Losing Ourselves

Losing Ourselves


BreakPoint.org

It’s easy to think that the story of the last several decades, at least as it comes to Christianity and society, is the story of moral shifting. In other words, things that were once considered wrong are now considered right, and things that were once considered right are now considered wrong. That certainly explains an awful lot, and certainly there have been moral shifts in Western society.

However, that’s not enough to explain everything. More accurately, maybe we should say that the moral shifts that we see, which are obvious and which have indeed happened, are the fruit of the issue, not the root. They are the effect, not the cause.

The deepest and more fundamental shifts that have taken place in Western culture over the last several decades have not been in our definition of what’s right and what’s wrong. They’ve been in our definition of reality itself, specifically our understanding of what it means to be human. Starting with that framework, we can answer some questions that for many of us seemed to be nearly unanswerable. What’s wrong? It’s been in our definition of reality itself, specifically our understanding of what it means to be human. Maybe you find yourself in the same cultural boat as Carl Trueman: a little dizzy, like so many of us, about how quickly things went from unthinkable to unquestionable.

It is one thing for someone to say something like, “I am a woman trapped in a man’s body.” Certainly, throughout history, there have been people that have thought that sort of thing, and maybe even said that sort of thing out loud. The difference, as Trueman puts it, between those times and today is that that statement has now come to be regarded as coherent and meaningful.

There is an essential question for Christians to answer. If we are to frame our worldview without being pulled here-and-there by the various deceptions of our culture while also having a strong enough cultural witness that is big enough for the questions of the challenges of this time in human history, then answering this question must involve a deep dive into the issue of the image of God. In other words, the Christian view of what it means to be human. That is why we are going to be spending an entire conference in May on that question at the Wilberforce Weekend in Fort Worth.

If we want to understand the degree to which our culture is lost, if we wish to see how far our society has strayed from the truth, and if we wish to understand where they are and go to them with the answers to the questions that they have, then we need to understand this shift. Where did it come from? How did we change our minds? Not just about what is right and wrong and not only even questions about whether there is a God or not. How did we change our minds on what it means to be human?

That is what this remarkable book by Carl Trueman offers: The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self. Consider the subtitle: “Cultural Amnesia, Expressive Individualism and the Road to Sexual Revolution.” The sexual revolution has gone so far – further than even its original progenitors could have ever imagined – and at the root of that is an idea that Trueman rightly defines and identifies as expressive individualism. In other words, when who we are as human persons is completely disconnected from any design and from any creator, then the only thing there is left to us is whatever I express about myself. With this framework, when anything – whether it’s religious, moral, or social norms or even laws and public policies – gets in the way of me being whatever it is that I say or that I want to be, it is here that the greatest oppression, the greatest discrimination, comes.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is a must-read book. My friend Bruce Ashford, a remarkable scholar in Christian worldview and theology, calls this book the most significant analysis and evaluation of Western culture written by a Protestant during the last 50 years. That is some serious praise. Rod Dreher calls this without question one of the most important religious books of the decade, saying, “Carl Trueman explains modernity to the Church with depth, clarity, and force. The significance of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is hard to overestimate.”

I think this book is absolutely essential reading for any Christian who wants to make sense of this cultural moment and do it in such a way that they know better how to take their faith into the public square.

As we have said so many times over the last couple weeks, our understanding of the image of God is central to a Christian worldview, and it is crucial for our cultural witness. More than that, it is the pivotal place where our faith collides with Western culture because of expressive individualism.

The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self is the featured resource for the Colson Center this month. For a gift of any amount to the Colson Center, I will send you a copy of this book, and, trust me, you will not be sorry to get the depth of understanding that the book offers.

To pick up your copy of The Rise and Triumph of the Modern Self, just visit BreakPoint.org/April2021.

Publication date: April 9, 2021

Photo courtesy: ©Kristen Sturdivant/Unsplash


BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can’t find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.

Post-Pandemic, Will China’s Church Be Changed Forever?

Each day, Aaron Zhang—all names in this story are pseudonyms—wakes up and helps his two children get ready for their day. His oldest is in elementary school, and like a growing number of other Chinese Christian families, their family homeschools.

