We All Need to Deconstruct

If you opened this article because you were appalled at this title and wanted to rip it to shreds, I get it. Up until pretty recently, I’d have done the exact same thing. “Deconstruction” has become a buzzword, but more than anything, it’s become a scary word. You can say “I’m having a few questions,” but if you say, “I’m deconstructing” get ready for the deer-in-the-headlights afraid-for-your-salvation look in response. This intense reaction is because, if we’re honest with ourselves, we’ve limited salvation (in our minds) to only people with doctrinal precision. 

Defining Deconstruction

A helpful podcast that is worth your time as you ponder (or go through) deconstruction is the Dirty Rotten Church Kids podcast. They describe deconstruction as redecorating your house. If you’ve ever moved, you probably have furniture from all sorts of people. Say you have your mom’s couch, your dad’s lamp, and your grandpa’s old bookshelf. All of these may be wonderful, but they may have snuck in there without you taking the time to see if it fits the space…or you. So the process of deconstruction is taking everything out of the house and examining each piece of furniture. If you decide you love your mom’s couch and want to keep it, go for it! Feel free to put it back in. But now it’s in the house because you chose it. You looked at it and said, “yes, this goes in my house.” The process of putting furniture back in the house is “reconstructing.” 

I feel even as I write this the tensing of the reader’s shoulders as they read a good little church girl’s words about deconstruction. This all actually started with going to a church of another denomination as I was wrestling with what my upbringing said doctrinally vs. having the freedom to actually think about what is true. I’m a really enthusiastic, all-in kind of person. I had to ask, “Do I have strong beliefs because I actually agree with my upbringing? Or because I commit to where I’m at?” This started the dangerous but important journey of looking for what I truly believe. 

However, this came with immense shame. All of a sudden, I was not fitting the mold I’m supposed to, or people would think I’m not following God with my whole heart, etc. I heard a quote from Rob Bell (gasp! She’s quoting Rob Bell?!) that said “Doubt is often a sign that your faith has a pulse, that it’s alive and well and exploring and searching. Faith and doubt aren’t opposites, they are, it turns out, excellent dance partners.” This was so encouraging for me. When I brought these fears and worries to my counselor, she said, “The God that I see in Scripture is one who is gentle toward those who are seeking Him, and harsh toward those who think they have it all figured out.” This has been such a balm to me. God is gentle with those pursuing truth. And doubting or unlearning things that are not true of God is a good process to go through. 

Reformed Theology & Beliefs

I also want to say something specifically to those who consider themselves adherents to Reformed theology. Protestants of any kind should champion ecclesiological deconstruction; it’s what the reformation was. I talked to someone recently who is legitimately writing 95 theses against modern day evangelicalism. We should champion this. The reformation happened because we wanted to hold the church leaders accountable. We should always embody that spirit of reformation. Always be willing to hear what people have to say. Also, just how the reformation made a way for people to read the Bible for themselves instead of having it told to them, I think we need to rechampion that as well. Many pastors talk a big game about “challenge me on this. Be in the Word so you can tell me if I’m wrong.” This is good, but do they embody a spirit that welcomes disagreement, or is the disagreeing party left to feel guilt and ostracized? Spiritual leaders do not have the monopoly on biblical interpretation. They can be good and helpful, but we are exploring too. And we may come to different conclusions as we ideologically and theologically “redecorate.” 

Also, if you adhere to the reformed beliefs, you believe that once we are saved “nothing can snatch us out of God’s hand.” When you respond in deep fear that people will leave the faith, you are not really following through on your belief that salvation belongs to the Lord, that the saints are preserved. This isn’t to say we can’t speak to people’s questions, but let’s listen well and be consistent. 

Establish a Firm Foundation

So here’s what I’d say, if you haven’t looked at the furniture in your ideological house and been willing to take it out, I’d recommend it. As I’ve told people what I’ve been thinking and working through, many have said, “That’s scary. Foundation shaking.” And I agree. I won’t lie. It’s scary to rethink everything. But it has also been so freeing. My knee jerk Christian answer isn’t good enough for me anymore. I get to explore. And I hope that it will produce a foundation that won’t shake as much when under scrutiny. This isn’t to knock Christianity at all, it’s just to say that my foundation is shaky because I took everything at face value. We shouldn’t be afraid to explore. We’re looking for truth, for God. My friend once had a professor that said, “As you’re turning over rocks, you’ll never find something bigger than God.” So go, turn over whatever rocks you wish. We’re all out there looking for truth. And I believe that God actually encourages our pursuit of knowing truth. 

Reading the News as a Christian

There have been numerous instances when I have told Christians that I want to be a journalist and they have responded with, “The news needs more Christians like you.” I have always felt torn by this statement. One part of me wants to defend the news and the reporters who have inspired me to go into the journalism industry, while the other part of me readily agrees that being a Christian would enable me to report with a different perspective, relying on my God-given morals and outlook. I know I am not the only Christian battling between balancing their identity as a believer and their consumption of the news industry.

There seems to be a fine line between Christians and the media. I do admit that almost everyone walks along a fine line of doubt when it comes to the news, Christian or not. However, while I understand the uncertainty due to the flood of biased news, it also saddens me. We are fortunate to have news to educate, inform, and inspire us. The First Amendment did not just give us freedom of religion, but also freedom of the press. We live in a country where we have a news industry that can print what it wants to print and inform the public how it sees fit. So, here’s the question: how do we, as Christians, read and respond to the press?

Just Because It Doesn’t Support Your Views, Doesn’t Mean It’s False

Christian culture, and the so-called views that come with it, either good or bad, seeps beyond church walls and into every aspect of our lives. It has divided Christian brothers and sisters into different political parties. It has dictated which news outlets are deemed reliable and which ones are condemned as fake news. It has led to reposting verified news articles to support a Christian belief, while on the other hand it has misconstrued truth as a weapon and used it to deceive others by posting news on social media that is false just to support a belief. Many people in the world are guilty of creating this division and mask of uncertainty when it comes to news because we all want so desperately for our views to be the views that are true. It’s easy to say “fake news” when an article does not align with our worldview or political party or to spread fake news when it supports our opinions. Still, as Christians, we need to hold ourselves accountable and take a moment before we scream “that’s fake news” or put out fake news because we serve a God who is True (1 Jn. 5:20).

We have a responsibility as Christians to base everything we do on the truth found in Scripture, not on lies suffocating our society today. I read at least four news sources a day. I follow more news outlets on Instagram. I listen to news podcasts and have watched 60 Minutes religiously since I was five. The more you take in, the more you can compare and contrast, weeding out what is incorrect and finding the boiled down, unbiased facts. There are numerous news outlets that are pretty much dead in the center as well such as AP News or Reuters. Go to these unbiased outlets to fact-check when something controversial is happening that shows a large divide between political parties. There are incredible nonprofit news platforms that investigate world or local concerns that are not covered by mainstream news outlets. Remember that when an article or social media post does not align with your personal views, it does not necessarily mean that it is untrue. Or even if it does align with your personal views, it may be false. Remember it’s also your responsibility to assess if something is true or not.

Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. – Philippians 4:8

News Can Lead to Understanding, Not Division

If anything, read news that opposes your views and biases, not just supports them. Challenge yourself. Educate yourself. Read news from Christian outlets, like The Gospel Coalition, and read mainstream news outlets. If you are a Democrat, read a right-leaning newspaper. If you are a Republican, read a left-leaning newspaper. Find a newspaper that’s in the middle of the two political parties. Read about different church denominations. Read about Protestants and read about Catholics. Read about places far away from where you live and read about cultures vastly different from your own.

