He Gets Us? Don’t Take the Bait!

HE GETS US? DON'T TAKE THE BAIT!

Think biblically and employ the theological resources provided in scripture. Use discernment and logic when viewing all media, including emotionally manipulative Super Bowl commercials that claim to convey a biblical message.
ALL Christians must develop theological precision and clarity.
It’s time for Christians to think critically from a biblical worldview perspective.

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Thesis: The entire He Gets Us enterprise is nothing more than repackaged liberal theology wrapped in identity politics.

I believe the message conveyed by the He Gets Us Super Bowl commercial must be analyzed. It was viewed by millions of people. (You can view it here). It is a composition of images of people washing the feet of other people to a rendition of a song by INXS entitled, “Never Tear Us Apart.” The video ends with the message, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.

I’m going to analyze and critique the He Gets Us commercial as well as their overall messaging from a biblical worldview perspective, identify a few significant theological problems, and suggest biblical solutions.

At the conclusion of this article, you can watch an alternative to the He Gets Us commercial called, “He Saves Us” by Jamie Bambrick. Compare them for yourself, use what you have learned, and decide which one is closer to biblical Christianity.

While I think there are significant problems with the commercial, I believe the conversations and even controversy surrounding it are a good thing. This is a teachable moment for Christians and should be seen as an opportunity to wrestle with ideas and exercise discernment and wisdom. Someone might say, “How can public debate among Christians over a sixty second commercial be a good thing for the church? This is a huge waste of time and damages the witness of the church to a lost world.”

Dealing with issues in the public sphere is rooted in scripture and Christian tradition. Jesus confronted the hypocrisy and sin of the Pharisees on numerous occasions. Paul confronted the error of religious and political leaders as well. The creeds and confessions throughout church history were responses to heretical ideas, controversies, and false teaching. Keep in mind, that heresy and false teaching are not always blatantly obvious. One must use wisdom, discernment, and good theology to reveal them. Many Christian sounding sentiments and slogans, are in fact not biblical at all.

“He (the serpent) said to the woman, “Did God actually say…?”” (Genesis 3:1b)

Falsehood and heresy are far more damaging to the Christian witness than open debate and confrontation of bad theology and bad ideas.

If dealing with bad ideas publicly wasn’t a waste of time for Jesus, Paul, the church fathers, and reformers then it is not a waste of time for Christians of any era, including our own. This conversation and debate is good for the church.

The people who created the He Gets Us commercial are using bad hermeneutics that distort Jesus Christ and biblical faith.

Biblical hermeneutics is the study of the principles and methods of interpreting the text of the Bible. 2 Timothy 2:15 commands believers to be involved in hermeneutics: “Do your best to present yourself to God as one approved, a worker who . . . correctly handles the word of truth.” The purpose of biblical hermeneutics is to help us to know how to properly interpret, understand, and apply the Bible.”(1)  Poor interpretation of scripture will result in a distorted understanding and faulty application.

Someone may be thinking that I’m being too technical and all this theological jargon is confusing and creates division.

For a Christian, theology is more than just the study of God or knowing things about God. At the core of Christian theology is knowing God Himself.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.” (Mark 12:30)

The question is, “How can we know God?” We personally know God primarily through Scripture (His special revelation to man about Himself and the world we inhabit).

“All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

We can know a few things about God through His general revelation via the created order as well.

“The heavens declare the glory of God,
and the sky above proclaims his handiwork.
Day to day pours out speech,
and night to night reveals knowledge.”
(Psalm 19:1-2)

The poor hermeneutics and bad theology employed by He Gets Us leads people away from orthodoxy (right belief) into heterodoxy (heresy). Misinterpretation will lead to misunderstanding and misapplication of scripture. This needs to be confronted, stopped, and corrected.

Missing from the He Gets Us campaign is a biblical hermeneutic and understanding of the difference between exegesis and eisegesis.

The lens we use when approaching scripture and culture will have massive ramifications on our theology and how we live.

First, Christians must understand the hermeneutic used by He Gets Us. This can be found on their website:

“We look at the biography of Jesus through a modern lens to find new relevance in often overlooked moments and themes from his life.”(2)

That statement is problematic and tells us everything we need to know. He Gets Us chose to interpret scripture using a non-biblical framework. This means that everything, including their conclusions, will shift away from the Bible. 

Second, Christians must adhere to a biblical interpretation found in the Bible itself. The Bible is the lens through which we understand Christ and culture. Interpreting scripture and the life and ministry of Jesus Christ through a ‘modern lens’ is not biblical. In fact it’s a poor hermeneutical approach. It will eventually lead one away from biblical truth into falsehood and destruction.

“For the Christian, the Bible is not merely a book to be looked at, it is also a lens to be looked through.”(3)

Third, Christians must understand the difference between exegesis and eisegesis. Can we make the Bible say whatever we want it to say? Am I at liberty to infuse my own meaning and experience into the biblical text? What is the standard? Is man the standard? Or is God’s word the standard?

Exegesis is the exposition or explanation of a text based on a careful, objective analysis. The word exegesis literally means “to lead out of.” That means that the interpreter is led to his conclusions by following the text. The opposite approach to Scripture is eisegesis, which is the interpretation of a passage based on a subjective, non-analytical reading. The word eisegesis literally means “to lead into,” which means the interpreter injects his own ideas into the text, making it mean whatever he wants.”(4)

Someone will say that getting into the weeds of theological interpretation methods gets in the way of winning people to Christ with a winsome message.

However, truth contained in the message is vastly more important than winsomeness of the message.

The He Gets Us marketers and consultants miss the point and miss the mark. In doing so, they confuse Christians and non-Christians alike. When a so-called “Christian” commercial confuses Christians, you know there is a problem.

If so-called “Christians” resort to misrepresenting scripture and manipulating emotions as a means of making Jesus more appealing, they are employing falsehood to bring about righteousness. That is at best unbiblical and at worst, evil.

“How can God condemn me as a sinner if my dishonesty highlights his truthfulness and brings him more glory?” And some people even slander us by claiming that we say, “The more we sin, the better it is!” Those who say such things deserve to be condemned.” (Romans 3:7-8 NLT)

Christians should use the Bible as the lens through which to see and understand culture, not the other way around.

The He Gets Us commercial attempts to answer the worldview question: “What is wrong with the world and how do we fix it?”

Watch the commercial carefully and investigate their website. You’ll discover they locate the problem with the world outside the individual human heart and reframe it as ‘ideological differences’ that lead to disunity. The He Gets Us solution to the problem is for people to perform humble “acts of kindness.” In other words, be nice and accommodating.

The He Gets Us website states: “We began to imagine a world where ideological others were willing to set their differences aside and wash one another’s feet. How would that look? How would our contentious world change if we washed one another’s feet, not literally, but figuratively? Figurative foot washing can be as simple as giving a compliment to a co-worker or paying for a stranger’s lunch. It can also be as difficult as not responding to someone who’s criticizing you or reaching out to an estranged family member. Acts of kindness done out of humility and respect for another person could be considered the equivalent of foot washing.”(5)

Remember, the video ends with the words, “Jesus didn’t teach hate. He washed feet.” Yes, Jesus did wash the feet of the disciples. That is true! But, that’s not the point. He Gets Us admit that washing feet isn’t the point on their multi-million dollar website. What is the point? (I’ll get this later). This lack of clarity and lack of theological precision begs the question…

What do you mean by that?

What do they mean when they say, “Jesus didn’t teach hate?” What did Jesus teach? What do the He Gets Us folks mean by ‘hate’? They don’t provide clear biblical definitions for anything. Again, they are making the text mean whatever they want and asking you to believe them!

The word of God does tell us what the Lord hates:

“There are six things that the Lord hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.”
(Proverbs 6:16-19)

“Yet this you do have, that you hate the deeds of the Nicolaitans, which I also hate.” (Revelation 2:6)

“You shall not set up for yourself a sacred pillar which the Lord your God hates.” (Deuteronomy 16:22)

“You shall not behave thus toward the Lord your God, for every abominable act which the Lord hates they have done for their gods; for they even burn their sons and daughters in the fire to their gods.” (Deuteronomy 12:31)

“For I hate divorce,” says the Lord, the God of Israel, “and him who covers his garment with wrong,” says the Lord of hosts. “So take heed to your spirit, that you do not deal treacherously.” (Malachi 2:16)

“Love must be sincere. Hate what is evil; cling to what is good.” (Romans 12:9)

Biblically, the problem with the world is sin. The solution is salvation by grace through faith in Jesus Christ alone.

“For all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God…” (Romans 3:23)

The source of sin is located in the individual human heart. Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn says it best, “The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either – but right through every human heart – and through all human hearts.”

Acts of kindness are not salvific nor transformative. Only God’s grace through Christ’s death and resurrection save sinners.

“For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast.” (Ephesians 2:8-9)

Transformed redeemed people transform their cultural environments because they live in obedience to all that Christ commands. Furthermore, “washing feet” is a demonstration of the humility and obedience of Christ (even unto death on a Roman cross), modeled for His disciples who would be transformed through faith upon His resurrection. Christians serve others by serving Christ because we’re saved by Him.

“… But emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.” (Philippians 2:7-8)

Again, the entire He Gets Us enterprise is nothing more than repackaged liberal theology wrapped in identity politics. It’s not really designed to share the Gospel of the Kingdom, the forgiveness of sin, and salvation in Christ alone.

It is designed to divide the church along political lines by taking a swipe at biblical Christianity. He Gets Us is identity politics dressed up in Christian drag. They are not really interested in loving God and leading people to Christ, they have a set of political priorities.

Both the commercial and website convey messages rooted in identity politics.

“Identity politics is politics based on a particular identity, such as race, nationality, religion, gender, sexual orientation, social background, caste, and social class…
Identity politics is further described as:
(a) ethnicity as a contemporary form of politics;
(b) a form of critical pedagogy that links social structure with the insights of poststructuralism regarding the nature of subjectivity, while incorporating a Marxist commitment to politics ; and
(c) general efforts by status based movements to foster and explore the cultural identity of members. By the mid-1990s, references to identity politics as violent ethnic conflict, and nationalism more generally…”(6)

According to their website, the He Gets Us folks were attempting to convey the following message, with an upcoming election year that will be filled with division and derision, we decided to focus on one of the most important directives given by Jesus – “Love Your Neighbor.”

On the surface, this all might sound ‘good’ and Christ-like. However, liberal theology always sacrifices the greatest commandment on the alter of the second. In other words, loving the God of the universe is sacrificed on the alter of loving your neighbor. Man becomes the center, not God.

“Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and most important commandment. The second is like it: Love your neighbor as yourself. All the Law and the Prophets depend on these two commandments.” (Matthew 22:37–40)

Biblically, it is impossible to truly love your neighbor without loving God first (agape love). Love of God is the post on which love of others hangs.

When viewing the He Gets Us commercials, website, and interviews with creators in their totality, identity politics is exposed as the primary driver of their program. As such, one must recognize that Marxian political theory in the form of Critical Social Theory is the shaping force behind identity politics. Whether the He Gets Us people realize it or not, they are promoting a non-biblical worldview.

One of the easiest ways to recognize liberal theology is by identifying what is ignored, rejected, and emphasized.

God and His commands are ignored or de-emphasized. Christ as Savior and Lord is rejected. And man’s experience is emphasized.

David Wells said, “The liberal approach sees experience – whether of ourselves, of the natural world, of political reality, or of society or within the church – as providing the stuff out of which theology is made. It therefore always incorporates modernity into its (liberal) theology, not simply as an external pole of reference for that theology, but as its internal substance.” In other words, liberal theology is man-centered built around man’s experience. As such, man is the standard and measure of all things.

Truth, is then relocated from God’s revealed word, to man’s relativistic experiential whims.

Reductionism

The mission and message of Jesus Christ is reduced to moralism and a therapeutic social program with a political agenda. This reductionism is antithetical to biblical faith and sound theology. Furthermore, it can’t be recognized as biblical Christianity. It is something else.

He Gets Us is heretical propaganda that punches right. It is a poorly constructed ‘artful’ meme shaped more by Herbert Marcuse’s “Repressive Tolerance”(7) than by the Bible. It is the power dynamic applied within Christian theology. In other words, it’s just repackaged liberal theology. There is nothing new under the sun. Heresy is still heresy regardless of its therapeutic individualistic self-expressive wrapper.

Someone will say, “Heretical? Isn’t that a little harsh?” Perhaps it grates against the modern therapeutic sensibilities of liberal ‘Christians’, but my tone isn’t important. The content and truth of what I’m saying is. Because the truth of the Gospel and God’s word are what are being challenged by the He Gets Us folks.

He Gets Us is distorting the biblical historical Lord Jesus Christ and promoting a liberal political ideology with a touch of good old fashion gnosticism. The the “oppressor versus oppressed” power dynamic is portrayed visually in the commercial. When you see the power dynamic within theology, you are seeing Cultural Marxism being applied, albeit in an artful way meant to elicit an emotional response.

They’re basically saying:
“We just want people to see Jesus in a new way.”
“We want people who’ve been oppressed by the church to learn about the real Jesus that most Christians don’t know.”

My response is as follows:

As thinking and discerning Christians, we must keep in mind that something new about Jesus is most likely not true. The Bible says, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever. Do not be led away by diverse and strange teachings…” (Hebrews 13:8-9a)

In addition, when someone attempts to convince you that they possess hidden knowledge about the Bible or truth in general, they are committing a gnostic heresy. Well-meaning Christians fall for this all the time, just like first century Christians fell for gnosticism.

R.V. Young said, “The Gnostics’ teaching places the origin of evil, of pain and suffering, in the conditions of the material creation; salvation involves overcoming ignorance and escaping these external conditions by finding divinity within. . . . The Gnostic finds the beginning of the path to salvation in the realization that the world is a great imposture, a prison of pain and frustration. His escape lies in recovering the intrinsic good within himself…”

“Gnostics claim to possess an elevated knowledge, a “higher truth” known only to a certain few. Gnosticism comes from the Greek word gnosis which means “to know.” Gnostics claim to possess a higher knowledge, not from the Bible, but acquired on some mystical higher plane of existence. Gnostics see themselves as a privileged class elevated above everybody else by their higher, deeper knowledge of God.”(8)

“O Timothy, guard the deposit entrusted to you. Avoid the irreverent babble and contradictions of what is falsely called “knowledge,” for by professing it some have swerved from the faith. Grace be with you.” (1 Timothy 6:20-21)

Finally, don’t fall victim to He Gets Usappeal to emotion” logical fallacy. “Appeal to emotion fallacy occurs when someone tries to convince another person by evoking their feelings rather than providing evidence. With the appeal to emotion fallacy, people accept a claim as true because they react emotionally to it. As a result, they focus on factors irrelevant to the question at hand, ignoring facts and logical reasoning.”(9) To put it another way, objective truth is jettisoned by allowing subjective emotions to determine truth.

Again, don’t take the bait.

Gresham Machen was correct when he said that liberal Christianity isn’t a variation of Christianity, but an entirely different religion.

The solution is simple. Think biblically and employ the theological resources provided in scripture.

Use discernment and logic when viewing all media, including emotionally manipulative Super Bowl commercials that claim to convey a biblical message.

ALL Christians must develop theological precision and clarity. It’s time for Christians to think critically.

At the end of the day, the He Gets Us message trades a clear call for repentance from sin and faith in Christ for a feel-good social gospel with a political agenda. Nowhere in their content will you find a crying out to God for mercy and forgiveness – only an emotional appeal to people to conform to a moralistic form of identity politics.

Ask yourself these questions:
Who is the biblical historical Jesus Christ?
What did He come to accomplish?
What did He commission His ekklesia (church) to do?
What does He expect from us individually and as a church?

Here’s the message to the He Gets Us folks and all Christians.

“O foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified. Let me ask you only this: Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? Are you so foolish? Having begun by the Spirit, are you now being perfected by the flesh?” (Galatians 3:1-3)

“Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect.” (Romans 12:2)

Don’t take the He Gets Us bait… The truth is, Jesus Christ saves us! Jesus Christ is Lord of All.

Below: The Christian Super Bowl Ad They SHOULD Have Made | He Saves Us by Jamie Bambrick

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

Now more than ever, worldview training is essential. It is not a Christian elective. I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective.

Learn more and give here…

Generosity Redeemed – A Theology of Generosity

GENEROSITY REDEEMED

The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings.

Generosity becomes clearer when we possess a theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

Many Christians have a shallow, un-enchanted vision of generosity (I suffer from this as well). Often, generosity is a guilt-driven duty or a sentimental desire for psychological well-being or a reciprocal relationship with God, as if God needs anything from us. The deadliest perspective links giving to salvation. Reader beware, dead works will not result in eternal life (see Ephesians 2:8-9). Modern Christians, especially in America, seem to have unintentionally embraced ideas influenced by pragmatism and the Enlightenment regarding generosity. Additionally, adding a dose of moralism renders an unbiblical concoction.

The argument is commonly something like: “The Bible encourages giving as the right thing to do, promoting the expansion of God’s Kingdom while helping those in need. Tax benefits are a bonus!” While not entirely wrong, it’s incomplete and may be misguided. Some Christians use out-of-context proof-texts and persuasion tactics to motivate giving, which can be confusing or manipulative. What’s missing is a full-orbed Kingdom vision and a robust theology of generosity.

Theology, seen through a biblical lens, is more than just knowing things about God. Theology is about intimately knowing God Himself. Knowing God serves as the cornerstone of all Christian faith and activities, including stewardship and its handmaiden, generosity.

Let’s explore a biblical vision of generosity by asking questions of Holy Scripture.

In the beginning, who created?
At the cross, who died?
At the grave, who is risen?
Who is seated at the right hand of the Father?
At the conclusion of human history, who restores all things?
Who is God?
Who am I?
What are God’s purposes?
What is Jesus Christ Lord over?

Whether we realize it or not, our actions and choices in life inevitably reflect our underlying theological and worldview commitments. The way we understand and practice generosity is rooted in our theological perspective. Our theology of generosity, in turn, shapes how we use our resources, live our lives, and steward God’s blessings. Therefore, we need to make sure we have a good theology.

God created the world and deemed it “good.” This signified its intrinsic value because God is creator and God is the source of all good. This declaration demonstrates the richness of the potential embedded in creation, waiting to be discovered and developed. Entrusting man with dominion, God commanded the care and cultivation of Earth’s latent resources for His glory and the good of humanity. We hear echos in the greatest and second greatest commandments.

Jesus answered, “The most important (commandment) is, ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. And you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.’ The second is this: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” – Mark 12:29-31

Dominion

Dominion in the Bible is often overlooked or misunderstood. It is not about exploitation or oppression rather, theologically, it is stewardship, responsibility, God-given authority, and accountability to God, all directed toward His purposes. Properly understood, dominion is God-centered, not man-centered. As image-bearers, we share in God’s moral character traits, albeit as finite and fallen creatures. All humans are assigned a time and place to serve God’s purposes, exercising dominion over what God entrusts to us. In doing so, we reflect His moral character and bring His glory to the world He created and sustains. Dominion is humanity’s responsible and caring authority under God’s ultimate reign. I believe that exercising Godly dominion is a proper response to God’s grace, kindness, and goodness to us by glorifying Him and enjoying Him.

The first statement of the Westminster Shorter Catechism tells us the chief duty of man and what were created for (purpose).

Q. What is the chief end of man?
A. Man’s chief end is to glorify God, and to enjoy Him forever.
(The Westminster Shorter Catechism)

If God is the creator of all things, it means he holds the title deed of every atom in the entire universe. There isn’t anything in all of creation that God doesn’t own, including you and me. The air you breathe, the food you eat – it all belongs to God. He is the one who enables and allows you to breathe, eat, and even understand this sentence as you read it.

A Principle v. A Person

At the foundation of a theology of generosity, you won’t find just a biblical principle; rather, you’ll encounter a person—Jesus Christ. A distinct Christian life will be shaped and guided by principles of generosity that flow from knowing Jesus Christ. Remember, theology is knowing God, not just knowing things about Him.

Only when we retrieve and recover the riches of Christian faith in Christ as the ultimate gift from God, can we undertake any real form of generosity.

The one true definition of generosity, from which all other meanings flow, is God’s definition. Jesus Christ embodies this definition—He is the living and holy reality of generosity. At the center of all reality, Jesus stands as the Truth. When we behold Jesus, we see God’s Christ, God’s Word, God’s world, and God’s spirit, all given as glorious gifts to man. You and I have nothing we didn’t receive.

I encourage you to work out the implications of this in your own life (which is a gift). Generosity flows from a fuller theological understanding of God and His glorious riches.

“Whoever is of God hears the word of God.” – John 8:47

Therefore, through our generosity, we can join the likes of the Apostle Paul and, “proclaim the kingdom of God and teach about the lord Jesus Christ with all boldness and without hinderance.” – Acts 28:31

God’s Generous Gift

God has given us everything we need by granting us His divine power, His great promises, and His divine nature to enable our efforts to act on the knowledge of Him (theology). We benefit, partake, and develop the gift of God’s abundant power through Christ our Lord and Savior. Our knowledge of God’s divine power and promises is a gift. So is the ability and opportunity to utilize that power. When we receive the gift of faith, God supplies His power to enable us to supplement it with virtue and knowledge.

In conclusion, one important aspect of the Christian tradition is the spiritual discipline of generosity that contributes to the believer’s sanctification. In other words, when we exercise generosity, we are being conformed to the likeness of Christ’s character.

Notice, I didn’t mention money once in this post. Now, go and workout the implications of a theology of generosity in your life, watch God work and watch the world change.

“Praise God, from whom all blessings flow;
Praise Him, all creatures here below;
Praise Him above, ye heav’nly host;
Praise Father, Son, and Holy Ghost!

Praise God the Father who’s the source;
Praise God the Son who is the course;
Praise God the Spirit who’s the flow;
Praise God, our portion here below!”
– Thomas Ken (1637-1711)

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. There is a $7,500 matching challenge in play! This will allow us to quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

The Imagination Explained

IMAGINATION EXPLAINED

3 ways imagination is corrupted and what to do about it.

A synthesis and summary of article by Vigen Guroian in Touchstone Magazine.

Most people don’t think very deeply about the most powerful endowment God has given to his image-bearers, the Imagination!

Our imaginations can take us to some very good and joyful places, they can take us into very dark places as well. Our imaginations are more culturally relevant that we realize.

Below is a synthesis of a portion of an article by Vigen Guroian in Touchstone Magazine entitled, “Of Weed & Fairy Tales – The Idylls, Idols & Devils That Corrupt the Moral Imagination” (2020). I quote the article at length.

I hope it helps you understand the gift of the imagination, how to guard it from corruption, and how to cultivate it as God intends. I highly recommend reading Guroian’s article in its entirety.

The Purpose of Imagination

“The human imagination “reaches out and seizes likenesses and analogies” that establish relation and unity in a world of meaning. In other words, imagination is the self’s process of finding direction and purpose in life by making metaphors from remembered experiences to understand present experience. It is not an instinct but an attribute and an expression of our freedom, passion, and reason…

Wherever there are human beings, imagination exists and is exercised, much as wherever there are spiders, webs are spun. The important question is what kinds of imagination our contemporary culture encourages.” (Guroian)

Moral Imagination

The Human Power to “conceive of men and women as moral beings, i.e., as persons, not things or animals whose value is their utility. It is the process by which the self makes metaphors out of images stored in memory, which then are employed to find and suppose moral correspondences in experience.” (Guroian)

Left unprotected or uncultivated, the moral imagination decays into corruption and perversity.

Idyllic Imagination

It is escapist and utopian. “The self gripped by the idyllic imagination is escapist, not in the sense that it flees its physical surroundings so much as it shirks its civic, social, and moral responsibilities…

This is accompanied and reinforced by rejection and rebellion against old dogmas, manners, and mores. The idyllic imagination is in search of emancipation from conventional constraints. In our democratic and individualistic environment, persons justify this “liberation” in the name of self-fulfillment and self-realization, which they believe existing norms and structures inhibit or obstruct…

Quite often there is a turning to hedonistic imaginings, flagrant sensuality, and explorations of the “flesh.” These are paths that promise happiness but more often than not lead instead to boredom and ennui or, worse, physical and spiritual dissipation.” (Guroian)

The Idyllic Imagination rejects morality in pursuit of self-fulfillment. It is marked by hedonism, preoccupation with self, and sensuality. It seeks liberation from morals and results in boredom, dissatisfaction, or worse, physical and spiritual corruption and a wasted life.

Idolatrous Imagination

The Idolatrous Imagination cultivates the “absolutization of the relative” (Will Herberg)…
“Idolatry, in biblical terms, is the giving of one’s highest loyalties and devotions to objects and things other than God… What idolatry does is to convert its object into an absolute, thereby destroying the partial good within it and transforming it into a total evil…

Corrupted imaginations may be tracked everywhere in our culture. The media fixes on false gods whose stories replace the lives of saints and real heroes. One need only look at the popular magazines, MTV, television talk shows, and celebrity channels, to understand how pervasive is the idolatrous imagination… Even our schools and public libraries are heavily under its influence…

“What is more, the people, when they grow dissatisfied with their idols, often mercilessly turn on them and consume them with an ungodly wrath.” (Guroian)

The Idolatrous Imagination absolutizes the relative, lacking consciousness of sin, good things are given priority and devotion over God (Idolatry). A good object is converted into an absolute, making it totally evil. When the absolutized idol fails to satisfy its worshipers, they turn on it and destroy it.

Diabolical Imagination

“The coordinates that track the fall of the Western self into the diabolic imagination are the loss of the concept of sin and the rise of popular therapeutic justifications and excuses for things that were once thought perverse. Moral norms are redescribed as values relative to self or culture. Human nature is viewed as infinitely malleable and changing. Some go so far as to say it is merely a social construct or fiction. Good and evil are considered matters of perspective (opinion / sentiments)…

The Diabolic Imagination is latent within each of us, the image of the demonic imprinted by Original Sin on the human soul.” (Guroian)

The Diabolical Imagination transforms morals into relative values geared toward self. Objective good and evil do not exist outside one’s personal perspective or orientation. Sex and Violence are central. Greed and selfishness rule – revealing the sin nature within every human heart.

The Enriched Imagination

“After a child has read Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen or Madeleine L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time, her moral imagination is sure to have been stimulated and sharpened. The powerful images of good and evil in these stories show a child how to love through the examples of the characters she herself has come to love and admire. Such memories become the analogues that the moral imagination uses to make real-life decisions, and these memories become constitutive elements of her self-identity and character…

A well-fortified and story-enriched moral imagination helps children and adults move about in the world with moral intent and ultimately with faith, hope, and charity. As Flannery O’Connor once said, “Our response to life is different if we have been taught only a definition of faith than if we have trembled with Abraham as he held a knife over Isaac.” (Guroian)

Like a neglected vegetable garden is susceptible to weeds and pests, the human imagination left unattended, unguarded, and uncultivated will incrementally decay and succumb to evil. Therefore, we must steward and shape our imaginations well.

Recovering the Enriched Imagination

There is a reason C.S. Lewis stories of Narnia and Tolkien’s tales of hobbits and rings have captured and shaped the imaginations and lives of generations. They are not simply far-fetched fantasies. Those tales are in fact, true. Not that the characters or worlds existed in human history but their underlying frameworks are constructed on objective moral truths. These beautiful and good true stories point beyond themselves to the ultimate source of goodness, truth, and beauty – God.

“Stories not only reflect life, they shape it. It is of no small account what stories we tell and what stories we live by…”(Guroian)

Keep in mind biblical Christianity has the ultimate story on which all other stories rest – creation, fall, redemption, and restoration. It is The Story that we should tell and allow to shape our lives.

I leave you with one of my favorite G.K. Chesterton Quotes:

“Fairy tales do not tell children the dragons exist. Children already know that dragons exist. Fairy tales tell children the dragons can be killed.”

Source of quotes above: “Of Weed & Fairy Tales – The Idylls, Idols & Devils That Corrupt the Moral Imagination” by Vigen Guroian (2020) www.touchstonemag.com

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. There is a $7,500 matching challenge in play! This will allow us to quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

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TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

What is Love?

“Biblically speaking, love is seeking your neighbor’s highest good.”
– Dr. Glenn Sunshine – 

“Love is an affair of the will.”
– C.S. Lewis – 

We live in a cultural moment where words are torn from their original meaning and metaphysical grounding.

I believe western society and civilization would benefit greatly if we recovered the original definitions of words. Why? Because words matter. Humans use language to communicate and describe reality.

The term ‘love’ is one of the most commonly used words in the English language. Love can mean a lot of things…

I love ice cream.
I love hunting.
I love my wife.
I love my mom.
I love my friends.
I love reading.
I love a warm fire.
I love God.
I love good music.

What do you love?
Who do you love?

What is Love, really?
Why does it matter?

Have you ever thought about how the definitions of words change over time?

Take the word ‘nice‘ for instance. Until the 14th Century, ‘nice’ was used as a pejorative. Nice was defined as; “foolish, ignorant, frivolous, senseless,” from Old French nice “careless, clumsy; weak; poor, needy; simple, stupid, silly, foolish,” from Latin nescius “ignorant, unaware,” literally “not-knowing,” (source)

In the 19th Century, ‘nice‘ meant; “soft, tender, delicate; fine; accurate; exact; distinguishing.” (source)

In the 21st Century, the meaning of ‘nice‘ has morphed to mean; “kind, polite; pleasing, agreeable; appropriate, fitting; virtuous, respectable” (source)

You’ll think twice before saying someone is ‘nice’.

What about Love?

Love is important, right? Take a few moments to understand the similarities and subtle differences in the definitions of ‘love.’

The modern online Merriam-Webster dictionary defines love as follows:

Strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties;
attraction based on sexual desire;
affection based on admiration, benevolence, or common interests;
an assurance of affection;
warm attachment, enthusiasm, or devotion;
the object of attachment, devotion, or admiration;
(source)

The Noah Webster Dictionary of the English Language (1828) defines ‘love’ as follows:
1. In a general sense to be pleased with; to regard with affection, on account of some qualities which excite pleasing sensations or desire of gratification. We love a friend, on account of some qualities which give us pleasure in his society. We love a man who has done us a favor; in which case, gratitude enters into the composition of our affection. We love our parents and our children, on account of their connection with us, and on account of many qualities which please us. We love to retire to a cool shade in summer. We love a warm room in winter. we love to hear an eloquent advocate. The christian loves his Bible. In short, we love whatever gives us pleasure and delight, whether animal or intellectual; and if our hearts are right, we love God above all things, as the sum of all excellence and all the attributes which can communicate happiness to intelligent beings. In other words, the christian loves God with the love of complacency in his attributes, the love of benevolence towards the interest of his kingdom, and the love of gratitude for favors received.
: Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind,
: Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself. Matthew 22:37.

2. To have benevolence or good will for. John 3:16.

1. An affection of the mind excited by beauty and worth of any kind, or by the qualities of an object which communicate pleasure, sensual or intellectual. It is opposed to hatred. love between the sexes, is a compound affection, consisting of esteem, benevolence, and animal desire. love is excited by pleasing qualities of any kind, as by kindness, benevolence, charity, and by the qualities which render social intercourse agreeable. In the latter case, love is ardent friendship, or a strong attachment springing from good will and esteem, and the pleasure derived from the company, civilities and kindness of others.

Between certain natural relatives, love seems to be in some cases instinctive. Such is the love of a mother for her child, which manifests itself toward an infant, before any particular qualities in the child are unfolded. This affection is apparently as strong in irrational animals as in human beings.

We speak of the love of amusements, the love of books, the love of money, and the love of whatever contributes to our pleasure or supposed profit.

The love of God is the first duty of man, and this springs from just views of his attributes or excellencies of character, which afford the highest delight to the sanctified heart. Esteem and reverence constitute ingredients in this affection, and a fear of offending him is its inseparable effect.

2. Courtship; chiefly in the phrase, to make love that is, to court; to woo; to solicit union in marriage.

3. Patriotism; the attachment one has to his native land; as the love of country.

4. Benevolence; good will.

: God is love 1 John 4:7.” (source)

Finally, the Greek as used in the New Testament possesses the richest definitions of ‘love’. Notice how similar it is to Noah Webster’s 1828 definition…

Sexual or Romantic Love: Greek – Eros
Brotherly Love (friendship): Greek – phileo
Familial Love: Greek – storge
Self-Sacrificial Love: Greek – agape

Agape’ is God’s deep and abiding love for people. It is also the kind of love that people should have toward our creator God and one another. It is a self-sacrificing love that sets aside self for the honor and benefit of the other. Agape is far too deep and rich to fully comprehend much less explain in this blog post. So, I’ll leave you with passages of Scripture for your reflection and meditation at the end.

Agape love is counter-cultural and controversial today…
Love carries with it an intolerance. In its ‘yes’, love also says ‘no!’ Agape love says yes to God an others, while at the same time denying self… Saying ‘no’! Love just can’t accept and tolerate anything, otherwise love would give license for unimaginable devilry and evil. One cannot love truth and falsehood at the same time.

The slogan, “Love is Love” is a simplistic rhetorical device that devolves into a quagmire of easily manipulated emotional sentiments. The truth is, “God is Love” because love has its source outside the fallen domain of the human heart. God is ‘Agape’ from which all other forms of ‘love’ and affections flow. One cannot separate the Love of God from Truth of God.

Words and their meanings matter.

What is Love (really)?

Reflect on these passages:

“Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things… So now faith, hope, and love abide, these three; but the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7,13)

So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind. Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others. Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus, who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men. And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2:1-8)

A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another. (John 13:34)

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. (John 3:16)

“You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.” (Luke 10:27)

I launched the Forge Room Foundation in order to equip Christians to understand our cultural moment and respond with a biblical worldview perspective. We have a end-of-year fundraising goal of $50,000. This will allow us to host more forums and seminars that quip and mobilize people for Kingdom action. Please consider us in your year end generosity plans. Learn more and give here…

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

LEARN ABOUT THE FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION.
TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.

Rise up and Rebuild

“I have nothing to offer but blood, toil, tears and sweat… What is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be… Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength.”

 

Sir Winston Churchill (May 13, 1940)

The lobby is full. The gourmet coffee is hot. The music is good. The rooms are big and luxurious. The furniture is comfortable. The captain’s voice puts me at ease. Everyone is smiling and feeling good. The pleasurable experience is worth the price of the morning hassle. A young bride looks at her husband, and warmly remarks, “I’m so glad we came to church today. Hurry, let’s drop off the kids at childcare. I hear the band starting to play and I don’t want to miss the first song!”

Church, do you see the trouble we’re in?

Christian escapism is not biblical Christianity. We’re so comfortable and familiar with our Sunday ‘worship experiences’ that cater to our personal preferences and whims, we don’t realize we’re living in a spiritual wasteland. If the Apostle Paul walked into our church buildings this Sunday to check the fruit of his church-planting ministry, would he recognize the church as the Church he planted? In other words, would the Apostle, who was martyred for the Church, recognize the gathering of a distinct people living in the world but are not of the world? Would Paul see a gathered people demonstrating to the unbelieving world what life looks like living under the rule and reign of the Lord Jesus Christ?

What I am about to say may sound like a harsh critique. It is nonetheless honest, accurate, and intended as a wake up call.

Generally speaking, the church in America is in ruins. And, we’ve grown accustomed to living among the ruins. In fact, we disguise the broken-down spiritual walls with physical veneers and accoutrements to portray stability and strength. Personal preference, privatization, and corporatization have replaced the supernatural dynamism and distinctive functions of the Church. As such, we have redefined the meaning of “church.” Prophetic preaching has been replaced with profit preaching. The congregant is viewed as a customer. The mission of the church is keeping the customer comfortable and coming back. This is the modality of most churches – especially seeker-sensitive churches.

Most evangelical preachers are not preaching outright heresy. We’re so biblically illiterate, I’m not convinced we’d recognize heresy or have the moral courage to call it out if they were. It is the inconvenient truths of the Bible that many pastors omit. All scripture is God-breathed and useful for every matter of salvation, life and godliness. In other words, scripture has implications for all of life, family, and society. Sidestepping certain issues is another way for some pastors to do what seems right in their own eyes. After all, we have to be nice to win people to Christ. Prior to the 1300s ‘nice‘ meant foolish or stupid. The church embodies a mood of amicability, cultural conformity, and consumerism. Lest we agitate or scare away the customer base and their money. It is a sad state we’re in.

Proclamations from church leadership on high to congregants below goes something like this…

“Stand up for Israel! She must protect her borders!”

“But, don’t you dare stand up for righteousness in a school board meeting to protect children! That’s political and divisive!”

“Speaking into cultural issues gets in the way of sharing the Gospel!”

“Submit to Government authority. Wear a mask. Stay at home and church watch online. Romans 13!”

“How dare you question church leadership even as we intentionally avoid transparency and lack theological clarity and moral courage? That’s unloving, disloyal, and divisive!”

“Let the professionals handle how we do church, your job is to submit to our authority, sit down, keep your mouth shut and your wallet open!”

“You are getting in the way of God’s work. Perhaps, you should find another church if you don’t like it here?”

Pragmatism and marketing gimmicks shape modern ministry philosophy. Pastors are rendered to nothing more than managers. Seminaries produce highly specialized class of degreed professionals in order to compete with secular university degrees. Work at a church is just another career path instead of a calling. As such, the people are viewed as problems to be solve instead of sheep to be shepherded. The question I have for most pastors, is; “Would you do what you do for free?”

If Jesus Christ walked into an elder meeting, would he be pleased with the humility, faithfulness, intercessory prayer, theological clarity, moral courage, and pastoral care being provided? Or would Jesus fashion a whip of HDMI cords, tear down the growth charts and building plans, dump the gourmet coffee on the expensive carpet and chase peddlers of religious goods and programs off the property? “My house shall be called a house of prayer, but you make it a den of marketers.”

Do you see the trouble we’re in?

WE’ve got a problem. The church is in ruins and that leads to families, communities and a nation in ruins. Most churches are simply rearranging the furniture on the deck of the Titanic instead of calling for all hands on deck! I’m convinced, we are entering a time of civilizational crisis that no generation has witnessed since the Civil War or the Great Depression. In the words of William Strauss and Neil Howe, we are moving from societal unraveling into an era of crisis and upheaval. (1)

How are you going to think about a time such as this?
What are you going to do about it?
You have a choice that will shape the contours of history.
Will you stick with the status quo or “offer blood, toil, tears and sweat?”

Remember, we are The Church (a people, not a place)

Societal unraveling, crisis, and upheaval are nothing new to the church. Neither are awakenings and revivals new to the church! The church thrives in adverse and austere environments. We are the ekklesia! (2) We are redeemed and called out by Christ. We are a gathered people. Yet, we are distinct. At the same time, we are united from every nation, tribe, and tongue throughout human history. Distinct and united for what? To bear witness to the world to the glory of the King. And show the world what it looks like to live in His Kingdom that is in this world but not of this world. We carry our King’s message – a proclamation of good news and peace to rebels… “Lay down your sinful arms and run into His arms of grace!” Christ says, “Why spill the blood of others when I have spilled my blood for you and many for the forgiveness of sins?”

Why do I take the time to write this?

Because, God put it on my heart. This morning, I happened to listen to a sermon by Alistair Begg from 1994 entitled “Planting a Vision” from Nehemiah 2:11-20. It was a reminder for me of which I am so thankful!

Dark times demand a strong church…
We are a battleship not a cruiseliner.
We must humble ourselves under the mighty hand of God. Like the ruined walls of Jerusalem in Nehemiah’s day, the church walls are ruined in our day – even as they are covered with modern veneers. The words of Nehemiah echo down the hallways of history, “Let us rise up and build!” (Nehemiah 2:18)

If Jesus returns today or a thousand years from today I don’t know. However, whether he returns or calls me home, I want to be found going about my King’s business. My business is equipping and mobilizing the Church. Alistair Begg asked the question,”Are you in this world to do something or just looking for something to do?” What is the King’s business you need to be about?

I reorder Churchill’s words for this moment.

“Come then, let us go forward together with our united strength… What is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be…”

In God’s providence, you are here and so am I. Let us pray for God’s vision, provision, protection, and power as we hold to His promises of victory. Let’s rebuild and fortify the church and her witness in this time for God’s glory.

If Christ tarries through this present crisis, then we are sowing and cultivating the fields of the mighty awakening to come!

Nehemiah caused a holy ruckus in his day… We should cause a holy ruckus in our day too?

Author’s Note: I started Forge Room Foundation because God arranged my circumstances (without my permission) and reinforced my calling to equip and mobilize His Church for this time and place. So, that’s what I do come hell or high water. We could use your support as we close out our first year. Consider us in your giving plan and give here…

“Let us not glide through this world and then slip quietly into heaven, without having blown the trumpet loud and long for our Redeemer, Jesus Christ. Let us see to it that the devil will hold a thanksgiving service in hell, when he gets the news of our departure from the field of battle.” – C.T. Studd

Footnotes:

(1) https://www.amazon.com/Fourth-Turning-American-Prophecy-Rendezvous/dp/0767900464

(2) https://www.gotquestions.org/definition-ekklesia.html

Join us on Sunday, Nov. 12, for a Forge Room Forum in Fort Worth, Texas. “Critical Social Theory vs. Biblical Unity” Register free here…

Please share your insights by commenting below this post.

LEARN ABOUT THE FORGE ROOM FOUNDATION.
TRAINING EVERYDAY CHRISTIANS TO FIGHT THE GOOD FIGHT OF FAITH.