Bible Haters and their Humanistic Love Paradox

We are living in an age that is unusual for its hatred for the Bible and Christianity.  The apologists for hating biblical faith make two major claims among others.  One is that the Bible is full of violence and vengeance and should be rejected.  The other is that the Bible is intolerant and fosters hatred and the rejection of alternative lifestyles.  It fosters homophobia, transphobia, bi-sexual phobia, and more.  How much hate for the Bible is due to its teaching on marriage and sexuality, especially in the New Testament since polygamy was allowed in the Hebrew Bible.  Strict monogamy is a New Testament teaching.  In summary, the biblical haters profess to hate all violence, all non-acceptance, and hence Biblical and historic Western morality. 

The answer to the Bible faith haters is not difficult to find or express.  As I noted in past writings, the British atheist historian Tom Holland chides the anti-Christians by noting that the whole idea of compassionate human rights is only known in societies influenced by the Bible.  Search the rest of the world and you will not find it.  A few years back I read two very large volumes; a history of India and a history of China.  The carnage and the slaughter recounted in these histories were the way of the world.  Holland hopes that human rights will be maintained without biblical faith, but he has no grounds to believe this.  The late Quaker philosopher spoke of the West as a cut flower civilization and that by rejecting the roots, the flower of human civilization will die. 

When one deals with ancient Israel, fairness means that one must compare Israel to the other peoples of the ancient world.  This comparison is reflected in a book by the late Harvard professor G. Ernest Wright, The Old Testament Against its Environment.  Very recently the late Reuven Hammer wrote The Torah Revolution which updates the same themes.  My esteemed professor of dear memory, the renowned Samuel Schultz of Wheaton, a Harvard graduate, wrote that in the Hebrew Scriptures, God’s offer of mercy always precedes judgment.  In the case of Canaan, there were over 400 years of mercy and patience.  You will never find such ideas in other cultures.  The demonic control of the whole culture in Canaan is a key to understanding.  The Torah actually enjoins Israel to not seek to conquer other nations outside their borders.  God cares about the nations and seeks that Israel is a light to the nations (Deut. 4).  This is astonishing.  Only a terrible lack of historical sense and proportion despises the Hebrew Bible.  When we get to the Psalms and prophets, the hope for the salvation of the nations, universal redemption, and world peace, astonishes us.  Isaiah 2 is a case in point, world peace, and no more war. The nations come to the light of God (Isaiah 60).  Other cultures sought the slaughter of the nations, to build empires and a system of domination.   Enslaving the conquered was the way of the world.  When one reads the 13 attributes of God in Exodus 34 and the idea of God being first of all, merciful, compassionate, and forgiving, one is amazed that this is spoken though God does bring hard judgments on evil. 

However, the pages of the New Covenant Scriptures do go beyond the Hebrew Bible. Yes, one can find great moral foundations like “Love your neighbor as yourself,” in the Hebrew Bible. But the neighbor was a fellow Israelite.  Helping your enemy’s ox (a fellow Israelite) does move us toward the ideal.  Loving the stranger in your midst and God’s repeated concern voiced by the prophets for the widow, the orphan, and the stranger is also a powerful testimony.  They are to be treated with love and justice.  But again, the New Covenant goes beyond this.  

The sermon on the Mount reveals a higher level of ethics than ever before revealed.  It says we are to love our enemies in the very context of Roman occupation and oppression.  In the Parable of the Good Samaritan in Luke 10:25 ff., Yeshua includes the enemy in the very meaning of the concept of neighbor. The despised enemy, the Samarian, proves to be a neighbor.  For the Samarian, the Jew was the enemy.  The love of the enemy is not only commanded as in the Sermon but the enemy is raised to neighbor status.  Wow!   (Scholars call this progressive revelation- we see best from the fullness of New Covenant revelation).  The writings of the epistles enjoin to love our persecutors, to endure without bitterness, to forgive, with patience and willingness to suffer.  We are not to avenge.  Yes, God so loved the whole world, all humanity, that He gave his Son to die for us. Does any other religion come close to teaching such a thing?  Passivism has been an understandable conclusion from reading the New Testament.  Though I now disagree, in my young adult years, I read Mennonite literature and was convinced.  The Anabaptist peace Churches that came out of the Reformation are a testimony to the level of love and forgiveness promoted in the New Testament. 

In the Bible, all humans are created in God’s image.  This is the absolute foundation of anti-racism and prejudice that drove the abolitionists.  Without biblical faith, slavery would still be with us.  Reading the books of the great scholar, Rodney Stark, shows the amazing effect of Biblical faith.  The Roman Empire was conquered by biblical faith because of how Christians lived. They adopted the babies given up for death, nursed the sick in the plagues when friends and relatives fled, and lived in such love that paganism was overcome.  Overcoming slavery as well as the effect of biblical faith. 

The Bible is love with standards.  The standards for marriage, sexuality, and treatment of the poor all are weaved together.  The Bible warns of Hell but councils us to get a broken heart for sinners so fewer will be lost.  Moral choice is serious and has eternal consequences.   One of the main reasons for the hatred is the Bible’s teaching on human sexuality.  Our sexuality is one of the greatest gifts from God and yet fraught with danger.  The Bible, in love, for the best fulfillment of human beings and the prosperity of the whole society, enjoins us to order our sex lives such that sexual expression is to be only in an exclusive relationship of marriage between a man and a woman.  When a society departs from this, it will unloose passion that will lead to terrible abuses. Such teaching is declared by Bible haters as hatred and phobia.  The Bible teaching and the LGBTQ movement’s values are profoundly in opposition.  Bible believers, however, declare their love for LGBTQ people and a desire to see them come into their true destiny and fulfillment.  Our belief that God can and did declare himself on the organization of our human sexuality versus autonomous human choices based on whatever the individual desires, is a foundational reason for Bible hatred.  In our culture, people want their sexual choices and want no one to question their orientations.  If the Bible is true, there is great guilt and suppressed guilty knowledge that can only be solved by the atonement of Yeshua. 

The Bible hater saws off the limb on which he or she sits. Unknowingly he or she supports some values that would never be part of western civilization but for the Bible but then opposes the Bible with these biblical values.  It is the paradox.  One part of the Bible is chosen to reject the Bible, and the part chosen is wrongly interpreted and applied.  What is the basis for the values of the secularist without the Bible but his or her own subjective preferences or the preferences of the fleeting consensus of the contemporary culture?  There is no foundation.  

The advance of civilization, despite the backsliding and horrors of history, is rooted in the Bible.  The advance of the values we most treasure, even the best of human rights is rooted in the Bible.  Hospitals care for the poor and the fight against prejudice all came about due to Bible believers.  That the Universal Declaration of Human rights, whose primary authority was a godly Christian, Charles Habib Malek, should give us pause.  It is an amazing document that is inspired by Biblical values. 

 

Pain at the pump

The newscasts from America constantly speak about “Pain at the Pump.”  We find similar stories in Israel as well.  However, this is an unfortunate way to put the headlines. It should be “Pain in the Cost of Living due to high Energy Costs.”   There are other factors driving inflation and high costs, but in America the central factor was the Biden Administration’s abandoning energy independence and cutting back production.  No, the primary issue is not Russia, for if the U. S. was independent, it would not have been such an issue.  Israel as well could be energy independent but the anti-carbon environmentalists have prevailed here as well.  Climate Change/Global Warming is now so important that it takes the place of national security for which energy independence is crucial.  

We should note that energy costs affect most product costs.  Just about everything must be transported.  Energy costs are a big part of the increases in food and other products.  Farms use fuel for their farm machinery.  Those who must fly for business find their costs are higher.  The costs are passed on to the consumer for business travel. So also, we find higher costs for trains.  All products are now more and more costly. 

There are three responses to climate change.  

The first sees this as a dire existential threat.  All hands-on board!  Damn the consequences.  It is radical surgery time: shut down fossil fuel.  These are the folks in control in America.  They will lead many in the middle class to suffer and some to poverty.  Russia, China, India, and Africa are not cooperating, so this direction is like tilting at windmills.  China imports coal from Russia and builds new coal plants!  The radical way will not work. 

The second response is to deny the problem.  The human-caused climate change idea is said to be based on bad science, a lie, or a conspiracy.  I have read enough from a minority of credible scientists to have questions, but I am not a denier, just more skeptical.  I think doing nothing is not the right response.  What if there is some truth to it?

The third response is for more gradual progress.  Go for the new safe nuclear option as Bill Gates is doing.  Do solar where it is feasible.  Wind farms are a limited help in the energy mix and are polluting in manufacture and disposal.  Then use relatively clean natural gas as a transition fuel, hydrogen truck engines, and more.  Continue to produce and use enough fossil fuel until alternatives are really feasible.  Make energy independence a top priority in Israel and the U. S. 

The Level Playing Field 

The popularizers of Critical Race Theory which now have become ensconced in multiple sectors of society, education, government, entertainment, media, business, and even the military argues that the reason why blacks do not have a level playing field but are at disadvantage and don’t do as well is due to white prejudice which has led to systemic racism.  

Of course, there is no such thing as a truly level playing field since every person has advantages and disadvantages. Those who grow up with wealth and a loving stable family are very advantaged but can still end in failure.  Those who are obese, mocked, and abused by others have disadvantages but can still succeed in life and some do.   I mean a success that is more than only economic success. 

Black Pastor Corrie Brooks just finished a 100 day Chicago rooftop camp out in the severe cold to raise awareness of the disadvantaged black community and to raise funds for his work in the city.  His analysis is very different than the left.   I am interpreting how he would see ethnic disparities in attainment in America, but especially as applied to blacks.  

Let’s take as an analogy of the level playing field and add degrees of incline.  Yes, being black, even if one is capable and educated, can be a disadvantage but with affirmative action might be an advantage.  We don’t know how to quantify this.  

Let’s say just being black in America tilts that playing field 5% or 10%.  It is not level, but we can jog or walk on such an incline.   CRT popularizers spend all their time working on that 10% percent.  They think getting whites to admit their white privilege will help.  They thank making standards less rigorous will help since they claim such standards are culturally white. They think reparations will help.  (More welfare!!) Much of the rest of the world, Europe, Japan, China and India keep the standards, so this may not help us In international competition but we can understand it.   They try to get quotas so each field has a percent in positions reflecting the population.  This may be impossible and dangerous in some fields where qualifications are crucial and even matters of life and death.

Corrie Brooks thinks that systemic disadvantage primarily traces to 1960s, liberalism.  The incentives of the Great Society destroyed the two-parent black family.  There is today a larger middle and upper-middle class of blacks but as whole poorer blacks were doing better before the Great Society. Civil rights?  Yes!  However, the welfare system as established led to family breakdown, crime, and destruction.  For him, this added a great disadvantage.  He argues that family break-up among whites will lead to bad results as well.  So, add a 30% disadvantage for this.  The incline is now at 35-40%  

Then we add the failure of schools for blacks that do not teach and students do not learn.  The lack of school choice and the dead-end of failing schools even when well-funded is a crucial matter.  The teachers’ unions and their control is part of systemic disadvantage. This leads to another 20% inline increase.  So now the incline is at 55-60%.  Some can overcome that, but it is getting harder. 

Add to this the social destruction trends in America, drugs, immorality, pornography, LGBTQ confusion and we can add another 15%   Now we are at 70% incline and far from the level playing field. 

Police prejudice does not really figure in the disadvantage though it is frustrating and angering. 

So there is my interpretation of listening to several of Pastor Corrie Brooks’ presentations and those of his black guests.  Pastor Brooks is giving his life to bring down that incline and make a more level field.  One more thing. Pastor Brooks believes that faith in and obedience to Jesus levels the playing field more than any other factor since a person empowered by God can do all things through His strength. 

The Argument from Culture  

About 55 years ago a number of thinkers developed what I called cultural apologetics.  Some of the famous names were Francis Schaeffer of the L’Abri Study center in Switzerland and Hans Rookmaaker, Professor of Art History of the Free University of Amsterdam, Holland.  The basic argument is that the true worldview is one in which human beings can find a lasting sense of joy and fulfillment.  Schaeffer and Rookmaaker analyzed art including painting, sculpture, movies, literature, and philosophy to show that modern anti-biblical philosophies like Atheistic Evolutionary Naturalism and Atheistic Existentialism produced cultural despair as reflected in artistic and philosophical expression.   Schaeffer expressed this by saying the “mannishness of man” cannot live comfortably in this worldview and shows rebellion against the meaningless of existence.  The famous apologist, Norman Geisler said that a worldview is an environment in which we live.  Fish live in the environment of sustaining water.  A fish is not meant to live outside of water.  The life of those opposed to the biblical worldview is like fish out of water.  They thrash around and cannot find meaning and fulfillment.  

Art especially shows that the anti-biblical world views lead to depression or despair.  Shaffer saw that people try to escape from the meaninglessness of their rationally asserted world views.  They take a leap of faith to find some mystical meaning.  For Albert Camus meaning is found by rebellion against meaninglessness.  We rebel against the absurdity of life to find a sense of meaning.  (See his book The Rebel.)  For Karl Jaspers, it is to have a mystical final experience that cannot be described.  For others it is to create the theater of the absurd to at least express ourselves and life’s absurdity.  For John Paul Sartre, it is to choose or create our own meaning and though it is not based on any real given meaning, it is to hold our ethical choice as having ultimate value as if it was of objective ultimate value.  We can go on and on.   Machine art, where humans are depicted as machines, shouts against the dehumanizing of the modern worldview. 

Others have pointed out that society, as a whole, becomes more and more uncivilized over time when such depressing world views are embraced.  The great philosopher Immanuel Kant argued that if human beings do not believe in life after death and a moral judgment of rewards and punishments, society will deteriorate into more and more crime and barbarism. Other cultures do have some hope in their world views, in my view nothing compared to the vivid hope of the Bible view.  But we are talking here about the world views of atheism and the assertion that there is no ultimate meaning to life.  We contrast this to the biblical world view, that we were created to be in loving community with God and others forever, to enjoy all the glories of God’s creation.  

In recent years until our own day, there are many who argue that the progress of societies in the west, against slavery, for hospitals, humane treatment for all, orphans, widows, those with handicaps, the poor, and the mentally ill only came through the influence of the Bible.  So argues even atheist British historian Tom Holland.  He argues that human rights and the compassion we treasure are unknown apart from this influence.  What an amazing admission!  The great sociologist and historian Rodney Stark argued in the same way.  The evidence was so overwhelming to him that in his last years he became a Christian.  Even the rise of modern science is due to the biblical view that God created a stable world whose laws could be studied.  (Alfred North Whitehead, in Science and the Modern Mind,  and the historian Herbert Butterfield)  

Doesn’t this make the most sense only if the Bible is really God’s revelation to us and that the biblical worldview that gives hope for this life and for everlasting life is the right and best of all world views?

Interpreting texts, the Bible, the Constitution, and the Supreme Court

The history of text interpretation is a great study.  The discipline of text interpretation is called hermeneutics and is applied to historical writing from the ancient Greeks, to the Bible in parts or as a whole (if one believes as I do that there is a unity in the Bible that can be interpreted as a whole) to a newspaper from the 1930s to Shakespeare and Wordsworth. 

Religious leaders many centuries ago developed rules of interpretation such as the Rabbinic rules from the early centuries A. D.  A more exacting set of rules for interpretation is more recent.  Only in the last few centuries was the primary thrust to understand a text according to the intention of the author or authors.  Understanding that intent required some understanding of what became known as cultural-historical exegesis.   In other words, we have to understand the language and culture of the time of writing to understand the intent of the author.  Craig Keener’s Cultural Background Commentary of the New Testament is a good example and a great resource. I recall the adage, “A text without a context is a pretext.”  The consensus until the mid 20th century was that we can know the meaning of texts with reasonable probability even when the author and something of his biography is not known.  

Parallels in Biblical Interpretation to Constitutional interpretation

There are amazing parallels to the interpretation of the Constitution of the United States and the Bible.  In both cases, we seek to know the original intent or as we say of the Constitution, the intent of the framers.  With regard to the Constitution, we have an amazing resource in the Federalist Papers that give a commentary on the Constitution.  Plus we know of the political philosophers whose ideas shaped the Constitution.  The Constitution is one of the most amazing governmental documents.  The United States has drifted away from it, but much is still in place.  Here are three responses to interpreting texts which now will affect the hearings for a new Supreme Court Justice.  The same responses are affecting Biblical interpretation. 

  1. Conservativism.  We can know the meaning of the texts.  This meaning is binding law on the United States, and we cannot stray from the meaning.  That which is not enjoined or precluded by the texts is required of us.  So also, for the Bible.  We can know its meaning and when we do know it, it is binding on us.  In the Bible, we are bound to the New Covenant application of the Torah. 
  2. Classic Liberalism.  We can know the meaning of the texts, but that meaning is antiquated.  The text may give us good principles but if it does not, we must have a flexible approach that enables us to make legal decisions that are more fitting to our cultural situation.   This would be the approach of liberals to the Bible’s teaching on morals and its accommodation to the culture and especially today to the LGBT agenda in liberal churches.  H. Richard Niebuhr in his classic Christ and Culture, described the liberal approach as Christ subsumed under culture.  The prevailing directions of the cultural elite subsume the meaning of the Bible and the Constitution under their preferred vision for the society.   The words of the text are made to say what they really don’t mean. 

