League, which was later called Planned Parenthood.  Like Hitler, Sanger was an advocate of the Eugenics movement. More specifically, Sanger advocated for the reduction of sexual reproduction and sterilization of people with undesired traits or economic conditions. Though Sanger’s ideology expressed itself differently than Hitler’s ideological practices, there are many similarities. Sanger had the same arbitrary assessment of who she deemed “unfit” for life, and she supported sterilization as a way to control this population of people with undesirable genetic or economic dispositions. This ideology continues today, but unlike Hitler’s Action T4, Sanger’s Planned Parenthood has lived on to kill undesirable children.

Today pregnant women can receive a genetic screening to determine their child’s chance for physical or mental defects. We have changed the terms from “unfit” or “undesirables” to not having “quality of life.” We might not kill our children in the toddler stage as the Nazi’s did, but we harbor the same beliefs when we kill them in the womb. The same spirit of Eugenics in Hitler’s ideology is alive in us today when we kill our undesirable children. If we don’t want a child with down syndrome or spina bifida then we can subject them to our personal Action T4 by snuffing out their un-lived life. The world of Gattaca is at our doorstep, because we already believe some are genetically more fit than others – and we are already doing something about it.

Jesus Christ

Yet, there is one who came before Hitler and Sanger who loved the undesirables: Jesus Christ. According to Isaiah 53:2, Jesus was undesirable as well:

“For he grew up before him like a young plant, and like a root out of dry ground; he had no form or majesty that we should look at him, and no beauty that we should desire him.”

The undesirable God-man welcomed, healed, and dined with the undesirable outcasts of society. He didn’t stop there – but like the paralytic man lowered through the roof – he came to forgive our sins. Because we are among the undesirables whom – in our sin and filth – Jesus loved and chose for himself. We deserved for our lives to be snuffed out by God, but instead he provided a way of salvation through Jesus. He did not deal with us as our sins deserved. Jesus came to redeem the cultural belief in Eugenics, not by sacrificing undesirable children, but by sacrificing himself.

Christ & Culture Series: Academia

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This is a continuation of a current series

In this post I interview my dad, Robert Oleck, about the academic world. Growing up my dad was always my ‘go-to person’ for theology and apologetics questions. I credit him for influencing me, at a young age, in my love for Bible Doctrine and Reformed Theology. 

His academic background includes a B.S. in Civil Engineering from Rutgers University, an M.S. in Architectural Engineering from Penn State, and a Ph.D. in Civil Engineering from Syracuse University, where he also was an adjunct Professor of various engineering courses from 1983-1990. 

In 1973 (before attending Syracuse University in 1977) my dad came to know Christ, and in 1997 he also received an M.A. in Theological Studies from Reformed Theological Seminary in the Central Florida area. He is currently retired and doing consulting and freelance engineering work, while serving as an Elder at Grace Church in his hometown of Winter Garden, FL.


 

Did your Christian beliefs have an effect on your years as a professor? If so, how and why?

Yes, my Christianity gave me a new view of the physical laws we engineers use to design structures, aerospace vehicles, cars, etc. These physical laws are extremely precise and if not adhered to will cause failure and collapse. Somehow I wanted to try and get this point of view across as I taught Engineering Mechanics to undergraduates, a couple of graduate courses in Earthquake Engineering, and courses in Advanced Reinforced Concrete design. We engineers are the practioners of the physical laws of the universe that God has put in place in order for the universe not to be in chaos. In subtle ways I would mention this point of view when possible.

Compare your student years as a Christian and non-Christian. What were the differences and similarities?

As a non-Christian, at Rutgers and later Penn State, my ambition was to get a good job so I didn’t have to work manual labor. My motivation was also to get a better salary as well as enjoy myself as much as possible. As a Christian at Syracuse University I still wanted to better my education but now more to help my family have a better life and to glorify God through what I could learn. As a non-Christian my ambition was self-centered, but as a Christian I became more God and family oriented.

Does God’s Word have any bearing on the academic world? If so, how and why?

Yes it should because the academic world should teach us how to think. God’s Word answers some of the questions about our world and ourselves that in a growing number of educational institutions are not being asked, such as: Where did we come from? What is our purpose? Are we basically good or evil? How do we arrive at our knowledge of what is good and evil? What happens after we die?

As an undergraduate at Rutgers University, we engineers had to take one course in philosophy, and the professor said that most philosophies come down to assuming man is either basically good or basically evil. As an engineer I was trained in only the physical sciences. I learned all the equations and formulas, but not to think critically in any way.

How do you think our culture views the academic world?

Based on discussions I’ve had with professors and students from various universities, our current American culture has become very one-sided in its view of God, man, and right/wrong. The educational institutions are the factories that reproduce this cultural bias into the next generations. However, I think our culture believes they are right about this approach to education and resists anyone or anything that tries to offer an alternative view. The surprising thing about this attitude is that it contradicts the post-modern philosophy that advocates relative truth and acceptance of multi-cultural beliefs. A current book confirming this hypocrisy is The Silencing: How the Left is Killing Free Speech, by Kirsten Powers.

In addition, even the Greek philosophers were interested in comparing ideas. Plato expressed this view as follows, “The unexamined life is not worth living” (Sec. 38 of Plato’s Apology.)

How should Christians view the academic world differently?

