Tag Archives: Meaning

“I Want to Die in Three Years”

The introvert in me burns for solitude. The Christian in me burns for the lost.

A house on a hill. A room with a window. A desk near that window. A typewriter on the desk. Piles of books about the desk.

Look down from the window and you see a garden. Then a long lawn. And a road that winds through the hills. Miles before it reaches civilization.

Morning, noon and night spent reading, writing and wandering. In the evening a novelist pops in for a pint. On the weekend a photographer and a poet crash until Sunday afternoon.

That was my idea of utopia. Bliss fit for an Emily Dickinson, J. D. Salinger or Thomas Pynchon. Bliss fit for a self-absorbed intellectual snob.

Then Jesus wrecked that vision. Not all at once. But over time.

What Your Utopia Says about You

We all have our own versions of utopia. Some might be crawling with people. Others, like mine, might be devoid of people. But they all share a common theme: unfettered debauchery.

That debauchery could be mild–like endless days of reading and writing whatever I wanted. Or it could be extreme–like endless days of drinking and fornicating. But it is all damnable for one very simple reason: insertion of ourselves as the great I AM over the real I AM.

See, when it comes down to it, God doesn’t care about the brand of debauchery. He sees straight through it. He sees straight to the very root of the revolt: our rebellious hearts. Those very hearts that dream up our custom-tailored versions of utopia–the ones we carry with us into our Christian life.

The Truth Behind “Pick Up Your Cross”

It would be nice if we could cling to our utopian hopes when we become a Christian, wouldn’t it? To get Jesus plus [enter preferred pleasure]?

But do you know the verses that wreck it for us? That turns what the culture says we need [everything our heart desires] upside down to give us what God says we need [nothing but Him]?

And calling the crowd to him with his disciples, he said to them, “If anyone would come after me, let him deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake and the gospel’s will save it. 

Jesus certainly didn’t save his life. He gave it all. In word, deed and even death. So he’s not asking something of us that he is unwilling to give.

In America we don’t understand what it means to lose our life for the gospel. We think “pick up our cross” and imagine a nagging mother or a failing Chevy truck. We don’t understand that to his disciples those words meant crucifixion.

They meant death.

As G. K. Chesterton said, “Jesus promised his disciples three things–that they would be completely fearless, absurdly happy and in constant trouble.”

Jesus Would Die in Three Years

Yet we live in our homes on the outskirts of a city with low-crime rates, an abundance of fine restaurants and clean theaters.

And two or three times a year we travel to a beach on an island in the Atlantic Ocean, a mountain in Northern Europe or seafood pavilions in South-east Asia–rehearsal for when we retire.

We say to ourselves, “I want to save for a tour of the Great Wall of China. I want to dog sled across Alaska. I want to write the great American novel. I want to send my children to Princeton or Harvard. I want to build my retirement portfolio so I can retire at 60 and enjoy it for 20 years. I want to live forever.”

We want a lot of things, but rarely do we ever say, “I want to die in three years.”

Jesus may never have expressed those very words, but his life did. He knew that his earthly ministry would be short. And he knew that his earthly ministry would be capped off by his death. And he knew that if it was possible to avoid his death, God would’ve granted it.

But it wasn’t so.

Now is my soul troubled. And what shall I say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But for this purpose I have come to this hour.

For it was God’s will that must be obeyed. Not His. Not ours. We do well to imitate John the Baptist and say, “He must increase, and I must decrease.”

Pity the Complacent

Not every Christian’s life will end in crucifixion. Some Christians will die by drowning. Others by stones. Still others will be beheaded, shot in the mouth or set on fire.

Of course, not every saint will die a martyr’s death. Revelation tells us there is a .

Others may only lose a limb or rot in a prison. In solitude. Or forgotten in the back country of a poor nation nursing lepers or passing out Bibles.

But one thing is for certain: we are not to pity these saints. Nor do we accuse these saints  of being complacent.

These are not Christians who . They are the ones who stood on the beam and charged through a risky routine.

It is the complacent who are to be pitied :

For the simple are killed by their turning away, and the complacency of fools destroys them. 

Resist the Culture

The paradox of our utopian dreams is that if we indulge them they will quickly decay into hell on earth as one after another self-centered desire is gratified.

In time we manifest our worst fears.

