Tag Archives: secularism

A Book for our Times

 

LivingBackward_Front_Cover_300

I am very pleased to have the opportunity to interview Angelique Cooper McGlotten whose recently released book Living Backward: The Gift of Hindsight in Building A Truly Significant Life inspires me to persevere and stand strong in the cultural winds of the twenty-first century. After you get to know Angelique, I am sure you will want to read this book.

  1. Please share with my readers what it means to “live backward.” How did you arrive at the insight that inspired your book by the same name?

We all know that GPS works backward to get us from where we are to where we want to be. To live backward is to apply this reverse principle to our lives: imagine the kind of life you want to build and then work backward, wisely redeeming the time in order to create that life.

Two realities are intrinsic to the idea of living backward. First, time is fleeting. Second, this earthly existence is our one and only opportunity to make our mark on eternity, a truth we all too easily overlook. The concept of living backward is meant to counter the mind-set that we have time on our hands, which leads to a subtle but grave pitfall: it predisposes us to put off leading purposeful lives precisely because we assume we have time on our side.

Living Backward challenges us to reorient our minds and view time as elapsing. With each passing year we haven’t just gained more time—we’ve also lost more of the precious, irretrievable time that we have been allotted to create significance in our lives. I came up with the title Living Backward because I wanted to capture the idea that what will matter in eternity is what should matter to us now. By leveraging the gift of future-oriented hindsight, we’ll be able to look back on the sum total of our earthly lives and realize that our reasons to rejoice are far greater than our regrets.

  1. Your first chapter title is “In Pursuit of What Matters Most.” If people learn what that might be, will it be of any help to them personally when they face a culture that utterly scorns Christians? Will knowing what matters most help them explain themselves to a secular culture?

Great question, Katherine. Absolutely! When we understand and pursue what matters most, we come to view life through a different lens. This lens or eternal perspective shapes our entire outlook on life, including the way we engage the dark and corrupt culture all around us.

According to my Christian worldview, God is the beginning and the end. Because He is sovereignly in control of all things, we can trust that nothing enters our lives outside of His will. In addition, we also know that all things we experience—including trials and difficulties—are working together both for our good and God’s glory (see Romans 8:28). This knowledge enables us to stand firm when we are scorned for our faith.

We also trust Jesus’s own words, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart, I have overcome the world.” Moreover, this eternal perspective changes what we seek after and how we live. For example, it shapes our values, ideals, goals, plans, use of time and money, etc. We do not settle for the brass of this world when we know that a life lived in pursuit of God’s glory means that in losing our lives we will save them and in the end get the gold (see Matthew 16:24-27)!  Hence, knowing what matters most enables us to not only explain our worldview—why we believe what we believe—but most importantly, to walk out those beliefs in the midst of a secular culture. It enables us to live as true ambassadors of God’s kingdom–to be the living epistles or walking advertisements that God has called us to be (See Ephesians 5:1; 2 Corinthians 3:2).

  1. Contemporary culture utterly rejects the concept of a personal, authoritative God. When Christians face moral choices, the culture will look askance at their sense that they should talk with God about the decision. How does the concept of “living backward” shape the way they view their options?

Essentially, to live backward is to live our fleeting lives for the glory of God, our Creator and Sustainer. It is to live according to the precepts, instructions, and commands found in the Bible—God’s user manual for the people He created for His good pleasure. Therefore, everything we do and every choice we make should be shaped by and predicated upon Scripture (God’s revealed will for our lives), not what we or others think is right. Any option we pursue must be God-sanctioned.

  1. In one chapter you talk about “pursuing our God-given dreams and aspirations.” Secularists say, “If you can dream it, you can do it.” What is the real difference between those two concepts?

Secularists tell us to rely on human wisdom and reasoning to determine what is best for our lives. This includes the dreams and goals that we pursue. If we apply ourselves, do the right things, and work hard enough (and long enough), then we can self-actualize and become anything that we desire. On the contrary, Scripture teaches us to seek God’s pre-ordained plans for our lives, plans He has prepared for us even before the foundation of the world (see Ephesians 2:10). When we are surrendered to God’s will and seek His unique purpose for our lives, the dreams and goals we pursue are God-breathed or initiated. We will succeed in these plans because they have already been blessed by God (see Philippians 4:13).

