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Eighteen Distinct Differences Between Islam and Christianity

September 9, 2011

By Pastor Troy Dobbs, Grace Church Eden Prairie, MN

Vast differences exist between Christianity and Islam about who we believe Jesus is. It is important to understand what the Bible has to say about Jesus when you are talking to non-Christian friends and neighbors. Here you will find the final six distinct differences, with biblical references. Read Part Three in the series.

Read Part Three in the series. Part One from this series appeared in the July 2011 edition of GraceTalk. Part Two from this series appeared in the August 2011 edition of GraceTalk.

Why Fornication Is Peculiarly Evil

January 31, 2011

published with permission from Phil Johnson

At the heart of all the problems in the church at Corinth was a tendency to let the values of that debauched culture seep into the church. That’s something for missional Christians to consider today: cultural assimilation as a strategy for church growth in a pagan culture is fraught with serious dangers. Especially in a city filled with both temples and brothels—where fornication was literally deemed a religious rite—the worst thing the church could do would be to take a lax attitude toward sexual sin.

The vast majority of the Jewish community in Corinth had rejected the gospel (Acts 18:6). So the church was made up of mostly Gentiles who, of course, came from a culture that was not inclined to see sexual sin as unspiritual. Just the opposite. Most of the “religion” in Corinth involved temple prostitution and debauched sexual behavior.

That may explain somewhat why the Corinthian church would receive into their membership a man who was fornicating with his father’s wife (1 Corinthians 5:1). Perhaps they thought they could connect with their culture better if they casually accepted the man’s sin without flinching. In fact, it seems clear that some of the people in the Corinthian church did indeed wear extreme tolerance like a badge of honor. First Corinthians 5:2 says people in the Corinthian assembly were puffed up. They actually took some sort of perverse pride in their liberality towards such a grossly immoral act.

Not only was this guy’s incest a supremely immoral and deeply shameful sin; it wasn’t really impressing even the most immoral people in the Corinthian culture. Incest was a sin that even shocked the grossest pagans of Corinth (v. 1).

Paul wasn’t gentle in his rebuke. He ordered the Corinthians to excommunicate the man (vv. 7, 13).

Notice: Paul wasn’t impressed with how sophisticated and missional the Corinthians were. In fact (this can hardly be stressed enough) Paul never encouraged the Corinthians to blend into their culture by adopting an easygoing familiarity with or an extra-tolerant attitude toward the distinctive sins of that culture. On the contrary, he stressed the importance of avoiding the sins associated with Corinthian paganism.

No, I take it back. “Avoiding” is too mild in light of what Paul actually told them: “Flee from sexual immorality” (1 Corinthians 6:18).

But first he hammers them with several these reasons why fornication is such an unholy, degrading, defiling sin. He gives several reasons:

First Corinthians 6:13: It dishonors the purpose for which God made our bodies. “The body is not meant for sexual immorality, but for the Lord.” Fornication takes that which ought to be holy—that which was made uniquely in the image of God (with the express purpose of honoring Him)—and puts it to an unholy use instead. That’s wrong because (he says) “the body is . . . for the Lord.” That is the main thought and the central thread of 1 Corinthians 613-20. But there’s more.

In verses 15-17, he gives a second reason why fornication is such a serious sin: it defiles our spiritual union with Christ. “Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Or do you not know that he who is joined to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For, as it is written, “The two will become one flesh.” But he who is joined to the Lord becomes one spirit with him.”

Do the math, he says. If you are one with Christ in an intimate spiritual union, and then through an act of fornication you become one flesh with a harlot in an intimate fleshly union, you have in effect defiled the body of Christ.

A couple of things to notice about this: First, our union with Christ is so perfect and so complete that it encompasses our whole person. It’s not limited to our spirit only apart from our flesh. The whole person, both body and spirit, are Christ’s by virtue of our spiritual union with Him.

Paul here stands in contrast to certain pseudo-Christian proto-Gnostics who taught that spirit is good and matter is evil. They taught that our spirit is redeemed, and made holy, and united with Christ, but the body is unredeemed and completely unholy and fit only for ultimate destruction. They said you could sin in the body without defiling your spirit.

Here Paul teaches otherwise. Notice that he doesn’t say the body is evil. Just the opposite. His whole point is that the body is made for a holy purpose: to glorify God. Verse 14: “God raised the Lord and will also raise us up by his power.” Christ rose bodily, and our bodies will also be raised and glorified in physical form. So there’s nothing inherently unholy about the body.

On the contrary, “the body is . . . for the Lord; and the Lord for the body.” God is not against the body; he is for it. He created it; and He is the one who made our bodies so that they are capable of enjoying pleasure. There’s nothing wrong with that pleasure. It’s a holy pleasure—as long as it is a fulfillment of, and not a corruption of, God’s purposes.

In fact, in verse 16, Paul is alluding to Genesis 2:24, “Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and they shall become one flesh.” That is God’s purpose for men and women. Sex in the context of lifelong marriage—the union of two partners devoted to one another above all others—is a holy pleasure. God designed it for our pleasure. It’s holy and honorable within the marriage relationship, and according to Hebrews 13:4, “the marriage bed [is] undefiled.”

But that same verse in Hebrews 13 says, “God will judge the sexually immoral and adulterous.” Paul says the same thing in verses 9-10 of 1 Corinthians 6. Neither “fornicators . . . nor adulterers . . . shall inherit the kingdom of God.” And those who defile their union with Christ by committing sins of sexual immorality are guilty of an abominable offense against Christ and (v. 18) “against his own body.” In other words, fornication is a unique and especially unholy sin, because it defiles our union with Christ.

But Paul is not finished. In verse 19 (this is where our passage starts) he says such sins of the body also desecrate the Temple of the Holy Spirit. Your body is the dwelling-place of the Spirit of God, and therefore for a Christian to debase the body is to profane a holy temple.

Now, put all this together. You want to know why fornication has always been regarded as a particularly heinous sin? Because it involves personal and direct transgressions against each Member of the Trinity. It debases and dishonors the body, which (v. 13) is “for the Lord.” God created it for His purposes. To use it for any other purpose—especially a purpose as evil as an act of fornication—is a sin against God the Father. It’s a sin against Christ as well (v. 15), because it takes our members, which are Christ’s by union with Him, and joins them to a harlot, defiling our holy union with Christ. And it’s a sin against the Holy Spirit (v. 19), because it desecrates the temple in which He dwells.

And notice Paul’s counsel to the Corinthians. He doesn’t urge them to get into a recovery program for sexual addicts. He doesn’t suggest that they get therapy. He just tells them to stop it.

No, again. It’s more urgent than that (v. 18): “Flee fornication.” Run from it. Avoid any and all temptations to it. Direct your feet, and your eyes, and your ears, and your thoughts to other things. This is a sin to flee. “Other vices may be conquered in fight; this one can be conquered only by flight.”

In Solomon’s words (Proverbs 5:8), “Keep your way far from her, and do not go near the door of her house.” Scripture says we should flee even the thought of adultery. Second Timothy 2:22: “Flee youthful passions and pursue righteousness, faith, love, and peace, along with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart.” First Peter 2:11 says “fleshly lusts . . . [wage] war against the soul.” Flee them. Abstain from them completely.

And notice: Paul finds the highest reason to avoid fornication in the atonement: “You are not your own, for you were bought with a price. So glorify God in your body” (v. 20).

The Second Great Commandment

November 9, 2010

Guest Blogger: Phil Johnson of Pyromaniacs

When some Pharisees put Jesus to the test concerning the greatest of all God’s commandments, He answered with a quotation from Deuteronomy 6:5: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your strength.”

“This is the first and great commandment,” He told them. “And the second is like it: ‘You shall love your neighbor as yourself'” (Matt. 22:38-39).

What did He mean when He said the two commandments are alike? Well, obviously, they both deal with love. The first calls for wholehearted love toward God, a love that consumes every human faculty. The second calls for charitable love toward one’s neighbor—a humble, sacrificial, serving love. Jesus said all the Law and the prophets hang on those two commandments, so the entire Law is summed up in the principle of love. “Love is the fulfillment of the law” (Rom. 13:10). Both commandments make that point.

But there’s another sense in which the second great commandment is just like the first. Loving one’s neighbor is simply the natural and necessary extension of true, wholehearted love for God, because your neighbor is made in the image of God.

God’s image in every person is the moral and ethical foundation for every commandment that governs how we ought to treat our fellow humans. Scripture repeatedly makes this clear. Why is murder deemed such an especially heinous sin? Because killing a fellow human being is the ultimate desecration of God’s image (Gen. 9:6).

In the New Testament, James points to the image of God in men and women as an argument for allowing even our speech to be seasoned with grace and kindness. It is utterly irrational, he says, to bless God while cursing people who are made in God’s own likeness (James 3:9-12).

That same principle is an effective argument against every kind of disrespect or unkindness one person might show to another. For example, to ignore the needs of suffering people is to treat the image of God in them with outright contempt. Proverbs 17:5 says, “He who mocks the poor reproaches his Maker.” Neglecting the needs of a person who is “hungry or thirsty or a stranger or naked or sick or in prison” is tantamount to scorning the Lord Himself. That’s exactly what Jesus said in Matthew 25:44-45: “Inasmuch as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to Me.”

Who is our neighbor? That’s the question a lawyer asked Jesus when He affirmed the priority of the first and second commandments (Luke 10:29). In response, Jesus told the parable of the Good Samaritan, poignantly making the point that anyone and everyone who crosses our path is our neighbor—and truly loving them as ourselves means seeking to meet whatever needs they might have.

One of Jesus’ main points in that parable was this: we’re not to love our own brethren and fellow believers to the exclusion of strangers and unbelievers. God’s image was placed in humanity at creation, not at redemption. Although the image of God was seriously marred by Adam’s fall, it was not utterly obliterated. The divine likeness is still part of fallen humanity; in fact, it is essential to the very definition of humanity. Therefore every human being, whether a derelict in the gutter or a deacon in the church, ought to be treated with dignity and compassionate love, out of respect for the image of God in him.

The restoration of God’s image in fallen humanity is one of the ultimate goals of redemption, of course. God’s paramount purpose for every Christian involves perfect Christ-likeness (Rom. 8:29; 1 John 3:2). That will consummate the complete restoration and utter perfection of God’s image in all believers, because Christ himself is the supreme flesh-and-blood image of God (Col. 1:15).

But if you’re a believer, your conformation to Christ’s likeness is gradually being accomplished even now by the process of your sanctification (2 Cor. 3:18). In the meantime, Jesus taught that one of the best ways to be like God is to love even your enemies. Not only do they bear God’s image, but (more to Jesus’ point) loving them is the best way for us to be like God, because God Himself loves even those who hate Him.

Of course, the prevailing rabbinical tradition in Jesus’ day claimed that “enemies” are not really “neighbors.” In effect, that nullified the second great commandment. It was like saying you don’t really have to love anyone whom you hate. All kinds of disrespect and unkindness became impervious to the Law’s correction.

Jesus confronted the error head on: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who spitefully use you and persecute you, that you may be sons of your Father in heaven; for He makes His sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and on the unjust” (Matt. 5:43-45).

Your enemy is made in God’s image and is therefore deserving of your respect and kindness. More important, Jesus said, if you want to be more like God—if you want the image of God to shine more visibly in your life and behavior—here’s the way to do it: love even your enemies.

Remember, “God is love, and he who abides in love abides in God, and God in him” (1 John 4:16). Such love, expressed even toward our enemies, is the mark of the true Christian, because it is the most vivid expression of God’s image in His own people. “As He is, so are we in this world” (v. 17).

Sign of Despair, Song of Triumph

October 8, 2010

The following blog entry is from Phil Johnson over at Pyromaniacs….

How long, O LORD? Will you forget me forever? How long will you hide your face from me?
How long must I take counsel in my soul and have sorrow in my heart all the day? How long shall my enemy be exalted over me?
Consider and answer me, O LORD my God; light up my eyes, lest I sleep the sleep of death,
lest my enemy say, “I have prevailed over him,” lest my foes rejoice because I am shaken.
But I have trusted in your steadfast love; my heart shall rejoice in your salvation.
I will sing to the LORD, because he has dealt bountifully with me.

salm 13 is a fascinating look into a side of David’s prayer life we can all easily relate to. This man after God’s own heart pours his soul out in frustration, fear, and ultimately faith as he struggles through the ordeal of tribulation.

The psalm is first of all a great prayer. There’s nothing typical about it; in fact, it shatters our presuppositions about what really “spiritual” praying is like. But a close look shows it is in perfect harmony with how Jesus taught us to pray. Brevity and honesty two qualities sadly missing from most of our prayers stand out as its hallmarks.

More than a lesson about prayer, however, this psalm is a model response for those of us going through deep trials. David wrote it in anguish over the apparent success of an unrelenting enemy. We don’t know which enemy it might have been Saul, the renegade king, who chased David like an outlaw; or it could have been the Philistines, who as a nation epitomized all that God hates.

Imagine David’s frustration, seeing enemies like that prosper while it seemed God was hiding His face from him! If we’re honest, we have to admit that we understand David’s inner turmoil in the opening cry of this psalm all too well.

But that initial, desperate groan is only the beginning of the story. In the six brief verses of Psalm 13, David moves from doubt to deliverance, teaching us the sublime and emancipating principle that victory depends chiefly on how we look at our trials.

The Inward Look
At first David looks inside himself, and sees only his own sorrow (vv. 1-2a). See how many times in these early verses he uses the first-person pronouns: “I,” “me,” “my,” “my soul,” “my enemy,” “my heart.” He’s questioning God, wallowing in his own defeat, wondering why God seems to be hiding His face.

Was God hiding His face? Of course not! David was merely looking in the wrong place.

There’s a serious danger in the wrong kind of inward look. Healthy introspection, the kind that leads to confession of sin and the humble brokenness of which Jesus spoke in Matthew 5:3-5, is critical to our spiritual survival. But looming in the face of those who look within themselves is a monstrous peril: a morbid preoccupation with our own inadequacies that breeds depression and debilitates us spiritually.

The difference between the two kinds of self-reflection is not so subtle. A wholesome look inside becomes hurtful when we begin looking within ourselves for a solution to the problems we find there. The solution doesn’t reside in us; we must look elsewhere.

The Outward Look
David turns his focus from within and begins to look around (vv. 2b-4). Now all he sees are his surroundings. What a different David this is from the young shepherd who strode confidently into the presence of the mighty Goliath with no armor and only a few pebbles for weapons! Pay careful heed to the lesson: one great victory does not ensure future triumph.

This time David is fearful. We can sense his trembling, as he grapples with a paralyzing dread that this trial might ultimately kill him (v. 3).

I’ve felt that way, too, and in trials of much less consequence than David’s. Such fear is the inevitable result of looking at circumstances and hoping some kind of help will come through them.

But deliverance doesn’t come through circumstances, either.

The Upward Look
Finally, in verses 5 and 6, David looks to the Lord, and there he sees his salvation. Compare this passage to verses 1 and 2. “Me . . .I . . .mine” has given way to “thy mercy . . . thy salvation . . . the Lord.”

Thus what in the beginning sounded like a dismal wail of unbelief becomes an exhilarating hymn of faith. What’s the difference? The trial has not changed but David’s point of view has. Now his eyes are clearly directed upward.

Salvation belongs to the Lord (Psalm 3:8) that goes for deliverance from trials as well as salvation from sin. No other truth emerges from everywhere in Scripture so definitively. If we look around or within or anywhere but to God for a way of escape, we are condemned to disappointment and ultimate failure.

It is God who provides the way of escape not out of our trials, but rather through them. He enables us to bear testing, not avoid it (1 Cor. 10:13). And He uses our tribulations to accomplish His wonderful purpose in us (Rom. 5:3-5, James 1:3-4).

Thus God works all things including our hardest testings together for our good. That’s the ultimate victory, and it’s how even in our darkest hour of trials, we can fix our eyes on Him and say confidently with David, “He hath dealt bountifully with me” (v. 6).

Phil Johnson on “The Piper-Warren Connection”

April 26, 2010

So (in case you hadn’t heard) Rick Warren will headline the list of speakers at next October’s Desiring God Conference. Of course I think it’s a bad turn of events, and I didn’t find Dr. Piper’s rationale for handing his platform over to Warren satisfying at all. I was surprised when I heard about it, but on second thought, I have to admit that it is consistent with Dr. Piper’s modus operandi. Last year some people were appalled, others delighted, when Doug Wilson spoke at the conference. The year before that, the blogosphere was all abuzz with strong passions for months because Mark Driscoll would be the featured speaker. In 2007, it was John MacArthur, who (let’s face it) is hardly a John Piper clone.

So Piper likes to feature speakers from outside the boundaries of his own circle of close fellowship, and that’s a good thing, within limits. But Piper’s choice of Warren as a keynote speaker proves his idea of where those limits lie is vastly—perhaps fundamentally—different from mine.

Furthermore, as much as I differ from Piper on the question of who deserves his imprimatur, there’s at least an equal measure of difference between what I think is the proper way to respond to Piper and the way some of his most vocal critics have responded. I’m appalled and ashamed at how some on my side of this debate have expressed their disagreement with Dr. Piper.

It seems to me the whole controversy reflects in microcosm why the evangelical and fundamentalist movements of the 20th century have both failed so egregiously.

Let me explain why. Here are some observations about John Piper, Rick Warren, the critics, and the biblical duty of separation—separation both from false teachers (Romans 16:17; 1 Corinthians 16:22; Galatians 1:8-9; 2 John 7-11), and from deliberately, incorrigibly disobedient brethren (2 Thessalonians 3:14-15; 1 Corinthians 5:11).

John Piper
I love John Piper. People often ask me what living preachers I listen to besides John MacArthur. John Piper is my clear first choice. He’s also one of my favorite authors. The Justification of God: An Exegetical and Theological Study of Romans 9:1-23 was the first John Piper work I ever read, and I was hooked. His chapter in Still Sovereign by Thomas Schreiner and Bruce Ware is worth the price of the whole book. The chapter is titled “Are There Two Wills in God?” and if more Calvinists would read that chapter and digest its contents, it would settle most of the interminable debates about the optative language Scripture uses to speak of God’s “desire” for the repentance of reprobate people. I have written elsewhere about how deeply I appreciate Piper’s The Future of Justification. His Don’t Waste Your Life is as profound as it is brief and pithy. I’ve never read any book by Piper that I would give a negative review to. I’ve never listened to a sermon by him without being impacted by the power of truth.

Furthermore, I greatly respect and appreciate Dr. Piper for his courage and persistence as a defender of the faith against Open Theism, not to mention his diligent defense of biblical authority against the juggernaut of egalitarianism. He’s one of the most bold and large-hearted preachers alive today. For those and many other reasons, my appreciation of Dr. Piper runs deep.

Obviously, though, I disagree with him on some fairly important issues, mostly related to his belief that the charismatic gifts are still fully operative. It is this facet of Dr. Piper’s theology, I think, that makes his judgments often seem subjective—even arbitrary. Consider, for example, his fascination with “holy laughter” at the height of the Toronto Blessing—and his persistent reluctance to condemn that movement despite the vast damage it was causing. (Did he ever actually denounce the Toronto phenomenon? I didn’t hear about it if he did.) That is just one example of what I would regard as a glaring lack of discernment in some of his judgments.

Holy passion and sacred delight in God are wonderful virtues, of course, and these constitute the centerpiece of Dr. Piper’s message. But true delight in God is the polar opposite of hedonism, and copious passion per se is not necessarily righteous. (Nor is a quiet or restrained expression of one’s feelings a sign of indifference.) As a matter of fact, ungodly passions are a massive problem in the church today, especially in the charismatic fringe. I wish Dr. Piper were more vocal in warning against that kind of imbalance.

Furthermore, human passion and biblical discernment can be like oil and water—a truth Dr. Piper acknowledges in principle. Unbridled passion and feelings-based judgments are deadly to discernment. Hang onto that thought, because it will come up again later in this post. It’s a principle that works both ways.

Rick Warren
I can’t think of anyone who would make a finer poster-boy for the pragmatic, spiritually impoverished, gospel-deprived message of modern and postmodern evangelicalism than Rick Warren. He is shallow, pragmatic, and chameleonic. He is a spiritual changeling who will say whatever his audience wants to hear. He wants desperately to be liked and accepted by Muslims, evangelicals, and everyone in between. The length to which he will go to indulge his ecumenical bent is seen in the fact that he was one of a handful of professing evangelicals who signed “A Common Word Between Us and You,” a declaration of spiritual accord between Muslims and Christians. His church’s Easter service at Angel Stadium last week was headlined by the Jonas Brothers (who sang a love song from a Disney movie as if it were a song of praise to God). And Warren’s sermon on the resurrection was a paean to Possibility Thinking—assuring people that God wanted to do a miracle to revive their broken dreams. That, Warren said, is the meaning of the resurrection. (And, “Remember, God isn’t mad at you, He’s mad about you.”)

Warren has squandered too many opportunities to proclaim the gospel accurately and muffed too many questions on national television to be given a platform by one of the leading figures of Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and similar movements whose central goal, after all, is to undo the damage Warren’s philosophy has caused in the evangelical movement.

The massive problems with Warren’s ministry philosophy are well documented. The same with his practice of softening, omitting, or denying key gospel truths about sin, judgment, the wrath of God, and the necessity of repentance. A preacher doesn’t have to affirm heresy or overtly deny truth in order to be dangerous. It is entirely possible by one’s behavior to distort or obscure the gospel message. All Peter did to earn a public rebuke from Paul was change seats at the dinner table (Galatians 2:11-14). But in context, that seriously compromised the gospel. Deliberately and repeatedly giving short shrift to the greatest truths of the gospel is at least as serious an error as Peter’s hypocrisy.

Warren’s private reassurances to John Piper shouldn’t trump the fact that he does not actually preach the gospel plainly, boldly, thoroughly, unashamedly, and in a way that is faithful to the Word of God. If he privately believes something other than what he has said in his books and sermons, that makes him more culpable as a hypocrite. His belief is better than his practice? Let’s not make that sound heroic.

On one level I share Dr. Piper’s curiosity. I’d love to hear Rick Warren explain how someone who believes what he professes to believe could possibly justify the pragmatic philosophy of ministry he has been championing for thirty years. But that’s something I’d prefer to hear in private. I would never give such a man a platform at a national conference, in front of thousands of impressionable disciples, to make an apologia for his pragmatic ministry philosophy or his truncated gospel.

In fact, it pains me deeply to see Dr. Piper himself making such an apologia for Warren, assuring viewers (without any substantiation other than their private conversation) that Warren is “deeply theological,” and “at root . . . doctrinal and sound.” Jesus said, “Either make the tree good and its fruit good, or make the tree bad and its fruit bad, for the tree is known by its fruit” (Matthew 12:33). That’s fitting advice for a situation like this.

No matter how Dr. Piper may qualify his endorsement of Rick Warren (and he didn’t seem to be qualifying it very much in the live Q&A the other night), many of Dr. Piper’s admirers do assume Warren now has Piper’s full imprimatur. Some of the dialogue in various online forums and social-networking sites demonstrates that.

The critics

Speaking of Twitter chatter and Facebook feedback, I can’t touch on this whole subject without pointing out that the tone of some of the criticism leveled at Dr. Piper is simply revolting. Within fifteen minutes of Dr. Piper’s live webcast the other night, I had to delete a comment on my Facebook page from a woman who called him a clown. Over the past week I have deleted an average of two or three comments each day that were personally insulting or deliberately disrespectful toward Dr. Piper. One woman expressed a hope that his sabbatical would be permanent.

It intrigues and disturbs me that most (not all, but most) of the overtly impertinent comments have come from women. There’s evidently a growing regiment of self-appointed discernment experts consisting of women who give lip service to the authority of Scripture. They would unanimously affirm that Scripture reserves for men the teaching and ruling elders’ roles in the church. They would, I presume, deplore the ordination of women to such positions of authority. They are not offended by Paul’s statement in 1 Timothy 2:12; rather, they would say amen to it. And yet in practice they have no compunction about posting angry, loud condemnations and insistent demands for the removal of a pastor of John Piper’s stature. These things ought not to be.

Anyway, I remarked on the radio this week that I think a lot of Dr. Piper’s critics have been too shrill, too hysterical, too trigger-happy, too eager for immediate reprisals, and too disrespectful to Dr. Piper. The reactions to that comment have been chilling. I wonder if some of Dr. Piper’s critics would have been happier if I had called for his deportation to Siberia. One blog (wholly written, evidently, on a keyboard with a defective shift key) labeled my position “LUKEWARM,” claiming I was trying to stay “SAFELY IN THE MIDDLE AS TO NOT ISSUE ANY DECISION WHATEVER.” A woman who relentlessly tried to pick a fight with me on my Facebook page finally took her beef to Twitter, where she complained that I was determined to stifle her passion.

Well, as I said above, some passions need to be stifled, and raw passion is a detriment, not an aid, to true discernment.

I’ve made the argument many times that sharp words and sarcasm aren’t always inappropriate, but they are certainly inappropriate as a first response to a man of Dr. Piper’s stature. No wonder the self-styled “discernment” community is so odious to milder-tempered Christians.

It was, however, Dr. Piper himself, not his critics, who first raised the specter of separation. He mentioned the subject twice in his apologia for Warren. First, he said one of the reasons he invites occasional bad-boy types to speak at his conferences is that he hopes the Young, Restless, Reformed movement will not imitate the overzealous separatism of the twentieth-century fundamentalist movement.

I agree that this would be a bad thing, but seriously: Does that really look like it’s a looming danger?

The answer to hyper-separatism is not no separatism at all.

That, of course, was the error of neo-evangelicalism, a movement closer to Dr. Piper’s own roots. Neo-evangelicalism reacted to the extreme militancy of certain angry fundamentalists by repudiating separatism altogether. That philosophy (for which Christianity Today and the National Association of Evangelicals were tireless cheerleaders) steadily and systematically moved the boundaries of the evangelical movement further and further out, until there were effectively no boundaries at all. The mainstream of the movement abandoned its own principles. The movement traded the gospel for shallow political goals. A man of Ted Haggard’s weak character and loose doctrine rose to the highest position of leadership. Good feelings and friendly relations eventually trumped almost every evangelical truth. Finally, the emerging generation began to trade the pragmatism and shallowness of their evangelical parents for a postmodernized brand of religion that at least offered the illusion of more depth and tradition.

Together for the Gospel, The Gospel Coalition, and the so-called Young, Restless, Reformed resurgence of Calvinism all gained their strength chiefly because they effectively answered the trends that had been spawned by evangelicalism’s attempts to broaden its base by becoming more and more inclusive. A return to that practice will in very short order utterly nullify any gains those movements have made.

The fact is, Scripture commands faithful Christians to confront, rebuke, and correct those who twist or reinvent the gospel—not to ask them to speak at our most important conferences. If they fail to amend their errors (as Rick Warren has consistently done), there comes a time when separation is mandatory. The neglect of that duty (and in many cases, a refusal to comply) has destroyed countless churches and evangelical institutions, not to mention the broad evangelical movement itself. Let’s bear that in mind.

Dr. Piper also raised the issue of “secondary separation” near the conclusion of his remarks about Rick Warren. The fact that he brought the issue up at all demonstrates that he knew his invitation to Warren would be divisive. That’s another reason I’m very sorry and disappointed that he made this choice—especially if (as it seems) he extended the invitation to Warren during his first conversation with him, without seeking counsel or affirmation from others (especially his partners in T4G and TGC).

But Dr. Piper’s friendship with Rick Warren doesn’t instantly and automatically make Dr. Piper an enemy of the faith. People have already called for a boycott of his books, reprisals against those who are perceived as “LUKEWARM” in their response to Piper, and practically everything short of assassination. In their minds, those who balk at the cry for some kind of nuclear strike against Piper are guilty of utter apathy and inaction.

That’s a ridiculous point of view.

So is the opinion that no response whatsoever is actually the best possible response. Piper influences people who are under my pastoral care. It would be unconscionable for me to ignore what I am convinced is a dangerously misleading and potentially hurtful decision. But there are several valid, biblical responses that lie between the extremes of sheer apathy and shrill vigilantism. The best option, in a case like this, is to explain as carefully as possible why I disagree with Dr. Piper’s decision, plead with Dr. Piper to reconsider the trajectory he has set, and do everything possible to make the boundaries between the gospel and all other messages as clear as possible. If Dr. Piper continues on this trajectory of ever-broadening boundaries, the time may come when his influence would become such a danger that total separation from him would be necessary. I frankly don’t envision that, given Dr. Piper’s passion for the gospel. But more shocking things have happened.

Meanwhile, I’m not obliged to invite Dr. Piper to speak to my flock in order to prove that I’m not practicing secondary separation. Without utterly anathematizing him, I can certainly temper my enthusiasm in recommending his teaching to impressionable people. I do still have a duty to regard him as a brother rather than an enemy or an apostate (cf. 2 Thessalonians 3:15), and I owe him respect and honor as one to whom those things are due (Romans 13:7).

From my perspective it looks like Dr. Piper is repeating the worst errors of the neo-evangelicals, and his critics are imitating the worst misconduct of the hyper-fundamentalists. I find myself in unfamiliar territory—in the middle—pleading for more restraint, more biblical discernment, less raw passion, and less impulsive behavior on both sides.

I’ll see you at T4G next week.

See also:

College: Are Parents Getting Their Money’s Worth? Are They Getting More Than They Bargained For?

March 9, 2010

College: Are Parents Getting Their Money’s Worth? Are They Getting More Than They Bargained For?
by Guest Blogger Dr. Jeff Myers

This fall, nearly two million American students will leave for college for the very first time. Their education will cost $12,000 a year for a public university and up to $50,000 for a private one. Scholarships and grants reduce the cost for most families, but still, the Wall Street Journal reports that the average student leaves college with $23,186 in debt.

Nationwide, the total cost for this transaction is somewhere between 25 and 40 billion dollars per year.

At least families are getting their money’s worth.

Or not.

A recent study confirms what many parents have long suspected: going to college can make kids forget what’s important and embrace values that are counter to what they learned growing up.

Before I share this study’s results, let me say this to parents: leftist professors don’t feel sorry for you. As far as they’re concerned, you’ve been oppressing the masses to get that money anyway, so it’s deliciously ironic that you not only turn your children over to the indoctrinators, but that you fork over 50k to 200k and for the privilege of doing so.

Don’t take my word for it. Here’s what the late Richard Rorty, one of the most prominent philosophers of the 20th century, said on the subject:

“… I, like most Americans who teach humanities or social science in colleges and universities … try to arrange things so that students who enter as bigoted, homophobic, religious fundamentalists will leave college with views more like our own …  The fundamentalist parents of our fundamentalist students think that the entire ‘American liberal establishment’ is engaged in a conspiracy. The parents have a point … we are going to go right on trying to discredit you in the eyes of your children, trying to strip your fundamentalist religious community of dignity, trying to make your views seem silly rather than discussable. We are not so inclusivist as to tolerate intolerance such as yours … I think those students are lucky to find themselves under the benevolent Herrschaft [domination] of people like me, and to have escaped the grip of their frightening, vicious, dangerous parents …”* [editor’s note: sorry for all the ellipses, but it’s hard to summarize Rorty’s windblown rhetoric].

When it comes to reshaping values, liberal universities know precisely what they’re doing. And the reality is that about four out of five students walk away from their Christian faith by the time they are in their twenties.**

The Indoctrination Plan:
What Your Child Will and Will Not Learn

What your child won’t learn at college: a sense of citizenship. In February, the Intercollegiate Studies Institute released its annual report entitled, “The Shaping of the American Mind.” ISI researchers studied students’ knowledge of basic citizenship questions, along with 39 issue-based propositions and found that college graduates are dangerously ignorant of basic civics.

For example, fewer than one in two college graduates know that the phrase “We hold these truths to be self evident…” is from the Declaration of Independence (10% actually think it is from the Communist Manifesto).

What your child will learn at college: liberal radicalism. According to ISI, college graduates are significantly MORE likely to believe in abortion on demand and same sex marriage, and significantly LESS likely to believe that the Bible is the word of God, that prayer should be allowed in schools, and that anyone can succeed in America with hard work and perseverance.

The Transformation Plan:

Being Confidently Prepared Rather than Caught Off Guard

Obviously not all colleges are destructive. There are even a handful of great ones (I would humbly suggest that the one I teach at — Bryan College — is one of the excellent few).

But most Christian parents feel hamstrung. They are concerned for their kids but also realize that, with few exceptions, young people have little chance of becoming leaders without a college degree. They want their children to prepare for positively influencing the culture, but to not have their faith shredded in the process.

There is a solution and it is available now. Please, if you have a college-bound student, listen carefully to what I’m about to tell you. This is important even if your child is going to a “safe” college (some so-called “Christian” colleges are actually better at convincing kids to walk away from their faith than some secular colleges).

A two-week Summit Ministries course is a must. This summer. Find out more here.

At Summit, students ages 16-21 gain the confidence they need to understand and defend an intelligent biblical worldview. They join a vast network of mentors whose books, writings and personal encouragement sharpen them for life-long leadership. Shoulder to shoulder they and their new-found friends stand strong together.

The 12-day experience for your son or daughter is $895 for the tuition, room, board and activities. That’s far less than most private camps because it is heavily subsidized by donors. And when you consider that the Summit protects against a destructive influence on campus, it’s a small price to pay. Considering the value of your child’s soul, it’s priceless.

Now Is Not the Time for Shortcuts

There is much at stake. Having your child read an apologetics book or go to a weekend conference is great, but it’s not the same as a two-week Summit experience, and here’s why:

1. Summit helps students “own” what they learn.
Over the course of 12 days, students are able to form questions and interact with top Christian professors, mentors, and classmates. As they become comfortable, they open up in small groups, around the meal tables and in open forums with speakers.

2. Summit prepares students to think through issues as adults.
Summit asks students to forsake adolescence and step up into mature adulthood. Over the course of 12 days students come to believe that it can actually be done.

3. Summit breaks the stranglehold of negative peer pressure.
Young adults seldom attempt to rise above what their peers think they can be. Summit students learn how to reverse this pressure and support one another in successfully thinking and living Christianly.

4. Summit helps students form relationships with expert mentors.
At Summit, students spend 12 days with experts who have the depth of experience needed to delve deeply into the complex challenges those students face. These experts are specially selected based on their ability to communicate effectively with students.

5. Summit affirms and supports parents’ roles and Christian values.
Kids are always asking, “Who else says so besides Mom and Dad?” At Summit, students are encouraged to honor their parents and be reconciled to them. This helps moms and dads strengthen their relationship before their sons and daughters leave for college, which is crucial.

Where Christian Leaders Send Their Own Children for Training

Summit is not a miracle cure. But for 47 years it’s been a trusted source for preparing students to be the kind of leaders who shape culture, rather than who are shaped by it. That’s why evangelical leaders such as James Dobson and Josh McDowell endorse it so enthusiastically — and why they sent their children to Summit before college; there simply is no substitute for the excellent training and mentoring Dr. Noebel and his staff provide.

I believe in the Summit. In fact I am planning to speak at every Summit Ministries session in the U.S. this summer in Colorado, Virginia, Tennessee and Wisconsin.

Summit enrollment is limited by space. Most sessions do fill up, but you can download an application at www.summit.org. Scholarships are available for those in financial need.

Remember: before college, Summit. Please forward this to any parent who may benefit from knowing about it.

Dr. Jeff Myers is founder and president of Passing the Baton International. Jeff speaks to tens of thousands each year on worldview and leadership issues. This article was taken by permission from Jeff’s E-Newsletter “Get Ready to Lead.” To subscribe, please visit www.passingthebaton.org. For more information on Summit Ministries, please visit www.summit.org.

*Richard Rorty, “Universality and Truth,” in Robert B. Brandom (ed.), Rorty and His Critics (Oxford: Blackwell, 2000), pp. 21-22.
**George Barna, “Twentysomethings struggle to find their place in Christian churches“; Ken Ham and Britt Beemer, Already Gone: Why Your Kids Will Quit Church and What You Can Do to Stop It (Green Forest, AR: Master Books, 2009), p. 24.

Why Health Care Reform is Bad for Your Health

August 19, 2009

Guest blogger bio: Michael Bauman, Professor of Theology and Culture, at Hillsdale College, and Scholar in Residence for Summit Semester.

The president says he wants to control health care costs, on the one hand, and to bring millions upon millions of new persons into the health care system, on the other.

Seen together, the president’s goals are contradictory and mutually exclusive.  Here’s why:  If you intend to introduce tens of millions of new health care consumers into the system, then the demand for health care products and services will rise dramatically.  When demand rises dramatically, prices rise dramatically as well.  If the president wants to achieve his first goal, that of reducing health care costs, then achieving his second goal will make it impossible.  What his left hand gives, his other left hand takes away.

But suppose he succeeds.  That is, suppose he succeeds not at both these goals, which is impossible, but at just one of them.  What happens when the government drives down prices, and what consequences follow when demand for health care products and services rises dramatically?

When the government tries to control health care costs, the consequence for health care providers like drug companies, medical instrument manufacturers, and doctors, is to drive some of them out of health care altogether.  That is, if Washington restricts the profits of health care providers, some of those providers will re-allocate their quite considerable investments in directions away from health care, to places where government interference does not hinder or limit their financial success.  They simply leave.  In the wake of the coming state-induced exodus from the tyranny of price controls, fewer health care providers can or will remain.  Fewer providers mean fewer products and fewer services.  In your very first economics lesson, you’ll recall, you learned that when the supply of a thing goes down, its price goes up.

In other words, the president’s program to control health care costs will produce the opposite result.  I promise you, health care after the president’s reform goes into effect will not be cheaper than it is today.  Health care after his reform will be more expensive than ever, far more expensive.

Count on it; plan for it.

The costs faced by a pharmaceutical company to develop new and effective drugs are staggering.  Laboratories and equipment are expensive.  Outstanding scientists demand high salaries.  The path to FDA approval is arduous, time consuming, and fraught with uncertainty.  The advertisement and distribution of the drugs that win approval are more costly still.  The upshot of all that expensive research, certification, and advertisement is dicey at best, and massive sums of money can be — and have been — lost.

In order to pay for the development, approval, advertisement, and distribution of new drugs and the cures they might make possible, therefore, drug companies must make enormous amounts of money on existing drugs.  If they do not, the development of new drugs cannot well continue.  Thus, by holding down prescription costs, by prohibiting what it considers exorbitant drug company profits, the government is, therefore, also prohibiting future drug development and future cures — perhaps the one that will save your life or the life of a loved one.  We will never know what things could have been accomplished and would have been accomplished in health care if the government puts a lid on prescription costs.  If Obama’s health care reform passes, more people will get sick, more people will stay sick, and more people will die.

Count on it; plan for it.

Consider the doctors:  If the government puts a cap on what a doctor can make for, say, intestinal surgery, then the very talented and intelligent folks who otherwise would have worked very hard to become wealthy surgeons will figure out how to make a very good living in other ways, perhaps in architecture, nuclear technology, or international trade.  In the shadow of government-restricted prices (and therefore government-restricted incomes), fewer and fewer of them will decide to undergo the long, difficult, and exceedingly expensive path through college, through medical school, through residency, and through certification in order to become doctors who can expect to earn less for themselves and their families than they would have earned had they turned their talents elsewhere and followed an easier and less restricted path to greater wealth.  The same thing will happen with the pharmacists.  If the president’s program goes into effect, the result will be fewer doctors and pharmacists serving the millions and millions more patients the president wants to get into the system.  In other words, there will be long lines — very long lines — at the clinic, at the emergency room, and at the pharmacy.

Count on it; plan for it.

The lesson of price controls is not new.  Simply think of the government-imposed control on gas prices in the 1970s and the chaos, shortages, long lines and rationing that followed in its wake  — only substitute health care for gas and clinics for gas stations.

Or, to take a lesson from countries like Canada and the UK (where government health care plans have been in place for many years), waiting lines are unconscionably long and some people actually die waiting for their turn in surgery because there aren’t enough surgeons and operating rooms to meet the needs.  To avoid that fate, Canadians often cross the border to get medical care at their own expense in the US, in cities like Detroit or Buffalo, where medical care is far more readily available than in Canada.  In other words, they come to the system the president is trying to reform, and they leave the sort of system he is trying to emulate.  If the president’s counter-productive plan goes into effect, even Canadians will die.

My point, if it’s not obvious, is that, judging by the incentives it creates and the consequences it generates, this is a health care plan from hell.

But it’s worse than that, far worse.  By introducing millions more folks into the system at the same time that his cost control measures are shrinking that system, the president’s plan will strain our remaining health care resources enormously, perhaps to the breaking point, laying an unbearable demand upon what survives of a health care supply system shrinking under the effects of government policy.  The results for millions of Americans needing medical care will be catastrophic.  In order to meet the burgeoning demands that an expanding clientele puts on a shrinking system, the government will institute rationing.

Put succinctly, price controls lead to shortages; shortages lead to higher prices and to long lines; long lines lead to rationing; rationing health care leads to suffering and death.

When family and friends suffer or die because they couldn’t get the health care they required, Americans will begin to regret the votes they cast in recent years, and they will struggle to return to the system that served them better — if by then a return is still possible.

My dire tale of higher prices, shortages, long lines and rationing is understated.  I have purposely left the most expensive and most dangerous part of the President’s health care reform until the end.  To this point, I have focused primarily on health care providers and health care consumers.  I turn now to health care bureaucrats — perhaps the most wasteful and dangerous element of the President’s entire misbegotten scheme.

Depending upon precisely what sorts of things one includes in the equation, health care is approximately one-seventh of the entire American economy.  To bring that much business under the watchful (but myopic) eye of government requires a simply enormous army of bureaucrats.  To them will fall the power of evaluation and analysis of every sort, and the power to enforce their decisions.  Almost nothing could be worse.

The notion that government bureaucrats and career politicians are competent to determine (from a distance, at a desk, or in a committee with other bureaucrats) what drugs “ought” to be prescribed, what tests “ought” to be conducted, what procedures “ought” to be undergone, and what “ought” to be the proper cost of every consultation, operation, test, or procedure in every American locality from Anchorage to Key West is unmitigated hubris and foolishness beyond measure.  Those bureaucrats do not even know or understand how little their own jobs and services are worth; they absolutely cannot know the worth of the jobs of medical researchers and neuro-surgeons in varied localities across the nation, and what they “ought” to be paid for doing them.  Nor will they know what things “ought” to be done for and by patients they have never met and never will meet.

Precious few of the apparatchiks empowered by the government to make these decisions will be medically trained.  Indeed, there aren’t enough properly trained bureaucrats in the world to make this program work.  Almost none will have seen face-to-face even one of the persons whose lives and health they hold in their red tape entangling hands.  Indeed, they will not be dealing with persons at all, as they see it, but with “cases” – cases that must be dealt with according to the case book, the standard operating procedures complied by other bureaucrats in other parts of government who spend their professional lives doing equally impossible jobs with equally deleterious effect.

Like all other persons, bureaucrats are creatures of incentive.  Those with careers in the medical bureaucracy will wish to succeed.  They will wish to rise ever higher in the bureaucracy, to be in charge of ever increasing portions of taxpayer money and to exercise more power than now they do.  In order to rise up the bureaucratic ladder, they must preside well over the affairs inside their bailiwick.  They must follow the rules.  They must keep their departmental budgets balanced.  While I am in favor of governments living within their means, the implications of doing so in health care are staggering.

It often happens that almost 90% of a person’s health care expenses occur in the last two or three years of life. When we get old, we get expensive. If the government is overseeing the program by which your health care costs get paid, and if that program is dangerously low on money, the bureaucrat in charge of your case, who knows that it’s cheaper to die than to live, who knows that his budget is nearly depleted, and who wants to look good to his or her superiors, will be sorely tempted to reason this way:  “At 76, old Joe has had a long life.  His country has been good to him for many years.  It’s time for Joe to pay the system back.  It’s time for Joe to cash in his chips.  That way, his own physical suffering is ended; my personal and professional burdens are eased; and others can move one step forward in the waiting line.  If old Joe dies, it’ll be better for everybody, including me and Joe.”

If you think I am making this up, I absolutely am not.  I have seen it with my own eyes and heard it with my own ears directly from government bureaucrats themselves. I kid you not.

When government bureaucrats invade health care, the inevitable result is something much like veterinary medicine:  If your dog is sick and you take it to the vet, the vet examines it and says, “Spot has a problem, and it will cost $300 to fix it.  What would you like to do?”  The vet asks you, not Spot, because you are paying the bills. If you don’t have the money to pay for the necessary procedures, it’s bad news for Spot.  Spot might die.  When the government is in charge of paying the health care bills, and the bureaucrat in charge of your case doesn’t have the money, you’re Spot.

Count on it; plan for it.

A Case for Christian High Education – Part II

March 10, 2009

Guest Blogger: Lee Duncan, Dean of Administration, The Master’s College

(continued from last week)

LifeWay Research, affiliated with the publishing arm of the Southern Baptist Convention, recently reported that 7 out of 10 Protestants between the ages of 18 and 30 will quit attending church by age 23.  Young people are walking away from the church in record numbers.  Well-known researcher, George Barna, describes the results of his surveys among evangelical teens that represent this generation:

  • They are a mixture of many ideals and philosophies,
  • They have fluid relationships,
  • They cut and paste their values, and they see spiritual issues as a mixture of many beliefs.
  • The two most important parts to their lives are relationships and experiences, and 96% of their time in relationships is with friends, not parents.
  • They are most impacted by the media, averaging 4-6 hours a day.  This generation is over-stimulated, over-exposed, and under-protected.
  • Music has the greatest affect on teens as it provides a forum for common experiences with their friends.  They learn philosophy, select friends, pick heroes, set values, choose lifestyles, and copy the language of the music they listen to.
  • There is very little difference between the music and movies of saved and unsaved teens.
  • Because teens are overwhelmed with the media, most do not know how to examine things critically or Biblically.
  • Their top goals in life are fun and personal fulfillment.
  • Fewer than 10% of teens think seriously about moral or ethical issues.
  • They believe truth is relative, not absolute, and actually . . . not very important anyway!
  • They are not logic-based, but experienced-based . . . they go with what works for them.
  • They are self-centered and waver on moral issues; faith is experience-based and depends day-to-day on how they feel.
  • 86% of teens surveyed said they believed they are a Christian, but only 33% can explain what it means to be a Christian and how one can become a Christian.
  • 50% say they are committed to their faith, but only 4% say they want a serious walk with God.
  • They go to church for a common experience with friends, not because they want to worship God or learn from the Bible.  They are less likely to attend church as an adult when their tribe of friends drifts apart.
  • 66% say that the gods of all religions are really the one and same God.
  • 66% say that the Holy Spirit and Satan are not real, but just symbols of good and evil.
  • 60% say that reading the Bible is not important.

It is my personal view that the culture is winning the day and Christian families are losing at an ever-increasing rate.  Christian education is needed now more than ever!  Therefore, let us look at the initial questions raised in this essay.

Who should teach children?  The biblical answer is that parents are responsible for the education of their children.  Some parents choose to homeschool their children and have a direct hands-on connection in the educational process.  Others choose to enlist the help of Christian schools where the curriculum, teachers, and philosophy match their own goals and beliefs.  Any other educational choice that is secular diminishes the role of God and His truth in the educational process.  The bottom line is that parents must be directly involved in education and know who is teaching their children, what they are teaching, and whether or not it agrees with Scripture.

It is recognized that not all parents can homeschool or afford Christian schools for their children; however, the responsibility is still theirs to ensure that their children be taught Scripture and be given a biblical worldview.  Parents who seek the help of Christian schools need to be involved and know that the school is staying true to God’s Word.  Those who have their children in secular private schools or public schools have a boatload of work to do to undo the incorrect philosophies, historical revisionism, and anti-biblical teachings that are given to their children daily.  When parents say, “Well, education is what it is . . . my child will survive,” they are surrendering their children to inconsistency, confusion, and ultimately, a secular value system and worldview.

Do parents have the freedom to choose any school or any form of education they wish?  The answer is not a simple “yes.”  All believers are ultimately accountable to God for their decisions.  We in America like to think that we live in a Christian nation and have the freedom to do what we wish; however, true freedom is the ability to do what is right, not the ability to do what we want.  Parents who make wrong choices suffer the consequences of their decisions and that is why so many young people are leaving the faith as soon as they leave the home.

Is Christian education necessary?  While the average child spends 10-15 minutes of personal time with his/her parents each day, teachers spend 4-5 hours with children each day.  Teachers have an enormous impact on how children think and what they view as correct.  Parents are seldom the most important role models in the lives of children anymore; they have been replaced by friends, famous people, rock stars, and professional athletes.  Well-liked teachers also rank higher than parents on most surveys when it comes to influence.  Parents seldom know very much about those who teach their children in public schools . . . they just assume that they are “good folks.”  While there are some very good, moral, and faithful teachers in public schools, there are also many who strongly believe the opposite of all that the Bible teaches and view it as their mission to free the children from old-fashioned and bigoted parents who still believe in biblical truth.

Should Christian students be salt and light in public education?  Scriptural commands to be salt and light are addressed to adult believers as they live in the world.  It is a stretch to say that God intends for children to go into the public sector and challenge those in authority who are far better equipped and experienced in their own secular worldviews.  Why would we expect Christian young people who are in their most impressionable time of growth to challenge mature teachers who will attack their faith?  In reality, most Christian students in public schools challenge no one; they simply stay quiet and try to avoid any confrontation.

I view sending young Christians into the public schools the same as sending troops into Iraq without any weapons . . . totally unprepared for what they will face.  There might be a rare exception to this, but in over 30 years in education, I have yet to meet someone who said, “I was saved in the public school by one of my classmates being salt and light.”  I believe the greater influence is in the other direction, more Christian young people are lost to the world than are won to Christ in the public school system.  Christian teachers in the public schools are legally obligated not to be an open witness, so I am not sure where the salt and light occurs.  My own opinion is that parents who use the salt and light argument are simply trying to justify and rationalize their decision with spiritual words.  Their children are not ready for battle and they will without question be impacted by their learning environment and unsaved teachers.

If Christian education is important for children in Kindergarten through Grade 12, what then about education on the college level . . . is higher Christian education really necessary?  Scripture states that learning is a spiritual process, not simply an academic exercise.  All learning is spiritual; therefore, those who sit at the feet of secular educators are taking in what they teach into their hearts.  There are some occasions where a specific vocational calling is not available in a Christian college or university, but it is my experience that few graduating high school students look very hard to find Christian options.  Those who seek a secular education are looking for all that a secular school offers:  great facilities, freedom of expression, few rules or expectations, and the prestige of a well-known college or university.  It is also my experience that most high school graduates are not spiritually mature enough to take on secular professors in the area of faith and philosophy.  Many believe that they are ready . . . but research reveals that 7 out of 10 students who enter the secular college or university walk away from their faith.

Does God care what high school graduates do?  Yes, He does; in 1 Timothy 4:12, God says, “Let no one despise you for your youth, but set the believers an example in speech, in conduct, in love, in faith, in purity.”  The Apostle Paul debated the philosophers and teachers in Athens who would “spend their time in nothing except telling or hearing something new” (Acts 17:21).  What did Paul say to them?  “Seek God” (Acts 17:27).
I contend that what is best for Christian young people is that they attend a Christian college or university.  First, learning is a spiritual process; learning takes place in the heart which is the true inner person that includes intellect, emotions, will, appetites, desires, and dreams.  Learning cannot be isolated from the heart; all learning comes into the heart and impacts beliefs, understanding, and knowledge.  Learning is also based on relationships; all who learn develop connected relationships with their teachers who impact them deeply.  Most college graduates reflect the thinking and ideals of their professors.  Even though secular colleges and universities may be less expensive, provide better facilities, provide higher social status, and promise greater financial reward, education still remains at its core to be a spiritual endeavor intended to integrate the truth of God into all areas of life.

Steve Henderson, President of Christian Consulting for Colleges and Ministries, wrote an article in March 2006 entitled “A Question of Price Versus Cost.”  Here are Henderson’s main arguments to support his contention that parents who send students to secular institutions place their children at great risk:

  • The college years are pivotal years in a child’s growth and development.  They enter college as teens and leave as adults.  Their core values, worldview, way of thinking, and lifestyle choices are cemented during their college years.  “College years are a time when core values from childhood are tested, sorted, and prioritized in ways that often will last a lifetime.  It is the time when people move from an imposed faith to an owned faith” (p. 2).
  • Attending a secular institution tremendously impacts the spiritual life of Christian students.  “The results of nearly 25 years of research consistently reveal that those who do not attend a Christ-centered college will experience a decline in religious values, attitudes, and behaviors during college” (p. 2).
  • The percentages of students who claim to be Christians before entering a secular college and then claim not to be a Christian when finishing college are astounding.  Railsback & Henderson (2006) found in their research that 52% of students who claimed to be born-again no longer claimed to be a Christian or attended church after leaving a secular college (p. 2).  Reported in USA Today, Ed Stetzer of Nashville-based LifeWay Research revealed in an extensive study of over 1000 evangelical Christian young people between the ages of 18-30 that 7 out of 10 of them walked away from their faith (p. 1).  The secular world is not friendly to faith, and parents who send their children to secular institutions as a way to save money are taking a gigantic risk.
  • Professors at educational institutions have a tremendous impact on students; they are the mentors, guides, experts, and friends who act as parents when students are away from home.  In a March 29, 2005, Washington Post article by Howard Kurtz, titled “Study Finds College Faculties a Most Liberal Lot,” the author reported that his research revealed that most secular educators on college campuses “disdain Christianity.”  Among professors, 72% identify themselves as liberal, 84% support abortion, and 67% approve of homosexuality (Henderson, p. 3).  Parents, do you really want to entrust your developing child into the care of these professors?

Railsback & Henderson (2006) examined research from 16,000 students from 133 different post-secondary institutions.  Students were surveyed as they entered college and then surveyed again three years later to see how their views had changed.  Here are the results:
There is a correlation between the type of colleges students choose and what happens to their religious faith during their college years.
Students who choose a secular, independent, state, Presbyterian, or Catholic affiliated institution have the largest decline in religious commitment.
Students who attend independent Protestant or Baptist affiliated institutions report the largest increase in religious commitment.
In many cases, the more conservative the student’s denominational background, the greater the negative change in religious commitment when attending a secular college, university, or junior college (p. 3-4).

In summary, there are many benefits in attending a Christian college or university and many dangerous consequences of attending a secular college or university.  Scripture affirms that education is spiritual in nature and that all education affects learners one way or another.  God intends that parents teach their children spiritual truth and model a biblical worldview for them to emulate.  Christian families today are facing a contest of values with a secular culture that is winning the battle.  Only those who are willing to take on the culture and take control of their children’s education will see their children come through their education with the same beliefs that they were taught in the home.  Those who attend a Christian college or university most often find their spouse for life, make life-long friends, and connect with certain circles of ministries that give them spiritual direction for the rest of their lives.

Christian education is much more that taking Bible classes with a Christian teacher.  Christian education is what provides a foundation for life that includes a biblical worldview, the ability to discern truth from error, the skill of applying God’s truth to daily life, and the benefit of God’s blessing on their lives and families.  This is a case for Christian education, not just for elementary and secondary grades, but also for higher education where life-long beliefs are settled and established.  Christian colleges and universities that hold to the truth of Scripture and who elevate the person and work of Christ can change the lives of students forever.  It is worth the effort, it is worth the cost, it is worth the commitment.  To do otherwise is simply not wise at all.


Barclay, W. (1959).  Train up a child:  Educational ideals in the ancient world.
Philadelphia, PA:  Westminster Press.

Grossman, C. (2007).  “Young Adults Aren’t Sticking With Church.”  USA Today, retrieved
October 10, 2008 at  HYPERLINK “http://usatoday.com/news/religion/2007-08-06-churchdropouts_N.htm”

Henderson, Steve (2006).  A Question of Price versus Cost.  Retrieved September 9, 2008 at
HYPERLINK “http://christiancollegeguide.net/advertorials/ct/questionofpriceversuscost.html”

Krieger, L., Mickelson, G., & Alexander, K. (2007).  State Community Colleges Struggling to Meet
Student Needs.  Retrieved March 21, 2007 from  HYPERLINK “http://www.santacruzsentinel.com/ archive/ 2007/ March/20/local/stories/02local.htm”

“LifeWay Research Uncovers Reasons 18 to 22 Year Olds Drop Out of Church.  Retrieved Oct.
10, 2008 at HYPERLINK “http://www.lifeway.com/lwc/article_main_page”

McDowell, J. 1994).  Right from wrong.  Nashville, TN:  W Publishing Group.

Stimpfel, S. (2008).  “Giving Community College Students a Leg Up.”  Education Digest, Sept.
2008, Volume 74, No. 1, pp. 50-53.

Tenney, M. (Ed.) (1975).  The Zondervan pictorial encyclopedia of the Bible (Vol. 2).
Grand Rapids, MI:  Zondervan Publishing House.

A Case for Christian High Education – Part I

March 3, 2009

Guest Blogger: Lee Duncan, Dean of Administration, The Master’s College
Christian parents throughout history have been faced with questions regarding the education of their children.  Who should teach children?  What schools should Christian children attend?  Does God care what kind of education is chosen by parents?  Is Christian education a conviction or a preference?  Is it God’s plan that Christian students be salt and light in public education?  Once Christian teens have graduated from high school, is higher Christian education really necessary?

These questions deserve thoughtful answers; however, the first and most important question to ask is this:  “Is Scripture applicable to modern culture?”  If we answer “yes” to this question, then we must investigate what Scripture says regarding the education of children?  It is sad but true that many parents say “no” to this question and believe that Old Testament and New Testament commands are not directly applicable to modern life.  If Scripture is our foundation for life, then it is important to consider what the Bible says about the duties of parents to educate their children in the truth of God.  While education today is different than education in biblical Israel, the Bible gives clear principles regarding the education of children. By looking at the history of Jewish education and Bible’s book on education (Proverbs), parents can find powerful evidence of what God expects from them.

William Barclay (1957) said, “No nation has ever set the child in the midst more deliberatively than the Jews did . . . For the Jew, the child was the most important person in the community” (p. 11).  Abraham was honored by God for his careful attention in educating his children:  “For I have chosen him that he may command his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice” (Gen. 18:19).  Moses later stated to the nation of Israel:  “Hear O Israel, The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  You shall love the Lord your God will all your heart and all your soul and with all your might.  And these words that I command you today shall be on your heart.  You shall teach them diligently to your children, and shall talk of them when you sit in your house, and when you walk by the way, and when you lie down, and when you rise” (Deut. 6:4-7).  Solomon commanded parents, “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it” (Prov. 22:6). Parents are clearly responsible for the education of their children in the truth of God.

Education in early Israel was always spiritual in nature.  While education in nearby Egypt and Mesopotamia focused on vocational success and service to the state, Jewish education focused on success in knowing God and serving Him.  The first schools in Israel were designed for young men dedicated to the office of prophet (located in Ramah, Bethel, and Gilgal), and for young men dedicated to the service of the Tabernacle.  Such was the case for Samuel under Eli’s instruction (2 Sam. 3:1).  What made Israel unique was that its education was always spiritual in nature and purpose.

When Solomon became king he formed royal schools where professional teachers and tutors taught various subjects; however, instruction was primarily spiritual instruction.  Proverbs became a text used by parents and teachers in the educational setting.  Proverbs presented specific learning goals for students, identified skills needed by students, and the responsibilities of students in the learning process.  It also identified the responsibilities of parents/teachers to teach, listed the skills needed to teach effectively, and provided at least 22 specific teaching methods for parents/teachers to use.  Proverbs provided a biblical model for spiritual education.  According to Tenney (1975), the purposes of Jewish education were to transmit the history of Israel as a nation, to teach the ordinances of God, to teach ethics, to teach wisdom living, and to teach a moral lifestyle (p. 209).  These goals are quite different than the goals set for modern secular education.

Education after the Babylonian Exile became even more important as Israel sought to retain its identity, beliefs, and culture through education.  Israel was surrounded by a foreign culture that was antagonistic toward God and they realized how important a biblical education was for their children.  Elementary schools were formed in connection to local synagogues and education became a primary purpose in Jewish life.  After Israel returned to Palestine after the Exile, synagogues and schools were formed all across the nation.  In A.D. 64 Joshua ben Gamala issued an edict that required all boys over the age of 6 or 7 to attend local synagogue schools.  Israel then had a national school system; however, what was most important was that Jewish education was clearly spiritual in nature and Scripture was the main textbook.

Why take the time to review the history of Jewish education?  The reason to do so is to establish that the #1 purpose of education is to transmit the truth of God to future generations.  Scripture presents that education is chiefly spiritual, not secular.  We in America have come a long way from this viewpoint; modern education is all about secular philosophies, cultural ideals, societal conformity, vocational success, and personal fulfillment.  Parents today are much more concerned that their children learn how to make a living than to be taught how to live.  Christian parents assume that it is the church’s responsibility to teach children Bible stories, ethical principles, and how to live the Christian life; however, they also assume that it is the responsibility of the public schools to teach their children academic knowledge and cultural norms.  Josh McDowell (1994) states, “The most important change in education in the last fifty years has not occurred in schools; it has occurred in the minds of parents who no longer take primary responsibility for their children’s education” (p. 41).  Scripture nowhere releases parents from their responsibility to oversee the education of their children and to insure that the education is spiritual, not secular in nature.  The command of Proverbs 22:6 is clearly aimed at parents:  “Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.”

Why was biblical education important to parents in the past?  It was because knowing God and pleasing God in life were the highest goals a family could have.  Parents were far more concerned with the character of their children then they were with their financial or vocational success.  Today Christian children often attend secular schools for academic opportunities, to find athletic success that might lead to professional sports, or simply because it is free and convenient.  Our culture has swayed the minds of parents to look at new priorities for life: financial well-being, acceptance in prestigious universities, and social recognition.

I contend that our culture is attacking the Christian family just like the Babylonian culture attacked the families of Israel.  They responded by forming schools that taught spiritual truth and maintained their identity as a nation that followed God.  American Christians have chosen a different path and the results are evident in the character of our young people.  Modern research is charting the changing character of this generation of young people.  An article by Associated Press writer David Crary (Monday, Dec. 1, 2008) entitled “Students Admit Stealing, Cheating” reported that 30% of U.S. high school students surveyed admitted to stealing from a store in the last year.  In addition, 64% said that they cheated on a test in the past year, 36% admitted that they used the Internet to plagiarize an assignment, and 42% said that they lied to save money.  Michael Josephson, founder of the Josephson Institute in Los Angeles, surveyed 29,760 students in randomly selected high schools in America.  He found that 35% of boys and 26% of girls admitted to stealing from stores in the past year and 23% admitted to stealing from a parent or relative.  In addition, 93% of the surveyed students said that they were satisfied with their personal ethics.  These results are significantly higher than similar surveys taken in 2006, thus indicating that honesty and integrity are headed down a slippery slope in the wrong direction.  (part 2 next week)

Cultural Faith…Is It Real Faith?

February 24, 2009

GUEST BLOGGER: Lee Duncan, Dean of Administration, The Master’s College.

Every four years the United States goes through the democratic, sometimes painful, election process to select a new president.  Television and radio ads inundate the electorate with every conceivable spin that promotes certain candidates while denigrating others.  Many Americans stop answering their phones at home because they cannot take any more pre-recorded sales pitches.  Every day we hear news reports, read articles, or receive mail about everything from foreign policies to economic policies to educational reform ideas…all with the theme of how to bring “change” to America.

In recent elections there has been a much greater emphasis on the personal faith of the candidates, including how often they attend church, who is their pastor, what they think about God, and how their faith might influence their leadership and decision-making.  A new kind of politically correct version of faith is emerging among many candidates and it prompts a question…is it real faith?

Not that long ago “faith” was a word that described a particular set of doctrinal beliefs that identified a person’s convictions that affected their lives and decisions.  People would claim a certain denomination or doctrinal view as “their faith,” determined by allegiance to some written authority or church teaching.  Even though not everyone agreed what source was the ultimate authority, at least most people agreed that an outside source was needed as a basis of truth.  That is no longer the case in America.  Today the term faith is used to say that a person believes in something of their own choosing; it does not rely on an external source but each creates his own truth.  Political candidates can stand up and say they have faith without having to submit to the authority of God or Scripture; their faith is their own and frankly, they tell us, it is none of our business what specifically they believe because is it personal.  This is not genuine faith, it is a cultural faith.

Our modern American culture has changed faith into a personal, nebulous, changing, and relative expression of spirituality.  Political candidates stand up and say, “I have faith and it is personal.”  From the position of an outsider, one might conclude that almost every candidate is a Christian who is committed to God.  However, after further review, their faith is nothing more than an admission that they believe in something that they don’t want to talk about.  Unfortunately, that seems enough for the average citizen because to most Americans religion is personal and we certainly don’t want to pry!  Modern Americans are willing to accept that one who has faith is religious, regardless of what that faith entails.  In reality, to state that you have faith today simply means that you consider yourself a spiritual person and that you have the right to believe whatever you choose.  Faith is without accountability.

Biblical faith is something altogether different; it is based on an outside authoritative source that identifies that truth comes from God and is totally consistent with His Word, the Bible.  The essence of the word “faith” is that it is a belief or trust in a higher power.  Faith is a moral and spiritual quality of fidelity to God and confidence in His Word.  “Faith is not simply the assent of the intellect to revealed truth; it is the practical submission of the entire man to the guidance and control of such truth” (Unger, 1957, p. 341).  “Faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the Word of God” (Rom. 10:17).  Faith is based on evidence that we can’t see (Heb. 11:1) and is a gift from God.  God grants faith and then sustains faith through His eternal power.  True faith submits to the Word of God; it is God’s view that we follow, His Word that we obey, and His will that we seek.

Political candidates, and yes, most Americans, see faith as something that is individual and that allows every person to believe whatever he or she thinks is right.  All they have to do is say, “I have faith,” or “I am a person of faith,” and they are excused from explaining what they believe and by what authority they make claims to truth.  Politicians say that God’s Word is informative, it is comforting, it is motivating, it is inspiring, but never will you hear one of them say, “It is authoritative.”  Americans like their faith the way they define it and don’t want to be confined to a set of writings that has been handed down through the centuries.  This is how political candidates can claim to be Christians but promote views that absolutely disagree with the Bible.  They have faith all right, but not a biblical faith.  Their faith is of their own making and there is no outside authority to which they must submit.  It is a convenient faith, an easy faith, but ultimately, a coward’s faith because they never have to be accountable for what they believe.

Cultural faith is taking over America; in fact, if you just arrived from Pluto or Saturn you might believe that almost everyone in America is a Christian.  Faith is not faith unless God affirms that it is.  Salvation is through Jesus Christ alone (John 14:6), God is the only source of truth (John 17:17), and God’s Word is His inspired message to mankind (2 Tim. 3:16-17).  Unless faith is connected to these truths, then it is not faith at all.  I am sorry, but faith is not a freedom to express your own views about life, abortion, alternate lifestyles, creation vs. evolution, etc.  Our views only matter as they agree with God’s views.  If you have true faith, your views must come from the one authoritative source that God has given us, His Word the Bible.  Any other faith is simply a cultural faith…and that is not faith at all.

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