Offensive Weapons

Offensive WeaponsOur culture has raised taking offense to an art form. While there are probably many explanations for this, I came across something recently that I think explains it very well.

For my birthday my daughter gave me a copy of Dostoevsky’s “The Brothers Karamazov.” As I was reading it, a quote jumped off the page at me:

“The man who lies to himself can be more easily offended than anyone.”

For those invested in lies, the only protection available is to prevent truth from being heard. And, since lies cannot go head to head with truth and win, you need a secret weapon. In the arena of ideas, that secret weapon is often “offense.” It allows you to shut down discussion on almost any topic before things get out of hand. It steps between you and truth like a celebrity’s bodyguard fending off the paparazzi.

Here’s a good rule of thumb: when you encounter a topic for which only one point of view is allowed, that acceptable point of view is probably a lie. Note carefully what I’m saying. I’m not denying there are issues for which only one view is correct, far from it. I believe in the concept of absolute truth, the law of non-contradiction, etc. I’m saying if the accepted point of view is not open to challenge it’s likely because it cannot stand up to scrutiny and so must be protected some other way such as the tactic of taking offense.

Here are a few things in that category; admittedly some of these are more vehemently defended with the “I’m offended” tactic than others:

  • The unborn are not people, they’re just a mass of tissue
  • Abortion is healthcare
  • Gender is a social construct
  • It’s possible to be physically male yet really be a woman (and vice versa)
  • Man-made global warming is a fact and is a threat to the planet
  • Macroevolution is the explanation for all the life forms we see today.
  • A relationship between two people of the same gender can be a marriage
  • Minimum wage laws help the poor
  • Government spending creates prosperity
  • Islam is a religion of peace

I could go on. To question any of these assertions is to be offensive to many in our culture. Of course the words “I’m offended” may not always be used. You will sometimes be accused of being intolerant or misogynistic or homophobic or a greedy capitalist, etc. but those are just other ways the tactic of taking offense manifests itself.

There’s also an underlying assumption in Dostoevsky’s quote: people know they are lying to themselves about these things.  Of course the transsexual or the abortionist would deny this but deep down they know truth is not on their side. That is why they are so quick to take offense. The apostle Paul speaks of this in his letter to the Romans:

For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth. 19 For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. 20 For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. 21 For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. 22 Claiming to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. – Romans 1:18-23

Which brings us to the biggest assertion of all that this tactic is used to defend:

There is no God.

If you want to see people go from 0 to 60 on the “I’m offended” scale in nothing flat, just acknowledge God in the public square. The shortest length of time known to man is the time between when a prayer is said at a city council meeting and a lawsuit is filed by an atheist.

In the end you must expect to be labeled “offensive” if you stand for truth in our day (usually by folks who claim to hate “labels,” I might add). But when you are take heart, for when someone claims your point of view is offensive it’s likely because they have no counter arguments for it.

The Parable of the Ten Virgins – Matthew 25:1-13

The Parable of the Ten Virgins – Matthew 25:1-13“Then the kingdom of heaven will be like ten virgins who took their lamps and went to meet the bridegroom. Five of them were foolish, and five were wise. For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them, but the wise took flasks of oil with their lamps. As the bridegroom was delayed, they all became drowsy and slept. But at midnight there was a cry, ‘Here is the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.’ Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps. And the foolish said to the wise, ‘Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.’ But the wise answered, saying, ‘Since there will not be enough for us and for you, go rather to the dealers and buy for yourselves.’ 10 And while they were going to buy, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the marriage feast, and the door was shut. 11 Afterward the other virgins came also, saying, ‘Lord, lord, open to us.’ 12 But he answered, ‘Truly, I say to you, I do not know you.’ 13 Watch therefore, for you know neither the day nor the hour.”

This parable can be confusing if we try to attach specific meaning to each component (lanterns, oil, trimming the lamps, oil sellers, etc.). While it was common in medieval theology to spiritualize every single aspect of a parable (see Augustine’s interpretation of the Good Samaritan parable), parables generally teach one overarching truth and should be understood that way. We’re not called to ferret out the allegorical meaning of each component. There are times when, because of context or other teachings in scripture, symbolic meaning can be assigned. For example, I believe we’re safe in saying the “bridegroom” in this parable is Christ. There are also times when scripture tells us what the components mean as we see in Matthew 13 when Jesus explains the parables of the sower and the wheat and the tares. But, beyond that, we should not speculate.

The key to understanding this parable is its context. Matthew includes this teaching immediately after Jesus’ teaching on the end of the age in Matthew 24. The parable is a warning to be prepared for the coming of Christ.

The foolish virgins thought they were ready. However, the unexpected return of the bridegroom exposed them as frauds – and it was too late for them. The response of the bridegroom to their pleas in verse 12 is almost identical to Jesus’ words in Matthew 7:23:

“And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’”

Terrifying words.

We know not the day and the hour. Therefore, we should make our calling and election sure so that when that day comes we will receive a rich welcome into the “eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (II Peter 1:10-11)

Are you ready for the coming of the Lord?

I Am What (I Say) I Am

I Am What I (Say) I AmIdeas have consequences and in western culture, few ideas have had more consequences (of the negative variety) in the last hundred years than existentialism.

Existentialism is a philosophy of existence that makes the individual primary. Among other things, it teaches that each person has the ability to decide for themselves the meaning of their life and who or what they are. None of that is imposed upon the individual from the outside. There is no such thing as an innate essence or design, no purpose for existence beyond that assigned by the individual.

In other words an individual is whatever he or she claims to be without regard to any external standard of measurement. This particular component of existentialism has been latched onto by modern western culture with a vise-like grip.

As a result, we have for several generations believed we could be things without actually having the characteristics of those things.

This is what allows society to take seriously people with male bodies who claim they are female and vice versa. Common sense and reality scream that human beings are born either male or female and that that can be determined based upon a rather cursory examination at the moment of birth – but existentialism says “not so fast.” It claims the right not to be boxed in by anatomy or any other external. I am the gender I say I am, all other evidence be damned.

This belief is not limited to the culture at large but has found its way into the church as well. It is the root of so-called liberal Christianity. If I call myself a Christian, others must believe it because it is what I believe about myself. I do not have to adhere to any specific beliefs or practices to be considered a Christian. I am one merely because I say I am.

So, according to existentialism, I can be a man without actually being male and I can be a Christian without actually believing what Christians believe. I am an independent free-agent and no one can tell me what to do or who I am but me. Of course this is not consistently applied. Much like the moral relativist who has no trouble identifying right and wrong when their car is stolen, existentialists have no trouble using externals to define those who disagree with them. It’s all well and good for me to claim to be a Christian while disavowing the resurrection but if you question my Christianity because of my view, you’re judgmental. But if existentialism is true, can’t I make judgments about others and still be non-judgmental simply because I believe I am?

The truth is we are defined all sorts of ways external to ourselves, many of which we don’t choose. And those definitions are often more accurate than the ones we come up with on our own. Think of the first couple of “American Idol” shows each season and the mistaken belief so many have about their identity as a singer. However, I am a son, husband and father whether I identify myself that way or not. And despite the cultural noise to the contrary, I am a man whether I see myself that way or not; I did not choose that and have no ability to change it, it is how I was designed – how ironic that that is a controversial statement in our day whereas the notion that one’s “sexual orientation” is fixed is taken as gospel.

If we are to recover as a culture we must jettison this kind of self-deception and hyper-individualism. We must move back within the realm of reality and stop believing the lie that we are completely autonomous self-creations. In short, we must place ourselves back under the authority of our Creator and Designer.

To choose otherwise is to choose destruction. Reality will not be ignored. She will eventually have her way with or without us – whether we believe so or not.

King Saul’s Bad Theology

King Saul's Bad TheologyThroughout the book of I Samuel, God, through Samuel and others, made it clear to King Saul that the kingdom of Israel was no longer his (15:26). It was also clear that David was God’s anointed and would one day be the king (18:12, 24:20).

Despite this, Saul continued to pursue keeping the throne and as part of that quest he sought to kill David.

In I Samuel 23:7 we read an interesting thing as Saul pursues David:

Saul was told that David had gone to Keilah, and he said, “God has delivered him into my hands, for David has imprisoned himself by entering a town with gates and bars.”

The self-deception here is enormous. Despite God’s clear message to the contrary, Saul believes God approves of his plan to kill David and he even believes God is orchestrating events to help him do so.

Saul is confusing his evil desires with the will of God and is interpreting circumstances in light of those desires rather than in light of the Word of God.

How often we can do this!

Many times we want things God’s word says we cannot have – a romance with someone other than our spouse, something our neighbor owns, marriage to an unbeliever, etc. We sometimes want these things so badly that to get them we are willing to ignore God’s Word or, like Saul, twist it so that God appears to approve of what we want.

However, our theology must be grounded in the word of God and not our desires. God has never promised to fulfill all our desires but he has promised to work all things together for our good if we are His followers (Romans 8:28). Simply put, nothing we desire that God forbids is good for us.

Take time to examine the desires of your heart. Are you willing to give up pursuing those things not in conformity to the Word of God? Pray and ask God to mold your desires until they are shaped like His.