Category Archives: worldview

The Dawning Age of Intolerance

D. A. Carson is coming out with a new book called The Intolerance of Tolerance. Carson is one of the sharpest minds in the evangelical world today. Anything he writes is worth reading but this is a topic that is of great importance for us today. Here is the publisher’s description:

 We live in a culture obsessed with the idea of “tolerance.” Any viewpoint must be accepted —unless it rejects other viewpoints — and whoever is most earnest wins. This idea of tolerance must be thoughtfully challenged, argues D. A. Carson, both for the good of the church and for the good of the broader culture. Otherwise, poorly defined tolerance drifts ironically toward true intolerance.

 Carson examines how the definition of tolerance has changed. It now has less to do with recognizing the right of another to disagree with us, and more to do with not saying that others are wrong. It is impossible to deploy this new tolerance consistently, so that actual practice is often whimsical and arbitrary. Worse, the word “tolerance” has almost become an absolute good, and “intolerance” an absolute bad. Tolerance and intolerance have become merely rhetorical terms of approval and disapproval.

 Despite many negatives about the new, often ethically silly definitions of tolerance, from a Christian perspective there have been gains as well. In fact, Carson says, the nature of the Christian revelation is such that some tension in our understanding and practice of tolerance is inevitable.

 In this extremely readable volume, Carson uses anecdotes and quotes to illustrate his points and ends with practical advice on exemplifying and promoting the virtue of civil civic discourse.

 Here is a clip to give you a foretaste of the things Carson addresses in the book in detail.

The Way We See the World

As I preach through 1 Corinthians I continue to be impressed by the radical difference between the ways that Scripture portrays a Christian and non-Christian worldview. Here are just a few examples:

“For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1:18)

“Has God not made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, it pleased God to save those who believe.” (1:20b-21)

“And my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.” (2:4-5)

“The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned…For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him? But we have the mind of Christ.” (2:14, 16)

Cornelius Van Til comments on the difference between Christian and non-Christian thinking:

“Reformed Christians should realize that the non-Christian may have, and often does have, a brilliant mind. It may act efficiently, like a sharp circular saw acts efficiently. We may greatly admire such a mind for what, in spite of its basic principle and because of the fact that God has released its powers in his restraining grace, it has done. For all that, it must not be forgotten that this mind is still, be its name Aristotle, a covenant breaker in Adam.

            Aristotle knew how to use logic. [Yet] He came to the conclusion that God is not the Creator of man, knows nothing, is not a person. His conclusion was consistent with his premise. His logic was involved in his metaphysics as his metaphysics was involved in his logic.”

The Defense of the Faith, p. 293.

No human being, regardless of their intelligence or ignorance, has access to “brute” facts. That is, no human being has access to uninterpreted facts. And our interpretation of all facts is based on our assumptions about God’s existence and involvement in the world. We all look at the world around us but we each see it from the vantage point of either faith or unbelief. Then we build our understanding up from that point. This is often not a conscious process, but it is a reality nonetheless. This bottom-line presupposition determines how we understand all other things.

Christ is Lord of All

During the election primaries, I was reminded of a classic quote from Abraham Kuyper (one of my favorites) which I thought I would share with you:

“There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry, ‘Mine!'”

If you would like to explore how the universal lordship of Christ should inform you perspective in every sphere of your life, a good place to start might be Kuyper’s Stone Lectures given at Princeton Theological Seminary in 1898 entitled Lectures on Calvinism.

The outline of six lectures are as follows:

  1. Calvinism as a Life System
  2. Calvinism and Religion
  3. Calvinism and Politics
  4. Calvinism and Science
  5. Calvinism and Art
  6. Calvinism and the Future

Of course, Kuyper was of the school of thought that Calvinism could be simply defined as the purest form of biblical Christianity. True Christianity for Kuyper could be considered synonymous with Calvinism.

Or, as B. B. Warfield puts it in his article, Calvinism Today:

“Calvinism is only another name for consistent supernaturalism in religion.”

Or, more to the point, Warfield continues,

“Calvinism is just Christianity. The supernaturalism for which Calvinism stands is the very breath of the nostrils of Christianity; without it Christianity cannot exist.”

Other versions of Christianity are always weaker forms of Christianity because they are always inconsistent with principles of the Christian faith itself. To the degree that the theology which generally goes under the name of Calvinism is missing, Christianity is missing.

It is with the perspective, (i.e. that Calvinism most fully and purely points men to believing submission to the lordship of Christ), then, that Warfield can say:

“Calvinism thus emerges to our sight as nothing more or less than the hope of the world.”

Christian Fear is the Fear of God

There is understandable disappointment and even unrest at the recent approval of the national health care reform legislation. But what is a Christian to think of this? What is the Christian response?

