September 21, 2010

A Republic, If You Can Keep It

What You Need to Know about the Constitution
Sometimes a simple question can reveal a lot about what a person thinks. A well-framed question can get under the surface to show where beliefs have taken a wrong turn, leading to faulty conclusions. A worldview approach to life’s key issues helps us know the right questions to ask in order to uncover where the wrong turn is taken and how to correct it. Take, for example, this past spring when I was speaking to a class of seniors at a prestigious Christian high school on the west coast. Boy was I surprised when what I thought was a simple question lead to an hour-long discussion...
July 28, 2010

An Open Letter to President Barack Obama

Healthcare and the Constitution
Dear Mr. President, On your website I found the following statement: “We must fix a broken health care system . . ." Regarding this initiative, I am very concerned that you and Congress are overstepping the bounds of your job description as outlined in the Constitution. When taking the oath of office, you promised to “preserve, protect, and defend the Constitution of the United States." There is nothing in the Constitution directing the Federal government to “fix" anything, much less a privately operated and freely chosen system of medical treatment.
June 30, 2010

Hollywood’s Brush with Religious Belief

Films and Faith
Many people today assume that faith in God amounts to “blind faith," the idea that there is no objective evidence or logical reason to believe that God exists; faith is simply a subjective feeling or emotional choice. While it is okay to have a personal feeling that God is real to you, it is not okay to publicly announce that God exists and has certain characteristics for everyone. Our society is immersed in the subjectivication of belief. Faith as irrational belief has become a favorite tool in the hands of today’s atheists. The latest salvo of atheist attacks on Christianity incorporate the notion that faith is irrational. Atheist Richard Dawkins, for instance...
May 28, 2010

Amusing Ourselves to Death

Neal Postman (1931–2003) was an educator and cultural critic who saw things more clearly than most. In the introduction of his highly acclaimed and criticized book Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business, Postman demonstrated that he had his finger on the pulse of our culture in a way most others did not. This comparison between the pessimistic visions of George Orwell and Aldous Huxley is worth quoting at length...
April 26, 2010

Grave Lessons about Application

I was staring into the open grave of my son Christopher. It was an unspeakably painful moment. The nightmare all parents dread had become my life. Had I been physically able to muster more tears, I would have been weeping uncontrollably. As I watched four men struggle to lower a steel lid over the grave vault holding Christopher’s miniature white casket, I realized I would see his little smiling face no more, and run my fingers through his beautiful blond hair never again. We would never snuggle together or touch one another again. Our time together was over. As I stood there, looking into what felt like an abyss, I realized that I was in the most despairing, skeptical, and faithless state I had ever been in. I felt like cursing God for the rest of my life. I was on the edge of the dark, bottomless pit of hell...
March 23, 2010

How to Combat Secular Indoctrination

This fall, nearly two million American students will leave for college for the very first time. Their education will cost $12,000 a year for a public university and up to $50,000 for a private one. Scholarships and grants reduce the cost for most families, but still, the Wall Street Journal reports that the average student leaves college with $23,186 in debt. Nationwide, the total cost for this transaction is somewhere between 25 and 40 billion dollars per year. At least families are getting their money's worth. Or not...
February 15, 2010

Is Government-Run Health Care a Good Idea?

A Worldview Analysis
There is a huge debate across our nation as to whether government-run health care is a good idea. Those who believe that government should be involved in providing medical care for citizens see healthcare as a basic right of the people. If so, then government should provide this service in the same way it provides other services, like police and fire protection or other community services. On the other hand, others are convinced that government should not be in the health care business. They are convinced medical concerns are best left in the hands of individuals and their doctors. They say that private charities, not government, should help those who cannot afford medical treatment. How should we think about this debate? Is there a right side to this issue, or is it just a matter of personal opinion? Are there biblical principles that can help us decide?
January 27, 2010

Overcoming a Verse Bite-Culture

"Never Read a Bible Verse!" That's the title of a little booklet my friend and Christian radio personality, Gregory Koukl, has written to help people read the Bible well. What great advice. "That's right, never read a Bible verse. Instead, always read...
December 15, 2009