The recluse becomes hateful, anxious and suicidal. The gregarious becomes demanding, sensual and dependant on the approval of man. And in time we taste the misery of being our own god.

The Bible never promises a utopia on earth. The only time we see a utopia is before the Fall and after the redemption of heaven and earth. Everything in between is simply corrupted by sin.

Even our utopias.

This is not to say we can’t enjoy creation now–that we should neglect our duty to subdue the earth. I love an abusive hike through the Appalachian Mountains.

But it is to say that we should surrender our wishes for a life that conforms to culture. One that seeks security in an IRA, position of power or PhD. One that seeks definition in positive affirmations and significant achievements. Or one seeks solitude at the expense of the lost.

Instead, we should seek a life that does not love the things of this world except for this: God’s people. That is the closest thing in this world we have to gain Christ. And the closest we will ever get to utopia.

We get the real utopia (being in the presence of Christ) when we die, which very well may be an incentive to proclaim, “I want to die in three years.”

Always Tell a Child Jesus Came to Heal the Broken Hearted

This is the other side of Never Tell a Child They Are Personally Worth the Sacrifice Jesus Made.

The side I seem perfectly incapable of articulating. So much so I actually need someone else to write it to get it right.

The person who knows my blind spots inside and out. And protects me against their dangers like a champ.

See, I knew yesterday’s post deserved a balanced treatment. I was just exploring a fraction of God’s majesty. Tinkering with but a fragment of the whole counsel of God.

So not long after I published it I began to nurture today’s post in my mind. To toy with text like  and an idea about “self-worth” versus “God worth.”

Then my wife commented. And wrote the post for me. So much better than I ever could have.

Here is an excerpt:

Maybe it isn’t our job to bolster self-esteem (and maybe it is), but it is certainly our job to point to the One who desires to bind up those hurts enough to allow a person to love others AS he LOVES himself. We don’t want to be too glib about the deep hurts that abuse cause. Christ obviously wasn’t. He came to heal the brokenhearted and set the captives free. If abused children aren’t counted among the brokenhearted and the captives, I can’t imagine who is.

Read the whole thing here.

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What’s This “Disputing about the Body of Moses” Business?

Jude is a tiny book at the back of your Bible, second to the last, right before the book of Revelation, and immediately after 3 John.

Even at 25 verses, though, Jude isn’t the smallest book in the Bible. That distinction goes to 2 John. Then 3 John.

Jude is a workhorse, however, despite its small size. Inside those 25 verses is enough to keep a theologian busy for a year or two.

For starters you have a saint, brother of James, writing a letter to a circuit of churches. He wanted to encourage the believers about the common blessing they had in salvation.

You feel if that letter was written it would have been friendly, calm and patient. Instead you get a combative and impassioned letter. One that feels almost rushed. Like a first century .

One of the Most Bizarre Statements in Jude

Jude had some stiff words for false teachers like calling them “wandering stars, for whom the gloom of utter darkness has been reserved forever.”

Yet for these sinners our response to them amounts to seeking the Lord’s intervening power against them. Michael, God’s chief angel, did just that when contending with the devil over the body of Moses.

And this is where you should do a screeching halt.

The exact text rendered in the :

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.”

Disputing about the body of Moses. Hmm.

The reason this is such a head scratcher is that this struggle is not mentioned anywhere in Scripture. There is a Hebrew text outside of the canon that mentions a fight between the two found in Yalcut Rubeni, fol. 43, 3:

At the time in which Isaac was bound there was a contention between Michael and Satan. Michael brought a ram, that Isaac might be liberated; but Satan endeavored to carry off the ram, that Isaac might be slain.

But nothing in the canon.

There is a situation where Michael is to do the bidding of the Lord in . His duty there is to make sure Jews would be free to return to their land.

But nothing on Moses or contending with devil.

Why Satan Wanted Moses’ Body

Moses died on Mt. Nebo.

Mt. Nebo overlooks the promised land, land Moses didn’t get to enter. This means this contention with the body of Moses happened on Mt. Nebo.

Or close by.

And Jude suggests that Michael was sent to protect the body from Satan.

But what exactly did Satan want to do with it? Josephus [] suggested that Satan would’ve used it as an idol or object of worship. Prop the stiff corpse up, and the people fall down at its feet.