  1. In one chapter, you write extensively about the importance of Bible study. Secular thinkers, and even secular Christians, say that the Bible is just one of many sacred books that document ways to connect with the sacred. Why are you so adamant about the Bible? Don’t you respect the other sacred books? What would you recommend to someone who said she had really found herself after she read the Tao te Ching?

I would ask her if there is anything in her life that she knows for sure to be true. For example, I’d ask her if she believes that stealing is wrong. Assuming she says, “Yes,” I’d then ask if she’s ever experienced anything that she knows without a doubt to be real. For example, touching an actual flower.

Assuming that she again answers in the affirmative, I’d proceed to ask her the following hypothetical situation: if you saw a child on a street who couldn’t see or hear a truck that was coming toward him, would you warn the child to get out of the way? Probably, she’ll say yes. I’d then go on to explain, for example, that while Taoism embraces nature and appreciates its beauty, the natural world did not create itself. God created it and He created you.

And just like all appliances come with instructions from the manufacturer, our manufacturer has given us a user manual—the Bible. It is there that we discover the meaning of life, not in any other manual. Although there are many sources that provide good information and can even help us know how to live, they can never equate to or take precedence over the Bible. I’d then tell her that outside a relationship with God, life is meaningless. He created all humans in His image because He desires an intimate relationship with each of us. If we choose to reject rather than accept His love, after death we’ll end up in a place of unimaginable suffering and torment, eternally separated from His presence. That place, called Hell, is like the truck I mentioned in the example above. I know it exists even though you can’t see it (don’t know of it or perhaps deny its existence). I desperately want to warn you before it’s too late.

  1. When Kim Davis, a county clerk in Kentucky, refused to issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples, because she wanted to be obedient to God, some people accused her of trying to “push her beliefs on others.” Would you say that Kim Davis is “living backward?” Why? Or why not?

I would say that Kim Davis is living backward. As I mentioned above, living backward is to live in such a way that our thoughts, choices, actions, and decisions bring glory and honor to God. If a man-made rule is opposed to God’s desires, then we must obey God rather than man (see Acts 5:29).

  1. Secular thinkers contend that the only way to know if something is right is to determine if it makes you, the individual, feel good. Therefore, they say, what’s right for you may not be what’s right for me. If you are going to “live backward”, how will you decide what is right?

Similar to the above response, you will decide what is right by living your life according to the precepts of Scripture. Followers of Christ are not called to live by the standards of this fallen world. To the contrary, the Bible commands us to “seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you” (Matthew 6:33). Yet the things of this world continually beckon to us, constantly enticing us to live for ourselves and to find our pleasure in temporal allurements. Much like we have to continually adjust a misaligned grocery cart to keep it from taking us in a different direction, we must purposefully choose to go countercurrent to the patterns of this world in order to not be conformed by it (see Romans 12:2). Unlike the secular world, our choices and decisions must always be rooted in God’s Word.

  1. One of your chapters is titled, “Life is but a Vapor.” Secularists say that this life is all there is, and that is why we must make the most of it. On what basis do you deal with the transient nature of life?

Picture the steam coming from a kettle of boiling water. It rises into the air, but in a matter of seconds you no longer see it: this is the sheer brevity of our lives. I take this truth to heart. I’ve also heard eternity described as a line extending forever with no end; relative to eternity our lives are but a teeny, tiny dot on that line. Yet we focus on and live for the dot, forgetting that it’s the endless line that really matters. So I engage life, being ever cognizant that not only is life brief, but it’s also fragile and uncertain. The next breath is not promised to any of us. In a sense, our “real” life begins when this one ends. I want to redeem the time wisely so that what I do here endures beyond my earthly years.

