Your Hashtags are Betraying You

Social media can be a very strange place. Originally using the pound symbol (#) as a hashtag lived solely on Twitter, and was used to find particular topics being posted about. Basically a sort of topic index, if you will. However, once they started being used all over the place, they became more than simply that. They became virtual rallying cries, where people could express solidarity for a particular position.

Unfortunately, more often than not, they have become something for which you can quickly participate in something that is trending, and then completely forget about it. You end up like this guy:

Usually, I would go on to talk about slacktivism and critique it, but I would like to suggest a different reason for why so many people do this. I think it comes from the consequences of a philosophy that is now baked into our (American) culture. We are no longer unified people. Whether our worldview involves postmodernism, or perhaps some form of materialism, we have a split view of reality and ourselves. Most commonly, you might hear this described as the fact/value split. It looks something like this:

The things that we can know from science and math are the “cold, hard, facts” and they have to be true, regardless of what you believe about them. Other things, things like emotions, beliefs, religion, philosophy, etc. aren’t things that can be tested and proven by science, and so ultimately they are illusions. However, they are so essential to living our lives, that they are deemed useful fictions, and so they are kept as “subjective” truth. Thus we have a split. I explain in the link above how this effects our views of various issues, as well as how we view ourselves. However, something I didn’t mention was that this fragmentation of ourselves causes a profound sense of loss. As a result, people feel an intense need for integration. People realize the value of being part of things that are larger than they are, especially when they are not complete wholes. Why else would things like the Atheist Church exist, if not for that recognition?

So, what does this have to do with hashtags? They allow us to quickly, and easily involve ourselves in something bigger than ourselves. It requires nothing of us. We don’t really need to do research on the issue, we don’t even have to leave our houses like a protest might. We become consumers of digital value-boosters. Insidiously, this is perfectly capitalized by our consumer culture. They already have us locked in the cycle in of purchasing the newest and best thing when it comes out in a year or two. The reason why I say this is insidious, is because digital value-boosters have a necessarily short fulfillment time. Like a drug addict, the high (fulfillment feeling) lasts only a short time, and there must be something get the next hit. We already have non-stop news, and super sensationalized headlines of everything, trying to vie for the short attention span of the consumers. Therefore, we are invited to join in the hysterics. “Quick! This should outrage you! Join the crusade! (that will only last a day)”. Whereas before, people had to work out entire belief systems to try and find fulfillment, now we can just taking hits and hope that we can equal out in quantity instead of quality.

Ultimately, this will fail us. Jeremiah told us this a very long time ago when he wrote:

“Be appalled, O heavens, at this; be shocked, be utterly desolate, declares the Lord, for my people have committed two evils: they have forsaken me, the fountain of living waters, and hewed out cisterns for themselves, broken cisterns that can hold no water.” – Jer. 2:12-13

These cisterns, whether they be digital value-boosters, or entire worldviews are broken. They can hold no water, and will ultimately leave us empty. So what’s the cure? Do we make bite-sized value-boosters with Christian words in them? No. That would be, at best, trying to fix the problem by merely treating the symptoms. True spirituality goes back further. Christianity offers a whole system. There is no divide. You do not have to be fragmented. You have value because you were made in the image of God, but you need to be reconciled to Him. The only way to do this is through Jesus. Repent, and believe the gospel.

SDG

Sex Changes & The Sneetches

It occurred to me that I have been seeing so many posts on social media about people getting sex changes lately that it reminded me of The Sneetches, that old Dr. Seuss book. Originally, it was just because people were changing their outward appearance, like the Sneetches did by getting the stars on their bellies removed and put back on. However, then I started thinking about it, and actually there’s more there than I originally thought. Of course, the comparison is imperfect, and it breaks down, but humor me for a moment.

If you’re unfamiliar with the story of the Sneetches, I feel sorry for your lacking childhood, but it’s better late than never!

Now, what drove the plain-bellied Sneetches to desire stars? Well, one group was saying that they were superior, due to their physical appearance. The plain-bellied Sneetches didn’t bother to realize that they could have their own groups, doing all the same things, but rather they envied the other Sneetches, and wanted what they had.

Then, in swoops a sly salesman, who has just the technology to change their appearance, thereby giving them exactly what they always wanted. Surely now they can be included with the other group! Unfortunately, things didn’t quite work out that simply. The salesman sold the other group the same bag of goods, and suddenly, the new thing to be envied was the lack of stars! Quickly! Change your appearance! All to belong to the group you feel like you should belong to! All for a nominal fee. After all, there’s no reason you shouldn’t be the best, and there’s no reason anybody should be able to judge you.

