Author archives: Joseph Backholm

Ukraine, Russia, and Who to Believe

by Arielle Del Turco , Joseph Backholm

April 4, 2022

Most people believe journalists will lie to them. According to Gallup, only 36 percent of Americans have a “great deal” or “fair amount” of trust in the media and there are lots of reasons why.

Most recently, the legacy media has finally decided to admit it really was Hunter Biden’s laptop found in a pawnshop loaded with incriminating information, including incriminating information about Joe Biden, just before the 2020 election. When the media partnered with the Biden campaign to claim it was Russian disinformation, they weren’t telling the truth.

They also told the nation a high school kid from Kentucky, Nick Sandmann, was racist because they didn’t like the look on his face, they said border patrol was whipping Haitian immigrants on horseback when they weren’t, and described riots they were sympathetic to as “fiery but mostly peaceful protests.” Big media has earned every bit of skepticism they receive.

As a result, many have viewed coverage of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine skeptically. More than one month since the start of the unprovoked invasion, Russia has been brutal. Russian troops have attacked hospitals, including maternity hospitals, residential areas and apartment buildings, and refugee evacuation routes. A bombing of a Ukrainian theater where civilians were sheltering is estimated to have killed 300 people. Overwhelming public evidence and intelligence sources led Secretary of State Antony Blinken to officially declare that Russia is committing war crimes.

It is in situations like these that mistrust of the media can go too far. Rather than express shock and sympathy, there is almost a temptation to explain away the legacy media’s narrative. Some of us have become so cynical we assume everything we are being told is false. If they tell us Russia is the bad guy, they must be the good guy. If they tell us Ukraine is an innocent victim of a ruthless dictator, they must be the ruthless dictator.

We saw something similar, but different, happen recently when right-wing pundit Dave Rubin announced, along with his same-sex partner, that they are expecting two babies through surrogacy. In the past, Rubin tended to align more with the Left but developed an appreciation for the dangers of wokeness and stood up to the Left’s attempts to silence speech and punish those they disagree with. Upon his announcement, many conservatives, including professing social conservatives at Prager University and Glenn Beck’s Blaze TV, were quick to congratulate Rubin, apparently out of personal affection. It’s one thing to wish Dave Rubin well in life despite choices we disagree with—it’s another thing to celebrate decisions and developments we know to be wrong because the person doing the wrong thing is someone we generally like.

Which leads to the larger point.

As Christians, we must evaluate the truthfulness of a claim or the goodness of an action without regard to tribal identification or our personal feelings about the people involved. This is what the Apostle Peter refers to as being soberminded. We often think of sobriety as the opposite of drunkenness, but alcohol is not the only thing that can impair our mental capacity. Our emotions can be just as intoxicating. Peter warned us about the danger of emotional intoxication when he instructed us to, “Be sober-minded; be watchful. Your adversary the devil prowls around like a roaring lion, seeking someone to devour” (1 Pet. 5:8). Mental intoxication makes it easy for others to deceive us and makes it easy for us to deceive ourselves.

Sober-mindedness is an underrated yet important qualification for leadership in the church (1 Tim. 3:2; Titus 2:2). Someone who determines what is true based on how they feel is poorly equipped to lead people, especially the people of God.  

In other contexts, we immediately recognize the folly of focusing more on the messenger than the message. One common, and appropriate, criticism of Critical Race Theory (CRT) is that it calls us to consider someone’s racial identity before we consider the merits of their arguments. CRT discounts the perspectives of white people because they are white and it elevates the perspectives of non-white people based on the belief that lived experience gives non-white people a prioritized perspective.

This is both an irrational and unbiblical way of evaluating information. It goes without saying that people of all skin pigmentations are capable of being right and wrong and it is their ability to think and reason that determines their credibility, not their skin color. In the same way, our personal feelings towards something must not sway an objective assessment of truth and reality. Of course, it’s possible we might grow to dislike people we know to be untrustworthy, but it will always be true that those we love can say something false just as someone we dislike can say something true. The truth is the truth, even if someone who has lied in the past says it. These days, we tend to focus on the identity of the people involved more than the claims themselves to our own demise.

All this is important to keep in mind as we consume information and take in perspectives.

Yes, the mainstream, legacy media has said a lot of things that weren’t true. A lot. But that does not mean everything they say is false. We should not allow our personal frustration with someone’s willingness to misrepresent the truth prevent us from always looking for the truth. It is critical that we approach the situation of Ukraine with sober-mindedness and discernment. We must avoid the trap of calling good evil and evil good based on distrust of the media.

If we find ourselves trying to ignore information we might otherwise believe because of who it would force us to agree with, we may be more focused on fighting personal or partisan battles than trying to find the truth. That’s a dangerous place to be.

Despite War, Progressive Priorities Remain Unchanged

by Joseph Backholm

March 18, 2022

Emergency situations often have the effect of rearranging our priorities. When horrible things happen—even if they happen in faraway places and don’t personally affect us—they can remind us of what is most important. Weeks into Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, however, it does not appear that the Left is spending much time engaging in self-reflection.

Modern progressivism is built on the belief that psychological safety is a fundamental right. As a result, it has sought to leverage the power of the government to protect people from ideas, people, or situations that would make them unhappy or uncomfortable. This is why, in the minds of many progressives, the possibility of people being called the “wrong” pronouns, for example, merits government intervention in the form of restrictive speech codes.