Think of the golden calf. Or in more recent times, the .

Another theologian, Clark, suggests that the body was already buried and Michael was sent to keep it buried because Satan wanted to dig it up, you know, and show it to the people.

Allegorical Interpretations of “Body of Moses”

Still other theologians think that “the body of Moses” doesn’t refer to an actual physical body–but a collection of things.

Kind of like Paul in where he uses the phrase σωμα της ἁμαρτιας–the body of death.

This is not so far-fetched since among the Hebrews גוף guph, body, is often used this way.  So when גוף של משה guph shel Mosheh, the body of Moses is used, it could mean his laws.

The body of Moses’ laws.

If this is the case, then we have an angel and the devil disputing over these laws…but what’s not clear is who wanted to do what with them.

In keeping with a Christ-centered interpretation theologians who favor this view say that the laws were abolished and buried by Christ. And the devil wanted to keep them alive.

This is allegorical interpretation at it’s best.

Not good.

Better to stick with the literal meaning of the text.

Jude’s Troubling Source for This Text

However, the meaning of the text is small potatoes compared to Jude’s sources for this story.

As I mentioned above, this tale is not found in the biblical canon. And theologians aren’t one hundred percent sure of the source.

Some argue, starting with , that the source was an apocryphal book called “The Assumption of Moses.”

Whether this is true or not here’s what we know: Jude is using a non-canonical book to make a point.

Is that okay?

One theologian argued that Jude used the story from an apocryphal book because his readers were familiar with it…and he wanted to appeal to sources that they valued.

The only problem with this concept is that Jude uses this fable like he believes it actually happened. Perhaps no different from if he used the story of Moses smiting the rock or the parting of the Red Sea.

So what do we do with this?

Some have argued that due to Jude’s use of an apocryphal book Jude should be thrown out of the canon.

Others think that’s harsh, and point to several arguments to back their case:

  • Due to the references to apostles, the repetition of Jewish tradition (the same tradition that Paul came by the names of Jannes and Jambres), the recognition and warning of early forms of apostasy like Docetism, Marcionism, and Gnosticism and Jude’s competent Greek writing style the book should be dated between 66 and 90 A.D., and not at some later date that would mark it as suspect.
  • Jude was quickly adapted by early church fathers like Tertullian and Clement of Alexandrian.
  • The epithets in Jude are thought to be some of the best in the Bible, and the closing doxology is considered supreme in quality. (I guess the argument being heretical books use shoddy rhetorical tricks and cheap songs.)
  • Jude, by quoting “The Assumption of Moses,” a pagan source, did no differently than Paul who quoted a , a and a in his own letters.
  • Finally, these theologians who support canonical Jude point out that the point of the letter is biblical as all get out:  live a faithful and holy life, resist the lust of the flesh and do not deny God.

With those arguments squarely in our pockets, I think it is safe to say that this book was not written by man, but God speaking through a man who was carried along by the Holy Spirit–no matter how quirky that bit about Michael disputing with the body of Moses.

What do you think?

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Your Simple Statement of Faith (2012 Update)

Back in 2009 I wrote a post in the Curmudgeon’s Guide to Sharing the Gospel on creating a simple statement of faith.

The point behind this exercise was to create a one-word sentence that defines you.

That defines your faith.

That serves as a compass in tight situations when you have to think fast or answer hard questions. Or serves as a filter to run through all of what is competing for your attention.

And then defines you in the future when you are dead.

In other words, how people remember you.

That year I chose as my simple statement “Christ and Christ crucified.”

That’s served me well. And it still serves me today. But…

Fast Forward to 2012

Last November I stumbled across a similar idea in Daniel Pink’s book .

Pink shares an anecdote where Carol Boothe Luce confronted John F. Kennedy with this statement:

A great man is one sentence. Abraham Lincoln’s was ‘He preserved the Union and freed the slaves.’ What’s yours?

My mind was off to the races.

Throughout December and the early part of 2012 I sketched some ideas. Here are three of the more memorable ones (memorable is debatable):

  • “Nobel prize winner of literature and professor.” How insanely self-serving, right? Not even punctuated with a verb. Fail.
  • “Innovated literature and raised a godly family.” Okay, half of it seems to be on track. But raising a godly family, while noble, is not all-encompassing. It is, in the scheme of Christianity, short-sighted. Let’s try again.
  • “Slave to Christ and walking New Testament concordance.” All right, much better, don’t you think?