Of course, you will say, that isn’t the case! This isn’t merely a matter of taste! (couldn’t help myself)

You’ll say that the issues are deeper! In reality, all you’ve done is made the issues cheaper. (last one. promise.)

The general idea is that you feel, inside, the opposite gender that you were born as. Which is fascinating, because this seems to reinforce an idea that society has long been against. The idea that there are a set of feelings that belong to one gender, and a set of feelings that belong to another gender.

The Sneetches who change are heroes and brave, and the Sneetches who don’t (and anyone who suggests they shouldn’t) are not true to themselves, and aught to be shunned and looked down on. Don’t invite them to the discussion table, or the frankfurter roasts.

What of McBean? Well, a mere $3/$10 scheme seems laughable when compared to the tens of thousands of dollars the process costs today. But can you teach a Sneetch? Will there come a day when we can “be comfortable in our own skin” , realize that “being different is ok”? Well, probably not without the idea that everyone is made in the image of God, and thereby has worth in themselves, and that gender differences aren’t actually a bad thing. Maybe one day we will even be able to discuss what those differences are, and how they compliment one another, without racing to be the first one to get offended.

Though for now, McBean has us running about, until we don’t know “whether this one was that one. . .or that one was this one. Or which one was what one. . .or what one was who.” with McBean raking in the green over our confusion. Hopefully, one day, I’ll be happy to say, that all the Sneetches got very smart on that day.

 

SDG

Ontological Confusion & Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner

There’s a lot of talk about Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner lately, what with the gender reassignment surgery and marketing campaign media exposure. Personally, I had never even heard of the individual until all this happened. I think something that’s missing from the talking points is any discussion about ontology. Though, honestly, I would never expect the media to talk about ontology!

Without getting too technical, you can think of ontology as the study of being. As it relates to humans, this would be questions like “who am I” , and you can see how that’s entirely what any discussion of sexuality/orientation/identity falls under. John Piper tweeted the following question: “Is Caitlyn Jenner the father of Bruce Jenner’s children?” and in so doing, put his finger on some of the ontological problems that the sexual revolution has brought about. Is that a question that can be answered? Some of the current cultural norms are that sexual orientation is fluid, and it is also a different thing from gender identity. You see where these ideas and more, ultimately relating to ontology, hit the real world in the following interview at the Washington Post.

For example, one of the Jenner children asked what she should call Bruce, after he completes the transition, and he says “I’m dad, you can call me dad,” Jenner said. “I will always be your dad.” but how can that be? Is it possible that he views his role as father as being above and beyond his new feminine name and sexual identity as a woman? How does he work that out, I wonder.

Another interesting thing is the following quote:

Jenner said that at one time, he was sure he would have sexual reassignment surgery. Now? Nothing is certain. He’s been on female hormones for about a year and a half, but hasn’t made up his mind about the medical procedure. But when and if he does, he said, it will be so quiet that no one will know.

The article is from April, and here we are in June with the story being the most publicized one out there. The juxtaposition is almost laughable, and one wonders what happened to make him change his mind.

More to the point, there are several times in this article and in interviews elsewhere that he says that he will (future) no longer identify as Bruce or that she will (present) identify as Caitlyn. Why are these things important? Because it’s an identification of a “me” identity that is completely detached from gender. While this makes for good, emotional media when uttering phrases like “I never identified as a man” and “I was always a woman”, you need to realize that it cuts both ways. If the “I” is detached from the male sex, it is also detached from the female sex. Interestingly, Jenner realizes this, and tries to ground it in the soul.

Jenner said he explained his transition this way to his kids: He feels he was created by God who said, “Hey, let’s give him the soul of a female and let’s see how he deals with that.”

This is a statement that is completely untenable, but it does represent his attempt at grounding the moral confusion he’s going through. Even though he uses the term “soul” what he really means is that his “inner self” deeply feels one way. In Freudian psychological terms, what he’s referring to is the “id” , dispensing with both the “ego” and the “super-ego” (though my psychologist friends will likely correct me). Essentially, this is the same thing different aspects of culture tells us. Just look deep inside yourself, and you’ll find the real you, and that place can save you, give you purpose, and make you happy. Granted, there are plenty of things that are still looked down on by even secular society that can come from that place. Even more importantly, there really is no way of telling almost anything about that place. How do you know when you’ve “hit bottom”, so to speak? Could it be that Bruce has dug down and found Caitlyn, but that a couple years from now she will be able to dig down even deeper and find Bruce again? Or how does one know that the inner self won’t shift? In fact, that is what culture tells us tends to happen, right? After all, things like sexuality are fluid, and so people can go all over the spectrum. On what grounds are we supposed to believe that sexuality is fluid, but gender identity is grounded and unmoving, provided that you can only find out what your true gender identity is? We’re not told.

If you’ve made it this far in the article, and are #teamjenner, as it were, I would be curious to know how you answer some of these ontological questions. Around the same time as all this, I found an article regarding people known as Transabled people. If gender identity works the way we’re told that it is, are there other things that work that way? If not, then how do you know? The arguments, it seems to me, are identical.

If you’re on the other side, how do you respond, particularly from a Christian viewpoint? With truth and love. Here are a few article which give better advice than I could.

Al Mohler

Russell Moore

Jon Bloom

SDG

p.s. I’ve been doing weekly blogs on apologetics at my church’s website, here, which is a excuse large reason why this blog has been quiet lately.

Update: Here is an excellent article whose author is far more articulate than I am, and comes at it from a different perspective.

Agreeing with Presbyterians

Many of my heroes of the faith, both past and present, are Presbyterians. I have learned a lot from them, and have a tremendous amount of respect for them. That said, I still think they are wrong on a few things, and while that particular blog may come at a later date, I think it’s important to focus on the subject of baptism in the light of where I believe we can both agree.

As a background, I grew up in the Pentecostal denomination, and so my understanding of baptism was largely shaped by that. While I still find believer’s baptism to be the correct position, I think it looks a bit differently, even though I have poorly described it in the past. I have, even recently, explained baptism as a public demonstration of a private commitment. While that’s somewhat true, it also puts all the focus on me. In reality, the focus is on God, just like all of the Christian life.

Baptism is an ordinance of the New Testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, to be unto the party baptized, a sign of his fellowship with him, in his death and resurrection; of his being engrafted into him; of remission of sins; and of giving up into God, through Jesus Christ, to live and walk in newness of life.

– 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith 29.1

Baptism is a sacrament of the new testament, ordained by Jesus Christ, not only for the solemn admission of the party baptized into the visible church; but also, to be unto him a sign and seal of the covenant of grace, of his ingrafting into Christ, of regeneration, of remission of sins, and of his giving up unto God, through Jesus Christ, to walk in newness of life. Which sacrament is, by Christ’s own appointment, to be continued in his church until the end of the world.

– Westminster Confession of Faith 28.1

With the more controversial section highlighted, the bulk of both confessions is the same. (Yeah, I won’t talk about the ordinance/sacrament thing, so pipe down!) The focus is on the work of the Triune God. The texts used to support the LBCF version are fairly non-controversial as well. Romans 6:3-5; Colossians 2:12; Galatians 3:27; Mark 1:4; Acts 22:16; and Romans 6:4. So while there is important discussion to be had on where we disagree, and why, I think it’s also important to point out that both sides are focusing on God when talking about it. Hopefully this is something I can better articulate in future discussions.

Also, if you want the very best arguments for and against infant baptism, you need to look at this article. Nobody can argue with pictures.

SDG

Life With Boxes: A Short Story

(The following are stages in a fictional life of someone as he observes humanity.)

The second I’m born, a man with a mask takes me and cuts my lifeline. I try to tell him how important it is, but he doesn’t understand me. As he’s taking me to a room to get cleaned off, I notice a glowing box on the wall. This place is filled with strange things, and it makes me miss home.

Once I’m clean and wrapped up, I go back and am handed to the person lying on the bed. She seems somehow familiar to me. There’s a man who seems to be very interested in me standing nearby. He’s holding a smaller glowing box next to me. I wonder what these things are?

I wake up in a different place, still being held by my mother while my father is sitting next to the bed. There is a parade of people that come in with gifts, and almost all of them take out glowing boxes and hold them up toward me. Only the very old do not have them. I wonder if there’s a connection?

We go to my parent’s home. It is big, and there are glowing boxes of all sizes around the place. These must be very important, but I don’t know what they do yet.

Today my father is very upset. It seems that he has lost his box, and is frantically searching for it. He actually starts yelling because he cannot find it. It seems like he may be physically harmed if he does not find it. I do not want him to be hurt, so I hope he finds it. Since only the very old people do not have boxes, perhaps there is a connection between getting old and dying, and not having a box. My mother uses her box to help him find his. I wonder what all the fuss is about?

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As I meet kids my own age as I start school, I’m amazed to find out that they have boxes too. They mostly use them to play games, and some of them look very different from the boxes that grownups have. Perhaps there are different boxes for different ages. I do not have one yet, because I am still unsure about them.