Ironically, the result of these ideological commitments is that the most prosperous, comfortable, and privileged people in human history are also some of the most ungrateful. One might think a war outbreak would provide some helpful—if not sobering—perspective. Families being torn apart could even make us grateful for our lesser problems, and images of real violence might motivate us to permanently abandon the silly suggestion that peaceful speech that expresses an unwanted or unpopular opinion is violence.

Sadly, this does not appear to be the case.

Only hours after the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the head of British Intelligence took to Twitter to say, “With the tragedy and destruction unfolding so distressingly in Ukraine, we should remember the values and hard won freedoms that distinguish us from Putin, none more than LGBT+ rights.” It seems strange to be thinking about progressive gender ideology hours after a war breaks out. But evidently, virtue signaling was at the top of the to-do list for Britain’s top spy. Perhaps he was concerned the visibility of real victims might diminish the victim status of others?

That’s exactly what should happen.

A few days later, President Biden used the State of the Union to make sure people knew he had not forgotten the importance of identity politics. He lamented the “onslaught” of “anti-transgender” laws, referring to legislation in many states that would prevent the chemical and surgical castration of children who experience gender dysphoria.

Two days later, Vice President Kamala Harris likewise took a moment to show her support for the Equality Act, tweeting, “Let’s send the Equality Act to President Biden’s desk. We must increase protections for LGBTQ+ Americans across the country. The onslaught of state bills targeting transgender Americans and their families is wrong.” The Equality Act would, among other things, make sure men are allowed to participate in programs and opportunities previously reserved for women; anyone who dissents from these policies would be ineligible for government contracts or education funding.  

About the same time, CBS News ran a story expressing sadness that “Transgender acceptance in Ukraine is not widespread” and shared the concerns that a Ukrainian man who identifies as a woman would not be able to leave the country because men are being asked to stay and fight. For progressives in the media and those serving in Western governments, the point is clear: They will not let a war distract them from what they deem to be more important matters.

Still, the sexual revolution is not the only cause the war in Ukraine threatens to distract from. Their environmental agenda remain top of mind as well.

John Kerry, the former senator and secretary of state who currently serves as President Biden’s Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, expressed his hopes that Russia, despite their invasion of Ukraine, would “stay on track” with their commitments to combating climate change. Likewise, The Atlantic ran an article lamenting the environmental damage that would result from a nuclear war. 

These priorities are not merely academic. In fact, concerns over environmental impact appear to be driving the Biden administration’s reluctance to stop purchasing Russian energy. Officials don’t want to increase domestic production now for the same reasons they reduced domestic production in the first place. They believe reducing emissions is worth the cost, even if it is a human cost. As a result, they would rather send money to Russia during their invasion of Ukraine than abandon their emissions goals.

This tells us a lot about their worldview. Progressives aren’t going to let a war disrupt their efforts to help men pretend that they are women because they see the issues as similarly important. Likewise, they aren’t going to stop sending Russia money if it means increasing energy production because they see reducing carbon as a way of saving a life.

The universal condemnation of the Russian invasion shows us that there is still some moral common ground in the United States, but the Left’s continued prioritization of their policy agenda, even in the midst of a war, is revealing. If war does not inspire self-reflection, nothing will.

Should Christians Always Be Winsome?

by Joseph Backholm

February 25, 2022

Christians like to talk about whether it’s appropriate for Christians to engage in politics. Even more than that, Christians like to talk about the tone we should use if we do. Winsome is not just the name of Virginia’s new lieutenant governor, but also an adjective often used to describe the way Christians should talk—at all times—about cultural issues.

Proverbs tells us that “sweetness of speech increases persuasiveness” (Prov. 16:21, ESV), so we reasonably conclude that we will be more effective influencers if we aren’t harsh in our delivery. Scripture is filled with reminders that life and death are in the power of the tongue (Prov. 18:21), and the apostle Paul spent significant time instructing the church how to speak to each other. For example, he instructed the Colossians, “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Col. 4:6). He also exhorted the Ephesians:

Let no corrupting talk come out of your mouths, but only such as is good for building up, as fits the occasion, that it may give grace to those who hear…. Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you. (Eph. 4:29-32)

Unquestionably, the way we speak to each other matters.

As Christians, our goal is to be like Jesus. So, in this respect and all others, we need to consider what tone Jesus used in His communication with people.

But answering the question of what tone we ought to use in our discourse is not simple. Jesus’ tone changed depending on who His audience was. To those who were humble, meek, and repentant, Jesus was humble and meek. “Let the little children come unto me” (Matt. 19:14). The way He treated the sick (Luke 4-5, Matt. 8-9) and the grace He showed to the adulterous woman (John 8) and the thief on the cross (Luke 23) all reflect Christ’s gentleness.

One might even say He was winsome.

But when Jesus interacted with the proud and deceitful, He took on a very different tone. We know He overturned the tables of the money changers in the temple and cleared it with a whip (John 2:14-16). Throughout the gospels, He called Israel’s religious leaders “fools” (Matt.23:17), “snakes” (Matt. 23:33), “vipers” (Luke 3:7), “blind guides” (Matt. 15:14), “whitewashed tombs” (Matt. 23:27), and “hypocrites” (Mark 7:6) and declared that they were greedy, self-indulgent, and wicked sons of the devil who “do not belong to God” (John 8, Matt. 23).