God has provided various sources of general or normal means besides the Bible (General Revelation) about Himself, His ideas, His view of right and wrong, etc.,  Though there are some good things we can learn from the academic world, Christians should also see education as an opportunity to learn many points of view about the questions I mentioned above as a way to reach out to other cultures, beliefs, and different peoples with the gospel.

Example: Paul at Mars Hill (Acts 17:16-34) had learned the Greek philosophers. In Paul’s presentation of the gospel he quotes a Greek poet and philosopher to indicate that there is an “unknown” Greek god that he would inform the audience of at the Areopagus (a philosophical discussion group) near Athens. This approach enabled Paul to introduce a “bridge” between the Greek culture and the gospel.

What is also interesting about the group at the Areopagus was that they were interested in hearing what Paul had to say, which is better than what occurs at our academic institutions where any ideas that are contrary to the current philosophy are prohibited.

The Genesis of the Abortion Industry

Every event is part of a story within a larger story, and that larger story has ancient roots.

In his beautiful creation, God created the first man, and from him created the first woman. The first man, Adam, was designed to lead his wife and the rest of creation in glorifying his creator, and was entrusted with the task of providing for and protecting God’s world.

The first woman, Eve, was designed to joyfully support and strengthen her husband in fulfilling his roles, while according to the meaning of her name, becoming the mother of all the living.

God designed these distinctions into man and woman. They are not arbitrary, but wired deeply into our very beings. When God looked at his plan for man and woman in complementarian harmony, behold, it was very good.

Yet, Adam and Eve, the first couple designed to bear fruit and multiply small replicas of God’s image were the ones who introduced death…

Read more at DesiringGod.org >>

Christ & Culture Series: Biblical Counseling

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In this continuation of an ongoing series, I interview Teresa Chen about her seminary degree in counseling. 

Teresa grew up in Houston, went to the University of Texas at Austin and got a degree in Electrical Engineering in 2005.  After working for a few years in Austin and getting married, her and her husband Alex sensed a call to ministry, so they came to Westminster Theological Seminary in Glenside, PA in 2010. Alex worked on his Mdiv, while Teresa completed a Masters of Arts in counseling.

She also did an internship with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF), which has close ties to WTS. Through that internship, she did some counseling through Covenant Fellowship Church in Glenn Mills, PA, as well as CCEF. Both Alex and Teresa graduated in 2014, and this September Alex will serve on the pastoral team for a new Sovereign Grace church plant in Drexel Hill, PA: Risen Hope Church.

Teresa is now a stay at home mom to Timothy (3) and Hudson (1). 

Could you give a brief description of counseling according to secular culture?

All counseling is our attempt to help people deal with the things that are hard in life. As Irvin Yalom likes to ask, “What ails?” People you meet with are all trying to make sense of the world, the things that happen to them, and also their own actions. Throughout the years, the solutions offered have changed, depending on the culture’s understanding.

In the 90’s the focus was very much on families and the effect of caustic relationships, such as between a parent and a child. Analysis of the dysfunctional family was very important back then. We saw court cases where children were able to legally divorce their parents. Also, Children would be on trial for murdering their parents and the contribution of the parents was very much scrutinized. But, the cultural emphasis has shifted since then.

Although relational dynamics are still very important, my understanding is that we are now focusing more on the impact of our biology. We are primarily bodies, and many solutions that are offered address bodily deficiencies. It’s almost as if we are victims of the bodies we are born with. Depression medication, sleeping aids, pain-killers are many times the first line of defense against many presenting problems. We are now born into certain sins, such as alcoholism or homosexuality. You have a disease that makes you participate in risky behavior.

While we must acknowledge that our bodies do play a huge part in determining the struggles that we encounter, we cannot blame everything on our bodies. In reality, we are embodied souls, living in a world influenced by other people, circumstances, bodies, hearts, and Satan, with our lives lived in the hope of and in light of a ruling and risen Savior. Romans1:21 says,

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened.”

Because secular psychology denies God, their eyes are darkened to a real and true understanding of what it means to be human and is limited in how much it can truly cure souls. Although secular psychology can help dull the pain, they are unable to offer a source of true hope to people coping with very difficult situations. By denying God, secular psychology shuts the door to a glorious purpose to our suffering, the hope that one day all will be made new, and a guarantee that we will live life how it was meant to be — reconciled to our Creator and cured of the curse of the fall. While secular counseling’s aim is symptom relief, Christian counseling’s goal must be to point the person back to a growing, trusting, dependent relationship with his Creator no matter what the circumstance.

Is there a difference between secular counseling and Christian counseling?

The term “Christian counseling” is very broad. It’s a bit like the word “Evangelical” in that it could mean a lot of things. Generally speaking, there are three camps in counseling— Secular, Integration, and Biblical counseling. We have discussed secular counseling briefly. The Integration approach is where Christians try to combine secular counseling with Christianity.

Integrationists take both secular counseling and Scripture to be true and try to make sense of both at the same time. Biblical counseling sees Scripture as the ultimate, yet not comprehensive (a textbook), authority on life because it is God’s Word. While we won’t find systems theory or brain anatomy in the Bible, it speaks very candidly and truthfully about both the human experience of suffering and also how people can truly change and find comfort.

Has secular counseling influenced Christian counseling at all?