This is actually how I have it written in my journal/daily calendar:

That is how I would like my grave stone to read.

The first half is obvious and sound, but the second half I think may come off like I want to be a warehouse of biblical trivia. That is, an .

Not so.

The purpose of becoming a walking New Testament is established on these three verses:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. 

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.

But in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect.

In other words, I want to renew my mind. I want to encourage and exhort believers. And I want to share a sound faith with unbelievers.

Things impossible to do with out a solid foundation in God’s word.

By the way, this is not to neglect the Old Testament. This is just a recognition that  will be more than I can handle.

Your turn: Do you have a simple, clear statement of faith? Please share.

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“The Definition of Marriage in the US Is Dead and It Was Killed by Christians”

That’s a quote from a discussion I started on Reddit. I asked the question ““

The answers fell into two general categories: one, without question, sharing the gospel was more important. And two, the two are not mutually exclusive. They are the same thing.

My own bias leans toward sharing the gospel. In the introduction to the question I gave a 300-word reason why.

But I have to say that the arguments from those who said the two were the same thing were persuasive.

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are the Same

Keep in mind that this discussion occurred in a thread where users affirmed the teachings of Calvin and embraced the ideas behind TULIP. In other words, the group as a whole were opposed to same-sex marriage. We did have one dissenter, an Episcopalian. I thanked him for joining our discussion.

The arguments for those who defended the notion that saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel were the same thing centred around the premise that we were given two commissions: the great commission and the cultural mandate.

As a previous student of the cultural mandate to subdue the earth, I understand where those who use this argument stand, and where they were going with it.

We were to create and cultivate civilization by building schools, businesses, art, laws and communities…and raising families, which are the bedrock of civilization. If the family unit is broken, then civilisation is broken.

As many pointed out this is equivalent to Jesus’ statement to .

Where Sharing the Gospel and Subduing the Earth Are NOT the Same

While I can buy that, I’m stuck on this: the gospel is a story about what the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ accomplished for us, namely peace with God.

To say that sharing the gospel is equivalent to defending biblical marriage I think is tantamount to saying we can live out the gospel, which is impossible.

How do you live out the narrative of redemptive history?

Certainly I believe that our lives can be a testimony to what the gospel can accomplish. While the gospel can save a marriage that is headed for divorce–and that testimony of its power can lead to a discussion about the gospel–a saved marriage is not the same thing as the gospel.

Why is this even important? Because God commanded us to , and through that method people are saved by the Holy Spirit.

So when energy is invested, at the expense of sharing the gospel, in preserving an institution that some people in a free nation don’t want then we look bad. Furthermore, we then start to look like we believe that we can create a utopia by preserving this nation through legislation…not salvation.

There was one key comment for me in this discussion. The one that said marriage is dead in the U.S. Here is the comment in full :

The definition of marriage in the US is dead and it was killed by Christians and non-christians alike long before the homosexuality issue. So when people see us yelling about the definition of marriage they see us yammering over something which does not exist.

It was killed by divorce and abusive and neglectful parents. Marriage is seen as just so easily breakable, by Christians and non-christians. Parenthood is defined by what the parents want to do, not by what is best for their children. These sorts of marriage and parenthood are just as displeasing to God as gay marriage.

As long as these issues are not taken seriously, there is no reason for seculars to view us as anything but anti-gay idiots, because it is what we are. We are rightfully labeled as hypocrites. Not that confronting those problems will solve everything, but I find it much more important to fix Christian marriages than nonchristian.

I think that last line is sublime, and reminds me of

I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people—not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler—not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. “Purge the evil person from among you.”

The statement made by bygrace-faith is a strong statement. However, is there any proof that marriage is dead in the U.S.?

Proof That Marriage in the U.S. Is Dead

Well, you have the that from 2000 to 2010 nonfamily households doubled in growth over family households. A common nonfamily household is a person living alone, with an increase of 25.8 percent in 2000 to 26.7 percent in 2010.

In addition, the number of non-married partners living together grew by 41 percent.

However, the divorce rates actually declined in 2009. So, is America on a moral slide?

I’d argue that it is. But that’s debatable. And misses the point. Because regardless of our moral condition, we desperately need Jesus.

Clearly as Christians we are to take the biblical idea of marriage very seriously. But we can’t expect the culture around us to do the same thing.

So do we acquiesce? Do we let civilisation crumble around us?

No, I think we attack these issues head on. But there are better ways to do this than by legislation.

Mentoring young men who are at risk of abandoning their families. Supporting single mothers who are struggling to raise a family. Adopting children who are abandoned or abused by a family.

It’s a bottom-up approach versus a top down.

History is full of instances where Christians make very bad politicians. History, however, is abundant with examples of charity that have saved the lost, protected the forgotten, healed the wounded, visited the prisoners and fed the hungry.

Christianity didn’t spread because missionaries like Paul and Barnabas changed Roman law. It spread because of their relentless efforts to obey Christ. In that wake civilisations and their laws grew based upon Christian principles. And this is the appropriate way I believe in which we redeem the earth.

Your Turn

Do you think I’m off my rocker? Do you think that America is on a moral slide? Is there evidence? Is marriage dead in the U.S.? Did Christians kill it? Am I off with my bottom-up approach? Is there any room for a bottom-up and top-down approach? Is saving biblical marriage and sharing the gospel the same thing?

I would love to hear your thoughts. Brutal and all.

Feeling Sorry for That Poor Man in Sierra Leone? Don’t

Talk about flawed. Read the following verses from :

And the Lord spoke to Moses and to Aaron, saying, 27 “How long shall sthis wicked congregation grumble against me? tI have heard the grumblings of the people of Israel, which they grumble against me. 28 Say to them, u‘As I live, declares the Lord, vwhat you have said in my hearing I will do to you: 29 wyour dead bodies shall fall in this wilderness, and xof all your number, listed in the census yfrom twenty years old and upward, who have grumbled against me, 30 not one shall come into the land where I zswore that I would make you dwell, aexcept Caleb the son of Jephunneh and Joshua the son of Nun.

What was your reaction to reading that? Sorrow? Sorrow for the rebellion of a people toward their gracious God?

Want to know mine? I was sad. I was sad that that generation was forgotten. It was erased off the face of the earth. Erased out of collective memory.

I was sad that no one’s name–except for Caleb and Joshua–was preserved in history. And that that fate was more than likely my fate.


The Man in the Sierra Leone Village

I am obsessed with obscurity. I fear falling out of earshot with the literary elite–both living and dead.

I fear if my name is not embedded for AT LEAST four hundred years in our anthologies that I will have failed.

As you can imagine, this has created massive and unnecessary grief in the mornings spent agonizing over my future. Stupid attempts at attention.

Strangely enough, I used to feel sorry for the anonymous of the world. The man in the small village in the hills of Sierra Leone.

I used to feel guilty for my fortune of growing up in a country where opportunities are abundant. Where fame is at arms reach. While they were damned to obscurity.

Then it dawned on me: if not for the grace of God, those forces are at work on everyone.

Including me.

How I Have It Backwards

But that scheme is all wrong to begin with. I am elevating popularity in this life over popularity in the next life. On this note, the Bible is clear: popularity in this life equals .

However, obscurity–anonymity–in this life equals popularity in the next. Every advantage I have over that man in Sierra Leone in this life amounts to a disadvantage in the next life.

He will be honored beyond anything I could have ever imagined. And that is the more precious prize.

Theology Will Keep You from Committing Suicide

Answers to the hard questions of life can subdue our death instinct.

A systematic study of what the Bible says about a particular topic is theology proper.

It’s a pursuit every Christian must vigorously and regularly engage…

Because it’s the means by which we answer the hard questions of life.

Questions like who am I? Why are we here? What is God? What happens when I die? Do I have a soul?

Questions no one is immune from. And questions science ultimately can’t answer.

NIH Director Francis Collins put it this way:

Belief in God was for me anyway, a much more defensible, plausible position. Not something I could prove but something that made great sense and also provided a powerful answer to some of the biggest questions we all ask of our selves and that science can’t really help us with. Like why am I here? And what does life mean anyway?

Without thoughtful, coherent answers to our big questions, life makes no sense at all.

It would be nice if we could simply stop asking those questions. But that’s impossible. We are forever curious. We constantly ask these questions.

