An Evolving Battleground


Dan S. over at has recently been writing on the rising profile of Intelligent Design (ID) and its impact on secularists and scientists around the world. Intelligent Design's premise is simple: something or someone created the Earth, the Universe, and everything in between. ID advocates have high ambitions; at the very least, their goal is to put Intelligent Design on equal footing with the theory of evolution, from high school science classrooms to university research labs.

While its deductive (and intuitive) logic is vastly superior to evolution, which stands weakly upon inductive reasoning and circumstantial evidence, Intelligent Design faces a Herculean task of turning back decades of secular brainwashing. And while creationism may be ipso facto intelligent design, Intelligent Design is not the same thing as creationism. ID is frequently mocked because it's confused with Creationism, just as Catholicism is mocked because it's confused with Christianity. For believers, the question is, will Intelligent Design ultimately ally itself with a Biblical worldview, or does it have an altogether different agenda?

Back in 1512, when the famed Italian artist Michelangelo finished his masterwork on the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel — highlighted by The Creation of Adam (see image above) — Biblical creationism was the origin science in the Western world. The father of modern science, Sir Isaac Newton (himself a creationist), would not be born for another 130 years. Modern science prided itself on testing its theories under real world conditions (empiricism). This new philosophical climate would lay the groundwork for English naturalist Charles Darwin, who, after developing evolutionary theory in the mid-19th century, himself admitted it had failed to live up to the scientific method. 150 years later, that hasn't changed. Nonetheless, evolution holds enormous philosophical appeal for natural man, as it gives him license to break God's rules. Darwin's contemporary and ally, English philosopher Herbert Spencer — whose ideas helped shape modern secular ideology — once commented, "For myself, finding that there is no positive evidence of evolution...I adopt the hypothesis until better instructed."

In the 20th century, secularism has managed to separate religion, particularly Christianity, from public relevance. Christianity, by and large, has acquiesced, which is why many in the Christian arena have lauded Intelligent Design's organized, scientist-supported efforts. There are some caveats to keep in mind in spite of such promise. Many ID advocates remain evolutionists (of some form or another), just as many confused Christians remain evolutionists — the key difference being, ID doesn't require the God of the Bible to be the Creator, just some kind of Maker. However, things are so bad in schools today, this is hailed as progress.

It is also interesting to see the convergence of Intelligent Design's increasing popularity with the rise of ecumenical/New Age Christianity. Both play fast and loose with matters of doctrine and theology. Since ID is a scientific theory, should this matter? Perhaps not, but it does mean Intelligent Design can be used by people to seek alternative spiritual paths. Most religions of the world already have some kind of divine origin explanation. Because of its philosophical shallowness, ID could fit in very well with a one world religion concept.

Because evolution has behind it the full weight of the established secular religion, it has a distinct advantage over Intelligent Design when it comes to appealing to sinful man. Nonetheless, ID is likely to gain traction at a popular level, for the Last Days will see people who have a form of godliness but deny its power (cf. 2 Timothy 3:5). Therein lies Intelligent Design's great attraction: it's almost like the real thing (creationism), but not enough to really upend man's solipsistic view of himself. We see the same kind of substitutionary spirit in Christian churches today.

Creation science is real and not an oxymoron, but ID advocates are just as likely to ghettoize it as they are to combat evolution. Science is not the enemy of Christianity — our proud natures are. Although secularists and academics like to talk about the "battle of ideas," the real battle is always spiritual (cf. Ephesians 6:12).

For further information on Intelligent Design, see's ID page. Also, Answers in Genesis responded to the Intelligent Design Movement in an article originally published in 2002.

Narcotics for Man's Soul, Part 2


In an article written last year for her Small Business Trends weblog, Anita Campbell charted the steady growth of Halloween-themed superstores in the United States. The most salient statistic she cited was this one from the National Retail Federation: U.S. Halloween sales in 2004 totaled $3.12 billion. That figure was expected to rise 5.4% this year to $3.29 billion. Various surveys report that 50-60% of Americans celebrate Halloween every year. Over the last decade, Halloween has expanded the holiday shopping window so that Christmas, once known as a religious holiday, is now mostly the culmination of two months of hyper-aggressive retail marketing and unchecked consumer spending.

Halloween's fast-rising popularity in the U.S. (and the U.K.*) clearly reflects the cultural trends toward religious/spiritual pluralism, moral equivalency, and the erosion of absolute truth. The occult origins of Halloween are generally well-known to Christians if not always taken seriously. Halloween's speciality — desensitizing children and adolescents to the morbid and grotesque — should be a particular source of consternation for believers.

In spite of all this, Europe — whose descent into the spiritual dark ages predates America's — is still not entirely taken with Halloween. While some of that is due to Europe's ingrained resistance to American cultural exports, the contrast highlights America's unrivaled material wealth. The lusts of the eyes wield a greater sphere of influence than the occult. Ghosts and goblins rather rely on the worship of the modern-day idols of consumer culture. Worldliness opens men up to spiritual attack and can lead them down the road to the occult.

When the occult is co-opted by consumerism (Halloween, Harry Potter), it flies under the radar. The occult appeals to overt spiritual rebellion. The consumer culture, on the other hand, subtly and gradually takes our eyes off of Christ's Lordship and God's Word. Spotting the dangers of materialism can be tricky because it's usually not about the thing itself, but our orientation to that thing.

Material comforts have created an insatiable appetite for constant entertainment and the acquisition of newer and "better" things, and Halloween is yet another link in that chain. It's a chain that's squeezing the truth out of American churches. (See the many frightful examples at Ingrid Schlueter's Slice of Laodicea.)

Jesus said, "It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." (Mark 10:25) A little perspective: America is the richest nation in the history of the world.

*One columnist for London's Independent laments the Halloween craze.

Narcotics for Man's Soul

The Devil's Bait Box


At the Sea of Galilee, Jesus called Andrew and Simon Peter — fishermen both — to His ministry with these immortal words: "Come, follow me, and I will make you fishers of men." (Matthew 4:19, Mark 1:17)

Lucifer, whose burning ambition was to be like "the Most High" (Isaiah 14:14), has been fishing for the souls of men for thousands of years. Not having God's grace and omnipotence at his disposal, the prince of this world avails himself of the carnal to snag what is beneath the surface — the spirit.

James warned believers of the devil's fishing expeditions (James Chapter One):

13 When tempted, no one should say, "God is tempting me." For God cannot be tempted by evil, nor does he tempt anyone;
14 But each one is tempted when, by his own evil desire, he is dragged away and enticed.
15 Then, after desire has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and sin, when it is full-grown, gives birth to death.
To the devil, Christians are big fish in a sea of souls. This cunning fisherman knows precisely which kinds of bait work for which kinds of fish. The devil plies souls with bait for the mind and body. These are the three lusts of 1 John 2:16 (KJV): "For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, and the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not of the Father, but is of the world."

If a Christian, once ensnared, relies on his own strength instead of God's to break free of the hook, he will find his strength sapping away to the point of spiritual dissolution. Likewise, if that Christian's life is oriented to morals, works, blessings, and guilt rather than to God's Truth and Grace, he will find himself carried away. He can be broken down the same as the smaller fish.

Inside the devil's bait box we can find:

Possessions (the eyes): Materialism. More than ever, the world is filled with amazing things, from the finest of fine arts and food to the highest in high-tech gadgets. This bait performs quite well: big moral issues are seemingly absent (the moral neutrality argument), while material excess can be disguised as blessings. (See prosperity gospel.) Blessings are worshipped; debt and disillusionment follow.

Pleasure (the flesh): Hedonism. Very colorful and seductive. The most obvious bait, yet still very effective on Christians (particularly the weary or worldly). Attached to an especially deadly hook. Aided and abetted by the internet and relaxing social codes, pornography has become the drug du jour of the 21st century, cutting a swath through churches. Drugs, gambling, alcohol, and sexual promiscuity also get their fair share of bites. Cycles of addiction and guilt reel in its victims.

Power (pride): Vanity. Power can be big or small, but is always defined by the illusion of control. It can be based on intellect, looks, ambition, money, or anything that the self can use to its advantage. Subtlest of all the baits. It circumvents danger receptors by turning the victim's gaze onto itself. Christians high on their morality might find themselves on the hook here. Sufficiently weakened, they may succumb to the other baits.

Multiple baits may be required to get that lethal hook in, and the devil will use all of them if he has to.

Schapelle Corby: Year One


On October 8, 2004, Bali customs officers found 4.1 kg of marijuana in an unlocked surf bag owned by Schapelle Corby, a 27-year-old Australian beauty student. Today, a little over a year later, the Bali High Court reduced her 20-year prison sentence to 15. Corby and her family continue to maintain her innocence and plan to appeal to Indonesia's Supreme Court in Jakarta. Her defense has argued all along that drug smugglers planted the drugs in her luggage.