I have noticed that the rooms in my house where people most often gather are centered around the bigger boxes. Whenever it lights up, different things are displayed, and people watch it constantly. I’m told that they are real people doing those things, so I try to talk to them. This is apparently funny to my parents, and they explain that we can’t interact with them through the box. They seem like fake people to me, even though I’m repeatedly told they are real people, sometimes pretending to be other people, and other times playing sports.

Today I made a terrifying realization. I was shown pictures and videos of myself on a box. I do not understand. I remember the events, and it certainly looks like me and what I was experiencing, but something is missing. I don’t know what the difference is, but I know enough to not try and ask about it. I don’t want to be laughed at again. I do not like that they took some of me and put it on the boxes.

There are things on shelves that apparently are very old versions of boxes, or something. Nobody touches them, so I assume they are there for decoration.

Today I am taken with my parents to the largest box I have ever seen. There are many people with us, and we sit for a very long time. It is very loud, and people laugh,cry, and even yell things at the fake people on the box. I wonder why my parents do not laugh at them? I do not understand why people seem to care so much about fake people. Or perhaps it is the boxes that they care about, or that the boxes create the fake people. I wonder what all the fuss is about?

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As I go through school, I am often thought of as being strange because I do not have a box. People seem very annoyed that they cannot get in touch with me whenever they want to. It is thought rude of me to tell them when and where they can meet up with me. There is something strange about that.

It does take me longer to complete assignments than my friends, because I don’t use the boxes. Interestingly, I seem to retain the information longer. I do not know if there is a connection, but if there is, I would prefer to do harder work to get longer benefits.

Some boxes seem to be used primarily to listen to music. In order to not interrupt others, there are strings which connect to our ears from the box. I find it interesting that in order to charge boxes, you have to plug them into the outlets in the walls, and to enjoy boxes, sometimes you have to plug the boxes into yourself.

I do not often enjoy watching movies, mainly because I distrust the boxes and the fake people that live there. However, there is one movie that I have found to be fascinating. I wonder if this is an attempt at describing the real life. Perhaps this is art imitating life, as they say. If this is true, than we need someone to rescue us from the fake world, and bring us to the real world. We need to be unplugged. I hope there are no boxes in the real world. I still don’t know what all the fuss is about.

————————————————————————————————————————–

I remember reading somewhere of a story in a magical world where children enter it, and live entire lives and fight battles. There is a talking lion that is somewhat of a hero, or at least a rescuer. I believe they have made a movie about it as well. The interesting part for me is that there seem to be quite a few parallels to the movie I watched a few years ago. The lion mentions that when they leave the fake land, they will be able to find him in their real world, though he goes by a different name. I wonder if there is some truth to this?

People seem very distracted by their boxes. I can hardly have a conversation with someone without their box lighting up or vibrating or making noise, only to have them interrupt what we were talking about to check it. There is somewhat of a growing concern about this tendency, but it seems to concern people for a few minutes only, and then nothing changes.

The boxes keep getting both bigger and smaller. People now have boxes on their wrists the size of watches, and some on their face the size of glasses. The bigger ones are generally for your living room, to simulate the experience of going to the theater for the gigantic boxes. I’m not entirely sure why people want to invite others over, only to watch the box, and then talk about what the fake people did on the box. I feel like it would be better to just talk to the people and get to know them better. But I am in the minority on the whole situation. I do not think any of the fuss is worth it.

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I am nearing the end of my life, and thankfully the doctors tell me that I will not need to be connected to any boxes because I am in good health. I have decided that I want to be cremated, though my reasons are somewhat strange. I have been to several funerals in my lifetime, and I notice that we dress the dead people in their best clothes, put makeup on them to make them seem alive, and then place them in something shaped like a box. Then lots of people come to see the once-person in the box. An eerie parallel to the spectacle of the theater, where people go to see the fake people dress up and do other things. Why must our lives center so much around those boxes?

I believe that the things in the other movies are actually true. There is somewhat of a fake world and a real world, and that people need to be rescued from one to the other. Also, we need to find the rescuer in our world, and I believe that I have found Him, though He is known by a different name here. They made a movie on that, too.

I believe that ultimately, there is nothing inherently wrong with the boxes, even though I do not choose to have them. I think the problem is that the things you own end up owning you, and therefore we become controlled by the boxes, and whoever controls the boxes on the content side. I think people need to be very careful about what they do with their boxes. There needs to be more fuss about that.

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Now that I have died, I am in a very different world. A better world. There are no boxes here. It would appear that the fuss was all for nothing.

Where are You, Christmas?

The Grinch is my favorite Christmas movie, and actually, it might be one of the only ones I like. One of the songs in the movie is where I get the blog title from, and basically it’s a song about the relationship between a child and her perception of the force from Star Wars. That part isn’t super important, but rather a segue into this here blog.

I was visiting family for Thanksgiving, and after acquiring a Christmas tree on the day after, there was a lot of decorating going on. I was content to sit and watch the tree being decorated, and my sister made the observation that she thought I’d lost my awe of Christmas. As I’ve taken some time to reflect on this, I think she may be right, at least in some ways. It’s not simply that Christmas is all commercialized into an abomination, either. Upon further reflection, I’ve also lost my awe with how much of Christendom seems to celebrate Christmas, as well.

Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Christmas eve services (I’m going to one in a couple hours) or Christmas carols (I’ve enjoyed them more this year than in the past). It seems that people celebrate Christ in the same way that the world celebrates Santa. It’s cute, for children, a shinier bauble than the other guy’s, and a largely surface-level thing to be forgotten as soon as Christmas passes.

I’m not too interesting in the debates on whether or not Christmas has a pagan origin or not, as it seems to me that those discussions are one, large, genetic fallacy. The incarnation is a glorious event, and is always connected to the cross. Don’t just treat this like Talladega Nights. Take it seriously, even as we are happy and gracious. What is the incarnation? Why is it important? What does it mean for us? RC Sproul gives some insight into what we celebrate on Christmas in this video.

So yes, do remember the reason for the season. Do remember the incarnation. Do remember the gospel, and our need for it.

SDG

Hypocrite!

We can hardly go a few days without the news broadcasting some scandal about how someone was publically against something, but then were found to be doing the same act in private. All of us are familiar with the word hypocrite, but there are a few strange peculiarities about the concept that I think are interesting.

I don’t remember where I saw someone point this out recently, but the author was saying that the word hypocrite has been hijacked. Before looking up the definition, my initial understanding of the word was that someone acted hypocritically when they claimed to do/think/believe one thing, but then did the exact opposite. The article I read pointed out that the word has been strangely limited in scope. If some weight-loss guru suddenly went through something and gained a bunch of weight, we wouldn’t call them a hypocrite, would we? It seems like the only time this term is brought out is when it is applied to politicians or religious leaders, on issues of morality. This smelled a bit fishy to me, so I went to the dictionary.

The word hypocrite, as defined by Webster, is as follows:

hyp·o·crite

noun \ˈhi-pə-ˌkrit\

: a person who claims or pretends to have certain beliefs about what is right but who behaves in a way that disagrees with those beliefs

Full Definition of HYPOCRITE

1:  a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion

2:  a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings

— hypocrite adjective

I found this to be rather interesting, if a bit convenient. By convenient, I mean that you hear all the time that people don’t want to be a Christian or go to church because of all the hypocrisy. It’s convenient because you can only seem to apply the term to religious/moral people. Perhaps, then, my earlier thought about the weight-loss guru might not be proper to use after all. But wait a second, is there more to this? A word that is designed to flare up the emotions, so that there is a “reason” for not doing something? Something that can apply only to morals, religion, virtue, or belief, but not to our bodies? Sounds an awful lot like Schaeffer’s two-stories, doesn’t it? However, there is an even stranger issue about the word, given it’s spectrum of applicability and the culture we currently have.

In an age of relative morality and truth, the charge of hypocrisy should have no weight to it. If we call someone a hypocrite, we are claiming to have the moral high ground to do so, and to say that what they are doing is wrong, and that something (probably the opposite thing) is the right thing to do. But in order to do all that, there needs to be some sort of objective moral standard, the like of which requires us to do certain things and not others. It would not only have to be objective, but it would also have to be binding on us, so that there are certain things we should or should not do. However, to have an objective moral standard or law that requires that we have certain duties would require a lawgiver. We don’t want to think about Who that lawgiver might be, so we came up with the idea of relative truth and morality to shelter us, as Schaeffer would say, from the truth of God.

This is one of the many examples of how secular beliefs betray the people who hold to them. Paul understood this when he was writing his letter to the Romans. He wrote that “For when Gentiles, who do not have the law, by nature do what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness, and their conflicting thoughts accuse or even excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God judges the secrets of men by Christ Jesus.” (Romans 2:14-16).

