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Come Reason's Apologetics Notes blog will highlight various news stories or current events and seek to explore them from a thoughtful Christian perspective. Less formal and shorter than the Web site articles, we hope to give readers points to reflect on concerning topics of the day.

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Showing posts with label immorality. Show all posts
Showing posts with label immorality. Show all posts

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

Battling the Culture Wars (Podcast)

Popular media today has an incredible influence on thoughts and attitudes. From blockbuster movies to superstar pop divas, our minds are being shaped by the values that Hollywood deems important. How can Christians protect their families from such a powerful message? This podcast series looks at ways to provide a counterbalance to culture's corrupting influence.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Why Our Culture's Value of Feelings Will Be Its Downfall

How much do your feelings matter? Are they the most important thing in deciding whether you're living a successful life? Many people think so. Just this week Ezekiel Emanuel, the director of the Clinical Bioethics Department at the U.S. National Institutes of Health, published an article in the Atlantic saying that death at 75 should be the goal for healthy living.1 After that, he will refuse testing and treatment—including simple things like flu shots or antibiotics—and seek to take on death where it may be found. His reasoning? Emanuel says, "I want to celebrate my life while I am still in my prime" and he simply thinks that after 75his life would no longer be good, but simply "succumbing to that slow constriction of activities and aspirations imperceptibly imposed by aging."2 Emanuel sees the good life as the one in which he feels good.

 Emanuel's reasoning is an example of what sociologist Pitirim Sorokin called the Sensate culture.  Writing in the early 20th century, Sorokin noticed that cultures seem to be aligned into a couple of dominant types: societies that emphasize the spiritual aspects of existence and believe in things such as religion, transcendent values and morality above the physical he labeled "Ideational." Those who devalued or dismissed the spiritual and held the material world as the true reality and the guiding principle of life he labeled as "Sensate".3

Sorokin stated that we are not only in a Sensate culture, but one that is falling apart due to its own excesses. John Uebersax quotes Sorokin in saying:
In the twentieth century the magnificent sensate house of Western man began to deteriorate rapidly and then to crumble. There was, among other things, a disintegration of its moral, legal, and other values which, from within, control and guide the behavior of individuals and groups. When human beings cease to be controlled by deeply interiorized religious, ethical, aesthetic and other values, individuals and groups become the victims of crude power and fraud as the supreme controlling forces of their behavior, relationship, and destiny. In such circumstances, man turns into a human animal driven mainly by his biological urges, passions, and lust. Individual and collective unrestricted egotism flares up; a struggle for existence intensifies; might becomes right; and wars, bloody revolutions, crime, and other forms of interhuman strife and bestiality explode on an unprecedented scale. So it was in all great transitory periods. (BT, 1964, p. 24)
The "passions and lust" that Sorokin mentions above were stated in more detail in a book he published entitled The American Sex Revolution. Written in the 1950s, well before the age of the Pill and free love, he writes, "every phase of our culture has been invaded by sex. Our civilization has become so preoccupied with sex that it now oozes from all pores of American life.... Whatever aspect of our culture is considered, each is packed with sex obsession."

And Sorokin nails the last seventy years. According to Russell Nieli, his book predicts basically all the social ills we face today:
The harmful trends that Sorokin described in his book, many of which were cause for only moderate concern in their own time, would become much more extreme in subsequent decades, and today are generally acknowledged as a major source of social and cultural decline in what is not inaccurately described as a "post- Christian" West. These include declining birth rates and diminished parental commitment to the welfare of children; vastly increased erotic content in movies, plays, novels, magazines, television shows, radio programs, song lyrics, and commercial advertising; increased divorce, promiscuity, premarital sex, extramarital sex, homosexuality, spousal abandonment, and out-of-wedlock births; and related to these developments, a growing increase in juvenile delinquency, psychological depression, and mental disorders of every description. So extreme have some of these trends become, particularly since the late 1960s, that many today can look back nostalgically upon the 1950s when Sorokin issued his warnings as a period of great social stability, "family values," and dedication to traditional Christian understandings of sex, marriage, and child rearing.4
Our culture's overemphasis on sex is a result of its overemphasis on the material, to the detriment of the spiritual. Truth is relative and life isn't lived for a higher purpose, but for those things that makes one feel good, the result being that society devolves into self-pleasing beings who only see value in whatever feels good. Thus we get someone like Emanuel, a key bioethicist who was one of the chief architects of Obamacare stating that he thinks prolonging his life after 75 is a waste. Is that important? Does it worry you?

