Thursday, April 19, 2012

Children grow up addicted to online porn sites: Third of 10-year-olds have seen explicit images

A 'guinea pig’ generation of children is growing up addicted to hardcore internet pornography, MPs were warned last night.

Four out of five 16-year-old boys and girls regularly access porn online while one in three ten-year-olds has seen explicit material, a disturbing cross-party report reveals.

It also cites figures showing that more than a quarter of young patients being treated at a leading private clinic are receiving help for addiction to online pornography.

One appalled MP revealed that her son had told her that swapping hardcore images on memory sticks between pupils at his school is ‘absolutely rife’.

There are fears that the rise of internet pornography is leaving teenagers unable to maintain normal relationships and even increasing their susceptibility to grooming by sexual abusers.

Read more here.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Mindless Men: Behaviorism and Christianity

Behaviorism is an anti-Christian theory that widely permeates secular colleges. It found expression in one of my classes when, in answer to something I said, a girl replied, “Well, after all, I am only an animal.” This view is also currently infiltrating colleges that profess to be Christian institutions. If they succumb to this infiltration, these colleges will descend the path by which earlier Christian colleges became secular. Furthermore, behaviorism also influences popular social and political movements. For these reasons, Bible-believing Christians should pay some attention to it.

What Is Behaviorism?

Behaviorism denies the existence of any immaterial soul or spirit; and if it uses the word mind, it means only the functioning of the bodily parts. To establish the truth of this assertion, so as to avoid any charge of erecting a straw man, I shall first quote some authors who state the theory in wide generality, and then add some of their particular applications.

One of the most general statements ever made is that of Ernest Nagel in his presidential address to the American Philosophical Association. He said, “The occurrence of events...and the characteristic behavior of various individuals are contingent on the organization of spatio-temporally located bodies.... That this is so, is one of the best-attested conclusions of experience.... There is no place for an immortal spirit, no place for the survival of personality after the corruption of the body which exhibits it.”

An earlier and one of the most popular and influential among psychologists was John B. Watson. Here are some of his phrases: The behaviorist has “dropped from his scientific vocabulary all subjective terms such as sensation, perception, image, purpose, and even thinking and emotion as they were subjectively defined.... Speaking overtly or to ourselves (thinking) is just as objective a type of behavior as baseball.” Again, “Our studies of conditioned reflexes make it easy for us to account for a child’s fear of the dog on a thoroughly natural science basis without lugging in consciousness or any other so-called mental process.”

Before further documentation of behaviorism’s rejection of soul, mind, and consciousness, I wish to show that it has political implications as well. Watson says, “The behaviorist...wants to control man’s reactions as physical scientists want to control and manipulate other natural phenomena. It is the business of behavioristic control human activity.” He further says, “I would like to point out there that sometime we will have a behavioristic ethics, experimental in type, which will tell us whether it is have one wife or many wives, to have capital punishment or punishment of any kind.” Although on this page he looks to future experimentation to decide these questions, on a later page he says point-blank that “Punishment is a word which ought never to have crept into our language.” Watson wrote this in 1924. Today socialistic, secularist Sweden has made it illegal for parents to spank their children or even scold them.

Watson was a psychologist. The same year he published his book, Behaviorism, a philosopher, Edgar A. Singer, published a book entitled Mind as Behavior. Singer is far more profound than Watson, or any other of the psychologists for that matter. Singer’s intellectual penetration makes it extremely difficult, and indeed impossible, to summarize his position in an hour’s popular lecture. But here is a sample. Singer accepts the mechanistic view of the universe. Every motion of every atom is caused mechanically. No phenomenon ever violates a law of physics. There are no exceptions to its mathematical equations. This includes every motion of every human body.

However, Singer also wants to preserve for man something called freedom, and to do so he must classify some mechanical objects teleologically. This he does by the device of cross-classification. His favorite example is chronometers. Each and every grandfather’s clock, too tall for the shelf, is a functioning mechanism. A sundial has no wheels, but it could not sit on the lawn without the law of gravitation. Electric clocks differ from sundials and from grandfather clocks, too. There is no single mechanical description, no one blueprint, which describes all timepieces. Timepieces or chronometers cannot be described or classified mechanically. The concept is teleological. They have a common purpose, not a common mechanism. From the concept of purpose in inanimate things Singer goes on to define life, sensation, and mind. Including mathematical formulas for measuring the intensity of sensation, this series of interlocking definitions is a philosophic triumph. The psychologists, on the other hand, have few definitions and only infrequently tell us what their words mean.

Finally, Singer defines freedom, not as the ability to do either of two things under the same circumstances, but as the ability to do the same thing under many circumstances. The thing a human being most wants to do is to survive. Now, a grain of wheat can survive only in a few circumstances-the Gospels tell us it cannot survive on a hard roadway or on stony ground; a bird is able to survive after it alights on a stone by flying away; and a man is freer than a bird because he can survive in disasters that would quickly kill a bird. This is basically the philosophy of Spinoza; it has been recently reproduced by a professedly Christian writer. One thing about it, however, we should not fail to notice. It is this: Although the class of human beings-like the class of timepieces-is defined teleologically, each and every human being-like each timepiece-is completely determined by the laws of physics and chemistry. And it is physical determinism that I wish to refute.

Unfortunately it is not enough to quote only two behaviorists. The least that suffices is two more. Therefore, Ryle and Skinner must provide further documentation. In 1949,Gilbert Ryle published The Concept of Mind. He ridicules the body-mind dualism as the theory of the Ghost in the Machine. With less ridicule, he explains it as a category mistake. His illustration is interesting. A father takes his young son to see a military parade. The boy wants to see the army. As they watch, the father points out the band, a battalion, a squadron, a battery, a brigade. Then the boy asks, But where is the army? Similarly, people see moving arms and legs and ask, But where is the soul or mind? They fail to understand that soul and mind are simply terms to designate all the bodily parts and their motions. Explicitly Ryle says, “When we describe people as exercising qualities of mind, we are not referring to occult episodes of which their overt acts and utterances are effects; we are referring to those overt utterances and acts themselves.” In other words, Bobby Fischer’s genius in chess consists in the way he moves his hands and fingers when he picks up a piece and puts it down again on another square.

Not many pages later Ryle says, “Overt intelligent performances are not clues to the workings of the mind; they are those workings.” Through several chapters, Ryle on this basis elaborates a theory of sensation and perception, and as indicated, of intelligence also. This material is a little too detailed to summarize here. However, an article by Michael S. Gazzaniga, “The Split Brain in Man,” very well shows behaviorism’s view of thinking. He refers to surgeons cutting the corpus collosum in the brain to sever the two hemispheres. “When this connection between the two halves of the cerebrum was cut,” Gazzaniga writes, “each hemisphere functioned independently as if it were a complete brain.... Was the corpus collosum responsible for integration of the two cerebral hemispheres in the intact brain? Did it serve to keep each hemisphere informed about what was going on in the other? ... To what extent were the two half brains actually independent when they were separated? Could they have separate thoughts and even separate emotions?”

He further describes an experiment in which “the right hemisphere saw the red light and heard the left hemisphere say ‘green’. Knowing that the answer was wrong, the right hemisphere precipitated a shake of the head, which in turn cued in the left hemisphere to the fact that the answer was wrong, and that it had better correct itself.” He also asserted that “the right hemisphere has a very poorly developed grammar.” At this point we must ask, Can a cerebral hemisphere see red or green? Can a hemisphere know that an answer is wrong? Can it inform the other hemisphere and tell it to correct itself? But even more fundamental than these questions is the question, Which hemisphere knows the truth? Since on this theory the hemispheres are equally chemical phenomena, how can the chemistry of one be true and the chemistry of the other be false? Is the combination of sodium and chlorine into salt any more true or false than the combination of lead and oxygen into litharge?

B.F. Skinner

But before offering too many criticisms, we must consider the documentation provided by the best known and most influential behaviorist of the present time. The gentleman is B. F. Skinner, and the volume from which the quotations will be taken is entitled About Behaviorism.

Although Skinner repudiates a number of Watson’s details, he holds to the basic position that when one refers behavior to states of mind, one founders on the question how an immaterial mind can cause physical action. Therefore “a more explicit strategy,” he says, “is to...simply describe what people do.” Skinner obviously wants to avoid mentalism. Equally obvious is his desire to identify causes of human behavior and give explanations. But this leads him to use mentalistic terms. He says that a child eats because he feels hungry. He explicitly defends his use of phrases such as, “I have chosen... I have in mind, I am aware.” The problem is to see whether he can use these mentalistic phrases unambiguously after he has denied their mentalistic content. In a chapter entitled “The World Within the Skin” he says, “We respond to our own body with three nervous systems.” Now, if the word body refers unambiguously to an assemblage of arms, legs, organs, and three nervous systems, what is the “we” that responds to them? Is it not simply some bits of these physical objects? And the word respond itself can designate nothing other than a complex chemical change. Why then should we say we, he, or she, rather than it?

Plato in his dialogue Theaetetus responds to a similar point of view. His opponent, Protagoras, was not exactly a behaviorist, but like them he had broken up the human being into an aggregate of parts. Plato likens this to the wooden horse of Troy. It was filled with Greek soldiers. One soldier looked out a hole in the left eye, another peeped through the right ear. But, Plato insisted, the horse itself saw nothing. It had no soul or mind.

