Recovering GRIT in the Church

Recovering GRIT in the Church

While the secular world has its own vision of GRIT, I think True GRIT is rooted in who we are called to be as Christians.

There is something missing in the church today.

When I read my Bible and the biographies of good Christians of history, I notice that the modern church is missing something. The First Testament prophets and Second Testament disciples had character traits that we moderns seem to be lacking, particularly in the west. Given, there are exceptions but for the most part – something is missing. And when something is missing, the void is inevitably filled by something else.

I have been pondering the question, “what is missing?” for a couple years. It goes without saying that the church in the West is lacking in several areas. I am lacking in several areas. But, I keep landing on the same thing – the same answer to the question of what is missing.

G.R.I.T. is missing from the church both corporately and in the lives of individual Christ-followers. Of course, if you know me very well you are asking one of my favorite questions, “what do you mean by that?”

GRIT is an acronym for Guts, Resilience, Integrity and Tenacity. While the secular world has its own vision of GRIT, I think True GRIT is rooted in who we are called to be as Christians. I decided to provide my own simple definitions to help me remember what GRIT means and provide a few characters in the Bible who demonstrate some of those traits.

Guts:

Courage in the face of adversity, moral fortitude and fearlessness (David, Noah, Moses, Gideon, Esther, Stephen, Paul)

Resilience:

Ability to bounce back from failure, loss and/or setbacks. (David, Joseph, Mary Magdalene, Peter)

Integrity:

Consistent and uncompromising commitment to moral convictions and principles in private and public life – inner consistency. (Enoch, Joshua, Esther, Ruth, Nehemiah, Paul)

Tenacity:

Perseverance over time, determination – will-power. Never giving in. (Noah, Nehemiah, Elijah, David, Job, Daniel, Paul)

Throughout Christian history, we see people who demonstrated GRIT. Martin Luther, John Knox, William Wilberforce, Mother Theresa, Jackie Robinson, Joni Erickson-Tada, Corrie ten Boom, Rosa Parks, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Frederick Douglass and Elisabeth Elliot are just a handful of names that come to mind when I think about good old-fashioned Christian GRIT.

We saw the Clapham Sect in England and the Abolitionists in the States work to end slavery. The White Rose Resistance defied Hitler and the Nazis. In Roman times, Christians rescued unwanted Roman female infants thrown into dumps because girls were seen as worthless. During the Plague, Christians ran to the bedsides of the sick and dying. GRIT is a part of our Christian heritage!

Today, I see fear masquerading as courage and the pride-filled cowardice of online virtue-signaling. The pulse of popularity polls have overtaken the powerful pulse of Christ’s call to His church. The winds of culture are driving the church rather than the winds of God’s spirit. The result of the lack of Christian GRIT over the last 100 years has devastated our witness and contributed to the decay of culture.

The Great Recovery

Every great awakening and revival begins with a series of cultural convulsions. The Church is shaken out of its slumber by some great series of tribulations. Then a recovery begins. It begins with recovering God’s truth and renewing a commitment to follow Christ. This means we will come in direct conflict with the world and culture. We come to understand the sharp words of Christ when he says, “The world will hate you, because it hated me first.” To be Christian is be to a counter-cultural force of light and truth in the midst of darkness and lies.

I’m calling this the “Great Recovery”. I don’t know where or with whom this idea originated. However, the more I read my Bible, pray, talk with other committed Christians and attempt to “understand the times” (like the men of Issachar), I am convinced we must embark on a “Great Recovery”. While, I’ll discuss more in the future, let us begin with GRIT.

Whatever the committed Christ-follower who has counted the cost of discipleship and taken up his/her cross to follow Him may be, they must have GRIT. The days of microwave entertainment-based emotionally-driven cultural Christianity are over. Pastor Douglas Wilson said, “The church has gone from feeding the sheep to entertaining the goats.” Those words sting because they are true in a general sense. Not all churches are guilty but a good many are. We must repent of that and move on to walk with obedience and courage.

Every one of us will pay a price in the face of the zeitgeist (the spirit of the age). We need to pray and encourage each other in the faith and ask God for spirit-filled GRIT as we create Christian friction with a dark culture that hates the light.

We need to recover GRIT.

“Choose this day whom you will serve…” Christ or the zeitgeist.

There is no middle-ground. Christ does not allow for it. He spits from His mouth the lukewarm water of the Church in Laodicea. He separates the sheep from the goats and the wheat from the tares.

To truly proclaim, “But as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord!” will require Godly GRIT rooted in Christ’s power undergirded by Biblical truth.

Subscribe

If you like what you read here, please subscribe. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.
*This is a personal blog. The opinions expressed here do not necessarily represent those of my employer or my church. The opinions of expressed by guest authors and commenters do not necessarily represent my opinions.

Understanding CRT: Critical Theory and Critical Race Theory – Intersectionality

Over the last several months, I have had hundreds of conversations and answered questions about CRT (CRTI), Cultural Marxism and how Christians should respond.

Note: I use CRT and CRTI interchangeably. Let me say from the outset that many well-meaning Christians find these concepts very attractive because of the empathetic language employed by CRTI. Make no mistake, CRTI is not a ‘theory’ in the classic understanding, it is a total vision of reality. It is a worldview. It is rooted in atheistic materialism – time plus matter plus chance is total reality. The well-meaning Christian who adopts concepts or ideas is undermining Biblical faith, the Christian worldview and their public theology.

Therefore, I admonish my brothers and sisters to hold fast to the Bible daily by “renewing of your mind” (Romans 12:2). I challenge you to bring any and all foreign worldviews or concepts into the full light of biblical truth in order to “destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ… (2 Corinthians 10:5)

The content below comes from a previous paper I wrote on the book, “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo. I abbreviated and adapted it for this post. There is a resource list at the end for you to dive deeper if you wish.

History of CRT / CRTI – Marx

Karl Marx viewed the world through economics (only matter and energy exist). The struggle was between the Bourgeoisie (elites / owners / oppressors) vs Proletariat (poor / workers / oppressed). His theory was devoted to creating conditions for a revolution where the Proletariat would rise up and take power from the Bourgeoisie establishing equality in outcomes (a utopian state).

History of CRT / CRTI – Gramsci

When Marxist revolutions failed to materialize in the west, Antonio Gramsci (Italian Marxist) theorized that the Cultural Hegemony (dominant cultural power) hindered it. Gramsci came to the conclusion that the ‘revolution’ from Marx’s theoretical framework would not materialize in wealthy, stable and capitalist societies. According to historian Dr. Glenn Sunshine, Gramsci surmised that, “The problem was ideology not economics – the problem was worldview.” The hegemony elites controlled and oppressed the lower classes ideologically through the institutions (academia, education systems and universities, the church, politics, judiciary, civil service, media, entertainment, the family and marriage). Gramsci’s vision was to create a counter-hegemony to overthrow the dominant oppressive power structure. Then, the conditions would be set up for a Marxist revolution. Gramci’s vision of a “war of position” for socialists and communists, is to subvert western culture from the inside.

Modern Critical Theory as a worldview

What began with Marx was modified by Gramsci then adapted as Critical Theory. Today, Critical Theory is a bonafide worldview that competes with Christianity, Islam, Atheism, Secularism, New Ageism, etc. The application (praxis) of Critical Theory is to identify the systematic power structures in society (power dynamics) between oppressed groups and their oppressors with the goal of dismantling oppressive structures.

Oppressors and Oppressed – Social Justice Movement

The critical theorist is in a constant state of critique, dividing people into oppressed identity groups determined by gender, race, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, economic status, etc. and dismantling oppressive institutions and structures – thus, liberating the oppressed group. In other words, it is in a constant process of revolution against the cultural and economic hegemony. Critical Theory has been hybridized into Critical Race Theory Intersectionality. There are other variants (like Critical Pedagogy and Queer Theory) that I will not go into here but suffice to say, they all lead back to Marx (oppressors and oppressed). They are the fuel of the ubiquitous ‘Social Justice’ movement (see also Social Justice commentary).

Critical Theory as a Religion

It’s important to note that Max Horkheimer coined the term “Critical Theory” and wanted to distinguish it as a radical, emancipatory form of Marxian theory . If after reading this the notion of ‘religion’ comes to mind, you’re beginning to see the power of Critical Theory as a competing worldview.

Critical Theory as a Revolution

Within Critical Theory, there exists only two types of people, oppressors and the oppressed. All social interactions and institutions revolve around power dynamics in a zero-sum game (a winner and a loser). In other words, there is a fixed amount of material resources in the world. The dominant group obtains resources at the expense of the weaker groups. In order to keep power and control resources, the dominant group oppresses the weaker groups. That is the basic idea of power dynamics. In addition, the dominant group also exercises oppression through hegemonic power (recall Gramsci). Culture (language, law, business, customs, art, education, science, etc) is dictated by the hegemony. To Max Horkheimer, the objective of Critical Theory is “to liberate human beings from the circumstances that enslave them.” The existing power structures must be confronted and overthrown in order to ‘liberate’ oppressed people groups.

