Tuesday, June 24, 2008

How Countercultural!

He who rebukes a man will in the end gain more favour than he who has a flattering tongue. (Proverbs 28:23, NIV)
Loving correction, especially in the form of a truth-loving rebuke, has found itself the target of much disdain in recent times, including within the community of believers. In the absence of correction, falsehood and sin prosper.

He who trusts in himself is a fool, but he who walks in wisdom is kept safe.
(Proverbs 28:26, NIV)
How we are encouraged, even exhorted to believe in ourselves, our experiences, our thoughts! We find this popular philosophy penetrating our minds through messages on television, in magazines, on the Internet, and therefore, even within many churches (as they often utilize these mediums). This deplorable value is painfully wrong; reliance on the fallen human condition is futile and treacherous (see Jeremiah 17:9), and humanity's only unwavering foundation is in the saving knowledge of and reliance upon the everlasting Creator and Redeemer.

Scripture routinely displays this sort of countercultural curmudgeonliness (to use Doug Groothuis' definition of curmudgeon). Thus, we absolutely must consume the written Word of God frequently, "taking small bites and chewing slowly"*, lest we become beings of the erroneous opinion that the sole purpose of the Bible (and Christianity, for that matter) is to make humanity feel comfortable and content.


*This is a saying of my friend and future wedding officiant, Pastor Jeff Miller

Sunday, June 15, 2008

The Quest for False Humility: A Declaration of War on Thought

When normally defined, humility means being modest, slight in one's opinion of oneself, and bearing a certain perception of personal lowliness.

This word has recently and egregiously been hijacked.

In postmodern language (though many now recoil at the term "postmodern", preferring to be considered more post-postmodern [and so it goes, I suppose, ad nauseum, ad infinitum]), humility has undergone a metamorphosis.

Rather than dealing in the realm of introspection and view of oneself, humility has now been unjustly thrust upon the realm of ideas. Now, to have an opinion which one believes is universally and objectively true, and especially to voice that opinion, is considered arrogant. Appreciation of academic debates has therefore been dulled, or has even disappeared entirely (especially within the Church). Strong political and theological stances (especially if smelling, even faintly, of conservatism) are ridiculed for being absolutist and unyielding to individual differences, and truth claims in general are dismissed as reckless and supercilious statements. Confidence in knowledge and firmness in ideas have been tragically confused with personal pride, and thus are no longer welcome in the (especially younger) public square. These are the ways of the humble postmodern, post-truth, post-thinker.

Sporting its newly contrived franken-definition, "humility" has begun its nationwide tour to extinguish rational thought. Where there is a knowledge claim made, "humility" fires the dismissive charge of "arrogance" at the rebel thinker. Where there is an opinion that attempts to claim universality and objectivity, "humility" thrusts the painfully dull spear of relativism. "Humility"attempts to convince the masses that we absolutely cannot know the truth in any absolute sense, and that we must be "humble" at all costs, even if that cost is reason.

Even within the Church, being staunchly opinionated has become rather faux pas, as it is (falsely) seen as the antithesis of Biblical humility. While this is far from accurate (Paul, for one, argued for positions brilliantly and steadfastly), the Church has nevertheless adopted this truly unlivable and self-defeating philosophy which carries with it the stench of relativism. However, many defensively cry, "But we are not relativists! There is a truth out there, we just must not be so arrogant as to think it is knowable." This common defense is actually quite permeable; to deny the possibility of ever knowing truth that may be out there somewhere is to detach oneself from absolute truth, and leads only in the direction of relativism. Having cut the anchor of objectivity, these individuals' attempt at disassociating from relativism is futile. After all, one absolutely must believe something is knowable in order to have warrant to make an objective truth claim about it!

So, what is the modus operandi of the "humble" post-thinker?

1) Beliefs and opinions are private, personal, and should not be "shoved down anyone's throat".

2) Knowledge is subjective and emotion-based, because absolute truth either doesn't exist at all or is unknowable.

3) In conversation, to take an unyielding position is to be arrogant and is therefore to be avoided, lest the discussion begin to resemble a debate and someone should take offence.

4) Facts are of little importance, and we must realize that those we hear are only the records of the "winners". We must humble ourselves enough to give equal appreciation to all opinions, especially those of the "losers", as none are wrong or right; they are all unique.

Rather than perpetuate this popular and absurd philosophy that draws upon a misconstrual of humility, human beings need to passionately and zealously discuss and defend knowable truth if they intend to preserve a milieu of legitimate and intellectually solid exchange in the marketplace of ideas. Furthermore, they can and should do so by also pursuing authentic, Biblical humility in order to maintain necessary civility when speaking the truth in love.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

The Underestimation of Spiritual Warfare

Today I received news that a family friend had hung himself. This man, one of the most joyous and upbeat individuals one could imagine, was 55 years old, a committed Christian, and a psychologist. He left behind a wife and two wonderful daughters.

This is not only tragic, but processing through this startling and unsettling event has provoked thought. Naturally, there are the inevitable questions such as: Why did he do it? How dark of a state must he have been in to have actually follow through with this demented plan without first seeking aid?

However, apart from those questions that may never be answered, one thing is certain. Regardless of what he was experiencing that could have led him to make this decision, something had convinced him that it was too great a problem and burden for even the Creator and giver of life Himself to manage. This person was a believer, and even he was deceived into perilously abandoning hope in the Lord of the universe. It greatly pleases Satan to see a Christian fall, and even more so that in such a fall, other souls are stricken with confusion about an individual whose ministry they took very seriously. Many who knew him will likely ask themselves, if even this man reached a point of absolute despair, then how can his previous Biblical counsel be helpful or even true?

The forces of darkness are real, and they viciously and relentlessly attack children of God.

Christians: we are spiritual beings. Yes, we certainly need prayer, meditation, and fellowship with other believers, but we also desperately need to wake up and sensitize our souls to a truth that is often underestimated or even forgotten, the truth that spiritual warfare is in our midst, we are in battle all times, and that every single one of us is vulnerable. Ceaseless prayer, study, meditation, silence, solitude, fasting, and fellowship are not without reason; they allow us to put on the full armor of God.

While we may or may not fall into this degree of darkness and despair, the battle still rages on, inflicting many other types and degrees of casualties. Lament this reality, yet always realize that truly "A mighty fortress is our God, a bulwark never failing."

A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
A mighty fortress is our God,
a bulwark never failing;
our helper he amid the flood
of mortal ills prevaling.
For still our ancient foe
doth seek to work us woe;
his craft and power are great,
and armed with cruel hate,
on earth is not his equal.

Did we in our own strength confide,
our striving would be losing,
were not the right man on our side,
the man of God's own choosing.
Dost ask who that may be?
Christ Jesus, it is he;
Lord Sabbaoth, his name,
from age to age the same,
and he must win the battle.

And though this world, with devils filled,
should threaten to undo us,
we will not fear, for God hath willed
his truth to triumph through us.
The Prince of Darkness grim,
we tremble not for him;
his rage we can endure,
for lo, his doom is sure;
one little word shall fell him.

That word above all earthly powers,
no thanks to them, abideth;
the Spirit and the gifts are ours,
thru him who with us sideth.
Let goods and kindred go,
this mortal life also;
the body they may kill;
God's truth abideth still;
his kingdom is forever.

-Martin Luther

Thursday, June 5, 2008

Colson Commentary

Charles Colson had an excellent commentary today about what true conservatism means. I urge everyone to read it.

Monday, June 2, 2008

Obama Leaves His Church: What Does This Tell Us?

In an effort to persuade the American public that he actually is not morally impoverished, Barack Obama has publicly parted ways with Trinity United Church of Christ. He had already rebuked the extreme racist comments of his dearly loved and respected pastor of twenty years, but he had not officially left the church itself until now. Now, the same Obama who previously claimed to be absent from the pews during Jeremiah Wright's more rancorous sermons is being heralded as faithfully present during his former membership by fellow attendees of the church.

Was he present during any of the infamous sermons (which allegedly were legion) or wasn't he? Did he approve of the controversy or didn't he? It seems the public is not going to get a straight answer out of Obama, thus one is left with no choice but to infer what seems to be obvious. Can one truly be a congregant who consistently attends a certain church and also be simultaneously unaware of the senior pastor's frequent sermons peppered with outbursts of well-known inflammatory opinions? This is highly unlikely (see a previous argument).

So, what can the public safely assume from the timing of this ecclesial exit? Contrary to what much of the media along with Obama himself would have you believe (that is, "poor Obama is having to finally part with his innocent and misunderstood church based on popular dissent"), it seems that the candidate is likely quitting Trinity not because it is the right thing to do (if he were governed by a strong moral compass, this split would have taken place years ago and out of the spotlight), but because the "hope pope" himself will do anything in his power to please his potential voters. If this is indeed the case, it is further confirmation that Obama stands firm for very little besides his desire to move into the White House.

A good, logical analysis of this situation can be found here.