We have a lot to learn from secular counseling. It would be arrogant to say that we have nothing to learn from it. There are many brilliant minds thinking about how to help people, and they have many brilliant and useful observations and methods. Our job as counselors is to interact with secular methods in a thoughtful way by asking:

1.) What is this theory’s worldview? What does this theory describe well and truthfully?
2.) What things is this theory blind to? What can it not see?
3.) What are ways that we can learn from these observations that will help us to love others well? What are ways that we can adapt the strengths of their viewpoints and say it even better because we have a Christian worldview?

We must also be open to working with secular counseling to address any biological conditions that the person may have. We must be willing to dialogue with the person and help them to figure out whether their trials can be lessened through medication, physical activity, or other opinions who are better experts than we are. At the same time, while addressing and minimizing the effect of their physical bodies on the trial, we must also address the heart and their relationship with God.

As counselors, we need to have a good grasp of the pulse of secular psychology because it helps us understand the other voices people are hearing and keeps us up to date with current thought. We must always be learning from others and improving in our understanding of people.

How were you taught to counsel? Could you give us the foundation and basics of bible based counseling?

I was taught how to counsel through Westminster Theological Seminary’s Biblical Counseling program. Westminster partners with the Christian Counseling and Education Foundation (CCEF) very extensively in this program. Our classes included both theological and observation classes. I was also blessed to have completed an internship with CCEF in 2013-2014.

Foundational to Biblical Counseling is our understanding of how people work. Scripture says that our hearts are idol factories. Trials in our lives reveal the idols of our hearts. When there are trials in our lives and we behave poorly, we can often say, “She made me do it!” or “If he hadn’t done it, I wouldn’t have acted this way.” We blame the trial for our sin, when in reality, the trial only revealed an idol in our heart. When that idol is threatened, we can often try to protect it at all costs. Our behaviors reveal what is in our hearts. God should be on the throne, but sometimes we can place another good thing on the throne. We can take what is good and intended by God to be for our enjoyment and worship it. It is not wrong to want to be successful or to be married, but when we want it above anything else, including God, it begins to rule us. We begin seeking that idol at the expense of our worship of God and our relationships with others.

Biblical counseling calls people to repentance— to put God back on the throne and to trust him even though trials may abound. It might be easy to read this and think that if we just point out each others’ idols then we are doing good counseling. However, we are called to more. We are called to embody Christ’s love to fellow wilderness wanderers. Every Christian is wandering in the wilderness of the suffering of life. We have so much more in common with each other than different. As fellow wilderness wanderers, we are called to walk alongside each other and bear each others’ burdens. We are called to walk a mile in their shoes— to understand how it is to be the other person, to understand their experience and tell their story.

Only when we have properly understood them and told their story accurately can we point them back to how their story fits into the grand story of Scripture. Have they been lead astray? Christ is the Good Shepherd who not only leads His sheep but goes on ahead of them and dies for them as the sacrificial lamb. Have they been going after things in life that only leave them addicted and empty? Christ is the only source of living water who can quench our thirst. Do they live in fear? Christ is the King who has defeated Goliath/Satan once and for all and calls His soldiers to follow him into victorious battle. Do they feel like everyone has abandoned them? God tells us to be strong and courageous, because He is with us and will never leave us. Are they weary because of trials in their lives? One day everything will be made new and He will wipe away every tear from our eyes and our sorrow will be no more. This is true hope. This is the only peace that lasts. This hope is the true cure of souls. However, this change happens slowly. We can often move too quickly and offer pat answers that fall on deaf ears.

How should the church view counseling? When should a person get counseling and why?

There is a negative stigma associated with counseling. People think that if you’re seeking counseling, you are in serious trouble. In reality, we all need counseling, whether it is from each other in community, from a pastor, or from a professional counselor. We must have the humility to admit that we all struggle with sin and we all need help. We need the body of believers to speak truth into our lives, and sometimes in harder cases we need to enlist the help of pastors and counselors. CCEF’s motto is “Restoring Christ to Counseling, and Counseling to the Church.”

If a person is struggling with something, they should first seek the care of the structures provided through their church, such as their small group leader or pastor. Counselors are there to aid the local church in cases where proper care would be too much to bear or is out of the expertise of a pastor to handle by himself. However, the local church must stay involved if a counselor is sought for help and the counselor and local church must work together to care for the person. Often, those who are on the fringes of church community will seek out counseling centers without being properly engaged with their pastor. At a healthy gospel-centered church, the body of believers can potentially provide much better care in the day to day than a counselor could once a week or a few days a month.

If someone is interested in counseling, but maybe can’t go to school, what should they do? Can you recommend any resources for those wanting to learn more about counseling?

  • Foundational to Biblical Counseling is a proper Christian worldview. One of the best things you can do is find a good church who preaches the Gospel and will feed your soul spiritually. You can’t help others if you yourself are spiritually starving. You can have all the wisdom of secular counseling but can only point people so far if your theology is lacking.
  • CCEF holds an annual conference every year. This year’s conference is in Virginia Beach from October 16-18. This year’s topic is Side By Side; counseling in community. It’s a great way to get a taste of the foundations of biblical counseling and to network with other counselors seeking to learn.
  • CCEF also has blogs, videos, articles, and free downloads at http://www.ccef.org/resources
  • CCEF also offers online classes through the School Of Biblical Counseling. The classes Dynamics of Biblical Change and Helping Relationships are the core of the curriculum. They would be great for a person interested in counseling to start with. Also, the class Counseling and Secular Theology is really good as well. Any one of these classes would be a good taste of what Biblical Counseling is about.
  • The Biblical Counseling Coalition has a blog with many resources.
  • Books:

Christ & Culture Series — Culture Follows Philosophy: Why You Should Read Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment

By Ryan McLaughlin 

This is a continuation of the Christ & Culture Series. The first post in the series was an interview about juggling artistry, business, and theology, and the second post was an interview about education. This guest post is a piggyback of the previous post in the series titled, The Law Follows Culture.    

Ryan McLaughlin is a math teacher, husband, and father of three. He lives with his family in the Tampa, FL area, and is a member of St. Andrew-the-First-Called Orthodox Church. He has been an enthusiastic fan of Dostoevsky since he was a teenager, and has taken classes on Russian literature. He even had an essay that he wrote on Crime and Punishment published in Vestnik: the Journal of Russian and Asian Studies. Not bad for a math guy!


In his excellent post, Jacob Phillips made the argument that “law follows culture.” I couldn’t agree more, and today I want to make a follow-up point: “culture follows philosophy.”

It’s not always easy to see, but philosophy—that dusty, abstract, impractical subject that you didn’t major in because your parents told you that at some point they were going to cut off your allowance—is actually what runs the world. Good philosophy reaps innumerable benefits for culture, and bad philosophy wreaks devastating consequences. If we as Christians are going to engage effectively with our culture, we’re going to need to understand what philosophical assumptions are driving it and critically evaluate them in the light of the Gospel.

To provide you with a model of how to do that, I’m going to suggest—perhaps counter-intuitively for some—a really dark murder story written by an epileptic with a gambling addiction…

A Novel with a Sharp Edge

Fyodor Dostoevsky was a 19th century Russian writer widely regarded as one of the greatest novelists that ever lived. His novels—including The Brothers Karamazov, The Devils, The Idiot, and our topic for today, Crime and Punishment—are considered to be some of the all-time classics of world literature. Dostoevsky was also a passionate Eastern Orthodox Christian with a great deal of prophetic insight into the dark turn that Russian culture was taking in his day.

The plot of Crime & Punishment is relatively simple, if rather dark: A young, impoverished law school drop-out decides to commit an axe murder to prove a point about his philosophical ideals. He roams the streets of 19th century St. Petersburg, Russia, slowly descending into mental illness while being pursued by a relentless detective. His only hope for redemption seems to be a young woman who has been forced into prostitution by her family’s abject poverty and her father’s raging alcoholism.

The young law student, named Raskolinikov, believes that “superior” men are above notions of right-and-wrong. He has bought into the philosophy of ethical nihilism, the idea that ultimately there is no such thing as an authoritative reality. He allows this idea to direct his actions: to prove the point to himself, he kills an old pawnbroker woman. Ideas have consequences, though, and Raskolnikov finds that the “culture” around him cannot withstand the philosophy he has embraced.

A Culture Slowly Killing Itself

Dostoevsky’s Russia was at a turning point. Hitherto, it had been a devoutly Christian country whose philosophy and culture reflected a profound faith in Jesus Christ. Increasingly, though, Western philosophies were influencing the brightest minds of the younger generations—the Enlightenment ideas that had spilt the blood of so many in the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars were gaining traction in the East. Dostoevsky was deeply concerned about this—it could be argued that he foresaw Bolshevism and the coming of the USSR—and wrote his later novels in the hopes of turning back younger minds from their folly.

Raskolinikov—the law student that commits the murder to prove a philosophical point—is the main focus of the novel. His philosophy leads him directly to murder. But Crime and Punishment isn’t just a prophetic warning about the consequences for an individual who thinks himself above the normal rules of society. It’s about a society that thinks itself above the normal rules of morality. Remember, Raskolnikov is “an impoverished law student”—he is a stand-in not just for a legal system impoverished by its lack of culture, but for a culture impoverished by its gradual embrace of a radical, nihilistic philosophy. Everyone in Dostoevsky’s fictional portrayal of 19th century St. Petersburg is suffering from the break down of morality—the alcoholic father and his starving family, the young woman forced into prostitution, etc.

As we look around and see our own 21st century American culture suffering through so much—racial and social injustice, abortion, addiction, growing teen suicide rates, and more—we must ask ourselves: what are the philosophical assumptions that drove our culture to this point? Who (or what) were our “Raskolnikovs”? Which old pawnbroker women have we killed along the way to get to this point? And here, by “we” I don’t just mean broader society; we as Christians must look at ourselves with a repentant eye and first examine the cultures we’ve created within our churches and families. As Jacob pointed out in his post, plenty of born-again Christians initially praised the Roe v. Wade decision. What philosophy did Christians adopt (perhaps subconsciously) to reach that point?

A Story About Lazarus

One of the turning points in the novel comes when Raskolinikov visits with Sonia, the young woman who has been forced into prostitution. Guilty of murder, pursued by the authorities, Raskolnikov makes a simple request of Sonia: find the passage in the Bible where Lazarus is raised from the dead, and read it aloud.

I won’t give away any more of the plot.   But suffice it to say, cultural redemption comes through Resurrection. You cannot make minor corrections to fix the dead; they must be brought back to life again. For Dostoevsky and for us, radical repentance and a radical submission to the Resurrected Christ are the only way out of the cultural cesspool that bad philosophy has created. We must be “transformed by the renewing of our minds.”