Without an objective, moral standard, the charge of hypocrisy should only be a statement of fact, without any negative connotations attached to it. Obviously, nobody lives like this, and that’s actually a good thing. We all intuitively know that objective moral values and duties exist, and should be acted upon, for the betterment of ourselves as individuals, and society as a whole. The Pharisees of Jesus’ time were doing horrible things to people, and Jesus knew that, and took more than one occasion to call them to task for their behavior. The particularly relevant time is recorded in Matthew 23:13-36, where He pronounces woes (prophetic proclamations of judgment) on them. In the passage, He calls them hypocrites or full of hypocrisy 7 times. Not only does He merely call them that, but He also justifies His doing so by pointing to their actions and tells them what will come to them if they continue on their present path.

This is an example of practical apologetics. How we can take a very common phrase, and think through it, back to the necessity of God. Also, we can talk through how the objective moral system that Christianity provides is also good for society, as it provides the foundation for justice etc. Hopefully this will be helpful to you.

SDG

The World I See

IMAG0925_1

There’s a scene in the movie Fight Club, where Edward Norton’s character is recuperating and Brad Pitt’s character gives him a short “pep talk” about the world he sees (in the future sense). While there’s a ton to say about Fight Club, the main point of connection I want to make is the fact that Pitt’s character, Tyler Durden, sees the world very differently from most people. I feel like I can relate to this aspect, because it seems like I see the world very differently from most people, also. Obviously, I have a very small circle of reference in terms of people to compare, but I think you’ll see what I mean as I try to explain some of the things that I see in the world around me.

One of the main things I see is a palpable sense of confusion. My generation is lost/directionless, and we’re starting to realize that. We try to placate these feelings with articles that say things like “when you’re younger, you think grown-ups have it right, but when you grow up, you realize that nobody knows what they’re doing.” The problem with these articles is that it’s simply not true. There are people, perhaps even a great number of them, who know exactly what they’re doing in life. Let that sink in. This is actually a good thing, and isn’t necessarily them just being arrogant or narrow-minded.

We don’t really like talking about ourselves, at least not our weaknesses, and especially to people who wouldn’t immediately be able to relate. Instead of taking the time to phrase our uniqueness in such a way that people different from us would be able to understand or empathize with, we let snarky or satirical articles do the work for us. Don’t believe me? How many times have you seen articles on your various social media outlets that have the title of “___ things that only ___ will understand”? What is the meaning behind these articles? In one way, I hear that what they are basically echo chambers, or a means of being reassured that you aren’t the only one that ___. But if that’s all they were, emotional buttresses, we would simply read them and get the “feels”, and move on, but we don’t. Instead of that, we share them for all our friends and family to see. Why do we do that? I think it’s just what I said above, a sort of impersonal “here’s me!” set of points that be put out there at a relatively low cost to us, while still getting vague things about us to others. Why would someone bother taking the time and effort, and possible hurt, to explain their various social anxieties and how they view other people, and their need to be alone, when instead they can simply share an article about 9 things you need to know about introverts? We don’t want to take the time to read any of Carl Jung’s or even Briggs/Myer’s research, to understand the point or foundation of their tests, but we’ll dang near live by the cheap, 15 question, internet representations of said research.

Another interesting sign of the confusion of my generation is the number of bizarre things we dabble in. We’re still not too fond of “organized religion” or Christianity in particular (in my American-centric experience), but we’ll try just about any sort of “spiritualism” that comes down the pipe. This includes anything from the ignorant phrase of “Native American spirituality”, to tarot cards, a misunderstanding of any and all eastern religions (we’ll just leave aside their organized nature), all the way to the supposedly mystical power of positive thinking. Now that things have been separated into two stories, anything is up for grabs in the realm of possibly “true”. Don’t believe me? How many times have you seen someone on social media (does anyone say this in person?) request for positive vibes to be sent their way? Even leaving aside things like yoga, the idea is that positive vibes, or good thoughts, or whatever, is just as valid as prayer. Having a discussion of each of these things, comparing and contrasting their epistemological foundations, would just be narrow-minded, hard, and probably also regressive and bigoted, somehow. Since truth is relative, and the two story divide is firmly in place, who am I to suggest that all these forms of spiritualism are different, and that one might be better than another?

Unfortunately, we don’t have the foundational support of a solid worldview. We claim to be Taoist, without ever reading the Tao Te Ching. We claim to be Atheist, without thinking beyond “god doesn’t exist”. We claim to be Christian, without reading the Bible, or ever bothering to understand how that applies to life, or reading any Christian author much older than we are. We quickly run to bulverism, without thinking of the alternatives. The Modern Thinker’s Creed by Steve Turner is still the best summation, in poem form, of the way we think. Mix in an unhealthy dose of apathy, and that’s a spicy meat-a ball. The confusion of all this, mixed with a general ignorance of philosophy, politics, and theology, as well as the washout from the self-esteem movement seems to all be coming to a head. Perhaps it is merely a collective quarter-life crisis, but it seems more like pandemic life burnout. I think there will come a time in the not so distant future that many people will be desperate to latch onto something solid in a world that has seemingly become increasingly chaotic. My prediction is that at some point, Islam will be in America in a big way (perhaps something like Dearborn’s Arab festival, on a large scale) and many people will convert (however sincerely) because in the raging torrent of confusion, Islam will appear to be a solid foundation. Islam may be a fist, but at least that fist is made of iron. 

