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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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.

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.

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

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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.

Unfulfilled Longings in the Check Out Line

Part 3 of the Christian Thinking series. 


Have you looked at the women’s magazines at the store check out lane recently?

  • 99 Ways to Look Better, Feel Better, Enjoy Life More!
  • Snack off Weight
  • Look Gorgeous When It’s 100 Degrees
  • 25 Secrets to Looking Young
  • Indulge Yourself: Instant Long Hair; Goof-proof Self-tanning
  • The Little Health Habit That Keeps You Thin, Improves Your Skin, and Ups Your Energy!
  • The Easy Life: Fun Jobs, Cool Dresses, Wild Fantasies, and Smart Solutions

All of these article titles promise to satisfy our desires to be thin, beautiful, young, and have everything we want quickly and easily. Yet, if we don’t get the results we want, when we want them, we launch into feelings of resentment, depression or anxiety. Then when we feel this way we look for other
ways to fulfill our longings: a new hairstyle, wardrobe, job, a man, children, vacations, and food. It’s a frenzied cycle of bondage.

We live in a culture of convenience. The only worthy pursuits are ones which come with little effort. Once life gets hard and we don’t feel fulfilled we pitch a fit. We live in a time where results are demanded instantly; a fast-food mentality permeates all areas of our lives.

This is false teaching alive in the message of our culture, and it is not a biblical message. Women embrace this message, because of insecurity, unhappiness, and a desire to feel fulfilled. Here are 3 ways we can put on our Christian Thinking caps and impart truth into our lives in this area:

1. Unfulfilled longings are not always sinful.

Longings and desires, in and of themselves, are not sinful, and fulfilling these desires are not always sinful either.  When our quest for fulfillment becomes a demanding right that must be fulfilled instantly or we insist on fulfilling our longings in illegitimate ways then we have entered the territory of sin. The problem enters when our desire for other things or people take the place of our desire for God.

2. Our unfulfilled longings cannot be filled by people and things.

C.S. Lewis says this perfectly:

It would seem that Our Lord finds our desires not too strong, but too weak. We are half-hearted creatures, fooling about with drink and sex and ambition when infinite joy is offered us, like an ignorant child who wants to go on making mud pies in a slum because he cannot imagine what is meant by the offer of a holiday at the sea. We are far too easily pleased.”

We will always have unfulfilled longings this side of heaven. The problem is we are too easily satisfied with lesser things offered on this earth, and these lesser things will always fail and disappoint us.

God gave us these desires as a way to point us to heaven and to himself as the ultimate satisfying source of life. He wants us to feel restless on this earth; we are sojourners and aliens here. We should not try to make our home in the wilderness, while the promised land is waiting for us.

3. Unfulfilled longings are a normal part of life. Contentment is key.

We will always live with unfulfilled longings. Once we get what we want, we’ll just want something else. The grass always looks greener on the other side, until we get there and see all the weeds we have to fight, and then we desire a new patch of grass. Our consumer minded society is constantly feeding its ferocious appetite for more. This is not a Christian mindset. We are called to think like Paul and learn contentment in every season of life.

“Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. I can do all things through him who strengthens me.” – Philippians 4:11-13

As Christian women, we need to ask God for strength to be content with whatever lot we find ourselves in. We need to ask for joy in whatever God has set before us. We need to trust God with our unfulfilled longings, and see Christ as our source of ultimate fulfillment to life.

Part 4 >>

“So, What Do You Do?”

You’re at a party. You don’t know many people, so you strike up a conversation with someone over the punch bowl. You ask, “So what do you do?” The conversation then rolls to talk of occupation, work, study…whatever it is you “do.”

It’s a common ice-breaker question with an unintentional and underlying meaning. Basically, the person asking the question is seeking to identify you with something, and in our culture we are identified by what we do. Who we are is what we do. It’s as simple as that.

Identity and Success

This is why so many in our culture are highly driven for success. If our identity is wrapped up in what we do, then we need to do a heck of a lot and do it better than everyone else. Why would anyone settle for the bottom of the ladder when they can climb to the top? Why would anyone drop their career to stay at home with their children? Why would someone pass up overtime to spend time with their family? It’s not wrong to climb to the top of the ladder, keep a career with children, or work overtime. But when you are completely absorbed in it and consistently put it above everything else, your work has become who you are.

The reason our culture absorbs themselves in their careers, and is always running towards success, is because they have nothing else. Each success they earn is all they have to live for in this world. Everyone is building their own mini-kingdom on this earth. They don’t know there is another kingdom to invest in or another world to live for. The emptiness they feel (or are unaware of, but is still present) drives them to do more. Each accomplishment in life (personal or work related) never satisfies, which is why they have to look for the next one to conquer.

