BreakPoint

By Colson Center

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 Sep 3, 2020

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Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity—applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.

Episode Date
48 Churches Have Been Burned in Canada - What is Going on? | BreakPoint This Week
57:03

John and Maria discuss a new reality that over other the past 2 months at least 48 churches have been burned by arsonists in Canada. While some charge the fires are backlash from First Nations members, who have discovered that many in their culture were mistreated by the Catholic church, some are saying the facts don't add up. John and Maria question if there is a growing distrust and violence against the church in Canada.

John and Maria also revisit a BreakPoint from James Ackerman, who told his story of finding a sense of redemption after going to an abortion clinic to talk to mothers. They also discuss Simulation Hypothesis, a growing idea in the scientific community that assigns spiritual language to unexplainable realities in Science.


Jul 23, 2021
Confused Souls Find Rest in God’s Image
05:19

The most common refrain in Genesis about God’s creation of the world is that it was good. Down through the centuries, many people both inside and outside the Church have tried to say that the material world is less valuable or important than intangible inner truths. This has been one of the main talking points for the new sexual orthodoxy: telling hurting souls that their bodies are somehow wrong.

Kathy Koch has worked for years to undermine this demeaning perception. In her talk at our recent Wilberforce Weekend, she reminded us about the wonderful intentionality in the way God “knitted” us together as male and female. For today’s BreakPoint, here’s a portion of Kathy’s talk.

I’m Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids here in Fort Worth, and I want to talk with you about how God made us good. I think God is good and God is a good Creator. And if children, teens, or adults don’t know that, then it doesn’t matter to them that they’re created in His image. In Psalm 139, verses 13 and 14 declare that we have been formed by God in our inward parts. It says in Psalm 139:13 that Father God knitted us together in our mother’s womb. Knitting is a precise skill; the knitter knows before starting what he is making, or he’d better not start. Otherwise he’d have a mittens-scarf-hat-afghan sweater thing with no purpose at all.

The size of the stitch and the needle, the color of the yarn, and the design of the creation is known before the knitter begins.

Do we praise God? Because we’re fearfully made?

Do we stand in awe of ourselves now?

We’re not God.

Fear in the Old Testament is fear of God. That we would have this awesome respect for the creation of who we are. The verse that revolutionized my understanding of God’s creative intent is the end of Psalm 139:14 where David writes on behalf of God: My soul knows very well that I am a wonderful work of the creative intent of God. A fearfully and wonderfully creation made in His image.

I have tremendous empathy for young people who live in confusion in a chaotic, messy culture. I believe that if I was young today being called “sir,” I might wonder if I was supposed to be a boy. I have empathy for these kinds of teenagers and young adults. We are privileged at Celebrate Kids to talk with those who do not believe they were created good. They do not believe in a good Creator. They don’t understand the image of God and it is not their fault. Generations of young people are trying to change what they should not try to change.

And they’re unwilling to work on the things they could work on because frankly, the adults around them are weak. God is good. Therefore he made me good because I’m in His image and He is fully good! So there’s gotta be something here and I choose to not see it as wrong. I don’t see it as a mistake. It is a challenge.

I’m surrounded by great people and I’m loved well by God, and by people who love me deeply; without that I would question so much. So I’m not a too-tall-Kathy-with-a-low-voice-who-can’t-spell-all-that-well mess of a person. I am who I am, created in the image of God, and He is good.

What’s your story? And what story are we helping young people who we love live?

Kathy Koch is founder and president of Celebrate Kids, reminding the Church and the world of the goodness of our Creator and the enduring beauty of His creation. In her words, we see a path forward to loving—truly loving—our neighbors who struggle with gender dysphoria.

As she argued, the new sexual orthodoxy encourages hurting young people to change what shouldn’t be changed and discourages them from working on the things that they can work on. While giving lip service to the claim that people are perfect just as they are, our culture’s fascination with expressive sexual identities leads proponents to argue that the only way we can be truly ourselves is through a radical rejection of our physicality.

Jul 23, 2021
Is There a Way To Respect My Family While Leaving the Church? BreakPoint Q&A
56:07

John and Shane field a listener question who has left the faith and didn't consider how that would impact his parents. He writes into John to inquire about a middle ground, seeking to follow his thoughts and convictions in religion while also honoring his parents.

After answering that question, a listener writes in asking how to honor her convictions while building a relationship with a new person attending her church. John gives reasoning to help the listener make strong steps in friendship and walk forward in conviction while also building relationship.

Shane then asks a question from a listener whose school community is challenging the notion that critical theory is present in their school. The listener asks how they should lead their community knowing that ideologies and doctrines are present in the school system.

Jul 23, 2021
The God Committee and Playing God
03:55

A heart is available, the clock is ticking, and doctors are forced to choose between three viable candidates for a transplant: A woman who could live for several more years with a new heart but doesn't want it; a beloved middle-aged father who's chronically overweight; and a young rich kid who might have just overdosed on cocaine but whose dad is dangling a $25 million donation to the hospital if his son gets the heart. All of this is in the plot of the new movie, “The God Committee.”

The team of doctors and nurses deciding who will live or die are given the nickname The God Committee. But this is a corrupt understanding of God, isn't it? God doesn't work from an algorithm. He doesn't give good gifts like new hearts to those people who will be missed the most, and withhold them from people with bad attitudes or harmful habits, or who are kind of annoying. Nor does he play dice with the universe (no reference to Albert Einstein).

A Christian worldview of life and human value is not based on quantifiables such as how many people love a particular person, or how many years someone might go on to live. Every life is endowed by God with His image and likeness. Every life is equally valuable. Human value is not based on any extrinsic categories. It is intrinsic to each and every person, and God doesn't make what He doesn't mean to make. God created people to bear His image and likeness before the rest of the created order. 

In “The God Committee,” doctors accuse each other of “playing God” and it is meant as an insult. But the Book of Genesis describes how within vitally important created and moral boundaries, God actually intended His people to play Him before the Creation. When Adam and Eve were commanded to be fruitful, to multiply, and to fill the earth and subdue it, they were told to do what God had just been doing. Throughout the first chapter of Genesis, God filled and formed an earth described in the second verse as being empty and void. Now, His image bearers are to carry on that work, ruling over the created order by filling it and subduing it. In fact, even after the Fall, that task continues, though now it is complicated by pain and by thorns. 

The key distinction here is whether we play God as if God actually exists, or whether we play God as if we are God. Whenever we think it's our authority that determines what's right and what's wrong, we're playing God in the wrong way. This was the Enemy’s very first temptation for Adam and Eve. This was the temptation of the builders of Babel. This temptation continues today, especially as our technological abilities advance so far beyond our ethics.

The irony of “The God Committee” is that doctors don't become gods by deciding who deserves someone else's heart. In fact, does anyone ever deserve another person's heart? Are patients who die before receiving a transplant somehow morally wronged before organ transplants were possible? Mere decades ago? Were the sick then somehow less deserving? No. God made His image bearers with a magnificent capacity to first imagine, and then make these kinds of technologies possible. But as God clearly states as He observed the Babel project, humans ought not do everything that comes into their minds. A culture like ours, drunk on the arrogance of our own technological innovations but without any sort of consensus about the true and the good, simply cannot deal with the moral dilemmas that we ourselves are creating. 

Our culture makes this mistake often when it comes to scientific discovery. First, we ask whether we can do something. Later we ask whether we should, and then we answer that second question with the first. That if we can do something that’s all the reason we need to know that we should do it. That is playing God outside of the limits that He gave us. The confidence that we hold in our abilities is simply misplaced and we overlook the consequences of our decisions.

For example, in a global medical community that doesn't even share consensus on the definition of death, not only has a black market for human organs developed, it specifically endangers the global poor. There's a great example of this in a poignant scene in “The God Committee” in which a main character informs his newly pregnant girlfriend that he cannot be a father to their baby because his important medical work is simply too time-consuming. By refusing to honor the people to whom his own actions have bound him, the character now refuses the opportunity to actually image God. To play God as humans (particularly men in this situation) were created to do. We miss this privilege and responsibility whenever we fail to recognize and submit to our created purpose and design.

Jul 22, 2021
An Abortion Clinic, a Calling, and Glimpse of Redemption
05:40

Recently I talked to my friend James Ackerman who's the CEO of prison fellowship ministries. And he told me a story about when he was younger and how God used him in a special way. What follows is an edited transcript of a conversation I had with James Ackerman:

 

When I was 18 years old, I got my girlfriend pregnant. She had an abortion. I was not in favor of it, but I didn't try to stop it either. Four years later, I gave my life to Jesus at an altar call at Calvary Baptist Church in New York City. Most of my new Christian friends were Upper East Side types who went to Bible studies at DeMoss House. A couple of my friends would regularly chain themselves to the entrance of abortion clinics, spending the rest of their weekends in jail. I was not up for joining them, but the Lord did call me to do something. 

I learned there was an abortion clinic in an office building on Lower Park Avenue, five blocks from my apartment. It opened at 6 a.m. on Saturday mornings. The Lord put on my heart the need to minister in front of the abortion clinic, not in protest but with a Bible in hand to share the love of Jesus. To let women know they had other options and to offer to pray with them, and to point them to the local crisis pregnancy center. I prayed, “Lord, if this is really from You, You have to wake me up at 5 a.m. every Saturday morning. I'm not going to set my alarm clock. It has to come from You.”

On Saturday morning at 5 a.m. I was wide awake. So, with a Bible in hand I make my way to Park Avenue South to the abortion clinic. It had a large plaza in front and as women made their way to the building, I would walk backwards from the sidewalk to the entrance saying, “Jesus loves you. There is a better way. Can we talk?” That's it. And every Saturday morning for a year at least one woman turned around. Some were just afraid, saying things like, “I can't afford to have another child.” A few even told me they had prayed that God would put somebody in their path that morning, and I was the answer to that prayer.

The last Saturday I went, a man became furious as I spoke to his girlfriend. After he got her inside, he came back out, walked to his car, and pulled out a baseball bat. After three or four blows to the head, I was on the ground. The security officers came running out to help me, asking if I wanted them to call the police. “No, it's fine,” I said. “I'll be alright.” Do you know what? Not once in that year did those security officers ever even talk to me. Not once had they told me to get off the property and stop what I was doing.

That very night at a friend's birthday party I was in no mood to attend, bruised and beaten, I met my wife of 31 years, Martha. The next Saturday I woke up at 8 a.m., looking forward to taking Martha out on our first date.

 Just before Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth this spring, I had lunch with a friend of mine who reminded me of that time. He said, “God was redeeming you.” I had never thought of it that way. And then I realized something: there are at least 52 men and women alive today, all of them 32 years old because Jesus alarm-clocked me at 5 a.m. Every Saturday morning for a year He said, “Go there.”

That season in New York City reminds me of another time the Lord called me into His service. He called me in 2016 to take up leadership at Prison Fellowship. My job has been to lead the organization from the era of being founder-led and primarily known by its founder, to being mission-led and known first for the work we do. It's been a very important transition for Prison Fellowship. And it's been an honor for me to lead it during this time. It's even been an honor to lead Prison Fellowship through a pandemic

I was the CEO of four companies before I came to Prison Fellowship, and nothing has given me greater joy and taken me through greater spiritual growth than my season as president and CEO of Prison Fellowship.

The Colson Center and Prison Fellowship were birthed under the same roof by the same visionary, the late, great Chuck Colson. I loved hearing James Ackerman's testimony of how God pointed him to do something, enabled him to do it, and then the results were left up to him. What a great testimony for the rest of us to emulate.

Jul 21, 2021
The Simulation Hypothesis: A Materialist Spirituality?
04:55

Movies such as “The Truman Show,” “The Matrix,” “Inception,” are all based on the premise of humans who were, unwittingly, living in a computer simulation. More recently, quite a few influential and brilliant minds are proposing this so-called “simulation hypothesis” as more than fiction. In some cases, the bizarre theory is morphing into something that looks suspiciously like a materialist spirituality. 

Back in 2016, Elon Musk, founder of Tesla and Space-X, speculated to a tech gathering in California that the development of computer simulations that were “indistinguishable from reality” was inevitable. In fact, Musk believes that it’s more likely that we live in a simulation than in the real world. And he’s not alone.  Recently in The New Yorker, Joshua Rothman described the increasing popularity of the simulation hypothesis among thinkers as diverse as “philosophers, futurists, sci-fi writers and technologists.” 

The notion that we are all self-aware software trapped inside  computer-generated virtual reality first gained academic credibility in a 2003 paper published by Oxford philosopher and futurist Nick Bostrom. In it, he argued that if we were to extrapolate the progress  of current virtual reality and brain mapping technology into the future, the most likely result would be simulations indistinguishable from real life and programs indistinguishable from people. And, if that were true, then it would be unlikely that we would be the first generation in history with the ability to produce such simulations. 

That line of thinking led Elon Musk to conclude that the chances that our world is “base reality” and that we are not living in a simulated reality, are “one in billions.”

And it gets even weirder. Rothman suggests that the original programmers of our simulated reality could “find it interesting to watch us fight the battles they have already lost or won.” Others have suggested that perhaps thousands or even millions of simulations are running at the same time. Philosopher Eric Steinhart speculates in his book Your Digital Afterlives that simulations are nested within other simulations. Within this “great chain of being,” some people could be “promoted” to a higher reality when they die, attaining a kind of immortality or “resurrection.” On a darker note, if the “computational cost” on our creators’ processors ever becomes too great, perhaps they’ll simply pull the plug on all of us. 

If this all begins to sound a bit metaphysical, Rothman agrees. One of the appeals of simulation theory, he thinks, is that it “gives atheists a way to talk about spirituality,” or something like it. It offers “a source of awe.” It even brings up similar questions for our simulators that one might ask of God: “Why did they create us? Why did they allow evil in their simulation?” “Why are we here?” And perhaps even, “Do they love us?” 

Of course, science fiction speculation does little to answer the actual big questions of human existence, and it certainly cannot justify a particular moral code. If none of this is real, including me, why should I care? Why not live, as in HBO’s hit show “Westworld” in which people pay to visit a kind of simulated reality, entirely for my own gratification no matter whom it hurts? 

Simulation theory also makes the massive assumption that consciousness can arise from and be transferred through matter. And yet, it never explains the origin of consciousness in the first place. Where did the programmers, the real beings made of flesh and blood who inhabited what Musk calls “base reality,” get their sentience, moral code, and meaning? As a theory of human existence, it only pushes the ultimate questions of existence back a step or two, beyond our reach. The simulation hypothesis is, as Stephen Meyer writes in his book, The Return of the God Hypothesis, one of many complicated “auxiliary theories” proffered to prop up materialism.

It’s telling how often advocates of this hypothesis utilize religious and spiritual language. Having reduced themselves to computer programs, they still speak of transcendence, resurrection, morality, and eternal life. Sometimes they talk of our supposed programmers in a way that sounds an awful lot like worship.

In the end, maybe the best evidence against this bizarre and complicated version of materialism is that those who use it cannot resist simulating spiritual reality, even while attempting to explain it away.

Jul 20, 2021
Cuba's Communism is Cracking
05:07

In recent days, thousands of protestors have taken to the streets of Havana, Cuba to protest Covid restrictions and demand both help from the government and more freedom. After initially attempting to crack down on protestors, the government changed course late last week and lifted certain of the restrictions that drove the protests, including those on travelers bringing medicine, food, and toiletries.

As a nation, Cuba relies heavily on tourism. As individuals, Cubans rely heavily on friends and family members outside the country sending food, medicines, and hygiene products. The crippling taxes on goods coming into the country, the lengthy power outages, food shortages, and ongoing blocked-access to the Internet — all during a global pandemic — was just too much for many of the people, and this propelled them to attempt a revolution in the streets. 

Christians in Cuba have joined the throng calling for an end to the restrictions, even to the regime. For years, believers there have faced discrimination and oppression. The Cuban Revolution 60 years ago (in keeping with Communist ideology) established an atheist state in what was, at least traditionally, a largely Christian culture. At various points in the history of the regime, including recently, Christmas celebrations were banned, and Christians were not allowed to run for office. Even so, Castro never fully closed church doors. Overall, religious life in Cuba has mainly moved underground, and is constantly under threat. 

In the 1990s, in an effort to mend relations between the U.S. and Cuba and to establish a diplomatic relationship with the Vatican, Pope John Paul II visited the island nation. After the visit, Christians were allowed to apply for state jobs and participate more publicly in church life, albeit under the watchful eye and oversight of the government. 

The movement toward religious freedom in Cuba has been, to say the least, slow and inconsistent. Still, Christian leaders continue to see cracks in the foundation of Communism. As Alberto Pías, a Catholic priest from Cuban descent wrote on social media earlier this week

“Human beings are made for freedom, to the point that even their Creator doesn’t violate it. Human beings can be repressed, intimidated, threatened ... and this can make, by a pure survival instinct, the person submit to slavery and even defend the one who is oppressing him, but freedom is inscribed in our genes. Years, even generations may pass, but there comes a time when the soul rebels and says: 'enough.’”

And just a few days ago, in what may be the only Communist dictator in history to almost admit some degree of fault, President Díaz-Canel said

“We have to gain experience from the disturbances. We also have to carry out a critical analysis of our problems in order to act and overcome, and avoid their repetition.”

I wish that the president’s critical analysis included the Communist vision of life, social forces, the progression of history, and human value. I doubt that it will. Given Communism’s historical track record, it should have long ago been relegated to the dustbin of history. Instead, what is too often claimed, by Communist “presidents'' and Western academics alike, is that the problem lies not in Communism itself but in how it has been applied. 

We see the same kind of thing when it comes to new technologies, especially biotech. When things go wrong, we think that it’s just some rogue, “bad apple” scientists who are to blame for what is, in reality, inherent immorality in certain practices. This “evil man” assumption insists that the real problem with gene-editing technology or Communism are just the “bad apples” employing them, rather than the universal temptation that comes with unlimited power, whether over a nation or over some aspect of nature. We’d like to think that the problem is one particular human, not the human condition itself.

Tragically, the only thing that the “evil man” hypothesis accomplishes is ensuring that the evils of history repeat. While recent admissions from President Díaz-Canel are noteworthy, hard repression in Cuba is not over. So, we should continue to pray and advocate for the people of Cuba in any way we can.

And, we should take seriously the advice offered by Cuban-American Mike Gonzalez, in a recent interview on a World News Group podcast, when asked how Americans can help. Gonzalez said, “Ultimately, what Americans can do is remain free. We must remain free ourselves. We cannot help anybody, we're not going to be the symbol of anything if we don't ourselves remain free... America must continue to be the beacon of freedom.”

Jul 19, 2021
Cuba Cries for Freedom, The Pandemic Fallout, and Playing God with Organ Donation - BreakPoint This Week
01:00:03

John and Maria discuss new data from both the Centers for Disease Control and a report from a number of universities in the UK that reveal problems post-pandemic. Rates of suicide, depression, and a likely increase in pornography addiction are a few problems they unpack from recent BreakPoint commentaries.

Maria then provides insightful commentary on the crisis in Cuba. She makes the statement that many will look at the situation and claim the problem with communism is the way it was carried out, not the human heart.

John then provides insight on a movie called The God Committee that Maria recently reviewed. John gives a worldview analysis that shows how Christianity is a worldview big enough to handle the important ethical questions of the world.

To close, John and Maria discuss a commentary by Glenn Sunshine on why wokeness is a heresy that finds moral grounding and meaning in the Church.

Jul 16, 2021
Is God Really on the Throne During Revolutions and Collapsed Buildings?
03:55

As rescue workers still look for remains in the rubble of the condominium that collapsed in Surfside, Florida last month, the official death toll has topped 95 people, with more missing and presumed dead. While this tragedy will change the lives of those involved forever, it will, as all tragedies do, fade from the news headlines to be replaced by others. This is the awful paradox of life after Eden. For some people, this felt like the very end of the world. For others, this was hard but unremarkable news to hear. How can both be true?

Many Christians look at our world of mass shootings, natural disasters, political unrest, terrorism, and moral degradation and conclude that it is worse than it has even been. Others say we’re better off than ever, noting advances in medicine and technology, life expectancy, and our unprecedented abilities to prevent and respond to disasters. Global poverty and infant mortality have fallen dramatically in the last two centuries, and continue to plummet.

Even so, as J.R.R. Tolkein wrote in The Lord of the Rings, evil “always after a defeat and respite, takes another shape and grows again.” His friend shared a similar philosophy in That Hideous Strength, the final novel of his Space Trilogy. “Good is always getting better and bad is always getting worse,” wrote C.S. Lewis. “The whole thing is… coming to a point, getting sharper and harder.” Because time moves only forward, and because Jesus hasn’t returned to finally make all things new, we will continue to confront new and different shapes of evil. Trying to decipher which shapes are worse or better than others is as futile as trying to predict which are coming next.  

What we do know, because Scripture is crystal clear about this point, is that God the Father sits in what N.T. Wright might call the “control room” of heaven. His hand holds back more evil from befalling his creation. A colleague of mine used to note that the four scariest words in the Bible are “God gave them over.” The worst evil we can imagine visits humans at our own request. Any moments or eras of apparent respite is either because we’ve not recognized a new shape evil has assumed, or because God has chosen to graciously withhold what human sinfulness has invited.

In moments of great suffering or tragedy, Christians will often say something like, “Don’t worry. Christ is still on the throne.” This is true and often comforting, but it can be a kind of Romans 8:28 “bomb,” aloofly and tritely lobbed over our protective walls with too little empathy; a sort of  religious version of saying “well, it could be worse” to someone in pain.

In an old episode of the TV medical drama, House, the cantankerous and religion-hating Dr. House confronts a nun suffering from a mysterious illness. “You can tell me you put your faith in God to get you through the day,” he says to her, “but when it comes time to cross the road, I know you look both ways.” 

It was meant as an accusation, but believing in a good God who rules the universe doesn’t require that anyone deny cars hit people. Christ is on the throne and I might suffer tragedy. Both are true. It’s the rest of the story that answers Dr. House (and us). As Pastor Tim Keller writes:

Often we see how bad things ‘work together for good.’ The problem is that we can only glimpse this sometimes, in a limited number of cases. But why could it not be that God allowed evil because it will bring us all to a far greater glory and joy than we would have had otherwise?

People are living longer, medicine is advancing, and, sometimes, buildings collapse with people in them. Things in this world are really bad. Other things are really good. Ruling over it all, still on His throne, Christ is renewing our hearts and minds to make His glory our greatest pleasure and somehow mysteriously making us better through our suffering here.

Jul 16, 2021
What the Church Gave Alcoholics Anonymous and What It Should Offer Again
05:03

National Public Radio’s This American Life aired Tina Dupuy’s (doo-PWEE) story recently. Tina had a difficult home life and was prone to acting out as a kid. Her parents eventually sent her to a group home. At 13, she went to her first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting. What she heard resonated. People spoke about not being able to control their own bad behavior; about feeling rejected by family and repeatedly getting into legal trouble. By 13, Tina had tried alcohol a few times. But it was in the philosophy — the worldview — of AA that she really saw herself.

And for two decades, she (to use AA’s lingo) “hung in.” For 20 years in AA, Tina learned how to stop pitying herself and to take responsibility. She attended meetings and shared her gritty story openly. But once she was firmly settled in her thirties, with a husband and a steady job, Tina started questioning whether she was actually an alcoholic. So she tried a drink and nothing happened. Now, she says, she’s been drinking occasionally for years, with no addiction.

So what was it about AA that held so much sway over Tina, and for so long? What does her story reveal about what humans need to get along in the world?

Alcoholics Anonymous was founded by Christians in the 1930s. The modern-day organization has distanced itself from those religious roots, but traces remain.

Everyone’s familiar, for example, with AA’s insistence that adherents surrender to a “Higher Power.” The official line today is that this Higher Power can be whatever we want it to be. That the practice remains, especially in our cultural moment, is a sign that AA knows that belief in God has a uniquely powerful and motivating influence on our minds and behaviors.

AA also requires each member to have a sponsor, someone else who is actively recovering from addiction. Apparently, humans benefit from a mentor who is able to “sympathize with our weaknesses.”  

AA also teaches members that they need community and accountability, because bad habits thrive in isolation. Tina Dupuy told NPR that what first drew her in was everyone’s nearly obsessive insistence that she “keep coming back.” AA teaches that forgiveness and personal responsibility are paramount. That human beings are capable of terrible behavior even if we don’t mean to be.  In fact, AA has a name for the addict’s real disease: “self-will run riot.” 

Christians have a name for that too: sin. We also know it’s an affliction not exclusive to those struggling with substance addiction. 

Alcoholics Anonymous may have stopped outwardly acknowledging the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, but His natural laws are woven into every fiber of the organizations’ success stories. That’s fine — the Church is happy to share her playbook. Still, going through the motions without knowing the how and the what for, which are by God’s grace and for His glory is a terrible waste and a tragic case of settling for less.

And even if AA inches right up to the Truth without making the final leap, the group has strengths that many churches might count as weaknesses in their own communities. 

Tina Dupuy’s experience with AA was of a group of people obsessively in each other’s business. That culture of unconditional intimacy should exist in more churches.

Church isn’t a place to hang out with friends we’ve carefully chosen based on superficial similarities like cultural tastes, or even age. Church is a place of confession and forgiveness as much as it is for the mild, pleasant feelings we mean to evoke with the word “fellowship.” Jesus doesn’t call us to love the social outcast because social outcasts are all really wonderful people the world has judged wrongly, though that happens a lot. He calls us to love outcasts because He loves them and knows they need community and brotherly love in order to run the race with endurance. Just like we do. 

If that kind of intimacy isn’t happening spontaneously in our churches, maybe we should force it. AA does. Unconditional intimacy is the natural outgrowth of groups whose members don’t have to be convinced they’re unlovable sometimes, or often. When people walk into an AA meeting, they know they have a problem. That’s why they’re free to be so patient with everyone else. Church can and should be like that, too.

Jul 15, 2021
Is Critique of Critical Race Theory Stifling Oppressed Voices - BreakPoint Q&A
43:15

John and Shane discuss listener questions from recent commentaries. Today they answer an important question from a listener after our commentary on how critical race theory is a Christian heresy. 

Another listener asks for an overview of the landscape of Christian hope. The person references a our recent commentary on the Pandemic of Despair. The listener asks if there is hope on the horizon, because they don't see it. The listener asks if he is looking at the wrong horizon line.

John then responds to a listener who feels despair in being informed by the tv news. John provides a sense of hope and how to remain grounded in the hope of Christ in this cultural moment.

To close, John provides an explanation on why we value the creeds and the challenge of knowing creeds in a time and place where we base our understanding of freedoms and rights on constitutions.

Jul 14, 2021
Why The Biblical Answer to Humanity is Revolutionary
06:11

There are three reasons that every Christian should be able to understand, articulate, and widely share what it means to be human. And to live their life from this deep Christian conviction. The Christian answer to the question “What does it mean to be human?” is different from the answer you get from atheistic naturalism, or from Eastern pantheism, or from the postmodern philosophy currently characterizing life here in the West. The biblical answer to what it means to be human is revolutionary. It's the idea that God created everything and called everything good. Then He put Man and Woman on the earth to rule over it as His image bearers. To represent Him and His will to the rest of the created order. The significance of this cannot be overstated. Here are three important reasons why.

First, the idea of the image of God has been among the most consequential in all of human history. This is not just a personal, private belief of some followers of Jesus. The idea has fundamentally changed the world. It changed what humanity thought about people who were oppressed. It changed what we thought about the other. It changed law, politics, the courts, and education.

Chuck Colson used to say that the image of God, other than the message of personal salvation, is the most important gift that Christianity ever gave the world. Even atheists like Friedrich Nietzsche, Luc Ferry, and others have acknowledged that the very concepts we now take for granted (much of the Western world concepts like human dignity and human equality) were actually birthed in history from this Christian idea of the image of God.

Second, the idea of the image of God is essential for Christians to understand because it is crucial to an understanding of the Christian worldview. The Christian story is given to us as a story. That's what the Bible is. It takes us from the account of creation all the way to the account of new creation. It takes us from the heavens and earth to the new heavens and the new earth. Central to this gigantic narrative, the True Story of all of reality, is the human character — the image bearer; and God Himself taking on flesh. This idea is critical to understanding the Christian worldview. What does it mean that God actually became man? That God actually took on the skin and the condition of humanity in order to redeem and to restore it?

Finally, understanding the image of God helps us meet the biggest challenges that our culture faces. Recently in Fort Worth, Texas, 1,200 of us gathered at the Wilberforce Weekend and looked at the image of God from every angle we could think of. You now have access to this incredible event through Wilberforce Weekend Online at wilberforceweekend.org. The conference featured teaching on how to see the image of God in everyone, including your ideological opponents.

We heard from Jason and David Benham, the Benham Brothers, about how they have been mistreated for their faith, and how they turn around and speak love and grace to others. Then we walked through the idea of the image of God through Creation, Fall and Redemption. What does it mean that God created us in His image and called us good? Matt Heard talked about the inherent connection between what it means to be alive (in the language of John's Gospel) and to be made in His image. Dr. Kathy Koch talked about what it means to believe that God is good, and therefore to believe how God made us is good.

Jennifer Marshall Patterson took us deep into the pages of Proverbs and other wisdom literature in the Scriptures. She stated that wisdom in other religions might be esoteric stuff that we can barely make sense of, but in Christianity, the advice of wisdom and Scripture shows a way to be truly and fully human. With Dr. Carl Trueman, we looked at how the image of God has been impacted by the Fall. He spoke about the fundamental replacement, the counterfeit idea for the image of God in our culture, expressive individualism.

Dr. Bill Brown talked about how to see the image of God in those who have failed us. It was a particularly powerful and poignant session in light of the scandals of some Christian leaders over the last year. Alisa Childers then spoke about how progressive Christianity misunderstands and misdefines what it means to be made in the image of God.

There were many talks on the image of God restored. What would it look like to engage culture in areas of justice? In areas of imagination? Of race? In the approach to the unchanging truth that all humans are made in the image and likeness of God?

Wilberforce Weekend Online offers you a bonus module called the Worldview Intensive that deals specifically with the image of God culturally misunderstood in terms of gender entitled: Male and female, He created them with Dr. Ryan Anderson and apologist Rebecca McLaughlin. To access all of the content at Wilberforce Weekend Online, go to wilberforceweekend.org. All of this is available for just $49. We are hearing from people who are using it in Sunday School classes, small groups, in personal devotional times, and from people using the content to talk with their teenagers during the summertime. And from many who will use it in homeschool and Christian school environments. Visit wilberforceweekend.org.

Jul 14, 2021
Help in the Midst of the Pornography Plague
07:02

A few years ago, a woman spotted her teenage son’s laptop on the kitchen counter. She opened the lid and what she saw horrified her — a series of pornographic pictures. She clicked on an image and a sexually explicit video began playing. She checked her son's browser history which revealed this was not the first time her son had accessed pornography. This woman was shocked, but she should not have been. As Sean McDowell once told me, “The question is not if my kids will see pornography, but what will I do when it happens.”

  In their new book titled Treading Boldly Through a Pornographic World, authors Daniel Weiss and Joshua Glaser note that today's parents are the first in history to bring up children in such a digitally connected, pornography-saturated world. It's not that we've ever had a world without sexual brokenness or pornography, but the access to it is unprecedented. Sexually explicit material is fully integrated into mainstream life, as they put it. And it's also become culturally accepted and is far worse, more violent, and more degrading than it was just a few years ago.

A few years ago, I was on a panel with radio host Dennis Prager. I respect Dennis for so many reasons, but he didn't hold the same conviction as I did when it came to pornography. He mentioned growing up in a household where his dad had Playboy laying around. I had to tell him that Playboy of the 1950s and ‘60s is nothing like the Cosmopolitan magazines today, much less what’s found on the internet and even on social media. Pornography is so prevalent that while parents should certainly do everything they can to protect their kids from these vile images, they should also accept the fact that sexual brokenness will confront their children's eyes — and their imaginations at some point. It's simply too widespread.

The sexual brokenness we see front and center that is not considered pornography today was considered pornography just yesterday. Not to mention all the messaging that we get about the new norms of sexual behavior. It is too available. It's on every screen, including on the cell phones that so many of our children carry around in their book bags. If they don't have cell phones, their friends do. If they're not accessing it, it's likely that one of their friends will show it to them. 

Let’s be clear about something. The point of the story is not that kids are looking for pornography. It's that pornography is actively looking for them. It's so pervasive that many children are first exposed to pornography at seven years of age. This exposure harms them in all kinds of ways. According to Weiss and Glaser, it perverts their understanding of sexuality, stunts their capacity to process emotions, and cripples their ability to form long-term relationships. Because they're so young, they think that what they see in pornographic images is normal. Parents must learn how to talk about the dangers of pornography with their sons and daughters before they see it, even though it’s difficult. Parents must start by understanding and communicating God's plans and purposes for human sexuality to help their kids grasp what sexuality means as God intended, and to embrace the beauty and goodness of sexuality within the context of lifelong married love. 

Second, kids must understand just how easy it is to become addicted to porn. What starts as curiosity can become almost uncontrollable. If you've struggled with pornography yourself, say Weiss and Glaser, share it with your kids. It helps kids understand that our concerns about online sexual content are rooted in real personal experience, that we’re not perfect. And that they don't have to pretend to be perfect either. Together we can help them navigate these very difficult waters.

Third, set clear digital boundaries with your kids. There are all kinds of resources out there: internet filters, ad blockers, accountability software. Teach your kids what to do if they come across inappropriate material. Encourage them to come to you. Your goal is to guide them, to guard them. To help them grow in online responsibility. The ultimate goal is to help kids towards greater spiritual maturity — maturity that will help them resist temptation when they are no longer under your roof. When they don’t have the same measures of accountability in place. Work on a plan for what to do if they stumble. If they stumble outside of your guidance, you want them to know that clear steps have to be taken. They won’t have a magical ability to just wish away the attraction.

Finally, if you discover that your child is addicted to illicit imagery right now, understand this is a long-term game. It’s very difficult to break such a habit. Pornography literally reprograms the central nervous system. Parents should affirm their love for their child even though they will understandably be deeply upset and disappointed. Parents must talk with their kids to learn what led to this habit, how extensive the habit is, how long it's b.een going on, and what sort of openness the child has to deal with it.

Weiss and Glaser report that many parents miss the fact that kids often pursue pornographic material to meet unmet needs; to heal wounds, to resolve shame, to feel connected, to ease anxiety, to alleviate stress. So, try to find out what's going on in your kids’ lives that drive them to seek out pornography. Breaking this debilitating habit will take a long time. It involves developing new thought and behavior patterns. 

If you've ever overcome a very difficult addiction or a very difficult sin pattern, then you have a little bit of an idea of how difficult this can be — maybe even more. It’s a process that should involve other people. The journey toward restoration, as Weiss and Glaser put, it is not a path away from pornography, it’s a movement further into community, and I'd add to Christ Himself. We need to join our kids in this journey away from addiction. We must learn how to keep pornography from becoming a problem for our kids and how to help our kids if it has become a problem.

Pick up a copy of Treading Boldly Through a Pornographic World and visit breakpoint.org for more information. This book is a guiding light for anyone, especially parents who wish to help the next generation thrive in this hyper-sexualized and predatory world.

Jul 13, 2021
A Conversation with Dr. Kathy Koch - BreakPoint Podcast
20:10

Dr. Kathy Koch joined John Stonestreet for a special recording for the Wilberforce Weekend Online. Dr. Koch was a featured speaker at the Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth, TX, and joined John for an encore conversation for the online offering of the Wilberforce Weekend.

You can hear the full conversation by registering for the Wilberforce Weekend Online at www.wilberforceweekend.org.

Dr. Kathy Koch is the Founder and President of Celebrate Kids, Inc., based in Fort Worth, TX, and a cofounder of Ignite the Family, based in Alpharetta, GA. She has influenced thousands of parents, teachers, and children in 30 countries through keynote messages, seminars, chapels, and other events. She is proud to be represented by the Ambassador Speakers Bureau of Nashville, TN. She is a featured speaker for the Great Homeschool Conventions, on the faculty of Summit Ministries, and a frequent presenter for Care Net, Axis, and other organizations. She speaks regularly at schools, churches, and pregnancy resource centers.

 

Jul 12, 2021
Why Wokeness is a Christian Heresy
05:53

In 416 BC, during the Peloponnesian War between Athens and Sparta, Athens decided to attack the neutral island of Melos. When the Melians protested they had done Athens no wrong, the Athenians replied, “The strong do what they can; the weak suffer what they must.” The Melians were starved into surrender, their men were killed, and their women and children were sold into slavery.

None of this was unusual in the ancient world. The strong, it was supposed, had every right to dominate the weak. Cruelty, rape, torture, and slaughter were ordinary means of enforcing power. Neither the gods nor the moral codes opposed dominations. Atheist historian Tom Holland, describes his feelings about the Greco-Roman world this way: “It was not just the extremes of callousness that unsettled me, but the complete lack of any sense that the poor or the weak might have the slightest intrinsic value.”

So what changed? As Holland notes, the difference was Christianity.

Christians and Jews believed that all persons were made in the image of God. Thus, every person had intrinsic worth and dignity, no matter their race, ethnicity, gender, or strength. On this basis, oppression of the poor and weak was condemned. Neither might nor wealth made right. Christianity further emphasized the spiritual and moral equality of all people. Not only do we all share the same humanity, but we all suffer from the same problem (sin) and are in need of the same solution (salvation through Jesus).

Because of these ideas, Christianity is the sole historical source of concepts now taken for granted: human dignity, human equality, and universal human rights. As not only Tom Holland but other prominent atheists such as Jürgen Habermas and Luc Ferry admit, these ideas are at the root of our modern concern for the poor and oppressed.

And this is why it’s accurate to call “wokeness” a Christian heresy.

 “Heresy” comes from the Greek verb hairein, which means to choose. The idea is, heresy is the result of choosing one thing that is true and then running with it until it distorts everything else. “Wokeness,” a way of seeing the world built on critical theory, fastens onto the Christian idea that oppression is evil, but makes it the sole significant fact about humanity and society, while rejecting so much else that Christianity teaches — original sin, forgiveness, and salvation.

It should not be difficult to see why various expressions of critical theory and “woke” rhetoric resonates with so many Christians. The appeal is rooted in legitimate biblical concerns about the poor, the marginalized, the oppressed, and the potential misuse of power. However, it fails on many other levels.

First, the anthropology of critical theory misunderstands who we are by assuming that the only relevant fact about us is where we fit within the various categories of oppression. We are the group we belong to, which serves a social role as either oppressor or oppressed. As such, this theory rejects any universals that unite humanity, including the image of God. 

Second, the understanding of sin, or what’s wrong with the human condition, is limited to oppression. In this view, oppressors are guilty and the oppressed are innocent. The universality of human guilt before God, that we all are broken and sinful, that we are all in need of forgiveness and redemption is replaced by a moral reckoning that is dependent on which group we belong to. Human identity, human nature, and human problems are all flattened onto a single spectrum of oppression.

Given its failure to diagnose sin, it’s not surprising that critical theories lack an adequate understanding of salvation. At best, a semblance of acceptance is offered to those who accept its worldview, but even then, the guilt of certain groups and the moral superiority of other groups is fixed and perpetual. This also means that forgiveness and reconciliation are effectively ruled out a priori. Even for the oppressed, there is no path for healing; no bearing one another’s burdens; no easing the burden of pain by forgiving another.

In the end, wokeness is built on a worldview without salvation and offers an eschatology with no real hope. Though the proclaimed goal is to end oppression, it’s what the late sociologist Philip Rieff called a “deathwork,” dedicated to tearing down things but unable to build, or offer, anything better. Advocates of critical race theory, for example, argue that although race is a cultural construct, racism is an inevitable and irredeemable trait of certain groups and society. They cannot offer a vision of the world in which this sin is defeated or redeemed, much less one in which the guilty are forgiven and restored. The best that can be hoped for is to replace one set of powers with another.

Playing off of legitimate concerns about power and corruption, concerns first introduced to the world by a Christian vision of life and the world, critical theories push these ideas to the point of reframing the Gospel.

The real problems with race and injustice in America need to be addressed. However, any expression of critical theory fails even as an analytical tool for Christians because it is built on a flawed and contrary worldview. 

Jul 12, 2021
K-12 Enrollment Drops, Supreme Court Declines Baronnelle's Case, and the Gift of Forgiveness
59:09

John and Maria start BreakPoint This Week by discussing a recent commentary related to forgiveness. Maria notes a special point in the article where John states that we are likely choosing to forget about forgiveness, creating a unique honor-shame culture.

Then John and Maria visit briefly on a story they covered last week where the IRS sent a letter to a Christian group stating they didn't qualify for tax exempt status. Due to public backlash, the IRS granted the Christian group tax exempt status.

Maria continues the line of conversation from the IRS to the Supreme court, who denied hearing an appeal by Baronnelle Stutzman who is facing financial ruin. Baronnelle has been bullied by Washington state and has an ominous road ahead due to the Supreme Court not hearing her case. John shares her story and why the church needs to come alongside her as she continues to faithfully follow the Lord.

Maria then asks John to give clarity on the situation in Haiti, where the President of Haiti was killed and now the country faces political upheaval. 

To close, John and Maria visit on recent reports that public school enrollment has dropped significantly over the past year. This comes on the heals of debates to teach Critical Race Theory as an ultimate theory for the state of the world.

- Story References - 

Why The Greatest Gift the Church Can Give Us Right Now Is Forgiveness

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal by Baronnelle Stutzman 

Haiti Hunts Down President’s Assassins as Crisis Deepens

3% school enrollment drop is largest decline in over two decades | CRT Stokes Fire

 

- Resources -

Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good
Steve Garber | Book on Virtue

Muscle Shoals
Documentary | March, 2020

Jul 09, 2021
K-12 Enrollment Drops, Supreme Court Declines Baronnelle's Case, and the Gift of Forgiveness

John and Maria start BreakPoint This Week by discussing a recent commentary related to forgiveness. Maria notes a special point in the article where John states that we are likely choosing to forget about forgiveness, creating a unique honor-shame culture.

Then John and Maria visit briefly on a story they covered last week where the IRS sent a letter to a Christian group stating they didn't qualify for tax exempt status. Due to public backlash, the IRS granted the Christian group tax exempt status.

Maria continues the line of conversation from the IRS to the Supreme court, who denied hearing an appeal by Baronnelle Stutzman who is facing financial ruin. Baronnelle has been bullied by Washington state and has an ominous road ahead due to the Supreme Court not hearing her case. John shares her story and why the church needs to come alongside her as she continues to faithfully follow the Lord.

Maria then asks John to give clarity on the situation in Haiti, where the President of Haiti was killed and now the country faces political upheaval. 

To close, John and Maria visit on recent reports that public school enrollment has dropped significantly over the past year. This comes on the heals of debates to teach Critical Race Theory as an ultimate theory for the state of the world.

- Story References - 

Why The Greatest Gift the Church Can Give Us Right Now Is Forgiveness

Supreme Court Refuses to Hear Appeal by Baronnelle Stutzman 

Haiti Hunts Down President’s Assassins as Crisis Deepens

3% school enrollment drop is largest decline in over two decades | CRT Stokes Fire

 

- Resources -

Visions of Vocation: Common Grace for the Common Good
Steve Garber | Book on Virtue

Muscle Shoals
Documentary | March, 2020

Jul 09, 2021
The Pandemic of Despair
05:34

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly 19 percent more Americans died in 2020 than in 2019. Adjusted for population age, that’s the largest one-year increase in mortality since the Spanish flu outbreak of 1918. The CDC attributes approximately 375,000 American deaths in 2020 to COVID-19, but making that stat the headline of this story would be burying the lede.

Unlike the Spanish flu, the COVID pandemic left young adults largely unscathed. Only about 3.5% of the pandemic’s victims were in the 25-34 age bracket. Yet deaths in this age group are still on the rise. In fact, working-age adults are the only group whose age-adjusted mortality over the last few decades hasn’t improved. 

Writing at Bloomberg, Justin Fox reports that while the rest of the population has experienced increased health and life expectancies, younger adults — who are historically among the healthiest citizens — are dying at about the same rate they did in 1953, a time when medicine and health care weren’t nearly as advanced as today. 

Back in March, the National Academy of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine issued a lengthy report which attempted to explain this data. The culprits identified for the “high and rising mortality among working-age adults” were “external causes” like drugs, alcohol, and suicide.  Likewise the CDC has identified a surge in drug overdoses as the main problem, especially the popularity of fentanyl and similar highly potent synthetic opioids. In 2015, economists Ann Case and Angus Denton gave this collective of killers a name: “deaths of despair.” 

Deaths of despair have been on the rise for years and are disproportionately concentrated among white, rural Americans without college degrees. More immediately, these have served as “pre-existing conditions” of COVID or, more accurately, “comorbidities.” Though numbers are still trickling in, rates of “deaths of despair” worsened sharply in 2020, when lockdowns and social distancing were at their peak, according to the CDC.

One lesson here is that because human beings are more than bodies, public health is more than controlling infectious diseases. Hope is as essential for our wellbeing as health care. If we hope to prevent young adults from dying too soon, we’ll first have to help them answer the question: “What is there to live for?”

In a modern world filled with infinite choice and distraction, but void of meaning, the answer to that question just isn’t clear for many, particularly young adults. They’ve lost hope, and I’m not referring to a feeling. To borrow from Thomas Aquinas, an increasingly secular culture has removed any real conviction that it’s even possible to “share in the goodness of God.”

Too many of our public policies not only disregard the fullness of who we are as human beings, they fail to take into account that our culture is so thin on hope. For example, the impacts of lockdowns, social distancing, and extended isolation cannot be measured in mere economic terms. So, too, any evaluation of the drugs that are approved and made widely available should, at the very least, take into account the rise in overdose deaths. We can no longer avoid uncomfortable questions about human value and pharmaceutical profits. 

Most importantly, the rates of deaths from despair should lead us to rethink what hope is and where it comes from. I cannot imagine anyone would actually say that stuff is more important than people, or that our phones mean more than our children, or that we are better off alone and autonomous than with others, and mutually responsible. Or that mindlessly consuming entertainment designed only to provoke or distract is the true definition of “the good life.” Without argument, however, and through the persistent, perpetual habituation of our souls, many people have become convinced of this. The evidence is found not in what we say, but in the hopeless ways we live.

The real culprit here is a worldview described by the prophet Isaiah centuries ago, one which urges us to spend money on that which is not bread and to work for what cannot satisfy. Today, we are urged to spend our resources and seek fulfilment in stuff, sex, state, and self. The countless Americans turning to anesthetics to numb their disappointment is proof that these things cannot satisfy.  

Who else can address this culture-wide pandemic of despair but the Church? Who else, if not us fellow beggars who have found the Bread of Life. In a society literally dying of despair, to “always be ready to give an answer for the hope that you have to anyone who asks,” is not a mere suggestion. It’s a calling. It’s a matter of life or death.

Jul 09, 2021
Are Kids Better Off in An Unhappily Married or A Happily Divorced Family?
05:02

In various forms and in various expressions, the perpetual myth repeated in each chapter of the sexual revolution (as each new extreme becomes a norm in our culture) is this phrase: The kids will be fine. It all started with no-fault divorce. That first version of the kids will be fine went something like this: “Kids will be better off with happy parents that aren't married than with unhappy parents that stay married.” 

Last week, my friend Katie Faust tweeted the following: “The safest place statistically on record for children is in the home of their married biological mother and father.”She was responding to a tweet thread from a gentleman who experienced horrific abuse following the divorce of his parents. This week our What Would You Say? team addressed this question of whether a child is better off with parents who are unhappily married, or happily divorced. That language itself needs to be unpacked since the statistics are striking. Below is an edited transcript of Katy Faust speaking on children of divorce on the recent What Would You Say? video.

 

In headlines about a celebrity divorce, or in conversations with friends in struggling marriages we often hear that it will be better for kids if their unhappy parents get a divorce. But is that really true?

No. Here are three reasons why.

 Number one is that kids don't just “get over” divorce. We often talk about divorce like it's a cold. Bothersome, but the kids will get over it. Divorce affects children's bodies, minds, and hearts for a very long time. For many kids, divorce kicks off a lifetime of loss and transition. Instability is often a feature of a child's life after a divorce. One study found that nearly half of children with divorced parents had not seen their father in the past year.

Number two: For kids, two homes are not better than one. According to one long-term study of children of parents who lived in two different homes, these children (on average) obtained less education, experienced more unemployment, were more likely to be divorced themselves, faced a greater occurrence of negative life events, and engaged in riskier behavior than their peers raised in intact homes. Researcher Elizabeth Marquardt discovered these kids were not just living in two different homes — nearly half developed two different personalities. Each home offered different versions of the truth, required keeping different secrets, and operated under two different sets of rules.

Number three: If couples persevere, unhappy marriages often become happy marriages. In the past, marriage was considered a permanent union unless one party was deemed at fault because of something like adultery, abuse, or abandonment. Since the passage of no-fault divorce laws, spouses can divorce for any reason or no reason at all. Now the majority of divorces take place because parents are unhappy or have fallen out of love. These are often called irreconcilable differences. One study found that a third of unhappy couples with new babies divorced, but of the two-thirds who persisted, 93% reported happy marriages. A 2002 report found that two-thirds of unhappily married adults who chose to stick it out reported happier marriages five years later. What's more, unhappy couples who divorced were no happier on average than those who stayed together. 

Harry Benson, research director of The Marriage Foundation, noted that contrary to popular belief, staying in an unhappy marriage could be the best thing you ever do. In cases of abuse, safety must be a priority. And in cases of adultery, the marriage may be irreconcilable, but even if leaving an unsafe situation is the right thing to do, divorce still inflicts a heavy mental, emotional, and physical toll on children. There are scenarios in which the harm that divorce inflicts on children is justified, but adult happiness is not one of them.

 

Our most recent What Would You Say? video featuring Katy Faust is entitled “Happily Divorced vs. Unhappily Married - Which is Better for Kids?” Watch the full video at whatwouldyousay.org.Or, go to YouTube and subscribe to the What Would You Say? channel. Please note, if you search for “what would you say” on YouTube, the first result will be a Dave Matthews video, and the second result will be our channel, What Would You Say? with a distinctive big blue question mark. You can subscribe right there.

Jul 08, 2021
How Does a Church Discipline While Also Being Evangelistic? - BreakPoint Q&A
01:00:02

John and Shane discuss important questions this week, ranging from how to discipline a follower of Christ while being evangelistic to teaching worldview to students who are Biblically Illiterate.

John and Shane also give guidance to how schools can approach Critical Race Theory in secondary schools, is culture missing the point in celebrating someone exercising freedom instead of virtue, and how a Christian can affirm the image of God in a friend without affirming their friend's behavior.

Jul 07, 2021
Baronelle Stutzman's Long Obedience and the Failure of the Court
04:59

On Friday, in an act of what can only be described as dereliction, the Supreme Court of the United States refused to hear the case of Arlene’s Flowers, Inc vs. Washington. In refusing to hear this case, the Court has failed to bring clarity to a situation it ultimately created. 

Despite the utopian thinking of Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Obergefell vs. Hodges decision, legalizing same-sex marriage has led to a crisis of religious liberty. Barronelle Stutzman is the definitive answer to the question, “how will my gay marriage affect you?”

In 2014, a long-time customer (whom Stutzman considered to be a friend) asked Barronelle to create a floral arrangement for his same-sex wedding. When Stutzman declined due to her Christian belief about marriage, the client said he understood and asked for referrals to other florists who would be willing to do the job. She recommended three other floral designers, they embraced and said goodbye. 

When the attorney general of the State of Washington saw a post about the incident on social media, they brought charges against Barronelle. In 2015, a trial court found her guilty of violating Washington’s anti-discrimination law, ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine and the ACLU’s legal fees, and to no longer accept wedding business unless she agreed to serve gay weddings.

Her appeal to the state Supreme Court drew so much interest that arguments were held in a local college auditorium. The state Supreme Court ruled unanimously against Stutzman, citing Kennedy’s Obergefell language and even claiming that to not service a same-sex wedding is to “disrespect and subordinate” gays and lesbians. The court also ruled that floral arrangements weren’t “speech” but instead “conduct,” and rejected her free exercise claim based on the Employment Division vs. Smith. In other words, the Court found that even if the state had violated Barronelle’s First Amendment right to free exercise, it had done so in a generally applicable way that serves a compelling interest of the government.

Barronelle, represented by the Alliance Defending Freedom, then appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court. However, when the Court found the state of Colorado guilty of animus toward the religious beliefs of Jack Phillips, in the very similar Masterpiece Cakeshop case, it vacated the decision by the Washington court, effectively asking it to re-examine Barronelle’s case and look for the kind of religious animus condemned by Kennedy in the Masterpiece decision. Unsurprisingly, the Washington Supreme Court, not about to admit it had decided anything wrongly, ruled again against Barronelle. So ADF, on behalf of Barronelle, appealed again to the Supreme Court.

By refusing to hear Barronelle’s case, the Supreme Court has left her, after seven years of fighting for her rights of conscience, without justice. It has left her without a significant part of her business. It has left her weary but amazingly hopeful after a seven-year battle to save it. It has left her with the potential of financial ruin, and largely at the mercy of the ACLU. 

And, the Supreme Court has left America in the lurch, unsettled as to what definition of religious freedom it will recognize and protect. By ruling in favor of Catholic Social Services a few weeks ago, the Court made it even more clear that religious organizations will be protected. However, by refusing to take up Barronelle’s case, the status of religious freedom for individuals outside of religious organizations to live and order their public lives according to their deeply held convictions, is decidedly not clear

Even if the Supreme Court is not clear, we all should be. First, LGBT advocates should be clear about whether or not this is what they are fighting for? Is the goal really to destroy people like Barronell Stutzman and Jack Phillips, neighbors who have served you and the community so well for so many years?

Churches, Christian organizations, and Christians everywhere need to be clear too. Where will we stand? Will we make the sort of hard, life-altering choices as Barronelle, even if it costs us everything? And, will we choose to stand, in prayer and financial support, to those forced to pay a high cost for their Christian convictions? 

I’m no prophet, but I suspect Barronelle is among the first of many who will be forced to choose between their convictions and their livelihoods. The least that the rest of us can do is to stand with them, pray for them, support them, carry whatever burdens we can, and take our place alongside them, if and when the time comes.

Jul 07, 2021
Why the Greatest Gift the Church Can Give Us Is Forgiveness
05:49

The term cancel culture evokes images of screaming undergrads, D-platform speakers, fired employees, and demanding protesters. However, the cancel culture ethic doesn’t simply exist “out there” in the larger culture; it has infiltrated our homes. Our dinner tables have become personal social media platforms. 

Increasingly, this doesn't merely take the form of political ideology, it is quite simply a fading ability to forgive. In a recent essay at Comment magazine, Pastor Timothy Keller articulated this current feature of our hyper-politicized atmosphere. Not only is there a race for victimhood status and an inability to find any common ground with people across ideological lines, and not only does this make school board meetings and Thanksgiving dinners more awkward (to say the least), but it has turned us into a society without forgiveness. For example, Keller points to the dramatic shift in tone on issues of race relations since the Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, when leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr. emphasized forgiveness and reconciliation. 

This stands in stark contrast to the tone of the modern movement for racial justice that frequently erupts into destructive violence and open antipathy toward fellow Americans.  Opinion pieces are released in major news outlets that increasingly urge black Americans to stop forgiving white Americans altogether. Think of how this advice contrasts with the behavior of the members of Mother Emanuel Church in Charleston, South Carolina a few years ago. Activists now argue that not only has there been a history of white racism, but that all white people are racist; that even whiteness itself is akin to a plague. 

Women's rights advocates have also soured on forgiveness. Keller cites an opinion piece in the New York Times, in which Danielle Berrin argues against forgiving perpetrators of sexual assault. One commenter distilled her message well: Forgiveness is overrated. In fact forgiveness is not only overrated, the argument goes, but it perpetuates further evils such as sexism, abuse, and oppression. 

Keller writes, “…[T]he emphasis on guilt and justice is ever more on the rise and the concept of forgiveness seems, especially to the younger generations, increasingly problematic.” In these observations, Keller joins authors like Gregory Jones, Bradley Campbell, and Jason Manning to conclude that what we're witnessing is nothing less than the birth of a new honor-shame society. 

Increasingly it is victimhood status, not God's mercy or Christ’s imputation that is seen as the source of our righteousness. As a result, our culture values fragility over strength, and embellishes a constant good-versus-evil conflict, even over the smallest of issues. From elections to Facebook posts to hygiene practices — almost everything takes on the emotional temperature of a religion. It's especially true with anything that is or can be related to politics. 

Absolution for moral guilt was once secured in church. But today our moral status and our identity hang on our credentials as victims. Being oppressed or mistreated brings moral absolution. And the oppressor is left without even the possibility of forgiveness or restoration. “It's no wonder,” writes Keller, “that this culture quickly becomes littered with enormous numbers of broken and now irreparable relationships.” It's as if there is a race to hold the most grudges and grievances, to be the people most wronged, and therefore the people with the greatest moral authority. But as Christians who have been forgiven much, we should be among the first and especially the quickest to forgive. Instead, too many of us have absorbed the very worst habits of cancel culture — withholding forgiveness ourselves, refusing to extend any dignity or respect to someone who is a political or ideological opponent, and writing others off completely for infractions of any kind. This is not the Christian way of doing life together. This is not the way of life and birth in Christianity that brought about the best of the modern world. Cultivating habits of forgiveness will not only reorient our priorities to the core truths of the Gospel, but it will also awaken and re-awaken us to the common good

As figures like Hannah Arendt, Martin Luther King, Jr., and Desmond Tutu have attested, forgiveness of the gravest of evils can end the otherwise perpetual cycle of grievance and revenge. When we let go of wrongs, both perceived and real, we acknowledge the reality of Divine justice. When we surrender these matters into God's hands, we demonstrate that He is the One who will “square all accounts” in the end, as Keller puts it. 

Even more, extending forgiveness tacitly acknowledges that we, too, are in need of forgiveness. The Psalmist put it this way: “If you, O Lord, should mark iniquities, O Lord, who could stand? But with you there is forgiveness.” A world without forgiveness is simply an awful prospect. The only way forward in our increasingly vindictive age is for Christians to offer this very good gift that we've received from God as a gift to the larger world. If we don't, there's simply no other source for it. And guilt and grievance will consume our culture — and our family gatherings.

Jul 06, 2021
BreakPoint Podcast: International Religious Freedom Ambassador Sam Brownback on Religious Freedom Worldwide
26:31

Freedom is not just a governmental endeavor; it is an image-of-God reality. One that we citizens have a responsibility to defend, retain, to advance, and support. Not only here in America but also around the world. Ambassador Sam Brownback is doing incredible work in this field.

John discusses the issue of freedom worldwide, how governments around the world need to be called to account and held accountable for their work in recognizing and protecting Freedom. 

Samuel Brownback is an attorney, politician, and diplomat who served as the United States Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom from 2018 to 2021. He is now the leader for the International Religious Freedom Summit (https://irfsummit.com/)

 

Jul 05, 2021
Why Defend Freedom for Everyone, Everywhere, All the Time?
05:19

The greatest enemy of freedom can be freedom. One of the most important observations that I gleaned from one of Os Guinness’s books is that celebrating the acquisition of liberty and freedom (what we celebrate this weekend is our acquisition of freedom) is typical in the world’s history. But what is really unusual is sustaining freedom.

When freedom becomes not a freedom for good, truth, or justice but a freedom from freedom from restraint, from consequences, from any rules or responsibilities — then freedom devolves into license, and license can actually put us in slavery to our own passions and desires. This misguided definition of freedom presents a challenge to one of the core freedoms of the American experience and one built into human beings by God as our Creator: the freedom of religion.

Recently, I spoke with former Senator and former Ambassador at Large for International Religious Freedom, Sam Brownback, about the issue of religious freedom. He has been at the forefront of advocating for religious freedom not only in the United States, but especially around the world. As Islamic radicals in Nigeria clamp down on Christians’ freedom there, and so many scenarios like this around the world, here is Ambassador Sam Brownback in his own words about religious freedom. An edited audio transcription of our interview follows:

Most of the world’s population lives in a country of significant religious persecution. It actually gets worse than that. The Chinese government now is standing up and saying it has an ideology that should legitimately compete with U.S. democracy, Western democracy, and capitalism on the world stage. China says that theirs is an equally viable system that people can adopt. They put forward an authoritarian, mercantilist type of system yet they say it's equal to democracy and free market capitalism. There is now a competing globalized system that goes right at the heart of religious freedom. It says the State controls this space and we say no, God controls this space because it's a human right; it's the dignity of the individual.

I think the Ambassador is dead right here. We don't oppose foreign governments like China because of their progress, or their economic power, or their rising military might. We oppose their system of governance because it is frankly dehumanizing. What's happening right now to the Uyghur population is nothing short of genocide. We are responsible to defend not only religious freedom in America, but to defend it around the world — anywhere that our influence stretches. In fact, we have a responsibility to defend religious freedom in America because America is one of the few nations in world history with both the core beliefs and the capacity to expand religious freedom around the world. We believe as Christians that religious freedom is an image-of-God issue. It's not a political one. In fact, Ambassador Brownback believes that, too:

I see religious freedom as God's freedom to us. He gave us the right to do with our own soul whatever we choose. And He knew ahead of time that if we did do that, He would have to send His Son to clean up the mess. And He still did it. He did it knowing how much it would cost Him. So, there must be something extraordinarily precious about this particular liberty given to humanity, such that we should not allow any government to interfere with it, and everyone should be allowed to freely exercise it. It's about a common human right and one that I believe was given to us by God. The American founders in particular saw its preciousness, and the need for it, and went so far as to protect it at the first order. We must protect this right first. 

Freedom is not just a governmental endeavor; it is an image-of-God reality. One that we citizens have a responsibility to defend, retain, to advance, and support. Not only here in America but also around the world. Ambassador Brownback is doing incredible work in this field. 

Listen to my full conversation with Ambassador Brownback on the Breakpoint podcast. The conversation will also be posted on Breakpoint’s Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram pages, as well as on breakpoint.org.

Incidentally, on July 13th through 15th in Washington, D.C., Ambassador Brownback will join with 70 different organizations, including the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, to host the International Religious Freedom Summit 2021 (IRF). IRF is the most comprehensive event to date on the status of religious freedom around the world. For more information visit irfsummit.com.

Jul 05, 2021
Making Sense of the Tragedy in Miami and Understanding a Rise in Deaths Not Linked to the Covid Virus - BreakPoint This Week
01:02:48

John and Maria start by making sense of the tragedy in Miami. With the Champlain Towers collapse there are many questions. John discusses a few ways to consider tragedies, and how Christians can respond with a worldview large enough to hold the brokenness we're experiencing.

Maria then shares a commentary she wrote related to Gwen Berry, an athlete who recently turned her back to the American flag while standing on the podium during Olympic trials. John highlighted the importance of protecting liberties to dissent, even when dissent seems egregious to unity and the purpose of the Olympics.

John provides clarity on a recent letter sent from the IRS to a Christian organization that was seeking tax exempt status. The letter essentially told the organization they can't receive the status due to their practice of communicating a voting guideline that aligns with a religious perspective.

Maria then shared new data that shows a striking rise in deaths to young people. The data highlighted that the rise in deaths was not related to the Coronavirus. John outlines a few key points to help Christians not only think well on the issue, but potentially stand in support of young people who are suffering in light of the pandemic.

To close Maria shares how a recent beauty queen, Miss Nevada, is actually a biological male. The man identifies as transgender, competing in the beauty pageant and taking the next step in the competition to Miss America.

-- Story References --

The Champlain Towers, a Condominium Highrise, Collapsed Last Friday

The northeast portion of the building, facing the beach, fell to the ground, while other units were left standing. But after days of intensive searches, the scene appeared quiet on Thursday, with cranes frozen above the rubble. The silent scene froze heroes who are digging through rubble working to find the over 100 people still missing.

New York Times>>

Why You’re Free to Hate America

Last week at the U.S. Olympic Trials, an American hammer thrower turned away from the flag while the United States National Anthem played. Gwen Berry later told reporters that the national anthem “doesn’t speak” for her.

BreakPoint>>

IRS Denies 501(c)3 status to Conservative Group in TX

The Internal Revenue Service (IRS) has denied tax-exempt status to a Christian group in Texas on the grounds that “the bible [sic] teachings are typically affiliated with the [Republican] party and candidates.”

The Texan>>

Young American Adults Are Dying — and Not Just From Covid

Nearly 19% more Americans died in 2020 than in 2019, according to data that the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. This is the biggest such increase since 1918, when deaths rose 30%.

Bloomberg>>

Transgender woman wins Miss Nevada USA pageant, “making history”

A transgender woman has been crowned Miss Nevada USA — for the first time in the pageant’s history.

NY Post>>

-- Cites and Recommendations --

Overwhelming Majority of Americans Support Religious Freedom, Oppose Key Provisions of Equality Act - Summit Ministries Survey - https://www.summit.org/about/press/new-poll-overwhelming-majority-of-americans-support-religious-freedom-oppose-key-provisions-of-equality-act/

Wilberforce Weekend Online

Common Sense - Thomas Paine

John Adams - HBO Series on Former President John Adams

The Patriot - Roland Emmerich Directed Movie

Liberty's Kids - Children's Series on America

Hamilton - Broadway Musical

Jul 02, 2021
The Image of God Offers Freedom
07:03

Chuck Colson would often say that the greatest gift Christianity gave the world other than the message of salvation is the idea of the image of God. 

It is important for Christians to know and understand the image of God for three distinct reasons. First, the image of God has been among the most consequential ideas in all of human history. Even atheists like Friedrich Nietzsche or the modern-day philosopher Luc Ferry, have acknowledged that our ideas about human dignity, human equality and human value were not present across cultures and civilizations, but were introduced to the world in Christianity. Why? Because of its core belief that humans were made in the image and likeness of God. 

Second, the image of God is central to a truly Christian worldview. Scripture has been given to us in a grand, sweeping narrative: the story of creation to new creation, from the heavens and earth to the new heavens and new earth. And one of the central characters in the Christian story is the image of God. We see this right away in Genesis 1, in which God creates the heavens and the earth; then He creates His image bearers to rule over them in His place and for His glory. 

Finally, the image of God is critical if we are going to understand the issues and challenges of our day. The most significant challenges we face in our culture are not fundamentally moral ones. We do face moral challenges but the ones we face are the fruit of the problems, not the root. It's the effect, not the cause. At the root of the issues of our culture has been a dramatic shift in how we think about the nature and value of the human person. 

At the recent Wilberforce Weekend, Rebecca McLaughlin talked about the significance of the image of God. This idea is in all of human history. She referenced the Declaration of Independence, went on to highlight how the image of God directs our hearts to freedom, and how the greatest freedom ever won is the freedom we find in Christ. Here is an edited excerpt of Rebecca’s talk:

John [Stonestreet] brought up that time when your country threw my country out. And I just want to say, I find that offensive, especially as I live in Boston, and I drink tea. I have it rubbed in my face day after day. So, if you guys could just leave it at that, I would appreciate it! 

In all seriousness though, I am going to bring us back again to the Declaration of Independence because I enjoy the pain. We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal. Now, people often talk about the New Testament as if it condones and justifies slavery, and I can understand why they do. Slaves are addressed in the New Testament because they were part of the early Church. 

In fact, from very early on, Christianity was mocked as being a religion of slaves and women and little children. Slaves are given instructions about how to live for Jesus in the condition that they find themselves. We look at Paul’s letter to Philemon and think, okay, the Apostle Paul wrote a letter sending an enslaved person back to his master. Of course, that means the Bible condones slavery. Right? Not if you read the letter. 

Paul sends Onesimus back and tells Philemon to receive him as a brother. That's not all. Paul tells Philemon that Onesimus is his very heart. He loves him that much. He tells him to receive him back as he would receive Paul himself, his most respected mentor. In the New Testament there are ways that we are called to relate to each other as fellow image bearers of God, which is a radical undermining of the idea of there being masters and slaves. There were those whose lives were valueless and could be exploited by the more powerful. We see that in Jesus’ own life as He takes on the slave role himself and dies a slave's death for us and for every enslaved person in history. 

As Christianity starts to work its way through the West, we see slavery being progressively abolished. One of the earliest explicit arguments against slavery comes from Gregory of Nyssa in the fourth century. He asks, how much does rationality cost? How many obols (currency at the time) did you pay for the image of God? How many staters did you get for selling the God-formed man? It's ridiculous. It is absurd for somebody to think that he can own another human being who has been made in the image of God.

We're celebrating Wilberforce Weekend and it's right and good that we look back to folks like William Wilberforce, whose Christian faith drove him to fight tooth and nail against the evils of slavery. But we have to recognize as well that if Christians had truly believed that black people were made in the image of God, just as much as white people were, that Africans were made in the image of God, just as much as Europeans were, there wouldn't have been anything to abolish at that point. 

It’s right for us to look back at the heroes of the faith, who fought for biblical values when it comes to human equality and who fought against slavery. But we must also reckon with the sins of our same sort of spiritual ancestors who didn't. Because the imago Dei had to kill slavery twice. And just as a disproportionate number of folks in the early Church were enslaved, people who are clinging on to Jesus — who died a slave’s death for them — so Jesus has been calling enslaved people to himself through the centuries. 

To hear Rebecca's full talk, and gain access to the entire library of presentations about the image of God, visit wilberforceweekend.org.

Jul 02, 2021
Called by God to Heal the Poor
05:08

From its earliest days, wherever Christianity has spread, hospitals have followed, particularly for the world’s poor. Although most Christians who served the poor by healing the sick remain largely unknown, José Gregorio Hernández is an exception. He is a major figure in the history of Venezuela and is remembered today, both for his medical skills and his generosity to the poor. Yet, for all his ability and eventual fame, he almost missed out on serving God in this way, ironically because he wanted to serve God.

José Gregorio Hernández was born in the town of Isnotú, Venezuela, in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. His parents owned a general store, and his father was an amateur physician. People would come to him for treatment, and he would diagnose their illnesses and prepare medicines for them. He was particularly skilled with herbal remedies. By all accounts, his skills were highly regarded in the area.

Perhaps inspired by this example, his son decided to pursue a medical career. José received his degree in 1888 from the Central University of Venezuela in Caracas. Once he was licensed as a physician, the Venezuelan government helped him pursue advanced studies in Europe. He traveled to the Pasteur Institute in Paris, where he studied bacteriology, microbiology, histology, and physiology. When he returned to Venezuela, he became one of the principal doctors at the Hospital José Maria Vargas.

Despite this early professional success, however, Dr. Hernández was not entirely sure about his vocation as a physician. He believed that in dedicating his life to serving God, his only choice was to join the clergy as a monk or a priest. A calling could only be to the cloister. This idea led him twice to attempt to become a monk. In 1908, he spent ten months in the Monastery of Lucca in Italy before his frail health forced him to return home. Then in 1913, he returned to Italy to continue his preparations for the cloister in the Latin America Pio School in Rome. Once again, however, poor health forced him to return to Venezuela.

Even as he took these trips to Italy, Hernández continued to practice medicine in Caracas. He became known as the “doctor of the poor.” He responded to any call for help, whether the patient was rich or poor. He treated the poor for free and sometimes even bought medicine for them with his own money.

Along with practicing medicine, Hernández taught advanced medicine through his hospital in Caracas. This led him to publish The Elements of Bacteriology in 1906. He also continued his medical research., making important discoveries about the effect of malaria. His publications were not limited to medical topics, however. In keeping with his theological and philosophical interests, he published The Elements of Philosophy.

In 1919, after attending Mass one day, Hernández stopped at a pharmacy to buy medicine for one of his patients. Cars had only recently been introduced to Caracas, and there were still very few of them on the streets. Perhaps for this reason, Hernández did not look as he walked around a tram and stepped into the street. He was struck by a car, thrown to the ground, and hit his head on the stone curb on the street, killing him instantly.

News of his death spread across the city. So many wanted to show their respects that newspaper accounts said that nearly every flower in the city was picked for funeral bouquets and wreaths. At the funeral, tens of thousands of people filled the square around the cathedral, and when his body was going to be placed in the hearse, a spontaneous cry rose from the crowd, “Dr. Hernández is ours!” The people took up the coffin and bore it on their shoulders to the cemetery, and his memory lives on among the people of Caracas to this day.

This was a life worth celebrating. He was a wonderful example of a Christian who lived out his faith sacrificially, using his considerable gifts to help the poor and to advance medical knowledge and education. His dedication and desire to serve God informed his work as a physician and his service to the poor.

Yet, we also need to remember the mistake he almost made. 

God gives each of us a unique calling and purpose for our life, a calling that is as true out “in the world” as much as it is for those in professional ministry. For most of us, serving God and following His call means not becoming part of the clergy but working in the “secular” realm where our gifts can do the most good for our neighbors.

Changed this sentence's scope from let's not make his mistake to let's remember that he almost made a mistake. Changed sentence for logical coherence.

Jul 01, 2021
How Has the Church Become the Minority in LGBTQ+ Conversation? | BreakPoint Q&A
28:52

Michael Craven joins John on Ask the Colson Center to discuss a myriad of topics.

They discuss how a professional can retain credibility in their field in the face of woke courts and cancel culture. They also answer a question on how the church can care for the culture without swinging the pendulum into Critical Race Theory.

Michael goes on to ask John if Christians should retire and if Christians should preach the simplicity of the Gospel to the culture rather than engage in culture wars. 

Jun 30, 2021
When Inclusivity Becomes Incoherence
06:34

Like his democratic predecessor, President Biden has prioritized LGBTQ rights in both the domestic and foreign policies of the United States. The administration’s priorities were made most obvious in early June when an enormous rainbow flag was hung outside the U.S. embassy to the Vatican. While “trolling” the Roman Catholic Church isn’t usually a diplomatic priority, officials made their intentions clear by tweeting: “The U.S. Embassy to the Holy See celebrates #PrideMonth with the Pride flag on display during the month of June. The United States respects the dignity and equality of LGBTQI+ people.”

The number of letters in that acronym continues to grow, but that shouldn’t be confused with a unified movement. These are movements, plural, all made possible by what sociologist Peter Berger has called “modern man’s perpetual identity crisis.” And these movements based on fluid categories of sexual and gender identity are themselves suffering identity crises.

A week after the Embassy to the Vatican flew the flag of virtue signaling, the gay news site “Them” announced that the Pride flag was updated in order to be even more inclusive. The new design features a purple circle on a yellow triangle in order to include intersex people (the “i”), pink and blue chevrons to represent transgender people, brown and black chevrons for LGBTQI+ people of color, and white chevrons for asexual individuals. All of this is overlaid on the original rainbow to form the new tincture-violating “Progress Pride Flag,” that is even more representative than was intended.

The clashing of colors is appropriate for the inherent contradictions of the movements represented, such as including intersex individuals alongside of those who identify as transgender. “Intersex” refers to a physical ailment, a quantifiable medical condition that afflicts a small segment of the population. To represent that biological characteristic on the flag of a movement that rejects the relevance of any biological characteristics to gender is flat-out incoherent.

And then there’s the ever-escalating conflict between the T’s with the L’s. Given the history of lesbian activism and its connection with second wave feminism, many of the “L’s” are having difficulty with the men who appropriate the experiences, the struggles, and the sports teams of women. Understandably so.

Given all that is interfering with the unity of these movements, a booklet provided by the Leicester Fire Brigade (UK) may be the only way forward. The booklet was filled with flags, 20 pages worth, each representing a particular gender or sexual identity, most I’d never heard of. The booklet has since been deleted for not accurately representing the fire house’s “ongoing commitment to the LGBT+ community.” Exactly how the booklet failed or what it ever had to do with fighting fires isn’t clear.

The flag problem reflects an ever-growing jumble of contradictory claims about sex, gender, and psychology, all of which lacks any uniting principle other than an opposition to what came before. There’s no end to be found, and I mean that in two ways: First, the “plus” sign at the end of the acronym is an open invitation to ever more identities, with no end in sight; second, a movement built on deconstructing what came before has no end — in the sense of no telos. There is no clear, unifying purpose or goal to these movements, or for people taken captive by it.

This provides both a challenge and opportunity for Christians, who can offer a compelling vision of human value, human dignity, and even diversity. In fact, the Progress Pride flag and its acronym are, in many ways, a poor parody of the unity and diversity central to the biblical story.

In the beginning, God separated day from night, heavens from the Earth, land from sea, animals from humans, and the woman from the man. The diversity in the created order was intentional, but not as an end in itself. All that He made served a unity of purpose: to honor and please God who is Himself a Unity in Diversity, Three in One.

The New Testament also speaks of one body with many parts; diversity united under Christ. We are one house that God builds out of many stones, with Jesus as the Chief Cornerstone. In the Church, one people is formed from Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female. In the New Heaven and the New Earth (a beautiful reversal of Babel), people of every tongue, tribe, nation, and language are described as unified before the throne of God.

All attempts at inclusion, without the larger context of a unifying shared humanity, lead to incoherence. But this incoherence is an opportunity for Christians to offer a better vision of our purpose, our value, our gendered bodies, and our sexuality. In a culture running out of colors and letters, it’s a vision that is badly needed.

Jun 30, 2021
Is China's Next Leap Forced Procreation?
05:24

China's next great leap forward could be forced procreation, and it's animated by the same ideas that energize so much of the West. In 1957, Chinese dictator Mao Zedong told a Yugoslav official that his nation did not fear a nuclear attack: “What if they killed 300 million of us?” he said. “We would still have many people left.”

Recently, China announced a revision to its infamous one-child policy, instituted by Mao's successor. Married couples can now apply to have up to three children, an increase from the more recent limit of two. On the surface, the policy change might appear to be a significant improvement on Mao’s 1957 statement — at least in terms of human dignity. In fact, it is not. Both these stories reflect what happens when a society rejects the core Christian idea of the image of God.

Mao’s callous suggestion that there were plenty more Chinese to replace the dead ones is the obvious one. That contempt for image bearers was central to Mao’s worldview.  By God's grace, his theory about China's ability to survive a nuclear war was never tested. But what of his willingness to sacrifice tens of millions of Chinese on the altar of his ideological ego? That’s a matter of historical record. Mao's great leap forward, his attempt to transform Chinese society economically and politically, resulted in the slaughter of as many as 55 million people. Mostly through famine brought on by his reckless policies. His successors continued to treat the Chinese people as disposable ends to ideological means — from the one-child policy to the genocidal campaign against the Uyghur minority, to the crackdown against Christians. People there exist to serve the State, not the other way around.

The second rejection of the image of God is in the recent announcement about the increased family size. It's not due to some newfound appreciation for family life or the dignity of children. Rather, as the New York Times reported, this new policy is a desperate attempt to avert a demographic crisis that jeopardizes China's economic future, as well as the Communist Party's increasingly precarious hold on power.

As The Times ominously predicts, it's not clear that relaxing the policy further will pay off. After all, people responded coolly to the initial expansion of the policy back in 2016 that allowed couples to have two children. What happens if this new attempt at social engineering fails? Gordon Chang, author of The Coming Collapse of China, recently raised the horrifying specter of mandated procreation. Writing in Newsweek and quoting Reggie Littlejohn of Women's Rights Without Frontiers, Chang asked whether Beijing will turn to force pregnancy since coercion is at the core of its population control policy. That possibility cannot be dismissed. Chang stated that forced procreation has been on the mind of Chinese officials for years.

China’s fertility crisis and gender imbalance pose existential threats to a regime willing to respond in draconian ways. The monstrous behavior of the Chinese government is well known and well documented, but our increasingly secular Western world has also proved to miss the point from whence it comes. The same Western corporations that bow to China, particularly media and entertainment, breathlessly promulgate Margaret Atwood's Handmaid's Tale thesis. But in the real world it's never pro-lifers that treat women as mere breeders or babies as mere commodities. It’s unrestrained governments that see image bearers as economic units. And unrestrained consumers who see other image bearers as useful means to accomplish the ends of their sexual lifestyles.

In fact, it is the same bad ideas that drive the behaviors of China's ruling elites and Western individualists. The same basic contempt for the sanctity of human persons. The same basic rejection of the image of God. In his book A Brief History of Thought, atheist philosopher Luc Ferry rightly noted that the only source for human dignity, universal human rights, and human history is the Christian vision of the imago Dei. “Christianity was to introduce the notion,” wrote Ferry, “that men are equal in dignity, an unprecedented idea at the time, and one to which our world owes its entire democratic inheritance.” This notion, he said, is the direct result of the unique vision of the human person that's only found in Christianity.

Thankfully most people will never take it as far as Mao and his successors. But there are many regimes and many people operating out of a similar world view. At the very least these days, we live as if Christian ideas about human dignity are true. Jettisoning the only worldview that has ever made these ideas possible, how long can the charade last? That is anyone's guess. We do know how the world will look when the charade is up.

Jun 29, 2021
When Culture Impacts Law
04:58

Chuck Colson often observed that politics is downstream from the larger culture. In other words, the way culture thinks eventually leads to the political outcomes that we see and trouble us today. So many of the recent policy decisions of the Biden administration reflect that in real time. Recently at Wilberforce Weekend, my friend Professor Carter Snead gave special insight into how culture is impacting law. Specifically when it comes to the laws that govern reproductive behavior in American culture. He gave a number of strong examples. Below is an edited transcript of a portion of his talk:

One of my favorite novelists, Walker Percy, said that everyone has an anthropology; there is no not having one. If a man says he does not, all he's saying is that his anthropology is implicit. It's a set of assumptions he has not thought to call into question. Everyone has an operating definition of what a person is, and what constitutes human flourishing. And that's true of the law as well. Why is that? Because law at bottom is about, and for, the protection and flourishing of persons. And therefore, because it's about protecting and promoting the flourishing of persons, it has to rest on a usually undeclared vision of what and who a person is and what people need.

The richest way to understand, critique, or support the law is to drill down and ask: Is it the case that the law gets the question of who we are and what our flourishing is correct or not? And if it doesn't, then the law is built on a false understanding of human nature. And the law is not true, just, good, or humane.

The case of assisted reproduction is something that I grapple with in my book (What It Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics ). The first question is: What vision of the flourishing of the human person anchors American law and policy relating to assisted reproduction? The answer is that the primary feature of the law of assisted reproductive technology (ART) in the United States is the absence of law.

ART is regulated as the practice of medicine, which moves through a path of licensure and certification to the front-end. But pretty much anything goes. There’s basically no limit in law in the United States about how you can try to make a baby.

What is the theoretical underpinning of this landscape? 

The architect of the American legal landscape of assisted reproduction was a University of Texas law professor named John Robertson. He was the chairman of the Ethics Committee of the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. He defined his view in his 1994 book, Children of Choice, stating that the choice to pursue or avoid procreation is essential to self definition, pursuit of desires, and self expression. This became the ethical core of the legal landscape for its assisted reproductive technologies.

And, if you look at the anthropological meaning of this landscape, you see that persons are conceived of as individuals pursuing an identity-defining plan. The goods at stake are: privacy, choice, rational mastery and bargain for exchange. What's missing is embodiment (especially involving procreation), vulnerability, dependence, finitude, relationships among the generations, reciprocal indebtedness, unchosen obligations to vulnerable others, tolerance of disability or imperfection, openness to the unbidden, and the very terms “children, parents and family.”

These are understood through the lens of will; a project to be freely chosen, constructed or rejected for our own purposes, sometimes with the aid of technology. And the child in this picture — to the extent that the child in the picture at all — is the object of the parents’ will. The child is a product or a vessel to be accepted or rejected.

I am not speaking of the ideas, feelings, or desires of people seeking fertility care. That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about what the law assumes people to be and to need. The paradigm of parenthood — as we who are parents, and those of us who desire more than anything in the world to be parents understand it — is that a child is a gift.

So, how do we embrace forms of procreation that embrace a child as a gift? That is how we should measure the law, policies, and practices of assisted reproduction or any form of science, medicine, or biotechnology that touch and concern human beings. Because as human beings, we are made for love and friendship.

To hear Professor Snead’s full talk, and all talks from the recent Wilberforce Weekend (all concerning the topic of the image of God), as well as special bonus content that's only available online, register for Wilberforce Weekend Online for only $49 at wilberforceweekend.org.

Jun 28, 2021
Coral Reefs, Sexy Beasts, and the Hope of Christ for the World
01:06:46

John and Maria discuss the Christian worldview response to the receding coral reefs around the world. They provide a strong framework for the Christian worldview when looking at issues dealing with the environment.

They also talk about a new Netflix TV show called Sexy Beasts. After explaining the masked dating show, John provides context for the problems inside the show related to progress in the sexual revolution.

Maria also shares the story of a Colson Fellow who stood in a pro-choice rally to oppose a supposedly compassionate view of abortion. Maria charts her story, highlighting how God is bringing the Colson Fellow to a worldview engagement that gives hope.

 

-- Resources --

Story Links:

A Colson Fellow Finds Worldview Foundation for Apologetic Ministry

Kirsten’s story about speaking up at a pro-choice rally is the stuff of movies. It’s also the stuff of ordinary Christians everywhere who choose to join in God’s story, in the time and place where He has put them.

 

How Dads Change with Fatherhood

Recent discoveries suggest that dedicated fathers, like dedicated mothers, undergo dramatic hormonal and neurological shifts upon the arrival of a baby. Some experts now even think that those shifts and the father-child bond that creates them begin even before birth.

Great Barrier Reef has lost half of its corals since 1995

Australia's Great Barrier Reef has lost more than half of its corals since 1995 due to warmer seas driven by climate change, a study has found.

Scientists found all types of corals had suffered a decline across the world's largest reef system.

The steepest falls came after mass bleaching events in 2016 and 2017. More mass bleaching occurred this year.

 

Covid Treatment Stopped Dead


Kory was referring to an FDA-approved medicine called ivermectin. A genuine wonder drug in other realms, ivermectin has all but eliminated parasitic diseases like river blindness and elephantiasis, helping discoverer Satoshi Ōmura win the Nobel Prize in 2015. As far as its uses in the pandemic went, however, research was still scant. Could it really be a magic Covid-19 bullet?

 

'Sexy Beasts' Is Coming To Netflix

Sometimes, a trailer drops that instantly catches the attention of one's Twitter feed, and I started seeing discussions of Sexy Beasts as soon as Netflix put the spot out there. And that makes sense, since it opens with a scene where a woman wearing a panda head talks to a man made up to look like a bull with Carrot Top's hair.

 

Resources Mentioned:

Do Father's Matter
Scott Raeburn

Treatment of Transgender Students in Virgiinia Public Schools

Honestly
Podcast by Bari Weiss

DONATE TO JACK PHILLIPS

Jun 26, 2021
The Blessing of Rest
05:04

Now, apartment therapy probably isn't the first place you look to find insight into God's design and His intent for Creation. But just a few weeks ago, a writer described going through her late grandmother's possessions and was surprised by how many candleholders her grandmother had owned.

These were no ordinary candle holders. They were for Shabbat, Hebrew for “Sabbath.” On a Friday afternoon, after looking at her grandmother's menorah and other Jewish art, the writer lit the candles, and for the first time in quite a while observed Shabbat.

What followed for her was a rediscovery — actually a discovery of the wisdom and the blessings associated with keeping the Sabbath, or setting clear boundaries, as she put it, between work and non-work time. Not to mention the opportunities for rest and reflection that it brought. Thanks to her Jewish heritage this author discovered one of the most important things that we've lost as a society: the ordinances that God wrote into Creation, such as the Sabbath.

Trying to live while ignoring these ordinances is trying to live while ignoring gravity.

You might pull it off for a while, but eventually you'll come crashing back down to earth. Now, if you doubt the importance of Sabbath, just run a quick Google search for terms like “exhaustion” or “burnout” or the various mental disorders that accompany exhaustion and burnout in our society. This is what crashing back down to earth looks like for a society. It's a recurring blight on our culture.

Now, you don't have to have a Jewish grandmother to gain an appreciation for God's gift of the Sabbath. All you need is a willingness to consider the possibility that maybe, just maybe, God has written down what we need for genuine human flourishing and built it into the actual fabric of the created order. In his book 24/6: A Prescription for a Happier, Healthier Life, physician Matthew Sleeth notes that the Third Commandment is the only one of the ten that begins with the word “remember.” Sleeth adds, “It's almost as if God knew we would forget.” And of course we have forgotten. As individuals, as families, and as a society, we keep forgetting the Sabbath.

Not only do most of us work longer hours in the office than ever before, we take our work with us. Our phones are no longer primarily phones, they are computers keeping us tethered to our work. Even our watches keep us tethered to our phone, which keeps us tethered to the world of work. This rhythm, this pace, that we keep in our culture, is many, many steps away from what we read in Scripture.

On the Seventh Day God finished the work He had done. And He rested on the seventh day from all the work that He had done. Six days you shall labor, He commanded, and do all your work. But the seventh day is a Sabbath to the Lord your God. You shall not do any work, you, your son or your daughter, your male or female slave, your livestock, or the alien resident in your towns.

Recovering the Sabbath and living, as Dr. Smith puts it, 24/6 instead of 24/7 is maybe the only way we have to escape the cultural rhythm. This rhythm seems to be just lift-off after lift-off, followed by painful crash after painful crash back to Earth. Just like gravity begins by acknowledging that gravity exists and that it's pointless to defy something as powerful as gravity, God's creational plan for human flourishing is like gravity. It's not just random instructions that He gave based on arbitrary thoughts; it's literally how He created the world. Now, recovering the Sabbath, setting loving boundaries and safeguards isn't easy. But both the article's author and Dr. Sleeth gives us a model. They begin with one step, one commitment at a time.

These steps include following rules that we've been trained to find arbitrary (or we might call them l legalistic), like for the author in the case of Shabbat, lighting candles at precisely 18 minutes before sundown on Friday night. But that kind of precision, that kind of obedience, is kind of the point. These are God's ordinances for human flourishing. They come from Him, not from us. The Sabbath isn't a social construct. Left to our own devices, we’ll crash and burn every single time. Only when we're willing to conform ourselves to God's ordinances and His intent, not expecting for Him to change His rules and His policies to ours, we will find ourselves happier, and healthier. Starting these new rhythms can be as simple as taking the time to intentionally light a candle or to turn off our phones on Saturday night, in full expectation that God's ordinances are true and good altogether.

Jun 25, 2021
A Colson Fellow Finds Worldview Foundation for Apologetic Ministry
06:14

The integrity of a Christian worldview becomes most evident whenever the timeless truths of Scripture collide and intersect with the issues of our contemporary moment.

That happened for one of our recently commissioned Colson Fellows named Kirsten. Kirsten’s story about speaking up at a pro-choice rally is the stuff of movies. It's also the stuff of ordinary Christians everywhere who choose to join in God's story, in the time and place where He has put them. The following is a transcript of Kirsten’s story. Note how God brought her into His larger work in this particular cultural moment, and where she’s now headed.

Kirsten’s story:

I was homeless, living in Berlin, Germany. I had just checked myself into an orphanage. I came from a background of not having been planned. My mom had an unplanned pregnancy. I was not desired or planned. I had a difficult childhood and then ended up checking myself into an orphanage. And at that point I was invited to a pro-choice rally. Out of curiosity, I decided to go since I was a Christian already at the time.

I arrived at the rally about 15 minutes late. It was in a big conference room with a huge oak door, and behind the door I could already hear that the rally had started.

I was going to sneak in quietly and sit in the back, but as I opened the door, it slammed shut really loudly and everyone turned in my direction, including the speaker. And I just thought, well I've got everyone's attention. I might as well ask the question that's burning on my mind. So, I addressed the speaker and said, “What makes abortion a good thing in your mind?”

And he was surprisingly gentle and calm as a person. He replied in a very kind tone, saying, “Imagine a child, a child that was not planned And that has a difficult childhood and ends up living in an orphanage. Wouldn't we be doing that child a favor by not exposing it to such a miserable existence?”

I looked at him and I blurted out, “I am that child. I'm that child you are talking about right now. I was not planned. I had a really hard childhood and I'm living in an orphanage right now and I'm glad to be alive. I'm glad to be alive because God made me, and He has a plan for me and that's all that matters.”

 There was complete silence in that room. Even though the meeting had just started, it was already over. All you could hear was chairs moving and people getting up and leaving the room. There was nothing left to be said.  I realized how powerful the truth was, how powerful my own story was.

Many years later, I moved to South Carolina, married, and had children. I decided to google: “Is there anything pro-life near me.” There was a pregnancy center. I contacted them to ask if I could volunteer. They responded by saying, “Well, to be quite honest, we’re not even able to pay the electricity bill. We are not known. Churches don't even know we’re here. Girls don't know we're here. Things are just not going well.”

I ended up becoming the director of the crisis pregnancy center. One of the things I was asked to do was to equip people with pro-life apologetics. So, I contacted Scott Klusendorf (of Life Training Institute) and said, “Scott, can you give me a print-out of one of your speeches? I can learn it by heart and then I can start going to schools and teaching.”