Bali has found itself at the center of the news of late. Nearly two weeks ago, terrorist bombs ripped through this small Indonesian island, killing 19 and injuring scores more. Popular with foreign tourists, particularly Australians, Bali is also known for having a mostly Hindu population in a predominantly Muslim country. Today is also the third anniversary of terrorist attacks that killed 202 people in Bali. Both incidents are linked to al Qaeda.

In a prison interview given a few days before today's sentence reduction, Schapelle Corby revealed that the apostle Paul's instruction to "be not conformed to this world" (Romans 12:2) has been a source of comfort and added, "It means you can be born again." She went on to say:

I was never a believer at all. I always thought it was just rubbish. But now it has made a big difference to me. I pray first thing in the morning. I pray at night. I pray for the other people in here.
Prison conversions are often met with skepticism. When people say, "we must make the most of the time we have," paraphrasing Ephesians 5:15-16, we usually think of death. But lengthy or harsh imprisonment, like a terminal illness, strips away the cares of this world and reduces life to its barest essentials, i.e., the big questions we do our best to avoid on a day-to-day basis.

For those believers enjoying relative freedom and health, Schapelle Corby's terrible fate should underscore the importance of focusing energy on Godly purpose, before it's too late to do anything about it.

The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner


The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner is the title of an Alan Sillitoe short story, published in 1959 and later adapted into a motion picture of the same name (pictured left). Much like its American counterpart Catcher in the Rye, this tale of nonconformity often finds itself on the reading lists of university professors. The story's humanist credentials notwithstanding, the words of the title form an evocative metaphor for Christian living.

Many a sermon have touched upon the Apostle Paul's use of racing metaphor to illustrate God's purpose in his life and in the lives of believers. In Acts 20:24, he told the Ephesian elders, "I consider my life worth nothing to me, if only I may finish the race and complete the task the Lord Jesus has given me — the task of testifying to the gospel of God's grace."

To stress the importance of Christian maturity and perseverance to overcoming life's difficulties and temptations, Paul invoked the training and discipline required of an athlete: "Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last; but we do it to get a crown that will last forever. Therefore I do not run like a man running aimlessly; I do not fight like a man beating the air." (1 Corinthians 9:25-26)

The 1981 film "Chariots of Fire," which chronicled the true story of Scots Olympian-turned-Christian missionary Eric Liddell, famously employed Paul's metaphor for dramatic effect. In the movie, Liddell says to a group of people, "One day, like the Apostle Paul, I pray I will be able to say, 'I have fought the good fight. I have finished the race. I have kept the faith.' May that victory be yours as well."

In real life, Liddell revealed a deeper understanding of Scripture and Godly purpose when he wrote:

My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties, but the leading of Christ seemed now to be in the opposite direction, and I shrank from going forward. At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ. After all, if He called me to do it, then he would have to supply the necessary power.

In going forward, the power was given me. Since then, the consciousness of being an active member of the Kingdom of Heaven has been very real. New experiences of the grace of God, sense of sin, wonders of the Bible have come from time to time. All these fresh experiences have given me fresh visions of our Lord.
Born-again Christians feel a keen sense of isolation, for no longer are they enslaved to the spirit of this world. The world cannot understand a believer's struggle between the carnal and the spiritual — a struggle which Paul so eloquently summarizes in 2 Corinthians 12:10: "For when I am weak, then I am strong." The world may comprehend the Law and the breaking of the Law, but it does not comprehend the Holy Spirit and the grieving of the Holy Spirit.

A.W. Tozer perceived the profound loneliness that born-again believers can feel, even in the company of nominal Christians:
The loneliness of the Christian results from his walk with God in an ungodly world, a walk that must often take him away from the fellowship of good Christians as well as from that of the unregenerate world. His God-given instincts cry out for companionship with others of his kind, others who can understand his longings, his aspirations, his absorption in the love of Christ; and because within his circle of friends there are so few who share his inner experiences he is forced to walk alone. The unsatisfied longings of the prophets for human understanding caused them to cry out in their complaint, and even our Lord Himself suffered in the same way....

In 1492, Columbus Sailed the Ocean Blue...


Come the second Monday in October, the United States still celebrates — albeit nominally — Christopher Columbus. The iconic explorer from Genoa has become something like the eccentric relative no one talks to at family gatherings. This is a great success for secularists who view Columbus as the point man for European conquest and disease, Manifest Destiny, and worst of all, the spread of Christianity.

More accurately, the conquistadors who followed Columbus brought Catholicism to the New World. (Credit the English Puritans for bringing Biblical Christianity to America.) The marriage of Catholicism with the indigenous religions of Central and South America continues to hold an entire region in spiritual bondage.

Secular historians do not condemn Columbus solely because he ushered in large-scale bloodshed and military and religious oppression — both sides were guilty of that. Besides, the European colonizers actually failed to sever the spiritual bonds of the native heathen religions. No, they hate Columbus for what he represents: Christianity's predominance in the Western hemisphere and the ephemeral nature of man's civilizations.

Academics rue the fall of the Aztec and Inca civilizations to the European invaders. But the Bible presents lost civilizations — from Egypt to Judah to Babylon — as examples of man's innate waywardness and the workings of Divine Judgment. The Tower of Babel (Genesis 11) is the primary example of man's misguided attempt to substitute worldly accomplishment for God. The facts of history fly in the face of the modernists' progressive theory of man. Secular historians ignore the inherent shelf life of sinful human societies and blame other factors such as Christianity ("superstition" they call it).

The last thing secularists want to blame for the downfall of a pagan society is paganism itself. The ancient Egyptians, Greeks, Romans, Aztecs, Incas...the list goes on. The practice of human sacrifice and the worship of idols and demons sealed the fate of many of these grand ancient cultures. Sounds not unlike a certain powerful nation of today, doesn't it?

America the Beautiful? Part 4


The passage of time usually provides us a clearer perspective on tragic events, great and small. For now, though, the white-hot immediacy of Hurricane Katrina's devastating effects on the Gulf Coast of the U.S. has stirred people's emotions to levels not seen since September 2001. The trend of bitter political finger-pointing continues four years later as the stakes have gotten bigger — future attacks and disasters hang over the collective consciousness like the mythical sword of Damocles.

It's that palpable sense of unease that signifies, more than anything else at the moment, the pre-tribulation birthing pangs. Jesus addressed this anxiety in Matthew 24:6 when he said, "See to it that you are not alarmed. Such things must happen, but the end is still to come."

The atmosphere of unhinged accusations and recriminations dominating the media coverage of Katrina is evidence of America's progressive drift towards secularism and godlessness. Dan S. wrote about this in his With Christ web log last week:

Natural disasters have always occurred, but today's widespread expectations of what government should do or should have done to mitigate these disasters is incredible. This has come about due to the humanistic societal expectations (collectivist impulse) combined with the tenet that mankind (government) is God and thus is responsible to entirely offset the effects of the Fall.
When a hurricane destroyed Galveston, Texas, on September 8th, 1900, claiming upwards of 10,000 lives, there was no FEMA, no Department of Homeland Security, no celebrity class. Yet within three weeks of the disaster, "Houston relief groups went home, the saloons reopened, the electric trolleys began operating and freight began moving through the harbor," according to historian David G. McComb in his book "Galveston: A History." The point here is not to ignore the obvious differences or reduce the complexities of New Orleans' current calamity but simply to show how much more the America of 2005 depends on socialism and a centralized state structure — neither of which has been friendly to believers.

The strain of poverty does not fully explain the violent, lawless behavior witnessed in New Orleans in the immediate aftermath of the storm. The standard of living, even for the poorest American, is much, much higher than it was back in 1900. What the television cameras captured was just a sliver of the spiritual hopelessness that has permeated America. Many Katrina observers could not believe that the America they knew could be producing such macabre images and reports. The reporters who spoke breathlessly of "Third World conditions" in New Orleans were referring to the poverty and despair; unknowingly they picked up on another association: spiritual darkness.

For some perspective, deadly monsoon rains hit Mumbai (Bombay) just a month before Katrina, causing comparable damage. Such disasters are a regular occurrence in India. But secularists, spoiled by America's prosperity, are shocked to find out that even the most powerful social and economic systems fail to measure up to forces outside man's control. They will endlessly beseech the government for answers. (To be fair, this vanity is hardly exclusive to secularism.) For example, filmmaker Michael Moore insisted that the tragic devastation of New Orleans was "caused not by a hurricane but by the very specific decisions made by the Bush administration in the past four and a half years."

When individuals are conditioned to view their government or social structure as omnipotent, the inevitable disappointment is cataclysmic. Naturally, humanists wouldn't characterize it in such black-and-white terms, although the deified state is the logical byproduct of their philosophy. The rise in stature of the executive and judicial branches of the U.S. government over the past century is evidence of such shifting philosophy. With a few notable exceptions, the Presidents of the Nineteenth Century are anonymous for a reason. It is alarming to see how much today's political discourse attributes so much, good and ill, to a President, as though he were elevated to the status of godhead (malignant or benign). The destruction wrought by Katrina only amplified the secular media's obsession with the current U.S. President.

Even some of the humanitarian support directed at Louisiana and Mississippi has seen its share of self-righteous propaganda. Upon visiting hurricane evacuees at Houston's Astrodome, television talk show host Oprah Winfrey lamented, "I think we all — this country owes these people an apology." In keeping with the secular media's bias for statism, her comments were aimed at the current administration's response to the disaster. But if apologies are due, what about the millions of poor and homeless throughout the U.S.? A very rich few (of which the celebrity class are included) have profited from a rapidly shrinking middle class. What about the thousands of now-homeless Jewish settlers forced out of Gaza? America supported and encouraged their withdrawal. And what about the tens of millions babies legally aborted in the U.S. since 1973? Aren't they owed an apology?

Tisha B'Av


While many churches have directed a lot of attention to such hot-button moral issues as abortion, homosexual marriage, and euthanasia, they have been mostly silent on issues requiring a uniquely Biblical perspective. For instance, Catholicism and Mormonism differ little from Bible-based Christianity on the basis of morality alone.

Consequently, the Laodicean church treads very dangerous waters. Humanism and ecumenicalism continue to erode the church's position on Israel. Christian dialogue today accommodates the growing secularist bias against the Jewish state. While this pattern has seen its ebbs and flows during the course of history, it's clear that anti-Israel sentiment is currently creeping through the churches. And it has crept in under the guise of pro-Palestinian independence/anti-Israeli government arguments.

Church apathy regarding Israel's withdrawal from the Gaza Strip — and U.S. President Bush's support for it — is just one example of increasing international prejudice towards Jewish sovereignty.

The forced evacuation of Jewish settlers in Gaza and the northern West Bank began today. The formal deadline given for leaving the settlements fell on the 14th of August, which this year was also the Ninth Day of the Jewish calendar month of Av (Tisha B'Av in Hebrew).

Tisha B'Av occurs at the end of a three-week mourning period which commemorates the destruction of the first Temple (built by King Solomon) in Jerusalem in 586 B.C. and the second Temple in 70 A.D. Both events took place on the Ninth of Av.

Two writers with Biblical worldviews have posted superb analyses of the Gaza pullout. While each focuses on two very different aspects of the situation, they both believe the move will bring further instability to the region.

Joel Rosenberg is a Jewish believer and popular writer of Christian fiction. In a recent piece for the National Review Online, Rosenberg breaks down the political consequences:

Almost nobody in Israel wants to keep Gaza or govern the daily lives of over one million Palestinian souls crammed into the tiny sliver of seaside real estate. But the current so-called “unilateral withdrawal” is unilateral surrender. Israel will give away long-fought-over territory without requiring the Palestinian Authority to wage a real war against Hamas and other terror groups and without requiring the PA to pursue real internal democratic reforms to give pro-peace Palestinian moderates the freedom to speak their mind in public and in the media without fear of reprisals.

As such, Sharon’s gamble is bad for Israel. It is bad for the U.S. and our war on terror....
In his weekly commentary for the online site Apostasy Watch!, Steve Lumbley offers a tremendous spiritual insight into the controversy :
Many in Israel today vilify the settlers because they have the nerve to actually believe the promises of God. They are seen as obstacles to peace and religious zealots. They are blamed for the violence and terrorism being perpetrated against all Israel.

There is coming a time very soon when true Christians will face the same anger and resentment right here in the U.S.A. And just like in Israel our greatest opposition will come not from atheists and unbelievers but from those who call themselves Christians.
Please read his full article, titled "A Day of Mourning," here.

The Name Game


Over the past year, the Washington, D.C.-based Council on American-Islamic Relations (CAIR) has mounted a public relations campaign, called "Not in the Name of Islam," which repudiates Islamic terrorism. Part of their petition drive states, "We refuse to allow our faith to be held hostage by the criminal actions of a tiny minority acting outside the teachings of both the Quran and the Prophet Muhammad." Last week, the Fiqh Council of North America issued a fatwa (religious ruling) against terrorism, which was endorsed by numerous American Islamic organizations, including CAIR.

This growing struggle within Islam, most notably in America and Europe, is about religious proprietary rights. Who can lay claim to the name of Islam, the "moderates" or the "radicals"? Such divisions should be familiar in the West, where Christians have long fought over whose version of Christianity is the correct one — to the delight of the secular media and intelligentsia. For decades, the consensus Western view of religion, especially when it comes to Christianity and Islam, is that two basic sides exist: the mainstream, or moderate, position and the fundamentalist, or extremist, position. Consequently, the favorable (i.e. mainstream) aspects of incompatible belief systems are conflated, unfavorable (i.e. fundamentalist) aspects are excised, and syncretized "faith" becomes the standard. Faith-based humanism, under its various aliases, is now the de facto religion of the West.

The real tragedy for Bible-believing Christians is the erosion of Scriptural truth. From U.S. President George W. Bush's oft-quoted declaration that "Islam is a religion of peace" to British PM Tony Blair's vague condemnations of the "ideology of hatred," the true nature of anything is distorted through the lens of a pluralistic, humanistic worldview. To Bible prophecy watchers, today's "fluid" definitions of Christianity and Islam are part of the inexorable push towards the one world religion (the Great Harlot) of Revelation 17. The Western penchant for religious pluralism has meant the ascendancy of inherently arbitrary relationship and/or experiential-based theology over textual orthodoxy. Relativism's effects are felt upon not only Christianity but gradually the religions that are brought over by immigrants to the West.

Cultural (or nominal) Islam in the Arab world is nowhere near as entrenched as cultural Christianity is in the Americas and Europe. However, the second- and third-generation children of Muslim immigrants to the West have begun to assimilate secularism, democracy, and other Western concepts into their worldview. The London transit terrorists constitute a minority. The majority of Westernized Muslims are more likely to be joining hands with the interfaith crowd and winning converts or sympathizers in that manner, just as the "purpose-driven" Christian church does as it brings in droves to its mega-churches. CAIR's petition against terrorism illustrates this trend toward the so-called mainstream. The Los Angeles-based Muslim Public Affairs Council and the Islamic Society of North America represent further examples of a new breed of Western-influenced Islam which, similar to humanist Christianity, touts morals and works while glossing over deeper doctrinal matters. Jihad may, in fact, be as foreign a concept to many Westernized Muslims as fornication is to their cultural Christian counterparts. Theological disconnect doesn't change the facts of history, however; Islam was born out of bloody conquests in the 7th century which continue to this day in the form of Islamic terrorism.

Postmodern relativism and pluralism can be found in today's Western Islamic thinkers. Salman Rushdie is perhaps the most celebrated (or notorious). Another example is Irshad Manji, the Canadian-born author of "The Trouble with Islam Today." She is adored by bastions of liberal humanism like the New York Times and decried by Islamic leaders. In a recent Los Angeles Times opinion piece, she wrote: "Why do we Muslims hang on to the mantra that the Koran — and Islam — are pristine? God may very well be perfect, but God transcends a book, a prophet and a belief system." Manji's words share the same perspective Christian humanists have on the Bible, a fact which she implicitly acknowledges when she continues with, "How about joining with the moderates of Judaism and Christianity in confessing some 'sins of Scripture,' as Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong has said of the Bible?" Manji cites Bishop Spong here as inspiration, as if her advocacy for faith-based humanism weren't clear enough already.

A recent survey conducted by the Daily Telegraph found that one out of four Muslims in the U.K. sympathized with the motives of the London terror bombers. Newspaper polls like these are intended to generate news rather than uncover hard facts. No doubt such support among Western Muslim communities exists, but the reasons can be multifarious. For Muslims living in Europe and the U.S., lingering resentment of Western hegemony may fuel the sympathy more than theological orthodoxy or religious fervor. There may also be the sneaking suspicion on the part of Westernized Muslims (as with nominal Christians) that their fundamentalist brethren are the true torch bearers of their faith; in other words, there exists a love-hate relationship to which they won't readily admit.*

So where is this all going? Contemporary "faith" is often a guise for humanism, owing more to Nimrod than Abraham (of the Bible, that is). Man in his natural state gravitates towards the worship of mankind or a god defined on his terms. Humanistic Christianity and Islam will have more cachet in terms of a one world religion. Faith-based humanists like Manji, Spong, or the interfaith advocates at Fuller Seminary see no real distinction between foundational texts, at least in a modern context, or don't really care. For them, the Bible and the Qur'an are open to interpretation, represent neither absolute truth nor absolute falsehood, and are bridges to a broader universal understanding. The humanist credo is best summed up by "follow your bliss," (Hinduism through the filter of the atheist Joseph Campbell) which applies to its secular and religious varieties. Because humanism comes in so many forms, names and labels like "Muslim" and "Christian" have less meaning, which of course is one of its goals.