But discussions of these epistemological difficulties must be curtailed if there is to be time to mention morality. Every philosophy bears implications regarding ethics, and behaviorism’s are not surreptitious. Skinner openly states his aim to alter morals and politics. Therefore we must discover the direction Skinner intends to take; we must examine his justification for that change; and we must judge of the consistency or lack of consistency between behaviorism’s first principles and its derivative ethics. The matter of consistency can be highlighted by bringing together the first few words of chapter twelve in “The Question of Control” and the final sentence of its final chapter: “A scientific analysis of behavior must, I believe [Skinner speaking], assume that a person’s behavior is controlled by his genetic and environmental histories rather than by the person himself as an initiatory, creative agent.” Then on the last page of the book we find, “In the behavioristic view man can now control his own destiny because he knows what must be done and how to do it.”

These two sentences, at least at first sight, seem to be in stark contradiction. Can Skinner in any way explain how man can now control his own destiny when instead of being an initiating agent, he is himself controlled by his genetic and environmental histories? The explanation Skinner gives is that man himself is a part of nature and of nature’s chemistry. Therefore whatever physical and chemical reactions occur in a man’s body automatically control other events in nature. To quote: “Human behavior is also a form of control [and] we can no more stop controlling nature than we can stop breathing or digesting food.” This certainly harmonizes the two seemingly contradictory statements; but the price is the reduction of human control to the level of control exhibited by hydrogen, sulfur, and oxygen in the production of sulfuric acid.

Satisfying himself with this, Skinner immediately proceeds to “organized agencies or institutions, such as governments, religions, and economic systems.” And when he puts in a subhead on “Ethics and Compassion,” we get the impression of a considerable gap between compassion and sulfuric acid.

Never mind the gap, but consider how Skinner proceeds: “We refrain from hurting others,” he says, “not because we know how it feels to be hurt, but (1) because hurting other members of the species reduces the chances that the species will survive, and (2) when we have hurt others, we ourselves have been hurt.”

This argument is fallacious on two counts. It is logically invalid and its premises have no empirical justification. Note that Hitler murdered five million Jews in order to ensure the survival of a better human species. Mao massacred thirty million Chinese, and instead of hurting himself thereby, he increased the food rations for the survivors. Furthermore, even if certain conduct should decrease the species’ chance of survival, what is that to me? After all, evolution guarantees the survival of the fittest, so that it is no concern of mine what species survives. Indeed, the human race has proved to be a natural disaster. Why ought it survive? Behaviorism can produce no reason why anything ought or ought not to be done.

Behaviorism and Baseball

If now a thought is a physical or chemical motion inside the brain, it can be illustrated by a pitched ball in Yankee Stadium. The stadium represents the brain or body; the pitched ball is the thought. Suppose the first pitch of the game is an inside curve. Now, since the pitch is a dated event, it cannot have happened previously to this game, nor can it be repeated in a later inning. Of course, a pitch in the third inning may also be an inside curve; but it cannot be identical to the first. The inside curve in the third inning comes fifteen minutes later; its speed is not precisely the same; and it breaks about a half-inch higher. That means that I can never have the same thought twice. If I think thought X at 2:21 P.M., I cannot have that thought again at 3:12 or ever after. Behaviorism makes memory impossible.

The most obvious answer to this is that these two pitches resemble each other so closely that one cannot tell the difference between them. Hence, though we can never have the exact same thought, we can nonetheless have a similar thought. But this reply complicates the situation. The thought that the curve in the third inning is similar to the curve in the first inning has to be the knuckle ball in the fourth inning. Similarity is itself a motion. It is as much a dated pitch as the other two. It came five or ten minutes after the pitch in the third inning. How then can a motion ten minutes after the second curve connect two motions that no longer exist? Behaviorism therefore cannot discover that any two motions are similar.

There is a further complication. It is all the more obvious that none of these pitches, nor any other in the Yankee Stadium, can be the motion of a different ball in San Diego. The San Diego diamond is a different mind. Two minds can never have the same pitch. That is why no one else can have the least idea of what Skinner and Ryle mean. Nor can they themselves have any idea of what they wrote, now that the inning is over.

The Clockwork Image

That Christianity cannot tolerate behaviorism’s denial of an immortal soul is a thesis distinctly stated by John Calvin. To quote: “That man consists of soul and body ought not to be controverted.... Christ commending his spirit to the Father, and Stephen his to Christ, intend no other than that, when the soul is liberated from the prison of the flesh, God is its perpetual keeper. Those who imagine that the soul is...a breath or faculty divinely infused with the body...are proved to be in gross error.... How could an affection or emotion, without any essence, penetrate to the tribunal of God? ... For the body is not affected by the fear of spiritual punishment.” So says Calvin, and more that I cannot quote now.

Surprising though it be, Donald M. MacKay, a professing Christian, tries to convert Christians to behaviorism in a book entitled The Clock-Work Image. Since Mr. MacKay aims to combine behaviorism and Christianity, we may expect to find his material confusing and self-contradictory, for behavioristic Christianity is as impossible as Pelagian Augustinianism. Such a combination complicates analysis and discussion. A paragraph, or even a single sentence at times, will both affirm and deny a Christian doctrine. For example, he both asserts and denies creation ex nihilo.

