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BreakPoint

Join John Stonestreet for a daily dose of sanity?applying a Christian worldview to culture, politics, movies, and more. And be a part of God's work restoring all things.

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Give Jack Some Slack: The Ongoing Harassment of Masterpiece Cakeshop Owner Jack Phillips

For more than a decade, LGBTQ advocates have sought to force Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips to decorate cakes with messages that violate his Christian faith. This despite his victory at the Supreme Court, this despite the Colorado Civil Rights Commission being forced to end the persecution. Jack is back in court again, this time defending himself from a lawsuit initiated by  transgender attorney, who, as John Stonestreet explains passionately, is waging a vendetta against Jack Phillips.

Also in this episode: John and Shane Morris discuss the ramifications and lessons learned from the revelations regarding the late Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias; the remarkable legacy of Rush Limbaugh, who passed this week; South Carolina's new heartbeat bill to protect the lives of the unborn--and just how ridiculous abortion advocates look when they insist on stopping a beating heart.

They wrap up the show with their recommendations: Miracles by C. S. Lewis, and  . . . the next time you're in Florida . . . The Kennedy Space Center.

------Resources------

Register for our Short Course with Thaddeus Williams, author of Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth

"Jack Philips's Legal Battle Continues," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Support Jack Phillips

"The Infinite Human Capacity to Deceive Ourselves and Then Rationalize It," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Miracles, by C. S. Lewis, available in the Colson Center online bookstore

Visit the Kennedy Space Center

2021-02-19
Link to episode

Give Jack Some Slack: The Ongoing Harassment of Masterpiece Cakeshop Owner Jack Phillips

For more than a decade, LGBTQ advocates have sought to force Masterpiece Cakeshop owner Jack Phillips to decorate cakes with messages that violate his Christian faith. This despite his victory at the Supreme Court, this despite the Colorado Civil Rights Commission being forced to end the persecution. Jack is back in court again, this time defending himself from a lawsuit initiated by  transgender attorney, who, as John Stonestreet explains passionately, is waging a vendetta against Jack Phillips.

Also in this episode: John and Shane Morris discuss the ramifications and lessons learned from the revelations regarding the late Christian apologist Ravi Zacharias; the remarkable legacy of Rush Limbaugh, who passed this week; South Carolina's new heartbeat bill to protect the lives of the unborn--and just how ridiculous abortion advocates look when they insist on stopping a beating heart.

They wrap up the show with their recommendations: Miracles by C. S. Lewis, and  . . . the next time you're in Florida . . . The Kennedy Space Center.

------Resources------

Register for our Short Course with Thaddeus Williams, author of Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth

"Jack Philips's Legal Battle Continues," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Support Jack Phillips

"The Infinite Human Capacity to Deceive Ourselves and Then Rationalize It," by John Stonestreet, BreakPoint

Miracles, by C. S. Lewis, available in the Colson Center online bookstore

Visit the Kennedy Space Center

2021-02-19
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Redeeming Gender in an Increasingly Gender-Hostile World

In 2015, Drag Queen Story Hour launched in San Francisco. Exactly what it sounds like - men dressed as women (often provocatively) reading stories (often provocatively) to young kids in schools or public libraries - the organization now operates across the country. ?Dressing in drag? almost always involves exaggerated makeup, exaggerated hair, and gaudy, sexually suggestive clothing.

One goal of Drag Queen Story Hour, according to its website, is to celebrate ?people who defy rigid gender restrictions.? It?s a strange claim for a group that relies so heavily on exaggerated stereotypes of femininity. Instead of ?defying rigid gender restrictions,? their ?performances? portray their small, shriveled imagination of what it is to be a woman.

The larger transgender movement also relies almost completely on this kind of stereotyping. The feminist movement spent decades trying to dismantle stereotypical tropes such as ?girls like pink and play with dolls? and ?boys like sports and red meat,? and yet, here we are telling boys who like pink or girls who like baseball they were born in the wrong bodies, on no other evidence but those same stereotypes.

Christianity offers a far better message about who we are as male and female. To share it effectively, we?ll need a strategy that goes beyond merely protecting religious liberty, as important as that is. To be clear, we must do that hard work of preserving conscience protections for individuals and institutions who do not capitulate to the demands of the transgender movement. At the same time, as more and more young people (especially middle school girls) suddenly claim to be the opposite gender, we have to do more than just say ?no.? We have to elevate God?s good design. We have to articulate what it is to be a woman and not a man; or a man and not a woman.

Unfortunately, with many exceptions, the Church hasn?t always done a great job of this. In fact, the Church often resorts to stereotypes, too, though usually in a more positive direction and with better intentions. Still, in our zeal to resist harmful teachings on gender so prevalent in our culture for so long, we have often failed to understand why God would make men and women and make them so different. Instead, we have reduced the answers to these incredibly important questions to culturally contingent things such as ?gender roles? or, even worse, gender-based restrictions, without careful theological reflection on God?s design.

It makes sense. After all, lists are easier to grasp a list than sacred mysteries, and the concept of ?roles? isn?t a bad one. Roles and lists are attempts to flesh out the implications of design within certain contexts. Some roles will never change. For example, only women will ever be mothers, and only men will ever be fathers. Other roles do change as cultural norms change.

The biblical vision of male and female is beautiful. Men and women were made differently but point to the same dynamic God. When God created both Adam and Eve, He said they both were created in His Image and were ?very good.? It?s notable that before the author of Genesis reveals Eve?s name, he reveals she also was made in the image of God.

According to theologian Dietrich von Hildebrand, the point of our gendered design is ?to be transformed into Christ, to become holy and glorify God, and to reach eternal communion with God? [t]he specific tone of masculinity and femininity must appear by itself.?

The experience of living as men and women in the world will be varied, though there are certainly uncrossable boundaries. Our best expressions of our gender are demonstrated not by conforming to stereotypes, but by conforming to Christ in the unique ways men and women are each called.

The men and women that appear throughout the Scriptures are not portrayed as epitomized versions of their gender. Rather, they reveal the glory and power of God, which is, Paul says, made perfect in our weakness.

Women can?t be men, and men can?t be women. That may not sound like good news to someone suffering with gender dysphoria, but it is. Both men and women, in their differences, point in unique ways to Jesus. Across these differences, both men and women must carry crosses in order to follow Him. That maleness and femaleness are gifts, and not constraints, is very good news in an increasingly gender-hostile world. 

2021-02-19
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Jack Phillips Legal Battles Continue

On June 4, 2018, it looked like Jack Phillips?s long legal nightmare was finally over. The Supreme Court had ruled in his favor in the Masterpiece Cakeshop case, verbally smacking down the Colorado Civil Rights Commission for attempting to coerce him into using his artistic skills to endorse a message and slandering his religious views in the process. Finally, after several years of fighting, Jack could return to his business and his artistry without compromising his faith.

Or so he thought.

On the very day that the Supreme Court agreed to hear his case, June 26, 2017, local Denver attorney Autumn Scardina called Jack and asked him to create a pink and blue cake celebrating his ?gender transition.? Phillips?s staff replied that his religious beliefs precluded him from creating a cake to express that message. That account was, by the way, Scardina?s as well?at least at first.

Scardina then filed a complaint with the Colorado Civil Rights Commission alleging discrimination on the basis of gender identity. The Commission, even after the Supreme Court decision, found probable cause to proceed with this new accusation. In response, Jack filed a federal lawsuit against the Commission, alleging that it was carrying out a vendetta against him.

In March 2019, Colorado officials announced that Scardina?s case before the Commission had been dismissed with prejudice. Finally, end of story, right?

No. Scardina responded by filing a private lawsuit alleging Phillips had violated Colorado?s anti-discrimination laws.

Scardina?s personal vendetta to get Jack faces two significant obstacles. First, his original complaint with the Commission was dismissed with prejudice. In other words, Scardina has had his day in court. Second, Scardina has told different versions of the events of June 2017. Initially, Scardina admitted that Jack had, because of his religious beliefs, declined the request to create a custom pink and blue cake in order to celebrate a gender transition. In the private suit, Scardina changed stories, suggesting that Jack turned down a request for a simple pink and blue cake only after learning that Scardina identified as transgender.

And, with that changed story, Scardina also accused Jack of violating Colorado?s consumer protection laws with false advertising. Though no one would consider news articles and a fundraising site for a Supreme Court case ?advertising,? Scardina pointed to them, and Jack?s claim that he chooses to create cakes based on the message they convey, not the sexual orientation or gender identity of the customer. Even if Jack?s statements are stretched and called ?advertising,? they still are not, as the Alliance Defending Freedom pointed out, a ?promise to create every cake requested of him, no matter the cake?s message.?

Scardina?s claims are farcical, but the judge refused to completely dismiss the case. Instead, he permitted Scardina to file an amended complaint--twice. In the second amended complaint Scardina claims to have requested the cake out of pity for Jack, after hearing how much business Masterpiece Cakeshop had lost. Jack?s lawyers at ADF are opposing this motion.

At this point, Jack Phillip?s latest trial is scheduled to begin in March. The stakes are enormous. If Scardina prevails on the consumer protection claim, Jack could potentially have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars in lawyer?s fees, which would put him out of business for good.

Jack?s legal battles have gone on for nearly a decade. He lost his wedding cake business, and tens of thousands of dollars in time and lost revenue. The Alliance Defending Freedom has been with him every step of the way, but he needs our support as well. After all, he is fighting a battle for our freedom as well.

Please pray for a successful outcome in this trial. Pray for Jack?s strength and courage. Pray that Scardina will have a change of heart and will just leave Jack alone.

Also consider supporting Jack financially. If you are able to purchase goods and services from him directly, I can assure you he hasn?t lost his touch. There?s also a page where you can donate to support him.

2021-02-18
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What Books are Inspired in Scripture? - BreakPoint Q&A

John and Shane field questions from listeners. Today they give an encompassing explanation to how we define inspiration in the Biblical canon. They identify cultural trends that steer the question and provide strong traditional explanation that provides structure in thinking well on the issue of authenticity and accuracy in the Biblical canon.

Shane then engages a question on definitions for the Christian family. The questioner seeks to understand a line or border that defines a liberal or conservative way of thinking that might be outside the framework of Scripture and thus place a person or way of thinking in futility and outside the kingdom.

2021-02-17
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Frederick Douglass and the Imago Dei

Sunday marked the 203rd birthday of a monumentally important figure in American history, a man who truly understood what it means that every human being is made in the image of God.

Frederick Douglass was a former slave, abolitionist, supporter of women?s suffrage, orator, writer, adviser to Presidents, and diplomat. All of this is well known, but one of the most misunderstood elements of his life story was his deep and abiding Christian faith.

Born in Talbot County, Maryland, in 1818, Douglass? mother was a slave. His father may have been her owner. Douglass was sent to work in the Baltimore home of Hugh Auld. Auld?s wife violated both the law and her husband?s instructions by Douglass him to read.

When Douglass was later hired out to a man named William Freeland, he began teaching other slaves to read. Specifically, he taught them to the New Testament at the weekly church service. Freeland himself didn?t object, but other slave owners did and forcibly broke up the church.

After two attempts to escape, Douglass finally succeeded with the help of Anna Murray, a free black woman from Baltimore. Disguised as a sailor, he made his way to New York. In 1838, he and Murray were married, and the couple settled in New Bedford, Massachusetts, where they adopted the name Douglass.

Douglass attended the African Methodist Episcopal Zion Church, and in 1839 became a licensed preacher. He was also a steward, sexton, and Sunday school superintendent.

Douglass joined a number of anti-slavery societies and began subscribing to William Lloyd Garrison?s journal ?The Liberator.? His eloquence and powerful personal story made him a popular speaker at abolition rallies. Not all of them ended well. In Pendleton, Indiana, his hand was broken when a mob attacked him. Rescued by a Quaker family, his hand was improperly set and bothered him for the rest of his life.

In 1845, Douglass published his first autobiography, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, An American Slave. The book was so eloquent that some wouldn?t accept that it could have been written by a black man. It became an immediate bestseller and was published in America and in Europe.

To avoid being arrested and sent back to the Aulds as a runaway, Douglass spent two years in Britain and Ireland, giving lectures to packed houses and meetings. There, he met Thomas Clarkson, one of the original British abolitionists. Although Douglass was a strong advocate for Irish Home Rule, the British were so impressed with Douglass that they raised the money to purchase his freedom from the Aulds, enabling him to return to America safely.

Back in the U.S., he began publishing ?The North Star,? his first abolitionist paper. Its motto was ?Right is of no Sex?Truth is of no Color?God is the Father of us all, and we are all brethren.?

During the Civil War he advised President Lincoln on the treatment of black Union Soldiers and later discussed black suffrage with Lincoln?s successor, Andrew Johnson. From 1889-1891, Douglas served as Minister-in-Residence and Consul General to Haiti.

Douglass also sought to reconcile with the Auld family, meeting with Thomas Auld himself?an act in keeping with his Christian convictions. Frederick and Anna had five children. In February 1895, Douglass died of a massive stroke or heart attack. He was buried in Rochester, New York.

Douglass was a deeply committed Christian, yet (or perhaps better put, so) he was highly critical of the shallow ?Christianity? he saw in America, particularly in the South. Even though skeptics have used these criticisms to paint Douglass as an atheist, he set the record straight in the Appendix of the Narrative:

?What I have said respecting and against religion,? he wrote, ?I mean strictly to apply to the slaveholding religion of this land, and with no possible reference to Christianity proper?. I love the pure, peaceable, and impartial Christianity of Christ; I therefore hate the corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity of this land.?

Frederick Douglass?s life was a marvelous fusion of biblical teaching, conversion, personal piety, and social action. His life and work had a profound impact on the United States and beyond, and was shaped by his conviction that we are all made in the image of God.  

For a fuller account of Douglass?s amazing life, come to BreakPoint.org to read Dr. Glenn Sunshine?s article on him as part of his series ?Christians Who Changed Their World.?

 

2021-02-17
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Biology Matters

Last month, after more than ten years in hiding, Lisa Miller surrendered herself to American authorities at the U. S. Embassy in Managua, Nicaragua. Miller, now in custody at the federal detention center in Miami, faces kidnapping and conspiracy charges. She?ll likely be found guilty but, in reality, she?s a victim of bad ideas. A mom, attempting to protect her daughter from her own bad choices and our society?s attempt to redefine marriage, parenting, and the family.

The legal case is as complicated as the story behind it. In 2000, Miller and her partner Janet Jenkins moved from Virginia to Vermont to take advantage of Vermont?s civil union law. Two years later, Miller bore a child, Isabella, conceived through artificial insemination. A year later, in 2003, Miller and Jenkins separated. Miller then moved back to Virginia with her daughter, who was only 17-months old.

In 2004, Miller and Jenkins asked the Vermont Family Court to legally dissolve their civil union. The court agreed and awarded Miller primary custody. However, in an unprecedented move, the court awarded visitation rights to Jenkins.

To that point, though she had agreed to pay child support, Jenkins had no legally recognized parental relationship with Isabella. She had only lived with Isabella during the first year of the child?s life, but the court treated Jenkins as if she were a biological or adoptive parent. It?s difficult to image a court doing this, for example, in the case of an unrelated live-in boyfriend.

Later that year, a Virginia court ruled that Miller was Isabella?s sole legal parent. However, Jenkins appealed, arguing that the Parental Kidnapping Prevention Act required Virginia to honor the Vermont court?s ruling. Also at play was the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act, a federal statute designed to prevent states from being forced to recognize the civil unions of other states. Despite all this, in the end, the Virginia Supreme Court sided with Jenkins.