Jesus said in Matthew Chapter 7 (KJV):

21 Not every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven.
22 Many will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many wonderful works?
23 And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.
Islamic terrorism truly poses a grave danger to Israel, the U.S., Europe, and elsewhere. But the greater danger to Christianity is humanism, whose guises are many and whose master masquerades as an angel of light and despises most of all Jesus' victory on the Cross of Calvary.

*Comparisons between cultural Christianity and Westernized Islam can only go so far. While moderate rank-and-file Muslims might be confused or in a state of denial, their leaders have not accounted for their religion's intense antagonism toward Jews and Christians. Bruce Thornton has written an in-depth article on the subject.

Appeasement Today and Yesterday


The July 7th terror bombings may not have surprised security-conscious Londoners, but the calculated brutality of the attacks remind us in the West that strife and human suffering are far from eradicated in the 21st century. While humanism has effectively sanitized the Judeo-Christian foundations in Europe and the U.S., it has largely been rebuffed in the Islamic world. The punditry and rhetoric among policy-makers and the media in the wake of these latest heinous acts reflect secularists' expected failure to grasp the spiritual motivations of Islamic terrorism, or jihad. Humanism's shades of gray only appease evil. Conservative commentator Victor Hanson writes, "[The West] has lost confidence in its old commitment to rationalism, free speech and empiricism, and now embraces the deductive near-religious doctrines of moral equivalence and utopian pacifism." (See here for more of Hanson's article.)

Over the past few days, observers have made allusions to that much-maligned figure of appeasement, Neville Chamberlain. As the U.K.'s Prime Minister in the late 1930s, Chamberlain is known for essentially handing Adolf Hitler the keys to Europe. After signing the Munich Agreement in 1938, Chamberlain famously declared, "My good friends, for the second time in our history, a British Prime Minister has returned from Germany bringing peace with honor. I believe it is peace for our time." Securing peace, however ephemeral, was more important than recognizing evil for what it was — a political reality that is not dissimilar to the one that exists today, especially when it comes to European leaders' handling of Islamic terrorism (see Spain, Italy).

In remarks following the Thursday morning blasts, British Prime Minister Tony Blair sounded almost apologetic for any implied saber-rattling:

In addition, I welcome the statement that has been put out by the Muslim Council of Great Britain. We know that [the terrorists] act in the name of Islam, but we also know that the vast and overwhelming majority of Muslims, here and abroad, are decent and law-abiding people who abhor this act of terrorism every bit as much as we do.
Britain has, for years, granted asylum to and harbored militant Islamists. Among diplomats (including the French) and Middle East observers, London is dubiously known as "Londonistan." Curiously, Camille Tawil, the terrorism expert at the London-based Arabic newspaper Al-Hayat, told the New Statesman in a December 2002 story that, "the Islamists use Britain as a propaganda base but wouldn't do anything to a country that harbors them and gives them freedom of speech."

Secular and religious humanists claim that Arab terrorism is born out of poverty, lack of education, and the West's foreign policy, particularly regarding the Israeli-Palistinean conflict. The Islamic world often echoes these sentiments while tacitly supporting the ideology of the terrorists. Last month, Abdullah Ahmad Badawi, the Prime Minister of predominantly Muslim Malaysia, said that "we can address the problem of extremism and terrorism by delivering better and more widespread [economic] development" in the Muslim nations. However, Abdullah's revered predecessor, Mahathir Mohamad, also known as the "father" of modern Malaysia, recently told the Guardian newspaper that the Bush administration is a "rogue regime" and that "Israel and other Jews control the most powerful nation in the world."

Cultural Christianity in the West may take little stock in doctrinal orthodoxy, but Dr. Ergun Caner, a Turkish Muslim-turned-Christian apologetic and author of "Unveiling Islam," says that is not the case for Islam in the Arab world. In an interview with CBN, Dr. Caner said, "Islam has never known culture to be casual, even in my country, Turkey.... You do not call yourself a Muslim in public if you're not practicing."

Well-intentioned religionists and secularists blame the corrosiveness of the West's cultural exports (i.e. Hollywood) and the war in Iraq for stirring diabolical "extremism." Their theology/philosophy of guilt does not, however, take into account the bloody origins of Islam or that eradication of Judeo-Christian civilization is fulfillment of Quranic prophecy. A passage (Surah 9:5) from the Qur'an states:
And when the sacred months are passed, kill those who join other gods with God wherever ye shall find them; and seize them, besiege them, and lay wait for them with every kind of ambush: but if they shall convert, and observe prayer, and pay the obligatory alms, then let them go their way, for God is gracious, merciful.
The Christian humanists at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, California, may believe that Christians and Muslims worship the same god and that a million-dollar program can take the place of sound doctrine, but consider these words from the British Islamist Sheikh Omar Bakri Muhammad in an interview with Al-Hayat:
Allah willing, we will transform the West into Dar Al-Islam [i.e. a region under Islamic rule] by means of invasion from without. If an Islamic state arises and invades [the West] we will be its army and its soldiers from within. If not, [we will change the West] through ideological invasion from here, without war and killing.
Many political leaders and humanist academics in Europe and the U.S. believe that Palestinian independence is the panacea for Middle East terrorism. Back at the 1938 Munich Agreement, Chamberlain believed that annexing Sudetenland to Germany would stem the tide of Nazi aggression. The Islamists' ultimate goal is not an independent Palestine but the annihilation of the Jewish state. Steven Plaut, a professor at the University of Haifa (Israel), wrote in the Middle East Quarterly: "'Palestinian self-determination' serves as the banner for Arab aggression against Israel."

In an op-ed piece (subscription req'd) for the July 10th edition of the Los Angeles Times, Jewish radio talk show host Dennis Prager wrote:
If the west understood the meaning of the Muslim terrorism against Israel and of contemporary Muslim anti-Semitism, it would be far better prepared to fight the sort of terrorism that struck London last week.... The Muslim world is obsessed with the Jews and with annihilating the one Jewish state, an obsession analogous to that of the Nazis.
It is essential for Jews and Christians, at the very least, to understand the true motives of the Islamic terrorists and the governments that support them. The ancient Roman empire was itself crippled by appeasement in the third, fourth, and fifth centuries as its decadent society was unable to stand up to the Germanic barbarians. A lack of clear Biblical thinking in America and Europe is pushing the West in a similar direction. Dissension from within and enemies from without are a deadly combination.

The Old Testament depicts appeasement in ancient Israel. The prophet Jeremiah witnessed the disintegration of Judah in the 6th century B.C. as its people turned from God and its leaders ignored the (prophesied) threat of the Babylonians. Referring to the religious and political leaders of Judah, God spoke to Jeremiah in Jeremiah Chapter 6:
14 "They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. 'Peace, peace,' they say, when there is no peace.
15 Are they ashamed of their loathsome conduct? No, they have no shame at all; they do not even know how to blush. So they will fall among the fallen; they will be brought down when I punish them."

The Truth is Not Popular


A new editorial in Christianity Today entitled "We're Prime Time, Baby" (July 2005) touts the growing acceptance of evangelicals by the American mainstream media. As if the self-congratulatory tone of the piece isn't enough, its words reveal a real keenness for worldly approbation.

We've been mainstreamed....We really can't play the persecution card anymore. As "players," we will be criticized sharply still, but that's just part of life in America.
The unctuous use of the word "players" — in or out of quotes — reeks of entitlement, implying that Christians have grown up enough to sit at the big table with the adults. The editorial suggests that Christians are now ready to transition from their ugly duckling stage (i.e. too much negativity), as if they were preparing to go to one of those coming-out balls from a Jane Austen novel. As such, Christians must play some kind of game (cultural/social) in order for the Gospel to have maximum impact. This line of thinking is less concerned about Biblical truth and more concerned about the appearances of truth as standardized by worldly men and women. It is fertile soil for ecumenical, interfaith nonsense.

The apostle John wrote in 1 John Chapter 2:
15 Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.
16 For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world.
17 The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever.
The gist of the editorial is also a not-so-subtle dig at Christians who can't or won't be "players," that is, the ones still stuck playing the "persecution card" and who apparently didn't get the purpose-driven memo. While a persecution complex can indeed be self-fulfilling prophecy, the inference here is that persecution for Christians is more perception than reality. Yet in many of the less developed nations around the world, Christians are violently persecuted. This simplified and provincial assessment of Christianity's advances doesn't give the whole picture.

The Christianity Today piece concludes with words reminiscent of a political rally:
Let's remember that how we got here is how we will stay here: Careful scholarship. Measured proclamations. Majoring on the majors. Grassroots organizing. Patience. Prayer.
There is a certain plain honesty to CT's editorial — they are promoting not so much Christianity but rather a movement. Evangelicalism is a movement in the same way as feminism, socialism, and other -isms. Movements are man's province. God needs no movements, for His Word still has the power to change people's hearts. For the Gospel to be popular, it must cease to be the Truth. We naturally desire reassurance of our own goodness, but the Gospel does the opposite.

Popularity is an idol of the human heart. The pressure on Christians today to conform to the world is very strong — so strong that it is an incipient form of persecution. And that pressure to conform may just come most strenuously from those who call themselves Christians.

Jesus said of the last days in Matthew Chapter 10:
21 Brother will betray brother to death, and a father his child; children will rebel against their parents and have them put to death.
22 All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.

Pop Theology


This past week, millions of moviegoers around the world flocked to cineplexes to see "Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith," the final installment of George Lucas's science fiction film saga. As one of the cinema's most enduring series, "Star Wars" has attained the status of modern mythology or even global meta-narrative — a mythology which also demonstrates the growing influence of popular culture (over the last several decades) on the beliefs and worldview of people today. The intense media frenzy anticipating the movie's opening says a lot more about our culture than the cinematic merits (or lack thereof) of "Revenge of the Sith." That is, society is far more passionate about fantasy than God's truth.

In the nearly three decades since the original film's release, Christians have debated amongst themselves the hermeneutics of "Star Wars" in relation to Biblical truth and Christian living. A great deal of Christian ambivalence towards "Star Wars" can be attributed to the series' pantheistic mix of Eastern monism and Judeo-Christian allegory, i.e. themes of redemption and good versus evil.*

Some believe, however, that "Star Wars" movies should remain immune to Christian criticism because they're so-called family-friendly entertainment, that they are just make-believe. Indeed it is rare when a pop culture product these days isn't a soul-destroying enterprise. But the "Star Wars" series have attained a prominence reaching far beyond the world of cinema. In Western society where Bible-based Christianity has largely been abandoned, shallow and transient worldviews, such as those promoted in the very popular "Star Wars" films, rush in to fill the void. "Star Wars" has cultural resonance not so much for its intrinsic truth, but because of the lack of truth in contemporary society.

The apostle Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians Chapter Five (KJV):

6 Know ye not that a little leaven leaveneth the whole lump?
Secularism's modern preeminence has caused a lot of churches to panic, and as a result Christians are desperately trying to re-identify with the world. Often this entails swallowing a toxic chunk of the prevailing culture to get a microscopic grain of Biblical truth. Dissonance between worldly patterns of thinking and God's ways is largely ignored. Because it is natural for people to seek the approval of their peers, believers are tempted to give spiritual poison an entrance to their souls.

Take, for example, the recently published book titled Christian Wisdom of the Jedi Masters. Written by Dick Staub, director of the Center for Faith and Culture in Seattle, Washington, this book follows in a long tradition of preaching the Gospel by appealing to worldliness. Some modern Christians fear cultural irrelevance so greatly, they bend over backwards to accommodate the latest trends. Such books are intended as a bridge to non-believers. However, Christians end up championing them, and non-believers simply ignore them as banal.

"Star Wars" is not a gateway to the Christian faith. Those who are already Christians may identify with the central themes of the series, and such identification can be positive. Christian allegory in art can have an enriching influence on society if that society values, at the very least, some kind of absolute truth. Works like Dante's Divine Comedy and Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities may win Christians to classic literature, but they won't win literate non-believers to Christ. Only the Gospel of Jesus Christ has the power to change the hearts of men.

Christianity is not the enemy of art and entertainment. But for believers, art functions best as a tool of resistance to the encroaching shadows of a sin-darkened world. When art functions as the lamp stand, it gradually becomes an idol that gives man a false assurance in his inherent goodness. Lucas's space saga doesn't resist the world because, philosophically, "Star Wars" embraces it. The central theme of good versus evil isn't an effective evangelizing tool when most of the world's religions also share this dualistic worldview. In an interview some years ago, George Lucas admitted his own universalist inclinations:
The conclusion I've come to is that all of the religions are true, they all just see a different part of the elephant. Religion is basically a container for faith. Faith is the glue that holds our society together; faith in our...culture, in our world...whatever it is that we're trying to hang onto. Faith is a very important part of our attempt to remain remain balanced.
Postmodern relativism has played an important role in the shaping of the "Star Wars" mythos. Lawrence Kasdan, the talented screenwriter of Lucas's second "Star Wars" movie "The Empire Strikes Back" (1980), analyzed the Force, the film series' theological leitmotif:
One of the longest conversations that George [Lucas] and I had in our first story conference was on the philosophical background of the "Empire" story and on the meaning of the Force. Basically, George is for good and against evil, but everyone has his own interpretation of what that means. In my opinion, what emerges about the Force are its similarities to Zen and to basic Christian thought.
In her review of "Revenge of the Sith," Annabelle Robertson, the entertainment writer for the Christian website Crosswalk, challenged the film's underlying resistance to absolute truth:
Rather than any form of true faith, therefore, “Star Wars” instead embraces a radical, New Age style individualism – something that cannot help but lead to conflict and disharmony, the very thing it purports to seek.
Although Christian radio talk show host Paul McGuire praised "Sith" as cinema, he, too, found something wanting in Lucas's worldview:
Lucas is using Judeo-Christian imagery and themes, even though he disavows absolutes....As philosopher or theologian his world view is weak. He has not properly thought out his position like Tolkien did in the Lord of the Rings.
In "Revenge of the Sith" a character describes the antagonists by saying, "Only the Sith deal in absolutes." This line suggests that Lucas is now less than convinced by his own dualistic Wagnerian melodrama. Yet Christians, taking a page from postmodern criticism, have decided to mostly ignore the authorial intent of "Star Wars" for experiential interpretations. But it's clear that Lucas sees himself as an artist with a specific story to tell and a specific message to promote. To Lucas, Christians finding meaning in his films is evidence that the stories tap into broader universal truths. In other words, based on the theology he has espoused publicly, Christianity is only part of a larger truth, not the whole truth.

Allegorical art need not be utilitarian, literalist, or facile, and it can be very effective in revealing a part or parts of truth through detail and specificity. Great works have often been deemed great because they express the spirit of God's truth without explicitly calling attention to it. But this argument does not adequately defend "Star Wars." At its best, the series is ad hoc Christian allegory; at worst, it is a shallow and confused blend of "truths" purposefully designed to form some kind of metatruth. The message of "Star Wars" then is that man can find his own truth, and by extension, truth is protean and relative.

Yet, for all that, the real fault of "Star Wars" is extrinsic. Lucas is a filmmaker; he makes movies. He is not a theologian, nor does he need to be. And while "Star Wars" has had a long life as a pop culture phenomenon, it will be replaced by something else sooner rather than later. Much of contemporary society, however, has chosen to exchange the enduring truth of God's Word for ephemeral lies. The hypnotic hold which "Star Wars" possesses over its legions of fans is just more evidence that the things of today's world are the gods of the modern age. Can Christians lead the way by rejecting even the comfortable, PG-rated idols that the world offers, or will they continue to be lulled to sleep by pleasing half-truths? In 2 Corinthians 6:14, the apostle Paul asks, "What fellowship can light have with darkness?"

* Berit Kjos recently posted a valuable article on the theology behind "Revenge of the Sith" on her website. Albert Mohler also weighed in on the subject (from an article originally published in 1999).

Remember the Bereans

A Powerful Delusion


In his terrific May 7 and May 13, 2005, entries of the With Christ web log, Dan S. analyzed the conflict between Biblically-defined (or Godly) love and relativistically-defined (or postmodern) love. The incompatibility of these two concepts fuels the growing, impassioned prejudice toward conservative born-again Christians. Dan wrote:

For the past several decades, the meaning of love has been hijacked and largely redefined for use within the pervasive framework of moral relativism — even by Christians. This new love doesn't engage in any form of judgment and is characterized by a perverted form of tolerance. This so-called love is tolerant of all manner of evil and wickedness, and intolerant toward those who would seek to identify and scripturally restrain the same. Thus, when a Bible-based Christian sets forth Scriptural truth with any degree of certainty, they are viewed as being unloving, abusive and attempting to force their views on others.
On the grounds of the aforementioned conflict, some Christians today have joined the secular humanists in their efforts to suppress Bible-believing Christians. They have made a terrible mistake. Nominal Christians charge that their born-again brethren have failed to heed Jesus' commandment to "love your neighbor as yourself." (Matthew 22:39) They do not, however, buttress their argument for relativist love with Jesus' preceding commandment: "'Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.' This is the first and greatest commandment." (Matthew 22:37-38) Because these last two verses so definitively clash with emotion/ideology-based love, they are typically ignored. God is referred to here as Lord, demanding submission of the soul (emotion) and mind (ideology). Loving our neighbor is the subordinate commandment, so it follows that loving our neighbor is entirely defined by loving the Lord.

Secularists use an ill-defined concept of love to silence believers. It is an effective cover to oppose God's laws. As the apostle Paul warned, "Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light." (2 Corinthians 11:14) Human beings are designed to love, and the devil uses this to his advantage. For who will stand against love, right? Conservative Christians are singled out in the postmodern culture because they make (Bible-based) distinctions between what is and what isn't love. This is deeply offensive not only in a godless society but in an ecumenical/pantheistic/universalist society, as well.

On his blog, Dan S. commented that "love and compassion are pervasive buzzwords in the culture war." Words like "tolerance" and "diversity" can also be added to that list. As part of a modern system of brainwashing, these terms are used to wipe the slate clean — the slate, in this case, being the typical Judeo-Christian, classically educated mind. In its place, secularists aim to create a societally mandated morality with a counterfeit love as its core principle.

Jesus said in John Chapter Eight:
31 If you hold to my teaching, you are really my disciples.
32 Then you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.
The Bible tells us that God's truth will free us from the bondage of this world — not love. Apart from God, man's "truths" are like a house of cards ready to fall. And God's truth defines love within the context of submission to the Lord. In 1 Timothy 4:1, Paul writes: "The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons." Christians who persist in denying the sufficiency of Biblical truth dangerously open themselves up to further spiritual deception.

The culture at large brands Bible-believing Christians as narrow-minded zealots who are not only out of touch with the modern world, but who are also enemies of love, knowledge, and humanity in general. Today, secularists claim that conservative believers in the U.S. are attempting to hijack the government to enforce some kind of theocratic rule. These accusations reveal a decided lack of understanding of mankind — that, in reality, the inertia of the world is sin, and that natural man resists God and His Laws with his entire being. For any totalitarian regime to succeed, first it must either deny the existence of a Supreme Being (atheism) or assert such a being in absentia (agnosticism), then it must appeal to man's natural passions. It is no wonder that atheists such as Sartre and Voltaire are ready-made apologists for totalitarianism.

Man, in his sin nature, is predisposed to replace God's laws with counterfeits. Yet counterfeits are ultimately worthless. Secularists may tout the principles of tolerance, diversity, love, and compassion, but their real-life applications seem to always be in opposition to God's Word. When society progresses in this direction, people won't be able to tell the real from the fake.

The apostle Paul wrote in 2 Thessalonians Chapter 10:
10 They perish because they refused to love the truth and so be saved.
11 For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion so that they will believe the lie
12 and so that all will be condemned who have not believed the truth but have delighted in wickedness.

Christian, Interrupted


An intense spiritual assault is being waged against believers today, anticipating fulfillment of Bible prophecy. The devastation has been wrought on two major fronts: behavioral and doctrinal.

The personal lives of Christians are under attack. The vacuum created by Christians' retreat from the public forum has been filled by a relativist and toxic culture. As the postmodern sphere of influence widens, major and minor temptations bully their way into the inner lives of believers. From time to time we hear stories in the news about a church scandal or of an egregious act committed by a Christian. Our resolve is weakened by personal failure, doubts, and compromises with the world. To resist sin, we shift vainly from reliance on Christ to reliance on our perceived goodness. When faith in God is reduced to faith in humanity, but is not labeled or regarded as such, the inevitable disillusionment can be crippling. The tragic result is behavior begins to determine doctrine, and it is now very commonplace.

Christ summons us to Him as we are, in our state of forlorn imperfection. The prerequisite for submission to Jesus is not "self-improvement" but rather a broken and contrite heart. Attempts to live the Christian life through human merit and endeavor lead only to disillusionment, despair, and an ultimate decline in faith. To the devil, believers present an enticing, albeit challenging, spiritual target. The spiritually oppressed believer is an ineffective Christian soldier who can do more harm than good to unbelievers. In his letter to the Ephesians, the Apostle Paul wrote, "Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil's schemes." (Ephesians 6:11) The full armor of God means immersion in His Word and total faith in Christ, not in ourselves or others.

The other major front is the attack on doctrine, in essence an attack from within. Perhaps it is more accurately described as the gradual usurpation of doctrine. Jesus warned of this danger when he said, "Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep's clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves." (Matthew 7:15) False or incomplete doctrine will lead a Christian down a path of "virtual" Christianity. That is where the spirit of Antichrist (i.e. "in the place of Christ") is most powerful.

Contemporary humanist theologies attempt to resolve the Biblical discrepancy between God's standard for perfection and man's real world inability to measure up by convincing people of the "inherent goodness" in mankind. It is, of course, in total opposition to God's Word — that Jesus Christ is the only way to salvation. In many Christian churches today, these incompatible concepts are presented together without a second thought, and indeed with great arrogance. This kind of compromise can be recognized in the words of church leaders like Rick Warren, Jim Wallis, and Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury.

The world of Christian publishing is replete with successful books like John Eldredge's Wild at Heart, which are simply "self-help" books with a Christian sheen. Targeted at Christian men, Eldredge's book attempts to build a Christian identity from a pop culture paradigm.

Such exercises in vanity only serve to drive believers away from Christ rather than to Him. Tricia Tillin of Banner Ministries expands on Christ's metaphor of a person (personal identity) as a house (cf. Matthew 12:43-45). For many believers, the Holy Spirit is kept in one corner of the house, but something has to occupy the rest of it. Ritualistic or utilitarian Christianity (legalism) may exercise a high level of human cognition, but not a powerful indwelling of the Holy Spirit. Or, at the opposite end, Christianity in the grip of humanistic philosophy and ill-defined "love" ceases to be Christianity altogether.

In her most recent book Total Truth, Nancy Pearcey describes modern evangelical Christians as "boxed-in," unwilling or unable to translate the truth of Christianity to the world in which they live. They exchange their Christian beliefs for secular or even pantheistic ones when interacting with the world outside of a personal "faith-based" sphere.

The pressure on Christians to conform to what Pearcey describes as the "sacred/secular" dichotomy was ever so present in the Terri Schiavo tragedy. By not acting on behalf of the dying woman in Pinellas Park, Florida, the sitting U.S. President failed to act upon his conviction, a classic example of a Christian interrupted by a self-imposed public ban on his belief system. This kind of self-imposition is quickly being manipulated into imposition from without, which is why the scared Christian will transition into the persecuted Christian.

Because many Christians today struggle to maintain a sense of Christian separation (being not of this world), they have consequently been unable to push back the rising tides of amorality and unbelief. When belief is diluted, its distinction in the world is muted. By definition, Christians must stand in opposition to the spirit of this world. The difficulty of this struggle is heightened in nations where Christianity is culturally ingrained. Since the secular arena has so successfully co-opted many Christian precepts (charity, moderation, justice), and Western Christianity in turn has allowed so much humanism to creep into it, nominal Christians are now artfully deceived into denying the core truths, that Jesus is the only path to salvation.

Only the hard truths can break the hardened hearts of man, and believers must be at the point of the charge. If the tip is dull, the sword can crack or fail to penetrate.

America the Beautiful? Part 3


In this day of worldwide communication and instant media coverage, it is often difficult to gauge the actual significance of an event unfolding before our eyes. Still harder to judge its place in history. The tragic events of September 11, 2001, are potent reminders that we have entered a new chapter in history even if we don't yet know its title.

In comparison, the suffering of one person seems less important, less significant. If it weren't for the Schindler family fighting to make it more than just a "personal matter," as the mainstream media would so desperately have us believe, then Terri Schiavo's plight would be relegated to obscurity along with the hundreds of other senseless tragedies occurring daily in the United States. And for the Christians who believe this type of thing should remain family business, then God has made certain this "personal matter" cannot, and will not, be ignored.

As Terri Schiavo is starved to death, America plunges into one of its darkest hours. Trendy catch phrases like "right to die" and "dying with dignity" have received tacit approbation from a society thoroughly soaked in humanism, secularism, and Social Darwinism. If indeed we believe God to be our Lord and Creator, we cannot possibly say we have a right to die any more than we can say we have a right to be conceived. And what dignity is there in death? As a human race, we are condemned to death because of our sin, and we all share the consequences of sin in death. Death is the ugly physical reflection of our spiritual sin.

God gave us His standard for life in Chapter Two of Genesis:

7 The LORD God formed the man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being.
There has been a lot of talk about "persistent vegetative states" and chances for recovery and so on. When it comes to the removal of Terri Schiavo's feeding tube, it matters little whether or not she has the capacity to improve so long as the breath of life is in her. She breathes without the aid of a machine. No one would want to be in that condition; finding ourselves in such a state, many of us probably would want to die. But this is not a choice we can make. It may seem cruel to resign someone to a fate like this for the rest of their lives. That is the logical conclusion made by the humanists and secularists. What is missing in their considerations are God's Will and God's Glory.

It is worse, though, when believers arrive at the same conclusion as the humanists. Abraham proved his true faith when he agreed to sacrifice his son Isaac for the Lord (cf. Genesis 22). God stopped him, of course. It was a a test. Abraham's faith in God was stronger than his faith in humanity. Faith is tested when the Godly thing to do diverges from the humane thing to do.

The Bible clearly states that mankind's sense of righteousness (humanism) is compromised and delusional:
There is a way that seems right to a man, but in the end it leads to death. (Proverbs 14:12)

All our righteous acts are like filthy rags. (Isaiah 64:6)
It would be easy to hate Michael Schiavo and the tyrannical judges who've ignored even reasonable injunctions to give this case more time for legal deliberation. But this is a systemic problem, reflecting broad cultural changes. Humanism is the religion of the day, and its dogma is pervasive. The judges only believe what is now generally accepted. In much of the Western world, the secularists have succeeded in driving Bible-based Christianity away from the public forum. The only Christianity given uncritical acceptance by secular media today is the kind that says God does not get involved in "personal matters" and that God changes and evolves with the times.

In the last few days, there have been calls from Christian quarters for Florida governor Jeb Bush to save Terri Schiavo's life in defiance of court orders and at the risk of losing his position of power. (Alan Keyes has written a comprehensive breakdown of legal scenarios in this case.) This is where America is today. To take action, Godly action, is to now increasingly find oneself at odds with not only the state but even public sentiment (judging from the less-than-objective media polls).

There is a backlash brewing towards Bible-believing Christians in the wake of the Presidential election and the Terri Schiavo case. The secular media is hoping to capitalize on the moment by manipulating an apathetic public whose conscience has been dimmed by materialism and humanism. There are more and more stories in the media warning how out of touch "fundamentalist/right-wing" Christians are from "regular" Christians. Believers find themselves standing idly by as society quickly grows antagonistic towards them. We end up countering (defensively) that we don't know everything and feel compromised by our weaknesses and doubts. Wasn't Paul? Yet we must submit to God these weaknesses and doubts if we are to act upon conviction.

Meanwhile, America is throwing away its Christian foundations with near wild abandon. Darker chapters lie ahead.

America the Beautiful? Part 2
America the Beautiful?

Christian, Public Enemy


Over the last two years, full-page advertisements have appeared in major American newspapers (such as the New York Times, Los Angeles Times, and San Francisco Chronicle) criticizing the current administration's domestic and international war on terrorism, denouncing the U.S. involvement in Iraq, and questioning the legitimacy of George W. Bush's presidency. Using "Not in Our Name" (NION) as both a slogan and name, the antiwar group has enlisted a number of recognizable names to its cause — the usual mix of academics, writers, dissidents, and celebrities, including Noam Chomsky, Ramsey Clark, Ed Asner, Howard Zinn, Studs Terkel, and John Cusack. Over 13,000 citizens have signed NION's most recent statement, an 800-word document referred to as their "new statement of conscience," which is running with their current ads and can be found also at their website.

Were the statement simply an expression of political dissent, believers would have little cause for alarm. The United States boasts a rich and varied history of dissenters, among whom Christians can be counted. The war in Iraq has attracted its share of detractors from conservative camps and evangelical Christians. In November, Jack Hook wrote a provocative essay on the Biblical versus Constantinian concepts of "just war," which is sure to stir healthy debate among Christians. However, believers can agree that men's hearts can only be truly changed by Christ, and that a nation whose focus has shifted from God to its wealth and might is certainly doomed.

What is sinister about NION's new statement of conscience is how perfectly acceptable it repesents its unmitigated prejudice toward historical and Biblical Christianity. The advertisements are cloaked in righteous solemnity and understated graphic design, but underneath the surface, Not in Our Name seethes with a hatred toward true Christianity that cannot be ignored by believers. While the vitriol in their words is largely directed toward one man (Bush), it is clear, upon reading between the lines, that the true object of their contempt are Bible-believing Christians.

In 2 Timothy 3:5, the Apostle Paul wrote that, in the last days, there will be people "having a form of godliness but denying the power thereof: from such turn away." NION's mission statement reflects the broader push among secularists to reclaim spirituality, particularly Christianity, for themselves, especially in light of last November's election results. The irony is surely not lost upon the humanists (lovers of irony all) that, for the purposes of political expediency, they have chosen to co-opt a system of belief which is so loathsome to them. Nevertheless, the kind of rhetoric which syncretizes incompatible beliefs (e.g. Christianity and Islam) and pays lip service to Biblical Christianity is gaining ground with an apathetic public, including nominal Christians. For this reason, it is not merely endemic to antiwar groups such as Not in Our Name, but prevalent across the political spectrum.

An excerpt from NION's 2005 statement of conscience:

The Bush government seeks to impose a narrow, intolerant, and political form of Christian fundamentalism as government policy. No longer on the margins of power, this extremist movement aims to strip women of their reproductive rights, to stoke hatred of gays and lesbians, and to drive a wedge between spiritual experience and scientific truth. We will not surrender to extremists our right to think. AIDS is not a punishment from God. Global warming is a real danger. Evolution happened. All people must be free to find meaning and sustenance in whatever form of religious or spiritual belief they choose. But religion can never be compulsory. These extremists may claim to make their own reality, but we will not allow them to make ours.
Consider for a moment the outright demagoguery and propaganda in those words. The declarative statements, self-righteous indignation, and hubristic presumptuousness contained therein would be condemned by NION were they in the service of a Christian group.

Once again, the semantic hydra known as "Christian fundamentalism" rears its ugly heads in yet another example of unsubstantiated communistic groupthink. Although the label has become a caricature of itself over the years, the secularists have wielded it with great success, particularly to divide Christians. As a useful piece of propaganda, its disingenuousness is manifold. One obvious aim of calling certain Christians "fundamentalists" is to lump them together, in the public consciousness, with Islamic fundamentalism and, by association, the abridgment of human rights. The myth that cultural, rather than fundamental, forms of a belief (whether Christianity or Islam) are its true representatives is reinforced further. The intelligentsia also seek to separate "Christian fundamentalism" from the main body of Christianity by insisting that it has shallow theological roots arising in the late 19th/early 20th century. The likelier reason for their resentment is that fundamentalism steered Christianity back to Scripture and historicity and rebuffed the preceding two centuries of humanist dogma. Although NION makes a point to describe the Bush government as imposing a "form" of Christian fundamentalism, this minor distinction will be ignored by their intended audience. Instead, all Christian fundamentalism will be read as "narrow, intolerant, and political" and as a dangerous threat to democracy.

Just this week, American television talk show host Bill Maher made comments equating Christianity with Islamic fundamentalism:
We [Americans] are a nation that is unenlightened because of religion. I do believe that. I think that religion stops people from thinking. I think it justifies crazies. I think flying planes into a building was a faith-based initiative. I think religion is a neurological disorder.
Not leaving any stone unturned, NION's statement labels President Bush's "form" of Christian fundamentalism an "extremist movement." The name-calling belies an intolerance of opposition which they would normally attribute to a totalitarian regime squelching its enemies. If NION is indeed correct in describing the Bush presidency as "marginal" and "extremist," then it is a marginal and extremist movement voted in by at least half of the voting populace. It's a case of the pot calling the kettle black. A group that claims 13,000 like-minded academics, politicians, and celebrities can only be defined as marginal, as well. To describe themselves as one elitist group fighting over the hearts and minds of the masses with another elitist group would, at the least, seem like a more honest assessment of their goals. When secularists question the legitimacy of "Christian fundamentalism" on the grounds that it is on the "margins of power," it sounds a lot like the uneducated rhetoric historically directed toward racial and religious minorities.

While the establishment clause in the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution provides for no state-sponsored religion, the free exercise clause does provide for the freedom of religious expression. Although humanists adore the former, they irrationally resist the latter, at least when it comes to Bible-based Christianity. Not in Our Name asserts that "all people must be free to find meaning and sustenance in whatever form of religious or spiritual belief they choose." Yet it is not the U.S. government that is banning the Q'uran or yoga or psychics, but rather schools and universities that are censoring Bibles. There is widespread abuse of religious freedoms in the U.S., but they are not being directed from the federal level. Newspapers, television, and local governments are violating the First Amendment by increasingly expunging any and all references to God, Jesus, and Biblical morality. NION states that "religion can never be compulsory," although humanism has become the compulsory de facto religion of most Western nations. Deviation from its "truth" results in a slap on the wrist, at best, or imprisonment, at worst.

NION's hypocrisy is matched only by their arrogance. Their statement declares "evolution happened" — a facile statement amongst peers, but it ignores the growing evidence in scientific fields that the theory is in doubt. They go on to make remarks about AIDS and global warming that, taken together with the evolution declaration, suggest that Bible-believing Christians are hopelessly uneducated. Worse yet, NION implies that believers would Scripturally refute the statement's AIDS and global warming declarations, as if these two issues were at all similar to the debate over evolution. To claim that fundamentalist Christians seek to "strip women of their reproductive rights" and "stoke hatred of gays and lesbians" is such brazen emotional manipulation that one would think it'd be rejected outright. It is not because, by and large, the prevailing popular culture is on the side of secularist causes. The homosexual and secularist agendas owe their success to natural man's desire to elevate Self over God. Moral objections are rendered as hate speech because they threaten the status quo. It's like the class bully demanding that the kids he beat up have no right to dislike him. Christians have complied.

Reacting to the born-again Christian assertions of one elected official — George W. Bush — Not in Our Name ludicrously labels his entire administration as Christian, revealing a certain willful ignorance (shared by many secularists) of the realities of U.S. government. That somehow President Bush's beliefs are shared by or influence hundreds of administration members and officials (many of whom are holdovers from previous administrations and do not share Bush's constituency) is quite a stretch. The system of checks and balances has, if anything, stymied reform even remotely harboring theocratical intent. The real effort here is to slant Christianity by associating it with governmental failure. Humanists are creating false fears of politicized Christianity to malign Christian beliefs in general.

The Apostle John wrote in John Chapter One:
5 The light shines in the darkness, but the darkness has not understood it.
Not in Our Name champions "spiritual experience" and "scientific truth" — two terms at the core of humanism's unsubstantiated presumptions. They've had a powerful semantic influence. "Spirituality" and "experience," when combined, describe a personal revelatory event that is untouchable and unassailable from higher criticism. And "science" and "truth," when combined, have the effect of subconsciously equating the two. These terms form a wall of intellectual hubris which prevents only the most half-hearted and apathetic from seeing that the emperor has no clothes. It has nonetheless been effective. Bible-based Christianity is portrayed as the enemy of science, scientific method, logic, and rational thought, yet "spiritual experience" is allowed to trump all of these on the basis of emotion and subjective truth. Secularists mock the Bible as being provincial and irrelevant to modern life but welcome alternative faith-based beliefs without reservation. Humanists are unsure which to emphasize more — spiritual experience or scientific truth — but they are allied in their distaste for these words from Jesus: "I am the way and the truth and the life." (John 14:6)

In their statement of conscience, NION asserts,"we will not surrender to extremists our right to think." However, the humanist elite will make others surrender their right to think by controlling what children learn in schools, by closing down intellectual debate to only one system of thought, by expunging media and entertainment of any traces of true Christianity, by discriminating against those who express a sincerely held faith in Jesus Christ, by ignoring scientific challenges to evolution, and by celebrating behavior that is a public health risk. Because of widespread thought oppression in the Western world, more and more children are growing up with tremendous emotional problems and mental inadequacies. Karl Marx, 19th century author of the Communist Manifesto, once said, "religion is the opiate of the masses." Today's secularists view God as a threat to their authority over what is right and what is wrong. In their minds, the course of man is determined by man and man alone, and that power wielded by "good, tolerant" men is the answer to the ills of society.

The sad tragedy is that, amongst the thousands who have signed the Not in Our Name statement, there are individuals who have declared themselves as "Christians" or seminarians or church pastors/ministers. Although the document does not conceal its contempt for Christianity, NION has convinced these particular signers that it sincerely aims to rescue Christianity from itself. The disastrous confusion of nominal Christians will only lead to further prejudice toward Bible-believing Christians until it is too late for them to realize that their rights have been taken away, too.

Perpetual Adolescence


The protracted adolescence of today's men and women is a social and spiritual hindrance. Contemporary culture's youth obsession combined with unstable economic realities have contributed to recent generations' inability (or reluctance) to grow up. College graduates are returning home in record numbers to live with their parents. And they're almost always single. When men and women do choose to get married these days, the decision arrives in their late 20s or into their 30s, particularly for men. Modern marriages now begin after long periods of sexual profligacy, experimentation, promiscuity, live-in relationships, and/or loneliness, frustration, and self-absorption. Marriages suffer as a result. Where once it was a necessary rite of passage into adulthood, marriage is today considered an option best postponed until after education is completed and a career is flourishing. Marriage is viewed as the icing on the cake rather than a regular part of the process of life. Such a view raises expectations to absurd levels. Worse yet, it ignores God's plan.

Jesus referred to Genesis 2:24 when He said the following in Mark Chapter 10:

7 A man will leave his father and mother and be united to his wife, and the two will become one flesh.
In August of last year, Albert Mohler wrote a two-part article titled "Looking Back at 'The Mystery of Marriage'" (part one and part two). In it, he discussed how modern Christians differ very little from society at large when it comes to views on marriage. Christians have bought into the contemporary lie that singlehood, as a lifestyle choice, brings greater freedom and happiness. This is not singleness in the service of Christ (or in the monastic sense), e.g. the Apostle Paul, which very few are called to. Rather, the singleness here is in the television-age sense — the sampling of sexual relationships contingent or not contingent on marriage. Churches and seminaries alike have done little to dispel the prevailing modern myths for fear of sounding out of touch, old-fashioned, or sexist. Paul wrote that "it is better to marry than to burn with passion." (1 Corinthians 7:9) What happens is, social maturation is centered around emotion and personal whim rather than God's Word.

Financial independence and marriage are not merely societal indicators of adulthood; they are part of God's plan for society. Dependence and singleness are representations of childhood and immaturity. A child is dependent on their parents or guardians. The single man or woman is the center of his or her life. In pampered Western societies, selfishness, self-absorption, materialism, and youth fixation are all part of the acceptable norms. Increased spending power via dependence or singleness is often regarded as necessary to obtain desired-for material goods and luxuries. Less familial responsibility is viewed as a way to satisfy the "me time." The culture is geared to oppose the realization of healthy families.

Of course, educators, psychiatrists, and the media will tell us that children are "growing up" faster and faster these days. Actually, they are being inculcated in pervasive amoralism and humanism faster and faster. But they are far from growing up faster. The Bible says that knowledge will increase in the last days (cf. Daniel 12:4). That does not mean there will be a rise in Godly wisdom. The growth of communications media over the past century and especially the internet in the past decade has definitely increased knowledge, and the rate of growth is phenomenal. New technologies are announced on a seemingly daily basis. Children are acquiring more knowledge than ever before, but indeed it is a matter of quantity rather than quality. Public education, television, and the internet are filling their minds with all kinds of information, but with what confidence can we say that any of it is meaningful, factual, historically accurate, or conducive to a life in Christ?

Furthermore, when children are described as "growing up faster," it is indicative of innocence lost rather than maturity gained. They are exposed to material on the internet and in television and the movies that, a century ago, even the most calloused adults would not have seen or heard. This assault on children's innocence does so much damage that their ability to mature as independent and secure adults is seriously hampered.

Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians Chapter 13:
11 When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Ungodly ideals of social maturity have, in turn, stunted the spiritual growth of young men and women. The emphasis on the Self, personal revelation, materialism, feel-good philosophy, and a notable lack of spiritual accountability stand at odds with real Christian maturity. New believers are either unable to wean themselves from spiritual milk (cf. 1 Corinthians 3:1-3, 1 Peter 2:2-3) or are simply content to remain at this stage. Dependence and selfishness will hold back a Christian's growth, leaving them stuck in spiritual adolescence. God's social plan is designed to aid the maturation of a believer. Because modern society inverts His plan, spiritual growth is all the more difficult. When a believer weak in God's Word passes through the gauntlet of worldly peer pressure, their faith often shipwrecks.

Believers today are subtly and not so subtly encouraged to follow, in the New Age vernacular, their "personal bliss." Purpose-driven pragmatism has driven obedience and submission to God from the church, and ushered in the worship of self-esteem. Some Christians in leadership and teaching roles are caving in to worldly pressures and are not modeling spiritual accountability. Scripture is divested of its hard truths to make Christians feel better about themselves and to avoid offending other worldviews. Spiritual meat is nowhere to be found, nor stomachs that can digest it.

The spirit of this world wants men and women to be corrupt and worldly at heart and childish in the mind. Examples of this deceit abound: pornography is increasingly referred to as "adult entertainment," as if lasciviousness and degradation signify some kind of maturity. Licentiousness is permissible as long as individuals are "consenting adults." Once commonly referred to as "Sin City," Las Vegas is now touted as a "playground for adults." Yet Scripture commands us to possess childlike innocence in the heart (cf. Matthew 18:3) and mature, Godly wisdom in the mind (cf. James 1:4-5). Only in Christ can either of these two parameters be fulfilled.