Tag Archives: Christian worldview

When in Doubt, What do you Do?

pediatrician with baby edited

A generally accepted principle of Christian living is that when people feel confused about the right thing to do, they should prayerfully look for an answer in the Bible. Christians are taught that the Bible is clear enough for a child to understand important teachings, and there is plenty of evidence of this truth. Christians also discover, as they mature in the faith, that there is depth and complexity in the Bible that baffles people with astronomical IQs. There is plenty of evidence of this truth as well. For this reason, Christians learn to look for mentors to help them prayerfully study the Bible and listen for God’s guidance. It all boils down to a problem: people of faith may or may not agree on the right thing to do in every situation.

Recently a pediatrician, Dr. Vesni Roi, in Michigan was faced with a situation in which she was uncertain what to do. Two lesbian women who live together in a union they call a marriage selected her for the care of a child yet to be born. The article that reports the story does not make it quite clear who would give birth to the baby. The articles do report that after reviewing the credentials of numerous pediatricians, the two women decided to ask Dr. Rio to care for the child.

When the time came for the child’s first visit, six days after birth, the women were told that Dr. Roi had decided not to accept the baby as her patient. She referred them to another pediatrician in the same practice. She explained in a handwritten note to the women that her decision was made after considerable prayer. Her expressed reason for the decision was stated in her note: “I feel that I would not be able to develop the normal patient doctor relationship that I normally do with my patients.” While the note never mentions the issue of homosexual union, the two women consider the decision to be a rejection of homosexuality, even though as one of them pointed out, it could not be about the sexual orientation of the baby, since the baby was too young to have expressed any sexual orientation. Since all conversation about the care of a newborn would necessarily take place with the adult (or adults) charged with the care of the child, it makes sense to conclude that, when the doctor referred to the “patient doctor relationship” in her note, she was saying that she did not feel she could have the same relationship with the two women that she would normally have with the parents or guardians of a child in her care.

Why would she feel this way?

Dr. Roi’s bio includes earning an undergraduate degree from Livonia’s Madonna College, a private Catholic school, in 1987. While graduation from a Catholic institution does not necessarily mean that she is Catholic, her behavior suggests strong Christian background. Secular thinkers do not pray through moral and ethical decisions. If it is proper to conclude that her concern about the patient doctor relationship is rooted in the homosexual lifestyle of the two women, it seems highly likely that Catholic teaching of Christian principles for life figured in her choice. No reports consulted as background for this post ventured to say one way or the other.

The central issue appears to be whether a person of faith who engages in the normal Christian practice of praying about a decision is justified in acting on the guidance received that way. Can the culture permit people of faith to act on the guidance they receive through prayer? Or, must the culture suppress the free exercise of religion if it hurts someone’s feelings? The uproar surrounding this story makes it clear that some people believe that nobody has the right to do what Dr. Roi did. Some even appear to believe that there should be a law forbidding Dr. Roi to make such a choice.

While secular thinkers leap from Dr. Roi’s action to allegations of discrimination, that is a very simplistic reaction to the story. Dr. Roi is a person of faith who did what people of faith do. Christianity is not the only faith that turns to prayer for guidance in making decisions, but in the US, it is probably the most visible religion that considers prayer vital to faith. Dr. Roi prayed about her decision.

Since secular thinkers reject the existence of God, they have no use for decisions based on communion with God, but among Christians, this practice is, nevertheless, central to the faith. Sermons, books, seminars, devotional guides and discipleship mentors all teach Christians to pray when they do not know what to do in any situation. Dr. Roi demonstrated that she not only believes in prayer, but she also acts on prayer. Many is the Christian who has, on one occasion or another, expressed regret that, having prayed about a matter, he did not act according to the guidance received. Dr. Roi engaged in prayer according to the full definition of prayer; she asked for guidance, and she listened until she received it.

Dr. Roi is living her faith. That is exactly what the First Amendment to the Constitution is written to protect. The Constitution says, “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” To pray and to act on the guidance received is the free exercise of religion. American citizens all should applaud the fact that the Constitution is working exactly as it should in Dr. Roi’s case.