Of course, there are centrists that want to respect the text but still want a freedom of transcending the original intent when needed.  

  1. The third approach to texts is postmodern interpretation. They say that a text has no objective meaning.  It can mean whatever the reader sees it to say (reader-response). Postmodernists approach the Bible in churches and then build their orientation on the consensus of the readers.  The tools for accurate interpretation are not really that important.  How destructive to scholarship!  Applied to the choice of a Supreme Court judge, postmodern ideas produce judges that simply make the text to say whatever he or she wants to and makes the law to say whatever he or she prefers.  Postmodernism is a dangerous aberration leading to chaos and anarchy!  Sadly is still pervasive in universities. 

It is important to note that our texts, either in the Bible or in the Constitution do not cover all situations but may give principles for application to new situations.  In Judaism, this is called Halakah.  For example, is it wrong to disconnect a person from machines that prolong life when the person is in a coma?  What about assisted dying?  Taking large doses of morphine relieves pain but hastens death. Ethicists in Judaism and Christianity think about such issues.  Is artificial insemination ethical?  Abortion to save the physical life of a mother (very rarely needed)? And we can go on and on.  Conservatives recognize the need for judging law application as well as being restrained so legislatures speak where the Constitution does not.  Liberals want courts to be super legislatures that further their goals. 

Obviously, the reader understands that I am a conservative.  In choosing a congregation or denomination, we should only choose one that pursues an objective interpretation of the Bible and teaches that the text is normative.  In choosing judges for the Supreme Court and other courts that judge constitutional issues, we need to choose judges that submit to the intent of the text and only show flexibility where the text gives principles but is not clear in application to new situations but also are reticent so that legislatures perform their duty.  This is the battle we face from Joe Biden’s choice for a judge that most likely will be liberal, but the horror of horrors could be postmodern. 

Liberalism and post-modernism in the Church are so very parallel to the same in civil government and the courts. 

For Seekers; Four Best Books

There are four books that are at this time are my four chosen books to give to seekers for the truth.  I would like to include my book The Biblical World View, An Apologetic.  Yes, since I wrote it and gave great effort to it, I think it is a very helpful and comprehensive book, but to pierce the heart, I think the four I name here are amazing.  I will make my book #5.  

  1. N. T. Wright, “Surprised by Hope” is an amazing book.  It is the best book I have ever read both on the resurrection of Yeshua and on our resurrection and life in the Age to Come.  Anglican Bishop Wright is one of today’s top New Testament theologians, presently teaching in the renowned department at St. Andrews University in Scotland.   He powerfully presents the evidence that Yeshua rose from the dead.  Then he presents the wonderful hope that comes from the fact that our resurrection life is a real bodily life fit for a totally renewed earth.  His language attains to a C. S. Lewis level of quality. 
  1. John Burke, “Imagine Heaven” is the most balanced and theologically solid book I have yet read on what is being called “near-death experiences.”  The most miraculous of these are clearly death and resurrection experiences, not near-death experiences.  The common and different descriptions of heaven, people knowing things that could not be known in the natural, and the transformation of those who have experienced such, is amazing and stirs faith and hope.  It is a great book to give to those with terminal illnesses. My best friend from our public high school read it before he died. It gave him and his wife a more vivid hope.  The book is proof that the body is not our whole self and that we indeed survive death.  It also shows that Yeshua is Lord of heaven and earth. 
  1. Craig Keener, “Miracles Todayis a shortened version with additions of his monumental two large volumes, Miracles, the Credibility of New Testament Miracles.  The latter is about the same kind of miracles happening today as in the Gospels and Acts. Keener is one of the world’s leading New Testament theologians. He teaches at Asbury Seminary and has written some of the most foundational books in his field. Keener travels the world to document miracles, ones that cannot be naturalistically explained. They are done on the cutting edge of Kingdom expansion.  Keener shows that miracles are predominantly and overwhelmingly done in the name and power of Yeshua, confirm the Gospel, and manifest compassion for the sick.   The compendium is amazing.   Keener’s great capability as a theologian puts this all in a framework of solid biblical theology and interpretation.  Dr. Keener is a great gift.  This book is like drinking from a fire hose.  Wonderful miracle after wonderful miracle is documented, often with medical evidence. 
  1. Thomas Dubay, “The Evidential Power of Beauty.  Dubay was an amazing professor at Catholic University in Washington, D. C.  He also was a leader in spiritual retreats.  Dubay presents the evidence from creation and how beauty pervades creation, from the fauna and flora to microscopic life to the macroscopic level of the whole universe.  His presentation of intelligent design with beauty is one of the best I have read. Then he presents the beauty of Yeshua, his life, his teaching, his death, and resurrection.  And finally, he presents the evidence from the lives of the saints.  The book can take your breath away.  I try to read this book again every year. It is that good 

Today’s evidence is much greater by far than in my student days.  Taken all together, the evidence and argument for the truth of our faith is amazing.  As I said about miracles, the whole evidence as well is like drinking from a fire hose.  I wish the evidence available to me in 1968 was like the evidence I now have available.  The developments in science in the last 60s years have been very helpful, and now the evidence form the miraculous which two of the books document (#2, and #3 above) is far more than I had in those years. 

Godly Children, Emotional Maturity, and Screen Time  

Members of the Tikkun America Apostolic Team asked me to write an article on this subject after I expressed my deep concern on how children were being raised in our western societies (I include Israel in this).  

When Patty founded our full-time school for children (Ets Chayim School) in 1980, the motto was “Raising Children who are Mighty in Spirit.”  We did not mean by this that the school would raise the children instead of their parents, but that the school would be a support for the parents in this goal.  What could be a better goal of education? Watchman Nee, the great Chinese Christian soul wrote, that a spiritual person is one that is in such a degree of unity with God that he or she hears the voice of the Spirit in their inner spirit with accuracy and easily obeys.  This voice comes through when Scripture is understood, and the Spirit empowers to obey.  Fellowship with the Father and Yeshua and sensitivity to the Spirit is the center of life.  From this center, we are led into studies and maturity in understanding the content of the Bible and its teaching.  From this, a young person begins in teen years to develop a biblical worldview.  This provides a basis for a critical evaluation of literature, art, science, philosophies, politics, and the larger popular culture.  This education continues after high school and after and into college and beyond for those who go into higher education.  

There are many helpful involvements to this end.  Some of the most important is prayer times and reading the Bible with children including teaching them to hear the voice of the Spirit subsequent to their being born again and being filled with the Spirit. Yes, they can prophesy.  The goal is a deeply trusting relationship with Yeshua from the youngest ages.  One element that is key to this quest is training children to love to read good books, indeed creating a reading culture. This begins with parents reading to their children.  Laura Bush, the wife of President George W. Bush, was a great proponent of such reading.  Reading trains the brain, expands both imagination and reasoning ability.  When this is rooted in the family, it is part of bonding and growth with parents.  

There are many other activities that help greatly in developing a fuller personality. 

  1. Team sports is a wonderful experience where the members bond together in the joy of sports.  I believe this waS very important in our children’s development.
  2. Great vacations that are meaningful are very helpful.  Hiking and learning about nature is part of the program.  
  3. Family day trips are great bonding and teaching times as well. Some trips teach about history.  From the Mid Atlantic to North East, history lessons are everywhere. 
  4. Developing musical ability is a great gain. Playing in an orchestra develops team friendship and the joy of experiencing great beauty. 
  5. Teaching the appreciation of beauty, both in nature and art, is important. Doing artwork together is great fun.  

And I can go on and on and you can no doubt add to this list. 

Many parents are thwarted in their goals.  They have been blindsided by the internet and the ever-present screen that captures the attention of their children.  I had placed the theme of this article on my to-do list, but before I got to it, I read an article in the Jerusalem Post, Nov. 26, 2021.  One of my favorite JPost writers, Amotz Asa El, decried the whole phenomenon and recommended a book by a noted author, Micah Goodman, Broken Attention, How to Heal a World Fracture by Technology. Sadly, the book is now only in Hebrew, but I expect an English version.  Much of what he said is not new but is documented by leading psychologists.  It is worth quoting Goldman, but I note first that other studies by mainstream psychologists have documented a decrease in some important cognitive abilities, including the ability to give long term attention to reading and sustained presentations of content, and the ability to engage in logical debate and the weighing of evidence.  People with a new short attention span can only engage with sound bites of material.  I am not speaking of everyone, but that this is a tendency that affects many.  You can imagine how bad this is for spiritual life which requires serious and meditative Bible reading and quiet listening to the Spirit. God-focused living does not seem to fit into the limitations of the attention span of the screen-produced brain/mind. It also leads to a decrease in the ability to experience friendship intimacy which is based on face-to-face communication. 

I quote Goodman (who is confirmed by so many others including some of the social media founders), He asserts that the “Cyber era’s social media, gadgetry, and habits (are) clinically addictive, politically ruinous, and socially destructive.”   These are “fixtures of an unplanned revolution that begs moral correction.”  

Asa El continues, “To understand the addictiveness one need only look at today’s teenagers, kids, and even toddlers to understand that we face an evolutionary crisis.  People spend hours and hours gazing at plastic screens instead of interacting with each other.  Worse, even when they do face each other, people often let the smartphone interrupt the conversation.  It is but one symptom of a global plague.”  

“Mankind has unknowingly fallen prey to corporate interests that turned human attention into a commodity,” according to Goodman.  “Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp, Google, Amazon, and the rest of the digital era’s social media, search engines, and marketing behemoths mine our attention and sell it to business interests while exacting from us an exorbitant social and psychological price.”  He goes on to note that what at first was seen as an answer to loneliness by connecting people, that rejoined old friends, became an engine of alienation.  

There is a “sharp rise in social network users’ sense of loneliness, sadness, and fear. . . Digital interactions are for the mind what candy is for the body; it feels like food, but it isn’t nutritious, and in fact, is poisonous.”  

“Technology sterilizes communication.  Content is transmitted, but energy is not.  ‘The more people are technologically connected the more they feel psychologically lonely.”  Many will note the correlation of screen addiction with suicide rates.

Games on the screen are also included in the destruction.  Again, it contributes to decreasing a broader level of brain functioning and replaces the kind of comradery gained in in-person sports and team sports.  Thumbs replace the functioning of the whole body.  Winning and losing with thumbs brings a satisfaction but of a different kind.  Some hold that it feeds a predator instinct.  

Goodman also noted how bad it has been for politics where serious discourse has been replaced by slogans and soundbites, but this is not the concern of this article.  

I have raised the alarm before, but I frequently see parents who think it is beyond them. Breaking the addiction will elicit a response of anger even if the parents explain.  Parents want to avoid the anger.  It is like removing a drug.  Requiring activities that rebuild broader brain and soul functioning is the challenge that follows, but until the young person reaches majority age, it is crucial to have the conversation and enforce standards.  Strict limiting of screen time will be necessary and in some cases as with alcoholics, none at all can be allowed.  Maybe phone calls and replace social media.  For younger children, some counsel to avoid screen time totally except for stories that parents oversee and games played with parents.  For example, Monopoly can be played on an Ipad.  

