The familiar term “secularism” is often used today to define the ideology of western civilization, for it refers to the absence of any binding theistic authority or belief. Theologian Albert Mohler further defines its companion, “secularization,” as “a concept and a sociological process whereby societies become less theistic and they become more modern. Secular societies therefore drift toward conditions where there is little if any theistic belief and the rejection of any binding authority at all.”
As 2017 unfolds, Israel, the only functioning democracy in the Middle East, is doing well. Its economy is growing at 3.2% per year. The main opposition party to Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud Party is in disarray. In terms of its foreign affairs, Israel enjoys a positive relationship with Russia and its ties to both Africa and Asia are the best ever. Although absolutely no progress has been made in resolving the issues with the Palestinians (a major sticking point during the Obama years), Israel now enjoys a better relationship with the United States under Donald Trump. . . But Israel is increasingly anxious about two major developments in the Middle East. Each poses an existential threat to the state of Israel.
Princeton Theological Seminary has a rich heritage, often intertwined with the history of the United States. Founded about 1726 by William Tennent (then known as the Log College), it contributed to providing a real need for colonial Presbyterianism—college-educated ministers. In colonial America, most prospective pastors needed to study in Europe and then return to the colonies to serve. Over the next several decades of the 18th century, numerous connections developed between the Log College and the founding of the College of New Jersey, later known as Princeton University (and Seminary). . . But the Princeton of history is not the Princeton of today.
In early March, the controversial author of The Bell Curve, Charles Murray, was invited to give a lecture at Middlebury College in Vermont on his newest book, Coming Apart. His lecture was shut down by an organized effort to drive him from the campus. Loud, boisterous chanting made it impossible for Murray to deliver his lecture. The lecture was then delivered in another room and livestreamed. When Murray and his faculty sponsor, Allison Stranger, left to go to their car, they were surrounded by a mob. In the melee, Stranger was grabbed and her neck so twisted that she ended up in the emergency room. They then attempted to have dinner at a local restaurant, where they were attacked by another mob. They left town.
The movie, The Shack, has just been released in American theaters and is generating a similar level of discussion among Christians as did the book by the same title, which was published in 2010. William Young is a compelling, imaginative writer and the movie seeks to capture on film the same imaginative presentation of tragedy and God’s involvement and answer to such tragedy.
The debate over the ethics of euthanasia within western civilization has taken a new turn. In London, a musical in the British theater scene has received rave reviews over the last year or so. It is “Assisted Suicide: The Musical,” created by Liz Carr, who suffers from a genetic disorder that prevents her from extending her muscles, among other impairments. That “Assisted Suicide: The Musical” is being received so well (often to standing ovations) is puzzling, for western civilization is embracing assisted suicide with a passion.
Among the various voting blocs in the United States, 81% of Evangelical Christians voted for Donald Trump for president in 2016. There were undoubtedly many reasons for this unbridled allegiance to a man who, in terms of character, honesty and lifestyle, only a few years ago would never have earned their vote. But his opponent was Hillary Clinton and most evangelicals viewed her as a worse choice. In my reading and in my conversations with evangelical Christians, the consensus among evangelicals seems to be that God has given us a political “savior” who will lead America back to its roots. He will bring about an America that is great economically, culturally and spiritually.
For many years, ethicist Peter Singer served as Ira W. DeCamp Professor of Bioethics at Princeton University. Author of many books, including his important Animal Liberation, Singer has championed ideas that are now cherished and central to the People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals organization. He lives a frugal lifestyle and does not eat meat, fish or wear leather. Arguably controversial and provocative, Singer has advocated among many other things the following:
America is exceptional and unique. Its exceptionalism has a moral, an ethical, a spiritual and a political dimension to it. There really is no other nation quite like the US—and that is at the heart of its exceptionalism. Let me highlight a few of these distinctive aspects. The United States was birthed as a nation when two powerful forces came together in the 18th century—the desire for both political liberty and religious liberty.
The Postmodern, Post-Christian nature of Western Civilization reflects a change in how Postmodern people perceive biblical Christianity. For much of the late 20th century, genuine, biblical Christianity was regarded as irrelevant. In the early 21st century, it is regarded as bad for society. A recent study by the Barna Group, which is also reflected in David Kinnaman’s book, Good Faith, examines the perceptions of faith and Christianity in our Postmodern culture. The conclusion is that millions of adults now view biblical Christianity as extremist. Four short statements summarize Kinnaman’s research: