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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Trinity Lutheran before the Supreme Court

Apr 27, 2017 - 00:00:00

Okay, so government cannot “establish religion.” We get that. But can it discriminate against religion? We’ll find out. Earlier this month, the Supreme Court heard oral arguments in what David French, over at the National Review called “the most important case about recycled tires in American legal history.” Now French was, of course, being facetious. As he made clear, while the case did involve recycled tires, the critical thing is its potential impact on religious freedom. The basic facts of the case, Trinity Lutheran Church v. Pauley, are as follows: Trinity Lutheran Church of Columbia, Missouri, operates a licensed pre-school and day-care facility. Its facilities include the type of playground that you and I played on as kids. In other words, scrapes, bruises, broken bones, and, perhaps, a lawsuit waiting to happen. Fortunately, or so it seemed for Trinity Lutheran, the state of Missouri has a program which provides “funds for qualifying organizations to purchase recycled tires to resurface playgrounds.” Trinity Lutheran applied for such a grant and seemed to have easily met the qualifications. I say “seemed,” because it was then informed that such a grant would, in Trinity’s case, violate a provision in Missouri’s state constitution that “no money shall ever be taken from the public treasury, directly or indirectly, in aid of any church, section or denomination of religion.” The provision is one of 36 so-called “Blaine Amendments” in state constitutions. These amendments were originally aimed at Catholic schools and were born of the now-incredible belief that the public schools were a principal instrument in safeguarding America’s Protestant Christian character. I know, ironic. The church sued the state government, claiming that this kind of singling out of churches violated the free exercise of religion. After all, whatever else the free exercise of religion means, it should, at a minimum, mean that you can’t be denied a government benefit available to similar organizations solely on account of your religion. Case closed, right? Well, unfortunately, no. The First Amendment reads “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof.” Thus while Trinity Lutheran argued the “prohibiting the free exercise thereof” part, the state emphasized the “no law respecting an establishment of religion” part. If you’re wondering how protecting kids from scrapes and broken bones constitutes “an establishment of religion,” well welcome to the tortured world of establishment clause jurisprudence. The late justice Scalia wrote that the cases involving Christmas displays required “scrutiny more commonly associated with interior decorators than with the judiciary.” While I can only speculate what Scalia would have made of this case, it was clear from oral arguments that the majority of the court was skeptical of Missouri’s claim that protecting kids on a playground constitutes an establishment of religion. If there was a theme to most of the questions, it was just how “extreme,” to use David French’s word, Blaine amendments like Missouri’s are. Justice Breyer asked the lawyer defending the law if, under the constitution, a city could deny fire and police to places of worship while providing it for everyone else. The reply was a hedged semi-“yes.” While it’s always risky to predict the outcome based on oral arguments, French is right when he predicts that Trinity Lutheran will win. Actually, it already has. Missouri’s new governor has announced a change in the policy that will permit Trinity Lutheran to apply for the grant. But Missouri’s Blaine Amendment, and three dozen similar provisions across the country, still stand. So while the Court could declare the case moot, let’s pray that it decides the case in a way that deals a major blow to laws like Missouri’s across the country. Because the damage done by them to religious freedom is a lot worse than just skinned knees.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Christian Abortion Supporters

Apr 26, 2017 - 00:00:00

Can you claim to be “born-again” when you won’t allow others to be born in the first place? Here’s how abortion strikes at the heart of the Christian faith. Catholics and evangelicals are often told how obsessed we are with so-called “culture war” issues like marriage, religious freedom, and abortion. If we’d only stop being so political and focus on proclaiming Christ, say some, we’d win a lot more converts. But this isn’t how a Christian worldview works. The Scriptural premise, that God made human beings in His image, naturally leads us, as it has Christians throughout history, to protect and cherish those who bear that image. Ignoring evils perpetrated against bearers of the divine image denies what we know to be true about God. In other words, a distorted view of human beings always goes hand-in-hand with a distorted view of God. Take, for example, a new book by self-proclaimed “born-again” Christian, Willie Parker titled, “Life’s Work: A Moral Argument for Choice.” As Russell Moore, president of the Southern Baptist Ethics and Religious Liberty Commission describes, the book is a would-be manifesto on the morality and even godliness of abortion. Parker, an OBGYN, has performed countless abortions. He describes working a circuit of Planned Parenthood clinics in the South, performing abortions “over and over, like the athlete who goes to the gym after practice to shoot three-pointers.” And as the recipient of Planned Parenthood’s Margaret Sanger award, it’s clear Parker has made the fight to keep abortion legal a major life goal. But unlike most pro-choice activists, this OBGYN tries to root his case for killing the unborn in his Christian faith. Citing writers like C. S. Lewis (who would definitely take exception), Parker argues that abortion is consistent with Christian love. He even claims that Jesus Himself would have been an abortion supporter. In a 2015 New York Times piece, Parker recasts Christ’s beloved parable of the Good Samaritan as an endorsement of the so-called “right to choose”: “It is the deepest level of love,” he writes, “that you can have for another person, that you can have compassion for their suffering and you can act to relieve it. That, simply put, is why I provide abortion care.” Not surprisingly, Parker radically dehumanizes the unborn to reach his conclusion that killing them is an act of love. To call a fetus a “baby,” he argues, is to “anthropomorphize” the entity in the womb. Even liberal women do this, he complains, when they come in for ultrasounds and hear their babies’ heartbeats. He can’t understand what he calls the “fetishization of motherhood and children.” Little wonder for someone who compares killing the unborn to practicing basketball. But he also finds it necessary to depersonalize God along with His unborn image-bearers. Parker chides believers for viewing the Almighty as a personal Being Who judges the living and the dead, calling this a “tendency to anthropomorphize God.” And the idea of conception or birth as “a miracle,” he writes, “does an injustice to God.” He prefers, instead, to view life as a “process.” As Russell Moore points out, Parker’s willingness to strip the unborn of their identity has led him to strip God of His identity. Let me be clear: there’s nothing biblical—and therefore nothing Christian—about Parker’s views about either God or man. And so, there’s nothing Christian about his views of or participation in the killing of innocent unborn life. And Parker’s Judas routine just makes matters worse. Only his thirty pieces of silver takes the form of fawning endorsements from Cecile Richards and Gloria Steinem, both of whom are more than happy to gloat, “See, you can be a Christian and support abortion.” But moral issues like abortion are inseparable from the core beliefs of Christian worldview, like the imago Dei. To embrace abortion requires rejecting what God has revealed about both Himself and about humanity. Parker and other self-proclaimed Christian abortion supporters may claim they’re doing “life’s work.” But what they preach is no good news at all. It’s a gospel of death.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Mindy Belz: "They Say We Are Infidels"

Apr 25, 2017 - 00:00:00

Warren Cole Smith interviews WORLD Magazine Senior Editor Mindy Belz about her book, "They Say We Are Infidels: On the Run from ISIS with Peresecuted Christians in the Middle East."

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Liberalism in a Lab Coat

Apr 25, 2017 - 00:00:00

It seems every weekend brings a march for one cause or another in D.C. Last weekend, folks marched for science. Or did they? In his preface to “Mere Christianity,” C. S. Lewis explains what happens when words lose their original meaning. Take the word “gentleman.” Once upon a time, Lewis writes, a gentleman was “one who had a coat of arms and some landed property. When you called someone ‘a gentleman,’ you were not paying him a compliment, but merely stating a fact.” Gradually, however, “gentleman” evolved into just that—a compliment. A true gentleman was no longer someone who met the objective qualifications, but a person whom the speaker liked. Thus, concludes Lewis, “gentleman” became a useless word. I think another important word is undergoing this same redefinition. That word, alas, is science. There was a time when “science” meant the systematic pursuit of knowledge through experimentation and observation. But it’s rapidly becoming a synonym for progressive politics and materialist philosophy. To be labeled a “science-denier” in 2017 often just means you’ve upset someone who insists on teaching strict, Darwinian orthodoxy in schools, or who advocates particular climate legislation, or who supports ethically fraught research on embryos. In contrast, being “pro-science” has become a shibboleth for supporting progressive ideology. Think of a recent ad by National Geographic with the caption, “Stand behind the facts. Stand with science. Stand for the planet.” But just weeks prior, National Geographic had run a cover depicting a nine-year-old boy dressed as a girl. Because, as we know, they stand with science. But if there were ever going to be a ceremony inaugurating this new and useless definition of science, it’s got to be last weekend’s “March for Science” in the nation’s capital, co-chaired by Bill Nye, “the science guy.” Nye, a children’s TV host from the nineties with no formal training as a scientist, has recaptured the spotlight with his videos on climate change, abortion, women’s rights, and other topics. To say his arguments in some of these videos are embarrassing is being kind. For instance, in one odd and rambling speech promoting abortion, Nye claimed that because many lives end through natural causes before they leave the womb that it’s okay for us to kill the unborn ourselves. That’s like saying it’s okay to kill adults, because millions die of natural causes. That does not stop Nye’s supporters from honoring him as a champion of science. But not all of the marchers are fans. After issuing several revisions to his massive “Statement on Diversity and Inclusion,” the organizers of the March for Science are fending off critics who complain that Nye is a white male whose fame is the result of privilege. One wonders who, exactly, was in charge of this debacle. An official tweet, which has since been deleted, declared that “Colonization, racism, immigration, native rights, sexism, ableism, queer-, trans-, intersex-phobia, & econ[omic] justice are scientific issues.” Heather Wilhelm at National Review got it right when she wrote that the whole event was collapsing into a civil war of competing left-wing agendas. I hope someone—anyone—who still believes science has a definition independent of politics will speak up. Because whether it’s the denial that life begins at conception, the denial of sex and gender as biological facts, the denial of decades of research proving that children do best with their father and mother, or the denial of dissenting voices on Darwinism, the left has proven quite capable of ignoring science. Language is powerful. Words matter. And “science”—real science—is too important a word for us to let go the way of “gentleman.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Know the Truth, Know the Culture

Apr 24, 2017 - 00:00:00

You’re a Christian. You sense God has more for you. You want to go deeper. You want to make a difference. I meet folks all the time who sense that things have changed. What Francis Schaeffer and Chuck Colson once called “a post-Christian” culture has become a “post-Christian-and-darn-proud-of-it” culture. Living out your faith is, well, difficult these days. And it’s frustrating. Yet here we are. We, like every other generation of Christ followers, are still called to share our faith in this cultural moment. We’re still called to live our faith out in our communities, places of work, neighborhoods, etc. But how do we do this? The most important thing, Chuck Colson believed, was to be equipped in Christian worldview, with the ability to communicate it in what he sometimes called “prudential language.” Here’s Chuck describing what that means. While we have to be immersed in scripture and understand it fully, we also have to know when and how to use it in public discourse. Let me give you an example. G. K. Chesterton, the famous British writer, was once invited to a meeting of the leading intellectuals in England. They were asked if they were shipwrecked on an island, what would be the one book they would want to have with them. Everybody expected Chesterton, a prominent Christian, to say “the Bible.” When it came his turn to speak, however, Chesterton said that if he were shipwrecked on a desert island, he’d like to have “Thomas’s Guide to Practical Shipbuilding.” The point is that oftentimes we need to understand things that aren’t covered in the Bible. And we need to understand things that help us apply biblical teaching to all of life. This is why I teach biblical worldview. A man once told Oswald Chambers that he read only the Bible. Listen to what Chambers said: “My strong advice to you is to soak, soak, soak in philosophy and psychology, until you know more of these subjects than ever you need consciously to think. It is ignorance of these subjects on the part of ministers and workers that has brought our evangelical theology to such a sorry plight…The man who reads only the Bible does not, as a rule, know it or human life.” And when it comes to making a biblical case on any hot topic—taxes, the deficit, homosexuality, whatever—we need to understand the issue and how to make that case in a way that is accessible to believers and non-believers alike. The sad fact is that today, starting a conversation with “the Bible says” will often cause the listener to stop listening. So what you do is make arguments based on what the Reformers called common grace, or what historically has been known as natural law. This is what Paul did when he gave his famous sermon at Mars Hill, his first foray into the Greek culture. He quoted Greek poets; he referred to Greek artifacts. He thoroughly engaged their culture. And then he used their beliefs to lead directly into the gospel. This is why we’ve got to study biblical worldview, to compare how the Bible works out in life versus how other systems of thought do. I assure you: You will see that the biblical way is the only way to make sense of the world, to live rationally in the world, and eventually, your friends will see this as well. That vision led Chuck to start an exclusive nine-month training program for Christians that is now known as the Colson Fellows. The program is intense: reading the best worldview books, participating in teleconferences with top Christian leaders, and attending three in-person residencies with the best worldview teachers in the country. Now it’s not for everyone, but if your heart is being tugged to go deeper in the way that Chuck described, it may be for you. The next class of Colson Fellows will begin their study near the end of the summer, and the deadline to apply is May 15. Visit ColsonFellows.org to learn more.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Chuck Colson, Christian Worldview, and Religious Freedom

Apr 21, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed remember the impact of Chuck Colson, who died five years ago this weekend. They also discuss Christian worldview and the "post-truth" era and the Trinity Lutheran religious freedom case before the Supreme Court.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Remembering Chuck Colson's New Life in Christ

Apr 21, 2017 - 00:00:00

Eric Metaxas: It is impossible for me to overstate the influence Chuck Colson had on my life and on the lives of millions: from the prisoners he visited to the listeners of this radio program. And I miss him so badly. So today, on the fifth anniversary of his death, I’d like you to hear the story of Chuck’s birth: That is, his re-birth in Jesus Christ. And I’d like you to hear it from him. Here’s Chuck, talking about the thirtieth anniversary of his conversion. Thirty years ago today, I visited Tom Phillips, president of the Raytheon Company, at his home outside of Boston. I had represented Raytheon before going to the White House, and I was about to start again. But I visited him for another reason as well. I knew Tom had become a Christian, and he seemed so different. I wanted to ask him what had happened. That night he read to me from Mere Christianity by C. S. Lewis, particularly a chapter about the great sin that is pride. A proud man is always walking through life looking down on other people and other things, said Lewis. As a result, he cannot see something above himself immeasurably superior — God. Tom, that night, told me about encountering Christ in his own life. He didn’t realize it, but I was in the depths of deep despair over Watergate, watching the president I had helped for four years flounder in office. I had also heard that I might become a target of the investigation as well. In short, my world was collapsing. That night, as Tom was telling me about Jesus, I listened attentively, but didn’t let on about my need. When he offered to pray, I thanked him but said, no, I would see him sometime after I had read C. S. Lewis’s book. But when I got in the car that night, I couldn’t drive it out of the driveway. Ex-Marine captain, White House tough guy, I was crying too hard, calling out to God. I didn’t know what to say; I just knew I needed Jesus, and He came into my life. That was thirty years ago. I’ve been reflecting of late on the things God has done over that time. As I think about my life, the beginning of the prison ministry, our work in the justice area, our international ministry that reaches one hundred countries, and the work of the Wilberforce Forum and BreakPoint, I have come to appreciate the doctrine of providence. It’s not the world’s idea of fate or luck, but the reality of God’s divine intervention. He orchestrates the lives of His children to accomplish His good purposes. God has certainly ordered my steps. I couldn’t have imagined when I was in prison that I would someday go back to the White House with ex-offenders as I did on June 18 — or that we would be running prisons that have an 8 percent recidivism rate — or that BreakPoint would be heard daily on one thousand radio outlets across the United States and on the Internet. The truth that is uppermost in my mind today is that God isn’t finished. As long as we’re alive, He’s at work in our lives. We can live lives of obedience in any field because God providentially arranges the circumstances of our lives to achieve His objectives. And that leads to the greatest joy I’ve found in life. As I look back on my life, it’s not having been to Buckingham Palace to receive the Templeton Prize, or getting honorary degrees, or writing books. The greatest joy is to see how God has used my life to touch the lives of others, people hurting and in need. It has been a long time since the dark days of Watergate. I’m still astounded that God would take someone who was infamous in the Watergate scandal, and soon to be a convicted felon, and take him into His family and then order his steps in the way He has with me. God touched me at that moment in Tom Phillip’s driveway, and thirty years later, His love and kindness touch and astound me still.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
No Sin, No Forgiveness, Either

Apr 20, 2017 - 00:00:00

So, traditional morality is out, and freedom of everything is in. Then why does everybody feel so guilty? In 1966, Time Magazine infamously posed the question “Is God Dead?” on its cover. Recently, it ran the same cover, only with the word “Truth” instead of God. The literal answer to both questions is, of course, “no.” But both questions point to an issue that has haunted the West for more than a century: How do you justify morality in a society that increasingly lives as if there was no one to hold them accountable and define the difference between good and evil, truth and falsehood? Ironically, while we’ve reached the point where we’ve effectively cut the legs out from beneath the idea of sin, we are still very much in the thrall of guilt. That was the subject of a recent column by David Brooks in the New York Times entitled “The Strange Persistence of Guilt,” which, in turn, was inspired by an article of the same name by Wilfred McClay in the Hedgehog Review. And here’s what makes the persistence of guilt “strange”: The dominant worldviews of our age, as Alasdair MacIntyre wrote in “After Virtue,” have turned beliefs about right and wrong, good and evil, into little more than expressions of feelings. They should have freed us from feelings of guilt. And yet we still feel guilty. Instead of the easy-going relativism that should logically follow from believing that right and wrong, guilt and innocence, are a matter of feelings, we live in what Brooks calls “an age of great moral pressure.” We may “lack the words to articulate it,” and “religion may be in retreat, but guilt seems as powerfully present as ever.” Thus, as McClay writes, “Whatever donation I make to a charitable organization, it can never be as much as I could have given. I can never diminish my carbon footprint enough, or give to the poor enough . . . Colonialism, slavery, structural poverty, water pollution, deforestation—there’s an endless list of items for which you and I can take the rap.” If we are tough on ourselves, we are merciless toward others. In Brooks’ words, “society has become a free-form demolition derby of moral confrontation,” such as “the cold-eyed fanaticism of students at Middlebury College and other campuses nationwide.” This “strange persistence” of guilt leaves contemporary Westerners living in the worst of all possible worlds. Secularism and relativism have not liberated them from the need to “feel morally justified,” nor has it freed them from feelings of guilt. What it has done is to deprive people of the means to do anything meaningful about their sense of guilt. As Brook says “we have no clear framework or set of rituals to guide us in our quest for goodness. Worse, people have a sense of guilt and sin, but no longer a sense that they live in a loving universe marked by divine mercy, grace and forgiveness. There is sin but no formula for redemption.” That’s because if there were true forgiveness and redemption, there would have to be an acknowledgement that there was something that needed to be forgiven and something about us that needs to be redeemed. At this point, I’m left thinking about the passage from Matthew, where we’re told that when Jesus “saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd.” Brooks ends by saying that what people need is more “than the cheap grace of instant forgiveness.” They need a way to prevent the “private guilt everybody feels” from being “transmuted into a public state of perpetual moral war.” And they need a personal introduction—or re-introduction—to the Good Shepherd who has already shown how far He will go to love and forgive them.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Peter Singer Defends Abuse

Apr 19, 2017 - 00:00:00

We say it often: ideas have consequences; bad ideas have victims. And a certain, consistent Princeton bioethicist continues to show just how true that is. How do we know what’s right? Great minds have wrestled with that question for much of history. Is it doing our duty regardless of the consequences? Is it doing whatever a virtuous person would do? Is it doing what brings the most happiness to the most people? That last option—the greatest good for the greatest number—is the basic premise behind an ethical theory called “utilitarianism,” whose main champion today is Princeton Professor Peter Singer. In his book, “Practical Ethics,” he presses this logic to chilling, yet consistent, conclusions, arguing, for example, that killing babies who are born disabled is not only acceptable, but may be morally necessary. Why? Singer believes the happiness of able-bodied persons trumps the rights of those with disabilities. Such beliefs are horrifying enough in the classroom, but they rarely stay there. Enter Rutgers ethicist Anna Stubblefield, who, in 2015, was convicted of aggravated sexual assault and sentenced to twelve years in prison. Her victim, a thirty-year-old man with cerebral palsy, identified as “D.J.,” has never spoken a word in his life, and is dependent on caregivers for his basic needs. Using a controversial technique known as “facilitated communication,” Stubblefield claims she helped D.J. break his lifelong silence by supporting his hands as he typed on a keyboard. Eventually, D.J.’s family came to believe he had the mental capacity of an adult, and even enrolled him in college courses. Then Stubblefield made an announcement to D.J.’s family that changed everything: “We’re in love.” Believing she had received D.J.’s consent via facilitated communication, the married Stubblefield consummated a romantic relationship with this disabled man. A New Jersey jury decided that the act constituted sexual assault. In response, in a recent op-ed at the New York Times, Peter Singer and Jeff McMahan argue that Stubblefield’s 12-year sentence is too harsh and that D.J. was capable of more communication than the judge or jury give him credit for. But their next argument is truly horrifying. “If we assume,” they write, “that he is profoundly cognitively impaired, we should concede that he cannot understand the normal significance of sexual relations between persons or the meaning and significance of sexual violation. In that case, he is incapable of giving or withholding informed consent…” They go on to claim that D.J. probably enjoyed the experience, so it wasn’t that monstrous of a crime. In other words, because those with profound disabilities can’t fully comprehend what’s happening, assaulting them isn’t the same as assaulting a person in possession of full mental faculties. Now, let me be clear: this reasoning is fully consistent with Singer’s utilitarian ethics, which teaches that net happiness—not objective concepts like human rights, dignity, or duty—is the standard of right and wrong. And this story shows why ideas like this are so much more than academic debates. Utilitarian reasoning justifies all numbers of atrocities, from experimenting on prisoners in order to advance medicine, to harvesting vulnerable people’s organs to help others. In fact, this logic has been used to justify eugenics and forced sterilization, and is used today to defend abortion and euthanasia. In contrast, Christianity teaches the intrinsic and equal value of every human person, regardless of physical or mental abilities. This idea, rooted in the image of God, means that a man with disabilities who’s never spoken a word is no less valuable than a university professor like Singer. And crimes against him are no less reprehensible. Again, ideas matter. They have consequences. And bad ideas have victims. That’s why I care about this whole worldview thing, and that’s why we’ve got to speak out against the moral reasoning of thinkers like Singer. Because the ones who will pay the highest price often can’t speak for themselves.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
John Stonestreet: Faith . . . Personal, not Private (Part II)

Apr 18, 2017 - 00:00:00

Part II of John Stonestreet's talk about the very public events of Jesus' life, death, and resurrection.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Second Chance Month

Apr 18, 2017 - 00:00:00

You’re listening to BreakPoint thanks to a few Christians who once gave an ex-prisoner a second chance. Some 2.3 million Americans are behind bars. That’s more than any other nation in the world, in absolute terms and as a percentage of the population. The U.S., which has five percent of the world’s population, contains nearly 25 percent of the world’s prisoners. By some estimates, the number of Americans “under penal supervision . . . even rivals the number of Russians in the gulag under Stalin.” What’s more, the explosion in prison populations continued even after crime rates took a nose-dive starting twenty years ago. Making matters worse, the punishment doesn’t end when people leave prison. For many, their so-called “debt to society” can never be paid in full. By some estimates, there are 48,000 laws adversely affecting people with a criminal record. Many of them are applied automatically without consideration of “public safety, the seriousness of the offense, the time passed since the offense, or the individual’s efforts to make amends or earn back the public’s trust.” This scarlet “O” for “offender” includes “an inability to regain voting rights, volunteer in the community, and secure housing, admission to institutions of higher education, and employment.” That’s why Prison Fellowship and a coalition of more than 60 Christian and secular organizations have declared April 2017 to be “Second Chance Month.” The goal is “to remove unnecessary legal and societal barriers that prevent individuals with a criminal record from becoming productive members of society.” Lawmakers are also taking up the cause. U.S. Senator Portman of Ohio has and co-sponsors from both sides of the aisle have introduced a resolution declaring April as Second Chance Month. If there ever was an effort that deserved the support of Christians everywhere, it is “Second Chance Month.” If you’re hearing my voice, it’s because Christians, many of whom had been his political enemies, gave Chuck Colson a second chance. They believed in God’s power to transform the human heart. And that, for Christians, forgiveness and mercy are not optional. Chuck, in turn, freely gave what he had freely been given. The most visible sign of this was, of course, Prison Fellowship. But he also devoted much of his life to trying to make life better for men and women once they got out of prison. Chuck believed in the government’s God-ordained role of preserving order and promoting public safety. But he never confused that with the punitive impulse that has dominated our criminal justice system. He knew the difference between being tough on crime in a smart way and piling on excessive penalties to score political points. Better than anyone, Chuck knew the odds against prisoners once they were released. He knew that the key to beating the odds was the combination of spiritual transformation and a supportive community, including familial reconciliation. He would have regarded the kind of measures that made it harder for people with criminal records to pursue higher education and find gainful employment, and negatively affected the well-being of their children and families,” as well, frankly, stupid. While we’re already half-way through Second Chance Month, it’s never too late to educate yourself, your church, and friends on the obstacles former prisoners face when returning to society. Come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll link you to resources to promote Second Chance Month, including a toolkit for churches interested in hosting a Second Chance Sunday and graphics and hashtags you can use on your own social media platforms. We will also have information on how your church can support successful re-entry, and of course, get involved in the amazing in-prison ministry of Prison Fellowship. Again, that’s at BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Power of Names

Apr 17, 2017 - 00:00:00

The British government asked the public for help in naming a new ship. The name the people chose really rocked the boat. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time. Voters offered up a few dignified suggestions: The David Attenborough, named for the famous naturalist; The Shackleton, for a polar explorer. Others thought “The Endeavour” was a nice choice. A few voters offered up names that—how shall I put this—did not quite reflect the grandeur of a ship devoted to important research. Suggestions included “What Iceberg?” “It’s Bloody Cold Here,” and “Big Metal Floaty Thingy-Thing.” But BBC employee, James Hand came up with a name that really blew the contest out of the water: “Boaty McBoatface.” The name quickly caught on. More than 30,000 people voted for “Boaty McBoatface.” Their enthusiasm caused the Research Council’s website to crash. Although the Council said it was “delighted by the enthusiasm and creativity” of the British public, it decided to name the ship “The Royal Research Ship David Attenborough” instead. The “Boaty McBoatface” kerfuffle is a reminder to Christians that names matter—not only for ships, but also for children. Long ago in the journal First Things, the late Richard John Neuhaus noted a trend in baby names: Boys were given serious names like David, Matthew, or Christopher. But girls were often given “cute, toy-like names,” or the names of popular film stars. What these names are telling people, Neuhaus writes, is that “girls are cute, boys are for real.” This is not a message Christian parents ought to send about their daughters. In choosing a name, Neuhaus said, “We say something about what we hope the child will grow up to be.” Many Christians look to the Bible for ideas; they choose names like Esther, after the brave young woman who saved her people, or Ruth, who demonstrated such love for her mother-in-law. Other parents choose names like Faith, Charity, or Joy, in the hope that their daughters will embody these characteristics. Yet other parents honor relatives who have lived honorable lives. A first name is the first gift we give our children, and one of the most important. Scripture makes clear that names, and their meanings, have great significance. God Himself chose names for Jesus, Jacob, and Abraham. The names of other biblical characters have a special meaning. For instance, the name Job means “persecuted.” Adam named his wife Eve, which means, “the mother of all living,” because God had told them she would bear children. As Amy and Leon Kass write in First Things, our names are more than “arbitrary and conventional handles that serve simply to . . . pick us out of a crowd.” They suggest that our names, “like those given by God, have power to shape our lives.” Indeed, some researchers suggest that the right name for a child can mean greater success in life. In other words, names mean something. It’s why the U.S. Navy chooses names for ships that honor heroic people, like “The Sullivans,” five brothers who died for their country during World War II. The importance of names is why the British government refused to give a silly moniker like “Boaty McBoatface” to an important ship. Now, the Environmental Research Council did throw those disappointed “Boaty McBoatface” fans a bone: It recently gave the name to a robot submarine. It’s painted yellow, which ought to please Beatles fans, as well. What’s in a name? It may be true that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet—but the right name can make all the difference as we plough the seas of life.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Putin, Gorsuch, and Holy Week

Apr 15, 2017 - 00:00:00

With rising tensions between Russia and the United States over the events in Syria and the contentious confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice here at home, it’s easy to get distracted from the commemoration of what Jesus accomplished in His death, burial, and resurrection. Our hosts on BreakPoint This Week review the major news of the last few days from a Christian perspective, but remind listeners that the greatest news is over two-thousand years old: Jesus took the suffering and sin of this world onto His shoulders and triumphed over Satan, Hell, and the grave. Be sure to take advantage of the resources linked below, especially the Colson Center’s free worldview reflection on the last seven sayings of Jesus from the cross.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
"I Thirst"

Apr 14, 2017 - 00:00:00

Today, on Good Friday, we remember, honor, and reflect on the God who entered the world of human suffering on our behalf. “I thirst.” Only John’s Gospel records these words. They were uttered by Jesus, we’re told, not as a guttural physical response, but with intention: “Knowing that all was now finished,” Jesus said, “I thirst” in order to fulfill the Scriptures (John 19:28). And yet, we ought not think these words are manufactured or insincere either. Earlier in his ministry, Jesus had, on the last great day of the Feast of Tabernacles, “stood up and cried out, ‘If anyone thirsts, let him come to me and drink. Whoever believes in me, as the Scripture has said, ‘Out of his heart will flow rivers of living water’.” (John 7:37). “The water that I will give him will become in him a spring of water welling up to eternal life” (John 4:13-14). And now, on the cross, He who said these words was Himself thirsty. Why are we told this? Why is the fact that Jesus thirsted important? The world changed on All Saints Day in 1755. In Lisbon, Portugal, a ten-minute earthquake, followed by a tsunami and fires, killed an estimated 60,000 people, many crushed by collapsing churches where they had gathered to celebrate that Christian holy day. According to moral philosopher Susan Neiman, for many Western intellectuals this incident of natural evil proved that God could no longer be trusted. The French philosopher Voltaire offered scathing words in a poem: “Are you then sure,” he wrote, “the power which would create The universe and fix the laws of fate, Could not have found for man a proper place, But earthquakes must destroy the human race?” And so in the modern era, trust moved from God to man. And it seemed to work: the next few centuries were marked by technological advances, scientific progress, and scholarly criticism of the Bible. However, the peak of modernism was the 20th century, which revealed that trust in man was badly misplaced: the mechanized slaughter of millions in two world wars, Communism, Auschwitz, and the threat of nuclear annihilation. So where do we turn now if we can’t trust God or man? The cross directly addresses this world of moral and natural evil: As the prophet Isaiah foretold, “He was wounded for our transgressions, He was bruised for our iniquities; the chastisement for our peace was upon Him, and by His stripes we are healed (Is 53:5). The cross proves that God is not aloof from human suffering as Voltaire had imagined, nor will human evil have the final say. Our God once thirsted, like we do. He bled, as we do, in this existence of fallen people and a fallen world. In Christ, God entered the world of human suffering, suffered Himself, defeated suffering and now has the scars to prove it. Nearly two centuries after Voltaire, theologian Edward Shillito, offered a poem with a very different take on the suffering we experience. Here are two stanzas of that poem: “If we have never sought, we seek Thee now; Thine eyes burn through the dark, our only stars; We must have sight of thorn-pricks on Thy brow; We must have Thee, O Jesus of the Scars. . . “The other gods were strong, but Thou wast weak; They rode, but Thou didst stumble to a throne; But to our wounds only God’s wounds can speak, And not a god has wounds, but Thou alone.” Today on Good Friday, we remember, we worship and proclaim this God, Jesus of the scars. To Him be all glory and praise forever and ever. Amen. And before I leave you today, I want to invite you to come to BreakPoint.org for a free pdf that the Colson Center team has prepared on the seven last sayings of Christ from the cross. It’s a beautiful booklet, with reflections from our team and sacred art to help you reflect this Easter season on what Jesus suffered and said for our benefit. Again, it’s at BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Putin, Gorsuch, and Holy Week

Apr 14, 2017 - 00:00:00

Ed and John discuss the changing relationship between Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, Justice Gorsuch and "the nuclear option," the success of "The Case for Christ" movie, and the implications of Holy Week.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Jesus, the Last Adam

Apr 13, 2017 - 00:00:00

What do the first man and Jesus Christ have in common? Well, the writers of the New Testament tell an exciting story for you, and for the whole world. Sally Lloyd-Jones’s “Jesus Storybook Bible” is a favorite in my house for a lot of reasons. But the best part may be the prologue. In it, Jones explains that although the Bible contains laws for moral living, it’s not mainly a book of rules. And although it tells of great men and women of God, it’s not a book of heroes, either. Rather, it’s a story about one Hero in particular. As Jones puts it, every story in the Bible whispers this Hero’s name. And there’s no time of year when that is more clear, though many of us miss it, than at Holy Week. Beginning with Palm Sunday, running through today (Maundy Thursday), Good Friday, and finally, Easter Sunday, we have the benefit of seeing not only Jesus’ story unfold, but of seeing the culmination of the whole story of Scripture itself. This was a benefit the Disciples didn’t have. For Christ’s first followers, His words at the Last Supper, His arrest, His trial, and crucifixion were a bewildering defeat. It was only in retrospect, when Jesus opened the Scripture to them, first on the road to Emmaus and later in the upper room, that they understood, and even then, not fully! Only after Christ’s ascension could a restored Peter stand before Jerusalem and proclaim the punch line of Holy Week: “Let all of the house of Israel therefore know assuredly,” he said, “that God hath made him both Lord and Christ, this Jesus whom ye crucified.” The rest of the New Testament shows how the Holy Spirit continued to reveal Christ’s presence throughout all of Scripture. Paul, for example, sees Jesus in the Bible’s very first chapters, calling Him “the Last Adam,” and contrasts the two men as heads of the human race. One failed and brought death on all His descendants. The other was faithful, bringing life through His death and resurrection. And if we take the time to read Scripture more carefully, we see how deeply the parallels run. The ways in which Jesus is similar to, and yet better than Adam, are astonishing: The first Adam yielded to temptation in a garden. The Last Adam beat temptation in a garden. The first man, Adam, sought to become like God. The Last Adam was God who became a man. The first Adam was naked and received clothes. The Last Adam had clothes but was stripped. The first Adam tasted death from a tree. The Last Adam tasted death on a tree. The first Adam hid from the face of God, while the Last Adam begged God not to hide His face. The first Adam blamed his bride, while the Last Adam took the blame for His bride. The first Adam earned thorns. The Last Adam wore thorns. The first Adam gained a wife when God opened man’s side, but the Last Adam gained a wife when man opened God’s side. The first Adam brought a curse. The Last Adam became a curse. While the first Adam fell by listening when the Serpent said “take and eat,” the Last Adam told His followers, “take and eat, this is my body.” We celebrate this last event today—Jesus’ final meal with His Disciples, and His new command that we “love one another.” In giving Christians this meal, He sealed His role as Adam’s replacement. Do you remember how, when Mary Magdalene saw the risen Christ, she mistook Him for a gardener? Through His body and blood, the Last Adam restored what the Forbidden Fruit destroyed, inviting us back to a restored Garden-City in the New Heavens and Earth, where the tree of life grows around the throne of God, free for the taking. That’s what His story, our story, the story—and this week—are all about. Good Friday is tomorrow, and it’s easy to rush through this dark reminder of our sin, and look forward to Easter. But please, stay here a while. The only way to Sunday is through this week, and the events and the words Jesus spoke before His death are worthy of our reflection. To help you, your family, and your small group drink deeply of these precious words, my colleagues and I at the Colson Center have put together a PDF booklet of reflections on the seven sayings of Jesus from the cross. Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll tell you how you can get a free copy of it.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Assisted Suicide Freight Train Hits the Brakes

Apr 12, 2017 - 00:00:00

A funny thing happened on the way to our supposed brave new world of assisted suicide. Proponents of assisted suicide would have us believe that legalized killing is an unstoppable freight train and that those who oppose it are going to get run over. And no wonder. Last year Colorado and the District of Columbia legalized it, while California enacted a bill that had been passed in 2015. They joined Oregon, Vermont, Washington, and Montana where this great evil is now legal. That’s why I’m very pleased to tell you that reports of the demise of a culture of life have been, to borrow a phrase, greatly exaggerated. We’re starting to win again. No, this doesn’t mean we can relax, but it’s really good news—and frankly, we could use some. Bills to legalize euthanasia “have done very poorly” in 2017, Rita Marker, executive director of the Patients Rights Council, told Baptist Press. “That has been a shock to those who are in favor of it because they thought that all of [a] sudden the dam had burst and everything would happen for them.” So far, that has not happened. Bills to advance the idea that some lives aren’t worth living have gone down to defeat in Indiana, Mississippi, New Mexico and Tennessee. Also in New Mexico, the state senate voted 22-20 against a bill to legalize assisted suicide for people expected to die within six months. It was a bipartisan vote, with 7 Democrats joining 15 Republicans. Similar bills stalled in Hawaii, Maryland, Utah, and Wyoming, Marker said, although it’s always possible they could be brought back. In Hawaii, a House of Representatives committee unanimously decided not to advance a proposal allowing physicians to prescribe lethal drugs on the same day a patient is diagnosed as terminally ill. Eva Andrade of the Hawaii Family Forum said that Hawaiians should “say a prayer of thanksgiving” while remaining vigilant—because when it comes to assisted suicide bills, death is never final. “Although this may seem like the battle is over, please be advised that the battle is not over until the last day of session,” Andrade said. “And even then, the bill is still alive for next session. Even now, proponents are most likely regrouping.” Dauneen Dolce, executive director of the Right to Life Committee of New Mexico, told the American Family Association that assisted suicide legislation likely will be introduced next year. Therefore, she said, those opposing the culture of death must remain “actively involved in some way,” by “educating yourself, or giving support to the organizations that are educating others, or [being] involved in the political arena. If you don’t do that,” she added, “you are handing over our state [and] our laws, and the culture of death will come to us—and that’ll be from apathy.” The job is immense. According to a 2016 survey by LifeWay Research, 67 percent of Americans say it is morally acceptable for terminally ill patients to ask their physicians to help them end their lives. We must not only work to change—or block—laws in the political and legislative realms. We must also work—and pray—to change hearts and minds in our neighborhoods, in our social and work circles, and across society. Apparently most Americans see pain and suffering as the ultimate evil and personal autonomy as the highest good. What I can only call this “sub-Christian worldview” completely misses the truth that God can and often does use the things we’d rather avoid in our lives—even at the end of life—to draw us closer to Himself. Remember, when it comes to assisted suicide, apathy is deadly. So let’s educate our fellow Americans about the beauty and dignity of life, from the moment of conception to the moment of natural death. Remember as well: “If we live, we live for the Lord; and if we die, we die for the Lord. So, whether we live or die, we belong to the Lord.” Come to BreakPoint.org for resources on the evil of assisted suicide.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Planet Earth II

Apr 11, 2017 - 00:00:00

Imagine gazing at Michelangelo’s David, and someone beside you praises the statue for having carved itself. That’s how I felt watching the BBC’s “Planet Earth II.” Just over ten years ago, BBC stunned viewers with one of the most spectacular presentations of the natural world ever captured on camera. The term “nature documentary” does not do justice to the original “Planet Earth” series. It’s better described as a reintroduction to the world that we call home in all of its awe-inspiring diversity and beauty. Well, believe it or not, the BBC has outdone itself with the sequel series, which premiered earlier this year and has just finished its first season. Shot over more than 2,000 days in 40 different locations, “Planet Earth II” revisits what made the original so memorable while infusing what Jordan Passman at Forbes calls a sense of “childlike wonder.” As before, audiences are taken on another sweeping tour of our planet’s ecosystems, only more intimate, closer-up, and somehow even more real. Thanks to new, remote camera technology shooting at ultra-high definitions and frame-rates, viewers enjoy eye-popping detail, often shown in slow-motion like an instant replay in football. That’s to say nothing of the stars of the show: bears dancing against trees, iguanas chased by snakes, dolphins swimming through submerged forests, eagles skydiving down mountains, lions battling giraffes, and dozens of tinier, less conspicuous dramas that have seldom ever been filmed. Add in a phenomenal score composed by Hans Zimmer and some of the best sound design in documentary history, and every hair on your body will be giving a standing ovation. But there is something about “Planet Earth II” that bothered me. All throughout, the writers use language that ascribes agency and forethought to animals and plants. This frog “discovered a way to avoid wasps by becoming transparent,” these hummingbirds have “traded convenience for longer beaks,” this jaguar, sloth, penguin, or bat has “found” a unique solution to the challenges of its environment. More oddly still, host David Attenborough frequently credits nature itself with a godlike intelligence and intentionality, as if features of animals and plants that make them uniquely suited to their habitats were solutions that nature thought up in her armchair. There’s almost religious reverence and wonder spilling from every scene, as if the producers themselves know that a greater purpose lies behind the beauty of the things they see—as if they know that all of this living magnificence is more than the result of time, chance, and natural selection, but have no One else to credit. The first doctrine of Christianity is that God exists and is the Creator of everything else. “In the beginning,” opens Genesis, “God created the heavens and earth.” Throughout Scripture, whether in Psalms, Job, the Sermon on the Mount, or the first chapter of Romans, the inspired writers point to the wonder of creation as much more than a goosebump-inducing experience. It is revelation—a message from the Creator. Paul teaches that God’s invisible attributes are so clearly evident in creation that all of humanity is “without excuse” before Him. Theologians from Augustine to Aquinas to Calvin have taught that God’s general revelation, distinct from His special revelation in Scripture and in Christ, exists in nature in such abundance and clarity that it is sufficient to render us accountable before Him. In other words, we know there’s a Creator. Anyone who has seen His creation knows it! As a feast for the senses, I can’t recommend “Planet Earth II” highly enough. But as an articulation of a worldview, it’s strikingly dissonant. In the face of so much majesty and order that cries out in testament to a Designer, modern man offers only empty personification, as if creation created itself. Despite of all that’s possible because of the BBC’s advanced camera equipment, they’ve still missed the revelation that’s right in front of their eyes.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
John Stonestreet: Faith . . . Personal, not Private

Apr 11, 2017 - 00:00:00

John reflects on the very public nature of Christian revelation and faith, especially as seen in the life of Jesus and the events of Holy Week.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Seven Last Sayings of Jesus

Apr 10, 2017 - 00:00:00

Welcome to Holy Week. Today we offer reflections—and music—on the seven last sayings of Jesus. In 2012, the English poet Ruth Padel accepted a commission from Manchester’s Hallé Orchestra to write poems that would be read between the movements of Joseph Haydn’s “The Seven Last Words of Our Savior on the Cross.” Writing about her experience two years later in The Guardian, Padel called her acceptance of the commission “rash.” Her father was a psychoanalyst, her mother was a great-grand-daughter of Darwin—what could she have to say on this subject? Well, that’s a good question. By her own admission, Padel had “no idea if what [she] did works theologically, but musicians find it OK to work with.” Thankfully, we don’t have to settle for “OK to work with.” In 1783, the Cathedral of Cadiz, Spain commissioned the great composer Joseph Haydn to write a musical setting for what are known as the “Seven Last Words (or Sayings)” of Jesus on the cross. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the “Seven Last Words,” they are “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do;” “Today you will be with me in Paradise;” “Behold your son/Behold your mother;” “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” “I thirst;” “It is finished;” and finally, “Father into your hands I commend my spirit.” Haydn’s opus consists of nine parts: an introduction, followed by a musical meditation on each of the seven sayings, and then completed by a section entitled “Il Terremoto,” which is “earthquake” in both Italian and Spanish. Il Terremoto, of course, refers to the earth quaking in Matthew 27 when Christ “yielded his spirit” and died. At the original performance at Cadiz Cathedral, the Bishop spoke one of the sayings of Jesus, “delivered a discourse thereon,” and this was followed by Haydn’s musical meditation on the words. Since Haydn never specified what, if anything, should be said between movements, subsequent performers have felt free to add, or not add, whatever was “OK to work with.” But, as the Vermeer Quartet learned, paying heed to what works theologically is the way to go. In 1988, they won a Grammy nomination for their performance, which featured excerpts of sermons by Martin Luther King, Jr. and Billy Graham between movements. The recording came about because music-only performances left them with the “polite applause of a worn-out audience.” So, they decided to “restore Haydn’s work to its original sacred setting.” The experience was “transforming.” As the quartet’s violinist told the New York Times, “Though we knew the music so very well . . . we had never before been obliged to relate it in its intended context.” Haydn, who typically began his manuscripts with the phrase “in nomine Domini,” “in the name of the Lord,” and ended them with “Laus Deo,” “praise be to God,” would, no doubt, approve. I think you will, too. Here is a brief excerpt from “Terremoto,” Haydn’s musical setting of the earthquake that left no mistake that something earth-shattering happened that first Good Friday. Now, before I leave you today, I want to urge you to download a special booklet that the Colson Center has prepared in anticipation of Good Friday and Easter—a series of meditations on the seven last sayings of Christ. It’s free, and it’s at BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Deadly Utilitarianism

Apr 7, 2017 - 00:00:00

What’s the most dangerous thing you can say to someone in our society? “You’re useless!” Amy Julia Becker is a successful author and columnist. She also is the mom of a beautiful daughter, a fifth-grader who wears glasses, who loves reading and spelling, but who isn’t so sure about fractions and dogs. “She is responsible, smart, talented, and loving,” Amy wrote recently in Christianity Today. “She also has Down syndrome.” When discussing her daughter or others with Down syndrome, Amy says she is tempted to list their accomplishments and abilities as a way to justify their existence. Not any more. “In so doing,” Amy admits, “I play into the idea that I, too, am only worthy of life because I contribute something productive in the world. I devalue myself and everyone else around me when I start to see human beings as products to be measured.” As our friend Chuck Colson warned, measuring people by what they can do or contribute to society is dangerous. If someone can be called “useless,” such as a child with Down syndrome, what’s to keep “society” from deciding to eliminate anyone deemed not to have a life worth living? This isn’t alarmism, folks. Amy says that the abortion rate in the United States for babies with Down syndrome, also known as trisomy 21, is about 50 percent and is likely to increase as prenatal testing becomes more available. As bad as that is, in Iceland, not one child with Down syndrome was born between 2008 and 2012. In Denmark, an estimated 98 percent of those diagnosed with Down syndrome are being aborted—deemed useless. But as anyone who’s actually been around people with Down syndrome knows, they’re definitely not useless. They have individual personalities, likes and dislikes, and often possess a level of joie de vivre that puts the rest of us to shame. But that’s not the point! The point is this: Every human being is created in God’s image and is precious to Him! As Chuck said it so well, “Being created in the imago Dei endows every person with dignity—a dignity that is not derived from the majority’s opinion (or a government definition) about the quality of their life or their contribution to society.” Amy Julia Becker notes that not everything worth keeping can be measured in utilitarian terms and pass a strict cost-benefit analysis. She quotes the Irish poet Michael Longley, who said on National Public Radio, “Poetry is useless,” before adding, “Poetry is without use, but it is valuable.” Imagine a world without poetry! Although maybe only one in a million poets can make a living from it, we’d all be immeasurably poorer without it. There’d be no Shakespeare, Milton, or the book of Psalms! You cannot put a utilitarian price tag on poetry—nor on people, whatever challenges they face. However, when we value each person as made in the image of God and make room in our hearts for those with disabilities, we often experience a beautiful poetry unfolding in our own lives we never could have expected. Amy writes, “People with disabilities are indeed like the words of a poem. Although they might not provide or produce clothing or shelter or food, they nonetheless convey beauty and meaning, truth and transcendence. They teach us what it means to be human.” And let’s face it—caring for those who need us is more than a nice thing for the Church to do. It’s a requirement. As our Lord Jesus said in Matthew 25, those who tend to the hungry, the naked, the stranger, the sick and imprisoned do it unto Him—in whose eyes and love no one, no one, is useless. Now as you know, Easter is almost upon us. And to help you prepare, my colleagues at the Colson Center have created a beautiful, free downloadable booklet of meditations on the seven last sayings of Jesus from the cross. Please, come to BreakPoint.org and click on “Resources” to download your free copy.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: The Pences, Title VII, and Holy Week

