Nothing But the Truth

Scripture warns, “See to it that no one takes you captive by philosophy and empty deceit, according to human tradition, according to the elemental spirits of the world, and not according to Christ” (Col. 2:8, ESV). As followers of Christ, we need to be vigilant, constantly on guard, and discerning good from evil. One of the ways that the worldly system “takes us captive” is by marginalizing truth or eliminating it altogether. It is important to understand that the worldly system militates against the Christian view of truth. Is it any wonder, then, that the importance of truth is highlighted so much in Scripture?

David Understood the Importance of Truth

King David acknowledged that since God is truth, he expects his people to live truthful lives. He writes, “Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart” (Ps. 51:6, ESV).

The implications of David’s words are massive as we consider our inward motivations, conversations, and the way we conduct our lives. Ask yourself, “Am I a person that is committed to the truth?” “Does the love for truth undergird my life and worldview?”

Paul Spoke Often About the Truth

The apostle begins the book of Titus with these revealing words: “Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness” (Titus 1:1, ESV) . Notice the relationship between truth and godliness. Indeed, they are intimately connected. “The truth of the Gospel,” writes Warren Wiersbe, “changes a life from ungodliness.”1 As Christians, we unapologetically adhere to the truth. We must not only adhere to the truth; it must stand at the very center of our lives.

Additionally, Paul referred to the church as ” … a pillar and buttress of the truth” (1 Tim. 3:15, ESV). The church, then, is God’s appointed means of declaring the word of God to the nations. Ask yourself, “How is God using me to declare the truth to my community?” “How is God using me to declare the truth to the nations?”

Paul Warned People Who Abandon the Truth

Scripture is packed with examples of people who abandoned the truth. Paul writes, “This testimony is true. Therefore rebuke them sharply, that they may be sound in the faith, not devoting themselves to Jewish myths and the commands of people who turn away from the truth” (Titus 1:13–14, ESV). Tragically, this trend continues in our generation. Young people are turning away from the truth by the thousands. College students are manipulated and deceived by professors who peddle a worldview that opposes historic Christianity. Hearts are cold to God’s revealed truth. Ask yourself, “Am I pursuing the truth or am I fleeing from the truth?” “Do I have a sinful unbelieving heart that is turning away from the living God?” (Heb. 3:12).

Peter Pressed Home the Importance of Truth.

Peter is an interesting character to be sure. Here is a man who denied Jesus, the very embodiment of truth – three times! Yet, he was forgiven and restored and was used in a mighty way to spread a passion for the truth of God:

Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart … (1 Peter 1:22, ESV).

Ask yourself, “Do I obey the truth?” “Am I established in the truth?”

John Had a Passion for the Truth.

The apostle John was a warm-hearted Christian thinker who had a passion for the truth. Listen to how this God-centered man expressed his love for the truth:

Little children, let us not love in word or talk but in deed and in truth (1 John 3:18, ESV).

I have no greater joy than to hear that my children are walking in the truth (3 John 4, ESV) .

Jesus Spoke Plainly About the Truth

Finally, we turn our attention to Jesus, the One who made the startling claim that he was in fact the way, the truth, and the life (John 14:6). The importance that Jesus attaches to truth cannot be denied:

Sanctify them in the truth; your word is truth (John 17:17, ESV).

… and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free (John 8:32, ESV)

Conclusion

All spiritual growth is based on a knowledge of truth. Yet countless people, even people in the church are discarding truth and walking down paths that fail to honor and glorify God. Al Mohler warns, “Departing a Christian worldview leads to a distrust of final truth and a rejection of universal authority, which then hides the way back to the God of the Bible.”2 As followers of Jesus Christ, may we cling to the truth, proclaim the truth, and defend the truth. May we stand with the men and women throughout redemptive history who were willing to lay their lives down for the great cause of truth. May the cry of our hearts be, “nothing but the truth!”

  1. Wiersbe, W. W. (1996). The Bible exposition commentary (Vol. 2, p. 260). Wheaton, IL: Victor Books.
  2. Albert Mohler, The Gathering Storm: Secularism: Culture, and the Church (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2020), 11.

The Expulsive Power of a New Affection – Thomas Chalmers

Thomas Chalmers, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 72 pp.

“The heart is not so constituted, and the only way to dispossess it of an old affection is by the expulsive power of a new one.” So says Thomas Chalmers (1780-1847), professor of philosophy and theology at the University of St. Andrews and the University of Edinburgh.

The heart is the target of Chalmers in his short book, The Expulsive Power of a New Affection. Part of the Crossway Short Classics, this work shows the inner workings of Chalmers and the solution he proposes for sinners. The author uses 1 John 2:15 as a launching pad that will be of immense help for his readers:

Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

Chalmers maintains that there are two approaches for Christians who seek to obey this first. They may either flee from the world or foster godly affections. The second approach is not only preferred; it is the approach that renders power to followers of Christ. Chalmers holds that the former approach is “altogether ineffectual” while “the latter method will alone suffice for the rescue and recovery of the heart for the wrong affection that domineers over it.”

The author develops this theme as prescribes the expulsive power of a new affection. In other words, only a heart that has been regenerated may move in the direction of obedience. And by definition, a regenerate heart is one that is being renewed day by day (2 Cor. 3:18). The regenerate heart is being sanctified by the Spirit.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Planation

Blackout: How Black America Can Make Its Second Escape from the Democrat Plantation by Candace Owens will irritate and offend many people. But this is a book that needed to be written. More importantly, this is a book that deserves to be read and internalized.