Remember that just because you believe something doesn’t mean that everybody does. Diversify what you read so you can understand these different perspectives and opinions. We cannot love others well if we do not understand them, especially if we do not take the time nor make an intentional effort to understand them. Remember that differences can be united by God’s love. We are all different, but we as Christians are all part of God’s family as brothers and sisters. Our different perspectives and choices display how God created each one of us as unique, but our identities as God’s children reminds us that we are all His, creating a common ground.

A fool takes no pleasure in understanding, but only in expressing his opinion. – Proverbs 18:2

For he is our peace, who made both groups one and tore down the dividing wall of hostility…for through him we both have access in one spirit to the Father. – Ephesians 2:14,18

God’s Word is the True Word

At the end of the day, when we are questioning what is true or false, what is biased or unbiased, or what supports Christianity or goes against it, we must remember this: God’s Word is the only True Word. When we are uncertain, we must use our foundation in God’s Word to answer these doubts and questions. Reading an article may answer our questions about what happened around the world today, but reading God’s Word gives us a foundation in Truth and in His Gospel.

All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. – 2 Timothy 3:16-17

So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” – John 8:31-32

When we consume articles everyday that focus on racism or war or inequality or poverty, we must go to the Bible to have a foundation of God’s perspective on these different topics to form an informed opinion. Human perspectives on right and wrong and good and evil are constantly changing as we search through the weeds for truth. Through God’s Word, we get to know His character, which will never change and is not swayed by the opinions of men. News gives us a worldly knowledge, but the Bible gives us a heavenly, eternal knowledge (2 Peter 1:19-21).

Why I Read Literature and Why You Should Too

Although we live in an age with the highest literacy rate in world history, we also live in an age where people are reading less and less. The amount of Americans reading literature continues to decline every year. According to the Pew Research Center, roughly a quarter of U.S. adults (27%) have not read a book in the past year.

The digital revolution has ushered the once-commonplace discipline of reading off the American nightstand, replaced by the technological allure and informational expediency of our phones, tablets, and screens. One of the greatest American writers and humorists, Mark Twain, once famously said that “the man who chooses not to read has no advantage over the man who cannot.” This quote prompts a significant question for the reader: What exactly is the advantage of reading literature, and how can literature shape us as Christians?

The Relationship Between Good and Evil

I once stumbled upon a curious quote from Dr. Jordan B. Peterson, professor of psychology at the University of Toronto and controversial cultural figure, who wisely said that “I don’t think that you have any insight into your capacity for good until you have some well-developed insight into your capacity for evil.” Alexander Solzhenitsyn, the Russian philosopher-novelist, furthers Peterson’s point—and seems to echo Paul’s statement that “I want to do good, [but] evil is right there with me” (Romans 7:21)—when he says: “The line between good and evil runs through the heart of every man.” In an effort to synthesize the claims of both Peterson and Solzhenitsyn, it seems if good is to be, in fact, good, when it accompanies the acknowledgment of evil.

Take, for instance, the idea of courage. Courageous actions are not courageous unless done for good. In other words, courage is inherently tethered to justice. And because justice is determined by reason, any courageous action is a work of reason. In illustrating this point, Karen Swallow Prior, in her book On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books, says that a child who stumbles into oncoming traffic to save a ball, unaware of the risk at hand, is not displaying courage because the child is acting without reason. But an adult who puts him or herself in harm’s way to save the child, taking into account the potential danger, is certainly courageous.

The person who acts dangerously without reason, and thus without any level of fear, is being reckless and not courageous. Aristotle puts it this way: “So the courageous person endures and fears—and likewise is confident about—the right things.” In the same way, if we truly want to be good and right as humans, or courageous for that matter, we must understand our own vices and sins. Properly valuing good comes when recognizing its inverse. And it so happens that literature aids us in seeing our own sins.

Reading Literature for Virtue

Another way of defining good is virtue. Thomas Aquinas echoes Aristotle’s Nicomachean Ethics when he says that virtue is “a kind of mean between excess and defect.” Take temperance, for example. Temperance is the virtue of indulging in neither too little nor too much, it is, like virtue itself, the just mean. Furthermore, in order to correctly acquire any virtue, we must first grapple with what is too much and what is too little. Much like Peterson’s acknowledgment that, in order to grasp our capacity for good, we must first have some “well-developed insight into [our] capacity for evil,” the essence of virtue necessitates understanding what is not virtuous. And what virtue is not—these extremes of too little and too much—is vice, typically understood as sin.

As Christians concerned with living virtuously, we must be quick to rid ourselves of vice, the deadly impairment that restricts us from imitating Christ. And one of the most accessible ways we can “throw off… the sin that so easily entangles us,” is to read literature. Good literature creates a sort of microcosm of life, teaching us right from wrong by allowing the reader to live vicariously through fictional characters. Consider the following from John Milton, author of arguably the greatest English epic poem, Paradise Lost:

Since the knowledge of vice is so necessary to the constituting of human virtue, and the scanning of error to the confirmation of truth, how can we more safely, and with less danger, scout into the regions of sin and falsity than by reading all manner of reasons? And this is the benefit which may be had of books promiscuously read.

Milton helps us see that reading literature exposes us to another realm of understanding, a realm that would otherwise not exist without this excellent medium. The pleasure of reading—and, yes, it should be a pleasure!—gives us an opportunity to dive deep into the uncharted waters of “sin and falsity” that we would otherwise not be exposed to. Literature brings our sin and vice into the light by presenting us with characters who represent those sins and vices.

Take The Lion, The Witch, and The Wardrobe’s character Edmund Pevensie for example. As soon as Edmund enters Narnia for the first time, he is met by the White Witch. The White Witch offers Edmund any desert of his choosing in hopes that he might bring his siblings to Narnia, a dangerous proposition considering the Witch’s mischievous plans. Edmund is transfixed upon the possibility of having his favorite dessert, Turkish Delight. He blindly and immediately cooperates, letting his passions override his reason. Lewis describes the scene:

While he was eating the Queen kept asking him questions. At first Edmund tried to remember that it is rude to speak with one’s mouth full, but soon he forgot about this and thought only of trying to shovel down as much Turkish Delight as he could, and the more he ate the more he wanted to eat, and he never asked himself why the Queen [the Witch] should be so inquisitive.

Lewis exposes the reader to the deadly sin of gluttony through Edmund’s impulsive actions. It is not that Edmund’s consumption of Turkish Delight is a sin in and of itself, but it is rather that the way in which he eats is sinful. Edmund eats with such ravenous zeal, haste, and greed that he gratifies his fleshly desires, which also leaves him wanting more and more.

Edmund’s sinful inability to put his reason above his passions and see the Witch’s oddly inquisitive and pointed questions eventually leads Edmund to put his siblings in peril. Lewis uses this scene to provide the reader with a negative moral example, an example that reveals virtue by way of vice, furthering our understanding of our own capacity for evil. Edmund’s negative example, inversely, shows us the perversion of the virtue of temperance.

The Advantage of Literature

So, the advantage of reading literature is that literature gives the Christian a healthy and unique avenue to delve into the crevices of his or her own soul. Literature allows the reader to escape to unforeseen worlds and remarkable adventures yet also forces us to consider the nature of our own existence, furthering our ability to contemplate some of life’s greatest questions and “throw off… the sin that so easily entangles us” all at the same time. With the exception of our Holy Scriptures, there is perhaps no other vessel so worthy of our attention than great literature.

Our Favorite Books of 2020

Olivia Frost, Assistant Editor 

Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer 

If you struggle to understand the nature of servanthood and calling that Jesus beckons for His followers to adopt as kingdom citizens, then I recommend reading Cross-Cultural Servanthood: Serving the World in Christlike Humility by Duane Elmer. This book provides diagrams and analogies that further extend the breadth of servanthood from numerous angles. He addresses the challenges and the victories that come when one acts as a servant among cultures that are different than their own. Elmer outlines a seven-part process of servanthood that radically changes day-to-day interactions by combatting biases and heart conditions of the believer. He insists that the servant displays openness, acceptance, trust, a learning mindset, and understanding eyes.

This book convicted me in many ways and consistently reminded me that the crutch of Christ-like servanthood is humility, which in today’s society seems to be a forgotten character trait. Elmer identifies that to be a servant one must have a proper perspective of the holy God we serve which brings a proper perspective of self-defined by lowliness of mind, gentleness of spirit and meekness of attitude. As a servant we must adopt a mindset of grace, recognizing that each individual the Lord has in our path is made in the Image of God and deserves to experience the common grace of our loving Father Jesus Christ.


Gabby Bass, Senior Book Review Editor 

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer

Garden City: Work, Rest, and the Art of Being Human by John Mark Comer focuses on how we can not only work but also rest biblically. In a society that is filled with hustle culture, this book was a great reminder of God’s intentionality in designing us to have a balance between work and rest, especially to see how important rest is.

While this book has great theological truths, it is also very applicable and practical. I love how Comer shows that no matter what “work” may look like for us, it can be used for God’s glory and that purpose can be found there. I also enjoyed that this book talked about the Sabbath and the importance of taking one- however it may look for us. Comer does a great job of helping the reader re-evaluate one’s priorities and find their way back to God’s original intention for us as humans. This book has helped me slow down and be more intentional with my time. I think it’s a great read for all.


Emily Zell, Assistant Editor 

Silence by Shūsaku Endō

Shūsaku Endō’s Silence was the first book I read in 2020, and it was easily the most powerful. This book follows priests in Japan while Christians are being horrifically martyred. It wrestles deeply with the idea of apostasy—all the Christians have to do to avoid suffering is denounce Christ. It follows a priest and a man who constantly apostatizes and betrays him. Their relationship is chronicled as they battle with the harsh realities for Christians in Japan. 

The question cried throughout the novel is, “God why are you silent?” And throughout most of the book, it feels like He really is. People are being horrifically murdered for His name and nothing is being done about it. You can’t help but ache with the characters. It is graphic and sad and at the same time such a vivid image of the fragility of our faith; but it is also such an important read. It is rich and painful and transformative. I couldn’t recommend it more. 


Preston Blakeley, Editorial Director 

Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky

Fyodor Dostoevsky’s Crime and Punishment is perhaps the greatest work of literary redemption. Dostoevsky tells of Raskolnikov, the novel’s penniless and disheveled protagonist, who commits murder to prove that his ego can transcend man’s seemingly fictitious moral constraints. With raw Russian style and psychological depth, Dostoevsky condemns the reader into the severed intellect of the murderer, telling of his desired ascension, transgression, and eventual redemption. Where Raskolnikov believes he has successfully cast off the moral burdens intended for the weak, he is met with the reality that he has violated the Law of God. 

From a literary perspective, Dostoevsky’s novel is an impressive amalgamation of the intellectual debates of his day, a microcosm of the tensions between the rise of modern relativity and traditional authority. Yet, in the throes of doubt and anguish, Crime and Punishment seemed as if it came to me from Sinai, a providential and pointed gift from the Lord to a struggling and confused college student. When I was laboring to see confirmation of God’s authority in my life, Dostoevsky revealed to me that that authority was right in front of me. 


Nnanna Okafor, Senior Articles Editor 

The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin

I can tell you from experience that it is easy to be caught up in learning about God and His works without using that information to deepen your relationship with Him. The Practical Implications of Calvinism by Albert N. Martin assists readers to better connect the theological information in their heads with the affections in their hearts. Knowledge of doctrine should always lead to greater enjoyment of God.

In this short booklet, Martin explains the ways in which a biblical understanding of salvation teaches us the depth of our sin and the great graciousness of the Lord Almighty. We should see in ourselves humility, holiness, and submission to God when we understand salvation rightly. By abiding by the scriptural principles described in this book, we will have deeper, more joyous experiences of God Himself. It has helped me receive theology as more than mere head knowledge.


Jacob Patton, Assistant Editor 

Girls Like Us: Fighting for a World Where Girls are Not for Sale, an Activist Finds Her Calling and Heals Herself by Rachel Llyod

Girls Like Us is a memoir by Rachel Llyod, but it is so much more than that. She discusses not only her story of how she was caught up in the commercial sex industry, but also the stories of the countless other girls she has worked with who have been sexually exploited. Discussing often ignored social factors of abuse, dysfunctional family upbringings, and the nature of a young women’s “choice” to enter into sex work, Lloyd’s sociological considerations of sex trafficking are raw and insightful.

With the enormity of sex trafficking becoming more and more prevalent and apparent in our world today, it is important for Christians to understand the nature of the evil we are fighting. Girls Like Us explains this in heart-wrenching detail with firsthand examples. In order to bring an end to the sex trafficking tragedy facing our country, the problems and solutions Rachel Llyod puts forward ought to be listened to. As Llyod suggests, regular girls get caught up in sex trafficking, and regular people can make a difference in preventing this.


Blair Thornton, Operations Director 

Candide by Voltaire 

Candide, a satire by Voltaire, follows the rollercoaster of a story that is Candide’s life. Meaning optimism, Candide exhibits the arguments between absolute optimism and cynicism. Candide believes in a perfect plan, where this is the best of all possible worlds. His idealism is challenged repeatedly as his life continues to take turns for the worse without any particular reason. From a distance this book seems like a fantastical story, but deeper thought will show how the destruction of Candide’s optimism causes questions of a perfect holy plan. 

Throughout the book, Candide learns that there is no method behind the madness of his life. Due to this, Voltaire forces Christian readers to question their belief in God’s involvement and good will. With a steady head and strong faith in Jesus, a challenged faith can become a matured faith. This is just what Candide can do for Christian readers.


Cole Shiflet, Executive Director 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dave Ortlund 

Gentle and Lowly: The Heart of Christ for Sinners and Sufferers by Dane Ortlund is by far the most beautiful and touching book that I’ve read this year. Ortlund grabs a hold of Matthew 11:29 and squeezes the meaning out of it in a way that seems more like the writings of the Puritans than a 21st century best seller. Ortlund takes the statement, “I am gentle and lowly in heart,” and presents it as good news to sinners and suffers. Not only was this book well-written, but the timeless truths of God’s Word were taught, explained, and shared in a year when many of us needed it the most.

How the Gospel Guides Us Through Ethnic Tension

On January 4, 2019, Voddie Baucham spoke at a Founders Ministries regional conference entitled “Do Justice, Love Kindness, Walk Humbly.” Here Baucham gave a basic definition for his self-coined term, “Ethnic Gnosticism” and drew out its implications.

Recently, this term has widely circulated the web for better or worse. It has stimulated positive conversations on how to mediate difficult and awkward conversations with a spirit of charity, humility, and discernment. Baucham’s key intention was to inform Christians on how the Gospel informs the manner in which we discuss injustice and ease racial tension.

What is Ethnic Gnosticism?

Baucham defines Ethnic Gnosticism as a dilemma where “somehow because of someone’s ethnicity, one is able (or unable) to know when something is racist.”

In other words, some people have the special ability to interpret another person’s words and actions because they are of a different ethnicity. This ability comes from a special knowledge tied to one’s own ethnicity and the experiences they have because of their ethnicity. In fact, if one does not possess this special knowledge, they cannot truly understand how their own words and actions affect someone that has a different ethnicity. Therefore, they must be educated by someone who does have this special knowledge.

In a scenario created by Baucham to illustrate ethnic gnosticism, a black customer accuses a white clerk of an action rooted in racist intent, namely the infamous “look.” In theory, the customer evaluated the clerk’s look from a special knowledge rooted in their black ethnicity. Consequently, the clerk cannot grasp, let alone access, the rationale behind the accusation against him. Therefore, the clerk cannot evaluate nor disprove the accusation against them. It wouldn’t even be acceptable for them to say that they didn’t know their look was ‘racist.’ Consequently, the white clerk’s only option is to sit in silence as their customer critiques them. By merit of his black ethnicity, the customer has taken on the role of both judge and educator of the white clerk.

Clearly concerned with the impact of ‘cancel culture’ on how we facilitate conflict resolution, Baucham continues unfolding the scenario.

The customer uses their perception of the clerk as revelation for understanding their true character. And that revelation invalidates every good word and deed performed by the clerk toward ethnic minorities in the past. In Ethnic Gnosticism, this situation somehow proves that those words and deeds merely served as a false front to hide their true racist nature.

A Better (and Biblical) Alternative

After presenting this scenario, Baucham provides the Biblical alternative of genuine friendship. The Gospel sets the table for conversation where the truth can be spoken in love. The offended party can be honest about how some particular action or speech hurt them, while at the same time, seeing the best intentions in their neighbor who did not realize they offended the other party. This also gives the offended party an opportunity to question whether the basis of their accusation is biblical and reasonable. Within this context, the relationship between the offender and offended can be cultivated, and reconciliation between the two can occur.

For us to make such a sacrifice, we must look to Christ who made the ultimate sacrifice at the Cross to break down the wall of hostility between ourselves and God. We must look to the Father who waited to satisfy justice in Jesus at the Cross. God ultimately embodies genuine friendship as He demonstrated mercy and patience towards mankind in anticipation of the day when He would be called “just and justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Romans 3:26). Through our redemption in Jesus, He equips us to patiently bear with each other and admonish one another with charity and humility. In other words, God enables us to have genuine friendships. As Paul exhorts the early church, we should step into the ministry of reconciliation God has called us to live out:

All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. We are therefore Christ’s ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ’s behalf: Be reconciled to God. God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 2:18-21

This demonstrates that today’s confusion and hostility has roots that go beyond man’s ability to resolve. Moreover, racial tension has roots that began thousands of years ago. It began as soon as mankind turned its back on God in the Garden.

Mankind’s Rejection of God: Why Confusion and Hostility Exist

If we desire to resolve conflict, we must invite God into the process of conflict resolution. As soon as we became isolated from God, we isolated ourselves from each other. As our first parents did, we ignore personal responsibility for our rebellion against God, which we demonstrate through our interactions with others. Meanwhile, we fix our focus on the misdeeds of others and their violations against our standards of righteousness.

As soon as God confronted Adam and Eve for their rebellion, Adam blamed God for placing Eve, who gave him the fruit, at his side. As Adam stood in fear before His Creator, his response illustrates resentment towards God and Eve, as well as his failure to comprehend the severity, let alone the existence, of his own rebellion.

If Adam had not allowed the serpent to crawl into the Garden, Eve would not have been tempted with lies about God. If Adam had not allowed the serpent to continue speaking lies, Eve may have not considered eating from the forbidden tree. Even though Eve handed him the apple, Adam did not have to eat the fruit and partake in her rebellion. Yet he chose to join his wife in committing treason against their Creator. Adam chose to ignore this reality.

Without the Light of the World, we cannot evaluate the situation from a position of clarity and compassion. Our broken minds cultivate confusion and our darkened hearts cultivate hostility.

For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Claiming to be wise, they became fools, and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man and birds and animals and creeping things. – Romans 1:21-22

Confusion and hostility oftentimes impairs our ability to evaluate situations and interact with the involved parties. Instead of repairing broken relationships, mankind often increases the divide, further preventing people from coming together. Consequently, unhealed scars from the past worsen.

As mankind considers reality and morality apart from God, we confuse truth with falsehood and goodness with evil. Ultimately, our failure to properly relate with our neighbor overflows from our rejection of God and what He has to say. God declared that He created mankind after His own image. He embedded His eternal glory within us, so that we can mirror His goodness to each other. Yet, we no longer relate to others based upon how we share God’s image and the dignity of that shared image.

Through these man-made moral and value systems, we determine our dignity and the dignity of others. If others do not meet our standards, then we perceive them as having less dignity than God gave them. If others fit within this category, then we rush to exalt them above that original, God-given position.

Conversations Defined by Clarity and Compassion

Christ brings us together through the clarity of the one language of love. Through the healing of our hearts and minds, Christ equips us with His Spirit to investigate reality and invites us into a community where we live out our restoration with God (John 16:13).

And I will ask the Father, and he will give you another advocate to help you and be with you forever— the Spirit of truth. The world cannot accept him, because it neither sees him nor knows him. But you know him, for he lives with you and will be in you. I will not leave you as orphans; I will come to you. Before long, the world will not see me anymore, but you will see me. Because I live, you also will live. On that day you will realize that I am in my Father, and you are in me, and I am in you. – John 14:16-20

As Christians, we must peacefully engage our neighbor. We must expose ourselves to brothers and sisters in Christ affected by racial prejudice. We must also engage in conversations with brothers and sisters who have truly wrestled with this difficult topic from a Biblical worldview. As we appeal to God’s Word and the wisdom of fellow Christians, we must be prepared to gently and respectfully defend the hope to those who ask us how we are able to participate in such peaceful engagement (1 Peter 3:15).

As Baucham neared the end of this talk, he used an illustration to demonstrate the centrality of the Gospel in this conversation. He refers to ditches in the road, or two extremes on the spectrum in relating to the concept of ethnicity. On one extreme, some consider ethnicity as everything, essentially the cornerstone to their personal identity and the identity of their neighbor. On the second extreme, others consider ethnicity as nothing, essentially a concept with no foundation for their personal identity and the identity of their neighbor.

People holding either of these extreme positions will clash with each other. One side bases their consideration of identity solely upon a category that the other side ignores in their consideration of what composes our identity as human beings. Meanwhile, a Christian worldview critiques both extreme views. Ultimately, a human’s identity is based upon their relationship with God as an image-bearer designed to fellowship with their Creator. Yet this foundation does not erase the importance of physical and cultural distinctions which make humans unique from each other.

As we strive to resolve conflict rooted in racial tension, we travel down a road. If we desire to arrive at the destination of reconciliation, we must keep our eyes on Christ.

Why Morality Matters: Is There a Real Right and Wrong?

Moral relativism was a hot topic to debate in both the nineteenth and twentieth centuries but has since earned itself a place among today’s fashionable, intellectual presuppositions. Although popular today, moral subjectivity is itself a slough of ethical absurdities—absurdities we will do our due diligence to dismiss as falsehood. 

Nietzsche and Moral Relativism 

The emergence of moral relativism is frequently attributed to Friedrich Nietzsche, the nineteenth-century German philosopher. In his work The Gay Science, Nietzsche tells the story of a “Madman,” who proclaims the following: 

“Whither is God? We have killed him—you and I. All of us are his murderers. But how did we do this? Whither are we moving? Are we not plunging continually? Is there still any up or down? Are we not straying, as through an infinite nothing?” – Friedrich Nietzsche

What does this mean exactly? 

Nietzsche believed it was necessary for Enlightenment-era rationality to usher the Judeo-Christian value system off her throne, although he warned against the implications of such an immediate cultural shift: without clear distinctions between right and wrong, we become the “Madman,” helplessly questioning which way is up and which way is down. It was the nihilistic, global “madness” of the twentieth-century that Nietzsche single-handedly predicted, and it is the remnants of that very philosophical “madness” we are left to fight today. 

The Dangers of Moral Relativism

The Nietzschean argument against objective morality is admittedly more complicated than we have time for, but it is built upon the presupposition that morality is dependent upon our environment and that there is no objective right and wrong. Although this sentiment is popular in our postmodern day, it presents us with severe ethical issues. 

