"Atheism turns out to be too simple. If the whole universe has no meaning, we should never have found out that it has no meaning."
"The fingers of your thoughts are molding your face ceaselessly."
"Art, like morality, consists in drawing the line somewhere."
"Humility enforces where neither virtue nor strength can prevail, nor reason."
"Education without values, as useful as it is, seems rather to make man a more clever devil."
Resistance Thinking Culture
Culture is a term used to describe why humans act the way they do. The study of culture attempts to explain why certain behaviours have special significance for some humans, where as for others it is completely meaningless. Culture encompasses everything from watching television and surfing the web, to doing yoga and having pre-arranged marriages.
All of the human behaviours that make up a particular culture are founded on a certain set of ideas. For instance, Islamic women wear a hijab for modesty because of teahcings in the Hadith and many Christians wear a cross around their neck in rememberance of Christ. These are human behaviours that are founded on a very clear set of ideas. Ideas are expressed in human behaviours that make up a certain culture.
In this culture section you will find articles, news and reviews on an extrememly diverse range of topics that relate to culture: the media - TV, news, magazines, movies etc., other religions - Islam, Judaism, New Age, Buddhism, Hinduism etc., philosophy - postmodernism, existentialism, humanism, consumerism etc., popular culture, music, Christian culture - music, moviews etc., and a whole lot more!
One thing I have become accutely aware of recently is that I have been ignoring a significant concern for many of my readers. That is the question of dating. For a married man like myself this is all in the past so it is easy to look back and suggest that the difficulties facing the single Christian are insignificant. I have not been in a relationship long enough to forget the trials of being single, and it is this topic that I wish to address today.
I was told the story of one man that I know who abstained from watching Hollywood films because he believed they gave an awful perception of the roles of men and women and the concept of romance. How right he was. Unfortunately for the most part we are seeped in the Hollywood notions of how we should value perspective partners. Usually this involves rating them by their outward attractiveness or their potential job prospects and opportunities. Even in Church circles we think in such ways and evaluate other people by how good they look or where their careers are headed.
This must stop. These qualifications are dangerous and border on the irrelevant. If you are a Christian single person you must stop looking at the opposite sex with these type of glasses. It will likely lead you to a boyfriend or girlfriend who it is not in your best interests to be dating. It may seem cliché but the most important thing is where your future partner places God in his/her life. I am well aware that a godly person is becoming something of an abnormality but it is worth holding out for a person who holds closely to Scripture, who values prayer and who hates sinful behaviour.
Yet here too the single Christian may run into trouble. It is a good thing to hate sin, to be disgusted by it. But if you approach all relationships with the expectation that the opposite person is perfect you will be sorely mistaken. Your expectations will go unfulfilled. I was not deterred by my wife's sins, nor was she deterred by mine. We loathed our past behaviours that took us away from God and it is my hope that we will avoid them in the future. But I know inevitably we will desire our own ways above God and fall to temptation.
I have heard of Christian women who have run from Christian men who may have had sexual immorality in their past. Speaking as a Christian man I know that sex is the biggest difficulty faced by single Christian men. In fact, culturally it is hard to run from (if we are wise enough to have the desire). Sex is propagated on the television, in movies and on the net. It takes a discerning man to avoid all the temptations all the time. And, if I may speak generally, every man who I've talked to about this topic has admitted to slipping up sometime in the past.
This is not to excuse the behaviour. It is dreadful, it is destructive and it is the very thing that Paul tells us we are condemned for in his letter to the Church in Rome “Therefore God gave them up in the lusts of their hearts to impurity, to the dishonoring of their bodies among themselves”Romans 1:24 (ESV) and to the Church in Corinth “[f]lee from sexual immorality. Every other sin a person commits is outside the body, but the sexually immoral person sins against his own body”1 Corinthians 6:18 (ESV). As such it is a good thing to condemn any form of sexual immorality. But speaking from a man's perspective, you will not find a man who doesn't have a history with some form of sexual immorality. To believe so is to be naive.
This also raises a further concern for me. Paul is adamant that we have all fallen but that we are no longer defined by the sins of our past:
“For there is no distinction: for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:22-26 (ESV)
I have great concern for those who continue to flaunt God's grace. But then I realise that in my myriad of ways I am one of these. We must flee from sin because it takes us from God and inhibits us from the process of sanctification (to be set apart for God's work). We must encourage our brothers and sisters in Christ to abstain from all sins, and in particular sexually immoral sins. However, to condemn the sinner when he has been justified by the work of Christ is a dangerous form of self-righteousness.
I am very lucky to have my wife. She is beautiful both inside and out. But I have no illusions that she has a sinful past, as do I. We do not delight in the sins behind us or the sins ahead of us. Yet we know that because of the blood of Christ we are no longer defined by them. We are both justified so that sin may have no hold of us anymore. I encourage her in her walk towards sanctification and she encourages me in my walk towards sanctification.
I am not a good person. Nor is my wife. When I fell in love with her she didn't have a squeaky clean past, neither did I. The most attractive thing about my wife when I was pursuing her was that she had a longing to find the truth and when she did she has clung to it and grown as a godly woman. If I had merely observed her as she was “in her former sins” there would be little to attract me to her. The same goes for when she looked at me. Thankfully the myriad of sins in my past (including sexual immorality) did not discourage her from dating and then marrying me. She saw me as a child of God and, for her, this was what defined me. Do not think your wisdom or your righteousness is beyond God's. Your future spouse is a sinner but if he/she has been justified by grace alone and seeks to be sanctified then you will have found a diamond in the rough, no matter what their past.
Last week I was giving a talk to a couple of hundred senior school students upon the worldview that is portrayed from Hollywood films. In preparation for this talk I ordered the book Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment written by Brian Godawa. Disappointingly it did not come until after my talk but upon reading it I will incorporate some of the key points brought up by Godawa.
Hollywood Worldviews is an excellent book that brings the reader to better understand the relentless messages out of Hollywood. Godawa best describes his book in the concluding chapter:
“In this book I have introduced you to the basic structure of storytelling that is used in screenwriting with the intent of sharpening your skills in discerning the worldviews and philosophies that are communicated through Hollywood movies. Those skills were applied to various specific worldviews, including existentialism, postmodernism, monism, Christianity and others, in order to illustrate how trends in thinking and society are reflected in and influenced by movies.”
Brian Godawa, Hollywood Worldviews, pg 250
The first edition of this book is now ten years old. Thankfully the most recent addition was produced in the last few years. It is obvious that much new content has been put into this new edition with references to movies that would still be on people's memories from movies late in the 2000s.
This book is divided into clear categories that demonstrate some of the concerning worldviews that are permeating through-out the film industry. Godawa promotes significant discussion to the movies that tip their proverbial hats to existentialism and postmodernism. As pointed out by Godawa there are many different forms that these philosophies rear their heads because of the diversity of views and opinions that reside within these two frameworks. Godawa points to the parallels between Woody Allen's work and the teachings of Nietzsche. He discusses The Dark Knight's morally ambiguous universe and Pulp Fiction's innovative way of looking at reality. These topics have been covered on Christian blog sites previously but it is good to have them written down in a Christian book about Hollywood.
What I haven't seen previously is a proper elaboration upon the misconceptions of Christianity and Christian's that permeate out of mainstream movies. While these depictions happen often Godawa presents the lies of Hollywood in reference to Christianity in a succinct way that will have all readers prepared to challenge the preconceptions that may spawn from these movies.
Godawa also addresses the portrayal of Jesus through-out cinema history. He looks at the transformation from a figure of extreme deity to a one with a total human personality. Such a discussion is helpful to identify when a movie may boarder on treating the stories of the Gospel's as myths and undermine Jesus' teachings and our platform of faith.
In all this book is a breath of fresh air. It is not so much condemnatory of the movies it discusses as it is informative and wary. This is a good way to approach the young person today. It will not really achieve anything to state what movies should not be watched. We like to think that we are individuals, capable of our own decisions. Instead we must bring our thought-processes under the dominion of God. This requires a renewing of our minds and begins with the act of discernment.
Godawa's Hollywood Worldviews is a great introduction to the act of determining what movies are actually trying to say to us. Much like a two hour talk might be this book leaves with the Christian reader a lot of compelling thoughts about what we watch. A discussion that many may have missed.
Migliorini is obviously pretty enough to have pushed the asking price up, along with the exposure she has received from media outlets in the past month. Her counterpart on the site Virgins WantedAlex only sold for $3,000. Yet it is not the price that was paid that makes this story so disturbing but the fact that these two people’s virginity was seen as a tradable commodity.
It has long been a selling point for those wishing to exchange sexual favours for money to masquerade as being virgins. It seems a logical conclusion that those who actually have their virginity to sell would start doing what Migliorini is doing now. In fact I would be surprised if she is the first.
Despite this transaction looking like a duck and smelling like a duck Migliorini is adamant that what she is participating in is not prostitution:
"If you only do it once in your life then you are not a prostitute, just like if you take one amazing photograph it does not automatically make you a photographer. The auction is just business, I'm a romantic girl at heart and believe in love. But this will make a big difference to my area."
One could question the accuracy of her photography analogy but that would be a waste of time. This is glorified prostitution. Even if Migliorini has decided that she is going to give away 90% of her proceeds to “worthy causes”.
Beyond my disappointment for this girl’s decision I find myself startled at the lack of negative media commentary on it. The media has reported this matter-of-factly without any indication as to why this is a very poor decision by this girl.
The problem with this is that if it is seen as allowable then it will be mimicked by others. It is an abuse of our sexuality to use it as a commodity. It is unnatural and ignores God’s decrees for how we should behave with our bodies.
There is some speculation that this whole thing is a media sham. The validity of this claim cannot be verified. Regardless it should be condemned in the loudest tones in order to discourage copy cats. Instead there are people arguing that it is an individual’s right to do whatever they want with their body. This may hold from a non-Christian perspective but if we cast our eye at Scripture it is revealed how fallacious claims to autonomous decisions really are.
Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God? You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body.
One of the reasons that Hawthorn won the Grand Final in 2008 was attributed to the quality of left-footers they had in their team. Lance Franklin was the most notable but it was Port Adelaide reject Stewie Dew who dismantled Geelong with five minutes of blistering play in the third quarter:
I think it is important to state that it is okay to be left-handed after beyondblue released a recent video portraying the bullying against those people who are left-handed:
Of course, that’s not what this video is about. It’s about stamping out bullying against people who identify as homosexual. The problem is that much of the time these anti-bullying projects become pro-homosexuality platforms. Bill Muehlenberg comments upon this phenomenon:
“The point is most kids have been bullied for all sorts of reasons. Such bullying is of course wrong, but it tends to be quite normal. But a major concern is when one special interest group seeks to politicise this issue, and hijack it as a means to promote their own harmful agenda.
The homosexual lobby has hopped onto the anti-bullying bandwagon big time, and has basically taken it over for the promotion of their radical social engineering activities. They have thus perverted a worthwhile initiative and turned it into yet another means to force an unwilling population to embrace their agenda.”
Michael Brown also suggests that too much emphasis is placed upon endorsing homosexuality than discouraging bullying in general:
“But there’s something else that is amiss in the current calls to reduce or eradicate the bullying of kids who are gay (or, are perceived to be gay), and it is this: Our message should be “Bullying is bad” rather than “Gay is good.” In other words, our schools do not need to nurture homosexuality (or transgenderism); they need to discourage bullying and cruelty.”
There are other concerns, however, with comparing homosexuality to left-handedness. While neither can be identified as occurring purely because of genetic predisposition left-handedness does not buck what is natural, nor is it considered abhorrent according to Scripture.
Of course bullying should never be left uncorrected but the analogy used by the beyondblue foundation in this case falls short. Organisations like beyondblue don’t care, though, as they can’t see anything wrong with homosexual behaviour. With such a mindset it is perfectly permissible to equate homosexuality with left-handedness.
I wanted to touch on some further comments by Guy Sebastian but I felt that they would not work within my previous article I wrote on him so I thought I’d write a follow-up article.
In the hard copy of the Herald Sun Sebastian also made these comments:
“I still believe in God, I still believe in the fundamentals of that. But I base it on the fact God is love. I don’t feel God is what people have said He is throughout generations. For me it’s a faith. People sometimes lose the concept of faith. I don’t know if there’s only one God, I don’t know if there’s a God, I just have a faith that there is. That’s what I’ve grown up with. But the minute it starts to become about hate, I switch off.”
To claim God is love is indeed true. However, such a comment is always prefaced with something that informs us as to what a person actually means by this comment. In Guy’s case he, in the first instance, states emphatically that he believes what people have said about God throughout generations is wrong. Whilst he doesn’t specify what it is that people have said that is wrong it would not be a stretch to suggest that he is talking about what most of the major proponents of the Christian faith have said about God.
Indeed Guy is willing to step away from key Christian understandings about God. Like His individual nature or His very existence. Guy has turned from scriptural understandings of God to experiential understandings of God. This may have fuelled his steps towards pluralism as he is likely to believe that we can “experience” God in a variety of different ways either through the parables of Jesus, the decrees of Muhammad or through eastern meditation.
There is a concept called the “noetic effects of the fall” that can be used to effectively argue against our understanding of God by experience alone. In its essential form the "noetic effects" are the changes that transpired to our understanding by the occurrence and dominion of sin. Albert Mohler outlines 14 key noetic effects in this video:
Mohler elaborates on these also in his chapter in the book Thinking, Loving, Doing. His central point is clear, we must turn away from the way we perceived the world as we are required to intellectually grow in our faith. This is in stark contrast to the comments made by Guy Sebastian that rely heavily upon his perceptions of God rather than scriptural precepts.
From this mistake breeds a dangerous assumption. God’s entire being and desire is love. Such an assertion is not grounded in Christian doctrine but is a widely regarded philosophy, even amongst those who would classify themselves as Christians. Yet to classify God purely as love is to ignore other chief characteristics of His nature. Some characteristics that people like Sebastian don’t like. Like God’s justice and His wrath. Both characteristics are unappealing to those who may believe that people are legitimately good on the inside. After all how can a loving God send “good people” to an excruciating eternity?
What we see in Guy Sebastian’s remarks is a watered-down Christianity. It is one that is unconcerned with truth but cherry-picks the most palatable elements of Christianity and God. This desire to conform God into what suits our human understanding of good and right is fraught with danger. As pointed out above we are subject to all sorts of noetic effects that came with the first decision to eat the forbidden fruit. To rely upon our notions of what God is without reference to Scripture is sure to provide us with the very deity we desire, but not one that actually exists.
Guy Sebastian last week articulated what his faith had become:
“My views are more based on life and discovery and research than just what I'm told. Because what I was told in regards to so many things was so wrong. I've gone from a place where I was told there was one way and only one way, to being more in a place where I don't think anyone has the right to say what they believe is more important or more significant."
It would appear from this statement that Guy Sebastian has stepped away from his Christian upbringing (part of the reason for his Australian Idol success) and become a pluralist. One of the most regularly used challenges against Christianity is that it is an exclusive religion. That is, Christianity makes claims that are exclusive like: “Jesus said to him, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.""
John 14:6 (ESV)
For many this is deterring. And for Guy Sebastian these claims no longer hold true. According to Guy no one can claim that “what they believe is more important or more significant” or more true (if I can be allowed to elaborate upon his statement) than what another person believes. This is a wholly unchristian statement. Christianity makes truth claims that cannot possibly be valid if other claims from religions like Buddhism, Islam or Wicca were true. As we will see a tension is revealed that destroys the pluralistic argument.
Let us quickly observe four key truth claims for Christianity: “(1) the Bible is God’s unique revelation written, true and fully authoritative, and thus where the claims of Scripture are incompatible with those of other faiths, the latter are to be rejected;
(2) Jesus Christ is the unique Incarnation of God, fully God and fully man;
(3) only throuth the person and work of Jesus is there the possibility of salvation;
(4) God’s saving grace is not mediated through the teachings, practices, or institutions of other religions.”
Telling the Truth, Harold A. Netland & Keith E. Johnson, pgs 48-49
I would like to add one fifth key truth claim:
(5) Grace is imputed to us by the Son so that the grace of the Son is both necessary and sufficient for our salvation.
Upon examining these five key claims it must be conceded that if all five are to be believed as true then no other religion or worldview should be considered valid. The first four are inconsistent with Buddhist teachings, with Islamic thinking, with Wiccan beliefs and nearly all other religions as well. The fifth claim is inconsistent with rulings from the Vatican and teachings from Joseph Smith. Yet people will argue as Sebastian has done, and as the Dalai Lama argued at the 1993 Parliament of the World’s Religions:
“Each religion has its own philosophy and there are similarities as well as differences among the various traditions. What is important is what is suitable for a particular person. We should look at the underlying purpose of religion and not merely at the abstract details of theology or metaphysics. All religions make the betterment of humanity their primary concern. When we view the different religions as essentially instruments to develop a good heart – love and respect for others, a true sense of community – we can appreciate what they have in common….Everyone feels that his or her form of religion practice is the best. I myself feel that Buddhism is best for me. But this does not mean Buddhism is best for everyone else.” (1996, 17-18) Telling the Truth, Harold A. Netland & Keith E. Johnson, pg 52
The clash between pluralism and Christianity occurs in many places in this statement by the Dalai Lama but none more so than when he is speaking about the primary concern of a religion. The Dalai Lama stresses that this primary concern is the “betterment of humanity” and to “develop a good heart”. This may resonate with most people, and would probably be endorsed by Guy Sebastian but this does not reflect a Biblical understanding of the central purpose of Christianity. All the chief tenants point upwards to God and not to the “betterment of humanity”. One cannot accept pluralism as Guy Sebastian has done without forsaking the very foundations of the Christian faith.