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.

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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.

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

Loreal Self-Worth and The Christian Woman

Part 2 of the Christian Thinking series.

Because you’re worth it. This famous tag line from Loreal Paris advertisements goes deeper than just four words on a screen. This one line embodies a cultural philosophy that has been adopted by many Christians, especially women. As I mentioned in the introduction to this series, we need to be aware of the false teaching aimed at women in our culture and begin to think rightly.

Nancy Leigh Demoss says it perfectly,

“Christian women need to open their eyes and begin to evaluate what is going on around them — to wake up to the deception that is so pervasive in both our secular and our Christian cultures. So much of our lifestyle is rooted in ways of thinking that simply are not true.”

She cites music, TV, movies, books, advice, and advertisements as some of the vehicles that perpetuate deceptive ways of thinking. Demoss gives three helpful questions to help us evaluate popular cultural messages:

  1. What is the message here?
  2. Is it really true?
  3. Am I being deceived by a way of thinking that is contrary to the Truth?


So, what is the message behind Loreal Paris advertisements?

It’s a popular message today aimed at women; it’s the mask of the self-movement hiding the face of humanism. The self-movement is my way of describing all the ‘self’ words we see and hear today: self-esteem, self-image, self-love, and self-worth. All of these words are just modern day packaging of an old philosophy called humanism.

What is Humanism?

Basically, it is a man-centered way of thinking, which views man as basically good and moral and finds no need for any supernatural power. In humanism, man is God. Man can then decide for himself what is true and good and worships himself as true and good.

Humanism came to a peak during the middle ages when a new spirit of learning developed, and the once dark ages saw a new light as the arts flourished again. This period is known as the Renaissance. It was during this time that man again became confident of his ability to determine truth and error.

The American Humanist Association describes what philosophical humanism is:

“…Any outlook or way of life centered on human need and interest. Sub-categories of this type include Christian Humanism and Modern Humanism.

Christian Humanism is defined by Webster’s Third New International Dictionary as “a philosophy advocating the self-fulfillment of man within the framework of Christian principles.” This more human-oriented faith is largely a product of the Renaissance and is a part of what made up Renaissance humanism.”

Today we are guilty of Christian Humanism. The ‘self’ words have been adopted by Christians as truth when in fact they are error. These are not just cute harmless phrases empty of meaning, because their roots go deep into anti-God ways of thinking. The messages of self-esteem, self-love, self-worth, and self-image are not the Gospel message. The message of the self- movement puts man’s needs and interests first, but the Gospel message is death to self.

Humanism in Light of Scripture

God’s Word makes it clear we naturally love ourselves enough and commands us to do what goes against our nature, which is putting ourselves last. We are repeatedly told in Scripture to put others needs and interests before our own. God knows we don’t need the message our culture sends us, because we are already always doing it. In Ephesians 5 Paul tells husbands to love their wives as their own bodies, which assumes we don’t hate our bodies, because we feed and care for them. We need to look out for others in the way we already look out for ourselves.

Our image and worth should not be defined by a humanistic way of thinking that looks inward, but defined by what God says about us in his Word. The truth is we are completely unworthy and Christ is the only worthy one. Yet, once we believe and accept this truth, Christ accepts and loves us in our unworthiness and shares his worthiness (sinless life) with us. We become
worthy to God through Christ, but not through ourselves. Nancy Leigh Demoss sums it up well:

“Our malady is not “low self-esteem,” nor is it how we view ourselves; rather it is our low view of God. Our problem isn’t so much a “poor self-image” as it is a “poor God-image.” Our need is not to love ourselves more but to receive his incredible love for us and to accept his design and purpose for our lives.

Once we have received His love, we will not have to compare ourselves to others; we will not focus on “self” at all. Instead, we will become channels of His love to others.”

The ‘self’ words should change to Christ-esteem, Christ-worth, Christ-image, and Christ-love. All of these words need to be defined by Jesus Christ in our life. Everything is ours in Christ. We don’t need to look for our image, esteem, and worth in the offers of this world, just truly believe and accept we are accepted and loved by God through Christ.

The world’s offer is cheap like Loreal hair color that washes out in a few weeks, but God’s offer came at the high cost of His Son and is an eternal guarantee. You don’t go to Target to purchase this product, because it is already paid in full. The lines have fallen for you in pleasant places, my dear sister, just be content and believe. He will help your unbelief.

Part 3 >>

Is Your Head Full of Straw?

Christian Thinking Series — Introduction

Men are the tin man in need of a heart and women are the scarecrow wanting for brains. For so long men have been the stereotype of logic and reasoning and women the stereotype of heart and emotions. It can be a mostly true generality, but still a stereotype easily broken.

Are women’s heads truly full of straw? In 2 Timothy 3:5-7 Paul warns Timothy of false teachers:

“And from such people turn away! For this sort are those who creep into households and make captives of gullible women loaded down with sins, led away by various lusts, always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.”

Paul isn’t perpetuating the above stereotype here, but simply expressing truth. The truth is that women, and housewives in general, are susceptible to the dangers of false teaching. Men are too of course, but there are certain false teachings out there intentionally aimed at women and/or housewives. Just turn on your television to see advertisements selling to women and you know our culture has an agenda.

The Call to Christian Women

Let’s not be those gullible women! Let’s not reserve hard study and theology to the men and seminary students. Women don’t need to be all fluffy hearts and butterflies to epitomize biblical womanhood. We too can be pictured as brave warriors fighting the spiritual battles in our homes, in the world, and in the Church. Women are called to pick up their sword and fight along with the men; the sword of truth does not discriminate.

As Christian women, we need to read and start thinking. Read God’s Word first, but also read good books. You don’t have to be a natural intellectual to think, but we are called to think differently from non-christians. Christian thinking and secular thinking are two seperate categories and we must become familiar with both camps to do battle well.

The Christian Mind

In his 1960’s book, The Christian Mind, Harry Blamires says,

“There is no longer a Christian mind. There is still, of course, a Christian ethic, a Christian practice, and a Christian spirituality.”

When we start to think like a christian it should affect our daily living, and not just be a moral awareness.

I love Aimee Byrd’s book, Housewife Theologian. She has an entire chapter devoted to the Christian mind. Here are some excerpts:

“Truly Christian thinking involves an eternal perspective on our daily matters and contemplation of how they fit into the dogma of the drama in which God has cast us. 

 “Our faith has nothing substantial to say to or about what we perceive as real life. We behave as if our Christian values make our contribution to the world somehow insignificant or unintelligent.

Unfortunately, in many ways as a church, we have allowed this kind of thinking and have, in fact, added to it. We keep our faith compartmentalized into a separate realm, apart from the everyday facts and acts of life. When we are not wearing our “faith hat,” we think in terms of all the isms of our time — naturalism, existentialism, conservatism, feminism, humanism, capitalism, liberalism, and so on — unaware that we are thinking like Locke, Rousseau, Voltaire, and other philosophic minds and believing that we are thinking “independently.” Tragically, rather than functioning as independent thinkers we are really just parroting the spin-doctors who don’t see life through the lens of God’s special revelation in Scripture.”

As Paul warned Timothy of false teachers in their day Paul mentions ‘they are always learning, but never arriving at the truth’; these are the spin-doctors of our time too.

My next several blog posts will be aimed at expounding on these thoughts. I’ll explore modern day false teaching aimed at women and how it embodies different philosophies. Instead of filling our heads with the straw of false cultural thinking we’ll be using the brains of true Christian thought. Just follow the yellow brick road.

Part 2 >>

Getting to the Root of True Beauty

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Facebook has now become a news stand. Every new and noteworthy article or video you should read (or not read) has probably made its way into your news feed. Some are newsworthy and some are just cute or inspiring. Here is a cute and inspiring one that has been circulating around: http://www.quickmeme.com/p/3vug8k

It is important to not be deceived by this cute little letter. There are statements in here that we as Christians can agree with, but there is nothing distinctly Christian in it; any religious or non-religious person can agree with this letter.

I wouldn’t uphold this letter to my future daughter, because though it does put down a negative cultural attitude, it also promotes a secular philosophy. The world solves the true beauty crisis by looking inward. They put their hope and promise in the truth of themselves. It’s about me. My strength, my heart, my center, my dreams. Look within yourself and believe in yourself.

The Philosophy Behind the Culture

This way of thinking is rampant in our culture. It’s a humanistic philosophy that should be rejected as much as the cultural beauty pressures women face. Humanism is basically a man-centered way of  thinking. Man is basically God and basically good, and we can find value in our human nature. This father isn’t solving the root issue, he’s just feeding the flame of self to his daughter. He doesn’t know the truth of the Gospel and the true beauty in Christ of dying to self. Self. That is the root issue. Self-obsession. Self-love. Self-hatred.

In every culture and generation there has always been varying ideas of what is and isn’t beautiful. The pressure women feel to be outwardly beautiful isn’t a new concept. (We just have it more in our face now with such an image driven culture.) The pressure has been on our external self, but the way to find freedom is not to look to our internal self. We need to get completely outside of ourselves to be free. Anything inside of us is just as ugly and flawed as anything we perceive about ourselves externally.  C.S. Lewis says this,

“Look for yourself, and you will find in the long run only hatred, loneliness, despair, rage, ruin, and decay. But look for Christ and you will find Him, and with Him everything else thrown in.”

Our Biggest Enemy and our Role-Model

Our biggest enemy as women is not the makeup and fashion industry, but it is ourselves. We love ourselves too much, we think about ourselves too much, and when we do this we enslave ourselves. The letter I would write to my future
daughter would solve the true beauty crisis by encouraging her to look to Christ. He is the picture of true beauty.

Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name, so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”  -Philippians 2:5-11

Christ made himself ugly by entering our world. He sacrificed his heavenly radiance and clothed himself in sinful flesh. The one person who actually deserved to think well of himself and who was completely worthy, forgot himself completely. He lived this way and died this way. He became ugly to make us beautiful in Him. Once we believe this, with faith, then our worthiness and our beauty is found in Him.  We are perfectly flawless before God by the blood of Christ.

This is what I want my future daughter to believe in — not herself. The woman who dies to self daily increases in beauty daily. She is a lovely scented perfume to God and to those around her. Christ makes us beautiful inside, and that is our hope.

“C.S. Lewis in Mere Christianity makes a brilliant observation about gospel-humility at the very end of his chapter on pride. If we were to meet a truly humble person, Lewis says, we would never come away from meeting them thinking they were humble. They would not be always telling us they were a nobody (because a person who keeps saying they are a nobody is actually a self-obsessed person). The thing we would remember from meeting a truly gospel-humble person is how much they seemed to be totally interested in us. Because the essence of gospel-humility is not thinking more of myself or thinking less of myself, it is thinking of myself less.

Excerpt from Tim Keller’s book, The Freedom of Self Forgetfulness: The Path to True Christian Joy

Where Have We Gone in our Thinking? Philosophy and Abortion Have a lot in Common

Her eyes stayed fixed on the pregnancy test. Two lines or one? The 4 minute timer seemed to be dragging the time with a ball and chain. As the time ticked on Tina and I talked about her possible pregnancy.

“If the test is positive, what do you plan to do?” I asked.

“Oh I would have to get an abortion,” she replied.

“A lot of women come through our crisis pregnancy center without being informed or knowledgeable about the abortion procedure.  It’s a good idea to do your research and not be in the dark. Have you looked anything up online?”

“Yeah.”

“What’d you think?”

“It was kinda scary…but I try not to think about it.”

Tina did her homework and the fear blinded her. She made a decision right then; a decision to look away. Tina’s last statement is a reflection of our society — we try not to think.

To Think or Not to Think?

Not thinking is the easy road but thinking long and deliberately about important matters can be dangerous. In his Philosophy book, The Consequences of Ideas, R.C. Sproul harkens back to his college years, while working a summer job in 1959, when he met an interesting street sweeper. The summer job was in a hospital maintenance department where the street sweeper began to engage Sproul in philosophical ideas. Sproul was intrigued by a man whose occupation was sweeping driveways, but who was also knowledgeable in Sproul’s concentration in college.

This street sweeper was a philosophy Professor in Berlin during World War II. His ideas were at odds with Hitler’s Third Reich so he was removed from his position. When he spoke out against the Nazi’s his wife and children were arrested and executed; he escaped from Germany with one daughter. The philosophy Professor no longer taught philosophy, because it had destroyed his life.

Sproul said, “I was pushing a broom because I lived in a culture that sees little value in philosophy and gives scant esteem to those who pursue it. My friend was pushing a broom, on the other hand, because he came from a culture that gave great weight to philosophy. His family was destroyed because Hitler understood that ideas are dangerous. Hitler so feared the consequences of my friend’s ideas that he did everything possible to eliminate him — and his ideas.”

Do we as a nation give the same weight to Philosophy that Hitler did?  Where have we gone in our thinking as a culture? Are we so afraid of thinking? Is darkness a comfort to us?

Philosophy Then and Now

Philosophers of the past were concerned with finding truth; now post-modern thought tells us truth cannot be found (let alone if it even exists.) The tidal wave of post-modernism fueled by the idea of relativism has drowned our society in mud. In post-modernism, words no longer have any intrinsic value or meaning attached to them, and anything goes. To each his own. Live and let live is the mantra of our time.

Today everything is absurd and lacks meaning, such as in Samuel Beckett’s play, Waiting for Godot, where two men banter in nonsensical ways and where their physical actions do not match what they are saying. These two men are waiting for Godot (some literary scholars would say Beckett means God here) but he never comes. In a society where anything goes, where there is no right or wrong, where do we end up? Where do these ideas take us? If we accept post-modern relativist philosophies we have rejected any standard; we have no center, no reference point. Where there is only absurdity, and no meaning and truth, then death sprouts in many forms.

The Rule of Law

One man contends against the view of no truth and meaning. He contends with a world of no absolutes. 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.”

Tina’s Choice

Could Tina’s choice to look away be a suffocation of the Law of Nature? Why would she feel the need to not think about it? Why did she choose to ignore the information she found, even though her emotional response was fear? I went on to explain to Tina the importance of her choice and the possible consequences.

I told her many women come into our crisis pregnancy center in a hurry to terminate the pregnancy with thoughts and emotions traveling at full speed. Many of these women come back to the center for post abortion counseling, because of the guilt and regret they feel for making their choice. I encouraged her to slow down in her thoughts and emotions and make sure she weighed her options. I encouraged her to research and think clearly and deliberately. We never fully realize how our choices today will affect us down the road.

What about Miscarriage?

I then shared a true story with Tina about my sister’s two miscarriages. My sister’s first miscarriage occurred 3 months into her pregnancy and the grief she felt was the same grief a mother would feel if her 3 year old child had died. Why is that? Because the maternal instinct falls into place once the woman knows she is pregnant. My sister had another miscarriage at 4 weeks and the grief was still present. Those in our society would mourn with my sister in both cases, because she wanted those babies.

What if my sister didn’t want either baby?  What if she went to an abortion clinic? Aside from the pro-life followers, most of society would not grieve the loss of the child once the woman chose the abortion route.  Is this a double standard? Are our beliefs concerning this issue based solely on a woman’s choice?

Liz Welch from Glamour magazine states a statistic in her article, Eight Women Share their Abortion Stories, that one out of three women will have an abortion by the time she’s 45. There are 1.37 million abortions per year and 3,700 a day in the United States and 1% of all abortions occur because of rape or incest; 6% of abortions occur because of potential health problems regarding either the mother or child, and 93% of all abortions occur for social reasons (i.e. the child is unwanted or inconvenient.)

If my sister was part of the 93% , then would we deem her choice right? If a woman wants her baby then abortion is wrong, but if the woman doesn’t want her baby then abortion is right? This train of thought can only be the by product of a world given over to relativism. A world where right and wrong is based upon each woman’s choice and desires. This is where we have gone in our thinking.

Injustice in the Abortion Clinic

What if an armed robber invaded my sister’s house and when confronted he beat her to the point where her unborn child died? We would stand in horror at the injustice.

If we think this is injustice, what happens in the abortion clinic? What happens in our philosophical ideas as a culture when we demand justice with an armed robber and mourn through a miscarriage, but we turn our heads and try not to think about what happens in the abortion clinics? We want to save the rainforest, we want to save trees, we want to protect animals lives, but what about developing human life?

We protect the life found in a turtle’s egg, what about a woman’s egg?  Again, where is the standard? Why is it being applied to animal and plant life but not human life?

Pro-Choice Thinking

Some attempt to make a defense for the subjective stance that has led to pro-choice thinking. Judith Jarvis Thompson is one such philosopher. In fact, Thompson gives an interesting analogy:

“But now let me ask you to imagine this. You wake up in the morning and find yourself back to back in bed with an unconscious violinist. A famous unconscious violinist. He has been found to have a fatal kidney ailment, and the Society of Music Lovers has canvassed all the available medical records and found that you alone have the right blood type to help. They have therefore kidnapped you, and last night the violinist’s circulatory system was plugged into yours, so that your kidneys can be used to extract poisons from his blood as well as your own.

The director of the hospital now tells you, “Look, we’re sorry the Society of Music Lovers did this to you–we would never have permitted it if we had known. But still, they did it, and the violinist is now plugged into you. To unplug you would be to kill him. But never mind, it’s only for nine months. By then he will have recovered from his ailment, and can safely be unplugged from you.”

Is it morally incumbent on you to accede to this situation? No doubt it would be very nice of you if you did, a great kindness. But do you have to accede to it? What if it were not nine months, but nine years? Or longer still? What if the director of the hospital says. “Tough luck. I agree. but now you’ve got to stay in bed, with the violinist plugged into you, for the rest of your life. Because remember this. All persons have a right to life, and violinists are persons. Granted you have a right to decide what happens in and to your body, but a person’s right to life outweighs your right to decide what happens in and to your body. So you cannot ever be unplugged from him.” I imagine you would regard this as outrageous, which suggests that something really is wrong with that plausible-sounding argument I mentioned a moment ago.”

Thompson’s analogy breaks down too easily. The first problem lies in the idea of the violinist as being unconscious. Being unconscious has nothing to do with life being present or not. I could faint and be temporarily unconscious, but I would still be alive and I would hope no one would take my life just because I was unconscious.

The second breakdown in the analogy is the assumption that the mother is helpless, because the Society of Music Lovers attached this person to her without her consent. This analogy might apply to the mentioned 1% of women who have abortions upon being raped, but what about the 93% who have an abortion due to inconvenience?

Most women are not helpless; they know unprotected sex will result in pregnancy and even protection is not always safe. Having sex, especially unprotected, will result in pregnancy. The point is some men and women are careless and then think they can wipe it all away with an abortion. Before the choice for an abortion the woman makes a choice to have sex (protected or unprotected.) The issue as human beings is that we don’t like to take the responsibility for our choices. Remember what Lewis said?

“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.”

Instead of saying the Society of Music’s Lovers tied this person to you, we should say: you tied this person to you! Now concerning the man with the fatal kidney disease — his blood is on your hands.

Behind the Mask of Abortion

Does this make sense to you? Maybe you are like Tina and decided to not think about it a long time ago. Why aren’t you thinking about it? The ancient philosopher Socrates said, “The unexamined life is not worth living.”


Where are the great thinkers of our time? Are they too busy engaging in absurdity, and like Beckett’s characters they are waiting for something they already believe will never come?

You see there is a larger issue at stake in the abortion debate, something that is fundamental, and it’s philosophy. The issue is more than just saving unborn babies; it is a battle of ideas. The way we think directly correlates to how we live, whether we are aware of it or not. Behind every action and decision, from Hitler to today, is a way of thinking. Behind the mask of abortion is the face of relativistic philosophies.