If universal right and wrong do not exist, we cannot say that anything is actually, objectively wrong. And if morality is determined by someone’s environment, and not a universal standard, then we cannot assert that the mass killing of millions of Jews, Poles, and Slaves—to name a few groups, there are many others—was wrong. All the moral relativist can claim is that he has a feeling that Nazism was wrong, based on what his specific environment has taught him. He is not saying anything about the object, just his feelings. 

In The Nicomachean Ethics, Aristotle claims that what distinguishes humans from animals is our capacity for reason—and reason is the ability to say something about something, often based on previous information. The point is this: if we are only talking about feelings and not the objective reality of something, we effectively reduce ourselves to animals, devoid of the very thing that makes us inherently unique. 

The logic of moral relativism leads to absurdity. So, what really governs our morality? 

What is the Moral Law? 

Let’s say you and a friend are at a restaurant together, arguing over the concept of morality. Your friend believes there is no real right and wrong, while you beg to differ. In a moment of passion, you take his drink and finish it off quickly. He exclaims “Hey, what are you doing that for? That’s my drink! How would you like it if I did the same to you?” and you slyly reply “Well, was that wrong?” 

Although playful, the concept here is exhibited clearly: any amount of quarreling assumes a standard of correct behavior. Your friend is not only saying your behavior happens to not please him, but saying what you ought to do. Argument means trying to prove the other person is wrong, and there would be no point in arguing unless a real standard of right and wrong exists. This is what we call the Moral Law, and if it does not exist there is no sense in quarreling; just as there is no sense in saying that slavery was actually wrong because the measuring stick of right and wrong would not exist. 

Isn’t the Moral Law just Culture? 

Many have proposed that a universal Moral Law is unsound, due to the fact different cultures have different moralities. Moral variation surely exists on a micro-level, but not on a macro-level. In other words, there are small differences in morality between cultures, but nothing close to an absolute difference. What would a total difference in morality look like? Consider the following from Mere Christianity

“Think of a county where people were admired for running away in battle, or where a man felt proud for double-crossing all the people who have been kindest to him… Men have differed as regards to what people you ought to be unselfish to—whether it was only your own family, or your fellow countrymen, or everyone. But selfishness has never been admired… You might as well imagine a country where two and two made five.” – C.S. Lewis

Isn’t the Moral Law just Herd Instinct? 

Another objection to the Moral Law is that real, correct behavior is an instinct, something that has been developed at the expense of our surroundings. Yet, an instinctual desire is far different from the knowledge that you ought to do something, whether you like it or not. 

Consider the scenario of a drowning man. Two instincts will be immediately felt: one to help the drowning man, and the other to flee the scene. The first is identified as our herd instinct, the desire to help, which is learned through education. While the other is identified as the instinct of self-preservation. In this scenario, the Moral Law is what tells us what we ought to do, and its job is to discern between instincts. This is why the most intense desire—the desire for self-preservation—is often not acted upon, given that the Moral Law directs us otherwise. 

Why is the Moral Law Important? 

See, without the Moral Law, we would not feel the restraint that withholds us from falling into our most intense, usually immediate instincts. And, given there is a universal standard of right and wrong, we may assert this standard is directed by something or someone that lies beyond the limitations of humanity, as the existence of such a standard would not reasonably be a product of naturalistic chance. 

Another question we have to ask ourselves is this: how could a naturalistic or cosmic force—the forces that belong to popular philosophy today—direct behavior if that very force does not have a mind? In order to create and enforce a standard of right and wrong, the ability to reason must be utilized, because, without reason, this standard would not be philosophically sensible, nor moderately coherent. Therefore, it is logical to conclude that objective morality has a divine, reasonable Giver. Consider the following: 

They (the Gentiles) show that the work of the law is written on their hearts, while their conscience also bears witness.” – Romans 2:15

Paul makes the case that God is the author of the Moral Law, the one who has written right and wrong on our hearts. This is no trivial point, for it means that adhering to a universal standard of behavior not only carries legal, temporal consequences, but it also carries eternal consequences. In other words, when we decide to do something that violates the Moral Law, we are not only acting incorrectly, but offending the God who cares for our correct behavior. This is why objective, right behavior matters: because God is the author of that very behavior Himself. Without a universal standard of right and wrong, no action can be actually right or wrong, and we might as well dismiss the idea of God altogether.  

Coronavirus and Christ: A Review

In response to the recent events of the COVID-19 global pandemic, John Piper has released a new book entitled Coronavirus and Christ. In these short 112 pages, Dr. Piper responds to the health crisis that has affected nearly every person on earth. His ministry, Desiring God, is very clear that they have two primary interests in mind: the sovereignty of God and Christian hedonism. In this book, Piper views the events of COVID-19 through the lens of these two doctrines.

Calvinism & Christian Hedonism

If you are going to read this book, you should know that Piper is openly committed to a Reformed understanding of salvation, which is often referred to as Calvinism. In addition to this, he is a Christian Hedonist. Piper famously summarized Christian Hedonism by saying that, “God is most glorified in us, when we are most satisfied in Him.” 

This book will not primarily argue for those doctrines, but will assume they are true. If you are not familiar with these doctrines, you may want to read Five Points: Towards a Deeper Experience of God’s Grace and Desiring God: Meditations of a Christian Hedonist.

Catastrophic Events of the Past

Piper’s Response to 9/11

Piper is not new to writing on the relationship between these two doctrines and current events. After the attacks in New York on September 11, 2001, many were wondering if God caused this event to happen. Piper argued that,

The very power by which God governs all evils, enables him to govern your life. He has total authority to turn this and every other evil in your life into your everlasting life.

He then went on to say that, “The sovereignty of God is the very rock solid foundation that enables us to carry on in life.” This is important to remember because it is a very crucial idea that paved the way for Coronavirus and Christ.

Piper’s Response to Hurricane Katrina

After the catastrophic Hurricane Katrina that struck Louisiana and the Gulf Coast, Piper responded to NPR Senior News Analyst, Daniel Schorr, by saying that,

Our guilt in the face of Katrina is not that we can’t see the intelligence in God’s design, but that we can’t see arrogance in our own heart. God will always be guilty of high crimes for those who think they’ve never committed any.

Piper later went on to write Spectacular Sins: And Their Global Purpose in the Glory of Christ in response to the events in New Orleans as well as the general idea of God’s sovereignty in relation to evil and tragedy.

The Aim of This Book

Without the previous books and articles responding to current events, there is no way that someone could have written, published, and translated a book in seven languages within weeks of the pandemic’s global spread. With that being said, if you are familiar with Piper’s work, then you will find this book to be a timely reminder of timeless truths rather than a creative expression of new ideas.

What Fell Short

As a student of journalism, I live in a world that possesses a particular disposition towards novelty, but as a student of theology, I am reminded of the importance of historical roots. Initially, due to my background in journalism, I was frustrated by the lack of novelty, but my background in theology reminded me that new isn’t always needed. To be honest, my first impression of this book was that it was incomplete. While it contained quite a few reminders and Biblical answers that I will address in the latter part of this review, something was missing.

As an adherent of the Reformed soteriological views that Piper argues from, my problem was not as much with what was in the book, but what was left out. To be clear, my primary issue was not with Piper’s theology, but with his overwhelming repetition.

Book Structure

The book is split into two primary sections: “The God Who Reigns Over the Coronavirus” and “What is God Doing Through the Coronavirus?”

The God Who Reigns Over the Coronavirus

In this section, Piper laid the foundation for his argument by succinctly explaining the doctrines of God’s sovereignty and Biblical authority. In the promotional material for the book, Desiring God markets the book as an invitation:

[The book invites] readers around the world to stand on the solid Rock, who is Jesus Christ, in whom our souls can be sustained by the sovereign God who ordains, governs, and reigns over all things to accomplish his wise and good purposes for those who trust in him.

Sound familiar? It is very similar to Piper’s response to the terrorist attacks of 9/11. Yet Piper does not mention the events of Hurricane Katrina or September 11th in this work. This frustrated me because it weakened his argument. By choosing not to point back to specific events of the past, this book seemed like it was trying to present novel ideas, yet it clearly was not. To be fair, he does mention the cancer diagnosis that he received in 2005. Apart from a subtle reference to terrorist attacks and tsunamis, it seemed like this book could have related the issue of the coronavirus back to previous national and global events where God’s sovereignty could be clearly seen.

Additionally, this section seemed to be far too concise to effectively articulate the foundational beliefs that would lead a Christian pastor to look at a global pandemic killing hundreds of thousands of people and conclude that God had ordained for it to happen.

What Went Well

Despite my initial frustrations, I thoroughly enjoyed Piper’s new book. Again, it did not seem to be anything more than a reminder of the timeless truths, but sometimes a reminder is exactly what we need. While I felt like this book lacked something, the content presented in the book was incredibly helpful.

What is God Doing Through the Coronavirus?

Contrary to my frustrations with the overly abbreviated first half of the book, the latter half of the book was worth the frustrations. In these chapters, Piper presents six Biblical answers to what God might be doing through the coronavirus.

Naturally, I am critical of someone who supposes to know the exact purposes of God in any horrendous event such as a pandemic, yet Piper humbly articulates that these are six ways God uses evil throughout the Scriptures. God’s meticulous sovereignty is seen throughout Scripture, in the midst of good and evil. The answers that Piper presents are not speculative or prophetic, but exemplary Biblical principles.

I sympathize with Preston Blakeley, one of The Church Editors, who recently wrote,

His statement that “the coronavirus is God’s thunderclap call for repentance” caught me off guard, and I felt as if this statement could have been worded better. He redeems this in his explanation: this pandemic reminds us that we are finitely human, and Piper begs us to see that God desires that we cease to be the child who is “making mud pies… because he cannot imagine a holiday at sea.” We are faced with the trivialities of our own existence, and we are increasingly reminded of our opportunity to trade in trinkets for gold.

Many of the answers Piper presented are worded in ways that we don’t really speak, yet the truths presented within their explanations are incredibly helpful. In his review of this book, Blakeley does well to remind us that we can “trade in trinkets for gold.” This helpful illustration points us back to another one of Piper’s key themes: don’t waste your life. In the same way that Piper’s short theological essay, Don’t Waste Your Cancer encouraged readers not to waste their pain, Coronavirus and Christ encourages readers not to waste this time of uncertainty and anxiety.

How to Read This Book

Between the relative briefness and the abundance of time now available due to current “safer-at-home” restrictions, take a few hours and read this book. Pray through the passages of Scripture that Piper points the readers to and ask the Lord to use this as a reminder of God’s sovereignty in the midst of uncertainty.

You can read or listen to this book for free on: https://www.desiringgod.org/books/coronavirus-and-christ.

I received this free review copy from Crossway. The opinions of this review are my own.

The Cosmic Battle for the Family

As a father goes, so goes the household. And as the household goes, so goes society.
-Michael Foster

Fathers are essential to families. Men leading by Christian virtue is essential to fatherhood. And godly families are essential to having a good society. The culture at large would have us believe otherwise, but if God created the institution of family, does he not have the authority to say how it ought to be? God has an intended design for what man and woman are and what a family and its purpose is. Satan has been at work in our society, seeking to destroy its foundation. If Christians are going to win the cosmic battle for the family then we need to make a few observations:

  • God’s design of man and woman for marriage is the only design that works.
  • Fathers are integral to a child’s development and the family’s stability.
  • Sex is a sacred act, given by God as a gift within His parameters.

The secular world will never admit these facts. Rather than seeking to encourage strong families, there are forces at play that propagate its very destruction. We see this firstly in the attack on design.

Attack on Design

God implemented the institution of the family at the very beginning with Adam and Eve. Going through Genesis we see that God’s intended design for marriage was the joining together of one man and one woman (Gen. 2:24) with the mission to “be fruitful and multiply” and to take dominion over all the Earth (Gen. 1:28).

Satan has been attacking God’s design for the family ever since sin entered the world. In America, we have seen the degeneration of biblical marriage and biblically-informed ideas about family. In the past few decades alone, this country has legalized no-fault divorce, gay marriage, and abortion. Notice that the legalization of these three things is intimately tied to the institution of family:

  • No-fault divorce reduces the meaning of wedding vows and a marriage covenant.
  • Gay marriage is antithetical to the true nature and purpose of marriage.
  • Abortion attacks our God-given mandate to bear fruit and multiply and eliminates the consequences of fornication.

Why is Satan so focused on tearing down God’s family design? It’s because he knows that there is power in God’s people coming together and faithfully creating the next generation of God-worshippers. And when that generation grows up living for Christ, they continue the pattern of creating the next God-fearing generation. The fight for the sanctity of God’s design of marriage and family is a cosmic battle that we need to fight together.

Attack on Men

There has been a multi-generational attack on biblical manhood that is most noticeable in our culture today. The number of examples that could be given on this topic would take a large series of articles to fully analyze. Suffice it to say, masculinity is demonized in our culture. But it takes biblically masculine men to lead their families in following after Christ.

This is because a father is designed to create stability and structure within their family. But when a father is absent from their family, the mother ends up bearing responsibility that she was not originally intended to bear. The impacts of absentee fathers are various but are most noticeable in their children. Multiple studies have shown that children growing up without a father in the household are influenced to such a degree that it correlates with their development, behavior, and even their economic situation.

All this to say that having Christian men leading their homes is vitally important. It’s important to God and it’s important to having a faithful, God-fearing society. This is why we need to encourage biblical masculinity in men.

Let it not go unmentioned that encouraging biblical femininity in women is essential to God’s design and purpose for family as well. While the scope of this article is primarily centered around fathers, motherhood ought to be recognized for the powerful role that it plays in a family as well. Children that grow up without a mother suffer similarly to children that grow up without a father. Mother and fathers are equally essential to raising a family in the way that God intended.

Attack on Sex

Being a man isn’t just about being masculine, though. If that masculinity isn’t accompanied by virtue then the result is selfish men seeking to please their lustful desires.

For this is the will of God, your sanctification: that you abstain from sexual immorality; that each one of you know how to control his own body in holiness and honor, not in the passion of lust like the Gentiles who do not know God.
-1 Thess. 4:3-5

God intended for us, men and women, to have great self-control over our sinful desires. But Satan has influenced the majority of culture today to give in to whatever “feels good” to us at the moment. Our culture views pre-marital sex as the norm and shames those who refrain from it. This shouldn’t come as a surprise to us, for even in Paul’s day people approved those who practiced sexual immorality (Rom. 1:32).

The perversion of sex in our culture has led to the tragedy of abortion. Men and women seek to escape the consequences of their actions by murdering their children. Children are gifts from the Lord (Ps. 127:3) and ought to be cherished. Every Christian should be united in fighting against this horror. 

Satan has strategically attacked the God-given mandate to be fruitful and multiply by influencing the widespread approval of legal child-murder. This has no doubt encouraged pre-marital sex and distorted God’s design for biblical sex. This is why we must be led by the word of God, grow in self-control, and stand up for truth at all costs.

Imminent Victory

Regardless of rampant fatherlessness, the deconstruction of the family, or the legal murder of children, Jesus Christ is Lord over everything. He is sovereign and is bringing all things under His rule (Ps. 110:1). It is because Christ sits at the right hand of the Father that we can faithfully and confidently proclaim the good news of the gospel. As God works through His people to confront the culture with His good news, we can rest assured that we are not fighting an uphill battle. Jesus Christ is King and already has the victory secured for us.

Rules of Engagement

Practically, Christians can be doing things to further the gospel and God’s design for the family. Bringing the gospel to the front lines of abortion mills is vital. Countless children have been saved at the hands of Christians who go to the clinics and plead for life.

We can also always seek to grow in holiness and purity, remembering that it is Christ who gives us that very power to will and work for His pleasure (Phil 2:13).

Christians should hope to see societal improvement. Since the dawn of creation, God gave us the mandate to take dominion over the earth. This is one of the reasons that He created the institution of the family. God’s word has a lot to say about the nature and purpose of family, and our worldview should be informed by His word. We are currently in a war of worldviews, so it is important to think through these things with Scripture as our foundation.

If Christians want to honor our Lord in this cosmic battle for the family, we must trust in the Father who will never abandon His children, and go forth bearing the message of His Son who came to save rebels like you and me.

The Perils of Boredom: The Value of Learning in a Pandemic

It is only proof of our humanity if we feel anxious in times of uncertainty. Our new “normal” presents us with an unprecedented phenomenon—time. With time comes boredom, and it is likely that we will feel most of the effects of this worldwide pandemic in our boredom. 

The Dangers of Boredom 

“What am I going to do with all this time?” 

In The Screwtape Letters, the senior devil, Screwtape, convinces his apprentice, Wormwood, to pervert his subject’s natural desire for change. Wormwood uses the apparent presence of abnormality to force the subject into believing that novelty—change for the sake of change—will suppress his boredom. 

Given that boredom is justified by uncertainty, the subject is convinced that any new, exciting idea can satisfy his longings. Thus, boredom and novelty complement themselves dangerously, as they persuade us that anything is worthy of our attention—sin and apathy are usually byproducts of this threatening mixture. Caught under this spell, the subject comes to the end of his wits, falling into a state of perpetual lifelessness: 

You can make him do nothing at all for long periods. You can keep him up late at night, not roistering, but staring at a dead fire in a cold room. 

Without undermining the seriousness of our situation, “perpetual lifelessness” is undoubtedly threatening the spiritual, intellectual, and psychological growth of younger generations. Lewis’s mention of “staring at a dead fire in a cold room” bears a peculiar resemblance to the issue of technology and social isolation, an issue that so often leads back to apathy. In that, the endless scrolling of social media may prove the most dangerous fuel to the fire of lifelessness. 

One anecdote to the affliction of lifelessness is learning—learning not as an end in itself, but for the sake of truth—and we will discuss this in the latter half of this article. Before dealing with the why of learning, we must first examine the significance of our times. 

So, What Is “Normal?” 

We are mistaken when we justify boredom, and consequently “perpetual lifelessness,” with the absence of “normality” or “certainty.” The fact of the matter is that “normal life” is a façade, and human culture has forever existed on the brink of collapse. 

Humanity exists at the mercy of unforeseen, dangerous circumstances. The impact of plagues and terrorism are threats to be expected, yet they, also, occur without anticipation. Even the seemingly “normal,” tranquil periods of existence are tormented by the unpredictable. Although some seasons of life may be more normal than others, true normality is unattainable. In his famous sermon, Learning in Wartime, C.S. Lewis echoes this point when he states that: 

The war [or virus] creates no absolutely new situation; it simply aggravates the permanent human situation so that we no longer ignore it. Human life has always been lived on the edge of a precipice.

Lewis reminds us that our previous normal has been swept away into a sea of uncertainty, and our peril—this virus—prompts us to realize that we cannot ignore the finitude of our own existences. Our current times remind us that the human condition is but a shadow, and “a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes” (James 4:14). 

The absence of a true “normality” should not negate the anxiety we feel about current circumstances—we are allowed to feel, just as Christ did at Gethsemane. The Cross reminds us that God uses evil for good, but also teaches us that He is not in the business of nullifying emotion. We may cry out “my God, my God,” while also submitting to His Lordship—and this is the beautiful paradox of Christianity. 

A Remedy to Boredom 

Now that we have established that the justification for boredom is void—due to the fact that “normal” does not truly exist—we can look at one possible solution. 

One beneficial thing we can do to combat “perpetual lifelessness” is to actively exercise our minds. It is easy to forget that the New Testament not only promotes the idea that Christ is our master, but also our teacher, and we are His lowly students. Christ calls us to sit at His feet, and this means growing to learn and love His teachings (Luke 10:38-42). Yet, the natural prerequisite to appreciating any teaching is to know the dangers of the alternative. This point is further illustrated in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians when he states: 

[I] did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech and wisdom… and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in the demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.
-1 Corinthians 2:1, 4-5

History tells us that the church at Corinth found herself struggling to dismiss the platonic, stoic, and cynic schools of thought, and it is these philosophies Paul refers to when he says “lofty speech and wisdom.” Because Paul is aware of these ideologies, he can present himself as a student of Christ, given that he is able to gauge his perspective with an alternative. In this way, the Great Commandment is not merely a call to preach Christ, but a call to know what it means to not preach Christ. 

Why Learning Combats Boredom

I make the point of the student—the point that the student must grasp alternatives—to say this: the beauty of the gospel message shines even brighter when we apprehend its inverse. For what is the value of a lovely, spring day without the bitter winter? It may ring true that reading—and possibly, healthily empathizing with—the nihilists, postmodernists, and skeptics might bring us closer to Christ, and in greater comfort of truth. 

As theological and philosophical illiteracy has plagued younger generations, reading the “alternatives” is not necessarily a given. Yet, learning for the sake of truth challenges the temptation of boredom, and heightens our adoration for Christ. The path of novelty and lifelessness becomes less attractive as Christ is our guide through all the abnormalities of life.

The Christian and the Cinema

Only one thing can temper a heated argument in François Truffaut’s The 400 Blows (1959). It happens toward the middle of the film. The protagonist’s family halt their shouting and, at the suggestion of the mother, go to the movies. One minute later in movie time, they emerge from the cinema hand-in-hand, all smiles—their argument a thing of the past. Like many of his French contemporaries did, Truffaut briefly shows us what the cinema means to him. 

The Power of Film

Movies have such an extraordinary power over us. What is it about a film—a series of images projected onto an otherwise blank screen—that causes us to laugh, cry, squirm, jump, gasp, or sigh? What makes this phenomenon even stranger is that film is, basically, a form of technology. It is photography, sound recording, lighting, computer effects all wound together and blasted out of a projector, and to us it looks and feels like life itself. This 100-year-old medium is a testament to man’s soul: We are not merely material, evolved for survival. If we were, would we take technology and turn it into soul-affirming art? In What We See in Films, critic and professor Leo Braudy confirms: 

The greatness of film is its offer of a potential to achieve creative power and expression within a situation that is commercial, collective, and technological—the forces that otherwise define our anonymity and frustration… [Film is] “spiritual technology.”

Only the Biblical worldview explains why we create “spiritual technology.” Human beings, though fallen from the glory of God, are nevertheless capable of beauty because they still bear the image of God. This tension between fallenness and beauty expresses itself in all cultural production. How else can we get something so beautifully horrid as Robert DeNiro’s tragic hero in Raging Bull (1980) pumping himself up before a boxing match? DeNiro’s Jake LaMotta jumps and glides through the air in slow motion, orchestral music gorgeously draping the moment—then, the scene cuts and we see him pummeling his opponent mercilessly. What other art can present such a visceral portrayal of this, man’s basic struggle between his original purpose and present reality?

A Biblical View of Film

If this art form is so powerful, it cannot be ignored. Christians ought to be critical thinkers about film. Yet, while we cannot be cloistered off to popular culture—of which film holds a significant portion of real estate—we cannot mindlessly engage too much, only to be sucked into fantasy worlds which, as a product of fallen man, dangerously sneak their own worldview into our minds. If the Word of God is alive and active (Hebrews 4:12), we should probe every part of our lives with it—especially what we think is “just entertainment.” 

The middle-ground between apathy and obsession is discernment, which ought to be our aim. We ought to care about film, but we ought to care more about honoring God. We can be entertained by a movie, but we ought to be able to return to reality as the Bible, not a director, affirms it. Watching movies with a Scripture-saturated mind ought to be enjoyable and edifying.

Two primary things ought to concern Christians who want to think critically about movies: worldview and humanity. Essentially, a Christian should care about how a film sees the world and the people in it.


Why is “What’s your favorite movie?” one of the hardest questions we can be asked? Movies are all enjoyable (even the bad ones, to some extent), and it’s hard to pick a favorite. Film is so easy to enjoy—movies dance on the screen without any of our effort. Watching a movie is easy, and it involves almost all our senses. The act of watching a movie gratifies sensory experience with minimal effort. There is nothing like it. It’s almost too good to be true. 

Film is beautiful and dangerous. It is philosophy with a sugarcoat. Not many young people eagerly discuss Heidegger’s existentialism with friends, but Groundhog Day promises a lived-out and equally existential discussion. Monistic philosophy may be completely out of our grasp, but The Matrix (1999) is wild entertainment with a side of Eastern epistemology. Movies, either subtly or overtly, philosophize so well that they eventually indoctrinate

Every movie has a worldview, just like every human being. Even films that are genre-bending, obscure arthouse experiments—and their opposite, mindless “bro comedies”—have a worldview, a way of looking at the world. And since film is so easy to experience, we viewers are easily pulled into its vision of reality, body and soul. Dr. Grant Horner confirms in Meaning at the Movies

When the work is polished, the screen is king, and it creates a world that seems as real—or realer—than the real world… How many young men have not formed their views on masculinity primarily due to action movies?  

A Christian committed to the inerrancy and sufficiency of Scripture should immediately stop at the potential of something besides the Bible indoctrinating them. God commands us to submit every thought to the Lordship of Christ (2 Corinthians 10:5). This Lordship reigns over our entertainment choices and our free time; it is not meant to restrict us, but to free us from error and into the correct way of seeing reality. 

This does not mean Christians cannot enjoy film or get “lost” in a good movie. Quite the opposite, Christians should enjoy movies more than anyone else because our enjoyment has a foundation and an end—the knowledge of God. Every artist reflects God’s beautiful image in complex and stimulating ways. Art without this basis, without God, always leads to despair. How can you not watch the work of a masterful director, actor, or writer and think this person was a product of chance? The Bible affirms what we all know about ourselves and each other—we are fearfully and wonderfully made (Psalm 139:14). 

But Christians should also be the best at critiquing movies (and enjoying a movie actually plays a crucial role in critique). Only a Biblical worldview gives viewers sufficient confidence to probe a film. After affirming the beauty of the art and the talent of its maker, we are free to dissect and disagree with how reality is presented. This doesn’t spoil the fun or ruin the “fantasy” of film viewing, it actually allows us to fully engage with fantasy and finally take it seriously by recognizing the consequences of worldview. Nothing is ever “pure fantasy.” We ought to remember that fantasy, to really be fantasy, must be grounded in a clear sense of the reality it’s altering. 

One more thing this does not mean is that Christians should use movies as “tracts.” We should not seek to show people how, for example, Star Wars is actually about Christ. No, Star Wars is not about Christ. It is about the fictional “Jedi” and “The Force” and an “Empire.” It is not meant to be a Christian movie. Christians should not try to adapt a movie’s plot for the Bible. Doing this will grossly distort the Biblical message, and the film’s message too. Rather, we should see a movie for what it is, enjoy it, and proceed to discern it, its truth and its error, with a Scripture-saturated mind. May we be able to show the world that the Bible is not a dead book, nor a simplistic one, but rather a complex, living, and active text of ultimate import.


Humanity is at the center of any worldview. Any way of seeing the world must include a way of seeing human beings. Where do we come from? What are we like? What do we aspire to be? If any worldview presumes to be holistic truth, it must include accurate responses to such questions. 

Every movie takes a stab at these questions, tries to explain who we are. The persistent popularity of film is evidence that the medium portrays humans pretty accurately, or at least interestingly. Charlie Chaplin famously declared that film was just a passing fad, never to usurp the stage as the supreme art. He was clearly mistaken. Film lives on because it quite possibly is the best portrayal of humanity we have ever developed. Horner affirms, “God made us in his image; we make movies in ours.” 

Again, if this is true about movies, Christians should not dismiss them. Believers, wanting to think about the worldview a movie is presenting, must first determine how a film renders human beings. We can ask, “What, according to this film, is the source of human dignity?” “What makes a human human according to this movie?” Realize that movies can get a lot of these questions right—confirming what the Bible has already said. Above any other art form, film has the ability to depict life-like people, flaws and all in visible ways.

Arguably the defining characteristic of film, then, is empathy. The best movies invite us to feel with and for characters as if they were real people. We discover a lot about ourselves when we think which characters we relate to the most. The arts are championed in our world precisely because everyone knows we could all use a little more empathy. While art is not to be used as a Gospel tract, Christians can use it as an exercise in empathy. Before dissecting a film’s worldview—just like before we “give an answer for the hope that is in us” (1 Peter 3:15)—we must accept the invitation to feel. Believers in Christ have even more reason to empathize with characters on and off the screen. We know their dignity comes not from the camera pointed at them but from the God who made them. 

Finally, the most fun part about watching movies is being immersed in situations many of us will never encounter. They make us think “what would I have done in that situation?” Just like that question may reveal a lot about our personality, the bulk of a movie’s worldview comes from how its characters respond to the plot. Some movies are dark and hopeless, others are frothy and simplistic. Christians shouldn’t affirm one single style of filmmaking, but we should be able to inspect how a film’s style interprets humans and their problems, remembering that the Bible is all about this too. For Christians, thinking about human struggles in movies reminds us that the Word of God has already answered every question art can pose (Acts 17:27,28). 

A Word on the Director(s)

François Truffaut was a leading figure of the French New Wave, a powerful artistic movement that peaked in the 1960s. Films like The 400 Blows were largely a product of the theories of French film critics who championed directors as the sole authors of films (auteurs). The movies these critics championed, and subsequently made themselves, are singular expressions from the mind of a single creator. Their ideas are why, even today, a director usually gets all the praise (or critique) for his/her film. The “auteur theory” is really just an easier way to critique a film—making movies, however, is always collaborative. 

In her article, “The Christian and Contemporary Art,” my fellow writer Emily Zell wrote: 

We are called to remember that every artist is a created creator. We can thoughtfully enter into discussions of their creations and show how they point to their Creator. Proclaim the gaping God-shaped hole that is made so evident in these works of art and use it to point others to the Fulfiller of all.

Ultimately, what ought to concern every consumer of art is not only what is on the canvas, stage, or screen, but also who put it there. All art is expression by a “created creator.” All of it expresses the longing for something beyond our current existence. As Emily said, we ought to discuss how every work of art points to God—not because it may be “Christian” art, but simply because it is art. 

Filmmakers (the director, writer, editor, etc), then, are not there just to be praised or derided; they are there to express, and we are here to attend to what they have to say. We respect the artist by actively engaging with the work. We ought to acknowledge the talent, creativity, and effort put into making a movie. But, it would be unloving—indeed, a waste of time—to not point to the ultimate foundation for art, beauty, and knowledge. 

Christian, watch movies. You are free to enjoy and discern film—not because it is just entertainment, but because, like a shadow, it makes obvious the presence of the sun.