Christmas Now and Once Before

One would be hard-pressed to invent a scene more beautiful than that of the Christmas nativity. The newborn child, his young mother and her betrothed, the shepherds, the wise men, the ox and the donkey, all with the Star of Bethlehem beaming gaily — this, no doubt, is the stuff of poetry. But poetry aside, the nativity scene represents a story of hardships and terrible difficulties. Mary must bear the shame and unbridled gossip that accompany premarital pregnancy; Joseph must decide either to part with Mary or to raise a child who is not his own. Even the wise men...
November 18, 2009

The Hazards of Reading on a Battlefield

As she worked her way toward the front of the room, I could tell the young woman was really angry at me. Her eyes were blazing and her jaw was set. This was surprising because the setting was fairly benign: speaking to a large evangelical church's singles group on "How to Interpret the Bible." At the beginning of my two times with them, however, I was already offending the troops! I braced myself...
October 21, 2009

Religion Poisons Everything

On the Nature of Faith
As I drove back to Colorado Springs from Denver today, the fog was so thick I could barely see the car ahead of me, much less the usual splendor of the Rocky Mountains to the west. I was listening to Tim Keller, pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in Manhattan, who made some interesting points about the nature of faith. In the ongoing dialogue between theists and atheists that permeates society today, theists are often said to rely on faith while atheists rely on reason in the formation of their respective worldviews. Yet, such a stark dichotomy is too simplistic and out of touch with reality...
September 22, 2009

Ideas Have Consequences

How Postmodernism Changes the Rules
While there are significant disagreements among the various expressions of postmodernism there is a key belief that characterizes all of them: an acute awareness of our “situatedness" as humans. As I described in the previous article (“Ideas Have Histories: Where Postmodernism Came From"), postmoderns deny that there is any overarching story, or metanarrative, to the world. Therefore, we all come from a perspective, or bias, that is shaped by the culture, or the “little stories," we inhabit. As Kevin Vanhoozer states...
August 31, 2009

Ideas Have Histories

Where Postmodernism Came from
Postmodernism comes in all kinds of shapes and expressions. This sort of variety can make it difficult to understand. Further, postmodernism resists categories and distinctions, and this makes it more difficult to nail down as a worldview. There is a larger intellectual history that must be understood in order to grasp the uniqueness and significance of postmodernism as a worldview.
July 23, 2009

Why Students Don’t ‘Get It’

If Christian Smith and Melinda Denton are correct, our key concern in regards to the next generation is that they "get" Christianity. Our primary focus should turn from whether Christian students like church, or whether they think of Jesus as their best friend, or even whether they know why they believe what they believe (though that has been a useful tag line for Summit Ministries for years). Primarily, if Smith and Denton are correct, our focus should be teaching them what Christianity is because, simply put, they don't get it. My experience working with students, most having strong histories in conservative evangelicalism (and representing almost evenly home, private Christian, and public schooling), suggests Smith and Denton are right. I often hear students describe their experience of Christianity in these terms: "I've been a Christian my whole life, but I don't really get it." Or, "I prayed the prayer when I was four, but I don't think it stuck." Or, "I committed my life to Christ when I was fifteen, but I am not sure it stuck." How is it that students who are so deeply engrossed in church culture and who have more access to the Bible, Christian literature, youth programs, and other resources than any generation that has lived since the founding of the church, can be so confused about what Christianity actually is and why it matters? How is it that they possess such a truncated, neutered view of the Kingdom? How is it that these students just don't "get it?"
June 23, 2009

Helping Students ‘Get It’

In last month's article, I argued that a major project for those of us who work with students is to help them "get" Christianity. While a significant number of Christian students reject Christianity during their university years, far more struggle to embrace a faith that is not really authentic or orthodox. Theirs is a "moralistic therapeutic Deism" as Christian Smith put it; a tame faith that is privatized and perhaps personally meaningful but which is not publically true, culturally significant, or fundamentally informative to the rest of their lives. Rather than trying to make Christianity as attractive and entertaining as possible, we ought instead to be sure that what we are communicating to them is actually Christianity. As I noted, this is very challenging in a culture of information overload, where students are bombarded daily with a multitude of messages, most of which, encourage them toward a mentality of adolescence. Still, there is good news. Adolescently minded cultures like ours inevitably have a leadership vacuum. So, there remains a terrific opportunity for influence for those who produce the leaders, especially if they produce networks of leaders who can think deeply and contribute broadly to a wide variety of cultural institutions. How can we do this?