A Call to Examination

In commenting on another one of Dostoevsky’s novels, the Russian philosopher Nikolai Berdyaev said:

“[Dostoevsky] wanted to take men along the ways of wildest self-will and revolt in order to show them that they lead to the extinction of liberty and to self-annihilation. This road of liberty can only end either in the deification of man or in the discovery of God; in the one case, he is lost and done for; in the other, he finds salvation and the definitive confirmation of himself as God’s earthly image. For man does not exist unless there be a God and unless he be the image and likeness of God; if there be no God, then man deifies himself, ceases to be man, and his own image perishes. The only solution to the problem of man is in Jesus Christ.”

In what ways does this describe our culture today? In what ways are we ourselves guilty of giving in to “wildest self-will and revolt”?  How will we answer this type of thinking with the truth of Jesus Christ?

I hope that you’ll give Dostoevsky a careful read and then, inspired by his example, you’ll engage with the philosophy behind our culture.

Christ & Culture Series: The Law Follows Culture

By Jacob Phillips

This is a continuation of the Christ & Culture series. In my first post I interviewed my husband about juggling artistry, business, and theology, and then interviewed my sister about education.

For this next post I have a guest writer, Jacob (Jake) Phillips, arguing for the adage that law follows culture. He recently graduated from UF Levin School of Law with a doctorate of jurisprudence, he clerked for Judge Eric Melgren of the Federal District Court of Kansas, and researched and contributed to the writing of model reform legislation regarding the provision of education in Florida’s juvenile detention facilities, which was submitted to Governor Rick Scott.

Before his pursuits in law, Jake received a B.A. in History from UCF in Orlando, FL (the place he calls home.) Him and his wife Sarah, a first grade teacher at Vista Lakes Elementary School, currently attend Redeemer Church at Lake Nona, where Jake oversees and writes the Redeemer Blog.


On Friday of last week a conference was held in my hometown or Orlando, FL.  It was designed to equip evangelical pastors to learn how to enter into public office.  The goal of the man behind the event, David Lane, is to create “pastor-politicians” who will influence government at all levels with biblical and conservative values.  Of course, the fact that those two terms are assumed to be synonymous is probably itself problematic.  But it also ignores a pretty important point: law (and politics) follows culture.

Roe v. Wade

In 1973 the Supreme Court handed down a decision in the case of Roe v. Wade, and effectively legalized abortion on demand.  The decision is popularly (and wrongly) credited with being the catalyst for the Moral Majority.  Because of that myth-making, it is often assumed by certain segments of evangelicalism that our highest court dictated a progressive agenda. In reality, the attorney who filed the plaintiff’s claim in Roe v. Wade was a born-again Christian who regularly attended his local church.

The Southern Baptist’s initial report on the Court’s opinion (while noting, parenthetically, that the denomination had no official position on abortion) heralded as an advancement of “religious liberty, justice, and human equality.”  Roe v. Wade was not forced on a mostly-resistant center-right country, but it was the natural result of the sexual revolution, the capitulation of the church, and a Supreme Court that is constantly cognizant of its tenuous legitimacy.  The law was merely following culture.

Of course, after a while, and the reality of legalized abortion became clear, evangelicalism (and eventually, conservatism more generally) hardened around a pro-life position.  For two decades, they fought abortion in the legal system, and were almost entirely unsuccessful.  A conservative court upheld Roe v. Wade in 1992.

In the past decade, however, we’ve seen the first signs of a legal system that is restricting abortion rights and limiting its access.  But, importantly, this is not because a new generation of lawyers and politicians have come up with cleverer arguments than those that came before them.  Laws regarding the right and access to abortion are changing because culture is changing.  Because of scientific advancement, the tireless efforts of pro-life advocates, and changing demographics (Hispanics are generally more pro-life than non-Hispanics), a majority of Americans self-identify as pro-life for the first time since pre-Roe v. Wade.  In other words, culture is changing; the law is merely following culture.

Brown v. Board of Education 

The counterargument that most people use is Brown v. Board of Education.  Before the Civil Rights movement even began, the Supreme Court declared that “separate but equal” did not apply to schools, and thus ordered them to be desegregated.  In doing so, they struck a blow to the heart of the concept itself.  Some say that this is an example of the law influences culture, rather than following it.  But that counterargument actually points out the very reason why the adage is, in fact, true.  The reason that law follows culture is tied up in the concept of legitimacy.

After Brown v. Board of Education, very little desegregation actually occurred.  Because culture, or at least Southern culture, was diametrically opposed to desegregation, the inevitable result of Brown was that it was mostly ignored.  It was not until years later, after a second Brown decision, the birth of the Civil Rights, the backing of a Republican president, and a shift in cultural values, that schools actually began to desegregate.  The legitimacy of laws requires some level of cultural acceptance.

That’s also why the popular conservative criticism of the recent Supreme Court decision is misguided.  Complaining about the decision because it is constitutionally indefensible (i.e. Chief Justice Roberts’ dissent) is one thing.  But most of the criticism has centered on the fact that “nine lawyers in a robe” just dictated the law of the land.  That criticism, I think, is misguided.  Evangelicals didn’t lose this battle when Justice Kennedy read his opinion.  They lost this battle long before that.

Changing Culture

The “law follows culture” adage is not only historically accurate, it’s also the natural (and probably preferable) result of living in a representative democracy.  In other words, our laws are supposed to reflect the people they are meant to serve.  Notions of self-government require that cultural norms be, to at least some degree, reflected in our political and legal spheres (with protection for the rights of minorities, of course).

