Category Archives: Apologetics

Analyzing Media from a Biblical Worldview

LongmireMy husband and I have been watching a contemporary Western TV show taking place in Wyoming, called Longmire. We’ve enjoyed it a great deal, mostly because we consider ourselves to be westerners who love the big sky, the mountains, and the rugged terrain, not to mention the rugged individuals living there. The good guy wins. Even though he has a dark side, he pursues the truth and does what’s right.

In a series of episodes, the sheriff’s grown daughter is critically injured in a hit-and-run accident, and the sheriff decides it is because of some wrongs he has committed. He asks his best friend, a Native American, to help him atone for his wrongdoing. So in the final scene of one episode, they stand on the open range, at sunset, and perform a Native American blood-letting ceremony. There’s dramatic music, and plenty of Native American symbolism, and even a gorgeous rainfall off in the distance, with the sunset casting it in a beautiful glow. Blood is spilled on the earth, and Mother Earth is pleased.

So how would a Christian evaluate these episodes? One method would be to yell that you will never watch such heathen representations and turn off the show forever. Sometimes that kind of reaction is warranted. However, let’s explore another method for analyzing the worldview of that show. And this method of analysis will be vital for you and your family, if you intend to live in this world and interact with the unbelievers who surround you.

First, examine the worldview that undergirds these episodes. This means you need to understand other worldviews. Why? Often you will need to know the mindset of the people you interact with daily, so that you can see their deep need for a savior.

Karma

First is the idea that something the sheriff has done has led to the near-death state his daughter is in. That’s karma. This Hindu belief says “what goes around, comes around”–a person’s wrongful actions will result in bad things happening to him. But this idea is not unique to Hinduism; it pervades all cultures and beliefs. Even some religions that call themselves Christian have this belief embedded in their foundations. (And the health-and-wealth preachers teach the flip side: if you do good things, good things will happen to you.)

But Christ debunked this belief long ago. In Luke 13:1-5, he mentions a couple of instances in which tragedies befell some people. “Now on the same occasion there were some present who reported to Him about the Galileans whose blood Pilate had mixed with their sacrifices. And Jesus said to them, ‘Do you suppose that these Galileans were greater sinners than all other Galileans because they suffered this fate? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish. Or do you suppose that those eighteen on whom the tower in Siloam fell and killed them were worse culprits than all the men who live in Jerusalem? I tell you, no, but unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (NASB).

Likewise, he answers even more directly in John 9:1-7. “As He passed by, He saw a man blind from birth. And His disciples asked Him, ‘Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?’  Jesus answered, ‘It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.  We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.  While I am in the world, I am the Light of the world.’  When He had said this, He spat on the ground, and made clay of the spittle, and applied the clay to his eyes,  and said to him, ‘Go, wash in the pool of Siloam.’ So he went away and washed, and came back seeing.”

So Christ rejects the idea of “What goes around, comes around” pretty soundly.

Blood Guilt

What about the Native American bloodletting ceremony? This one is quite profound, and from a worldview analysis, pretty amazing. If you do enough reading of history and cultures, you will notice that there exist some pretty similar notions about sin, or whatever that culture might call it. Greeks referred to it as “blood-guilt.” Greek literature is full of such references. But it didn’t begin with the Greeks. Blood guilt has its roots in the earliest people on earth.

The second recorded sin in the Bible is, of course, Cain killing his brother Abel. Interestingly, God tells Cain, “What have you done? The voice of your brother’s blood is crying to Me from the ground. Now you are cursed from the ground, which has opened its mouth to receive your brother’s blood from your hand”  (Genesis 4:10-11). And not too long after, God explains why the spilling of blood is so terrible: The life is in the blood. “Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood. Surely I will require your lifeblood; from every beast I will require it. And from every man, from every man’s brother I will require the life of man. Whoever sheds man’s blood, By man his blood shall be shed, For in the image of God He made man” (Genesis 9:4-6).  Leviticus 17:11 and Deuteronomy 19:6 also repeat that theme.

Greeks believed that when blood was spilled, that blood-guilt required the blood of the spiller (the sinner) to be spilled. We see the theme revisited in many histories and cultures and literature from then on. And you can see how murder after murder gets committed, because each time blood is spilled, another person must come along and avenge the spilling of blood. What a bloody mess!

Why is this important? Here’s where the richness of biblical worldview analysis comes in. In this one dramatic TV scene, we see the ancient idea of blood-guilt being played out yet again. And though the method is pagan, the idea is very true. There is life in the blood, and only the spilling of blood will save someone from (will atone for) his sins. So here is where you can begin a meaningful conversation with someone who watches a scene like this, or any number of similar scenes in literature and media throughout time.

Yes, the spilling of blood is necessary to atone for sin. Yes, there is life in the blood. And yes, there is only one true Person whose blood, when spilled, saves you and me from our sins, and it only needed to be done once. The same God who required Hebrews to mark their door posts with the blood of a lamb so that death would pass over them, He also provided for a pure, spotless Lamb whose blood was spilled so that eternal death would pass us by.

So when you set out to analyze movies, TV, and other media from a biblical worldview, take time to peel back the layers of what’s going on. Explore the unspoken meanings in what you’re analyzing. Discuss it with your teens, and you are arming them with deep truths they can share with their friends.

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The “go and preach” paradigm

CoulterConservative columnist Ann Coulter posted an acerbic opinion piece excoriating the two missionary health workers who had been shipped back to the US to be treated for Ebola, which they contracted in Africa.

Her column did not scold them for bringing their disease back to America. She did, however, take issue with the money spent in bringing them back here. But her column spent the most time taking them to task for leaving the US at all in order to bring the Gospel to the people of Africa. “If Dr. Brantly had practiced at Cedars-Sinai hospital in Los Angeles and turned one single Hollywood power-broker to Christ, he would have done more good for the entire world than anything he could accomplish in a century spent in Liberia. Ebola kills only the body; the virus of spiritual bankruptcy and moral decadence spread by so many Hollywood movies infects the world.”

In one respect Coulter got it right. In another, though, she missed the boat.

Should missionaries leave their home country to take the message of the Gospel to another country? Why leave the US, when there are plenty of unbelievers here?

Answers to the first question can be found in God’s word, where we see a promise and a command. Psalm 96:3 commands, “Tell of His glory among the nations, His wonderful deeds among all the peoples” (NASV). And Isaiah 12:4 also urges, “And in that day you will say, ‘Give thanks to the LORD, call on His name. Make known His deeds among the peoples; Make them remember that His name is exalted.'”

In the New Testament, Jesus specifically combines the directive with the promise: “Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age” (Matthew 28:19-20). He directed his disciples again in Acts 1, where in the second half of verse 8 he said, “and you shall be My witnesses both in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and even to the remotest part of the earth.”

Jerusalem, where those disciples stood at that moment, was the local preaching of the Gospel. Judea and Samaria were the nearer regions, and then, they were directed, take this message to the far points of the earth! Jesus did not equivocate here; he was very clear. Yes, preach the Gospel locally, AND yes, take it to the rest of the world. And we, who have been recipients of the Gospel outside of Jerusalem, can be very thankful that the Gospel did spread! Men and women took that command and promise to heart, and they went forth!

Coulter implies, but perhaps does not mean to say, that people in impoverished third world countries are not “worth” the effort and expense it takes to bring them the Gospel. Truly, not one of us is “worth” it. My sins are no better, nor no worse, than anyone else’s. To rate the value of preaching the Gospel to one people group over another’s devalues the meaning of that Gospel.

The Gospel–the message that Jesus Christ, who is God and Man, lived a perfect, sinless life and died on a cross and was brought to life again so that our sins would be completely forgiven–is not America-centered. No, the Gospel is Christ-centric. God saves sinners to glorify himself, not to glorify any one person, country, or people.

What I believe Ann Coulter did intend in her column was to take American Christians to task for not making their own cities and neighborhoods their mission fields. “Which explains why American Christians go on ‘mission trips’ to disease-ridden cesspools. They’re tired of fighting the culture war in the U.S., tired of being called homophobes, racists, sexists and bigots. So they slink off to Third World countries, away from American culture to do good works, forgetting that the first rule of life on a riverbank is that any good that one attempts downstream is quickly overtaken by what happens upstream.”

She’s partially correct. However, take a look around the US: there are churches everywhere. The people of this land received the benefit of Gospel-preaching for more than three centuries, and now it has chosen to turn away and pursue its own degradation. Yes, America needs missionaries in its own streets. But I’d venture to guess that most of our “cultural leaders” in Hollywood have deliberately chosen to turn aside from the Gospel.

What about the people in other nations? Some have turned aside, yes, but most have never heard the Gospel.

If anything can be taken from Coulter’s column, it is the cry for the American Christian church to wake up. Wake up, she’s shouting, and see the mission field right in front of your eyes! We are happy to say we have gone to Africa on a short-term mission trip to preach to the lost. Can we be as eager to go to our own “Jerusalem,” our own cities and neighborhoods, and preach to the lost and dying here? It certainly doesn’t seem as glamorous or praise-worthy. But it is so very necessary.

samaritans-purse-haiti-cholera-gods-mercyAdditionally, there is something to say about the importance of doctors going where there is disease in order to work on a cure. The history of medicine is rife with stories of men and women who lived among diseased people and developed a cure: polio, smallpox, strep, leprosy, and more. The health workers who lived among Africans in order to minister to the sick and the dying knew what they were doing, and they believed they could not only bring comfort to the sick, but perhaps play a part in discovering a cure.

So while I find some points in Coulter’s column that don’t ring true to the intent of God’s commands to teach and preach, I also find, hidden in her acid tone, the challenge to the church in the US: wake up! Go, teach, preach!

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Biblical Worldview Apologetics for Teens

argumentTeens like to argue. Have you noticed? Some find it invigorating to argue with people who don’t have the same beliefs. Some will try to argue the superiority of their own belief systems. Some will argue just to argue.

When it comes to apologetics, though, you want your teen to have a solid grounding in biblical worldview before he ventures out ready to argue. For some teens, having just a little information is like putting a gun in their hands before they know how to aim it.

The Apologist’s Mind

I like knowing that teens have a foundation in the Word of God. Since His Word never fails, and since it will never come back void (Isa. 55:11), we know that a teen who knows his Bible is well-armed against his opponents.

I also love to teach teenagers Logic. That course teaches students how to think and how to order their thoughts. It helps them organize information that is coming at them and helps them to see arguments from a different perspective–not totally emotionally. Douglas Wilson and James Nance wrote Introductory Logic and Intermediate Logic, which I have used for many years.

Teach Doctrine to your student. How will he know what he is defending if he doesn’t know doctrine? Teach from Luther’s Small Catechism and the Westminster Shorter Catechism. I also love the Heidelburg Catechism. Teach from Paul Little’s Know What You Believe and open up Wayne Grudem’s Systematic Theology. Grudem also wrote Christian Beliefs: Twenty Basics Every Christian Should Know, which might be instructive for doctrine.

Learn together the different belief systems of other worldviews. You need to understand their beliefs and backgrounds in order to counter their arguments. Together you and your teen can pray for the people who fall into those beliefs, knowing that there is only one true Creator God, and His Word is the only measurement of absolute truth. The world is starving for truth and searching for it in unlikely places. God’s Word has the answers. Josh McDowell has written several books on other religions and worldviews, such as A Ready Defense and The New Evidence that Demands a Verdict. David Noebel wrote Understanding the Times and its smaller companion, Battle for the Truth. These are all good resources.

Study the works of apologists. McDowell’s More Than a Carpenter, CS Lewis’s Mere Christianity, and Little’s Know Why You Believe are all solid foundation-builders. Lee Strobel wrote his powerful book The Case for Christ, followed up by The Case for Faith and The Case for a Creator, all great resources by a former atheist who set out to prove Christianity wrong. Greg Bahnsen’s Always Ready was my constant companion when I taught high school apologetics. I’m sure my readers will write in with many more great resources.

The Attitude and Lifestyle of an Apologist

Being grounded in God’s Word and then armed with all the resources named above, you would think that the teenager will be more than ready for the confrontation when it comes. However, he’s only part way there.

All that learning can make a person proud, can puff up, as 1 Corinthians 8:1 says (out of context). As you are building up your store of knowledge, remember that Proverbs 1:7 says, “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge” (ESV). When learning is dedicated to God, when you take the time to ask for His wisdom in the midst of what you learn, your pride and boasting takes a different direction. Rather than boasting in yourself or in your vast treasury of knowledge, you will boast in Jesus Christ, your Savior, who enables all of this learning. With this perspective in  mind, what will follow?

Avoid arrogance. “Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves. Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Phil. 2:3-4, emphasis mine). Apologetics is not a rivalry, not an opportunity to come out on top. This is a battle of light against darkness, and only the Lord will secure the outcome. When you have the best interest of your “opponent” in mind, you will not consider this a debate contest in which to earn points.

So flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart. Have nothing to do with foolish, ignorant controversies; you know that they breed quarrels. And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, and they may escape from the snare of the devil, after being captured by him to do his will. (2 Tim 2:22-26, emphasis mine)

Bahnsen used the term “humble boldness,” which I love to use. Teens can see what that is supposed to mean. The boldness entails assurance of what you know, while humbleness speaks of someone who considers others before himself.  Boldness also speaks of fearlessness in the face of opposition, and the following passage in Philippians addresses that beautifully.

Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel, and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God. (Phil. 1:27-28, emphasis mine)

Realize from whom all your words come. Paul reminded the Corinthians that when he came to them, he “did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, 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” (1 Cor. 2:1-5). Paul makes it clear it is not his great mind that did the work of saving the people of Corinth, but God himself through the power of His Spirit. Keep in mind that you can draw attention to yourself or to your great God with the apologetics you use.

Finally, be prepared (1 Pet. 3:13-17). You may not know the next time you are called upon to defend your faith. This is one reason that the Bible urges us to wear our armor (Eph. 6:10-20), so that we can always be in a defensive position. This same passage in Ephesians reminds us to pray always, too, for the right words, to declare them boldly.

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