Our Sensate culture cannot continue, according to Sorokin. I think he's right. By valuing the material over the ideational, Sorokin says that we have set ourselves up to either perish or change. Which will it be?


1. Emanuel, Ezekiel J. "Why I Hope to Die at 75." The Atlantic. Atlantic Media Company, 17 Sept. 2014. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
2. Ibid.
3. Uebersax, John, PhD. "Culture in Crisis: The Visionary Theories of Pitirim Sorokin." Satyagraha. Satyagraha, 19 Aug. 2010. Web. 25 Sept. 2014.
4. Nieli, Russel. "Critic of the Sensate Culture: Rediscovering the Genius of Pitirim Sorokin." The Political Science Reviewer. Intercollegiate Studies Institute. 266.
Image courtesy Tom Morris. Licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license.

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

Three Problems with the World Vision Decision

"It is actually reported that there is sexual immorality among you, and of a kind that is not tolerated even among pagans, for a man has his father's wife."  1 Cor. 5:1

Yesterday's announcement by president Richard Stearns that World Vision will "allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed" at the ministry sent immediate shock waves through the Evangelical community. World Vision has required all of its employees to not only assent to a statement of faith, but also to abide by the ministry's Standards of Conduct Policy, which forbids any employee from participating in actions such as sex outside of marriage. Thus, making such an allowance for united homosexuals confused many supporters as it seemed completely out of step with World Vision policy.

In the official announcement, the company claimed to not be compromising their position. It reads:
Since World Vision is a multi-denominational organization that welcomes employees from more than 50 denominations, and since a number of these denominations in recent years have sanctioned same-sex marriage for Christians, the board—in keeping with our practice of deferring to church authority in the lives of our staff, and desiring to treat all of our employees equally—chose to adjust our policy. Thus, the board has modified our Employee Standards of Conduct to allow a Christian in a legal same-sex marriage to be employed at World Vision.

I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue. We have chosen not to exclude someone from employment at World Vision U.S. on this issue alone."
The notice also justified the policy change by stating "our board of directors is recognized as one of the leaders among Christian organizations in the U.S. It includes deeply spiritual and wise believers, among them several pastors, a seminary president, and a professor of theology." Interestingly, there is a biblical parallel here in the early church at Corinth. The Corinthian church also struggled with divisive theological battles. They also allowed people who practiced what the Bible clearly labeled as sexual sin within their ranks, and they also claimed themselves as wise. When addressing each of these issues in the epistle of 1 Corinthians, the Apostle Paul took the church to task. "We are fools for Christ's sake, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute… When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; when slandered, we entreat. We have become, and are still, like the scum of the world, the refuse of all things."

World Vision's Failed Foresight

Of course, World Vision is trying to claim that it is remaining neutral on issues where good Christians disagree. Note the claim, "I want to be clear that we have not endorsed same-sex marriage, but we have chosen to defer to the authority of local churches on this issue." My response is that it is impossible to claim neutrality by implementing such a policy. Here are some reasons why:

First, World Vision, in recognizing same-sex "marriage" while keeping their abstinence provision has made a theological judgment: they have concluded that marriage is not something designed by God, but is something that can be redefined in whatever way some denomination's whims take it. As I've stated before, natural marriage can be easily seen in the fact that men and women's bodies couple in a unique way and the natural result of that coupling is offspring. The Bible says "the two shall become one flesh" and that is exactly what happens if there is nothing to impede nature. Realize, there is no institution other than marriage to properly bring children into this world. None. However, by equating same-sex unions to marriage, World Vision says biology, God's design for family, and the right of a child to have a mother and a father don't really matter. Marriage is what a partner denomination says it is.

Secondly, by maintaining the abstinence component of the Employee Standard of Conduct, World Vision sends a strong message that individuals who violate the Bible's prohibition on premarital sex are committing a greater sin than those practicing homosexual intercourse on a consistent basis. Both acts are condemned in the Bible, but one must assume that same-sex couples who went through a ceremony have the intent to repeatedly engage in sexual immorality. There is no repentance in such instances, and it is clear that World Vision therefore is making a theological claim that there is then no sin.

Lastly, I understand that different denominations hold to different views on a variety of theological topics. However, no Christian denomination teaches that one is in habitual sin by holding to the perseverance of the saints or whether baptism should be full-immersion only. We recognize that Christians will differ on these issues. Habitual sexual sin, though, is clearly taught to be a factor in one's salvation. Paul warns the Corinthians "Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality, nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God." So, deferring to denominations on matters of disagreement is fine, but not where the action bears on what it means to be a Christian.

"But you yourselves wrong and defraud—even your own brothers!" 1 Cor. 6:8

Spears states that part of the reason for the policy change is to keep them focused on their mission. "The board and I wanted to prevent this divisive issue from tearing World Vision apart and potentially crippling our ability to accomplish our vital kingdom mission of loving and serving the poorest of the poor in the name of Christ." The Corinthian church was also successful. They were "not lacking in any gift" (1:7) and were even able to contribute to the collection Paul was taking up for the Christians suffering in Jerusalem. But, their ministry and abilities were considered secondary to their obedience. He says by allowing such immorality go unchallenged they Corinthians are harming the body of Christ.

Many Christians today have been taking a live and let live approach to same-sex unions. "I may believe that homosexuality is wrong, but I don't want to judge others." Such a view is wrong. We are called to be stewards of one another first, and our ministry to the outside world is secondary. Homosexuality is physically dangerous, and as Paul has stressed, it is spiritually deadly. World Vision seems to have focused so much on its ministry to the world that it has gone blind to its ministry to the church.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Swallowing the Poison of Moral Relativism

As society continues down the path of moral relativism, the principles we rely on to live our daily lives become more and more muddled. Because there are no real boundaries, we lose focus on where we should approach boldly and where we should approach cautiously. Because there is no yardstick for good and evil, we now begin to call evil "good" and good "evil," just as the Bible warned.1 The relativist becomes detached from reality and misidentifies what was supposed to protect us as being "restrictive" and what was supposed to help, encourage, or teach us as something oppressive.

Sexual promiscuity is a good example here. God's original plan was to keep sexual relationships reserved for a husband and wife after marriage. But many deem such standards as a repressive approach to a natural feeling. Of course, the natural consequences of such actions, such as sexually transmitted disease and pregnancy, soon follow. So rather than treating the cause of the problem and tying to demonstrate that sex should only be practiced within the commitment of the marriage relationship, most schools are now dropping an abstinence-based philosophy and adopting a "comprehensive" sex education curriculum that at its core seeks to reduce the unwanted consequences of premarital sexual behavior.2 Even though humanity for millennia have understood that loose sexual practices lead to pregnancy, disease, and emotional injury, our modern society seeks actions without repercussions.

Relativist claim: "Don't push your beliefs on me!"

Of course, such an approach is never consistently applied. No one is a relativist when it comes to prescription medication, for example. When receiving medicine from a pharmacist, I read the label carefully to see just how much I should take and when. I never think, "The doctor prescribed an antibiotic for my infection, but he's just trapped in his own biases, so I think I'll take some morphine instead." No, we rely on the training and expertise of the doctor, who knows that certain medicines have one outcome and others have a different outcome. If you seek to take only what feels good instead of what is good for you, you will end up in worse condition than when you started.