Owens explores how liberals have consistently manipulated and marginalized black Americans. She tackles controversial subjects ranging from family, faith, and feminism. But she also focuses her attention on socialism, education, media, culture, and slavery.

Owens is an unashamed black conservative woman. She has a dizzying intellect and a charismatic personality. But the most impressive thing about Owens is that she is bold and courageous. She is willing to tell the truth about the liberal elites and is more than prepared for the fallout.

The author is deeply in touch with the plight of the black community. And she links that plight to the purposeful ploy of leftists who have and continue to pander to blacks and hold them captive to their liberal worldview and ideology.

Owens passionately encourages black America to stand and be counted. She urges black America to make its second escape from the Democrat plantation: “If black America finds its free voice; if there is a blackout from the liberal establishment, and if the occasional voices of those freed from the mental slavery of the left turn instead into a chorus, then black America will finally find that its suffering may turn a corner …”

Owens raises the banner and admonishes black America to reclaim their freedom and move forward with bold and courageous resolve:

The gates of the castle are under attack. We must now batter them down and storm the fortress of the liberal order. Join the ideological battle now. Let us turn the lights off in the liberal establishments of America as we shut the door behind us. Let us make this blackout a reality.

Blackout should be required reading for every thinking American – both black and white and everyone in between. It should certainly be read by every high school and university student. Those who read with an open mind will be challenged and moved to action.

Thanks to Candace Owens for courageously wielding the sword of truth in these perilous times!

The Mission of the Triune God – Patrick Schreiner

Patrick Schreiner, The Mission of the Triune God: A Theology of Acts (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2022), 179 pp.

The Mission of the Triune God by Patrick Schreiner traces the work of the gospel through the book of Acts. “It functions,” writes Schreiner, “as the hinge canonically, bridges the Gospel and Epistles. It recounts the birth of the church age. And its content has no parallel in the New Testament.

The author carefully demonstrates how God the Father works sovereignly in the book of Acts. He shows how Christ lives and rules through the Holy Spirit, which causes the word of God to explode in the hearts and minds of people. Salvation comes as a result of the mighty ministry and forms the church, all of whom are called to serve as witnesses to every ethne to the four corners of the earth.

The author highlights the proactive nature of God in the book of acts, a mindset that followers of Christ must emulate. Dr. Schreiner writes with emphasis, “Witnessing and mission are tasks not complete until Jesus returns. We too are called to be God’s servants, his ambassadors, his delegates, who tell everyone we meet about the hope we have found. Mission is not one of the many ‘programs’ of God’s people but the very telos of God.”

The various themes that Schreiner focuses on in the book help share the theology in the book of Acts. “All doctrine flows from, through, and to this reality,” writes the author. In the end, the Triune God takes center stage and invites the people of God to join him on mission.

The Mission of the Triune God: A Theology of Acts is a riveting and thought-provoking book. The writing is clear and the challenges are pointed. The most recent contribution in Crossway’s New Testament Theology series is being greatly used to encourage and equip Christian leaders. Soli Deo gloria!

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

When the Stars Disappear – Mark Talbot

Mark Talbot, When the Stars Disappear (Wheaton: Crossway Books, 2020), 128 pp.

Several years ago, I was introduced to the writing of Dr. Mark Talbot. His sharp intellect and warm heart instantly grabbed my attention. Talbot is well-known for his writing on the subject of pain and suffering. As one who was partially paralyzed in his teens, Talbot is uniquely qualified to address the subject. He not only sympathizes with fellow suffers; he has the biblical background and experience to offer counsel that is meaningful and God-honoring.

Sometimes one sentence makes a book worth reading. Such is the case with Mark Talbot’s book, When the Stars Disappear. This is no way detracts from the rest of the book. Indeed, the book is filled with biblical wisdom and encouragement for people who are experiencing a season of suffering.

When the Stars Disappear is the first installment in a series of four books, which are appropriately titled, “Suffering and the Christian Life.” The first volume attempts to show readers that suffering is not only a part of God’s plan for his people; it is a gracious gift, which is to be received in faith.

Talbot utilizes the painful stories of Naomi, Job, and Jeremiah to illustrate the central thesis of the book. He paints a realistic portrait of these characters who struggle with suffering and struggle with a God who allows and ordains it.

The great strength of this book is a biblical perspective that leads readers to a gracious God who is eager for people to draw near in faith and communion. That leads us to the sentence that captured my attention:

“Biblical faith and hope are grounded in God’s self-revelation that – no matter how dark and hopeless life may now seem – his saints will ultimately know him as ’the God of chesed,’ for that is indeed his name.”

The author helps us understand how God is accomplishing good in the lives of his people, even in the midst of pain and suffering. “Believing that this is what God has in store for us,” Talbot writes, “is essential to Christian faith.” He continues, “God’s apparent delay in fulfilling his promises refines our hopes. We lift our heads and see God’s eschatological rewards from afar as our earthly hopes die. Our suffering inclines us to reorient our hopes toward the consummation.”

In the end, our gaze is set upon a Savior who promises to make all things new. Dr. Talbot’s warm-hearted biblical perspective is a welcome gift that is sure to be received with open arms by many. I look forward with great anticipation to the remaining volumes in this soul-stirring series.

I received this book free from the publisher. I was not required to write a positive review.

A Black-And-White Proposal: Farewell To Fuzzy Thinking

Donald Miller raises the banner for “fuzzy thinking” in a blog post entitled, “The Problem with Black-and-White Thinking” (re-posted on relevantmagazine.com).  His main thought: “Black-and-white, either-or thinking polarizes people and stunts progressive thought.”  Additionally, he holds that this kind of thinking stunts our “ability to find truth.”

DEFENDING THE GOOD IN MILLER’S PROPOSAL

Miller admits that there is such a thing as right and wrong.  He also admits the existence of absolute truth.  So Miller does not advocate full-fledged relativism.  For this, we can be thankful.  In fact, even though his posting is loaded with difficulties, Miller does include some helpful suggestions worth considering:

First, Miller suggests, “Disengage your ego from your ideas.”  This point is well taken because many times a particular view is so tied to one’s ego that it becomes virtually impossible to separate fact from fiction.

Second, Miller encourages, “Understand there is much you don’t understand.”  He rightly adds, “We begin to think in black-and-white when we assume we know everything.”  While he does not press the point of Christian humility (as he should – pardon the black- and white thinking), it seems to be a part of his overall argument.

Third, Miller seems to argue in essence, that charity and grace ought to be a part of conversations and even arguments.  This implied pointer ought to be a part of daily life, where conversations and arguments produce more light than heat and stimulate deeper thinking about a given subject.

DISMANTLING THE BAD IN MILLER’S PROPOSAL

There are four problems that emerge, including unwarranted assumptions that must be dismantled.

Black-and-White Thinking Demonizes the Opposition

Miller advances the common notion that black-and-white thinking is polarizing; a bad thing. Again, “Black-and-white, either-or thinking polarizes people and stunts progressive thought.”  He adds, “… We begin to believe whatever thought-camp we subscribe to is morally good and the other morally bad, thus demonizing a threatening position.”

But this is not necessarily the case.  One can advance a dogmatic view but do so in a humble, yet decisive way.  After gaining a hearing with the philosophers in Athens, Paul presents an argument that could be construed as black-and-white:  “The times of ignorance God overlooked, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent, because he has fixed a day on which he will judge the world in righteousness by a man whom he has appointed; and of this he has given assurance to all by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30, ESV).

Paul does polarize his audience.  Notice their response.  “Now then they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked.  But others said, ‘We will hear you again about this'” (Acts 17:32).  The polarization that occurs is a necessary part of proclaiming the gospel message.  “For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1:18, ESV).

Jesus employs a similar strategy when he confronts the Jews in John 8:  “Whoever is of God hears the words of God.  The reason why you do not hear them is that you are not of God” (v. 47, ESV).  Jesus does not demonize his hearers.  He merely tells them the truth.  Again, polarizing – but necessary.

These Jews maintained, “We are offspring of Abraham and have never been enslaved to anyone.  How is it that you can say, ‘You will become free?'” (John 8:33, ESV).  Jesus polarizes his Jewish audience when he says,”Truly, truly, I say to you, everyone who commits sin is a slave to sin” (John 8:34, ESV).  Oh, the horror of polarization!  But Jesus does not leave them without hope.  He adds, “So if the Son sets you free, you will be free indeed” (John 8:36).

I would argue that when people are polarized, this can prove to be very helpful. When a truth claim is presented, one either accepts or rejects the claim.  If one accepts the claim but disagrees, thoughtful dialogue may continue.  So instead of “stunting progressive thought” and “stunting our ability to think and find truth” as Miller claims, black-and-white thinking can actually lead to the discovery of truth.

Black-and-White Thinking Assumes Arrogance

Miller continues in his diatribe against black-and-white thinking:  “It [black-and-white thinking] allows us to feel intelligent without understanding, and once we are intelligent, we feel superior.  People who don’t agree with us are just dumb.”  Honestly, Miller’s charge may prove quite accurate at times.  It is true that black-and-white thinking may lead to arrogant behavior and a haughty spirit.  But this does not have to be the case.  One can embrace and promote a dogmatic view and do so in a spirit of gentleness and humility.  This much is demanded in the Scripture.

Scripture instructs believers to “speak the truth in love” (Eph. 4:15) and demonstrate compassion, kindness, humility, meekness, and patience with one another (Col. 3:12).  Additionally, God’s Word instructs believers to speak in a way that demonstrates gentleness and respect (1 Pet. 3:16).  Paul admonishes Timothy, “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness …” (2 Tim. 2:24-25a).  In other words, there is a place for admonition (which by the way requires black-and-white thinking).  But the admonition must be laced with gentleness and kindness.

For instance, Jesus says, “I am the light of the world.  Whoever follows me will not walk in darkness, but will have the light of life” (John 8:12, ESV).  What is Jesus saying here?  He graciously tells his listeners that if they reject his lordship, they will walk in darkness.  Again, he polarizes his audience but speaks the truth in love.  There is no hint of arrogance.  Indeed, this is the sinless Son of God! Jesus adds, “I told you that you would die in your sins, for unless you believe that I am he you will die in your sins” (John 8:24, ESV).

It is simply naive to automatically assume that black-and-white thinking inevitably leads to arrogance.  Christ-followers, then, must make truth claims with boldness and humility.  Recognizing the danger of pride and arrogance, they must season their words with grace and gentleness.  They must be winsome in their approach to communicating the truth.

Black-and-White Thinking Discourages Open Dialogue

This point is implied when Miller encourages people to walk away from a conversation that becomes characterized as black-and-white.  He says, “When the conversation becomes about defending one’s identity, it’s time to politely move on.”  He goes on to say that “these discussions go nowhere and don’t help me find truth.”  Miller unfairly draws a conclusion that black-and-white arguments result in “defending one’s identity.”  This is certainly a possibility – but is not inevitable.

A few years ago, Whoopi Goldberg and Joy Behar walked off their own set on The View when the conversation got heated with Bill O’Reilly.  They walked away from a black-and-white conversation as Miller encourages.  O’Reilly who was and is usually unashamedly black-and-white was construed as an uncaring and insensitive person, based on some comments he made about the 911 attacks.  Some would argue that Miller’s prediction came to pass; that O’Reilly’s strong stand was tied to his identity.   The fact is that when Goldberg and Behar made their exit, the dialogue stopped – and became even more heated and controversial.  Moreover, O’Reilly was not the only person on the set who promoted black-and-white thinking!

Black-and-White Thinking Assumes the Impossibility of Certainty

Built into the framework of Miller’s argument is at the very least, an implicit suspicion of certainty.  Since Miller admits the existence of absolute truth and since he rejects relativism, he must embrace that some truth is certain.   But where will this suspicion of certainty lead in the long run?

Some progressive-types may be tempted to hop on the postmodern bandwagon and condemn “certainty” as a worn out product of the Enlightenment (a position that is amusing because it is dripping with so much certainty!)

I am less concerned with Don Miller at this point.  He’s too smart to make absolute statements against absolute truth.  What concerns me is what some will do with his antipathy to black-and-white thinking. What concerns me deeply are those who take the next step into uncertainty because they have not examined the logic (or irrationality) of their presuppositions.  What concerns me is that full-fledged relativism is just around the corner.

John Piper sums up the essence of relativism: “No one standard of true and false, right and wrong, good and bad, or beautiful and ugly, can preempt any other standard.  No standard is valid for everyone” (Think: The Life of the Mind and the Love of God, 98).  This relativistic way of thinking is knocking on the door of the church and in some cases has already barged in.

DISTURBING ELEMENTS OF FUZZY THINKING

Fuzzy Thinking Does Not Work in the Real World

Fuzzy thinking will not fly when it comes to raising children: “Please be home by 10:00 p.m. or feel free to do whatever you want.”  Fuzzy thinking will not fly when a police officer stops you for speeding.  Fuzzy thinking doesn’t work very well at the bank.  It doesn’t work on the basketball court. And it certainly does not fare well on the operating table.  Fuzzy thinking will always lead to a bad grade in philosophy class (and every other course).  Fuzzy thinking cannot stand up to the brutal reality of absolute truth.

Fuzzy thinking didn’t work for Jesus either.  Imagine the difficulty in pointing sinners to the Father in John 14 if Jesus had employed fuzzy thinking.  He would have been forced to say, “I am one of the many ways to the Father.  Everyone gets to heaven so long as their motives are right.”  But instead, Jesus speaks in absolute, black-and-white terms: “I am the way, and the truth, and the life.  No one comes to the Father except through me” (John 14:6, ESV).  He not only makes an absolute truth claim concerning his identity; he utilizes a universal negative and makes it clear that “no one comes to the Father except through me.”

Jesus utilizes black-and-white thinking throughout his ministry.  Notice his absolute truth claims:

“Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him” (John 3:36, ESV).

“But whoever drinks of the water that I will give him will never be thirsty forever.  The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:14, ESV).

“God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth” (John 4:24, ESV).

“Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life.  He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life” (John 5:24).

Fuzzy Thinking Does Not Work in the Pyre

If fuzzy thinking does not work in the real world, then it certainly does not work in the midst of persecution.  The martyrs of historic Christianity lived and died because of black-and-white thinking.

On his way to martyrdom, Ignatius wrote seven black-and-white letters that have proven to be very valuable documents to help our understanding of early Christianity.

When Polycarp faced execution for his Christian faith, the judge promised a quick release if Polycarp swore allegiance to the Emperor and vowed to curse Christ.  Polycarp responded, ““For eighty-six years I have served him, and he has done me no evil.  How could I curse my King, who saved me?”

When the judge threatened him with burning him alive, Polycarp simply answered that the fire that was about to be lit would only last a moment, whereas the eternal fire would never go out.  After Polycarp was tied to the post in the pyre, he looked up and prayed out loud: “Lord Sovereign God . . . I thank you that you have deemed me worthy of this moment, so that, jointly with your martyrs, I may have a share in the cup of Christ . . . For this . . . I bless and glorify you” (Justo L. Gonzalez, The Story of Christianity – Volume I, 39-48).

And consider the example of William Tyndale.  Tyndale courageously opposed anyone who quenched the work of the Spirit or despised God’s Word.   Again, Spirit enabled black-and-white thinking fueled his resolve.

One time a clergyman told Tyndale, “We are better without God’s laws than the pope’s.”  Tyndale’s black-and-white thinking prompted a decisive response: “I defy the Pope and all his laws; and if God spares my life, I will cause the boy who drives the plow in England to know more of the Scriptures than the Pope himself.”

Ignatius, Polycarp, and Tyndale held fast to the good (1 Thes. 5:21).  John MacArthur describes this imperative as “a militant, defensive, protective stance against anything that undermines the truth or does violence to it in any way.  We must hold the true securely; defend it zealously; preserve it from all threats.  To placate the enemies of truth or lower our guard is to violate this command.”

Fuzzy Thinking Minimizes the Role of Reason and Logic

Miller argues that black-and-white thinking would never make it “through the door of an undergraduate course in logic.”  Much to the contrary, the law of non-contradiction teaches us that a statement and its opposite cannot both be true at the same time and in the same sense.

Ron Nash reminds us, “The presence of contradiction is always a sign of error.  Hence, we have a right to expect a conceptual system to be logically consistent, both in its parts (its individual propositions) and in the whole.  A conceptual system is in obvious trouble if it fails to hang together logically” (Worldviews in Conflict, 55).

In other words, every worldview needs to be subjected to the law of non-contradiction.  When a contradiction emerges, the worldview must be abandoned.  Without black-and-white thinking, this worldview test passes by the wayside and discernment vanishes.

The root of this discussion concerning black-and-white thinking is tied to the formation of a worldview.   And in order for a worldview to be plausible, it must be able to be lived out in the real world.  Francis Schaeffer reminds us, “We must be able to live consistently with our theory” (The God Who is There, 121).

So in the final analysis, black-and-white thinking is not problematic.  Indeed, black-and-white thinking is not only philosophically tenable; it is an essential part of living the Christian life.  Without black-and-white thinking, it would be impossible to choose between two competing alternatives.  Without black-and-white thinking, theological and philosophical assertions would all receive equal acclaim, which is to say that truth at the end of the day is a matter of personal preference.

Whenever someone begins to back away from absolutes, reason and logic suddenly become unwelcome in the house of irrationality; a house that is destined to collapse under its own weight.  Peter Kreeft demonstrates the importance of logic: “If an argument has nothing but clear terms, true premises, and valid logic, its conclusion must be true” (Socratic Logic, 32).  Fuzzy thinking, however, tends to minimize the role of reason and logic, which at the end of the day proves not only unrealistic, but irrational.

Additionally, fuzzy thinking militates against the Law of the Excluded Middle.  James Nance and Douglas Wilson define this law: “Any statement is either true or false … it excludes the possibility of a truth value falling somewhere in the middle of truth or false” (Introductory Logic, xi).

Here’s the funny thing.  I am quite certain that Miller embraces these philosophical laws.  The problem is when he discourages black-and-white thinking, he unwittingly begins to whittle away at laws of logic which flow from the nature of God.  The downhill descent eventually leads to full-blown relativism.  Again, I am not concerned so much with Miller.  I am convinced that he would never go this route.  I am concerned, however, with those who are convinced by his arguments against black-and-white thinking.

DETERMINING A PROPOSAL REGARDING  BLACK-AND-WHITE THINKING

Donald Miller focuses on the so-called problems of black-and-white thinking.  I argue that Christian testimony and gospel witness will begin to erode to the degree that black-and-white thinking deteriorates.  Indeed, the essence of the gospel will erode to the degree we embrace fuzzy thinking.  Therefore, I submit the following proposal:

1. Black-and-White Thinking Should be Encouraged – Not Discouraged

Black-and-white thinking should be encouraged on biblical, philosophical, and practical grounds.  Sometimes, such thinking is criticized as “hair-splitting.”  Yet this black-and-white “hair-splitting” was indispensable as Athanasius challenged the arch-heretic, Arius.  This kind of thinking was a necessary part of formulating the doctrine of the Trinity and affirming the two natures of Christ; i.e. fully God and fully man.

Black-and-white thinking led to the formation of the major creeds and catechisms including the Apostles’ Creed, Nicene Creed, Chalcedonian Creed, the Heidelberg Catechism, and the Westminster Confession of Faith.

Black-and-white thinking should be encouraged.  For whenever black-and-white thinking is discouraged, the net result is theological error and irrationality.

2. Black-and-White Thinking is Essential to Christian Epistemology

Francis Schaeffer warned the church in 1968:  “We are fundamentally affected by a new way of looking at truth.  This change in the concept of the way we come to knowledge and truth is the most crucial problem facing America today” (The God Who Is There, 6).  In other words, “absolutes imply antithesis.”  The working antithesis is that God exists objectively (in antithesis) to his not existing.

The loss of antithesis (or repudiating black-and-white thinking) in American culture led to what Dr. Schaeffer coined the “line of despair” or giving up all hope of achieving a rational unified answer to knowledge and life.

So Christians must rise above the level of despair and affirm a Christ-saturated epistemology.  They recognize that truth is a unified whole.  They understand that there is no disparity between faith and reason.  In other words, faith and reason are not out of contact with each other.  They embrace what Nancy Pearcey refers to as “total truth.”

3. Black-and-White Thinking is Essential to Healthy Christian Living

Christ-followers who recognize that truth is unified understand this fundamental reality:  They know that black-and-white thinking is essential to the Christian life.  They recognize real good and real evil: “Ponder the path of your feet; then all your ways will be sure.  Do not swerve to the right or to the left; turn your foot away from evil” (Prov. 4:26-27, ESV).

Because Christians understand that “absolutes imply antithesis” they speak and live in terms of black-and-white:

“Whoever is steadfast in righteousness will live, but he who pursues evil will die.  Those of crooked heart are an abomination to the LORD, but those of blameless ways are his delight.  Be assured, an evil person will not go unpunished, but the offspring of the righteous will be delivered” (Prov. 11:19-21).

“Whoever speaks the truth gives honest evidence, but a false witness utters deceit” (Prov. 12:17).

4. There Should Be No Dichotomy Between Bold, Black-and-White Convictions and a Gracious Offering of Truth Claims

For instance, Jesus proclaims a series of woes on the Pharisees in Matthew 23.  His black-and-white thinking is actually stunning.  Yet at the end of chapter 23, we find him lamenting over Jerusalem: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, the city that kills the prophets and stones those who are sent to it!  How often would I have gathered your children together as a hen gathers her brood under her wings, and you would not!” (v. 37).

5. Black-and-White Truth Claims Should be Set Forth With Decisive Humility

On the one hand, Christ-followers must maintain their commitment to absolute truth claims.  They must do so vigorously and decisively.  They must boldly proclaim the truth in the marketplace of ideas.  And they must point to Christ, who is the essence of truth, apart from whom, knowledge is impossible.

On the other hand, Christ-followers must believe, proclaim, and defend black-and-white truth with Spirit-enabled humility: “But this is the one to whom I will look: he who is humble and contrite in spirit and trembles at my word” (Isa. 66:2b, ESV).  They must passionately proclaim truth “with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love …” (Eph. 4:2, ESV).  And they must teach and defend the truth and embrace the framework of 2 Timothy 2:24.  “And the Lord’s servant must not be quarrelsome but kind to everyone, able to teach, patiently enduring evil, correcting his opponents with gentleness …”

SUMMARY

I hear what Don Miller is saying and I suspect that he’s concerned with Christ-followers who demonstrate less than loving behavior.  He would be right to be concerned.  Indeed, Christ is the most loving person that ever existed or will ever exist.  But Christ was also a black-and-white thinker.  The prophets were black-and-white thinkers.  The apostles were black-and-white thinkers.  And the martyrs were black-and-white thinkers.

Miller’s position could be construed to mean something like this: “We need less truth and more love and grace.”  I am quite confident that this is not his intention.  Similarly, my position could be construed to promote the following: “We need less love and more truth.”  Of course, this is not my argument either.  Rather, as Christians, we are called to both!  We are called to speak the truth – and we are called to engage in this ministry of proclamation with love, gentleness, and humility.

The funny thing is that Miller uses black-and-white thinking to argue against black-and-white thinking.  So at worst, his argument is self-refuting.  At best, perhaps there is hope for the future because, in the final analysis, Miller embraces black-and-white thinking after all!

If Miller is concerned primarily with the promotion of personal opinions, fine.  If he is concerned with soliciting dogmatic statements in gray areas that concern cultural matters like music and one’s choice of the best Italian restaurant, I have no quarrel.  But when it comes to matters of eternal significance, black-and-white thinking is essential.

We live in a world of absolutes.  And absolutes demand humble and decisive proclamation.  May Christians continue to proclaim and defend black-and-white propositional truth to the glory of Jesus Christ.  My black-and-white proposal: Farewell to fuzzy thinking!

“I know that truth stands and is mighty forever, and abides eternally, with whom there is no respect of persons.” – John Hus, Czech reformer, black-and-white thinker and martyr (1412)

Veritas et Lux!

The Conscience of a Conservative for the 21st-Century

0804138109_bThe reason that I am a Conservative can be summarized by three important influences:

1. The influence of my parents and grandparents.

2. The leadership of President Ronald Reagan which restored American exceptionalism.

3. The Conscience of a Conservative by Barry Goldwater

The Conscience of a Conservative was written by Barry Goldwater in 1961.  I didn’t read it until I was a high school student and later read it as an adult.  It left a profound mark on me and continues to wield a mighty influence.  But a new book by former U.S Representative Allen West could easily serve as the new barometer for Conservatives.  Indeed, it could easily be considered The Conscience of a Conservative for the 21st century.  Guardian of the Republic is Congressman West’s plea to restore the vision of the founding fathers.  It is his earnest appeal to return to the ideological roots that make America great.

Part I: My Conservative Roots

Part one explores the background of Congressman West, a Lt. Colonel in the military who was raised in Atlanta and influenced by his parents which shaped him into the man he is today.

Part II: Conservative Principles

Part two is a primer on a conservative ideology which stands in the tradition of President Ronald Reagan.  The author includes the basic philosophical and historical framework which undergirds a strong conservative stance.  Among these principles include limited government, fiscal responsibility, a free market, individualism, a strong national defense, and an understanding that all of man’s liberty come ultimately from God.

West includes three “pillars of conservative thought” which include effective and efficient conservative government, peace through strength, and traditional American values.

None of these are new ideas.  But the reframing of these conservative principles is a welcome reminder which should call America back to her founding principles.

Part III: Conservatism in the Black Community

Part three may be the most interesting section.  The author calls black Americans to return to their roots – for they “fail to understand the soul of [their] souls.”  West reminds readers the reason for the establishment of the Republican Party: “the abolition of slavery through the passage of the Thirteenth Amendment.”  Yet many social programs only create dependency on the government and enslave people in the final analysis.  What’s the bottom line?  West argues that these programs are tantamount to a “twenty-first-century economic plantation.”  Slavery ended long ago, yet a new brand of slavery continues – a kind of slavery that needs to be abolished once again.

Part IV: The Future of the American Republic

Congressman West pleads with Americans to stand alert.  He challenges Americans to wrestle with some critical questions that will have an impact on the future direction of our country:

Do we want an opportunity society or a dependency society?

Do we prioritize preeminence or the individual,  dominance of the state?

Will we choose individual exceptionalism or collective relativism?

Do we value wealth creation and expansion, or wealth redistribution?

Will we bet on economic freedom or economic enslavement?

Do we stand for principle or for party?

Do we want policy or politics?

Congressman West warns readers, “If there is to be a future for this republic, we must elect good leaders, not highly marketed, well-politicized petty usurpers and impostors.”

While Congressman West has been caricatured as an “outcast” by some and a “war criminal” by others, nothing could be further from the truth.  He has been falsely maligned and his character has been unjustly impugned – all in keeping with Saul Alinsky’s horrible diatribe, Rules For Radicals.  Allen West is a breath of fresh air in a day when political expediency and opinion polls appear to rule the floor of Congress and the White House.  Congressman West is a man who says what he means and means what he says.  He is unmoved by the banter of political pundits.  And he refuses to be intimidated by the progressive agenda which is steeped in the ruinous ideology of socialism.  Allen West has led by example.  He has served our nation well.  He has guarded the Republic with honor, courage, and dignity.  Perhaps he can wield his influence in the Oval Office one day.  America would be a better place with this principled man behind the most powerful desk in the world.

The Great Cholesterol Myth – Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra

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 ME:“Doc, I cycle 100 miles a week, burn at least 10,000 calories a week, take fish oil, and I’m eating better.  I even take advantage of “nature’s broom” by eating oatmeal almost every day.  However, my cholesterol just won’t drop.

DOCTOR: “Because of family history and genetics, you simply won’t be able to lower your cholesterol without a statin.”

So for the several years, I’ve taken a well-known statin and the results have been favorable.  However, Drs. Jonny Bowden and Stephen Sinatra disagree with the notion that lowering cholesterol prevents heart disease.  Their book, The Great Cholesterol Myth contains an argument that pumps feverishly through the arteries of this book: The real causes of heart disease include four key factors, namely – inflammation, oxidation, sugar, and stress.  The authors contend the real tragedy is the fixation with cholesterol which has produced an industry that boasts over $30 billion a year in the statin market.  In a shocking statement, both authors maintain, “Cholesterol does not cause heart disease.”

Bowden and Sinatra point out that cholesterol is vital for healthy living: “Cholesterol is an essential molecule without which there would be no life, so important that virtually every cell in the body is capable of synthesizing it.”  For over fifty years, the so-called lipid hypothesis has dominated the medical community which essentially states that “saturated fat runs up cholesterol levels, and elevated cholesterol leads to heart disease.”  The hypothesis has never been proved but continues to rule in the hearts and minds of most Americans.

One of the most helpful aspects of The Great Cholesterol Myth is the discussion about the importance of coenzeme Q10 (better known as CoQ10) which serves an important nutrient, a sort of fuel source for the heart.  Statins deplete CoQ10 which may lead to muscle pain, weakness, and fatigue.  Yet none of the doctors that have prescribed a stain in my case have ever mentioned that importance of supplementing with CoQ10.  The authors plead with readers who take statins to immediately begin supplementing their cholesterol lowering drug with  CoQ10 – a minimum of 200 mg daily.

Dr. Sinatra admits that he still prescribes statins on occasion but “almost exclusively to middle-aged men who’ve already had a first heart attack, coronary intervention, or coronary artery disease.”  He argues, “Statin drugs are anti-inflammatory, and their power to reduce inflammation is more much important than their ability to lower cholesterol.  But [and here’s the clincher] we can lower inflammation (and the risk for heart disease) with natural supplements, a better diet, and lifestyle changes such as managing stress.”

The authors reveal a fascinating study that includes five factors that significantly lowered the risk for heart disease:

1. Don’t smoke.

2. Drink alcohol in moderation.

3. Engage in moderate-to-vigorous exercise for at least half an hour a day on average.

4. Maintain a healthy weight (BMI under 25).

5. Eat a wholesome, low-glycemic (low-sugar) diet with plenty of omega-3 fats and fiber.

Notice that lowering cholesterol is painfully absent from the list.  Perhaps this is why, as the authors note, “Cholesterol is a relatively minor player in heart disease and a poor predictor of heart attacks.  More than half of all people who are hospitalized with heart attacks have perfectly normal cholesterol levels.”

The heart of the book explores the real culprit behind heart disease.  The authors dogmatically claim “the true cause of heart disease is inflammation” or as they put it, “acute inflammation hurts, but chronic inflammation kills.”  Second, oxidation is one of the sure signs of inflammation, which leads to a fascinating conclusion, namely – the only time cholesterol becomes troubling is if it’s oxidized (or damaged).  Third, the authors note that “sugar is a far greater danger to your heart than fat ever was.”  They go on to demonstrate that “the number one dietary contributor to heart disease is sugar.”  Finally, stress is included as a major cause of heart disease.

Bowden and Sinatra wonder out loud if statins will become the next medical tragedy – quite comforting to anyone who has relied on statins for years on end!  Side-effects are explored, which is well documented, and side-effects which I have personally experienced.  But the alarming news is that some researchers are warning that statins may contribute to Alzheimers, thinking skills, and memory.  One researcher comments, “Cholesterol changes the shape of the protein to stimulate thinking and memory.”  But the fact that is most often repeated is ability of statins to deplete the body of CoQ10.  “The depletion of CoQ10 is one of the most important negative effects of statins, and the one that is pretty much responsible for a host of common side effects involving muscle pain, weakness, and loss of energy.” To summarize, the authors maintain the risk of using statins outweighs the rewards.

Finally, Bowden and Sinatra explore how supplements can lead to heart health such as vitamins, antioxidants, and omega-3 fats included in wild salmon.  Additionally, they recommend that stain users immediately begin to supplement their diet with CoQ10.  “Just as a gasoline engine can’t work without spark plugs, the human body can’t work without CoQ10.”

I am not ready to pitch my statin until my doctor recommends doing so.  But The Great Cholesterol Myth has got me thinking.  And it has led to some concrete action steps such as implementing CoQ10 into my daily diet.  I’m actually looking forward to my next doctor visit – where my list of questions will be long.  Let’s just say, I’ll be getting my money’s worth that day!

BLOODGOOD – Dangerously Close

bloodgoodIt’s hard to believe that over 30 years ago, I saw Bloodgood open for Stryper at the Paramount Theater in Seattle.  Even though I was fired up to see Stryper for the first time, I’ll never forget being blown away by Bloodgood.  They brought an energy to the stage that I’d never witnessed before.  But more important than energy was the gospel.  These four guys made it very clear they were Christians who just happened to be musicians who loved to rock.  The music never eclipsed the gospel; rather the gospel was only magnified by their music.

Bloodgood has returned stronger than ever with their first studio album in 22 years, Dangerously Close.  The rockers from Seattle are older and more seasoned.  David Zaffiro left the band years ago and has since been replaced by the virtuoso, Paul Jackson and more recently, Oz Fox from Stryper.

The album starts off strong with Lamb of God, an anthem that delights in the person and work of Christ:

He stretched out His arms to hold you/Gave up His life to know you/Lamb of God

On His knees He washed our feet/Poured His blood on the mercy seat/Told us to love one another/Lay down your life for your brother

Child on Earth  (a song that may prove to be the best track on the album) contrasts the righteousness of God and sinfulness of man in stark terms.  The Messiah is presented as the Virgin born, Son of God – the only One who can cover a sin-stained world.   It is a celebration of the proto-evangelium (the first gospel) that articulates the redemptive purposes of the Messiah that Scripture prophecies in Genesis 3 and Isaiah 9:

My sin, my sin, has gone away/The Lord has set me free/My friend, my friend beginning and end, the Lord has died for me/Virgin birth, child on     earth/Crucified, pierced his side

The child grew and the cradle fell, crushing the head of the snake from hell

Several songs have a vertical dimension that catapult listeners to Scripture soaked lyrics.  I Will has a psalm-like feel that exalts the living God and expresses trust in his Providential care.  Bread Alone expresses complete confidence in God’s all-sufficient grace.  Pray is a call to humble submission before a holy God who delights to answer the cry of His people.  And Run the Race challenges Christ-followers to live faithfully before God.

On a musical note: The guitar work on Dangerously Close is a feast for the ears. These guys are a real delight to listen to.  I’ll admit my biases up front.  I’m a huge fan of Paul Jackson and Oz Fox, two guitar players who are underrated and deserve more attention.

Bloodgood is a different band with a different sound.    But one thing remains the same.  Bloodgood is committed to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ, a message that rings loudly throughout their new album.   The cross stands at the center of the lyrical content – an emphasis that is missing in a lot of Christian music these days.  Dangerously Close is a solid offering that should please longtime fans and welcome new listeners to a very good band.

The White Flag Unfurled

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These are troubling times. We live in a day which is marked by theological error and apostasy. Leaders are falling, truth is routinely maligned, and compromise is celebrated. A glance across the cultural milieu reveals an unfurled white flag. The white flag has been hoisted high and a diabolical deal has been struck. This flag reveals a horrifying reality which must be addressed, namely – final surrender in the church.

The White Flag: When Compromise Cripples the Church diagnoses our current condition and offers biblical action steps for marching forward in a way that glorifies God. It is call to faithfulness in age that is characterized by weak knees, passivity, and capitulation. It instills courage in weary Christ-followers who toil in a post-Christian era.

“Here is a passionate call from a pastor’s heart, from a man widely read, who sees with great clarity the difficult situation the church now faces, with opposition without and weakness and compromise within, who believes the battle will be won by the faithful believing and by the courageous teaching and proclaiming of the Word of God.”

DR. PETER JONES, Director, TruthXchange, Author of “The Other Worldview,” Escondido, CA

“David Steele is a champion for the truth of God’s word.The White Flag not only exposes the destructive enemy of doctrinal compromise that threatens the contemporary church; it inspires godly courage in all believers to stand firm in defending the truth of Scripture no matter the cost. Read this excellent book to be blessed and emboldened by its timely message.”

WAYNE PICKENS, Founding pastor of Homestead Country Gathering, La Grande, OR

“Dr. David Steele exposes a clear and present danger threatening our churches. This is a biblical, bold, urgent call-to-arms reminding us that our Commander-in-Chief has entrusted us to a “Precious Treasure” that must be protected as well as proclaimed.”

NATE PICKOWICZ, Author of Reviving New England and How to Eat Your Bible.

Order your copy of The White Flag: When Compromise Cripples the Church here!