Episode 2-4: Heat to Light — Our Lost Moral High Ground, and How to Begin Reclaiming It

Episode 4 May 03, 2021 00:26:39
Episode 2-4: Heat to Light — Our Lost Moral High Ground, and How to Begin Reclaiming It
Thinking Christian
Episode 2-4: Heat to Light — Our Lost Moral High Ground, and How to Begin Reclaiming It

May 03 2021 | 00:26:39

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Show Notes

Remember when Christianity held the moral high ground? Not just Christianity, the faith delivered to us in Christ and his word, but Christianity in the form of church-going people? Those days are over. Western culture sees Christian culture as intolerant, homophobic, bigoted, backward, and on and on the list continues.

And here’s why this really matters in our efforts to see the heat of cultural conflict turned to the light of spiritual transformation: Knowing this, we can better equip ourselves to answer the first, most urgent question on the minds of so many questioners and seekers, not to mention skeptics and unbelievers. The main question isn’t what it used to be: Is Christianity true? Now the question is whether Christianity is even good.

In today’s podcast I also announce an upcoming conversation with progressive pastor Brandan Robertson. I wrote about him on The Stream a couple weeks ago; he responded on Twitter; now we’ve agreed to continue that conversation live on video this coming Thursday, May 6, at 7 pm Eastern Time. Keep an eye for a new blog post at Thinking Christian, where I’ll be announcing where and how you can tune in.

If you’re finding this podcast  encouraging, informing, or equipping to you, please pass it along to a friend. Subscribe to it or follow it on your podcast app of choice, and please also give it a five-star rating there. It really helps!

 

 

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Episode Transcript

Speaker 0 00:00:08 Welcome to the thinking Christian podcast, your weekly guide to solid Christian thinking on culture science, faith, and Christian confidence hosted by Tom Gilson. Speaker 1 00:00:22 Hello, I'm Tom Gilson with a thinking Christian podcast. We're in season two, the season on transforming the heat of cultural conflict into the light of spiritual transformation. Today in episode four of season two, I'm going to open up a topic that I plan to spend a lot of time on, not just today, but in weeks to come. It's on heat to light, of course, but specifically on reclaiming the moral high ground. And I'm going to launch into the topic very soon. But first I need to let you know about something very unusual, very special. That's coming up this Thursday, may six at 7:00 PM. Brandon Robertson is a progressive pastor, very progressive about whom I've written on the stream. I'll put notes on that in the program notes. So you can get a link to that. Robertson has written and spoken very widely. I responded to him on the stream about a sermon that he did in which among other things he makes Judas and Satan, the heroes of their respective stories. Speaker 1 00:01:31 Pete responded to my stream article and it started a conversation. And we're going to continue that conversation in the live video feed online this Thursday now I've respected his congenial irenic attitude and the conversations we've had. I'm blind so far, but we certainly disagree on many things. So there's potential for some heat in this conversation. I also hope God willing with your prayers to show how heat can be turned into light. Keep an eye on thinking Christian for the post there at which I will detail the website. You can find this probably either on Facebook or YouTube for a live feed. Thursday, may six that's 7:00 PM. And now back to our topic, the moral high ground. Remember when Christianity actually held the moral high ground. Maybe not depends on how long you've been around it. Sure. Isn't the case. Now, at least not in the minds of many of our contemporaries in the Western world. Speaker 1 00:02:34 I'm talking perception here, not reality, but perception is powerful. I'll come back to reality in a bit because Christianity's reality is really, really good, too few. See it that way. Now, though, some of us believers haven't caught on yet to the change in the culture and the, in the way the culture is challenging us because you see the question to be whether Christianity is true. And so you'd have people asking, you know, how could it be true that Jesus Rose from the dead? How could it be true that the Bible can be trusted? How do we know that the Bible can be trusted? How do we know these things? That used to be the main question? And it's still an important one. People still ask about that, but more often and more on the surface more the top of my top of mind is a question. Speaker 1 00:03:25 Whether Christianity is good, Christian apologists typically emphasize still, well how the faith passes the test of evidence and reason, but the world, especially young people are responding by saying hi. I don't know if it's true and I don't care if it's true. I don't want to be a Christian. If it means hanging around with people like that. I really think that that's the issue today that it's not so much that people doubt the truth of Christianity. In fact, the whole question of truth is very confused. What does truth even mean? We have an answer for that in the faith, but boy, a whole lot of people don't know. And so they're not that concerned about truth. They're concerned about the people that they're going to be hanging around with, or, or the cultural norms that they're expected to pick up that are going to apply to them. Speaker 1 00:04:21 That, you know, have to act that way. I have to become one of those people. So what are they thinking of when they say those people are people like that? Well, you probably already know, but let me just say it. Let me get it out there. Thinking we're a bunch of bigots. We're backwards. We're a politicized, we're anti everything, especially anything that has to do with what they call quote, loving relationships. We're not just racist. A racist is bad. Boy. Racist is really bad in today's culture. And it's kind of the number one sin, but we're not just racist work quote, Christian nationalists, which is close cousin to quote white supremacist, even though not all of us are white, even in America, even though the most Christian country in the world per capita is Kenya. And by the way, let me just, uh, dwell on that for a second. Speaker 1 00:05:19 If you think the typical Christian these days is as a Christian, you might find it a mega church in Texas. You, well, you were never right that the mega church or whatever, uh, American Christian was never the typical Christian, but okay, you were wrong before if you thought that, but in the past few decades, that view has become more wrong than ever before. Christianity's center of gravity is no longer in America's Bible belt. It's not in America anywhere. It's in the global South and the globe, East Africa, Asia, and South America. So no Christianity is not white supremacism, but you know, that's, that's still the charge and we're anti intellectual too. They say which boy, that's such a big topic. I'm going to devote next week's blog, post and podcast to it entirely. And I'll come back actually to all of these charges in time. Speaker 1 00:06:20 Or if you want, you could use the search [email protected], both places. I read a lot to find where my colleagues and I have already covered these topics. If you a quick hint for the, uh, the search function on thinking Christian's homepage, it's under the about menu. It's easier to find on other pages, but if you're looking for it on the homepage, click on about and you'll find it. So these are all challenges coming our way from people who think that we have no standing at all whatsoever on any high ground, especially moral high ground. I mean, to top it all off, we're arrogant. We're conceded in judgemental. They think we're judgmental. We think our truth should be everybody's truth. And we think there's something wrong with you. If you doubt what we have to say. So if Christianity is a club, it's not one you join because who would want to know if, if it's a club, that's the kind Christians used to bash people's heads with I'm being, um, over, I'm being realistic here. Speaker 1 00:07:31 Realistic about perceptions. That is that. I'm not trying to say that this is good news, and I'm not trying to say that it's real Christianity. My heavens, no, it's not, not at all, but this is about heat to light. And I'm talking about the heat. I'm trying to get us a clearer picture of the heat so that we know how to bring the light to it. So let me take it just one step further, uh, because we need to know, we need to understand the kind of heat that we are encountering. So I'm going to have you listen to some quotes from my friend, George Yancey in his book. So many Christians. So few lions, Yancey is a Christian. He's a professor of sociology at the university of North Texas. And he did a sociological research study into what he calls Cristiana phobia. I prefer the term anti-Christian hostility, but we both mean the same thing by it. Speaker 1 00:08:29 It's people who are really afraid of a versa or fine Christian Christianity of aversive, uh, people who hate Christianity, even some of its extreme. He put out a questionnaire with open-ended response items and seven of the people who responded, made reference to Alliance and stakes, as in feed them, the feed them to the lions, burn them at the steaks. They were echoed by many, many respondents sayings. Things like Christianity is a disease that must be kept in check or Christian should be eradicated without remorse. Their only purpose is to damage and inflict their fundamentalists, fire us onto everyone. They come in contact with another respondent said that Christians are well-organized and highly motivated, kind of like us serial killer. Another one. They are so arrogant and obnoxious and refuse to take no for an answer. I'd probably end up shooting one of them out of frustration. Speaker 1 00:09:38 And another, the only good Christian is a dead Christian. Yeah. I know opinions. This extreme are still in a minority, a rather small minority, but don't take more comfort from, don't take more comfort from that then is warranted because this minority, uh, Yancy found in his research is significantly more wealthy, more educated, more male, and more white than the rest of America. It's more influential. In other words, he describes it as saying, this is a picture of America's elite and yes, they have influence and much larger numbers of people see Christianity, you know, not to that extreme, but as being something weird and wrong and arrogant and judgmental. So are they right? Let's split our answer into for there is Christianity and there is Christianity. There is Christianity, the belief system as founded by Jesus Christ and as presented in the scriptures. And then there's Christianity, the social movement. Speaker 1 00:10:53 In this case specifically, the Evan gelical movement in America. That's what everybody thinks of these days in the West when they think of Christianity. And when they're talking about the specific kinds of moral challenges that I'm referring to in this podcast. So yeah, there is the Evan gelical social movement, social movements involve humans and humans are flawed. So of course we are going to have problems. You're going to find problems among evangelical Christians. And I'm telling you, I know it all too. Well. I probably have a lot more church friends in prison right now than the average Christian has. And I say to you now, how's that for a dubious claim to fame, but it's true. Uh, I have cried. I have wept over some of these situations, good friends who have hidden sins and have finally been caught and not just, uh, sins, according to the Bible, but crimes, according to the law and the damaging harmful crimes. Speaker 1 00:12:02 Yeah. Christians can do badly. So I'll tell you about my Doobie, his claim to fame. I know some Christians who have done very badly, but right after that, I'm going to tell you, I'm going to tell you about the other side. And I know a lot there too, maybe more than average, because for about 15 years, it was my job to deal with all the major personal problems in a large portion of one of the world's largest non-denominational mission agencies, campus crusade for Christ. Now known as Cru. In other words, it was my job in crew, in dealing with hundreds and hundreds of staff members to know about their problems when they were major personnel problems, especially major sin problems to know about that and to help handle it on behalf of the organization. So I'll tell you a story. I got a story from those days. Speaker 1 00:12:55 I was in grad school while I was working there. I was studying a field for a master's degree in organizational psychology. And one day I went up to my prof and I said, I was going to have to miss a class next week. Uh, I told him I was part of a leadership team and we were preparing to go to Atlanta and lead a meeting where we were going to inform a couple of hundred people that we were closing down their division. And we were, and the result of it was going to be that they were going to be displaced. They didn't know it was coming. They knew the meeting was coming. They were flying in from all over the country for it, but they didn't know what the meeting was about. This was the week we were going to gather there and we were going to make the announcement. Speaker 1 00:13:43 They were going to be out of their beloved jobs and our job was to help them deal with it afterwards. So I told my prof about this and being an organizational psych expert, he knew the right question to ask. He said, so you're going to take their keys and their passwords. And you're going to escort them away before they do any damage, right? Because that's what people do. And you shut down their work. I answered them. I said, you know, professor, uh, you know, we've been planning this meeting for six weeks now. And that is one question that never crossed any of our minds. The possibility of sabotage never even occurred to us. And it didn't need to, as it turned out, these, these were highly committed Christ followers. These were staff members of a mission agency, and they were better people than that because, because they were Christ followers. Speaker 1 00:14:46 And honestly, as a leadership team, we were Christ followers too. So we worked hard to help them, especially to find them alternate job placements. They knew that we were trying to be good people. We were trying to make good decisions for the health of the ministry and for the health of, of, of the strategies moving forward. And so they gave us some benefit of doubt, and we knew that they were good people who would, who would suffer, Oh gosh, some of it was, it was painful, but we knew they would stand strong in Christ and in their integrity. And they did, we helped, but they were people who were willing to be helped because of their integrity. And I have story after story, after story, after story of crew staff doing the right thing, the good thing, the loving thing, the self-sacrificial thing. It's not just crew. Speaker 1 00:15:46 I can tell you story after story from churches and from so many other places, ratio Christi, where I was in leadership for a couple of years and where I still have such great friends, but crew in particular where it was my specialty to deal with problems. I had really very few of them. Uh, the divorce rate was almost shockingly low. It was almost unheard of in crew. And I had to deal with it. When, when staff members in my area of responsibility were getting divorced, there were hundreds of couples and we had maybe one divorce every year or two in that group. That's what happens when people really follow Christ and following Christ is good and it leads to good and it leads to a fulfillment. It leads to love. It leaves it, it leads to joy. It's really it's. It's great. I tell you, I wouldn't trade it for anything. Speaker 1 00:16:50 That's what happens when you really follow Christ? We are not perfect. I am. Oh my goodness. But the effect of following a good God is that people tend to become more good than they would otherwise have been. I am considerably more loving of an individual than I would have been without Christ. I was a music major. I was a musician. And one of the things that worked for me as a musician was all those hours alone in the practice room. When I didn't have to worry about anybody, but me and my music, my art Christ has turned me around and given me a love for people, this is good. Christianity is good. You know it, if you're following Christ, now this is the kind of thing we need to communicate clearly. Now I know that there are still some people who will say our God, isn't good. Speaker 1 00:17:47 And the Christianity, the belief system is badly messed up because for example, Jesus didn't pronounce homosexual marriage. A good thing, a great thing. Uh, I've heard that claim. Jesus, wasn't good because he didn't, he didn't free the slaves as if he had come for that purpose, by the way, that's going to be the topic of an upcoming podcast and blog post. And because that, one's actually, it's more complicated in many ways, historically and theologically than you might realize, but in the end, Christianity still comes out good on the question of slavery, but how do we answer people who say that the Bible isn't good. Richard Dawkins saying that the God of the old Testament is the most unpleasant misogynistic. And I don't know what else he says, horrible character in all of fiction. He says, that's not fiction, but that's his opinion. Here's, here's one thing. Speaker 1 00:18:50 The way we answer is going to depend on the specific challenge that they raised. But when it's a question of the goodness of Christianity, there is one answer that is always relevant and that's the life and character of Jesus Christ. Why is it always relevant? First of all, obviously Christianity is about Jesus Christ and it's about following Jesus Christ. So that even if we follow him in perfectly, we are still following someone who is that good in my book, too. Good to be false. How Jesus' incomparable character reveals his reality. I look at exactly what the title says. Jesus incomparable character, his love for one thing is absolutely unparalleled. Do you want to talk about good? Look at Jesus. Self-sacrificial other centered givingness and you can look at it by the way, you can download a free chapter of my book, just to see just how far beyond compare he is. Speaker 1 00:19:53 And I want to strongly urge and encourage that you would do that. It's my gift to you for subscribing to my blog and my podcast. I think in Christian, just go to thinking christian.net and look for the subscribe link or the free preview chapter link. And you'll read this chapter on Jesus. Astonishing love that this chapter alone will help you see why more than one Christian author and speaker have said that they were amazed how much more there was to learn about Jesus' greatness than they'd ever realized. You'll see why Lee Strobel said that this might be the most surprising and refreshing book you'll read this year. So I encourage you to just check out his love and consider buying a copy of too good to be false. Jesus demonstrated his love above all else on the cross for God. His love toward us in that while we were yet sinners Christ died for us, Romans five eight, we have the assurance of God's love. Speaker 1 00:20:57 And it's we, we have the assurance of his goodness in so many other ways. There's so much more to be said about these things in weeks to come, I'll begin offering a course that will explain in depth how to answer some of these kinds of questions that get thrown at us like is Christianity really intolerant and bigoted? How do I answer the person who says that, or the Bible says homosexuality is wrong, but why is homosexuality wrong? What's so harmful in it. And the same goes for transgender to a course in this course, I'll help you find ways that you can turn that heat into light with the right kind of an answer. Or what about all the evil and suffering that God allows in the world? How could he be a good God when he does that? This is the kind of thing I hope to cover in depth in this course and in, in this podcast too. Speaker 1 00:21:52 And the point I'm going to make in each of these sessions is twofold. First, first, that God's way is still true. And second, that it's good. That God's way is true. It's still true. And it's good. That it's true. In other words, I want to help us all be equipped, not only to be able to explain what Christianity says on these matters, but to explain it in such a way that people can start to recover a sense of Christianity's deep, deep goodness. When we talk about sexuality, for example, I'll shell, I'll share stories and statistics on how strong male, female, marriage, culture, culture wide, how that helps couples and children and education, and even the economy. And I'll show how our questions about sexuality affect that marriage culture, our doubts, and our changes in how we view sexuality. Not only does God have things to say about sex, but the things he says are actually good for us for today though, for today. Speaker 1 00:22:59 The one main thing I want to get across is this that the heat we're facing today is in great measure, disgust toward the faith for all the things we have supposedly gotten wrong in morality, in society and in politics. That's the heat. The heat is people hate Christianity and they're disgusted with us. Yeah. Some people still challenge us on evidence for the faith, but more often the question isn't whether Christianity is true. The question these days far more often is whether Christianity is good. So our job is twofold to show that it is true. And then to show it's good that it's true. Or sometimes of course we'll reverse the order depending on the conversation. First we'll show that it's good. And then we'll show that it's true. Almost done here now, but I can't leave this topic without a final word on the really most obvious point of all. Speaker 1 00:24:08 One way we show Christianity is good is by being good by doing good. We show that it's truly loving by being people who are truly loving. We show that it's right by living in integrity. I haven't covered this in depth here because you know the standard and I don't need, you don't need this podcast for equipping in it. Your pastor, your friends, your family, uh, whoever. Um, so many people are teaching it already, or at least I hope they are. And I'm using this podcast to pick up on some things that may not be covered so much elsewhere, but don't forget. We don't just explain that. It's good. We showed that it's good by being people who follow Christ in a good way. And remember, ultimately it is the goodness of Jesus Christ that we're pointing to. I'm going to encourage you one more time to go to thinking christian.net and download my free preview chapter on Jesus. Speaker 1 00:25:14 Astonishing, unparalleled, incomparable love. It'll help you see Jesus' greatness for yourself in ways you've never seen before. I'm sure of that. And to share his goodness with others, to heat, to light, we're going to show people and explain to people and help them understand and rediscover the moral high ground that God himself holds as the one Holy loving, righteous, sovereign God, that goodness revealed in Jesus Christ presented in the scriptures and followed by Christ's people. Even if imperfectly, that's the challenge. That's the heat that we have to face. That's the light that we have to reveal Speaker 0 00:26:09 That covers it for today. So until next time then I'm Tom Gilson for the thinking Christian podcast. Thank you for listening. The thinking Christian podcast is copyright by Thomas Gilson for more information, visit the thinking Christian [email protected].

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