Apr 7, 2017 - 00:00:00

Ed and John discuss the media reaction to Mike and Karen Pence's observation of the so-called "Billy Graham rule in their marriage; a federal court decides that the 1964 Civil Rights Act covers sexual orientation; and observing Holy Week.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Title VII and Government by Judiciary

Apr 6, 2017 - 00:00:00

Who needs Congress to make laws when the judiciary just does whatever it wants? Well, at least that’s what the Seventh Circuit seems to think. On Tuesday, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights Act, which bars discrimination in employment on the basis of “race, color, religion, sex, or national origin,” now covers alleged discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. The unprecedented ruling came in response to a complaint filed by Kimberly Hively, a former community college teacher who alleges that she was denied promotions and eventually fired because she’s a lesbian. Now if you notice that Title VII does not mention “sexual orientation,” you’re not alone. If you go by the literal text, as well as the legislative history of Title VII, the court’s reading of the law brings to mind what Humpty Dumpty told Alice in “Through the Looking Glass”: “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, “it means just what I choose it to mean—neither more nor less.” When Alice replied “The question is . . . whether you can make words mean so many different things,” Humpty Dumpty replied, “The question is . . . which is to be master—that’s all.” And the answer on Tuesday was “LGBT activists and their allies in the courts.” Writing for the majority, Chief Judge Diane Wood said that “Hively represents the ultimate case of failure to conform to the female stereotype . . . she is not heterosexual.” Wood added that “Hively’s claim is no different from the claims brought by women who were rejected for jobs in traditionally male workplaces . . .” The key to Wood’s argument lies in the word “stereotype.” In 1989, the Supreme Court, in a case involving a female employee allegedly denied a promotion because she wasn’t “feminine enough,” ruled that this kind of stereotyping violated Title VII. That decision remains controversial, but at least it involved someone alleging discrimination on the basis of sex, i.e., a man with the same personality wouldn’t have been treated this way. But it also opened the door to LGBT activists who used the idea of “sex stereotyping” to try to amend Title VII via the courts. Their argument, as reflected in Judge Wood’s opinion, was that discriminating on the basis of sexual orientation was the ultimate form of “sex stereotyping.” That still left them with a considerable problem: the text of Title VII. If Congress had intended to define sexual orientation as a protected class under the law, it could have amended Title VII at any time. But it hasn’t. And here’s where the Court really channeled Humpty Dumpty. In his concurring opinion, Judge Richard Posner wrote that “We should not leave the impression that we are merely the obedient servants of the [Congress that enacted Title VII], carrying out their wishes. We are not. We are taking advantage of what the last half century has taught.” Holy cow. That, friends, is called judicial tyranny. Judge Diane Sykes, however, strongly disagreed with Wood and Posner. She wrote that “Title VII does not define discrimination ‘because of sex’ . . .In common, ordinary usage in 1964 — and now, for that matter — the word ‘sex’ means biologically male or female; it does not refer to sexual orientation.” She added: “The Constitution assigns the power to make and amend statutory law to the elected representatives of the people . . . However welcome today’s decision might be as a policy matter, it comes at a great cost to representative self-government.” And by the way, three weeks ago the Eleventh Circuit came to the opposite conclusion of the Seventh Circuit. So the issue is headed to the Supreme Court. So what can we do? We can urge our representatives to clarify Title VII, and while they’re at it Title IX, and make it clear that judge Sykes is correct in her interpretation. We can also urge the White House to reverse the EEOC’s 2011 ruling that opened the door to cases like this one. Otherwise, we may as well just join Humpty Dumpty on that wall.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Religion and Inequality

Apr 5, 2017 - 00:00:00

Religion is good for you: emotionally, physically, and economically. Who knew? Not the secularists. In 2000, Harvard sociologist Robert Putnam published his groundbreaking book, “Bowling Alone.” Putnam argued that Americans’ reduced interest in civic engagement—by which he meant not only things of a political nature but also things like the PTA, Boy Scouts, groups like the Elks, and, yes, bowling leagues—had reduced the store of what is called “social capital.” “Social capital” is what sociologist call “the networks of relationships among people who live and work in a particular society, enabling that society to function effectively.” This is more than theory. It gets to the heart of one of the pressing issues of our time: social and economic inequality. And while Americans, as a whole, prefer to bowl alone, this solitude isn’t equally distributed. As Putnam documents in his most recent book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” one thing that separates children from families in the top 25 percent of households measured by income and education from their counterparts in the bottom twenty-five percent is social capital. The well-off parents featured in “Our Kids” were, if anything, exhaustingly engaged and enmeshed in far-reaching networks that made life better for their kids. While we shouldn’t be surprised that good connections offer better-off kids a significant advantage over their poorer counterparts, there’s something else that provides another significant advantage: religious participation. Churchgoing kids “are less prone to substance abuse (drugs, alcohol, and smoking), risky behavior (like not wearing seat belts), and delinquency (shoplifting, misbehaving in school, and being suspended or expelled).” But the benefits of regular church attendance do not stop there. As Putnam tells us, “Compared to their unchurched peers, youth who are involved in a religious organization take tougher courses, get higher grades and test scores, and are less likely to drop out of high school.” They also “have better relations with their parents and other adults, have more friendships with high-performing peers, are more involved in sports and other extracurricular activities.” In fact, churchgoing is so beneficial to academic performance that “a child whose parents attend church regularly is 40 to 50 percent more likely to go on to college than a matched child of nonattenders.” Now, this is true regardless of socioeconomic status. The problem is that regular church attendance is increasingly tied to socioeconomic status. According to Putnam, while “weekly church attendance” among college-educated families since the late 1970s has remained more or less the same, it has dropped by almost a third among those with a high school diploma or less. The result is “a substantial class gap that did not exist” fifty years ago. It’s yet another way that poorer kids are falling behind their more affluent counterparts. Given the benefits of regular church attendance, the insistence on minimizing the role of religion in American public life is, to put it mildly, perverse. Society hasn’t figured out how to reliably give poor kids access to the kinds of advantages, both material and intangible, that better-off kids take for granted. But we, the Church, do know how to reach out to them and their families in Jesus’ name. We have millennia of experience in ministering to the least, the last, and the lost. And now we have evidence that this kind of ministry has benefits that few people, Christians or non-Christians, ever suspected. Will today’s “cultured despisers” of religion pay heed? Probably not. But we owe it to the kids—all kids—to ignore those naysayers and to freely give them what we have freely received.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Lee and Leslie Strobel: The Case for Christ

Apr 4, 2017 - 00:00:00

Warren Cole Smith interviews Lee and Leslie Strobel about the soon-to-be released movie version of Lee’s renowned book, The Case for Christ.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
TIME and Truth

Apr 4, 2017 - 00:00:00

TIME magazine is running out of things to declare dead. But their latest obituary is a worldview lesson on a silver platter. You may have seen the bumper sticker that says “Know God, know peace,” (both with a “K”) and then, “No God, no peace,” (with just an “N”). This kind of pun usually draws a groan from the kids these days, but it really is accurate. And it remains accurate if we replace “peace” with “truth.” In 2017, our world is a living demonstration of the fact that no accurate understanding of reality can prevail when God is thought of as irrelevant. In 1966, the cover of TIME magazine asked in giant red letters: “Is God Dead?” Evoking the famous quote by German atheist Friedrich Nietzsche, the accompanying article discussed the way science, technology, modern philosophy, and even some theologians had rendered God more or less obsolete. Well, fifty-one years later to the week, TIME mirrored that cover except for one word, and many Christians are struggling to not say, “We told you so.” The latest issue, using the same bold, red letters, asks, “Is Truth Dead?”. The article, written by Michael Scherer, is far more narrow, aimed specifically at President Trump and what one of his GOP primary opponents called his “tenuous relationship with reality.” Scherer hits the president for his “alternative facts” about the inauguration crowd size, his accusation that President Obama wiretapped him during the campaign, and his claim that three million illegal immigrants voted. “Trump,” he writes, “has discovered something about epistemology in the 21st century. The truth may be real, but falsehood often works better.” Now of course, there is a direct connection between God’s existence and truth. And perhaps I should be grateful that TIME is seeing the connection between God and truth at all. But the irony of reading an elegy for truth in a Magazine that last month featured a second transgender individual on its cover is almost too much. “Beyond he or she,” read the teaser, “How a new generation is redefining the meaning of gender.” It should be blindingly obvious to anyone with two eyes that TIME, itself, has a tenuous relationship with reality. The idea that a man can dye his hair, put on lipstick, and somehow become a woman by sheer will is a much more obvious falsehood than anything the president has claimed thus far. Of course, no falsehood is okay. But for TIME to bemoan the demise of truth mere days after claiming male and female are concepts up for redefinition is unbelievable. But they’re not alone. As I explained recently on my other daily commentary, The Point, National Geographic has launched a social media campaign calling potential subscribers to—and I quote—“Stand behind the facts. Stand with science. Stand for the planet.” Once again, the irony was somehow lost on this magazine, which just a few weeks prior ran a cover story featuring a nine-year-old boy with dyed pink hair and leopard print tights declaring, “The best thing about being a girl is that I don’t have to pretend to be a boy.” Look, we often say it here on BreakPoint that ideas have consequences. And bad ideas have victims. Without God, we have no grounding for truth. And without God, we lose sight of what it really means to be human. For more details, see Psalm 135: 15-18. But let’s be clear about this: When TIME asked half a century ago whether God was dead, the answer then was a resounding “no.” And the answer to the question they asked last week about the truth is the same. Though decades ago certain quarters of our culture gave up on God and then truth and then a coherent sense of the human person, the attempt to replace reality with sheer will and feelings is futile. Like God’s existence, the truth about the world and humanity is not subject to our feelings or our opinions; nor is it changed by academic or political fashions. God is. Reality is. Truth is. Amen.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Great Flood of Washington State

Apr 3, 2017 - 00:00:00

Scientists are supposed to follow the evidence. But what happens when they prefer established dogma? Let me tell you about a fascinating article in National Geographic. Imagine one of the world’s most dramatic landscapes—sixteen thousand square miles of canyons, channels, waterfalls (one of them ten times the size of Niagara)—now all completely dry. What you’re imagining is the Channeled Scablands of eastern Washington State, a breathtaking memorial to one of the largest floods in Earth’s history. But writing in National Geographic, Michael Hodges recounts how, when a high school teacher came to that obvious conclusion in 1909, he was laughed out of the room by the scientific community. Looking across the aptly-named Scablands today, it’s easy to see why 27-year-old Harley Bretz, who had no formal training in geology at the time, saw the work of a flood. But a century ago, earth science was locked in the dogma of Charles Lyell’s 1830 text, “Principles of Geology.” Lyell taught that changes in the Earth’s rocks and soil are the product of “processes now in operation,” steadily eating at the landscape over millions of years. This theory was a crucial underpinning to Charles Darwin’s work, published just a few years later. Lyell’s uniformitarian ideas had gained such acceptance that when Bretz presented his findings about the great flood of Washington State to geologists in the nation’s capital, he received the closest thing they could give to a flogging. These scientists, none of whom had ever visited the Scablands, called Bretz’s hypothesis “wholly inadequate,” “preposterous,” and “incompetent.” Despite taking the time to earn his Ph.D. before publishing his theory, this high-school teacher-turned-rock-hound became a laughing stock among his peers for propounding what amounted to “geological heresy.” “It didn’t matter how meticulous Bretz’s research was, or how sound his reasoning might be,” Hodges explains. “He seemed to be advocating a return to geology’s dark ages” when benighted buffoons explained landscapes like the Scablands as the result of the biblical Flood. Of course, scientists now agree that Bretz was right. During peak glaciation, a wall of ice thousands of feet high dammed up the Clark Fork River, creating Glacial Lake Missoula, a body of water twice the size of Rhode Island. When the glacier retreated and the dam broke, it unleashed one of the biggest torrents in history—a flood raging across the Columbia Plateau to the Pacific Ocean, carrying more water than all of the world’s rivers combined. This flood or series of floods carved the now-dry canyons, cliffs, and waterfalls that awed Bretz and puzzled his sadly misinformed critics. “With the flood story in mind, it all seems so obvious,” writes Hodges. “It’s almost impossible to see the terrain and not see the floodwaters that shaped it. Why, then, were the experts in Bretz’s day so blind…?” Well because, as National Geographic concludes without a hint of irony, “scientists are first and foremost human beings [who’re] loathe to change their theories or their minds because of mere data.” In fact, many critics of the great Washington flood carried their doubts to their graves, and it took decades for this plain fact to gain widespread acceptance in the scientific community. Now why does this sound so familiar? Is there perhaps another theory that comes to mind which modern scientists are unwilling to question—a theory whose most lucid critics are laughed out of the room and called names? There is. It’s called Darwinism. And scientists who dare to question it point to astonishing evidence from biology, astronomy, and geology that suggests an intelligence behind life in all of its complexity. But like Bretz, they’re usually dismissed. And because scientists are human, first and foremost, heretics who question Darwin, like those who questioned Lyell, may have to await vindication by future generations. Ironically, evidence—even a deluge of it—can take a long time to erode dogma.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Truth, Mums and Dads, and David Daleiden

Mar 31, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss TIME Magazine's recent cover, "Is Truth Dead," a New York judge's ruling that a child has three parents, and the misguided prosecution of David Daleiden.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Silent Suffering of Gay Men

Mar 31, 2017 - 00:00:00

Ideas have consequences, and bad ideas have victims. False promises of love and personal fulfillment are no exception. Over a year and-a-half after the Obergefell decision, the debate over gay “marriage” and homosexuality has largely fizzled out: partly because of the election, partly because the “T” in the LGBT acronym has been stealing all the headlines, and partly because Obergefell is now viewed by many as settled law. And that’s a shame, because so-called “progress” isn’t bringing about the rosy picture we were promised. In what may be the most candid piece in Huffington Post history, Michael Hobbes, who identifies as gay, writes about what he calls an “epidemic of loneliness.” “For years,” he begins, “I’ve noticed the divergence between my straight friends and my gay friends. While one half of my social circle has disappeared into relationships, kids and suburbs, the other has struggled through isolation and anxiety, hard drugs and risky (behavior).” Through story after story and mountains of statistics, Hobbes then documents a consistent and chilling trend among those who share his lifestyle. “Gay men everywhere, at every age,” he writes, are two-to-ten-times more likely than heterosexual men to commit suicide. And that’s just the beginning. Homosexual males also suffer from higher rates of cardiovascular disease, cancer, allergies, asthma, and a whole host of behavior-related infections and dysfunctions. They’re twice as likely to experience major depressive episodes, report having fewer close friends, and abuse drugs at an alarming rate. In fact, living in so-called “gay neighborhoods” is a predictor of more frequent, risky behaviors and methamphetamine use. And, Hobbes adds, the community itself is brutal and degrading to its members. Smart-phone hookup apps drive a culture of exploitation and casual encounters that one young man he interviewed said made him feel like “a piece of meat.” We often hear these disastrous statistics and stories attributed to homophobia, bullying, and shame. Having been treated horribly since childhood, men like this author—the oft-repeated myth goes—are forced to live a lie. They’re depressed because they’ve been oppressed and repressed. But here’s the problem with the bullying hypothesis. In countries like the Netherlands and Sweden where same-sex “marriage” has been the law of the land for years, gay men remain three times more susceptible to mood disorders and three- to ten-times more likely to engage in “suicidal self-harm.” The situation is so bad that one respondent in a survey of HIV clinics told researchers, “It’s not a question of not knowing how to save their lives. It’s a question of them not knowing if their lives are worth saving.” Incredibly, after this long and brutal and well-documented description of life in his community, Hobbes then concludes the cause as having minority status, which has taught them to live in fear. At no point does he consider the possibility that it’s the lifestyle itself that may be what’s destroying these men’s lives. Still, one expert quoted in the piece hints that he knows what’s going on. Christopher Stults, a researcher at New York University, admits that for many people, the marriage decision was a letdown. “We have this legal status, and yet there’s still something unfulfilled.” Could it be that this lifestyle cuts off this community from the natural family, from children, and—according to years of statistics—from monogamous partnerships? Could it be the disparity Hobbes sees between what he wants and what he got is a result of a broken lifestyle? Could it be that this behavior naturally isolates people? Could it be that God didn’t design His image-bearers to live like this, and when we do, it actually destroys us? Unfortunately, those questions are no longer even considered by Hobbes or by social scientists. But we as a society, and especially the Church, must consider these questions. As long as there are real people trying to fill their hearts with lies, caring about them will mean having a more open mind than the Huffington Post.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
How to Reach Your Secular Neighbor

Mar 30, 2017 - 00:00:00

Ever wondered why secular people aren’t interested in God? Maybe we’ve never given them a reason to be. When it comes to sharing Jesus Christ with the growing numbers of religious “nones” in America—that is, those who answer “none” when asked to describe their religious beliefs or affiliations—there’s no silver bullet. That’s the bad news. The good news is, the Golden Rule still works pretty well. That’s the gist of a thought-provoking and ultimately encouraging article by Khaldoun Sweis, who is Tutor of Philosophy at Oxford University and Associate Professor of Philosophy at Olive-Harvey College in Chicago. Khaldoun starts off his argument—which you’ll find in our friend Ed Stetzer’s blog, “The Exchange”—by making a shocking claim. Khaldoun says of the “nones,” “They not only think that they don’t need God, but many have never been given a single reason as to why He is relevant to their lives.” The respected Pew Research Center reports that half of these secular neighbors say they left their childhood faith because they no longer believe it or are no longer interested in it. Khaldoun tells of a secular female who dismissed a courageous boy passing out tracts, saying, “I don’t want or need your god, thank you very much.” Ouch! Khaldoun, who has been sharing the good news of Jesus with such people for the last 15 years, says that when they say they don’t believe in God, he will ask them to describe the god they don’t believe in. “Nine times out of ten,” he writes, “it is usually a god I do not believe in either! The caricatures and misrepresentations of the Christian God are abundant.” But rather than getting all defensive about it and lecturing them about their mistaken worldview, Khaldoun will engage them. In fact, he commends such engagement to all of us—in the four major arenas of secular thought in the world: government, education, media, and culture. “Use the pluralism diversity thesis to gain a seat at their table,” he says. “After all, according to them, Christianity is just another paradigm, and since they don’t want to be intolerant of any viewpoint, you should be allowed to speak too.” Then Khaldoun says we are to enquire—that is, listen to them and ask thoughtful questions. Often the problem with their worldview will become readily apparent, even to them. A student walked into his office and stated brashly, “I do not believe in anything that is not physical. I only believe what science tells me is true.” Khaldoun asked him if his idea was physical. A great conversation then ensued. Finally, Khaldoun says, we can edify. “George,” he says, “whose father died over ten years ago, never forgot that I was one of his only friends who came to that funeral. If you know people long enough, they will inevitably go through difficult times. This is the opportunity to show them the love of Christ. …. It is demanding, if not impossible, for people to forget that! When the heart is tender, it is more open than any other time!” That, my friends, is evangelism according to the Golden Rule. We can make Christ relevant—and real—in the lives of others not by arguing them into the kingdom but by showing them what a Christ-follower looks like—someone who engages with the community, who thoughtfully inquires about sensitive, ultimate issues, and who edifies—one might even say encourages—by our loving presence. Throughout this process—and most times evangelism is nothing if not a process—we’ll need to be ready to give an answer for the hope we have in Jesus. Part of that readiness involves having resources at our fingertips that clearly and nonthreateningly describe the Christian faith and worldview to our secular neighbors. We’ve already recommended Greg Koukl’s great little volume, “The Story of Reality.” There are many others, too, so come to BreakPoint.org. And get ready to make God relevant to your neighbors, secular and otherwise.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Free Speech on College Campuses—and Seminaries

Mar 29, 2017 - 00:00:00

Intellectual intolerance is such a plague on American universities that both conservative and liberal academics are speaking out. Even together. Few if any places in America pack more history per square mile than Princeton, New Jersey. Located halfway between New York and Philadelphia, Princeton has counted among its residents the likes of Jonathan Edwards, James Madison, Woodrow Wilson, and Albert Einstein, to name just a few. It’s also been the site for some of the most important battles in American history. The Battles of Princeton and nearby Trenton in the winter of 1776-‘77 convinced the American colonies that they could win the War of Independence. Now, another important battle is being fought in Princeton: the battle for free speech. This past decade has seen a rise of intellectually-suffocating intolerance on college campuses. Students have learned, mostly from some of their professors, to silence those with opposing views rather than debate them. In extreme cases, this has taken the form of intimidation and even violence, as was the case with Charles Murray’s experience at Middlebury College. A group of about 100 students not only disrupted the proceedings, some physically attacked Murray and his host, and even followed them to a restaurant. A more subtle, yet still insidious example was what happened to Tim Keller, the founder of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City. Earlier this year, Princeton Theological Seminary named Keller the winner of the 2017 Kuyper Award for Excellence in Reformed Theology. And then, all heck broke loose. People complained that, as a pastor in the more conservative Presbyterian Church in America, Keller didn’t hew to mainstream Presbyterian orthodoxy on subjects such as women’s ordination and, especially, LGBT issues. In a textbook example of Orwellian double-speak, the school’s dean issued a statement that withdrew Keller’s award, while insisting that, “We are a community that does not silence voices in the church.” Now technically that’s true: Keller will still speak, but as the statement makes clear, he won’t be speaking about anything that might distress his audience. But I’m pleased to report that not all of the news coming out of Princeton is this bad. In response to this wave of intolerance, very conservative professor Robby George and very liberal professor Cornel West, whom Inside Higher Ed called “an ideological odd couple,” issued a joint statement last week entitled “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression.” In it, they point out that “It is all too common these days for people to try to immunize from criticism opinions that happen to be dominant in their particular communities.” While acknowledging the right to peaceful protest, they ask readers to consider whether it might “not be better to listen respectfully and try to learn from a speaker with whom I disagree? Might it better serve the cause of truth seeking to engage the speaker in frank civil discussion?” George and West insist that everyone “should be willing—even eager—to engage with anyone who is prepared to do business in the currency of truth-seeking discourse by offering reasons, marshaling evidence and making arguments.” George and West aren’t the only “odd couple” who’ve enlisted in the Battle of Princeton. Among the oddly paired signatories are the controversial, to put it mildly, ethicist Peter Singer, and pro-life legal scholar Mary Ann Glendon of Harvard Law School. And I signed it too because, like its authors, I’m troubled by our age of ideological bubbles, “trigger warnings,” and “safe spaces,” especially on college campus. Not only should we respectfully hear out those who disagree with us, we might also learn from them. And vice-versa. Perhaps this latest Battle of Princeton will be as momentous as the first one. Come to BreakPoint.org and I’ll link you to the statement “Truth Seeking, Democracy, and Freedom of Thought and Expression.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Hope for the Homeless

Mar 28, 2017 - 00:00:00

Here’s yet another reason why it’s insane to push Christians out of the public square. In his new book, “The Benedict Option,” my friend Rod Dreher makes a sobering and sadly accurate claim: “Christians who hold to the biblical teaching about sex and marriage, have the same status in culture, and increasingly in law, as racists.” Rod says that it is inevitable that believers in Jesus Christ will lose their jobs—some already have—and face other forms of bullying if they don’t go along. Many in our increasingly secular culture want to chase Christians out of the public square altogether. Among other things, that would be a disaster for half a million homeless people. According to a new study out of Baylor University, faith-based organizations provide 58 percent of emergency shelter beds for the homeless in eleven cities across the nation. In Omaha, faith-based organizations (or FBOs) provide a whopping 90 percent of the available emergency shelter beds. In Houston, it’s 79 percent; in Indianapolis, 78 percent; in Baltimore, 74 percent. So where would all these homeless people go if Christians who do acts of compassion out of a faith perspective are no longer around? But it’s not just the quantity of work that Christians do for the homeless day in and day out. It’s also the quality of the work. Baylor researchers Byron Johnson and William Wubbenhorst found that FBOs are “at the forefront of innovation” in helping to transform homeless people and their families through a variety of education, healthcare, job training, and addiction recovery services. Many government programs see the primary cause of homelessness as a simple lack of affordable housing. Most FBOs, however, know the problem usually runs a lot deeper, and they do a better job of getting to know their clients and what they really need, leading to better outcomes for their clients and their cities. Many of the homeless, for example, have no meaningful relationships. FBOs can begin giving them the relational capital they need. Jim Reese, who is the president and CEO of Atlanta Mission, which serves 1,000 homeless people every day, told Christianity Today that “Instead of being a kitchen cook, you’d be out at the tables with the people. How do you change lives? It comes from creating a relationship with them and building trust.” As Byron Johnson notes, “In most cases, people become homeless due to a range of complex personal and societal factors, not just because they cannot afford a home. Our conclusions demonstrate that faith-based organizations are in a unique position to treat the systemic issues that create homelessness to develop sustainable solutions for both individuals and municipalities.” Indeed. I’ve seen the same dynamic at work at the pregnancy care ministry run by my lovely wife right here in New York. Yes, relationships matter—and so does faith. And this isn’t just touchy-feely talk. The Baylor study estimates that FBOs create $9.42 in taxpayer savings for every dollar spent by the government. It also shows that the 11 cities in the study achieved around $119 million in tax savings during the first three years after the faith-based Residential Recovery and Job Readiness programs were implemented. So faith is not only good for the soul, it’s good for taxpayers and the bottom line. But according to Christianity Today, churches and other FBOs can face hurdles from local governments and communities as they try to provide hope for the homeless—everything from ordinances restricting the distribution of food to attempts to regulate shelters out of existence. Given all that faith-based organizations do for the homeless—and all the money they save taxpayers—that’s just crazy. So the next time someone tells you that society would be better off without Christian influence, do not believe it. Then go volunteer to help at, or at least write a check to, your local faith-based organization that helps the homeless.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Dr. Bill Brown: The Colson Fellows and the Importance of Worldview

Mar 28, 2017 - 00:00:00

Dr. Bill Brown, former President of Cedarville University, is the National Director of one of the truly outstanding Christian worldview programs, the Colson Fellows. Bill tells us how the Colson Fellows program carries out Chuck Colson’s vision for forming Christians intellectually and spiritually to become change agents in the culture.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
“Facing Darkness”

Mar 27, 2017 - 00:00:00

This Thursday there’s a one-night showing of a powerful documentary about faith in the face of a deadly epidemic. If you saw people dying all around you from a plague you didn’t understand and couldn’t control, what would you do? For Samaritan’s Purse staff members faced with the outbreak of the deadly Ebola virus in Liberia, this wasn’t a hypothetical question. Their answer, because of God’s love and the courage that love gave them, was to join Christians throughout history who ran toward the plague, not away from it. But to fully understand the power of that decision, we need to take a step back. Ebola is a terrifying disease. It causes extreme pain, fever, terrible bouts of diarrhea and vomiting and, until effective treatments were developed, was almost always fatal. And because it’s transferred by body fluids, even wiping the brow or holding the hand of someone infected with Ebola means you’re susceptible to getting it, too. When this horrifying disease broke out in Liberia in 2014, Samaritan’s Purse and the mission agency SIM stayed to fight it. More than 28,000 people came down with the disease in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia. The death toll reached more than 11,000. Cemeteries in Liberia are filled with gravestones of whole families who died within days of each other. At first, and despite the disease’s near-genocidal wrath, the world largely ignored this killer plague. But then missionaries Dr. Kent Brantly and Nancy Writebol contracted the disease. It was a terrible blow to the ministry and its work in Liberia, but it also became a turning point in the fight against Ebola. Now, I’m sad to the world didn’t seem to care until the Americans got sick. But once the world started paying attention, it turned the tide in the fight against Ebola. Writebol and Brantly, after close brushes with death, responded to an experimental drug that may not have been rushed into use had they not gotten sick as Americans. Money, drugs, and other resources soon poured into West Africa. And just a year later, by late 2015, Liberia was officially declared Ebola free. Donations flooding in to Samaritan’s Purse in response to the group’s work there helped fund a new hospital in Liberia, the most modern one in the country, and research dollars poured into the race for an Ebola vaccine, which progressed to clinical trials last year. This gripping, tragic, but ultimately redemptive story is coming to a theater near you. “Facing Darkness” is a powerful movie produced by Samaritan’s Purse itself. But don’t think this is a fluffy PR film. It’s not. It’s an emotionally raw, artfully constructed story of life and death that recently won a top prize at the Heartland Film Festival and has received standing ovations at advance screenings, including the recent gathering of the National Religious Broadcasters. For one-night-only, March 30, it will be in more than 900 theaters. That’s this Thursday night. In Rodney Stark’s ground-breaking work “The Rise of Christianity,” a book we quote often here on BreakPoint, Stark tells the story of the Plague of Cyprian, a 3rd century plague that wiped out whole cities, but one in which Christians ministered sacrificially. In the 3rd century Christians ran TOWARD the plague. The result, which Stark describes in detail, was a witness to the pagan world that contributed to the spectacular growth of the church in the century that followed. And today, in the 21st century, brave Christians are STILL running TOWARD the plague, not away from it. The witness of amazing servants of Jesus like Dr. Kent Brantly, Nancy Writebol, and their colleagues on the Samaritan’s Purse team in Liberia, is being seen and marveled at all around the world. And ultimately it’s pointing people to Christ. Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary–we’ll link you to more information on the upcoming showing of “Facing Darkness.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Gorsuch, Keller, and Facing Darkness

Mar 27, 2017 - 00:00:00

On this week’s broadcast, John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer discuss a new movie that tells the story of the brave aid workers, motivated by Christian faith, who ran toward the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. An Islamic terror attack in London renewed the heated debate over immigration and refugee policies, and Princeton reversed its decision to award Tim Keller the Kuyper Prize. Our hosts examine these headlines and more from a Christian perspective.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Fujimura’s “Culture Care”

Mar 24, 2017 - 00:00:00

When it comes to culture, do you consider yourself a foot soldier or a gardener? Okay, that’s a bit cryptic. But let me explain. When was the last time you participated in a boycott? Or shared a Facebook post alerting your friends to a dangerous cultural trend? Good stuff. Now, let me ask you this: When was the last time you went to an art museum? Or bought tickets to the theater? Or listened to a great piece of music? Or wrote a poem and shared it with friends? I ask, because, I believe even more important for Christians than being on the front lines of the culture war is participating in the culture—and better yet, helping to create and nurture it. If the main contribution that Christians make to culture is complaining about it, we’re doing something wrong. That’s what my friend Makoto Fujimura says in his new book, “Culture Care: Reconnecting with Beauty for Our Common Life.” You may have heard me interview Fujimura before. He’s a brilliant artist and writer who has thought long and hard about the relationship between faith and the arts. “Culture,” he argues, “is not a territory to be won or lost but a resource we are called to steward with care. Culture is a garden to be cultivated.” In other words, Fujimura wants us to shift our thinking away from the “culture wars” model, in which we think of culture as a battleground. Of course we need to have convictions about culture, and to stand by them. But Fujimura wants to offer a better way for us to influence culture for good. His image of a garden is just one of many he draws from nature, to show how we can carefully and patiently help to cultivate that cultural environment and make good things grow in it. So, how do we do this? Fujimura suggests that both Christians and the arts community start by learning to look at each other as potential allies, even friends, instead of as sworn enemies. He asks us to consider investing in cultural works, as we’re able to afford it. (As an example, he mentions customers who have purchased his own paintings by giving him a little money every month until they were fully paid for.) He suggests that leaders in the church, the arts community, and the business community form partnerships to help support each other and nurture the culture around them. He cites the example of singer Mahalia Jackson, who encouraged Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., to “tell ’em about the dream,” spurring him to make his most famous speech. Such encouragement can flow in both directions. This isn’t always easy work, but it’s extremely valuable and worthwhile. It requires thoughtful engagement instead of blanket condemnation, and it may call for us to broaden our understanding and deal with ideas that seem unfamiliar and uncomfortable. But from such efforts come moments that he calls “generative,” or “life-giving.” Christians who enjoy and support art and culture, who make it a priority in their lives, and who reach out to those in the arts instead of reflexively pushing them away, can help bring the culture toward a renewed appreciation of goodness, truth, and beauty. And that is good for everyone. Fujimura acknowledges that Christians in the arts, or even just Christians who love the arts, can feel caught between two worlds. But he argues that this is not a bad thing. The person in this position may in fact be playing “a role of cultural leadership in a new mode, serving functions including empathy, memory, warning, guidance, mediation, and reconciliation.” One of the best things about “Culture Care” is Fujimura’s optimism about our future—especially if you’re feeling a bit weary and battle-scarred from the culture wars. He firmly believes that, as tough as this cultural moment is, we can turn it into a “genesis moment” by learning to nurture and care for our culture and those who create it. If you want to be part of that effort, I can’t think of a better way to start than by picking up this excellent book.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Preparing Young People for a Lifetime of Faith

Mar 23, 2017 - 00:00:00

If you care about the next generation, and especially have one of the next generation in your life, have I got a worthwhile, long-term investment for you. If you’ve listened to BreakPoint even just a few times, you know I can get pretty passionate about important issues facing the Church. And there are few things, if any at all, more critical to the Church right now than discipling the next generation to handle this crazy culture. And there are few organizations I’m more passionate about and more confident in than Summit Ministries, which trains teens and college-age students in Christian worldview, and provides them a solid biblical foundation for the world they will encounter. You’ve heard the stats before, and they’re staggering: Too many young people leave the church and their faith behind after they enter college. The “nones,” those who dismiss any need for religious affiliation, is on the rise, especially among young people. And, many struggle to hold on to biblical values on some of our culture’s most critical questions. This should not be. But here’s the larger point—it doesn’t have to be. As my friend Aaron Atwood puts it, “Summit helps students own their faith. As high school and college students enter environments increasingly contentious to the cause of Christ, they’ve got to be prepared. We’d never send our kids to school without the academic tools they need to succeed. Why would we send them to school without the spiritual tools they need?” Now think about that. Why indeed? Consider the thousands of dollars most parents spend on tutors, coaches, leagues, activities—all so they can be “ready for life.” Why wouldn’t we invest in the future of their faith? For 55 years, Summit has been, as Chuck Colson said, “the gold standard in worldview education.” At Summit, students are allowed to ask the toughest questions from thoughtful faculty like myself, pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf, Jeff Meyers, evangelist Sean McDowell, Moody professor Christopher Yuan, and many others. These faculty are not only experts in their field, they love to engage with students around difficult issues of faith and culture. But at Summit students not only deepen their understanding of the faith, they come to encounter the source of faith: the love of Jesus Christ. Bek’s story could be repeated many many times. As a young teen, she was in love with God, and then, as personal problems and feelings of isolation set in, she began to fall out of love with God. In fact, as she struggled with anxiety, she grew angry with Him, and she says she looked to “many different things to give hope, purpose, and peace.” Things that she never found. Then something remarkable happened. “One day,” she relates, “my parents pulled me aside and told me that someone” decided to cover the cost of attending a Summit conference. “This was the first taste of love that I experienced from someone who was part of Summit.” But it wouldn’t be the last. When she arrived at Summit, she says, “My whole life changed. I used to be extremely bitter towards God, but through the love of the girls that I got to know, and ultimately the love from two of the staffers, my heart was softened to the idea of God . . . through the lectures, I became confident that He is real . . . I became satisfied with the proof that validated the Bible. I came to realize that Jesus is real, and that there is a creator who loves us so much he died for us, for those who have hurt him.” Now what Bek describes is what Summit does best—truth in the context of relationships. We’ve got more information on these 12-day worldview-immersion conferences at BreakPoint.org. Or check out Summit’s website, Summit.org. And know this: Summit has special discount pricing if you reserve your space by March 31. With three locations around the country, every family can find a date and location that will work. And you can save additional money by selecting a program in California or Tennessee. Prepare your teen or college student. Send them to Summit.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Beauty and the Beast and Our Obsession with Remakes

Mar 22, 2017 - 00:00:00

“Tale as old as time, song as old as rhyme.” And we just keep retelling and re-singing it. I’m talking about the year’s biggest movie. In a segment on NPR last Wednesday, Bob Mondello documented the bizarre entertainment phenomenon known as “movie twins.” Hollywood has long puzzled the public by releasing films with nearly identical premises and plots within months or even weeks of one another. “Mission to Mars” and “Red Planet,” “Armageddon” and “Deep Impact,” “Antz” and “A Bug’s Life,” and “Happy Feet” and “Surf’s Up” are just a few of the uncannily similar flicks to hit theaters at or around the same time. “Hollywood is a small town,” says Mondello, and directors, producers, and screen-writers often swap ideas. But the trend has recently intensified and commingled with a growing preference for remakes. “Interstellar” and “Arrival” tell strikingly similar stories, as do “Life,” and “Alien: Covenant,” both slated for release this spring. Spiderman has starred in no less than half a dozen movies in the last fifteen years, as have Batman and Superman. And next year Warner Brothers’ take on “The Jungle Book” will follow last year’s live-action remake from Disney, and “not two, but seven Robin Hood movies are currently in development,” because, as Mondello quips, “the over 100 previous ones listed in IMDB just weren’t enough.” As I said last year on BreakPoint, the new “Star Wars” sequels also retread familiar ground, with what some called a “beat-by-beat” recycling of George Lucas’ original. Trailers and posters for a “Power Rangers” movie will greet theatergoers this month, as will previews for the um-teenth installment of “Transformers,” a series that’s gone on so long, most of the original cast has quit. Of course, Disney just achieved its biggest opening ever with a “re-skin” of its award-winning 1991 “Beauty and the Beast.” It’s the latest in a series of live-action remakes of classics from the Disney vault, like Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. And Allison Wilmore at Buzzfeed wasn’t wrong when she described it as “the mouse-house’s strange, sad ode to itself.” Fans of the original and deservedly beloved “Beauty and the Beast” will likely enjoy this new version because, other than the live actors, a longer run time, and some not-so-subtle politicking, it’s the same movie! As my BreakPoint colleague, Shane Morris, put it, “this was a special edition of the original with eight times the budget.” But if the quarter-century-old cartoon was so perfect, why did we need a scene-by-scene remake? Putting aside the obvious answer, which is money, the observation I made last year about “Star Wars” still rings true. Hollywood has run out of ideas. And even movies that shine—and make no mistake, this new and high-budget “Beauty and the Beast” shines—are borrowing their glory from decades past. If asked to name recent films with truly original plots and characters other than dusted off, fifty-year-old comic book heroes, many of us would have a tough time. And that’s not cool! By the way, the much-ballyhooed “exclusively gay moment” which “Beauty and the Beast” director Bill Condon referred to turned out to be two or three suggestive moments, plus an “in-your-face” transgender moment involving a man dressed in drag and loving it. As a Christian dad, that bugged me. But as a fan of good stories, I found it far sadder that LGBT propaganda was the most original thing about the new “Beauty and the Beast.” Folks, we need fresh stories! And judging by the recent fare from Disney, Mickey Mouse is fresh out. The familiar can feel good—especially with so much uncertainty when we turn on the news. But it doesn’t uplift us, challenge us, or inspire anew as truly original work can. I’ve said it before and I will say it again: I think Christians are the ones to write, produce, and direct these exciting, new stories and break the spell of non-stop nostalgia.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Rod Dreher and "The Benedict Option," part II

Mar 21, 2017 - 00:00:00

Part II of Warren Cole Smith's interview with Rod Dreher about Dreher's much-anticipated book, "The Benedict Option."

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Infamous ‘Fake News’ List

Mar 21, 2017 - 00:00:00

Strangely enough, BreakPoint made a list published by Harvard University library. Even stranger is the list itself. Back in November, Melissa Zimdars, an assistant professor of communications and media at Merrimack College in Massachusetts, published a list called, “False, Misleading, Clickbait-y, and/or Satirical ‘News’ Sources.” Last week, the list went viral when Harvard University Library linked to it as a helpful guide to “Fake News, Misinformation, and Propaganda.” Now, there’s no question that there’s a problem with fake news online, especially when it comes to political news. In fact, we’ve talked about this before on BreakPoint and The Point, warning about passing on that news story before fact checking it, simply because it agrees with your bias. And Christians, who are called to be people of truth, have been just as guilty of this as anyone else. That said, Zimdars’ list is strange, and in a very important way, self-contradictory. While many of the sites she identifies as “conspiracy,” “biased,” “fake,” “clickbait,” or “unreliable” certainly deserve those titles, there is a vastly greater number of conservative and right-leaning sites listed than liberal and left-leaning sites. For example, all pro-life websites are listed as “biased,” but pro-abortion sites aren’t listed at all. Also missing are sites like Vox, Slate, and BuzzFeed – though the list flags similar sites on the other end of the political spectrum such as Drudge and National Review. And BreakPoint.org, our website, made the list as “unreliable.” Now to be fair, Professor Zimdars acknowledges that her analysis is limited, and that the problem of fake news and the “if it bleeds, it leads” approach that dominates journalism today is a problem too big to be solved by her attempt to keep a running tally of media offenders. But she, like so many other media experts and academics today, seems unaware of her own bias. And she is biased. And well, so are we. It’s what a worldview does, and none of us are exempt. Not you. Not me. Of course that doesn’t mean that all sites are equal. Some worldviews better reflect reality than others, and no matter our worldview, we do live in the same world of facts. That said, let me take this time to clarify how we at the Colson Center see our responsibility to truth and facts each and every day on BreakPoint. First, our primary allegiance is to the One who is the Truth– Jesus Christ. So we strive to tell stories truthfully without changing, embellishing, or conveniently omitting facts that matter. In fact, each day on our website, we’ll link to additional sources, including those we may disagree with. Now do we make mistakes on occasion? You bet. And we’re grateful for our listeners who are quick to tell us when we do. Second, because the One who is the Truth is also the Way and the Life, we will take the world and other worldviews very seriously. Third, we will strive to be as wise as serpents. We will not allow our commentaries to be dominated by outrage or despair. Christians are to be people of hope, and getting angry is no strategy in and of itself. We also need to think: How might I respond? What is my Christian responsibility? And of course, our worldview commits us to the inherent dignity of each and every person. Therefore, we must be, as Fr. Robert Sirico said, “brutal with ideas and gentle with people.” People, even those who call our commentaries “unreliable,” are never our enemy. They are among those made in God’s image and for whom Christ died. Now I’ll conclude by saying that I fully agree with what Professor Zimdars wrote on how to consume the news these days. “The best thing to do,” she writes, “in our contemporary media environment is to read/watch/listen widely and often, and to be critical of the sources we share and engage with on social media.” Or as St. John said, “Test everything.” But to evaluate other sources we must be grounded in truth. And so make sure that among your sources is the ultimate source more reliable than any of the others: the revealed Word of God.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Christians Don’t Retire from Kingdom Work

Mar 20, 2017 - 00:00:00

Narrowly escaping the jaws of a large reptile might get you thinking about your life. But you don’t have to wait ‘til then to make important changes. C. S. Lewis wrote that pain is God’s megaphone—something He uses when He can’t get our attention any other way. I know at least one Christian who has an idea of what that’s like: God got his attention after—and I’m not making this up—he was nearly eaten by a crocodile. Bill Beattie was a businessman whose life was going quite well. He’d been happily married for 35 years, and his three children were leading productive lives. He expected to spend the years ahead peacefully serving as an elder in his church in Danbury, Connecticut. But God was prompting Bill toward other things. Problem was, Bill wasn’t listening. That changed after a canoeing adventure on the Zambezi River, home to hippos and crocodiles, during an anniversary trip to Africa with his wife Kathie. Bill recalls, “I was a novice canoeist and had foolishly rejected Kathie’s suggestion of canoeing lessons prior to the trip.” The guide gave them a five-minute training session, and sent the couple paddling away, headed downstream. They were “eyeball-to eyeball with hippos at every turn,” Bill recalls. The expression on Kathie’s face told him that his wife was terrified. And she was right to be. They suddenly struck a submerged tree trunk and capsized the canoe. The rescue team quickly picked up Kathie, but their canoe could not hold another person. Bill tried to right his own canoe and climb on top of it as the crocodiles watched. Struggling with his canoe, Bill didn’t notice, but his companions did, that a 13-foot crocodile came within 10 feet of him before turning and pursuing some of the flotsam from the canoe that had gone floating down the river. Around the campfire that evening, Bill reflected on what had happened that day. It was extraordinary, he says, “that the croc did not attack and drag me to the bottom. I sensed that God had intervened on my behalf to save me for His purposes.” Back home, Bill began to consider his areas of strength, and consulted with friends. Believing God was leading him to start a ministry for at risk, inner-city boys, he founded the Pathways Danbury, a mentoring ministry which now reaches girls as well. Christian adults provide them with one-on-one mentoring, Bible study, and tutoring. They can attend Bible camp in the summer, and if they graduate from high school meeting standards of excellence, they’re given a $10,000 grant for education, business, or housing. Some 70 boys and girls are now involved in the Pathways Danbury mentoring program, which was expanded in 2008 to include Pathways Academy Middle School and the “Say Yes” after-school program. The key to their ministry, Bill notes, “continues to be sharing Jesus on a long-term basis to kids who are at risk for drugs and alcohol . . . delinquency and family instability.” Now frequently on BreakPoint, we like to share stories of Christians like Bill who are making a difference in the world by tackling the brokenness in their own backyard. We do this to remind us that all is not lost… that God has his people everywhere, enlisting them in his Kingdom work to make all things new, like Bill in Danbury, Connecticut. And if God is at work there, He’s at work around you too. Bill’s story also reminds me how much Chuck Colson hated the idea that retirement is about spending the rest of your life on the golf course. He would have none of that. Christians don’t retire from Kingdom work, he’d often say. Bill’s story was told in a manual for the Halftime Institute, which offers resources to help believers intentionally aim the second half of their lives at serving Jesus. We’ll link you to it at BreakPoint.org. But there’s no need to wait until you’re nearing retirement: God has placed you where He has for a purpose right now. And if you’d like to lock in on a life plan for Kingdom work, the Colson Fellows program will prepare you for that. Study with great worldview teachers, and join motivated fellow believers for an intense and intensely rewarding nine months of worldview teaching and preparation to engage the culture around you. Just visit ColsonFellows.org for more information.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Free Speech on Campus, CNN, and Jesus

Mar 17, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss the kiddie interruption on the BBC, free speech on campus, and CNN's fixation with questioning the historical reality of Jesus of Nazareth.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Exploring the Benedict Option

Mar 17, 2017 - 00:00:00

Perhaps you’ve been hearing about this new book, “The Benedict Option” by Rod Dreher, and wondered, “What’s that?” Let’s talk about it. A new book by blogger Rod Dreher, “The Benedict Option,” has already been debated, discussed, and by some, dismissed and denounced before it was even released—or read. Well, now it’s out, and it’s worthy of a thoughtful discussion, particularly about what Rod calls “a decisive leap into a truly countercultural way of living Christianity.” The Benedict Option name comes from the last page of philosopher Alasdair MacIntyre’s 1981 book “After Virtue.” As Dreher recently explained, “MacIntyre said the time is coming when men and women of virtue will understand that continued full participation in mainstream society was not possible for those who want to live a life of traditional virtue. These people would find new ways to live in community, he said, just as St. Benedict, the sixth-century father of Western monasticism, responded to the collapse of Roman civilization by founding a monastic order.” Now as the quote suggests, Dreher’s book makes two key points: first, we’ve arrived at a moment where “full participation in mainstream society” is no longer compatible with living lives of traditional Christian virtue; and therefore, second, the time has come to find new ways of living as Christians. Now, Dreher’s description of the cultural moment we’re living in will sound familiar to any BreakPoint listener. For instance, anyone who doubts that American Christians are less free to practice their faith in the public square simply hasn’t been paying attention. I wouldn’t call it persecution, but I wouldn’t call it freedom, either. And he’s spot-on when he says that “moralistic therapeutic deism,” a term from Notre Dame sociologist Christian Smith, is the real faith of too many young Christians these days. He’s equally correct to note that this shallow worldview will not withstand the cultural pressures that Christians face. And that’s perhaps the most important contribution “The Benedict Option” makes: taking seriously the powerful ability of culture to shape our hearts and minds. Culture is a catechizing force, but too many of us are like the fish who don’t know they are wet. And so, Rod says, Christianity needs to be characterized by “thick ties,” to fellow Christians and institutions, and especially to our churches. This “thickening” may take the form of physical communities, but most of the time it won’t. And yet still, “the church can’t just be the place you go on Sundays—it must become the center of your life.” This may sound obvious, but it is, in my opinion, the second important contribution “The Benedict Option” makes. For too many Christians, churches are “a consumer experience,” instead of institutions that shape both who and whose we are. Christian discipleship must become more than merely instructive. It must become formative. Of course, the controversial aspect of the Benedict Option is Dreher’s call for “a strategic withdrawal.” To many, understandably, this sounds way too much like post-Scopes fundamentalism that abandoned the public square to non-Christians. Dreher insists that it doesn’t mean the same thing, and I hope not. Because escape is never an option for Christians. We should never retreat into our institutions because we’re seeking safety. We should, however, strengthen them out of loyalty to each other and to the true, the good and beautiful, preserving the best of Christian culture so that we can—at some point—gift it back to the world in acts of grace. Now whether you agree or disagree with the Benedict option, I am thankful that Dreher’s book is igniting a long-overdue conversation about what it means to live in a post-Christian context. In fact, we’ve started a conversation on Rod’s book with a dozen or so leading Christian thinkers via an online symposium at BreakPoint.org. Please come to BreakPoint.org to see what they have to say about “The Benedict Option.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Kids These Days

Mar 16, 2017 - 00:00:00

For years, we’ve been hearing that one side of the political aisle is on “the right side of history.” But history doesn’t seem to be cooperating. For at least a decade, Millennials have been stereotyped as lazy, entitled, and stuck on social media. While that may not be entirely fair, they are notoriously liberal, overwhelmingly supporting left-leaning candidates and favoring policies like nationalized healthcare and same-sex “marriage.” But Millennials are also getting old—relatively speaking. The first are now reaching the ripe old age of thirty-five! And sometime between 1995 and 2000, the millennial generation ended, or at least stopped being born, and a new generation began. Members of “Generation Z” are now beginning to graduate high school, and 2016 was the first time any of them were old enough to vote. At seventy million and counting, they’re also about to outnumber their predecessors. So, what’s so intriguing about this new brood? Well, according to a growing body of research, they may be, by certain measures, the most conservative generation since World War II—more than Millennials, Generation Xers and even the Baby-Boomers. Millennials were raised in a time of roaring prosperity, when video cassettes were a bigger influence than digital technology, and many came of age before the age of radical Islamic terror. Gen Z kids, by contrast, are “digital natives.” They’ve never known life without the Internet, and have grown up surrounded by instant access to the world’s harsh realities on their smart phones. These young people are products of conflict and recession. They can only remember a news cycle “marred by economic stress, rising student debt… and war overseas.” As a result, they’ve taken on what one team of Goldman-Sachs analysts called a “more pragmatic” and conservative outlook on the world. Of course, generalizations at this stage are very early and very subject to development. But according to polling in the wake of the 2016 election, Gen Z Americans didn’t vote like their Millennial predecessors. Eight out of ten of these kids identify themselves as “fiscally conservative,” and they prefer saving to spending—at rates not seen since the Silent Generation. And get this: According to one British study conducted by global consultancy firm, The Guild, almost sixty percent of Gen Z respondents in the U.K. described their views on “same-sex marriage, transgender rights and marijuana legalization” as “conservative” or “moderate,” compared with a whopping 83% of Millennials who called themselves “quite” or “very liberal” on these issues. The Gen Z participants were even ten times more likely than Millennials to dislike tattoos and body piercings! These are good trends, but these students still need discipleship and catechesis. A tendency toward traditional values, by itself, means nothing unless those who believe in revealed Truth, the Gospel, the natural family, and political and religious liberty step forward and train the next generation to articulate and live out these truths. What is clear from this emerging data about the young is that they don’t fit neatly into rhetoric about the “right side of history.” As Columbia University sociologist, Musa Al-Gharbi writes, trends like this are deeply troubling for those so recently crowing that the future belonged to one political party. No one knows what the future holds, except the One Who holds the future! And the fact that so many were apparently wrong about the right side of history is just another reminder that He alone is God, Whom the Psalmist called “faithful throughout all generations.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Second Thoughts on Assisted Suicide

Mar 15, 2017 - 00:00:00

If “assisted death” is such a good thing, why are so many Canadian doctors having second thoughts? Last year, voters in Canada approved a Medical Aid in Dying law. The legislation allows physicians to help gravely ill patients end their lives. Advocates of these sorts of laws justify it by using words such as “compassion,” and “death with dignity”—and many Canadian doctors agreed, saying they’d be glad to participate in physician-assisted suicide. But a funny thing happened on the way to Canada’s brave new world of state-sponsored killing. Dozens of physicians who signed up, including many who actually provided lethal medications to patients, now want their names removed from the list. According to Canada’s National Post, in Ontario, one of the few provinces that actually tracks this kind of data, 24 physicians have been removed permanently from a voluntary referral list of those willing to assist people who want to end their lives. Another 30 have put their names on temporary hold. Not even the Canadian Medical Association can say how many are having second thoughts—but their decisions are reverberating through the system. “We’re seeing individuals, or groups of physicians, who are participating and really feel like they’re alleviating pain, alleviating suffering,” says the CMA’s Jeff Blackmer. “And then we’re seeing doctors who go through one experience and it’s just overwhelming, it’s too difficult, and those are the ones who say, ‘take my name off the list. I can’t do any more.’” That kind of reaction isn’t surprising, given the Hippocratic Oath every doctor takes, vowing to “do no harm” to patients. These doctors started out philosophically supportive of euthanasia … and then reality set in. The human conscience—and the law of God written on our hearts—are powerful things indeed. But there are also the complications created by verbal ambiguities in the law. In Canada, euthanasia and assisted suicide are permitted for those with a “grievous and irremediable” condition and who face “enduring suffering,” but only if their death is deemed “reasonably foreseeable.” According to Dr. James Downar, a critical- and palliative-care doctor with Toronto’s University Health Network, “grievous and irremediable” means “serious and incurable.” The problem, Downar says, is that the standard could apply to most chronic conditions. And when it comes to cancer, he says, “many people may have a remote chance of a cure, or disease stability. If it’s one, two or five per cent, is that ‘curable’?” Meanwhile, as Vancouver Island family physician Jonathan Reggler says, that “reasonably foreseeable” standard “will not appear in any medical textbook.” So some physicians in Canada fear running afoul of the Medical Aid in Dying law. Reggler notes that, “If the doctor doesn’t carry out the medically assisted death according to the law, that doctor is at risk of being prosecuted for murder.” An analysis of the actual results of Canada’s law is also more than a little troubling. The commission overseeing Quebec’s euthanasia law, the first of its kind in the country, reported 262 euthanasia deaths in the law’s first nine months—almost three times the expected number. and of those, 21—almost 10%, were found to be outside the legal regulations. Physicians are hoping that voluntary participation in euthanasia doesn’t become a duty to participate, though that has been suggested by some in the medical community. Thank God, so far, attempts have not been made to force the several Canadian hospitals not participating because of religious convictions to offer this so-called “service.” We’ve spent a lot of time on BreakPoint and on our podcast denouncing assisted suicide, providing you with arguments and reasons to protect life, as well as clarifying the inevitable consequences of doctor-assisted death. And yet, “death with dignity” laws continue. It’s a hot topic in DC right now, in fact. So please, educate yourself, mobilize your church, and warn your legislators. We have resources for you at BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Questioning Jesus’ Existence

Mar 14, 2017 - 00:00:00

Ah, springtime. Flowers blooming, birds singing, and articles questioning the historicity of Jesus hitting the newsstands. Insurance company Geico has done a lot of funny commercials, but our editor at BreakPoint has a favorite. A group of teenagers are running through a dark forest being chased by a killer. After debating whether to hide in the basement, the attic or make a quick getaway in the nearby running car, they decide to hide behind dozens of chainsaws dangling from a barn door. “When you’re in a horror movie, you make poor decisions,” says the narrator. “It’s what you do.” And this week I found myself paraphrasing: “When you’re CNN, you publish annual articles suggesting Jesus never existed. It’s what you do.” Every year around March and December, this and other news outlets exhume the long-dead thesis that the New Testament is based on a mythological figure, not a Man who really lived, died, and rose from the grave two-thousand years ago. This year, CNN even republished an article from 2012 at CNN.com. In the piece, entitled, “Decoding Jesus: Separating Man from Myth,” John Blake suggests that Christ’s historical existence is an open question. CNN featured it at the top of their homepage as part of the push for their new series, “Finding Jesus: Faith, Fact, Forgery.” Blake quotes the likes of Timothy Freke, author of “Jesus Mysteries” and former Baptist pastor Robert Price, author of “Deconstructing Jesus,” who both claim that the Gospels are forgeries or misunderstood allegories, and that the story of Jesus was copied from legends about pagan deities. “In the age of the Internet and self-publishing,” writes Blake, “these arguments have gained enough traction that some of the world’s leading New Testament scholars feel compelled to publicly take them on.” Now let me be clear: This is the very definition of fake news: No credible historian believes Jesus is a myth. Even among skeptics of religion, that theory has been abandoned. None other than Bart Ehrman, the agnostic biblical scholar and fierce critic of the New Testament, calls Jesus-deniers Internet conspiracy theorists trying to sell books, and compares them to Holocaust-deniers. Dominic Crossan, another scholar who would never pass for an evangelical apologist, says he’s “certain” that Christ existed, and chalks up alternative theories to disdain for the Prince of Peace. Keep in mind, neither Ehrman or Crosson would affirm anything historically Christian, such as that Jesus was not just a man but God—that He performed miracles, died for the sins of the world, and rose from the dead for our justification. But if anything, this fact makes their agreement on His existence even more powerful, not less. On this issue, they represent the broad consensus among scholars that Christianity began with the life and death of a real and extraordinary Man. Of course, we Christians don’t believe that’s all there was to it. But when our neighbors tell us over the backyard fence that they’ve watched a documentary or read an article claiming Jesus is a myth, we have to be able to respond gently but confidently. Even ancient writers hostile to Christianity like Josephus, Tacitus, and Pliny the Younger, confirm the existence of a Man from Nazareth who preached throughout Galilee and Judea, ran afoul of the authorities, was crucified under Pontius Pilate, and sparked what would eventually become the world’s largest religion. And let’s not forget the New Testament itself, manuscript fragments of which date to the early second century. Ravi Zacharias, who’s speaking at our Wilberforce Weekend in May, points out that the evidence for the life and words of Jesus is stronger than the evidence for Plato. Classicist Michael Grant sums it up best when he writes that “we can no more reject Jesus’ existence than we can reject the existence of a mass of pagan personages whose reality as historical figures is never questioned.” Look, though many scholars who affirm Jesus’ existence still reject the supernatural claims that make Him worthy of our worship, one thing is certain: Headlines do not equal history. And serious media should stop giving air-time and credibility to Jesus-deniers.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Rod Dreher and "The Benedict Option"

Mar 14, 2017 - 00:00:00

Today is the release of Rod Dreher's much-anticipated book, "The Benedict Option." The Colson Center's Warren Cole Smith interviews Dreher about the book and the challenge of living out the faith in the new Dark Ages.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Forgiveness and Reconciliation for Our Times

Mar 13, 2017 - 00:00:00

On the 160th anniversary of one of the worst Supreme Court decisions, something beautiful and miraculous happened. Last week, March 6th, marked the 160th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Dred Scott decision. Dred Scott v. Sanford, along with Plessy v. Ferguson (which enshrined the principle of “separate but equal”) and Roe v. Wade, form a kind of unholy trinity of Supreme Court rulings which legally declared entire classes of people non-persons. Yet this infamous decision recently became the occasion for a remarkable act of grace. First some historical background: For the decades preceding the 1857 decision, the country was torn over the issue of slavery. While actual abolitionists did form a small majority in the North (and ideas of racial equality were rare even among abolitionists), northern whites did not want to compete against slave labor in the territories west of the Mississippi river. That brings me to Dred Scott the man. In 1830, his second master took him from Missouri, a slave state, to Illinois, where slavery was illegal. In 1836, both returned to Missouri. After several attempts to buy his and his family’s freedom, Scott sued his master’s estate, claiming that under what was known as the “Somerset Rule,” which could be summed up as “once free, always free,” his late master had, in effect, set him free by moving him to a free state. And that brings me to Dred Scott the decision. Chief Justice Taney could have decided Scott’s case on narrow terms. But he had something far more ambitious in mind: He wanted to settle the slavery issue once and for all. The least infamous part of his opinion ruled that Congress could not ban slavery in the territories, thus making the Civil War all but inevitable. The most infamous part concerned the status of African Americans. He ruled that Blacks, enslaved or free, could not be citizens of the United States. He justified this by writing that, historically-speaking, Blacks had been “regarded as beings of an inferior order, and altogether unfit to associate with the white race, either in social or political relations; and so far inferior, that they had no rights which the white man was bound to respect.” Like I said, infamous. All of this makes what happened last week on the 160th anniversary of the decision so remarkable. Standing before the Maryland State House, Charlie Taney, a descendant of Roger Taney, apologized on his family’s behalf, to Scott’s descendants and African Americans in general for the “terrible injustice of the Dred Scott decision.” Then Scott’s great-great granddaughter, Lynne Jackson, accepted the apology on behalf of “all African Americans who have the love of God in their heart so that healing can begin.” I’m guessing I know where Ms. Jackson spends her Sunday mornings. Some people will no doubt dismiss this as a kind of theater. After all, Charlie Taney isn’t responsible for what his ancestor wrote. But that misses the point. What’s going on here is the acknowledgment of an historical wrong followed by an act of grace which holds out the possibility of a new beginning–in other words, what the New Testament calls “reconciliation.” Reconciliation comes from a Greek word whose principle meaning is “exchange.” In fact, it was principally used in reference to money-changing, where the parties exchanged coins of equal worth. In this case something far more valuable than money is being exchanged: the acknowledgement of past wrongs for a restoration of relationships and the possibility of, to use another biblical term, shalom: peace, wholeness, and contentment. Despite Justice Taney’s best efforts, Dred Scott died a free man. His first master’s family bought him back from the estate with the express purpose of freeing him. Many thanks to Mr. Scott’s and Justice Taney’s descendants for showing us the path to reconciliation in these divisive times.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Beauty and the Beast and the Benedict Option

Mar 10, 2017 - 00:00:00

The producer of Disney's live-action film "Beauty and the Beast" has announced that the much-anticipated film contains a "gay moment." How should Christian parents respond? And speaking of much anticipated, Ed and John discuss the release of Rod Dreher's new book, The Benedict Option.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Blessed Are the Neighborly

Mar 9, 2017 - 00:00:00

When a lawyer asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?,” the Lord told him to be a neighbor. And He still does! Over two decades ago, Robert Putnam’s ground-breaking book “Bowling Alone” warned us of the alarming trend of Americans becoming isolated from one another, and how time-honored social institutions in our communities, such as the PTA, political parties, and even the church, have been devastated. Chuck Colson said this trend was “in part a result of our relentless pursuit of what political scientist Michael Sandel calls ‘the unencumbered self.’” Mind you, this was even before we all retreated to our cell phones and computer screens. So how are we doing today? The latest statistics say: not so hot. According to the General Social Survey, only about 20% of Americans spend time regularly with their neighbors, while a third say they’ve never interacted with them. Just four decades ago, however, one-third of Americans hung out with neighbors at least two times a week. Only a fourth reported having no interaction. The Pew Research Center in 2010, meanwhile, found that while 43% of Americans know most or all of their neighbors, nearly a third say they know none of them by name. For whatever reason, it appears that fewer of us are able to answer the old question, “And who is my neighbor?” How do we Christians overcome this growing cultural tide of isolation and obey our calling to be witnesses to Jesus Christ? Ed Stetzer, who, among many other things, is co-host with John Stonestreet of “BreakPoint This Week,” provides an amazingly simple way that we can be a neighbor to our neighbors. In an article posted for Christianity Today, Ed tells about how he moved from Nashville to Wheaton, Illinois—often called the “evangelical mecca”—and received a four-page letter from some longtime Wheaton residents who live across the street. The letter, titled “In Our Humble Opinion,” starts off by saying, “I know you are going to find it to be a wonderful community to live in BUT it can be a little daunting at first. I moved into the brick house across the street from you when I was 12. Now we have lived in the cream house next door to that house for 23 years. I guess we like it here…” Then the neighbor starts sharing tips for living in Wheaton—the best places for pizza—three of them, it turns out; the best chocolate, the best popcorn—found in “a covered alley between two stores on Front Street” under a “red and white striped awning”; the best movie theater; the best grocery store; and the best doughnuts, “apple cider sugared,” which are available at the downtown French Market between April and October. The neighbor then closes the list, tongue in cheek, with the “best church” and tells Ed and his family that they are most welcome. Ed says, as a new Wheaton resident, he consulted this four-page letter regularly and saw the invitation each time. “Their list made us know,” Ed says: “1. They were glad we were here. 2. They took time to welcome us and care (and we just had dinner with them). 3. They invited us to church.” What a great idea! Now, we don’t each of us have to type a four-page letter to our neighbors in order to establish a friendship and invite them to church. We all have different strengths, different gifts. But the point is, we need to actually be a neighbor, to step away from our natural tendency to isolate ourselves or just hang out with people we know, and maybe extend a hand of help and friendship to those around us. God designed humans to live in community. All of us, believers and non-believers, desire some kind of fellowship and connection. Maybe the first step is simply learning our neighbors’ names—and using them! Come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary, and we’ll link you to Ed Stetzer’s article on the power of neighborliness.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Red Dwarf and the Seven Planets

Mar 8, 2017 - 00:00:00

There’s already a world of evidence that life on Earth is unique and intelligently-crafted. But here are seven more pieces of evidence. In the new movie, “Arrival,” a group of scientists try to break the language barrier between humanity and an extraterrestrial race that’s landed on Earth. These visitors have not come to make war, but to offer us a gift. I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say that the film is pervaded by a sense of loneliness and a longing for kinship with someone beyond our world. In this sense, “Arrival” is far from the only alien-related fiction in the news. Last month NASA set off a veritable media shower of conjecture when it announced the discovery of several “earth-like” planets orbiting a nearby star. The kind of breathless speculation journalists churned out about this red dwarf and its seven planets was worthy of a Brothers Grimm fairytale. The Independent proclaimed, “NASA’s ‘Holy Grail.’ ” National Geographic chimed in, “Seven alien ‘Earths’ found orbiting nearby star.” The Sun declared this new solar system “could be teeming with ‘exotic’ alien lifeforms.” And the Toronto Star offered a more touching angle, writing that “the universe looks less lonely” now. But it was NASA’s own illustrations, released alongside the original research in the journal Nature, that really sent the hype into orbit. They include artist’s impressions of tantalizingly Earth-like planets, several with blue-and-green surfaces and liquid water. What was the evidence behind these fanciful drawings and headlines? Not much, as it turns out. Here are the facts. The TRAPPIST-1 system is forty light-years distant, which means absent the invention of warp drive, we won’t be visiting anytime soon. The seven terrestrial planets, thought to be about the size of Earth, orbit a star much smaller, dimmer, and cooler than our Sun. Three of the planets circle the so-called “Goldilocks zone,” or the region in which liquid water is theoretically possible. But their orbits are tiny compared with our own, meaning all three are probably tidally locked. This means one side is trapped in perpetual freezing darkness while the other is constantly scorched by the star. David Klinghoffer at Evolution News points out that NASA has already admitted the problem with red dwarfs like TRAPPIST-1 as hosts for life. Besides being tidally locked, planets in the habitable zone of such stars are probably bathed in radiation that would kill most life. In other words, talk of teeming planets and a less lonely universe was a little premature. But worlds of the right size orbiting the right distance from the right kind of star are only three of the known prerequisites for life. As I explained a couple of years ago in the Wall Street Journal, we now know of dozens of such criteria that must be fulfilled for life to exist. So the likelihood of any of these new planets meeting them all is slim to none. Yet the kind of speculation that swirled around this discovery has become all-too-familiar to those who follow space exploration. The longing for life beyond our planet is obsessive. For decades, we’ve poured resources into the search for celestial neighbors, hoping to establish in real life the kind of contact portrayed in “Arrival.” But the stars, despite our best efforts, have proved silent and barren. But in another sense, our Sun, Earth, and the TRAPPIST-1 system are anything but silent! They declare a cosmic Intelligence Who’s both infinitely mysterious and intimately knowable. Christians recognize that our planet was uniquely designed and fine-tuned to support life—and that’s putting it mildly. Our place in the universe is nothing less than a miracle. So whether there’s life on other planets or not, we can say with confidence that we are not alone. Because the Being Who placed these celestial longings in our hearts dwarfs our strangest science fiction.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Trail Life USA for Boys

Mar 7, 2017 - 00:00:00

Warren Cole Smith interviews with Mark Hancock, Chief Executive Officer of Trail Life USA. Founded just three years ago as a distinctly Christian alternative to the Boy Scouts, Trail Life now has nearly 30,000 participants in 49 states across the country. Listen in as Warren and Mark discuss Trail Life’s founding and the reason behind Trail Life’s astounding growth.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Reza Aslan Doesn’t Get Religion

Mar 7, 2017 - 00:00:00

CNN has long struggled to understand religion. But the host of an upcoming documentary takes that cluelessness to a whole new level. So picture this: You visit a restaurant known for serving the best cuisine from around the world. You’re about to sample the fare, when you discover that the chef was born without taste buds. He’s actually never experienced his own cooking, and couldn’t tell the difference between veal scallopini and a peanut butter and jelly sandwich! That’s sort of how I feel about a new documentary series on world religions hosted by a man who doesn’t seem to understand that different religions are, well…different. Reza Aslan’s “Believer,” a “spiritual adventure series” it’s called, which premiered Sunday on CNN, explores belief systems from around the world. But in a recent opinion piece at CNN, Aslan (who identifies himself as a Sufi Muslim) makes it clear that he doesn’t believe there are any essential differences between the world’s religions. As a matter of fact, he seems to think all religions are basically subjective nonsense. “I know better than to take the truth claims of any religion (including my own) too seriously,” he writes. And considering the “conflict” and “bigotry” religion inspires and the way it clashes with reason, Aslan thinks it’s “understandable why so many people view religious faith as the hallmark of an irrational mind.” Yes, ladies and gentlemen, this is your tour guide to the religions of the world. But he goes much further, contrasting these recently-evolved “symbols and metaphors” we call religion with something more “mysterious, “ineffable,” and “emotional”: faith. Quoting the Buddha, Aslan likens the religions of the world to different wells, which believers dig in order to drink the same water. In other words, all religions are equally true. All roads, so to speak, lead to Heaven, resurrection, enlightenment, Nirvana, or whatever else your endgame may be. But that very sentence is proof of how silly Aslan’s thesis is. Each religion has its own understanding not only of Who God is (or isn’t) and how we receive salvation, but of what salvation itself looks like. This reminds me of Steven Turner’s satirical observation of this sort of thinking in his poem “Creed.” “We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the one that we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation sin heaven hell God and salvation.” This is, as C. S. Lewis called it, “patronizing nonsense.” And “patronizing nonsense” perfectly describes Reza Aslan’s idea that all religions are really just different paths to the same nebulous, emotion-centric experience that he calls “faith.” His fellow Muslims outside of the secular West certainly don’t see their religion as just one valid belief system among many. They confess, as part of their universal creed, that there’s no god but their god, and that Muhammad is his prophet. If you don’t believe these things, you’re not only not a Muslim, you’re an infidel. And guess what? Aslan’s more tolerant Sufi sect of Islam thinks their more militant brethren have it wrong too. But, someone might ask, if only one of the dozens of world religions is the path to God, how do we know which one it is? What gives us confidence the truth claims of Christ are valid, while those of the Buddha, Krishna, Muhammad, Richard Dawkins, or Reza Aslan are not? There are powerful answers to this question, which is why every Christian should have a basic knowledge of apologetics. For example, the claims of Christianity are public. They center on a Savior Who lived and performed miracles publicly, died publicly, rose from the dead publicly, and showed Himself to hundreds of witnesses publicly. Religions like Islam and Buddhism started with private revelations or dreams given to a single person. When it comes to historical verifiability, there’s no comparison. But here’s the larger point to keep in mind when you hear this sort of talk about religion being pushed by CNN: There may be many wells, but there’s only one that offers Living Water.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Church vs. Hatred

Mar 6, 2017 - 00:00:00

The words “hate,” “bigotry” and “intolerance” are mis- and over-used. But that makes it more important that we speak out against the real thing when it’s there. President Trump began his first address to Congress by citing “recent threats targeting Jewish Community Centers and vandalism of Jewish cemeteries,” and a “shooting in Kansas City.” This was his prologue to saying that the United States “stands united in condemning hate and evil in all of its forms.” I’m so glad that he spoke out. But let me also hasten to add that we shouldn’t leave it to the President to remind us of the need to condemn hate and evil – that’s the job of the Church. The past few months have witnessed, to borrow from Yates’ poem, “The Second Coming,” a “rough beast” slouching to be born. That “rough beast” is open, and sometimes violent, expressions of bigotry and intolerance. Now Christians have ample reasons to be wary of those words “bigotry” and “intolerance,” since we’re often unjustly accused of both. But to use the medieval Latin phrase, “abusus non tollit usum,” the misuse of something does not negate its proper use. There are such things as bigotry and intolerance. Some of it, such as Texas high school students taunting their Hispanic opponents at a basketball game with chants of “build that wall!” are easy to rationalize as youthful hi-jinks, until you put yourself, as Jesus commands us to, in the shoes of the kids being taunted. Other examples, such as the killing of an Indian-born engineer, and the wounding of two other people by a man who had earlier yelled “get out of my country!” are impossible to ignore. The fact that the man may been under the influence of alcohol when he pulled the trigger does not make the crime less troubling. While alcohol lowers inhibitions, it doesn’t create the impulses being inhibited in the first place. To quote another Latin phrase, “in vino veritas,” or wine brings out the truth. Likewise, the vandalizing of Jewish cemeteries in St. Louis, Philadelphia, and Rochester, New York, along with bomb threats against 120 Jewish Community Centers across the country is nothing less than alarming. And it’s not just Jewish Community Centers. In the past two months, four mosques have been deliberately set on fire. The good news is that, amidst all this hate, we have seen examples of grace: Two American Muslims raised over $140,000 to repair the damage done to Jewish cemeteries, and Muslim veterans have vowed to protect Jewish cemeteries. As one veteran tweeted, “If your synagogue or Jewish cemetery needs someone to stand guard, count me in. Islam requires it.” Strictly speaking, while I am thankful for his words, I am not sure that it does. But there is no questions about Christianity. As Paul says in Acts 17, God determines when and where we live. And as Esther so courageously demonstrated in difficult times, silence is not an option. In a world where the common good is increasingly thought of as a “zero-sum game,” in which your gain is my loss, we’re called to proclaim, in both our words and deeds, that God in Christ has broken down the wall of hostility that separates one group from another. (Ephesians 2) And we are called to love our neighbors as ourselves. At a bare minimum this means that we are as concerned about their freedom, safety, and dignity as we are about our own. Every vandalizing of a cemetery, attack on a mosque, or act of bigotry should trouble us. If it doesn’t, then Jesus’ words “If you love those who love you, what credit is that to you? Even sinners love those who love them,” should drive us to repentance. And if we remain silent, our claims to religious freedom will begin to sound so much like special pleading—not only to our neighbors but to God, as well. This way of being the Church does not and should never require a presidential go-ahead.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Trump's Address, Liberty, Gender, and Death

Mar 3, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed break down President Trump's address to Congress, the "gay moment" in an upcoming Disney movie, and Canadian doctors backing away from assisted suicide.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
No Virtue, No End of Scandal

Mar 3, 2017 - 00:00:00

A new Washington scandal reminds me of an old one. And that without virtue, there aren’t enough rules to save us from ourselves. A recent Wall Street Journal article told the story of what is “shaping up to be a sprawling Washington influence scandal.” And yet, the person at the heart of the scandal will not serve any time in prison because, tragically, he took his own life shortly after his misdeeds were exposed. The story of the late Evan Morris promises to be, according to the Wall Street Journal, “one of the biggest U.S. investigations into Washington’s influence business since the bribery and corruption case surrounding lobbyist Jack Abramoff rocked the nation’s capital in the mid-2000s.” Reading the story broke my heart, especially for Morris’ young family. But it reminded me of what I learned from my own interaction with Jack Abramoff years ago. Now if you don’t recall the Abramoff case, he was, to put it mildly, a high-powered Washington lobbyist. His corruption and bribery investigation led not only to his conviction but to the convictions and/or guilty pleas of twenty-one other people, including two White House employees and a member of Congress. Abramoff wrote a book describing what he had done and how to really reform the system. And that’s where our paths crossed. Chuck Colson and I spoke with him fresh out of prison. It was one of the last interviews that Chuck and I did together, and I remember remarking at the time how crazy it was to be in on an interview with two people whose names were synonymous with government corruption. Now, Chuck’s personal reformation was beyond question, but I wondered about Abramoff. And it struck me that he didn’t come across as particularly evil. On the contrary, he was a devout Orthodox Jew who used much of the money he made in his crimes to fund synagogues. He didn’t set out to be nefarious—he just found a way around the rules and exploited his “cleverness” for personal gain, as well as the benefit of his clients. I recall noting to Abramoff how, in the aftermath of the scandal, the response of the government was to add more rules and regulations. I then asked him, would they work? Will it keep corruption out of the lobbying process? Without hesitation, he said no, because lobbyists will always find ways to get around regulations. Chuck agreed, saying that “People don’t reform themselves unless they’re forced to . . .Either their conscience strikes them, they’re driven to repentance out of gratitude for what God has done in their lives and they start doing the right thing, or the law gets them. Free societies depend on that work of the conscience.” We all agreed that “cleaning up American politics would require a consensus among members of all faiths, and a renewed determination to just do the right thing.” The solution to scandals like the Abramoff one and the recent one chronicled in the Wall Street Journal requires more than just rules. What’s needed is “a revolution in the mentality at the heart of our representative government, and a revival of ethics harkening back to the founding ideals of our country.” This revival “is the only way to return integrity and sanity to Washington.” It’s not that Christians consider rules to be unimportant—of course they’re important. But they can’t, by themselves, make us moral people. That takes virtue, which is about what happens on the inside, not conformity to external regulations. It’s what the late Dallas Willard called a “well-formed heart” or what Edmund Burke called the “moral imagination.” Think about it. Do our educational, governmental, and cultural institutions promote the classical, cardinal virtues, like prudence, self-control, courage, and justice? Is the Church inculcating Christian virtues of faith, hope, and charity? It’s exactly these questions that Chuck Colson, Robert George, and other leading figures addressed in a DVD video series called “Doing the Right Thing.” You can check it out at BreakPoint.org. And we’ll also link you to that incredible interview with Jack Abramoff. Scandals are always part of a fallen world. But a society that fails to cultivate and catechize these virtues in its institutions and in the hearts of its citizens is headed for ruin.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The True Beauty of Women

Mar 2, 2017 - 00:00:00

You won’t believe what one lingerie company is doing to show what makes a woman truly beautiful. I’ve got a great story for you. Get a hankie. When it comes to lingerie companies, we’ve gotten used to some pretty graphic ads. You know the kind I mean: ones that feature impossibly perfect, airbrushed models wearing frilly and revealing underwear. But the other day I came across the most amazing lingerie ad I’ve ever seen. No, I was not reading a Victoria’s Secret catalog. I was watching an online ad created by the Thailand branch of Wacoal, a Japan-based lingerie company. It was part of a three-part series called “Beauty Inside.” And it magnificently depicts the true value of women. The first ad opens with a married couple sitting nervously in their doctor’s office, holding hands. “After trying so hard for many years, she finally got pregnant,” the husband says. But today they’re getting some bad news. “I know it’s hard,” the doctor says sympathetically. “But please make a decision as soon as possible.” The couple, clearly stunned, drive home, hold one another, and cry. “On that day at the hospital,” the husband relates, “the doctor told us that she’s got cancer. She has only two choices. First, she might be cured if she took chemotherapy. But that may cause our child a disability. Or we might lose our baby. The alternative is to keep our child. But she might have to fight the cancer alone, without any remedy.” The woman cries as her husband holds her. The next morning, she gets up and walks to the living room, where the baby’s crib is still sitting on its box. She runs her fingers along the crib and makes a decision: “I will do it for you, baby.” The mother begins putting the crib together and plays with a stuffed animal, anticipating her child’s birth. Now she is back in the hospital, in labor. When her doctor holds up her healthy baby, she cries with joy. After cuddling and kissing her child, the mother hands him to her husband. She smiles at her little family as a nurse takes her down the hall and into the chemotherapy room. These ads—which are both profoundly pro-women and pro-life—have become a global phenomenon. Millions of people have watched them online. Clearly they’ve hit a nerve—and I think I know why. First, most lingerie ads focus on women’s bodies, suggesting that a woman’s appearance is the most important thing about her. But these ads challenge young women to value themselves in other ways: To celebrate strength and sacrifice, courage and compassion. They’re teaching women something else, as well: that a worthwhile man will value them, not based on outer beauty, which is fleeting, but on inner beauty, which is based on character. And when life throws them a curve ball—such as cancer during a pregnancy—a strong man will help his wife through it. Finally, I believe modern young women may be getting tired of being encouraged to take the easy way out when they run into a problem—such as a problem pregnancy. Women are, I think, moved by the idea that self-sacrifice is noble, and can be the source of great joy. It’s hard to watch this ad without crying, especially when you find out it was based on a true story. Whether it meant to or not, the Wacoal company gives us a perfect illustration of 1 Corinthians 13:7: “Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.” I hope you’ll watch these ads, and share them with your friends, sisters, and daughters. Their positive messages will help cancel out the hundreds of negative ones that bombard young women every day. And you just might consider buying the woman in your life some lingerie, not from Victoria’s Secret, but from the company that teaches that the value of women is in the nobility of their character.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Happy Lent. Seriously.

Mar 1, 2017 - 00:00:00

Ash Wednesday somberly reminds us that we’re all going to die. But it also reminds us of something much more important. Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the forty-day period in the church calendar known as Lent, a time of preparation leading up to Holy Week and Resurrection Sunday. Around the world, countless Christians will have the sign of the cross written on their foreheads in ash—what is known as the imposition of ashes—and will hear the words, “Remember that you are dust and to dust you will return.” That reminder, along with the various exercises in self-denial associated with Lent, can give the forty days prior to Good Friday and Easter Sunday a somewhat gloomy tone. But that would be missing the point. During Lent, we confront our mortality not only to be reminded of it, but also in order to better understand why we need not fear it. And make no mistake, our culture fears mortality, and goes to absurd lengths to keep that fear at bay. Eric told you on BreakPoint yesterday how several luminaries of the tech world “see their mortality and humanity not as realities to accept, but as hurdles to overcome.” Their attempts to avoid death are the stuff of science fiction, such as uploading their consciousness to a computer and a kind of medical vampirism. It’s not only tech luminaries who try to keep thoughts of their mortality at bay. We all do. Years ago, when my grandfather was dying, he suffered terribly for about three or four months. In sorrow, I remember asking my pastor, “Why doesn’t God just take him?” Honestly, I expected my pastor to say something along the lines of, “Well, God has His ways, and His own timing.” But he said something more important that I’ll never forget: “Because your grandfather,” he said, “needs to know his mortality before he meets his maker.” Now if that sounds a bit unkind, or even cruel on God’s part, recall that God did not spare his only Son in this regard. The Epistle to the Hebrews speaks of Jesus “tasting death for everyone.” As New Testament scholar Mary Healy writes in her commentary on Hebrews, “To ‘taste’ death means to experience its bitter reality. Jesus drank the cup of suffering and death to its dregs.” What’s more, Jesus experienced this “tasting” as one of us in every way except sin. Later in chapter 5, Hebrews, referring to the Lord’s experience in the garden of Gethsemane, says that “During the days of Jesus’ life on earth, He offered up prayers and petitions with fervent cries and tears to the one who could save Him from death . . .” The Gospels also describe the physical and emotional toll of Jesus’ encounter with his mortality: “And being in anguish, [Jesus] prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground” (Luke 22:44). And yet as we know, that wasn’t the end of the story. Less than seventy-two hours later, Jesus destroyed death. Not only that, as the author of Hebrews tells us, He freed “those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.” This freedom is about more than the promise of heaven, although, as Paul tells us, to be with Christ is gain. As Healy writes, “We instinctively resist and recoil from everything that reminds us of our mortality—pain, deprivation, weakness, criticism, failure. This paralyzing fear . . . leads to various forms of escapism and addiction, induces us to grasp the false security nets proffered by Satan, and keeps us from pursuing the will of God with freedom, peace, and confidence.” And that’s why Lent, including its reminder of our mortality, is the farthest thing from gloomy. Yes, like the “founder and perfecter of our faith,” we will taste death. But by God’s grace, death’s power over us, in this life as well as the next, is destroyed. And that’s great news. Whether or not you typically participate in Lenten activities—like the imposition of ashes, fasting, or giving up something—I hope you’ll still use these forty days to face and ponder your mortality, with an eye to Jesus’ resurrection, and the resurrection that awaits all of us who belong to Him.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Academy Awards: Will There Be a 'We'?

Feb 28, 2017 - 00:00:00

Warren Cole Smith and Bryan Coley of Reel Experiences discuss what might be a common theme among the Oscar-nominated and Oscar-winning films: Can we come together as a people? Find out how the various films answer that question. As always, the Colson Center urges Christian discernment when choosing which films to view.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Transhumanists and the Quest for Godhood

Feb 28, 2017 - 00:00:00

What do cyborgs, vampires, and bowhead whales have in common? History tells us that when victorious generals in ancient Rome returned home, they would hold triumphal processions through the streets. Singers, dancers, and adoring citizens would shower the general with effusive praises. But to guard him against getting a big head, a slave stood behind him to whisper in his ear, “Remember, thou art mortal.” It’s a reminder each of us could use every day. But some entrepreneurs on the cutting edge of the tech world see their mortality and humanity not as realities to accept, but as hurdles to overcome. Take billionaire SpaceX and Tesla founder, Elon Musk. As I told you back in October, Musk puts the odds that we’re not living in a Matrix-like computer simulation at one in a billion. Now he says it’s time for humans to merge with machines, or risk becoming irrelevant in the age of artificial intelligence. “Over time I think we will probably see a closer merger of biological and digital intelligence,” he told the World Government Summit in Dubai. Musk thinks we’ll have to add a new layer to our brains—an implant, perhaps—that will allow us to tap into artificial intelligence and think at the speed of computers. He admits that so-called “deep A.I.,” “smarter than the smartest humans on earth,” strikes him as dangerous. But he seems to believe that combining our wetware with hardware is the answer to human limitations. CNBC uses the word “cyborg” to describe the concept, but Musk’s musings sound tame in comparison with fellow Silicon Valley billionaire and PayPal co-founder, Peter Thiel. A self-proclaimed “transhumanist,” Thiel already takes human growth hormone to prolong his life, and says he hopes to achieve immortality by “uploading” his consciousness into a computer. And last year, Jeff Bercovici of Inc. magazine published an interview in which Thiel described a new plan to extend his life: injecting himself with the blood of young people to reverse the aging process. The procedure is called “parabiosis.” And yes, of course many have already made the obvious comparison to vampires. Referring to death, Thiel remarked that “You can accept it, you can deny it, or you can fight it. I think our society is dominated by people who are in denial or acceptance, and I prefer to fight it.” He’s not alone. In 2015, BBC Future reported on research to identify the slowest-aging animals to discover the secret to their longevity. So far bowhead whales, which may live over 200 years, along with naked mole rats and certain bats, show the most promise. Of course, much of the work being done to delay aging and overcome our human limitations is good. Lifespans in the developed world have drastically increased in the last 200 years mostly because of improved medicine and nutrition. But the transhumanist impulse—the urge to not only delay death but beat it and become like gods—is lurking in the background, not to mention in Silicon Valley. “Aging,” declares the BBC article, “is not an inevitable fact of life.” But folks, it is. “Dust you are, and to dust you will return,” God told humanity when sin entered the world. If Jesus tarries, you and I will die. All of us. Accepting that is crucial to living a meaningful life. Even so, as the Apostle Paul wrote, death is “the last enemy to be defeated.” Our longing for immortality is good! It was put there on purpose. We were meant—from the moment of our creation—to live forever. And the secret to eternal life is in Someone else’s blood. But it won’t happen the way some people think. That means Christians can accept death, knowing that He Who is the “resurrection and the life” has already defeated it.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Readers Are Leaders

Feb 27, 2017 - 00:00:00

Do you think you don’t have time to read a book? I’ll tell you how to read two hundred this year. Seriously. When asked the secret of his success, billionaire investor Warren Buffett pointed to a stack of books and said, “Read 500 pages like this every day. That’s how knowledge works. It builds up, like compound interest. All of you can do it, but I guarantee not many of you will.” In fact, many of us don’t. The statistics about American reading habits are staggering—and not in a good way. According to the Literacy Project Foundation, 44% of American adults don’t read a book in a year; and six out of 10 households do not even buy one book in a year. I find this shocking. But as I look at the trajectory of our culture, I’m not surprised. So, how many books have you read this year? Let me tell you something you already know—reading is critically important—especially for Christian believers. God after all, reveals Himself to us in the written words of Scripture. Think about it—when we read the Word, we place ourselves in the very presence of God. In our Colson Fellows worldview program, we want to develop Christian leaders—leaders who can shape the culture in their communities. Over the course of nine months, we have our fellows read 16 books on history and theology and culture in addition to various articles. Because we agree with author Michael Hyatt that readers are leaders. And leaders are readers. Beyond helping us gather information and data, Hyatt says that reading makes us better thinkers, improves our people skills, and helps us master communication. In addition to the spiritual, intellectual and relational benefits of reading, reading helps us combat stress and keeps our aging minds sharp. Martin Luther once said, “If you want to change the world, pick up your pen and write.” I’d add that if you want to change your world, pick up a book and read. So how do we accomplish this in a world of binge-watching, incessant social media, commuting, and a million other distractions? The title of a recent article by Charles Chu at Qz.com sums it up well: “In the time you spend on social media each year, you could read 200 books.” His logic is simple: The average American reads 200 to 400 words per minute. Say a typical book is 50,000 words. Two hundred such books equals 10 million words. At 400 words per minute, it would take 417 hours in a year to read all 200 books. That sounds like a lot, but it’s really just a smidge over an hour a day. Even so, where would we even find that much time in our busy lives? Well, Chu says the average American spends 608 hours on social media and another 1,642 hours watching TV. “If those hours were spent reading instead,” Chu writes, “you could be reading over 1,000 books a year.” Chu goes on: “Here’s the simple truth behind reading a lot of books: It’s not that hard. We have all the time we need. The scary part—the part we all ignore—is that we are too addicted, too weak, and too distracted to do what we all know is important.” So what do we read—besides the Bible? I suggest a judicious mix of history, theology, fiction, and yes, even poetry. And as C.S. Lewis once said, “It is a good rule after reading a new book, never to allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between.” We have more suggestions for you at our online book store at Colson Center.org—where you can check out Chuck Colson’s recommended reading list, and get a look at the books our Colson Fellows are reading. And speaking of Colson Fellows: We’re now taking applications for this year’s class of reader-leaders. Check us out at ColsonFellows.org. But whatever you do, get reading!

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Potties and Pets

Feb 24, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss what we can learn from the Trump Administration's reversal of the Obama directive on transgender students and school bathrooms. John also picks up the potentially controversial topic of "fur babies": treating pets like people.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
One Doctor’s Prescription for Life

Feb 23, 2017 - 00:00:00

It’s good for us to remember the heroic faith of those who’ve gone before us. And then to go and do likewise. Glenn Sunshine is at it again: helping us remember heroes of our Christian faith long forgotten. As I’ve said before on BreakPoint, remembering is vital to the life of the Church. It’s why the author of Hebrews in chapter 11 of his epistle extolled the faith of figures like Noah and Abraham and Joseph and even Rahab the prostitute. By the time we get to chapter 12, we’re ready to accept the challenge: “Therefore, since we are surrounded by such a great cloud of witnesses . . . let us run with perseverance the race marked out for us, fixing our eyes on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.” That’s the power of remembering God’s servants who have gone before us. And that’s why Dr. Glenn Sunshine writes his “Christians Who Changed Their World” columns, which are available at our now re-designed BreakPoint.org website. But Glenn doesn’t focus in on the big names. Instead he introduces us to lesser known but equally significant heroes of the faith. This month, which is by the way Black History Month, Glenn tells us about Mildred Fay Jefferson. Born in the 1920s in Texas, the daughter of a minister and a school teacher, Mildred wanted to be a doctor from a very early age. She graduated from the local segregated high school at age 15, enrolled in a small black college and eventually made it to Harvard Medical School. In 1951, she became the first African American woman to graduate from that esteemed institution. Then get this: She became the first woman to intern at Boston City Hospital and the first female surgeon at the Boston University Medical Center. She eventually became a professor of surgery at Boston University Medical School. As Glenn writes, “Coming from the segregated South in an era of intense racism, Dr. Jefferson’s accomplishments as a pioneer for women and blacks in medicine would be cause enough to celebrate her life. Yet today she is most remembered for her tireless work opposing abortion, both as a physician in the Hippocratic tradition and as a Christian.” It was in 1970 when the American Medical Association proclaimed that it was ethical for doctors to perform abortions wherever it was legal. Dr. Jefferson was outraged by this assault on the Hippocratic Oath and on Judeo-Christian values: “I’m opposed to abortion as a doctor and also because I know it is morally wrong,” she said. “An individual never has the private right to choose to kill for whatever reasons, be they whim, convenience or compulsion. Because I know abortion is wrong, I will use every means available for free people in a free country to see that it is not perpetuated.” And that’s exactly what she did, touring the country, speaking at public events and on the air, eventually becoming a board member and president of National Right to Life. As Glenn relates, her passion for life was persuasive. In fact, one very well-known politician, a governor who once signed an abortion bill in his state, wrote to her after hearing her on the radio. “No other issue since I have been in office has caused me to do so much study and soul-searching,” he wrote to Dr. Jefferson. “I wish I could have heard your views before our legislation was passed. You made it irrefutably clear that an abortion is the taking of a human life. I’m grateful to you.” That letter was signed “Ronald Reagan.” I do hope you’ll come to BreakPoint.org and read about this amazing woman of faith and defender of life. Click on Glenn Sunshine’s article: “Christians Who Changed Their World: Mildred Fay Jefferson.” One more thing: Have you ever considered studying Christian worldview with the likes of a Dr. Glenn Sunshine, or Joni Eareckson Tada, or Bill Brown? Our 9-month Colson Fellows Program features reading, webinars, residencies, mentoring and fellowship in Christian worldview. Learn more at BreakPoint.org. Just click on the Colson Fellows link at the top.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Your Body, Your Spirit, and a Good Night’s Sleep

Feb 22, 2017 - 00:00:00

Because our bodies matter to God—and not just in a moral sense—our rest matters to God, too. So much so, He built it into the rhythms of the universe. Do you proclaim with the psalmist: “Awake, my soul! Awake, harp and lyre! I will awaken the dawn. I will praise you, Lord, among the nations” (Psalm 57:8)? Do you climb out of bed each morning and sing with joy about God’s unfailing love (Psalm 59:16)? If not, (and for the record, I rarely do), maybe it’s because we are among the one in three Americans who don’t get enough sleep. Seriously. Last year, the Centers for Disease Control declared a new public health crisis: sleep deprivation. Millions are failing night after night to get the recommended seven to nine hours of rest, putting them at increased risk for health problems from anxiety and depression to diabetes and heart disease. By some estimates, widespread lack of sleep is costing American employers over $100 billion annually “in lost production, medical expenses, and sick leave.” More in-depth research finds that twenty straight hours without sleep is the equivalent of being legally drunk. And sleep specialists are sounding the alarm that “drowsy driving” is just as deadly as drunk driving—and more common. So what’s behind this epidemic of sleep deprivation? Why are Americans these days so incapable of turning off the lights and going to bed? The answer is in our pockets. A growing body of research demonstrates that the frequency of light produced by smart phones, laptops and tablets triggers the release of chemicals in our brains that tell us, “It’s time to wake up! Its morning!” The dreary glow of screens also drains our concentration and creativity. A study in the journal Social Psychology reported that even having a smart phone nearby degraded the quality of subjects’ work and studies, because it reminded them of their online social circles. So what do we do to counteract this perfect storm of sleep deprivation and tech addiction? Writing at Motherboard, Kaleigh Rogers describes her radical solution: She banned screens from her home for a full month. No TV, computers, or smart phones. Cold turkey. Unlike healthy eating and exercise—good habits that take weeks or months to make a difference—Rogers says her tech-free experiment yielded immediate and astonishing results. The first few days were like a dream, she writes. “We’d come home, put on some music, cook dinner together, and then—unimaginably—we’d sit at the table and eat. After dinner, Stuart would play guitar while I read. Chores were done promptly and without hesitation. It was blissful.” Okay, that’s all great. But BreakPoint isn’t a self-help program. So what’s all this got to do with a Christian worldview? Well, let’s go back to the beginning. God created day and He created night. A time to work, and a time to rest. The Sabbath, remember, begins in the evening, and we enter into an earthly rest in anticipation of resting eternally in God’s presence. Remember too that we’re not pure spirits. We’re embodied spirits. The state of our body affects the state of our spirit. It’s why we avoid drunkenness and bodily immorality. It’s why we try to stay fit. It’s no wonder then, as Kate Shellnutt writes at Christianity Today, that those who get quality sleep report feeling closer to God and having better faith lives overall. And also, as Charles Spurgeon said, “God gives us sleep to remind us we are not Him.” We have limits. He doesn’t. We lie down at night trusting in God’s care, open to Him speaking to us, trusting him to revive these earthen vessels of ours in the morning—ready once again to join with God in His work to restore all thing in Jesus. Now I’m not saying give up your cell phone or Facebook (especially if you read BreakPoint on them). But I am saying don’t let them deprive you of God’s gift of sleep, and in turn all the personal interaction, productivity, creativity, and especially spiritual vitality that make us fully human as God intended.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Ravi Zacharias on the Family

Feb 21, 2017 - 00:00:00

Ravi Zacharias will be joining Os Guinness and Rod Dreher as a featured speaker at the Colson Center's Wilberforce Weekend this May. Today we present a talk by Ravi on the cultural importance of the family. We hope you will join us at the Wilberforce Weekend. To register, visit www.WilberforceWeekend.org

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Nigeria’s Forgotten Christians

Feb 21, 2017 - 00:00:00

Almost nobody knows what’s happening to the Christians of Nigeria—but even fewer care. Here’s why we should. In Nigeria, which is Africa’s most populous country, Christians don’t have time to worry about culture wars. They’re too busy facing a real one instigated by their Muslim neighbors and by a government that has studiously decided to look the other way. The scope of the violence is so vast as to be almost beyond belief, so let me first give you a snapshot of what’s happening on the ground. Deborah, now 31 and living in a camp for the internally displaced, was captured by the Boko Haram terrorist group and held captive for a year and a half. The Islamists came to her village and slaughtered her husband and family before abducting her and “marrying” her off to a 20-year-old Muslim terrorist, who complained of her argumentativeness while raping and impregnating her. After Deborah was recaptured following an escape, she received 80 lashes as punishment. She told journalist Douglas Murray that she no longer fears death. “What sort of death would I be running from?” Deborah asks. “I have already died once.” You could repeat Deborah’s basic story countless times in Nigeria. Operation World estimates that Nigeria, which is an officially secular state with a Muslim president, is 51 percent Christian and 45 percent Muslim. Since 1999, the West African nation of about 158 million people has been convulsed by ongoing attempts at imposing Islamic law in eight northern, mostly Muslim states, as well as in four other states where Christians predominate or where the numbers are fairly even. Things are particularly bad in the north right now. Unarmed Christian villages there are sitting ducks for Muslim Fulani tribesmen, who have been armed with weaponry provided by elements in the national military. According to The Spectator, it’s religiously motivated genocide, although outside agencies dismiss the violence as tit-for-tat. “The locals daren’t collect the freshest bodies,” the magazine reports. “Some who tried earlier have already been killed, spotted by the waiting militia and hacked down or shot. The Fulani are watching everything closely from the surrounding mountains. Every week, their progress across the northern states of Plateau and Kaduna continues. Every week, more massacres—another village burned, its church razed, its inhabitants slaughtered, raped or chased away.” Open Doors USA, as part of its annual World Watch List, says the killings have jumped by a whopping 62 percent in a year. And while Nigeria is No. 12 on the World Watch List of Christian persecution globally, it’s in the top 10 in terms of overall violence. And yet it’s not all gloom and doom in Nigeria. As Tertullian reminded us, the blood of the martyrs is often the seed of the church. Operation World says the country now boasts a strong prayer movement, dynamic church growth, and a growing missionary movement, with more than 5,000 cross-cultural workers—many of them in Nigeria or in other African nations. So while much of the world has forgotten about Nigeria’s persecuted Christians, surely those of us in the West cannot. They are our brothers and sisters, and they’re doing great things in the midst of severe trials. Let’s hold them up in powerful, prevailing prayer. Let’s also speak up to the new administration in Washington, which says it will stand up for persecuted Christians around the world. Let’s remind them of their promises and make sure they follow through. The Christians of Nigeria need us, and since we are members of the same worldwide Body of Christ, we need them. Come to BreakPoint.org and click on this commentary for organizations that assist the persecuted, and for information on contacting the White House and State Department.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Fur Babies

Feb 20, 2017 - 00:00:00

I’m gonna get a lot of email about this commentary, so let me say this up front: I like animals. And pets are wonderful things. But. . . . In her 1992 novel, “The Children of Men,” P. D. James told the story of a world where it has been 25 years since the last child was born. In this dying world, kittens and puppies are pushed around in prams and receive the treatment previously afforded to human infants. Twenty-five years later, it seems that life is imitating art, though in James’s novel, childlessness was the result of a mysterious and catastrophic collapse in male fertility. Today, it’s the result of people’s choices. But in both James’ dystopia and today’s celebration of personal autonomy, the result is the same: Animals have become substitutes for actual children. This substitution was the subject of a recent article by Bradley Mattes of the Life Issues Institute. In it, Mattes told readers that “according to government statistics, an increasing number of women from the millennial generation are opting out when it comes to having babies.” “Instead,” Mattes continues, “it appears they’re finding an alternative more to their liking.” That “alternative” is what might be called “pet parenthood” and its substitute progeny, “fur babies.” What’s more, many millennials are approaching pet ownership the way previous generations approached first-time parenthood: preparing “for their impending bundle of joy by reading books and consuming other available research.” Now the obvious question is “Why?” Several people Mattes quotes help us answer that question. One thirty-year-old told the New York Post that “It’s just less work and, honestly, I have more time to go out.” Another thirty-year-old, writing in Charlotte Magazine, wrote about how she went from wanting to be a stay-at-home mom to a pet parent. In her words, pets “give us a greater purpose without making our lives mainly about theirs.” While there is something “stunning” about such “self-centered transparency,” as Mattes put it, we shouldn’t be surprised. It’s the logical outcome of the triumph of personal autonomy in the West. We exist for our own benefit and pleasure, as do our children and our pets. Whereas having children was historically thought of an as act of obedience to a divine command, an obligation we owed past and future generations, today it’s an act of self-fulfillment. Children are now a means to an end, not ends in and of themselves. For many, having a child is just another bucket-list item; something we do (or don’t do) to “complete” our lives, preferably after we’ve experienced the other things we believe make for a “complete” life, like a successful career and travel, etc. The problem with this idea is, with kids, the “feel good” phase passes pretty quickly, and is replaced by a long, hard slog of raising them with all the sacrifice that entails. If you get struck by the travel bug, you just can’t board your kids at a local kennel. Now if you’re a Christian, this shouldn’t be a problem. We get—or at least we should get—concepts like “obligation” and “self-sacrifice” and “self-giving.” But if what matters most are our “needs” and desires, pets can sound like a preferable alternative to children. After all, as one person quoted by Mattes put it, “Who needs children when research has shown that certain hormones that increase when we cuddle children also increase when we cuddle our pets?” So get your fix of oxytocin, the “cuddle hormone,” and you still get to live however you want. What’s the problem with that? The problem is there’s literally no future in a world of “fur babies.” The England of James’ novel is a hopeless dystopia, not a paradise. As the principle character writes in his diary, “without the hope of posterity, for our race if not for ourselves, without the assurance that we being dead yet live, all pleasures of the mind and senses sometimes seem to me no more than pathetic and crumbling defenses shored up against our ruins.” This is where the enshrinement of autonomy and self-fulfillment will take us as a culture. It’s a dead, loveless end. And no amount of oxytocin or fur can change that fact.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: The Ruling Against Religious Freedom

Feb 17, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss the Washington State Supreme Court's ruling against florist Barronelle Stutzman, who refused to participate in a same-sex wedding. As John and Ed relate, this was a ruling that punishes not only Barronelle, but all who seek to live out their faith in the public square.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Washington State Punishes Barronelle Stutzman

Feb 17, 2017 - 00:00:00

The Washington State Supreme Court has punished a florist for running her business according to her faith. Yesterday, the Supreme Court of Washington State issued its much-anticipated opinion in State of Washington v. Arlene’s Flowers and Ingersoll v. Arlene’s Flowers. The only way to see this decision is as a major setback for religious freedom. The case involved an anti-discrimination complaint brought against Barronelle Stutzman, the 71-year-old owner of Arlene’s Flowers, and I might add, one of the nicest people on the planet. Three years ago, a long-time customer whom Stutzman considered to be a friend, asked her to create a floral arrangement for his same-sex wedding. Stutzman declined because her Christian belief that marriage is the union of one man and one woman prevented “her from using her artistic talents to promote contrary ideas about marriage.” Instead, she referred him “to three other floral design artists who she knew would do a good job.” The customer then filed suit against Stutzman and was joined by the State of Washington. In 2015, the trial court found that Stutzman had violated Washington’s anti-discrimination law and ordered her to pay a $1,000 fine—and the ACLU’s legal fees, which could approach a million dollars. Also, Stutzman could no longer operate her business according to her beliefs without risking further legal sanction. The appeal to the state Supreme Court drew so much interest that arguments were held in an auditorium at a local college instead of at the Court’s facilities. Judging by the justices’ questions and response, they didn’t appear to be sympathetic to Stutzman’s plight. So sadly, it was no surprise that the Court ruled unanimously against Stutzman. It rejected her claim that any “discrimination,” if it existed, was on the basis of marital status and not sexual orientation. In a case of déjà vu all over again, it cited Obergefell’s language and then took it even a step further, claiming that to not service a same-sex wedding serves to “disrespected and subordinate” gays and lesbians. For this and other reasons, the Court concluded that Washington’s anti-discrimination law applied to Stutzman. The court then turned to the question of her rights under the U.S. and Washington State constitutions. And to put it straightforwardly, the Court was unsparing in its rejection of her claims. It ruled that her floral arrangements weren’t “speech” but instead “conduct,” and that this conduct “does not inherently express a message about [a same-sex] wedding,” any more than providing flowers for an Islamic wedding amounts to endorsing Islam. Citing Employment Division v Smith and analogous cases under Washington’s constitution, it rejected her free exercise claim that the Washington law could only be upheld if it served a compelling governmental interest in the least restrictive means possible. Justice McCord wrote that even “assuming that [the Washington law] substantially burdens Stutzman’s religious free exercise, [it] does not violate her right to religious free exercise under either the First Amendment or (the Washington Constitution) because it is neutral, generally applicable law that serves the state government’s compelling interest in eradicating discrimination in public accommodations.” As our friends at Alliance Defending Freedom, who represented Stutzman, put it bluntly: “[T]he Washington Supreme Court has punished Barronelle Stutzman for peacefully operating her business consistently with her faith.” Now ADF will appeal to the Supreme Court. In the meantime, they ask us to pray for Barronelle and to urge President Trump to keep his campaign promise and make religious liberty “a first priority” by signing an executive order to protect religious freedom. Look folks, for more than 40 years we’ve been fighting the courts to save the unborn. Now we find ourselves at the beginning of a long march to restore religious freedom—our first freedom under the constitution. We cannot grow weary. And I ask LGBT advocates, is this really what you’re fighting for, to destroy people like Barronell Stutzman, your neighbors who have served you and the community kindly for so many years? Come to BreakPoint.org for more on yesterday’s tragic ruling and to find out what you can do to support Barronelle Stutzman and religious freedom.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Beyoncé’s Three Hearts

Feb 16, 2017 - 00:00:00

Objective realities aren’t subject to feelings, but increasingly, that’s the verdict of our celebrity-driven culture. Just ask Beyoncé’s twins. With few exceptions, the entertainment industry is committedly pro-choice. Whether it’s Scarlett Johansson and others in a recent “Stand with Planned Parenthood” ad campaign, stories from celebrities like Whoopi Goldberg about how they don’t regret their abortions, or financial support for Planned Parenthood from names like Lena Dunham, John Legend, and Pink, actors and musicians are overwhelmingly on one side of this cultural debate. But every so often, someone wanders off-script and talks about the unborn not as mere “rapidly dividing cell masses,” but as babies, with heartbeats, and with value. The most recent celebrity to break form was singer Beyoncé. Despite participating in the aggressively pro-choice Women’s March in D.C., the expectant mother-of-twins has encouraged her millions of fans to talk about and celebrate her unborn children as if they were, well, children. At the Grammy Awards on Sunday, she appeared on stage pregnant and dressed as a goddess in a performance dedicated to “birth and motherhood.” Now I’m not endorsing the performance itself, which was pretty bizarre and maybe a little sacrilegious. But what struck many was how Beyoncé and her fans on Twitter and Facebook freely referred to the twins in her womb as “children,” not fetuses or any other dehumanizing euphemism popular with abortion supporters. Her performance was a follow-up to her recently released pregnancy photo shoot, which took the Internet by storm shortly before the Grammys. In the most-liked upload in Instagram history, Beyoncé posed, hands on her baby bump, with the caption, “I have three hearts.” Hearts! As in “beating hearts!” As in the kind pro-choice activists go to incredible lengths to convince us are just “contracting cardiac cells.” And notice Beyoncé also equates her babies’ heartbeats with her own. They are, in her eyes, fully human. Let me emphasize this: Don’t Google Beyoncé’s pregnancy photos. Some of them are pretty inappropriate. But Beyonce’s Instagram post and Grammy performance highlight the unspoken, false assumption that unborn babies have personhood and humanity only if they’re wanted. If they’re inconvenient or untimely, they’re disposable. In other words, our feelings about them determine what they are. It was this assumption Yahoo News anchor Katie Couric took into her recent interview on the Ellen DeGeneres show, where she discussed her forthcoming National Geographic documentary on gender identity. Now Couric has made no secret of her support for Planned Parenthood and other abortion providers. For her, the unborn aren’t persons. They’re choices. And yet at the same time she insists that babies in the womb can “feel” gender confusion—something clearly beyond the capabilities of a mere cell mass. So what’s behind this glaring contradiction? Simply this: the conquest of feelings over reality. According to pro-abortion reasoning, unborn babies, especially early in pregnancy, aren’t human beings with a right to life. Rather, they’re choices to be made. But pro-choice celebrities have no trouble speaking of their unborn children as being human beings when they choose to keep them. In other words, what makes them human is how their parents, society, or a news anchor feel about them—not some inherent quality they share with all unborn babies. The Christian worldview cuts in diametric opposition to this anthropology, and to any feelings-centric approach to truth. That unborn babies are inherently valuable image bearers is true regardless of how we feel about them. Christians embrace objective reality, one not subject to the whims of choice, and not influenced in the least by how famous your mother is. Now I’m happy for Beyoncé. And praise God for these two new heartbeats. But the thousands of heartbeats quieted each year by abortion are no less human and no less valuable, no matter how we feel about them.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
“Be It Ever so Humble”

Feb 15, 2017 - 00:00:00

A Christian worldview impacts every area of life. Including making your house a home. The magazine cover revealed one of the loveliest living rooms imaginable: Hand-painted silk covers the walls. Antique Louis Seize tables scattered about; a Picasso hangs on another wall. A Bavarian crystal chandelier sheds light on the ebony flooring. Guests may seat themselves on suede sofas, or read a rare book parked on a bookcase. There’s just one problem: You’d never dare let a child loose in it. It’s a reminder that even when it comes to architecture and home design, worldview plays a role. In her book, “The Making of Home,” Judith Flanders describes the work of a French-Swiss architect known as Le Corbusier, who made modern, open-plan architecture hugely influential in the 1920s and beyond. But did ordinary people actually like the ideas of Le Corbusier and his colleagues? The problem with high modernism, according to Flanders, has been its tendency to “focus its attention more on appearance than utility, both in architecture and in product design.” Seldom did modern architects concern themselves with the needs of daily life—staying warm, getting groceries into the house, cooking, eating, cleaning up after meals. Yes, they invented the concept of “form follows function,” but in practice, they ignored it. “If a house looked sleek and streamlined, it was modern,” Flanders writes. “If a wall had no electrical sockets showing, it was modern, even if it left the residents nowhere to plug in a lamp. If a chair enhanced the design, it was good, even if it was too low, or too narrow.” When it came to textiles and tableware, their designs “were not easier to use (like non-stick pans), nor easier to care for (such as linoleum flooring, which didn’t need intensive polishing). They just looked good,” Flanders notes. No wonder housewives didn’t like them. Nor did architects care about what Flanders calls “the essence of homes:” that is, “how homeowners experience their domestic spaces.” In fact, some philosophers, such as Theodor Adorno, considered the very idea of home as the enemy of modernism. German philosopher Walter Benjamin considered domesticity itself as “physically and mentally cloying,” Flanders writes. In his 1863 essay, “The Painter of Modern Life,” the critic Charles Baudelaire “described the perfect flaneur, or man about town, as one who lives ‘in the ebb and flow, the bustle, the fleeting and the infinite . . . To be at the very centre of the world’ is his ideal. Such a man is “solitary . . . detached from both family and home.” Modernism was eagerly embraced by urbanites who spent much of their time “in …the café, brasserie and restaurant,” notes Flanders. Many people live this way today, especially in big cities like New York and Tokyo. Some live in apartments that are designed and decorated as though children had never been invented. But this is not the ideal for Christians, who embrace biblical teachings, not only about the importance of family life, but also of the value of permanent things. Home is—or should be—a place for companionship, for rearing children, and having friends and family over for meals, while the dog begs for scraps under the table. (At least, that’s what sometimes happens in my home.) It should be a cozy and comfortable place for putting our feet up, for reading, perhaps the Bible, and for praying together each evening. The story of modern architecture is a reminder of how worldview influences every aspect of life. We should keep this in mind if we’re planning to decorate a new home in such a way that our own children will not be comfortable in it. Instead, they should feel, as Dorothy did, that there’s no place like home.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Beyond Truth: Is the Christian Vision of Sex Good?

Feb 14, 2017 - 00:00:00

Colson Center President John Stonestreet addresses the NextGen Conference at Liberty University. According to the world, "No!" is the Christian vision for sex. But John paints a much different picture, and that is God's emphatic "Yes!" to His gift of human sexuality.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Electronic Kisses

Feb 14, 2017 - 00:00:00

What better way to mark Valentine’s Day than to hear from our old friend Chuck Colson. No, seriously. Okay, so Chuck Colson was not a hopeless romantic. But that did not stop him from commenting on the uniquely Christian origins of Valentine’s Day. In this BreakPoint commentary, recorded way back in 1999, Chuck tells us how the commemoration of the ultimate human love—Christian martyrdom—stood in stark contrast and ultimately replaced a popular pagan festival. Here’s Chuck. In the Information Age, even St. Valentine’s Day has gone electronic. America Online is offering to send your sweetie something it calls an “Insta-kiss.” All your significant other has to do is open his or her e-mail to hear your smacking noise loud enough to wake the dead. Well, most of us would prefer the real thing, delivered in person. But the “Insta-kiss” is an amusing gift idea for a holiday in which we celebrate romantic love. But how many of us know the real meaning of Valentine’s Day—that it started as something more than a day for a Hallmark card; it began as a symbol of Christian love. Early church records are sketchy, but it’s believed several men named Valentine were martyred in the third century A.D. This was during the reign of Roman Emperor Claudius II, a ruler known for his brutal persecution of Christians. One of these Valentines was a priest who secretly married couples against the wishes of Claudius, who believed that unmarried men made better soldiers. Two other Valentines—a priest and a bishop—were beheaded by Claudius late in the third century. Historians are not certain which Valentine it was we celebrate on February 14. But they are certain why the church chose that day. You see, in ancient Rome, February 14 was the eve of a pagan festival called Lupercalia. During this festival, the Romans worshipped Februa, a goddess of marriage, childbirth, and sexuality. Brian Bates, a professor at the University of Sussex, is an expert on how we celebrate holidays. Bates writes that during Lupercalia, “young men and women drew lots for sexual partners in preparation for a day of sanctioned license the following day.” As Christianity spread throughout the ancient world, the church began replacing pagan festivals with holy days. In an effort to control the lewder aspects of the Lupercalian festival, the church fathers replaced this pagan holiday with the feast of Saint Valentine, in honor of one of the martyred Christians. Instead of drawing the names of sexual partners out of a box, young men were encouraged to pick the names of saints—and then spend the following year emulating the saint whose name they drew. The focus on love lingered on, but it was sanctified from mere sexual license to chaste romantic love. Not surprisingly, the romantic aspect is what became popular, not the more austere love of the Christian martyrs. Now, it’s fun to exchange gifts with our sweethearts, so I won’t ask you to read Foxe’s Book of Martyrs instead of Elizabeth Barrett Browning. But we ought to take a moment to remember the early Christian saints as well, and how their martyrdom dramatically illustrates their love of God. In the midst of our romantic celebrations, we can remind ourselves that for Christians, the love between husband and wife is meant to reflect the love between God and His Church. Throughout the Scriptures, the imagery of the love between a husband and wife is perhaps the most compelling symbol of the relationship between God and His people. So while you’re buying those roses and chocolates—or maybe even one of those electronic kisses—you might want to remind yourself and your kids about the Author of all love: not America Online or Hallmark cards, but a Holy God Himself.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Planned Parenthood and Prenatal Care

Feb 13, 2017 - 00:00:00

It turns out that Planned Parenthood is not interested in seeing you if you’re planning to become a parent. So why do they keep insisting otherwise? Money. In 2015, the pro-life Center for Medical Progress released a series of videos that showed Planned Parenthood executives haggling with undercover investigators about prices for fetal organs and tissue, which is illegal. Of course, Planned Parenthood denied everything, claiming that the money being discussed was for shipping and handling and that the videos were deceptively edited. But this “caught red-handed” moment was far from a first for America’s largest abortion provider—or a last. Following these incriminating videos, Planned Parenthood president Cecile Richards claimed that just 3% of her organization’s services are abortions. The vast majority are allegedly less controversial services like STD tests, birth control, pap smears, mammograms, and prenatal care. Totally untrue. First, as Students for Life explained in a helpful video in 2014, the 3% claim is little more than book-cooking, which is a fancy term for lying. Planned Parenthood obtained this stat by counting each individual service separately—right down to handing women STD tests and condoms. That’d be like Burger King counting fries and ketchup packets and insisting hamburgers are only 3% of their business! The real question is: “How many pregnant women who visit Planned Parenthood receive abortions? Well, according to their own annual reports, 93% of pregnant women who walk into a Planned Parenthood facility will walk out without their babies. But Planned Parenthood had another whopper in store. According to Cecile Richards, the abortion giant offers essential non-abortion services including mammograms and “prenatal services.” Well that first claim has been thoroughly debunked—in the Washington Post, no less. Planned Parenthood does not provide mammograms, and Richards admitted as much in a congressional hearing. Instead, Planned Parenthood refers women to healthcare providers who do offer mammograms. So much for that claim. But what about “prenatal services,” which Richards and other supporters have repeatedly insisted Planned Parenthood provides? Well, my friend and pro-life activist Lila Rose and her organization “Live Action” recently decided to check that claim out. They contacted 97 Planned Parenthood facilities representing all 41 affiliates where undercover recording is still permitted by state law. In a new video, they play phone calls and in-person conversations with Planned Parenthood branches. “Do you provide prenatal services?” asks the investigator, posing as a pregnant woman. The answers were consistent: “Planned Parenthood offers abortions,” said an Arizona affiliate. “No Planned Parenthood does prenatal care, hon,” said a New York affiliate. “We see pregnant women, um, you know, if they are considering other options,” said a New Mexico affiliate, sheepishly. Of the 97 centers contacted, all but five said to look elsewhere for prenatal care. So it’s clear: Planned Parenthood is not interested in seeing women who want to keep their babies. Just in seeing those who want them killed. Clinic managers know what they do. So why doesn’t Cecile Richards? It’s a vital question to ask as Congress considers plans to strip the organization of federal support. With a ban on abortion funding making its way to the president’s desk, we need to be asking: Why should Planned Parenthood still be receiving taxpayer dollars? Until now, the nation’s largest abortion provider has pointed to its other services as the reason it deserves our money. But in the wake of this new investigation, we should be asking: What services exactly are they talking about?

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Sports, the Image of God, and Education

Feb 11, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed talk about the amazing year in sports--and how human achievement and talent reflect the glory of God. Also: the confirmation of Betsy Devos as Secretary of Education and the importance of Christian involvement in educational innovation.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
What Makes Christianity Different

Feb 11, 2017 - 00:00:00

One aspect of Christianity is so amazing, that it impresses even the CBS Evening News. Quick, name the practice that most sets Christianity apart from the non-Christian world. Respect for human life? Not really. Religions such as Jainism have, if anything, an even more uncompromising prohibition against harming any living things. Sexual morality? Again, there are religions—Orthodox Judaism and Islam immediately come to mind—that place an even higher premium on sexual purity than Christianity. If you doubt this, ask yourself when was the last time you saw a Christian woman in a burqa. The answer to this question is forgiveness. No other belief system has the equivalent of forgiving your brother seventy times seven, i.e., every time—much less commands you to love your enemies, and bless those who persecute you. The radical nature of Christian forgiveness is so startling, so overwhelming, that it made the CBS Evening News. The story began in 2005 in the city of Benton Harbor, Michigan. On that day, Jameel McGee was, in his words, “minding his own business,” when he was stopped by a policeman, Andrew Collins. The encounter did not go well for McGee. Collins accused him of selling drugs and arrested him. At the time, McGee insisted that the charges were “all made up.” As CBS noted, “Of course, a lot of accused men make that claim,” and the outcome in McGee’s case was pretty much the same as in other such cases: He wound up serving four years in prison. In McGee’s words, “I lost everything.” Making matters infinitely worse was that McGee was telling the truth: He was in fact an innocent man. We know this because the policeman, Collins, was subsequently “caught, and served a year and a half for falsifying many police reports, planting drugs and stealing.” Among the falsified police reports was the one concerning Jameel McGee. While exoneration is sweet, it doesn’t make up for the four years spent behind bars. As McGee told CBS, “My only goal was to seek him when I got home and to hurt him.” He appeared to have gotten his chance when both McGee and Collins ended up working at a café run by Mosaic Christian Community Development Center. As CBS put it, the “bad cop and the wrongfully accused man had no choice but to have it out.” And that brings me back to what I said about Christianity’s unique emphasis on forgiveness. Collins told McGee “Honestly, I have no explanation, all I can do is say I'm sorry.” McGee’s response, “That was pretty much what I needed to hear.” But McGee did not stop there: He befriended the man who wronged him, so much so that he eventually told Collins that he loved him. As Collins tells the tale, “I just started weeping because he doesn’t owe me that. I don’t deserve that.” Thankfully, forgiveness and the healing it brings in its wake, has nothing to do with “deserve.” As McGee, a Christian, understood, we forgive one another because, as Paul told both the Ephesians and the Colossians, God in Christ has forgiven us. The power of forgiveness transcends personal relationships. Think of the reaction to the Amish forgiving the man who killed ten young girls back in 2007. There was a power at work there that even the most hardened skeptic could not deny. Today, McGee and Collins share their story with others. At least one person seems to have taken its message to heart. The CBS reporter ended with the following question: “If these two guys from the coffee shop can set aside their bitter grounds, what's our excuse?” The answer, especially for the Christian, is “none.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
When a Clump Is not a Clump

Feb 9, 2017 - 00:00:00

Can we finally give the myth that an unborn baby is “just a clump of cells” a decent burial? Yesterday Eric Metaxas told you about a manipulative article from The Atlantic that heaps scorn on the pro-life movement’s use of ultrasound technology to show pregnant women and others the humanity of the unborn child. Just as a refresher, in the piece, author Moira Weigel shares such gems as this: “The technology has been used to create an ‘imaginary’ heartbeat and sped-up videos that falsely depict a response to stimulus.” Katie Couric thinks kids can feel gender in the womb, but an actual heartbeat is just a “stimulus?” And here’s another utterly baseless claim from the article: “Ultrasound made it possible for the male doctor to evaluate the fetus without female interference.” Huh? What if the OB/GYN is a female?! We shouldn’t be surprised by irrational attempts to undermine the cause for life. The case for life is stronger than ever. The abortion rate is down, and those who profit from abortion aren’t happy. So they’re probably not going to be popping the corks off their champagne bottles when they read a fascinating new article in Public Discourse by Ana Maria Dumitru. It’s called “Science, Embryonic Autonomy, and the Question of When Life Begins.” What is “embryonic autonomy,” you ask? According to a recent study, titled “Self-organization of the human embryo in the absence of maternal tissues,” human embryos from the earliest stages of life can direct their own development—in or out of the womb. Why is this important? Here’s how Dumitru, who is a fifth-year M.D./Ph.D. candidate at Dartmouth, explains it: “As scientists, my colleagues must concede that embryos are made up of living cells, but they don’t accept the embryo as a living organism. If the early embryo is ‘just a clump of cells,’ then you can justify abortion. By this logic, it’s not an autonomous being, and it’s definitely not a human person yet. It’s just a few cells growing in the mother’s body, and so the mother can choose to get rid of those cells if she wants to.” The problem for this view, Dumitru writes, is that so-called “clumps” whether in a uterus or in a lab, don’t behave like clumps of cells. Instead, they appear to act independently, or autonomously, of any signals from the mother’s body, whether in or out of the womb. And “clumps” don’t do that. As Ana Maria explains, “This one little cell, with its complete genetic content, can and does begin to divide and to grow, even in an experimental dish in an incubator in the closet space of some unmarked lab. … That means, as we suspected, embryos know what they’re supposed to do to live, and they try to live, whether they’re in their mother or not.” And it means not only that the embryo is a living being, but that it’s a person. This demolishes another argument for legal abortion, that the unborn may be living, but not yet persons—in other words, deserving of legal protection. But the research Dumitru cites undercuts this contention by showing that embryo autonomy and personhood are “interchangeable terms,” because although the embryo’s capacities—which pro-choicers say are necessary for personhood—are not yet fully developed, they are clearly in fact already present. They require no signals from the mother to develop, only nourishment—which of course we all need. Ultimately, all this comes down, again, to worldview. As Dumitru says, “It’s time to own up to the truth. Science has already affirmed what we have long since suspected: we can call them fertilized eggs, zygotes, blastocysts, products of conception, or fetuses, but that doesn’t change reality. And the reality is this: they are autonomous humans from the very beginning.” Come to BreakPoint.org, I’ll link you to this article. Please read it, study it, and then go have some productive pro-life conversations with your friends and neighbors.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Pay No Attention to the Baby on the Monitor

Feb 8, 2017 - 00:00:00

What were they thinking? An embarrassing article in The Atlantic reveals so much about the state of the pro-choice movement. Imagine being told that microscopes falsely “advance the idea” that bacteria and viruses cause disease. Or what if someone told you that telescopes falsely “advance the idea” that galaxies exist? You’d think that person was a few fries short of a happy meal, right? Well that’s exactly the sort of argument Moira Weigel made at The Atlantic last month in an article originally entitled—I’m not kidding: “How Ultrasound Advanced the Idea that a Fetus is a Person.” I say “originally,” because the title has since been changed to the much less provocative, “How Ultrasound Became Political.” Either way, Weigel’s point in this bizarre rant against medical technology is to convince readers that ultrasound imaging does not, in fact, reveal babies in the womb. Rather, it’s a tool pro-lifers have used to dupe women into seeing fetuses as human beings. She begins by recounting ultrasound’s origin as a weapon in submarine warfare—a weapon that men soon turned from the ocean’s briny depths “toward women’s bodies.” “Ultrasound,” Weigel opines, “made it possible for the male doctor to evaluate the fetus without female interference,” (as if women never become doctors). “The framing of the ultrasound,”—again, this is a quote—“was notable for what it excluded: the woman. In order to make the fetus visible, it made her disappear.” I’m not making this up. Weigel argues that the form on an ultrasound screen isn’t meaningfully different from the “rapidly dividing cell mass” of early pregnancy. “The current debate,” she writes, “shows how effectively politicians have used visual technology to redefine what counts as ‘life.’” Even social media, it seems, is part of this conspiracy to humanize the unborn. Expectant parents who post black-and-white or 3D images of their babies on Facebook and Instagram are willing accomplices in this propaganda, suggests Weigel, who makes no effort to mask her disdain for this “popular enthusiasm for fetal images.” This article was, to put it bluntly, an editor’s nightmare. In the days following its publication, it’s undergone major revisions, introducing a towering list of corrections about when a baby’s heart starts beating, when it has reflexes, major mistakes about the stories of those featured in the article, etc. As of this recording, the editor’s note was over 170 words long. Now look, I’m not going to pretend we here at BreakPoint have never made mistakes. We have! And we correct them whenever they’re identified. But the sheer volume of error in this deeply weird attack on medical technology leads me to believe it was written to obscure the truth, not reveal it. Weigel is right that ultrasound has been instrumental in the pro-life movement. Pregnancy care centers report that nearly eighty percent of abortion-minded women choose life after seeing their babies on screen. A 2014 study of Los Angeles Planned Parenthood clinics found that a statistically significant number of women who had already made abortion appointments changed their minds after seeing their babies. And organizations like Save the Storks report that four out of five women who accept their free ultrasound service choose life. Ultrasound is instrumental in the fight against abortion precisely because it allows women to make an informed choice by shedding light in a place which, for most of its history, has been shrouded in secrecy. And when the pro-choice camp rails so angrily against the light technology has shed, it almost seems like they prefer the darkness. Perhaps what they see on that monitor troubles them. And you know what? It should.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Emily Buchanan: The Ground Game for Life

Feb 7, 2017 - 00:00:00

Today Warren interviews another leading figure in the pro-life movement: Emily Buchanan, executive vice-president of the Susan B. Anthony list. Emily tells us about the Susan B. Anthony List’s ground game and its 2017 legislative agenda.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Story off Reality—Really

Feb 7, 2017 - 00:00:00

Can we ever really know the meaning of life? A new book dares to say “yes,” and then shows us how. The cover of a new book my good friend and apologist extraordinaire Greg Koukl makes a very bold claim. It promises to deliver “The Story of Reality: How the World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important that Happens in Between.” And in only 200 pages, Koukl delivers, walking us through, in a new and fresh way, God’s grand story of the universe. In essence, Koukl presents a succinct explanation of the biblical worldview, while contrasting it with other visions of reality, and along the way, making the case for the biblical worldview over and above the others. Koukl, a bestselling author and founder of the “Stand to Reason” apologetics ministry, tells the story of reality through five simple but profound words—God, Man, Jesus, Cross, Resurrection. If you think you’ve heard this kind of thing before, trust me—you haven’t. It’s a simple, but not simplistic, apologetics tour de force for everyday people in postmodern America—and I mean people both in the pews, and out. The need is great. As the Pew Research Center notes, the number of Americans who do not identify with any religion—those often called the “nones”—continues to grow. A third of adults under age 30 fall into this group. Just in the last five years, the ranks of those who claim no religion have grown from about 15% of U.S. adults to just under 20%. There are now more than 13 million self-identified atheists and agnostics, as well as nearly 33 million more who claim no particular religion. Many of them would say the Bible is a fairy tale. Nancy Pearcey, co-author with Chuck Colson of one of the great worldview books of all time, “How Now Shall We Live?,” begs to differ. “The Bible is not a fairy tale crafted by ancient people to give a sense of meaning to life,” she writes in the foreword to Koukl’s book. “It is an account of reality. [Koukl] calls it a story only because, amazingly, it turns out that reality itself is structured like a great drama: It has a beginning and an end; it features a struggle between good and evil; it reaches a climax and then resolves into denouement and a finale.” She adds, “The cosmos is not just a succession of brute facts. It is the plot line of a grand story that God is telling through the verifiable events of history.” daily_commentary_02_07_17One of the most powerful things that happens when people grasp this grand story is the realization they’ve been given a meaningful place in it. We’re not cogs in a soulless cosmic machine but players in the divinely orchestrated drama, helping to move the story to its thrilling conclusion—whether as ministers, missionaries, carpenters, homemakers, or business people. “Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters,” the Scriptures say, “since you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.” Unfortunately, there’s too little of this kind of applied knowledge happening in our churches, which is why we need books like this one. As pastor, author, and blogger Tim Challies says, “Koukl tells this big story for the benefit of new believers who haven’t yet assembled the various components of the faith into a coherent whole.” And I would add, not a few of us long-time believers need to re-focus on the grand story as well. Koukl is committed to training Christians to be ambassadors of this story, and to reach their not-yet Christian neighbors with the story of Christ’s lordship and the redemption of the whole creation, including our souls. His thoughtful, irenic approach is greatly needed in a culture in which “post-truth” is the word of the year. As Koukl writes, “There’s a desperate need to equip followers of Jesus Christ to explain and defend Christian beliefs and values with people who don’t understand our language and who don’t accept our source of authority.” I can safely say Koukl’s “The Story of Reality” meets that need—and then some. So please come to BreakPoint.org. Find out how you can get a copy for yourself, and one for a seeking friend while you’re at it.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Colson Fellows

Feb 6, 2017 - 00:00:00

It’s time to enlist in one of the best Christian worldview programs around. Before he became a radio host, before he started up Prison Fellowship, and before he worked in the Nixon White House, Chuck Colson was a United States Marine. Chuck took the Marines’ can-do attitude into everything he did—including his design of a culture and worldview thinking course called the Colson Fellows Program. In effect, if you complete this tough, nine-month long program, you will step out on the cultural stage as a worldview Marine. How does it work? Well, I’m glad you asked. Every year, people from around the country apply for the program, and we pick over 100 of them who are eager to learn how to articulate and defend biblical truth in the marketplace of ideas. We spend the next nine months putting them through worldview and culture boot camp. They study Christian classics and the best of contemporary writers. They watch films and debates, deepening their understanding of culture, and learning to identify the worldview messages in everything they read or watch. Colson Fellows also take part in bi-monthly webinars with Christian worldview speakers like John Stonestreet, Os Guinness, Sean McDowell, Nabeel Qureshi, and Joni Earackson Tada. Three times, you will join other Fellows in weekend residencies in Colorado Springs, Orlando, and Washington, DC, to meet one another and learn directly from great worldview teachers. And you’ll develop your own plan that will allow you to use your gifts and what you’ve learned for the benefit of others. So, who becomes a Colson Fellow? daily_commentary_02_06_17Professors. Homemakers. Filmmakers. Teachers. Lawmakers. Businessmen. University Presidents. College students. Ministers. They come from all over the world. People like my friend Michael Lindsay, president of Gordon College, and Gabe Lyons, another friend, author and founder of “Q” ideas. Christians come from as far away as New Zealand to join the program. After completing the program, Darren Ho, a businessman in Shanghai, designed a Workplace Initiative to help other expatriates integrate their vocation and faith to better serve their organizations—and in the process be a witness for Christ in China. And Paige Fischer, a culture manager at a pediatric rehab center, also became a Colson Fellow. Paige recently told us that the Colson Fellows Program “has helped me to re-ignite my passion for a world that desperately needs hope. My church has really come behind me recently and is allowing me the opportunity to teach Virtual Axis, [beginning] with the topic of Gender.” Another Colson Fellow, Chuck Lia, says the program “deepened, reshaped, and expanded my vision of how I could use my work as a coach and mentor to help young teenagers . . . The curriculum is comprehensive, the instructors truly outstanding, and the Colson Fellows themselves a terrific group across the board.” Yes, the Colson Fellows Program is demanding. But God will use it to prepare you for frontline Kingdom work. This was Chuck Colson’s great goal in the final years of his life: to teach people how to think Christianly about our fallen world, and to use their gifts to begin the repairing the damage in their own neighborhoods and communities. If you are interested in learning more about the Colson Fellows Program, please visit www.colsonfellows.org. I encourage you to check it out. If you think you have what it takes, fill out an application form. By the way, to make the program even more accessible and affordable, we now actually have regional Colson Fellows Programs in about ten cities around the country. As a worldview Marine, you will have a role in building up and healing our broken culture. So I really do hope you’ll apply. Within nine months, you, too, for Christ and His Kingdom, will become one of the few, the proud—well, actually the humble—the Colson Fellows. Semper fi and Ooorah!

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: The Order, the Judge, and the Movie

Feb 5, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss President Trump's executive order on immigrants and refugees, his nomination of Judge Neil Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and the Oscar-nominated movie, "Hidden Figures"

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Euthanasia and Organ Harvesting

Feb 3, 2017 - 00:00:00

When does allowing someone to die turn into encouraging someone to die? Always. Last November, Colorado became the sixth state to legalize physician-assisted suicide. It was and is a terrible idea. Among the arguments my colleague John Stonestreet and others made was the fact that the so-called “safeguards” in these kinds of laws are illusions. Experience in Europe shows that once you concede the principle that some lives are not worth living, the definition of what kinds of lives are not worth living expands. As one Belgian law professor put it, “What is presented at first as a right [to die] is going to become a kind of obligation.” Proponents of physician-assisted suicide dismiss these arguments as “alarmist” and deny that any such thing could happen. And then, it happens. Case in point: Last month, Julie Allard and Marie Chantal-Fortin, ethicists at the University of Montreal, argued that the organs of those who submit to physician-assisted suicide shouldn’t go to waste. Writing in the Quebec Journal of Medical Ethics, Allard and Chantal-Fortin said that “MAID (medical aid in dying) has the potential to provide additional organs available for transplantation. Accepting to procure organ donation after MAID is a way to respect the autonomy of patients, for whom organ donation is an important value.” The words “autonomy” and “important value” are window dressing for this ghoulish proposal. And I mean “ghoulish” in the original sense of monsters who live in graveyards and consume human flesh. While in this case the consumption takes the form of organ transplantation, in both instances the most vulnerable members of our society are viewed as potential forms of sustenance for the rest of us. Think of the Planned Parenthood videos: Human beings, made in the image of God, treated as the flesh-and-blood equivalent of a coal mine. And in case you think that Allard and Chantal-Fortin are wacky outliers, think again. In May of last year, both Transplant Quebec, which coordinates the organ donor process in the province, and an ethics committee of the Quebec government took similar positions. Allard and Fortin do acknowledge that “patients might feel that they are a burden and could only be useful if they were to give their organs,” and that “this would constitute a subtle form of coercion.” They also concede that “It will be difficult to disentangle patients’ motivations for requesting MAID.” Still, they’re confident that what they call the “complete separation” of the decision to end one’s life and the decision to donate one’s organs should be a sufficient safeguard. This, folks, is a delusion. As John mentioned on BreakPoint last November, the first thing that elderly Canadian patients were asked after receiving a cancer diagnosis was, “Do you wish to be euthanized?” No pressure there! Canadian ethicists may not see the potential for abuse, but the Australian journal Mercator.net did. For instance, “What if organ donation organizations promoted a standard advance directive which instructs your next-of-kin to arrange for organ donation euthanasia if you become seriously demented? There is no reason why this could not happen. In Belgium, demented people can be euthanized and organs are being accepted, even from elderly people. That would clean out the nursing homes and shorten the kidney waiting list.” Put simply, “the potential for exploiting vulnerable people is immense.” And the only way to safeguard against this is to not concede the principle that some lives are not worth living in the first place. Anything short of that turns people into strip mines.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Judge Neil Gorsuch

Feb 2, 2017 - 00:00:00

Judge Neil Gorsuch is President Trump’s nomination for the Supreme Court. And a great nomination it is. As you’ve no doubt heard, on Tuesday night President Trump nominated Neil Gorsuch of the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals to fill the vacancy created by the death of Justice Antonin Scalia. The president said that the nomination of Gorsuch was the fulfillment of a campaign promise to “find the very best judge in America” to sit on the Supreme Court. From where I sit, it looks like Mr. Trump may have delivered on his promise. Only time will tell of course, but we’ve many reasons to be hopeful about how Gorsuch will rule on issues of importance to Christians and Americans. As G.K. Chesterton once noted, what matters most when considering someone’s qualifications is their philosophy—what they believe about life and the world. What matters most for a Supreme Court justice is their legal philosophy. And it’s difficult to imagine a more reassuring testimonial than the one Gorsuch received from Colson Center friend and Wilberforce Award Winner Robert George of Princeton. George noted that Gorsuch and he both studied under Oxford philosopher John Finnis, one of the pre-eminent natural law theorists in the world. George added that, in addition to being academically gifted, Gorsuch is “deeply committed to the (actual) Constitution and the rule of law. [Gorsuch] will not manufacture ‘rights’ or read things into the Constitution that aren't there or read things out of the Constitution that are.” This is encouraging coming from the eminent Robby George. But that latter observation was also made by former Obama administration solicitor general Neal Katyal in a New York Times opinion piece titled, “Why Liberals Should Back Neil Gorsuch.” Even more encouraging are those things judge Gorsuch himself has written, starting with the most important issue of them all, the sanctity and dignity of human life from conception to natural death. In his 2006 book, “The Future of Assisted Suicide and Euthanasia,” Gorsuch made clear his opposition to so-called “death with dignity” laws, like the one just approved in his and in my home state of Colorado. His opposition is grounded on the “inviolability” of human life. As he wrote, “All human beings are intrinsically valuable . . . and the intentional taking of human life by private persons is always wrong.” He goes on to say that “We have all witnessed, as well, family, friends, or medical workers who have chosen to provide years of loving care to persons who may suffer from Alzheimer’s or other debilitating illnesses precisely because they are human persons, not because doing so instrumentally advances some other hidden objective.” Gorsuch’s words are especially welcome since, as we’ve talked about on BreakPoint, the next great front in the battle for the sanctity of life, and likely for religious freedom, will be over end-of-life issues like assisted-suicide and euthanasia. Speaking of religious freedom, Gorsuch sided with Hobby Lobby in its challenge to the HHS Mandate. In his concurring opinion he wrote the HHS mandate infringed on the religious liberties of the Green family, which owns Hobby Lobby, “by requiring them to lend what their religion teaches to be an impermissible degree of assistance to the commission of what their religion teaches to be a moral wrong.” He also sided with the Little Sisters of the Poor in their case for conscience rights. And as an added bonus, he’s a really good writer of legal opinions, something we miss and need since the death of Justice Scalia. So what now? Well, we should pray for Gorsuch and his family, given the fractious state of our politics. And of course, urge your Senators (even those who have said they will oppose Judge Gorsuch) to confirm this spectacularly qualified nominee to the Supreme Court. Please let your voice be heard. We’ve collected resources for you to learn more about judge Gorsuch at our website at BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Reason We March for Life

Feb 1, 2017 - 00:00:00

Last Friday was a great day for pro-lifers. It was also a great reminder of why we treat all of our opponents with respect—even if they don’t return the favor. You really have to see the time-lapse video to get a sense of the scope. Last Friday a river of people flowed past the U.S. Capitol building on their way to the Supreme Court, marching on behalf of those whom Washington, D.C. has long treated as invisible. The 44th annual March for Life drew an immense crowd—hundreds of thousands commemorating the anniversary of the Roe v. Wade decision and for yet another year, praying for an end to abortion. But this year, the mood was noticeably different. More hopeful. Even excited. As Vice-President Mike Pence said in his address to the crowd—the first ever from a sitting vice president—it was “the best day for the March for Life in more ways than one.” So much has changed in the space of the last twelve months. I remember last year’s march under the clouds of a looming snowstorm and an uncertain legal future. More recently, the discouraging Supreme Court decision striking down common-sense safety regulations on Texas abortion clinics even had some in the media announcing “the end of the pro-live movement.” It seemed, as a writer at Vox put it last year, “the culture wars are over and the winners are roaming the countryside looking for survivors to shoot.” How long ago that feels now with a pro-life majority in Congress, and a president who at least seems interested in keeping campaign promises to fight for the unborn. As Vice-President Pence told the crowd on Friday, “life is winning again in America.” And then there was another speaker you might have heard of: a guy named Eric Metaxas, who contrasted the March for Life with the recent Women’s March which excluded pro-lifers. “This is the inclusive march,” he said, “where as long as you are alive and a human being, you are welcome!” And then he did something that, to be honest, I think only Eric could pull off. He led the crowd in praying for Madonna, who topped the hysteria of other celebrities at the Women’s March by flinging profanities from the podium and saying she longed to blow up the White House. “Jesus told us to pray for our enemies,” said Eric. “And we’re crazy! We do it!” Eric’s theme was one I picked up on later that evening in my speech for the Evangelicals for Life conference. With the pro-life momentum in Washington, the temptation to look at those on the other side of this issue with contempt and even to seek revenge is going to be strong. But the response we must give is one of civility and gentleness. Whether it was Eric, Vice-President Pence, or the hundreds of thousands of marchers invading the nation’s capital, I saw the best and brightest of the pro-life movement demonstrating love and compassion. Not only for the smallest victims of abortion, but for those taken captive by the hollow and deceptive philosophy of the pro-abortion movement. Why civility? Well, certainly not because the other side reciprocates! And not because it’s “a winning strategy,” either. We do it because it’s right, because we embrace the core conviction that human beings are made in the image and likeness of God. We see our opponents in the abortion debate not as enemies to be defeated, but as victims themselves of bad ideas—captives that need to be set free. As Vice-President Pence said, we want our movement to be known for “love, not anger…compassion, not confrontation.” That’s why we marched, and that’s why countless Americans will continue to descend on the capital year after year to make their voices heard until Roe v. Wade is overturned for the bad law it is and we see an end to the greatest injustice of our time. God willing, that day is near. Eric’s speech—and mine as well—are featured this week on our BreakPoint podcast. Please, come to BreakPoint.org to find it, or simply subscribe to the BreakPoint podcast on your smartphone.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Executive Order

Jan 31, 2017 - 00:00:00

How should we as Christians think about President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees? Biblical clarity in this cultural moment. That’s central to the mission of the Colson Center. And after the release of President Trump’s executive order on immigration and refugees, and the resulting chaos of misinformation and hysteria, this is a moment when we need clarity. So here’s a framework for thinking Christianly about the intertwined issues of refugees, immigrants, and national security. Let’s start with clarity about what the order says. First, contrary to media, protesters, and Hollywood actors, the executive order was not a ban on Muslims, or on immigration, nor was it a radical break from U. S. policy. The order temporarily bans entry to the U. S. for those holding passports from seven nations previously identified by the Obama Administration as “countries of concern.” The order also directs administration officials to develop a plan for uniform screening, it suspends the refugee program for four months and bars refugees from Syria indefinitely. In addition, the order caps the number of refugees this year at 50,000, which, as David French noted in the National Review, is roughly in between what President Bush and President Obama would allow in a year. In fact, in 2011, President Obama himself suspended admitting Iraqi refugees for six months. The order also prioritizes refugee status for persecuted religious minorities, which President Trump admitted is designed to give priority to persecuted Christians, and it allows for case-by-case waivers. So, that’s what the order says. But how was it implemented? By all accounts, not well. There was initial confusion over whether green card holders—that is, permanent residents of the U. S.—would be allowed to return from overseas travel. Some legal residents were detained before Homeland Security Secretary John Kelly stated Sunday they’d be eligible for re-entry. And lawmakers on both sides of the aisle lamented the confusion and uncertainty, calling for better coordination between government agencies and Congress. Even now, things seem to be changing by the moment. So which key biblical worldview principles can we bring to bear on all of this? First and foremost, every human being is made in the image of God. Christians must start here, and therefore may never write off or refuse to care about the plight of whole peoples on any basis, and that includes being Syrian. Second, as Jesus said, the two greatest commands are to love God and to love our neighbors as ourselves. And Jesus told a parable about who is our neighbor. While ensuring America has uniform and effective standards for screening is both wise and necessary, shutting down the refugee program—for however long—should cause us grave concern. Lives are at stake. Third, we cannot ignore Jesus’ parable about the sheep and the goats where he said, “I was a stranger and you welcomed me.” American churches have a long history of loving Christ by showing love to refugees. And in this climate, we must ramp up our efforts toward these communities around us. Fourth, as Chuck Colson often said, government has a biblical mandate “to promote justice and restrain evil.” To restrain evil, a government must, justly, defend its nation’s borders and determine who gets to cross them, and who doesn’t. This requires distinguishing between tourists and immigrants on one hand, and refugees on the other. Finally, we cherish religious liberty, but not just for ourselves, for members of every faith. If the President’s order turns out to be a first step in fulfilling his campaign promise to ban all Muslim immigration, Christians must protest vigorously. I’ll have more to say as things clear up. But until then, let’s strive to see this through the mind of Christ. Pray for our leaders and for those in need, remembering that Jesus is both our savior and our judge.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Life and Love at the March for Life: Metaxas and Stonestreet

Jan 31, 2017 - 00:00:00

Rejoicing in recent pro-life victories and the success of the March for Life, today we present Eric Metaxas's speech at the March for Life and John Stonestreet's address to Evangelicals for Life.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
A Lack of Compassion in India

Jan 30, 2017 - 00:00:00

Why would India block foreign donations to help poor children? The answer is Hindutva. On January 13th, Compassion International told the sponsors of 130,000 Indian children that, barring an unlikely turn of events, it would cease operations in India in mid-March. The announcement came a year after the Indian government told the organization that “it could no longer receive funding from outside the subcontinent.” While the news dismayed Compassion’s donors, it shouldn’t have come as a surprise to those familiar with the deteriorating state of religious freedom in India. Compassion’s announcement comes shortly after Open Doors International released its “World Watchlist,” which ranked the worst countries in which to be a Christian. North Korea, of course, ranked first again. The next twelve countries are either overwhelmingly Muslim or, like Nigeria, are suffering from an Islamist insurgency—in this case, Boko Haram—that targets Christians. Then at #15, just behind Saudi Arabia, is India. Why? India is neither Islamic nor a repressive dictatorship like North Korea or China. David Curry, the CEO of Open Doors, told Morgan Lee and Mark Galli of Christianity Today that the situation in India reflects the rise of what he calls “ethnic nationalism,” in which what it means to be an Indian is defined in religious—in this case, Hindu—terms. An Indian who is a Christian or, for that matter, a Muslim, is regarded as less than truly Indian, because Hinduism is at the heart of what it means to be an Indian. This ideology goes by the name “Hindutva,” which literally means “Hinduness.” It’s an ideology that belies the western image of India as a land of Gandhi, gurus, and nonviolence. There’s nothing peaceful or tolerant about Hindutva. On the contrary, the man who assassinated Gandhi was an adherent of Hindutva and felt that Gandhi had betrayed the Hindu community. The current ruling party in India, the BJP, is ideologically committed to the idea of Hindutva. As Vice News put it, Prime Minister Narendra Modi, in addition to being implicated in the 2002 massacre of 2,000 Muslims while governor of Gujarat, has also been “accused of promoting India's majority religion of Hinduism to the detriment of Christianity, Islam, and other faiths.” The ruling party’s commitment to Hindu supremacy is perhaps best reflected in the various laws prohibiting religion conversion that I told you about on BreakPoint a year ago. Six Indian states have enacted laws in the past several years that effectively ban conversions from Hinduism to Christianity or to Islam. This is the political and cultural context in which Compassion’s decision must be seen. The Indian government knows that the money coming from outside of India is highly unlikely to be replaced by donations from within India. It also knows that it can use all the help it can get: 44% of Indian children under five are underweight and 72% of its infants suffer from anemia. So why block Compassion International? Because nationalism in the form of Hindutva trumps helping malnourished children. What can we do about it? The good news is that, unlike North Korea or Somalia, we do have some political leverage. India wants to increase its annual trade with the USA five-fold “over the near term.” Christians should let the Trump administration know that such increases must be accompanied by a greater respect for religious freedom on the subcontinent. And of course we should pray. Curry told Christianity Today that he would feel “much better” if he felt that the “American church” was “at least praying” for persecuted believers. At least, indeed.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Go See 'Hidden Figures'

Jan 27, 2017 - 00:00:00

I’ve found something every American can agree on: “Hidden Figures” is a fantastic movie. “We all get to the peak together, or we don’t get there at all.” That’s what Al Harrison of NASA told his team in the Oscar-nominated movie “Hidden Figures.” It’s not just a pep talk or a vague inspirational speech. Harrison’s words are desperately needed to address a serious problem in the way his department is treating Katherine Goble Johnson, the only woman and the only African-American on his team. Based on a true story, “Hidden Figures” focuses on the trials and triumphs of three such women at NASA’s Langley Research Center in Virginia in the early 1960s. Like their colleagues, these women were highly gifted mathematicians, dedicated to the U.S. space program. But their colleagues didn’t see their skills—only their race and their sex. The three were part of an entire group of black women who worked in Langley’s segregated West Area. When Al Harrison’s team can’t work out the math for the upcoming launch to put astronaut John Glenn into orbit, Katherine is tapped to figure it out. But in her new quarters, her co-workers deny her access to the communal coffee pot, restricting her to one with a “Colored” label on it. She’s forced to go back to West Langley every time she has to go to the ladies’ room—a 40-minute round trip—all because her new building has no segregated restrooms. And she’s not allowed to put her name on the reports that she works on. As painful and disturbing as it is to watch this open hostility and prejudice, this is not a story that wallows in the evils of segregation and racism—as inescapable as they were. And it’s impossible to walk away from the film and not shake your head at the damage that segregation did not only to the space program—but to American society overall. And as a husband and a father of three girls, I couldn’t help but squirm as well when Katherine (who’s a widow) is approached by a potential suitor, an Army Colonel, at church. He expresses surprise at Katherine’s mathematical prowess and achievements because, after all, she’s a woman . . . Katherine’s understandably chilly response sets the Colonel on the path to repentance. Even so, overall, this film is really about human endurance and the source of that endurance. “Hidden Figures” beautifully portrays the power of family, of community, and in very subtle but sure ways the power of faith. From scenes at the local church, to grace in Jesus’ name before dinner, to late-night after work tuck-ins where her daughters show Katherine how proud they are of her, home and church are the oases of peace and strength for Katherine, Mary, and Dorothy. And they’re not without allies at work. Harrison is one man who wants all hands on deck to get John Glenn into space. And when he sees what’s going on, he sets out to break down every barrier, even personally desegregating those restrooms—with a crowbar. And then there’s John Glenn, who goes out of his way to show respect to the women. Seeing Katherine’s facility with equations, Glenn is willing to trust her with his life, insisting that she be the one to “check the numbers” even as he is on the launch pad for his historic space flight. At one point in the film, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., is shown speaking on television. Among his words are these: “We think we are rendering a great service to our nation. For this is not a struggle for ourselves alone; it is a struggle to save the soul of America.” “Hidden Figures” is a wonderfully inspiring movie and it couldn’t come at a better time for our culture. On one hand, this increasingly racially divided land of ours badly needs to see a way forward, including the responsibility we all have to recognize, acknowledge, and enable the dignity of others. On the other hand, in an age where so many claim to be victims of oppression for not having free birth control or not having everyone endorse their lifestyle choices, we can learn from those who faced and overcame real oppression, and how we can help. So get the kids, get your friends, and please, go see “Hidden Figures.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Two Very Different Marches on Washington

Jan 27, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss two very different marches on Washington: The "Women's March" and the March for Life. Ed also gives his view on President Trump's executive order concerning refugees.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Pro-Woman, not Pro-Abortion

Jan 26, 2017 - 00:00:00

Women who don’t support abortion aren’t real women, according to many modern feminists. Here's why they should read more history. In a recent Saturday Night Live sketch, a group of millennial women visit the historic home of suffragette Susan B. Anthony in Rochester, New York. Devout feminists one and all, they decide before leaving to invoke the ghost of Anthony by saying her name three times. Lo and behold, she appears, played by Kate McKinnon—bun, lace collar, and all. Hilariously, the modern feminists find Anthony quite boring. She drones on about women’s rights and dignity, while they check their smart phones and argue about dinner. Until finally she says something that wakes them all up: “Abortion is murder!” Doubtless many modern feminists were taken aback by this Saturday Night slip-up, given the show’s liberal leanings. But as Serrin Foster of Feminists for Life told National Review, all of the “feminist foremothers…without known exception, spoke out against abortion.” That’s right. The suffragettes—Susan B. Anthony in particular—were fiercely pro-life, calling abortion a “crime against humanity,” “feticide,” and “child murder.” In fact, one of the primary organizations backing pro-life candidates today—the Susan B. Anthony list—does so in her name. Given how close the unborn were to the hearts of the earliest women’s rights crusaders, it’s troubling to see how unwelcome pro-life women are on the modern feminist stage. We saw this discrimination vividly last week during the nationwide Women’s March. Muffled but not quite absent were the voices of pro-life women. Several prominent pro-life organizations that applied as partners of the women’s march were either dis-invited or ignored, though several showed up anyway. Even the New York Times, in a surprising and praiseworthy piece, documented the virtual blackout of pro-life messages at the demonstration. After booting a Texas anti-abortion group, Women’s March co-chairwoman, Linda Sarsour, told the Times, “If you want to come to the march you are coming with the understanding that you respect a woman’s right to choose.” In other words, pro-lifers not welcome! “This is what we conservative women live with all the time,” said Charmaine Yoest, senior fellow at American Values: “This idea that somehow we aren’t really women and we just reflect internalized misogyny.” The Women’s March was, Yoest concluded, a “wholly owned subsidiary of the abortion movement.” And were it not for the unexpected coverage by the Grey Lady, these organizers may have succeeded in drowning out the pro-life message. But as Bob Dylan sang, the times, they’re a changin’. Just this month, the pro-choice Guttmacher Institute reported that abortions in the United States have fallen to their lowest rate since Roe v. Wade. A lot has contributed to this decline, from pro-life legislation and ultrasound availability, to widespread contraception use and the acceptance of unwed motherhood. So the news isn’t all good. But when you consider the growing movement of young people who see the rights of the unborn as a social justice issue, the tired assumption that feminism equals abortion support really begins to falter. Even pop culture and late night TV are straying from the pro-abortion script. And as Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote in National Review, this may be our chance to reintroduce an older, better women’s movement—one that didn’t pit the rights of mothers against the lives of their unborn children. And speaking of life, I hope you’ll join me, Eric Metaxas, and tens of thousands of others at March for Life activities this weekend in Washington, D.C. If you can’t make the trip, we still need to make our voices heard. Even more, we need to join in prayer! Our 21 Days of Prayer for Life guide is available for free as an app or a digital download. Find it at BreakPoint.org/21days.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Faith in the People?

Jan 25, 2017 - 00:00:00

Will we make it as a nation? That depends on where we put our trust. And lately, it’s been pointed in the wrong direction. Like many of you, I watched the inauguration of Donald Trump as the 45th President of the United States. And like many of you, there was much I appreciated in the ceremonies and also things that concerned me. But what really caught my attention were the remarks of New Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. After painting a very grim picture of the state of the nation, Schumer said this: “Despite these challenges, I stand here today confident in this great country for one reason: you, the American people.” Senator Schumer’s words echoed Barack Obama’s words at his final press conference as President, "At my core,” he said, “I think we're going to be OK . . . . I believe in the American people." Now when Schumer made his remarks, I joked to the Colson Center board members watching with me, that “William Jennings Bryan just woke up from his grave and said, ‘Amen!’ and Winston Churchill just woke up from his grave screaming, ‘No!’” Okay, it’s an obscure reference. Bryan was the classic populist politician of the early 20th century that led the prosecution at the famous Scopes trial. Bryan, known as the “Great Commoner,” was certain that the majority and popular opinion could be trusted at all times—whether in matters of politics, religion, or the teaching of science in the public schools. His overconfident faith in the American public, and in his own abilities as an orator, are at least partly responsible for the Scopes Trial being the embarrassing episode that it was. Churchill, on the other hand, knew better. He knew the majority could be wrong, and that mob rule was a very real and constant threat. So did our founding fathers, which is why they gave us a republic, not a pure democracy—and placed limits on both the majority and on the government itself. It’s why, for example, we have the electoral college. Chuck Colson tackled that issue back in 2000, shortly after the election of George Bush. You’ll remember how supporters of Al Gore called for the elimination of the electoral college, just as Clinton supporters are now. Chuck offered a much-needed civics lesson. “This country was never intended to be direct democracy,” he said, “nor was it intended that the president be elected by direct vote. And there was a very good reason for this, one greatly influenced by… biblical values.” In a republican form of government, the people elect representatives to govern. Power between central authority and local authorities—as well as between branches of government—is to be balanced. In an ideal republic, elected officials rise above polls and public passions and act in the best interest of the nation. Republics are also based on a constitution—a rule book, if you will—that protects the rights of individuals not only against a monarch, but from mob rule. It’s why, for example, the right to free speech can’t be voted away by a simple majority. To do that—heaven forbid—Congress and the states would have to amend the Constitution. “In this,” Chuck said, “the Founders were deeply influenced by the political understanding developed during the Protestant Reformation. Scottish cleric Samuel Rutherford wrote Lex Rex, or, the Law is King, which enshrined the rule of law over the monarch and over the people. All of this necessarily safeguards against the depravity of man. Because all men and women, from princesses to paupers, individuals and groups are, as John Calvin taught, predisposed to sin. So he not only argued against the "divine rule of kings," but also against direct democracy. Like the American founders two hundred-some years later, he “advocated a republican form of government with representatives chosen to lead for us—limited government, with powers balanced.” This, Calvin believed, “would best meet biblical objectives.” And he’s right. Will we be okay as a nation? That’s my prayer. But it’s not because I trust the people. After all, it’s right on the money: It’s in God we trust.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Students for Life: Motivating Pro-Life Millennials

Jan 24, 2017 - 00:00:00

In anticipation of this week’s March for Life, we present Warren Cole Smith’s interviews with two leaders of Students for Life: President Kristan Hawkins and Executive Vice-President Tina Whittington. Kristan and Tina discuss Students for Life and its mission to “abolish abortion in our lifetime.” Learn how Students for Life's high-touch, relationship building approach motivates Millennials to organize and advocate for the lives of the unborn.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Are We 99% Chimps?

Jan 24, 2017 - 00:00:00

Putting myths to rest is always a good thing, and right now it needs to be bedtime for Bonzo. Journalists and science writers endlessly repeat the biological bromide that “humans and chimpanzees are 99% genetically identical,” a factoid that has taken on a life of its own and. pun intended, has evolved into a worldview assumption. If our genes are virtually indistinguishable from those of chimpanzees, the reasoning goes, we must be virtually indistinguishable from chimpanzees! Kevin Williamson, writing at the National Review of all places, made this leap about Ivanka Trump’s rude welcome by fellow airline passengers recently. If we are, after all, 99% chimps, it’s not surprising our inner apes would make an appearance, say, on a JetBlue flight. Now, people certainly are capable of acting like animals, and the scientific-sounding assertion that we really are animals at heart seems to explain it. But there’s just one problem: It’s not true. Our DNA is not 99% identical to that of chimpanzees. Even if it were, that wouldn’t make us apes-except-for-one-percent. That’s bad genetic science and reductionist philosophy, to boot. Writing at Evolution News and Views, David Klinghoffer points out that the “99%” myth is based on hopelessly outdated research. But it got a shot in the arm after researchers at the Genome Consortium announced in 2005 they’d sequenced chimp DNA and compared it with our own. Newspapers the world over trumpeted the similarity between the two genomes as further proof of our close ancestry. What they neglected to mention was that the project only compared protein-coding segments of the genome, which in humans, account for just 2% of the total! The rest is what Francis Collins once termed “junk DNA.” Except, as scientists have since discovered and Collins has admitted, this “junk” serves regulatory roles that determine how other genes are expressed, particularly in the brain. In other words, “junk DNA,” which makes up the vast majority of our genome, is a vital part of what makes humans, human and chimps, chimps. Second, it turns out that the “99%” figure resulted from using a complete human genome as the template to sequence that of chimpanzees. That would be like assembling a jigsaw puzzle based on how another puzzle fit together! The comparison also selected for areas of greater similarity and discarded those that didn’t match. To put it very simply, the two genomes looked similar because researchers expected them to look similar. Based on what we now know, biologist and Senior Fellow at the Center for Science and Culture, Ann Gauger, estimates that humans and chimps share around 92% of our DNA. To put that in perspective, scientists tell us that we’re 90% identical to cats. But then it gets more complicated. As Gauger admitted in an interview with the Discovery Institute, recent advances show how differently human and ape bodies put specific genes to work. Special proteins called transcription factors switch certain genes on and off during development, and roughly a third of these are human-specific. Apes don’t even have them. The differences on the level of gene transcription, splicing, and expression are so profound that Gauger compares the process with an operating system, and protein-specific DNA with lines of code. They may look the same, but the results—a human and a chimp—could hardly be more different. As former British Prime Minister Benjamin Disraeli observed indignantly upon reading Darwin, human beings are more like angels than apes. And he was right. No animal speaks, composes symphonies, paints masterpieces, sends probes to Saturn, or more importantly—desires a relationship with God. Even if the “99%” canard were true, it wouldn’t make us 99% chimps any more than a diamond’s carbon composition makes it 99% coal. We’re not the sum of our genes, and it’s past time that journalists and commentators evolve past this outdated assertion.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Political Correctness Is Killing College

Jan 23, 2017 - 00:00:00

We’ve heard a lot about the flurry of “snowflakes” on college campuses. But it’s more like a blizzard. Fragile freshmen took to the streets following the presidential election. But at many schools, the politically-correct are upset about more than who’s moving into the White House. They’re demanding professors rewrite history itself to suit their feelings. Take the University of Pennsylvania, where NBC reports that students removed a portrait of William Shakespeare and replaced it with a photo of Audre Lorde, a “self-described black lesbian, mother, warrior, poet.” They did so to affirm “their commitment to a more inclusive mission for the English department.” Evidently this mission doesn’t include the single most important figure in the formation of the modern English language. But it’s not just colleges. Public schools in Accomack County, Virginia, removed a pair of titles from its libraries and classrooms after one mother complained that they contained racial slurs. The offending books? Mark Twain’s “The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” and Harper Lee’s “To Kill a Mockingbird.” The irony here, of course, is that these books were written to confront and expose racism, not promote it! But the prize for most jaw-dropping politically-correct purge has to go to students at London University. Apparently, enrollees in the School of Oriental and African Studies are demanding that figures such as Plato, Immanuel Kant, and Rene Descartes be removed from their philosophy curriculum, since they’re white and represent—stay with me now—“the structural and epistemological legacy of colonialism.” Their demand comes on the heels of a nationwide proposal which, if approved, would place student satisfaction in Britain “at the heart of the new ranking system.” In other words, the snowflakes would have more power than ever over schools that dare to challenge or offend them. On hearing of these politically-correct efforts to rewrite history, Sir Anthony Seldon, the vice-chancellor of Buckingham University, said there’s a “real danger political correctness is getting out of control.” That may be the understatement of the decade. Look, there are so many problems with this trend, I hardly know where to begin. But the first thing that comes to mind is a message for every student tempted to engage in snowflakery: Your emotions do not trump reality. That sentence probably requires more than one trigger warning, but it’s true. The facts of history don’t change because they hurt your feelings. And here are some irrefutable facts of history: Plato is essential to an education in philosophy, Harper Lee was not a racist, and if you want an English degree without studying and learning to appreciate Shakespeare, it will not be worth the paper on which it’s printed. That’s not racist, sexist, homophobic, or colonial. It’s reality. It’s great to study figures outside the traditional Western canon. But we don’t study philosophers, explorers, or inventors because they agreed with our politics. We study them because they shaped our world, and to understand that world, we need to understand them. That’s what education is all about. The idea that learning should never offend us, or that college should be a “safe space” free of uncomfortable ideas is destroying modern education. And the institutions and governments that cave to these demands are just as guilty as the students making them. As Christians, we can lead the way by being the first to engage opposing ideas, rather than silencing them. Failing that, a snow shovel may be in order.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: The Inauguration and Political Panic

Jan 20, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss the panic in the media over the upcoming Trump Administration. They also talk about clemency for Bradley Manning and Compassion International's struggles with the government of India

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Persecution and Evil in the Heavenly Realms

Jan 20, 2017 - 00:00:00

Some claim that Christianity is a “religion of the powerful.” But try telling that to persecuted Christians! In America, increasing numbers of people in our colleges and in the media are worried about various “micro-aggressions” and “insensitivities.” So those who find themselves so offended by the words of others can repair to a designated “safe space,” where they can work out their distress with hugs and perhaps coloring books. They probably never heard that saying about sticks and stones. Meanwhile, these delicate flowers are missing out on the biggest story of injustice in the world. According to multiple agencies, adherents of Christianity—supposedly the religion of the powerful—face far more persecution than followers of any other religion. Let me give you a few data points about what this means for our brothers and sisters worldwide before telling you what it all means for us. For the second straight year, according to a study from the Italian-based Center for Studies on New Religions, up to 600 million followers of Jesus worldwide are being prevented from practicing their faith, with untold numbers paying the price of martyrdom. While much of the persecution comes from the Islamic State and similar radical Muslim groups, Christians face discrimination from many sources. The Pew Research Center counts 145 countries where Christians face harassment or worse—145! In Iraq, with the breakdown in order since the Gulf War, the number of Christians has evaporated from about 1.5 million in 2003 to somewhere around 275,000 today. Many were killed; many more have been driven out as refugees. In Pakistan, India, and Myanmar, nationalist religious movements—whether Muslim, Hindu, or Buddhist—have falsely tagged Christians as agents of Western powers and seek to restrict their freedoms. The U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom notes that China has increased its level of persecution against Christians. Many church buildings have been bulldozed. Pastor Bao Guohua and his wife were sentenced to 14 and 12 years in prison for opposing a government campaign to remove crosses from churches. It’s no wonder that Robert Nicholson of the Philos Project says, “There are many places on earth where being a Christian is the most dangerous thing you can be.” We know that the default setting for the daily lives of many fellow believers around the world is not power, but persecution. But what does this mean for those of us here in the still relatively protected West? Well, of course first and foremost we should pray for our persecuted brethren. And yes, we should speak up for them, with our government, in the media, with our neighbors, and wes should support organizations that aid the persecuted. We know that when one member of the Body suffers, we all suffer. But let me also suggest that a focus on persecuted Christians helps us develop a biblical worldview and a solid Christian discipleship. The Bible says that we battle not against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms (Eph 6:12), and that our adversary, the devil, goes about like a roaring lion, looking for someone to devour (1 Pet 5:8). Persecution reminds us we are in a spiritual battle—all of us—and that we all must face the possibility that standing for Jesus could prove costly indeed. Persecution, as the struggles of our fellow believers attest, is a normal part of the Christian life. 1 Timothy 3:12 reminds us that all who want to live a godly life for Jesus will face it. There are no “safe spaces” for Christ-followers in this world. Martyrdom can be expected. The church historian Eusebius said that the early martyrs “wove a crown to offer to the Father; … and having triumphed gloriously should win the mighty crown of immortality.” A Christian worldview reminds us we are in a spiritual battle, one that requires courage—and not safe spaces. Are we ready to don the full armor of God?

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Saving Private Manning

Jan 19, 2017 - 00:00:00

In one of the final acts of his presidency, Mr. Obama has granted clemency to Bradley Manning. Here’s what it reveals. On Tuesday, president Obama, using his constitutional powers “to grant reprieves and pardons for offenses against the United States,” commuted the sentence of former Army private Chelsea Manning. Now, in case you missed it, that wasn’t Manning’s first name six-plus years ago. At that point, it was Bradley, and it was Bradley Manning who was sentenced to thirty-five years in prison for, among other things, espionage and theft. Given the nature of Manning’s offenses, any executive clemency was bound to be controversial, but it’s what happened after Manning’s conviction that raises doubts about why Manning was the recipient of presidential clemency. It’s impossible to really know the president’s motives. But a quick examination of the facts reveals that there’s reason to believe that a culture-war agenda played a disturbing role in this story. To start at the beginning, in early 2010, a series of diplomatic cables and war logs began to appear on the WikiLeaks website. In total, more than 600,000 classified documents had been leaked to the site. The source of the leak was Manning. His stated justification was "to show the true cost of war” to the public in the hopes that it “would come to the conclusion that the war wasn't worth it.” In May, 2010, Manning was arrested and charged with 22 offenses, including aiding the enemy, which carried a potential death sentence. Three years later, Manning was acquitted of the most serious charge but found guilty of 17 others, including “five counts of espionage and theft.” At this point, it seems pretty straightforward. Manning’s actions jeopardized national security and placed people in harm’s way. But, in this case “straightforward” is the last word anyone would use to describe Manning’s actions. At the sentencing phase, Manning’s lawyers “raised questions about whether Manning's confusion over her gender identity affected her behavior and decision making.” Note the use of the feminine pronoun by the lawyers. A military psychologist testified that “Manning had been left isolated in the Army, trying to deal with gender-identity issues in a ‘hyper-masculine environment.’” Thus, Manning went from being a misguided-to-the-point-of-possibly-traitorous “whistleblower” to a transgendered martyr, a transformation underscored by the name change from Bradley to Chelsea, a change that media outlets adopted immediately. Reasonable people can disagree on whether seven years for his actions is a sufficient punishment. At the time of his sentencing, the New York Times argued that “much of what Private Manning released was of public value.” And all of his supporters argued that 35 years was far too long a sentence. The problem is the same arguments can be made about other people who are not the beneficiaries of presidential clemency. Like Edward Snowden, who revealed the NSA’s surveillance program to the country. One could argue the “public value” of his actions far exceeded those of Manning’s. Which is why it’s reasonable to suspect that Manning’s status as transgendered icon had something to with the president’s actions. As the New York Times put it, “The decision by President Obama rescued Ms. Manning from an uncertain future as a transgender woman incarcerated at a male military prison.” Now, as a Christian, I’m not opposed to clemency. And I’m willing to consider Manning’s documented history of mental illness and suicide attempts as mitigating factors. But in the end, I find it hard to disagree with David French, writing in the National Review: “Manning isn’t a woman in need of rescue. He’s a soldier who committed serious crimes. He … just dumped hundreds of thousands of classified documents into the public domain ….without the slightest regard for the lives of others. Manning is a traitor who pled guilty to a lesser offense to avoid the full penalty for his crimes… [President] Obama’s commutation of his sentence is a disgrace.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Donald Sweeting: The Challenges Facing Christian Universities

Jan 18, 2017 - 00:00:00

The Colson Center’s Warren Cole Smith interviews Donald Sweeting, the President of Colorado Christian University. Higher education, especially Christian higher education, is facing daunting challenges in this hyper-secular culture of ours. Warren and Donald discuss how Christian colleges are adapting, and what it is, exactly, that makes a university distinctly Christian.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Gender and Gravity as Social Constructs

Jan 18, 2017 - 00:00:00

Most folks laugh when they read that gravity is a social construct. But most folks aren’t academics. The latest issue of the Chronicle of Higher Education includes an “oral history” of one of the greatest hoaxes in recent American history: Alan Sokal’s pranking of a postmodern literary journal. Twenty years ago, the “left-wing cultural-studies journal” Social Text, published an article by Sokal, then as now, a professor of mathematics and physics at New York University. The article was entitled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.” Now, if the title sounds like gibberish to you, you probably don’t read many “left-wing cultural studies” journals like Social Text. The same issue Sokal’s article appeared in included articles entitled “Unity, Dyads, Triads, Quads, and Complexity: Cultural Choreographics of Science,” and “Meeting Polemics with Irenics in the Science Wars.” So, title-wise, Sokal’s article fit right in. The same was true of his content. “Liberally citing” the works of “feminist epistemologists, philosophers of science, and critical theorists,” Sokal “endorsed the notion that scientists had no special claim to scientific knowledge.” Just as postmodern theory pronounced that so-called facts about the physical world were mere social or political constructs, he wrote, “quantum gravity undermined the concept of existence itself, making way for a ‘liberatory science’ and ‘emancipatory mathematics.’” A quote attributed, probably incorrectly, to George Orwell goes, “There are some ideas so absurd that only an intellectual could believe them.” Whether or not Orwell actually said it, history strongly suggests it’s true, which is why no one at the journal raised an eyebrow when Sokal submitted his article. That fell to Sokal himself. Two weeks after the publication, he told another journal that the article was a hoax prompted by a desire “to expose the sloppiness, absurd relativism, and intellectual arrogance” of "certain precincts of the academic humanities.” He added that “Anyone who believes that the laws of physics are mere social conventions is invited to try transgressing those conventions from the windows of my [twenty-first floor] apartment.” Twenty years later, as George Will notes in the Washington Post, it’s clear that little if anything has changed. To be certain, no one is calling gravity “socially-constructed,” but as Will put it, “Twenty years on, one lesson of Sokal’s hoax is that many educators are uneducable.” A case in point is sex and gender. The same issue that published Sokal’s hoax contained an article entitled “Gender and Genitals: Constructs of Sex and Gender.” In it, the author argued that the “‘Western assumption that there are only two sexes’ is being refuted by ‘a rainbow of gender’ purged of ‘the binary male/female model.’” Now, this may have seemed as absurd as “socially-constructed” gravity in 1996, but it’s become mainstream twenty years later. The cover story of the January 2017 issue of National Geographic is one long purging of “the binary male/female model” and a celebration of “a rainbow of gender.” Regrettably, refuting this bit of unscientific gibberish isn’t as simple as inviting someone to step outside a 21st floor window. Nevertheless, as Chuck Colson liked to say, just as there are physical laws of the universe, so there are moral laws. Transgress either, and you’re in for a world of hurt. Speaking of refuting gibberish . . . how well are you prepared to not only truly understand what you believe, but also to defend what you believe in your sphere of influence: at home, at school, or at work? Please consider applying for the Colson Fellows Program. Please visit ColsonFellows.org today.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Prosperity Prayer at the Inauguration

Jan 17, 2017 - 00:00:00

A well-known preacher of prosperity will be praying at the inauguration. It’s time to expose their so-called “gospel” for what it is. As you may have heard, several prominent religious leaders have been chosen to lead prayers at the upcoming presidential inauguration. Among them: Franklin Graham, and the Archbishop of New York, Timothy Cardinal Dolan. Graham of course is the son of the great Billy Graham, and Cardinal Dolan, the recipient of the 2013 Wilberforce Award. But it’s a third prominent person chosen to pray that has raised both eyebrows and, truth be told, more than a few hackles in part of the Christian world. Paula White is the Senior Pastor of the New Destiny Christian Center in Apopka, Florida, a megachurch with thousands of members. She is also a televangelist and author of numerous books. Now, I mention her today because both throughout the election and now, she’s being referred to as an evangelical Christian leader despite both political controversy and deep theological error. Politically, she, along with Bennie Hinn, Joyce Meyers, Kenneth Copeland and others, were the subject of a three-year investigation headed by Senator Charles Grassley of Iowa prompted by complaints of “lavish spending at the ministries,” including the purchase of private jets. Now, I don’t believe in government oversight of theology and ecclesiastical practice. But, truth be told, it’s the theological error in the prosperity gospel movement that led to this political investigation. And the theological error is so grave, we must not allow it to be confused with the actual Gospel. You’ll forgive me for citing Wikipedia’s two-part definition of the “prosperity gospel,” but it’s quite accurate, and it reveals the error of which I speak. First, followers of the prosperity Gospel believe that “financial blessing and physical well-being are always the will of God for them.” The phrase “financial blessing” goes beyond the meeting of basic material needs to what could reasonably be characterized as “luxuries.” Second, “faith, positive speech, and donations to religious causes will increase one’s material wealth.” In other words, God can, through our thoughts and actions, be manipulated into giving us what we want. And if we don’t get what we asked for, it’s because we didn’t have enough faith, we allowed doubt to creep in, or we weren’t generous enough. Now, if that sounds strikingly similar to something you might hear from Oprah, there’s a good reason. There is more than a little overlap between the worldview underlying the prosperity gospel and that underlying stuff like “The Secret” by Rhonda Byrne and its “law of attraction.” Neither are compatible with the teaching of the New Testament or historic, orthodox Christianity. Consider White’s own words from her TBN show: “There is creative power in your mouth right now. God spoke and created the universe; you have creative power to speak life and death! If you believe God, you can create anything in your life.” There is problem enough with those words without taking into account that exercising this “creative power,” according to prosperity preachers, almost always requires an upfront financial commitment. These and other heterodox beliefs are why Michael Horton of Westminster Seminary, writing in the Washington Post recently, said that the prosperity gospel is not “just another branch of Pentecostalism,’ but instead, “another religion.” Now sadly, Graham and Dolan are catching flak for appearing on the same platform as White. But that’s unfair. Ministers of the Gospel should always take the opportunity to speak truth to power. And at a time when the general public—and certainly the media—barely understands Christianity, we need to take the opportunity to point out the very significant differences between the prosperity gospel and the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
King's Dream

Jan 16, 2017 - 00:00:00

I’m Eric Metaxas. Today on BreakPoint we re-present Chuck Colson’s commentary on Martin Luther King Day and Dr. King’s dramatic defense of the moral law. More than forty years ago, on August 28, 1963, a quarter million people gathered in front of the Lincoln Memorial. They marched here for the cause of civil rights. And that day they heard Martin Luther King Jr. deliver his famous “I Have a Dream” speech, a speech in which he challenged America to fulfill her promise. “I have a dream,” he said, “that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed. ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident that all men are created equal.’ ” While we know of the speech, most people are unaware that King also penned one of the most eloquent defenses of the moral law: the law that formed the basis for his speech, for the civil rights movement, and for all of the law, for that matter. In the spring of 1963, King was arrested for leading a series of massive non-violent protests against the segregated lunch counters and discriminatory hiring practices rampant in Birmingham, Alabama. While in jail, King received a letter from eight Alabama ministers. They agreed with his goals, but they thought that he should call off the demonstrations and obey the law. King explained why he disagreed in his famous Letter from a Birmingham Jail. “One might well ask,” he wrote, “how can you advocate breaking some laws and obeying others?” The answer “is found in the fact that there are two kinds of laws: just laws … and unjust laws. One has not only a legal but a moral responsibility to obey just laws,” King said, “but conversely, one has a moral responsibility to disobey unjust laws.” How does one determine whether the law is just or unjust? A just law, King wrote, “squares with the moral law of the law of God. An unjust law ... is out of harmony with the moral law.” Then King quoted Saint Augustine: “An unjust law is no law at all.” He quoted Thomas Aquinas: “An unjust law is a human law not rooted in eternal or natural law.” This is the great issue today in the public square: Is the law rooted in truth? Is it transcendent, immutable, and morally binding? Or is it, as liberal interpreters argue, simply whatever courts say it is? Do we discover the law, or do we create it? Many think of King as a liberal firebrand, waging war on traditional values. Nothing could be further from the truth. King was a great conservative on this central issue, and he stood on the shoulders of Augustine and Aquinas, striving to restore our heritage of justice rooted in the law of God. Were he alive today, I believe he’d be in the vanguard of the pro-life movement. I also believe that he would be horrified at the way in which out of control courts have trampled down the moral truths he advocated. From the time of Emperor Nero, who declared Christianity illegal, to the days of the American slave trade, from the civil rights struggle of the sixties to our current battles against abortion, euthanasia, cloning, and same-sex “marriage,” Christians have always maintained exactly what King maintained. King’s dream was to live in harmony with the moral law as God established it. So this Martin Luther King Day, reflect on that dream—for it is worthy of our aspirations, our hard work, and the same commitment Dr. King showed. Narrator: Before we leave you today, we want to invite you to join with thousands of Christians in prayer for life. The Colson Center has created the “21 Days of Prayer for Life” prayer guide. Along with daily prayers, it’s filled with moving stories that will inspire you to take up the mantle and stand for life. It’s great for individual prayer, family prayer, and for small groups. So come to BreakPoint.org/21days and download it for free. “21 Days of Prayer for Life” is also available as an app for your smart phone. (This commentary originally aired on August 28, 2003.)

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Celebrities, Politics, and Persecution

Jan 13, 2017 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss the politicization of award ceremonies, President Obama's farewell, and the latest report on the persecution of Christians worldwide.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Breaking the Materialist Spell

Jan 13, 2017 - 00:00:00

You can learn a lot from fairy tales. But first you have to know whether you’re living in one. In Hans Christian Andersen’s tale, “The Emperor’s New Clothes,” all the king’s subjects go along with the consensus view that their monarch has a beautiful new set of royal garments. Just one small boy speaks the obvious truth—that the king is parading around without any clothes at all. Something similar is happening in our day. Writing in the Wall Street Journal, Andrew Klavan, author of the new book “The Great Good Thing: A Secular Jew Comes to Faith in Christ,” says our culture is under the spell of materialism—a materialism that categorically denies any spiritual reality and is completely blind to its own contradictions. Take the observation of psychologist Steven Pinker, who said, “I don’t believe there’s such a thing as free will in the sense of a ghost in the machine, a spirit or soul. I think our behavior is the product of physical processes in the brain.” Of course, Pinker doesn’t answer the obvious follow-up question: If that’s true, then how do you know it? Mere “physical processes,” absent a directing intelligence, give us no reason to trust their accuracy. Pinker isn’t the only one to have fallen for this illogical secular worldview. A lot of us have absorbed it subconsciously, which you can tell from our everyday language. For example, Klavan points out, “People say they experienced an ‘adrenaline rush,’ not that they were excited. Or, “people say they are ‘hard-wired’ for certain behaviors and ‘programmed’ for others. The underlying message? A human being is a cross between a chemistry set and a computer, his actions governed solely by a series of discharges and sparks.” On the contrary, Klavan asserts, a “person doesn’t make a choice because of processes in the brain. Those processes simply express the choice in the material world. Even if every impulse and every emotion is eventually mapped in the brain, there will still be not one iota of evidence that they originated there. It seems far more in keeping with what we know to assume that experience is spiritual and that the body expresses it the same way words express, but do not constitute, ideas.” This is not to dismiss the reality of chemicals and the like as markers of our physical existence—but we are more, much more, than a bag of chemicals interacting with our environment. The Bible presents us as embodied souls, with hints of both heaven and earth in our frames. If, as materialists suggest, that we and our choices and behaviors are merely chemical reactions, then things like love, virtue, right and wrong, are absolutely meaningless. Which is why pure materialism leaves us vulnerable to despotism. As Klavan writes, “Thinkers from John Adams to Marcello Pera have cited specifically Christian principles as the foundation of the West’s freedoms. A materialist worldview leaves formerly Christian cultures philosophically weak when those freedoms come under attack. Materialism strips humans of the logic of their humanity—which is the whole point of Western liberty.” Breaking the materialist spell, Klavan writes, “requires rebelling not against scientific facts but against flawed scientistic logic.” So we will need more people willing to see what’s before their eyes, challenge the secular illogic, and speak the truth—that the materialist emperor truly has no clothes. And that’s exactly what we seek to do here at the Colson Center: speak the truth and help you understand and defend the Christian worldview. Two things are coming up that you need to know about. First, we are accepting applications for the next class of Colson Fellows. Honestly, it is one of the best worldview training programs around. And also, please consider attending the 2017 Wilberforce Weekend, featuring Os Guinness and Ravi Zacharias. Come to BreakPoint.org to learn more.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Are You a Dangerous Christian?

Jan 12, 2017 - 00:00:00

How far can Christianity be reduced before it’s no longer Christianity? We need to be able to answer that question with a firm answer. One of C. S. Lewis’ most famous arguments is his so-called “trilemma,” laid out in “Mere Christianity.” Because of the things Jesus said and did, reasoned Lewis, He must either have been a liar, a lunatic, or Lord. He made this point to debunk the most common secular misconception of Jesus, which has only grown more popular in the last half century. “I can accept Jesus as a great moral teacher,” says the secularist. “Maybe He was a kind of first-century Gandhi. But I can’t accept him as God in human flesh.” Lewis called this idea “patronizing nonsense.” Apart from the historic belief that Jesus is God and man, born of a virgin, that He died for our sins, was buried, and rose from the dead on the third day, Lewis could see no future for Christianity. “Mere” or bare-minimum Christian faith, he argued, requires a belief in these miracles. Yet many today still insist that some kind of stripped-down, “bare-essentials” Christian faith is possible, and that the ancient summaries like the Apostles’ Creed are too exclusive. During a sit-down interview with pastor Tim Keller just before Christmas, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof suggested that Christianity can survive without the virgin birth or Resurrection. “I deeply admire Jesus and his message,” he said, “but am also skeptical of themes that have been integral to Christianity—the virgin birth, the Resurrection, the miracles, and so on.” Are these really that essential to the Christian faith? Isn’t it possible to be a Christian without embracing them? Keller replied that you can’t remove Jesus’ miraculous entry into the world or His miraculous return to life “without destabilizing the whole [of Christianity]. A religion can’t be whatever we desire it to be.” He went on to explain that the main point of Jesus’ teaching, and of the New Testament, is not a moral maxim, but a message: that Jesus Christ is God in human form, Who was and did everything the ancient creeds say. And believing this is essential. As Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 15, if Christ did not rise from the dead, our faith is vain, and we Christians are to be pitied above all people. Now as far as I’m concerned, Keller knocked it out of the park. But judging by the letters to the editor, it seems many readers felt differently. One United Church of Christ minister chided the paper for allowing an evangelical to represent Christianity. The creeds, she wrote, “are not tests of faith for individuals,” and “the virgin birth is not central.” And a religion professor at Hofstra University scolded the Times for giving a “platform” to Keller’s “dangerous” reading of Christianity. If you know anything about Tim Keller, a lot of adjectives come to mind. But “dangerous” isn’t one of them. But to those who prefer patronizing nonsense to historic Christianity, there’s nothing more dangerous than someone who can convincingly articulate the miraculous doctrines at the core of our faith. In our culture of skepticism and unbelief, being winsome doesn’t guarantee a warm reception. But messengers like Keller not only make the claims of historic Christianity more accessible in our secular culture, they model what it looks like to be both loving and—as our critics put it— “dangerous.” At our 2017 Wilberforce Weekend the Colson Center is hosting two of the most dangerous Christians around—Ravi Zacharias and Os Guinness. May 19th through the 21st in Washington D.C. This will be our biggest event yet, and we want you to be there. Why? Because “dangerous Christianity” can’t be outsourced to the professionals alone. All who follow Christ are to be informed and equipped to proclaim Him to the world around them. So visit WilberforceWeekend.org to reserve your spot—and be strengthened as you contend for the faith delivered once for all.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Real History, Toilets and All

Jan 11, 2017 - 00:00:00

t’s been a great few years for biblical archaeology. Here are three of our favorite examples. Just before or after New Year’s, everyone—or at least so it seems—comes out with a “Best of” list. These best-known lists can contain movies, music, television shows, books, whatever. But there are other “Best of” lists worth noting, and in the case of today’s BreakPoint, worth mimicking. Christianity Today recently ran an article entitled “Biblical Archaeology’s Top Ten Discoveries of 2016.” Great idea. So we here at BreakPoint wondered, “Why not come up with our own list of recent favorites from biblical archaeology?” Since time does not permit me to list ten finds, I will settle for three that we talked about on BreakPoint in 2016. At a minimum, these finds shed new light on the world of the Bible and help us in understanding the words of Scripture. In other cases, they actually confirm portions of the scriptures whose historicity, until recently, was in doubt. But all are a potent reminder that biblical faith is rooted in actual human history, as befits a people who confess that “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.” So with no further ado, drumroll please. Number three in our list are the recent discoveries that shed light on the life and time of what I called “least-understood yet incredibly-important person in the Bible,” Mary Magdalene. As I said back in April, “more people [mistakenly] ‘know’ that she was a prostitute—which is based on a misreading of Luke, chapters 7 and 8—than the fact that she was the first witness to the Lord’s resurrection.” An excavation of her home town, Magdala, just five miles from Capernaum, discovered the remains of a synagogue, and even more exciting, a first-century Roman coin bearing the image of Tiberius. As the head of the dig told the New York Times, there was “circumstantial evidence” that Jesus had been at the site. What’s more, the evidence shows Magdala to have been a prosperous town, which is in keeping with Luke which tells us that Mary was among the women who “provided for Jesus and His disciples ‘out of their resources.’” Number two on our list of best biblical archaeological finds is the excavation of a “monumental pool from the Second Temple period, the period in which Jesus lived.” In other words, the Pool of Siloam. You’ll recall from John 9 when Jesus encountered the man born blind, he spat on the ground, made mud, placed it on the man’s eyes, and told him to go “wash in the pool of Siloam.” The finding is further confirmation that the fourth Gospel “rests on extraordinarily precise knowledge of times and places, and so can only have been produced by someone who had an excellent firsthand knowledge of Palestine at the time of Jesus.” But my personal favorite was the discovery of a toilet. Specifically, a toilet discovered at Tel Lachish. It was discovered in a “large room that appears to have been a shrine.” “The room contained two four-horned altars, whose horns had been intentionally damaged.” As John Stonestreet told BreakPoint listeners, the damage was, in likelihood, part of King Hezekiah’s reforms. But what about the toilet? Well, if you’re going to desecrate a pagan shrine, nothing does the trick like turning it into an outhouse, which is exactly what another reformer, Jehu, did to a temple of Ba’al in 2 Kings. Apparently, Jehu wasn’t unique in this regard. Findings like these should not surprise us. As John put it, “The Bible is the best-attested book of antiquity. Nothing else is within the same solar system.” Our faith is firmly rooted in history, not some “once upon a time.” So for more on biblical archaeology and a link to Christianity Today’s list of biblical archaeological discoveries, come to BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
No Federal Funding for Planned Parenthood!

Jan 10, 2017 - 00:00:00

Planned Parenthood sold baby parts and should be stripped of funding. So finds a select House investigative panel. One of the first actions of the 115th Congress was the release of a report by a Select Investigative Panel of the Energy and Commerce Committee. The subject of the report wasn’t, as the committee’s name might suggest, about fracking or trade but something much more important: the sanctity and dignity of human life. Specifically, it was about revelations of likely wrongdoing by Planned Parenthood, in particular, but not only, the sale of fetal body parts. As you probably know by now, these practices came to light as the result of undercover videos made by the Center for Medical Progress. In the videos, Planned Parenthood employees and officials discussed the prices parts of aborted fetuses could fetch, often in a matter-of-fact-bordering-on-the-cavalier fashion. As a result of the revelations, the Panel, chaired by Representative Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, held hearings and put the nation’s largest abortion provider under a long-overdue microscope. What they found wasn’t pretty, to say the least. The least troubling was a pattern of over-billing Medicaid and other healthcare funding programs to the tune of $132 million dollars. More serious and far more troubling is Planned Parenthood’s disregard for the National Organ Transplant Act. The Act provides that “[i]t shall be unlawful for any person to knowingly acquire, receive, or otherwise transfer any human organ for valuable consideration for use in human transplantation if the transfer affects interstate commerce.” Any fair-minded viewing of the Center’s videos would lead one to the conclusion that there is enough evidence to support a case that Planned Parenthood broke that law, what lawyers call “prima facie” evidence. Certainly there was enough evidence to warrant future investigation, which did not happen under the Obama administration. Instead, it was the people who brought the possible violations of the law to the public’s attention who were prosecuted. Perhaps “persecuted” would be the better word, given the absurdity of the charges, all of which were dropped or dismissed. For these and many other reasons, including the impact of selling fetal tissue on the obtaining of patient consent, the Select Investigative Panel recommended that Congress strip Planned Parenthood of federal funding. In addition, it recommended that Congress take action to ensure that all donations of fetal tissue are made with informed consent, and that it clarify abortion law to ensure “abortion businesses do not harm women in order to procure fetal tissue.” It also called on Congress to pass legislation outlawing abortion after twenty weeks, and to establish “criminal penalties to enforce the Born-Alive Infants Protection Act.” How likely is Congress to act on these recommendations? I don’t know, and I’m somewhat troubled by Speaker Ryan’s statement that defunding Planned Parenthood will be part of a larger attempt to repeal Obamacare. I’m thankful for his public statement, but the defense of human life and dignity should never be held hostage to another political fight. Still, the Panel’s reports and the recommendations are an encouraging sign of how the political argument about abortion may have begun to shift in keeping with the broader cultural shift towards life. A decade ago, abortion on demand was considered legally and politically unassailable. Today, it’s hard to miss the note of panic among the defenders of the abortion regime. Praise God for that. And that’s why I’m asking you to join us with thousands of other Christians this month by getting and using our “21 Days of Prayer for Life” prayer guide. The guide will not only help you pray for life, but it’ll equip you to make a powerful case for life. It’s a free .pdf download at BreakPoint.org, or an app for your iPhone or smart phone.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Michael Matheson Miller: Poverty, Inc., part II

Jan 10, 2017 - 00:00:00

Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, we present the second part of Warren Cole Smith’s interview of Michael Matheson Miller, the producer of the award winning documentary Poverty, Inc. Matheson Miller and Poverty inc will change the way you think about third-world poverty—and force you to answer the question, “am I a part of the problem?”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Infinite Value of Every Life

Jan 9, 2017 - 00:00:00

When we save just one life from abortion, we’re saving the future. I’ll explain with a beautiful story. A thirteen-year-old girl named Anni is seated at the piano on the stage at Carnegie Hall. She is wearing a neat white dress, and she’s playing brilliantly. The crowd applauds enthusiastically. That was one month ago. Three years ago, it was a different story. Then, Anni was huddled in a jail cell in China. She was kept there overnight without food, water, or even access to a toilet. The Chinese government had locked her up as retaliation for her father’s activities protesting China’s repressive policies. The story of how Anni got from there to Carnegie Hall is a miracle—one that teaches us how much God values every human life. Anni’s father, Zhang Lin, is a nuclear physicist who was himself sent to prison. To get his daughter out of China, he contacted my friend Reggie Littlejohn, founder of Women’s Rights Without Frontiers. Reggie, along with U.S. Representative Chris Smith and others, succeeded in bringing Anni and her sister to the U.S. Praise God. Reggie and her husband took the girls in, to raise as their own daughters. But this is far from the whole story. You see, if the Chinese government had had its way, Anni would never have been born. Anni was a second child at a time when China’s One Child policy was in brutal effect. Millions of Chinese women were forced to undergo abortions for the “crime” of expecting a second child. Anni escaped this fate thanks to the courage of her parents. As Reggie posted at the Women’s Rights Without Frontiers website, “Family planning police came daily to pressure Anni’s mother to abort her. Anni’s father was able to get permission for Anni’s birth only after a long and difficult struggle.” Without their courage, “Anni could easily have been one of the 400 million lives ‘prevented’ by China’s One Child policy of coercive population control, Reggie notes. “Or she could have been selectively aborted because she is a girl, as happens to so many second daughters in China.” Today, Reggie says, “We are so proud of Anni. She is flourishing, both as a pianist and as a top student. Her story is an example for all those who struggle against the odds. Through our help and her own hard work, Anni is a witness to the hope of a new beginning and to the beauty, brilliance, and infinite value of Chinese girls.” Anni herself gives all the credit to God—both for her birth and for all her accomplishments. “God did a total miracle, because I never could have made it without His help,” Anni says. “Winning the competition to play in Carnegie Hall was 1 percent me and 99 percent God.” I’m telling Anni’s story this week because we’re coming up on a tragic anniversary: the 44th anniversary of the Supreme Court’s infamous Roe v. Wade decision. Anni is a reminder of what we lose every day, in America, in China, and all over the world, when a small life is snuffed out. We lose children who might have become pianists, medical researchers, farmers, soldiers, artists, and moms and dads themselves. We’ll never know what the world has lost thanks to the millions of children who were killed through abortion. But you and I can work to save other babies—all of them with great value in God’s eyes. Children just like Anni. Before I leave you today, I want to urge you and your church to join our “21 Days of Prayer for Life” campaign. Just come to BreakPoint.org and download our free .pdf prayer guide. And please, please, share the link with others. Maybe your Bible study or family or homeschool group or Christian school class will commit to pray for life this January. Again, get your “21 Days of Prayer for Life”—download it at BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Prosperity or Heresy?

Jan 6, 2017 - 00:00:00

A popular preacher of the prosperity gospel will be praying at the presidential inauguration. John and Ed discuss the implications of that and of the prosperity gospel itself. They also tackle a new study showing that conservative churches are growing, and the findings of a House panel investigating Planned Parenthood and the selling of baby body parts.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Magi, the Epiphany, and Ben Hur

Jan 6, 2017 - 00:00:00

Today on BreakPoint: an Oscar-winning film, a Civil War general, and an important, but often overlooked Christian holiday. Today is a major Christian holiday that most Americans know little about: the Feast of the Epiphany. From the Greek word meaning “manifestation,” it celebrates the visitation of the Magi to the infant Jesus and his family in Bethlehem. Until recently, in much of the Christian world, gifts were exchanged on Epiphany, not Christmas day. A colleague of mine, who lived in Puerto Rico when he was kid, recalls neighborhood children leaving straw out for the Magi’s camels on the night before Epiphany. While people in Puerto Rico, like people elsewhere, have shifted their gift-giving to December 25, Epiphany still remains central to our Christian faith and is worthy of our attention. Among those who understood this was Lew Wallace. Few, if any, Americans have lived as eventful a life as Wallace did. Civil War buffs will tell you he may have saved the Union at the Battle of Monocacy in 1864. His forces delayed Confederate General Jubal Early long enough to prevent him from possibly capturing Washington, D.C. Later, as territorial governor of New Mexico, Wallace dealt with the likes of Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. But it was a reunion of Civil War veterans that led to the action for which Wallace is best known today. John Murray, head of the Central Christian School in St. Louis and a commissioned Colson Fellow, told the story a few years ago at the Fox News website. On a train ride to an 1876 reunion in Indianapolis, Wallace was reunited with Colonel Robert Ingersoll, who was known as the “great agnostic.” Ingersoll traveled across the country deriding and challenging people of faith. Ingersoll didn’t spare his old comrade-in-arms, even though Wallace, at the time, was at best “indifferent” to his own Christian faith. Wallace later wrote, “To lift me out of my indifference, one would think only strong affirmations of things regarded holiest would do. Yet here was I now moved as never before, and by what? The most outright denials of all human knowledge of God, Christ, Heaven, and the Hereafter which figures so in the hope and faith of the believing everywhere. Was the Colonel right?” Determined to prove Ingersoll wrong, Wallace returned to a short story he had written during the Civil War. The story centered on the Magi, “who had captured his attention as a young boy -- taking a ‘lasting hold on his imagination.’ ” Wallace asked “Who were they? Whence did they come?” Above all, “what led them to Jerusalem asking of all they met the strange question, ‘Where is he that is born King of the Jews?” Starting with this meditation on the Epiphany, Wallace expanded his story over the years, adding more and more meditations on the life of Christ. And eventually, in 1880, he published his finished work. Perhaps, you’ve heard of it: “Ben Hur: The Tale of the Christ.” The story about a fictitious Jewish prince named Judah Ben-Hur was the means by which Wallace “showed the necessity of a Savior.” It remained the best-selling American novel until “Gone with the Wind” in 1936. And of course it was the basis of the 1959 film starring Charlton Heston, which won a record 11 Oscars. By the time Wallace died in 1905, he believed he had met Ingersol’s challenge. Millions of Americans agreed. And it all began with his reflecting on the visit of the Magi. A reflection that led Wallace, like the Magi before him, to take the light of Christ to those around him. Not just to Ingersol but to the millions who read “Ben Hur.” And similarly, Murray, the Colson Fellow I mentioned earlier, shared this light again by re-telling the story of Wallace and Ben Hur on Fox News. In both instances, the light went forth. Our calling at the Colson Center is to help prepare you to shine the light of Christ in your world, so please come to BreakPoint.org and check out our Colson Fellows program, and learn about the upcoming Wilberforce Weekend.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Take a Stand for Marriage

Jan 5, 2017 - 00:00:00

They say Rome wasn’t built in a day, but you can do something to help rebuild marriage in just one week! It’s almost become a cliché to say that marriage is under attack in America. But the trends and statistics are undeniable. Here are some data points: Marriage rates: In 1970, eighty percent of all adults were married; today it’s only 52 percent. In 1960, the median age for a first marriage was 20 for women and 23 for men. Today it’s 27 for women and 29 for men. Millennials: A full 25 percent of Millennials are likely to forego marriage altogether. One report says that a record share of Millennials will remain unmarried through age 40. That Christians are concerned about the institution of marriage is nothing new. But when leading cultural gatekeepers catch on, it’s eye-opening. Sam Sturgeon, president of Demographic Intelligence, says bluntly that the United States has been experiencing a “cultural retreat from marriage.” Sturgeon cites two factors: a stumbling economy that has hit men—particularly blue-collar men—hard, making them less likely to be seen as marriage material. A second is the growing willingness of couples to cohabitate—what used to be called “shacking up”—and even bring children into the world without benefit of a life-long marriage commitment. The effects on such children can be devastating. Children from divorced or never-married homes are more likely to die in infancy, more likely to get divorced themselves or become unwed parents later in life, more likely to live in poverty, more likely to fail in school, less likely to graduate from college and get a good job, less likely to be in good physical health, more likely to abuse drugs as teens and adults, have lower life expectancies, have higher rates of mental illness, be at greater risk of suicide and child abuse—and on and on. That’s why I am extremely pleased to tell you about National Marriage Week, an annual campaign in more than 20 countries to strengthen marriages, cut the divorce rate, and foster a culture that supports strong marriages. It is held every year from February seventh through the fourteenth. Come to BreakPoint.org to learn how you or your church can get involved: host a special event, launch a marriage class, discover what others are doing. It’s a great opportunity for churches to both strengthen the marriages in their congregations as well as support families and kids shattered by divorce and dysfunction. As National Review’s David French notes, “When culture changes this profoundly, it creates wounds public policy simply can’t heal.” My very good friend Sheila Weber, Executive Director of National Marriage Week, puts it well. She says, “For the sake of raising the next generation, we think that marriage deserves just as much of a positive campaign as does recycling, anti-smoking, or healthy eating!” And it’s hard to argue with that! Yet it doesn’t take a village to restore marriage so much as it takes a church. French continues: “It will take a culture change on the same scale as the sexual revolution that fractured families and even now relentlessly teaches the gospel of self-indulgence. It will take a renewed love for the ‘least of these’ in our American family, and it will take men and women who care for others not just by sending money but by creating deep and meaningful relationships.” This will also require an unflinching commitment to teaching what the Bible says about marriage as a lifelong commitment between a man and a woman under God’s loving care. Sheila Weber, by the way, is a Colson Fellow, so she knows all about the power of a biblical worldview to change lives, and ultimately, a culture. While God gives some of us the noble calling of singleness, we can’t forget this good word from Martin Luther: “There is no more lovely, friendly and charming relationship, communion or company than a good marriage.” Again, come to BreakPoint.org for more on how your church can take a stand for marriage.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Mr. Obama's Parting Gift to Planned Parenthood

Jan 4, 2017 - 00:00:00

The Obama administration, in the final days of 2016 and of its existence, gave a Christmas gift to Planned Parenthood. Let's talk about how to take it back. In the waning days of 2016, when most eyes were turned to the Trump team transition or holiday distractions, the Obama administration developed a new and reprehensible rule to preserve funding for Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider. Planned Parenthood is having a rough time lately. The organization was caught on video in 2015 trying to sell body parts of aborted babies, which is a clear violation of federal law. Then, their clear choice for president lost somewhat unexpectedly to a candidate who vividly described abortion in the final presidential debate, before promising to nominate Supreme Court justices who would overturn the legality of their largest moneymaking product: ending the lives of unborn children. All of this while public opinion seems to be drifting in a pro-life direction. Even so, Planned Parenthood has friends in high places. For example, the Justice Department did nothing to hold Planned Parenthood accountable for what the Center for Medical Progress videos revealed. Instead, CMP was hauled into court for supposedly breaking the law. And Planned Parenthood receives $500 million in annual federal funding. That money comes to Planned Parenthood through Medicaid, the Title X family planning program, Title XX Social Services block grants, and from a Title V Maternal and Child Health Services block grant. As long as taxpayer funding doesn’t directly pay for abortions, it’s all legal. In an accounting trick, the money goes to help pay for the mammograms that Planned Parenthood doesn’t actually provide, while freeing up dollars for the organization to spend on abortion. The scandalous federal spigot for the abortion giant is wide open. The states, however, are a different matter. In the wake of the awful undercover videos, several states—including Alabama, Arkansas, Arizona, Florida, Louisiana, Kansas, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, and Wisconsin—redirected their Title X funds earmarked for Planned Parenthood to other organizations that offer health care services to uninsured and low-income Americans. In response, the Obama administration has invented and adopted a Department of Health and Human Services rule—not a law, mind you—that in effect prohibits states from blocking Planned Parenthood from receiving Title X family planning services grant money. “With this rule,” says Rep. Diane Black of Tennnessee, “we see an administration that has become unglued at the knowledge of the impending pro-life sea change in Washington, D.C…. They know that hope is rising for the innocent victims of Planned Parenthood’s brutality and the big abortion industry’s days of taxpayer-funded windfalls are numbered.” It certainly is, because politics and law tend to be downstream from culture. Even so, we have to work to make Black’s prediction come true by insisting that the incoming administration keep its pro-life promises and undo this ugly parting gift to Planned Parenthood and ultimately, to defund the entire organization. Congressional Republicans have already told federal agencies to forget about “finalizing pending rules or regulations in the administration’s last days.” They warn that they will work to “ensure that Congress scrutinizes” their actions—and, if appropriate, will even “overturn them—pursuant to the Congressional Review Act,” a law that allows rules issued in the waning days of an administration to be removed. This is more evidence of just how much the battle to protect innocent human life occurs in the states. As Dr. Charmaine Yoest, now a senior fellow at American Values note, “More life-affirming and protective state laws have been enacted since 2010 than in any similar period since Roe v. Wade.” So as infuriating as the administration’s power-grabbing new rule is, momentum is on the side of life. So be encouraged, keep praying, and please, keep the pressure on.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Michael Matheson Miller: Poverty, Inc.

Jan 3, 2017 - 00:00:00

Today on the BreakPoint Podcast, we present Warren Cole Smith’s interview of Michael Matheson Miller, the producer of the award winning documentary Poverty, Inc. Matheson Miller and Poverty inc will change the way you think about third-world poverty—and force you to answer the question, “am I a part of the problem?”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Tolkien, Eliot, and the Power of Story

Jan 3, 2017 - 00:00:00

How are most people inspired to live lives of courage, love, and integrity? Through good stories. Gather a group of 12-year-old boys, and begin to lecture them about the importance of duty, honor, perseverance, and friendship, and it probably won’t be long before their eyes glaze over. However, what if instead of lecturing you begin your lesson this way: “There once was a tiny creature called a Hobbit, whose name was Frodo. He had hairy feet and a magic ring, and whenever he put that ring on his finger, he’d disappear. But each time he put the ring on, the Ring exercised a dark power over him . . .” That story—the story at the heart of J. R. R. Tolkien’s “The Lord of the Rings”—would very likely mesmerize these boys, just as it has tens of millions of others before them. And of course, along the way, the boys would learn about duty, honor, perseverance, and friendship. That, my friends, is the power of great stories. But a good story alone isn’t good enough either. One reason that Tolkien remains popular is because his stories were about important ideas, ideas that stand the test of time. The great musicologist Damon of Athens wrote more than 2,000 years ago: “Give me the songs of a people, and I care not who writes its laws.” In our own time, the Christian musician and novelist Andrew Peterson says, “If you want someone to hear the truth, you should tell them the truth. But if you want someone to LOVE the truth, you should tell them a story.” The idea that storytelling has power is, of course, no surprise to Christians. Storytelling was among Jesus’s primary communication tools. He told lots of stories. All the time. These ideas come to mind today because January 3rd and 4th are auspicious dates in literary history, especially for Christians. J. R. R. Tolkien was born 125 years ago on Jan. 3, 1892. And January 4th marks the 52nd anniversary of the death of poet T. S. Eliot. Because of the success of the “Lord of the Rings,” Tolkien is better known today than Eliot, but Eliot stands shoulder to shoulder with Tolkien in terms of literary output and genius. Even if you don’t know Eliot’s poem “Hollow Men,” you’ve probably heard the last haunting lines: “This is the way the world ends/not with a bang but a whimper.” And most college students read Eliot’s melancholy poem “The Lovesong of J. Alfred Prufrock,” which perfectly captures the despair of modern man trying to make it through a broken world without God. That modern man was, in many ways, Eliot himself: isolated, spiritually lost, despairing. But a decade or so after “Prufrock,” Eliot’s conversion to Christ transformed his life and his art, and he went on to write some of the most magnificent religious poetry in the English language, including “Ash Wednesday” and “The Four Quartets.” Eliot’s work also for a time crossed over into pop culture: His book of whimsical verse, “Old Possum’s Book of Practical Cats,” became the smash-hit Broadway musical “Cats.” Here at the Colson Center we often say that “politics is downstream from culture.” What we mean by that, at least in part, is that the great story-tellers and poets like Tolkien and Eliot often have more impact on our day-to-day lives than the politicians do, because great artists do something that great politicians rarely do: They inspire us. They inspire us to see ourselves in a story’s hero, and to live lives marked by courage, generosity, love, and faithfulness. One way Christians can impact culture is to simply share good stories with those around us. You may not be a Tolkien or an Eliot—but you can learn and recommend their works. And we have plenty of real-life stories to tell also, of Christian heroes like Wilberforce and Bonhoeffer, of incredible Christian conversions like Augustine and Colson, and of those Christian heroes of today who feed the hungry, clothe the naked, all while enduring hardships and persecution and finding joy in loving God and their neighbors. And of course, we should share these stories because in the end, they, like all good stories do, ultimately will point our hearts and imaginations to the Greatest Story of All.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
New Year, Same Issues, Eternal Hope

Jan 2, 2017 - 00:00:00

Let me beat Eric Metaxas to the punch and wish you all a very healthy, happy New Year. Here are some thoughts as we look ahead to 2017. Many people are glad 2016 is behind us, and I understand why. But of course, the issues that made last year a struggle are not behind us. Let me explain. We talk a lot on BreakPoint about what the French philosopher and theologian Jacques Ellul called the “political illusion”—the idea that our problems are primarily political ones with political solutions. Or that, as Chuck Colson put it so pithily, salvation will arrive on Air Force One. Many Americans, Clinton and Trump supporters alike, fell for the political illusion during the presidential campaign. Many continue to today: some by thinking that all is lost, and others by thinking that all is well. This is why, during the campaign, I made the statement—and let’s just say I got a lot of feedback on it—that the state of our elections reflected the state of our nation; that Alexander Solzhenitsyn was right when he said during his famous speech at Harvard, “There are meaningful warnings which history gives a threatened or perishing society. Such are, for instance, the decadence of art, or a lack of great statesmen.” Now, make no mistake. With Donald Trump in office, it’s possible, even likely, that we’re going to get a reprieve from the aggressive anti-Christian policies of the Obama administration. We can dare to hope that nuns won’t be forced to buy insurance for contraceptives and abortifacients, for example, and that federal funding for Planned Parenthood can be curtailed, maybe even eliminated. We can hope for a Supreme Court justice or two who will uphold the Constitution and not invent rights out of thin air. Now all of that is good. But please remember this: As the Democrats learned the hard way, what goes around comes around. The election was a reaction to extreme secular liberal policies. After Republicans attempt to dismantle the Obama agenda there may very well be an equal and opposite reaction. National elections happen every two years, after all. So as we head into 2017, remember: “Beware the political illusion.” That doesn’t mean we withdraw from politics. Far from it. That leads me to another key teaching here at the Colson Center, received from the hands of Chuck himself: Politics most often is downstream of culture. Culture will shape politics. And as Chuck said during his final speech, the culture is shaped by “the cult,” its belief system, what people truly believe and care about. And that’s where the Church must come in. As we go about “being the church” as Chuck liked to say, loving God, loving our neighbors as ourselves, letting our light and good deeds shine before men, pointing toward every human’s true hope in Jesus Christ and God the Father, then we’ll have a greater and greater impact on those around us, and on the culture, and in the end, our local and national politics. And of course, we can do this only by drawing nearer corporately and individually to Jesus, seeking fellowship with Him and with each other. Everything we seek to do at the Colson Center is to equip you to make sense of the world, and to take your place as a restorer in the sphere of influence wherever God has placed you. On BreakPoint, we’ll do our best to help you and your family make sense of the shifting sands of culture. On our BreakPoint podcast and at our newly designed website, which will be coming later this month, we’ll be introducing new writers and a new set of short courses you can take. In the summer, we’ll be welcoming a new class of Colson Fellows, which you can still join. All of this is to help you “go deeper” into your understanding of Christian worldview, cultural engagement, and ultimately your relationship with Jesus. So please, stay tuned. Follow us at BreakPoint.org, on Facebook and on Twitter. Sign up for our podcast. And don’t miss this year’s Wilberforce Weekend, which features Ravi Zacharias and Os Guinness. It’s going to be quite a year.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: The Year in Review

Dec 30, 2016 - 00:00:00

WORLD Magazine journalist Mindy Belz joins John and Ed to discuss the top stories of 2016: The persecution of Christians, the presidential election, and religious freedom

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
No, We Can't Agree to Disagree on Marriage (copy)

Dec 30, 2016 - 00:00:00

Editor’s note: With the BreakPoint staff off for the holidays, we are re-airing some of the most talked about commentaries of the year. Can Christians agree to disagree on our culture’s most controversial topics? Well, when it comes to certain issues, the answer is no. For years, a steady drumbeat of Christian pastors, musicians, and authors have announced they’ve “evolved” on the issue of homosexuality. Authors like Matthew Vines and more recently, Jen Hatmaker, musician Nicole Nordeman and Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff argue that the Bible doesn’t actually condemn same-sex “marriage.” Christians, they say, should bless such unions as “holy.” Many of them have said that even if we don’t agree, we shouldn’t make it a big deal. We can “agree to disagree,” they say. Typically, they offer one of three reasons. First, this issue, they say, is like the mode of baptism, or worship styles, or wine versus grape juice in the Lord’s Supper. In other words, homosexuality is a matter of preference, an area where believers can respect one another’s differences. But this doesn’t make sense for either side. Advocates of same-sex “marriage” say it’s a human right. If that’s true, the traditional view is not just mistaken, it’s dangerous! Opponents say that acts of homosexuality are sinful. If that’s true, then Christians can’t agree to disagree either. Second, we often hear that the Church is evolving on this issue, especially every time a Christin celebrity changes their minds. But the vast majority of evangelicals still hold to the traditional view, and they’re not changing their minds anytime soon. As my “BreakPoint This Week” cohost, Ed Stetzer, points out in Christianity Today, “Evangelical organizations across the spectrum are making clear where they stand on marriage.” Groups like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Christianity Today, and even more progressive social-justice-minded organizations like World Vision and Fuller Seminary, have all unambiguously committed to hold the line on this issue. As have denominations. Virtually every evangelical communion has reaffirmed God’s design for sex and marriage. Even in the United Methodist Church, long considered a stronghold of liberal theology, and in the worldwide Anglican communion, the marriage debate has taken a conservative turn as traditional members in Africa and elsewhere exert their influence. But, some will reply, “If Christians don’t all agree on what marriage is, you can’t say there’s such a thing as ‘the Christian position.’” But Christian truth isn’t made of what people who call themselves Christians say. It’s revealed truth, made known through creation, through Scripture, ultimately through Christ—each of which are quite clear about what makes us male and female, what marriage is, and about sexual morality. Which is why Christians never questioned marriage until culturally yesterday. A post-sexual revolution claim just a few years old does nothing to negate the consistent Christian witness about marriage throughout all of history. Which brings up the final argument, “If marriage is a core part of Christian teaching,” we hear, “why isn’t it in the creeds or the councils? Why did no one talk about it until now?” The answer is, because no one questioned what marriage is until now—anywhere, much less in the Church. Throughout history, the need to clarify certain Christian doctrines has almost always arisen because of challenges. No one thought we needed a canon, until Marcion suggested some books weren’t Scripture. No one thought we needed to clarify Jesus’ place in the Godhead, until the Arian heresy. In each case, what was upheld wasn’t a theological innovation, but a clarification of the consistent Christian teaching. So next time someone says, let’s just agree to disagree about this issue, say, “No. Instead, let’s agree to love each other and to pursue the truth together.” That’s a much better way forward.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
First They Came for the Florists (copy)

Dec 29, 2016 - 00:00:00

Editor’s note: With the BreakPoint staff off for the holidays, we are re-airing some of the most talked about commentaries of the year. A so-called “clarification” on anti-discrimination laws in the heartland makes the state the arbiter of sermons and services. In 2007, Iowa enacted a law prohibiting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. The law applies to what are known as “public accommodations.” Now federal law typically considers “public accommodations” to be facilities like restaurants, hotels, movie theaters, retail establishments, and parks. But recently, the Iowa Civil Rights Commission added something atypical to that list: church services. In its “Provider’s Guide,” the Commission offered an answer to the question, “Does this law apply to churches?” with a resounding “Sometimes.” What follows is troubling: “Iowa law provides that these protections do not apply to religious institutions with respect to any religion-based qualifications when such qualifications are related to a bona fide religious purpose.” I say troubling because implied in that statement is that the state gets to determine what is and what is not a bona fide religious purpose. And what follows that goes from troubling to outrageous: “Where qualifications are not related to a bona fide religious purpose, churches are still subject to the law’s provisions: For example, a child care facility operated at a church or a church service open to the public.” Which, as the Alliance Defending Freedom rightly pointed out, “encompasses most events that churches hold.” If the Commission interpretation stands, then churches—at any service open to the public—would be prohibited from doing or saying anything that would “ ‘directly or indirectly’ make ‘persons of any particular . . . gender identity’ feel ‘unwelcome’ in conjunction with church services, events, and other religious activities.” Given the almost limitless capacity for people to take offense or feel “unwelcome,” this would effectively ban sermons or other religious instruction about traditional Christian sexual ethics. This is what the Supreme Court famously dubbed a “chilling effect” on the freedom of religion and of speech. Now if you’re wondering “how is this even legal?” you’re not alone. Paul Gowder, who teaches constitutional law at the University of Iowa, told the Des Moines Register that any attempt to regulate the content of sermons is “blatantly unconstitutional” and “absurd on its face.” That’s why the Alliance Defending Freedom (ADF), representing two Iowa churches, has filed what is known as a “pre-enforcement challenge,” which challenges the constitutionality of the measure before it even takes effect. Let’s hope and pray that the ADF prevails. But even if they do, it’s a sobering reminder of three things. First, this didn’t happen at the Supreme Court or in left-leaning Washington State: it happened in the heartland, in Iowa. Religious freedom is in a precarious condition. Second, it shows how wrong those who insisted, “‘Oh, they’ll never make pastors do this," or "They’ll never make churches do that” really were. The state of Iowa is pretending to arbitrate what counts as a bona fide religious purpose. Everything a church does should have a religious purpose, especially outreach. That’s why every church service is open to the public. Finally, it brings to mind Martin Niemöller’s famous line about failing to stand for others until there was no one left to stand up for him. Too many pastors failed to stand up for the freedoms of people in the pew because, well, they weren’t bakers or photographers or florists. And the pastors assumed they were safe. Clearly they aren’t. The unprecedented attempt to regulate religious speech in Iowa shows the lengths to which enemies of religious freedom are prepared to go, proving it was never about cakes or photos in the first place.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Faith at the Olympics (copy)

Dec 28, 2016 - 00:00:00

Editor’s note: With the BreakPoint staff off for the holidays, we are re-airing some of the most talked about commentaries of the year. Despite the media’s wall-to-wall Olympic coverage, you’ve likely not heard the best story of all. We’ve all heard the story of Eric Liddell, who turned down an opportunity for Olympic gold at the Paris Games in 1924 in order to honor His Savior. It was Liddell who famously said, “God made me fast. And when I run, I feel His pleasure.” Well, this summer in Rio de Janeiro, there’s been a whole lot of running, jumping, swimming, and competing by athletes seeking to honor Jesus Christ. Not that you’ve heard much about it from the “mainstream” media. I spoke about this media blackout with my friend Terry Mattingly, who’s one of today’s foremost religion journalists. Terry told me, “If these athletes make faith a part of their story, how do you leave out faith when telling their story?” Come to BreakPoint.org for a link to the podcast. Now, I’ve already told you the story of super-swimmer Michael Phelps, who reached the pinnacle of sports and found it hollow—and then contemplated suicide. But Phelps found a reason to live when Ray Lewis gave him a copy of “The Purpose-Driven Life,” by Rick Warren. Michael’s story reminds us of the role that God’s people have as bringers of hope and agents of restoration. There have been many such reminders in Rio. Fiji dominated Great Britain, 43-7 in rugby, earning the island country’s first-ever gold medal. Then the winning players huddled and sang, both in English and Fijian: “We have overcome / We have overcome / By the blood of the Lamb / And the Word of the Lord / We have overcome.” Then they received their medals humbly—on their knees! In the women’s 10,000 meters race, Almaz Ayana, from Ethiopia, obliterated the previous world record by 14 seconds. Responding to unfounded rumors about cheating, Almaz retorted, “My doping is my training and my doping is Jesus. Nothing otherwise —I am crystal clear.” American swimmer Simone Manuel set an Olympic record in the 100-meter freestyle, becoming the first African-American woman to win gold as a swimmer, the first African-American woman to win a medal in an individual swimming event, and the first American to win the 100-meter since 1984. After the race she said, with tears rolling down her cheeks, “All I can say is all glory to God.” Then there’s another inspiring Olympian named Simone—Simone Biles, acknowledged to be the world’s greatest female gymnast—and perhaps the best ever. But what’s truly inspiring is her story—adopted at age 6 by her grandparents because of her mother’s battle with addiction. Now reconciled with her mom, Simone draws strength from her relationship with God and her faith. Katie Ledecky, who may become the greatest woman swimmer of all time—and who won the 800-meter freestyle by an amazing 11 seconds—says her faith in Christ “is part of who I am.” I could go on and on in this Olympic hall of faith, but I’ll leave you with just one more. Champion diver David Boudia says he’s well aware of the need to represent Christ with integrity, saying, “If I represent a good God, I need to be that visual representation of him all the time, not just when I feel like it.” David tells his amazing and inspiring story from despair to discipleship in his book, “Greater Than Gold: From Olympic Heartbreak to Ultimate Redemption.” It’s great to see these “bringers of hope and agents of restoration” compete for the glory of God. But we’d miss the point if all we do is applaud them and then turn off our TVs. We are called to compete for Christ, too. As Eric Liddell also said, “It has been a wonderful experience to compete in the Olympic Games and to bring home a gold medal. But … I have had my eyes on a different prize. … Each one of us is in a greater race than any I have run in Paris, and this race ends when God gives out the medals.” Amen. Now that is a story worth repeating!

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Larry Alex Taunton: 'The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, Part II

Dec 27, 2016 - 00:00:00

Warren Cole Smith concludes his interview of author Larry Alex Taunton about his award-winning book, "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens."

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
'Me Before You'

Dec 27, 2016 - 00:00:00

Editor’s note: With the BreakPoint staff off for the holidays, we are re-airing some of the most talked about commentaries of the year. In a new film audiences are taught it’s better and maybe even more romantic to die than to live with a disability. Some qualified voices strongly protest. The culture of death is making major inroads this month. With a new California physician-assisted suicide law going into effect, the efforts of so-called “right to die” advocates like the late Brittany Maynard seem to have paid off. And now a new film targets our imagination by portraying suicide as merciful, dignified, even romantic. “Me Before You,” adapted from the novel by Jojo Moyes, is about a rich young playboy who’s paralyzed from the neck down due to a motorcycle accident. While the film starts out on an encouraging note, its conclusion has left many disabled reviewers upset. And for good reason. After his accident, businessman and heir Will Traynor (played by Sam Claflin), wants to end his life rather than face a lifetime paralyzed and stuck in a wheelchair. But Louisa Clark (played by Emilia Clarke), has other plans and attempts to change his mind. She spends six months taking him to concerts, horse races, and tropical getaways, hoping to show him that life as a quadriplegic is still worth living. Of course in the process, they fall in love—a fact that makes it especially hard when Will decides to go through with his plan to die. This ham-fisted ending has the disabled community asking Hollywood: Why do you want us dead? The marketing for “Me Before You” featured the hashtag #LiveBoldly. One Twitter user with disability retorted, “Do you really want us to #LiveBoldly, or…just…#DieQuickly?” Wheelchair-bound actress and comedienne Liz Carr complained that Hollywood seems to have only one solution for people like her: “death.” “When non-disabled people talk of suicide,” she told The Guardian, “they’re discouraged and offered prevention…When a disabled person talks of it, though, suddenly the conversation is overtaken with words like ‘choice’ and ‘autonomy.’” Writing at Life Site News, Alex Schadenberg with the Euthanasia Prevention Coalition calls the movie “insidious.” The main character’s death, he explains, is depicted as noble and life-affirming. “Not only is death portrayed as better than living with a disability,” he writes, “but the ultimate act of love, for a person who lives with a disability, is death. Some try to defend the movie and physician-assisted suicide by insisting that so-called “death with dignity” is a private, individual decision. But as our friend Joni Eareckson Tada pointed out in a 2014 open letter to Brittany Maynard, it’s not just private. An individual’s decision to commit suicide in the midst of an illness or disability—whether that individual is real or on the silver screen—shapes how our culture treats others in the same situation. And Joni, for anyone who doesn’t know, is in the same situation as the film’s main character. Paralyzed at age 17, she’s spent decades advocating on behalf of the dignity of those with disability, and proclaiming the equal and inherent dignity of all human beings. In her statement about the film, she asks why it conveys the impression that “marriage to someone with quadriplegia is too hard, too demanding,” and just not possible. “As a quadriplegic who’s been married for nearly 34 years,” she writes, “I can say for certain that my husband and I have a deep and satisfying relationship, mostly because—not in spite of—my severe disability.” But my favorite response to “Me Before You” comes from eleven-year-old Ella Frech. Writing at Aleteia, this young girl asks the folks behind this movie, “Did you even do any research…? Did you ask people in chairs if they’d rather be a corpse than a cripple?” Ella, a world wheelchair-skating champion, doesn’t let her disability slow her down. And she understands why suicide is no less tragic for the disabled than it is for the able-bodied: “I believe we are all made in [God’s] image and likeness,” she writes. “…if our value comes from God, then nobody has the right to say someone who walks is worth more than someone who doesn’t.” Or, I would add, to say that lives with disabilities aren’t worth living. (This column originally aired June 10, 2016.)

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Progressively Regressive Sexuality (copy)

Dec 26, 2016 - 00:00:00

Sexual progressives claim to be ushering in a “brave new world” of freedom. But their “new” morality is as old as the hills. How often have you heard sexual progressives claim that those of us who hold to traditional sexual morality and marriage are “on the wrong side of history?” But as one new book points out, it’s the proponents of the sexual revolution who are embracing a sexual morality that history left behind millennia ago—in the dusty ruins of the Roman Forum. Yes, today Western civilization is undergoing a dramatic cultural shift. In just a few short years our society has fundamentally altered the meaning of marriage, embraced the notion that men can become women, and is now promoting the idea that grown men should be welcome to share a bathroom with women and young girls. Not unexpectedly, we’re also seeing movement toward the normalization of polygamy, pedophilia, and incest. It’s precisely in times like this that we need some historical perspective. Which is why Lutheran pastor Matthew Rueger’s new book, “Sexual Morality in a Christless World,” is a timely godsend. In it, Rueger shows how Christian sexual morality rocked the pagan world of ancient Rome. The notions of self-giving love, sexual chastity, and marital fidelity were foreign, even shocking to the people of that time. Citing existing scholarship, Rueger details the Roman sexual worldview that prevailed for hundreds of years. Women and children were viewed as sexual objects; slaves—male and female--could expect to be raped; there was widespread prostitution; and predatory homosexuality was common. Christian sexual morality might have been seen as repressive by the licentious, but it was a gift from God for their victims. Rueger writes that “Claims in our day of being progressive and moving forward by accepting the ‘new prevailing views on sexuality and same-sex marriage are horribly misinformed’ … Contemporary views about sexuality are simply a revival of an older and much less loving view of the world.” But they are also a revival of an older and impoverished view of human beings. Imagine the reaction of a pagan Roman slave girl who learned for the first time that she had value—not monetary value as a piece of goods to be enjoyed or discarded by her owner—but eternal value because she was made in the very image of God. Or imagine the pang of conscience felt by an unfaithful Roman husband when he learned that God became incarnate, and took on human flesh, and that how he treated his own body and the bodies of others mattered to God. Mattered immensely. Folks, we can’t look away and ignore this unholy revival of pagan sexuality and its cheapened view of human beings. But we also can’t wring our hands in fear or throw them up in defeat. As Rueger points out, Christ and His Church radically transformed a far more sexually cruel and chaotic world than ours. Look to those ancient believers who went before us: Rather than succumbing to or accommodating the spirit of the age, new converts in the early Church came to understand, as Rueger writes, that “Christian morality is based on Christ’s all-encompassing purity and self-emptying love…Christians could no longer live as the Greeks or Romans. Their worldview and self-view was distinctly different. They were now one with Christ in heart and soul.” Now, their distinctiveness, as Rueger writes, “would not spare them from suffering; it would invite suffering.” It’s pretty clear now that the same holds true for us. Will we bend the knee to this revived pagan sexuality, or will we hold out to a needy world the freedom of God’s plan for human sexuality? To get your copy of Matthew Rueger’s “Sexual Morality in a Christless World,” simply come to our online bookstore at BreakPoint.org. (This column originally aired September 8, 2016.)

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Christmas Favorites

Dec 23, 2016 - 00:00:00

John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer take a walk on the light side and talk about their favorite Christmas movies and Christmas Carols.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Britten's Ceremony of Carols

Dec 23, 2016 - 00:00:00

Christianity has been the inspiration of the West’s greatest art—in ancient times and even in the middle of World War II. As the film “Titanic” reminds us, there’s no such thing as a risk-free trans-Atlantic crossing on a ship. This was most true in 1942 when Nazi U-boats, at the height of their powers, patrolled the ocean looking to sink any ship believed to be carrying supplies to Britain, including ships flying the flag of neutral nations, like Sweden. All of which makes the story of the composition of Benjamin Britten’s “Ceremony of Carols” even more extraordinary than it already is. Britten, who was arguably the most important British composer of the 20th century, found himself in the middle of the Atlantic aboard a Swedish cargo vessel, trying to return to his native England after three years in North America. Given the harrowing circumstances, you might think that it was all that Britten could do to keep from panicking. But instead, during the crossing he wrote not one, but two, choral works based on Christian themes: the “Hymn to St. Cecilia” and the “Ceremony of Carols.” As the name suggests, the "Ceremony of Carols" consists of ten carols framed by the chant “Hodie Christus Natus Est,” “Today, Christ is born,” at both the beginning and the end. The carols date from the fourteenth to the sixteenth century and are sung in both Middle and Early Modern English, as well as Latin. One carol, “Deo Gratias,” “Thanks be to God,” sung in a combination of Middle English and Latin, tells the story of Genesis 3. While the text is primarily about the Fall, the carol’s musical energy and emphasis is on thankfulness—hence the title—for God’s providing a savior who would set things right. Now arguably, the most-loved carol is “This Little Babe.” Despite the sentimental-sounding title, the text is anything but. It’s about a battle between the Babe of Bethlehem and Satan himself. The text, written by Robert Southwell, a Catholic priest, who was hung, drawn, and quartered by Queen Elizabeth I, reads “This little Babe so few days old, Is come to rifle Satan’s fold; All hell doth at his presence quake, Though he himself for cold do shake; For in his weak unarmed wise, the gates of hell he will surprise.” Jeff Spurgeon of New York’s classical music station, WQXR, wrote that he finds himself “surprised” and “deeply moved” every time he hears Britten’s setting of “This Little Babe.” In Southwell’s words and Britten’s music, the battle between good and evil is won by “a baby born in obscure poverty” and that battle is depicted “not by a huge orchestra and massive voices, but by a harp and a choir of children.” And that’s Christmas in a nutshell. In case you’re wondering about the man who pulled this off musically, no one who knew him would describe Britten as an orthodox Christian, much less even a devout one. His personal life, including his sexual proclivities, were the subject of numerous controversies during his life and continued to be after his death. Yet many of his works focused on Christian themes. As I noted earlier, he wrote two such works during this potentially-harrowing voyage in 1942. In this sense, Britten wasn’t unusual. Much of the West’s greatest art was inspired by Christian themes. In fact, it’s impossible to imagine the West’s cultural heritage without Christianity. And while much of this great art was created by people whose faith was unquestionable—Johann Sebastian Bach immediately comes to mind—still other examples were produced by people whose faith, if any, is unknown if not nonexistent. And yet their work has the power still to deeply move us—like they do Jeff Spurgeon. That’s because what is moving us is the story that makes their work possible: in this case, the story of, in Spurgeon’s words, God’s “sneak attack on the forces of evil,” which we’ll celebrate this Sunday. For BreakPoint, Merry Christmas.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Protect Egypt's Christians

Dec 22, 2016 - 00:00:00

As a politician friend of mine says, “When folks feel the heat they see the light.” It’s time for the Egyptian government to see the light about protecting Christians. On December 11th, a suicide bomber killed at least 25 worshippers and injured 49 more during Sunday Mass at St. Peter’s Coptic Church in Cairo. The attack was only the latest in a series of outrages committed against Egypt’s native Christian community. Less than three weeks ago, I told you on BreakPoint about a series of attacks in Minya, which is 150 miles south of the Egyptian capital. Those attacks were described as part of a “disturbing wave of [Islamist] radicalism” that has emerged after the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood in 2013. This time, it was ISIS who claimed responsibility for the atrocity which was, they said, part of its “war on polytheism,” the Islamic epithet for Christian belief in the Trinity. ISIS has promised more of the same. In a masterpiece of obtuseness—or is it just invincible ignorance?—the New York Times said that the attack suggested that ISIS “was prepared to single out Egyptian Christians much as it did minority Shiites in countries like Iraq and Syria.” Uh… well, notice who was missing from the Times’ list of targets—Iraqi and Syrian Christians, not to mention Yazidis and other religious minorities. For its part, the Egyptian government was quick to focus attention on what it saw as the real outrage: criticism by groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch for its failure to protect Egyptian Christians from these kinds of attacks. A Foreign Ministry spokesman accused human rights groups of demonstrating an “unacceptable tolerance to terrorism.” Now if you’re thinking “Wait . . . what?”—well, welcome to the world of our Egyptian brethren. Copts have been, at best, second-class citizens since the 1952 coup that created the modern Egyptian state. Repression, discrimination, and violence have all been part and parcel of their existence. While the Egyptian government obviously didn’t attack the worshippers at St. Peter’s or attack Christians in Minya, the Egyptian government is largely indifferent to the fate of its Christian citizens. Actually, it’s even worse than that. Mistreating Copts was the way that Egypt’s rulers, including the present one, have burnished their Islamic identity. And, until recently, virtually no one, especially in the West, said “boo!” about it. The sad truth is that Copts had to start dying in significant numbers for anyone to take notice, and that “anyone” includes their brethren in the West. That was then, so what about now? Historically, the treatment of Christian minorities, in Egypt or elsewhere, has never figured prominently in American foreign policy. This is a bipartisan failing. And if it’s going to change, we must take the lead. The outgoing administration was rightly criticized by Christians for its failure to address the issue. The incoming one is thought to be more receptive to our concerns. The fate of our brethren in places like Egypt and the rest of the Middle East is a good place to test our hypothesis. In the aftermath of the American election, there were reports that the Egyptian government was gratified by the results, believing that the new administration would provide Egypt more assistance in its fight against the Muslim Brotherhood and ISIS. Mind you, Egypt already receives nearly $1.5 billion in military and economic aid from the U. S. And that means this: If the Trump administration says, “You need to do more to protect Coptic Christians,” the Egyptian government will have to listen. Never forget, our first appeal on behalf of our Coptic brethren needs to be made on our knees. And after you pray, let President-elect Trump know how you feel. How? I hear he checks Facebook and Twitter. And pretty soon, he’ll have a White House address.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Evangelicals and Assisted Suicide

Dec 21, 2016 - 00:00:00

If it’s right to oppose the killing of human beings at the beginning of life, why do so many evangelicals say it’s okay near the end of life? Evangelical support for the pro-life cause is both well-known and extensive. The Pew Research Center says a full 75 percent are still willing to tell a pollster that “having an abortion is morally wrong.” But there’s disturbing news when it comes to evangelicals and another pro-life issue: assisted suicide. According to Lifeway Research, 38 percent of those who profess to be evangelical—nearly four in ten—agree with the following statement: “When a person is facing a painful terminal disease, it is morally acceptable to ask for a physician’s aid in taking his or her own life.” In other words, physician-assisted suicide is okay—at least in some circumstances. So how in the world is that “pro-life”? Yes, a majority—62 percent—of evangelicals oppose euthanasia. But as BreakPoint This Week co-host Ed Stetzer says, it’s not nearly good enough. “A shockingly high number of evangelicals believe that it is now okay for people to take their own lives when they see fit,” Ed notes. “When we filter the biblical truth that God gives and God takes away, that God creates and God ends, this 38 percent is quite disturbing.” Disturbing indeed. How did we get here? For one thing, Lifeway’s Scott McConnell says too many Christians are not thinking like Christians. “Traditional Christian teaching says God holds the keys to life and death,” Scott says. “Those who go to church or hold more traditional beliefs are less likely to see assisted suicide as morally acceptable. Still, a surprising number do.” It might be that the desire to avoid suffering at all costs—one of the cornerstones of today’s post-Christian worldview—trumps any and all biblical considerations. No wonder that in November, Colorado voters gave the thumbs-up to Proposition 106, also known by its Orwellian title: “The End of Life Options Act.” Among many of its problems, Proposition 106 does not require psychiatric evaluation for patients requesting suicide—this despite the fact that many suicidal people are suffering from depression and could be helped! What makes all this even more troubling is that so many evangelicals and other Christians have imbibed this secular outlook. It certainly is not Christian. “Let me be clear,” Ed says: “No one wants to suffer. It is a result of our fallen world. All of creation, indeed, all of humanity, groans under the weight of sin and death …. Of course, we don’t run toward pain and suffering, willing it upon ourselves. But neither shall we flee from it as though it has no use.” Ed then goes on to quote scriptures that show how God wills suffering in our lives to build character, endurance, and hope—and he reminds us that we can agree with the apostle Paul that “the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.” This fallen world cannot provide what only heaven offers. Nor should it. Richard Baxter, the great eighteenth century Puritan pastor, reminds us that our sufferings and extremities can glorify the God who allows them in our lives in ways that few other things can. “If our rest was here,” Baxter said, “most of God’s providences must be useless. Should God lose the glory of his church’s miraculous deliverances… that men may have their happiness here?” As difficult as it is to suffer or to watch our loved ones suffer, playing God is always wrong, whether at the beginning of life—or at its end. There can be purpose in pain. And there is hope, for today and tomorrow. As Paul reminds us in 2 Corinthians, Jesus “was crucified in weakness, but lives by the power of God. For we also are weak in him, but … we will live with him by the power of God.” Amen.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Larry Alex Taunton: The Faith of Christopher Hitchens, part I

Dec 20, 2016 - 00:00:00

Part 1 of Warren Cole Smith's interview with author Larry Alex Taunton about his award-winning book, "The Faith of Christopher Hitchens."

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Born-Again Babies

Dec 20, 2016 - 00:00:00

Did you know that babies can be born again? No, it’s not theology I’m talking about but science, and the implications are enormous. While in her mother’s womb, Lynlee Boemer developed an exceedingly rare tumor that grows near the tailbone at the base of the spine. According to the National Organization for Rare Disorders, the tumor appears in only one out of 30,000 to 70,000 live births. Now in about half these children, the tumor is harmless. But for the rest, like little Lynlee, the tumors can create stress on their developing hearts. In Lynlee’s case, the tumor had grown as big as her body. Her mother, Margaret, said, “It almost looked like a baby with two heads.” While other specialists recommended an abortion, those at Texas Children’s Fetal Center said there was a chance the child could be saved. There was no time to lose. “Little Lynlee’s heart showed signs of failing, so we knew that it was urgent,” said Dr. Darrell Cass. Lynlee was just 24 weeks along and weighed only one pound. During the emergency operation, Cass and another pediatric surgeon made an incision, pulled Lynlee from the uterus, exposing her tiny frame from her legs to her torso. At one juncture, Lynlee’s heart almost stopped. The doctors resuscitated her, removed the massive tumor, gently placed Lynlee back inside her mother, stitched up the womb, and then waited. Three months later, on June 6, a very healthy Lynlee Boemer was born via C-section. Margaret Boemer understandably is thrilled. “It was her second birth, basically,” she told a local TV station. Such procedures are becoming more and more commonplace across the country. Since 1995, the Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia has performed more than 1,400 fetal operations, including one three years ago that saved the life of Tucker Roussin, who at 24 weeks of gestation was diagnosed with intrapericardial teratoma, an extremely rare, rapidly growing tumor in the sac surrounding the heart. Today Tucker is a normal, thriving three-year-old. Fetal surgeries today—in which the baby is in or out of the uterus—can treat or cure a growing variety of problems, including spina bifida, lung malformations, bowel obstructions, and many other conditions. Such born-again babies have much to teach us. First, of course, they remind us of the preciousness of every human life and the need to continually improve our medical skills and technology in order to protect them. J. William Gaynor, a pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon at Children’s, says, “The pioneering fetal surgery to remove a tumor from a baby’s heart is an incredible breakthrough and an innovation … that can be provided to a family who receives this devastating diagnosis.” Praise God that hope increasingly is available! Second, they remind us of the double-talk of the so-called “pro-choice” movement. Note that Dr. Gaynor removed a tumor from “a baby’s heart.” But those who support abortion rights often use modern euphemisms such as fetus, clump of cells, or product of conception to disguise the identity of the unborn child. Yet this highly qualified physician, and others like him, call it what it is—a baby! Third, born-again babies expose the insanity of abortion. Isn’t it ironic that Baby Lynlee could have been aborted without legal consequence before her surgery, then would have been protected during the surgery, and then would have been able to be aborted at any time in the three months after the surgery? As I said, this is insane. Babies in utero who can be dismembered legally up to the very moment before emerging from their mother’s womb can, with a little more thought and care, be brought into God’s world and live a life that glorifies Him. As Mother Teresa said so powerfully, “Any country that accepts abortion is not teaching its people to love, but to use any violence to get what they want. This is why the greatest destroyer of love and peace is abortion.” Friends, thank God for the growing number of born-again babies among us—and let’s redouble our efforts for the cause of life. To get started, come to BreakPoint.org and join our nationwide prayer effort to end abortion—simply download a free copy of the “21 Days of Prayer for Life.” It’s a great tool for families, individuals, churches and small groups to join the life movement.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Yes to Freedom, No to SOGI Laws

Dec 19, 2016 - 00:00:00

Constitutional freedoms and biological reality are under attack. And we—you and I—must take a stand. Back in 2009, my BreakPoint colleague John Stonestreet was “in the room” so to speak as Chuck Colson was developing the Manhattan Declaration to defend the sanctity of life, marriage, and religious freedom. John once told me how he totally “got” why Christians had to stand up for marriage at the time. But in 2009, he wasn’t certain we needed a declaration to defend religious freedom—what was the connection between marriage and religious freedom? Well, as John will now tell you, Chuck was right. Chuck foresaw a time when Christian beliefs about marriage and sexuality would make us targets in the public square—and that our right to live out those beliefs would come under fire. But what no one, including Chuck, could see back then was how quickly we’d find ourselves in a world in which the observable biological realities that make us male or female would be denounced and denied—in academia, in the culture, and even in the law. That pure emotion (as Princeton’s Robert George has said) would replace biological facts. That people would be forced by government to comply with these kinds of personal beliefs and lifestyle choices. And that’s exactly where we are. The best example of this is so-called SOGI laws, that is, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity laws. As John mentioned on BreakPoint last week, SOGI laws create new protected classes of people based on inclination and behavior, not race, sex, or creed. These laws threaten not only religious freedom, but freedom of speech and freedom of association—especially for Christian institutions and individuals. This is why John and I and more than 50 Christian leaders have signed a document to “Preserve Americans’ Constitutional Freedoms from Government Coercion.” And it’s why I’m inviting every BreakPoint listener to sign the document as well: Please, simply go to ColsonCenter.org/freedom. As the document states, “creative professionals, wedding chapels, non-profit organizations, ministries serving the needy, adoption agencies, businesses… religious colleges, and even churches have faced threats and legal action under such laws for declining to participate in same-sex wedding ceremonies; for maintaining policies consistent with their guiding principles, and for seeking to protect privacy by ensuring persons of the opposite sex do not share showers, locker rooms, restrooms, and other intimate facilities.” Now, as John mentioned last week, some Christians are seeking a middle ground, to carve out exceptions to SOGI laws for churches and religious organizations such as universities. But this approach hangs the Christian baker, florist, or photographer out to dry—not to mention Christian lawyers, doctors, counsellors, and professionals of all stripes. As Christians we believe there is no distinction between a secular and sacred vocation—that all work done to the glory of God is sacred. How can we then carve out protections for so-called “religious” organizations, yet leave out everyone else? There’s another problem with this approach: it assumes the good graces of the champions of sexual identity rights—that they’ll embrace compromise now and in the future. And that, my friends, is alas, wishful thinking. Already we’ve seen legislators try to label churches as “places of public accommodation” (and therefore not protected from SOGI laws) if they have pot-luck dinners; we’ve seen them try to distinguish between Christians colleges that train people specifically for ministry as opposed to those Christian colleges that train people to be accountants or English teachers. So friends, it is time to take a stand. I’m asking you to help “Preserve Americans’ Constitutional Freedoms from Government Coercion.” Please, come and sign the statement at ColsonCenter.org/freedom.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Gender Identity v. Christian Identity

Dec 16, 2016 - 00:00:00

So called SOGI laws (Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity laws) are a clear threat to religious freedom. John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer discuss a new statement signed by more than 75 religious leaders standing for religious freedom and against government coercion

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Salvation History in One Hymn

Dec 16, 2016 - 00:00:00

One of the best summations of God’s promises to Israel and mankind is as close as your nearest hymnal. I want you to imagine yourself in a monastery in the eighth century. It is December 17th and you’ve gathered with your brothers for Vespers, the sunset prayer service. As with all Vespers, at the heart of the service is the chanting of select psalms, each of them preceded and followed by what is known as an antiphon, a sung or recited response. What sets apart December 17th, and the six nights that follow it, are the seven antiphons used only on these nights. Each one is a name of Christ—specifically, they are Messianic titles from the book of Isaiah: Sapienta (Wisdom), Adonai (Lord), Radix (Root of Jesse), Clavis (Key of David), Oriens (Dayspring), Rex (King of the Nations), and Emmanuel. Because each of these titles is preceded by the word “O” they are known as the “O Antiphons.” If this sounds familiar, it should. I have just given you a glimpse into the origins of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel”—the greatest Advent, or should I say Christian, hymn of all time. While I asked you to imagine an eighth century monastery, the O Antiphons predate the eighth century. The Roman philosopher Boethius, who lived in the late fifth and early sixth centuries, alludes to them in his writings. It’s reasonable to suppose, as one scholar put it, that “in some fashion the O Antiphons have been part of our liturgical tradition since the very early Church.” But it’s what they teach us, and not just their antiquity, that gives them their power. The composer and musicologist Robert Greenberg has noted that if you take the first letter of each of the Messianic titles in reverse order, by December 23rd you will have the Latin phrase Ero Cras, “tomorrow I will come.” Whether this was intentional or an instance of perceiving a pattern where none was intended, there is no denying that the message of the antiphons and the resulting hymn is the literally awe-inspiring faithfulness of God. All of God’s promises to His people are fulfilled in the One whose coming we sing about. He is Sapienta, the Wisdom of God, upon whom the Spirit of wisdom and understanding, counsel and strength, and knowledge and fear of the Lord rested (Isaiah 11). He is Adonai, the Lord our lawgiver and judge, who will save us (Isaiah 33). He is the root of Jesse’s stem, whom the Gentiles will seek out and whose dwelling will be glorious (Isaiah 11). He is Oriens, the Radiant Dawn, the light that has shined upon the people who dwelt in darkness (Isaiah 9). He is all these things and so much more. To sing all seven verses of “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” and ponder their meaning is to join Jesus and the two disciples on the road to Emmaus on the first Easter morning and have our eyes opened to us. Starting with Moses and the prophets, the entirety of scripture is ultimately about Jesus. Every time we sing “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” during this Advent season, we are participating in one of the most venerable expressions of the faith itself. The setting may have changed, but the truth expressed remains the same: God’s awe-inspiring faithfulness.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Merry Christmas Building and Loan!

Dec 15, 2016 - 00:00:00

It’s one of the most beloved movies of all time. But I wonder how many people miss the gospel message in “It’s a Wonderful Life.” I love the film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” My family watches it every Christmas. I sometimes think about how much fun it would be to visit Bedford Falls, and meet all those delightful characters—even Old Man Potter. My friend and long-time BreakPoint colleague, Anne Morse, recently did just that: well, almost. She visited Seneca Falls, New York, which, legend has it, is the town on which Frank Capra based his fictional Bedford Falls. It really does look amazingly like Bedford Falls, and every December the town holds an “It’s a Wonderful Life” festival. Festival-goers can’t resist running down the street yelling “Merry Christmas, Emporium! Merry Christmas, you wonderful old Building and Loan!”—just like Jimmy Stewart did. They can also chat with “Uncle Billy,” “Old Man Potter,” and other characters. My friend Anne Morse is so fond of the film that she wrote a sequel to it, titled “Bedford Falls: The Story Continues,” in which she imagines what happened to the Bailey family after the Christmas of 1945. Anne also wrote a wonderful piece about her experiences in the “real” Bedford Falls for The Christian Post—and about the gospel message the film contains that many viewers miss. As Anne puts it, “It’s a Wonderful Life” “is a magnificent cinematic depiction of the words of Jesus: ‘For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his own soul?’ ” (Matthew 16:26) In the New Testament, the devil tempts Jesus with all the kingdoms of the world, if he will only bow down and worship him. In the movie, Anne writes, “We see a similar scenario: The tempter, in the form of Henry Potter, offers George Bailey everything he has ever wanted: travel to Europe, lots of money . . . and a far more interesting job than he has at the Building and Loan.” George is tempted. But he ultimately realizes what Potter is really asking him to do: sacrifice the Building and Loan, which means sacrificing his neighbors to Potter’s greed. And so he turns him down, calling Potter “nothing but a scurvy little spider.” But just as Satan continues to tempt Christ, Potter continues to tempt George Bailey. For instance, after his father’s death, George must choose between going to college or staying in Bedford Falls to run the Building and Loan. George reluctantly stays because, as he puts it, Bedford Falls needs at least one place where people don’t have to go crawling to Potter. Later, George must choose between his honeymoon and protecting the town from another effort by Potter to shut down the Building and Loan. When George’s brother Harry and his bride come home with big plans for the future, George sacrifices his own dreams so that Harry can have his. And when Uncle Billy loses $8,000—thanks in part to Old Man Potter—George takes the blame in order to keep Uncle Billy out of trouble. “George Bailey’s soul was not for sale,” Anne notes. “Without realizing it, George, through his many sacrifices for others, spent his life imitating Christ. And Potter, by forfeiting his soul for earthly wealth, becomes, as George puts it, a “warped, frustrated old man.” “It’s a Wonderful Life” invites us to ask ourselves, every day, what the consequences of our decisions might be. “At a deeper, more subtle level,” Anne says, “the film reminds us that living a good life means consistently imitating the Lord we claim to serve.” Anne’s book “Bedford Falls” is available at BreakPoint.org book store. So, why not curl up with the book right after you watch “It’s a Wonderful Life” with your family? Both the film and the book teach us one of the greatest lessons we can learn: that to live for Christ is to die to self.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Religious Freedom and SOGI Laws

Dec 14, 2016 - 00:00:00

When it comes to religious freedom, we face two equal and opposite temptations. But neither will do in the face of our current challenges. Here on BreakPoint we often talk about the ongoing struggle between religious freedom and so-called “sexual freedom.” Today, religious freedom, though clearly established in the Bill of Rights, often loses. Sexual freedom is on the march and seems to be taking no prisoners. The latest flash point in this struggle is so-called SOGI laws, that is, Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity laws. Essentially, SOGI laws create new protected classes of people based on inclination and behavior, not race, sex, or creed. As a result, anyone with religious convictions against participating or celebrating such identities is a bigot. Here, as is the case with every other cultural challenge, Christians face two serious temptations: demonizing and compromising. Our enemy is not those who support special gay or transgender rights. Our true enemy is the false ideas that hold them captive—a worldview that reduces human beings to the sum of their desires and behaviors; that promotes pleasure as the ultimate human good. The other serious temptation, and the one I want to focus on today, is one to which many of our brethren have already succumbed: compromise. Some within the evangelical Christian camp are now proposing that the best way forward is to actually accommodate SOGI laws, as long as they include limited religious exemptions. The idea is something like this: “We’ll recognize sexual orientation and gender identity as protected classes of human beings, as long as churches and certain religious organizations are exempt.” There are three problems with this line of reasoning. First, Christians must be truth tellers, and Christians cannot endorse a falsehood, even if for self-protection. To say that sexual orientation or gender identity defines a different class of human beings is simply not true. Who we are as God’s image bearers is no small part of the Gospel story, and SOGI laws deny who we truly are as people. Second, while these accommodations may protect houses of worship and some Christian institutions, they don’t protect all Christian institutions and certainly don’t protect all Christians, especially those in the public square or world of commerce—like the baker, photographer, or florist. All callings are sacred for all Christians. To seek to protect churches or organizations for doing “ministry,” but not photographers, bakers, and other Christians is to misunderstand the holistic life we are called to live in Christ. It’s particularly strange, by the way, for some Christian liberal arts colleges to promote compromise with SOGI laws. Most would teach students the idea that all callings are sacred, but apparently they don’t believe the teaching applies once their students graduate. Third, by establishing sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class of people, we’re allowing ourselves to be placed automatically in the category of bigots. I get the impulse to draw the line where we can, but if we are bigots already, it’s unwise to think that line of compromise won’t move significantly in the future. Today, I’ve joined with Alan Sears of the Alliance Defending Freedom and an amazing list of about 50 other Christian leaders to sign a statement clarifying where we stand on these troubling SOGI laws. The statement is very clear: SOGI laws threaten the freedoms of Americans to speak, teach, and live out their deeply held convictions in public life without fear of lawsuits or government coercion. You can read the statement at ColsonCenter.org/freedom. In fact, you can add your name to the list of signers. And you’ll find resources on how to talk about religious freedom and SOGI laws with friends and neighbors. Again, come to ColsonCenter.org/freedom.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Interview with Keith Getty: The Power of Christmas Carols

Dec 13, 2016 - 00:00:00

In this special interview with the Colson Center's Warren Cole Smith, composer and musician Keith Getty talks about the power of Christmas carols--songs of rebellion! Keith also shares his vision for a revival in church music.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Be a Bookworm, not a Goldfish

Dec 13, 2016 - 00:00:00

So, what are you reading these days? Actually, let me back up. Are you reading these days? In the developed world literacy is higher than it’s been at almost any time in history. And that is something to celebrate. But is it possible that even in our high-tech society where so much communication depends on the written word, we may be slipping back into a kind of pre-literacy? New data from a Pew Research study has me wondering. It turns out that more than a quarter of Americans didn’t read a single book this year, in any form. And get this: One in three American men have not read one book in the last twelve months. And those with low incomes and no college education were even less likely to do so. So what is going on here? We spend more time than ever reading texts, social media, and email—so why wouldn’t we be reading books, too? Well, a recent survey by Microsoft concluded that the average attention span is now a vanishingly brief eight seconds, down from twelve seconds in the year 2000. As the New York Times memorably put it, we now have shorter attention spans than goldfish. When it comes to reading anything longer than a 140-character tweet, our ability to concentrate has plummeted. Be honest, now: How difficult is it for you to get through a half-hour Bible study without succumbing to the urge to check Facebook? It’s gotten so bad that Cal Newport proposed last month in the Times that fellow millennials take a radical step to save their careers: and quit social media. Services like Facebook and Twitter weaken our ability to concentrate, he writes, because they’re “engineered to be addictive. The more you use social media throughout your waking hours, the more your brain learns to crave a quick hit of stimulus at the slightest hint of boredom.” Now, I don’t think quitting social media is the answer for most people, but Newport has a point. Joe Weisenthal at Bloomberg is also right to compare our virtual world of constantly-updated snippets with pre-literate cultures where information was transmitted orally. In a society without writing or books, he explains, ideas had to be short, pithy, and memorable—in other words, “viral.” The written word and books changed all of that. They allowed people to move beyond the immediate and concrete to express more timeless, complicated, and abstract thoughts. A literate people can reason and debate with one another across the ages. And that knowledge doesn’t die with individuals, or change with the telling. In books, knowledge becomes practically immortal. Which is why it’s disheartening to hear that so many Americans today—especially men—are ignoring these treasures. As professor Allan Bloom wrote in “The Closing of the American Mind,” “The failure to read good books both enfeebles the vision and strengthens our most fatal tendency—the belief that the here and now is all there is.” It makes us not only more gullible but, as the recent consternation over “fake news” on both sides of the political aisle attests—easier to manipulate. But we can’t just read books. We’ve got to read good books. Meaning, “Fifty Shades of Grey” does not qualify. If you haven’t read a good book in a while, why not get a jump start on the new year? And make sure your loved ones get books in their stockings this Christmas! Check out our recommended reading list at BreakPoint.org, filled with masterpieces like C. S. Lewis’ “The Abolition of Man,” Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s “The Cost of Discipleship,” and Glenn Sunshine’s “Why You Think the Way You Do.” They’ll raise you from the here and now and put you in touch with thoughts that have shaped history. These books and many like them are filled with ideas too big for a tweet, or for that matter, a fish bowl.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Is a Challenge to Roe a Heartbeat Away?

Dec 12, 2016 - 00:00:00

Will Roe v. Wade always be the law of the land? Some Ohio legislators don’t think so. Here's news about that state’s “heartbeat” law and why it matters. On December 7th, the Ohio legislature passed a law that would outlaw abortion after the fetus’ heartbeat could be detected, which in some cases is as early as six weeks. The bill “would make it a fifth-degree felony, punishable by up to one year in prison, for a physician to perform an abortion without checking for a fetal heartbeat or performing the procedure after it can be detected.” The so-called “Heartbeat Law” had been debated in previous legislative sessions, but had never made it through the state senate. This time, the senate passed the bill 21-to-10. As I record this broadcast, the bill—along with another bill that prohibits abortion after 20 weeks—sits on Governor John Kasich’s desk, awaiting his action. This is potentially a big deal. Here’s why. This is not the first time such a measure has been enacted at the state level. In 2013, both North Dakota and Arkansas enacted measures that were similar to the Ohio measure. In both instances, the bills were quickly struck down by federal courts. And in January of this year, the Supreme Court declined to hear these cases on appeal. This legal track record is why Ohio Right to Life did not support the bill and why Governor Kasich has expressed doubts about its constitutionality. Yet in addition to the senate, the bill also passed by a 56 to 39 margin in the Ohio house. Why? Well, as Ohio Senate President Keith Faber told the Columbus Dispatch, we have “a new president, new Supreme Court appointees, and there was consensus in our caucus to move forward.” Therefore, Faber added, the bill “has a better chance than it did before.” Faber is obviously referring to the prospect of president-elect Trump nominating, and the Senate approving, at least one if not more Scalia-like conservatives to the Supreme Court. The timing here is what’s interesting. Assuming the bill becomes law, it will certainly be challenged in federal court, where, as Ohio Right to Life and Governor John Kasich rightly suspect, it will be struck down by a federal district court judge. As the law now stands, it could hardly be otherwise. That’s where the interesting part starts. Appeals take time, and by the time the case makes its way through the courts, a lot could have changed, including even a second opening on the Supreme Court. And even if this law does not become the vehicle to overturn Roe and return the issue of abortion to the states, it could be a vehicle for chipping away at Roe’s impact. A case in point: North Dakota’s “heartbeat bill,” which North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple called “a legitimate attempt by a state legislature to discover the boundaries of Roe v. Wade.” Until recently, most states and people simply assumed Roe was sacrosanct and that any attempt to restrict abortion was legally impermissible. Thankfully, in more recent years, people at the state level have challenged that assumption. Which is exactly why, during the election season, Eric Metaxas and I reminded voters that the down ticket ballot was so crucial. Sometimes, as in the Supreme Court’s recent decision regarding Texas abortion clinics, unborn children lose to politics, but we never stop trying. We can’t stop trying. This Ohio bill is a big deal. If nothing else, it keeps pressure on Roe and its defenders. And so we await the governor’s action. Even if he vetoes it, the veto can be overturned by a three-fifths vote of both the Senate and the House, which, for the record, the GOP controls by more than the necessary margin. And while we wait for Ohio lawmakers to act, you and I must act. By praying. Pray, pray, pray. And to help, I’m pleased to announce we’ve just released our 21 Days of Prayer for Life as a free digital download. Just come to BreakPoint.org/21days.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: The Revolution

Dec 9, 2016 - 00:00:00

Ed Stetzer interviews theologian N. T. Wright about his new book, "The Day the Revolution Began." John and Ed also discuss the new Ohio "heartbeat" law that prohibits abortion after the baby's heartbeat is detected.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Dear Teens, Virginity Is Good for You

Dec 9, 2016 - 00:00:00

Teens who abstain from sex are healthier than those who don’t. Once again, research backs up the life-giving moral claims of a Christian worldview. We talk about this on BreakPoint quite a bit: Young people who wait until after the wedding have a better chance for a stable, fulfilling, happy marriage—not to mention they don’t have to worry about sexually transmitted diseases and unplanned pregnancies. You’ve probably also heard me or Eric Metaxas talk about how obedience to the Lord’s loving plan for confining sex within marriage brings incalculable spiritual benefits in our Christian lives. But what we haven’t heard in quite a while is the government admit that teenage sexual activity has, shall we say, negative consequences. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention—that’s right, the CDC—young people who are virgins register much higher in nearly all health-related behaviors than those who are sexually active. What kinds of behaviors? Things like using seat belts, avoiding drug abuse, eating a healthy diet, going to the doctor, exercising, and avoiding riding with a driver who’s been drinking. In addition, in a finding that the media is sure to either bury or dispute, while sexually inactive teens are healthiest, sexually active homosexual and bisexual teens fare worse than their sexually active heterosexual peers. The CDC conveys this blockbuster conclusion as drily and bureaucratically as possible: “Significant health disparities exist.” Our friend Glenn Stanton, director of global family formation studies at Focus on the Family, documents some of these disparities. Let’s take a look at just two: First, smoking. Sexually active heterosexual teens are 3,300 percent more likely to light up daily than their virgin counterparts. The “same-sex/bisexual-active” teens are an amazing 9,500 percent more likely to smoke daily than the virgins. Second, drug abuse. Sexually active heterosexual teens are 500 percent more likely to have ever injected a non-prescription drug than the virgins, while a whopping 2,333 percent of the “same-sex/bisexual-active” teens are more likely than the virgins to have done so. Now Glenn is quick to add, correlation is not causation—meaning the research doesn’t prove that abstinence causes these other healthy habits. But the fact that the CDC noted a relationship between behaviors that you might at first blush think are unrelated is more than a little significant. And parents should take note, too. As researcher Mark Regnerus has highlighted in his book “Forbidden Fruit,” the intensity of teens’ religious beliefs is more important when it comes to sexual activity than exactly what religious beliefs they claim. So it goes without saying that the first thing we should care about is our kids’ faith. A strong, informed, and vital relationship with Jesus will help them resist temptation and peer pressure—sexual and otherwise—the type that assault them every day at school and online. While the CDC will never be able to put it this way, Glenn Stanton does sums up their findings well: “The sexual choices and values our young people hold have real-life consequences far beyond sexuality itself.” Or in other words, as we say all the time around here, “worldview matters.” The CDC report shows there are consequences for a secular worldview that sees bodies as something we “own,” something external to who we are, something we use (or abuse) depending on our desires, our will, or our “identity.” The Christian worldview, in sharp contrast, teaches that our bodies are integral to who we are, both in how humans were created and in that Christ took on flesh to make all things new. The extent that we and our kids truly embrace this, will determine how we treat our bodies and the bodies of others. Come to BreakPoint.org, and we’ll link you to Glenn Stanton’s article, the CDC study, and other helpful resources.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Serving Others Gets Noticed

Dec 8, 2016 - 00:00:00

When Christians live as Jesus told us to do, loving God and serving others, folks notice. Even the New York Times! A recent headline in the New York Times was guaranteed to get readers’ attention. It said “Finding America’s Mother Theresa.” Talk about pressure! Whoever the article described had some huge shoes to fill: Mother Theresa was a beloved humanitarian who was both a Nobel Peace Prize winner and a Catholic saint. While Annette Dove of Pine Bluff, Arkansas, probably won’t win a Nobel Prize, and as a non-Catholic, won’t be canonized, there’s plenty here to admire and emulate. Dove’s story, as told by Times columnist Nicholas Kristof, is a remarkable one. At age 16, Dove dropped out of high school and married a man not only incapable of loving her but who also physically and mentally abused her. The end of that marriage left her as a single mom and taught her an important lesson: the importance of being “equally-yoked” with a person who shares your morals and values. As you’ve no doubt guessed, “America’s Mother Theresa,” like her Calcutta counterpart, is a Christian. As she writes in the preface to her book, “Birthing the Vision,” “My prayer is that this book will help those who find themselves in a new place of seeking God for their purpose in life. It is important that you understand that God should always be acknowledged, first.” “No journey will be easy,” she continues, “but if you allow Him to take control, by trusting in Him with your whole heart, and leaning not unto your own understanding; victory will be waiting for you.” In Dove’s case, “victory” has taken the form of TOPPS, which stands for “Targeting Our People’s Priorities with Service.” Dove started TOPPS after spending several decades as a special education teacher with a decent salary and the security that went along with it. Today, as Kristof tells his readers, “Dove works seven days a week and struggles month to month to pay the bills with donations, foundation support and a state grant; when the money runs out, she prays.” And she has no regrets. At TOPPS, she and volunteer mentors are keeping young people in school, preparing them for college, steering them away from drugs and crime. During the summer, TOPPS feeds 600 people a day. Young men are learning things like “how to tie a necktie,” and “how to look a job interviewer in the eye.” At TOPPS meetings, they talk about politics and what’s going on in the world. And they talk about personal responsibility: finances, how to make a budget, how to treat girls with respect. As Kristof says, “This training doesn’t erase the damage from troubled schools or dangerous neighborhoods, but it helps.” Kristof says that men and women like Dove are the ones who “keep their fingers in the dike and avert catastrophe.” “By force of will,” Kristof continued, Dove “creates opportunities for kids who have none—and reminds us that whatever happens in Washington, there are miracle workers at the grass roots.” Actually, Dove would hasten to emphasize that the will that matters most at TOPPS is God’s, not her own. People like Annette Dove, “get no headlines, no reward, no glory, and they regularly have their hearts broken, only to soldier on to help the next child.” And yet, Kristof says, they “help to restore my faith in America.” To which Dove would no doubt reply, what needs to be restored most is faith in the God she serves. A few years ago, Warren Smith and I wrote a book called “Restoring All Things.” As the subtitle says, it’s about “God’s extraordinary plan to change the world through ordinary people.” We had not heard of Annette Dove and TOPPS back then, but like so many stories we tell in the book, this is what restoration looks like: an “ordinary” woman going to extraordinary lengths to teach kids how to change their lives for the better. And of course, how to always put God first.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Too Much Christmas, too Little Advent

Dec 7, 2016 - 00:00:00

Advent has been buried under a pile of twinkle lights, plastic reindeer, and the Grinch. Here's why. Once upon a time there was a little girl who wanted it to be Christmas every day of the year. A fairy granted her wish: every day, for a whole year, it would be Christmas Day. And what that little girl learned in this funny story by William Dean Howells, is that you really can have too much of a good thing—way too much. The little girl had a wonderful Christmas, filled with presents and turkey and plum pudding. And the next day, it was Christmas again! The gifts, the turkey dinner, and all the rest of it. After a few months, the little girl, seeing “those great ugly lumpy stockings dangling at the fireplace, and the disgusting presents . . . burst out crying.” By then, writes Howells, “people didn’t carry presents around nicely any more. They flung them over the fence, or through the window.” Joseph Bottum relates this amusing tale in his book, “The Christmas Plains,” drawing a parallel between the story and the way we celebrate Christmas today. Even before Thanksgiving, Christmas songs blare from our radios; catalogs arrive even earlier. Department store Christmas trees often go up right after Halloween. After weeks of carols and cookies and parties, Bottum notes, Christmas “arrives as an afterthought: not the fulfillment, but only the end, of the long yule season…” In effect, we are celebrating Christmas every day, just like the little girl in the story. And many of us get just as sick of this daily “Christmas” as she did, although we don’t fling gifts at people, I hope. Now how on earth did this happen? Well, as Bottum notes, “every secularized holiday tends to lose, in public contexts, the meaning it holds in the religious calendar.” Advent—the traditional lead-up to Christmas—has vanished, culturally speaking. Its disappearance has left “a hole, from Thanksgiving on, that can be filled only with fiercer, madder, and wilder attempts to anticipate Christmas,” Bottum writes. Sadly, he’s right. If we want to celebrate Christmas properly—with “disciplined anticipation” as Bottum puts it--perhaps we need to cut back on all the secular celebrations (if we possibly can—they won’t go without a fight), and make the observance of the days of Advent front and center in our celebrations. Advent “proclaims an advent—a time before, a looking forward—and it lacks meaning without Christmas” at the end of it, Bottum explains. Christmas, “in turn, lacks meaning without the penitential season of advent to go before it.” This is why Advent celebrations, both at home and in churches, focus on scriptures that anticipate the coming of Christ. In Micah, we read, “But you, O Bethlehem . . . from you SHALL come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel…” And in Matthew, Joseph is told that Mary “WILL bear a son, and you SHALL call his name Jesus . . .” Things like Advent calendars and crèches that remain empty until Christmas Eve “give a shape to the anticipation of the season,” says Bottum. And “a season of contrition and sacrifice prepares us to understand and feel something about just how great the gift is when at last the day itself arrives.” Why not try an Advent devotional to guide you, such as ones by Tim Keller and John Piper? Or check out John Stonestreet’s “He Has Come” talks at the BreakPoint podcast. Make an Advent wreath with your children. And take time every evening to gather your family around, light the Advent candles, read the scriptures, pray, and sing some Christmas hymns that anticipate the coming of Christ. And then when Christmas Day does arrive, we can greet it, not with a sense of relief that the Christmas “season” is almost over, but with joy for the great gift of Christ.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Warren Cole Smith: Problems Facing the Family

Dec 6, 2016 - 00:00:00

Last year Colson Center Vice-President for Advancment Warren Cole Smith addressed 3,000 people gathered for the World Congress of Families. Asked to address the question, “What are the biggest problems facing the family,” Warren identified the problems and then laid out an audacious vision and strategy for Christians to move us toward a new “golden age of the family.” His keys for success? To do what Christians have always done: run toward the world’s crises, show self-sacrificing service to those around us, and, to capture the culture’s imagination, re-master the art of storytelling.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
21 Days of Prayer for Life

Dec 6, 2016 - 00:00:00

Next month, hundreds of thousands of people will join the March for Life in Washington, DC. But what if there were three times that many praying? January 22nd is the 43rd anniversary of the worst Supreme Court decision in our nation’s history. With Roe v. Wade, seven robed men gave America some of the most permissive abortion-on-demand laws in the world. Since that time, nearly 60 million unborn children have been killed in the womb. This month, January, is the month so many American Christians memorialize the unborn—through Sanctity of Life Sunday (this year on January 15) and the March for Life on the National Mall in Washington DC on January 27th—I will be there. The day before that, by the way, my colleague John Stonestreet will be speaking at the Anglicans for Life conference, and then after the march at the Evangelicals for Life conference. As you may know, John and I are very passionate about this issue. Now, if you can get to Washington DC, please do! But if you can’t, you can still be a part of the most significant cause of our day: the cause for life. How? Well, the Colson Center for Christian Worldview has produced a free, downloadable booklet called: 21 Days of Prayer for Life. It’s updated for 2017, and we want to see millions of Christians appeal together to heaven to end this grave evil. This full-color booklet was co-written by John Stonestreet and top pro-life apologist Scott Klusendorf, and is co-sponsored by the top pro-life groups in America: Students for Life, Focus on the Family, Save the Storks, the March for Life, Life Training Institute, CareNet, and others. The booklet will guide you through a three-week journey to pray for all of the victims of abortion: the unborn, expectant mothers and fathers in crisis, siblings, grandparents, and yes, even abortion clinic workers. It also includes prayers for pastors, as well as politicians and policy makers. You see Roe v. Wade, as bad of a decision as it was, did not “settle” the abortion debate in America. In fact, if the growing concern and hysteria from pro-abortion forces tell us anything, it’s that America is shifting away from unrestricted abortion. Pro-life forces have made major gains in state legislatures across the country in recent years, and new survey data show that 53 percent of millennials believe abortion should be either illegal or legal only in cases of rape or incest or to save the life of the mother. Let’s keep the momentum going in 2017—and let’s start on our knees, in prayer! But there’s something else powerful about this prayer guide. Each day features beautiful stories of life: of the dad who chose life for his son with Down syndrome, of the sibling who found peace for the loss of her aborted sister and forgiveness for her mom, of the student who courageously stood for life in a hostile college classroom. These stories will inspire you to also pick up the mantle and stand for life. And as you pray, this guide will equip you to have pro-life conversations with your friends and neighbors. Did you know you can defend the dignity of unborn life through science and philosophy? Could you use some talking points on fetal development, and how to graciously answer the red herring arguments that you often hear like: “don’t like abortion, don’t have one”? Well, then you need this prayer guide. So here’s what you can do: come to BreakPoint.org and download it for free right from our website. And please, please, will you think of five people you could share it with and forward the link to them? And don’t forget your pastor. Maybe your small group or Bible study or family or homeschool group or Christian school class will commit together to pray for life this January. And Facebook and Twitter would be great ways to share the prayer guide. Again, come to BreakPoint.org and download “21 Days of Prayer for Life.” God bless you.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
We're Special After All

Dec 5, 2016 - 00:00:00

Hey—guess what? There’s something cosmically special about us human beings after all. Even the Washington Post says so. One of the cardinal tenets of a worldview shaped by materialism and Neo-Darwinism is a rejection of the idea that human beings are in any way special. Instead, we’re merely the result of a fortuitous accident. What’s more, many adherents postulate that this accident has occurred, perhaps even often, elsewhere in the Cosmos. So there’s nothing exceptional or unique about us. However, Howard A. Smith, an astrophysicist at the Smithsonian-Harvard Center for Astrophysics, begs to differ. In a recent Washington Post article, Smith told readers that an “objective look at just two of the most dramatic discoveries of astronomy . . . big bang cosmology and planets around other stars,” suggests that those who have relegated humanity to cosmic insignificance are, in a word, wrong. He points to the Anthropic Principle, which holds that “the universe, far from being a collection of random accidents, appears to be stupendously perfect and fine-tuned for life.” What’s more, the “life” being referred to here isn’t just algae and the occasional vertebrate. Citing the work of philosopher Thomas Nagel and astrophysicist John Wheeler, who coined the term “black hole,” Smith raises the possibility that “intelligent beings must somehow be the directed goal of such a curiously fine-tuned cosmos.” This raises an obvious question: How much intelligent life is out there? The answer, according to Smith, is that life “is probably rarer than previously imagined.” Smith continues, “Life might be common in the very distant universe—or it might not be—and we are unlikely to know. We are probably rare—and it seems likely we will be alone for eons.” That’s because of what is known as the “misanthropic principle” or, alternatively, the “Rare Earth Hypothesis.” Believe it or not, the fine-tuning required to make life possible was the easy part. Because “it takes vastly more than liquid water and a pleasant environment to give birth even to simple (much less complex) life.” Smith cites the work of Nobel Laureate Jacques Monod and Stephen Jay Gould, who “emphasized the extraordinary circumstances that led to intelligence on Earth.” The “combined astronomical, biological and evolutionary chances for life to form and evolve to intelligence” are infinitesimally small. Throw in the enormity of the cosmos—for instance, the Milky Way galaxy is said to be 100,000 light years across—and, as Smith says, “we probably have no one to talk to.” So, it turns out that we are far from ordinary, much less “chemical scum on a moderate-sized planet” as Stephen Hawking so depressingly put it. Smith concludes that “humanity and our home planet, Earth, are rare and cosmically precious,” and he urges us to “act accordingly.” And all God’s people said “Amen!” Now, I’m neither an astrophysicist nor have I played one on television. But two years ago I made similar arguments in the Wall Street Journal. While the overall response to the piece I wrote was positive, there were still plenty of critics who took me to task for “masquerading as a scientist,” which of course I was not doing. I simply cited what had been, in Smith’s words, “accepted by physicists for forty-three years,” and asked the obvious questions raised by what we know. Smith asked different, but no-less important questions. As was the case two years ago, rejection of what he has to say about the astronomical un-likelihood of human existence will have little to do with science. But it will have a lot to do with a fanatical commitment to a sadly materialist and anemic worldview.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Whitewashing the Red Menace

Dec 2, 2016 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss the death of Cuban dictator Fidel Castro--and how many in the media and politicians on the left have whitewashed his brutal legacy and the legacy of communism around the globe. As John and Ed discuss, any ideology based on a false view of human nature is doomed to failure, and communism, with its materialist worldview, is no exception.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
A Smiling Child with Down Syndrome

Dec 2, 2016 - 00:00:00

France has banned the faces of smiling children from television. Why? Picture the face of a smiling child. What thoughts come to mind? Innocence? Joy? Love? What could be more beautiful? The image of a smiling child should give us hope, should stir us—should be a reminder that we’re all made in the image of God. Even, and perhaps especially, the smile of a child with Down syndrome. A couple of years ago, to mark World Down Syndrome Day, the Italian advocacy organization CoorDown released a touching video featuring children with Down syndrome. It’s titled “Dear Future Mom.” The video was created to address the fears of a pregnant woman who has just received a prenatal Down syndrome diagnosis—and does it ever! It opens with a letter that CoorDown received from an expecting mother who’s discovered her baby has Down syndrome. “I’m scared,” she wrote. What kind of life will my child have?” Over the next two minutes, children with Down syndrome address us in different languages, smiling, and assuring the frightened mom-to-be that her child will be able to read and write, to go to school, to help Dad fix a bike . . . and to run to her, to hug her, to dance with her, and to tell her, “I love you.” Every word is true. Anyone who has rubbed shoulders with someone who has Down syndrome will tell you about the love, the openness, and the zest for life they bring to every situation. Their laughter and joy can be infectious. And as the deeply pro-abortion Huffington Post reports, studies in the U.K. and U.S. have shown that the vast majority of children with Down syndrome and their families live happy, fulfilled lives. “Dear Future Mom” is a hope-filled message to a culture in which parents more and more obsesses over the physical perfection and earning potential of their children. Come to BreakPoint.org and we’ll link you to the video so you can share it with others. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t end there. This positive portrayal of children with Down syndrome was too much for French authorities, who have banned “Dear Future Mom.” Why, you ask? Out of kindness—at least that’s what they say. According to Live Action News, earlier this month France’s Counseil d’Etat, basically, the supreme court, upheld a lower court ban on the video as “inappropriate.” How so? Because the video’s portrayal of people with Down syndrome as happy and smiling was “likely to disturb the conscience of women who had lawfully made different personal choices.” Meaning, of course, they aborted their babies. As Live Action News explains, “This ban, in its very essence, lends credence to the idea that the mere public presence of people with Down syndrome, happy and smiling and excited to be alive, could be considered potentially offensive.” The truly disturbing thing is what this politically correct censorship will do to children with Down syndrome. Right now in France, 86 percent of children prenatally diagnosed with Down syndrome are aborted—hardly surprising, given that positive news and information about them are censored out of the public square. As Amy Julia Becker notes in Christianity Today, culture can determine the fate of such children. “The last thing a pregnant woman facing the likelihood of a baby with Down syndrome needs,” she writes, “is to think that keeping that baby is an abnormal choice.” What could be more normal than welcoming into our lives people who differ from us in some ways but share our love of life, and most importantly, bear the unmistakable image of Love Himself? The French people—and the world—need to see this video. Again, please come to BreakPoint.org to see “Dear Future Mom.”

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Heroin Hell

Dec 1, 2016 - 00:00:00

If you’re a parent, what I’m about to share on BreakPoint today just might scare the heck out of you. But you need to hear it. Elizabeth Blunt was a talented musician and athlete who attended a Christian high school and college. Gifted in foreign languages, Beth was preparing to work in international relations, perhaps in China. But she never made it. Beth died in May of an overdose of heroin laced with fentanyl—a cheap, synthetic opiate. She was not quite 23. “She never came home drunk, didn’t show signs of drug abuse,” Beth’s mother, Lisa, said. “She used to be the sweetest girl. I don’t know what happened.” The statistics are frightening. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every day in the United States, an average of 78 people like Beth die of an opiate overdose, including 29 from heroin. Every year, the CDC reports, opiate overdoses kill more than 28,000 people, and heroin kills more than 10,500. That’s more than all those killed on U.S. highways. And the problem is escalating. About 435,000 Americans in 2014 used heroin, according to the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration. That’s nearly three times the number just in 2007. U.S. Surgeon General Vivek Murthy says drug and alcohol addiction is “a moral test for America,” with more than 20 million people embroiled in substance abuse problems. Only 10 percent of them are receiving treatment. “We can never forget that the faces of substance use disorders are real people,” Murthy said while releasing a report on the problem. “Are we able to live up to that most fundamental obligation we have as human beings: to care for one another?” What’s behind this hellish epidemic? One factor—heroin is a very affordable high. “Heroin is … cheap and available just about everywhere,” reporter Dan Ponce of WGN-TV in Chicago says. “A $10 bag can keep someone high for a day or two. …. Drug dealers will deliver heroin right to your front door.” Another is the neurological effect such drugs have on the brain. The surgeon general’s report notes that repeated use changes the brain, so that it demands more to function. It’s a vicious cycle that can trap our children in addiction. And it comes straight from hell. As Screwtape said to his junior-devil colleague, Wormwood, “An ever-increasing craving for an ever diminishing pleasure is the formula.” That describes drug abuse to a T. So now that we’re properly scared, what can we do to protect our kids from the hellish world of illegal drugs? First, pray for and with them. Second, talk with them—frankly—not only about the risks of substances like heroin, but about the joy and purpose available in Christ, which no drug can ever match. Third, really listen to them. And fourth, if necessary, get them into treatment. Come to our website for some great resources and encouragement in the fight against this scourge. Please know that there is hope for those who have become snared by drugs. Even in addiction, where sin increases, grace can abound even more. Help is available for those who choose it. For example, the Indiana Dream Center provides recovering addicts with effective, God-centered treatment. Its facility for women, Marilyn’s House, helps residents gain life and job skills, spiritual development, and mentoring. “To be held accountable, they don’t go anywhere alone,” says Jessica Brooks, a former heroin addict who now directs the ministry. “We’re pretty radical. We really live how the Bible says. Jesus sent them out in twos, so we go out in twos.” Heroin may be a taste of hell, but as this ministry and others show, there is hope—real hope—in Jesus Christ. Again, come to BreakPoint.org for resources.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Copts Under the Gun in Egypt

Nov 30, 2016 - 00:00:00

The end of the Muslim Brotherhood regime in Egypt meant big changes. But just not for the country’s beleaguered Christians. Sadly, news about the persecution of Christians in the Islamic world is nothing new. In parts of Iraq and Syria the situation has gotten so bad that the Obama administration declared ISIS’ actions to be “genocide.” But a recent story about the persecution of Christians in the region didn’t come out of the Levant, but instead, out of Egypt. Now if this story sounds familiar, that’s because, sadly, it is. For years we’ve been talking on BreakPoint about the plight of Egypt’s native Christians, known as the Copts. As I said back in 2013, “Egypt [is] central to the birth of Christianity.” It’s right there in Scripture: it was to Egypt that the Holy Family fled from Herod. And Egypt produced some of Christianity’s greatest minds such as Origen and the great defender of orthodoxy, Athanasius. The father of monasticism, Anthony, was also Egyptian, and for much of the Church’s early history, Alexandria was the mind and soul of the faith. “Egypt was Christian for six centuries before the coming of Islam,” and the people we call “Copts” are the descendants of those who kept the faith in the face of enormous pressure to abandon it. Those pressures continue to this day. Even under non-Islamist governments, Copts are, at best, second-class citizens. They’re harassed at every turn. For instance, repairing their churches, never mind building a new one, requires overcoming huge obstacles. And that’s under relatively “friendly” regimes. When the Muslim Brotherhood took power following the “Arab Spring,” they faced what Nina Shea called “jihad” in which it was “open season” on them and their institutions. Many thought that the overthrow of the Muslim Brotherhood’s government in 2013 might bring some relief. But as the Washington Post reported recently, any respite has proven to be short-lived. The Post quotes a Coptic Bishop’s assessment that a “‘disturbing wave of radicalism’ has emerged from the uprising and changes in government and as the economy has worsened.” In Minya, which is 150 miles south of Cairo, where “unemployment and illiteracy are high,” and “government services are limited,” radical Islamists “have filled the void, influencing people with anti-Christian rhetoric.” The result—a series of attacks on Christians and a failure or unwillingness to punish the perpetrators. Instead, according to Christian activists, “Local officials often pressure Christians into mediating disputes instead of going to court and coerce them into changing their testimony.” As the local Bishop told the Post, “These kinds of reconciliation sessions replace the rule of law.” This, in turn, emboldens other would-be assailants since “the community knows they can get away with attacking Christians.” It’s gratifying to see the Post’s coverage of this important story. Would that the rest of the mainstream media did the same. But in the end, we can’t count on this happening. If the story of what’s going on in places like Minya and in the rest of Egypt is going to be told, it’s going to be up to us. As I said three years ago, if the media aren’t “urging our leaders to protect Egyptian Christians . . . we have to. We cannot stand by in silence while yet another ancient Christian community is threatened with extinction.” We’re all the beneficiaries of the courage and wisdom of Egyptian Christians since the beginning of the faith. It’s long past time to return the kindness. Please call or email your newly elected representative and senators in Congress. We’ll soon have a new president in the White House. Make sure he knows that the U.S. must speak out and condemn the persecution of Egyptian Christians. And come to BreakPoint.org, click on this commentary. We’ll link you to the article in the Washington Post. And of course, as always, please pray for our brothers and sisters in Egypt.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
He Has Come

Nov 29, 2016 - 00:00:00

Last Sunday was the first day of Advent—the season in which Christians around the world prepare not only to celebrate the birth of Jesus at Christmas, but also look forward to His return. So today we want to share with you John Stonestreet’s special Advent teaching series “He Has Come.” This 16 minute podcast is broken down into four 4-minute segments, each beginning with a refrain from a well-known Christmas carol.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Freedom of Conscience on Hacksaw Ridge

Nov 28, 2016 - 00:00:00

At the height of World War II, there was room in America for conscientious objectors. Where are we now? It was the great cataclysm of the twentieth century—World War II. America was fighting for its life. Nazi Germany and Imperial Japan, totalitarian nightmares bent on world conquest, had to be defeated. Millions of Americans took up arms, willing to sacrifice their lives. And now there’s an amazing, powerful film about one man who was willing to give his life, but whose conscience and deeply held religious beliefs would not allow him to take the lives of others. Mel Gibson’s new movie, “Hacksaw Ridge,” tells the story of Desmond Doss, a Seventh Day Adventist from the hills of Virginia, who enlisted in the Army with the understanding he could serve as a medic—and therefore not violate his firm belief in “thou shalt not kill.” But when Doss arrived at Fort Jackson, South Carolina, he was in for a rude surprise. His sergeant, his captain, and the judge at the subsequent military hearing didn’t seem to care much for Doss’s convictions. Nor did members of his platoon, who accused him of cowardice—and let Doss know how they felt with their fists. Doss stood firm—despite facing years of imprisonment. “With the world so set on tearing itself apart,” he told the military tribunal, “it don’t seem like such a bad thing to me to put a little bit of it back together.” Now, I won’t tell you exactly how the Army gave in—that would be a spoiler—but I will tell you this, because, as they say, the rest is history. Doss went with his platoon to Okinawa and scaled a cliff known as “the escarpment,” which in the film is called “Hacksaw Ridge.” And that is where the floodgates of hell opened. Hundreds of GI’s perished in the fight that day. At night, as the wounded lay in agony, Doss went from man to man, dragged them to the edge of the escarpment and lowered them down on a rope one by one. In all, he saved some 75 wounded GIs from certain death. For his actions, President Truman awarded Doss the Congressional Medal of Honor. The only conscientious objector in U. S. history to win the nation’s highest award. Before I go any further: “Hacksaw Ridge” is rated R for horrifically brutal battle scenes. It is not suitable for children. But it is an outstanding movie: the characters, the dialogue, the drama, and the cinematography are phenomenal. If you can stomach the scenes of death and destruction, you should go see it. And here’s the major reason why. I’ve never seen a film that so powerfully underscores the importance of freedom of conscience. Writing at the National Catholic Register, Steven Greydanus calls WWII Private Desmond Doss “a hero for our troubled times.” Times in which florists and bakers are being hauled before civil rights commissions, being fined, losing their businesses; times in which pharmacists in Washington State can lose their licenses for refusing to dispense abortion pills; times in which churches in Massachusetts can run afoul of “public accommodation” laws requiring gender neutral bathrooms—we do indeed have a model in Desmond Doss. Doss quietly and courageously sought to be a good citizen, but he knew where his true citizenship lay. Scorn, the threat of imprisonment, even Japanese bullets could not induce him to abandon his convictions. And most importantly, Doss backed his convictions with his actions. His humility, his bravery and his willingness to sacrifice his life--even for those who opposed him—won over his harshest critics. May it be so with us.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: Advent and Those Who've Gone Before Us

Nov 25, 2016 - 00:00:00

John and Ed discuss the extraordinary life and witness of Cliff Barrows; the rise of the "alt-right," and the season of Advent: How do we prepare to celebrate Christmas and anticipate the Lord's return?

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Advent, Sacred Time, and Worldview

Nov 25, 2016 - 00:00:00

It is time to prepare for Christmas. But I don’t mean at the shopping mall. I mean sacred preparation. This upcoming Sunday marks the beginning of Advent, the time historically “set aside by the Church to help believers prepare to receive the fullness of Jesus’ coming.” And the word “coming” refers both to His Incarnation and “His return as the ‘Son of Man coming in clouds with great power and glory,” who will “send his angels to gather his elect from the four winds, from the ends of the earth to the ends of the heavens’ (Mark 13:26-27).” A few years ago, on BreakPoint I said that “walking through this season of Advent in prayer, scripture and devotional readings has been a huge blessing to my family, to my church, and to me personally.” That’s definitely still the case. Today I want to explore the relationship between the observance of Advent and our worldview. When most Christians think about worldview (if they think about it at all), what comes to mind are ideas. Now worldview isn’t less than ideas, of course, but it is more. Bill Brown, Gary Phillips and I define worldview as the framework of basic beliefs we have that give us a view of and for the world. That framework includes ideas, but also our imagination, our habits, and the basic stories—both cultural and personal—that shape our lives. We live out of these stories—they give us, as N. T. Wright puts it, “a way-of-being-in-the-world.” It’s this “way-of-being in the world” that I want to talk more about today. Twelve years ago, the historian Robert Louis Wilken wrote in the journal First Things that “The Church is a culture in its own right. Christ does not simply infiltrate a culture; Christ creates culture by forming another city, another sovereignty with its own social and political life.” What distinguishes this culture from the non-Christian world is not some kind of physical separation, or even a spiritual withdrawal, but, to borrow Wright’s phrase, a “way-of-being-in-the-world” that’s different. According to Wilken, three hallmarks of this “way” were the distinctive Christian uses of space, time, and language. Time today does not permit me to discuss the uses of space and language, so I’ll settle for urging you to read Wilken’s essay. We’ll link to it at BreakPoint.org. But that does leaves time to talk about, well, time. As Wilken writes, “We should not underestimate the cultural significance of the calendar and its indispensability for a mature spiritual life. Religious rituals carry a resonance of human feeling accumulated over the centuries.” He continues “The season of Advent . . . is a predictable reminder that the Church lives by another time, marked in the home by a simple ritual, the lighting of a violet Advent candle set in an evergreen wreath on a dark evening in early December.” “Sacred seasons” like Advent, “run at right angles to the conventional calendar [and] they offer a regular and fixed cessation of activity.” They become “times of reflection and contemplation that open us to mystery and transcendence.” What’s more, they provide the “gift of leisure,” a much-needed respite from “the world of work and money and minding our p’s and q’s.” Only if we truly understand those cultural forces that shape our worldview can we intentionally open ourselves to the possibility that there is a way of being in the world that is both countercultural and transformative. We have some Advent resources and readings for you at BreakPoint.org. And beginning on Tuesday, you can listen to a special Advent podcast titled, “He Has Come.” It’s available on our BreakPoint podcast. You can sign up for the podcast at iTunes or by visiting BreakPoint.org/podcast. Please, find time and find space to prepare for Christmas. Have a blessed Advent.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Talking Turkey at Thanksgiving

Nov 23, 2016 - 00:00:00

Ah, Thanksgiving. Turkey. Stuffing. Football. …and that dreaded dinner discussion. Here are some tips to not only get through it but maybe even make a difference. In the wake of this year’s outrageously contentious election season, Google trends recorded a spike in searches for “Friendsgiving.” Instead of having to talk politics or religion with that opinionated parent, aunt or uncle over Thanksgiving dinner, many folks are rejecting family for friends on turkey day. Why risk having an argument ruin Thanksgiving anyway? Of course, there’s nothing wrong with having friends over to celebrate Thanksgiving. But we ought not run from tough conversations about things that matter—at Thanksgiving or any time of year. Tough conversations don’t have to be a disaster, even if they do touch on controversial topics. You know, topics like, oh, I don’t know, same-sex “marriage,” immigration, the ongoing validity of the electoral college, or even worse, the Dallas Cowboys. As I’ve said before on BreakPoint, the key to civil, interesting, and productive conversations is asking good questions. By asking questions and engaging in answers, monologues become dialogues, surface-level discussions can go deeper, and closed minds might even open a little bit. Here are six questions I’ve found extremely helpful for creating good conversation about what matters: First, What do you mean by that? The battle of ideas is always the battle over the definition of words. So it’s vital in any conversation to clarify the terms that are being used. For example, a very important thing to clarify about whether Christians should support same-sex marriage is the definition of marriage—and the nature of marriage. So when the topic comes up, say, “Hold on, before we go too far into what kind of unions should be considered marriage, what do you mean by marriage?” Often, when it comes to these crucial issues, we’re using the same vocabulary as those with whom we disagree, but not the same dictionary. Here’s a second question: How do you know that’s true? Too often, assertions are mistaken for arguments. There’s a vast difference between the two. An assertion is a definitive statement made about the nature of reality. An argument is presented to back up an assertion. By asking that question “how do you know that’s true?” you’ll move the conversation beyond two people merely asserting what they believe to why those assertions should be taken seriously in the first place. Of course, if you ask someone making an assertion this question, be ready to be asked that question when you make an assertion. But that’s okay—we have reasons for our faith that we can share. Our moral convictions make sense, and we should be ready to make the case for them whenever we get the chance. Here’s a third question: Where did you get this information? Once arguments are offered, it’s important to ensure the arguments are valid. For example, news reports love to shout that same-sex parents are better parents than straight couples—a talking point that’s based on very limited studies, while other studies suggest the exact opposite. The fourth question: How did you come to this conclusion? Behind the person you’re talking with and his or her convictions, is a story, a personal story. If you know that story, it may make more sense why they don’t find your views plausible. Plus, it’ll help you remember the person you’re talking with is a real, image-of-God bearing person. The final two questions: What if you’re wrong? and What if you’re right? Ideas have consequences. Follow your guests’ positions to their logical conclusion. Oh, and tomorrow at the dinner table, to get off to a good start, here’s a seventh question, one of the most important that we can ask: For what are we thankful? I can tell you right now that all of us at the Colson Center are thankful for the privilege we have to offer BreakPoint every day. And we’re thankful for the radio stations that make it possible. And of course, for all of you who listen, who support us, who pray for us, who write us, and who share BreakPoint with friends and families. So from all of us at the Colson Center, Happy Thanksgiving.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Engaging the Culture for Life, Part II

Nov 22, 2016 - 00:00:00

Today we present part II of John Stonestreet’s keynote address at the national conference of CareNet, one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in America. In part I, John discussed the first of the four-part gospel story: Creation and especially the dignity of each and every human being made in the image of God. Today John talks about the painful reality of the Fall, the redemption we have in Christ, and, finally, how we participate in God’s plan for the restoration of all things.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Post-Truth, the Word of the Year

Nov 22, 2016 - 00:00:00

Is our culture losing touch with reality? The folks who pick the official “word of the year” think so. The Christian satire website, Babylon Bee, has had a lot of great headlines. One of my favorites so far: “Progressive Evangelical Leaders Meet to Affirm Doctrine of ‘Sola Feels.’” Adherents to this imaginary creed believe that “things that make us feel bad…are wrong. The things that give us all the happy feels…are true, right, and good.” Now of course, the scary part about satire is how closely it often mirrors reality. On a related note, Oxford Dictionaries has released its 2016 word of the year: “Post-truth,” which they define as “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” I can hardly think of a better description of where we are right now as a culture. In fact, for those of us who’ve spent years calling out what Pope Benedict called “the dictatorship of relativism,” it’s tempting to say, “welcome to the party, guys!” But the concept of “post-truth” is a bit different from garden variety relativism. It doesn’t discount the existence of truth. Rather, a post-truth society is one in which truth takes a back seat to emotion—where feelings effectively replace facts. And that’s exactly what we’ve seen over the course of this year’s election. For example, the melt-down among what many are calling the “snowflakes” on college campuses over President-elect Trump is the most obvious example. Despite exit polls showing that a huge percentage of eligible millennial voters stayed home on Election Day, many of these students just can’t handle the outcome. Their schools are sending letters of condolences, canceling exams, even offering hot chocolate and hugs from administrators. Faced with a reality that contradicts what they feel should have happened, many just can’t cope. A post-truth culture also leads us to equate disagreement with hatred. Loving me means agreeing with me. And as many conservative speakers who’ve been chased from university campuses by angry students can tell you, when feelings are equated with a person’s identity and even reality, contradicting those feelings is the same as attacking the person. The post-truth culture can also lead us to ignore reality altogether. I’ve made it clear on BreakPoint that I find some of our next president’s past words, especially about racial minorities and women, troubling, to say the least. But in this post-truth, post-fact, post-reality environment, many have hijacked legitimate concerns in order to play the victim. Just look at the panicked reaction from gay and lesbian activists, who are behaving as if Donald Trump plans to persecute their community. But there are no facts to support this hysteria. If anything, our next president has been far friendlier to the LGBT agenda than I’m comfortable with, even calling the Supreme Court’s Obergefell ruling “settled law.” Trump hasn’t committed to protecting the bakers, florists, photographers, and others who’ve been hounded for not participating in same-sex weddings. But all these facts don’t matter when so many feel that the president-elect threatens their way of life. And of course, post-truth culture dominates Facebook and Twitter feeds. Just look at the epidemic of fake news that marred this election. Even Christians too often fall for completely fabricated headlines and hoaxes, largely because they validate our feelings. So where does all this leave us? Well, the Bible has plenty to say on the subject of truth. In fact, we follow the One Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life, Who came into the world to testify to the truth, a truth which—He told His disciples—would set them free. Truth must govern our emotions, not the other way around. The 2016 word of the year doesn’t bode well for our culture. We must insist on prioritizing facts before emotions. The “doctrine” of “sola feels” is supposed to be a joke. So let’s make sure it stays that way.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
No, We Can't Agree to Disagree on Marriage

Nov 21, 2016 - 00:00:00

Can Christians agree to disagree on our culture’s most controversial topics? Well, when it comes to certain issues, the answer is no. For years, a steady drumbeat of Christian pastors, musicians, and authors have announced they’ve “evolved” on the issue of homosexuality. Authors like Matthew Vines and more recently, Jen Hatmaker, musician Nicole Nordeman and Yale philosopher Nicholas Wolterstorff argue that the Bible doesn’t actually condemn same-sex “marriage.” Christians, they say, should bless such unions as “holy.” Many of them have said that even if we don’t agree, we shouldn’t make it a big deal. We can “agree to disagree,” they say. Typically, they offer one of three reasons. First, this issue, they say, is like the mode of baptism, or worship styles, or wine versus grape juice in the Lord’s Supper. In other words, homosexuality is a matter of preference, an area where believers can respect one another’s differences. But this doesn’t make sense for either side. Advocates of same-sex “marriage” say it’s a human right. If that’s true, the traditional view is not just mistaken, it’s dangerous! Opponents say that acts of homosexuality are sinful. If that’s true, then Christians can’t agree to disagree either. Second, we often hear that the Church is evolving on this issue, especially every time a Christin celebrity changes their minds. But the vast majority of evangelicals still hold to the traditional view, and they’re not changing their minds anytime soon. As my “BreakPoint This Week” cohost, Ed Stetzer, points out in Christianity Today, “Evangelical organizations across the spectrum are making clear where they stand on marriage.” Groups like the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, InterVarsity Christian Fellowship, Christianity Today, and even more progressive social-justice-minded organizations like World Vision and Fuller Seminary, have all unambiguously committed to hold the line on this issue. As have denominations. Virtually every evangelical communion has reaffirmed God’s design for sex and marriage. Even in the United Methodist Church, long considered a stronghold of liberal theology, and in the worldwide Anglican communion, the marriage debate has taken a conservative turn as traditional members in Africa and elsewhere exert their influence. But, some will reply, “If Christians don’t all agree on what marriage is, you can’t say there’s such a thing as ‘the Christian position.’” But Christian truth isn’t made of what people who call themselves Christians say. It’s revealed truth, made known through creation, through Scripture, ultimately through Christ—each of which are quite clear about what makes us male and female, what marriage is, and about sexual morality. Which is why Christians never questioned marriage until culturally yesterday. A post-sexual revolution claim just a few years old does nothing to negate the consistent Christian witness about marriage throughout all of history. Which brings up the final argument, “If marriage is a core part of Christian teaching,” we hear, “why isn’t it in the creeds or the councils? Why did no one talk about it until now?” The answer is, because no one questioned what marriage is until now—anywhere, much less in the Church. Throughout history, the need to clarify certain Christian doctrines has almost always arisen because of challenges. No one thought we needed a canon, until Marcion suggested some books weren’t Scripture. No one thought we needed to clarify Jesus’ place in the Godhead, until the Arian heresy. In each case, what was upheld wasn’t a theological innovation, but a clarification of the consistent Christian teaching. So next time someone says, let’s just agree to disagree about this issue, say, “No. Instead, let’s agree to love each other and to pursue the truth together.” That’s a much better way forward.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Opening the Tomb of Jesus

Nov 18, 2016 - 00:00:00

Can you imagine peering into the tomb where Jesus’ body was laid? Well, last month, archaeologists did just that. For a sixty-hour period beginning on October 26th, researchers had unprecedented access to the Church of the Holy Sepulchre, the site long-venerated as the place where Joseph of Arimathea placed Jesus’ body on Good Friday. Then on October 28th, the tomb was resealed and may not be re-opened until, as the Nicene Creed says, He comes again in glory to judge the living and the dead. As National Geographic told readers, “While it is archaeologically impossible to say that the tomb recently uncovered in the Church of the Holy Sepulchre is the burial site of . . . .Jesus of Nazareth, there is indirect evidence to suggest that the identification of the site by representatives of the Roman emperor Constantine some 300 years later may be a reasonable one.” First some history: according to the historian Eusebius of Caesarea, the Roman emperor Hadrian, about 100 years after Jesus’ death and resurrection, had a temple dedicated to the goddess Aphrodite built over the site of Jesus’ tomb. This was not by accident. Two centuries later, the emperor Constantine had the pagan temple demolished and in the process, discovered what was believed to be the tomb of Jesus. Constantine ordered a church to be built around the tomb. The church we see at the site today is not the original. That one was damaged by earthquakes and fires. It was repaired but later demolished by a Fatimid caliph in the early eleventh century and then rebuilt again and damaged again, so forth and so on. Yet the pilgrims kept coming, so much so that in the 16th century the burial bed in the tomb was covered in marble to keep people from taking home souvenirs. This is a great story, but is there reason to believe that it’s the site of God’s mightiest work, the raising of Jesus from the dead? What researchers found was “perfectly consistent with what we know about how wealthy Jews disposed of their dead in the time of Jesus.” Wealthy Jews like Joseph of Arimathea. The presence of other tombs nearby shows that “this area was a Jewish cemetery outside the walls of Jerusalem in the time of Jesus,” which is consistent with the Gospels’ account of Jesus’ burial as well as with Hebrews 13:12, “And so Jesus also suffered outside the city gate.” Dan Bahat, the former city archaeologist of Jerusalem, put it this way: “"We may not be absolutely certain that the site of the Holy Sepulcher Church is the site of Jesus' burial, but we certainly have no other site that can lay a claim nearly as weighty, and we really have no reason to reject the authenticity of the site.” Like I said, it’s a great story. But it’s also a reminder that Christianity is a faith rooted in real time. The events that began on Good Friday and culminated on Easter Sunday took place, not in some mythological time, but in human history. Think of Luke’s gospel and its companion volume, the Book of Acts. Luke names specific Roman emperors and governors, not Zeus and Hermes. As I recently related on BreakPoint, his description of the riot at Ephesus in Acts 19 included details that only someone intimately acquainted with the city could have known. It could hardly be otherwise. We are saved by a historical act: the Incarnation, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God. And one day, that history will culminate in his return in glory. We know this because the tomb that was opened last month was empty.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: A Post-Truth Era?

Nov 18, 2016 - 00:00:00

John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer discuss the reactions to Donald Trump's election victory and Merrriam-Webster's word of the year: "Post-truth"

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Truth about Miscarriage

Nov 16, 2016 - 00:00:00

Millions of women experience the profoundly painful tragedy of miscarriage. How we respond to them says a lot about us and our worldview. The abortion industry, and politicians allegiant to it, will defend to the death—pun intended—a woman’s so-called “right” to end the life of a living, developing human being in her womb for any and every reason. But strangely, when it comes to a miscarriage—that is, the unintended death of an unborn baby by natural causes—its script suddenly changes. Consider these words from Planned Parenthood: “Miscarriage is a common event in many women’s lives. Those of us who have had miscarriages know how difficult the experience can be. Miscarriage can leave us with many emotions to sort out.” By God’s grace, my wife and I have never experienced a miscarriage, like so many of our friends and co-workers. Difficult seems like an inadequate word for the pain resulting from miscarriage—though the nation’s largest abortion provider fails to mention why: because it is the loss of a precious human being in the womb. Planned Parenthood’s concern for miscarriage’s unintended loss seems quite disingenuous given they want us to celebrate the intentional taking of 55 million human beings since Roe v. Wade. But such logical schizophrenia is not confined to those who defend the legal right to abortion. Those of us on the pro-life side can also be inconsistent. While many Christians can make the case for the dignity of human life in the womb when it comes to the evil of abortion, when it comes to miscarriage—which ends between 10 percent and 25 percent of all clinically recognized pregnancies—the response is often far different. By the words we say or leave unsaid, too often we risk dehumanizing the child who has died and discouraging the grieving parent. That’s the assessment of Constance T. Hull, who’s experienced four miscarriages herself. Writing in The Public Discourse (an excellent publication by the way), she encourages us to speak frankly about miscarriage. How? By acknowledging the reality that miscarriage represents—to borrow the wording of Thomas Aquinas—the loss of an “embodied spirit.” Hull offers a number of ideas to help us comfort grieving parents, many of whom suffer silently. “First,” she says, “we need to bring miscarriage out in the open. We need to engage in discussions about the reality of miscarriage and the pain it causes families. This is a part of building a culture of life.” She then points out, “We pray at abortion clinics and try to educate the populace on the horrors of abortion, but we also need to be ministering to and supporting families who have lost unborn children. The more we talk about it, the more families will come out from behind closed doors to share their stories and begin to grieve openly.” Second, Hull says, we need to be intentional about highlighting this painful topic. “People need forums,” she writes, “both in social media and in person, to discuss their experiences freely. Conversations with one’s priest, pastor, rabbi, imam, local crisis pregnancy center, friends, and family can help one come to terms with the grief and remembrance of those lost children.” Third, Hull says we pro-lifers must examine our own beliefs and words that dehumanize the unborn or short-circuit the natural and necessary grieving process that comes when someone loses a loved one. We do this when we say things like, “You can always have another child,” or, “There was something clearly wrong with the child,” or even “They are in a better place.” Let’s remember Job’s friends were the most comforting when they didn’t talk at all. Come to BreakPoint.org, and I’ll link you to Constance Hull’s powerful article on miscarriage. I pray the truth of miscarriage as the loss of a precious human life will shame many in the abortion industry into repentance. And I also pray this truth sinks into our own hearts, so that we can comfort the grieving among us and carry their burdens in Christ’s name. Amen.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Engaging the Culture for Life, part I

Nov 15, 2016 - 00:00:00

John Stonestreet addressed the annual conference of CareNet, one of the largest networks of pregnancy centers in America. John’s topic was one of Christianity’s greatest gifts to the world: The idea that every human being has universal and eternal dignity because we are made in the image of God. To defend human dignity, John argues, Christians must stay engaged in the culture, and not run from it. And there’s no better example of that than the pro-life movement.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Opening Darwin's Black Box

Nov 15, 2016 - 00:00:00

Two decades ago, one scientist wrote a book that changed the way we talk about evolution. And his argument is still making waves. “On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.” It was a mouthful of a title too typical of Victorian-era authors. But Charles Darwin’s magnum opus, more commonly known as “On the Origin of Species,” belongs on any list of books that made our world what it is today. What many don’t realize is that the father of evolutionary theory showed a great deal of humility and openness to criticism. In one famous passage, Darwin wrote that, “If it could be demonstrated that any complex organ existed, which could not possibly have been formed by numerous, successive, slight modifications, my theory would absolutely break down.” He immediately added that to his knowledge, there were no such examples. What Darwin gave us here was a criterion by which his theory could be falsified, teeing up future scientists to reevaluate his conclusions. And in 1996, one biochemist did just that. Lehigh University professor Michael Behe has spent his career peering through a microscope at the inner workings of cells—workings about which Darwin, writing in the 1850s, could only speculate. In his 1996 book, “Darwin’s Black Box: The Biochemical Challenge to Evolution,” Behe explained how Darwin’s inability to see inside the cell kept him from witnessing mechanisms and processes which could not possibly have been formed through “numerous, successive, slight modifications.” Organelles like the flagellum—a microscopic “outboard motor” which many bacteria use for propulsion—exhibit what Behe describes as “irreducible complexity.” In other words, these tiny machines—complete with drive shafts, bushings, universal joints, and propellers—have exactly the correct configuration of parts to perform a specific function. They could not have evolved from simpler mechanisms with fewer parts, because such mechanisms would be either useless or detrimental, in which case natural selection would weed them out. As scientists gain ever more detailed access to the inner workings of cells, the case against Darwinism from irreducible complexity only becomes stronger. And the intelligent design movement—a community that considers Behe a founding father—continues to question the viability of materialistic evolution on the basis of his reasoning. To make Behe’s meticulous arguments more accessible to the public, the folks at the Discovery Institute have just produced a documentary summarizing “Darwin’s Black Box.” It’s called “Revolutionary,” a tribute to the fact that Behe’s book forever changed the way we think about evolution. It also documents how, as David Klinghoffer writes at Evolution News and Views, “Black Box” sparked a public debate that rages to this day. Why is it so critical to understand this stuff? Well, as Ben Stein documented in his 2008 film, “Expelled,” it’s not scientific reasoning that’s keeping intelligent design on the fringe. Rather, it’s a campaign of misinformation and bullying by the Darwinist establishment, many of whom are keen on painting critics as “creationists,” whose theory is “religion masquerading as science.” But “design,” insists Behe, “is not some mystical conclusion.” It’s a reasoned scientific argument that’s practical as potatoes. And that’s why it is so important, twenty years after this biochemist first cracked open Darwin’s Black Box, to understand and communicate the reasons why time, chance, and natural selection cannot explain the wonder of life. For more on Behe’s groundbreaking book “Darwin’s Black Box,” and to learn about the Discovery Institute’s documentary “Revolutionary,” come to BreakPoint.org.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Orientation over Speech and Religion

Nov 14, 2016 - 00:00:00

Would a judge actually come out and say freedom of speech and freedom of religion have to take a back seat to sexual orientation? Yup—sure did. Okay—stop me if you’ve heard this story before: A Christian couple opens a bakery where, until recently, the only thing they’re known for was the quality of their baked goods. Until one day a gay client demands that they perform a service that would violate their conscience. After the couple refuses, the would-be customer files a complaint against the bakers. The case winds up in the courts, where the Christian couple loses. It’s an all-too-familiar story, but this one has a few surprising twists. First—where it took place: the United Kingdom, specifically, Northern Ireland. Daniel and Amy McArthur run a bakery in Belfast called “Ashers.” In May, 2014, a representative of a group called “QueerSpace,” which is, as the name suggests, an LGBT advocacy group in Northern Ireland, placed an order for a cake at Ashers. If the cake had simply been, say, a red velvet cake with cream cheese frosting, the story would have ended there. Ashers would have baked the cake and that would have been that. But, as you probably guessed, it wasn’t that simple. The would-be customer wanted the McArthurs to put a picture of Bert and Ernie from Sesame Street, along with the words “Support Gay Marriage” on the top. After the McArthurs declined to bake the cake, the would-be customer filed suit against them. After losing in the lower court and being fined the equivalent of $600, they appealed to Northern Ireland’s Supreme Court, which upheld the legal conclusions of the lower court. Writing for the court, the Chief Justice rejected the bakery’s contention that fulfilling the request was tantamount to approving the message. “The fact,” he wrote, “that a baker provides a cake for a particular team or portrays witches on a Halloween cake does not indicate any support for either.” Going one step further, he continued “In the present case the appellants might elect not to provide a service that involves any religious or political message. What they may not do is provide a service that only reflects their own political or religious message in relation to sexual orientation.” Wow! In other words, when freedom of speech and conscience collides with issues concerning sexual orientation, freedom of speech and conscience must give way. This prompted the other twist: The British media came to the defense of the Christian bakers. The center-right Telegraph asked “How have we got to the point where a law-abiding, God-fearing family running a bakery in Northern Ireland can find themselves in a lengthy court battle over a refusal to ice a political message on to a £39 sponge cake?,” adding “Why is the law not protecting the rights of this Christian couple?” And meanwhile from the left, the Guardian said that the decision “cannot be welcomed by anyone who cares about free speech.” While it argued against conscience-driven blanket exemption to discrimination laws, it added “that is not the only way in which this question can be examined.” According to the Guardian, the McArthurs “were being asked to make a statement in favour of gay marriage with which they profoundly disagreed. And here they ought to have had the right to disagree.” In the Guardian’s opinion, compelling “someone to express—even in sugar paste—an opinion they rejected with all their hearts” is wrong. So while the McArthurs may have lost in the courts of law, they seem to be winning in the court of public opinion. And that’s a good sign--given that many cultural trends that start across the pond wind up on these shores. Who knows, perhaps someday soon the British press’s concern for freedom of religion and freedom of speech might catch on with our own media.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
BreakPoint This Week: An Election Stunner

Nov 11, 2016 - 00:00:00

John Stonestreet and Ed Stetzer break down the stunning election results: Just how out of touch are the media elite? Do Christians now have a little 'elbow room' to re-establish faith in the public square?

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
Veterans Day 2016

Nov 11, 2016 - 00:00:00

Today a grateful nation marks Veterans Day. But how grateful are we, truly? With the craziest presidential election of all time ending earlier this week, it’s easy to forgive someone for forgetting that today is Veterans Day. Sad to say, at least until President-Elect Trump’s brief but important mention of vets during his victory speech, our nation’s veterans have been mostly forgotten during the election campaign. As National Public Radio reported, of the 28,500 words spoken by the presidential candidates during the debates, veterans were mentioned only twice. This is amazing. The nation and our leaders owe veterans much more. Let’s look at the figures. The Census Bureau reports that there are 18.6 million American veterans of military service. Since the first Gulf War, 5.6 million Americans have served. And while most of them are doing just fine, thank you, many are in dire straits. One in five veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan suffer from Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, or PTSD. Although veterans represent only 9 percent of the U. S. population, they account for nearly 20 percent of the nation’s suicides. Vets returning from Iraq and Afghanistan have four times the suicide rate of other veterans. Homelessness is also an issue. There are nearly 50,000 homeless vets in this country—half of whom are Vietnam vets, although the number of younger homeless vets is on the rise. Then there’s the scandal of the Veterans Administration hospitals—horrendous waiting lists for medical care, officials falsifying data to cover their tracks. It’s a further scandal that the Administration and Congress haven’t done a whole lot about it. The Washington Post awarded President Obama four Pinocchios for his assurances to military families that “a whole bunch of people” have been fired at the VA as a result of the scandals. The fact is that very few VA officials have been held accountable. Finally, there’s the ongoing mess regarding war-time re-enlistment bonuses given to members of the California National Guard. These men and women used the money for things like education and mortgages—only to find out that a) they might have been given the money fraudulently because their recruiting officers were trying to meet quotas, and b) the government wants the money back. That’s a fine thank you to the men and women who placed their lives on the line for their country. Let’s hope the Pentagon and Congress do something about this and the other issues facing veterans. Actually, this Veterans Day, let’s do more than hope. Call or write our new President and our newly elected Congress the moment they take their oath of office. Let them know you want veterans’ issues back on the national agenda. But beyond waiting on our elected officials to address veterans concerns, there are things that we ourselves can do to honor those who have served our country. Here are some suggestions from Military.com. First, show up. Attend a Veterans Day event in your area. Second, donate. There are many organizations that help veterans. Come to BreakPoint.org and we’ll link you to worthy charities. Other suggestions include just getting to know a veteran in your neighborhood and asking about his or her service; visiting or volunteering at a VA hospital; or simply writing a veteran you know offering words of thanks and encouragement. And of course, pray for our veterans and our active duty military personnel. Yes, our veterans deserve the thanks and support of our government. Let’s go to bat for them, and also do what we can do to acknowledge their service on our behalf.

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Colson Center for Christian Worldview
The Election, the Culture, and the Church

Nov 10, 2016 - 00:00:00

So have you recovered from Election Night 2016? I hope so, but ei