This is less winsome.

In Luke 6, Jesus pronounced woe on the rich, well-fed, and jubilant and called the Canaanite people “dogs” (Matt. 15:27). He pronounced woe on the cities of Chorazin, Bethsaida, and Capernaum (Matt. 11:21-23), referred to the Pharisees and Sadducees as a “wicked and perverse generation” (Matt. 16:4) and told Peter, “Get behind me, Satan” (Matt. 16:23).

All of this might even be described as harsh.

If Jesus was not sinning when He said these things—and He wasn’t—we are forced to accept that there are times when gentleness is not what the moment calls for, even if gentleness should always be part of our character. One does not gently warn the sleeping members of their family that the house is on fire. One does not coax their child out of the street when a car is fast approaching. There are moments in time—and history—when a lack of urgency is negligent or even evil. Saving someone from hell harshly is better than ushering them into hell gently.

Of course, this is not a license to express whatever emotion we feel each moment.

What Jesus did perfectly, and we do imperfectly, is act out of love. When He referred to the Pharisees as “fools,” “liars,” and “snakes,” it was because they were, in fact, fools, liars, and snakes. He did not use these terms for sport but in an attempt to awaken them to the reality of their blindness and invite them to a better way, and some of them followed (Acts 15:5).

Unlike Jesus, the words we use are often an attempt to settle personal scores against those who annoy or offend us. Not only are we not seeking their good, but we are seeking and actively contributing to their harm. This is what should be avoided at all costs.

Plain-spoken words communicating difficult truths can be an act of genuine love. “Faithful are the wounds of a friend” (Prov. 27:6). This becomes truer as pressure builds to avoid speaking any kind of truth that would harm someone’s psychological safety. In addition, an unwillingness to listen to someone because we don’t like their “tone” might say more about the hearer than the speaker. If we are offended by someone’s words, we must consider the possibility that we are not primarily offended by the way they have said it but by the fact that what they have said is true, and we don’t want to deal with it.

Yes, kindness and gentleness are fruits of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22-23), and they should define how we live. But this does not mean we can only do and say things that immediately make people happy. The words we use with the broken and outcast may well be different from those we use with the liar, the wicked, or the abuser in the midst of their abuse. But we must make sure, whether our words are winsome or difficult, that they are spoken in love.

When Liberal “Truths” Come Home to Roost, We Get Lia Thomas

by Joseph Backholm

January 28, 2022

You might have heard about Lia Thomas, a swimmer for the University of Pennsylvania who, after swimming on the men’s team for three years as Will Thomas, now competes on the women’s team. The results have been predictable. As of December, Thomas had recorded the fastest times in women’s college swimming in the 200 and 500 freestyle and won a 1650 meter freestyle event by nearly 40 seconds. It turns out men are very fast women.

The reaction has also been predictable. Yes, a few see it as a sign of “progress,” but most people instinctively recognize the injustice and insanity of it all. The crowds have been known to sit silently after Thomas completes a race and wait for the first female swimmer to finish before applauding. Although the NCAA insists the emperor’s new clothes are beautiful, it seems the onlookers aren’t buying it.

Those who are most frustrated might not fully appreciate how this all came to be. One female Penn swimmer has expressed her frustration anonymously out of fear of retribution. She told The Daily Wire that “I am typically liberal, but this is past that. This is so wrong. This doesn’t make any sense.”

Apparently, she sees no connection between her “typically liberal” values and what she now experiences on her swim team. That’s a mistake.

Thomas’ teammate likely equates being “liberal” with being “tolerant” and “nice.” She probably grew up encouraging people to live “authentically” so they could be happy. But now, those chickens are coming home to roost.

Another anonymous teammate explained in a different interview how the situation is affecting the team. “They feel so discouraged because no matter how much work they put in it, they’re going to lose. Usually, they can get behind the blocks and know they out-trained all their competitors and they’re going to win and give it all they’ve got. Now they’re having to go behind the blocks knowing no matter what, they do not have the chance to win. I think that it’s really getting to everyone.”

It’s helpful to remember how we got here. Ten short years ago, same-sex marriage was illegal in most places, but the campaign to legalize it was going strong. At that time, few were claiming boys can become girls. In fact, the movement mocked the idea that same-sex marriage diminished the two halves of humanity in any way. They said this was just about the freedom to “be who you are” and “love who you love.”  

Two things happened during the national debate over marriage that the Penn women’s swim team would do well to think about. First, our society embraced the idea that living “authentically” is the greatest thing a person can do. Second, we accepted the notion that the differences between men and women weren’t significant enough for the law to be concerned about.

For the transgender movement, the most difficult work was already done. Americans had been convinced that denying someone else’s truth made you a bad person, and along came Lia Thomas expressing the desire to live “authentically” while also claiming the differences between men and women weren’t significant enough to be concerned about.

Thomas’ new teammates want to object, but they agreed with the premise long ago. Either truth is personal, or it isn’t. Either we all have the right to live “authentically,” or there are ultimate truths we need to understand and embrace lest we destroy ourselves. These are binary choices, and many who took the path most traveled are becoming upset when they find out where it leads.

We all should have known better, and some of us did, but, in general, we were too busy feeling to think. The slogans were too easy to agree with and the social credit associated with being on the “right side of history” was irresistible. It was intoxicating to dream of a world just over the horizon—after we eradicated all the Neanderthals—where everyone could do what made them happy without judgment, bigotry, and hate. People were personally so excited about the potential of being able to do whatever they wanted that they did not adequately consider what might happen if everyone else did whatever they wanted, too.

In this case, they joined the swim team and beat you by 40 seconds. But it can get worse. Unless Thomas’ teammates and everyone else who enabled the status quo reevaluates what we’ve been doing for the last decade, they will long for the day when their greatest concern was men on their swim team.

Is Diversity a Biblical Goal?

by Joseph Backholm

January 14, 2022

While racial tensions reached a fever pitch in the aftermath of George Floyd’s tragic death, the issue is not new. Two thousand years ago, Paul addressed the issue of race in his letter to the Galatian church when he said, “There is neither Jew nor Gentile, neither slave nor free, nor is there male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:28).

Appropriately, the church has taken a leading role in the effort to bring unity and racial reconciliation where it is needed. In some cases, this has led some church congregations and denominations to place a special emphasis on cultivating racial diversity in their midst.

For example, the Acts 29 church planting network, started by Mark Driscoll and now led by Matt Chandler, has a Diversity Initiative. Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary has a Kingdom Diversity Initiative. Hillsong Church says they are “committed to providing strategic direction to enable us as a global church to make progress in racial diversity and equity.” Various Christian colleges have published their “Christ-centered rationale for Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion.”

All this emphasis on diversity begs the question: should church congregations be making a concerted effort to be racially diverse?

There are many things Christians are commanded to do, including loving one another (Rom. 13, John 13), honoring one another (Rom. 12:10), accepting one another (Rom. 15:7), being at peace with each other (Mark 9:50), serving one another (Gal. 5:13), carrying each other’s burdens (Gal. 6:2), and forgiving one another (Eph. 4:32). There are no exceptions for people who don’t look like you, talk like you, or think like you.

But nowhere does Scripture command us to have racially diverse congregations.

Of course, this does not mean racial diversity is wrong. It can often be helpful. But it is not specifically a moral good because nowhere does God say that diversity is a virtue in and of itself.

It is beyond dispute that the Kingdom of God is racially diverse. Not only are the world’s 2.3 billion Christians spread all over the planet, but John’s vision of heaven in Revelation gives a glimpse of what the diversity of heaven looks like: “After this I looked, and there before me was a great multitude that no one could count, from every nation, tribe, people and language, standing before the throne and before the Lamb. They were wearing white robes and were holding palm branches in their hands. And they cried out in a loud voice: ‘Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb’” (Rev. 7:8-9). Heaven is diverse.

This vision of different people praising the same God is beautiful and even aspirational, but it does not mean that racial diversity is inherently virtuous. We know this because if that same group of people pictured in John’s vision were chanting “Hail, Satan!” it would be no consolation that they are a diverse assembly. What we intuitively understand—but must say—is that racial diversity can be a sign of something good but is not something good in and of itself. Racial diversity could be a sign of discipleship, but is not a form of discipleship.

In one sense, this is simply practical. It would be silliness, for example, to tell a group of Christians in remote places like the jungle of the Congo or the mountains of India that they need more racial diversity. In some places, racial diversity isn’t realistic. But this point is not merely practical. If we emphasize the secondary over the primary, we end up with the wrong goals.

The primary goal for Christians is to love God and others. We rightly see racism as a violation of God’s commandment to love our neighbor (Mark 12:31) and may see racial diversity as evidence that racism is not present. This is logical, but there is a risk. The emphasis on racial diversity as the antidote to racism may create a situation where we see racial diversity not as evidence of love but as a form of love. As a result, diversity has become an end unto itself.

The problem with confusing diversity for the sake of diversity with real, biblical love is that it puts the cart before the horse. In a world where diversity is a form of love, communities that are “diverse” are inherently better than those that are not. In a world where diversity is a form of love, we inevitably value people differently based on their ability or inability to contribute to our diversity. Christians can’t subscribe to this mindset. In addition, while efforts to be diverse are nearly always well-intentioned, the temptation to appear diverse can easily become self-centered. Only God knows when we’ve crossed the line from trying to love people well to trying to look good, but the line exists.

Consider an analogy from Acts 5. Ananias and Sapphira were a couple in the early church who made a public display of generosity. However, they intentionally misrepresented their gift, and God put them to death for it (Acts 5:1-11). Generosity is a good goal; wanting to look generous in the eyes of our fellow man is not. In the same way, it can be good to be diverse but not if we are merely wanting to look diverse. If God is more concerned with the condition of our hearts than the complexion of our skin—and He is—we should be, too.

What every Christian can do, in all times and all places, is love people the way Jesus does. In communities where people look different, the love of Jesus will transcend racial barriers and bring people together. In communities where people look the same, the love of Jesus will transcend other boundaries, including class, politics, age, or sex.

None of this means that concerns about racism are invalid or that the church should not be part of the solution. Our call to seek justice, provide hospitality, and care for the marginalized will create a community that some might call diverse. In addition, when people share pain and frustration about the brokenness of the world, we should be slow to speak and quick to hear. But racial diversity that honors Jesus will never be achieved by making it our primary objective. It will, however, inevitably develop as Christians follow the example of Jesus. Seeking Jesus will lead to racial diversity; seeking racial diversity will not lead to Jesus. Jesus’ words in the Sermon on the Mount seem to apply here: “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added unto you” (Matt. 6:33).

No doubt, the emphasis on diversity is well-meaning, but it comes with real risks. If we pursue diversity with more passion than we pursue love, we are very likely going to miss both.

What To Believe About Issues Jesus Didn’t Discuss

by Joseph Backholm

October 15, 2021

A favorite argument of those trying to push the boundaries of Christian ethics is an argument from silence. It usually goes something like this: “Jesus never talked about [insert issue], so that means He doesn’t care.” 

However, arguments from silence are a type of logical fallacy. The lack of evidence for something does not mean the gaps in our knowledge should be filled with assumptions. Furthermore, every parent who has heard their child say, “You didn’t see me do it,” understands that those who depend most heavily on a lack of proof might not be prioritizing the truth.

When it comes to the Christian life, arguments from silence are more than just sloppy thinking. They might also be evidence of a heart that is more interested in getting its own way than trying to live God’s way.

Fundamental to the gospel is the idea of submission. Paul expressed this attitude when he wrote, “I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me” (Gal 2:20, ESV).

When we justify our morally questionable decisions with an argument from silence, we put the cart before the horse. Our goal should not be to do whatever we want until someone says, “No,” but to affirmatively look for ways to honor God with our lives. 

Instead of asking, “Is it okay if I do this?” we should be asking, “Does God want me to do this?”

The first instinct of a life surrendered to God is to find out what He wants, not to see if we can justify doing what we want. As Christians, everything we do should be viewed through the lens of honoring God. As Paul said, “[W]hatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him” (Col. 3:17).

The instinct to see what we can get away with is evidence that we don’t always want God to be in charge. We want Him to supervise and provide help when needed, but mostly we want Him to help us have fun. In his book The Problem of Pain, C.S. Lewis described that view of God in this way:  

We want, in fact, not so much a father in heaven as a grandfather in heaven—a senile benevolence who, as they say, “liked to see young people enjoying themselves” and whose plan for the universe was simply that it might be truly said at the end of each day, “a good time was had by all.”

The God of the Bible demands daily submission for His glory and our pleasure because He loves us and understands that our sinful desires promise joy and satisfaction but deliver neither. 

Even Jesus, who is fully God and an equal member of the Trinity, was primarily focused on what God the Father wanted Him to do. As Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, the Son can do nothing of his own accord, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, that the Son does likewise” (John 5:19).

It is folly to build our moral view of the world around what Jesus did not talk explicitly about. After all, Jesus didn’t say anything specifically about sexual assault or flying planes into skyscrapers, yet we can still know what God thinks about them. As Christians, our desire should be to think biblically about everything. Even though the Bible doesn’t provide explicit instructions on every issue or question we may encounter in life, the answers are not difficult to find if we actually want to find them.  

When considering what Jesus said and thinks, our attitude makes all the difference. Any time we find ourselves saying, “Jesus didn’t say you can’t…” is a good time to take inventory of our motives and make sure that we are really wanting what God wants and not merely trying to justify doing what we want.

Image: Carl Heinrich Bloch, “Sermon on the Mount” (1877)

Critical Race Theory and the Path to Truth

by Joseph Backholm

August 25, 2021

Some see the debate over Critical Race Theory (CRT) as a disagreement between those who think racism is real and those who do not. But this is not the case. Thoughtful critics of CRT understand that it is not merely a tool for understanding the history of racism. Rather, CRT’s oppressor/oppressed framework is a way of understanding and interpreting the world—one that is significantly in conflict with a biblical worldview because it offers a different understanding of truth.

For Christians, God is the source of truth, and His truth is revealed to us in Scripture. But proponents of CRT see truth differently. They see the “right versus wrong” view of the world as part of the oppressive systems they seek to overthrow. Consider the following comments from an advocate of CRT:

Heterosexual white men in this society tend to have a dualistic view of the world: we are either right or wrong, winners or losers. There is only one truth, and we will fight with one another to determine whose truth is right. To understand oppression requires that we accept others’ experiences as truthful, even though they may be very different from ours. To live with equality in a diverse, pluralistic society, we have to accept the fact that all groups and individuals have a legitimate claim to what is true and real for them

– Cooper Thompson, “Can White Men Understand Oppression?” Readings for Diversity and Social Justice, p. 478

From this perspective, experience guides us to truth, and what is truth for me might not be truth for you. From a biblical perspective, this kind of thinking is very dangerous because our feelings about reality often conflict with reality. Scripture tells us that our feelings can deceive us: “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it?” (Jer. 17:9, ESV). Furthermore, Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person” (Mk. 7:20-23).

The Bible constantly reminds us that our feelings can align with reality but often do not. Even though the accuser might condemn us, Scripture says “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 8:1). In addition, the moments in which we feel most self-satisfied are the moments we are reminded to “humble yourselves therefore before the mighty hand of God that He may exalt you in due time” (1 Pet. 5:6).

Endorsing multiple, subjective versions of truth is not the only way CRT conflicts with the Bible’s understanding of truth. This 2018 tweet from Union Seminary in New York City (not to be confused with other institutions named Union) illustrates that for some, critical theory becomes the standard through which Scripture is interpreted. The seminary said, “While divinely inspired, we deny the Bible is inerrant or infallible. It was written by men over centuries and thus reflects both God’s truth and human sin & prejudice. We affirm that biblical scholarship and critical theory help us discern which messages are God’s.”

When you use critical theory to interpret the Bible, you give it a higher authority in your life than Scripture. 

CRT also encourages us to apply different moral standards based on the racial identity of the people involved. This was made evident in a controversy over a series of tweets from a former New York Times editor named Sarah Jeong.

When the Times hired Jeong in 2018 her Twitter history surfaced, including tweets that said the following:  

Oh man it’s kind of sick how much joy I get out of being cruel to old white men.” July 2014

Are white people genetically predisposed to burn faster in the sun, thus logically being only fit to live underground like groveling goblins.” December 2014

At a minimum, these tweets were unkind, and should they have been directed at any other ethnic group, they would have been universally decried as racist. Does directing them at white people make them not racist? By the standards of CRT, yes. This perspective was articulated by Zach Beauchamp, a writer at the left-wing outlet Vox.  Discussing the dustup, he argued that “The underlying power structure in American society” is what differentiates these tweets from “actual racism.” In other words, these tweets weren’t “racist” because they targeted the race that CRT deemed it acceptable to be hateful toward.

This view of morality stands in direct contrast with Scripture, which tells us that God will judge each of us for our actions. “For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive what is due for what he has done in the body, whether good or evil” (2 Cor. 5:10). There are no exceptions or allowances for sin based on our skin color or that of the people we might offend. “God ‘will repay each person according to what they have done’” (Rom. 2:6, NIV) and, unlike humans, He shows no partiality (Rom. 2:11, 10:12; Col. 3:25).

Because of the persecution faced by first century Christians, Paul told the church to “Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse” (Rom. 12:14). Likewise, Jesus told us how to respond to those who wrong us: “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you and persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven” (Mat. 5:44). The reason for this is that loving people who love us is unexceptional. As Jesus said to his disciples, “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them” (Luke 6:32).

So, we see that CRT is not merely a tool to evaluate the sin of racism. CRT offers a worldview that is incompatible with Scripture and the way God has called us to live.  

How Unmet Expectations Destroy our Faith

by Joseph Backholm

July 21, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

If you are married, there’s a good chance you did some premarital counseling that included conversations about what to expect in marriage. These conversations hopefully encompassed much more than who is going to mow the lawn and manage the money. Ideally, these conversations fostered an understanding of what “in good times and bad” actually means. In marriage, as in all relationships, disappointment often results when our expectations don’t match reality.

The Christian life isn’t all that different. Many people turn to God because of problems they hope He can fix. Some of us are like the so-called “foxhole Christian” who promises to “live for God” if He will spare our lives and help us survive the battle. Of course, God can meet us in our moments of biggest need, but if we surrender to God because of what He might do for us (instead of what He has already done for us) we run the risk of our expectations not matching reality.

If we expect that serving God will make our lives easier, what happens when serving God makes life harder? Could this help explain why some Christians are walking away from their faith? Here is some research I detailed in a recent publication:

America is becoming less religious and has been for a while. In just the last decade, the number of people claiming to be Christian has declined 12 percent—from 77 percent to 65 percent. Not only is America less Christian as a percentage, the total number of professing Christians has declined from 176 million in 2009 to 167 million in 2019, even as the population increased by 23 million.

Further:

The fastest growing religious category in America is the “nones”—those who claim to have no religion at all. Over the last decade, the number of Protestants declined 15 percent and the number of Catholics declined 12 percent, while the “nones” grew 70 percent—from 12 percent of the population to 17 percent in 2019. That’s an additional 30 million people who now claim no religious faith. Of those, 78 percent grew up in the church. The church is losing its own kids.

Cultural shifts never have just one cause, but it’s worth considering whether people leave the church because, as with many marriages, their expectations didn’t match reality.

When we become Christians, we take sides in a spiritual war that has been raging on this planet since Adam and Eve first sinned. Taking sides in a war—particularly a spiritual one—has consequences. Although this might seem obvious, it is often not highlighted when the gospel is presented.

Of course, submitting our lives to Christ does fix our biggest problem: our sin. But many people are unaware of what their biggest problem is, and in many cases, people are more interested in solving their financial, social, or marital problems than their damnation problem. It’s easy to be more interested in the gifts than the Giver, but from God’s perspective, He is the prize: “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added to you” (Mat. 6:33).

The Christian life is filled with joy (Ps. 16:11), but the joy of the Christian life is counterintuitive to the world’s ideas about joy. Even our suffering can be a source of joy: “My brethren, count it all joy when you fall into various trials, knowing that the testing of your faith produces patience” (James 1:2, NKJV). 

In fact, we are blessed at the moments when life might seem most challenging, “Blessed are you when they revile and persecute you and say all manner of evil against you falsely for my sake and the gospel” (Mat. 5:11). Being misunderstood and mistreated can not only be a source of joy but evidence that we are doing exactly what Jesus wants us to do: “Rejoice, and be exceedingly glad: for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you” (Mat. 5:12).

If we come to Jesus because the Lamb is worthy of His reward, we will never be disappointed. If we come to Jesus because we were hoping He could fix a few things, it could be unsettling if our lives become temporarily more difficult.

The reward of the Christian life is not the absence of pain. In fact, becoming a Christian may introduce even more pain and persecution into your life. But one of the rewards of following Jesus is seeing that our pain—even our deepest hurt and suffering—is temporary and that what awaits us on the other side of the pain is more than worth it. This was the apostle Paul’s point when he said, “For I reckon that the sufferings of this present time are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us” (Rom. 8:18). Moreover, as Christians, we gain the perspective that God is at work in our sufferings and uses them to conform us into the people He wants us to be.

Many Christians did not sign up expecting a war. For many, once being a Christian became more of a liability rather than an asset (culturally speaking), they sought a discharge from the service. If we come to Jesus more focused on this life than the next, it’s possible we’ll be disappointed. Based on the numbers, many people are.

Thinking Biblically About Racism

by Joseph Backholm

June 23, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

Critical Race Theory (CRT) seems to have captured the public consciousness as of late. Ideological battle lines are being drawn over it—some states are moving to ban it, while some government agencies are looking to mandate it where they can. Local communities are divided over whether or not it should be taught in schools, and school board meetings are becoming the front lines of this new culture war. For something as hotly debated as CRT, it is curious that there does not seem to be a common understanding or agreement about what it is or how it ought to be defined. However, generally speaking, CRT seems to teach that, in America, being a white person is always a problem, and not being a white person is always a sign of oppression.

As with any issue, Christians’ primary goal regarding race and racism should be to view it through the lens of Scripture and try to think about it the way God does. When seeking to think biblically about race, here are some truths that may be helpful.  

1. God made us different on purpose.

In Genesis 1-2, we read that God made mankind in His image, but one only needs to look around to see that He didn’t make us all exactly the same. That means that there is something in our differences that reflects the image of God in different ways. There is no biblical reason to try to minimize or ignore these obvious differences. We don’t need to be “color blind” any more than we need to be “height blind.” Pretending not to notice that the seven-foot man is tall would just be weird. Some people are taller while others are shorter. Some people have darker skin, and some people have lighter skin. We’re different. God made us that way. The problems arise if we start treating people as being lesser than ourselves based on the different ways God made us.

2. God does not show favoritism.

Although God knows we are different, He expects us to love one another (Mk. 12:31) and not look down on each other based on our differences. There are many biblical reasons for racism being bad. Not only is it prideful, unloving, and unkind, it is not considering others as better than yourself, which Christians are commanded to do (Phil 2:3). Beyond that, racism is a show of favoritism, which Christians are repeatedly warned against (Rom. 2:11, Acts 10:34, Eph. 6:9). Racial favoritism isn’t the only kind that God disapproves of; Christians are also forbidden from showing favoritism toward the rich (James 2:2-4). However you think about it, showing favoritism is wrong.

3. God hates oppression.

Although God is opposed to favoritism generally, He is especially opposed to the kind of favoritism that oppresses the vulnerable. In fact, God considers the way we treat the vulnerable to be an indication of what we think about Him.

Whoever oppresses a poor man insults his Maker, but he who is generous to the needy honors him. (Prov. 14:31, ESV)

If we oppress the vulnerable, we are not only propagating injustice, but we are also making ourselves God’s enemy.

Do not rob the poor, because he is poor, or crush the afflicted at the gate, for the Lord will plead their cause and rob of life those who rob them. (Prov. 22:22-23)

God told Israel that His blessing was conditional upon their willingness to end oppressive practices.

For if you truly amend your ways and your deeds, if you truly execute justice one with another, if you do not oppress the sojourner, the fatherless, or the widow, or shed innocent blood in this place, and if you do not go after other gods to your own harm, then I will let you dwell in this place, in the land that I gave of old to your fathers forever. (Jer. 7:5-7)

4. God wants us to come to the aid of the oppressed.

God not only wants us to avoid being oppressive, but He also wants us to stop others from being oppressive as well.

Give justice to the weak and the fatherless; maintain the right of the afflicted and the destitute. Rescue the weak and the needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Psalm 82:3-4)

We are also supposed to speak for those who cannot speak for themselves.

Open your mouth for the mute, for the rights of all who are destitute. Open your mouth, judge righteously, defend the rights of the poor and needy. (Prov. 31:8-9)

For the Christian, believing that something God says is bad is in fact bad is not adequate. God wants us to be part of the solution.

5. The oppressed have responsibilities, too.

Although God hates oppression, being oppressed is not a license to sin. God wants us to treat those who oppress us in the way Jesus treated those who oppressed Him. Paul tells those who are oppressed:

Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. (Rom. 12:14)

Jesus said:

Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven. (Mat. 5:44-45)

Jesus also said that an inability to love our enemies is evidence of our own selfishness:

If you love those who love you, what benefit is that to you? For even sinners love those who love them. (Luke 6:32)

We must forgive those who wrong us (Rom. 12:17; Mat. 6:15, 18:21-22; 1 Pet. 3:9) and not seek revenge. As Paul said to the Romans:

Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” (Rom. 12:19)

God wants us to oppose injustice with a heart of love rather than a heart of bitterness.

6. God cares more about our actions than our skin color.

Today’s culture is fixated on what people look like. Although an intersectional approach gives people bonus points and deductions based on their sex or pigmentation, God will judge us by our actions: “He will render to each one according to his works” (Rom. 2:6). God is most interested in helping His image-bearers to be righteous like Him. As always, “man looks on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7). Our skin color is a real and wonderful part of who God made us to be, but it is not the thing that matters most to Him. Therefore, it should not be the thing that matters most to us.

7. Racism is a symptom, not the disease.

Racism is an undeniable evil, but it is not humanity’s primary challenge. Ever since mankind first tried to convince ourselves that we could be like God (Gen. 3:5), we have been trying to make ourselves feel superior to those around us. The strong feel superior to the weak, the rich feel superior to the poor, the beautiful feel superior to the ordinary. Racism is simply another manifestation of pride, and we know God hates racism because “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” (James 4:6). Speaking through Solomon, God uses even stronger language: “Pride and arrogance and the way of evil and perverted speech I hate” (Prov. 8:13). Even if everyone’s skin color was the same, our sin would still compel us to elevate ourselves at the expense of others.

8. Your biggest problems in life are inside you.

The biggest problem we face is a sinful heart. The apostle Paul described it this way:

For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing. (Rom. 7:19)

Jesus explained that this is the function of a corrupt heart:

But what comes out of the mouth proceeds from the heart, and this defiles a person. For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false witness, slander. (Mat. 15:18-19)

The prophet Jeremiah explained:

The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately sick; who can understand it? (Jer. 17:9)

Our own hearts are a much greater threat to us than systemic injustices. Fixing broken systems will accomplish little if we have not won the battle inside ourselves. However, if each of us wins the interior battle with our hearts, we will find a dramatic improvement in the exterior systems. Let’s make sure we don’t put the cart before the horse.

Thinking Biblically About “Pride Month”

by Joseph Backholm

June 2, 2021

On “Worldview Wednesday,” we feature an article that addresses a pressing cultural, political, or theological issue. The goal of this blog series is to help Christians think about these issues from a biblical worldview. Read our previous posts on the Center for Biblical Worldview page.

If you are on the internet, you likely know that June is “Pride Month.” Your social media feed will be filled with promotions, companies will temporarily change their logos to show that they are down with the struggle, and city streets will be lined with rainbow flags in solidarity with the sexual revolution.  

Meanwhile, many Christians will struggle with knowing how to respond. If you’re one of them, here are a few things to remember.

Pride celebrations are not new.

Although pride parades down the streets of America’s cities are a relatively recent development, people making a declaration of independence from God is so old it is almost cliché.  

In the Garden of Eden, God told Adam and Eve not to eat of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil (Gen. 2:16-17; 3:2-3). However, Eve, with Satan’s help, convinced herself that doing things her way would help her become like God. Perhaps she decided she was spiritual, not religious.

She observed that the tree was good for food, that it was a delight to the eyes, and that it was desirable to make one wise (Gen. 3:6). She convinced herself that her rebellion would not be rebellion at all but virtue. She found God’s rules to be stifling of her individuality and was ready to chart a new path. Her husband even joined her. They may have even felt a sense of pride as they freed themselves from the bondage of God’s rules.

Basically, Adam and Eve started these parades, and we’ve all participated in various ways and with varying degrees of enthusiasm.     

You can love the way God wants you to or the way the world wants you to, but not both.

Much will be said about love this month. T-shirts, memes, and parade signs will declare that “love is love” and that “love wins.” Whether Christians can agree with these sentiments depends on how “love” is defined. Proponents of the sexual revolution would have us believe that we show love for someone by affirming identities, indulging desires, and encouraging each other to “live your truth.” But God’s definition of love is very different.

Scripture reminds us that “Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful” (1 Cor. 13:4-5). But then it goes on to remind us that love “does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth” (1 Cor. 13:6). This crucial verse is where God’s understanding of love and the world’s understanding of love diverge. God’s love forbids the celebration of things God does not celebrate. The world’s understanding of love requires it.

This means that a Christian’s unwillingness to celebrate Pride Month will be seen by the world as an act of hate and by God as an act of love. Christians must choose whose definition of love they will accept.  

Pride comes before a fall.

It’s ironic that those who started “Pride” events used the term “pride” to describe them. They named their entire movement after one of the seven deadly sins; a sin that Proverbs assures us is the prelude to our destruction: “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). It is almost as if God was looking to make it obvious what was actually happening here. Just as we would be wise to avoid celebrating “Wrath Month” or a “Lust Parade,” Christians should be wary of celebrating pride. After all, we know what happens next.   

No one is beyond the love or reach of Jesus.

While Christians are right to separate themselves from celebrations of sin, we should be equally careful to avoid a different but equally bad kind of pride—self-righteousness. If Christians have any goodness within ourselves, we do not deserve the credit. After all, “[God] saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit” (Titus 3:5).

Rather than a sense of self-righteousness, Jesus modeled how our hearts should respond to people who are lost:

When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest” (Mat. 9:36-38).

When we see crowds who are lost, we should be moved to compassion, not self-righteousness.

Don’t be afraid.

This month, some will encounter a city street lined with rainbow flags or unwittingly expose their child to sexual revolutionary propaganda on Blue’s Clues and be prone to despair. Don’t despair.

Fear is never from God (2 Tim. 1:7). Whatever situation you are dealing with, God is not surprised by it, nor is it beyond His control. However, He knows we are prone to worry, which is why Peter encourages us to cast all our anxieties on Him (1 Peter 5:7). The same God who formed the mountains and put the planets into orbit is aware of the situation and handling it.

The good news is that our moments of weakness are the moments God does His best work in us. While the culture takes pride in their independence from God, we should boast in our dependence:  

But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me (2 Cor. 12:9).

Maybe we should start our own pride parade; it would be kind of the same but also very different.

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