One more point. The two women who wanted Dr. Roi to care for a baby felt hurt by Dr. Roi’s decision. There is no question that such a thing would hurt anyone’s feelings. However, part of being an adult is learning to deal with hurt feelings. Hurt feelings do not justify tyrannizing a nation. In this case, not only are the hurt feelings not justification for tyranny, but there is also a completely satisfactory solution for the problem. Even though the two women do not get exactly what they wanted, they will get what they need. They were referred to a competent doctor, and their disappointment in not getting their first choice does not justify an attempt to deny free exercise of the faith of a citizen.

The important issue in this story is that citizens of the United States of America have the right to live their faith. If Dr. Roi had alleged that God told her to beat the women or kill the child they care for, nobody would believe that she was exercising her faith. It would be an exercise in madness. However, Dr. Roi simply listened to God in prayer and acted responsibly, not leaving the women without care for the baby but actually making a professional referral to a well-qualified colleague, something she is entitled to do for any reason whatsoever.

May God protect and sustain the freedom he has given each citizen in the USA. May it long remain the land of the free.

By Katherine Harms, author of Oceans of Love available for Kindle at Amazon.com.

Image: Pediatrician with baby
License: Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike 3.0 License
Photographer not named

A Verse for Meditation

TTorah Scrollhus says the LORD, the King of Israel and his Redeemer, the LORD of hosts: “I am the first and I am the last; besides me there is no god.” Isaiah 44:6

  • Secular activists file lawsuits when a city council invites a Christian pastor to lead prayer before a meeting. What is God’s answer? What is your answer?
  • Secular thinkers reject both God and the Bible. In their minds, God does not exist and the Bible is an old book that is irrelevant in the twenty-first century. If you can’t mention God and cannot use the Bible as a reference, how to you discuss your differences with secular thinkers?
  • There are even Christians who will dispute the Bible’s teaching that Jesus is the only way to God, because they believe God exists but they say it is unfair that Jesus is the only way. How do you express your reason for believing the Bible without becoming confrontational?
  • If you have a Muslim neighbor, that person may tell you that Jesus was a good man and a good prophet, but it is impossible for him to be the Son of God. What does this verse say to that neighbor? What else do you need to tell this neighbor?
  • When you encounter so much rejection and argument in the culture, how does this verse help you?

Executive Order versus Religious Liberty

This article exposes exactly the problem that results when people who claim to be Christian do not hold a Christian worldview. Read about the issues that arise around the president’s executive order prohibiting what he calls “discrimination” against people who choose non-traditional sexual orientations and gender identities. Read http://news.yahoo.com/obama-lgbt-executive-order-threatens-religious-liberty-advocates-201628842.html.


What Does It Mean to Claim the Name of Christ?

Why is it so hard for the demographic group labeled “Christian” to have intra-group conversations about political and social issues? Why is it that Christians do not all hold the same worldview and live by the same values? How does it happen that Christians who celebrated the Hobby Lobby decision as a victory for religious liberty are being excoriated by Christians who consider that decision to be an invasion of every woman’s bedroom by her employer?

Recently I was researching the demographics of an African nation. I was surprised to see the statistics for Christian church membership. Taking all Christian denominations into account, the country is more than 90% Christian. Yet primitive ethnic practices dominate the culture, and most Christians happily blend ethnic traditions with Christian faith. The culture and politics are much more profoundly shaped by ancient tribal practices than by the Sermon on the Mount.

It is not too different in the USA. Even though membership in Christian churches is declining, Christians still outnumber any other religious group by a dramatic majority. At least 75% of US citizens self-identify as Christians. However, when people who call themselves Christians were asked by surveyors about their worldview, the answers were startling. Among all the people surveyed, only 19% of those who self-identified as Christians held a Christian worldview. 81% of the people who called themselves Christians disagreed with at least one fundamental principle of Christianity, as expressed in the following list:

  • Absolute moral truth exists
  • The Bible is totally accurate in all of the principles it teaches
  • Satan is a real being, not merely symbolic
  • A person cannot earn entry into Heaven by being good or doing good works
  • Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth
  • God is the all-knowing, all-powerful creator of the world who still rules the universe today

Many Christians would want to add things to this list, but this list is quite adequate for this conversation. After all respondents to the survey were polled on all six of these points, the outcome was a picture that might shock many of the churches of the USA. Only 9% of all American adults agreed that all six points are true. When the statistic is limited to those who self-identify as Christian, the result is still startling. Only 19% of all who called themselves Christian agreed that all six points are true. The study that reported these statistics was completed in March of 2009. There is nothing in the news of the past five years to make anyone think that the results would be different if the same study were repeated today.