  1. How do you explain yourself when secular thinkers challenge you on this point? I’ve heard it said, “Life is a dress rehearsal.” If this means that this life is preparation for what comes after, then there’s much wisdom in this maxim. However, it would be false and very misleading if we interpreted this saying to mean that we get a second chance to do an actual (or another) performance here on earth. According to the Bible, we get only one shot at this temporal life. That’s it—this life is our one and only opportunity to impinge on all eternity. There’s absolutely no second chance after we take our final breath. There’s no purgatory, no reincarnation, or anything else of the sort. If this were not true—if we were allowed another chance to “do it again” in “another performance”—then there’s no incentive for us to maximize our time and live according to God’s Word in the here and now. Living backward would be meaningless. Because of its finality, it might be even better to think of this life as both the dress rehearsal and the actual performance all wrapped up into one. Each of us is on center stage with a specific part to play, and our “performance” is incredibly brief—far briefer than we tend to think.

Although Living Backward posits that we must live ever mindful of the end of our temporal lives, I, nevertheless, emphasize that this does not preclude us from wholeheartedly embracing the journey. In fact, the very idea of living backward encompasses both the process and the result.

  1. One last question: the world is a big mess right now. Why would a Christian benefit from reading your book?

The world is indeed in a mess. But more importantly, there’s coming a day when the things of this world will be no more. Many of us are basing our limited earthly time on the Fleeting Success (FS) factor—living for or amassing things, titles, and wealth—rather than the Eternal Value (EV) factor—living as though how I’ve lived in this life will absolutely determine everything about my eternity. The truth is, there’s a world of difference between a successful life and a significant life. We must all take to heart that in eternity only what God deems significant will matter. Unequivocally, any significance that we find in the brass of what the world considers important will not matter to God.

In light of these certainties, we cannot compromise on the truths in God’s Word if we expect our aggregate choices during our brief life to be counted significant in God’s forever kingdom, or to meet His criteria for a life that has truly counted for His glory. Instead, we must take God at His Word and cultivate the mindset that what will matter to Him then is what should matter to us now. If we desire true significance—wherein our earthly achievements last beyond this world—we must live with a backward orientation of time as we seek to fulfill God’s purpose for our lives. Besides laying a solid foundation, cultivating the five principles in Living Backward provide the brick and mortar for us to build and uphold the edifice of a truly significant life—one that ultimately counts in God’s estimation. Deep down, you desire nothing less.

Living Backward: The Gift of Hindsight in Building A Truly Significant Life is available at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Books A Million, and Hastings. To watch the book trailer, learn more about the author, read a free sample chapter, as well as get a free e-book, visit www.livingbackward.com. Angelique would also love to connect with you here.

 

Can Christians Speak Truth to the Culture?

Q. What happens when human society abandons the idea that a human ought to relate personally to a god who has authority over him?
A. The society becomes secular.
Q. Then how do we ever know what is right and what is wrong?
A. Who cares?

In the newly-released book We Cannot Be Silent: Speaking Truth to a culture redefining sex, marriage, & the very meaning of right and wrong, R. Albert Mohler chronicles what has happened in US culture over the past sixty years, leading to the decision to legalize same-sex marriage, and the questions and answers above sum up the change he describes. Mohler compares the impact of the changes in the culture to the aftermath of a direct hurricane hit. I was reminded of recent photos from Long Island in the Bahamas after Hurricane Joaquin; among those images I saw an interisland supply vessel grounded a half mile from the ocean. That hopeless image might represent confessing Christians and their churches in the aftermath of a morality revolution.

Mohler attributes the moral and ethical upheaval to the rise of secularism, which is all about rejecting any notion of God, let alone belief in him. It is also very much about demolishing any evidence that anyone ever accepted a non-human authority in human  affairs. A moral revolution parallels a sexual revolution that has brought about the normalization of abortion and homosexuality as well as a rejection of monogamy as a standard for any sexual relationships. This moral and ethical juggernaut has cut a broad swath in the culture, crushing and reshaping all notions of human gender, sexual orientation, family, and marriage.