By this time, Miller had become a Christian. Not wanting her daughter exposed to the lesbian lifestyle of her former partner, Miller defied the order of the Vermont court and denied Jenkins visitation. In response, Vermont awarded Jenkins primary custody of Isabella.

In 2009, Miller fled the United States with Isabella who was, by then, seven years old. With the help of a Mennonite pastor, they first crossed the border into Canada and then made their way to Nicaragua, where they have lived since fleeing the U.S. Now that Isabella is 18 years old, the court?s custody order no longer applies.

The parental kidnapping charges, on the other hand, do still apply to Miller. Before turning herself in, her final appeal was to the Trump administration for a pardon, which the President did not grant. As she must have known in surrendering herself to the U.S. embassy, mercy from the state of Vermont is highly unlikely.

In a very real sense, this is a story about consequences. Miller is still dealing with the consequences of entering a relationship that was by definition sterile and then demanding a child. She?s also facing the cost of repenting and following Christ, something our Lord tells us to ?count? before following Him. She?s facing the consequences of her commitment to protect her daughter from the damage of her previous lifestyle. Out of legal options, she chose to disobey the state as long as necessary in order to protect her daughter, but she?s also accepting the consequences of her disobedience. For Christians in the days ahead, Miller?s story, especially her choices and their consequences, offer incredibly important lessons.

At the same time, Miller is facing consequences of a culture, especially as it is reflected in decisions made by our courts and the legislature, legalizing same-sex unions and sacrifice the well-being of children on the altars of adult desires. No real thought was given to the impact these irregular unions would have on children, never mind what could happen to kids after these unions dissolve. Custody fights are always nasty, even when there is a biological connection! Only when same-sex unions are involved do we pretend as if a biological connection is irrelevant.

As I often say, ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. It?s hard to think to think of a better example than the tragic case of Lisa and Isabella Miller.

Please pray for the Millers.

2021-02-16
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Get Wisdom - Trevin Wax - BreakPoint Podcast

Trevin Wax shared about Proverbs 16:16, encouraging those in the Time of Guided Prayer to get wisdom.

Trevin K. Wax is the Bible and Reference Publisher for LifeWay Christian Resources. A former missionary to Romania, Trevin hosts a blog at The Gospel Coalition and regularly contributes to the Washington Post, Religion News Service, World and Christianity Today, which named him one of 33 millennials shaping the next generation of evangelicals. His books include Eschatological Discipleship, This Is Our Time, and Gospel-Centered Teaching among other published works. He and his wife, Corina, have three Children.

2021-02-15
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The Infinite Human Capacity to Deceive Ourselves and Then Rationalize It

Two days before Christmas, Ravi Zacharias International Ministries confirmed that its founder had engaged in sexual misconduct over the course of many years and promised further information when the investigation into the matter was complete. Late Thursday afternoon, RZIM released the full report as they had received it, along with an extended, contrite statement of apology.

Ravi was a significant personal influence and a great friend of the Colson Center. When Ravi died in May of last year, we honored him. At the time, both Ravi and RZIM leadership claimed that allegations of an inappropriate relationship had been dismissed and disproven after a thorough investigation. We trusted the information provided to us. We were wrong. I both believed and shared excuses that explained Ravi?s behavior. By doing that, I was wrong and misled others. To be clear, no one at the Colson Center had any sense just how much would be revealed in this final report. But I wish I had not been so quick to trust what I wanted to be true.

There is no sugar-coating, excusing, or explaining away Ravi?s behavior. It was sinful. It was wicked. And, as this report made crystal clear, it was duplicitous. Reading through it, I couldn?t shake the words I heard time and time again from Chuck Colson: ?There is no limit to the human capacity for self-rationalization.?

That?s why Proverbs uses the word ?folly? to describe sin. As a mentor of mine used to say, sin makes us dumb. Buried in sin, we become fools, actually convincing ourselves that, for the first time in human history, we will be the ones to get away with it. 

As sin takes us deeper than we ever imagined possible, others are dragged along into our self-deception. Sin always leaves other victims, human beings made in the image of God and for whom Christ died. The number of women Ravi abused, and the degree to which he deceived them, is breath-taking. RZIM has committed to make restitution and care for these women. I hope and pray they will. And there are other victims to remember: family members, friends, and the many disillusioned others around the world.

Recently, a BreakPoint listener emailed us asking how we should respond to cases like this, when a Christian leader or teacher is caught in sexual misconduct. Is it possible to separate the good that they?ve done and the truth they?ve taught, the person and their sin? And, what about in cases such as this, when the perpetrator is gone and has no further opportunity to acknowledge his sins, repent, and seek forgiveness? 

We need not deny that Ravi?s teaching helped many Christians make sense of the Faith, deal with their doubts, and engage other people with the Gospel, in order to acknowledge the depth of his depraved behavior. As my colleague Shane Morris pointed out a few weeks ago, no one is ?made of finer clay? than anyone else. As St. Paul wrote, ?There is none righteous, no not one.?

It?s also important to remember, to borrow a phrase popularized by Christian educator Arthur Holmes, ?all truth is God?s truth.? In other words, if Ravi Zacharias ever said anything true in his life, and of course he did, he was not its source but only its medium. Any truth ? all truth ? comes ultimately from God, outside of time or place or context. Even if delivered by the most sinful voices, truth is as eternal and unchanging as God Himself.

A postmodern worldview, in contrast, relativizes truth to cultural settings or individuals. In other words, truth is not absolute. But, if truth is dependent on the shifting sands of attitudes, beliefs, perceptions of a culture or an individual, anything we build on it must collapse when any of those things do.

Of course, knowing that doesn?t make what?s happened any less painful, disorienting, or consequential, especially for all those women involved. Having talent, even amazing talent, to communicate does not give one a divine right or inherent privilege (and it is an incredible privilege) to have or to keep a public platform. Scripture is clear: teachers are stewards of the truth, and therefore held to a higher standard.

This is not the same thing as cancel culture, which is so popular in our time. Cancel culture cancels people because of their different beliefs. This is about behavior; this is about reprehensible behavior that deeply harmed other people.

Finally, let this be a reminder to not trust ourselves, but only God and His Spirit. Pray for your pastor, church leaders, spouse, and whomever else God has put in your life. We need His protection from the real and ever-present temptations, as well as from our own capacity to deceive ourselves and then rationalize our behavior.

2021-02-15
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Impeachment, Cancel Culture, and the Importance of Words - BreakPoint This Week

John Stonestreet and Maria Baer note that the focus of the second impeachment trial of Donald Trump is centering on the power of words: What did then-President Trump say, and did his words incite violence?

Also in this episode: Did cancel culture strike again in the case of now-former Mandalorian star Gina Carano? And for all you philosophy and worldview fans, John discusses the ironic alarm in France (the home of prominent post-modern philosophers) over the "threat" of American wokeness.  They wrap up the show with their recommendations for Lent.

2021-02-12
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When the Sperm-Donation System Works (And You Wish It Hadn?t)

In Mere Christianity, C.S. Lewis warned about the high stakes of overindulging our sexual desires. If men indulged their sexual appetites every time they were inclined, he said, and if each act produced a baby, one man could easily populate a small village. Seventy years after Mere Christianity was published, one Dutch man is fulfilling that prophecy.

In an investigative piece published last week, The New York Times uncovered that Jonathan Jacob Meijer has fathered hundreds of children through sperm donation. Most of his children were born in the Netherlands; but Meijer also donated in several other countries, including the U.S. Sometimes he donated at clinics; sometimes he met customers on private websites and handed over vials of his sperm in person.

The Times? take is obvious: Meijer is the bad guy of this story. The report tells the plight of a handful of his female ?customers? who are now scrambling to find their children?s half-siblings. The women are furious. ?It?s disgusting and I want it to stop,? one woman told the Times.

Her revulsion is easy to understand. But her moral outrage, frankly, isn?t. She wanted sperm from a stranger with whom she had no intention of raising the child. She got the sperm, and she got the child she desired. Is she suggesting that she should be able to purchase part of that man?s body but no one else should be able to? 

Of course, it?s horrifying that one man has fathered this many children he has no relational connection to. And the genetic consequences alone could be catastrophic. But this man is simply taking advantage of a system that was set up precisely toward those ends. 

Sperm donation is notoriously unregulated. Here in the U.S., there are almost no laws governing the industry; only recommendations from the American Society for Reproductive Medicine. One of those is that clinics shouldn?t allow one sperm donor to father more than 25 children. Setting aside that crazy number, clinics have no way to actually keep track. Women aren?t required to report births, and clinics don?t know whether sperm donors are also giving at other clinics. It?s pure fantasy to think we know how many children are born of each donor.

By the sperm donation industry?s own measures, Jonathan Jacob Meijer is a success story. Here?s a man whose sperm was popular, and therefore the whole process was lucrative. He said the right things. According to one customer, he claimed to just want to ?help women make their biggest wish come true.? The New York Times may try to portray Meijer?s story like a freak show but make no mistake: this freak show is the industry?s best-case scenario.

When a system is built with no moral norms, when the lies that children and marriage have nothing to do with each other and children don?t have a right to both their mom and their dad are baked into an industry, when men (and in the case of surrogacy) women are shopped like products; we can't turn around and play horrified when the results make us feel weird.

In fact, it?s disingenuous to portray these women, as The Times article did, as having no moral responsibility in this situation they helped create. In this culture, all morality having to do with sex and procreation has been stripped down to some flimsy notion of ?consent.?  But, when something goes wrong, as it has here, we suddenly pretend women were the victims, with no agency whatsoever. 

One woman in the Times article said she only learned after her first child that Meijer had possibly fathered hundreds of other children. She still used his sperm a second time, because, she said, she wanted her kids to be full siblings.

Sperm donation intentionally creates fatherless children, treating both men and children as products to serve adult happiness. That the women in this story are outraged in understandable, but they?re outrage is actually a demand for something they deliberately forfeited when they turned to sperm donation: exclusivity. That?s what marriage provides.

Our felt desire for children is God-given and it is good. Believing we are entitled to children, especially outside of the God?s brilliant and good designed, is a perversion.

There are no ?good guys? in a system built on a lie, despite what the Times article portrays, but there are victims. No amount of moral outrage or even regulation can fix an industry like this. Sperm donation should be categorically prohibited. Until then, it will, as always, be the children who suffer the most.

2021-02-12
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Critical Race Theory and a Christian Worldview

Francis Schaeffer described how ideas escape the ivory towers of universities and think tanks eventually to shape how ordinary people think, speak, and view their world. This past year, one idea made that journey in record time. Not that long ago, conversations involving Critical Race Theory were largely relegated to academic papers, classroom discussions, and scholarly journal articles. Today, dialogues about CRT can be found across social media, in corporate boardrooms, and even in the Church.

As a theory, CRT descends from European and North American philosophical traditions, particularly Marxism and Postmodernism. Like these worldviews of its intellectual ancestry, CRT sees the world in terms of power dynamics. In this way of thinking, social evils such as poverty, crime, or oppression result not from universal human frailties but from Euro-Americans intent on securing and increasing their economic and social power. Based on this metanarrative, equality and justice demand privileging the stories of those kept out of power. CRT sees members of the oppressed group as morally right, and members of the oppressor group as morally wrong.

CRT, like any worldview framework, should be evaluated. That, however, is easier said than done, even in the Church. Advocates often point to common ground between Critical Race Theory and the Christian worldview (for example, the commitment to justice and human dignity), and label any critiques of CRT as convenient ways to avoid confronting injustice and racism (which may not be true, but often is).

Many Christian critics, myself included, are specifically concerned with how CRT conflicts with a Christian worldview, particularly in areas of identity and morality. Not everyone agrees. Recently on Twitter, a defender of CRT boldly tweeted, ?Whoever told you CRT is a worldview was either lying to you or didn?t know what they were talking about.? Of course, assuming malice or greed is a way of dodging the question rather than making an argument.

Another Twitterer offered a different response, ?If CRT is bad because it?s a ?secular worldview? and we must only derive our worldviews ?biblically? then I better not see a TRACE of Aristotle or Plato in your worldview either, brother.? This one is a slightly more clever way of missing the point or, specifically misunderstanding what it means for a worldview to be ?biblical.? To have a Christian worldview is to hold views that are consistent with the Bible, not only to have views that are in the Bible. The problem with Critical Race Theory is not that it isn?t found in the Bible; it?s that it offers a very different explanation of humanity, sin, and redemption than the Bible does.

Simply speaking, like the postmodernism that birthed it, Critical Race Theory can be considered a worldview. It does more than just offer a handful of specific ideas about race and society; CRT offers a complete framework of beliefs, a universalizing story of the world. CRT describes who we are, what?s wrong with the world, and prescribes how to fix it and what ?better? would be. In other words, like Christianity, CRT answers the basic questions any worldview does. Except, the answers CRT provides are very different than those Christianity offers, even if both worldviews recognize the world is broken by evils such as racism and injustice.

Critical Race Theory has critical errors. By simplistically reducing evil to power dynamics and external social realities, CRT denies moral agency and the redemptive potential of entire groups of people because of their racial identity.

At the same time, those who oppose Critical Theory must do more than simply write off all its concerns. Like Marxism, Critical Theory is something of a Christian heresy, taking the Christian themes of human dignity and justice and a world remade, and re-orienting these causes under new management. Most pertinently, CRT is slipping into the space where the Church belongs but is too often absent. If we don?t want unbiblical explanations of life and justice sweeping through the Church or culture, we?d better make sure we communicate and embrace the full ramifications of Christian truth for society, and then act justly and love mercy. If we rob our Faith of its social implications, we are no longer talking about Christianity, and such a personalized, privatized moral system may make me feel better, but it will never stand up to the rival worldviews of our day.

Over the next four Tuesday nights, The Colson Center is hosting an online course taught by Dr. Thadeus Williams, on his book, Confronting Injustice without Compromising Truth. This is the book I?ve been waiting for, the book that carefully and biblically walks through a Christian view of justice. Dr. Williams carefully explains not only why theories like CRT aren?t true, but what the Bible asks of Christ?s followers when it comes to justice. Space is limited. Register today at breakpoint.org/Williams.

Because, the best antidote for the failings of Critical Theory and its inadequate worldview is for the Church to understand and live consistently with the Bible.

2021-02-11
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Are We Really Worshipping God? - BreakPoint Q&A

Michael Craven joins the BreakPoint Podcast to bring a few questions from the Colson Fellows.

The Colson Fellows is a 10 month worldview training program that equips participants with analytical tools to understand and lead in culture.

Today, John and Michael answer a heartfelt question where one listener seeks understanding on how she can know she's really worshipping God. John and Michael provide definition inside our current culture context to give footing for confidence in worship that rests in the finished work of Christ and invites followers to participate in praise-giving acts.

A timely questions from a Colson Fellow asked how Christians should respond to conspiracy theories. John and Michael give perspective, highlighting that it is a challenge to understand which way is up in the current culture climate. In answering this and another question related to how we should spend our time as believers in Jesus, John points listeners to consider the practices of living a quiet and committed life.

2021-02-10
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How a Holocaust Survivor Thanks the Courageous Christians of Le Chambon

Le Chambon-sur-Lignon is a small village in south-central France. Back in 1940, the total population of this area, including the surrounding villages was only about 5,000. Sill, under the leadership of their Protestant pastor André Trocmé and his wife Magda, the residents of these villages were responsible for saving up to 5,000 Jews from deportation to Nazi concentration camps during World War II.