Let it be noted that I plainly acknowledge the presence of Christian elements in his book; but for the present purpose this discussion is confined to the clockwork image of man’s mind and how this behavioristic clockwork is incompatible with Christianity. First of all, Dr. MacKay views science as based on hard, observational data free from any philosophical extrapolation. He explicitly states, “In order to explain human behavior, chains of cause and effect can legitimately be sought and found in terms of physics.” Note well that these chains of cause and effect are found, not invented, and are found legitimately without any philosophic interpretation modifying the causal laws.

But this view of science is itself a philosophic interpretation. It assumes that hard, uninterpreted data can be found, and that from these data the laws of physics with their chains of causes and effects can legitimately be discovered. This philosophy is precisely what I wish to deny. There are no data, and observation never discovers any laws of physics. My refutation of this empiricist view of physics can be studied in a monograph The Philosophy of Science and Belief in God; and also in the last chapter of Horizons of Science, edited by Carl F. H. Henry. Here I wish particularly to oppose Dr. MacKay’s statement, “The Christian gospel itself invites the test of daily experience in essentially the same spirit of openness to evidence that animates the enquiring scientist.” This reduction of Christian doctrine to the level of allegedly uninterpreted observation is utterly anti-Christian. Christianity is not based on experience; it is based on a propositional divine revelation, the Holy Scriptures.

Now, when behaviorists come to apply their theory to what we call mental realities, they must redefine such words as guilt, love, memory, and consciousness in physical and mechanistic terms. At this point, Dr. MacKay says, “Note that I am far from suggesting that a mechanistic description of this sort is necessarily untrue.” We might have expected him to say the opposite. We might suppose that a Christian behaviorist would say something like this: The mechanistic definitions of mental terms are scientifically useful, but they are not necessarily true. But Dr. MacKay said, “I am far from suggesting that they are untrue.” If this is not an explicit denial of mind and consciousness, it is at the least a strong preference for physical mechanism and a disparagement of soul and spirit.

The repudiation of a soul and the assertion of behavioristic mechanism are more explicitly indicated in his description of the brain-mind as an electric signboard. In the title of his book, he presents man under the image of clockwork. His extended illustration is that of an electric sign. The big electric sign is completely described by its circuits, “so complete[ly]” he says, “that we understand just why and how each lamp is flashing.” Now, it may be true that the circuits completely describe how the sign works; but they can say nothing about why the sign works. The why includes an electrical engineer who constructed the circuits so that they would present an intelligible message to the public. The blueprint of the circuit explains neither the engineer nor his purpose. Mechanism as such cannot initiate purposes. It requires intelligent minds to initiate a purpose.

That MacKay thinks of the engineer as God and leaves human beings utterly mindless is indicated when he says that the divine artist creates “a chain-mesh which scientifically-minded observers can discern.” He speaks of “the mechanisms of the brain,” and he takes pleasure in “what science has achieved so far in its mechanistic understanding of man.” Very clear is his assertion that “By the scientific enterprise I want to denote all attempts to understand man as a phenomenon in causal terms: in terms of physical chemistry at one level, physiology at another.” This, of course, is what Skinner depends on to manipulate people into his political and social totalitarianism. Then, in a most amazing fashion, MacKay concludes his electric sign image with the words, “If, then, our human personality is related to our bodies in anything like the way that a message or a computer program is related to its embodiment, it is clear that brain-science has absolutely nothing to say against the possibility of eternal life.”

This statement is amazing because it is so obviously false. If fire or storm destroys an electric sign, no message remains. At death, the message vanishes; no life is left at all. Obviously if man is a soulless mechanism, there is nothing that remains after the body disintegrates. This is precisely what Ernest Nagel expressed so clearly in his presidential address. If mind is behavior, then when the behavior ceases, no mind continues to live. Therefore I believe that MacKay’s theory is false, is nonsense in places, and is un-Scriptural.

Christianity and Behaviorism

The preceding arguments claim to expose some of Dr. MacKay’s fallacies. What now follows claims that Scripture teaches the falsity of behaviorism. Scripture asserts the existence of God, angels, Satan, and demons. None of these has a body. None has brains. Nothing about them can be described by mathematical laws. Yet they all think. Of course, secular behaviorists do not believe in God or demons. This is now immaterial (!) because the present argument aims only to show that Christianity and behaviorism cannot be harmonized. Maybe a Christian (?) behaviorist would claim that he has been thinking only of human beings. But if he has been thinking of thinking, his theory of thinking should apply to all beings who think. Obviously it does not.

Without any diminution of the conclusive force of this consideration, there are other Scriptural themes that completely refute behaviorism. First, in Genesis, God fashioned a physical body, that could not think, then he breathed his spirit into the clay, and the combination made a living man. But before receiving the spirit, the physical brain could not think.

Second, Moses was not permitted to enter the promised land because of a sin he had committed. “He went up from the plains of the top of Pisgah.... So Moses the servant of the Lord died there in the land of Moab...and he [the Lord] buried him...but no man knows of his sepulchre unto this day” (Deuteronomy 34:1-6). In the course of a century his brain decomposed, and after fourteen centuries there could have been very little left of his body. Nevertheless, Moses kept on thinking without brains or body, for on the Mount of Transfiguration Moses held a theological conversation concerning the doctrine of the Atonement with a refulgent Jesus, who may not have been using his brains, either (Luke 9:29-31).

The final example is that of Jesus and the thief on the cross. Jesus said, “Today thou shalt be with me in paradise.” By sunset, the bodies of Jesus and the thief had been buried. They were dead. Their brains were inoperative. Yet the two persons were enjoying paradise. No doubt the thief was praising God for his unanticipated salvation. That is to say, he was thinking, but not with his decomposing brains. Thinking is not a function of brains.

Now, finally, like the thief on the cross and like Moses, some of our friends have died; we too shall die, unless Christ returns within a year or two; then being dead, our brains and bodies being buried, we also shall engage in theological discussions with Christ and those who preceded us there. Theology does not require brains; it requires a mind or spirit; and behaviorism is a denial of the Gospel.
By Gordon H. Clark. From The Trinity Review July, August 1980.

Saturday, April 7, 2012

The Christian Divorce Rate Myth - it is LOWER than the general population

Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced.

"Christians divorce at roughly the same rate as the world." It's one of the most quoted stats by Christian leaders today. And it's perhaps one of the most inaccurate.

Based on the best data available, the divorce rate among Christians is significantly lower than the general population.
Here's the truth....

Many people who seriously practice a traditional religious faith -- be it Christian or other -- have a divorce rate markedly lower than the general population.

The factor making the most difference is religious commitment and practice. Couples who regularly practice any combination of serious religious behaviors and attitudes -- attend church nearly every week, read their Bibles and spiritual materials regularly; pray privately and together; generally take their faith seriously, living not as perfect disciples, but serious disciples -- enjoy significantly lower divorce rates than mere church members, the general public and unbelievers.

Professor Bradley Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, explains from his analysis of people who identify as Christians but rarely attend church, that 60 percent of these have been divorced. Of those who attend church regularly, 38 percent have been divorced [1].

Other data from additional sociologists of family and religion suggest a significant marital stability divide between those who take their faith seriously and those who do not.

W. Bradford Wilcox, a leading sociologist at the University of Virginia and director of the National Marriage Project, finds from his own analysis that "active conservative Protestants" who regularly attend church are 35 percent less likely to divorce compared to those who have no affiliation. Nominally attending conservative Protestants are 20 percent more likely to divorce, compared to secular Americans [2].

Professor Scott Stanley from the University of Denver, working with an absolute all-star team of leading sociologists on the Oklahoma Marriage Study, explains that couples with a vibrant religious faith had more and higher levels of the qualities couples need to avoid divorce:

"Whether young or old, male or female, low-income or not, those who said that they were more religious reported higher average levels of commitment to their partners, higher levels of marital satisfaction, less thinking and talking about divorce and lower levels of negative interaction. These patterns held true when controlling for such important variables as income, education, and age at first marriage."

These positive factors translated into actual lowered risk of divorce among active believers.

"Those who say they are more religious are less likely, not more, to have already experienced divorce. Likewise, those who report more frequent attendance at religious services were significantly less likely to have been divorced [3]."

The Take-Away

The divorce rates of Christian believers are not identical to the general population -- not even close. Being a committed, faithful believer makes a measurable difference in marriage.

Saying you believe something or merely belonging to a church, unsurprisingly, does little for marriage. But the more you are involved in the actual practice of your faith in real ways -- through submitting yourself to a serious body of believers, learning regularly from Scripture, being in communion with God though prayer individually and with your spouse and children, and having friends and family around you who challenge you to take you marriage's seriously -- the greater difference this makes in strengthening both the quality and longevity of our marriages. Faith does matter and the leading sociologists of family and religion tell us so.


Glenn T. Stanton is the director for family formation studies at Focus on the Family in Colorado Springs, Colo., and is the author of the new book, "Secure Daughters Confident Sons: How Parents Guide Their Children into Authentic Masculinity and Femininity" (Multnomah, 2011). This article is taken from the VirtueOnline blog and is used with permission.

1 Bradley R.E. Wright, "Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites ...and Other Lies You've Been Told," (Minneapolis, MN: Bethany House, 2010), p. 133.

2 W. Bradford Wilcox and Elizabeth Williamson, "The Cultural Contradictions of Mainline Family Ideology and Practice," in American Religions and the Family, edited by Don S. Browning and David A. Clairmont (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007) p. 50.

3. C.A. Johnson, S. M. Stanley, N.D. Glenn, P.A. Amato, S.L. Nock, H.J. Markman and M .R. Dion "Marriage in Oklahoma: 2001 Baseline Statewide Survey on Marriage and Divorce" (Oklahoma City, OK: Oklahoma Department of Human Services 2002) p. 25, 26. Source

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Christianity in Crisis? A Response to Andrew Sullivan

Newsweek’s cover story, written by popular author Andrew Sullivan, encourages Americans to “forget the church” and just “follow Jesus.” According to Sullivan:

We inhabit a polity now saturated with religion. On one side, the Republican base is made up of evangelical Protestants who believe that religion must consume and influence every aspect of public life. On the other side, the last Democratic primary had candidates profess their faith in public forums, and more recently President Obama appeared at the National Prayer Breakfast, invoking Jesus to defend his plan for universal health care. The crisis of Christianity is perhaps best captured in the new meaning of the word “secular.” It once meant belief in separating the spheres of faith and politics; it now means, for many, simply atheism. The ability to be faithful in a religious space and reasonable in a political one has atrophied before our eyes.
Sullivan sees the problem of a politicized faith, one that focuses relentlessly on gaining power, changing laws, and regulating the morality of others. He sees contemporary Christianity as a faith obsessed with getting doctrines about Jesus right to the exclusion of what He actually taught us to do and be. This leads him to ask some piercing questions:
What does it matter how strictly you proclaim your belief in various doctrines if you do not live as these doctrines demand? What is politics if not a dangerous temptation toward controlling others rather than reforming oneself?
From the Catholic Church’s teachings on sexuality to evangelical Christian support of torture, Sullivan makes his way through a long list of perceived threats to the centrality of Christ among believing people.

So what’s the solution? Sullivan points us toward Francis of Assisi and Thomas Jefferson. Francis – for the simplicity of his vision for following Jesus. Jefferson – for the way he stripped away all the miracles of incarnation and resurrection and got to the greatest miracle of all: Jesus’ message of love.

A Response

Where to start with an article like this?

On the one hand, Sullivan is absolutely right to point out the politicized nature of Christianity in the West. He has witnessed the counterfeit gospel of activism that gives us “culture warriors” from the Right and the world’s “errand runners” from the Left. He has seen what happens when churches unite around a cause rather than the cross, and the results are indeed repugnant. If we deny the shortcomings of the church or minimize the scandals, the abuse of power, or the existence of injustice behind our stained-glass windows, we are departing from the righteous vision of Jesus’ kingdom and joining the first-century Pharisees.

Likewise, we should admit that we have too often been known more for our denunciations of those outside our walls than for our passion to uproot our own self-righteous hypocrisy, something Jesus was always confronting in His day. Sullivan sees many of the problems within contemporary Christianity with a perception that should give us pause and bring us back to our knees.

Jesus without Jesus

Unfortunately, his solution is woefully inadequate. He wants to return to the simple message of Jesus as if that message can be divorced from the Man who delivered it. Despite his protests against a politicized faith, Sullivan is saying we should follow a Man whose primary message concerned a kingdom. You can’t get more political than that.

It’s interesting to see how those who advocate a return to the words of Christ often display a frightening ignorance of what Jesus actually said. The primary message of Jesus was not love – at least, not love in our sense of the world. The message of Jesus was Love with a capital “L” – meaning, His message was about Himself. It was about His kingdom, His identity as king, and the cross that became His throne.

So when Sullivan says that Jesus would have been “baffled” by current debates over homosexuality or abortion, I would counter that Jesus spoke to both of these issues and more, albeit indirectly:
  • The sexual ethic He put forth is so radical that even a lustful thought after another human being is considered sinful.
  • The picture of God’s intention of marriage – male and female from the dawn of creation – is reinforced so strongly that divorce ought to become unthinkable.
  • Abortion? How can we listen to Jesus talk about God’s care for a fallen sparrow or watch Him bless the little children and believe He would have nothing to say to those who would still the heartbeats of those who are “more precious” to the Father than the birds of the air?
What’s more, Sullivan’s assertion that we should return to what Jesus asked us to do and be (“rather than the unknowable intricacies of what we believe he was”) flies in the face of Jesus’ own words to His disciples. Jesus is the One who raises the eternal stakes of understanding His messianic identity. Over and over again in the Gospels, we see the disciples asking, “Who is this man?” The wind and seas obey. The dead are raised. The lame walk. The deaf speak. Jesus is acting and talking like He’s in control. He’s either crazy or He’s king of creation.

Sullivan wants to take Christ’s teaching without Christ Himself. His vision tries to deliver Christ’s message of love without the atoning cross that gives love its meaning. It wants Christ’s justice without the victorious resurrection that launches the new world God has promised , the new world that totally changes the landscape for how we view everything: ethics, morals, politics, art, law.

Jesus’ teachings are not just about embarking on a new journey, embracing a new way of life, or experiencing a new spirituality. They are about His ushering in a new world order – a kingdom that encompasses everything.

Snip away at the miracles, like Thomas Jefferson, and you may be left with only the red letters. But even those red letters testify to the world-changing news of the kingdom’s arrival. This isn’t a Jesus whose message you can understand apart from His cross and resurrection.