If you feel utterly blindsided by the Supreme Court decision to legalize same-sex marriage, if you can’t figure out how churches can simultaneously refuse to conduct same-sex weddings and invite homosexuals into the congregation, if you don’t know what to tell your children when they come home with instructions to ask people their preferred gender pronoun before addressing them, this book will help you. You won’t necessarily be comforted, and you may even be jolted by some of the author’s recommendations. If you believe that the Bible is true and that the plain meaning of Scripture is its true meaning, you will feel confirmed in that understanding, but the author may not build on that foundation in a way that feels good to you.

I recommend this book for confessing Christians who struggle to understand what happened to the world they knew a mere ten years ago, especially if they want to find a Christlike way to deal with those changes.

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this book free from the publisher through the BookLook Bloggers <http://booklookbloggers.com> book review bloggers program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 < http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html> : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

The Book Every Christian Should Read

When you read my title, you probably think I am going to say that every Christian should read the Bible. Instead I am saying that every Christian should read How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps. Every Christian must read the Bible, because the Bible is our bread of life. The Bible is God’s Word, and Jesus said that our natural food is every word out of the mouth of God. However, Satan is becoming increasingly aggressive against all of us, and the best way to learn how he plans to attack is to read How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps. Every Christian should read it.

The subtitle is “a toolkit for secular activists,” and the method proposed by the author Ryan T. Cragun is clearly outlined in the Table of Contents:

  1. Promote and Defend Secular Education
  2. Empower Gender, Sexual, and Racial Minorities
  3. Provide “This Life” Security
  4. Encourage Sexual Liberation for Everyone
  5. Stop Subsidizing Religion and Deregulate It
  6. Encourage Regulated Capitalism
  7. Support Education, Art, and Science
  8. Syncretize Holidays and Rituals
  9. Change Society to Value Critical Thinking and Scientific Inquiry
  10. Teach Humanist Ethics in School

If you think that most of these elements of the “toolkit” sound innocuous, you need to recognize a fundamental element of the battle being launched by secular activism: redefinition. The battle for the life of humankind is being fought on the battleground of Truth, and a universal weapon against Truth is redefinition of words. Think, for example, about the word equality. Until recently, every American citizen would have said that the statement “all men are created equal” meant that each of us has equal standing in the law of the land and equal opportunity to thrive. The limits to our accomplishment and happiness are whatever limits we set on ourselves. We all are born equal in God’s eyes, and we are all equally loved by God.

The word equality took on a new meaning, however, when secular activists, the individuals who are the target audience for How to Defeat Religion, appropriated the word and coupled it with the word marriage. The first time I heard the phrase marriage equality, I could not imagine what the phrase could possibly mean. Who couldn’t get married? The answer: homosexuals. Why? Because everyone in the world understood that marriage was the union of a man and a woman. Whether people looked in the Bible for guidance or they simply looked at world history, one thing was obvious: humankind considered the union of a man and a woman to be a marriage. No other union of humans was considered a marriage. LGBTQ activists created the phrase marriage equality in order to avoid the discussion of the definition of marriage as the union of one man and one woman. Activists leaped past that definition by coupling the word marriage with the word equality. In so doing, they embarked on a discussion that did not even make sense unless the definition of marriage was scrapped. By forcing the discussion to the word equality  they avoided needing to argue for a redefinition of marriage. They successfully pushed the discussion past the definition of marriage and made it about a redefined concept of equality. The cultural whiplash dumbfounded many persons who wanted to keep the argument on the real subject, but activists acted as if marriage had always been a civil right protected by the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, and that is the argument that was successfully sold to the Supreme Court. The court did not address whether it is legitimate to call a union of two men or two women a marriage. The court simply said that nobody could be denied the “right” to marry. Any definition of the word marriage ceased to exist.

In the light of that experience, a Christian should read the book How to Defeat Religion in 10 Easy Steps with a wary eye. The author is writing for secular activists, not for Christians. He uses words as defined in the worldview of secular activism. The historic usage and definitions of words must be set aside when reading How to Defeat Religion in order for the reality of its plan of action to be clear. For example, in the title of chapter 9 you see the words, “Change Society to Value Critical Thinking and Scientific Inquiry.” You understand those words in their historic, common sense definitions, and you wonder what could be the problem this “change” would solve. However, if you read the chapter attentively, you will see that in the hands of secular activists, those words have very different meanings, and a serious problem emerges from the redefinitions.