Last year, they were dreaming about overseas mission work. Zhang even quit his job to prepare. But now, with restrictions tight, the family can’t obtain or renew passports. Their goal of being missionaries is on hold indefinitely.

These are difficult days for Chinese believers, and darker days loom. On February 1, 2020, harsh new regulations overseeing every aspect of faith practice went into effect across China. These completed a spate of regulations initially rolled out in 2018.

But during the 2020 rollout, the government’s attention was diverted: one week before, Wuhan was locked down. Chinese society entered a season of intense quarantine and separation.

More than a year later, life in China remains somewhat bizarre, yet largely functional. But there may be no return to normalcy for the church.

Restrictions

The new restrictions require Chinese Communist Party oversight for every measure of religious life—staffing, fund management, gatherings. China’s unofficial churches, known as house churches, have operated in recent decades in an ambiguous space: they have rented public space, welcomed visitors, and been open about some of their activities, all without official government sanction. The February restrictions effectively close that era of semi-openness.

In China, there may be no return to normalcy for the church.

More ominously, these measures specify that all religious activity within China must promote and support the Chinese Communist Party.

“I think a lot of the churches could disappear,” said S. E. Wang of China Partnership. Still, “God is leading the way forward. This pandemic . . . is not the beginning of the end; it is the end of the beginning.”

Short-Term Opportunities

Even before COVID-19, a lot of Chinese house churches couldn’t meet face to face.

“Persecution prepared the Chinese church to face this pandemic, because it forced churches to close their public meeting places,” said Simon Liu, a pastor who trains unregistered church planters.

All religious activity within China must promote and support the Chinese Communist Party.

Since the pandemic, Chinese pastors have held online crusades. These are not intended to replace Sunday worship, but to preach the good news and unite disconnected Christians. And they require courage: the evening’s preacher must be willing to show his face to a non-vetted crowd, which can be dangerous.

“The risk is there, but I think more and more see opportunity,” Liu said.

The online meetings average 1,000 to 2,000 direct connections. One northeastern Chinese pastor began his message this way: “The Christian hope lies in this—we are not stronger or purer than others, but rather than believing in ourselves, we believe in Jesus, who upholds us whenever we fall, who strengthens us when our strength is drained, who loves us when we are in pain.”

Christians have invited their family and friends, but also have asked their enemies. “Some people have even invited their local police,” Liu said. “The persecuting parties feel like they are also vulnerable: ‘Maybe I could get this virus. Maybe I will die. . . . You are not afraid of death, so maybe something in your faith is quite unique.’”

Persecution prepared the Chinese church to face this pandemic.

Believers have also done what they can to serve and care, whether next door or around the world. Chinese social media were replete with stories of Christians donating masks and caring for quarantined neighbors.

A Chinese Christian in New York received nearly 6,000 masks from mainland Chinese Christians at the beginning of the pandemic. Those masks came in small packs of 100 or 200, from Chinese brothers and sisters who reported it took as many as nine hours to obtain and ship one such small package.

Long-Term Worries

Even while leaning into short-term opportunities, Chinese pastors see problems ahead. The pandemic likely ushered in the beginning of a new reality.

In the United States, churches radically altered the life of their bodies to conform to pandemic norms. Although some of those modifications will remain, most American churches have already returned to worshiping together. In China, things may not ever revert to pre-pandemic days.

“This is not short term,” Wang said. “Even if the pandemic is over, the public space has been squeezed very small for the churches to gather. There is no public space for people to go back to.”

He’s referring to tightening government controls, which mean house churches will no longer be able to rent commercial space for corporate worship, as many have been doing.

In China, things may not ever revert to pre-pandemic days. . . . ‘There is no public space for people to go back to.’

Private space is also tightly controlled. These days, nervous neighbors are more likely to report a gathering of 20 strangers. “Basically, you cannot have larger than two families, or three,” Wang said. “That will be a new norm for Chinese churches.”

“The Devil is using this opportunity to crack down on the church, that’s for sure, but God will use it in a different way,” one Chinese pastor said. Before persecution intensified in the last several years, many in China were attracted to the celebrity-pastor model. Gifted teachers attracted national and even international followings.