If Christians are saddened by the shifting ethical norms reflected in culture, the proper and best response is probably not to seek to craft laws that reflect our own values.  It’s not to try to “win” the legal and political spheres.  The proper and best response is to, like we have in the abortion debate, change culture.  That’s not to say that we shouldn’t “legislate morality,” because that’s impossible.  Everyone legislates morality.  But it is to say that we should not legislate morality to an unwilling populace, not because it’s wrong, but because it’s impossible.

That’s why I think the efforts of David Lane, Mike Huckabee, and those like them are misguided.  They are responding to shifts in cultural norms by encouraging pastors to use their influence in the political and legal sphere, rather than the cultural sphere.  In doing so, they are putting the cart before the horse.  If pastors want politics and the laws to reflect their own values, the best way they can do so is to convince others that their own values are preferable.  In other words, they should continue to do what they do best — tell others about a King who gave up a throne to carry a cross.

Christ, Culture, and Politics

None of this should be taken to mean that I don’t think Christians should want to be lawyers, judges or politicians; after all, I just graduated from law school.  But it should be taken to mean that we should re-think how we approach some of the value-driven cultural conversations.  Too often, Christians have attempted to wed political influence with cultural disengagement.  If we think we can get Christ into politics without telling culture about Christ, we are kidding ourselves.  And if we think we can tell culture about Christ without understanding culture, Paul has a few words for us (I Corinthians 9:19-23).

If you want laws to better reflect your values, fine. We all should, after all. I’m a lawyer predominantly because I want to see a society that is fairer and more just, and I know no better example of justice and fairness than the one who is both just and Justifier.  But if you want to change the law, change culture first; the law follows culture.  God issued the Ten Commandments after he had already made a people of His own.

3 Societal Reactions to the Planned Parenthood Videos

The recent Planned Parenthood exposure is resulting in outrage and placidity. Pro-life Christians are riled up to voice and action, while mainstream media and cultural majority are eerily silent. We are lulled to sleep by the chirping of crickets just like with the Gosnell trial. Abortion has never been a yawning matter for the torture of the unborn or their tormented mothers.

The Gosnell trail awakened our society to what goes on behind closed doors of abortions: the corruption, the brutality, the money mongering, and the reality of the bloody procedures breeding death. We finally saw some dust, but then it was quickly swept under the rug. Well, here we are again. More dust and more sweeping. 

Here are 3 “sweeping” reactions to the Planned Parenthood video from media sources and society at large:

1.) Apathy

I once wrote a persuasive essay about philosophy and abortion in a Journalistic Essay course in college. Not only did my Professor have to read it, but the entire class had to read it and give feedback. When copies of my essay were passed around the room students reacted differently than when other essays were passed around. The air was thick with guilty silence. No one rushed to share their feedback first, and everyone was delicately avoiding sharing opinions and judgements. There were obvious looks of pain etched on some of their faces.

I think they knew.

They knew truth was being proclaimed in a classroom, and it was an affront to their apathy in voice and action.

We are a culture that idolizes tolerance, which in our culture today, means you can’t disagree with someone’s beliefs or decisions. You have to accept everything and everyone or else you are committing the ultimate sin of intolerance and bigotry. What I felt in that college classroom were students afraid to voice anything about the content of my essay, only the form. These cultural idols have silenced us into apathy.

John Piper speaks to this lack of concern and care:

I took an abortionist out to lunch once, prepared to give him ten reasons why the unborn are human beings. He stopped me, and said, “I know that. We are killing children.” I was stunned. He said, “It’s simply a matter of justice for women. It would be a greater evil to deny women the equal right of reproductive freedom.”

Some in our society know, but they just don’t care. They would rather worship the cultural gods of tolerance, women’s rights, and sexual freedom.

2.) Ignorance

There are some in our society who don’t want to know — who don’t want to think. When I was a counselor at a crisis pregnancy center I asked one woman considering an abortion if she had done any research. Her response was that she saw scary images online, but ultimately tried not to think about it.

Many people want to be ignorant about this issue. The recent video exposure is just one of the dust bunnies we don’t clean up, but hide under the rug. The real issues are not brought into the light, but shrouded in darkness. The abortion issue is avoided, because ultimately it mirrors us; it reveals the darkness of hidden sins we all feel at home with.

Albert Mohler unveils the desire for ignorance from a reporter at Cosmopolitan magazine:

“Writing at Cosmopolitan magazine, abortion supporter Robin Marty said that she had seen the video. Then she said, “Now, frankly, I’m just going to yawn.”

Later in her own essay she stated: “I shuddered when listening to the discussion of how the fetus can be removed, and the idea of a ‘menu’ of fetal tissue and organs that could be procured depending on the gestational age of the pregnancies being terminated and the number of patients who consent to donating is one I hope I never have to encounter again.”

3.)Denial

Many people in our society try to suppress the truth. If we can’t be ignorant and apathetic, then we can lie to ourselves. We lie to ourselves by saying right and wrong are relative, but the internet and social media makes it clear we have strong personal views of right and wrong.

The famous Oxford professor and writer, C.S. Lewis, wrote a book titled Mere Christianity. This atheist turned Christian philosophizes in his writing about right and wrong as a clue to the meaning of the universe. Lewis appeals in chapter one to the law of human nature. He talks about quarrels.