This means that Christians in the USA have the same problem as Christians in a faraway African nation: many US Christians take the name but not the worldview of Christ. Do not interpret this as an editorial indictment of other people’s state of grace. It would be presumptious in the extreme to use a statistical study like this to declare judgment on individuals. Rather, this study points out the reason that a great many things in the culture dismay people who think they know what Christians believe. It is completely credible to discover that a Christian who agrees with all six points in the study will have different view of the definition of marriage than a Christian who believes that the Bible is not authoritative and accurate in everything it teaches. A Christian who agrees with all six principles will necessarily have a different view of the ethics of open borders than a Christian who believes that there is no absolute moral truth. A Christian who believes that Satan is real will have a completely different view of crime and law enforcement than one who believes that evil, like good, is a concept shaped by each person’s individual experience.

The fact that a demographic Christian could possibly disagree with every principle in the list and with many others that orthodox Christians hold dear explains why some Christians are reeling from back-to-back-to-back cultural and political changes that do not make any sense to them. In a culture where Christianity is the dominant religion, Christian principles do not shape the dominant worldview.

In the current dispute over border control and immigration policy, for one example, there are devout Christians along the whole spectrum of opinion about the problem. Devout Christians hold the view that illegal immigrants should be summarily turned around and sent home. Deported. No matter what their age. No matter why they came. Those Christians believe that illegals should go home. Equally devout Christians hold the view that children and needy people of all ages are all human, and there is no such thing as an illegal human being. Hence, they believe the human flood across the Rio Grande should be welcomed with open arms and with an array of benefits to assure their health, happiness and freedom from hunger in this country.

It quickly becomes clear that depth of devotion does not determine the shape of a worldview. A devout Christian might not hold a Christian worldview.

When people vote for candidates, they hope that their vote will put someone in office to do the things that need doing in the culture. If a voter’s worldview sees human beings as needy victims of blind fate and greedy capitalists, the voter will choose candidates who promise to take care of the victims and pay for that care by punishing the greedy. If a voter’s worldview sees human beings as free individuals who choose their own way and accomplish what they are willing to work for, the voter will choose candidates who promise to get out of the way. It might be a lot more convenient for political analysts and for Christians in general if all Christians had the same view, but they most profoundly do not.

The history of the country suggests that in 1776, the Christians in the British colonies that became the United States of America had a much more consistent worldview. There were moral and social differences, most notably over slavery, but in general, the Christian demographic, which was dominant, held a much more uniform view of human beings and their place in nature than do Christians of today. If there had been complete agreement that the slaves were human beings, it would have been easier to deal with the problem, because the Christian worldview was quite consistent about the rights and responsibilities of human beings. Only a willingness to consider slaves less than human allowed some Christians to tolerate or even participate in the practice. It can be argued that Christians should have clearly agreed that the slaves were human, but they didn’t. It is no more possible for one Christian to know what all Christians should believe than it is possible for one politician to know the amount of income every human being has a right to. In today’s world, proponents of all sorts of political agendas believe that every real Christian should agree, which simply points up what the Barna study demonstrated: Christians as a demographic do not exhibit much internal agreement.

How should Christians approach this problem?

If they all agreed that the Bible is the God-given guide for faith and life, then it would be easier. The disagreement would be limited to their differences over biblical interpretation. However, a significant bud on the tree of Christianity believes that the Bible is old and humans have outgrown it. Progressive Christians are not shy about looking to other sources for guidance on both faith and life.

One thing most Christians seem to agree on is that it is a good idea to treat other people the way you would like to be treated. This agreement is probably due to the fact that even those who reject the Bible’s authority appreciate the fact that it includes a teaching that is palatable to most non-Christians, a teaching that crops up in various forms across numerous religions and self-help manuals. Whether or not a person calls this idea “The Golden Rule,” it is an attractive concept. What’s more, it embodies common courtesy. Christians who consider the Bible their most authoritative guide will still be able to show this common courtesy to other Christians and to non-Christians as well.

To speak with one another in this fashion does not necessarily lead to agreement, but it does help to stave off cruel words and thoughtless insults. It encourages the kindest interpretation of the words of others, and promotes gracious word choices in one’s own speech. It allows citizens to continue to live side by side in harmony, even when the political realities are uncomfortable.

For Christians who swallow the whole enchilada, those who espouse a statistically validated Christian worldview, it does something else. It encourages them to additional moves that serve to build faith and may actually build greater harmony in the culture. Common courtesy promotes a view of the other person that encourages prayer and an attitude of blessing toward the other side of the discussion. It encourages the understanding of the situation as a discussion and not a guerilla action. It most of all encourages the remembrance of God’s truth that we actually all are his children. That fact does not require us to agree and has no bearing on our potential to achieve agreement, but it does require us to respect one another. Even when our disagreements are so deep that they truly are intractable, we can still respect the fact that God impressed his image in each of us. If Nazi Christians could have viewed Jews as human beings created in God’s image, not one could even have been forced to work as a guard or administrator at Auschwitz. In political and social disputation, a sense on all sides that all are human beings created in God’s image could preclude a great deal of the vile and contemptuous behavior that clogs the airwaves in the name of news.

One of the reasons that so few self-proclaimed Christians have a Christian worldview is that it is personally challenging to sustain that view. If someone really believes that God is in charge of the universe, he must, therefore, submit to God in his words and deeds. Most people don’t much like that idea. If a person believes that there is absolute moral truth, it means that playing around with truth, trying to reshape it or hide some of it for your own benefit, is not allowed. A recognition that the Bible teaches what is right and what is wrong is a constant judgment on a person’s daily life. It would be a good thing if all the people who claim to hold a Christian worldview would make it their business to live according to that worldview, even in defeat. Jesus said that would be the real test of faith – to stand strong and overcome, even when everything is against you. Read Revelation 2 and 3 and look at all the challenges those churches faced. Jesus made it plain that they would not win all the political and cultural battles they faced. The war they most needed to win was the war against self that wants to rise up and get what it wants and hurt somebody when it doesn’t win. Jesus said that in the political and cultural wars we all face, we must cling to him and show him to the world, even when we don’t get what we want. The most basic act of discipleship is to deny self and go do what Christ does in the world. (Luke 9:23) In Revelation, it is those who overcome self-worship and put Christ first who win all the prizes, culminating in this one: “To the one who is victorious, I will give the right to sit with me on my throne.” (Revelation 3:21) It would probably look more virtuous if people behaved respectably without the necessity of rewards, but it doesn’t hurt to contemplate the rewards waiting for people who can be Christ-like even when the votes go against them.



A Verse For Meditation

I was ready to be sought by those who did not ask for me; I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me. I said, “Here I am, here I am,” to a nation that was not called by my name.   Isaiah 65:1 ESV

Isaiah 64 is a plea for God to come down and be among us. The prayer is fervent, heart-rending, and intense. It includes national confession and acknowledgement that the dire state of affairs in the country is fully deserved because of the apostasy of the people. Yet as the prayer ends at the end of chapter 64, the petitioner cries out, “After all this, Lord, will you hold yourself back? Will you keep silent and punish us beyond measure?” Isaiah 64:12 NIV84

  • What is God’s response in Isaiah 65:1?
  • What elements in contemporary US culture are not seeking God? How does God feel about them?

God continues his pleas:

“I spread out my hands all the day to a rebellious people, who walk in a way that is not good, following their own devices; a people who provoke me to my face continually … who say, “Keep to yourself, do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” Isaiah 65:2-5 ESV

  • Secular thinkers believe that human beings live exclusively in the time/space frame of reference. They reject the concepts of eternity and infinity. They push God away, because they believe that human beings have evolved sufficiently to be their own moral guides. How does God treat them?
  • Secular thinkers say, “I don’t need God. I can figure out for myself what makes me feel happy.” In other words, “Do not come near me, for I am too holy for you.” How can Christians respond to that mindset?
  • God who created heaven and earth stands holding out his hands to a dark world, calling “Here I am,” to people who ignore him. What does this vision of God require of the church, Christ’s hands and feet on earth?