A Christian Mindset

Yet, if you are a Christian your identity is not in what you do or have accomplished, but in what has already been done for you. This is why we can rest and not “do” so much, this is why we don’t need to feel inadequate if we don’t have a degree, or feel intimidated by people who have much earthly success. Our identity is secure; it’s not based on a fluctuating economy, a wavering income, or our tentative position in a company. Who we are is who Christ is. We are one with Christ who is one with the Father. Our greatest and most important accomplishment in life — salvation — has been achieved by Jesus Christ; He is our success story.

Jesus is the perfect model of true success; a life emptied of self and full of God and others. All of his accomplishments were acts of love and service. When we give our lives to Christ we not only believe and accept he died on the cross and rose from the dead for us, but we believe and accept all of his accomplishments in His life as our own. His success becomes our success. And in this success we cannot boast, because we didn’t earn it nor do we deserve it.

We have been set free from our culture’s version of identity in success. Now we can live our lives in true success: dying to self and living for God and others. This is building the Kingdom of God on earth, and the perfect fulfillment of His Kingdom will be found in heaven. Our culture lives for their own mini-kingdom that they build themselves. We are apart of something much bigger and more fulfilling; a Kingdom not made with human hands, but bought with flesh and blood. Christ’s broken flesh and spilled blood bought my success.

Literature: What’s a Christian to do?

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Do we as Christians really need to read non-Christian literature? Can’t we just stick to the Bible and maybe a few Christian books? Wouldn’t it be better for us? Rather than to pollute ourselves with stories about adultery, witchcraft, and treachery?

Well if you say yes to that last question then you might as well burn the Bible along with all those filthy worldly fictional stories. The Bible is littered with some of the grimiest stories; stories that would have Stephen King beat. A pulp fiction novel would have to compete against the types of gritty stories found in the Old Testament.

What’s the Point?

So, we can see the logic of a Christian sheltering himself from non-Christian fiction doesn’t add up. But what’s the point anyway? Well, we as Christians believe we have meaning in life. Guess what? Much of classical and modern literature explores meaning and purpose in life. So, we have common ground in this arena. In Literature Through the Eyes of Faith: Christian College Coalition Series, by Susan V. Gallagher and Roger Lundin, they purport this concept:

“As a result, although some things are obviously of greater importance than others, everything in our experience has significance, and our attempt to discern that significance — as well as we can — is part of our calling as God’s servants.”

Literature can proclaim truth. Yes, God’s Word is the ultimate truth that we use to evaluate everything in this world. But if we have a good understanding of His Word it’ll be easier for us to discern what is truth and what is not in works of literature. How can literature show truth? Through characters, actions, dialogue, and story. We can also see truth in the beauty of well-written verse and craftsmanship, which points to the beauty of the creator craftsman and wordsmith. We can better understand ourselves, others, and our world when we read literature.

“The fact is that we never get away from stories. In and out of literature, stories tell us who are and what we might become.”Gallagher and Lundin

Why Read Literature?

This is why we read literature; even when the work is not written by a Christian author or doesn’t contain a direct Christian message. Sometimes it’s good to not try to look for a Christian message in a text and to just enjoy it for what it is. According to Gallagher and Lundin, “The ability to write and read literature is a gift from God.”  So, delight in it!

Gallagher and Lundin continue by saying, “Although as a result of sin our capacity for enjoyment is much diminished and often wrongly directed, delight is still an important part of God’s plan for us.”  In fact, Jesus came in part, to recapture that ability to feel true joy. So, we as Christians should enjoy literature and other works of art and culture as much as, if not more, than non-Christians.

We should be experts at developing art and culture as well; it’s part of being a steward. This was one of the jobs God entrusted to Adam and Eve, but they ruined it. Let us, as Christians, work hard towards redeeming art and culture on Earth now, until the day Christ fully redeems everything back to perfection. The Lord stopped and enjoyed his creation on the seventh day; he declared it was good. So, can’t we do the same?

“In acknowledging the skill of an author or the beauty of a work of literature, we praise the great Creator of the heavens and the earth. Delight in a well-crafted work of literature is a response to God.”Gallagher and Lundin

How Should We Read?

Gallagher and Lundin don’t stop at these points in their book, but go on to examine how we should read and evaluate works of literature, as Christians. They ask, ‘What happens when we read?’ and discuss the conflict of interpretations. Topics such as: the literary canon and classics are addressed, as well as modern literature, works that are for thinking and works for sheer entertainment, the question of morality, literary forms, and genres.

By reading Literature Through the Eyes of Faith you will not only grow in your understanding of literature, but grow in your understanding of God.

“The profusion of literary texts in our world represent the variety of ways, both good and flawed, that human beings have attempted to develop God’s creation and to participate in his world, whether conscious of his hand or ignorant of the true King.”Gallagher and Lundin