In late January, Eric Schwam, a survivor, passed away at age 90. According to a BBC article, Schwam, a native of Vienna, arrived in Le Chambon in 1943, a refugee along with his mother, father, and grandfather. Schwam survived the war, and eventually returned to Austria to live a quiet life. However, he never forgot the people of Le Chambon. In fact, he left the town more than $2 million in a bequest.

As Dr. Glenn Sunshine described in a BreakPoint article from a few years ago, in the winter of 1940, after the defeat of France, a Jewish woman fleeing the Nazis knocked at the Trocmé?s door, seeking help. Magda attempted to secure false papers for her, but the mayor refused to help. He feared that if the Germans found out anyone in Le Chambon was helping Jews, the entire village would suffer.

This did not dissuade Magda and André. In fact, according to Sunshine, ?Pastor Trocmé began to exhort his congregation to shelter any ?People of the Book? that were fleeing Nazi persecution, telling them, ?We shall resist whenever our adversaries demand of us obedience contrary to the orders of the gospel.?? The members of his church responded, volunteering to hide Jews.

When more Jews arrived in Le Chambon, André would announce the arrival of ?Old Testaments? and ask if any in his congregation would be willing to take them. There was never a lack of volunteers. Eventually, the townspeople created an underground network to help Jews travel safely across the Swiss border.

Local officials caught on and tipped off the Germans. They searched Le Chambon but found nothing. Finally, the officials demanded that Trocmé stop any and all activities that provided help for the Jews. His response was blunt. ?These people came here for help and shelter. I am their shepherd. A shepherd does not forsake his flock. I do not know what a Jew is. I only know human beings.?

Eventually, André was arrested and sent to a detention camp. He was released after ten days and spent the rest of the war underground. Le Chambon?s rescue operation continued, even without him.

What the people of Le Chambon did was, as Dr. Sunshine called it, ?a conspiracy of goodness.? An untold number of lives were saved by their courageous actions. In fact, not a single Jew was caught in Le Chambon during the entire war.

Why did these French Christians risk so much? In a post-war documentary, one villager said, ?We didn?t protect the Jews because we were a moral or heroic people. We helped them because it was the human thing to do.?

But of course, we have to ask ourselves, why did so many others refuse to help?

André Trocmé died in 1971. His wife Magda died in 1996. Both were named as Righteous among the Nations by the Yad Vashem, the Holocaust Martyrs? and Heroes? Memorial Authority in Jerusalem.

A final, fascinating element of this story is that the residents of Le Chambon were descendants of French Protestants known as Huguenots, who were themselves victims of savage persecution at the hands of the French Catholic monarchy during the 16th and 17th centuries. A method of survival used back then played a major role in the 20th century work to protect Jews. Dr. Sunshine describes it this way:

In the area around Le Chambon, the Huguenots made secret rooms similar to the priest holes in England, and secret paths through the mountains to Switzerland to smuggle pastors and Bibles into France. Even after Protestantism was legalized, the people of the area kept the locations of these rooms and paths secret since they never knew when they would need them again. Providentially still available, the rooms and paths were put back into service to save the Jews from the Nazis.

Dr. Sunshine?s entire article, part of his ongoing series ?Christians Who Changed the World? is available at breakpoint.org.

2021-02-10
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Ancient Purple Threads Discovered in Israel Confirm Biblical History

A colleague of mine, while looking for Civil War artifacts near his home, once found a brass button from a Union Army uniform. What made his discovery even more amazing was the bright blue jacket thread still attached to the button, even after 150 years. That?s pretty impressive.

What about finding threads dating back 3,000 years? But imagine these are not connected with an event everyone believes happened, like the Civil War, but with events secular scholars often doubt. Even better! That?s the latest chapter in the ever-growing saga of ?Super Cool Discoveries from Israel.?

Recently, researchers in Israel?s Timna Valley, while exploring a copper smelting camp site at a place known as ?Slaves? Hill,? unexpectedly found ?three pristine fabric samples dyed true purple.? The color is commonly called ?royal purple? because it was worn almost exclusivity by royalty. The researchers were surprised, and not only because they were looking for metal and not fabric.

Though, previous to this, no textiles predating the Romans had ever been found in the region, radiocarbon dating suggests that these fibers could be ?tightly dated? to the late 11th and early 10th centuries before Christ, placing it during the reigns of David and Solomon. Making this story even more significant, is that further tests indicate that the dye from these textile samples were produced from a particular Mediterranean mollusk known as a murex. In the ancient world, dye made from this mollusk, because it came from ?hundreds of miles away in the Mediterranean [around Italy] and was extremely valuable,? was the kind used to produce royal purple.

Just finding 3000-year-old purple-dyed textiles would be the discovery of a lifetime for most archeologists, or at least ?very exciting and important,? as Naama Sukenik of the Israel Antiquities Authority put it. But the date of this find and its ?mollusk connection,? point to the existence of the United Monarchy described in the Bible. These ancient fabrics are evidence that the sophisticated and hierarchical society described in the Old Testament actually existed, a society wealthy enough to import luxuries from the other side of the Mediterranean.

Or, as the online magazine Inverse put it, the findings could be evidence that ?the United Monarchy in Jerusalem is not necessarily just ?literary fiction.?? Keep in mind that, until recently, many scholars remained unconvinced that figures like David and Solomon even existed. However, archeological finds over the past three decades have all but rendered that position untenable.

Even so, prominent scholars continue to insist that many of the Old Testament stories, from books such as Samuel or Kings, are embellished tales, similar to the nationalized propaganda found in Greek and Indian epics. Sure, there may have been a ?David? and a ?Solomon,? these scholars concede, but they were more Iron Age tribal chieftains than rulers of the kind of expansive and elaborate state described in the Bible. However, neither the dye used in these fabrics unearthed in the Timna Valley, nor the ancient, sophisticated copper production operation where they were found, suggests just ?local tribal chieftains.?

A few more discoveries like this one from the Timna Valley will render these skeptical views as untenable as doubting David?s existence. In fact, other discoveries in the area, like a 3,000 year old house, also support the Biblical account of how advanced the United Monarchy was, as opposed to the impoverished imaginations of the skeptics.

The pace at which archeological findings from Israel are now coming in and the picture they paint of that part of the ancient world is stunning but also familiar to anyone who has read the biblical text. On the other hand, those who insist that the biblical accounts are ?literary fiction? are increasingly being forced to rethink their own stories.

2021-02-09
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Social Justice, Wokeness, and the Christian Worldview - Thaddeus William on BreakPoint Podcast

Social Justice is making claims that are turning America's streets into war zones. Some of these claims refer to a "color blind upbringing", where an individual raised in a community predominantly homogenous in ethnicity is an example of "white privilege" and therefore a form of racism.

Thaddeus Williams has written an important book, "Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth". Dr. Williams is an Associate Professor of Theology at Biola University.

Dr. Williams loves enlarging students' understanding and enjoyment of God while teaching Theology 1 and 2 courses at Biola University. He also teaches History of Atheism, Introduction to Philosophy, and Biblical Literature in the secular college context. He has taught theology internationally, including seminaries in Nepal and Francis Schaeffer's L'Abri ministries in Switzerland and Holland. Dr. Williams is a frequent guest speaker at churches and conferences, in addition to serving as a teaching pastor at a local church. His academic works include Love, Freedom, and Evil (Rodopi, 2011), used in seminaries around the world and currently being translated to German, and his recent popular publication, The Exchange (AIMBooks, 2012). His research interests include the Trinity, divine and human agency, dialogue with atheists and theology of culture.

 

2021-02-08
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Why Defining Justice Is Necessary for Doing Justice

One of the more memorable lines written by C. S. Lewis has to do with whether or not a sense of morality is innate to human beings.

?Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him, he will be complaining, ?It?s not fair? before you can say Jack Robinson.?

Our culture in particular is full of demands for justice, of all kinds: social justice, economic justice, LGBTQ justice, environmental justice, racial justice, even ?reproductive justice.? At the same time, it?s not always clear what is meant by justice. Too often, demands for justice are undergirded by radical views about right and wrong, about fairness, about the human person, and?thanks to the wide application of critical theory?about power dynamics.

Demands for justice may be getting louder and louder, but that doesn?t mean we are making progress as a society. The only worldview framework solid enough to ground human dignity and justice in human history is Christianity. True justice is a matter of honoring God and honoring the image of God inherent in every human person, and is grounded in God?s love for humanity, our love of God, and our love of neighbor.

Too many Christians, concerned by words like ?justice? and ?social justice? being wrongly used, have abandoned them altogether. I?ve heard from many of them, and, while I share the concern about the wrong worldviews being smuggled into the Church and culture through these words, we must not abandon ideas that belong to God. ?He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,? wrote the prophet Micah. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said, ?Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.?

Starting next Tuesday, I will be hosting a four-week short course, taught by Dr. Thaddeus Williams, assistant professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and the author of an outstanding new book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth. If you?ve struggled with what it means to follow our Lord Jesus as a champion of what is true and good, without embracing or advancing the bad ideas of ?wokeness? and critical theory, join us for this short course.

In his book, Williams writes, ?The problem is not with the quest for social justice. The problem is what happens when that quest is undertaken from a framework that is not compatible with the Bible. Today many Christians accept conclusions that are generated from madness machines that are wired with very different presuppositions about reality than those we find in Scripture.?

This short course will run four consecutive Tuesday evenings starting February 16th through March 9th. Each session begins at 8PM and runs till9:30PM Eastern Time, and features a dedicated Q&A time, where you can interact with Dr. Williams. If you have to miss a live session, a recording of each session is provided to everyone registered for the course as well as handouts and other resources.

In fact, the first session, which will take place on February 16th, is being offered at no charge. However, because space is limited, you have to register at BreakPoint.org/Williams. That?s BreakPoint.org/Williams.

Dr. Williams?s topic for Week 1 is the connection between social justice and our view of God. The topic for Week 2 is how ideas of social justice impact the community. Week 3?s topic is how our ideas of social justice are shaped by our views about sin and salvation, and the final week will take a deep dive look at the tribalism that is preventing true reconciliation and justice today.

Please join us February 16th for our four-week short course, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth with Dr. Thadeus Williams. Register atBreakPoint.org/Williams.

2021-02-08
Link to episode

Why Defining Justice Is Necessary for Doing Justice

One of the more memorable lines written by C. S. Lewis has to do with whether or not a sense of morality is innate to human beings.

?Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him, he will be complaining, ?It?s not fair? before you can say Jack Robinson.?

Our culture in particular is full of demands for justice, of all kinds: social justice, economic justice, LGBTQ justice, environmental justice, racial justice, even ?reproductive justice.? At the same time, it?s not always clear what is meant by justice. Too often, demands for justice are undergirded by radical views about right and wrong, about fairness, about the human person, and?thanks to the wide application of critical theory?about power dynamics.

Demands for justice may be getting louder and louder, but that doesn?t mean we are making progress as a society. The only worldview framework solid enough to ground human dignity and justice in human history is Christianity. True justice is a matter of honoring God and honoring the image of God inherent in every human person, and is grounded in God?s love for humanity, our love of God, and our love of neighbor.

Too many Christians, concerned by words like ?justice? and ?social justice? being wrongly used, have abandoned them altogether. I?ve heard from many of them, and, while I share the concern about the wrong worldviews being smuggled into the Church and culture through these words, we must not abandon ideas that belong to God. ?He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,? wrote the prophet Micah. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said, ?Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.?

Starting next Tuesday, I will be hosting a four-week short course, taught by Dr. Thaddeus Williams, assistant professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and the author of an outstanding new book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth. If you?ve struggled with what it means to follow our Lord Jesus as a champion of what is true and good, without embracing or advancing the bad ideas of ?wokeness? and critical theory, join us for this short course.

In his book, Williams writes, ?The problem is not with the quest for social justice. The problem is what happens when that quest is undertaken from a framework that is not compatible with the Bible. Today many Christians accept conclusions that are generated from madness machines that are wired with very different presuppositions about reality than those we find in Scripture.?

This short course will run four consecutive Tuesday evenings starting February 16th through March 9th. Each session begins at 8PM and runs till9:30PM Eastern Time, and features a dedicated Q&A time, where you can interact with Dr. Williams. If you have to miss a live session, a recording of each session is provided to everyone registered for the course as well as handouts and other resources.

In fact, the first session, which will take place on February 16th, is being offered at no charge. However, because space is limited, you have to register at BreakPoint.org/Williams. That?s BreakPoint.org/Williams.

Dr. Williams?s topic for Week 1 is the connection between social justice and our view of God. The topic for Week 2 is how ideas of social justice impact the community. Week 3?s topic is how our ideas of social justice are shaped by our views about sin and salvation, and the final week will take a deep dive look at the tribalism that is preventing true reconciliation and justice today.

Please join us February 16th for our four-week short course, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth with Dr. Thadeus Williams. Register atBreakPoint.org/Williams.

2021-02-08
Link to episode

Why Defining Justice Is Necessary for Doing Justice

One of the more memorable lines written by C. S. Lewis has to do with whether or not a sense of morality is innate to human beings.

?Whenever you find a man who says he does not believe in a real Right and Wrong, you will find the same man going back on this a moment later. He may break his promise to you, but if you try breaking one to him, he will be complaining, ?It?s not fair? before you can say Jack Robinson.?

Our culture in particular is full of demands for justice, of all kinds: social justice, economic justice, LGBTQ justice, environmental justice, racial justice, even ?reproductive justice.? At the same time, it?s not always clear what is meant by justice. Too often, demands for justice are undergirded by radical views about right and wrong, about fairness, about the human person, and?thanks to the wide application of critical theory?about power dynamics.

Demands for justice may be getting louder and louder, but that doesn?t mean we are making progress as a society. The only worldview framework solid enough to ground human dignity and justice in human history is Christianity. True justice is a matter of honoring God and honoring the image of God inherent in every human person, and is grounded in God?s love for humanity, our love of God, and our love of neighbor.

Too many Christians, concerned by words like ?justice? and ?social justice? being wrongly used, have abandoned them altogether. I?ve heard from many of them, and, while I share the concern about the wrong worldviews being smuggled into the Church and culture through these words, we must not abandon ideas that belong to God. ?He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God,? wrote the prophet Micah. In Matthew 7:12, Jesus said, ?Whatever you wish that men would do to you, do so to them; for this is the law and the prophets.?

Starting next Tuesday, I will be hosting a four-week short course, taught by Dr. Thaddeus Williams, assistant professor at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University and the author of an outstanding new book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth. If you?ve struggled with what it means to follow our Lord Jesus as a champion of what is true and good, without embracing or advancing the bad ideas of ?wokeness? and critical theory, join us for this short course.

In his book, Williams writes, ?The problem is not with the quest for social justice. The problem is what happens when that quest is undertaken from a framework that is not compatible with the Bible. Today many Christians accept conclusions that are generated from madness machines that are wired with very different presuppositions about reality than those we find in Scripture.?

This short course will run four consecutive Tuesday evenings starting February 16th through March 9th. Each session begins at 8PM and runs till9:30PM Eastern Time, and features a dedicated Q&A time, where you can interact with Dr. Williams. If you have to miss a live session, a recording of each session is provided to everyone registered for the course as well as handouts and other resources.