We are natural-born theologians.

To look for the answers outside of Christ, however, leads to confusion. All other disciplines lead to dead ends. Isolation. Incoherence.

As  at the Evangel blog, “A secularist worldview is hopelessly fractured…. There can be no meaningful interpretive key for knowledge because there is only disintegration and brokenness among the various stakeholders.”

Theology, on the other hand, offers us a relentlessly unified, comprehensive answer to the hard questions: .

Listen: If our questions go unanswered, everything remains in the air. Everything becomes unanchored.

Without theology, despair looms. Without theology, suicide knocks at our door.

Heavy prices to pay for not believing in God.

Thus theology leads to relevance. In fact, while regarded as a rather stuffy, arid discipline, it’s the cornerstone on which a Christian must build AND maintain his life.

There is no choice. We must use our minds in this pursuit. Let me know what you think.

Why Did God Create Man?


Ever wonder why you are here? Why anybody is here?

I’m not talking about “what’s my purpose?”

I’m talking about why did God create us? Man? Woman? You? Me? Adam? Eve?

Creation? Anything?

Why did he create the universe and atoms?

Stars, oceans, continents, apricot trees, corn, squirrels, earthworms?


Did God lack anything? I mean: God’s not lonely. He’s a three-part being.

He’s not needy. He’s self-existent.

Neither Is This the Reason

Is he sadistic and perverted and gets a good chuckle when we suffer? No. The .

Was he a poor gardener and needed the help of a professional? No. He’s omnipotent and could manage the garden well on his own.

Then what is it? Why would God create us? Care for us?

Even the  over God’s concern for a creature who pales in comparison to the largeness and majesty of nature…yet is exalted as steward of that creation.

What gives?

This Is the Reason God Created Us

The  gives–just a little. It tells us that our chief aim in life is to worship God and enjoy him forever.

Does that mean God is egotistical and relishes human worship?

Absolutely not.

The issue of why God created man goes to the very core of God’s character and we must go back to the Genesis story to uncover–as best as we can–his purpose.

Here’s what we know: God planted the first man–Adam–in a splendid garden surrounded by a rich, robust world. Yet God saw that it wasn’t good this man was alone.

Enter woman.

And So Is This

Next, he told them to be fruitful and multiply. He told them to subdue the earth.

In other words, he blessed them. He gave them life, responsibility and freedom to care for creation.

And from this we can surmise that God gave freely because he himself is self-giving. That is his incorrigible character.

In return he expects us to bless the nations:

May God be gracious to us and bless us and make his face to shine upon us…that your way may be known on earth, your saving power among all nations. Let the peoples praise you, O God; let all the peoples praise you! 

But there’s something else we can surmise out of God’s creation of man and nature and that’s this: He created man because he is a creative being.

And since we are created in his image we also are defined by this same creativity so that the ends of the earth may know him and fear him through our works that proclaim him.

What are you doing with the life, freedom and creativity God freely gave you? Let me know what you think.

Pragmatism: Where It Breaks Down [and Why You Should Care]

Pragmatist argue that it’s necessary to check our religious beliefs at the door when we debate issues. Unfortunately, that can’t work. Part of a series on truth.

Richard Rorty, the leading American philosophical pragmatist–who I wrote about in The Problem with Your Personal Testimony post–argues that when you come to the public square to debate issues like divorce, abortion or civil marriage, you should leave your religion at home.

That’s pragmatism.

Unfortunately, there’s a problem with that approach.

The problem exists in the nature of religion. Religion, at its core, is a set of beliefs about the hard questions of life.

Hard questions like what is really real? What is a human being? Why is it possible to know anything at all? How do we know what is right and what is wrong?

What Pragmatism Looks Like in the Public Square

Let’s pretend for a moment that the issue on the table is population control via contraception, abortion and infanticide.

Someone who believes [based upon their religious view] that a person becomes a human at inception would see abortion and infanticide as legislated manslaughter–no matter its practical impact on society or economics.

Yet, a person who doesn’t hold that belief–say, like utilitarian philosopher Peter Singer–might argue that abortion and limited infanticide is a reasonable mechanism to control population and decrease economic strain on the health system.

As you can see, the question becomes, “Who throws out their belief?” Both arguments emerge from their answers to hard questions of life.