He said, “No, definitely not. You will not be able to do that because as soon as someone asks a question, you won't be able to answer it. The more you sweat in training, the less you bleed in battle. I've got a stack of 10 books. Read those and then get back to me.”

I got a group of friends together and we read and discussed the books for six months. Then I went through public speaking training for three months. And afterwards I felt well equipped to start speaking at churches, youth groups, and schools. And I felt more and more passionate that this was really what I wanted to do. I trained someone else to take over the director role of the crisis pregnancy center and started doing more of the speaking full time.

Before I was trained in the Colson Fellows program, I was batting pro-choice arguments on a surface level. Then I realized that abortion is just a symptom of underlying worldviews. To address those root issues is so effective when talking to someone who says, “My body, my choice,” or “It's just like mercy killing at an animal shelter” (something I heard the other day).

You look at all the different arguments. Instead of just answering the arguments (it was like batting mole hills before), now I can understand that wow, these are the different worldviews that align against the biblical worldview. So now, I can go deeper and address those worldviews. That’s what Colson Fellows program did for me.

That's Kirsten and her testimony of the impact of the Colson Fellows program on her life, the impact that it's had on her, and is having on her right now. She is in the first few months of carrying out her three-year ministry plan, a significant part of the Colson Fellows program training. If you'd like to join a Colson Fellows cohort near you, be mentored to understand a Christian worldview, and like Kirsten, live it out in this cultural moment, visit colsonfellows.org.

Jun 24, 2021
What's the Power of Parenting, Why Do Moms and Dads Matter - BreakPoint Q&A - Rerun -
42:34

John and Shane discuss two significant questions dealing with mankind discerning their role as subduing the earth and making it flourish.

They first field a question related to contraception, discussing the impact of mankind remaking the purpose and design of sex.

Then, John is asked to provide some resources on parenting and the role of moms and dads. John and Shane give a plethora of resources to equip the listener to understand the power and role of moms and dads instead of simply parents.

 

-- Resources --

On the Family and Marriage
 
On the Body and Sex
 
On Being a Dad
Jun 23, 2021
How Dads Change with Fatherhood
04:53

In the 1987 flick starring Tom Selleck and a few other guys called Three Men and a Baby, a trio of bachelors share a New York apartment and they take turns bringing home one-night stands. All seems to be going according to this hedonistic plan until one of their one-night stands leaves a baby at their doorstep.

Jack is the father, but he's out of town and hilarity ensues as his two roommates rearrange their lives to care for this little baby named Mary after bumbling their way through bottles and diapers and bedtime and babysitting. Something surprising happens: these clueless cads find themselves actually acting like dads. The bond they form with this little girl brings mom and dad together in the end for something that looks more like a family than just a casual fling.

Now, I'm not recommending this movie or this lifestyle, but I do think that it illustrates the power of parenthood — especially the power of parenthood to transform both the attitudes and the priorities of men. Fathers are more than just sperm donors. They have a connection with their children beyond contributing DNA. In fact, that whole myth is losing credibility in the face of scientific and medical evidence. For instance, we know now that fathers bond physically and emotionally with their children in a way that complements a mother's bond. That's why skin-to-skin contact with dad is now a common practice in delivery rooms. And the connections don't end there.

Recent discoveries suggest that dedicated fathers, like dedicated mothers, undergo dramatic hormonal and neurological shifts upon the arrival of a baby. Some experts now even think that those shifts and the father-child bond that creates them begin even before birth. Writing recently in The Atlantic, Ariel Ramchandani  describes a bizarre condition that sometimes afflicts expectant fathers. What's known as Couvade Syndrome is a poorly understood set of symptoms in which a man experiences physical changes that mirror those of his pregnant partner. Things like weight gain, vomiting, aches and pains, even cravings — understandably. Dads who go through such things are often embarrassed to talk about it. It sounds like one of Arnold Schwarzenegger's worst movies, Junior.

Until recently, the go-to explanation was that Couvade Syndrome is psychosomatic. In other words, it's all in your head. But Ramchandani marshals evidence that something physical could be at work when men are experiencing so-called pregnancy symptoms. The key is probably hormones triggered by living with a pregnant partner, and caring for a child. “Becoming a dad is associated with declines in men's level of testosterone,” she writes, “and those declines are linked with greater paternal investment. Hormonal changes could explain fathers’ weight gain as well as their pre- and postnatal depression.”

According to one psychology professor at the University of Southern California, Couvade Syndrome is still a mystery, but less dramatic. Hormonal shifts among fathers are well documented and biologically important. We celebrate a vision of men as high-testosterone, aggressive and manly, said this professor. And that's inconsistent with the parenting role, and these few men who feel pregnant may simply be experiencing an extreme form of the natural shifts in body chemistry that prepares them to become good dads.

Unlike mothers, however, fathers don't undergo these shifts automatically. It comes after investment. And time research at the University of Michigan points to a feedback loop in which fathers become better suited hormonally to nurture the more time they actually spend nurturing. According to one University of Notre Dame anthropologist quoted in The Atlantic,, the degree to which fathers physically adapt to their new role can even depend on cultural norms of fatherhood.

Now given all this, it's not surprising that Tom Selleck and company slipped into their paternal roles so easily. Men who behave like dads, science seems to suggest, become better dads. But this research also understates an enormous difference between mothers and fathers in that they each contribute to child-rearing in unique, distinct and important ways. Ironically, the fact that some men experience symptoms reminiscent of motherhood could be proof that mothers aren't the only thing that children need. Male bodies respond to the call to nurture in their own way. This supports the claim that Dr. Ryan T. Anderson often makes, that there's really no such thing as parenting; there's only mothering and fathering. The fact is that we have a day set aside to recognize Father's Day, and even a few movies that describe it, even bad ones. Hence that on some level, we knew this all along.

Jun 23, 2021
Princeton Trades Classics for Diversity?
05:29

Imagine a software engineering class that doesn’t make students learn computer code. That should give you some idea how ridiculous it is that Princeton University is no longer requiring classics majors to learn Greek or Latin. Not zoology students or English majors, but classics students. You know, the folks who study Greek and Latin culture.

         Why this departure from centuries of academic standards? The head of undergraduate studies in Princeton’s classics department explains that this change will bring “new perspectives,” and make for “a more vibrant intellectual community.”

Not every student of language agrees. Writing at The Atlantic, Columbia University linguistics professor John McWhorter argues that buzzwords like “new perspectives” and “vibrant community” are code for forced racial diversity.

Of course, as a black academic, McWhorter values diversity in higher education. But he argues that the study of classics is under assault from a twisted and condescending view of diversity — one that sees minority students as incapable of learning and reading ancient languages, and which requires colleges to dumb down their curricula. If anything, he’s understating the problem. Not just Greek and Latin, as languages, but the study of classics itself is under attack by those who see racism behind every rock and ionic pillar.

In his Atlantic piece, McWhorter quotes one of Princeton’s classics faculty, who said in 2019 that the whole discipline of classics is “explicitly aimed at disavowing the legitimate status of scholars of color…Far from being extrinsic to the study of Greco-Roman antiquity,” he claims, “the production of whiteness” resides “in the very marrows of classics.”

In other words, requiring students who want to study the Greeks and Romans to learn their languages is racist. In fact, studying the classics at all may be racist. If this sounds just as absurd as a recent Washington Post editorial that argued the names of North American birds are racist, well, that’s because it is. Writing in The New York Times Magazine, Rachel Poser observes that “Some classicists have come around to the idea that their discipline forms part of the scaffold of white supremacy…”

At America’s universities and schools, this kind of claim is becoming alarmingly common — and it’s not just Homer and Virgil in the crosshairs. Last month, The Wall Street Journal reported on proposed revisions to the framework for California’s mathematics curriculum, which would make “dismantling racism in mathematics instruction” a top priority. Among their suggestions? Stop correcting students’ mistakes in a direct way. Apparently, that’s what passes for white supremacy.

The point here is less about Greek, Latin, or algebra than it is about the way modern ideologies (like the always nebulous “anti-racism”) are gobbling up everything else that’s worth learning. At the heart of this feeding frenzy is an attitude Owen Barfield dubbed “chronological snobbery,”the notion that we’re smarter and better than our ancestors simply because we’re modern.

Writing at the Circe Institute, Austin Hoffman notices the same attitude. He argues that by abandoning classical languages, “We have cut ourselves off from the past and the wisdom which it has to offer us.” As this sheltered thinking stunts our minds, we come to believe that “[o]ur modern concerns are the only real problems and our own insular discourse is the only hope of rescue.”

That’s why one of the duties of Christians in a culture like ours is to be people who live in — but are not trapped in — the moment. To do that, we need to be well educated. First and foremost, of course, in Scripture. But we should also become fluent in age-old wisdom, in the books, ideas, and art that have stood the test of time and nurtured civilization.

Reading the classics is worth doing for its own sake, of course. But as C. S. Lewis points out in his essay, “On the Reading of Old Books,” ancient ideas can be a powerful antidote to modern errors, like the obsessions currently consuming higher education. Only by keeping “the clean sea breeze of the centuries” blowing through our minds, he argues, can we learn to recognize where contemporary thinking has become stagnant.

Subjecting every discipline to woke racial ideology will only stifle true diversity, and buzzwords like “vibrant” and “new perspectives” can’t conceal that. Still, I guess students ought to study the new jargon well. It may be the only language they learn at Princeton.

Jun 22, 2021
A Narrow SCOTUS Win with Serious Implications for Religious Liberty
05:52

On Thursday, the Supreme Court issued a much-anticipated ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia. In 2018, the city of Philadelphia barred Catholic Social Services (CSS) from placing foster children, as it had been doing for over 200 years, unless it changed its policy on same-sex households. Rather than compromise Church teaching, CSS challenged the city’s action in court. They lost at the Third Circuit, but in a 9-0 decision, CSS and religious freedom won the day at the Supreme Court.

The win at the Supreme Court was expected, but many hoped the justices would use this case to overturn Employment Division v. Smith, a 1990 ruling which held that state and local law could restrict religious freedom, if it did so in a way that applies equally to everyone. It is because of Smith that so many religious freedom cases are argued on the grounds of either free speech or (as was the ruling of the Masterpiece Cakeshop case) that a law wasn’t applied equally. Consistent with the aversion of the Roberts Court to issue sweeping rulings, the court didn’t use this case to overturn Employment Division. Instead, all nine justices agreed that Philadelphia didn’t apply its ant-discrimination laws equally, thus rendering Employment Division inapplicable.

Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination provision “permits exceptions [its requirements] at the ‘sole discretion’ of the [Human Services] Commissioner.” According to the court, a law that “invites the government to consider the particular reasons for a person’s conduct by creating a mechanism for individualized exemptions,” cannot, by definition, be called “generally applicable.”

What’s more, once exceptions are permitted for other reasons, exceptions in cases of “religious hardship” cannot be dismissed “without a compelling reason” In the unanimous opinion of the Court, the city didn’t “have a compelling interest in refusing to contract with CSS.”

Chief Justice Roberts, who wrote the court’s opinion, put it like this:, “CSS seeks only an accommodation that will allow it to continue serving the children of Philadelphia in a manner consistent with its religious beliefs; it does not seek to impose those beliefs on anyone else.” So, the court ruled that Philadelphia did not have a basis for its actions against CSS and, further, “violate[d] the Free Exercise Clause of the First Amendment.”

Immediately, media headlines attempted to spin the outcome as the court privileging religious freedom over LGBTQ rights. It wasn’t. No LGBTQ “rights” were in any way diminished by this decision whatsoever. The media outlet Vox, chided the court for failing to settle the significant issues raised by the case (which is true), claiming that “an epic showdown between religion and LGBTQ rights ended with a whimper.” That’s only true if you consider a decisive victory for religious institutions over forces that would force them to choose between their beliefs and their mission to be a whimper.

The Human Rights Campaign made it sound like the court’s real objection to Philadelphia’s law was that it was badly drafted and, had it been better-written, might have survived scrutiny. Perhaps. But as the National Review noted, a majority of the  court sees Employment Division v. Smith as something that needs to be addressed. While it’s not clear which standard they’d accept as a replacement, it is reasonable to assume they could make it harder for government entities to justify infringements on religious freedom. Chief Justice Roberts’ words, that there was “no compelling reason” for the city to refuse to contract with Catholic Social Services, is true whether or not Employment Division is applicable.

Despite its narrow scope, the Court’s ruling in Fulton v. City of Philadelphia is very good news. In addition to being a win for Catholic Social Services, it means the court is taking seriously Justice Kennedy’s warning in his otherwise terrible Obergefell decision: Religious organizations need protection “as they seek to teach the principles that are so fulfilling and so central to their lives and faiths.” As Micah J. Schwartzman of the University of Virginia told the Washington Post, the “court’s signal for social service providers is clear enough: It will grant them religious exemptions, even when doing so entails allowing them to violate anti-discrimination laws.”

Two additional observations: First, the Supreme Court will eventually have to address the conflict between religious freedom and LGBTQ rights, including for business owners like Jack Phillips. Jack lost this week in a Colorado court, when a judge ruled that Phillips discriminated against a transgender lawyer who has been targeting his business. Second, the court now has an even stronger track record of protecting the freedoms of religious organizations. So, there’s no need to compromise biblical morality, even on these most controversial of issues.

Jun 21, 2021
The Supreme Court, Jack Phillips, and Juneteenth Commemorations - BreakPoint This Week
01:09:24

John and Maria explain the significance of to important court cases that were decided this week. One case involving Jack Phillips challenges religious freedom in the public life. The other is a protection of the freedom of non-profit organizations to conduct businesses guided by religious convictions.

Maria introduced a segment on Juneteenth, a recently minted holiday by the Biden administration that helps us recognize the challenges Americans faced at the hands of slavery.

John then gives commentary on a recent canceling of a Nigerian author who recently referred to a trans-woman as a trans-woman.

Jun 18, 2021
Juneteenth—Something We Can All Commemorate
04:35

Since I wasn’t even alive in 1968, I’ll defer to Boomers and historians to tell us whether the country was more divided back then or today. In my lifetime, however, I can confidently say that the racial, political, economic, and ideological polarization has never been worse, nor has the violence and outrage. 

No matter the issue, from public policy to personal morality to global health, people seem to immediately run to their ideological and political corners: No discussion, little charity, less concern about the requirements of a common life together, but a lot of yelling. It’s difficult to imagine a people less able to accomplish a life together than us, with no shared vision and no shared memory.

Tomorrow, however, offers us an opportunity to come out of our ideological and political corners and agree to commemorate a significant day in American history. Every American, regardless of politics or background, should reflect on a day marked in many African American communities for over 150 years.

Tomorrow, June 19th, is Juneteenth, the anniversary of the day in 1865 in which the particularly vicious evil of chattel slavery effectively came to an end in this country. Here’s the history.

In 1862, President Lincoln issued the most famous executive order in history, known as the Emancipation Proclamation. “…on the first day of January,” read the order, “in the year of our Lord one thousand eight hundred and sixty-three, all persons held as slaves within any State … in rebellion against the United States, shall be then, thenceforward and forever free.”

With this order, Lincoln only declared the emancipation of slaves within the Confederacy. Pro-Union border states and even areas in the South controlled by Union troops were not “in rebellion against the United States.” Practically speaking, the Emancipation Proclamation was more symbolic than effective.

The surrender of Confederate General Robert E. Lee at Appomattox in April of 1865 signaled the end of the Confederacy and foresaw the final end of slavery. Even then, however, pockets of resistance persisted. Emancipation would have to be enforced.

On June 19, 1865, “more than two thousand Federal soldiers of the 13th Army Corps arrived in Galveston [Texas] and with them Major General Gordon Granger . . . Granger’s men marched through Galveston reading General Order, No. 3,” which informed “the people of Texas… that, in accordance with a Proclamation from the Executive of the United States, all slaves are free.”

That is a moment worthy of commemorating. 

In fact, African-Americans in Texas began commemorating Juneteenth the very next year, 1866. As African-Americans migrated north and west, they took the commemoration with them. Even today, though officially recognized in hundreds of cities and in 47 out of 50 states, Juneteenth remains largely an African-American celebration.

But it’s a day all Americans should commemorate. Juneteenth was the culmination of the efforts of men and women across race and social standing to put an end to a particularly shameful practice on our shores.

Last year, my Colson Center colleague Tim Padgett wrote an outstanding column on Juneteenth at BreakPoint.org,. In it, he described how American abolitionists “were driven by the understanding that the realities of American Slavery were irreconcilable to their Christian beliefs about the dignity of humanity and their American dreams about the centrality of liberty. They saw that the slave was as made in the image of God as anyone else and therefore as deserving of honor as themselves.”

Juneteenth 1865 is an important event in our national timeline, an attempt to live up to what Chuck Colson liked to call our American creed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.”

We’ve not yet lived up to that creed. We still have a long way to go. Perhaps remembering Juneteenth together could remind us of the type of nation we say we are, and compel us to keep trying.

Jun 18, 2021
Your Body, Whose Choice?
05:48

In a rather stunning op-ed at CNN a couple of weeks ago, a medical doctor offered an answer to one of the great worldview questions: “What is the highest good?” Bodily autonomy, wrote Dr. Alexis Drutchas, is the highest human right, and should trump all other considerations in medical decision making: “Adults with capacity should hold the ultimate authority over their own bodies and the medical decisions for their minor children.”

The obvious context of this op-ed, which should be especially obvious to anyone who’s ever attempted to actually disagree with their doctors, is gender transition. Smartly, this doctor offered a philosophical take on the matter, since medical justifications for cross-sex hormones and body-mutilating surgeries are lacking.

In his most recent book, What it Means to Be Human: The Case for the Body in Public Bioethics, bioethicist Dr. Carter Snead addresses the growing influence of expressive individualism over medicine.  This vision of the human being “as an atomized and solitary will” which “equates human flourishing solely with the capacity to formulate and pursue future plans of one’s own invention” is, according to Snead, causing “mission creep” in the medical community. Instead of treating sick bodies with a view to heal, bodies are seen as arbitrary physical matter that should bend like clay to our wills, and medical ethics and science should follow suit.

If expressing our own wills is the first duty of expressive individualism, accepting everyone else’s expression is the second. Even doctors should comply, even if a patients’ desired “expression” requires killing a healthy baby, cutting off a healthy body part, or causing death upon request. This philosophical shift is leading to dramatic practical changes in how medicine is practiced, in many cases leading to literal opposite ideas of concepts like “treatment,” “illness,” and “healing.”

Medicine has long balanced “bodily autonomy” against other interests. We’ve just spent a year and a half wearing masks, socially distancing ourselves away from airplanes and crowded restaurants, and zooming church services in order to fight a virus. Doctors don’t give narcotics to anyone who asks, or perform weight loss surgery on dangerously thin patients with eating disorders. They can be prosecuted if they do.

To get around this problem, Dr. Drutchas adds the caveat that full autonomy should only belong to “adults with capacity.” What’s not clear is what counts as “capacity,” how to define it, and who gets to decide who has achieved it. In reality, the medical community is increasingly paying lip service to a philosophy it doesn’t intend to keep to and can’t actually live by.

For starters, not all “expressions” are treated with the same degree of fanfare, as this doctor implies. Consider how “de-transitioners,” those who’ve undergone gender transition but later regret it, are treated by both medical institutions and the media. They are treated as either non-existent or dishonest. How often do we hear of women in crisis pregnancies who heroically choose life rather than death for their preborn children? Or what of those who face suffering or disabilities and choose to live lives of courage, influence, and grace rather than accept what is being called “aid-in-dying?” Will these decisions also be applauded, or will they be used as an excuse to claim that these patients have “lost capacity”?

The very concept of “bodily autonomy” was originally a Christian contribution to an often cruel and barbaric world. Far from suggesting that our bodies are mere heaps of matter for us to do with what we will, the Christian view was that to defile the body, either our own or another’s, is to violate the image of God. Regardless of how old, how young, how healthy, or how sick, a Christian view is that our bodies are not our own. “You were bought with a price,” Paul wrote to the church in Corinth, “therefore glorify God in your body.”

A fundamental difference between the kind of bodily autonomy Christianity gave the world and what is assumed today lies in whether or not the body is designed. A Christian view of bodily autonomy (or perhaps “integrity” would be a better word) is shaped by the larger telos, or purpose, for which we were made. Our bodies are created, not self-determined, for the larger purpose for which we were made: to glorify God, to love Him, and to love our neighbors.

This is why medical ethics matters for the Church. If Christians suffer the “mission creep” of treating our own bodies as if they should bend to our own wills, whether by abusing assisted reproductive technologies or mutilating healthy body parts or treating medically assisted suicide as a tenable option, our witness to God’s greater purpose for our bodies will be compromised. The world needs this witness — especially now. Without it, everyone will suffer.

Jun 17, 2021
What Should Parents and Grandparents Prioritize to Foster Faith - BreakPoint Q&A
47:55

John welcomes Michael Craven, Director of the Colson Fellows program, to facilitate the BreakPoint Q&A this week.

John answers questions ranging from what parents should prioritize in fostering faith to how people who weren't mentors can mentor others.

John also fields a question on a recent BreakPoint. A listener writes in to ask if being anti-surrogacy is like being anti-life. 

Jun 17, 2021
Shi Meiyu Celebrated the Image of God in Chinese Healthcare
04:13

Christianity has always been concerned about body and spirit, mind and matter, the spiritual and the physical. This was why wherever Christianity spread, believers established hospitals and schools alongside churches. In China, for example, Western medicine was an essential ingredient of the growth of Christianity. Many important Chinese Christians were first introduced to Christianity and Western learning via medicine.

Shi Meiyu was born in Jiujiang, China. Her father was a Methodist pastor, and her mother was the principal of a school for girls in the city. They taught her the Chinese classics, as well as Christian literature. They also broke with Chinese tradition and refused to bind her feet.

Meiyu’s parents were especially impressed with the work of American missionary Dr. Katharine Bushnell. Although best remembered for her groundbreaking book God’s Word to Women, Bushnell got her start as a medical missionary of the Methodist Episcopal Church.

Inspired by Dr. Bushnell’s medical work, Meiyu’s father decided that she should become a doctor. To prepare her for medical school, seven-year-old Meiyu was sent to Rulison-Fish School, the premier girls’ school in China founded by iconoclastic Methodist missionary Gertrude Howe. Howe was a single woman who had scandalized the male missionaries in China by adopting four Chinese girls and raising them as their mother.

Howe lived a very frugal life, saving money so that in 1892 she could take her five best students to her alma mater, the University of Michigan. These included Shi Meiyu and her adopted daughter Kang Cheng. Having tutored them in mathematics, chemistry, physics, and Latin, they passed the entrance exam with flying colors. Four years later, they graduated together as the first Chinese women to receive a medical degree from an American university.

Meiyu and Cheng returned to Jiujiang and opened a one-room hospital. It was popular and always filled to capacity. In just the first ten months, the hospital had served 2,300 outpatients and made hundreds of house calls. A physician from Chicago, Isaac Newton Danforth, gave them money to establish the Elizabeth Skelton Danforth Hospital in Jiujiang. Shi Meiyu supervised this 95-bed, 15-room facility for the next 20 years. They treated up to 5,000 patients per month and oversaw the training of more than 500 Chinese nurses. Their work included translating textbooks and training manuals.

Two years later, Kang Cheng left Jiujiang to set up a new hospital in Nanchang, the largest city in the province. She later returned to the United States and received a bachelor’s degree in literature from Northwestern University and an honorary master’s degree from Michigan. She then returned to China and was involved heavily in relief work and social causes until her death in 1930.

In 1907, Shi Meiyu returned to the United States for surgery. Her sister Phoebe, also a physician, took over the Danforth Hospital in Meiyu’s absence. While in America, Meiyu continued to fundraise for her hospital. A Rockefeller Foundation scholarship enabled her to do postgraduate work in 1918-19 at Johns Hopkins, where Phoebe had gotten her medical degree.

With the Japanese attack on Shanghai in 1937, many of these believers moved inland and to Hong Kong, which only resulted in the spread of their organization and associated churches. For her part, Meiyu returned to the United States to  raise funds for the mission and became one of the organizers of an evangelistic board.

Shi Meiyu died in Pasadena, California, in 1954. Her work in medicine, public health, nursing education, ending abusive practices such as footbinding, and vices such as opium addictions, were an extension of her work of evangelism: They were all expressions of her understanding that the Gospel was meant for all of life, not just our eternal salvation. In all of these cases, she was acting out of love of God and neighbor, seeking to improve the lives of the people she served, both for this world and the next.

Jun 16, 2021
Clarity, Confidence, and Courage for Confusing Times
05:19

There are certain moments in history, such as the end of the Roman Empire or the Enlightenment, when it’s obvious how much the cultural ground has shifted. Cultural norms that worked before to foster social cohesion no longer suffice. Certain ideas and shared ways of thinking can no longer be taken for granted. At these “hinge points,” Christians are forced to remember who we are and to rethink our place in the overarching story of redemption.

This is one of those hinge points. The cultural ground has shifted quickly, and it’s disorienting. Many Christians struggle to know how to live in this strange cultural moment. Even committed Christians who study the Scriptures and attend church can struggle to make sense of it all. Even those with lots of answers to lots of questions, who’ve collected many pieces of truth from sermons, books, and wonderful teachers can struggle to know how those pieces fit together within the larger narrative of God’s story.

Our faith can feel fragmented and too far away, disconnected from day-to-day life in twenty-first century America. It’s as if we have logical answers, but people are now asking different questions. It’s as if too many Christians know the primary truth claims of Christianity, but not how they fit into our lives. It’s as if we have this vast armory of truth, but we don’t know how to wield the weapons effectively.

Over the next year, the Colson Center will expand the ways in which we help Christians become more deeply grounded in the True Story of reality. This is so that they can better make sense of the world and connect more deeply with others who are committed to embodying what’s true and good in this cultural moment. Specifically, the Colson Center will serve parents, grandparents, pastors, teachers, and other faithful Christians who are called to prepare the next generation for the challenges of this cultural moment.

I’m humbled and driven by what God is choosing to do through the Colson Center. Last year, during the tumult of 2020, every single program of the Colson Center grew, including these BreakPoint commentaries, our newer podcasts, the quarterly short courses, the What Would You Say? video series, and especially the Wilberforce Weekend.

In addition, the Colson Center partnered with the Association of Christian Schools International to train thousands of teachers through the innovative “Worldviews and Cultural Fluency” training program. This effort to “disciple the disciplers” continues to grow and expand, with homeschool parents and educators committed to passing on a Christian worldview to the young people in their care.

Over 450 Colson Fellows were commissioned in May, having completed a year of in-depth reading, study, and planning in Christian worldview. By all indicators, the number of Colson Fellows will increase this coming year, with regional cohorts in even more cities, filled with Christians seeking to serve God in the time and place where He has put them. Increasingly, schools and churches are homes for Colson Fellows training, providing opportunities for their staff to shape the work and outreach in their institutions.

We didn’t choose this cultural moment. Our time and place in history is chosen by God. Because He has placed us here, our moment in history is not an accident, but a calling. We have been invited into His life, His kingdom, His story. Nothing in our lives is excluded from this reality, and He asks nothing less of us than full participation.

The Colson Center seeks to serve you and your family, as well as churches and schools everywhere, to rise to the challenges of this moment, and find new ways to ground God’s people into that True Story centered on Christ the King. Please prayerfully consider partnering with us with a fiscal year-end gift.

Any gift given by June 30, 2021 will, by God’s grace, help the Colson Center expand and more effectively obey His calling. Our success is when followers of Christ like you are equipped to be the embodiment and testimony of God’s truth, God’s goodness and God’s story, and live with the clarity, confidence, and courage only a Christian worldview offers. To quote our founder, what the world so desperately needs right now is simply for the Church to be the Church.

Thank you for your generosity. Go to breakpoint.org/give.

Jun 15, 2021
Combating the Rise of Suicide with the Image of God - BreakPoint Podcast - Matthew Sleeth
27:41

The scope and scale of the suicide epidemic is unbelievably scary, especially to parents. There's a growing number of suicide, suicidal thoughts, what's called deaths from despair that inflicts our culture. All we seem to be doing is treating the symptoms.

Our culture says that the problem is lack of support; so that our government, schools, and even some churches, the social institutions that are supposed to weave the strong fabric of our communities are throwing caution to the wind to do anything to make students feel better. Some are even telling students to abandon their communities and even families to cope with their depression. We're just a culture grasping for answers.

Dr. Matthew Sleeth has been researching the issue of suicide in our culture, as well as what the Scripture says about suicide from beginning to end. He presented a very important message for our audience at the Wilberforce Weekend this year.

To watch Matthew's full presentation, and to catch more of the presentations from Wilberforce Weekend 2021, visit www.wilberforceweekend.org

 

Jun 14, 2021
Banning Critical Race Theory?
06:19

A video that made the rounds on social media last week featured a group of Portland educators in a Zoom meeting. After introductions including the obligatory “preferred pronouns,” the moderator said, “I’m gonna say something that’s not nice and not sweet, but it’s true. If you’re not evolving into an anti-racist educator, you’re making yourself obsolete.”

She didn’t mean that these educators would fade away. As she went on to explain, anyone who disagreed with the new agenda would no longer find a home in Portland education. Plans were in place to ensure compliance. Either hop on the train of ever-shifting progressive orthodoxies or be driven out of work. Being opposed to evils like racism isn’t enough. Teachers will have to conform to a very specific script. No dissent allowed.

While it’s not clear that this particular person wields the power to carry through with her threats, educators across the country face similar pressures. Recently via open letter, a New Jersey teacher explained that she was leaving a job she loved because her district had become “a hostile culture of conformity and fear.” Students were expected “to see themselves not as individuals, but as representatives of a group, forcing them to adopt the status of privilege or victimhood.” As in Portland, administrators overtly threatened termination for anyone who failed to comply. And, don’t get me started on Loudoun County, Va.

Increasingly, proponents of critical theory aren’t merely looking for a place at the table, they’re demanding control over “the menu, the venue, the seating,” and the guest list. In response, several local governments have proposed various forms of bans on Critical Race Theory. Despite the hysteria, these bans aren’t nearly as confining or controversial as the headlines suggest. Rather, they attempt to protect students, especially the younger ones, from being labeled as racist based on either past evils or on being a member of a particular race.

Still, even well-intentioned educational bans are a dangerous game.  First, and specific to this case, CRT is merely the loudest version of critical theory at the moment. Given the track record of the LGBTQ movement hijacking civil rights history and successes, we can expect the emergence of CQT (“critical queer theory”) any day now.

Second, bans grant expanded authority to the state. When it comes to what is taught within public schools, it’s “live by the ban, die by the ban.” Education is too important to be built on shifting tides of political fortunes.

But a more important consideration than these is to take seriously how ideas advance in a culture. Bans may be necessary but they rarely win arguments. The influence of particularly dangerous ideas may be curbed by political power, but ideas are never refuted or stopped by political power (remember prohibition?).

Last week on Twitter, Professor Robert P. George offered a thoughtful take on these bans, especially in the context of higher education:

“1/ I "teach," in the sense of assign and discuss, work by Marx, Gramsci, and Marcuse. That's not because I think what they say is true. I think they're wrong on all the important points. It's because students need to know about them and students learn from engaging their ideas.

