Tag archives: Bible

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.

New Barna Research Reveals Extent of America’s Loss of Faith

by David Closson , Molly Carman

June 22, 2021

Last year, the Cultural Research Center at Arizona Christian University, under the direction of George Barna, conducted a national survey that found only six percent of American adults have a biblical worldview. In light of this finding, Barna conducted another survey to examine the shift in faith commitments over the past few decades in America. The results of this new survey have now been published, and Barna shared the results with FRC’s Joseph Backholm on Washington Watch. Barna noted that the survey reveals alarming declines in generational commitment to any particular worldview, stating, “This represents the most rapid and radical cultural upheaval our nation has ever experienced.”

The Cultural Research Center previously released the results of three other worldview surveys conducted earlier this year:

  • The first of these concluded that America’s dominant worldview is Syncretism, which isn’t actually a worldview at all but rather “a disparate, irreconcilable collection of beliefs” that people paste together to suit themselves.
  • The second survey concluded that America’s most popular worldview is what can be called Moralistic Therapeutic Deism. Components of this worldview include: “belief in a God who remains distant from people’s lives” and “the universal purpose of life of being happy and feeling good about oneself.”
  • The third survey found that Millennials are “substantially more likely” than previous American generations to “reject biblical principles in favor of more worldly spiritual perspectives and practices.”

The results of these surveys (which will be featured together in the 2021 edition of the Cultural Research Center’s annual American Worldview Inventory) provide a broader understanding of the state of worldview today and some of the most significant changes that have occurred over the years.

The survey discussed on Washington Watch concentrated on three areas—Hispanic faith, fastest-growing religious faiths, and Christianity’s status—and their associated worldview shifts over the past three decades (1991-2021). Barna remarked, “We have seen significant changes in the past, but I do not think that we have seen the quantity of change barreling down the freeway the way it is right now.”

Over the past three decades, George Barna has conducted a similar survey every year to assess worldview trends in America. Although the questions have not varied much year to year, Barna noted that when you consider the decline in biblical worldview and “you look at the combination of those factors, you get a pretty good sense of the heartbeat of America spiritually. And the changes there are so dramatic, that the size of those changes, the magnitude of the shift even surprised me a little bit.”

According to Barna’s research, Hispanics represent the fastest-growing demographic in America. Over the past 30 years, however, there has been a significant decrease in Hispanics who adhere to the Catholic faith, with a slight increase in Protestantism. Meanwhile, there has been a significant increase in what Barna refers to as the “Don’ts” (those who don’t believe, don’t know, or don’t care if God exists). The increase in those with no religious affiliation suggests that assimilation into American culture increasingly means assimilation into secularism. As Barna noted, “Frankly, the culture is impacting the Christian church and the Christian faith more than the Christian church or Christian faith are impacting the culture.” Notably, increasing belief in reincarnation, declining belief in a literal hell, and the pervading belief that people are basically good are other indicators that Christianity is losing influence in America.

One of the survey results Barna found most surprising is the growth of the Islamic faith in America: “When I started measuring that [the Islamic faith] 30, almost 40, years ago, there was virtually no presence of Islam in America,” explained Barna, “Now, we see that that has been growing, slowly but significantly, to the point where it is no longer just an asterisk in the reports. Now, it’s a significant faith group. Right now, in America, it appears that the number of Muslims here outnumber how many Jews we have in America,” he concluded.

The “Don’ts” have also grown significantly: from only 12 percent of the population in 2011 to 34 percent in 2021. Significantly, 43 percent of Millennials are considered “Don’ts” in Barna’s research, meaning they don’t believe or know if God exists.

Survey results like these are troubling; they reveal important trends in our culture with missiological implications. As George Barna explained, “[A] shared consensus of beliefs and values no longer exists. We are moving into a very different culture where people are saying, ‘I don’t want the Bible, I don’t want God, and I don’t want the church.’”

But even though our culture does not want the Bible, God, or the church, it is important for followers of Jesus to remain faithful. As fewer people share our theological and worldview commitments, Christians will need courage that was not required of recent generations of believers. Of course, standing for God’s truth in a world that is increasingly dark spiritually can be difficult, and it’s not easy to stand alone. Thankfully, we can rest in God’s promise for those who stay rooted in Him and His Word:

Blessed is the man who trusts in the Lord whose trust is the Lord. He is like a tree planted by water, that sends out its roots by the stream, and does not fear when heat comes, for its leaves remain green, and is not anxious in the year of drought, for it does not cease to bear fruit. (Jeremiah 17:7-8)

Thinking Biblically About Trends in Worldview

by David Closson

June 9, 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.

Today in America, there is a staggering disparity between those who claim to have a biblical worldview and those who actually have a consistent worldview shaped by Scripture. A recent survey conducted by FRC’s Senior Research Fellow George Barna indicates that a mere 6 percent of American adults possess a biblical worldview, despite 51 percent thinking they have one. This means that 45 percent of Americans mistakenly believe themselves to have a biblical worldview. The numbers are better for those who regularly attend evangelical churches, but not by much. Only 21 percent of evangelical churchgoers have a biblical worldview, despite 81 percent thinking they have one.

How should the church respond to the sobering reality that so few Americans have a biblical worldview? Statistics such as these are discouraging, to be sure. However, all is not lost. In fact, knowing the current trends in peoples’ worldviews provides helpful insight into how we can proceed in reaching those in our churches and communities who lack a biblical worldview.