In fact, the first session, which will take place on February 16th, is being offered at no charge. However, because space is limited, you have to register at BreakPoint.org/Williams. That?s BreakPoint.org/Williams.

Dr. Williams?s topic for Week 1 is the connection between social justice and our view of God. The topic for Week 2 is how ideas of social justice impact the community. Week 3?s topic is how our ideas of social justice are shaped by our views about sin and salvation, and the final week will take a deep dive look at the tribalism that is preventing true reconciliation and justice today.

Please join us February 16th for our four-week short course, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth with Dr. Thadeus Williams. Register atBreakPoint.org/Williams.

2021-02-08
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Game Stop Stock Craze: 2021 in a Nutshell

John Stonestreet and Shane Morris talk about the craziness surrounding the stock of Game Stop. Beyond the stock price and the short sells, what was motivating the mass of people to purchase the stock and send it through the roof? Anger? Greed? Revenge of the little guys against the hedge funds? Was it a generational conflict? And what does this say about the state of our culture and society in 2021? John and Shane share their thoughts from a Christian worldview perspective.

Also in this episode: The Biden Administration's new Secretary of Education is firmly committed to allowing biological boys to compete against girls in scholastic athletics. How has the acceptance of anti-reality transgender ideology reached the highest levels of government? Are the President's executive orders a foretaste of the coming Equality Act, which would severely restrict religious freedom and bestow new rights on the LGBTQ movement?

John and Shane finish the broadcast with their weekly recommendations: N. T. Wright's How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, and the 2021 Wilberforce Weekend.

2021-02-05
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Meaning and Morality without God

Nature documentaries like the BBC?s ?Planet Earth,? ?Blue Planet,? and most recently, ?A Perfect Planet,? are amazing masterpieces of modern videography, displaying creation in detail and majesty. Every creature soaring through the sky, or streaking through the deep, or thundering over the savannah exhibits power, beauty, and unmistakable purpose. David Attenborough?s grandfatherly narration and Hans Zimmer?s moving musical scores only add to the childlike awe these films induce.

All of which makes it even more odd when Attenborough declares that all of this glory lacks purpose, or that it arose by chance and natural selection, and that none of it bears witness to any meaning or Mind beyond itself.

A recent article on atheism, also from across the pond, reminded me of this contradiction. In The Guardian, Harriet Sherwood described a new project from the University of Kent that seeks to discover whether disbelieving in God makes people less spiritual overall. According to the project?s authors, atheism ?doesn?t necessarily entail unbelief in other supernatural phenomena.? Nor do unbelievers lack for a sense of purpose, despite ?lacking anything to ascribe ultimate meaning to [in] the universe,?

In the article, Sherwood profiled several unbelievers, from an agnostic to a ?free thinker? to Positivist pastor and Satanic priest (who makes it clear he doesn?t believe in a literal Satan). All of them insist that life can be deeply meaningful and even moral without God.

?We can determine for ourselves what is meaningful,? said one. ?The meaning of life,? suggested one woman, ?is to make it the best experience you can, to spread love to those around you.? ?Beauty and tradition are at the core of my philosophy,? said another. One self-identified atheistic Jew explained, ?Being part of a religious community offers music, spirituality and relationships?it reminds me I?m on a journey to understand myself better and motivates me to help others.?

Hearing outspoken unbelievers proclaim that meaning and morality aren?t accidents is about as jarring as hearing David Attenborough proclaim that the world?s most amazing creatures are accidents. There is an inability of atheists to let go of the transcendent.

In his book, ?Miracles,? C.S. Lewis wrote about the passionate moral activism of a famous atheist of his day, H.G. Wells. Moments after men like Wells admit that good and evil are illusions, Lewis said, ?you will find them exhorting us to work for posterity, to educate, to revolutionise, liquidate, live and die for the good of the human race.?

But how do unbelievers, ?naturalists? as Lewis calls them, account for such ideas? Certainly, nature is no help. If thoughts of meaning and morality find their origin in arrangements of atoms in our brains, then they can no more be called ?true,? Lewis observed, than can ?a vomit or a yawn.?

Lewis concludes that when Wells and other unbelievers say we ?ought to make a better world,? they have simply forgotten about their atheism. ?That is their glory,? he concludes. ?Holding a philosophy which excludes humanity, they yet remain human. At the sight of injustice, they throw all their Naturalism to the winds and speak like men and like men of genius. They know far better than they think they know.?

I?d love to ask the people behind masterpieces like ?Planet Earth,? or the unbelievers profiled in The Guardian, about this contradiction. Years ago, I had a similar conversation with a woman I was seated beside on an airplane. She had very strong moral opinions about all kinds of things, but scoffed at me, ?How can you believe in God!? I gently asked her why she believed in right and wrong. It was a fun conversation, and it made me realize that it is possible to affirm the human gut-level intuition about beauty and wonder and morality, while questioning where all of those things come from.

And if you haven?t read Lewis? masterful book ?Miracles,? add it to the list. If it?s been a while, it?s worth revisiting. Fair warning: unbelievers should beware. As Lewis himself said, ?A young man who wishes to remain a sound atheist cannot be too careful of his reading.? 

2021-02-05
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Three Years is Too Long

Three years ago, 110 Nigerian schoolgirls were abducted by terrorists from Boko Haram. After a month of negotiations with government authorities, 109 were returned to their families. The girl who was not returned was also the only Christian, 14-year-old Leah Sharibu. 

According to Boko Haram (or, as it calls itself, the Islamic State West African Province), Sharibu refused to convert to Islam, their precondition for her release. A few months later, Boko Haram announced that Sharibu and Alice Loksha Ngaddah, a Christian nurse kidnapped in March 2018, would be enslaved for life. 

The last time the world heard from Leah, she begged to be ?treated with compassion? and asked ?the government, particularly the president, to pity me and get me out of this serious situation.? Three years later, Leah remains a prisoner, a ?captive for Christ.?

Leah?s case is only one example of the kind of violence and oppression Nigerian Christians face every day, especially in the country?s mostly Muslim north. For years, Boko Haram and Muslim Fulani militants have killed, raped, kidnapped, and sought to ?cleanse? parts of northern Nigeria of its Christian population. The extent of violence has been vividly brought to life in an interactive calendar published by the International Committee on Nigeria (ICON), which tracks how many Nigerian Christians were killed, violated, injured, or abducted on any given day since Christmas of 2019. The scale is stunning.

The extent of what?s been dubbed the ?Silent Slaughter? of Nigerian Christians has prompted observers both inside and outside of the country to call it ?genocide.? However, because the response of the Nigerian government ranges from indifference to possible complicity, the best chance for relief rests on the efforts of Christians and other concerned people will organize, agitate and, most of all, pray. 

Last year, the International Committee on Nigeria hosted a virtual summit to bring awareness to the crisis there. I was privileged to join former NFL star Benjamin Watson, former U.S. Representative Frank Wolf, and then-Representative Tulsi Gabbard on a panel for that event. In addition to the tremendous work of ICON, there is also the aptly named LEAH Foundation.

Named for the young girl still held by Boko Haram, ?LEAH? is an acronym that stands for ?Leadership,? ?Advocacy,? ?Empowerment,? and ?Humanitarian.? This advocacy for girls like Leah and others who have been attacked and/or kidnapped by groups like Boko Haram is incredibly important. As Open Door?s most recent report highlighted, sexual violence, including abduction, is the chief threat faced by Christian women around the world. The LEAH Foundation is also working to establish places where girls like Leah can, when released, find a home, provisions, and an education. But first, Leah must be freed. 

To mark the upcoming third anniversary of her abduction, the LEAH Foundation is launching a seven-day campaign to draw international attention to her story, and to the plight of Nigerian Christians. The campaign will run from February 13th to 19th and is built around prayer and a livestream event. Each day?s prayers will focus on specific issues. For instance, on the 13th, the prayers will be centered on Leah?s family. The following day, we will pray for her to be encouraged. Other days, we will pray that world leaders will act, for the defeat of terrorism in Nigeria, and, of course, for other girls in captivity. The campaign will culminate on February 19th with a three-hour streaming event on Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter. Or, if you come to BreakPoint.org, we?ll link you to it.  

?Three years is too long.? The indifference of much of the world to the abduction and enslavement of Leah and to the ongoing violence in Nigeria must stop. Come to BreakPoint.org, and I will link you to the LEAH Foundation?s 7 Days of Prayer.

2021-02-04
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Does Censorship Strangle Christian Witness? - Ask BreakPoint

John and Shane are asked how Christians can remain faithful with culture pressuring for compliance. A doctor and a parent have similar questions related to recognizing gender transitions. John provides a structure to think and live in challenging times.

Another listener writes in to ask how Christians should respond with censorship challenging opportunities to live life with a Christian perspective. Shane provides some hard truths that provide an understanding on how Christians can move forward in the face of opposition. 

To close John engages the recent developments with online trading and financial markets. He pulls back from the issue to identify the root causes of sin and how we're seeing brokenness on display in the tumult of the financial markets.

2021-02-03
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The Void No Robot Can Fill

In 2010, a company called Hanson Robotics spent more than a hundred hours interviewing a woman named Bina. They collected memories of her childhood, noted her emotional reactions and mannerisms, uploaded the data into a mechanical bust that looked like the real Bina, and then programmed the robot to answer questions in real time. Robot Bina now resides in a research lab. Real-life Bina?s partner said the venture was a shot at ?immortality.?

Recently, Hanson Robotics announced plans to release thousands of what they?re calling ?Sophia? robots. Sophia is a ?social robot? that can perform rudimentary medical tasks, like taking a person?s temperature, but can also make facial expressions and utter a few phrases. According to company CEO David Hanson, ?Sophia? is programmed to offer ?human warmth? and is being released this year in order to help especially elderly people who are living in isolation due to the pandemic.

Back in 1984, in her provocative book The Second Self, MIT professor Sherry Turkle made a prediction. It was a prediction that seems obvious today but was pretty bold at the time. She predicted that computers would become more than just tools of mathematical calculation and increasingly become places where we live our lives. A decade or so later, in a book entitled Life on the Screen, Turkle predicted that we?d soon move beyond merely living some of our lives on the internet to creating entirely new, different, and multiple lives on the internet. So far, Turkle is two for two.

Turkle?s third book, titled Alone Together, wasn?t written until 2011. In it, she made another prediction. She believed that a culture so accustomed to digital life and so bad at human relationships would not be able to resist replacing those relationships with artificial intelligence. Again, Turkle got it right. The difference between this book and her previous two was that Turkle?s optimism about where technology was taking us was gone.

Sophia the Robot is Turkle?s prediction plugged in and turned on, with an important clarification: Hanson Robotics didn?t make Sophia just because they could. They?re capitalizing on something in our culture that needs to be recognized. We?re failing each other.

In Alone Together, Turkle predicted that a culture obsessed with convenience would grow increasingly averse to the inconvenience of love. The rise in family estrangement during 2020 is just one piece of supporting evidence. Why bear with people when a robot that looks like a person can give us everything we think we want without all the neediness? A booming market for human-like artificial intelligence isn?t just a sign that we?re expecting too much from robots. As Turkle says in her subtitle, we?re also expecting too little from each other. Maybe that?s because we?re giving too little to each other.

Also priming the global marketplace for companion robots are almost universally low birth rates. Japan?s plummeting birth rate means an increasing number of citizens have no extended family or even siblings. Chuck Colson talked about this all the way back in 2005, when a Japanese company began selling lifelike baby dolls to the lonely elderly. A childless society, Colson said, learns too late that it?s created a void no ?toy? can fill. Neither can Sophia the robot.

There?s also a deeper moral problem with these ?humanoid? robots. The sexual revolution separated body from soul, pretending to elevate the body but actually degrading bodies into mere objects to be used for pleasure. Christians also sometimes make a similar mistake when they treat the body as an ?obstacle? to a truly ?spiritual? life.

An honest reading of the Bible, however, reveals Christianity to be what author Christopher West calls an ?en-fleshed? faith. As he says in his book Our Bodies Tell God?s Story, God created His image-bearers with bodies and souls. To try to separate the two is to reject His design. 

To replace a real human-to-human relationship with an artificially intelligent robot is to also separate body and soul. Except, instead of looking for bodies without souls, we?re looking for souls without bodies.

Of course, no collection of charming phrases, human-like movements, injected life memories, or empathetic facial expressions will be an image-bearer. Interactions with Sophia robots may be interesting or even impressive. Sophia 2.0 and 3.0 may be even more ?life-like? in different ways. We might find a human facsimile that never ages, is never demanding, and always there when we need it quite convenient. However, more convenient isn?t the same as better.

The greatest commandments, to ?Love God? and ?love our neighbors as ourselves,? are almost so familiar they?re boring. But, in the land of the blind, the one-eyed man is king. In the land of humanoid robots, someone who knows how to actually love another can change everything.

2021-02-03
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Proverbs

The more 2021 resembles 2020, the more Christians should be grounded in those unchanging truths given us in Scripture. We must rest on the revelations that make sense of our cultural moment: that Christ is risen, that Christ is Lord, and that Christ is making all things new. God has placed each of us and this time and in this place. It is here and it is now that He wants us. He wants us to participate with Him as agents of reconciliation in His larger story of redemption.

To do this well, especially in light of the chaos of 2020, we are going to have to recalibrate. And as Paul told Timothy, this exactly the point of Holy Scripture. ?All Scripture is God breathed,? he wrote, ?and is useful for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting and for training in righteousness.? Isn?t that exactly the trajectory we need right now? To know what's right, to be confronted when we are wrong, and to be turned around to start again on the right path?

That?s why each Wednesday at 10:30 Eastern until Easter, the Colson Center is hosting a time of guided prayer online with a particular focus on the wisdom of the book of Proverbs. The book of Proverbs is straight-forward. That?s one of the reasons I love it so much. It's not some kind of esoteric, hard to understand, ?spiritual wisdom? that's offered in the holy books of many faiths. Proverbs gets right to the point and shoots you right between the eyes.

Each week?s prayer time begins with prayer, and then it ends with prayer. It?s centered on how we can pray in light of the instruction of a particular proverb. For example, here's my good friend Sean McDowell, whose reflection on Proverbs 25:15 hit me right where I needed:

 

One of the proverbs that has jumped out to me over the past year and a half, and one that I've been thinking about a lot as the temperature in our culture is increasing, is Proverbs 25:15. The ESV reads, ?With patience, A ruler may be persuaded and a soft tongue will break a bone.?

I love that this is not an isolated proverb. There are themes throughout Scripture about kindness, about tenderness, and about patience. It seems to me that we've lost some of those lessons today in the Church. Rather than being patient, we are quick to anger, but in the letter to the Romans, it's God's loving kindness that draws us to repentance. Proverbs 15:1 tells us that a soft word turns away anger. Christianity is not only true, but what it offers to the world uniquely is truth and grace.

I think Proverbs 25:15 represents a small step of showing grace to people in and outside the Church that, frankly, today people don't expect. It catches them off guard. Here are a couple insights about this proverb.

First, this proverb reminds us that some change only takes place with patience. We should be thinking more about the long term than how do we fix this by tomorrow, or even next year, or maybe even five years. The second thing that it says patience is long-suffering, meaning that the process can be painful to see change take place. This is certainly true for athletes, but it's true spiritually.

Now this proverb not only talks about patience but talks about ?a ruler.? I love this. Obviously, the writer was thinking more of a king or maybe the nobles of his day, but ?ruler? today is really anybody with authority. Those in the government or those in the university system, or maybe those in Hollywood. These people, in a sense, rule our culture.

The proverb says they may be persuaded. I don?t know about you, but I look at certain leaders and I?m tempted to think they?re beyond hope. They can?t be saved; they?re gone. But, then I started thinking, ?This is such a human perspective.? This passage says rulers can be persuaded. That?s a good reminder.

That was Sean McDowell leading a time of guided prayer with his reflections on Proverbs 25:15. To watch Sean?s entire devotional, come to BreakPoint.org/Proverbs. While you're there, register to join us each and every Wednesday from now until Easter. All sessions are recorded, so if you can't join us during the live release, the video will be available to watch and share later. Tomorrow?s session will be led by my friend Trevin Wax, followed next week Erin Kunkel and Sarah Stonestreet of the Colson Center?s Strong Women Podcast.

2021-02-02
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A Soft Word Breaks a Bone - Proverbs with Sean McDowell

Sean McDowell shares an important proverb in the Time of Guided Prayer led by the Colson Center.

Dr. Sean McDowell is a gifted communicator with a passion for equipping the church, and in particular young people, to make the case for the Christian faith. In addition to his role as Associate Professor in the Christian Apologetics program at Talbot School of Theology, Biola University, Sean travels throughout the United States and abroad, speaking at camps, churches, schools, universities, and conferences. Sean is the co-host for the Think Biblically podcast, which is one of the most popular podcasts on faith and cultural engagement. He has written, co-written, or edited more than twenty books and has a leading apologetics blogs at seanmcdowell.org. In April 2000, Sean married his high school sweetheart, Stephanie. They have three children and live in San Juan Capistrano, California.

2021-02-01
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Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth

Michael Agapito?s recent book review at ChristianityToday.com vividly illustrates one of the challenges Christians face when trying to apply their faith to issues of injustice. After praising much about Thaddeus Williams? new book Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth, in particular his commitment to not diminish or dismiss Biblical mandates for Christians to work toward justice and to rightly prioritize social justice efforts in light of the salvation message, Agapito offers a lukewarm review. His concern, even after admitting Williams? book explicitly states otherwise, is that ?some will use it as an excuse to remain overtly comfortable with the status quo.?

In other words, even raising (and much less) answering questions (as Williams? book brilliantly does) about the way social justice is defined and pursued today is to be guilty of enabling the detractors, even if you clearly and repeatedly state otherwise (as Williams? book brilliantly does). This kind of critique of those who want to be sure their efforts align with Scripture is unhelpful and far too common.

Now, let me attempt to be as clear as Scripture is: God cares about justice. The prophet Amos proclaims, ?let justice roll down like waters, and righteousness like an ever-flowing stream.? The prophet then cites very specific examples of injustice. He condemns Israel for its mistreatment of the poor. He cites corrupt practices such as false testimony, bribery, and favoritism in the courts.

As is true throughout Scripture, ?justice? is no abstract concept. Many of the prophets all but equate Israel?s failure of justice with religious infidelity as reasons for the exile and other punishments they face. As Micah famously put it, ?He has told you, O man, what is good; and what the Lord requires of you, to do justice, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.?

One of the great contributions of Christianity to human history is the very idea that all people should be treated justly. As the influence of Christianity spread across the world, God?s instructions for how Israel should treat the poor and the disabled and the unborn and the foreigner spread as well. Today, both inside and outside of the church, demands to address injustices are ubiquitous.

The problem is that radical, problematic views undergird so many calls for justice today. Too many social ?causes? assume things about justice, God, morality, and who we are as human beings that simply aren?t true. And, most of these ignore or deny the only idea that has ever been able to ground human dignity, that every human is made in the image of God.

Today, because of the legacy of postmodern ideas about oppression and the wide application of critical theory, justice is largely understood only in terms of power dynamics. Because words like ?social justice? and ?oppression? are so often wrongly defined, many Christians have abandoned the biblical call to care about victims of injustice or work toward addressing social evils. Not only is that tragic, not only does this compromise the message of Christianity to the world, but it puts us out of touch with biblical teaching, and Christians throughout history (think of individuals such as William Wilberforce).

That?s the dilemma, and I?ve honestly been waiting for a resource would clearly and carefully walk through how we can work for justice from the solid foundation that every person is made in the image of God. I?m pleased to say that Thaddeus J. Williams?s new book, Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth is that resource.

As Williams writes, ?The problem is not with the quest for social justice. The problem is what happens when that quest is undertaken from a framework that is not compatible with the Bible. Today many Christians accept conclusions that are generated from madness machines that are wired with very different presuppositions about reality than those we find in Scripture.?

Williams addresses on our culture?s preoccupation with ?wokeness,? critical race theory, and emotivism, without letting us off the hook from our Christian responsibilities to love God and to love our neighbors (all of them).

After all, Christians are always at their best when running into the brokenness not away from it, when we are caring for the victims of bad ideas while we walk humbly with our God.

During the month of February, I would love to send you Confronting Injustice Without Compromising Truth by Thaddeus Williams for your next gift to BreakPoint and the Colson Center.

Come to breakpoint.org/February2021 to request your copy today. Again, that?s Breakpoint.org/February2021 to get your copy today.

2021-02-01
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Will the Church Have a Share of Power in China? - BreakPoint This Week

It's likely that there will be 300 million Christians in China by 2030, up from 75-100 million Christians estimated in China in 2020. That is a three-fold increase.

When the Communist Party in China took over in 1949 there were only 4 million Christians in China.During the reign of Mao, the total number of Christians didn't exceed 4million. Since the death of Mao in 1976, Christianity has grown at the same rate as the Chinese economy, 7-8% per year.

The church grows from a mustard seed. Christian's don't only live lives that are different from their neighbors, but better. John and Shane discuss how Communism isn't big enough to handle the holy spirit, neighborliness, and even grace. 

John and Shane also discuss new Presidential executive actions and the state of persecution in the church.

2021-01-30
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Your Family Needs You (And You Need Them)

Earlier this month, in a piece for The Atlantic, Joshua Coleman described an epidemic that?s not COVID but that?s also afflicting America: family estrangement. As a psychologist who specializes in family therapy, Coleman reports that his practice is flooded with older parents mourning the loss of contact with their grown children and with grown children angry and hurt by conflict with parents. ?The rules of family life have changed,? he said.

The more recent changes in family structures and dynamics he described have only added to the pressure already felt by earlier stressors. For example, the Industrial Revolution, which moved work from inside the home to out, completely upended family life in all kinds of ways. The more recent forces of family estrangement, on the other hand, don?t come so much from the outside as from the inside.

Coleman quotes Stephanie Coontz, the Director of Research at the Council on Contemporary Families, to clarify this point:

?Never before have family relationships been seen as so interwoven with the search for personal growth, the pursuit of happiness, and the need to confront and overcome psychological obstacles.?

This shift is bigger than we might suspect. Coontz continues,

?For most of history family relationships were based on mutual obligations rather than on mutual understanding. Parents or children might reproach the other for failing to honor/acknowledge their duty, but the idea that a relative could be faulted for failing to honor/acknowledge one?s ?identity? would have been incomprehensible? (emphasis added).

In other words, we used to understand our families in light of our duties to them. Now we are increasingly understanding our families in light of their duty to us. What?s more, we increasingly think that their primary duty is to make us happy. 

Haven?t we seen this same sort of approach play out in other areas of our lives? ?My spouse and my marriage should make me happy.? If not, divorce is the only answer, no matter how it impacts the children. ?My church should make me happy (and agree with all of my opinions).? If not, I?ll find another one, maybe online. ?My work should leave me fulfilled.? If not, it?s my work?s fault. 

The same pop psychology, self-care, find-your-bliss platitudes are plastered all over social media: get rid of ?toxic? people in your life who make you feel unhappy. Surround yourself only with ?positivity.? Don?t let other people suck the ?energy? out of you. Not only is it good to ditch the people you don?t like, social media will give you the impression that it actually makes you brave and laudable and strong.

All of this is, of course, a nearly perfect inverse of biblical counsel. From Paul in Ephesians 4: ?Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love.? Paul assumes that living with others requires some ?bearing with,? which probably implies that we require some ?bearing with,? as well.

Family members make mistakes, of course. In cases of abuse, severing a relationship may be necessary and justified. Sometimes, however, our family members are simply annoying. Maybe they merely point out where we?ve gone wrong, and there are times parents warn children off a dangerous path because of their own painful experiences. To automatically confuse tough love or even disagreement with being ?toxic? is not only to serve our own pride, it?s foolishly to sacrifice an essential relationship.

We need the wisdom and care that only comes from those who know us best. We need what Proverbs calls ?the faithful wounds of a friend? (Prov 27:6). In this fallen world, families will never be perfect, but God designed them to be the first and best safety net we should all have.

Over the last several years, the generation gap has clearly widened, especially over three issues: sex, technology, and Trump. Over the last year, COVID and masks have been added to that list. All of these issues matter, of course, and there aren?t ?two sides? to all of them, but these relational splits in our families ? not to mention our churches and friendships ? are too often not born out of wisdom, and certainly not out of the biblical instructions for how we should treat our families, but out of a social media, YouTube comments-section sort of mentality. 

The family is a sacred design that was gifted to us by God. We ought not squander it. We have duty to serve it. If we do, it will be another way for Christians to be counter-cultural, another way for us to live for something bigger than ourselves and our own happiness.

2021-01-29
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?My Octopus Teacher? and the God-shaped Hole in Every Human Heart

The new Netflix film, ?My Octopus Teacher,? is hard to categorize. It?s not exactly a nature documentary, nor is it strictly narrative storytelling, and the title is strange enough by itself. Still, this movie by documentary filmmaker Craig Foster has garnered glowing reviews and has become extremely popular on social media.

The movie follows Foster who, in the midst of a personal crisis, decides to snorkel in the kelp forest near his South African home every day for a year.

I doubt I was the only one whose first thought was, ?Wow, it must be nice to have a breathtaking coastal home where personal therapy takes the form of a year of snorkeling.?

And that?s just the first thing that makes the show?s popularity puzzling--especially in this culture, which analyzes all of our problems, every political issue, and even the identity and value of individual people in terms of who has privilege and who doesn?t. Just last week, Kim Kardashian was widely panned for posting a picture of a beautiful beach with the caption ?paradise,? without duly noting how privileged she was to be there. Though it?s difficult to see ?My Octopus Teacher? without noting that cultural tension, it?s also refreshing to see a person with clear privilege choosing not to dwell on it.

Still, ?My Octopus Teacher? isn?t a movie about privilege. It?s about, wait for it, an octopus! Foster first comes across the animal in the very early days of his year of snorkeling, and he?s mesmerized. Thanks to the engaging narration and cinematography, it?s hard not to be mesmerized along with him.

Octopi are incredible. And strange. They have this ability to go from something solid to almost liquid in a matter of seconds. The thousands of suction cups on the outside of their bodies are like a second brain. In fact, two-thirds of their cognition happen there, according to scientists.

Throughout the film, we see Foster?s octopus friend swim like a fish, walk like a dog, and play games like a kid. She changes colors. When she loses an arm in a shark attack, we watch it grow back. In simpler terms, Craig Foster?s true privilege is one that God uniquely endows on His image bearers: the opportunity to marvel at God?s extravagant creativity and the fact that He lets us live in a world like this.

The other lesson in ?My Octopus Teacher? comes from Foster?s attempts to explain his obsession. ?I just wanted to know this octopus,? he says. ?I just wondered - what would happen if I went to the same spot, every day, for a year?? So, he does. He followed that octopus around every day, and each night, he went home to study more about her.

His obsession seems strange, to be sure, but it?s also a poignant picture of a person looking for something outside of himself in a culture where most voices tell us to look inside. Even more, what if we approached God in this way? What if we became so obsessed with knowing Him that we spent our time and energy essentially stalking Him every single day, through reading the Bible, prayer, and serving others?

And, what if we came to God with the same sense of expectation Foster had underwater? He was painfully deliberate to not impose himself in the octopus?s life. He wanted to know her, but he knew she had to decide whether to reveal herself to him. The good news is that God wants us to know Him. After all, consider the incredible lengths He has gone to in order to make Himself known, in His word, in His world, and especially in His Son. 

Still, it is a particular discipline to not approach God with what Jesus called ?many words? (Mt 6:7), and instead to ?be still and know? that He is God (Ps 46:10).

Foster never really understood the octopus. Though God?s ways are higher than ours, and our ability to understand Him will always be limited, God is knowable. We will never know Him exhaustively, but we can know Him truthfully. 

St. Augustine said, ?You have formed us for Yourself, O God, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in You.? ?My Octopus Teacher? is a strange movie, but Foster?s film is a fascinating portrayal of the ?God-shaped hole? in every human heart. To become obsessed with God, to follow him around like He?s the answer to our troubles, to wait for Him to show Himself to us, is the only way for our hearts to be filled and at rest.

2021-01-28
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Why Are Christians Upset When The President Gets Their Theology Wrong? - BreakPoint Q&A

John and Shane field a series of thought-provoking questions this week. One listener wrote in asking why Christians are concerned with how people of faith in important positions hold and communicate their theology. Another listener asked an important question about end-of-life care and advanced directives, looking for a Christian worldview thinking structure to hang all of the new technologies and realities we have with life and end-of-life care. 

The first question John and Shane fielded was from a professional whose current career may come into a conscience conflict. John and Shane provide strong understanding to stand strong in the culture stream.

2021-01-27
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Finding Meaning in Life Is Good for Your Health

In his book Man?s Search for Meaning, Viktor Frankl wrote, ?Those who have a ?why? to live, can bear with almost any ?how.?? Both the book and its most famous quote were products of an incredibly difficult experience. During World War II, Frankl and his family were deported from their native Vienna to various concentration camps, including Auschwitz. He was the only member of his family to survive. 

Frankl knew just how unbearable the ?how? of life could be. And yet, as Frankl explained, humans are meaning-seeking creatures. We want to believe that there?s more to life than meeting our basic survival needs of food, water, shelter, and safety. Even more, we need this to be true. Otherwise, ours becomes a purely animal existence. Despite all the zoo placards and biology textbooks assuring us that humans are just animals, we certainly don?t act like survival and promulgating the species are all that matters.

Without meaning, hope is difficult, if not impossible. At best, without meaning, we resort to a kind of detachment and resignation. At worst, we resort to self-harm, violence, or even suicide.

On the other hand, the benefits of meaning extend well beyond psychological and spiritual health. As a recent article in the Washington Post reports, a sense of purpose and meaning brings physical benefits as well. Believing that one?s ?existence has meaning? is linked to lower levels of the stress hormone cortisol and lower levels of heart inflammation. One study found that having a ?clear purpose in life? can slow the impact of Alzheimer?s in older patients. Another metanalysis of various studies even suggested that having a purpose in life can lower risk of death equally as well as following the ?Mediterranean diet.?

Of course, finding this kind of life-changing and life-extending purpose isn?t as straightforward as changing a diet or starting a new exercise routine. An essential place to begin is the opening sentence of Rick Warren?s The Purpose Drive Life: ?It?s not about you.? Purpose is not found by looking inward; it?s found by looking outward and is manifested in what we do for others. Among the examples cited by the Post article were volunteering, donating to charity, and ?joining a group of people who share your values.? What all of these ideas have in common is that they remove us, for however long, from the center of our personal universe. 

