Archive for the ‘Humanity’ Category

Profound Statement

May 6, 2009

Those who know that their sexual failures are sin are in a different category than those who want to remake the world in a way that conforms to their lusts.

I find this an extremely helpful and necessary distinction to make.  Read Doug Wilson’s post on this issue.


Is Doubt Good or Bad?

March 23, 2009

One of the clearest signs that times have changed is the way doubt is hailed as a virtue these days.  Those who doubt whether the Christian faith is true are praised for their authenticity and sincerity.  In some paradoxical manner, their faith is seen to be more genuine than that of the brother who never doubts. 

Charles Spurgeon would not have agreed.  This is what he said in a sermon in 1872 [HT: Pyromaniacs]:

“Too many in the church of God regard unbelief as if it were a calamity commanding sympathy, rather than a fault demanding censure as well. . . . Doubts are among the worst enemies of your souls. Do not entertain them. Do not treat them as though they were poor forlorn travelers to be hospitably entertained, but as rogues and vagabonds to be chased from thy door. Fight them, slay them, and pray God to help thee to kill them, and bury them, and not even to leave a bone or a piece of a bone of a doubt above ground. Doubting and unbelief are to be abhorred, and to be confessed with tears as sins before God. We need pardon for doubting as much as for blasphemy. We ought no more to excuse doubting than lying, for doubting slanders God and makes him a liar.”

I have concerns about this postmodern trend toward the romanticizing of doubt.  I know the sinful heart.  I have one.  I know the human tendency toward a rationalization of sin.  I know the danger of calling what is good evil and what is evil good.  I myself have doubts from time to time.  But I don’t think I have ever celebrated that.  I see no evidence from Scripture that it is something to celebrate, and much evidence that it is something to lament.

I think this new faith in doubt stems from a bent towards rebellion.  We all have images in our heads of fundamentalist parents and preachers who indoctrinate children and tolerate no dissent.  Many former fundamentalists grew up in small churches where seminaries were viewed with suspicion, where honest questions were taboo, where the honest questions that were posed were given shallow answers, where people didn’t want to be bothered with the facts because they had already made up their minds, thank you. 

It is no surprise that those kinds of churches churned out a number of people who never made the faith their own.  Often times these kinds of churches produced shallow automatons who knew everything by rote, not heartfelt believers who had come to love what they had been taught.  I will stand with the postmoderns in condemnation of this way of handling the faith. 

But the solution to this kind of shallow, unquestioning faith is not doubt.  That’s like fighting cancer with AIDS.  Doubt can only be celebrated as a virtue in a society where the individual’s self-discovery takes precedence over the richness of the community.  Doubt of the truth is inherently rebellious, and as such only a rebellious age would baptize it and bless it. 

I say this as one who struggles with doubt myself.  And, I agree with those who celebrate doubt that if one has doubts, it is much better to be open about them than to deny them.  But that goes for any sin.  The grieved, repentant sinner is in a better position than the hypocrite who doesn’t recognize his own sin.  But the one who celebrates his sin is in the worst position of all.

Darwinism as Anti-Theology

February 13, 2009

I realize that I am a day late in putting up this post.  Yesterday was Charles Darwin’s 200th birthday, but I was traveling all day, so blogging was not on my mind. 

I am writing to address something that I perceive to be troubling in theology today: a growing adherence, even among otherwise orthodox believers, to the theory of macroevolution.  Those who deny macroevolution are considered out of touch with reality these days (apparently because it is utterly ridiculous to believe that God could have created species separately), and, as always, a number of Christians have been quick to embrace a popular idea in an attempt to synthesize it with the faith and thereby commend the faith to its cultured despisers. 

The problem with this strategy, as I perceive it, is that when you synthesize Darwinism with Christianity you end up with neither.  One of the tenets of Darwinism is that evolution happens by an undirected process.  By definition, Darwinian evolution excludes any notion of design on the part of an intelligent mind.  It excludes God from the outset.  Any attempted synthesis between Darwinism and Christianity on this point empties Darwinism of its defining characteristic: evolution by a process of undirected natural (as opposed to divine) selection.

If we as Christians accept Darwinism in an attempt to save face before the intellectual establishment, we don’t realize how pathetic we look.  We’re trying to ape unbelievers because we perceive their message to be more credible than our own, and yet we do not realize how utterly incompatible the two messages are, leaving us with a kind of Darwinism that is really nothing of sort.

Russell Moore Hates Sanctity of Life Sunday

January 19, 2009

but for a good reason.  Don’t miss this.

Race or Ethnicity?

April 20, 2008

At the Together for the Gospel conference last week, Thabiti Anyabwile delivered a message on identity in relation to race and ethnicity.  In it he argued that we should adopt a new paradigm for thinking about personal identity, one rooted in theological teachings about humanity found in Scripture. 