Everyone says things like, “How’d you like it if anyone did the same to you?  “That’s my seat, I was there first”-  “Leave him alone, he isn’t doing you any harm” —  “Why should you shove in first?”  “Give me a bit of your orange, I gave you a bit of mine” — “Come on, you promised.”

Lewis says in all of these statements we are appealing to some kind of standard of behavior, which we expect others to follow.  The old philosophers would call this the Law of Nature, meaning the law of human nature, and how we are all governed by an internal law that shows us right and wrong. This is the human idea of decent behavior, which was thought to be obvious to everyone, but we have rejected this type of thought in today’s culture.

Lewis would say we believe in this law whether we admit it or not: “If we do not believe in decent behavior, why should we be so anxious to make excuses for not having behaved decently? The truth is, we believe in decency so much — we feel the Rule of Law pressing on us so — that we cannot bear to face the fact that we are breaking it, and consequently we try to shift the responsibility.”

As we can see in Planned Parenthood’s PR defense, truth is relative, but it’s going to be hard to sweep this one away. The one standard they have weighing on them is the law. Man’s law, but most importantly God’s law. Our society can be apathetic, ignorant, and in denial, but as Christians we know this truth:

“For the Lord is our judge; the Lord is our lawgiver; the Lord is our king; he will save us.” — Isaiah 33:22

Christ & Culture Series: Education

{This blog post contains an affiliate link.}

This is part 2 in a series exploring areas of culture through a Biblical lens. The first post introduces the series, and in it I’m talking with my husband about juggling artistry, business, and theology. In this post I keep it in the family and talk with my older sister (Charity Bianchi) about her specialty: education. She hails from Syracuse, NY, where she lives with her husband of 19 years and her 6 children, who range in age from 15 to 3. She homeschool’s 4 of her children, while the oldest 2 attend Christian school.

She graduated from Oswego State University in New York state with a bachelors degree in Elementary Education in 1997, and in 2000 she received her Masters degree in Special Education. She was a full time 5th grade teacher at a Christian school for 2 years, but quit to stay home with her children. She began homeschooling in 2005.


What are some ways the culture views education?

The culture elevates education to a higher function than necessary.  Many people, even in Christian circles, can view education as the answer to a “successful life”  leaving out the true core of what makes success. Because academia is so important in our world to acquire a job and good standing, many can run to it as the answer to the problems we face. The mentality being that, “our society would be better if only we had a better education system.”  Our culture also can rely heavily upon our government as the answer to education.

What makes an education distinctly Christian? 

I believe when you place Christ and the gospel at the center of all you teach it becomes distinctly Christian. Because God is our creator every discipline of education intertwines (such as various subjects: reading, math, science, history, as well as the building of the child’s biblical worldview) and is interrelated to God’s plan for mankind.  When you use Gods word as the foundation of education, truth and insight will be transposed.

What’s your goal in educating your children?

I have two goals. The most important is from two verses. One is from the Old Testament book Deutronomy 6:4-9 and from Proverbs 22:6,

Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old they will not depart from it.” 

If my children are the most educated, well read, and well spoken people, but do not love their God and know his word I feel I have not truly educated them.  I have to constantly remind myself of this and keep this on the forefront as I teach them daily, even though I am not consistent and as faithful as I would like to be in this area.

The second goal is to give them a good education, while instilling a godly work ethic, with the basis of gaining a Biblical worldview.  My children’s academic capabilities vary greatly, and I don’t know what God has for their lives in the future, but I know I want them to be set apart (be a light in the darkness) by their knowledge, work ethic, and godly character.  It is wise and important for us to raise a generation of Christians that can be intelligently articulate on many issues and most importantly to be able to express an accurate Biblical worldview about them. (A great resource for homeschoolers on this topic is When You Rise Up: A Covenantal Approach to Homeschooling by R.C. Sproul Jr.)

Can our culture’s view of education and a Christian education coexist?

It really depends on what the parents or school convey to the children and how.  It’s interesting, because the school systems want “moral” acting students, but they want to teach immoral and ungodly information.  Worldly humanism is pervasive in our schools and homes.  Humanisim can be taught both socially and educationally. We can all fall prey to it if we are not vigilant and active thinkers.  A Biblical worldview is the answer to this and training children in discernment at a young age (seeing Gods evidence in creation) and as they get older asking the right questions (based on their previous knowledge of scripture) will help them sift through the worldliness and into the truth.  Our culture wants us to behave in a moralistic fashion by teaching children not to lie, steal, and cheat, but they do not understand where morality is rooted. I don’t think morality and humanisim can coexist and produce authentic Christian children.

How can Christian parents who don’t homeschool give their kids a distinctly Christian education, and one in which they are involved?

There are many wonderful Christian schools that will partner with parents to provide their children with a distinctly Christian education.  If that’s not an option and your children are in public school, it’s going to look different and may require more intentionality, but parents can work with their children and discuss with them how topics are being taught at the school and any social issues with peers. Parents can use God’s word and other Christian literature to supplement and teach them how to refute opposing secular views.

Being in a non-Christian educational environment can be helpful for the child to learn how to put a Biblical worldview into practice.  Depending on the child’s age the school can also be a good outreach for the child to pursue others who need to hear the truth. Parents can actively get involved at the schools by volunteering or being a part of a school board. I know many families that have done a tremendous job guiding their children spirtually through their education process at public school.

What are some ways we can glorify God through education?