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe I am thinking too much, and thinking wrongly, about the things I see. This is only a small area, and I am prone to both cynicism and error. If I’m not, what is there to do about it? To be honest, the whole thing seems overwhelming to me at times. Say I’m right. What can 1 guy do? I don’t have much of a platform, any relevant degrees, or experience in dealing with these sorts of things. The good news is that I (nor you) don’t have to try and start from myself and figure everything out on my own. The Christian worldview has the tools to both understand the human condition, and the solution for its ails. The gospel of Christ is at once both blessedly simple, and yet incredibly profound and deep in a way that is helpful to all of life. Christ is Lord over all of life, and is sovereign over all of creation.

This means that as Christians, we need to do the heavy lifting of understanding and reading the Bible. We need to know how Scripture speaks to life’s multi-faceted conundrums. In this information age, we have the benefit of thousands of years of material from faithful Christian men and women, who have thought through many of these same issues. To borrow a Biblical phrase, we are surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. This is hard work, but doing this work is one of the ways we love our neighbors as ourselves.

Continue to fight the fight, run the race, and keep the faith (2 Tim. 4:7), and know that the God who will never leave nor forsake you (Heb. 13:5) is the same God who is in you, both to will and to work, for His good pleasure (Phili. 2:13).

SDG

The State of Truth

I’ve written about truth a lot on this blog, but I think there has been a slight shift (or maybe I’m just picking up on it) that Christians should be aware of.

I’ve talked a lot about relativism, and how it’s confusing, harmful, and self-refuting. However, I don’t think people are relativists in the purest sense of the word. I may have told this story before, but I was talking to a guy and he was telling me about how truth is relative, and you can believe whatever you want. He then turned around to his kids and told them they could have their dessert only after they finished their meal. I didn’t pick up on it soon enough, but I should have asked him why he wasn’t raising his kids in a relative way. Nobody raises their kids in a relativistic way, just like how nobody wants to have a house built by a relativistic carpenter or go to a relativistic doctor. So if there are certain things that people aren’t relativistic about, then what are the things they are relativistic about?

It seems like this is where another stream of thought merges in. I think people are only relativistic about things that they seem to think don’t actually matter or effect them, personally. In other words, we are blending pragmatism and relativism. You don’t want a relativistic surgeon, because you know that if the doctor believes something is true for him, then it better also be true for you, because your life is on the line. However, people don’t view things like religion and God in the same way. In classic Schaeferian terms, people put religion into the upper story.

I find it interesting that a lot of early Christian writers spent a good deal of time talking about why/how Christianity was good for both the individual, and for society. We may want to think about incorporating that into our apologetics and our evangelism. I’m not just talking about the “save yourself from hell” approach, either. Since we know that Christianity is not merely about heaven, but also incorporates our lives and actions on this earth.

I think we need to still articulate how Christianity is objectively true, for all people, and at all times, but we mustn’t stop there. We also need to answer the “why should I care” question. Unfortunately, for a lot of people, apathy is only beaten by how this could actually effect them. The fact of the matter is, Jesus is Lord over all of life, and that has actual effects on the lives of individuals and the societies in which those individuals live.

So, in summary, we should be thinking about how to answer two questions in our apologetics and our evangelism:

Is it true?

Why should I care?

Questions that are not as easily answered as you might think, but are important enough to take the time to answer them.

SDG

David Encounters a Protest Rally

Persons of the dialog: David, Amy Hipsterical

Setting: A park.

David: Excuse me. What is going on?

Amy: We’re just finishing up, so I’m afraid you missed your chance to join in!

David: Join what?

Amy: This was an awareness march. It’s basically a protest march to raise awareness for a worthy cause.

David: I see. What cause were you raising awareness for?

Amy: We were raising awareness for the fact that we all need to (points to sign) coexist.

David: Interesting. What does that mean?

Amy: Well, a lot of people are hating other people these days. They say it’s in the name of some religion or belief, but I think ultimately all religions say that we should love one another. So this sign is a reminder that we need to love people, even if we have different religions.

David: I certainly agree that we need to get along. Do you see violence between these groups?

