Many of you know (and if you don’t, you do now) that I am critical of the PC(USA)’s Matthew 25 initiative. On the surface, this initiative appears biblical: church revitalization, helping the poor, and addressing racism. All three of these appear in Scripture. God wants Jesus’ Bride to be active and engaged; He commands us to meet the needs of the least and the lost; He brings unity across every human division and distinction. My gripe with the Matthew 25 initiative is that it is highly political and polarizing because it does not find biblical solutions but seeks humanist (man-centered) applications.
If you haven’t been in college recently, you might not have heard of a recent trend on college campuses called “cancel culture.” Many colleges and universities invite people from all walks of life to speak at various functions. Some are as simple as a campus club meeting to something as big a convocation, or something as regular as a symposium. Historically, the academic world was welcoming of points of view that differed from the institution. Today, however, cancel culture is more the norm. When a club, organization, or faculty invite a speaker who is widely opposed by the student body or among the faculty, it is common for these groups to petition or pressure the dean, chancellor, or board of trustees to cancel the speaking engagement. Even if this is not familiar to you, you likely have heard of boycotts and strikes. They come from the same foundation. Those who support and perpetuate cancel culture often, though snidely, point to Christianity as the fountainhead. They aren’t too far off base.
In 1949, British author George Orwell published his famous dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four. One of the characters in this book is “Big Brother,” the leader of Ingsoc (English Socialists), which rules the totalitarian global community of Oceania. Big Brother is constantly watching every citizen, employing various means of surveillance. Three score and two years later, Orwell’s “Big Brother” has taken on an identity not too dissimilar from the book. In Orwell’s London, the Metropolitan Police can track a person from one end of the Thames to the other, simply by using the city’s interconnected CCTVs. In this era “fake news,” one cannot escape Facebook’s “fact checkers” always looking over our virtual shoulders. For many people, this is disconcerting and sign of troublesome times. The Christian, however, should be unphased.
People moving between tribes, lands, and countries is no new phenomenon. Indeed, since the world began, people have moved around. After the establishment of property boundaries, classification became necessary. Words like “migrant” and “refugee” are used interchangeably in today’s media. Older words like “alien,” “nomad,” or “gypsy” were used to convey negative presuppositions. Even older words like “stranger” and “foreigner” are descriptors applied in the Bible. There is one word, however, that has special significance for developing a biblical worldview. That word is “sojourner.” To be fair, a sojourner of the Bible and an immigrant of today might not necessarily be one in the same. Nevertheless, we must let the Bible inform our perspective on immigration and not political or social agendas.
God had given Adam and Eve the command to eat of any tree “of the garden, but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for on the day you eat from it, you will certainly die”. (Genesis 2:16-17 CSB) If you know the narrative then you know what happens next: taking the form of a serpent, Satan approaches Eve and asks the simple question: “Did God really say?” casting doubt on the veracity of God’s spoken Word to His creation. Adam and Eve then fell — “The Fall of Man” or the teaching of “Original Sin.” That is what Satan does, he casts doubt on the Word of God and the truth that is contained in it. It is a worldview sadly that has been taught by false teachers (see 1st Timothy 4:1 and 2nd Timothy 3 and 4 for a more in-depth study on the issue) throughout the centuries and it is especially prevalent in the modern church today.
This word gets used quite a lot. When a child feels little self-worth, we might tell her she’s loved unconditionally. What is often meant by that is “you don’t need to earn my affection.” This is true of the love parents have for their children. Children don’t earn their parents’ love because that love is natural to us. In a conversation on love, Jesus comments love is natural even to the Gentiles, and is not something unique to believers (Matthew 5:43-47). If we are to approach this word – particularly in the phrase “unconditional love” – from a biblical perspective, we must properly define “unconditional.”
“Woke” is the word of the day. If you spend anytime watching, reading, or surfing the news, you will have come across this word. In decades past, one would speak of being “woken up” from slumber. Today, that word has shifted from a somnial meaning into an ideological one. Merriam-Webster’s dictionary (itself fallen into wokeness) defines that word as American slang suggesting an awareness of and attention to key facts or issues. In most contexts, “woke” is often used in reference to some social or political issue. The Bible speaks less about being “woke” and more about being “washed.”
Some churches — even in my own Presbytery — do not talk about sin. Sin is one of those subjects that society as a whole has come to reject. Even clearly bad things and people are being reframed. Take the film industry as an example. Disney has reimagined two of its villains, Maleficent (2014) and Cruella (2021), offering explanations for their villainy and sympathy for their humanity. This is not a new trend. One of my favorite films, The Godfather (1972) invites me to sympathize with ruthless criminals. Christians need not avoid these films and stories, but we must approach them with a biblical worldview.
Earlier this week, I saw a commercial for Invisalign’s alternative to braces. I will say, after struggling through braces myself, there was something appealing to their product. I remember when Invisalign first came out – sometime after my metal braces were already installed – though I can’t say I recall their then advertisements. I don’t know the cost difference between traditional braces and Invisalign’s, but I know they are appealing to the social cost difference.