Of the 51 percent who claim to have a biblical worldview, 46 percent said it is either very, somewhat, or not too important for their religious faith to influence every dimension of their lives. And of that 46 percent, only a small majority claim that they are very effective at integrating their faith into family life (56 percent), their personal religious life (56 percent), and personal relationships (55 percent). Further, a minority claim that they are very effective at integrating their faith into educational experiences (35 percent), politics and government (31 percent), business and marketplace activities (29 percent), and entertainment and news choices (27 percent).

On a more encouraging note, a slight majority of those who believe integrating their faith into every dimension of life is either very or somewhat important identified their church (55 percent) and family (52 percent) as having been very helpful at facilitating that integration. This is an important insight. If we want to train the next generation of Christians to have a biblical worldview, we must equip church leaders but especially parents. Parents are the chief disciplers in their homes, and churches should be intentional in coming alongside them as they seek to raise their children in the fear and admonition of the Lord (Eph. 6:4).

Another intriguing find in Barna’s survey is that of the seven out of 10 adults who believe that God does (or might) exist, three-quarters (78 percent) believe God cares “a lot” about what they believe and do. The fact that this many people believe God cares about their beliefs and lifestyle choices provides an opportunity for discipleship. Believing that God cares about every dimension of life should influence one’s engagement with a host of issues, including issues considered “political,” such as the sanctity of life and human dignity, sexuality and marriage, and religious liberty. In fact, internalizing the connection between belief and practice is what it means to be an “integrated disciple,” which according to Barna, is someone who has blended their intellectual acceptance of biblical principles into real-life application.

Reviewing his study, Barna concluded that,

In general, SAGE Cons [i.e., Spiritually Active Governance Engaged Conservatives] were far more likely than other adults to claim to have a biblical worldview; to believe it is very important for their faith to influence every dimension of life; and to believe that God cares a lot about what they do and believe in relation to what happens in every dimension of society. They were also more likely than any other segment besides those who actually possess a biblical worldview to have a biblical perspective on the worldview assessment questions included in the survey.

The survey results are an opportunity to open our eyes to the current trends in Americans’ worldviews, evaluate our own worldviews, and encourage others to do the same. First, because our thoughts inevitably shape our actions, our worldviews have consequences. We Christians must heed the words of the apostle Paul:

Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that by testing you may discern what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom. 12:2)

We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ. (2 Cor. 10:5)

The writer of Hebrews says that God’s Word, the Bible, “is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and of spirit, of joints and of marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (4:12). We should always take the time to evaluate what we believe, why we believe it, and if what we believe agrees with and is rooted in Scripture.

Second, although the gap between those who have a biblical worldview and those who only think that they do is large statistically, there is cause for hope. Remember that nearly half of those 51 percent who believe that they hold a biblical worldview think it is important for their faith to influence every facet of their lives. Clearly, people care about their faith, and they care about how their beliefs affect how they live. Further, certain influences like attending church, having a strong family life, healthy friendships, and intentional media consumption can play a role in encouraging the growth of a biblical worldview. We must engage and grow in order to close the gap and reverse this statistic.

Finally, in an effort to address the growing concerns of the decline in biblical worldview in America, Family Research Council recently launched the Center for Biblical Worldview. Our desire is to equip and encourage Christians, churches, and families to strengthen their own biblical worldview and disciple the next generation. May we heed Paul’s advice to the Ephesians:

Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise but as wise, making the best use of the time, because the days are evil. Therefore, do not be foolish, but understand what the will of the Lord is. (5:15-17)

Thinking Biblically About Worldview

by David Closson

May 26, 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 Unity, Safety, “Christian Nationalism”, Love, Courage, Forgiveness, the Resurrection and the Social Gospel, Loyalty, Identity, Religious Freedom, Communication, Cancel Culture, and Judging.

Earlier today, Family Research Council launched the Center for Biblical Worldview to equip Christians to think biblically and train them to advance and defend the faith in their families, communities, and the public square. To mark the occasion, FRC released the findings of a national survey conducted by FRC Senior Research Fellow George Barna. This survey provides new insights into how many Americans believe they possess a biblical worldview and to what extent they seek to integrate that worldview into every dimension of life.

The results of the survey have political, cultural, and missiological implications. For starters, 51 percent of Americans believe they possess a biblical worldview. Compare that figure with the results of extensive testing performed by the Cultural Research Center, which indicates that only six percent of the adult population has a biblical worldview. This discrepancy between people’s perceptions and reality points to Americans having a foundational misunderstanding of what a biblical worldview actually is. However, it also reveals that most Americans have a favorable opinion of a biblical worldview.

With the launch of the Center for Biblical Worldview, FRC is doubling our efforts to teach, cultivate, and equip Christians to live out a biblical worldview. But this raises some important questions: What is worldview, and why is it important? What makes a biblical worldview distinct, and why is it so important for Christians to have one?

The term “worldview” is derived from the word Weltanschauung, a combination of Welt (world) and Anschauung (view). German philosopher Immanuel Kant first used it in 1790 to refer to people’s sensory perception of the world around them. But while the term “worldview” has only been in use for a few centuries, the concept of a worldview is not new. In fact, people have possessed worldviews since the beginning of human history.

So, what is a worldview? Simply put, a person’s worldview consists of their core beliefs and convictions. It includes their answers—whether conscious or subconscious—to life’s most fundamental questions about origin, meaning, morality, and destiny.

Here are some important things to know about worldview:

Worldview is comprehensive.

A worldview is not merely a cognitive or intellectual exercise; it includes our entire perspective on life, including what we love and worship, our guiding philosophies, affections, and everyday outlook on the world. A worldview is both intellectual and personal; it is a matter of both head and heart.

Worldview shapes values and behaviors.

Every person lives and behaves according to a worldview—even if it is unconsciously formed or ill-informed. Even those who have not spent much time reflecting on what they believe are nevertheless ordering their lives around certain assumptions. We are creatures of faith; believing in things is an inescapable part of the human experience.

Worldview shapes culture.

People often try to pin responsibility for their personal behavior or beliefs onto the culture at large. However, our collective worldviews shape the cultural norms. Anthropologists are skilled at analyzing the patterns of behaviors and values, but something even more fundamental undergirds those patterns—worldview.

Worldview isn’t always logically consistent or applied consistently.

Some people’s worldviews are logically inconsistent. In fact, according to George Barna, 88 percent of Americans have a syncretistic worldview, meaning their worldview consists of a disparate collection of beliefs and behaviors. In other words, an overwhelming majority of Americans have a “cut-and-paste” approach to making sense of life, and many of the pieces they’ve assembled are incompatible. An example of a logically inconsistent worldview is contending that there is no such thing as truth—which itself is a truth claim.

On the other hand, even if a person’s beliefs are logically consistent, they might not always apply them consistently. For example, someone with internally high moral standards and who believes cheating is wrong might nevertheless talk themselves into thinking that it is justified in their particular case, especially if they suspect that they were cheated by someone else first.

A biblical worldview is essential to the Christian life.

For Christians, the basis of our worldview is the Bible, consisting of both the Old and New Testaments. Christianity teaches that the biblical God, Yahweh, is responsible for all life and purpose. Christians believe that God is triune (i.e., three in one) and has revealed Himself to humanity in the form of the second person of the trinity, Jesus Christ. A biblical worldview sees life through a fourfold framework of creation, fall, redemption, and restoration.

Because a biblical worldview is first and foremost a worldview rooted in and shaped by the truth of God revealed to mankind through His Word, it is imperative that Christians build their lives on it. Jesus spoke about the importance of a solid foundation in His parable of the man who built his house upon the rock. When the rain, wind, and floods came, his house stood firm, unlike the house built on the sand that was washed away and destroyed (Matt. 7:24-27).

Whenever a Christian’s worldview is inconsistent with the truth contained in the Bible, or whenever they inconsistently apply it, they are in danger of falling like the house built on the sand. Christians can avoid this fate by building their house on the rock—the Word of God. When Christians familiarize themselves with truth and put on “the mind of Christ” in everything they do, they will have a solid foundation.

Thus, because of the foundational role of God’s Word in developing a biblical worldview, FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview will be guided by the following beliefs about the Bible:

We believe that Jesus Christ created all things and rules all things and that He Himself is truth. We believe the Bible is God’s inerrant, infallible, and authoritative Word and that submitting our lives to it should be the goal of everyone who seeks to follow Christ. Furthermore, we believe that the Bible offers the most rational and satisfying answers to life’s most fundamental questions, including:

  • Why are we here?
  • What has gone wrong with our world?
  • Is there any hope?
  • How does it all end?

We believe a person exhibits a biblical worldview when their beliefs and actions are aligned with the Bible, acknowledging its truth and applicability to every area of life.

This high view of Scripture will undergird the Center for Biblical Worldview’s approach to the political, cultural, moral, and theological issues of our day. It will inform everything we hope to produce, including curriculum, books, videos, and other content.

The Center for Biblical Worldview hopes to serve churches and contend for truth in the public square for years to come. As the broader culture continues to turn against Christians, we will stand firmly on God’s revealed truth. As Christian sexual ethics are increasingly maligned as outdated or harmful, we will winsomely articulate and defend God’s design for the family, marriage, and sexuality. And as even some in our churches are tempted to compromise truth for the sake of popularity or comfort, we will remain steadfast, regardless of popular opinion or shifting cultural norms.

We want to be a voice to and for those who love Jesus and are committed to Scripture. We commit to coming alongside pastors and churches and contending together for the faith (Jude 1:3). As Jesus promised, persecution and hostility toward believers are ever-present—and increasing. FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview is here to equip those committed to honoring God in all areas of life.

Visit FRC.org/worldview to learn more about the work of FRC’s Center for Biblical Worldview.

Thinking Biblically About Judging

by Joseph Backholm

May 19, 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 Unity, Safety, “Christian Nationalism”, Love, Courage, Forgiveness, the Resurrection and the Social Gospel, Loyalty, Identity, Religious Freedom, Communication, and Cancel Culture.

Even people who don’t know the Bible have opinions about it. In my experience, the favorite verse of those who don’t like the Bible is Matthew 7:1, which says, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” 

For many, this verse functions like a get-out-of-jail-free card that relieves them of the need to be concerned about anything else the Bible says. “Since God told you not to judge,” they suggest, “your belief that I have done something wrong is the real sin.” Whenever someone plays the Matthew 7:1 card, their sense of satisfaction is tangible. They believe they’ve beaten the Christians at their own game by using the Bible to prove that, if sin exists, it is the Christian who is the real sinner.   

But is it true? Does Jesus’ command in Matthew 7:1 forbid Christians from forming moral judgments about people’s beliefs, behaviors, or ideas?

Of course not.

A fundamental rule of biblical interpretation is that Scripture must be interpreted as being consistent with itself. Most parents have told their children that they should not hit others. Does this mean that a parent is being hypocritical when, in another conversation, they tell their child to kick, scream, and “go for the eyes” if they are ever targeted by a kidnapper?  

In the same way, Jesus was not contradicting the entire moral law when he said, “Judge not, that you be not judged.” He was making a different point that, although related, is completely consistent with everything else He said.

The context of Matthew 7:1 is helpful for understanding its meaning:    

Judge not, that you be not judged. For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you. Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye? Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye? You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye. (Matthew 7:1-5, ESV)

It is clear that Jesus wants us to be more concerned with our own behavior than the behavior of others, and He wants us to live by the same standards we expect of others. In more contemporary terms, don’t throw rocks from glass houses.

But it is unreasonable, considering everything else the Bible says, to conclude that making moral judgments is wrong. The apostle Paul tells Timothy that, “All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, for training in righteousness” (2 Tim. 3:16). In his letter to the Galatian church, Paul reminds us that we have a duty to help those who are in sin to get out of it.  “Brothers, if anyone is caught in any transgression, you who are spiritual should restore him in a spirit of gentleness. Keep watch on yourself, lest you too be tempted” (Gal. 6:1). None of this makes any sense if we are forbidden from recognizing when someone has done wrong.

Yes, the priority is always on our own hearts, but we cannot be indifferent to what others are doing.

Jesus’ brother James described the importance of helping people walk away from sin: “My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins” (James 5:19-20). The book of Proverbs is dedicated to the pursuit of wisdom, but wisdom is impossible without regularly making judgments about people and circumstances. After all, wisdom is knowledge properly applied.

Far from forbidding moral judgments, Jesus told us how we ought to judge: “Do not judge by appearances, but judge with right judgment” (John 7:24). God shows us how to judge rightly when he selected David to be king, despite the fact that David did not have the appearance the Israelites expected of a king. “[F]or God sees not as man sees, for man looks at the outward appearance, but the Lord looks at the heart” (1 Sam. 16:7).

In addition, Christians should never condemn or claim moral superiority when making moral judgments. Christianity is egalitarian in the sense that it begins with the recognition that we are all equally guilty of sin (Rom. 3:23) and equally deserving of condemnation (Rom. 6:23). Since any righteousness we have is God’s doing, not ours (Eph. 2:9), there is never a reason to feel self-satisfied.

Therefore, the Christian attitude in making judgments is compassion rather than condemnation or superiority. Paul made this point in his letter to the church in Thessalonica. “If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother” (2 Thes. 3:14-15). Although we must oppose evil and stand for truth, we do so out of concern for those in rebellion, rather than condemnation.

But there is another point that should not be missed. Many people who make arguments from Scripture don’t actually care what the Bible says. If you’re in a conversation with someone whose familiarity with the Bible begins and ends with Matthew 7:1, they are probably not trying to understand God’s will for their life. It’s just as likely that they are trying to render God irrelevant by quoting one part of the Bible that they believe nullifies the rest of it.

If that is happening in your world, be aware of it but don’t fall for it. Learn the lesson of Matthew 7 by making sure that you are most concerned with your own holiness. In your interactions with the world, make sure that you have exchanged pride and judgementalism for love and compassion. But, by all means, keep your brain engaged; make good judgments about what is good and evil, helpful and unhelpful. It’s crazy out there.

Thinking Biblically About Cancel Culture

by David Closson

May 12, 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 Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourageForgivenessthe Resurrection and the Social GospelLoyaltyIdentityReligious Freedom, and Communication.

Over the past few years, the language of “cancel culture” has become ubiquitous in our society. Social media platforms are cluttered with hashtags and campaigns urging us to “cancel” someone or declare that they are “over.” Whether the context is politics, sports, entertainment, or business, no one seems safe from the reach of the so-called cancel culture movement.

However, many people are increasingly becoming wary of it. When asked about cancel culture in a recent interview, comedian Dave Chappelle quipped, “I hope we all survive it.” Chappelle’s passing comment points to a growing awareness that a movement that might have begun with good intentions has taken on a life of its own, resulting in a variety of unintended consequences.

What is cancel culture? How should Christians think about the notion of “canceling” people, institutions, or ideas?

A thirst for accountability. Broadly speaking, “cancel culture” refers to a coordinated effort to silence, shame, and sideline (i.e., “cancel”) an institution or individual on account of views, opinions, or beliefs that someone else (the cancelers) deems socially unacceptable. One online dictionary defines cancel culture as “the practice or tendency of engaging in mass canceling as a way of expressing disapproval and exerting social pressure.”

In other words, cancel culture encourages people to withdraw their support from and actively oppose public figures or organizations that step outside what the mainstream—or a sizable faction—of society thinks is socially acceptable. Seen in its best light, cancel culture is an attempt to hold people with large audiences and platforms accountable when they do or say bad things. However, cancel culture has a dark side.

A lack of forgiveness. It is important to hold people accountable. When public figures misuse their power or platforms, it may be appropriate to speak out publicly against their ideas or decisions. However, cancel culture (as it is being practiced today) does not merely encourage people to reconsider their biases or apologize for past actions. Nor does it help people thoughtfully handle disagreements. Rather, the impulse behind cancel culture is to impose a figurative capital punishment on the reputation of anyone who holds political, cultural, or religious beliefs deemed offensive to the cancelers. Cancel culture seeks to exclude the canceled from future participation in the public square, with little to no hope of reprieve.

Consider a few recent examples. Last summer, Boeing Communications Chief Niel Golightly was forced to resign after a colleague complained about a 1987 article he had written, in which he had stated that women should not serve in combat. Despite Golightly having since changed his opinion on the subject, Boeing forced him out of the company.

J.K. Rowling, the celebrated author of the Harry Potter series, faced intense backlash in July 2020 after tweeting her belief that biological sex distinctions are real.

Just last week, Promise Keepers CEO Ken Harrison faced criticism for explaining that his ministry supports a biblical understanding of marriage and human sexuality. A USA Today editorial castigated Harrison for his comments and called upon AT&T Stadium and the Dallas Cowboys to rescind the ministry’s contract for an upcoming event.

Issues related to marriage and human sexuality usually provoke some of cancel culture’s strongest reactions. Moreover, a common theme in these examples is the extreme vitriol thrown at those whose views are deemed outdated or bigoted. In other words, if you disagree even the slightest bit with cultural progressivism (see the J.K. Rowling example), you are at risk of not only being canceled but also being labeled as hateful.

How should Christians think about all of this?

Christians should not be surprised when their churches, ministries, or beliefs are the object of criticism or outrage. According to recent research, only six percent of Americans hold a biblical worldview, which means most Americans do not think about issues such as marriage and human sexuality from a perspective influenced by the Bible. Thus, those who retain a biblical worldview are increasingly viewed by our society as being different, old-fashioned, or even dangerous.

Christians should expect to face opposition or marginalization for holding views in line with the Bible. Jesus forewarned us that there would be opposition. In his final extended conversation with His disciples before being betrayed, Jesus said, “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you” (John 15:18). The apostle Paul affirmed, “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” (2 Tim. 3:12). Furthermore, Paul explained that the gospel is a “stumbling block” and “folly” in the eyes of the world (Rom. 9:33, 1 Cor. 1:23). Thus, Christians should not be surprised when their biblically informed beliefs are mocked or dismissed. However, we also ought to regularly examine ourselves against Scripture and make sure the reason we are being opposed is due to godly, not sinful, behavior (Mat. 5:10, 1 Peter 2:20).

The Bible teaches that no one is without sin. Scripture tells us that sin is wrong and that our actions have consequences. It also teaches that no one is without sin except for God. As Paul explains, “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). In other words, all humans deserve to be “canceled.” Scripture also tells us that human beings are not qualified to pronounce ultimate judgement upon one another. None of us can determine that someone else is irredeemable. God, not us, is the judge (Mat. 7:1-5). Whereas cancel culture elevates the passing whims of an outraged mob to the role of judge and jury, Christians recognize that God is the ultimate arbitrator of right and wrong.

The Bible teaches that no one is beyond hope or forgiveness. Scripture teaches that “If we confess our sins, [God] is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 John 1:9). This is in direct contrast to cancel culture, which usually denies the possibility of forgiveness, even when repentance is present. Christianity not only teaches that sinful people can receive forgiveness from God but that we also receive, through the Holy Spirit, the power to forgive each other. This is why Paul says in Colossians 3:13 to “Bear with each other and forgive one another if any of you has a grievance against someone. Forgive as the Lord forgave you.”

Cancel culture is incompatible with a biblical understanding of sin and redemption. Cancel culture teaches a message antithetical to the gospel. It denies the possibility of grace, forgiveness, and redemption. It rejects God’s role as judge of human hearts and actions. In almost all recent examples, it singles out biblically based beliefs for scorn and censure. As Christians, we are called to be part of the ministry of reconciliation, not cancellation (2 Cor. 5:11-21).

Thinking Biblically About Communication

by Joseph Backholm

May 5, 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 Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourageForgivenessthe Resurrection and the Social GospelLoyaltyIdentity, and Religious Freedom.

Sadly, the polarization of the country seems to be polarizing the church as well. While factions are nothing new within the Christian church, new fault lines appear to be forming based on a host of tertiary issues including immigration, critical race theory, and Donald Trump. Unfortunately, those differences seem to be affecting the way we treat each other and speak to each other.

Even within the Family Research Council community, evidence of these divisions have appeared in the comment sections of our social media pages as people who claim to love Jesus speak to each other in ways that are clearly unloving.

Caring deeply about issues is a good. Ideas matter to God, which is why Paul instructs us to “take every thought captive to the obedience of Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). As Abraham Kuyper described it, “There is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is Sovereign over all, does not cry, Mine!” While it is appropriate to have opinions about immigration, critical race theory, and Donald Trump, it is even more important to make sure that our thoughts are motivated by the Spirit and not the flesh.

Ideas matter because ideas can be lethal. As James explains, “But each one is tempted when he is carried away and enticed by his own lust. Then when lust has conceived, it gives birth to sin; and when sin is accomplished, it brings forth death” (James 1:14-15). Death is often the result of a malignant idea that has had the time to mature.

Nevertheless, the seriousness with which we should take the battle of ideas should not blind us to the fact that there are rules of engagement God expects us to honor. After all, “life and death are in the power of the tongue” (Proverbs 18:21). Our words have the power to give life: “Gracious words are like a honeycomb, sweetness to the soul and health to the body” (Proverbs 16:24). In the same way, harsh words spoken in anger can leave wounds that never fully heal.

The power of the tongue is one of the reasons our ability to control our tongues is foundational to a surrendered life. As James explains, “If anyone thinks he is religious and does not bridle his tongue but deceives his heart, this person’s religion is worthless” (James 1:26). Solomon tells us in Proverbs that “the tongue of the wise brings healing” (Proverbs12:18).

An important question for every Christians to ask is this: do my words bring healing? 

Fortunately, there is no shortage of instruction in Scripture on this point: “Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person” (Colossians 4:6). Also, “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” (Ecclesiastes 4:29).

These reminders do not mean that God forbids direct communication or saying things that will bother people. Jesus referred to the Pharisees as a brood of vipers (Matthew 12:34) and “whitewashed tombs which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean” (Matthew 23:27-28). He also told them that their father was the devil (John 8:44).

While these are hard truths, they were spoken for the benefit, not the harm, of the hearers. Jesus was not speaking out of anger, pride, or frustration over who they voted for but out of a desire to help them see their situation as it really was so they could repent.

In contrast, though we may speak truth, we do not always speak truth in love. Instead, we are often motivated by a desire to win the argument, exact a rhetorical pound of flesh, or silence someone who has become bothersome. But as Proverbs 29:11 reminds us, “A fool always loses his temper, but a wise man holds it back.”

This is the difference between us and Jesus.

The call to speak truth in love (Ephesians 4:15) is challenging because it is impossible to fake love. What we feel about someone will inevitably reveal itself in our interactions with them. As Jesus reminds us, “Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks” (Luke 6:45).

Whether we are speaking to other Christians with a different perspective or people who are hostile to the gospel, the key to speaking truth in love is to actually love the people we engage with—even if we disagree with them about everything. In many cases, this requires us to change the way we see the people we engage with.  

If we see someone primarily as a heretic or political enemy, we will inevitably treat them that way. If we see someone as a threat to our children and our way of life, we will treat them as if they are a threat. However, if we see them first and foremost as people made in God’s image—whether they are deceived or not—we will see them as loved by God and therefore deserving of love from us. From this perspective, we will see people who may disagree with us not as a roadblock to our goal but as the goal itself. After all, Jesus came to “seek and save the lost” (Luke 19:10).

If we win the argument but lose the person, have we really won anything?    

In addition, showing grace and kindness to those we disagree with makes it easier to admit our mistakes when it turns out we were the one in the wrong. If we act pridefully, it’s much more difficult to admit mistakes.

But even when we are right, our highest goal should not be to prove it. The reason we care about ideas is because we care about the impact that ideas have on people. That means people are the priority. The way we treat people, online or otherwise, should always reflect this truth.

Thinking Biblically About Religious Freedom

by David Closson

April 28, 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 Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourageForgivenessthe Resurrection and the Social GospelLoyalty, and Identity.

Last week, Montana joined 21 other states in passing legislation that requires the government to have a compelling reason for violating its citizens’ sincerely-held religious beliefs. Montana’s Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA)—like the federal version passed by Congress and signed into law by President Clinton in 1993—says that when the government must restrict religious expression, it may only do so using the least restrictive means possible.

Lawmakers in Montana, including Gov. Greg Gianforte, were criticized for approving the legislation. This is not surprising; recent attempts to pass RFRAs in other states, such as Indiana in 2015, have elicited passionate responses. Although it received relatively little national attention, Montana’s RFRA was still opposed by over 250 businesses, including national corporations like Google, Amazon, and Verizon.

Why are efforts to protect religious freedom encountering so much opposition nowadays? The political left’s opposition to RFRA laws has become predictable. However, a well-known pastor and seminary chancellor recently stunned evangelicals when he called religious freedom “idolatry.” The United States of America was founded in part by those fleeing religious persecution, but it seems our society’s understanding of the value of religious freedom has been lost.

How should Christians think about religious freedom? Is religious freedom worth defending? Moreover, does the Bible provide a rationale for a policy of broad religious freedom?

First, it is important to define our terms. Religious freedom is the freedom to hold religious beliefs of one’s own choosing and to live in accordance with those beliefs. Religious freedom protects individuals’ ability to come to their own conclusions about matters of utmost importance—such as God, the world, and themselves—free from government coercion.

An important implication flows from this definition: religious freedom does not privilege one religion over the other. Religious freedom protects people of every faith and people with no faith affiliation. Although its detractors often characterize religious freedom advocacy as the attempts of a dominant faith group (e.g., American Christians) to acquire more power or rights, this is simply not the case. Properly understood, religious freedom levels the playing field and protects the conscience rights of everyone.

Now that we have established what religious freedom is, we must ask ourselves: is it biblical? Can a biblical case be made for policies that protect religious freedom? In short, yes. Although no one verse in the Bible expressly demands religious freedom on its face, I would argue that the concept is implicit on nearly every page of Scripture.

How did I reach this conclusion? First, it is important to recall what Christian theology teaches about the interior nature of faith and the futility of coercion in matters of religion. Consider someone’s relationship with God. Although outside forces can certainly influence a person’s perception of God, a person’s inner beliefs are ultimately only known to the person himself (and, of course, to God). The spiritual nature of faith makes it impervious to outside control. This is why an aggressor can torture, abuse, and persecute a believer’s physical body without affecting that believer’s core beliefs. External pressure may be successful in producing outward conformity, but external forces can never change inward belief.

Scripture passages that underscore these truths include Jesus’ parable of the tares (Mat. 13:24-30) and the story of the rich young ruler (Mat. 19:16-30). In the parable, Jesus explains that the wheat (representing believers) and weeds (unbelievers) must be allowed to grow together. Although the unbelievers do not belong to the community of faith, they should be left alone because God’s judgment is eschatological (i.e., it will happen at the end of days). At the end of the age, God will root out the weeds (unbelievers) for their unbelief. Likewise, in the story with the rich young ruler, Jesus allows a potential disciple to walk away instead of coercing or scolding him. By honoring the man’s choice, Jesus underscored the personal nature of faith.

Further evidence that the Bible supports religious freedom is the persistent language of appeal and persuasion in evangelism. For instance, Paul reasons and debates with his listeners in Athens (Acts 19:8, 26). Throughout his ministry, Paul never attempted to force anyone to believe the gospel; he knew such a move would be futile and counterproductive. Rather, he used the means of persuasion and pleaded with people to follow Christ. Paul sought to be faithful with the gospel without being confrontational in encouraging conversion.

In short, the Bible can be said to support a broad conception of religious freedom.

As secular society increasingly misunderstands religious conviction, a growing number of people are content to restrict religious liberty protections. This is reflected in the opposition to the RFRA legislation passed last week in Montana—legislation modeled after a federal bill that once passed Congress with strong bipartisan support. Thus, there is an urgent need to explain to our society why protecting everyone’s ability to believe and live out those beliefs without consequence or restriction serves all people—religious and non-religious.

For a more extended treatment of the Bible’s teaching on religious freedom, visit frc.org/belief.

Thinking Biblically About Identity

by Joseph Backholm

April 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 Unity, Safety“Christian Nationalism”LoveCourageForgivenessthe Resurrection and the Social Gospel, and Loyalty.

So many of our political debates are rooted in the concept of identity that there’s now an entire category called “identity politics.”

Some women’s rights advocates argue for “equal pay for equal work,” while others fight for female athletes’ right not to compete against biological males in sports. And although most people agree that racial equality ought to be the goal, there is significant disagreement about what that means. Terms like “white supremacy” and “Asian hate” assign oppressor and oppressed status based on who people are rather than what they have done.

At their core, these political debates flow from conversations about identity. How should we see ourselves? How should we see other people? Of course, identity is complex. Our identity is likely a combination of our country of origin, country of citizenship, the family we were born into, our race, sex, or even our athleticism or ability to sing. Some people define their identity primarily in terms of who they are attracted to.

For Christians, identity should begin with the fact that every person is created in the image of God (Gen. 1:26). The American experiment was built around a similar presupposition articulated by Thomas Jefferson in the Declaration of Independence: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the pursuit of Happiness.” 

For Christians, our creation is where our identity begins, but it is not where it ends. In the first chapter of his letter to the Ephesian church, the apostle Paul describes the identity of a Christian. Paul explains that believers are blessed with every spiritual blessing; we have been chosen, adopted, redeemed, forgiven, grace-lavished, and unconditionally loved and accepted. We are pure, blameless, and forgiven. We have received the hope of spending eternity with God. In Christ, these aspects of our identity can never be altered by what we do (Eph. 1:3-14).

This is what it means to be a Christian, but it is not all that it means to be human. Some of us are male, others are female. We are different races, different sizes; we have different hair colors and eye colors, different abilities, types of intelligence, and interests. But for Christians, those characteristics are of secondary importance. As Paul notes in his letter to the Galatians, “For as many of you as were baptized into Christ have put on Christ. There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Gal. 3:27-28, ESV). While not unimportant, Paul believed identity markers such as sex, occupation, and ethnicity were subservient to one’s identity in Christ.

When we make the mistake of making our secondary identity primary, we inevitably create divisions. If I believe the most important thing about me is my sex, I will see those of the opposite sex as primarily different than me. The same is true if my primary identity is determined by my race, athletic abilities, or political affiliations. But if I see myself primarily as someone created in the image of God, I will identify with others by what we have in common.  

Beyond that, the goal of equality is impossible unless our identity is rooted in our creation. There is no other basis on which one could reasonably argue that all people are equal. Consider this: in all other ways, we are different. We are not equally intelligent, talented, attractive, or capable. If our identity, value, and equality are not endowed by our Creator, they are nonexistent. The only other way of assessing human value would be based on our merits—our ability to perform a task, solve a problem, or contribute something meaningful to humanity. In these respects, humans are decidedly unequal.  

Once our identity is detached from our creation, it becomes easy to identify those who are different from us as not just different but inferior.

Misplaced identity explains, in part, why the most vicious and violent governments in history have also been the most secular and explains why eugenicists, past and present, have argued that the lives of people with disabilities are less valuable than the lives of those who have none. If our value comes strictly from our productivity and what we can contribute, those with disabilities are less valuable because they cannot contribute in the same ways other people can. Moreover, those with physical or mental disabilities require more resources from the community. However, if our value is inherent in our creation, those who devalue people with disabilities are tragically and fatally wrong.

The Nazi’s “Final Solution” was made possible by a naturalist, Darwinian worldview that allowed them to identify an entire race of people by how they were different. The Chinese Communist genocide against Uyghur Muslims happening today is made possible because the Communist Party leaders identify Uyghurs first and foremost by the ways in which they are different.

One of the few things that seems to unite Americans today is the belief that we are divided. Part of our division may lie in the way we see ourselves and others. It’s much easier to remain divided if we divide the world in terms of blue or red, black or white, gay or straight. Let’s take God’s advice and start seeing each other primarily as image-bearers of God and see how that goes.

It’s hard to imagine it would get worse.

The Chosen: A Fresh, Personal, and Faithful Presentation of the Gospel

by Dan Hart

April 15, 2021

If ever there was a time that needs fresh witness to the truth of the gospel, it is our current moment. As the uncertainties of government overreach and simmering social and political tensions continue, the human heart can’t help but yearn for stability and reassurance. It’s a time when Jesus’s beautiful words in Matthew’s Gospel have never been more desperately needed: “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light” (Matthew 11:28-30).

Depicting the fulfilment and peace that only Christ can bring to a post-Christian culture in a compelling and original way is no easy task, but one filmmaker has found a remarkable way to succeed. With The Chosen, a new drama series based on the life of Christ, writer/producer/director Dallas Jenkins has breathed new life into the biblical epic genre in a groundbreaking way.

The Chosen is the first ever episode-based series about the life of Christ. In order to produce the series, streaming video company VidAngel and Jenkins decided to use online crowdfunding. It became the biggest crowdfunded film project ever, with over $10.2 million raised by January 2019. In April and November of that year, the first series of eight episodes was released online, and they have been viewed almost 50 million times in 180 countries. The Chosen’s producers have already raised another $10 million for the production of the second season, with the first three episodes now released. The producers are planning to continue crowdsourcing for the foreseeable future, with the goal of producing seven seasons in all.

The great strength of The Chosen is its emphasis on relationship and relatability. The series starts by portraying the disciples and Christ’s other followers as honest, searching, flawed, and often humorous men and women who are trying to make their way as faithful Jews in a harsh Roman-occupied world. Peter and Andrew struggle to figure out how to pay their taxes as poor fishermen, Mary Magdalene grapples with demons and finding direction while trying to move past her former sinful lifestyle, and Matthew is a highly eccentric and reviled tax collector who wrestles with social stigmatization. With great emotional depth and feeling, The Chosen beautifully shows how Jesus breaks into the lives of these ordinary men and women and sets their hearts ablaze with a longing for truth and a burning desire to follow Him.

Much of the success of The Chosen can be attributed to the deeply human and pastorally empathetic portrayal of Jesus by actor Jonathan Roumie. With past film depictions of Jesus often emphasizing His stoic authority and divinity, the great strength of Roumie’s depiction is that he lets Jesus be approachable and sympathetic without sacrificing Christ’s sovereignty. In a scene drawn from Luke 5, Roumie’s Jesus laughs with joy and revels in the moment as He watches Simon and his brother whoop and holler as they struggle to drag in the miraculous catch of fish. In one poetic shot, Jesus is so moved that He glances up to the heavens, as if He Himself is in awe of the wonderful work of His Father. A few moments later, Simon cannot help but fall at Jesus’ feet and mumble about his unworthiness. Jesus’s face is seen from a low camera angled up, clearly establishing His divinity as He responds to Simon’s inquiry (“You are the lamb of God, yes?”) with a simple, “I Am.” But then Jesus crouches down to Simon’s level, and with a penetrating yet compassionate gaze, extends an invitation: “Follow Me.” The scene masterfully combines the human and the divine.   

Other scenes breathe new layers of meaning into familiar gospel stories. As Jesus stands in front of the stone jars of water at the wedding at Cana, the scene is intercut with a wedding guest describing the work of a sculptor: “Once you make that first cut into the stone, it can’t be undone. It sets in motion a series of choices. What used to be a shapeless block of limestone or granite begins its long journey of transformation, and it will never be the same.” The metaphor is a perfect one: by turning the water into wine, like a sculptor’s first cut, Jesus knows that his public ministry will begin, and there will be no turning back. “I am ready, Father,” Jesus murmurs, before dipping his hand into the water, and taking it out with wine dripping from it.

The most pivotal scene from the first season is the encounter at night between Jesus and Nicodemus from John 3. Actor Erick Avari perfectly captures how a member of the Sanhedrin would have been torn between his position in Jewish society as a scholar of the law and what his heart is telling him about who Jesus really is. As Nicodemus’s incredulity and questions turn into awe and trembling before the Messiah as He unveils the heart of God’s salvific plan, the viewer can’t help but empathize with the Pharisee’s predicament but also be spellbound all over again by Christ’s immortal words of John 3:16. 

The Chosen isn’t without its flaws. Scenes early in the first season, particularly ones with Roman characters and costumes, come off as a bit gimmicky, and at times, the tone of some scenes in the first two seasons feel a little too comic and unserious. 

Still, for believers, The Chosen will deepen the vision of the gospels in your mind’s eye, and in the process may even deepen your faith. And for unbelievers, The Chosen is a personal, welcoming invitation to explore the Truth of the gospel. As the Scriptures say, time is short (1 Corinthians 7:29; James 5:8; Revelation 22:12), and the need for cultural renewal in Christ is staggeringly great. A tech-savvy, revitalized, and imaginative yet faithful presentation of the gospel could not have come at a better moment.

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