The answer is to screen addition is to create a culture of personal interaction, prayer, Bible, reading, great books, missionary stories, miracle stories, other great books, great art, great music, great movies, personal face-to-face friendships for children, and more.  The home should be mostly a screen-free zone when there are times set for personal interaction, art, and reading.  Screen time can be good for writing, homework, and yes, research for older young people. Yes, serious research articles are available!  So there is good via the internet.  However, when we have family interaction time, all devices need to be put aside. 

It is my goal in our network to see the leaders of congregations give leadership to families on these issues and for the leader’s family to be an example.  Here is the conclusion of Asa El.  He joins this conclusion to the Feast of Chanukah. 

“Beyond that struggle lurked an even deeper confrontation one that pitted Judea’s quest for national assertion, religious freedom, and personal sovereignty against idolatry’s scorn for introspection, morality, justice, and truth.”

“There, in a nutshell, are also the elements of the digital era’s threat, whose defeat will require the same conviction, courage, and resolve that the Maccabees displayed 2,188 years ago, and our candles will salute Sunday tonight.”

Dear reader, did you note that he nails it that screen attachment is idolatry that replaces personal love attachment?  Asa El’s article is entitled, “Hanukkah and the New Idolatry.” Whenever something is valued or given attachment outside of God’s order of valuation, it is idolatry.  Screen attachment is idolatry.  People find way too much meaning in it and invest way too much time and energy in it. No wonder it leads to deadness in spiritual things and to greater depression and suicide. Human beings were not created for this false type of habit-fulfillment, no more than pornography or drugs.  I hope a movement grows up to shut off the screen. Even now some secular leaders who developed social media are ahead of us and are removing devices for their children!  Let’s develop a godly and deeper counter-culture.   

Critical Race Theory Updates

I have continued to read Critical Race Theory books.  Nothing I have read changes my basic conclusions that have been summarized in essays on my Official Facebook Page.  The book by Richard Delgado, An Introduction to Critical Race Theory, is a helpful book from a key proponent that gives a good outline of the movement.  Also, I have been reading Dr. Derek Bell whose books are a foundation for the movement.  

One of the interesting things is the variety and disagreement in the movement.  Delgado points to two different sub-schools, one the materialist and the other the idealist.  Strangely though all are relativists in the issue of truth or epistemology, they yet assert their views as true constantly.  Both sub-schools see systemic racism as pervasive but somewhat hidden from view, especially from whites who think they are not prejudiced.  The materialist-oriented CRT proponent wants to make progress in the material conditions of the black community.  To do that, he wants to deal with laws that are not flexible enough to promote blacks or are too rigid in over punishing black lawbreakers for crimes that are not that significant.  (That is changing)  He wants to see affirmative action to increase the numbers of blacks admitted to top universities and hired in various fields.   Income redistribution is a key for them.  There is a neo-Marxist orientation in some.  Capitalism itself is at fault.  It will necessarily lead to income disparities and competition that will leave out poor blacks.  Others are not as Marxist but want to foster percentages of representation in various fields.  They also reject some of the measures for qualification.  The materialists believe that it is a waste of time to try to change white people by all kinds of exercises and classroom indoctrination on white privilege, shaming whites, and focusing on microaggressions, real or perceived in white responses to blacks.  Money is power and these folks want the money.  Other marginalized groups are included, some Hispanics and Native Americans, of course.  But other minorities such as more white-looking Hispanics, Asians, and Jews don’t fit the white privilege disparities.  This is a problem for the theory.  Nigerian Americans’ success is a case in point. 

The idealists want to change the hearts of white people, to understand what white privilege has done.  They want all whites to share in the guilt of white history, to feel shame, and thus lean over backward to treat blacks with compassion and deference.  This change of mindset will be a key to change society. When children grow up under CRT as applied to them, they will become white adults who will no longer exercise such privilege.  They will become anti-racists.

Some CRT people do not think they will gain their goals but that the struggle itself gives meaning. This was the case with the later writings of Derek Bell. What pessimism compared to the Gospel. 

There are myriad problems that time and space do not permit me to deal with.  However, the legal materialist CRT folks want to adjust law and the economy to favor the disadvantaged.  They give examples as to how the law as it is now applied, as an objective standard, hurts disfavored minorities, especially blacks.  Yet they do not give us an objective one law standard that all could see is fair to all.  As in the Torah, there was one law for the native Israelite and the stranger and no favoritism.  In some CRT theories, there is an argument for favoritism and flexibility for judges to apply different subjective standards. On the other hand, CRT folks do give good examples as to how sentencing has been more severe for blacks than for whites.  I am in favor of looking at standards and adjusting them where they are shown to be deficient, but the quest for one objective standard in law that applies to all must not be forsaken, or we will find a terrible deterioration in human relationships with all sides thinking that they are being unfairly treated.  Justice will then be seen as arbitrary. CRT people seek to tell stories of people that show unfairness, but such stories cannot be the standard for making law since all believe that the law was unfair to them since it cannot fairly cover all cases.  Objective measures and statistics are important plus a good analysis of those statistics. 

One CRT example is how educational testing unfairly affects disadvantaged people.  However, this is a case for having better more objective tests that make sense.  Ultimately somewhere tests will have to be taken to qualify.  Engineers and scientists will have to prove capability.  We cannot simply fill quotas for engineers, chemists, and brain surgeons.  Can you imagine the buildings that would collapse?  The better idea is extra help for the disadvantaged populations that they may do better.  In addition, the neo-Marxist solutions in distribution will shrink the economy and lead to greater overall poverty.  This has been shown again and again. Not all CRT folks go neo-Marxist, but many do.  Others just want a more level playing field.  However, the CRT legal and educational recommendations remove objectivity (some say objectivity is a white value) and replace it with complexities whereby fairness is impossible to evaluate.  As this affects courts, the idea of clear standards is being lost.  We see it today in how justice is applied to conservatives and liberals.  I would say that with regard to hiring, that it should be the goal to favor qualified disadvantaged groups, but how can we enforce that?!  It is subtle and employers can give defenses. Sometimes criteria of achievement in tests and personal history are used that are irrelevant to performing the job well, though they may show diligence. 