Critical Theory is a parasite – stealing words and distorting ideas

This brings us back to Gramci’s subversion of western institutions. We’re not just dealing with a book, we’re dealing with a worldview. CRTI has committed linguistic larceny of Christian words and concepts like justice, equality, human identity, liberation, oppression, etc. Therefore, the worldview deals in a slight of hand with words.

Critical Theory, Race and Power

“Critical Race scholar Zeus Leonardo states, “For white racial hegemony to saturate everyday life, it has to be secured by a process of domination, or those acts, decisions, and policies that white subjects perpetrate on people of color.”” (DiAngelo, 2018, p. 118)

Critical Race Theory and Intersectionality

CRT creates a type of caste system. By design, it divides all people into opposing groups that are constantly competing for greater levels of victim status (intersectionality). Moral authority is determined by the number of oppressed groups one identifies with, while moral responsibility is not expected among oppressed groups. In this worldview, certain ethnicities and identity groups have no moral responsibility at all. Essentially, they can behave however they wish without any moral or judicial consequence.

Ethnic minority identity groups have hidden knowledge of truth regarding racism that is only accessible to that group. Dr. Voddie Bauchman calls this “ethnic gnosticism.

CRT View of Truth

Adherents to CRTI also claim that actual knowledge is impossible – truth and knowledge are rooted in one’s individual experience and identity group experience. Truth, epistemology and metaphysics (the nature of reality) are culturally generated and socially constructed. In other words, there is no objective truth to be found in the domain of human existence.

CRT collapses by subverting its own logical framework

Now the logical inconsistency of the worldview comes into focus. The claim that truth and knowledge are subjective (rooted in experience) is either objectively true for everyone everywhere or it is not. The truth claim that all truth is subjective collapses and self-refutes. Logic wins! Game over! Right? Wrong.

The CRTI worldview maintains that logic, reason, science as well as the Christian worldview and the nuclear family are tools that white people use to retain hegemonic power in order to continuously oppress black people and other intersectional groups. This borrows a tactic from Queer Theory that states that is politically actionable to make reality as confusing as possible if it furthers the cause of defeating systemic oppression.

Dangers for the well-meaning Christian

The Christian who intentionally or unintentionally adopts or borrows language or even the smallest idea from Critical Theory must understand that he or she is importing a foreign artifact that undermines the Bible and Christian worldview. In today’s postmodern culture in America, words like justice, equality, human identity, liberation, oppression have dual meanings. CRTI has hijacked language in order to push an ideology. Well-meaning Christians should use discernment and ask questions. We’re using the same words but different dictionaries. Always ask, “what do you mean by that?” to get clarification.

Theologian Darrell Harrison puts it another way, “We (Christians) are not to take the world’s ungodly philosophies and worldviews and couch them within the biblical Christian worldview. We are not to adopt them or any part of them because one part taints the whole.”

CRT in the Church

In my interactions with brothers and sister who have knowingly or unknowingly adopted CRT concepts, they express confusion and frustration with what they see as the problem with the world around them and how to solve it. They are essentially struggling to make sense of reality because they have unknowing believed concepts that are foreign to the biblical Christian worldview. So, they are frustrated. They fall into a trap between two visions of reality and humanity. Sometimes, they feel like they are being attacked by both sides or they just can’t win either way. The Church has failed in teaching a comprehensive public theology in light of the fullness and clarity of the Gospel of the Kingdom. We are the most biblically illiterate generation in history. The solution is to reclaim and revitalize the riches and fullness of Biblical faith.

Wake up, and strengthen what remains and is about to die, for I have not found your works complete in the sight of my God.” (Revelation 3:2)

Consider the Bible

God created the world and everything in it. God is the moral law giver and he implanted it on the hearts of humans by common grace. He infused and embedded rich meaning throughout the created order. He brought about the universe through his Word. He gave us the gift of language. God created all humans in His own likeness and image. God declares that there is but one race – the human race.

Is ‘race’ a biblical concept?

Regarding the category of ‘race’, it’s worth noting that the Bible does not divide people into ‘races’, instead the Bible speaks of nations (ethnos), tribes, tongues and peoples. He created unity in diversity. ‘Nations’ is translated from ‘ethnos’ – where we derive the word ‘ethnicities’. THAT is the language of the Bible. The concept of ’Race’ is rooted in Darwin’s Theory of Human Evolution and is ethnically prejudice full title: “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life“). It’s also worth noting that scientists have proven that the concept of ‘race’ is not grounded in genetics.

What’s the root problem with the world?

The Bible says sin is the problem with the world and reality proves this to be true.

“The depravity of man is at once the most empirically verifiable reality but at the same time the most intellectually resisted fact.”
– Malcolm Muggeridge

The Bible properly diagnoses the human problem and offers a comprehensive solution. The Problem is Sin and the Solution is the Gospel (salvation in Christ and vision for how we live based on that).

What’s the solution to the problem with the world?

As image-bearers, we implicitly know good from evil, right from wrong – we know God exists. The Bible states that ’Sin’ is the problem with the world. And our thoughts, words and actions evidence this as true (corresponds to reality of evil we see in the world and in ourselves). God also provides the only solution to our problem. That solution is His only son, Jesus Christ (Gospel). He is the one who saves by grace through faith. He died for all nations and all sin. We just need to repent and trust Him… He opens the gates to the Father’s Kingdom. And until these bodies wear out, we live in the joy of our Salvation. We express our love for Him by sharing the hope we have in our hearts and serving Him – redeeming and restoring our culture in our time. Then, our Father will whisper, “time to come home my child; well done…. I am making all things new.”

Final Thoughts for Christians

CRTI is an anti-Christian worldview and ideology. As followers of Christ with a Christian worldview and vision for life, we must think deeply in this cultural moment and understand the times. Second, we must pray for wisdom and discernment. We must pray for those brothers and sisters being led astray by false doctrines. Third, we must spend more time in our Bibles. One hour per week on Sundays is not enough to engage with competing worldviews.

Read your Bibles and understand the times.  I discuss worldview in greater depth here…

“The more one understands people’s ideas the better one can communicate the truth of scripture and the gospel to them. That is why one learns about cults and religions. And why missionaries try to understand the cultures in which they live. But not enough Christians put much effort into understanding the culture in which they live. New believers who come to the church bring their worldviews with them. Furthermore, those Christians already in the church who do not understand worldview issues will not realize when they are embracing non-Christian concepts.” – John MacArthur

Subscribe

If you like what you read here, please subscribe. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Worldview Explained – Making sense of the world around you

Do you struggle making sense of the world around you? It is worth examining your worldview.

The term ‘worldview’ gets thrown around a lot more frequently today. People ask me questions about worldview often. While everyone has one, very few can articulate it.

I find analogies helpful. Bear with me as a attempt to employ and analogy in this instance.

Your computer and your smartphone have what is called an “operating system (OS).” Your devices cannot function without one. “An operating system is a powerful, and usually large, program that controls and manages the hardware and other software on a computer. All computers and computer-like devices require operating systems.” (laptops, smartphones, GPS, etc). [lifewire.com]

A worldview is very similar to a computer’s operating system. Everyone has an operating system. It is a philosophical framework of how we live but its more than that. A worldview deals with total final reality. Not all worldviews are the same. My atheist friends have a very different worldview from my Mormon friends. And my Christian worldview is very different from my atheist and Mormon friends.

Essentially, our Worldview is the lens through which we view, interpret and engage reality. It is what we believe about ourselves and the world around us (total reality). Whether we are aware of it or not, our worldview informs us, shapes our thoughts and beliefs, and drives our actions (behaviors).

Worldview’s can be shared causing unity among people. Conversely, they can clash causing conflict.

What makes up a ‘worldview’?

Every worldview provides answers to the seven questions below. The question is, which worldview offers the best answers?

1. Where did I come from? (origin)
2. What is the nature of reality?
3. Does my life have meaning (meaning)?
4. Who am I (identity)?
5. How do I know right from wrong? (morality)
6. What is wrong with the world and how do we fix it?
7. What happens to me when I die? (destiny)

Worldview Tests for Truth – Correspondence and Coherence

Once we have established the answers to the seven questions above, we must apply two tests for truth. The first is correspondence.
Do the answers correspond to reality?
The second test for truth is the coherence test.
When all seven answers are put together, is there coherence? In other words, do they make sense together?

Finally, all truth claims must demonstrate logical consistency, empirical adequacy and experiential relevance. Truth is logical, measurable and applicable to daily life.

Is your worldview livable?

Can you base your life on it?

Subscribe

If you like what you read here, please subscribe. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Nihilism, Fear, False Teaching, My Father’s World, Immanentizing the Eschaton, Voting and Real Justice

Nihilism, Fear, False Teaching, My Father’s World, Immanentizing the Eschaton, Voting and Real Justice

We live in interesting times.

Late last night I learned that President Trump and his wife tested positive for COVID-19. Apparently the Pentagon scrambled E-6 “Doomsday” planes last night as well, in the event the US is attacked. 2020 is an era within itself. Let’s continue to think deeply this week, explore and consider the world around us through the lens of a Christian worldview. Let’s not give up on praying.

Today I commend to you an idea, articles, podcasts an essay and a beautiful song…

Don’t miss the song!

Let us discern this hour like the men of Issachar, men who had understanding of the times.

[Idea]: “An SDS (Students for a Democratic Society – New Left) radical once wrote, “The issue is never the issue. The issue is always the revolution.” In other words, the cause-whether inner city blacks or women–is never the real cause, but only an occasion to advance the real cause, which is the accumulation of power to make the revolution.” – David Horowitz.

We can disagree on our views of Mr. Horowitz but he is very perceptive here. The Marxist revolutionaries use marginalized people groups as ‘cannon fodder’ as a means to an end (the revolution). This revolution is the complete dismantling of western culture. Ultimately, they intend to undermine and destroy Christianity and the church. That’s not going to happen. All one must do is read the Book of Revelation. But, in the meantime, we must challenge this godless worldview.

[Essay] Fear as cover for False Teaching by Lance Cashion
“Fear is the cover of darkness that the enemy uses to infiltrate the church with false teaching and deception. Once inside the walls, false teachers spread a false gospel among the flock – beginning with the “least of these” children and the spiritually immature.” Read more…

[Audio] Why (and How) Christians Should Vote (Breakpoint podcast)
“If our faith should make a difference in every aspect of our lives (and it should), it should shape how we think about and live out citizenship, too. To put it bluntly, Christians have both a civic and a Christian responsibility to vote. As my friend Tim Goeglin, vice-president of external and governmental relations for Focus on the Family, put it recently, to vote is the beginning of our civic duty of Christians.” Continue on…

[Audio] Movies and Shows in a Nihilist Key: How Nihilistic Trends Have Impacted the Movie and Television Industry (Theology Pugcast)
“Tom introduces the topic by engaging Thomas Hibb’s book: Shows about Nothing. Chris and Glenn join in with many insights and rich analysis.” Listen here…

[Article] Immanentizing the Eschaton by P. Andrew Sandlin
“The loss of Christian culture after the Reformation led to a re-divinization of the world, though not of the old pagan pagan variety. Rather, the re-divinization revived the ancient Gnostic heresy — the presence of evil (defined now in secular terms) must be purged from the created world by a cultural or political revolution that molds a utopia on a secular pattern analogous to what orthodox Christian understand as the eternal state…” Read on…

[Article] Real Justice PAC (Influence Watch)
“Real Justice PAC was founded by Shaun King, Becky Bond, Zack Malitz, and Michael Kieschnick in 2017 to push left-of-center policing and criminal justice policies. Real Justice PAC supports county prosecutors or district attorneys who support limiting or eliminating cash bail, restricting policing practices that left-of-center activist groups deem abusive, and decriminalizing drug, property, assault, and resisting-arrest offenses.” Read more…

[Podcast] The Church of BLM
“In this “freestyle” episode, Darrell and Virgil (“Omaha”) discuss some of the fundamental doctrines that guide the organization Black Lives Matter and how those beliefs are more resemblant of a “church” with its own religion than a political entity seeking social justice.” List here…

[Music] “This Is My Father’s World” by Josh Bales
I’ve been listening to Josh’s music for about two years. I got to meet and chat with Josh in Denver at a Colson Fellows residency last year. He was our worship leader for the weekend. When times are dark and trials come, I believe leaders like Josh point us to our Heavenly Father who created all things good. Take a walk outside. Break away for a few hours and enjoy the world around you. Listen here…

Let’s continue to pray, feast on God’s Word and engage the world with a Christian vision that requires action.

Assignment for September 26 – October 2

6 Week Journey assignment one: A Christian Manifesto by Francis Schaeffer

Subscribe

If you like what you read here, please subscribe. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

The Justice Impulse – What it means

The Justice Impulse – What it means

When I was a little boy (around 9 years old), our home was robbed twice. A few weeks prior to the first robbery, our beloved dog was hit by a car right before my eyes. He lived for a few hours before dying. In the midst of the grief of losing my dog, our house was burglarized. The thieves stole pretty much everything of value, including a gold ring in the shape of Texas my grandfather gave me. My mom was keeping it for me until I was old enough to wear it. That gold ring and a pool cue were the only things I had from my mother’s dad. I still have the pool cue.

After the robbery, I remember feeling afraid and having nightmares.

About a month later, we had replaced most of the “stuff” like the TV and VCR. We installed a security system. My parents were divorced and didn’t care too much for each other but my dad bought us a puppy. It was his way of bringing some joy back into our lives. I remember mom let me name him Ralphie and let him sleep in my room sometimes. Within a few weeks, we were robbed a second time. This time the thieves entered through the empty house next door and broke through the adjoining wall of our duplex (to avoid the new alarm system and burglar bars on the windows). They took all the new stuff that replaced the old stuff… and they stole our puppy, Ralphie.