2/ I also "teach," in the same sense, critics of Marxism and other forms of socialism--such as Hayek and Solzhenitsyn. It's important that I do that, not because I tend to agree with them, though I do, but so that students are presented with the best arguments on competing sides.

3/ Professors who expose students to the views and arguments of thinkers on one side and fail to expose them to the best to be said on other sides violate a sacred trust. Whatever our views, our job is not to indoctrinate our students. It's not our job to tell them what to think.

4/ Our job is to encourage students to think deeply, carefully, critically (including self-critically), and FOR THEMSELVES. That's why we must expose them to the best arguments for competing perspectives, including those we oppose, even loathe. AND WE NEED THE FREEDOM TO DO THAT.

5/ Where things really go haywire is when a particular view or ideology is given a monopoly--whether formally or informally--and no critical perspectives on it are seriously considered. When that happens, education has been replaced by the vilest of counterfeits: indoctrination.

6/ At the college and university level (we can discuss the circumstances of K-8 and 9-12 education separately), no perspective or school of thought--be it critical race theory, classical Marxism, Platonism, Thomism, feminism, utilitarianism, libertarianism--should be prohibited.

7/ By precisely the same token--and for precisely the same reasons--no perspective or school of thought should be given a monopoly (formally or informally) or be treated as beyond questioning and immunized from critical scrutiny. No prohibitions; no monopolies. Fair competition.”

Professor George understands something fundamental about ideas and about education.  While threats and intimidation have no place and teachers need legal protection from legalized bullying, to simply counter-censor bad ideas is to fail students. Not only do we risk teaching them not to think for themselves, we undermine their confidence that truth can be known and defended.

The root problem with critical theory is not how the American story is told, but in pre-empting any critique or debate. That sort of thinking cannot be successfully countered by emulating it. The only way to fight bad ideas is with better ones.

Jun 14, 2021
Mao Survivor Speaks to Virginia School Board - China's Child Policy to Likely Force Childbearing | BreakPoint This Week
01:00:05

John and Maria discuss how politics makes a lousy worldview before dissecting stories on deconversion from Christianity and other stories of conversion to faith in Jesus.

Maria then shares a recent story of a mother in Tanner Cross' school district to defends the elementary gym teacher with her story from Mao's China. John shares his disappointment that the mother's story isn't given more credence in the eyes of the media.

John and Maria also visit on three important movements happening with China. They discuss new findings that some U.S. allies have been complicit in deporting Muslim Uyghur's to China where they joined labor camps. John then makes a prediction that China's new three child policy may turn into a baby-making mandate for Chinese citizens. He breaks down the worldview line, showing how economics is driving Chinese decisions. Then Maria shares a story that many U.S. politicians are likely boycotting the Olympics in Beijing over human rights concerns of the Chinese government's treatment of the Uyghur population.

Finally, Maria and John discuss the removal of Queen Elizabeth's portrait at a British school. John breaks down the worldview analysis, showing how media coverage casts an implicit bias, while providing a structure for Christians to view the news with hope and purpose.

Jun 11, 2021
Confused Souls Find Rest in God's Image
05:19

The most common refrain in Genesis about God’s creation of the world is that it was good. Down through the centuries, many people both inside and outside the Church have tried to say that the material world is less valuable or important than intangible inner truths. This has been one of the main talking points for the new sexual orthodoxy: telling hurting souls that their bodies are somehow wrong.

Kathy Koch has worked for years to undermine this demeaning perception. In her talk at our recent Wilberforce Weekend, she reminded us about the wonderful intentionality in the way God “knitted” us together as male and female. For today’s BreakPoint, here’s a portion of Kathy’s talk.

I'm Kathy Koch of Celebrate Kids here in Fort Worth, and I want to talk with you about how God made us good. I think God is good and God is a good Creator. And if children, teens, or adults don't know that, then it doesn't matter to them that they're created in His image. In Psalm 139, verses 13 and 14 declare that we have been formed by God in our inward parts. It says in Psalm 139:13 that Father God knitted us together in our mother's womb. Knitting is a precise skill; the knitter knows before starting what he is making, or he’d better not start. Otherwise he’d have a mittens-scarf-hat-afghan sweater thing with no purpose at all.

The size of the stitch and the needle, the color of the yarn, and the design of the creation is known before the knitter begins.

Do we praise God? Because we're fearfully made?

Do we stand in awe of ourselves now?

We're not God.

Fear in the Old Testament is fear of God. That we would have this awesome respect for the creation of who we are. The verse that revolutionized my understanding of God's creative intent is the end of Psalm 139:14 where David writes on behalf of God: My soul knows very well that I am a wonderful work of the creative intent of God. A fearfully and wonderfully creation made in His image.

I have tremendous empathy for young people who live in confusion in a chaotic, messy culture. I believe that if I was young today being called “sir,” I might wonder if I was supposed to be a boy. I have empathy for these kinds of teenagers and young adults. We are privileged at Celebrate Kids to talk with those who do not believe they were created good. They do not believe in a good Creator. They don't understand the image of God and it is not their fault. Generations of young people are trying to change what they should not try to change.

And they're unwilling to work on the things they could work on because frankly, the adults around them are weak. God is good. Therefore he made me good because I’m in His image and He is fully good! So there's gotta be something here and I choose to not see it as wrong. I don't see it as a mistake. It is a challenge.

I'm surrounded by great people and I'm loved well by God, and by people who love me deeply; without that I would question so much. So I'm not a too-tall-Kathy-with-a-low-voice-who-can't-spell-all-that-well mess of a person. I am who I am, created in the image of God, and He is good.

What's your story? And what story are we helping young people who we love live?

Kathy Koch is founder and president of Celebrate Kids, reminding the Church and the world of the goodness of our Creator and the enduring beauty of His creation. In her words, we see a path forward to loving—truly loving—our neighbors who struggle with gender dysphoria.

As she argued, the new sexual orthodoxy encourages hurting young people to change what shouldn’t be changed and discourages them from working on the things that they can work on. While giving lip service to the claim that people are perfect just as they are, our culture’s fascination with expressive sexual identities leads proponents to argue that the only way we can be truly ourselves is through a radical rejection of our physicality.

Jun 11, 2021
Politics Makes a Lousy Worldview
05:27

Politics makes a terrible substitute for a complete, thoughtful worldview.

“God has filled his world full of pleasures,” wrote C. S. Lewis in The Screwtape Letters. There are things for humans to do all day long without His minding in the least. Sleeping, walking, eating and drinking. It's only when these things are twisted, Lewis argues, that they become sinful. 

Now, there used to be many things we could do all day long without other people minding in the least: eating fast food chicken for example, flying an American flag from your porch, rooting for a particular professional sports team or athlete, watching a certain TV network, or watching the other certain TV network. 

Today all of these things are politically loaded, as is so much of life in a culture that pretends that we can’t  know any real answers absolutely. To the deep, ultimate questions of life, we’re still a culture searching for the answers. 

Of course, we’re a people in need of answers. Instead of finding them in the Church or in something transcendent, our culture looks largely elsewhere. 

More and more we choose to find our answers in politics. I define politics here as more than just the process by which we decide how to govern. The way we understand politics today is more like a game, complete with teams—good guys, bad guys, opponents, fandom, celebrities. All of this is a problem. Politics isn't big enough to answer the questions that we’re expecting it to. 

For starters, politics certainly doesn't tell us the truth about real people. It's common now to think that based on who a person voted for we know everything we need to know about them. And making the problem even worse is what we do with the assumptions we make about people based on who they voted for. 

It’s common now to treat another person's politics as grounds for our acceptance and love for them, or to excuse, or dismiss, or deny their personhood. Or even hate them. 

Just a few weeks ago, a New York Times opinion writer argued that violent anti-Semitic attacks in the U. S. and abroad were problematic, not because people were being attacked, but because those attacks made it more politically difficult to criticize Israel. In this view, the victims of those attacks were pawns, not people. 

Just a few days after that, I shared a commentary from my friend Gerald McDermott on BreakPoint about President Biden's speech impediment. We received many positive comments about the commentary, but we also received many many negative ones from listeners asserting that we shouldn't give any cover whatsoever for Biden in any form. That Biden's terrible politics somehow excuses us from having to treat him with dignity and compassion. In this, too, he became a pawn, not a person. 

We have to note that a person with the right politics doesn't have any more human dignity or deserve our love any more than someone with the wrong politics. Our politics don’t determine who we are. It's that we’re made in the image and likeness of God. Our politics aren't what makes us human. It's who we were created to be that does. 

And of course, our politics don’t tell us the full truth about ideas. Right now our government and public health experts around the world are trying to decide whether COVID-19 first leaked from a lab in China. That theory has been proposed all along—as early as last spring. But it was categorically dismissed by most of the world's media. Not based on any information, not based on any investigation, not based on any facts, but simply because President Trump said that it might be true. Because of his politics that was treated as proof that it wasn't true. And if we're being fair, many others thought that because President Trump said it, that was proof that it was true. 

It is culturally and personally dangerous to either unquestioningly accept or dismiss ideas merely because of their political context. Politics doesn't determine reality. And of course, politics can't tell us the whole truth about the world either. This should be perfectly obvious. 

Politics are powerfully shaped by cultural taste. What was politically unthinkable 10 years ago, for example giving sterilizing cross-sex hormones to a pre-teen, is nearly politically unquestionable today. In other words, politics is just as trendy as fashion is. It's certainly not any rock on which we can build our worldview or our ethics. 

Politics first and foremost is merely a process. It's a way to do things. It cannot give us the purpose of life. Our political views don't make us human so they shouldn't be the basis of determining who we are willing to do life with or are willing to forgive, or willing to learn from, or are willing to love. Having the right politics isn't the fullness of our calling as followers of Jesus any more than having the wrong ones is eternal condemnation. 

Our politics today is merely a show, a reality show that doesn't give us the reality about us, or about the world. And let's be honest, the show is getting embarrassing. On the other hand, the way of Jesus is abundant life, and it's not  single-pixel, one-dimensional, or fake.

Jun 10, 2021
Are Institutions Racist, Suicidal Ideation in Teens, and a Theology of Being Fired - BreakPoint Q&A
56:38

John and Shane field questions ranging from whose to blame for racism in institutions to rises in suicidal thoughts in teenagers. They also wrestle with a question on how to build a theology of being fired and what soft totalitarianism really is. 

Jun 09, 2021
Deconversion, Deconstruction, and Repentance
05:10

To paraphrase the author of Ecclesiastes, of the writing of “de-conversion” testimonies, there seems to be no end. In a somewhat recent innovation, many have embraced a different term for deconversion. It’s common to hear something like, “I haven’t lost or abandoned my lifelong Christian faith,” I’m merely “deconstructing it.”

John Williamson, the host of the “Deconstructionists Podcast,” defines this kind of “deconstruction” as “examining your faith from the inside looking for potential weaknesses.” He likens the process to prepping a ship before it sails to make sure “it doesn’t sink once you get out to sea.”

In and of itself, to self-examine faith is a good thing. The eleventh century Christian philosopher Anselm of Canterbury spoke of “faith seeking understanding,” which is “an active love of God seeking a deeper knowledge of God.” Throughout the history of the church, this “deeper knowledge of God” has included a healthy regard for apologetics, and a willingness to ask and seek answers to the hard questions.

Unfortunately, this is not the kind of “faith seeking understanding” that’s going on in much of the “deconstruction” stories. According to Williamson, the process of deconstruction is also “about taking ownership over what you believe and potentially letting go of some of the things that no longer work.”

That kind of talk should set off alarms. In place of Anselm’s deeper knowledge of God, human autonomy and personal ideas about what is best for us has moved to the center of our faith journey. The primary, and maybe even the sole, judge of what work works is us. Even worse, the criteria that determines whether beliefs or religious practice “works” is determined by us.

All of which fails to take into account just how often our actual motives are hidden from ourselves. We may tell ourselves that we struggle with a particular reading of Genesis, while our doubts really lie in our ability to live up to Christianity’s moral demands. Or, more to the point within the context of our culture’s reframing of the highest goods, we may simply not like that we don’t get to pick and choose what to believe.

The sort “deconstruction” Williamson describes is more of a demolition. What remains is often a hollow shell of a faith, one lacking any external and fixed points of truth by which we can find orientation in a chaotic world.

Legitimate evaluation and questioning doesn’t have to take this ultimately destructive form. Christian faith not only allows, but encourages honest doubt. Faith and understanding mature as life is lived, and as we learn more of how to connect God’s Word with this world, in humility and repentance.

In fact, the Greek word rendered “repentance,” metanoia, literally means to change your mind or perspective. While we may point to a time and place in which we came to faith, conversion continues as an ongoing process of seeing, understanding, and trusting God’s purposes in ways we had previously missed. Paul described the process to the Corinthians when he said that, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child; when I became an adult, I put an end to childish ways.”

Doubt is a constant companion for some of us, and take many forms. In many ways, intellectual doubts are the least difficult to deal with, in the face of doubts about God’s goodness or the emotional struggles that accompany a particular difficult life situation.

Throughout Scripture, God is revealed as One who meets people at the point of their confusion and doubt. Consider how he responded to Mary and Thomas. He silenced Zechariah’s demanding spirit and rebuked Job’s comforters’ presumption. The Christian faith is big enough to honestly face the most difficult questions and the deepest despair. What’s required of us, as Hebrews 11 says, is that we “believe that He exists and that He rewards those who seek him.”

A wise mentor once pointed out how differently Proverbs describes seekers, those pursuing the truth and willing to reckon with it when they find it, and mockers, those cynical truth even exists and committed to their skepticism even if it hit them between the eyes. Get the approach right and ask all the questions you want. After all, God’s big enough for the questions and the doubts. Get the approach wrong, and we won’t be able to hear the answers that are there over the noise of the bulldozer we are taking to our faith.

Jun 09, 2021
Jesus is Inviting You
04:24

One of the most important effects of embracing a deliberate, self-conscious Christian worldview, and losing the sacred-secular distinction so many Christians have absorbed from the world around us, is seeing the depth, the breadth, and the width of the Lordship of Jesus Christ in every sphere of life. Once we see life this way, our understanding of serving Jesus is radically re-shaped in light of the unassailable, undefeatable, and advancing Kingdom of God.

Once Chuck Colson embraced that vision of the Christian life, he poured it into every single BreakPoint commentary, each and every day, desperate to help Christians think clearly about cultural issues and trends from a Christian worldview.

And, during the last decade of his life, Colson decided that the best way He could advance this vision would be replication. That’s why he invited Christians to study with him through what is now called the Colson Fellows Program. Inviting Christians to take a deep dive into Christian worldview over a ten-month course of study, trained and mentored by top Christian authors and thinkers, he saw class after class of Christians become the kind of culture-shaping leaders that could look at the world around them, effectively analyze, critique, and discern what was happening, and become catalysts of cultural influence and change for Jesus Christ.

What makes the Colson Fellows Program so different and so vital is that it’s not just an exercise in learning new things, as important as that is. Commissioned Colson Fellows are, well, commissioned. Because the training includes a teaching project, a three-year planning process, and self-inventory on who God has made them to be, they are able to apply a Christian worldview in real-world, practical ways.

Here’s how the program works: Those who are accepted learn how to articulate and defend biblical truth in the marketplace of ideas through intensive instruction on worldview and cultural analysis. They read both Christian classics and the best contemporary writers, many of whom they interact with on frequent webinars. Colson Center faculty includes folks such as Os Guinness, Joni Eareckson Tada, Dr. Glenn Sunshine, J. Warner Wallace, Jennifer Marshall, and Scott Klusendorf.

And, in what may be the best part, Colson Fellows study together, either in one of 45 Regional Cohorts around the country or, for those with no local cohort available, through one of our Online Cohorts. So we have doctors and business professionals learning alongside of academics and lawyers, who are also learning alongside of pastors and educators. The cross-pollination of applied faith is rich, indeed.

Those who complete the program join a network of more than 1,500 commissioned Colson Fellows, who have studied with us and are living out a deeper faith in a broken world. This network includes people like Colson Fellow Kristin Waggoner, one of the leading religious freedom attorneys in the nation, who represented Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips before the Supreme Court. In fact, my interview with Kristin about religious freedom in this age of coronavirus airs today on the BreakPoint podcast.

Colson Fellows Program Director S. Michael Craven likes to say that as people study with the Colson Fellows, many have this moment of conversion. Serious-minded Christians who have been walking with the Lord for many years discover more clearly, some for the first time, that they are a part a much larger story—one that certainly includes, but goes beyond our personal salvation in Jesus Christ.

Christians often say, “I've invited Jesus into my life,” but the reality is that Jesus invites us into His life. His purpose. His restoring work in the world He created. To this life, His Life, we are invited to join Him in the work of making all things new.

If you are stirred in heart and mind around this kind of faith, this kind of life, come to ColsonFellows.org to learn more. We respond to all inquiries and are happy to answer any questions you may have. We’re taking applications now for next year’s class of Colson Fellows.

Jun 08, 2021
Beijing’s Nebuchadnezzar Moment
04:52

Increasingly threatened with a future of economic and cultural instability, the Chinese government has worked hard to guarantee public safety and deliver a kind of domestic tranquility that only comes by limiting freedoms. For example, several sources are reporting that yet again, Beijing has increased pressure on religious groups. Beginning this year, all “approved” religions must conform to its new Administrative Measures for Religious Institutions. As Cameron Hilditch put it in National Review:

The Chinese Communists aren’t trying to extirpate every last trace of theism … Instead, they’re attempting to enervate religious opposition to the regime by taming and co-opting domestic religious belief, turning it into another thoroughfare for the regime’s agenda of social control.

Despite Beijing’s formal claims that “[c]itizens of China may freely choose and express their religious beliefs,” this isn’t freedom. It isn’t toleration. It cannot even be called benign neglect. This is an empty permission to only obey. Going forward, religious groups and individuals will be “free” to practice their faith only if that faith actively conforms to and works under state authority.

Under these orders, not conspiring against the state or even passively complying with Beijing’s orders will not be enough to avoid trouble. Proactive support of tyranny is required. In no way can the precepts of heaven be allowed to challenge the mandates of the state.

Of course, Xi Jinping’s regime, like most totalitarian powers, likes to style itself as the frontline of innovation. In reality, he’s in a long line of tyrants who, through the ages, tried and failed to unseat God by compromising the loyalties of His people. Think of Daniel’s friends refusing to bow before Nebuchadnezzar, to Daniel himself refusing to kowtow to a Persian emperor’s vanity, to Christians facing down Roman Caesars. Like Xi, these tyrants didn’t care to whom or to what God’s people prayed, as long as that worship didn’t spoil their worship of the tyrant. In Rome, Christians only had to accommodate the state with a little incense offered to the empire alongside their loyalty to Christ. This was a line they would not cross. They would not subject the claim Christ had on their lives and all of reality to the demands of Rome and the “gods” of their age.

To be clear, it’s not just in the ancient world or in Communist lands where Christians are called to conform. Recently, the French Minister of the Interior demanded the Church’s submission, saying of evangelicals, “We cannot discuss with people who refuse to write on paper that the law of the Republic is superior to the law of God.” In American history, pastors who refused to follow the pro-slavery or segregationist script often found themselves “cancelled,” if not worse. Today, Christians who do not conform to the new progressive sexual orthodoxy are threatened with dismissal from polite society, and maybe even their jobs.

Christians have faced cultural hostilities throughout history whenever there is a system or power that claims to be the absolute and final authority. It’s not that certain kings and dictators throughout history were bad men, and therefore acted badly towards the Church and other dissidents. Any ruler and any ideology that presumes the omniscience and omnipotence that only belongs to God will inevitably see claims to transcendent truth as an existential and intolerable threat.

As Francis Schaeffer put it, when describing the Roman-era persecution endured by the early Church, “No totalitarian authority nor authoritarian state can tolerate those who have an absolute by which to judge that state and its actions.” This applied to the ancient world, it applies to Beijing, and it applies to Western ideologies that demand our absolute and total allegiance.

The good news is that God always strengthens, preserves, and sustains His people. He did it for Daniel and his friends. He did it for the early church, including the persecuted and the martyrs. He’s doing it for our brothers and sisters in China. And, we can be sure, He will do it for us. We must never bow our knee to false gods.

Jun 07, 2021
Are CRT Bans a Good Idea | Loudon County as Ground Zero for Liberty - BreakPoint This Week
48:12

John and Maria discuss the Tiananmen Square massacre, the Tulsa Race massacre, and Memorial Day. They discuss the challenges associated with remembering difficult times in history.

John shares important realities surrounding the Loudon county school district. John shares a story that is developing where a gym teacher was dismissed for his views on gender identity. 

Maria then introduces the landscape that surrounds the movement to ban Critical Theory from schools. John points out the impact boycotting and banning has on our view of truth and our confidence in the Christian worldview.

-- Resources -- 

The Greatest Love - Chuck Colson on Memorial Day

President Biden’s Stutter and the Image of God

Virginia teacher placed on leave after speech disputing 'biological boy can be a girl and vice versa'

Robert George on Critical Race Theory Being Banned in States Challenges Role of History

Jun 04, 2021
Kids and Covid
04:23

Though it will be a while before we learn the full impact of this past year on children, The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned that the mental health of younger Americans is suffering. Suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts are on the rise, as are childhood diagnoses of eating disorders and other obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

While everyone was “flying blind” at the beginning of the pandemic, it is becoming more and more clear that, in the noble interest of protecting bodies, many public officials neglected to adequately consider the mental, emotional, and even spiritual aspects of our lives together. For kids, a full year without school and extracurricular activities has done terrible damage.

The merits of school lockdowns as a public health strategy will certainly be hotly debated by policy makers and parents, but as American rhythms of life return to normal, we ought also to spend time evaluating just how we did at home, as families. And, like nearly every other issue that percolated to the top of our culture mid-pandemic, the health of our at-home habits pre-existed Covid. The rhythms of life shaping our families were more likely revealed by the lockdowns than created by them.

Specifically, this is a question of three “L’s”: our loves, our loyalties, and our liturgies. If you were to ask me what I love more, my family or my phone, I wouldn’t hesitate to reply, “My family.” But how many times, while spending an afternoon with my kids, do I allow my buzzing phone to interrupt family time?

The fact is, our loyalties aren’t really tested by trivia questions or even with guns to our heads. We learn what we value most by looking at our everyday liturgies, those rhythms of life and relationships we embrace which, in turn, determine what gets our time and attention and what misses out. Of course, most people are unaware of just how much our loves, loyalties, and liturgies are shaped by unspoken cultural forces. Most Christians are shaped far more by cultural forces outside the Church than by anything inside.

During the pandemic, most aspects of our lives were disrupted, in big and small ways. If some additional stress this year led to a little more screen time than usual, that is not necessarily a sign our houses are built on shifting sand. Still, we may have learned through the pandemic, just how much of our relative peace and safety comes from outside forces, rather than from inside our homes. We may have learned just how much our family liturgies rely on a busyness we love to prioritize.

More and more, Christian parents will need to get used to saying “no” to things that are widely normal in American life, and not just because of the obvious moral shifting happening all around us. Counter-cultural priorities reconfigured around restored loves, renewed loyalties, and redeemed liturgies will earn us some strange looks, especially when it comes to money, to stuff, and to time. The forces that shape most American families today aren’t centered around real needs, at least not spiritual needs. “Keeping up with the Joneses” and “perfecting leisure time” are  much higher priorities for most of us than fostering and nurturing strong family bonds and bringing up kids who know and love Jesus.

Covid caught all of us off guard, but unexpected challenges like it are wonderful opportunities to recalibrate. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, we may want to look carefully at whether or not “normal” is what we want to return to. Or if instead, we should rebuild the structures and habits that make a home a good place to land the next time the world throws us a curve.

Jun 04, 2021
Kids and Covid

Though it will be a while before we learn the full impact of this past year on children, The American Academy of Pediatrics recently warned that the mental health of younger Americans is suffering. Suicidal ideation and suicidal attempts are on the rise, as are childhood diagnoses of eating disorders and other obsessive-compulsive behaviors.

While everyone was “flying blind” at the beginning of the pandemic, it is becoming more and more clear that, in the noble interest of protecting bodies, many public officials neglected to adequately consider the mental, emotional, and even spiritual aspects of our lives together. For kids, a full year without school and extracurricular activities has done terrible damage.

The merits of school lockdowns as a public health strategy will certainly be hotly debated by policy makers and parents, but as American rhythms of life return to normal, we ought also to spend time evaluating just how we did at home, as families. And, like nearly every other issue that percolated to the top of our culture mid-pandemic, the health of our at-home habits pre-existed Covid. The rhythms of life shaping our families were more likely revealed by the lockdowns than created by them.

Specifically, this is a question of three “L’s”: our loves, our loyalties, and our liturgies. If you were to ask me what I love more, my family or my phone, I wouldn’t hesitate to reply, “My family.” But how many times, while spending an afternoon with my kids, do I allow my buzzing phone to interrupt family time?

The fact is, our loyalties aren’t really tested by trivia questions or even with guns to our heads. We learn what we value most by looking at our everyday liturgies, those rhythms of life and relationships we embrace which, in turn, determine what gets our time and attention and what misses out. Of course, most people are unaware of just how much our loves, loyalties, and liturgies are shaped by unspoken cultural forces. Most Christians are shaped far more by cultural forces outside the Church than by anything inside.

During the pandemic, most aspects of our lives were disrupted, in big and small ways. If some additional stress this year led to a little more screen time than usual, that is not necessarily a sign our houses are built on shifting sand. Still, we may have learned through the pandemic, just how much of our relative peace and safety comes from outside forces, rather than from inside our homes. We may have learned just how much our family liturgies rely on a busyness we love to prioritize.

More and more, Christian parents will need to get used to saying “no” to things that are widely normal in American life, and not just because of the obvious moral shifting happening all around us. Counter-cultural priorities reconfigured around restored loves, renewed loyalties, and redeemed liturgies will earn us some strange looks, especially when it comes to money, to stuff, and to time. The forces that shape most American families today aren’t centered around real needs, at least not spiritual needs. “Keeping up with the Joneses” and “perfecting leisure time” are  much higher priorities for most of us than fostering and nurturing strong family bonds and bringing up kids who know and love Jesus.

Covid caught all of us off guard, but unexpected challenges like it are wonderful opportunities to recalibrate. Now that the pandemic is subsiding, we may want to look carefully at whether or not “normal” is what we want to return to. Or if instead, we should rebuild the structures and habits that make a home a good place to land the next time the world throws us a curve.

Jun 04, 2021
Jane Goodall Sees Intelligent Design But Misses God's Image
05:06

Jane Goodall, the primatologist famous for living with chimpanzees and revealing their behaviors, has won the 2021 Templeton Prize. The prize honors those who “harness the power of the sciences to explore the deepest questions of the universe and humankind’s place and purpose within it.”

Goodall follows last year’s winner, Francis Collins, director of the National Institutes of Health, who led the Human Genome Project in mapping DNA. She also joins decades of laureates including Chuck Colson, who received the award in 1993 for progress in religion.

At 87 years old, Goodall is a legend, and an obvious choice for the award, not just because of her work as a naturalist, but for rejecting naturalism as a worldview.

In an interview with Religion News Service, she revealed that her time with the chimps in Tanzania gave her a “strong feeling of spiritual connection with the natural world.”

She went on to say: “…more scientists are saying there’s an intelligence behind the universe, that’s basically what the Templeton Foundation is about: We don’t live in only a materialistic world. Francis Collins drove home that in every single cell in your body there’s a code of several billion instructions. Could that be chance? No…[C]hance mutations couldn’t possibly lead to the complexity of life on earth.”

She concluded: “…[S]cience and religion are coming together and more minds are seeing purpose behind the universe and intelligence.”

Intelligent design theorists who have spent decades trying to break the stranglehold of materialism on science can say “amen” to that. Yet Goodall’s eye for purpose and intelligence when it comes to the natural world seems to fail her when she looks in the mirror.

As Elizabeth Whately points out at Evolution News, Goodall has gone to great lengths to downplay the uniqueness of human beings. In the same interview, the primatologist scoffs: “I was actually taught in the early 1960s that the difference between us and animals was one of kind. We were elevated onto a pinnacle, separate from all the others. But my dog as a child had already taught me that wasn’t true…we’re not the only beings with personalities, minds and emotions.”

Goodall is also a longtime supporter of the Great Apes Personhood project, which seeks to confer human rights on primates. This blurring of the line between humans and animals is far from harmless. Fellow Great Apes Personhood supporters Richard Dawkins and Peter Singer have famously endorsed selective abortion and infanticide, and in Singer’s case, have declared the worth of an adult pig to be greater than that of a person with mental disabilities.

For all Goodall’s talk of “intelligence,” “purpose,” and a “spark of divine energy” in living things, she misses the utterly unique place of human beings in creation. She’s not alone.

Recently, National Geographic released a documentary series by James Cameron entitled “Secrets of the Whales.” The underwater photography is breathtaking, and some of the behaviors this team captured among orcas, belugas, humpbacks, and sperm whales have never before been filmed. 

Yet the narration by Sigourney Weaver is bogged down with anthropomorphic claims that whales have “culture,” “language,” and even self-awareness, making them “just like us.”

At no point does the series acknowledge the irony of making such a claim while only humans hold the cameras, breathe from SCUBA gear, engage in scientific reasoning, or sit in their living rooms reflecting on what all this natural wonder means.

In spite of Cameron’s childlike awe for living things, and in spite of Goodall’s recognition that creation didn’t create itself, both miss (or ignore) the most crucial fact: that one creature alone bears the image of its Creator.

Indeed, the very curiosity that drove Goodall into the Tanzanian forest and the National Geographic crew into the briny depths leads us all to ask with the Psalmist: “What is man that you are mindful of him?” The answer is in the asking. No other creature reflects on its role and place in creation or its relationship with the Creator. 

Jun 03, 2021
How Should I Engage Local Businesses Hosting Adults Only Fundraisers for Youth LGBTQ Clubs - BreakPoint Q&A
42:03

John and Shane provide encouragement for a listener whose community is hosting a gay pride weekend. A number of local businesses in this area are hosting adults-only fundraisers for the local teen LGBTQ+ organization. How can Christians correctly encourage the community in light of businesses that fail to think well about the LGBTQ+ lifestyle and the consequences of encouraging its ideology to young people?

Shane then shares a question seeking clarity on God's design for marriage. The listener is concerned that the emphasis of procreation on marriage may insinuate some unions don't represent the image of God. In response, John speaks to a Christian worldview of marriage, encouraging believers to understand the expansive nature of God's design.

To close, John replies to a pushback to a recent BreakPoint commentary critiquing the #LeaveLoud campaign. A listener argues that his majority white church doesn't understand the challenges of being a black man in their community and asks what kind of response he should give in such a situation. John and Shane offer important points on the purpose and role of Church, with John asking the man to engage his neighbors by providing feedback on important cultural realities for the church to understand.

Jun 02, 2021
Nothing New Under the Sun
06:44

In his important book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Dr. Carl Trueman argues that the key idea of our current cultural moment is expressive individualism. The only way to be “true to ourselves,” we are told, is to define who we really are psychologically and sexually. This means that our identity is only truly known to ourselves, and others are morally responsible to embrace whoever or whatever we claim about ourselves even if, or especially if, what we reveal contradicts any observable realities.

The Gnostics believed that there is a sharp distinction between the material and spiritual worlds, with the former being evil and the latter good. Since humans are both material and spiritual beings, our physical bodies are evil but our souls are good, possibly even fragments of God that yearn to return to Him. But they can’t do this while trapped in our bodies.

Salvation comes through secret knowledge, known as gnosis in Greek, hence Gnosticism. This knowledge differed from group to group. For one group, the secret knowledge was in passwords that would allow adherents to pass through crystal spheres until arriving at the highest heaven, the realm of pure Spirit.

Gnosticism arose in parallel with Christianity. Some Gnostics considered themselves Christian, arguing that the God of the Old Testament was evil since He created the material world. The Father of Jesus, in contrast, was the true God and operated in the realm of spirit without mucking around with the material world. Some of these Gnostics even believed that Jesus was not a true physical being but only appeared to be one, an idea known as docetism.

So, what does all this mean for how we live? Different Gnostic sects had different answers. For some, the body was a hindrance to spiritual development, and so they adopted an austere lifestyle. They might become vegetarians, drink only water rather than wine, and abstain from sexual activity. The last is particularly important since it could lead to babies, trapping another soul into a body. For others, the body was irrelevant to the spirit, and so they would adopt a hedonistic lifestyle, participating in orgies and the like, since these activities don’t touch the soul.

Although the details are different from ancient Gnosticism, our culture is awash with Gnostic concepts. It starts with the idea that we need to be true to ourselves, that if we follow the secret knowledge within us we will live a happy and authentic life. External rules about behavior shouldn’t hold us back from the things we know in our soul will make us happy. As Woody Allen said to justify his affair with his girlfriend Mia Farrow’s daughter, “The heart wants what the heart wants”—and following our heart, that secret knowledge within us, is the advice pop culture consistently drums into children and young adults.

Thus, we follow both sides of ancient Gnosticism: We are sexually promiscuous but anti-natal, since children would hinder our pursuit of our happiness and truth.

Looking within for our truth reaches its logical conclusion in transgenderism, the idea that our true self has nothing to do with our bodies. But, this Neo-Gnostic orthodoxy has nothing in common with God’s Word or the reality of His world and the place of our bodies within it.

The story of the Bible is that God created us good, both in body and soul, even if sin has marred both. Our own intuitions about ourselves, and about right and wrong are hopelessly distorted by sin, and so God in His mercy gave us His revelation to tell us about ourselves and to teach us what is good.

Despite the reality of sin all around us, God doesn’t make mistakes. Our bodies and souls are matched to each other, and any attempt to fight this will result in more brokenness in our lives. As Ryan T. Anderson put it recently at Wilberforce Weekend, "No one is born in the wrong body, because you are not 'in' a body. You are a body." God’s directions for how to live are better for us than the advice of either our fallen desires or our fallen culture. We don’t need secret, private truth. God has told us who we are, how we are to live, and united us with Christ who is the Truth to empower us to live in truth. 

Jun 02, 2021
President Biden's Stutter and the Image of God
08:27

Because everyone is made in the image and likeness of God we have a responsibility to honor them as such. Even those we think are very, very wrong.

In this cultural moment where everything from movies to sports to even the church is politicized, it’s too easy to let our partisan team spirit shape whether or not we obey God and love our neighbors. But this part of the great commandment isn’t optional. and we’ll never be able to love others, especially those that are on the other side, those we think are very wrong, unless we settle the question of who they are. Image bearers who, like us, are corrupted by sin.

Dr. Gerald McDermott is a friend and a brilliant scholar, and today on BreakPoint he shares an observation of seeing the Imago Dei in the life of one he’s not inclined to view very favorably. Here’s Dr. McDermott:

It is hard for me to think of any Biden policies that I think are helpful to this country.  Yet I must admit that I have deep sympathy for his struggle with stuttering. And I admire the grit he displays in soldiering on despite it.

By now most of America has heard about the President’s stutter, his honesty about it, and the perseverance he has shown trying to fight it.  We have heard about the failure of his childhood speech therapy to cure it, his being bullied and mocked in school for it, the feeling of being betrayed by his own body, reciting Irish poetry rhythmically in front of a mirror to help control his tongue, and his vows to never give up fighting it.  Keep pushing.  Don’t let it define you.

Non-stutterers have little idea of the nightmares of the average stutterer.  Unless they have seen the 2010 movie “The King’s Speech,” many who hear stutterers block on words think it might be trivial or a minor annoyance at most.  But they don’t know the times when occasional blocks mysteriously morph into paralysis, when even sounds that are normally effortless become mountains to climb.  They have no idea of the apprehension when answering the phone, or the nervousness when, caught in conversation that goes quickly, we stutterers are afraid we won’t be able to reply at the right pace, and all eyes will turn to us as the conversation suddenly stops.  They don’t know of the worry for weeks about upcoming speeches or presentations—not over what to say but whether we can get our tongue to cooperate. 

Other famous stutterers showed grit similar to Biden’s. The ancient Athenian orator-statesman Demosthenes had a weak voice, and could not pronounce correctly words that started with “r.”  Yet Demosthenes became a great speaker by persistent determination. He practiced his speeches in a cave, repeated words with the “r” sound thousands of times, and ran up hills to strengthen his weak frame.  Greater body strength helped him project his voice, which was essential in a world without microphones. 

The Yankee hero of the Battle of Gettysburg Joshua Chamberlain resolved when he was young that his stuttering was “intolerable.” Rather than despair, he determined he would do whatever it took to find improvement.  By strength of will and using a song-like rhythm, he eventually reached a state where he could get through nine of ten difficult words with no trouble.  He was elected governor of Maine four times and after retirement went on the speakers’ circuit.

Winston Churchill practiced his speeches in the bathtub and spent hours rehearsing every speech.  Repeated practice was his response to the terror he experienced early in his career when he lost his train of thought in a speech in Parliament. He had a complicated set of speech defects, one of which was stuttering.  But disciplined practice helped him grow to become one of the world’s greatest orators.

Biden reminds me of John Updike, the great American novelist.  He too stuttered, and like Biden he was a religious man of inner contradictions that were resolved by forging a faith that was captive to the spirit of the age.

No one has ever described stuttering with such dead-on precision.  Once Updike compared it to a traffic jam.  “I have lots of words inside me: but at moments, like rush-hour traffic at the mouth of a tunnel, they jam.”

He painted a picture of facial tics that will make any relative of a stutterer groan with recognition.  “Viewing myself on taped television, I see the repulsive symptoms of an approaching stammer take possession of my face—an electronically rapid flutter of the eyelids, a distortion of the mouth as of a leather purse being cinched, a terrified hardening of the upper lip, a fatal tensing and lifting of the voice.”

All stutterers will nod knowingly when they hear him refer to that “untrustworthy” part of himself that “can collapse at awkward or anxious moments into a stutter.”  They might smile at his philosophical conclusion that stuttering is a sign of the “duality of our existence, the ability of the body and soul to say no to one another.”  Or his reflection that a stammer is the acknowledgement of unacknowledged complexities surrounding even the simplest of verbal exchanges.

They might laugh, as I did, when they read his depiction of stuttering as negotiating an obstacle course with an unhappy ending:  “Sometimes, it is as if I have, hurrying to the end of my spoken sentence, carefully picked and plotted my way out of a room full of obstacles, and having almost attained (stealthily, cunningly) the door, I trip, calling painful attention to myself and spilling all the beans.”

Updike was a serial adulterer and public Christian at the same time.  He resolved this contradiction by constructing a Christianity of comfort without commands, a gospel of love without holiness. Biden’s own contradictions include his claim to be a serious Catholic while promoting a holocaust of the unborn. Or his declaration that he supports religious freedom while promoting the Equality Act that would make felons of orthodox believers.  Biden would have approved Updike’s declaration that religion includes “an acceptance and consecration of what is,” as long as the “is” includes the dogmas of the sexual revolution.

How can I love the man when I think he is presiding happily over the destruction of little human beings and the meltdown of our republic?  Well, I can remember Jesus’ command to love my (political and ideological) enemies.  Recognizing Biden’s struggle with the same demon that has afflicted me helps me understand how to follow the apostle Paul’s admonition to “think of others as better than yourself” (Phil 2:3). My own speech therapy as an adult at a world-class facility gave me a breakthrough that Biden has apparently not been able to enjoy.  Yet he has been willing to expose his affliction to the world in ways I might never have tolerated. I have to give him credit for that.

Biden’s infamous gaffes and public non -sequiturs might be as much from the stuttering demon as from alleged dementia.  I know what it is like to block on words and search for substitutes, sometimes changing direction when the search comes up empty.

So I have sympathy for his struggle and admire his determination to plough ahead.  At the same time I hope his policies are frustrated.

Gerald McDermott is the author of Famous Stutterers: Twelve inspiring people who achieved great things while struggling with an impediment.

Jun 01, 2021
BreakPoint Podcast - Glenn Stanton on the Mission of Strong Women
01:04:34

John welcomes the Strong Women team to share a recent episode of the Strong Women podcast where Glenn Stanton dove into the theme of Strong Women. The episode reflects conversations John, Maria, and Shane have had on the BreakPoint Podcast recently. 

May 31, 2021
The Greatest Love
03:55

Today on BreakPoint, we hear Chuck Colson’s thoughts on Memorial Day and what he called, “The Greatest Love.”:

"It was February of 1945—three months before the end of World War II in Europe. Eighteen-year-old Sergeant Joseph George of Waynesboro, Pennsylvania, was stationed in Lorient, France. It was evening, and George was preparing to go on patrol. The Americans were hoping to locate landmines buried by the Germans.

Sergeant George had been on patrol duty the night before. As he told his friend Private James Caudill, he was tired—tired and scared. Private Caudill offered to take the patrol on his behalf. He pointed out that, at age 36, he was nearly two decades older than George. He told George—who had already been blown off a torpedoed ship in the English Channel—“You’re young. Go home. Get married. Live a rich, full life.” And then Private Caudill went out on patrol. A few hours later, he was killed by a German sniper.

The actions of Private Caudill echo the values and valor of generations of military men and women we remember today. And they are an example of the sort of behavior we almost take for granted when it comes to our men and women in uniform who fight just wars.

What is a just war? One that is defined as providing a proportionate response to evil, to protect non-combatants, among other considerations. Today, our military men and women around the world are fighting to resist evil. Ridding the world of Islamo-fascism—by just means—is a good and loving act.

This willingness to sacrifice on behalf of our neighbors is why military service is considered such a high calling for Christians—and part of what makes just wars just. Thomas Aquinas in the Summa Theologica puts his discussion of just war in his chapter on charity—the love of God and neighbor. John Calvin agreed; he called soldiering justly a “God-like act,” because “it imitates God’s restraining evil out of love for His creatures.”

A world in which free nations refuse to fight just wars would be a world where evil is unchecked and where the strong would be free to prey on the weak—as we are now seeing in Darfur.

Our soldiers’ willingness to defend the defenseless around the world makes me proud to be an American. Their willingness to lay down their lives is a reflection of how the Christian worldview has influenced our society, which is why American soldiers, by the way, are welcomed all over the world, as historian Stephen Ambrose wrote, while soldiers from other cultures are feared.

So what of Sgt. Joseph George? He returned safely home. He married, fathered five sons. One of them—Princeton Professor Robert George—is a good friend of mine. He’s devoted much of his life to fighting the moral evils of our time: abortion, embryo-destructive research, and efforts to redefine marriage in a way that would destroy it.

In John 15:13, Jesus said, “Greater love has no man than this, that [he] lay down his life for his friends.” The story of Private Caudill and Sergeant George makes one realize more deeply what a tremendous gift this is. It’s why the George family has remembered Private Caudill in prayers for sixty-one years.

Today, Memorial Day, we ought to remember the sacrifices of all the Private Caudills in all the wars Americans have fought—and we should pray for those who are still in the field—laying down their lives for each other, for us, and for the freedom of strangers. That’s a very Christian thing to do."

May 31, 2021
Baseball Fights, Punching Stewardesses, and New Civil Rage - BreakPoint This Week
01:21:46

John and Maria discuss a perceived rise recently in acts of desperation and feelings of despair. There are growing reports of altercations at sporting events and in public settings pointing to a failing sense of trust in institutions.

Maria looks to another trend in media where people are questioning the origin of the Coronavirus. John then highlights the challenge the public is having in trusting those who are in positions of authority.

Before these two important topics, Maria and John discuss the impact Wilberforce weekend made on them, specifically the importance of understanding the image of God, a central theme throughout the entire presentation of BreakPoint This Week.

May 28, 2021
Kids are for Kids' Sake, Not Ours
04:26

Recently, New York Times opinion writer Elizabeth Bruenig broke the internet for a bombshell confession that, wait for it, she likes being a mom. Her piece, “I Became a Mother at 25, and I’m Not Sorry I Didn’t Wait” was a beautifully written essay about how motherhood grew and changed her.

Nothing she said was controversial… unless you’re on Twitter, of course. Responses on social media were swift and angry, and ranged from strange to cruel to violent. Many missed, given their expressed pro-choice commitments, the irony of being angry at a choice to have kids.

Of course, it’s simply no longer accurate for this movement to call itself “pro-choice” anymore. Modern feminism is definitively pro-abortion with extremes that have no interest in women making their own choices. There’s only one particular choice that is always acceptable. The choice to have children is the one that must be justified and defended. The choice to prevent or kill a child is the one taken for granted. In an even greater twist of irony, one of the most powerful and exclusive aspects of womanhood, the ability to bear children, is seen to interfere with being a woman.

In fact, “feminism” is certainly the wrong term for a movement that demands that women fight the thing that only a woman’s body can do. And, it is the wrong term for a view that promises equality for women only if they promise to act more like men. In so many ways, this latest iteration of feminism is anti-feminism.

The backlash to Bruenig’s piece also reveals how children are viewed in so much of our world. Bruenig’s joy in motherhood is wonderful, but it isn’t unique or rare. Many parents would say something similar, in fact. Still, children are treated as an obstacle to personal happiness—too expensive, too much work, bad for the environment, irresponsible. Simply put, reproductive technologies like birth control, assisted reproduction, and abortion have changed our reproductive ideas. Specifically, we now have the illusion that the choice is ours, and we are in control primarily of our own happiness. Though certainly not every parent prior to the twentieth century felt ready or excited for a pregnancy, there was more to the equation than: “Will this make me happy?”

Children are ends in and of themselves, not means. Our happiness is not, ultimately, what children are for. They are made in the image of God, made by God for the good and care of the world, made for the time and place in which they are conceived, made to love, live for, and to glorify God.

Every parent knows that children bring intense joy, and can be the source of intense pain (not to mention anxiety). This makes marriage a gift from God as the context for children. Marriage and children go together. When God blesses a marriage with children, He makes a choice that isn’t really ours to make. Relinquishing our cultural grip on control, and the supposed need to always “explore all of our options,” is a common grace of parenthood.

A.W. Tozer tells a story about two fields: one uncultivated and one that’s put to the plow:

The fallow field is smug, contented, protected from the shock of the plow. But it is paying a terrible price for its tranquility; never does it feel the motions of mounting life… The cultivated field has yielded itself to the adventure of living… it has been upset, turned over, bruised and broken. But its rewards come hard upon its labors. Nature’s wonders follow the plow.

Though we don’t have children in the self interest of our own joy, God in His kindness brings incredible joy through parenthood. It’s a joy only accomplished by man and woman together, unrivaled in any other human experience. That’s grace on grace.

May 28, 2021
Christianity is Not a Means to an End
03:55

A Gallup poll released earlier this month documented a massive 20-year drop in church attendance in America. So far, there have been two responses to it. One group mourns the decline of organized religion because religion is good for society, whether or not the religion is true.  For example, Jewish commentator Matthew Yglesias wrote on Twitter, “[I] think I’m becoming a Straussian/Putnamist who instrumentally wants to get everyone to go to church.” (He was referring to two socio-political theorists who emphasized the value of Christianity as a social institution.)

As Mark Tooley of the Institute for Religion and Democracy noted in a tweet, churches have always been crucial to the project of self-government, teaching people to love their neighbors, and training them in the qualities “needed for wider society” such as “compromise, sacrifice, grace, mercy, patience, [and] humility.” Even arch-atheist Richard Dawkins has, in his words, “mixed feelings about the decline of Christianity” since, he warned his fellow unbelievers, “it might be a bulwark against something worse.”

Others, especially many believers, have a different reaction to record-low church attendance. They see this as not as the demise of true faith, but of “cultural Christianity.” And, they add, good riddance to it.

The reasoning goes like this: False believers who went to church because it was the social thing to do are now leaving since faith is no longer advantageous. True believers remain, and are now easier to distinguish within the wider culture. Among this school of thought are well-known evangelical pastors and leaders. As one tweeted: “Cultural Christianity is worse than no Christianity at all … Let nominal religion fall. Let the gospel rise.” Another wrote: “If cultural Christianity means identifying as a Christian without fruit or praxis then secularism may be God wiping this malaise away.” Still another declared: “Cultural Christianity is dying. Either you are a Christian or not. No faking it anymore.”

So, which view is right? Is the exodus of worshipers from pews a bad sign of our thinning social fabric? Or is it a good sign that the dross is being skimmed, revealing a smaller but purer Church?

The choice is a false one. While Christianity is certainly more than a set of theological beliefs and the custom of sincere worship practices, it can never be less. So, just getting people back in church is not merely an “instrumental” good.

This, to quote C. S. Lewis’ observation in The Screwtape Letters, treats Christianity as a means, rather than an end:

“Men or nations who think they can revive the Faith in order to make a good society might just as well think they can use the stairs of Heaven as a short cut to the nearest chemist’s shop.”

It is the devil’s goal, to get people to embrace Christianity “not because it’s true, but for some other reason.”

Christianity does show itself to the world, as the love of Christ reflects outwardly through His people. True Christianity will change how people think, behave, and relate to each other. As a result, Christianity often reforms a society, rescuing the oppressed, establishing justice, innovating goodness and beauty, and building cultural and political institutions.

These good things result because Christianity is true, and because people really believe and live out of a framework of creation, incarnation, forgiveness, restoration, and resurrection. When the good things Christianity brings to the world decline, it reveals far more about the state of the church than the state of the world.

So, the news that most Americans no longer attend church regularly is not good news for the church or for the world, and there will be huge cultural consequences for generations to come. The only way forward is, as ever, for Christ’s followers to treat the faith as if it is true, and more than a means of self-improvement or social reform.

May 27, 2021
My Son is Living With His Girlfriend. How Can I Correctly Encourage and Pray? - BreakPoint Q&A
49:58

John and Shane field questions ranging from how an adult can love her family that is challenging her decision not to vaccinate. The adult's brothers and sisters are saying she doesn't love her parents well because of her decision. John and Shane discuss the ongoing false dichotomies our culture creates.

John then responds to concern from parents regarding their adult son who is currently living with his girlfriend. The girlfriend isn't a follower of Jesus and said she wants to "test drive" living together before entering marriage. John and Shane provide encouragement for the parents as they navigate challenging waters.

To close Shane asks John for some grade school Sunday school resources on behalf of a budding worldview teacher. John gives a pathway for the teacher to provide a good base of worldview training for the students.

May 26, 2021
Does Advocating Religious Liberty Hurt Religious Freedom?
05:55

Many of us recognize how important religious freedom is in the world, but some think advocating for religious liberty compromises our Christian witness.

We're excited to partner with our friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom in a six part series on religious liberty. It's part of our What Would You Say? video project. Here's the audio from the most recent video that was released just this morning.

You're in a conversation and someone says, “Standing up for religious liberty is bad for Christian witness. After all, aren't Christians supposed to turn the other cheek?”

What would you say?

Sometimes people think that Christians who advocate for religious liberty do so at the cost of their Christian witness. They assume that defending religious freedom is motivated by fear, and distracts from the gospel. Since Christians are supposed to be fearless and self-sacrificial, doesn't defending religious liberty compromise our Christian witness? No, and here are three reasons why.

Number one, religious freedom is not a social construct. It reflects what is true about us as humans. Religious liberty isn't an invention of America's Founding Fathers. It's a pre-political God-given right. All people have the right given by God to peaceably live according to our convictions without fear of unjust punishment and restrictions from kings, presidents and city councils.

To be sure, governments don't always recognize religious freedom, but their failure to do so only highlights that religious liberty is a natural right given by God, not a privilege given to the people by a benevolent ruler. This is part of what it means to be made in God's image and to have the law of God written on our hearts.

We know intrinsically that to be free to worship God according to our own convictions, our neighbors need to be allowed to do the same. Even if we think they're wrong. Standing up for religious liberty is part of our Christian witness. Religious freedom is rooted in the truth about who we are as image bearers. Telling the truth about how we were made will never get in the way of the Gospel.

Number two, religious freedom is an ancient and central part of Christian teaching, from the Apostle Paul to the Catholic catechism to the Westminster Confession, Christianity has long taught that everyone should be free to worship and share their beliefs. In fact, religious freedom shows up in the earliest teachings of the Christian church.

A third century church father wrote, “It is assuredly no part of religion to compel religion.” The early fourth-century edict of Milan, issued by Christian Emperor Constantine, opened the door to statewide religious freedom by ensuring that the government could no longer demand religious conformity. These early Christian teachings are based in the words of Christ Himself, who insisted that all His followers must choose Him freely, from the bottom of their hearts. Sometimes Christian communities have failed to respect religious freedom, but that does not change the reality that religious freedom is interwoven with the basic teachings of the church. These early Christians understood that they had a sacred responsibility to uphold their neighbors’ religious freedom, and that responsibility carries over to us today.

Number three, standing up for religious liberty is a way to love our neighbor. Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God, and the second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor. If Christians truly love our neighbors, we should work to create the best society we can, where the government honors God-given rights and respects the God-ordained dignity of every person.

Study after study has shown a direct correlation between societies that are healthy, prosperous and respect human rights, and societies that respect religious freedom. In 2018, Pew Research Center found that the nations with the most religious freedom also tend to protect free speech and freedom of conscience. Nations that restrict religious freedom like Iran and Chinarestrict other basic rights as well. Religious freedom leads to greater prosperity, too. A study found that in the U.S. alone, religious individuals and organizations contribute more than $1.2 trillion dollars to the economy. Economist Arthur Brooks found that religious people who practice their faith, that is people who say that their faith is a significant part of their lives, are 25% more likely to donate to charity than secularists or people who rarely attend church. And they are 23% more likely to volunteer their time serving others. Standing up for religious freedom is about upholding the common good

according to God's word. It is quite simply a way for us to love our neighbor as Christ commanded us.

So the next time someone says that standing up for religious liberty is bad for our Christian witness, remember these three things:

Number one, religious freedom is not a social construct. It reflects what is true about us as humans.

Number two, religious freedom is an ancient and central part of Christian teaching.

Number three, standing up for religious liberty is a way to love our neighbor.

Our What Would You Say? team continues to put out incredible content answering some of the most critical questions of our cultural moment from a Christian worldview. What you just read  was part of a partnership with our friends at the Alliance Defending Freedom. To watch the whole video, and to share it, visit YouTube’s What Would You Say? Colson Center video channel.

May 26, 2021
Can Anything Good Happen on TikTok?
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TikTok is a social media platform created in China, best known for dance videos. Its parent company, in fact, is called ByteDance. Still, like so much of social media, TikTok has grown far beyond what its creators intended or thought possible.

For example, TikTok has become a home for Christian evangelism and discipleship. That’s somewhat ironic, given China’s intensifying war against Christianity and somewhat unexpected, given the lack of clarity about how much control Beijing asserts over the platform. Still,  according to the “influencer marketing firm” Traackr, “Christian TikTok . . .  drove more than 169 million engagements in 2020.” About 1,800 Christian “influencers'' are active on the platform, Traackr estimates, and that number is growing. Christian TikTok is especially big in Mexico and Latin America, reports Vice, where millions of viewers have made the platform “the go-to place for a religious dose.”

Dose, by the way, is not a bad word for what TikTok offers. With few exceptions, videos on the platform cannot exceed 60 seconds. On average, that means Christian influencers have only about 150 words to give viewers “content, intimate prayers, and empathetic counseling.”

That’s not a criticism of those who wish to use TikTok and other social media platforms like it to spread the Good News, but it should be a warning. Whether influencers realize it or not, there’s a long  and storied history of Christians, especially evangelicals, using new technologies to preach the Gospel and advance the Christian faith.

The most obvious example is the printing press. The first book ever published with movable type was the Bible in 1455. By 1500, an estimated 8 million books had been printed in Europe, most of which were religious texts. Throughout the Reformation, which began less than 70 years after the invention of movable type, new  communications technologies allowed reformers to make an “end run” around ecclesiastical authorities and directly appeal to the growing and increasingly literate middle class.

Two hundred years later, the explosion of newspapers played a central role in spreading reports of conversions during what came to be called “The Great Awakening.” These reports not only tracked the travel of evangelist George Whitefield and the scope of the revival, they created interest and anticipation about where it might go next.

And, of course, there are numerous twentieth century examples, from Charles Fuller to Billy Graham to Jerry Falwell, involving radio, television, satellite technology, and the internet. The fall of communism and the rise of televangelists can both be traced to the use of communication technology by evangelicals to spread the Gospel message. So, the use of a new platform like TikTok is right in line with a story that goes way back in church history.

Yet, the same history reveals the limitations of certain technologies, especially in the areas of discipleship and catechesis.  After all, as Marshall McLuhan taught us, the medium is the message. The message is not just the what, it’s the how. And, the fullness of “abundant life in Christ” can’t really be contained in a tweet.

For example, social scientists use the term “parasocial relationship” to describe the illusion of friendship and intimacy that develops between viewers and personalities on social media or television. It’s an illusion because reciprocity is impossible in these mediums. That’s not to say anything insincere or sinister is necessarily going on (although it may be), only that virtual connections are not substitutes for friends and mentors.

Jesus not only taught His disciples, He shared life with them:  meals, hardships, joys, conflict, sorrows, jealousy, etc. His command to them to “love one another as I have loved you” is the ultimate call to reciprocity. Reciprocity required physical presence, something impossible in a parasocial relationship.

The key lesson here is to allow new technologies to do what they can do, but not expect them to do what they cannot do. The internet can disperse sermons and teaching materials like no other platform the world has ever seen.  It cannot, as we’ve learned through COVID, be the kind of gathering place required for church. TikTok is great for challenging people with truth. It isn’t sufficient for the Christian tasks of fully giving the reason for the hope we have, or loving our neighbors as ourself, or bearing one another’s burdens, or mourning with those who mourn, or becoming more like Christ.

The really hard work of making disciples must be done, as they say online, “IRL,” or in real life.

May 25, 2021
McLaughlin Reminds Us A Woman's Highest Calling is Following Jesus
03:55

A Christian worldview offers dignity to women that’s not found in any other worldview in human history. Author Rebecca McLaughlin spoke about this at Wilberforce Weekend and shared these thoughts at a special Strong Women podcast episode recorded at the conference. You can listen here. Here is an excerpt from Rebecca’s talk:

Sometimes marriage and motherhood are celebrated at the expense of all other things God calls women to do. Some say a woman’s highest calling is to be a wife and a mother. But a woman’s highest calling is really to follow Jesus. Some are called to do that as wives. Some are called to follow Him as a wife and mother, and some are called to follow Him as single people. The Bible gives us an elevated view of both modes. We Christians have tended to downplay or denigrate singleness in order to elevate marriage.

But the negative contrast to marriage isn’t singleness. It’s having multiple partners in non-monogamous sexual relationships. An important piece of the puzzle, therefore, is actually those women who are called to follow Jesus as singles.

I have always been a little surprised that I got married. Part of me feels single on the inside. I love my husband. It’s just that the Lord could have pulled me in a different direction. The relational aspect is as true and important for men as it is for women. Part of how we are made in God’s image and how we roll out His kingdom is in relating to each other in ways that flow out of the kind of love Jesus has for us. It’s in relationships in which we recognize that the other person is made in God’s image, and someone for whom Jesus died. How we relate to other people is so important. The creative piece applies in terms of creating new humans, which men and women do together. It applies in terms of all the other spheres in which we use our skills, gifts, experience, and hard work.

To listen to the rest of Rebecca McLaughlin’s talk on the Strong Women podcast, download the episode on your favorite podcast app. Rebecca’s full talk at Wilberforce Weekend will be available as part of our online Wilberforce Weekend offering (included are all the video sessions plus some special online-only sessions). The online platform is available for only $49. To purchase it, please visit wilberforceweekend.org/online.

May 24, 2021
Women Pastors, Women in Ministry, and Understanding God's Design - BreakPoint This Week
01:07:16

John and Maria discuss a recent retort by Harvard's Cornell West to Howard University's decision to dissolve their classics department. They also discuss how the federal government's actions to expand unemployment benefits is playing out in the marketplace. To close the first segment, Maria asks John to comment further on a recent action by Sweden to remove puberty blocking medications from the approved treatment of gender dysphoria.

John and Maria then discuss the role of women in ministry, an issue that became a hot topic recently after Saddleback Church welcomed a few women to their staff as pastors. Reactions from within the Southern Baptist Convention have many wondering about the way culture shapes our understanding of Scripture. John provides clarity in presenting a Christian worldview response that reflects God's communicated design for the role of pastor in the church.

John then speaks to a recent decision by the Supreme Court to hear a case involving abortion laws and state's rights, offering a picture of the role of government and the responsibility of Christians in understanding the purpose and design of government.

To close, John responds to a recent Christianity Today article that challenged where religious freedom protections are found. John and Maria share critique on the article, calling listeners to understand the Christian view of freedom.

May 21, 2021
Two Visions of Religious Freedom
04:55

In a recent article in Christianity Today, Judd Birdsall of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs at Georgetown University analyzed the differences between how the Biden Administration has handled religious liberty concerns so far, and how his predecessor did. The article provides a critical lesson in how religious freedom is so often misunderstood, both in terms of the relationship between church and state and in terms of conscience rights across the board.

First, there’s the seriousness of the issue. Birdsall, in arguing that the State Department under President Trump had exaggerated claims of global religious oppression, described the different ways that the data can be measured and reported. This seems a strange statement to make. As a friend said to me in response to the article, “Whether it’s 80% of the world’s population or it’s 56 nations that are in trouble, it is still a huge problem.”

Birdsall also took issue with tone and tenor difference between Trump officials and Biden officials, claiming that the previous administration was too boastful about its commitment to religious liberty. Instead, wrote Birdsall, America should be known for “not only a higher level of respect for religious freedom but also more honesty about shortcomings and actively addressing them.” There’s nothing in this statement I’d disagree with. But the answer doesn't hinge solely on humility without international action. Nor humility without acknowledging national shortcomings when it comes to restricting the religious freedoms of our own citizens. 

In the wake of the nationalism, totalitarianism, and religious-based oppression of the last several decades, we should acknowledge and celebrate the fact that the U.S. government finally put the first freedom at the forefront of its international relationships. In contrast,the Biden administration so far has followed the Obama administration’s second-term tack  in placing LGBTQ and abortion access concerns front and center in international dealings. A more humble government would stop targeting and restricting the conscience rights of  private business owners like Jack Phillips and Barronelle Stutzman, or religious institutions like Christian colleges and orders of nuns.

Birdsall accurately traces the history of these two competing views of religious liberty. The first he calls “The First Freedom” view, based on the place of religious freedom within the Bill of Rights. The other he calls “the Article 18” view, based on the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights definition of religious freedom. In the former view, religious freedom is the first freedom. It’s the basis for many other freedoms essential for human and social flourishing. In the latter view, spiritual things are protected as a matter of personal choice, and it might be necessary to defer religious freedom to other human rights.

Birdsall admits that the Biden administration holds an “Article 18” view of freedom, seeing religious liberty as something to be worked out in light of other freedoms, especially sexual freedom. That view is opposed right  in the very first issue of Christianity Today in an article written by its founding editor, Carl Henry. Henry pondered the fragile basis for freedom in the West, arguing that champions of liberty far too often argued for it on a secular, individualistic basis. For Henry, this was woefully insufficient. The only hope for maintaining liberty, he thought, was for us to reorient ourselves to “the proper foundations of freedom.”

Religious liberty is properly understood as the first freedom, not as a mere side effect of other freeedoms. It guarantees other proper rights of citizens, religious or not, because it is based upon a particular vision of the kind of creatures we citizens are. In particular, that we do not belong—either in mind or body—to the state or to a particular interest group. We belong, in our consciences, to God. Any other basis of freedom subjects all freedoms to death by a thousand qualifications.

To borrow from St. Anselm, there is an ontological primacy to religious freedom because itrelativizes the consistent but vain attempts of the state to claim preeminence. Of course it’s true that God really does reign above all earthly powers, but you don’t even have to believe that to know that without robust protections for religious freedom, all of our other rights will have no higher court of appeal than whomever currently holds the keys of power. 

May 21, 2021
The Dangerous Appeal to "Death with Dignity"
04:40

The road to hell, paved with good intentions, leads to some unpleasant travelling companions.

For the Colson Center, I’m John Stonestreet. This is BreakPoint.

According to a recent article in World magazine, several Australian states have initiated or expanded the practice of euthanasia “down under.” Similar measures were expanded across the Tasman by New Zealand last year, and across the globe in Spain, but failed in Portugal. Canada’s death laws are being expanded through appeals to allow the mentally ill to die, while Holland and Belgium are still racing to see how far this road actually goes. Here at home, ten U.S. states have “death with dignity” laws.

Every one of these laws advances by an appeal to compassion. It is merciful, we are told, to allow the ill to end their pain in death. Denying death to those who suffer robs human beings of their innate dignity and our future of “a happier world.” Death can be, the rhetoric goes, a gift of love. Couched in explicitly moral terms, euthanasia is offered as the only ethical choice, opposite of heartlessness and cruelty

The word games played in the euthanasia debate would be impressive if they weren’t so evil. Words such as “illness,” “pain,” “compassion,” “mercy,” and “dignity,” are moving targets. It’s the same game played by some of the worst villains in history.

The movie Ich Klage An (or “I Accuse” in English) was released in German in 1941. In the film, the accused is a society and legal system that refuses to let a young woman die. Hanna Heyt, who suffers greatly from MS, wishes to end her pain. Her doctor refuses but her scientist husband complies. He’s brought to trial for murder, only to level his own accusation against society for its heartlessness in the face of needless agony.

With a few stylistic edits and updated production, one could easily imagine this compassionate appeal for “death with dignity” hitting a theater or streaming service today. It’s all there: a fresh young face full of promise shackled by an incurable disease, making an earnest plea for a merciful end to her suffering. A husband’s compassionate struggle to aid his loved one in getting what she wants, offering wise and carefully nuanced counsel to the resisting authorities. The anguished husband’s accusation hits not just the judges, but an entire culture’s supposedly cold heart.

Ich Klage An was produced at the behest of the infamous Joseph Goebbels and his Nazi Ministry of Propaganda, with the goal of selling his new euthanasia program for the chronically ill and disabled. It worked. The movie was so compelling, the Allies banned it in 1945 for its role in enabling the Holocaust.

Our idea of Nazi propaganda is probably more the goose-stepping hyenas in The Lion King but, as one commentator put it:

… Ich Klage An comes across as a well-made, balanced melodrama. Unlike other propaganda films made during the time, there is little Nazi imagery or rhetoric. Yet dig a little deeper, it soon becomes apparent just how slyly and insidiously it pushes active euthanasia.

The film and regime’s same utilitarian view of human dignity advances so-called “death with dignity” laws in our age. And, like the German extermination initiatives, these laws expand every time they are tried. The debate begins with those near death, and quickly expands to those who are terminal, then to those with incurable disease, then to those with permanent conditions, then to the disabled, and finally to the depressed and mentally ill. First, consent is required. Then, it is implied. Finally, it is unnecessary.

Those who advance euthanasia and doctor-assisted suicide laws should have to demonstrate how their arguments differ from Nazi propaganda. If they don’t, it’s time to ask hard questions about this movement expanding so quickly around the world.

May 20, 2021
How Can I Build A Theology of Being Fired? - BreakPoint Q&A
45:03

John and Shane field a question from a listener who is wondering how to not only build a theology of being fired, but how he can evangelize his friends to build a theology of being fired.

Shane then reads a question from a listener who responded to a BreakPoint podcast who was disappointed with how John approached dead naming. The piece was about Ellen Page, who now goes by Elliot Page. John provides and understanding for the listener, and shares his appreciation to handle relationships appropriately.

Finally, John responds to a question from a listener who desires to wrestle with racial issues, specifically in his church, without succumbing to Critical Race Theory.

May 19, 2021
How Can I Build A Theology of Being Fired? - BreakPoint Q&A

John and Shane field a question from a listener who is wondering how to not only build a theology of being fired, but how he can evangelize his friends to build a theology of being fired.

Shane then reads a question from a listener who responded to a BreakPoint podcast who was disappointed with how John approached dead naming. The piece was about Ellen Page, who now goes by Elliot Page. John provides and understanding for the listener, and shares his appreciation to handle relationships appropriately.

Finally, John responds to a question from a listener who desires to wrestle with racial issues, specifically in his church, without succumbing to Critical Race Theory.

May 19, 2021
Three Scientific Discoveries that Call for a God Hypothesis
04:56

In the book River Out of Eden, Oxford biologist and atheist superstar Richard Dawkins famously wrote:

“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”

Dawkins and other “new atheists” have long insisted that science has excluded the possibility of a creator or has, at least, rendered it unnecessary. Turns out this belief may be scientifically out of date. According to a new book, the biggest discoveries of the last century challenge a materialistic worldview and call science back to its theistic roots.  

Cambridge-educated philosopher of science Stephen Meyer wrote two books, Signature in the Cell and Darwin’s Doubt, that both argue against materialist accounts of biology. His latest book, The Return of the God Hypothesis, makes an even more ambitious claim.

Three key twentieth century discoveries, argue Meyer, challenge materialist assumptions and point, not just to an intelligent designer, but to a transcendent God. He recently joined my colleague Shane Morris on the Upstream podcast to talk about the book.

Not only were most of the founders of modern science devout Christians, the scientific method itself emerged from assumptions found only in a Christian worldview, such as the intelligibility of nature and the need to constantly test our fallen intuitions against the facts. Tracing science from its theistic beginnings, Meyer shows how it gradually lost its way and became tethered to materialism.

Famed scientists like Laplace, Hume, and Darwin came to believe that the “God hypothesis” was no longer necessary to explain the natural world, that the universe required no cause beyond itself. Given the opportunity and enough time, living things could arise and evolve on their own. Since the conditions for life were simple and the universe had existed from eternity, here we are.

These assumptions went largely unchallenged until the twentieth century. However, breakthroughs in astronomy, physics, and biology began to undermine materialism.  For example, telescopes began to challenge the proponents (Einstein being one) of a steady-state universe. More and more evidence mounted that the universe was, in fact, not eternal, as many scientists had long assumed. If instead the universe came into being at some point in time, it must have had a cause outside of itself, To be clear, there must be a cause outside of space, time, matter, and energy.

Another discovery was how finely tuned the universe is. The very laws that govern the cosmos, such as gravity, electromagnetism, nuclear forces, and the cosmological constant, are precisely calibrated in such a way that makes life possible. There’s not a compelling way to explain this “Goldilocks universe,” one “just right” that could have been otherwise, within a naturalistic worldview. As English astronomer and former atheist Fred Hoyle put it, “A common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super-intellect has monkeyed with physics…”

And then, there’s the discovery Meyer has already devoted two other books to exploring: Materialists long thought that Darwin’s theory was a silver bullet against design arguments. Darwin, however, knew nothing about DNA, the inner structure of the cell, or the crucial role information plays in the existence and propagation of life. The more we learn about them, the more outdated this “God is no longer necessary” hypothesis seems to be.

Simply put, Dawkins got it wrong. The universe we live in has properties one would expect if it were, in fact, designed by a God who had us in mind when He made the place.

As Myer’s book shows, this assumption was an original conviction of many who launched and drove the scientific revolution. It’s the conviction of a growing number of scientists today who are willing to challenge the powers that be and admit the design they see in the heavens, the laws of nature, and under the microscope. As Meyer puts it, “The evidence is crying out for a God hypothesis.”

Come to BreakPoint.org and we’ll tell you how to get a copy of Stephen Meyer’s The Return of the God Hypothesis. We’ll also link you to his conversation with Shane Morris on the Upstream podcast.

May 19, 2021
BreakPoint Podcast - Emilie Kao on The Promise to America's Children
13:39

Emilie Kao is the director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. She is presenting at the Wilberforce Weekend. She will share her passion for protecting and defending the rights of children and how her campaign reflects the image of God.

Emilie has defended religious freedom for the last 14 years. Kao has worked on behalf of victims of religious freedom violations in East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South Asia at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and Becket Law.

Previously, she worked at the United Nations and Latham and Watkins. Kao also taught international human rights law at George Mason University Law School as an adjunct law professor.

She earned an A.B. degree in Near Eastern Civilizations and Languages at Harvard-Radcliffe College and a J.D. at Harvard Law School. Kao is a member of the Supreme Court Bar and the bar associations of California and the District of Columbia.

May 18, 2021
BreakPoint Podcast - Emilie Kao on The Promise to America's Children

Emilie Kao is the director of the Richard and Helen DeVos Center for Religion & Civil Society at The Heritage Foundation. She is presenting at the Wilberforce Weekend. She will share her passion for protecting and defending the rights of children and how her campaign reflects the image of God.

Emilie has defended religious freedom for the last 14 years. Kao has worked on behalf of victims of religious freedom violations in East Asia, the Middle East, Europe and South Asia at the State Department’s Office of International Religious Freedom and Becket Law.

Previously, she worked at the United Nations and Latham and Watkins. Kao also taught international human rights law at George Mason University Law School as an adjunct law professor.

She earned an A.B. degree in Near Eastern Civilizations and Languages at Harvard-Radcliffe College and a J.D. at Harvard Law School. Kao is a member of the Supreme Court Bar and the bar associations of California and the District of Columbia.

May 18, 2021
The Limits of Artificial Intelligence
03:55

In 2018, comedian John Mulaney closed out his opening monologue as host of Saturday Night Live with this quip about one of the strangest new  normals today which didn’t exist just a few years ago: “You spend a lot of your day telling a robot that you’re not a robot.”

Artificial intelligence is one of the new normals of contemporary life. Every time we access data on the web, every customer service call we make, every ordering process we start involves not just using, but communicating with, a machine. Smart phones, smart cars, smart networks—artificial minds are now the gatekeepers of information, transportation, and commerce.

In sci-fi, the story always ends with computers evolving past and outclassing human minds. Sometimes they’re dangerous; sometimes they’re helpful; and sometimes, most unsettlingly, they cannot be differentiated from humans. Lurking behind the fantasy is an important question: What happens if we create something that’s smarter than us?  Still, computer engineers and neuroscientists continue to push science fiction to science fact.

The problem with these efforts, a recent article in the online magazine Salon notes, is that the quest for artificial intelligence tends to “treat intelligence computationally.” Attempts to recreate and even surpass the computational abilities of the human brain have succeeded. Computers can now play games and analyze images faster and better than humans.

At the same time, there’s real doubt as to whether machines are anywhere near matching wits with their creators. According to a piece last year in The Guardian, “Despite the vast number of facts being accumulated, our understanding of the brain appears to be approaching an impasse.”

It’s estimated that about 95 percent of brain activity involves what are called spontaneous fluctuations, or neural impulses, independent of both conscious thought and outside influence. That’s a problem that shuts machines down. As the Salon piece puts it, “For computers, spontaneous fluctuations create errors that crash the system, while for our brains, it's a built-in feature.” Uniquely human thought arises from this chaos, unpredictable and unreproducible. What we think  of as intelligence—reason, logic, and processing—may instead be the end result of consciousness, not the means of achieving it.

While Salon’s analysis is helpful, it misses something essential. Their analysis assumes that the mind and the brain are identical, that there’s nothing more to our minds than “meat.” While this is a common assumption of a naturalistic worldview, it’s a worldview that will never be big enough to explain human cognition, much less motivation and behavior.

David Gelernter’s analysis , given 20 years ago after the chess playing program Deep Blue beat the world’s top player, says it better:

How can an object that wants nothing, fears nothing, enjoys nothing, needs nothing and cares about nothing have a mind? … What are its apres-match plans if it beats Kasparov? Is it hoping to take Deep Pink out for a night on the town? It doesn't care about chess or anything else. It plays the game for the same reason a calculator adds or a toaster toasts: because it is a machine designed for that purpose.

Or as philosopher Mortimer Adler noted over thirty years ago: “[T]he brain is not the organ of thought … an immaterial factor in the human mind is required.” We’ve made great strides in understanding certain elements of our biology as well as our ability to imitate certain behaviors with machines. But, it’s just that. Only an imitation.

As Gelernter put it, “Computers do what we make them do, period. However sophisticated the computer's performance, it will always be a performance.”

The more we learn of the brain and of human consciousness, the more it affirms that humans are not just meaty machines.

May 18, 2021
Evolution Evangelists Skirt Evidence, Commemorate Darwin's Descent of Man
03:55

This year marks the 150th anniversary of The Descent of Man, and Selection in Relation to Sex. In this particular book, Charles Darwin addressed the questions he raised about human beings in his earlier book On the Origin of Species, specifically “whether man, like every other species, is descended from some pre-existing form . . .”

Not surprisingly, Darwin’s answer was “yes.” At that time, in 1871, genetics as we understand it now was completely unknown. Even paleontology was still in its infancy as a field of science. So, Darwin’s work was, essentially, speculation based on very limited physical evidence. Darwin’s successors were to find the evidence needed to support his conclusion.

That task, as it turns out, hasn’t gone all that well. At least that’s the conclusion of a recent study published in the journal Science. Researchers from The American Museum of Natural History conducted the study and summed up its findings with this devastating headline: “Most Human Origins Stories Are Not Compatible with Known Fossils.”

According to the study’s lead author,

“When you look at the narrative for hominin [bipedal apes including modern humans] it’s just a big mess—there’s no consensus whatsoever … People are working under completely different paradigms.”

In other words, multiple explanations for human origins are all held as true, but many are incompatible and contradictory. They simply can’t all be true.

The problem is not a shortage of fossils. It’s that, as the article put it, “many of these fossils show … combinations of features that do not match expectations for ancient representatives of the modern ape and human lineages.”

In other words, the fossils are so different that they cannot be ancestors of modern primates, much less human beings. And, this isn’t just the reality when it comes to human evolution. As my colleague Shane Morris noted, “The more you look at the tidy evolutionary stories linking one group of organisms to another, the more you see this same pattern unfold.”

To be clear, this sort of thing just shouldn’t happen in any scientific field. It certainly doesn’t happen in other fields, at least not to this degree.

The real-world “mess” described in the article flatly contradicts the unshakeable confidence that often characterizes naturalistic evolutionary statements about human origins. Almost every pronouncement ends with some version of “The science is clear about this,” a sort of materialist equivalent of “Thus saith the Lord!”

When asked how we can know that the current evolutionary narrative is true, scientist explainers quickly point to the fossil record and our nearest animal relatives, the great apes. However, as this study in the journal Science points out, the actual physical evidence for what the late philosopher Michael Stove has called “fables of evolution” is in scant supply.

Given the lack of actual physical evidence, a bit more humility is in order. Paleontology isn’t like physics or chemistry where the proof is in the laboratory pudding. There is ample physical evidence that it’s called the atomic bomb. The best paleontology has to offer is an inference to the best explanation, with “best” being a relative term and (should be) subject to change depending on the state of the evidence.

Bluntly, the evidence simply does not warrant the level of confidence that often accompanies Darwinian explanations of human origins. It certainly doesn’t warrant what Michael Stove called the “calumny” that reduces human beings to little more than lucky apes, or even less. To their credit, the authors of this study on the science of human origins, just in time for the 150th anniversary of Darwin’s book on human origins, acknowledge the state of evidence and admit the “mess.” Darwinian evangelists should do the same.

May 17, 2021
What is Happening In Israel And Why Does It Matter? - BreakPoint This Week
58:23

John and Maria discuss the rising tensions in the Middle East. They explain some of the finer points related to the conflict and why it requires sober thinking and a worldview big enough for the world.

Maria then asks John for greater context on a number of stories from the week, and they discuss the sad state of many in the transgender community through the lens of a recent interview Ellen Page conducted with Oprah.

John also provides additional commentary on a new movement calling some Christians to leave their churches. The movement is called the #LeaveLoud movement, and it urges people to leave churches they don’t feel are encouraging them specifically related to race.

May 15, 2021
Bob Fu: Wilberforce Award Winner and a Man for Our Time
04:21

For the last several years, China has become more aggressive to both the outside world and to its own people, particularly the people of Hong Kong, the Muslim Uyghur population, and, of course, Christians. While other countries may rank higher on Open Doors’ “World Watch List,” the economic might, global clout, and sheer population size of China make its treatment of religious minorities a matter of enormous concern.

The history behind this growing and troubling reality was one that forged the life, testimony, and word of Pastor Bob Fu. Next weekend, Pastor Fu will become the latest recipient of the William Wilberforce Award, a recognition established by Chuck Colson to honor modern day heroes committed to Christ and just causes as was the famous British abolitionist.

Pastor Fu is founder and president of ChinaAid, a Christian “human rights organization committed to promoting religious freedom and the rule of law in China.” ChinaAid works to expose systemic persecution, harassment, torture, and imprisonment of Chinese Christians and human rights lawyers in China. It offers financial support to Chinese Christians persecuted by the Chinese government, and training for Christians and church leaders in China to help them defend their rights.

Pastor Fu was to be recognized a year ago at the Wilberforce Weekend. That event, like every other live event of 2020, was a casualty of Covid-19. I wish that somehow, through God’s gracious working in that difficult nation,  Pastor Fu’s life and work would’ve become less relevant to the headlines. Instead, the work of ChinaAid is more important than ever. In fact, when you think of Pastor Fu, the biblical phrase, “for such a time as this,” should come to mind.

Still, Bob Fu never intended that this would be his life. Born in Shandong Province to a disabled father and beggar mother, Pastor Fu fully intended to join the Communist Party after graduation and become a government official. God, however, had other plans.

An American professor gave Pastor Fu a biography of a Chinese intellectual convert to Christianity that, he told the Wall Street Journal, “changed my life.” After graduation, Fu and his wife Heidi became active in the house church movement. They even established a Bible school, using chairs he borrowed from a Communist Party school where he taught.

The Communist Party didn’t quite share Fu’s sense of irony. He and his wife were jailed. Then, about a year after their release from jail, Heidi became pregnant with their second child. Because the one-child policy was still being vigorously enforced in China, they emigrated to Hong Kong which, at the time, was still under British rule. Fu was granted political asylum by the Clinton Administration in 1997.

Just as the persecution of the Church has, at times throughout history, led to the unintended spreading of the Gospel, Pastor Fu’s forced emigration expanded his impact. From his base of operations in west Texas, Fu operates what the Wall Street Journal has called “the most influential network of human-rights activists, underground Christians and freedom fighters in China.”  In fact, some of what ChinaAid has accomplished is the stuff of movies, including smuggling human rights lawyers and their families out of the country to safety

Through it all, Pastor Fu has earned a fitting nickname: “the pastor of China’s underground railroad.”

The Colson Center is pleased to recognize the life, the work, the courage, and the testimony of Pastor Bob Fu, and to present him as  the William Wilberforce Award recipient at the Wilberforce Weekend next week.  If you aren’t able to join us in person, we invite you to attend our online offering which features all of the sessions from the weekend, plus some additional online-only content, all for only $49. For more information, visit www.wilberforceweekend.org/online

May 14, 2021
Should We Dismantle the Family?
05:30

Last fall, the Black Lives Matter organization quietly deleted a section of its website in which it professed an intention to: “disrupt the Western-prescribed nuclear family structure requirement.” The statement was removed after public backlash, but the sentiment behind the statement seems to endure among some activists.

Earlier this week, The National Council on Family Relations hosted a webinar entitled “Toward Dismantling Family Privilege and White Supremacy in Family Science.” According to researchers, structures of public life in the United States—such as government support, healthcare, and education—that implicitly advantage nuclear families (two people committed to by marriage raising children) disadvantage other family arrangements. For these scholars, this is an example of privilege rooted in white supremacy.

These scholars are correct in noting that families with a married mom and dad raising their children tend to fare better. In fact, kids with married parents are far less likely to experience poverty, social problems, emotional problems, and even incarceration. The problem is why these outcomes exist.

A Christian worldview contends that these benefits are inherent to a nuclear family because it is God’s design for the family. Stronger bonds, better social outcomes, better health, and higher rates of happiness are more common in the context of these relationships because that is how He created humans to do life together. Within a worldview that sees everything in terms of oppressor/oppression, these outcomes must be the results of a system that advantages some and disadvantages others.

This increasingly influential worldview is derived from Marxist philosophy, which denies the idea of a given “human nature.” Human behavior, Marx believed, is determined by the structures (particularly the economic structures) of a society. These structures tend to be oppressive. So, if the nuclear family tends to be the given arrangement of the bourgeoisie, it is bad by definition and oppresses other arrangements.

What’s not considered are the implications if there is such a design to human relationships, given by our Creator. For example, the nuclear family works for the good of women. No amount of webinars on “dismantling family privilege” can erase the fact that women exclusively bear children and women are disproportionately disadvantaged when families break down and they are left to care for children on their own.

Why would these webinar scholars want to disadvantage women on purpose?

Of course, those who wish to “dismantle” the nuclear family would agree that women raising children need support. If the most natural and obvious source of that support is old-fashioned, oppressive and dismantled, then this support must come from somewhere else. Obviously then, this becomes the state: a disastrously poor substitute for family.

This reminds me of a progressive woman who tweeted: “If abortion is illegal then men abandoning their child should also be illegal. If this was a permanent decision for me then it is for you as a father also.” To which someone replied: “Congratulations, you invented marriage.”

Eliminating families as antiquated or even (somehow) racist is not merely illogical for pragmatic reasons. It’s cultural suicide. It’s an idea that sociologist and philosopher Philip Rieff might call a “deathwork,” one that exclusively tears down. It cannot build anything. It offers nothing in place of the family. 

Accordingly, we can and must distinguish between helping those in tragic family situations and incentivizing these situations as “alternative family arrangements.” The answer is to recognize the truth about reality, truth that is available not only in Scripture but in everything we know about how families function and work. The goal is to do family better and to welcome more people into it, not to dismantle it.

The Church should be the loudest voice celebrating and defending marriage and the family as God intended it. To do so is not to make an idol of it, as some claim, but to point to what is true and good. The church of today lives by lies when it pretends that God's design isn't important. We can celebrate this very good gift of God while also encouraging and supporting single parents and children in other situations. We can walk and chew gum at the same time. Indeed, we must.

May 13, 2021
Where Do I Go For My Daughter with Gender Dysphoria - BreakPoint Q&A
01:03:21

John and Shane field a listener response to a BreakPoint Shane authored last week. The BreakPoint discussed problematic points for Christians inside a new trend of casual sex in the Christian community. John and Shane go point-by-point to provide a strong Christian worldview foundation to the listener's concerns.

Shane then presents a sobering topic from a listener who is looking for encouragement as her daughter is expressing gender dysphoria. John provides helpful resources for a growing community inside the church, and Shane closes their response in a time of prayer for the specific mother and daughter as well as those who are facing this challenging issue.

To close, John invites Shane to revisit a piece on Christians and media consumption. A listener writes in to ask if there is a problem in the church when a pastor finds recreation in watching a Netflix series that celebrates infidelity and leads his church to abhor the practice. 

-- RESOURCES --

Alliance Defending Freedom

Story From Mother Pulling Daughter Out of School Due to Transgender Ideologies

Helena Kerschner - Rapid Onset Gender Dysphoria at Q Ideas with Gabe Lyons

May 12, 2021
How to Stay When the World Says Leave
04:49

For the first time since the Gallup organization started to track the data, fewer than 50% of Americans now belong to a church, synagogue or mosque.   Behind these numbers are, among other factors, the trendiness of not only leaving church, but announcing it on social media with a bit of shaming and blaming thrown in for good measure. And many are not only leaving a particular house of worship but joining a growing demographic known as the “nones,” rejecting all religious affiliation. The Christian version of those who grew up in the church but have become “nones” often go by another label: “exvangelicals.”

Sometimes, these exodus narratives center around hurt committed by people inside the church. Other times, these narratives center on hurt that exvangelicals claim comes from the truth claims of the Christian faith. For example, many exvangelicals cite the Bible’s teaching on sexuality as the primary reason for their exit. In reality, however, many of the folks in this camp have already rejected other cornerstones of orthodoxy, such as the authority of Scripture, the reality of sin, the necessity of Jesus’ atonement, and the deity and exclusivity of Christ. 

Tragically, high profile figures who have for years publicly broadcast their deconstruction stories, now often have unravelling lives. Divorce, marital unfaithfulness, or newly professed homosexuality are disproportionately found (or at least revealed) in the wake of faith deconstruction. 

I share these details not to point fingers or to celebrate brokenness, but to surface the all important chicken-and-egg question for Christians committed to persevere in the faith. Namely, are those who leave church and lose their faith more susceptible to bad habits and decisions? Or does practicing bad habits and making bad decisions leave one more susceptible to losing one’s faith?

Biblically speaking, the answer is “both.” In 1 Corinthians 10, Paul issues a dire warning. “If you think you are standing firm, be careful that you don’t fall.”

Of course, every “leaving church” story is different. Sometimes, real harm has been done. Sometimes, there’s been a failure of catechism and teaching. Sometimes doubt results from the impression that the Bible doesn't allow Christians to ask tough questions.

Other times, however, bad behavior, bad habits, or even the neglect of good habits, can breed unbelief. Years ago, Pastor Tim Keller was widely criticized for reporting that whenever a student returned from college claiming no longer to be a Christian, he’d ask them who they were sleeping with. I’ve worked with enough students over the past two decades to know, it’s a good question to ask. And not just to college-aged students.

We may look at the trendy exvangelical stories and conclude that that could never happen to us. That would be foolish. To follow Jesus is to embrace the humility that we can surprise ourselves with our own sin, just as Peter was shocked to hear himself deny the Messiah mere hours after promising he never would.

James challenged believers to “Draw near to God, and He will draw near to you.” This is not a quid pro quo. It is a promise. God has given His people habits of faith, such as prayer, fasting, study, loving our neighbor, fleeing from sin, and struggling against bad habits and complacency. He will never leave us. He is never distant. These exercises strengthen our faith to better see Him.

Another essential that Christ has given us is His church. Imagine someone heckling your bride as she walks down the aisle toward you. How would you respond to that person?

The Church is not above our critique, of course, but too many who embrace the habit of criticizing her soon find themselves as no longer part of her. Make no mistake, the Church is Christ’s bride. She will outlast the world. As her members, we work toward her sanctification, but we should be incredibly wary about shouting her imperfections from the pews, especially to those outside the building. We heckle this Bride at our eternal peril. 

May 12, 2021
Leave Loud, Blaming Churches
04:45

Given the global pandemic, this seems like a particularly bad time to run a survey on church membership. Nevertheless, Gallup recently released a poll suggesting that the number of Americans who belong to a church, synagogue, or mosque has fallen below 50 percent for the first time since 1937, when the organization began tracking those numbers.

In fact, more than half the respondents to this poll didn’t merely give up their church membership. They gave up their religion, and now identify as “none,” as in “no religious preference.”  Or, as my colleague Shane Morris put it in a recent podcast conversation with writer Samuel James, these folks haven’t just left the room of denominational preference, they’ve left the house of collective faith.

A number of separate but related cultural trends are at work. For example, an organization called The Witness, an online community of African-American Christians, recently launched the hashtag “#LeaveLoud.” Through podcast episodes and online articles, The Witness encourages black Christians to not only leave “predominantly white or multiethnic” churches if they’ve been dishonored, but to be vocal about it inside and especially outside the church.

Of course there are such things as abuse or crooked doctrine that warrant leaving a congregation. Specifically, plenty of our African-American brothers and sisters have been neglected or hurt by fellow Christians, either directly or indirectly. And, depending on the context, church leaders should be made aware of things that justify a departure.

Still, much of what we are seeing is part of an I’m-leaving-church-and-please-watch-me-leave movement.  Being noisy about joining the “exvangelicalism” movement is not only a popular thing to do, it’s a way to be popular. In fact, after a few years of watching people “leave loud,” I see at least a few troubling themes emerge.

Almost without fail, a person leaving a church loud will cite bad or hurtful behavior by the people or leadership at the church. And of course no one wants to stick around where they are mistreated. However, in a culture that has widely embraced moralistic therapeutic deism, many think that being morally challenged, or anything that falls short of all-out affirmation, counts as “personal harm.”

This Gallup poll also points to interpersonal strife as a significant reason for leaving church. However, the number of people leaving a particular church over interpersonal strife is lower than the number leaving an entire faith tradition over interpersonal strife. According to the poll, the primary driver of plummeting church memberships is people renouncing religion altogether. To reuse the metaphor, people are leaving the house while blaming folks in one particular room. 

To publicly denounce a particular congregation, not to mention a particular denomination (not to mention an entire faith tradition), because of how people behaved is to misunderstand what Christianity is. It is first and foremost a commitment to Jesus Christ which, second, involves a set of claims about reality. Who Jesus is and what Christianity teaches must be evaluated on their own merit. Many churches have failed to prepare young people to do this.

Considering these two factors makes me wonder if leavers who blame people in the Church for their own leaving are in reality just upset with God. So many “exvangelicals” and progressive Christians who begin by lamenting the bad behavior of fellow church-goers end up rejecting the Bible’s moral claims about sexuality, or God’s judgment of sin, or the lordship of Jesus. The more that the wider culture finds Christian teaching outdated and outrageous, the harder it is to distinguish between the various motivations of those who leave the church, and/or the faith.

What is clear is that it is essential, at least for anyone who intends to persevere in the faith, to know what “the faith” is. For example, Scripture is clear that followers of Christ should “live peaceably with everyone, as far as it depends on you.” Anyone who takes that teaching seriously, not to mention the many others that directly apply to our lives within the body of Christ, will find it difficult to “leave loud,” or to justify leaving over silly disputes, or to neglect praying for those who have left.

May 11, 2021
Ryan T. Anderson - Wilberforce Weekend Speaker Series - BreakPoint Podcast
24:45

John Stonestreet visits with Ryan T. Anderson on the image of God presented in the physical make up of male and female.

Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., is the President of the Ethics and Public Policy Center, and the Founding Editor of Public Discourse, the online journal of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New Jersey.

He is the author of When Harry Became Sally: Responding to the Transgender Moment and Truth Overruled: The Future of Marriage and Religious Freedom. He is the co-author of What Is Marriage? Man and Woman: A Defense and Debating Religious Liberty and Discrimination, and the co-editor of A Liberalism Safe for Catholicism? Perspectives from “The Review of Politics.”

May 10, 2021
Changing the World One Child at a Time
04:24

Mary Slessor was born to a Scottish working-class family in 1848. At an early age Mary joined her parents in the Dundee mills, working half a day while going to school the other half. By age 14, Mary was working 12 hour shifts. Ever an avid reader, Mary kept a book propped up on her loom so she could read while working.

Mary’s mother, a devout Presbyterian with an interest in missions, saw that her children were raised in the Faith. When a local mission to the poor opened in Dundee, Mary volunteered to be a teacher. Her sense of humor and sympathy made her popular.

At age 27, Mary learned of the death of famous missionary, David Livingstone. Inspired to join her church’s mission in what is now southern Nigeria, Mary taught and worked in the dispensary. With her devotion to learn the local language, plus by cutting her hair and abandoning the traditional Victorian dress as impractical in the hot climate, Mary quickly set herself apart from the other missionaries. She began eating local foods as a cost-cutting measure.

Finding the mission hierarchy frustrating, she welcomed opportunities to go upriver into inland areas. The need for workers in these regions with fewer missionaries was significant, so she asked to be stationed there. However, since male missionaries had been killed in those areas, her request as a single woman was turned down as too dangerous.

After a medical furlough for malaria, Mary was stationed in a region where shamans dominated much of life. These men conducted trials in which guilt or innocence was determined by whether or not the accused died after taking poison. Slavery was also rampant among the powerful, and slaves were often sacrificed on their owner’s death to be their servants in the afterlife. Women’s rights were virtually nonexistent.

Despite these challenges, Mary was able to integrate into the community and earn the trust of the local people. As a woman, she was not seen as the threat that male missionaries were. And, her ability to speak Efik and her embrace of local lifestyles in clothing, housing, and food endeared her to the native peoples.

It was in Okoyong that Mary began the work for which she is now best known. The locals believed that when twins were born, one of them must be the child of a demon. The mothers were ostracized and, since there was no way to tell which was cursed, both children  would be abandoned to death by starvation or wild animals.

Like the earliest Christians who rescued victims of attempted infanticide by exposure, Mary began rescuing twins. She saved hundreds of children and, against the advice of her mission agency, adopted nine as her own.

Like the earliest Christians whose example she emulated, the actions of Mary Slessor not only saved lives but played a major role in changing the local culture. Her understanding of the language, history, and customs, plus her standing in the community, enabled her to work as a mediator and give judgments in local tribal courts.

When the British attempted to set up a court system in the area, Mary warned them it would be a disaster. So, the British consul appointed Mary as vice-consul in Okoyong, making her the first female magistrate in the British Empire. In this position, Mary continued to mediate disputes, while acting as liaison with the colonial government, continuing to care for children and continuing  her work as a missionary.

At age 66, Mary finally lost a long fight with malaria. She was given a state funeral, which was attended by many people who travelled from the tribal regions in order to honor her. She was nicknamed the “Queen of Okoyong.”

Mary Slessor’s story is a wonderful part of the larger, ongoing Story of restoration, accomplished by Christ through His people within the time and place they are called. Slessor offers yet another example for Christ-followers that taking the Gospel to pagan cultures will typically involve protecting children. Our calling is no different.

May 10, 2021
Assurance in Christ in a Pandemic With Eyes Ahead to Birth-rate Challenges - BreakPoint This Week
53:08

John and Maria breakdown some trends in the news during BreakPoint This Week. They discuss how our response to the pandemic can cause us to despair. They discuss the importance of keeping our eyes on Christ and building our hope around a Christian worldview. Maria turns from a segment of looking to Christ to a segment looking at the challenges in our thinking about childrearing. John highlights two recent podcasts where the hosts share concern in birthrates and how that is impacting our culture.

All of these topics follow a quick tour through BreakPoint commentaries from this week where Maria asks John for greater insight on what he's seeing going on in the culture.

// Resources //

Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm?

- BreakPoint -

President Biden Called a Good Catholic

- The Point -

Biden Scraps the ‘Protect Life’ Rule: We Need Cultural Change, Not Political Games

- BreakPoint -

The Liberals Who Can’t Quit Lockdown>>

Millions Are Saying No to the Vaccines. What Are They Thinking?

- The Atlantic -

 

A Shrinking Society in Japan

A Population Slowdown in the U.S.

- The Daily Podcast -

 

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May 07, 2021
Should We Edit Our Genes?
07:00

More and more, we're hearing about the promises of gene editing. It's a scientific technology that literally allows us to rewrite our DNA. Still in the experimental stage, with technologies like CRISPR, we've seen how the technology can be used wrongly. It can put humanity at risk. Many Christians are not aware of the biological challenges until it's too late.

In this week's What Would You Say? video, my colleague Brooke McIntire walks through how Christians can think about gene editing. Here's Brooke McIntire.

You’re in a conversation and someone says, “Gene editing can help us wipe out disease and will improve life for everyone.”

What would you say?

In recent years, talk of gene editing has become extremely popular. Gene editing technologies like CRISPR promise not only to eradicate disease and disability, but also to provide human enhancement and designer babies. But this powerful technology comes with a host of major ethical issues that need to be carefully considered and addressed.

You may wonder what ethics has to do with gene editing – after all, doesn’t eradicating disease and disability sound like a no brainer? It’s true that we can and have used technology to alleviate suffering in the world, and that is a good thing. But sometimes our well-intentioned actions can have devastating unforeseen consequences.

The next time someone says, “gene editing can help us wipe out disease and will improve life for everyone,” here are 3 things to remember:

Number 1: Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

When we hear about the exciting advances in technology and genetics, it’s easy to believe the promise that it will make our lives better or healthier. But, as countless stories in science fiction have taught us, simply pursuing innovation for innovation’s sake can have dangerous consequences. That’s why it’s important to ask not only “can we” do something, but “should we” do something. As technology continues to advance, the question of “should we” will get more and more weighty.

For example, a group of researchers at the Francis Crick Institute in London used CRISPR technology to edit 18 human embryos. But when they finished, they found that around half the embryos ended up with what they called “major unintended edits.” These “major unintended edits” are more harmful than they sound. They can actually lead to birth defects or life-threatening medical problems like cancer. And, those issues could permanently enter the gene pool and affect future generations.

Sometimes, our finite minds don’t always foresee the potential dangers or ramifications of these innovations on human life. This is why it’s dangerous to separate science from philosophy and ethics. These decisions shouldn’t just be left up to scientists or experts who may be preoccupied with scientific advancement without a larger, ethical perspective and boundaries.

Number 2: Treating human life as disposable doesn’t make our society more humane.

Humans aren’t simply problems to be fixed or objects to be experimented on. Those 18 “edited” embryos are actual human lives that have been permanently altered in the pursuit of innovation and science. Many embryos will simply be discarded or destroyed because their usefulness has expired. But defining the value of a human life by their utility is not advancing society in a desirable or worthy direction.

The sincere desire to eradicate genetic diseases is understandable, and the longing to heal reflects God’s image in us. Ethically sound and medically safe treatments that don’t dehumanize other human beings should be pursued.

But we must proceed with an ethical framework, and an awareness of the human temptation to “become like God” with our own ideas about what is good and evil. Which leads to our third point.

Number 3: Gene editing can’t deliver on its promise of control.

In the ethics of biotechnology, there’s a fine line between healing and enhancement. Healing is fixing something that’s broken. Enhancement is trying to improve something that isn’t broken. It can be tempting to want to just “upgrade” healthy people or give our children a leg up in the world through various biotechnical enhancements.

But this desire to “enhance” humanity misinterprets what it means to be human and exposes the urge to have complete control over our lives. We like to think that we have everything under control, that we can protect ourselves from any kind of pain, and decide what is moral on our own.

But technology and human “enhancement” can’t deliver on its promise to meet those deep desires for control. As we discussed earlier, this search for control often descends into a chaos of unintended consequences. As long as we keep looking to technology to solve our need for control or security or hope, we’ll find ourselves disappointed. What we’re missing can’t be provided by technology. In reality, our craving for purpose, security, and the freedom to create and invent without hurting others is best met when we love our Creator, and love our neighbor more than we love ourselves.

So the next time you’re talking about technology and someone says “gene editing will help us wipe out disease and help create better lives for all,” remember these 3 things: 

Number 1: Just because we can do something doesn’t mean we should.

Number 2: Treating human life as disposable doesn’t make our society more humane.

Number 3: Gene editing can’t deliver on its promise of control.

For What Would You Say, I’m Brooke McIntire

That was my colleague Brooke McIntire with this week's What Would You Say? video. Each week, a new video on our What Would You Say? series, tackles a question of cultural significance, answering it in a way that you can understand and repeat and use in your conversation with others. To make sure you don't miss a single What Would You Say? video, go to www.whatwouldyousay.org.

May 07, 2021
The Supreme Court Doesn’t Get the Last Word
04:32

The idea of a politically neutral Supreme Court is one of our nation’s persistent and appealing myths. The Court’s job, at least according to our founding documents, is to interpret existing legislation and arbitrate disputes about that legislation. In practice, especially over the past several decades, the Court hasn’t always stayed in that lane.

In a crucial chapter in his important book, The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, Carl Trueman shatters the notion of political neutrality within the Court, as well as the notion that the Court is impervious to cultural pressure. For example, in the landmark 1992 decision in Planned Parenthood of Southeastern Pennsylvania vs. Casey, which struck down abortion restrictions, the court famously offered this incredibly consequential line: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” The justices went on to say that for the Court to define those concepts (i.e. to define reality) would be for the Court to deny freedom itself. 

Though this sort of thinking is largely taken for granted today, it would have been utterly unrecognizable to America’s founders, not to mention much of the world throughout all of human history. As Trueman points out in the book, this script was first espoused by Romantic-era philosophers like Jean Jacques-Rousseau. Rousseau suggested that true reality is found not in something bigger-than or outside-of ourselves, but merely in what we feel. This radical notion is, of course, entirely incompatible with the idea of a Creator who had a purposeful design for what He made.

Yet, when the Court issued their opinion in Planned Parenthood V. Casey, the idea of self-determining meaning, identity and reality itself had so deeply seeped into our collective imaginations that the supposedly neutral U.S. Supreme Court took it for granted. Even more, the Court appealed to the centrality of precedent in its reasoning. Roe V. Wade, after all, had already been decided, said the justices, as if to ignore other landmark cases in which precedent was rightly overturned.

In 1954, the Court overturned the awful “separate-but-equal” Plessy vs. Ferguson decision from 1896 that legalized racial segregation. Precedent should be respected, of course, but an appeal to precedent is not an argument. Wrong decisions that do not align with reality should be overturned.

On the other hand, Trueman points to the 2003 case Lawrence v. Texas, in which the Court struck down anti-sodomy laws in Texas. This decision overturned precedent set in 1986. In his dissent, Justice Antonin Scalia specifically pointed to Planned Parenthood v. Casey, noting how the Court claimed precedent should be respected above reason.

Scalia’s concern is instructive for all of us today. The Court has a history of showing itself susceptible to cultural tastes. Justice transcends culture. It is not best served when based on the latest social fads.

This history, especially in light of the major and more contemporary shifts in cultural tastes about selfhood and sexuality, reveal how vulnerable the Court is to cultural fashions. The 2013 decision in United States v. Windsor, which effectively struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, and the 2015 decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, which imposed same-sex “marriage” on the nation, were clearly driven more by cultural winds than some “long arch of the universe that bends toward justice.”

The only real way forward is by finding an anchor for meaning, justice, purpose and dignity. In just a few weeks, at the Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth, Texas, we will spend a weekend looking at the only notion that’s ever been big enough to ground any of these eternal concepts: the Image of God. This audacious idea is both crucial within a Christian worldview and central for our cultural witness. And the incredible lineup of speakers and thinkers includes Dr. Carl Trueman, author of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Get your tickets at wilberforceweekend.org

May 06, 2021
If Marriage is Designed for Pro-creation Should Christians Unable to Have Children Marry?
53:13

John and Shane field a question on adoption. A listener wrote in to ask if adoption to a homosexual couple is better than a child being parentless.

They then work through a question on if a Christian should marry if the marriage looks to be childless. 

John and Shane close the question and answer time looking at immigration. A listener asks for a worldview perspective on a topic that has become strongly politicized. 

May 05, 2021
If Marriage is Designed for Pro-creation Should Christians Unable to Have Children Marry?

John and Shane field a question on adoption. A listener wrote in to ask if adoption to a homosexual couple is better than a child being parentless.

They then work through a question on if a Christian should marry if the marriage looks to be childless. 

John and Shane close the question and answer time looking at immigration. A listener asks for a worldview perspective on a topic that has become strongly politicized. 

May 05, 2021
If Marriage is Designed for Pro-creation Should Christians Unable to Have Children Marry?

John and Shane field a question on adoption. A listener wrote in to ask if adoption to a homosexual couple is better than a child being parentless.

They then work through a question on if a Christian should marry if the marriage looks to be childless. 

John and Shane close the question and answer time looking at immigration. A listener asks for a worldview perspective on a topic that has become strongly politicized. 

May 05, 2021
Evangelicals & Casual Sex
04:58
May 05, 2021
Biden Scraps the ‘Protect Life’ Rule: We Need Cultural Change, Not Political Games
04:32

The term “political football” is a perfect descriptive for how the executive branch of the federal government handles abortion. There are two “teams,” pro-life and pro-choice, who toss the issue back and forth from administration to administration. Neither decisively win, at least in the long run. While state level legislation and federal court decisions have moved the ball in real ways, executive orders and legislative rules are barely temporary, depending entirely on who is in the White House.

After President Biden’s first 100 days in office, it is clear that the football is in the hands of the pro-abortion team. Recently, the Department of Health and Human Services proposed a new rule that would restore a major source of federal funding for abortion clinics. This rule would undo the Trump administration’s “Protect Life” rule, which withheld money designated for low-income family planning from any clinics that “perform, promote, refer for, or support abortion…” The “Protect Life” rule also required clinics to keep their abortion and non-abortion services physically and financially separate.

The rule made a difference. Planned Parenthood, which drew an estimated $60 million in annual federal funding just from Title X, dropped out of the program rather than attempt to meet the new requirements. Now, under the Biden Administration, Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers are back on the federal dole.

Bizarrely, the Biden Administration claims that its new rule will not lead to federally funded abortions. When Owen Jensen, a Catholic reporter from Catholic network EWTN asked why the President would “insist that pro-life Americans pay for abortions and violate their conscience,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki replied, “that’s not an accurate depiction of what happened.” She then quoted from the Public Health Service Act, which stipulates that no Title X funds “shall be used in programs where abortion is a method of family planning.”

That isn’t a real answer, of course, as Jensen pointed out. Money is easily moved around. In a fiscal shell game, Planned Parenthood can simply divert funding they don’t have to spend on non-abortion services back to abortion,.

Speaking for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on Pro-Life Activities, Archbishop Joseph Naumann agreed: “In spite of explicit prohibitions in federal law and clear congressional intent that abortion may not be a part of this program, it has repeatedly been coopted by abortion supporters as a funding stream for organizations, programs, and facilities that directly promote and provide abortions.”

What might we learn from all of this?

First, though elections do have consequences, at least when it comes to who is President, they’re short-lived. This means that putting the right person in the White House matters, but is not the highest or best goal of pro-lifers. For example, President Trump’s most significant contribution to the pro-life “team” are not his executive orders, but a thoroughly remade judiciary. At the same time, many more millions of tax dollars are given to Planned Parenthood by Congress.  The most effective legislation to limit abortion and fund alternative care has been at the state level. Those elections matter too.

Second, the battle for unborn lives will be won or lost in the larger culture. It is encouraging that though Americans are very much divided on abortion itself, they strongly oppose government footing the bill. A Marist Poll earlier this year found that almost three-fifths of Americans oppose taxpayer funding for abortion.

In other words, a lot of folks who want abortion to remain legal don’t want to coerce their neighbors into paying for them. That’s at least a start. The finish line, however, is when abortion is as unthinkable as other grave evils like slavery and child sacrifice.

Until then, this political football will continue to change hands with each and every election.

May 04, 2021
Is Christian Cohabitation the New Norm?
05:47

 Recently, researchers at State University of New York determined that descendants of immigrants to the United States from places such as Asia typically lost the ability to speak their mother tongue by the third generation. Something similar, but more serious, seems to be happening with Christians in an increasingly post-Christian culture. Each successive generation is losing the understanding of, not to mention the will to live by, Christian sexual morality.

Two years ago, a Pew Research survey found that half of American Christians think casual sex is “sometimes or always” morally acceptable. The slight silver-lining in that survey was that evangelical Protestants were by far the least likely group to express acceptance of casual sex. Unfortunately, a new analysis calls into question just how committed the children of evangelicals are to Christian teaching in this area.

These numbers reflect a larger trend among evangelicals: with each generation, American evangelicals increasingly adopt the attitudes of the wider culture toward sex and marriage. This time, the behavior in question wasn’t casual sex, but cohabitation. In 2019, Pew Research reported that a majority – 58 percent – of white evangelicals said cohabitation is acceptable if a couple plans to marry. View on cohabitation become noticeably less Christian among younger respondents. As early as 2012, the General Social Survey found that over 40 percent of evangelicals in their 20s agreed that cohabitation is acceptable even if a couple has no express plans to marry. And, earlier this month, David Ayers at the Institute for Family Studies found that nearly half of evangelical Protestants aged 15-22 who were not currently cohabiting or married, said that they would probably or definitely cohabit in the future.

Still, as dismaying as the attitudes of young evangelicals are toward sex, behavior is what most effectively erodes the Christian norm. Among those ages 23-44 who had already cohabited, a whopping 65 percent indicated they would likely or definitely do so again.

An important caveat, as is typically the case with these kinds of surveys, is that religious commitment makes quite a difference. Young evangelicals who attended church at least twice a month before the pandemic were the least likely to approve of “shacking up.” Yet, even they were a minority for their age group. Across all groups analyzed by Ayers, cohabitation had become, as he put in an article at Christianity Today, “a new norm.”

How can this cultural assimilation be slowed? How can the next generation be convinced of the sacredness of marriage, as a norm worth preserving and living? Again, the experience of immigrants offer an analogy. Research by one immigrant grad student at the University of Alberta found that “speaking the [native] language regularly at home” is the crucial first step in passing the mother-tongue from parent to child.

That may sound simple, but it is. The word for passing on moral values and behavior through regular instruction in the faith by parents and pastors is catechesis. The kind of catechesis necessary for this cultural moment not only involves the “what” of biblical morality, but

the “why” and the living out of the “how.” According to Ayers the lack of a reason given for God’s rules is a key factor behind young evangelicals drifting into behaviors common in the wider culture.

Whenever I teach worldview to students, I like to draw a triangle with three levels. Worldview is at the foundation of the triangle, values is at the middle level, and behavior is at the top. The idea is that one should evaluate what is true and good, build their values from that, and allow that to shape behavior. Today, however, too many Christians live “upside down.” The unthinkingly embrace behaviors common in our culture, those behaviors shape their values, and they land with an ultimately non-Christian worldview.

We need to approach teaching the next-generation, especially when it comes to areas where the Christian vision is so different than the “new normal” in a “bottom-up” way. We must teach what is true about male and female, sex, and family, offering the what and the why. From there, we can work cultivate a strong set of values, by talking openly about what they are and living them out together. Only from there will countercultural behavior blossom.

For any parents, grandparents, teachers, or pastors who want to see the next generation follow Christ in this culture, catechesis isn’t optional. Today, the Christian view of sex and marriage is like a foreign language, and the wider culture is actively catechizing them.

May 03, 2021
Reviewing the President's Speech to Congress and the Moral Decay in Higher Education - BreakPoint This Week
01:12:20

John and Maria review President Joe Biden's speech to congress. They discuss the role of government and the stretch it has had into our lives. The two share how government expansion creates thin fabrics in society, trying to hold weight it was never intended to hold.

Maria shares a story from Seattle, where staff and faculty at Seattle Pacific University vote no confidence in their board. The vote was made due to frustration with the school's hiring policies that uphold a traditional Biblical ethic in regards to sexuality.

John and Maria begin their conversation revisiting some of the top stories from BreakPoint this week. They discuss the character of Trevor Lawrence and his opportunity to impact standards for player character. They also talk about an unknown trend in human trafficking involving young boys before revisiting a story from last week where President Biden appealed a court order that could cause doctors to perform genital mutilation surgeries. 

Apr 30, 2021
Loving Our Neighbors by Refusing to Lie
04:28

When John McCain was running for President in 2008, Saturday Night Live ran a recurring skit about his running-mate, then-Alaska Governor Sarah Palin. Tina Fey, playing Gov. Palin in her trademark red suit, delivered the memorable line, “I can see Russia from my house!”

It was pretty funny. It also wasn’t real. Sarah Palin never said she could see Russia from her house. Today, however, a surprising number of people believe she did. This is a testimony to the power of lies.

A few weeks ago, Georgia state legislators passed a bill that added additional days for early voting, limit the number of ballot boxes that had (for the first time) been set up across the state during the pandemic, and changed the requirements for voting by mail. Rather than rely on matching signatures by eye, mail-in ballots will now be verified using a voter’s ID.

The partisan backlash over the bill, even though it expanded voting access in many way, wasn’t surprising. The lies about the bill, how quickly they were spread, by whom, and the corporate reactions to them are worth noting. President Biden likened the bill to laws that oppressed African Americans, calling it “Jim Crow on steroids.” Major League Baseball announced it was moving the 2021 All Star Game out of Atlanta in protest, and even Stacey Abrams caught heat for not calling for economic boycotts of Home Depot and Delta Airlines. 

Of course, people sometimes lie. But the stakes are higher when millions of people – including those with no interest in or loyalties to politics– believe those lies. Now, millions of people in Georgia and elsewhere are needlessly anxious, fearful, and angry. That’s cruel.

In James 3 the apostle calls the tongue a “fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body.” The tongue can, James says, “corrupt the whole body, set the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell.”

Among the reasons that Christians cannot sit out our culture-wide conversations about sexual orientation and gender identity is that it is based on a lie about the human person, a lie that has convinced many. To relinquish the belief in a reality that exists outside of ourselves is to give up more than we might realize. If men can be women, if laws which expand voting access in Georgia can be renamed as bringing back Jim Crow, then what is real? If Christians give in to lies, why would we be trusted to tell the truth about God?

Jewish philosopher Abraham Heschel once said, “words create worlds.” Words do not change created reality, but they do reshape culture and therefore what people think is reality. Among the sources of the deep fracture in American culture right now is the loss of trust in our institutions and information sources.

No matter how normal as a practice or successful as a strategy of influence, Christians must never, at least intentionally, partake in misinformation. While we are just as susceptible as anyone to believe lies that reinforce our views and to disregard facts that challenge them, the very practice of not compromising on truth will be an increasingly important part of our cultural witness.

Even if we have good intentions, for example “weeping with those who weep,” we still can’t afford to lie. We can’t love our neighbors and lie to them. So, it’s imperative, even if inefficient, to take the time and find out what is true before speaking, especially when it comes to complicated, often heated political matters.

God’s words made reality. As image bearers, our words can create worlds too, at least perceived worlds. As followers of Christ, let’s commit to using our words to build the Kingdom of God, where lies have no place.

Apr 30, 2021
Does Trevor Lawrence Have Too Much Character to be the NFL’s #1 Pick?
03:55

Most people (at least those paying attention) expect quarterback Trevor Lawrence to be the first player selected in this year’s NFL Draft. Frankly, his draft stock has been a foregone conclusion since his heralded arrival at Clemson in 2018, and was only strengthened after he led the Tigers to the National Championship as only a freshman. He’s a team leader who can read a defense and flat out throw the ball.

In fact, the only doubts that exist about Lawrence’s potential in the NFL have nothing to do with talent or poise, but only concern his character. Let me be clear. Some pundits worry Lawrence has too much character.

In a recent interview with Sports Illustrated, Lawrence said, “I dont have this huge chip on my shoulder, that everyones out to get me and Im trying to prove everybody wrong.” As if that were not troubling enough, he clarified, [T]heres also more in life than playing football.” 

As a committed Christian, who is very public about his faith and the way it shapes his life, one of the things Lawrence considers more important than football is Jesus. He also apparently has a thing for family. Recently, Lawrence skipped an NFL pre-draft event to marry his high-school sweetheart. This crazy behavior fed a narrative that Lawrence, like other Christian athletes, is probably too “soft” and lacks the kind of monomaniacal focus required to succeed in football.

Given that there’s never been a shortage of Christian players who possessed deep faith and achieved great on-field success, this narrative is baseless. No one who was the receiving end of a hit by Steelers’ great Troy Polamalu thought his faith made him somehow “soft.” Not to mention, Lawrence has proven his competitive zeal. In three seasons at Clemson, he lost only two games.

Still, the presumption that the perspective and balance and priorities shaped by a sincere faith are somehow liabilities, and obstacles to athletic success, persists. So, when Lawrence tweeted, “I am secure in who I am, and what I believe. I dont need football to make me feel worthy as a person,” the critics pounced.

Their critiques, in reality, say nothing about Trevor Lawrence. They only expose how absurd discussions of character have become in our culture. Scarcely a week goes by without a story featuring an active or former NFL player in trouble with the law. In the weeks leading up to the draft, a former NFL player killed five people before killing himself. That same day, police arrested another former player on charges of first degree murder in connection with a shooting that injured one and killed another. A few days after that, a current player ended up behind bars on weapons charges. The local news report of that story began tellingly: “Another pro football player has been arrested in Northeast Ohio on a weapons charge.”

The NFL has learned about character the hard way. Whenever a player is selected in the draft later than their abilities suggest, the reason is nearly always a concern about character. Teams spend a lot of time and money up front assessing a prospect’s character because they’ve learned how costly it can be. In 2013, after tight end Aaron Hernandez was charged with murder, the Patriots became the first NFL team to hire a “character coach.”

All of which makes concerns that a player like Lawrence has too much character simply bizarre. If anything, what the Bible calls the “fruit” of faith and character would make him a safe choice. But, in a world of “expressive individualism,” things like character and virtue and integrity seem old-fashioned. Still it’s these old-fashioned ideas our ailing young men, and our ailing society, need the most.

Apr 29, 2021
Our Daughter Says She's Pansexual. How Can We Walk This In Loving Her Well? - BreakPoint Q&A
47:20

John and Shane field a sobering question from a ministry-minded family. A daughter informed her mother that the daughter identifies as pansexual. John and Shane provide a host of resources and encouragement for the mother and her family as they walk a road of love, support, and guiding their family to hope in Jesus Christ in the midst of confusion.

Another listener seeks insight on what they're seeing as an agenda play out in the business community. Specifically, the listener identifies shifts in power where agendas are guiding the business community to a socialistic and communistic ideal. The listener asks how Christians should respond to soft movements of coercion we see inside our economy.

With graduation approaching, another listener asks for resources for a teen's parents unsure what their daughter should do next year. Rather than attend a university, where a level of maturity is essential, the listener suggests a link or gap year. She asks John and Shane for their recommendations.

Apr 28, 2021
What Every Christian Needs to Know
05:09

Scripture says woe to those who say that good is evil and that evil is good. That’s a culture-wide feature of our world. Each day, it seems, brings new and audacious ideas aimed at unravelling and misordering God’s very good creation.

Our first impulse might be to “blame the culture,” but it should be, instead, to take a hard look in the mirror. If the Church exists to proclaim and bear witness to the rule and reign of Christ, we may find that our culture’s woes aren’t as much the result of a secular occupation as they are the result of a Christian evacuation.

Francis Schaeffer noted how Christians think about life in terms of “bits and pieces” instead of “totals.” For example, many Christians able to recite core beliefs of the Christian faith struggle to see all of life as it truly is, the Story of creation, fall, redemption and restoration.

To see what we are missing, consider who the Book of Acts describes Apollos. A man “fervent in spirit,” Apollos “spoke and taught accurately the things concerning Jesus.” And yet, he missed certain things related to the full life and work of Jesus. It’s not that he had wrong ideas, but that he didn’t understand where they fit within the larger Story of Jesus the Christ. This is similar to our situation today.

What we often miss, as Christians today, can be thought of in three broad categories: the past, the present and the future. Or, to put it another way, what was, what is, and what is to come.

To clarify what was, recall that first calling of God for His image bearers, a calling that has never been removed, is what might be called the “creation mandate.” God didn’t create His world in all of its glory to simply destroy it. He created the world to glorify Himself. He created His image bearers to glorify God by living out what He intended for us, where He intended us live. This created purpose, for humanity and the world, God called very good.

God’s created intent is restored, renewed in Christ. Another way to say this is that Christ has not come to save us from our God-given humanity, but to save us to it. To confess Christ as Savior from sin but to deny His relevance in society and culture is to miss, or perhaps even reject, His kingship over the entire world. Working to restore the world to its God-given order is itself gospel ministry.

The what is of the present is nothing less than the most extraordinary event in all of history, the Incarnation. Jesus atones for the sins of the world by His obedience and death, and launches the new creation by His resurrection. Thus, His Gospel, the good news, is not less than how we can be saved from our sin and be in heaven when we die, but it is more. The good news of Christ is, in reality, the Gospel of the Kingdom. In Christ, the Kingdom of God has come and will one day be fully realized in the full and final defeat of the enemies of God.

Finally, we must recover a biblical understanding of what is to come. Theologian N.T. Wright described what Christians should look forward to this way:

“In the New Testament, we do not find a life after death in heaven, but a life after life after death. In other words, a newly embodied life in a newly reconstituted creation. And ... all the great Christian teachers for centuries after that, taught the same thing: that what God did for Jesus on Easter, he will do for all his people at the end, raising them to new bodily life to share in the life of the new world.”

Together, the Christian vision of what was, what is, and what is to come, offers a broad and rich understanding of God’s Story. Unless Christians, especially in this time of cultural chaos, rediscover our place in that story, we’ll be confused and often ineffective, our witness diminished.

There is no greater task, then, in the church today than to re-catechize, to rethink what the Gospel is and what it means for us to, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to champion the rule and reign of Christ in this cultural moment.  Hundreds of Christians will be joining us this year to dig deep into Christian worldview, cultural analysis and restorative leadership as Colson Fellows. If you’d like to join them, and rediscover your place in the Great Story of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration, consider joining the Colson Fellows program. To learn more, please visit www.colsonfellows.org

Apr 28, 2021