The new paradigm is this: instead of delineating identity in terms of biologically determined race, we should instead think in the fluid categories of ethnicity.  “Race” is genetic, biological, and unchangeable, but “ethnicity” embraces one’s culture, values, and behavior.  “Race” is something that is determined simply by the circumstances of birth.  “Ethnicity” is certainly affected by those circumstances, but it is also something that involves our ongoing participation and/or rejection of the cultural patterns that we have come to know.  Anyabwile argued that we should dispense with the idea of race altogether, for there really is only one race, and that is the human race (we are all one in Adam, sinners before God).  It is simply arbitrary to categories people based on skin color.  An African American living in Mississippi has little in common (in terms of human categories) with a black man in Jamaica, in England, or in Africa.  So it is simply arbitrary to place the all-encompassing label “black” over them all and use that as a primary marker of identity.  That kind of categorization locates identity in biological differences that may have very little relation to the way our lives are ultimately shaped.  

Instead, he argued, we should think in terms of the categories of ethnicity.  Ethnicity is a fluid category that is not inextricably bound up with biology.  Certainly, biology often contributes to the majority make-up of a particular ethnic group, but there is no biological determinism.  The “hip-hop” culture, for example, is primarily a movement among African Americans, but a number of whites and Hispanics have joined in as well.  By the same token, no one should assume that simply having dark skin in America automatically makes a person part of the hip-hop culture.  The category is more fluid than that of “race.” 

One of the most helpful things Anyabwile said was that if we think in terms of race, then our statements will always be ad hominem.  Racial discussions are always loaded with a level of discomfort because of the potential that someone will say something that will slander and, therefore, offend an entire group of people simply because of their biological make-up.  So, for example, let’s say that a white man says the following: “I have little regard for the hip-hop culture.  I think it has serious moral problems and little to offer in the way of creative artistry.  I believe it is a corrupting influence in America.”  If we think in terms of race, then we will think that such a person has just slandered African Americans as a whole.  If hip-hop is linked to biology, then one cannot discuss hip-hop objectively; it will always be in relation to real people who are who they are simply because they were born that way.  However, if we change the paradigm and think in terms of the fluid concept of ethnicity, we can separate the hip-hop culture from the particular biological features that African Americans share.  We can lower the tension in such a discussion by divorcing biology from lifestyle and behavior, and we can subject hip-hop to a (well-deserved) critique without lambasting an entire group of people.

This seems to be what Paul did in Titus 1:12-13, where he affirmed the saying, “Cretans are always liars, evil beasts, lazy gluttons.”  That is a stereotype, pure and simple.  Paul affirms a blanket statement about an entire group of people, and he does so under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.  If all Scripture is God-breathed, as Christians have long affirmed (2 Timothy 3:16), then not only does Paul affirm a stereotype, God himself affirms a stereotype.  But it is not a stereotype based on biology.  Paul does not say that Cretans are biologically determined to be this way, as though they are worse by nature than anyone else.  Paul’s doctrine of sin would not cohere with such a judgment (see Romans 5:12-19).  Our unity in Adam precludes any such assessment.  But Paul does attack the Cretan ethnicity as a social-cultural reality.  For whatever reason, the island of Crete had developed a culture that was less than promising, morally speaking.  There is nothing wrong in making that observation.  If we are so afraid of stereotypes that we cannot acknowledge widespread patterns of immoral behavior among people who share similar cultural features, then we are lost in a fog of politically correct confusion. 

But here’s what we must keep in mind through it all: even though some stereotypes are legitimate, they must never be affirmed from a standing of prideful superiority.  That is not what Paul is doing in Titus 1:12-13.  He is not poking fun at people who are different from him, laughing with his buddies at their ignorance and moral confusion.  Nor is he thanking God that he is not like them (see Luke 18:11).  He is instructing Titus on how to care for the young churches that have recently sprung up on that island.  His concern is redemptive, and he believes it is better that Titus be clear on the truth about the situation he is facing than to leave a legitimate stereotype unsaid for fear of being politically incorrect.  There is nothing wrong with a frank acknowledgement that particular ethnicities (not as biologically determined groups, but as fluid concepts of culture and behavior) are sinful in particular ways, especially when your aim is to address their sin with the redemptive message of Christ.  If we can disentangle this discussion from pure biology, we can make a great deal of progress, I believe. 

We are united in Adam, sharers in the same guilt and depravity.  Believers are likewise united in Christ, sharers in his righteousness, no matter what stereotypes may have been true of them before.  So let us, as believers, be united in the church, with inter-ethnic congregations who build unity on the gospel in anticipation of the great eschatological unity that will come when we join our diverse voices around the throne of the Lamb (Revelation 5:9).