This time anger overtook fear. It dawned on me that something is wrong with the world. This is my first memory of feeling injustice.

Fast forward to the morning of November 10, 2015. I had been selected for jury duty. Sitting in a most uncomfortable chair, we were introduced to the case. It was the worst kind of criminal case you could be assigned as a juror. It involved an older man sexually abusing a 5yr old little black girl. Nothing could take my mind from my own daughter, who was 4 at the time.

It was the one of the most heart-wrenching, sickening and traumatic situations I have ever experienced. After six days of testimony, a heroic little girl took the stand and faced her abuser. After 9 hours of deliberation, we found the man guilty on several charges. He was sentenced to what would amount to the rest of his life in prison.

I walked away knowing that justice had been served.

What do I mean by justice?
I think that defining terms is very important when we talk about ultimate issues. John Stonestreet likes to say that, “People use the same words but different dictionaries.” To put it another way, people can use the same words in a discussion but those words have different meanings. A good example is the word ‘love’. I love my wife, I love my kids, I love cheeseburgers, I love my mom and I love my best friend. However, I do not love them all the same way. Love means something different in each instance. “Justice” has multiple meanings and applications as well.

Here are a few definitions of ‘justice’ from online dictionaries:

  • the quality of being just; righteousness, equitableness, or moral rightness:
  • rightfulness or lawfulness, as of a claim or title; justness of ground or reason:
  • the moral principle determining just conduct.
  • conformity to truth, fact, or reason : CORRECTNESS

The definitions above are helpful but they don’t quite point to the source of justice.

Let me put forth a deeper foundation for your consideration.

From a biblical perspective, justice is rooted in the character of a creator God. Justice, also referred to righteousness, is an attribute that flows from God’s goodness. In order to flesh this out, we must go to Genesis 1. When God created the world and everything in it, he claimed “it is good.” When God created man in His own likeness, God saw everything He created and stated, ‘it (meaning all creation) is very good.”

“So God created man in his own image, in the image of God he created him; male and female he created them.” (Genesis 1:27)

Because we are created in God’s image, we carry some of his attributes. To put it another way, we have artifacts of God’s character woven into the fiber of who we are as humans. Every human life has intrinsic value and essential worth. Either this is objectively true or it is not. If it is true, then all humans have value on an individual basis no matter what and deserve dignity, protection and justice. If it is not true, then human value is arbitrary based on what those in power deem valuable – certain human-beings become expendable based on utilitarian values (usefulness). In the last instance, there can be no objective shared characteristic of justice – it evaporates in a mist of arbitrary relativism.  We need a unmovable point of reference.

We can’t say something is wrong unless we have some innate knowledge of what is right.

C.S. Lewis said, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”

Genesis 1 tells us about the ‘straight line’ or goodness, rightness or correctness. However, we need to head to Genesis 3 to better understand ‘a crooked line’ or wrongness. When we juxtapose the two, we have a clearer picture of justice. Now we can reframe the dictionary definitions of justice with deeper dimension and meaning from an objective source.

In Genesis 3, the Bible tells the story of how humanity chose to reject truth, reject God and reject His goodness. This is called ‘The Fall’. Prior to this point, all things were ‘good’ and ‘just’ in the created order. When man rebelled, sin and brokenness entered the ‘very good’ created order. Disorder and injustice followed. Since that moment in time, we humans have had a sense that things are not as they should be in the world.

There is an “oughtness” that we innately know about how life should be. Because of this, we know all is not lost. Artifacts and reflections of God’s original intent – goodness and justice remain innately rooted in our being. We just know a moral law exists that informs us on the difference between good and evil – straight and crooked lines.

Where does the ‘Justice Impulse’ come from?
We’ve all experienced some form of injustice in life or at least witnessed it.  Something from deep within cries out, “That is wrong!” At the same time, from deep within we have this innate desire to make wrong things right. But, where does this feeling or impulse come from?

Some sociologists contend that it is learned behavior that is socially conditioned by our surrounding culture. I think that is partly true. Our culture can shape our conception of justice. But that does not explain the fact that even little children from various cultures have an innate knowledge of fairness and fundamental idea of justice and injustice, even if it is very elementary. When you hear a 3 year old yell “That’s not fair!”, you are hearing an impulse of justice. People have this innate sense of “thats wrong” coupled with a desire to see things made right.

You can go to any cultural setting on earth ask people if it is good to molest and murder a child. The overwhelming response will be ‘no’. Any exception will be seen as an outlier to what is normative across cultures. Everyone can agree that harming a child is wrong. To do so is unjust and evil.

When we were robbed twice, I felt pain, hurt, anger, frustration and fear. I knew what happened was wrong. At the same time, I wanted to see things made right. Justice was never served in those instances.

However, when I was on a jury that put a monster who did irreparable harm to a little girl behind bars, something was different. At the beginning of the case, I felt much the same way I did when we were robbed. By the conclusion of sentencing, I felt peace and a sense of rightness, even goodness about the situation. Given, none of my feelings change the trauma for that little girl. But, we did deliver justice to the best of our ability.

When I see a man pleading for his life, gasping for air under the knee of another man sworn to protect life and uphold justice, an impulse emerges from deep within. I see an image-bearer in agony under the boot of an image-bearer under oath to serve and protect. Both men are created in the image of God and worthy of dignity. Both are marred by brokenness and sin in the context of a fallen world. However, when the dignity of one man is discarded by another, we witness injustice. In other words, when image-bearers see fellow image-bearers attacked, we innately know that human dignity and value are being attacked. Those “artifacts” of God’s character that are woven into who we are emerge in the form of a justice impulse. That impulse can take many forms in its expression.

We could be silent, we could lash out in anger, we could protest, we could destroy, we could try to help, etc.

I have concluded that silence in the face of injustice may be the worst response. Silence basically seconds the motion. It allows, or dare I say, promotes evil. As misguided, wrong and evil as riots and destruction are in the face of injustice, silence carries with it a mixture of contempt and selfishness.

Dietrich Bonhoeffer said,

“Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us guiltless. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”

I put forth the following regarding the justice impulse we all sense.

First, the justice impulse that we feel when we see or experience something wrong is good. We need to affirm that our sense of justice is indeed, good.

Second, justice needs space to be heard, cultivated and modeled within our homes, communities, businesses and our government. We all need to be free to rightly point out injustice when we see it. We need to allow truth to shape our concept of justice and love be the root of our response.

Third, we need to realize that in this broken world, injustice and evil exist. We will not completely rid ourselves of this reality. The human heart is deceitful. However, as image-bearers we can respond to injustice and evil with justice and goodness. We stop injustice by understanding that we all have dignity and value. You are sacred, I am sacred, your ethnicity and mine are sacred. We did not choose to whom, where or when we would be born. However, together, we can stand against evil even when we disagree on other things. And remember, evil begets evil. Disfunction begets disfunction. But, perfect love casts out evil, as light casts out darkness.

Fourth, we can restore the brokenness caused by injustice by promoting goodness and protecting the dignity of all human-beings – particularly the vulnerable and disenfranchised. We restore by bringing peace into a situation and ensure justice is served.

How do we as people who love justice respond to our justice impulse?

1. Pray. When events out of our control occur that cause emotional response, we must pray and ask for God’s wisdom to discern whether our impulses are just and good. If so, what is the right action to take?

2. Listen for understanding. Bear witness to someone else’s pain and suffering without judging. Be present in someone’s pain.

3. Learn to walk and chew gum at the same time. Sensible people faced with a complex situation do not need to be relegated to a tribe (or side). The “only two sides – pick one” dichotomy is elementary and childish. Remember, humans have dignity and a general sense of justice even when opinions differ on particulars.

4. Speak up in the face of injustice, even if it is unpopular. William Wilberforce is a perfect example.

5. Serve. I’ve learned the best way to restore a semblance of justice and goodness is to serve those in need. For instance, when we serve those experiencing homelessness, we are bringing goodness and restoration into their lives through relationships. We are acknowledging an individual’s dignity and value. We are saying, “I see you.”  People have value not because of their socio-economic status or ethnicity but because their imagery. All are made in the image of God. When I serve an image-bearer, I am serving the image-maker. When I lovingly raise my voice for the voiceless, I am doing justice, loving my neighbor and showing God’s mercy.

Finally, for the Christian, we must understand that all of these responses must be rooted in truth and love. We accomplish all things by grace through faith in our Savior, Jesus Christ who suffered the most significant injustice in history to justify those who trust Him. God sees injustice and will not remain silent. God’s people see injustice and we should not remain silent either.

Proverbs 31:8-9 says, “Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy.”

“He (God) has shown you, O mortal, what is good. And what does the LORD require of you? To act justly and to love mercy and to walk humbly with your God.” – Micah 6:8

PS. I keep my juror badge (pictured above) taped in the back of my Bible to help me remember that I must work to stop evil and do justice.


Read previous post: “Thank you Ravi (Zacharias) – A Story”
If you like what you read here, please subscribe –  sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Why we need beauty

Why we need beauty

Do you ever wonder why humans need beauty?