One aspect of moral restraints is that they function to protect us from overdosing on our cravings. Yet, the relativist objects to such normative rules for society by shouting, "Don't push your beliefs on me! You have no right to force me to accept your beliefs." The Christian can simply respond to this by asking, "Are you saying it's wrong to think that a personally held moral view should be applied to another? But isn't that a view that you personally hold? I mean if something is wrong, then it's a moral value. So, why are you trying to push that on me?"

Relativism offers up conflicting rules. Relativists seek freedom from traditional moral laws and are offended if anyone else tries to point out the fact that their actions have dire consequences. They believe a "healthy" morality is one that is right for them, yet they would never take such an approach with their physical health. But as we see with the rise in pregnancies out of wedlock, climbing STD rates, abortion, and ever younger children engaged in sexual activity, their actions are having dire consequences. Even the relativist becomes an absolutist when it comes to medical treatment! To believe that moral decisions are consequence-free is to swallow poison instead of medicine, and it is making our society very sick.


1. Isaiah 5:20
2. The state of California, with the largest student population in the U.S., is a good example of this standard. The legal requirements for sexual education in California public schools comes from The California Department of Education, who published The California Comprehensive Sexual Health and HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Act (Education Code [EC] sections 51930-51939). They write that the Act "has two primary purposes:
  • To provide a pupil with the knowledge and skills necessary to protect his or her sexual and reproductive health from unintended pregnancy and STDs;
  • To encourage a pupil to develop healthy attitudes concerning adolescent growth and development, body image, gender roles, sexual orientation, dating, marriage, and family
The statute goes on to say "Abstinence shall be taught within the context of HIV/AIDS prevention education (EC 51934 (3), however, abstinence-only education is not permitted in California public schools" (emphasis theirs).

Saturday, April 06, 2013

Why the Christian Church is Marginalized

I've talked before about the problems in the Christian church, namely that too many churches don't stand up for the truth. They feel that hey must not make waves with the culture at large, lest they be deemed 'intolerant "and repel even more followers. Some have said that this is especially true if we want to keep our young people engaged.

I don't believe a word of this. In our relativistic age, young people desire meaning and truth much more than they want complacency. This has bee true even in times of greatest generational change.  Rather than quote from some evangelical pastor or bloggers who have written on this point, I would like to draw your attention to an excerpt from Martin Luther King's "Letter from a Birmingham Jail." As I wrote previously, King was hoping that the white Christian Church would have enough of the Spirit to stand up to the immorality of the popular opinion of his day. In these paragraphs, King almost prophetically decries the contemporary church and sees its future marginalization.
"There was a time when the church was very powerful--in the time when the early Christians rejoiced at being deemed worthy to suffer for what they believed. In those days the church was not merely a thermometer that recorded the ideas and principles of popular opinion; it was a thermostat that transformed the mores of society. Whenever the early Christians entered a town, the people in power became disturbed and immediately sought to convict the Christians for being "disturbers of the peace" and "outside agitators."' But the Christians pressed on, in the conviction that they were "a colony of heaven," called to obey God rather than man. Small in number, they were big in commitment. They were too God-intoxicated to be "astronomically intimidated." By their effort and example they brought an end to such ancient evils as infanticide and gladiatorial contests. Things are different now. So often the contemporary church is a weak, ineffectual voice with an uncertain sound. So often it is an arch defender of the status quo. Far from being disturbed by the presence of the church, the power structure of the average community is consoled by the church's silent--and often even vocal--sanction of things as they are.
"But the judgment of God is upon the church as never before. If today's church does not recapture the sacrificial spirit of the early church, it will lose its authenticity, forfeit the loyalty of millions, and be dismissed as an irrelevant social club with no meaning for the twentieth century. Every day I meet young people whose disappointment with the church has turned into outright disgust."
For a more thorough look at how much the world has gotten into the church, see this five part YouTube presentation.
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