Culture & Wordview

The Christmas Story: Belief or Nostalgia?

Dec 24th, 2016 | By
iipi122416

“I believe; I believe. It’s silly, but I believe.” These familiar words were spoken by young Susan Walker in the popular Christmas movie Miracle on 34th Street (1947). Today, her words accurately reflect how faith is commonly portrayed—a blind leap in the dark; believing for no reason at all. The shepherds, the wise men, the Bethlehem star, the babe in the manger make us feel warm, comfortable and happy, but whether it is all true or not is irrelevant. But what if it is true—all of it? What if the angels, the virgin birth, the Incarnation are true? What difference would it make?



“Post-Truth”: The 2016 Word of the Year

Dec 17th, 2016 | By
iipi121716

Oxford Dictionaries has selected “post-truth” as 2016’s international word of the year. The dictionary defines “post-truth” as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Oxford dictionary’s editors noted a roughly 2,000% increase in the usage of “post-truth” over 2015, especially with far more frequency in news articles and on social media in both the United Kingdom and the United States. The choice of “post-truth” is actually rather astonishing as a word choice, but, in light of the 2016 presidential campaign where “truth” was not a term one would use to describe either candidate’s campaign, it makes sense: Intentional lies and misrepresentation of facts were the norm.



Abraham: The Patriarch of Three Faiths

Oct 29th, 2016 | By
iipi102916

Judaism, Christianity and Islam each claim Abraham as central to their heritage: For the Jews, Abraham is their ethnic progenitor and a model of trust in Yahweh. For Christians, Abraham models justification by faith (see Romans 4). For Muslims, Abraham is a key prophet in a prophetic line extending from Adam to Muhammad. He is mentioned in 35 of the 114 chapters of the Qur’an, and is proclaimed as a prophet who early on modeled the singular belief in Allah and who declared allegiance and faith in Allah. To Muslims, his importance is as a prophet, not as the father of the Jews. But the Bible pronounces Abraham a watershed figure in God’s redemptive plan. Before him, God dealt with all of humanity, making no covenant distinctions. But God chose Abraham. . .



Note to Evangelicals: “Let’s Start Talking About Our Theology, Not Politics”

Oct 1st, 2016 | By
iipi100116

Although American civilization manifests a radical pluralism when it comes to worldview choices, secularism is the preferred face of this culture. As a culture, we respect the right of a person to choose, but we do not like to discuss the nature of those religious choices. Instead of engaging in the implications and the consistency of a worldview choice, our culture prefers silence. When worldview choices are discussed, it quickly drifts to politics, not theology. The end result is that the public square in indeed naked (to use the late John Neuhaus’s words.) As a Christian, I find all of this especially disturbing.



Islam, Christianity and Jerusalem

Sep 24th, 2016 | By
iipi092316

Without question, Jerusalem remains the most controversial city in the world. It has played a decisive role in Judaism, Christianity and Islam. . . Jerusalem was the center of Jesus’ final days for it was there He was crucified, buried and resurrected in AD 33. But it was not until Caesar Constantine in AD 313 and the subsequent developments under him and his mother, Helena, that the sites associated with Jesus’ life became major points of Christian pilgrimage. The Church of the Holy Sepulchere and other churches were built over key places associated with Jesus; thus Jerusalem became a critical center of organized Christianity until Islam conquered it. It is to that block of history we now turn.



The Danger of Liberty As Personal Autonomy

Aug 27th, 2016 | By
iipi082716

One of the most precious terms of the American Republic is liberty. The founding documents of this Republic are anchored in the articulation and defense of individual liberty. In the Declaration of Independence, Jefferson argued as a “self-evident truth” that we are “endowed by our Creator” with certain “inalienable rights” and among those are “life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.” The Bill of Rights (actually the Constitution’s first Ten Amendments) articulate and guarantee a set of rights each citizen enjoys. “Liberty” is indeed a precious and unique dimension of this Republic. But, in 1992, Justice Anthony Kennedy, in the famous Casey abortion ruling, posited a re-definition of human liberty: “At the heart of liberty is the right to define one’s own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life.” That re-definition is quite extraordinary. . .



Christian Priorities in a Dysfunctional Culture

Aug 6th, 2016 | By

In Matthew 5:13-16, the Lord Jesus issued a series of shocking declarations about His disciples: After his discourse on the Beatitudes (5:1-12), he announced, “You are the salt of the earth . . . the light of the world . . . a city set on a hill [that] cannot be hidden.” These metaphors used by Christ are rather striking, for they reject any sense of a group of secret, silent, secluded disciples. A city resting on top of a mountain (as most cities of the ancient world did), cannot be hidden. It is unabashedly conspicuous, visible and can be seen by everyone. Light is impossible to hide; it penetrates even the smallest crack or crevice. And salt, whether as a seasoning that adds flavor or as a preservative that prevents decay (the likely meaning in the ancient world), is unique and distinguishable. Jesus’ disciples are distinct in the way they live their lives; they are genuine and exceptional. Why?



The Subtle Power of Facebook

Jun 18th, 2016 | By
spf61816

This May, the founder and CEO of Facebook, Mark Zuckerberg, invited a group of conservative leaders to his Silicon Valley board room to discuss the perceived Facebook bias against conservative views and positions being displayed on the Facebook platform. He denied bias against conservative views. The alleged censorship focuses on a feature on Facebook’s desktop version called “trending topics,” which relies on special curators to help select the new items to highlight. . . But leaving aside this controversy over the “trending topics” part of Facebook, I want to concentrate in this Perspective on the subtle but real power of this social network. A few items for consideration:



The Global Religious Landscape and the Growing Secularization of the World

Jun 4th, 2016 | By
empty-pew060416

The Pew Research Center periodically issues valuable studies on religious movements, trends and often speculates on what present tendencies tell us about the future. The Pew Center recently published its Global Religious Futures, which gives focus to eight major global religious groups and speculates on what present tendencies tell us about these groups through 2050. What follows is a summary of the Center’s salient findings:



Answers to Religious Questions People Ask

May 21st, 2016 | By
lu51816

I recently came across a noteworthy article that summarizes Google searches among Americans seeking answers to religious questions. The results are curious and reveal much about American culture in the early 21st century. Here is a brief summary of some of the salient findings:

The number one Google question in America is “who created God?” Second is why does God allow suffering? If God is all powerful and all good, how can He allow suffering? The third most-asked question is, “why does God hate me?” The fourth is, “why does God need so much praise?”