The idealists are the ones primarily affecting our educational system, corporate training, government training, and even the military.  The idea is to get whites to confess to corporate white privilege which benefits them and to confess the corporate sins of the U. S.  They are then made to feel shame and guilt.  Then they are to find redemption in works righteousness. Myriad examples are brought forth on how people hire according to their favoritism for people like themselves; how little whites understand blacks and say offensive things even when they mean no harm and show such a lack of understanding.  Yes, we can learn to appreciate cultural differences better.  However, the list of microaggressions and offenses almost becomes a catalog. The legalism involved will cause whites to separate believing they are walking on eggshells.  Alas, this is now coming into our schools.  We are now seeing this affect the election in Virginia and the reaction against CRT in the Louden County public school system.  Though they deny teaching CRT, they are being dishonest.  The concern is what will teachers of low wisdom and intelligence do in applying the CRT in which they are being instructed?   One six-year-old came home and told her mother in Louden County, “Am I evil because I am white?”  Some people in corporations, government, the military, and schools will go along with this, but many after being put through the wringer will quietly be resentful and will be less anti-racist than before.  

CRT idealists who are trying to change the culture do not understand how to change hearts.  It comes from relational bonding.  Building interracial teams together in mutual understanding and love at all levels changes the hearts, but CRT teaching places a barrier to the natural sharing that would develop.  CRT’s catalog of offenses and ways to gain parity in society is complex and could be a barrier to understanding.  One example is microaggressions.  Yes, they exist.  But the examples are so numerous that a white will come away saying it is hopeless. Plus. the offended see wrong intent and heart where it does not exist. Wounded people also misinterpret with prejudice.  CRT ties people into a pretzel of legalism and a secular works righteousness as the way of redemption from white sin. It is anti-Gospel in this. 

This leads us to the contrast to a biblical solution.  First, the Bible teaches that we have to have a change of heart, “All have sinned.”  We must all have the change, black and white.   This change of heart begins by being born again and then entering discipleship where we learn to love.  Attachment love in a community of people who are committed to one another and correct one another in love is the key to growing into the likeness of Yeshua.  The problem with the churches is a discipleship deficit.  CRT seeks to see people change on the basis of a left-brain process of providing information and then calling for a decision of the will to change and be anti-racist.  This is not how heart change happens.  They also seek to see people change through shame, but this never works. Change is a heart matter.  The Bible says we are to love one another but it also says we are to love our enemies. This is a work of the Spirit. 

So, there are two principles for black/white relationships that begin with the Gospel.  First, those in Messiah must love one another and then love their enemies.  This love means seeking the best for them and desiring their destiny fulfillment.  The second is that love covers a multitude of sins (microaggressions).  If every little perceived aggression is pursued there will be no time for anything.  Significant sin is to be confronted, but not every little thing.  When believers have built interracial communities, they then become positive change agents in society.  Love does take time to listen and understand the other but does not separate into conclaves as some CRT people recommend for blacks in a kind of black power way. 

The Bible shows that God’s heart is, first of all, with the disadvantaged.  Therefore,  the believer will seek standards of merit for hiring, promotion, and schooling that are fairer to the disadvantaged but still require sufficient proof of merit.  Then they will work with minorities to see them educated and trained to qualify.  The boss who is a believer will favor the one from a disadvantaged group over one from an advantaged group if they are both really qualified.  Why?  Because God is always wanting to lift the disadvantaged.  The believer will see standards in law that are objective to all but do not unfairly treat the disadvantaged worse than others.  He will seek to see educational opportunities and school choices to lift the disadvantaged,  He will foster a large policing presence to cut down murder and crime, but one well trained to gain the trust of the minority community. 

The Gospel is understood as a call to discipleship from the beginning.  When we love we seek to understand.  I really have profound doubt in CRT making a positive difference.  It is because their secular approach cannot change the heart.  Enforced outcomes will produce resentment.  I actually think it will foster race division, not unity and reconciliation.  The Gospel is the way to heart change, and when the way of Yeshua permeates the society those who are advantaged will be committed in love to lift the disadvantaged.  The answer is in the power and love of God.  

The Moral Argument 

Famous writers from even a very long time ago, have presented the moral argument for the existence of God.  It is found in Paul (Shaul) the apostle and C. S. Lewis (Mere Christianity) and countless others.  There are several aspects to this argument. 

First, we find ourselves with a conscience which either convicts us or tells us that we are guilty or not guilty.  The guilty or not guilty judgment for our behavior is a constant part of our human experience.  We are guilty before the law as our conscience understands right and wrong.  That is an amazing fact about human beings that is not the case with animals at any level. Animals survive and do quite well by instinct and mental awareness.  They don’t’ follow moral standards.  There are two aspects to this. 

  1. Who are we guilty before?  There are many things where we believe we are guilty or not though the wrong we perceive does not violate any civil law of society.  Lying, mistreating another, unfair anger, cheating, manipulating, selfishly grabbing the bigger piece, little things, and big things, all produce guilt. Good behavior produces a sense of peace.  If we are guilty, who is it before?  If there is a Law Giver, this would explain that we are guilty before Him.  We could argue that we are guilty before parents, teachers, and society who taught us standards, but as an adult, we will not be punished by our parents or teachers.  If we are very bad, people will avoid us.  However, guilt has to do with punishment.  How do we find forgiveness from our guilt?  The nature of guilt points to One before whom we are guilty.  This is not absolute proof, but as C. S. Lewis says, a pointer. 
  2. Secondly, we believe in right and wrong.  Some people say there is really no right and wrong. It is relative and only because we think it so.  However, no one acts as if this is the case.  When a driver cuts us off in a dangerous move, we do not say, “Wow, I don’t like it when people do that.”  Rather we get angry sometimes and say that it is wrong.  When someone works harder and better but does not get promoted but the one not performing as well does get it due to favoritism, we do not say, “I feel bad and wish it were not so.”  We say, “it is unjust and wrong.”  We constantly judge others as right and wrong for their behavior as if there is a standard of right and wrong that they violate.  It is not just a matter of feeling preferences.  Romans 2 states that this sense of right and wrong is from God. We will thus be judged by the very standards we express in our judgment of others.  Though cultures vary in their view of right and wrong, there is much in common as well. So where does the law come from, the idea of just and unjust?  To really take right and wrong seriously it can not just be what parents and teachers happened to say to us. Again, the law and standards of justice can be most easily understood as from a great Lawgiver.  He is the one before whom we must give an account, the ultimate Judge before whom we will gain reward or punishment. Our forgiveness and guilt can be removed only by repenting and asking forgiveness from Him and the ones we have wronged and by making restitution or payback for the wrong. 

This understanding of right and wrong, Lawgiver and conscience, and the guilty and not guilty verdicts of conscience have been the overwhelming consensus of western culture for 1600 years.  Only in our day do we see a loss of confidence in these views.   It has produced terrible social decline. Those who make the moral argument are not saying conscience is a perfect guide but that it tells us something.  It is a pointer.  Law, conscience, guilt, etc. make sense if there is a righteous God who created us and gives the Law. However, we also argue that we need biblical revelation to really understand God’s law more accurately and his way of forgiveness and judgment for those who do not repent.  

Privilege and Disadvantage

It is wrong for a person to be disadvantaged due to the color of their skin.  This is the cry of the Critical Race people on the injustice of white privilege.  Does it exist?  Yes, in court sentencing until recently (amazingly Trump acted to right this), in how police treat black young men in comparison to whites, in educational opportunity, and more.  However, there are circumstances where blacks may be more privileged as when a black is accepted to a top-flight university instead of a higher-performing Asian, or in being raised in a sports culture, especially basketball.  The well-known player in his day, Enos Country Slaughter, was amazed that he could lead a life making a salary at a game he loved, baseball.  In Basketball the pro-players all would be rich with the right financial discipline and investment.  That is a great privilege.  However, having said all that, I do believe that black skin is generally a disadvantage and white skin an advantage.  But it is overly stressed since it is not determinative.  Dark Indian immigrants do very well.  It is not as in the days of Jim Crow a barrier that cannot be overcome.  Those some whites will hire those who “look like and act like me” others really seek diversity.  I don’t think there are clear stats to know how this is breaking down. However, I want to talk about another issue of advantages and disadvantages through the lens of my life and then speak of some applications.  

My Jewish father died before I was 9 years old.  That was a terrible disadvantage.  I watched my mother who cried and grieved daily for years.  That also was a disadvantage.  However, my father left my mother a good sum in inheritance. He was a successful Wall Street broker.  That was a great advantage.  We never lacked food or clothing and grew up living in a large lovely home without a mortgage.  We all went to very good public schools in Northern New Jersey.  That was an advantage, a great privilege.  I became amazingly fat and was greatly rejected in elementary school to high school until I was 15.  I had few friends.  It was a terrible disadvantage.  Normal-looking thin people were so much more privileged.  Yet when I was 12 ½ I was drawn to God and went to Church.  This was connected to my Norwegian roots.  My Uncle was on the board of Billy Graham’s organization and an elder in the church where I attended. I prayed to accept Jesus.  Then I went to summer camp and dedicated my life to Jesus.  I also had friends at camp that accepted me.  After this, though at times my weight, connected to thyroid issues, gave me depression, I was yet mostly optimistic.  I had this deep conviction or certainty that my life would be good, and I would succeed because God was with me.  I did lose weight when I was 15.  Acceptance was not a big issue anymore though I was not cool.  I had two strong friends in the secular school and a few in the church youth group.  The family funds were enough to pay for Wheaton College and graduate school.  What a privilege this was!  I look back on the anti-Semitism of my grandparent’s era, living in the poor area of the Lower East Side of New York, but somehow, they made it financially, and I am so privileged that they did.  After a time of depression and doubt, God provided a spiritual father, an amazing man who nurtured me back to faith.  What a privilege to be loved and mentored by Wheaton’s Chaplain Evan Welsh. 

God has a good calling intended for all, but these callings are not equal.  To prevent a good destiny is a central meaning of injustice. (Destiny prevention) However, I have other thoughts.  This is for believers.  Paul notes that in the Body we should take care of those members who are especially not as beautiful or seemingly important just as we take care of the less presentable parts of our bodies.  Do note the many issues of disadvantage, not just black skin.  Those who are beautiful in form are given preferences in hiring, marriage prospects, and social advantages.  Ever notice how the women look on Fox news?  Yet, this can come with challenges. I sometimes think the middling people, not greatly beautiful or ugly but middling, not rich but not poor but well supplied, maybe more well-adjusted.  Each of us is called by God to make the most of what God has provided, for we all have advantages and privileges and disadvantages.  Those who were raised in loving two-parent families with a father and mother who loved each other show amazing privilege.  This may be the number one predictor of success.  Lastly, I mention the disadvantages of mental and physical handicaps, autism, genetic deformities, crippling from accidents or even from birth.  

The job of the Body of Messiah is to provide communities of love where those who are disadvantaged are well-loved and from that love, and healing can go on to succeed in life as God has called them. The emphasis of the Gospel is toward the disadvantaged; those who are marginalized.  With the power of the Spirit, all can come into the most amazing privilege and success.  All have a purpose in Him.