Of course, nothing turns our perspective outward (and upward) like faith in Jesus Christ. I don?t mean the consumerist, therapeutic kind of inward-looking religion that too often passes for Christianity these days. I mean something along the lines of what Paul told the Corinthians: ?And [Christ] died for all, so that those who live might live no longer for themselves, but for him who died and was raised for them? (2 Cor 5:15).

Living for the One who died and rose again not only removes us from the center of our own universe, but aligns our hearts and minds with what is actually true about the universe: that it belongs to God and that our purpose is given by Him not determined by us. True faith locates our lives in this cultural moment within the larger story of God, and how He is fulfilling His purposes throughout each chapter of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. When we no longer see our lives and actions as isolated, we realize they are part of the story and even the means by which God is restoring all things.  

Knowing this doesn?t make the ?how? any easier, as my colleague Shane Morris recently testified on BreakPoint. Paul told the Corinthians that toil, hardship, sleepless nights, hunger, thirst, and anxiety were his lot as an apostle of Jesus Christ. But he also knew that his suffering wasn?t meaningless. Neither, for that matter, was his success. 

Despite and even through them, God?s purposes were being fulfilled. This is the ultimate ?why.? This message is not only true; it?s worth sharing, especially in a world where, for so many, meaning has been lost and the best efforts to manufacture meaning fall short. 

2021-01-27
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Never Let a Crisis Go to Waste

The devastation of the COVID-19 pandemic is still being tallied, both in terms of lives and livelihoods lost. In addition to the millions of dead, the millions more who?ve been infected (including some who face long-term physical damage), there?s the psychological and emotional harm of extended isolation and the millions who face financial ruin. In the midst of all of that, we are now learning of another, less obvious, but just as deadly fallout from the pandemic.

Each January, Open Doors, an organization committed to ?serving persecuted Christians worldwide,? releases their World Watch List. The list documents the 50 countries where it is most dangerous to be a Christian, highlights global trends in religious persecution and provides unique insights into the global persecuted church.

In many ways, the 2021 report resembles those of previous years. North Korea is still at the top of the list, followed by Afghanistan. As in previous years, the list is dominated by either Communist governments or overwhelmingly Islamic countries. Christian persecution in these countries may take the form of discrimination, restrictions on religious practice, imprisonment, violence, or killings. The persecution may come at the hands of the state or at the hands of private actors with the state looking the other way.

However, the 2021 World Watch List does differ from those in previous years in a very important way. The COVID-19 pandemic has, and I quote, ?exposed the ugliness of Christian persecution in a new way.?

For example, in India, COVID-19 food relief has been used by some radical Hindu government officials to pressure Indian Christians to renounce their faith. In some regions of India, Christians are last in line to receive aid, including food. As a result, some Christians there are being forced to travel long distances in order to receive help. Some are forced to hide their Christian identity. Similar reports are emerging from other countries around the world, including Myanmar, Nepal, Vietnam, Malaysia, Yemen, and Sudan.

In some parts of Pakistan, the combination of COVID-19 and anti-Christian discrimination have wiped out Christian-owned businesses. Christians already struggling to make ends meet have found their Muslim neighbors using the coronavirus as a pretext to shut them down altogether. In the Kaduna State of Nigeria, Christians who were already facing genocidal violence at the hands of Islamists and Fulani herdsmen are, according to Open Doors, receiving only one-sixth of the rations allocated to Muslim families.

In addition to the health and economic pressures, authoritarian governments around the world have used COVID-19 to consolidate power and further restrict religious activities they deem to be a threat to their authority. In China, a series of ?strange and anonymous? messages on social media blamed Christian religious activities for a rise in COVID-19 in Hebei province. It was fake news, but it still put Christians in the crosshairs of local authorities looking for an excuse to crack down on their activities.

China?s legendary surveillance capability was used to prevent the spread of the coronavirus. Already well on the way to implementing a tyrannical ?social credit system? to monitor the loyalty and compliance of its citizens, during COVID, China has used surveillance to further scrutinize Christians and other religious minorities. Similarly, India, which has been steadily moving up the World Watch List in recent years, had already created what?s been called the most sophisticated ID program in the world, AADHAAR. Nearly 40 percent of the world?s population live in these two countries, countries that are already hostile to Christians and are actively perfecting ways to surveil their populations. To call it ominous would be an understatement.

Open Doors is right to warn us how COVID opportunism and the potential danger of ?creeping surveillance? threatens religious freedom. Please, pray for persecuted Christians around the world. If you come to BreakPoint.org, I will link you to Open Doors 2021 World Watch List. It will help you pray in a more informed manner. And please, share it widely, especially with your pastor and elected officials.

2021-01-26
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Christian Nationalism and Christian Hope

A couple of weeks ago, the British left-leaning magazine The Guardian breathlessly proclaimed, ?[E]xperts are warning the US is facing a wave of rightwing ?Christian nationalist? legislation in 2021, as the religious right aims to thrust Christianity into everyday American life.?

And what nefarious legislation will ?thrust Christianity in everyday life?? Prolife laws designed to protect the unborn, religious liberty protections for Christian organizations, and other things advocated by Christians long before anyone had ever heard of Christian Nationalism.

That this term, ?Christian Nationalism,? has become a one-size-fits-all label for whole swaths of the country, especially since the violence in the U.S. Capitol on January 6th, shouldn?t surprise anyone. As images from that day reveal, there were plenty of Christians flags and symbols flying alongside Old Glory and pro-Trump banners. The ?symbology? was heavy and indicative, as Andrew Walker told me on a recent BreakPoint Podcast, of a fusion of Christianity and the nation.

For many on the right, the connection seems obvious, especially those who think of America as God?s primary agent in the world. And, for many on the left, it seems just as obvious: Christianity is bigoted, dangerous, and outdated in modern society.

In a sense, this kind of conflict isn't unusual. Throughout history, nations have tied their faith, secular or religious, to their flag. Ancient kings draped their wars in divine sanction, medieval monarchs cried ?God wills it!? and 20th century dictators claimed that an overarching ?History? or ?Science? was on their side. America isn?t even the only Western nation whose founding documents and hymns are full of Biblical references and appeals to God for protection.

Even so, much of the American story makes our own experience distinctive. From the ?City on a Hill? language of the first Puritan colonists (an idea often misunderstood by both Christians and antagonists), to the revolutionary fervor of 1776, to the religious revivals in both camps during the Civil War, to the world wars of the 20th century and our overtly atheistic foe of the Cold War, to American Christianity?s focus on the End Times, to the strong sense of Divine destiny, America?s history is very religious.

All together, this history has left America with a civil religion, something profoundly helpful for social cohesion but not always good for theological orthodoxy. Whenever the truth of the gospel is watered down for the sake of political or national unity, it isn?t long before politics and nationality are all that matters.

Let's be clear: no nation, no party, and no politician is indispensable for the advance or well-being of Kingdom of God. God works through individuals and nations, but His plans endure regardless of the success of nations and worldly kingdoms.

This leaves Christians with a two-fold problem. First is the often well-meaning but always-misguided tendency to conflate our nation and our faith. Any time the good of our country is the ends and the Kingdom of God is the means, we are guilty of idolatry. Especially in an age such as ours, Christians must check and recheck (and re-recheck) our hearts and words to make sure we only render to Caesar what belongs to him, and always reserve for God what is His.

Our second problem is when the scare label "Christian Nationalism," is used to dismiss any policy or person more conservative than whoever is using the term. As seen in the The Guardian, we?re all but guaranteed for the near future that anything vaguely traditional or moral, and any appeal to anything higher than the latest cultural fad, will be smeared with this label. It?s silly. Even more, it?s dangerous.

Even so, Christians must not abandon the public square just because people say mean things about us. Our God-given call to be faithful to Him above our nation also means He?s called us to be faithful to Him in our nation, at this time and in this place. Neither the excesses in the name of Christ or those who attempt to ban His people from public life remove this calling from us.

Also, and this will be tougher, we mustn?t let the animosity leave us embittered or in despair. As Richard John Neuhaus said, Christians ?have not the right to despair, for despair is a sin. And we have not the reason to despair, quite simply because Christ is risen.?

2021-01-25
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Big Tech, Censorship, And the Christian Worldview with Klon Kitchen - BreakPoint Podcast

Klon Kitchen is Director of The Heritage Foundation's Center for Technology Policy. He explains the background surrounding recent censorship of Donald Trump, Parler, and Q-Anon, sharing a logical path that led to de-platforming of many conservatives and conservative organizations. 

Klon provides further understanding on the issues surrounding censorship in technology, providing a Christian apologetic to participating and engaging the challenges around recent decisions from powerful technology companies. Klon helps us understand the purpose of the government in the technology space, helping us understand roles, functions, and protections.

To close, Klon gives listeners an understanding how Christians can and possibly should respond to the recent actions on social platforms. He provides perspective on suppression and oppression as Christians look to the future.

Resources: 
Klon Kitchen Article Section 230: Mend It Don't End It

2021-01-25
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Civil Religion in America and Its Foundation in Christianity - BreakPoint This Week

When President Biden quoted St. Augustine and Scripture in his inaugural address, he was doing what almost every President before him has done: drawing on America's Christian tradition. Today on "BreakPoint This week," John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss America's "civil religion," the shared values of liberty and the dignity of all--but firmly rooted in Christianity. Ironically enough, even those vehemently opposed to Christianity in the public square (or opposed to causes Christians feel passionately about, such as protecting the unborn) profess these values, even though they are nonsensical outside of a Christian understanding of God's created order.

Also on today's episode: The rise in deaths from despair and acts of desperation; the plague of pornography; and the thinning of civil society,

As for their recommendations of the week, Shane slips into a Southern twang as he sings the praises of the folk group The Arcadian Wild and their decidedly Christian themes.

And John invites us all to join in with the Colson Center every Wednesday morning through March 31st for a time of guided prayer for our nation, informed by the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs.

2021-01-22
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Civil Religion in America and Its Foundation in Christianity - BreakPoint This Week

When President Biden quoted St. Augustine and Scripture in his inaugural address, he was doing what almost every President before him has done: drawing on America's Christian tradition. Today on "BreakPoint This week," John Stonestreet and Shane Morris discuss America's "civil religion," the shared values of liberty and the dignity of all--but firmly rooted in Christianity. Ironically enough, even those vehemently opposed to Christianity in the public square (or opposed to causes Christians feel passionately about, such as protecting the unborn) profess these values, even though they are nonsensical outside of a Christian understanding of God's created order.

Also on today's episode: The rise in deaths from despair and acts of desperation; the plague of pornography; and the thinning of civil society,

As for their recommendations of the week, Shane slips into a Southern twang as he sings the praises of the folk group The Arcadian Wild and their decidedly Christian themes.

And John invites us all to join in with the Colson Center every Wednesday morning through March 31st for a time of guided prayer for our nation, informed by the wisdom of the Book of Proverbs.

2021-01-22
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The Power of Redemptive Suffering

Recently, I?ve had occasion to ponder suffering in a deeper way than ever before. I say this not because the situation I?m in is worse than it has ever been, but because I?ve become more familiar with the true character of suffering. It isn?t about circumstances. Not really.

As pro-life author Stephanie Gray Connors explained in our recent conversation on the Upstream Podcast, suffering is the gulf between what we desperately want and what we actually have?between (for instance) the healing for which we pour out our hearts in prayer night after night and the apparent silence that answers from Heaven. My family?s return to this familiar and dreaded gulf occasions suffering precisely because it is so familiar?We thought we?d learned the lessons God intended to teach us by this. How much more gold could He possibly refine out of us?

No, I?ve realized that suffering isn?t about circumstances. It?s about the fear that your circumstances are meaningless?that God has abandoned you. I?ve always thought that anyone could suffer indefinitely if they clearly understood and believed in the purpose they were accomplishing. But what if there is no purpose?

What if you?ve learned every conceivable lesson and undergone every imaginable sanctification and the drumbeat of sorrow continues, with no end in sight? What do you do when the spiritual shepherds who assured you God was preparing a weight of glory through your momentary affliction stammer and look away, no longer able to meet your questions?

According to Connors, you stop asking ?why?? and start asking ?what?? That is, ?What good can I bring out of this situation??

Two months ago, I might have dismissed this reframing as trite and Pollyannaish?as a clunky way of chirping, ?Look for the silver lining!? But now I?m not so sure. We Christians may have done a great disservice to each other by framing the New Testament?s words about suffering as behavior-modification. After all, if God is trying to sanctify us in the sense of weaning us off sin and self, then suffering ought to be more evenly distributed. I don?t presume to know how much dross is left in anyone?s soul, but surely it?s time for God to go work the bellows on someone else.

Again and again I asked these kinds of questions. ?Why, why, why?? But I never asked ?What?? As in, ?What if this is the Kingdom work He called me to do??

Connors draws inspiration from Holocaust survivor and psychiatrist Viktor Frankl, who said that humans, by nature, have the capacity to draw meaning from any situation. ?Whatever circumstances we find ourselves in,? Connors paraphrases, ?the last of the freedoms that can never be taken from us is the freedom to choose how we respond to the situation.? Our response to suffering, she says, can ?unleash beauty and creativity?things that are really affirming to what it means not only to be human, but to image God.?

The reason Christ crucified is the ultimate answer to both sin and sorrow isn?t simply that His death absolves us of guilt, although it certainly does. Jesus triumphed in His agony by introducing into our fallen world something it could not possibly swallow: the infinite creative power of redemptive suffering.

To lay down your life for a loved one?to keep on turning pages when the story seems to be over? to clutch your faith on that fourth 2 AM drive to the hospital?to look up from your wheelchair and sing like Joni Eareckson Tada?these responses to suffering shake our sin-wracked world and silence the demands for intellectual answers. They do this by following the pattern God established when He gave us His Son instead of a clever theodicy.

Our Father is not preparing us for a future battle. We?re in the thick of it right now. And our faithfulness and love for one another in the fray are, you know, kind of the point. But this raises a fearful possibility?one that C. S. Lewis explored in his essay, ?On the Efficacy of Prayer?: What if our kinship with Christ runs as deep as the ancient martyrs believed? What if the strongest Christians should expect the heaviest crosses? What if we are not just likely but certain to find ourselves crying along with Jesus, ?My God, My God, why have you forsaken me??

As Lewis concluded, ?There is a mystery here which, even if I had the power, I might not have the courage to explore.? Perhaps the path to meaning inevitably runs through suffering, and always has. In that case it?s comforting to know Someone has blazed the trail.

2021-01-22
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The Lost Virtue of Patience

Chuck Colson liked to say that the Kingdom of God will never arrive on Air Force One. It?s still true. Any reprieve the last few years in the areas of religious liberty and the sanctity of life is coming to an end, and recent events should make the truth of Chuck?s statement obvious. Whether politics are upstream or downstream from culture (and the right answer is that it?s really both), it is not the vehicle for lasting cultural change.

In fact, the history of Christianity shows that lasting cultural change rarely comes about in ways we are expecting. Christian influence requires that Christians cultivate virtue in both our private and public lives. One virtue that once changed the world is patience.

In his book, The Patient Ferment of the Early Church, the late Mennonite historian Alan Kreider explained Christianity?s extraordinary rise from a beleaguered sect to the movement that transformed the Roman Empire.

As one reviewer of Kreider?s book put it, ?Christianity probably shouldn?t exist.? Not only did its Roman contemporaries hate the Church, but Christians didn?t make it easy to join up. With a stringent moral code and an extended period of catechesis prior to baptism, which only happened one a year around Easter, the Early Church wasn?t very ?seeker friendly.?

Yet, it grew.

Why? Surprisingly, it wasn?t because of an emphasis on evangelism, public preaching, or other missionary activities. The Church Fathers seldom wrote about those subjects, perhaps because they didn?t need to. But they did emphasize patience, which Kreider defined as ?not controlling events, not anxious or in a hurry, and never using force to achieve [their] ends.?

If this sounds like a boring and timid church-growth strategy, it wasn?t.

In the ancient world, patience was a trait associated with subordinates, such as slaves and victims. People at the bottom of the social hierarchy were expected to exercise patience, not those at the top. By emphasizing patience, the Church Fathers mobilized early Christians to be profoundly counter-cultural, which, to borrow a line from the Book of Acts, turned the world upside-down.

Patience, enacted in habits such as teaching and worship, produced the ?ferment? of Kreider?s title. People lived lives that were not only in marked contrast to the lives of their neighbors but were better than those practiced in the larger society. Christians ran towards the plague when others ran away from it. They didn?t kill their children, and even adopted children left to die. They treated their spouses and children with love and respect while others treated their own families as little more than household slaves.

At the Colson Center?s Truth. Love. Together virtual event last year, Andy Crouch marvelously described the patient ferment of the Early Church. As he put it, people took notice and asked Christians ?to give an account for the hope that was within them.? As a result, the Church grew from being a persecuted sect numbering in the thousands at the end of the first century to half the empire by the start of the fourth. The ?patient ferment? of the Early Church transformed the world.

As Crouch put it, instead of ?fermentation,? we often prefer ?carbonation,? hoping a quick shot of power or a new clever church-growth method will do the trick. There might be some fizz, but the effects are short-lived. The Early Church understood that long-lasting change requires long-lasting effort. It requires understanding that the fruit of our labors may not be seen until after we are gone. It requires that we live for faithfulness, not success.

Now none of this means that Christians should abandon the public square or the political process. No one is saying that this exempts us at all. This certainly doesn?t exempt us at every level from speaking the truth, and it includes speaking, when necessary, those very hard truths our culture won?t tolerate right now.

A prime example of cultural fermentation was, of course, British Parliamentarian William Wilberforce. Wilberforce and his committed band of Christian co-laborers worked for decades to abolish the slave trade and restore virtue in the British Empire. Yet, neither he nor his children lived to see the full fruit of their labors. Why should we expect things to be different? Why should we be exempt from the need for patience?

We shouldn?t. And to think otherwise is to confuse carbonation for fermentation and Air Force One for the Second Coming.

2021-01-21
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How Do We Reconcile A Split and Broken Church? - BreakPoint Q&A

John and Shane field concerns from listeners related to repairing and restoring relationships inside the church after the recent political season.

John and Shane provide pathways of thought to recalibrate our approach to reconnecting with Biblical mandates without building kingdoms.

A listener also asked how Christians should respond to the recent censorship from technology companies. There are real civil reasons some speech has been curbed, however what does that do to freedoms and are those freedoms that incite civil unrest worth protecting? John helps identify the contradictions inside the censorship practices impacting citizens and helps organize thinking inside a Biblical framework.

 

 

2021-01-20
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Inauguration Day 2021

In July 1864, some 14,000 Confederate troops stood just six miles?within sight? from the Capitol Dome. For President Lincoln, it was a rude shock. After all, this was a year after the Union victory at the Battle of Gettysburg. The Confederacy seemed near defeat.

In the nick of time, 17,000 Union troops dispatched by Ulysses S. Grant arrived and pushed the Confederates back. Washington was saved. Today, as Joe Biden is sworn in as 46th President of the United States, 20,000 National Guardsmen will defend that same Capitol from enraged citizens. 

It?s impossible to understand how we?ve reached this point, unless we look beyond the last few weeks, even beyond the election, to pre-existing conditions, such as the decades-long thinning of civil society.

The most recent lawlessness at the Capitol reflects an escalating lawlessness that spans political parties, religious affiliations, age brackets, and social classes. Will a militarized America be the new normal? Will the armed troops protecting the Citadel of Democracy today be patrolling the streets of rioting cities tomorrow? Will the blatant failures of our institutions and our leaders continue to fester to an explosive level of distrust?

Chuck Colson often said that unless a people are governed by the conscience, they will be governed by the constable. When people are unable to govern themselves, they face a choice between order and chaos. Most often, the people ultimate choose order, which inevitably means the loss of freedoms.

The freedom to assemble peacefully is impossible to maintain when assemblies frequently turn into riots, looting, or sedition. The freedom of speech seems particularly vulnerable today, when Big Tech wields all the power and decides, like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram already have, to crack down on political speech they deem offensive or dangerous. Last week, Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez spoke openly about forming a committee to ?rein in our media environment,? something that should alarm anyone who has ever read any dystopian novel, ever. Our Second Amendment freedoms are most vulnerable when used as cover by mass shooters or insurrectionists.

Perhaps the most consistent refrain from America?s Founders is that our national experiment would prove unsustainable without a virtuous citizenry. Our Constitution simply cannot govern those who refuse to govern themselves. John Adams, our second President, said it most clearly: ?Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.?

Yet, Americans are becoming increasingly immoral and irreligious, our shocking lack of conscience is on display in rising numbers of both ?deaths from despair? (addictions, self-harm and suicide) and ?acts of desperation? (violent acts, riots, self-mutilation in pursuit of identity or sexual pleasure). We pump poisonous ideas into our hearts and minds and call it entertainment. We pump lies into our children and call it education.

In other words, America is in a dark, deeply divided place, a place Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn accurately described in his 1978 speech at Harvard. We have, he said, very ?little defense against the abyss of human decadence?such as the misuse of liberty for moral violence against young people, such as motion pictures full of pornography, crime, and horror.? Even strict laws, said Solzhenitsyn (and, I might add, 20,000 National Guard troops), are powerless to defend a people against such moral corrosion.

The situation is dire, but not without hope. As Chuck Colson often said, despair is a sin. Christ is risen from the dead. God, in his gracious goodness, has revealed to us what is true and what is good. He has given us His Word and, through prayer, He has made Himself available to us.

Today, the Colson Center is launching a time of prayer, which will continue every week until Easter. Each week, often led by our ministry colleagues, we?ll pray according to the profound instruction God has given us in the book of Proverbs. We launch this today, and you can learn all about it at breakpoint.org/proverbs.

The devolution of our collective conscience may continue. The replacement of constitutional rights with constables might be inevitable. May it never be! But even if so, may God?s people not be reduced to outrage or cowardice. May we be the reservoir of strength and renewal our nation so desperately needs.

2021-01-20
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A COVID-Free China Still Isn?t Free

Recently, police in Hong Kong arrested 53 pro-democracy activists for holding a primary election. The Communist Chinese government made the sweep of political opponents under cover of its new national security law. The same day as these arrests, China-based tech firm Alibaba?s stock jumped 30 percent when word circulated that Jack Ma, Alibaba?s eccentric founder, might actually be alive. Ma vanished two months ago after publicly criticizing China?s banking system. Apparently, stockholders had assumed the Chinese Communist Party killed him. 

Juxtaposed to these stories was a New York Times article that ran the same week describing everyday life in China now that the Coronavirus is nearly nonexistent there. The headline of the article was, ?In a Topsy-Turvy Pandemic World, China Offers Its Version of Freedom.? Underneath the headline was this summary: ?Surveillance and censorship bolster Beijing?s uncompromising grip on power. But in the country?s cities and streets, people have resumed normal lives.? Hmmm.

According to the veteran reporter, life in the Communist country now resembles ?what ?normal? was like in the pre-pandemic world.? ?Restaurants are packed,? she wrote. ?Hotels are full. Long lines form outside luxury brands stores. Instead of Zoom calls, people are meeting face to face to talk business or celebrate the new year.?

Yes, the Times reporter admitted (via a few throwaway lines early in her report), ?Chinese citizens don?t have freedom of speech, freedom of worship, or even freedom from fear,? but they do have the freedom to ?lead a normal day-to-day life.?

In the book I co-authored with Brett Kunkle, A Practical Guide to Culture, we wrote that ?the battle of ideas begins with the battle over definitions.? How we define certain words is incredibly consequential. It?s jarring to consider just how malleable definitions of words such as ?freedom? have become. Pro-democracy activists are arrested by the dozens? a billionaire tech CEO is presumed missing after criticizing his government? but shopping at a designer store without a mask is freedom? 

For the record, even if we granted the Times the benefit of the doubt here, China still wouldn?t live up to the Times?s grotesquely skewed definition of freedom. An estimated one million (and counting) Muslim Uighurs are currently detained in concentration camps in Xinjiang province. Inmates are forced into physical labor and sometimes tortured. Women, according to reports, are often forcibly sterilized or forced to undergo abortions. Even according to the New York Times definition, the Uighurs are anything but free.

The Chinese government is, of course, well-known for playing loose with language. In a now-removed tweet, the Chinese Embassy in the U.S. recently claimed that their holocaust-like treatment of Uighur women had, in fact, liberated them because, after all, they were now more open to abortion. Even Twitter thought that crossed a line.

Even so, the way this New York Times piece defined freedom down commits another error. Any grammar nerd will blanche at a rhetorical redundancy, such as, for example, the phrase ?completely destroyed.? That?s because there aren?t degrees of destruction. Something is either destroyed or it isn?t, no qualifier is necessary. Freedom is similar. The ability to shop at a mall while not being able to worship, speak, or assemble isn?t freedom.

This is not to say that freedom is without limits. No one is ?free? to murder or yell ?fire? in a crowded theater. In fact, the definition of freedom increasingly embraced across the West?that we are free from rules, from consequences, from restraint, or from truth itself?is actually license. As the apostle Paul says, license only enslaves us. True freedom isn?t freedom from but freedom for? the freedom for living fully into our created design.

Christians, of all people, should be able to clearly and accurately define freedom. Better yet, we must be able to show what freedom is. Our brothers and sisters in China are not free to worship together on Sundays without fear or oversight. American Christians who don?t live Monday to Saturday as if Jesus is Lord aren?t free, either, if freedom ends up being nothing more than enslavement to every passing fad.

True freedom is only in Christ, in seeing and living all of life as if it belongs to Him. Even when new COVID-19 cases across the globe finally reach zero, we?ll only be truly free if the Son has set us free. Then we are free indeed.

2021-01-19
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Dr. King and the Nature of Law

In an eloquent defense of life, marriage, and religious liberty known as The Manhattan Declaration, authors Chuck Colson, Professor Robert George, and Dr. Timothy George wrote, ?There is no more eloquent defense of the rights and duties of religious conscience than the one offered by Martin Luther King, Jr., in his Letter from a Birmingham Jail.?

Recently, new allegations from biographer and historian Dr. David Garrow have escalated concerns about Dr. King?s moral failings, especially his sexual exploits and mistreatment of women. Many Christians are also rightly troubled by Dr. King?s unorthodox theological views, especially his views about the resurrection of Christ and salvation that are outside of historic Christianity.

At the same time, as a work of moral philosophy, Colson and the Georges are absolutely correct about their assessment of Dr. King?s ?Letter from a Birmingham Jail.? It is unparalleled in its clarity about the nature of law, what constitutes an unjust law, and our responsibility to respond to unjust laws.

Twenty years ago, Chuck Colson reflected on Dr. King?s legacy, and the most important contributions from his Letter from a Birmingham Jail: Here is Chuck Colson:

?A just law is a man-made code that squares with the moral law or the law of God. An unjust law is out of harmony with the moral law.?

It was with these very words, in his memorable ?Letter from the Birmingham Jail,? that Martin Luther King, Jr., threw down the gauntlet in his great Civil Rights crusade. King refused to obey what he regarded as an immoral law that did not square with the law of God.

All across America today, millions of people are celebrating the birthday of this courageous man, and deservedly so. He was a fearless battler for truth, and all of us are in his debt because he remedied past wrongs and brought millions of Americans into the full riches of citizenship.

In schools and on courthouse steps, people will be quoting his ?I Have a Dream? speech today. It is an elegant and powerful classic. But I would suggest that one of Dr. King?s greatest accomplishments, one which will be little mentioned today because it has suddenly become ?politically incorrect,? is his advocacy of the true moral foundations of law.

King defended the transcendent source of the law?s authority. In doing so he took a conservative Christian view of law. In fact, he was perhaps the most eloquent advocate of this viewpoint in his time, as, interestingly, Justice Clarence Thomas may be today.

Writing from a jail cell, King declared that the code of justice is not man?s law: It is God?s law. Imagine a politician making such a comment today. We all remember the controversy that erupted weeks ago when George W. Bush made reference to his Christian faith in a televised national debate.

But King built his whole case on the argument, set forth by St. Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, that ?An unjust law is no law at all.? To be just, King argued, our laws must always reflect God?s Law.

This is the great issue today in the public square: Is the law rooted in truth? Is it transcendent, immutable, and morally binding? Or is it, as liberal interpreters have suggested, simply what courts say it is? Do we discover the law, or do we create it?

Ever since Dr. King?s day, the United States Supreme Court has been moving us step-by-step away from the positions of this great Civil Rights leader. To continue in this direction, as I have written, can only lead to disastrous consequences?indeed, the loss of self-governing democracy.

So, I would challenge each of us today to use this occasion to reflect not just on his great crusade for Civil Rights but also on Martin Luther King?s wisdom in bringing law back to its moral foundations.

Many think of King as some kind of liberal firebrand, but when it comes to the law he was a great conservative who stood on the shoulders of Thomas Aquinas and St. Augustine, striving without apology to restore our heritage of justice.

This is a story I tell in my book, How Now Shall We Live?: a great moment in history when a courageous man applied the law of God to the unjust laws of our time, and made a difference. And that is the lesson we should teach our kids on this holiday. It is not just another day off from school or a day to go to the mall.?

That was Chuck Colson. Read through King?s letter today. Discuss it with your kids. I think you will find it to be an incredibly important civics lesson.

This commentary by Chuck Colson?s first aired February 18, 1998.

2021-01-18
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"Christian Nationalism" - A Conversation with Mark Tooley and Andrew Walker - BreakPoint Podcast

In the past, Civil religion united America. Not anymore.

Following a recent exchange on Twitter, John Stonestreet called on Mark Tooley and Andrew Walker to discuss the current political movements, including Christian nationalism, and how they impact Christianity.

Tooley and Walker discuss the future of America in a post-Christian, pseudo-Christian context. The pair believe there needs to be a resurgence in building institutional Christianity to counter the prevailing individualism of our age.

Together they call for a greater unity in the Church to provide stronger discipleship in online relationships. They both believe there needs to be better thinking in political involvement, sharing that we?re likely giving Washington way more of our attention than it deserves.

Mark Tooley is the President of the Institute on Religion and Democracy (IRD) ? Editor of IRD?s magazine Providence.

Dr. Andrew Walker is the Associate professor of Christian Ethics and Apologetics, Associate Dean for the School of Theology, and the Director of the Carl F H Henry Institute for Evangelical Engagement at the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.

2021-01-18
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There are Pre-existing Conditions to This Cultural Moment - BreakPoint This Week

There are deaths from despair and acts of desperation that mark this cultural moment. Some are lacking peace and many are struggling to find hope from our cultural institutions and leaders. John Stonestreet invites Maria Baer to discuss the challenges we and our loved ones face currently. The two also identify how the Christian worldview offers great perspective and encompassing hope to participate in our modern world.