Amy: Well, I think there are certainly places in the world where they actually go to war against one another, but not here in America. But that is only one small portion of what this is about. In the safer places in the world we still have hatred, and that’s probably even worse than war, if you think about it.

David: I see. So what do you mean by hatred?

Amy: Well, I think it’s a refusal to love people, and that comes out in different ways.

David: Alright. How do we go about loving people?

Amy: That’s a good question. I think it has to do with choosing to be nice, even if you disagree. I mean, you can disagree with what someone believes, but you don’t have to hate them for it. You should just keep that to yourself, you know?

David: I’m not sure I follow you. What if you want to talk about the things you disagree about? Is there a way to do that where you don’t end up showing hatred?

Amy: Yeah, but I think it’s tricky because we live in a society that has made it easy to hate, you know?

David: Ok. So what advice would you have for me if I wanted to talk to someone about something we disagree about?

Amy: Well, I think you have to be really loving about it. Just because you think someone is doing something wrong doesn’t mean it’s wrong for them. Like you might think a certain belief is wrong, but that might just mean it’s wrong for you, and not wrong for someone else. We need to be really tolerant of other people. That’s a big part of what it means to coexist.

David: That’s an idea I’ve heard a lot about lately. So how does that work when you want to have a friendly disagreement with someone? Or think it’s an important discussion to have.

Amy: Well, I think it’s important to realize that if they’re not hurting anyone, then what they are doing is ok. I mean, ultimately, if we have disagreements it’s really more of a matter of taste. For example, we might like different types of music, and so it’s ok to discuss why we like what we like, but I don’t think it would be right to tell the other person their type of music is bad or wrong or something.

David: Hmm. That may work in terms of music, but do you think it would work in more important areas?

Amy: You mean like religion?

David: Well, I think there are all sorts of areas that are more important than music taste. Religion would be one of them, but even politics and public policy or banking have more significant consequences on life.

Amy: In these areas, it’s important to remember that all sorts of things can work. It’s just a matter of different cultures, and if the religion or political system doesn’t hurt anyone, then it doesn’t really matter what else they do.

David: So I’m getting the idea that you’re ok with just about everything, so long as people don’t hurt one another. Is that accurate to say?

Amy: Absolutely! If you don’t hurt people, then everything else really just boils down to differences in taste, really.

David: Why is it important not to hurt people?

Amy: Seriously?

David: Yes.

Amy: Well, would you like someone to hurt you?

David: No, I certainly would not.

Amy: Then there you go. Nobody wants to get hurt, so therefore it’s wrong to hurt people.

David: I get that. But I can think of instances where it might be ok to hurt others.

Amy: I can’t.

David: What about if someone tries to attack someone you love deeply? Would it be ok to defend them, even if it means hurting the attacker?

Amy: Well, I suppose so. But that’s an extreme case. That’s self-defense.

David: So, in at least one case, it is ok to hurt someone else.

Amy: I don’t think I would phrase it that way. I would say that it is ok to defend yourself or someone you love.

David: Ok. So would you say that if someone has an idea or belief that says it’s ok to hurt others, that that would be a bad belief?

Amy: Yes, certainly.

David: And would you think it would be a good idea to talk about why that idea is a bad one?

Amy: Education can fix a lot of the ignorance in our society, and I think it can solve a lot of problems.

David: Sure. But even outside of a strictly educational context, would it be a good thing to do? Like if you meet someone who has a religion, for example, that says that you must convert or die. Would it be a good idea to try and discuss why you think that religion is wrong?

Amy: It doesn’t sound like it would be safe!

David: Haha, well let’s suppose that this person might not be a practitioner of that aspect, for the sake of argument.

Amy: If I would be sure that I would be safe, then I suppose it would be a good idea to discuss it, sure.

David: How would you go about having that discussion? It seems like you can’t go the “whatever is true for you, works” route, since you feel so strongly that hurting people is almost always wrong. Yet since that belief is there, it is important to discuss it.

Amy: …yeah.

David: To quote Jack Sparrow. If I may lend a machete to your intellectual thicket.

Amy: Haha. Go for it.

David: I think you need to develop a lot of your ideas. I think you have a genuine heart for people, and that’s a good thing. However, in order to be effective, I think you have to better understand what tolerance, love, and hate are.

Amy: What do you mean?

David: There are some older ideas about what those words mean. They aren’t very popular these days, and nobody marches to raise awareness for them (though maybe they should). However, I think they are more sustainable, and they make dealing with difficult situations a bit easier. Maybe we can meet up and talk about them over coffee some time?

Amy: That sounds like a good idea.

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