“The acute experience of great beauty readily evokes a nameless yearning for something more than earth can offer. Elegant splendor reawakens our spirit’s aching need for the infinite, a hunger for more than matter can provide.”Thomas Dubay

We’ve been in self-quarantine / lockdown for over a month. Each day I’m asking myself questions about what I’m learning. I’m looking for lessons, both big and small. Some days, I come up short and can’t seem to find the lesson.

This morning I was reflecting on some interesting aspects of my life. There are themes that seem to rise to the surface now and then. One of those themes is beauty.

The further down the path of life I wander, the more important beauty and wonder become. The more of the hurt and pain I see and experience in the world, the more I find myself searching for that which is beautiful. Beauty is a salve for the human soul.

When I was younger, I was an artist of sorts. From an early age, I had a keen interest in music and visual art. I started drawing and painting at a very young age, I got my first  drum set at 3 or 4 years old and my first tape recorder when I was in 2nd or 3rd grade. I would listen to the radio and record my favorite songs. It wouldn’t be long (7th grade) before I would get my first turntables and mixer. My first DJ gig was at the end of 7th grade – a birthday party for a classmate. I have tinkered with various instruments my entire life. As an introvert and only child, I would sit in my room for hours drawing and building things both real and imagined.

I was a poor student in school, but I always excelled in art and writing. In fact, I was nearly headed to art school for college. I had my eyes set on Parson’s School of Design or Rhode Island School of Design. I had a great art instructor at my boarding school in Connecticut. Over 4 years, she showed me different ways to see the world. However, the rigid demands of creating a portfolio in Advanced Placement art class to submit to colleges proved to be too rigid. Add on top of that a growing interest in social activities and sports – and I walked away from ‘art school’ but not art or beauty.

Some of my fondest memories; are of exploring the woods around Avon Old Farms School (CT), wandering down to Bondi Beach (outside Sydney) to watch the surf, sitting on the top of a truck staring at the expanse of sky with friends at midnight in the middle of the Australian outback, relaxing on a balcony in Costa Rica with my wife watching birds circling in flight over the ocean and beholding a Texas sunset in the country with my family. These are just a few memories off the top of my mind. I have hundreds more.

Some of my best friends are extraordinary artists. To be able to see and hear the beautiful artifacts that emerge from them is a privilege and joy of the highest order.

A shift occurred

When I reflect back to why I loved beauty and art when I was younger vs. today, I learn that a major shift has taken place. When I was younger, I loved beauty and art mainly because it was an escape from reality. I wanted and needed to find a way out of the chaos and brokenness of my life. Beauty and art brought a kind of order and control. As I’ve gotten older and matured, I have learned that beauty is rooted in ultimate reality and an artist’s personality is the prism through which we see that reality. It is colored and shaped by the artist’s perceptions and expression outward.

So, why do we need beauty?

I have concluded that beauty points to an ultimate reality that remains thinly veiled in this life. From a Christian understanding, we live in a broken world that is slavishly chained to time. Everything, and I mean everything we see, hear and create will eventually decay or be destroyed. On the surface, this is kind of sad. But, if we consider ‘why’ beauty exists in the first place and ‘why’ we humans seem to need beauty – we begin to understand that the beauty we enjoy points to something else.

Beauty points to an ultimate reality and truth rooted in God’s character and expressed through his created order. Before the ‘fall’ of man into brokenness, God called His creation ‘good’. Since the fall, man has attempted to get back to that original state of goodness. Because we are all created in the image of God (Imago DeÍ), humans, like prisms reflect, refract and shape expressions of our creator’s beauty and goodness.

When we experience or express something beautiful, we’re getting a glimpse of an ultimate reality that is purely beautiful. We are seeing but shadows of that original ‘goodness’ cast onto the paths of this short life. When you see or hear something astoundingly beautiful, know that the reason why you love it and want it to last forever is because, beauty, goodness and truth are eternal. In this life, we merely perceive and enjoy dim glimpses of what was originally intended and what ultimately will come.

And so, if the world is slavish, harsh and cold, beauty is the warm inviting fire emanating a kindly light. We need beauty because, whether you believe it or not, beauty is a way that a good God reminds us that he love’s us.

“He has made everything beautiful in its time. Also, he has put eternity into man’s heart …” (Ecclesiastes 3:11)


Read previous post: Are your donations causing supply chain disruptions in neighborhood stores?
If you like what you read here, please subscribe –  sign-up here. Every time I post something new, you will receive an email.

Wordpress Social Share Plugin powered by Ultimatelysocial
error

Enjoy this blog? Please spread the word