This new normal means less elevation of central leaders and a sharper focus on smaller groups. As Christian communities are broken down into smaller clusters through plague and persecution, church leaders must raise up a new generation of local leaders equipped to walk their people through marriages, deaths, and family conflicts.

Much of the training has to be indigenous: many missionaries were driven out of mainland China last year. Even after the pandemic ends, the number of overseas workers ministering in China will be much smaller than before the pandemic.

To that end, preparing capable teachers remains a priority.

“Even if today everything is going down, all of a sudden the door could open widely,” Wang said. “It is our responsibility to make that start to happen, so that when the door opens, a group of ready preachers can go to the streets and stadiums and preach the gospel.”

Pandemic and Persecution

The book of James is clear that no one knows what tomorrow will bring. Life is a mist that appears and then vanishes.

“The pandemic and the persecution have led to a new situation,” one Chinese pastor said. “We still do a lot of active planning, but more humbly we say, ‘Lord, if you are willing: this is your time. Use it.’ . . . We don’t know what the future holds.”

Chinese Christians have watched God work in uncertain times before. During the Cultural Revolution, believers were forced underground for decades, and many Western observers despaired at the church’s future. But in the 1980s, the Chinese church experienced an explosive period of growth. Today, there may be as many as 100 million Chinese believers.

“Sometimes we feel like God is pretty close to these things; sometimes we feel like God is pretty far,” Liu said. “But we know that everything is under his control, and he is behind everything. Whatever happens is God’s way to prepare his church. He is always preparing his church.”

Aaron Zhang agrees. “Through uncertainty, we depend on our certain God,” he said. “God calls us to live an uncertain life, so that we can trust and rely on him.”

CNN Blasted as ‘Propaganda’ for Asserting ‘It’s Not Possible’ to Know Sex at Birth

CNN Blasted as ‘Propaganda’ for Asserting ‘It’s Not Possible’ to Know Sex at Birth


A CNN news story claiming “it’s not possible” to know a person’s gender or sex at birth was widely panned across social media this week, mainly because it was stated as a non-debatable fact.

The story focused on two executive orders by South Dakota Republican Gov. Kristi Noem prohibiting males from competing in female sports. The article was highly critical of her position.

“It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth,” the CNN story said.

It didn’t take long for Christians and conservatives to notice the sentence.

“If you act like a propaganda outlet, people are going to treat you like a propaganda outlet. This is blatant @CNN,” tweeted Denny Burk, director of the Center for Gospel and Culture at Boyce College in Louisville, Ky.

“This is CNN. Unbelievable,” tweeted conservative radio host Erick Erickson.

“We live in a literal clown world where the elites pretend not to know what it means to be a man or a woman. The only way to maintain your sanity is to reject this absolute nonsense everywhere you see it,” tweeted author Allie Beth Stuckey.

“Actually, there is a scientific consensus for ‘assigning sex at birth.’ It’s called observation, coupled with a basic understanding of mammalian and human biology,” tweeted Hot Air senior editor Ed Morrissey.

“Hey @CNN, you wrote, ‘It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and there is no consensus criteria for assigning sex at birth.’ Call me, and I’ll explain the criteria to you in 15 seconds,” tweeted David Prince, pastor of Ashland Avenue Baptist Church in Lexington, Ky.

One person tweeted, sarcastically, “Wonder if CNN would help me out and announce it’s ‘Not Possible To Know A Person’s Income On Tax Day.’”

The website eventually tweaked the sentence, although the change did little to appease Christians and other conservatives’ concerns. The new sentence read: “It’s not possible to know a person’s gender identity at birth, and for some people, the sex listed on their original birth certificate is a misleading way of describing the body they have.”

Related:

Father Jailed after Calling Transgender Child His ‘Daughter’ and Using Wrong Pronouns

Photo courtesy: ©Getty Images/Kieferpix


Michael Foust has covered the intersection of faith and news for 20 years. His stories have appeared in Baptist Press, Christianity Today, The Christian Post, the Leaf-Chroniclethe Toronto Star and the Knoxville News-Sentinel.

Is the Resurrection Story Borrowed from Pagan Myths?

Is the Resurrection Story Borrowed from Pagan Myths?


BreakPoint.org

Next week, Christians worldwide will celebrate, like the entire cloud of witnesses has before them, the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. The resurrection is, of course, the central event in the Holy Scriptures, the pivotal moment of the story of Christ, and the foundational belief of a Christian worldview. Even more, if it happened, it is the pivotal event in all of human history.

Still, it’s not difficult to see why it’s so hard to believe, especially today. Both science and experience tell us that corpses do not revive. The dead stay dead.

Even more, some skeptics level the charge that the story of Jesus’ resurrection was simply borrowed from pagan myths, who had their own “dying and rising” deity stories. So, was the resurrection story basically stolen from pagan religions? In the latest “What Would You Say?” video, my colleague Brooke McIntire tackles this issue.

The next time someone says the idea that Jesus rose from the dead was borrowed from pagan myths, here are 3 things to remember:

Number 1: Just because some stories are similar does not mean that one borrowed from another.

A little more than a century ago, a story was first told about a passenger ship that was unsinkable. However, while steaming across the Atlantic Ocean on a clear April evening, it struck an iceberg and sank. And, more than half of its passengers died from a lack of lifeboats. The name of the ship was spelled “T-I-T-A-N …” Yes, “The Titan.” Did you think I was talking about the “Titanic”? That tragedy occurred in 1912. However, I was referring to the fictional story in a novel titled Futility: The Wreck of the Titan, published in 1898, 14 years prior to the sinking of the Titanic.

There are a striking number of similar details between the two stories, even in the ship’s name! However, we would never claim that the similarities suggest the latter story was influenced by the former and that the Titanic did not actually sink. Similarities between stories do not prove that one necessarily borrowed from another.

Number 2: It is utterly implausible that the early Christians would borrow major ideas from pagan myths.

The earliest Christians were pious Jews who often debated over the minutia of the Jewish Law. For example, they debated over whether Jewish Christians were still required to maintain the temple purification rites, whether Christians could eat meat that had been sacrificed to idols, whether non-Jewish male Christians needed to be circumcised, and whether Jewish Christians could even eat in the same room with non-Jewish Christians. Jews believed that they had been chosen by God to be a people separated from paganism. Given this background, it would have been unthinkable for these early Christians with Jewish sensibilities to engage in wholesale borrowing from pagan religions for the foundational belief of their own new sect.

Number 3: Stories of people surviving death are not unusual.

Surviving death is a deep-seated longing in most humans. So, it should come as no surprise to find stories peppered throughout human history of people returning from the dead. Fictional stories of dying and rising gods in pagan myths do nothing to discredit the story of Jesus rising from the dead. We must decide whether or not Jesus actually was resurrected from the dead based on the evidence. And there’s a lot of evidence. If you want to learn about it, check out Gary Habermas’ book, The Case for the Resurrection of Jesus.

To see the whole video addressing the question of whether the resurrection of Christ was based on pagan myths, go to whatwouldyousay.org.  Or, you can go to YouTube and search for “Colson Center What Would You Say?” Subscribe and be notified each time a new “What Would You Say?” video is released.

Publication date: March 31, 2021

Photo courtesy: GettyImages/mbolina


BreakPoint is a program of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. BreakPoint commentaries offer incisive content people can’t find anywhere else; content that cuts through the fog of relativism and the news cycle with truth and compassion. Founded by Chuck Colson (1931 – 2012) in 1991 as a daily radio broadcast, BreakPoint provides a Christian perspective on today’s news and trends. Today, you can get it in written and a variety of audio formats: on the web, the radio, or your favorite podcast app on the go.

John Stonestreet is President of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview, and radio host of BreakPoint, a daily national radio program providing thought-provoking commentaries on current events and life issues from a biblical worldview. John holds degrees from Trinity Evangelical Divinity School (IL) and Bryan College (TN), and is the co-author of Making Sense of Your World: A Biblical Worldview.