In recent days I have heard some responses that seem to exemplify faith in the sovereign Lord but I have also heard others that seem to resemble a reactionary kind of panic that is more becoming of the world. This should not, and need not, be. In all of our responses, the Christian Church ought to have passion but not panic and sobriety but not despair. God teaches us an understanding of himself that will require no less than this. Scripture confidently says:

“All the inhabitants of the earth are accounted as nothing, but He does according to his will in the host of heaven and among the inhabitants of the earth; and no one can ward off his hand or say to him, ‘What have you done?'” (Dan. 4:35)

Would Jesus be jostled by shady politics or corrupt government? Surely he would not. Consider the admonition of Christ himself:

“Do not fear those who kill the body but are unable to kill the soul; but rather fear him who is able to destroy both body and soul in hell. Are not two sparrows sold for a cent? And yet not one of them will not fall to the ground apart from your Father. But the very hairs on your head are all numbered. So do not fear; you are more valuable than many sparrows.” (Matt. 10:28:31)

 The great strength of our faith is built on the unshakable foundation of our relationship to God himself. He is both Creator and Lord. He is Redeemer and Judge of all the earth. Whether in life or in death, nothing can separate us from the love of Christ.

It is good to be reminded that none of the biblical heroes picked the times and circumstances in which they lived. Whether Enoch or Noah, Abraham or Rahab, Daniel or Esther, all were chosen by God for exactly the time and place that God had them. And Christian, it is just as true for you. God has chosen you for such a time as this. You are both a solar panel and a mirror. You have been irradiated with the divine glory of the Son and are now a reflector of that glory. Whether in peace or in persecution, God’s design is that the world would look on your good works and glorify your Father in heaven.

Russell Moore made a helpful post on this topic that I would encourage you to read and be both challenged and strengthened by:

Is it a problem that some of us who are tranquil as still water about biblical doctrine and ecclesial mission are red-faced about Nancy Pelosi and the talking heads on MSNBC?

Is it a problem that some who haven’t shared the gospel with their neighbors in months or years are motivated to vent to strangers on the street about how scary national health care will be?

He continues:

If we were half as outraged by our own sin and self-deception as we are by the follies of our political opponents, what would be the result?

If we rejoiced as much that our names are written in heaven as we do about such trivialities as basketball brackets, what would be the result?

So if what you’re afraid of is a politician or a policy or a culture or the future of Western civilization, don’t give up the conviction but give up the fear.

Work for justice.

Oppose evil.

But do it so that your opponents will see not fear but trust, optimism, and affection.

Read the whole thing, and pass it along.

HT: Justin Taylor

Abraham Kuyper and Christian Worldview

In recent times I have been asked my opinion about various matters relating to politics, government, public policy, moral responsibility in society and generally about the relationship between church and state. In light of these questions, I  want to make some general comments here. I would recommend readers of this blog who are wrestling with worldview issues in this area consider reading Abraham Kuyper. He was a pastor and eventually founder of the Free University of Amsterdam. In 1898 he delivered the Stone Lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary which are now most recently published in the Hendrickson Christian Classics series and rightfully so. These are truly a classic in writings on biblical worldview and can be found under the title: Lectures on Calvinism. Kuyper is a seminal thinker who did a good job of thinking through how a biblical (i.e. Calvinistic) worldview properly engages culture in various ways (science, art, politics, etc.).

For an example of an effort to thoughtfully develop these convictions in a detailed and practical way I have found The Center for Public Justice to be very helpful.  Their concern is that:

Politics in the United States has become increasingly issue-oriented, short-term, and pragmatic. Citizens approach government primarily as a means to achieve the ends that various interest groups, regions, or sectors of society hold dear. Politics often amounts to little more than interest-group competition among diverse groups, each seeking its own goals. Too little attention is given to the soundness of public institutions, to the art of long-term constitutional statecraft, and to the common good of the republic as a whole.

The prevalence of interest-group politics fuels an electoral process in which candidates raise money from special interests and typically appeal to voters on a narrow range of issues. Think tanks do research, some of it quite detailed and in-depth, but most of it focuses narrowly on particular issues, with little concern for other, equally vital matters. The political parties, interest groups, think tanks, and most citizens tend to take for granted this system along with the dominant ideologies and American civil religion that fuel the action.

Their conviction is:

By contrast, the Center starts with the assumption that interest-group politics, the electoral system, and the dominant ideologies call for critical assessment from a comprehensive, public-justice perspective. The Center’s point of view can be called Christian-democratic, which entails a commitment to principled pluralism and the common good. The Center believes that the public good of the American commonwealth, which is shared by all citizens, can flourish only when governed by standards that transcend interest-group competition.

Furthermore…

The Center’s philosophy of principled pluralism flows directly from its conviction that governments have not been ordained by God for the purpose of separating believers from unbelievers, giving privilege to Christians and the church, or serving the interests of one nation over others. This is a religious conviction that mandates publicly established religious freedom for all. Governments have the high calling to uphold public justice for all people living within their territories. States are not churches or families; public officials are not national theologians or clergy. States are public-legal communities that exist for the protection and enhancement of the common good.

Here are some representative papers.

The Biblical Call to Social Responsibility (March-April 1994)
The Question of Authority (May-June 1994)
What Constitutes a Political Community? (September-October 1994)
Government with Representation (January-February 1995)
Political Fairness and Equity (July-August 1995)
Government and the Responsible Society (May-June 1996)
Freedom of Religion, Freedom of Conscience (November-December 1996)