Why should a Christian read such a book? The answer is simple. It is the old adage, “Know thine enemy.” Luke, writing in the gospel that bears his name, says that after Jesus rejected all of Satan’s temptations in the wilderness, Satan backed away and waited for a more opportune moment. When Satan saw the empty character of Judas, he entered in and engineered Christ’s crucifixion. Even though Christ’s death and resurrection actually worked the defeat of Satan in eternity, the Evil One still lurks in time and space waiting for opportunities in the hearts of human beings who have the same emptiness of character as Judas. The book How to Defeat Religion tells us some of the lines of attack Satan uses to invade humans, even many who claim the name of Christ.

When I reviewed the book on Amazon, I gave it five stars, because this book does exactly what it promises to do, but in my review, I point out that this strategy will only work if religion is what the book says it is: the will to believe a myth as if it were reality.

The thinly disguised fact underlying the book is that its target is not religion in general. I did not see any real evidence that the writer had a problem with Hinduism or Buddhism or Shinto. It seemed quite clear that the target is Christianity. That is fine with me, because Hinduism, Buddhism and Shinto, like all the other religions, are not about Truth. They are, in fact, myths, and many of their adherents do not have a problem with treating their religions as myths. Cragun, however, is not battling windmills; he is battling Christ. We who claim the name of Christ are not battling windmills, either. We are battling “against the rulers, against the authorities, against the cosmic powers over this present darkness, against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly places” (Ephesians 6:12). The author of How to Defeat Religion reveals where we will fight many of the battles that make up this war.

The power that will defeat those who follow the path outlined in How to Defeat Religion works in the life of a person who lives in an active relationship with Christ. Cragun’s strategy will work only if there is nothing beyond the time/space continuum. Inside that limited universe, Satan runs rampant. The only force that can resist and defeat him is a life fully committed to Christ. The strategies outlined in How to Defeat Religion are powerless against a life traveled on The Way, filled with The Truth, and energized by The Life that never ends. We in whom the Holy Spirit dwells carry around in our bodies living temples that the strategies in this book cannot touch. No matter how many churches are regulated out of existence, Christ’s church will thrive in the lives of his followers. No matter how many homosexuals marry, or how many new genders are discovered, Christ’s followers will live in obedience to Christ, filled with joy according to Christ’s Truth revealed in the Bible.

We need to know what secular activists are doing if we are to be salt and light in the culture. Hiding from the reality of their agenda will only make it harder for us to shine our light in the world around us. Satan has sensed an opportune time to attack Christ and his followers. We must know our enemy and act in the power of Christ to defeat his assaults. How convenient that the Enemy’s current strategy is so clearly outlined in How to Defeat Religion.

 

I am delighted to feature a post that says what needs to be said, and says it very well.

What Happens when your Worldview is Built Upon a Free Lunch

Ben Woodfinden is a graduate student at Carleton University in Ottawa, Canada working towards an MA in Political Philosophy. His research interests include the origins of modernity and the relationship between religion and politics. Ben holds a Bachelor of Arts from Carleton.

Christ has Already Overcome the World

For Christians, life in the USA today feels like a war. There is a reason for that feeling. Jesus told us long ago, “In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (John 16:33 ESV)

Prayer_Christ _in_the_Garden

The Founders and Framers of the USA were wise men. They were all men of faith, even though they might not all have expressed it in the same way. They all recognized the significance of faith in their own lives, and all were well aware that their lives would have been very different if the original colonists in North America had brought with them the power structure of state churches in the Old World. Some of the most egregious offenses to religious liberty in the New World were simply old bad habits. Some of the colonies had state religions, while others eschewed any such thing. After independence from England, when the colonies recognized that they needed each other for security and trade, they also discussed whether to have a state church. In the government they designed in the Constitution, a national established church was forbidden. State churches in individual states were not forbidden, and some were already in place. However, over time it became clear that the interests of liberty-loving citizens would best be served by keeping the church out of the political structure.

