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College and Faith

A fundamental mistake that parents make when it comes to Christian colleges is this: they do not take care to understand the distinction between sanctification and socialization (or enculturation). If other parents are like me, their main desire is for their child to come out the other end of his college education a genuine child of God, as one who genuinely believes the gospel and is committed to following Jesus. I want this because the stakes are high: Life or Death. And the greatest good I could wish for my child is a faith that results in eternal Life. But, alas, if I read my Bible correctly, the faith that leads to eternal Life is not the choice to remain a faithful member of Christian culture (whatever sub-culture of Christianity that might be). Rather, the faith that leads to Life is the deeply personal, entirely individualistic, profoundly existential choice to hope in the mercy of God and to follow and obey Jesus.

Since saving faith is such a personal, subjective matter, and since (as the Bible tells us) it is so alien to any of us if left to ourselves, the environment my child enters does not ultimately determine whether he will keep the faith or lose it. How he decides to respond to whatever environment in which he finds himself will determine whether he keeps or loses the faith—a decision he will make in his freedom. No environment, no matter how healthy, no matter how perfectly conducive to faith, can make him choose to believe. And yet, no environment, no matter how hostile to faith and destructive of it, can ultimately make him choose to reject the faith. As a responsible parent, I would of course never want my child to deliberately immerse himself in an environment destructive of faith, and yet, in the final analysis, by God’s grace, even in such an environment as that, my child will come to believe.

Christian parents are being naïve and ignorant if they send their children to Christian colleges under the belief that at a Christian college their children’s faith will be preserved. Not only are today’s Christian colleges increasingly hostile to faith, but even if one were to find the perfect Christian school, that school could not make my child freely embrace the gospel if he or she is destined not to. I know the fear of having a child reject the faith. But no wise decision is ever made out of fear in such matters.

 

[This edited excerpt is from “College and Losing One’s Faith” by Jack Crabtree. To read the original article, click here. More about Gutenberg College here. Or check us out on Facebook.]

 

“Exorcist” Author Identifies What’s Demonic

OK, I admit it. I get distracted from time to time by the headlines that pop up on my screen. I’m sure that never happens to anyone else, but, to my eternal shame, it happens to me from time to time. So here it is Halloween morning, and the Washington Post publishes a story about William Peter Blatty who forty years ago wrote the Exorcist, a story about demon possession.

Now personally, I don’t do horror stories. And I absolutely, positively, definitively, and incontrovertibly don’t do horror movies. I am the proverbial scaredy-cat when it comes to horror movies. Never been to one and never plan to go to one. (Zombieland doesn’t count.) But you simply couldn’t have been alive forty years ago and over the age of eight and not have been aware of Blatty’s book and, a couple of years later, the movie by the same name. They defined a generation of horror.

So I admit it, I read the Washington Post article, and I found an interesting nugget at the end. Blatty graduated from Georgetown University but has taken issue with his alma mater because of its lurch into secularism. The university is ostensibly Catholic and, more particularly, Jesuit. I have often thought that if any long academic tradition aligns fairly closely with Gutenberg, it would be that of Jesuit colleges and universities. So I thought it interesting that they are having such a discussion.

The final straw for Blatty was Georgetown’s inviting Kathleen Sebelius to be a commencement speaker last year. Sebelius is an outspoken advocate of abortion, both personally and in her capacity as secretary of Health and Human Services, which oversees the Affordable Care Act (more commonly known as “Obamacare”) with its requirement that even religious organizations must provide for abortions in their health insurance plans. Since the Catholic church opposes abortion, Blatty is suggesting that the church should either bring Georgetown back into conformity with Catholic teachings or cut its ties to the university. The Washington Post interviewer writes that Blatty, “his voice trembling,” described “in graphic detail” a particularly grisly abortion procedure and then said, “That’s demonic!”

We see again how far modern day academia has drifted from any moorings in helping students to understand and embrace a moral framework in concert with that of the Creator God of the universe. Secularism currently rules the day.

 

To Whom Do We Listen?

I was conversing with someone the other day when the topic of the presidential election came up. I mentioned a candidate, to which the person replied, “Oh, he could never win. He’s too fat.” I began reflecting on that response. In all likelihood, this person was exactly right. Few modern Americans could see beyond his girth. It is not just weight, of course. We Americans tend to be obsessed with judging the value and worth of a person by his or her appearance.

Paul instructs believers to avoid this very thing. Do not judge a person by his appearance, he tells the Corinthians, judge a person by his “heart.” When I think back through human history, some of the greatest people were the short, fat, ugly, and unimpressive ones. The philosopher Socrates was notoriously funny-looking. The prophet Isaiah predicted that the Messiah himself (Jesus) would be unattractive.

If these men were here with us in person, would any of us modern Americans give a hearing to any of them? The modern American obsession with looks and presentation is “fleshly.” It is ignorant and sinful. But it is also self-destructive and stupid. We elect good-looking politicians who are incompetent, corrupt, ambitious, and narcissistic. We choose charming, charismatic pastors who are self-absorbed, foolish, and terrible guides.

Whom do we respect and listen to? It is good to take stock of why.

 

[This edited excerpt is from “Why Do We Listen to Whom We Listen?” by Jack Crabtree. To read the original article, click here. More about Gutenberg College here. Or check us out on Facebook.]

 

Man’s Relationship to Nature

As a working scientist, I meet people who view all Christians as ultra right-wing conservatives. They believe that Christians view the environment through the lens of economic expediency; that Christians, like other conservatives, are working to gut existing environmental regulations on public and private land so that supply-and-demand market forces can work. Viewed this way, Christians have no morals with regard to man’s relationship to nature; Christians have no environmental ethic.

Conversely, when I am introduced to Christians as a person who works in salmon restoration, I am sometimes asked how I can be both a Christian and an environmentalist. To these Christians, anyone who does the kind of work I do must be an environmentalist, and an environmentalist means someone who worships the environment and cares more for nature than for people.

I propose a third environmental ethic—a biblical perspective on our relationship to nature distinct from the two perspectives mentioned above. The chart below will help illustrate the differences between the three.


 Question Free-market Environmentalist Biblical
Ultimate good for mankind? Material prosperity Moral/ethical man protects biosphere “Life”
Purpose of nature? Man’s material needs Spiritual and/or material Man’s material needs & context for working out faith in creation
Immediate good? Profit Protect integrity of ecosystems Faith & material needs
Mechanism for management? Supply & demand Government regulations in lieu of individual moral decisions Moral
Model of dominion? Absolute ruler No dominion Steward
Man’s responsibility? Maximize economic efficiency Protect biosphere Meet material needs & make moral decisions
Does nature have intrinsic worth? No Yes Yes
Is it necessary to protect all species? No Yes No

 

The biblical perspective of man’s relationship to nature is significantly different from either the free-market or the environmentalist perspective. The free-market perspective is an economic model devoid of moral dimension. The environmentalist perspective is an ethical model; it incorporates a moral dimension that rightly recognizes that man is morally culpable for his actions with regard to nature. However, the highest moral good and the ultimate goal of life are not those the Bible teaches. From the environmentalist perspective, the highest good is protecting and restoring the biosphere, and the ultimate goal is to protect all species by increasing the number of individuals committed to the goal.

The biblical perspective is a model uniquely different from the other two. It recognizes that a purpose of nature is to provide for man’s material needs, and yet it incorporates a moral dimension as well. The biblical view provides a means for balancing the material needs of man with man’s moral obligations to the rest of creation, and it provides adequate grounds for the established moral standards. Therefore, the biblical model is superior to either of the other two models.

Surprisingly, however, in the current national debate over environmental issues, no dominant voice propounds the biblical perspective. As a result, environmentalists lump Christians with those who hold a free-market perspective even though the biblical perspective differs significantly. And those who hold the free-market perspective believe that any Christian who speaks about moral obligations with regard to nature must hold the environmentalist perspective. In each case, the held assumption is in error and needs to be corrected. Unfortunately, no strong Christian voice is correcting them or proclaiming the biblical model of man’s relationship to nature, which is unique and superior to the dominant free-market and environmentalist models.

[This edited excerpt is from: “Is There a Christian Environmental Ethic?” by Dr. Charley Dewberry. To read the original article, click here. More about Gutenberg College here. Or check us out on Facebook.]

 

Knowledge for the Sake of Living

Every couple of years Gutenberg students spend time reading a series of authors that consider the issue of knowledge. These authors raise questions about the certainty of our knowledge, the reliability of our senses and our reasoning. They take and debate a variety of different approaches, and the consequences of those debates continue to profoundly impact our way of thinking today.

This year while rereading these authors, an old thought struck me in a new way. It seems to me as if a large part of the debate about knowledge hangs on whether “living is for the sake of good knowledge” or “knowledge is for the sake of good living.”

Those philosophers for whom living was for the sake of good knowledge came up with all sorts of strange claims and systems. Their careers and self concepts were tied up in their philosophical musings on knowledge. Not surprisingly, they were led to doubt. Perhaps the most familiar example of this kind of thinking is the old question, “If the tree falls in the woods and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” We can all see that this strange academic question raises doubts and questions about knowledge and perception. We typically do not take the question very seriously except as a subject for repartee. More significantly, philosophers who subjugate living to knowledge have introduced into our cultural thinking the idea that there is a qualitative distinction between what I know to be true and what I believe to be true. For example, many will say that they can know mathematical and scientific knowledge but only believe philosophical and spiritual knowledge.

Philosophers for whom knowledge exists for the sake of good living take a very different view. What is important is making decisions and whether those decisions are bad or good. Knowledge is indeed important for these decisions, but in the end, a decision must be made. In this way of thinking, knowledge and belief coalesce in action. What I believe to be true, I act on; and what I know to be true I believe. I cannot afford to demand that all of my action be supported by some unattainable ideal of certainty. To do so would paralyze me. With the view that knowledge exists for the sake of good living, academic skepticism has no value other than to be used as an excuse to act badly and believe poorly because of a lack of certain “evidence.”

I still find reading these authors stimulating and interesting. They have paved the road to the twenty-first century, and it is worthwhile to see the streets they laid. Nevertheless, I continue to find it useful to remind myself that knowledge is for the sake of good living and not the other way around.

 

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