Education is a good thing and God wants us to acquire knowledge, understanding, and wisdom to ultimately glorify him. One way we can glorify God through education is by aiding our children through the education process and training them toward godliness in their school work ethic. School is a child’s “job” and we need to teach them to “work as unto the Lord” at a young age. Another way we can glorify God through education is to have children grow to embrace the Biblical worldview and be able to stand firm in their faith despite contrary beliefs.

Christ & Culture Series: Juggling Artistry, Business, and Theology

I’m kicking off a new series about how our life in Christ connects to culture. We can’t hide ourselves from our culture; we are fully immersed in the good, the bad, and the ugly. We are free to take pleasure in certain God-given areas of culture and many are important and even beneficial to the Christian life. I hope you join in on the dialogue with each post in this series. 

What better way to start than with an interview of my husband? Joshua Wann wears many hats (literally and figuratively), can do many things, but above all he desires to honor God daily with the way he engages the culture.

One of Josh’s first ‘hats’ (have I mentioned he has a lot of hats?) started in 2003 to give those in Christian hip-hop a platform for releasing music without having to deal with the business side. His record label was dubbed Lamp Mode Recordings and was intended to make music primarily for the edification and teaching of the Church.

Josh’s second ‘hat’ is Scouts Honor, which started in 2012. It began as a combination graphic design, branding, and video production company, but has since focused solely on video production. It exists to bring higher quality production value to mid-sized companies and musicians.


What was your purpose and desire in starting Lamp Mode?

At the time, just out of college, it was really just a hobby that turned into a career. I waned to create a record label that did away with a lot of the “industry” and business politics that tend to squelch artist autonomy. Lamp Mode had a philosophy of giving artist’s creative control with financial backing. In addition, there was the theological thread of all the artists. At that time there wasn’t an iTunes, or digital market that exists today. Because of that, it was hard for an artist to be independently successful. I wanted to create something that bridged the gap between a commercial model and an independent artist model.

What was the approach you took in making music and in the creative direction of Lamp Mode?

The approach was to let the artist be the focal point, not the music business. Most commercial models of a record label are focused on profits and market value. I wanted a record label that focused on highlighting the artist as artist, even if that meant not having commercial success. If creating profit is the end goal for any art, then the art is diminished and relegated to only a select few. In the end, that’s a short-sighted way to run a company or even an industry. It doesn’t create good music, but only creates a product.

The balance is that Lamp Mode needs to be mindful of the business and commercial viability of its artists, but not in a way in which it trumps everything else. We always had to juggle artistry, business and theology. All three are necessary components of the brand.

Was the business affected by your Christian beliefs? If so, how?

The only part of the label that was affected by my Christianity would be the theological component. Before becoming a Christian and being involved in the music industry, I had the same philosophy of letting the artist reign supreme, even at the expense of the business side of things. So the philosophy came from wanting to see the artist have full creative control, but the Christian convictions fueled the content of the music and the artists that we chose to work with.

How do you feel God was glorified in the process and end product of your musical and art endeavors?

On the horizontal level, I feel that he was glorified in treating our artists more fair than any other record label that I know of. I don’t know of any other record label that has treated their artist’s the way that we have, which also includes the deals we made with them financially. I believe this comes down to just doing good business. Doing things ethically, treating people right and having integrity. In our industry, we still have a good name and reputation.

On the more vertical side of things, I believe that he was glorified by the nature of the content of the music. Most of the music is focused on the character of God, the message of the Bible, and communicating the gospel.

How does God’s Word speak to all this?

From creation man is called to work. The way in which he works reflects the image of God. As a worker, there is opportunity to do good or to do harm. I believe we did good work most of the time and that it honored him. Also, in the Bible it speaks of doing everything to the glory of God. In secular work that looks like having integrity. In work of a more religious nature that means representing him accurately. Those are the things that bring him glory.

How do you think our culture views art and music?

Without trying to be exhaustive, I think one example is what I would call the “passive consumer”. They fall victim to what the machine feeds them. The machine is the totality of the industry. The executives of the record labels and people in charge of the distribution channels. They determine what gets most visibility, and in turn, the consumer is programmed. The consumer doesn’t make a decision about what they like or what is good. They just get fed by the industry, by what they hear on the radio, and by what they see on TV.

I think all people should be able to step back from the machine of the industry and be able to think for themselves. They should be able to determine what they like, regardless of what is popular and what isn’t. They are not the only victims. Unfortunately, many artists lives are disrupted by the pursuit of the dream. They might share relative success for a year or two, only to be abandoned by the next artist of the day.

How should art and music be a unique and different view for the Christian? And how can we share common ground with our culture?

The Christian should be able to think holistically about these things. One way to think about this is: a person’s art should not be exploited for profit. This is really an exploiting of the artist. We should care enough about justice and fairness that we reject industries that don’t treat people fairly. This is part of loving our neighbor. Any time profit is the ultimate goal, people will be hurt. We should be able to step back from the machine that the word propagates and see it for what it is. See it from God’s perspective. In turn, that can help us to also not be influenced by it.

Sharing common ground with the culture is one of those things that can be terribly misunderstood. It is not a bad thing, in fact it is unavoidable. I think the first thing is to acknowledge that we already share a great deal in common. It is as simple as the language we speak, to the way we make music, the equipment we use, the way we distribute music, use of the internet, etc. There is undeniable overlap. It’s in this overlap in which we can develop relationships and foster conversations.

Series Part 2 : Education >>