A study of the Bible makes it very clear that when religion integrates with politics and power structures, it becomes like them. Priests, pastors, and any other religious leaders are not immune to the temptations of power. Immersed in the political structures, they start acting like political animals. The oil of political progress, compromise, comes to seem like gospel, and when that happens, the Gospel is discarded in favor of “bipartisanship” or “getting things done.”

This does not mean that laws ought not to embody God’s moral teachings. The Founders never advocated that the nation put religion in a locked box and make up morality as the notions came to them. The people who fought for independence and then wrestled with the concept of self-government believed profoundly in the importance of morality expressed in the lives of citizens, especially in the lives and actions of citizen leaders. They firmly believed that the Constitution was shaped by their faith, and they believed that law and order in the new nation would also be shaped by moral and ethical constructs of people of faith. They did not believe it was wrong to live and act by faith; they did believe that it was wrong for government to tell people what faith they had to live by. The Founders and Framers expected that people would want the body of law in the new nation to have a moral and ethical flavor in keeping with their personal moral and ethical principles. Government of, by and for the people should have the same moral flavor as that of the people governed.

The design of the Constitution means that Christians must influence the culture by being distributed throughout, expressing and acting on faith wherever they are. Jesus said the same thing when he said that we were to be salt and light. Instead of being the power at the top, Christians best influence the culture by being distributed through all the layers of the culture. When ordinary citizens like Crystal O’Connor simply live and act on their faith, the faith is most faithfully preserved and protected, and the culture is most powerfully influenced. As a consequence of her act, people who donated to a crowdfunding project on her behalf cast thousands and thousands of “votes” for faithful obedience to God’s moral teachings.

The crucifixion of Jesus demonstrates what the powers that be in the world will do to expressions of faith. The priests and church leaders were utterly absorbed in the political structure of Jerusalem and the Roman Empire. Their influence as God’s witnesses operated like a mold, not a seasoning. A mold is strong, solid, and unforgiving. A culture pressed into a mold will have all the noncompliant elements carved off. A culture seasoned with the salt and light of faith in Christ promotes the best expression of all the different ingredients.

There is a nonreligion in the USA today that is creating the role of the state church. This religion says that there is a mold all people must fit, or be carved and prodded till they do fit. The peculiar aspect of this nonreligion is that it loves all religions except Christianity. This nonreligion read news that Muslim bakers refused to bake wedding cakes for same-sex ceremonies that pretend to be weddings, but the nonreligion was not even interested in hearing about it. There was no Twitter war against a Muslim bakery that rejected participation in homosexual sin.

This nonreligion advocates “interfaith dialogue” where many religions get together, pour all their convictions down the disposal, and agree to adopt the secular language of diversity and inclusion. Instead of worshiping their individual gods, the various religions agree to worship the god of “getting along” by never differing from one another over such trivial issues as a real god or a fake god. Much better to light some candles and hum a meaningless syllable for hours than to fundamentally transform sinful human nature into something better.

Christians will never win this war. Christ wins this war. It is a secular teaching that if you believe something strongly enough you can make it real. Christians do not believe in an idea. Christians do not believe in themselves. Christians believe in Christ. Our faith, our words and our deeds participate in the victory, but they do not bring the victory to pass. Right now, the world is simultaneously trying to ignore us and to clobber us. It will not succeed in either goal, because Christ himself has overcome the world. The world’s apparent victory at times is only temporary. People like Crystal O’Connor participate in the ultimate victory of Christ before it even happens by testifying to their faith by word and deed. May all Christ’s followers be encouraged and motivated to do the same thing. We will not bring the victory of Christ to pass, because on the cross, he has already won the victory. If we fail to testify to it by our faithful words and deeds, it is not Christ who loses. We lose.

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

Image: http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File%3ABaltasar_de_Echave_Orio_-_The_Prayer_in_the_Garden_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/b/bd/Baltasar_de_Echave_Orio_-_The_Prayer_in_the_Garden_-_Google_Art_Project.jpg

By Baltasar de Echave Orio (ca. 1558 – ca. 1623) (Spanish) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons