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Archive for the ‘F & L Insights’ Category

[203] Jobs

Many of us in the faith-and-learning community have a mission statement—to glorify God. Our attempts such a lofty aim are often feeble, failing, and disappointing. Our efforts often draw confused, bemused, and even rejecting responses from secularists who seek first wealth, acclaim, and temporal pleasures. If ever you wondered whether trying to serve God is a waste of life, you would do well to read these last words of Steve Jobs:  

I have come to the pinnacle of success in business.  In the eyes of others, my life has been the symbol of success.  However, apart from work, I have little joy.  Finally, my wealth is simply a fact to which I am accustomed.  At this time, lying on the hospital bed and remembering all my life, I realize that all the accolades and riches of which I was once so proud, have become insignificant with my imminent death.  In the dark, when I look at green lights, of the equipment for artificial respiration and feel the buzz of their mechanical sounds, I can feel the breath of my approaching death looming over me. 

Only now do I understand that once you accumulate enough money for the rest of your life, you have to pursue objectives that are not related to wealth.  It should be something more important:  For example, stories of love, art, dreams of my childhood.  No, stop pursuing wealth, it can only make a person into a twisted being, just like me. 

God has made us one way, we can feel the love in the heart of each of us, and not illusions built by fame or money, like I made in my life. I cannot take them with me.  I can only take with me the memories that were strengthened by love.  This is the true wealth that will follow you; will accompany you, he will give strength and light to go ahead. 

Love can travel thousands of miles and so life has no limits.  Move to where you want to go.  Strive to reach the goals you want to achieve. Everything is in your heart and in your hands. 

What is the world’s most expensive bed?  The hospital bed.  You, if you have money, you can hire someone to drive your car, but you cannot hire someone to take your illness that is killing you.  Material things lost can be found.  But one thing you can never find when you lose: life.  Whatever stage of life where we are right now, at the end we will have to face the day when the curtain falls. 

Please treasure your family love, love for your spouse, love for your friends…  Treat everyone well and stay friendly with your neighbors.  DC

[202] Top 10

I can remember the days during which stations and programs and publications would trumpet their weekly Top 10 pop music singles. Dick Clark’s weekly Top 10 was eagerly awaited.

The church has its own Top 10 when it comes to sin. For years it demonized homosexuality, rooting its condemnations in scriptural proof texts. As the years have passed it has looked the other way when it comes to divorce and “shacking.” Pushed against the spiritual wall, evangelical pastors will speak against these practices, but you will see a lot of birthdays pass between sermons on those misdeeds.

Drunkenness has been roundly condemned to the point of advocating teetotaling. Gossip, divisiveness, and inhospitable behavior, not so much. Foul language is out, but racism is still quite acceptable. A few weeks ago I heard my first sermon on “Racism in the Church” delivered by a white pastor.

If you think pastors are preaching the whole counsel of God, then you belong in the Flat Earth Society. And I am not simply going after pastors on this. Many of them realize the reaction they would get from their congregants, should they inveigh against pet sins, would remind one of the actions of those who resisted Christ two centuries ago.

Please understand, I am not advocating excising sin from the attention of the church, nor am I advocating that churches make sin its central focus. I am advocating a humble and sober effort at total discipleship, one that levels the playing field when it comes to the various types of sin, and leaves those Top 10 lists of transgressions back with the Dick Clark Top 10. DC

 

 

[201] No Counter

I don’t think Christian colleges are doing enough to counter post-modernism, particularly that aspect of this philosophical heresy that affirms the absence of truth. The notion that truth is relative–or more accurately, an individual phenomenological opinion—is a bedrock doctrine in the postmodern catechism.

It is everywhere, even at Christian colleges. Many of the students there profess a personal faith, but they have little use for “Thus saith the Lord…” thinking. The former is personal and even malleable. The latter is unbending and calls people to discipleship.

Postmodernism is arguably the biggest threat to Christianity in our time, because it invalidates truth. There is no foundation in a postmodern Christian “faith.” It is a faith without facts. It offers a discipleship without discipline, a set of beliefs with nothing immovable in which to believe. It is postmodern thinking that makes marrying out of the faith acceptable, because after all, who really knows what is true?

And again, postmodernism is everywhere—even in Christian colleges. I have long advocated for a required course in apologetics at every Christian institution of higher learning. We need that now more than ever—for the truth of the Christian faith is all we have that separates us from our secular counterparts. DC

[200] Icons

I read a stunningly insightful book recently, entitled Dinner with DiMaggio, soon to be reviewed in these pages. The book caught the essence of what it meant to be an American icon. I reflected on the concept of national icons. From the ‘40’s to the ‘90’s there were so many—DiMiaggio, Frank Sinatra, Marilyn Monroe, Elvis, Billy Graham, and Michael Jackson, among others.

They were so big they were commonly referred to as idols.

But the era of the genuine icon is, for the most part, gone.

The reason is that we are in an electronic age. In the previous era, the media was narrow, consisting mainly of radio, newspapers (literally print on paper), popular magazines, television (limited mainly to three networks), and movies. In short, the modalities were few, such that once a celebrity became nationally marketable he or she would dominate almost all of the layers of media reaching the public. Hence, an icon went deeply into American culture—dominating every point of contact with the public with each segment of the media reinforcing the others.

Two forces have changed all this: Cable TV and the internet. We now have myriad television channels and a world wide web with infinite points of contact. No one person can dominate all these. Hence, we have moved from national icons to what we might call niche icons. In addition, because of the incredibly wide expanse of contact, we are more aware than ever that we are not a homogeneous nation. We are nation of identifiable subgroups.

This makes the spread of the gospel easier and more difficult. It is easier because there are so many more apertures—so many more windows through which we can send the gospel out. It is more difficult because we have no Billy Grahams—icons whose fame and charisma can draw millions to their televisions—all at the same primetime hour–to hear a galvanizing message.

All of this begs the question: Are national revivals a thing of the past? With things moving horizontally rather than vertically, some say it is. Time will tell. We may indeed have to shape the gospel presentation to demographic niches, much as missionaries of the past did, learning the language and the culture of the particular people to whom they were to be sent before leaving American soil. Just as Christian colleges strategize to recruit students from various demographic segments, the church needs to strategize when it comes to evangelism—going to people “where they are,” to paraphrase John Calvin. From another vantage point, there is the concept of “going viral.” We must communicate the gospel knowing it has no boundaries in terms of its appeal, and there is nothing more viral than the Holy Spirit. DC

[199] Mission Statement

A few decades back, the business world was taken by storm with the idea of having a Mission Statement—a simple one or two statement as to its purpose for existence.

Not a bad idea for a business. An even better idea for a Christian college. And better yet for a person. In fact, I would like to see every person engage that task—write a life mission statement. For the Christian, the top line should be to glorify God. Believe it or not, that is the easy part. What comes next? For one thing, each of us can ask if what we are currently investing our energies in is glorifying God. We can also ask how we can take our skills and interests and aim them in that direction.

You get it. Doing these things not only will move us closer to the top line—glorifying God—but it will also make us a lot happier. DC

 

[198] No Consensus

The debate over homosexual behavior and same-sex marriages rages on. I see no consensus in sight on these issues among serious biblical Christians. I think we may have to accept a permanent diversity on these matters.

There are two general ways to look at this. For many, the prohibitions in both the Old and the New Testament are the final word. To mettle with these prohibitions is to mettle with the eternal in unchanging word of God. It is a simple but a compelling position.

The other is to look at the sanctions in cultural context. For example, in Romans, Paul connects homosexual activity to other obvious sins in his description of a truly wicked group of people. Homosexuality appears to be in the context of riotous, promiscuous living, not in a monogamous, committed relationship. Moreover, I doubt Paul knew that sexual orientation is largely if not completely genetic any more than the biblical writers realized the universe is heliocentric, with the earth being oval, rather than possessing four corners. And from there one can shift to other strictures of the past that are no longer in force today—women wearing hats in church, for example, not to mention more liberal attitudes toward divorce.

I urge Christians to avoid the one thing that is among the common and easiest to do when engaging explosive issues such as these: To attack rather than reason, to demonize those with opposing views rather than working out their differences in the love of Christ. DC

[197] Xian Scholars

Do our Christian colleges and universities have Christian scholars, or just scholars who happen to be Christians?

You can find plenty of the latter at Christian colleges, and more “under cover,” at mainline Christian-unfriendly universities. All you need to do is deliver a competent academic job and have a faith confined to a personal level to be one of these faculty. Keep your mouth shut and your word processor silent when it comes to the things of faith and you can enjoy a cozy tenured existence in either setting.

When your faith informs your work, provides a context for your work, is a lens through which you see all of life, giving you a Christian worldview, then you are a Christian scholar. Then you are out there, in the Christian intellectual arena.

So how many of these can you identify?

DC

 

[196] Appraisal

When you buy a building you often need an appraisal as to the soundness and quality of the structure. I suggest Christian colleges do the same in determining the soundness and quality of their Christian foundation.

An assessment might include a number of items. Here are some possibilities.

How are we doing in hiring people who can communicate a Christian worldview that can be integrated in their classes?

How are we doing in evaluating our faculty on expressing a Christian worldview in their classes?

How are we doing in encouraging our faculty to write and do research from a faith and learning perspective?

How are we doing in developing a faith and learning reputation for our institution among students and the public at large?

How are we doing in creating avenues for our students to write and speak from a Christian worldview?

How are we doing in linking with other Christian institutions to find new and fresh ways to empower our faith and learning stance? DC

[195] 1st Amendment

Remember the good old days, the time when people marched against porn and porn theaters? Remember when the purveyors of porn wrapped themselves in the red, white, and blue First Amendment blanket?

Remember that? Now Christians seem headed to do the same. It is clear that the First Amendment is not very popular in many of our colleges and universities. The mere expression of conservative political views will imperil the speaker (or in the case of the student writing a paper, the writer).

But what of the faith? How welcome would any of us be, expressing a Christian worldview on non-religious radio or television? Try a talk show. How comfortable? If you say, “not very,” you are also saying the First Amendment is under siege.

We may soon be asking the porn peddlers if they have any extra blankets. DC

[194] Plantinga Challenge

Alvin Plantinga, winner of the renowned Templeton Prize for 2017, is a role model for every Christian scholar.

Plantinga made his mark by advocating for the presence of religious belief into what had become, by the 1950’s, the hostile field of philosophy. Over time he changed the view of the discipline with respect to its relationship with religion, showing how religious belief can contribute to the solution of philosophical problems.

Christian colleges need to hold Plantinga up as the ideal of Christian scholarship. Many would be happy to confer an honorary doctorate on the 84-year-old icon.

But that is not the point here. These institutions should empower the example of Plantinga by encouraging, supporting, and funding efforts by faculty to integrate Christian thinking into their disciplines.

How does Christianity fit into sociology? If nothing else, it advocates that humans are essentially self-interested, giving rise to Conflict Theory and other explanations as to the nature of society. And what of psychology? Faith is often found congruent with mental health.

From meager beginnings like these, able Christian thinkers—and there are many of them—could make a strong case for the intellectual integrity of Christian notions in otherwise secular disciplines. I am certain Professor Plantinga would prefer that to an honorary doctorate. DC

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