The answer to Andrew Sullivan is to point back to everything the Gospels tell us. Let’s not isolate the sayings of Jesus we like and fit Him into our vision for how the world should work. Instead, let’s fall at the feet of King Jesus, ready and willing to do whatever it takes to fit our lives into His vision, a vision of the world to come that has crashed into the world that is. Source

Forsaken — Jesus Became A Curse

If there ever was an obscenity that violates contemporary community standards, it was Jesus on the cross. After he became the scapegoat and the Father had imputed to him every sin of every one of his people, the most intense, dense concentration of evil ever experienced on this planet was exhibited. Jesus was the ultimate obscenity.

So what happened? God is too holy to look at sin. He could not bear to look at that concentrated monumental condensation of evil, so he averted his eyes from his Son. The light of his countenance was turned off. All blessedness was removed from his Son, whom he loved, and in its place was the full measure of the divine curse.

Jesus Was Forsaken

At midday he turned the lights out on the hill outside of Jerusalem so that when his face moved away, when the light of his countenance shut down, even the sun couldn’t shine on Calvary. Bearing the full measure of the curse, Christ screamed, “Eli, Eli lema sabachthani,” that is, “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matt. 27:46).

Jesus took that occasion to identify with the psalmist in Psalm 22 in order to call attention to those looking upon the spectacle that what they were witnessing was really a fulfillment of prophecy. I don’t think Jesus was in a Bible-quoting mood at the time. His cry was not, as Albert Schweitzer opined, the cry of a disillusioned prophet who had believed that God was going to rescue him at the eleventh hour and then felt forsaken. He didn’t just feel forsaken; he was forsaken. For Jesus to become the curse, he had to be completely forsaken by the Father.

I’ve been thinking about these things for fifty years, and I can’t begin to penetrate all it meant for Jesus to be forsaken by God. But there is none of that to be found in the pseudo-gospels of our day. Every time I hear a preacher tell his people that God loves them unconditionally, I want to ask that the man be defrocked for such a violation of the Word of God. What pagan does not hear in that statement that he has no need of repentance, so he can continue in sin without fear, knowing that it’s all taken care of? There is a profound sense in which God does love people even in their corruption, but they are still under his anathema.

The Gospel—Our Only Hope

Just because a man is ordained is no guarantee that he is in the kingdom of God. The odds are astronomical that many are still under the curse of God. There are ordained men who have not yet fled to the cross, who are still counting on the nebulous idea of the unconditional love of God to get them through, or even worse, still thinking that they can get into the kingdom of God through their good works. They don’t understand that unless they perfectly obey the law of God, which they have not done for five minutes since they were born, they are under the curse of God. That is the reality we must make clear to our people—either they will bear the curse of God themselves or they will flee to the One who took it for them.

Thomas Aquinas once was asked whether he thought that Jesus enjoyed the beatific vision throughout his whole life. Thomas said, “I don’t know, but I’m sure that our Lord was able to see things that our sin keeps us from seeing.” Remember that the promise of the vision of God in the Beatitudes is the promise made to the pure of heart. The reason why we can’t see God with our eyes is not that we have a problem with our optic nerve. What prevents us from seeing God is our heart, our impurity. But Jesus had no impurity. So obviously he had some experience of the beauty of the Father until that moment that our sin was placed upon him, and the One who was pure was pure no more, and God cursed him.

It was as if there was a cry from heaven, as if Jesus heard the words “God damn you,” because that’s what it meant to be cursed and under the anathema of the Father. I don’t understand that, but I know that it’s true. I know that every person who has not been covered by the righteousness of Christ draws every breath under the curse of God. If you believe that, you will stop adding to the gospel and start preaching it with clarity and boldness, because, dear friends, it is the only hope we have, and it is hope enough. Source - R.C. Sproul

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Vanderbilt University’s Assault on Religious Organizations: Secularism with the Gloves Off

Like most of America’s historic private universities, Vanderbilt University was founded by Christian believers for the purpose of inculcating Christian beliefs in its students. Vanderbilt was founded in the 1870s by Methodists and later funded largely by New York’s Vanderbilt family. Within a remarkably short period of years, Vanderbilt had forfeited its conservative Methodist roots in order to identify with the emerging secular consensus in American higher education.

As Notre Dame’s James Tunstead Burtchaell explained, Vanderbilt serves as a case study in the secularization of American higher education — a process Burtchaell described as the “disengagement of colleges and universities from their Christian churches.” Just a few decades after its founding, Vanderbilt had transformed itself into a secular university, embarrassed by its Christian founding. As Burtchaell made clear, this was not due to demands for secularization from outside the university. It was accomplished under the direction of liberal Protestants who desperately wanted to identify with the secular elites.

Well, if that was Vanderbilt’s goal, the university has been stunningly successful. It is unlikely that many of Vanderbilt’s students and faculty know anything of the university’s Christian history. If they do, it would be cause for further embarrassment, mixed with relief that the university is now safely in liberal and secular hands.

In more recent months, Vanderbilt’s administration decided to push secularism to the extreme — launching a virtual vendetta against religious organizations on campus. Officials of the university informed religious groups that had been recognized student organizations that they would have to comply with an absolute non-discrimination policy. This means that religious organizations (primarily Christian) must now allow any Vanderbilt student to be a candidate for a leadership office, regardless of religious beliefs or sexual orientation. In other words, a Christian student group would be forced to allow the candidacy of an atheist. A group of Christians who believe in the Bible’s standard of sexual morality would be required to allow the candidacy of a homosexual member. There can be absolutely no discrimination, the university insists, even if that means that Christian organizations are no longer actually Christian.

In reality, that is the aim. The university is embarrassed again — this time by the mere presence of Christian organizations on its campus. It will deal with that embarrassment by eliminating the right of Christian organizations to operate on Christian principles. It will impose its own Stalinist definition of tolerance and freedom and deny the right of Christian students to participate in recognized campus organizations that can remain authentically Christian.

The provost of the university recently defended the policy, stating that student organizations may elect their own leaders, but may not disqualify any candidate based on, among other things, religious beliefs or sexual orientation.

Last week, the largest Roman Catholic student organization, Vanderbilt Catholic, announced that it will leave the university. In an open letter explaining their decision, the group stated:

“As Catholics we believe that faith in Jesus Christ and the truths that He has revealed to us through the Catholic Church are fundamental to our identity as Catholics and our mission in this life. Likewise, as a Catholic student organization, Catholic faith and practice precede all else that we do. We are an open and welcoming community that people of all faiths can join, but we require our leaders to share this Catholic faith and practice. A student group led by those who do not share these things might be a very worthwhile and beneficial organization, but it would not be Catholic in the fullest sense of the word. These faith-based requirements for leadership are as important to the integrity of our organization as musical range is for a choral group.”

Will evangelical Christian organizations reach a similar decision? The next few weeks will reveal the answer to that question. In the meantime, leaders of those evangelical groups should look to the Vanderbilt Catholic statement as an example of courage, candor, and specificity.

Leaders of Vanderbilt University, on the other hand, should be equally honest as they explain their draconian policy. The issue is not really tolerance. If so, the university would have to deal with the most intolerant and exclusivist organizations on campus –the recognized fraternities and sororities. As David French of National Review has argued, those recognized student organizations are allowed to discriminate on any ground at all, including appearance and wealth.

As French stated:

“The reality, of course, is that Vanderbilt is trying to force the orthodox Christian viewpoint off campus. The ‘nondiscrimination’ rhetoric is mere subterfuge. How can we know this? Because even as it works mightily to make sure that atheists can run Christian organizations, it is working just as mightily to protect the place and prerogatives of Vanderbilt’s powerful fraternities and sororities — organizations that explicitly discriminate, have never been open to ‘all comers,’ and cause more real heartache each semester for rejected students than any religious organization has ever inflicted in its entire history on campus. Vanderbilt’s embattled religious organizations welcome all students with open arms; Vanderbilt’s fraternities and sororities routinely reject their fellow students based on little more than appearance, family heritage, or personality quirks.”

David French’s most important point is his first — that Vanderbilt’s real agenda is to force any orthodox Christian viewpoint off campus.

What we see at Vanderbilt University is secularism with its gloves off. In the name of tolerance, it will not tolerate orthodox Christian conviction. The university now comes full circle and forces off campus the only organizations that hold to the Christian beliefs of the school’s founders. Look carefully at Vanderbilt’s intolerance. Be assured that it is coming soon to a campus near you. Source

Protestant elected mayor of major Russian city

In a March 18 run-off election in the auto-making city of Tolyatti/Volga, the Evangelical Christian and political independent Sergey Andreyev defeated  “United Russia’s” candidate, Alexander Shakhov. Andreyev won nearly 57 percent of the vote. Shakhov, the candidate of Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” party, 40 percent.

The English-language Moscow Times reported that the upset occurred despite the national government having poured billions into the city to bail out AvtoVAZ, the city’s largest employer.

“United Russia” attempted to stir up sentiment against the country’s religious minorities. In Tolyatti it portrayed itself as “the fatherland’s savior from sinister and ominous foreign powers.” Posters up around the city portrayed Tolyatti’s Orthodox cathedral awash in bright colors beside the local Baptist church in dark greys, resting below a hovering black raven.

In a statement on March 15, the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) protested the characterizations, accusing those responsible for the placards of “religious racism” and “kindling of inter-confessional hatred.”

Similar tactics were used in February 2009, when a forged Baptist newspaper in Smolensk (near Belarus) had branded a candidate for that city mayor as a Baptist bent upon turning the city into “a hotbed of foreign Baptist activity.”

Andreyev, a 39-year-old father of four, is not a Baptist. In a recent interview he stated: “I am neither Scientologist, Baptist nor Hare Krishna. I am an Evangelical Christian.” Read more