Where I’m Going with This

But my point here is not to argue the merits of one case over the other.

My point is simply that it’s impractical to remove one’s religious view from the public square–even if they are controversial and faith based.

In fact, to say “Please, leave your religious views at home” is in itself controversial and faith based.

It smacks of anti-religion. And exclusivity.

It’s equivalent to saying “My views are privileged above yours.” In other words, my beliefs hold sway over yours…

And my beliefs are exclusive to truth.

What Comes Next

So, in the end, it’s not a matter of practicality or exclusivity when we debate issues in the public because we’ve seen that the pragmatic argument is equally indicted as making an exclusive claim to truth…

And we’ve also seen that you can’t determine what’s practical until you determine which world view you hold.

So, in the end, it’s not a matter of who’s views are religious or not. It’s a matter of who’s right and who’s wrong.

And it’s best to decide that with evidence.

With that in mind, tomorrow we’ll explore why it makes sense to embrace Christianity’s exclusive claim to truth.

A Little Footnote to Your Personal History


Imagine this.

You are sitting in the pew of a church with a cathedral-high ceiling. Stain glass windows.

It’s lit with sunlight but a tad chilly.

Eventually the pastor approaches the lectern, sets his Bible down, reaches inside his wool sport coat and pulls out a pair of reading glasses.

He then cracks open his Bible.

He leafs through a few pages, anchors his finger on a text and then reads.

He reads the text with a sober, but soft voice. And when he’s finished, he removes his glasses and launches into his sermon.

Nothing out of the ordinary or cause for concern.

You listen, take notes, smile, laugh, look at your boots, scratch your elbow, stare at the stain glass window behind the lectern.

Then, with about ten minutes before his sermon ends, the pastor embarks on his own personal story.

His salvation story.

Quickly you learn that central to his story is a man. You don’t catch his name. But that’s own purpose. And, as you’ll see, that you don’t know his name isn’t important.

Not to his story. Or my story.

What you do catch is the role this man played in the pastor’s life. A significant role, to say the least, because it was this man who introduced the pastor to Christ.

Eventually he does name the man. And you’re shocked. But not for the typical reasons.

You’re shocked because you don’t have a clue who this man is. You’ve never heard of him before. And you feel…well, somewhat embarrassed for the man.

Why embarrassed?

Because the man is a nobody. He’s not a towering figure in history who the world knows.

He’s not a Theodore Roosevelt. Gandhi. Or Mick Jagger. In the world’s eyes, he’s a failure. Unfortunately, you toy with this idea that he’s a failure.

But to the pastor this obscure, unremarkable man is perhaps one of the most significant persons in his life.

Have you ever heard a pastor tell a story like this? Whether in your own church, a church you visited or at a conference?

I’ve probably heard this story told–in a variation of forms–four times in the last ten years.

[Could be more, but only four actually stand out.]

And I’m ashamed to admit that each time I heard the story…I frowned. Frowned because the “poor” man who led the pastor to Christ is unremarkable. Obscure.

He’s not a legendary CEO. A stellar actor. A current president. He’s just a man who introduced a person to Christ.

And that kills me each time.

Each of these men are footnotes in the lives of these pastors. But significant footnotes. Meaningful in the eyes of eternity. The only point of view that truly matters.

Why am I telling you this? Simple. I want to be a footnote in your life. A meaningful reference anchored somewhere in your life.

But not for my own glory. For Christ’s glory, of course.

This is one of the reasons I want to pour myself into this blog: To educate you and encourage you, to correct and condition you towards Christ.

I’ve got slim hopes that I’ll actually lead someone to the Lord. But if I can nudge you just a smidgen in the direction of Christ and the hope found in his grace…

If I can merely point you to the heavenly city where our omnipotent King sits enthroned…

If I can equip you to fight the good fight of faith or impress upon you the support and care you have from me in the form of constant prayer and supplication…

I’ve succeeded.

Whether you remember it or not ten years from now, I’ve succeeded in becoming a little footnote in your personal history.

Truly, the real reward will come when we sit together in the banquet hall with our bridegroom. Together, in adoration and zealous celebration of the only person who could have satisfied the justice and wrath of God–Jesus Christ.

But until then–and years from now–may you remember the tiny dent you got when you collided with Christ at Fallen and Flawed.

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