John and Maria also visit on the role of family and the challenges to thin society. Maria highlights that some might call a challenging person 'toxic'. In doing this many will avoid seeking restoration. John highlights how this thinking has flowed downstream and is greatly impacting how Christians live in church, culture, and even their own families.

To close John spends significant time discussing the persecution of Christians around the world. He notes Open Doors' World Watch List, an orderly explanation and ranking of persecution across the globe.

 

2021-01-15
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Our Politics is Cracking Under the Weight of a Thinning Civil Society

A little more than a week after the storming of the Capitol, five Americans have died, the House of Representatives has impeached the President for a second time, Twitter and other social platforms have permanently banned the sitting President of the United States, Amazon Web Services shut down alternative social media site Parler, and National Guard forces are being deployed, with 15,000 troops scheduled to surround the Capitol because, according to the FBI, armed groups are planning to protest the Inauguration, not only in Washington, D.C., but in all fifty states.

There are immediate causes, of course, for the chaos that unfolded last Wednesday. Over 70 million Americans are unhappy with and deeply worried about the implications of the presidential election and, no less important, the Georgia Senate runoffs. Among that number, a sizeable group believes the election was stolen, and just-as-deeply disbelieve all media personalities, investigators, elected officials of either party, or judges who say otherwise. Among that group, agitators, after making their violent intentions clear on social media, successfully incited Trump supporters to mob the Capitol.

Still, even the most-crafty agitator can only agitate a crowd that is agitate-able. One of the main headlines, not just of Wednesday but all of 2020, is just how dangerously on-edge Americans are. Only an analysis that looks beyond the rage of this day or that day, one that takes seriously the ?pre-existing conditions? of our national tinderbox, will ultimately be helpful in pulling us back from the precipice.

For decades, sociologists have warned just how thin American civil society has become, replaced by a growing individualism that isolates Americans from the relationships and loyalties that once nurtured a thick social fabric. This is an unsustainable path. The collapse of the family, declining church attendance, institutions losing their integrity and our trust, and the various technological vortices keeping us from our neighbors are all catalytic factors in what?s been rightly called ?deaths from despair? (increasing suicide rates, loneliness, addictions) and could be called ?acts of desperation? (mass violence, rioting, and self-mutilation).

As civil society thins and as Americans become less connected to the pre-political aspects of life, the cultural weight lands on politics. To put it bluntly, our politics cannot handle the amount of weight we currently expect of it. As a result, we are experiencing two unsustainable consequences.

First, a culture that lacks the necessary resources to produce good citizens and cultivate self-control. Family, Church, community life, and volunteer groups play many roles in a society, but none more important than in providing a vision of what it means to live together, advancing things like civility and the common good.

Now this point should be obvious, but the state cannot function for long without good citizens. After all, it has no resources of its own, other than power. And yet, just as the state needs a moral citizenry to keep it from abusing its power, citizens need a properly functioning state to secure rights and liberty. The state, in and of itself, is wholly inadequate to produce the citizens it needs in order to function well. That must be done elsewhere, and herein lies an essential ingredient of our current crisis.

Second, when too much weight of a culture is placed on politics, when people turn exclusively (or even primarily) to politics to define and solve their problems or secure their hope, the stakes become too high. A zero-sum, winner-take-all, win-or-die kind of politics that places too much weight on the next election, the next bill, the next scandal, the next ?breaking story from Washington. The anxiety level too much for people to bear.

On the opposite extreme from those who want to remove Christians from politics, are those Christians who think political levers should be used as power plays. But that?s merely Christianizing a secular methodology; it will never work. If we hope to be part of a solution and not add kindling to this explosive environment, we?ll need clear and compelling teaching on what politics is ultimately for, what it?s not for, and how it fits in the larger economy of pre-political realities and institutions.

To be clear, difficult days lie ahead for anyone committed to the sanctity of human life, sexual restraint, or religious freedom. In our political and pre-political efforts, then, what the world needs most, as Chuck Colson said, is for the Church to be the Church. The thinning of civil society is our nation?s greatest challenge. It is also among the Church?s greatest opportunities.

We?ve been appointed to this time and this place (Acts 17:26), but others have gone before us, and we must learn from them. We need not re-invent the wheel (or, as one of my colleagues likes to say, the flat tire). Like those whose remarkable faith is now sight, we must roll-up our sleeves and double down on loving God and neighbor, proclaiming what is true and elevating what is good, fighting for what matters but never placing our hope horses, chariots, or elections.

Only in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come.

2021-01-15
Link to episode

Our Politics is Cracking Under the Weight of a Thinning Civil Society

A little more than a week after the storming of the Capitol, five Americans have died, the House of Representatives has impeached the President for a second time, Twitter and other social platforms have permanently banned the sitting President of the United States, Amazon Web Services shut down alternative social media site Parler, and National Guard forces are being deployed, with 15,000 troops scheduled to surround the Capitol because, according to the FBI, armed groups are planning to protest the Inauguration, not only in Washington, D.C., but in all fifty states.

There are immediate causes, of course, for the chaos that unfolded last Wednesday. Over 70 million Americans are unhappy with and deeply worried about the implications of the presidential election and, no less important, the Georgia Senate runoffs. Among that number, a sizeable group believes the election was stolen, and just-as-deeply disbelieve all media personalities, investigators, elected officials of either party, or judges who say otherwise. Among that group, agitators, after making their violent intentions clear on social media, successfully incited Trump supporters to mob the Capitol.

Still, even the most-crafty agitator can only agitate a crowd that is agitate-able. One of the main headlines, not just of Wednesday but all of 2020, is just how dangerously on-edge Americans are. Only an analysis that looks beyond the rage of this day or that day, one that takes seriously the ?pre-existing conditions? of our national tinderbox, will ultimately be helpful in pulling us back from the precipice.

For decades, sociologists have warned just how thin American civil society has become, replaced by a growing individualism that isolates Americans from the relationships and loyalties that once nurtured a thick social fabric. This is an unsustainable path. The collapse of the family, declining church attendance, institutions losing their integrity and our trust, and the various technological vortices keeping us from our neighbors are all catalytic factors in what?s been rightly called ?deaths from despair? (increasing suicide rates, loneliness, addictions) and could be called ?acts of desperation? (mass violence, rioting, and self-mutilation).

As civil society thins and as Americans become less connected to the pre-political aspects of life, the cultural weight lands on politics. To put it bluntly, our politics cannot handle the amount of weight we currently expect of it. As a result, we are experiencing two unsustainable consequences.

First, a culture that lacks the necessary resources to produce good citizens and cultivate self-control. Family, Church, community life, and volunteer groups play many roles in a society, but none more important than in providing a vision of what it means to live together, advancing things like civility and the common good.

Now this point should be obvious, but the state cannot function for long without good citizens. After all, it has no resources of its own, other than power. And yet, just as the state needs a moral citizenry to keep it from abusing its power, citizens need a properly functioning state to secure rights and liberty. The state, in and of itself, is wholly inadequate to produce the citizens it needs in order to function well. That must be done elsewhere, and herein lies an essential ingredient of our current crisis.

Second, when too much weight of a culture is placed on politics, when people turn exclusively (or even primarily) to politics to define and solve their problems or secure their hope, the stakes become too high. A zero-sum, winner-take-all, win-or-die kind of politics that places too much weight on the next election, the next bill, the next scandal, the next ?breaking story from Washington. The anxiety level too much for people to bear.

On the opposite extreme from those who want to remove Christians from politics, are those Christians who think political levers should be used as power plays. But that?s merely Christianizing a secular methodology; it will never work. If we hope to be part of a solution and not add kindling to this explosive environment, we?ll need clear and compelling teaching on what politics is ultimately for, what it?s not for, and how it fits in the larger economy of pre-political realities and institutions.

To be clear, difficult days lie ahead for anyone committed to the sanctity of human life, sexual restraint, or religious freedom. In our political and pre-political efforts, then, what the world needs most, as Chuck Colson said, is for the Church to be the Church. The thinning of civil society is our nation?s greatest challenge. It is also among the Church?s greatest opportunities.

We?ve been appointed to this time and this place (Acts 17:26), but others have gone before us, and we must learn from them. We need not re-invent the wheel (or, as one of my colleagues likes to say, the flat tire). Like those whose remarkable faith is now sight, we must roll-up our sleeves and double down on loving God and neighbor, proclaiming what is true and elevating what is good, fighting for what matters but never placing our hope horses, chariots, or elections.

Only in God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ, who was and is and is to come.

2021-01-15
Link to episode

Navigating the News in 2021 from a Christian Worldview

A recent headline that isn?t exactly news announced the findings of a recent Gallup study: ?Americans Remain Distrustful of Mass Media.? Six out of ten Americans trust the media either ?not very much? or ?not at all? when it comes to reporting the news fairly and accurately.

Truth be told, I?m among those six. I?m tired of bias, of opinion pieces masquerading as reporting, of buried leads and hysterical fearmongering. Apparently, many Americans are tired of these things, too. Last year, a major news network flashed this caption, ?Fiery but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting,? as its reporter stood in front of buildings that were burning to the ground. Last week, America?s paper of record ran a glowing piece on freedom in China, where people may not have freedom of religion, speech, or assembly but enjoy going to nightclubs thanks to their dictator's handling of COVID. And don?t get even get me started on the news coverage of the events this week.

Watching or reading different news sources today is like watching and reading about completely different worlds. If aliens landed in America tomorrow, they?d have no idea what the truth is about this country. They wouldn?t even be able to report back to their leaders about whether or not actress Tanya Roberts had died or not!

That last little anecdote brings up another challenge we all face: the sheer volume of noise we are forced to navigate. The Washington Post alone publishes an average of 500 news stories every single day. Add to that The New York Times, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, FoxNews, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, not to mention the ever-present and sometimes-tempting clickbait everywhere, and the noise is simply overwhelming.

More and more, Americans have turned to social media and news aggregators out of sheer desperation. These tools do offer help navigating the volume, but they don?t offer wisdom. Increasingly, these tools become echo chambers. Recently, Pew Research found that nearly half of Americans are unable to determine whether their news sources do their own original reporting.

We must bear in mind what Paul said in his speech to the Athenians in Acts 17: God intentionally places us all in particular times and particular places in history. Engaged, thoughtful Christians must not only stay informed about those trends, issues, and stories that truly matter, they must discern between those that matter and those that don?t. And that?s not all. We also somehow have to navigate the constant worldview spins we are subjected to by media sources.

Chuck Colson first founded BreakPoint to illustrate that this sort of worldview analysis of contemporary events was not only possible but necessary and incredibly helpful. Let me be clear: We cannot do this work, which we love, without the help of faithful partners. One of the most critical partners we have in this task is the WORLD News Group and WORLD magazine. WORLD is a critical source of news and thoughtful analysis. The BreakPoint team relies on it.

WORLD does journalism from a Christian worldview without the click-bait and without the hype. Their print magazine, online articles, and daily podcast, ?The World and Everything in It? (which I join weekly as a guest commentator) features clear reporting, news coverage of stories that matter, and a recognition of the central role of faith and religion in contemporary society.

This month, any gift of $19 or more to BreakPoint and the Colson Center, provides a one-year subscription to WORLD magazine that you can keep for yourself or gift to a friend or family member. So, if you already subscribe to WORLD, and I hope you do, you can bless someone else with a resource you know they will enjoy and can rely on.

Come to BreakPoint.org/January2021 to get a one-year subscription to WORLD with your next gift to BreakPoint and the Colson Center.

This commentary originally aired on January 8, 2021

2021-01-14
Link to episode

Navigating the News in 2021 from a Christian Worldview

A recent headline that isn?t exactly news announced the findings of a recent Gallup study: ?Americans Remain Distrustful of Mass Media.? Six out of ten Americans trust the media either ?not very much? or ?not at all? when it comes to reporting the news fairly and accurately.

Truth be told, I?m among those six. I?m tired of bias, of opinion pieces masquerading as reporting, of buried leads and hysterical fearmongering. Apparently, many Americans are tired of these things, too. Last year, a major news network flashed this caption, ?Fiery but mostly peaceful protests after police shooting,? as its reporter stood in front of buildings that were burning to the ground. Last week, America?s paper of record ran a glowing piece on freedom in China, where people may not have freedom of religion, speech, or assembly but enjoy going to nightclubs thanks to their dictator's handling of COVID. And don?t get even get me started on the news coverage of the events this week.

Watching or reading different news sources today is like watching and reading about completely different worlds. If aliens landed in America tomorrow, they?d have no idea what the truth is about this country. They wouldn?t even be able to report back to their leaders about whether or not actress Tanya Roberts had died or not!

That last little anecdote brings up another challenge we all face: the sheer volume of noise we are forced to navigate. The Washington Post alone publishes an average of 500 news stories every single day. Add to that The New York Times, The Huffington Post, BuzzFeed, FoxNews, CNN, The Wall Street Journal, not to mention the ever-present and sometimes-tempting clickbait everywhere, and the noise is simply overwhelming.

More and more, Americans have turned to social media and news aggregators out of sheer desperation. These tools do offer help navigating the volume, but they don?t offer wisdom. Increasingly, these tools become echo chambers. Recently, Pew Research found that nearly half of Americans are unable to determine whether their news sources do their own original reporting.

We must bear in mind what Paul said in his speech to the Athenians in Acts 17: God intentionally places us all in particular times and particular places in history. Engaged, thoughtful Christians must not only stay informed about those trends, issues, and stories that truly matter, they must discern between those that matter and those that don?t. And that?s not all. We also somehow have to navigate the constant worldview spins we are subjected to by media sources.

Chuck Colson first founded BreakPoint to illustrate that this sort of worldview analysis of contemporary events was not only possible but necessary and incredibly helpful. Let me be clear: We cannot do this work, which we love, without the help of faithful partners. One of the most critical partners we have in this task is the WORLD News Group and WORLD magazine. WORLD is a critical source of news and thoughtful analysis. The BreakPoint team relies on it.

WORLD does journalism from a Christian worldview without the click-bait and without the hype. Their print magazine, online articles, and daily podcast, ?The World and Everything in It? (which I join weekly as a guest commentator) features clear reporting, news coverage of stories that matter, and a recognition of the central role of faith and religion in contemporary society.

This month, any gift of $19 or more to BreakPoint and the Colson Center, provides a one-year subscription to WORLD magazine that you can keep for yourself or gift to a friend or family member. So, if you already subscribe to WORLD, and I hope you do, you can bless someone else with a resource you know they will enjoy and can rely on.

Come to BreakPoint.org/January2021 to get a one-year subscription to WORLD with your next gift to BreakPoint and the Colson Center.

This commentary originally aired on January 8, 2021

2021-01-14
Link to episode

Is the Constitution Actually Functioning? - BreakPoint Q&A

John and Shane address a main question about whether or not the constitution is actually functioning? They identify how the Constitution reflects the design by God. John highlights that a consistent theme from the founding fathers and founding documents is that it is made for a type of person.

John and Shane then spend time fielding a listener question on the design of men and women. The two spend time explaining what men and women are designed to do and then highlight how they are equipped to live according to their design. They address the brokenness of the world, noting that humanity was created before it was fallen, but fallen is the state we're living in and our cultural realities illuminate that reality. They end in hope in Christ, reflecting on other times in history that times were bleak and cultures wholly broken, but God made His name known, evident, and provides salvation for humanity.

2021-01-13
Link to episode
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