Thursday, March 30, 2017

A Sun Bather, Nineveh, and Us: Why We Need to Share the Gospel



"In 1928, a very interesting case came before the courts in Massachusetts. It concerned a man who had been walking on a boat dock when suddenly he tripped over a rope and fell into the cold, deep water of an ocean bay. He came up sputtering and yelling for help and then sank again, obviously in trouble. His friends were too far away to get to him, but only a few yards away, on another dock, was a young man sprawled on a deck chair, sunbathing. The desperate man shouted, “Help, I can't swim!” The young man, an excellent swimmer, only turned his head to watch as the man floundered in the water, sank, came up sputtering in total panic, and then disappeared forever.
The family of the drowned man was so upset by that display of callous indifference that they sued the sunbather. They lost. The court reluctantly ruled that the man on the dock had no legal responsibility whatever to try and save the other man's life. In effect, the law agrees with Cain’s presupposition: I am not my brother's keeper, and I have every legal right to mind my own business and to refuse to become involved."

When you hear a story like this one, what does it stir inside you? It’s so hard to imagine someone so indifferent towards the suffering of another human being. How could a man prefer his warmth and comfort sunbathing rather than lending a hand in saving a human life? It reminds me of another man, a man from the Bible, the prophet Jonah. He, too, was content to sit by and watch men die. He was more preoccupied in his own comfort while sitting under the shade-giving plant than in the salvation of a whole city. What’s more, he wanted the city to perish.
It’s easy to look at these two examples and be indignant. There’s something wrong about it. It’s a given, we think, that if you see someone drowning, you should want to save them. The fact that a prophet of God would rather see a whole city perish than come to repentance is almost unthinkable.
But are we guilty of such callous indifference, in much the same way? There are people drowning in their sins all around us. Our cities and towns are turning from God and heading headlong towards destruction. And yet, how much are we doing to save them? Are we safe and warm inside our own little worlds, or are we stepping outside of our comfort zones to share the Gospel? Do we care enough to actively seek to transform our communities?

Well, if you’re like me, I begin to get uncomfortably close to that sun bather or Jonah as I exam my own life. I seldom go out of my way to share the good news of Jesus Christ with my neighbor. I am often too caught up in my own busyness to give it much thought.
What’s more, I shirk away from the uncomfortableness of sharing the Gospel. What will people think of me? Will I look weird? Will they fire questions at me that I don’t have the answer to? Will they never want to talk to me again? I have been profoundly changed by the hope and joy I have found in Christ, but I would almost rather keep it a private faith for safety’s sake.
This is a holdover of the old man inside of me. It’s still inside all of, compelling us to seek our own desires above those of sharing the Gospel with our neighbors. But, as Christians, it’s time to live up to our calling as Children of the King. As this wonderful passage charges us:
Now this I say and testify in the Lord, that you must no longer walk as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their minds. 18 They are darkened in their understanding, alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance that is in them, due to their hardness of heart. 19 They have become callous and have given themselves up to sensuality, greedy to practice every kind of impurity. 20 But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21 assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.
25 Therefore, having put away falsehood, let each one of you speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another.
Ephesians 4:17-25

It's time for us to renew our minds and put on our new self. We need to grow in righteousness and holiness, so that we can boldly proclaim the truth that is in Jesus to our neighbors. The world is in desperate need for us to do so. Like the passage says, they’re not learning about Christ from the sin they are trapped in. They will never learn about Christ as they go about living their lives as gentiles. It’s time for us to be unashamed about the gospel like Paul was, and to boldly proclaim it whenever we get the opportunity to!
16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.”
Romans 1:16-17

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Why you can't use the statistics about the high rate of depression and suicidal behavior among the LGBT community

I set out this morning to find a lot of statistics on the frighteningly high levels of depression, suicidal thoughts, and mental disorders among the LGBT community in an attempt to form an argument for why even non-believers should be wary of accepting the homosexual or transgender lifestyles with open arms. I thought it would be a quick 30 minutes of rounding up the statistics and then organizing them into a reasonable argument that the LGBT lifestyle does present much higher risks to a person's health and mental stability than living a heterosexual lifestyle.

Well, the statistics are all there from non-Christian, "un-biased" (everyone has a bias) researchers that can do nothing else but point to these high risks among the LGBT community, but I quickly found that it would be almost counter-intuitive to use these statistics, based off the researchers conclusions. Basically, they universally pointed to homophobic bullying, discrimination, and intolerance of the gay lifestyle as the reason for the high rates of depression and suicide--not the lifestyle itself.

Is such an analysis fair though? For example, smoking is a great evil in our society today, because it has been proven to be unhealthy. It can lead to lung cancer, and you will die on average 1 to 7 years earlier than your non-smoking peers. However, research shows that those who engage in the homosexual lifestyle on average die 24 years earlier than their heterosexual peers! (more on that argument by following this link)

We wouldn't say that discrimination against smokers has caused them to die earlier. Their lifestyle is unhealthy and is the cause! So why can't we even dare suggest the same with the immensely more dangerous lifestyle of homosexuals or transgendered people? After all, LGBT teens are somewhere between 2 and 4 times more likely to attempt suicide than "straight" teens, homosexual men account for 2% of the population but 67% of all new HIV diagnoses according to the CDC, and 35-40% of transgender or sexually confused people struggle with suicidal thoughts, to name a few statistics.

Another interesting point: "White" people are almost three times as likely to commit suicide than "black" people, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, which noted:

"In 2015, the highest U.S. suicide rate (15.1) was among Whites and the second highest rate (12.6) was among American Indians and Alaska Natives (Figure 5). Much lower and roughly similar rates were found among Hispanics (5.8), Asians and Pacific Islanders (6.4), and Blacks (5.6)."

African Americans are actually at the bottom of this list! This would seem to fly directly in the face of the argument that it is discrimination rather than lifestyle that leads to suicidal thoughts and depression.

It's time for researchers to be honest about their findings. We need to be able to use these statistics to help avert the growing crisis among the LGBT community. As this study of the accepting culture of Denmark vs the less tolerant USA pointed out, more support and acceptance of their lifestyle will not help the levels of depression and suicide among homosexuals or bisexuals. There has got to be a different alternative that will help the LGBT community.

As a Christian, I believe that we are hard-wired to live the way God created us to. When we try to live outside of God's design, it is detrimental to us. It can only lead to unfulfilled, wanting lives. Homosexuality is clearly a lifestyle apart from God's plan. It won't fulfill you; It will leave you empty and depressed. There is hope, though, in Jesus Christ. If He becomes the center of your life--if He becomes your Lord and Savior--you can find healing and joy! He offers life, and life abundantly! As He says in John 10:10: "The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full."

We as Christians need to lovingly confront the world with the Gospel. It may be counter cultural, but how could we see the high rate of depression and suicide among any group and not seek to offer them hope?

So take heart, and stand for truth.

Or do you not know that the unrighteous[will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: neither the sexually immoral, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor men who practice homosexuality,10 nor thieves, nor the greedy, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.
1 Corinthians 6:9-11




Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Movie and Music Piracy

Many of my friends see no problem with piracy. They argue that it is okay to copy music off those library CDs. They argue that it is okay to watch that copy of a movie that has been leaked online illegally. Some of them just don't know that this is, in fact, a crime. Others know it is technically considered "piracy" but don't seem to mind aligning themselves with the likes of Jack Sparrow.

Guys, this is a serious issue we as Christians should take note of.

Pastor Dean had a very good message a couple of weeks ago on 1 Peter 2:11-17. He spoke of submitting to government not because their laws always make sense or are convenient, but because we as Christians are called to live lives above reproach! Pirating movies and music definitely falls in this category. The argument that "Hollywood is making billions of dollars, and they don't need my hard-earned money to watch this one film. And I don't want to support them anyway" is against the point. If it is truly a crime--which it is--to copy, listen or watch pirated content, then we as Christians should have nothing to do with it. We are to keep our behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that they have no reason to slander us!

For those of you who may not know what is considered piracy, here is a great article that will allow you to educate yourself on it so that you can keep the law. As the article lays out:

"There are very clear laws about what people can and cannot do with purchased content. Generally, purchasing content means you are allowed to listen, play, read, or use that content yourself. It does not give you the right to copy it, share it, trade it, let others download it or make money off of it for yourself, like buying a movie and then charging people to come see it."

Also, here is an article about library cds or dvds and the illegality of downloading them onto your device or burning them onto a disk. It is very clear that this, too, is a crime. We are in effect producing copies of someone else's work without the permission to do so.

Finally, there are some online sites that are actually licensed to show movies for free, because they have bought the rights to do so from the movie's producers and because these online sites in return make their money off of ads--kind of like a radio station that plays songs for free. However, there are also a lot of sites offering pirated films. Please do careful study on the online sites you use to make sure that they are completely legal. You can find some legal sites to watch free movies on as well as information about why to avoid the ones engaged in piracy by clicking this link.

To circle back to the arguments people make about why piracy is okay, I find it both amusing and sad at the same time how people say on one hand how Hollywood with all it's egregious sins doesn't deserve their money, while on the other hand they skirt the law so that they can watch something that they just described as egregious. We lose our ability to stand strong against Hollywood, guys, when we break the law. If you truly don't want to support Hollywood, than stop watching their movies all together. Invest your money and time elsewhere. Don't use your moral objection to Hollywood as an excuse to do something morally objectionable.

Another argument I've heard is that "I wouldn't watch this movie anyway if I couldn't get it for free, so at least by being able to watch it, if I like it, then I can recommend it to my friends or even buy the DVD myself." As always, the end doesn't justify the means. Piracy is still piracy. You can very cheaply rent those movies you are not sure about buying. For like a dollar at Redbox.

As someone who has made a fledging attempt at publishing a few works of my own, I know how terrible I would feel if someone took one of my stories and started copying them. That is my work, that I've spent countless hours on!! That story has my blood (a paper cut or two at least), sweat, and tears stamped in it! No one has the right to make themselves a copy of my hard work without at least asking me first.

It doesn't matter if it is on a much, much larger scale with Hollywood. They have spent millions and millions of dollars on each movie they make. Thousands of people have poured their blood, sweat and tears into each movie. Recording artists do the same with the music they make. Regardless of whether we think they are rich and can afford us ripping them off or not, if we appreciate their work enough to participate in watching or listening to it, we should pay the proper fee to do so.

Now, for those of you who have engaged in piracy without realizing it till now, I want you to know that I am not trying to throw you under the bus. The last thing I want to do is label you as some criminal for innocently downloading music that you didn't actually purchase. I know I have engaged in piracy myself unwittingly. But now we know, and now we are responsible to responding to what we know. Let's keep the law. Let's be above reproach. And let's reject being pirates any longer.

After all, it's not "yo ho you ho, a pirates life for me" that we sing, but "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."

But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a people for God’s own possession, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light; 10 for you once were not a people, but now you are the people of God; you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy.11 Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul. 12 Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation. Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.
1 Peter 2:9-15

Monday, March 27, 2017

God Can Use You to Reach the World: The Inspirational True Story of my Sister, Caroline, and Forty Days for Life

Do you ever doubt that God can use you?

Maybe you are shy or insecure, like we all are at times. Maybe you cave under the pressure of your peers too often. Maybe you think sin has too much of a grip on you. You admire the Christian heroes all around you, but you know you can never be one of them.

Well think again, because my sister Caroline is living proof that God will use you if you will only commit yourself to Him!

The beginning of this year, Caroline said "yes" to God in a way that would stretch her way outside her comfort zone. She decided to run a Forty Days for life campaign--a peaceful prayer vigil to pray for the end of abortion outside our local Planned Parenthood clinic. While I really appreciated her heart to stand for the unborn, honestly my first thought when she told me she was going to coordinate a vigil was:

"Say whaaat?"

You see, I have grown up with my awesome sister from the womb onwards. I know her very, very well, and so, I knew leading a public event wasn't exactly her forte. She is a sweet, smart, over all very beautiful young lady, but she is most definitely an introvert. She hates making phone calls. And public speaking. And confrontation.

And those thing were kind of what being a Forty Days for Life local coordinator was all about.

Caroline knew all this. She knew how much it would stretch her, and yet the burning desire to serve God and stand for the defenseless compelled her. Her desire launched her into orbit in the vast unknown outside her comfort zone like some crazy, brave NASA astronaut trying to reach the moon. There was no aborting (pun not intended) the voyage, only strapping on her spacesuit--or in this case, her spiritual armor--and getting right down to work.

She had said "yes" to this journey because of her faith in God What else could she do?

Now make no mistake, this courageous step of faith did not mean that suddenly she became an eloquent, gifted public speaker and prayer vigil leader. It was almost painful to watch her worry about her first few phone calls and meetings with local pastors. She would always take a sibling along to her first few meetings, not to be an "Aaron" for her like Moses, but to at least provide some much needed moral support. She was still naturally timid--to the point where even speaking in front of our own church was too scary at first. She had our dad give the first few announcements about Forty Days for Life. At one point, after a particularly hard morning, the stress and worry overwhelmed her, and she cried in one of the back rooms of the church.

I was almost tempted to be mad at God for putting my introverted sister through all these struggles. I appreciated her heart so much, but still, didn't God see that she was not naturally gifted for a leadership role like this? Didn't He see that it was making her cry and breaking her down?

And yet, even at these low points, I started catching glimpses of the work God was doing, not only in the heart of my sister, but in the heart of our community. Caroline met fellow Protestant and even a few Catholic friends who vastly encouraged her and helped her to stand strong. The prayer vigil schedule started filling up with eager prayer warriors willing to make a stand for life. Caroline started giving the announcements at our church. She started reaching for the phone as soon as it started ringing, shouting, "I'll get it!!". She spoke for forty-five minutes in front of the small army of prayer warriors she had  gathered at the Forty Days for Life kickoff rally.

The prayer vigil started. Caroline trekked out to Planned Parenthood almost every day to get the vigil off on the right foot and to encourage her troops. She became known affectionately as "The Little General" as she kept her prayer warriors on track and committed to praying to end abortion.

She started meeting the "unfriendlies", those who thought she and anyone praying to end abortion were anti-woman bigots. She didn't shrink from the challenge to show them differently. After long, emotionally-draining days in front of Planned Parenthood, you could find her back at the house studying up on the facts about Planned Parenthood, Abortion, and the devastating effects both have on women. I have gotten to see this knowledge in action several times as we have been approached by "pro-choice" people in front of the clinic. She demonstrates her love for them, while at the same time standing strong for the truth and debunking a lot of the false pro-Planned Parenthood, pro-abortion arguments thrown at her.

This was the most demonstrated when a fledgling counter rally was organized against Forty Days for Life by several young ladies of the local college. They stand on the same street corner with us in front of Forty Days for life, holding signs like "Pray to end Judgement" and "Jesus didn't shame woman, and neither should you". They often stand right in-between all of us prayer warriors holding our "Pray to End Abortion" signs. It is almost a comical scene, though without Caroline's leadership and encouragement to love these ladies, it could have been potentially a very volatile, emotional one. These ladies expected us to respond in a negative way. They assumed we would try to kick them off "our" corner. They were completely caught off guard by our appreciation that they were there and our desire to engage in friendly discussion about our differing viewpoints. They've thanked Caroline for being so "chill", as they put it.

And soon, Caroline and our family will be meeting with the woman who is leading the counter rally and a pro-abortion man running for senator to talk more. We hope to be able to plant more seeds of truth in their hearts.

Then, on Friday, God took it one step further. Caroline got a call from the national leader of Forty Days for Life, the Shawn Carney as she put it. He asked her to speak in front of the national rally of vigil leaders, to share her testimony. This would have probably struck Caroline mute with terror but a couple of months ago, but last Friday she answered immediately, "Yes". No, "Let me get back with you" or "Let me pray about it". Just yes.

Talk about a transformation.

"I've learned that you just have to say 'yes' to God, wherever He takes you," Caroline told me yesterday. "He will be faithful to uphold you and see you through."

That's really what it all comes down to, isn't it? Can we trust God enough to lay our lives in His hands, to allow Him to do whatever He wants with them? Can we trust Him even as He launches us into orbit outside our comfort zones? Can we dare to dream that He can use us in mighty ways? Yes, yes, yes! I would say. I've seen it happen right in front of my own eyes. I've seen the way God has used my sister Caroline in mighty ways when she submitted her insecurities and fears to Him and took that leap of faith. It inspires me!

Someday when I grow up, I want to be more like my sister Caroline. Don't you?

Trust in the Lord with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight.
Proverbs 3:5-6

Friday, March 24, 2017

Why God Couldn't Have Created Evil, but Yet Allows It

What is the most evil thing you can think of? Is it the myriad of pointless, Nihilistic shootings in our schools, theaters, and malls?  Is it the devastating destruction and resulting chaos and war of September 11, 2001? Is it Hitler's Holocaust or Stalin's Communism? Is it the systematic destruction of over 50 million little babies in what should be the safest place on earth—their mother's womb?

What is the biggest natural evil you can think of? Is it Katrina? Is it the devastating Tsunami in Japan, or the earthquakes of Haiti? Close to home for me is Mt. St. Helens, which blew on May 18, 1980. Praise God there was enough warning to evacuate the majority of people living in the surrounding area, or that natural disaster would have claimed more than the handful of lives it did.

There is absolutely no doubt that our world is sick. Even as I type this, thousands and thousands of people are starving. A young man, brainwashed into Jihad, is preparing to give his life in the bloodiest, cruelest attack he can conjure up. Another baby was just torn apart in the womb. What is more, evil has affected each of us personally. Cancer, a drunk driver, a stillborn baby, a soldier never coming home—how has it affected you? Our world is ripe with evil. There is no other conclusion we can come to.

So where does that leave us as Christians? What place does evil have in regards to our belief in an all-powerful, all-loving, all-knowing God? It would seem that both can't be true, right? The God we believe in . . . how could He possibly be reconciled to what we have observed and experienced in tragedy after tragedy on this earth?

This post is devoted to grappling with the problem of evil and passing on the conclusions I have come to. Five questions will both flesh out the problem and bring the worthwhile answers I am confident we can come to. The questions are: 1) Is evil a thing?, 2) Doesn't God care enough to stop evil?, 3) What is our purpose in life?, 4) What other worldview can we run to?, and 5) Has God experienced evil like we do?

So buckle up. Here we go.

Is Evil a Thing?

There's a common argument for God that points to His existence because, "How could there be so much good in the world without our Holy God creating it?" That question could easily be turned on its head though. "Hold on a minute," a skeptic might say, "if I grant you that there is a God that created everything because of the good we see around us, doesn't that make Him the creator of evil too?" They might have even done their Bible study and point to Isaiah 45:7 which reads in the King James Version: "I form the light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the LORD do all these things."

This skeptic's question would be difficult to answer if we believed evil was a thing that needed to be created. But is it? Is evil a thing? Of course, I don't mean is it a material thing, for our premise that God created good might stretch beyond the physical to abstract things too, like love, joy, and peace (though since these are a part of God's nature, and God is eternal, even these abstract emotions weren't created I would say. That would be an interesting topic to study more on, sometime! ). Closer study of evil, however, reveals that it is not a thing in and of itself, but the failing of the created. It is the lack or absence of good!

Let me attempt to explain it this way. Is your shadow a thing? Yes, you might say, because you can see and observe it. But what really is a shadow? It's only there because there is light, and that light happens to be at least partially blocked--partially made absent--by your body.  A shadow can't exist by itself. It depends on both the light and your body. Thus it is not an independent thing, but the result of two created things coming in conflict with each other. It couldn't have been created because, thank goodness, we don't have a bunch of shadows running around on their own.

The same with Evil. God couldn't have created it, and we don't even have to point to His Holy Nature to say that, though that is a great argument in and of itself. Evil is not an independent entity, but the failing of God's perfect creation. All of God's creation was "very good" Genesis 1:31, which means evil wasn't around for creation. It was only introduced later as a failing of what was very good, when Adam rebelled.

Our last task in this section, then, is to respond to Isaiah 45:7. In light of what we have discovered, how do we reconcile this verse? Well, context as always is key to understanding a verse! If you read further in Isaiah 45 you will find that God is warning punishment against Israel for their quarrels with their Maker (verse 9). He causes peace for the righteous, and brings evil (more accurately translated "calamity" in the NASB) on those who turn against Him. He does not create the evil Himself, but He is sovereignly using it to punish the wicked.

Now that we have defined evil and its origins, our next question naturally follows.

Doesn't God care enough to stop evil?

So why did God allow His universe to become less than "very good"? Christians believe in a God who is actively involved with His creation. It follows, then, that He's not aloof of the terrible rot of evil in our world. So why doesn't He stop it?

Is He somehow indifferent? That can't be. We can be absolutely sure of that. God Is holy: "For You are not a God who takes pleasure in wickedness; no evil dwells with You". Psalm 5:4. Evil and sin are against His nature, and therefore abhorrent to Him. Jesus wept at the death of Lazarus (John 11:35). We grieve the Holy Spirit when we sin. (Eph. 4:30)

So if evil grieves God so much and yet hasn't been stopped, are we to believe that God is not powerful enough to stop it? There are a few who have capitulated to this certain heresy, but read any of the lists of God's attributes and you will learn that He is indeed all-powerful. God is omnipotent. "Even from eternity I am He, And there is none who can deliver out of My hand; I act and who can reverse it?" Isaiah 43:13.

Further study reveals that God will indeed destroy evil one day (See Revelation 20 and 21). He is more than powerful enough to do so! In the meantime, He has provided a way to escape evil's power through believing in and accepting Jesus as Lord. We will still suffer during our lives on earth, but we can be comforted in Christ. We will still die, but death will not conquer us. Through the Helper Christ has sent us, the Holy Spirit, we have the power to overcome evil!

God is holy. He hates evil and will one day destroy it. His plan for the world is good. So we can trust that for whatever reason God temporarily allows evil in the world and our lives, it is for a good reason. A best reason. Exploring our purpose in life might help us discover this reason.

What is our Purpose in Life?

“To glorify God, and enjoy Him forever.” That’s the rote Christian response. It’s a good one, but do we take the time to actually investigate what it means, as we good little Sunday school grads repeat it verbatim?

What brings God the most glory? Isn’t it through the amazing demonstration of His mercy in that He would choose to save some of us fallen, willingly-rebellious people from the just penalty we deserve? (Romans 9:14-24) Think about it though. What if there was no contrast of God’s great mercy and lovingkindness. What if there was no evil to save us from. Would we even know His attributes? Would we even be thankful for them?

What’s more, what would our relationship with the Lord look like if we didn’t daily need Him to “deliver us from evil”, as Christ so famously taught us to pray in Mathew 6:13? Would we rely on Him in any meaningful way? Also, could we even call it a relationship if all we could ever do was glorify God, and never had a free will that could turn from Him? If I acquired a girlfriend by forcing her to love me, because she had no other choice, that wouldn’t be real love. It would feel really lame for both of us. It would be wrong.

What if we need the contrast of evil, then, to truly know what is “very good”? So often we American Christians tend to believe that God’s main purpose in life is for us to be abundantly happy and to have our whole lives go on without a hitch. We rage at Him if anything bad is thrown into our lives. We question His goodness. But what if we couldn’t be drawn closer to the Lord without experiencing the hard times for a season? What if we couldn’t truly choose to surrender our lives to Christ without having the chance to choose that which is in opposition to Him, evil?

You see, maybe the greatest good isn’t living a life without hardship. God is our heavenly Father, and He knows what is best for us.  Take my little Brother Wyatt. He thought I was terrible for forcing him to eat his coconut squash curry before he could eat his warm, buttery slice of bread. The best good he could think of would be to ditch ALL coconut squash curry in favor of all-you-can-eat bread and butter, and though I may have been tempted to agree with his sentiments as a mortal human being myself, was I wrong for having him eat what I knew would ultimately be healthier for him? Of course not!

God’s purpose for our lives is to draw us to Himself and for us to glorify Him through our lives. Like a good father, He knows what is healthiest for us, and He will lovingly put us through it whether we think it is best or not in our limited, human perspectives. Evil is a temporary consequence of this best way, and we can trust God through it. Perhaps, realizing this, we can even rejoice in the trials that come our way as a result of evil! (James 1:2-4)

What Other Worldview Could We Run To?

The last three questions have helped us investigate the Christian’s response to evil. How does it appear to you? Does it make sense?  Does it appear harsh? Can you make an adequate defense against the problem of evil from a Christian Worldview? If not, what is a better explanation for the problem of evil?

Every worldview has to answer the question. It’s not just the Christian Theists who need to be ready to make sense of the problem of evil. So, let’s look at how other common worldviews handle evil.

Worldviews are commonly grouped into four overarching categories: Naturalism, Transcendentalism, Post-Modernism, and Theism. Naturalism is the belief that all there ever was, ever is, and ever will be is naturalistic. There is no supernatural. No God that created us. No spirits that intervene in our lives. It is the religion of Atheists, Nihilists, Existentialists, Humanists, and the like. Their response to evil?

Tough luck.

Literally. There is no meaning or any purpose behind it. It’s a natural world doing what it does. It’s “biological, highly-evolved machines” (that’s us!) breaking down or attacking each other. Make the most of the life you’re given—play the cards you’ve been dealt—because that’s all there is for you.

Just makes you happy to be alive, doesn't it?

The Transcendental worldview believes that everything is spiritual. There is nothing that is material (what we think of as material is really an illusion or illustration of the supernatural). Transcendentalists are Buddhists, Hinduists, New Agers, Pantheists, Tom Cruise, Obi Won Kenobi, Oprah, Shirley MacLaine, and the likes. Their response to evil?

It is an illusion.

There’s no such thing as evil. There’s maybe two sides of the same—the black and white of the yin yang, or the dark and light sides of the force—but there’s no ultimate evil. Maybe, if you believe in Karma, the "evil" you experience is what you deserve for your past life. If you are a leper or have cancer, then you must have really messed things up in your past life. Or, alternatively, suffering is a consequence of your desires if you’re a Buddhist. You must learn to stop desiring anything if you want to escape evil. You see, in both these cases, what we think of as evil is really just, well, what we deserve. It’s not evil, we just think it is because it hurts. Badly.

Alternatively, we could forget about Karma or stopping our desires and just go with Shirley MacLaine:

“Until mankind realizes that there is, in truth, no good, and there is, in truth, no evil-there will be no peace.”

Yay peace, right?

Or you could go Post-modern. Post-Modernists believe that no one can know ultimate truth. Our truth is shaped by our experiences. So to them, evil is kind of hard to explain. What may be true for you about evil might not be true for me, but don’t worry, we are both right! There is no grand metanarrative—no “big story”—to give any kind of explanation or reason for evil. Make of it what you will. What’s more, if I believe my god caused you to suffer, I am just as right as you are in thinking it is an illusion. And what about the terrorist who kills as many as he can because of his beliefs? You may look at it as evil, but you have to let him live out his own truth, right? Talk about a convoluted mess. And it doesn't sound very peaceful to me, Shirley.

Lastly, there is Theism--the religions that have God central to them. Islam believes that everything comes directly from God’s (Allah’s) hands. He created everything, so He created evil too and uses it for His purposes. He creates it to make us aware of our devious ways, or to test us to see if our faith is really genuine. As I have already pointed out above, this differs from a proper Biblical Theist’s view of evil. Evil isn’t something God directly created, and though He may use it to test our faith, it’s to grow us deeper in our relationship with Him, not to see if we can take it or not.

Your last option other than Christianity is Judaism. The God of Judaism is the same as the Christian God, except that it is fuzzy just how you are supposed to overcome evil or escape it as an Orthodox Jew, because you deny Jesus Christ as the Messiah. You are still under the law, and the common understanding of evil is that it is a punishment for your breaking of the law. As the disciples asked Jesus in John 9:2:

And His disciples asked Him, "Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he would be born blind?"

Jesus’s response? John 9:3:

Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him.

Has God experienced evil like we do?

Jesus’s answer to evil there in John 9:3 may seem rather harsh if you think about it. Maybe even more harsh than the disciples’ conclusion about evil. God let this guy be blind for all his life just so He could show His good works by healing him? That’s crazy! It almost seems . . . wrong, one might say.

We have to remember, though, who is the Lord of this earth and what our duties are as His creations. We are to bring Him glory. We need to stop feeling entitled to the idea that God owes us an abundantly happy, carefree life here on earth. Clay, meet Potter. God has the privilege to do anything He likes with us little lumps of clay. If He chooses to use even the evil—the evil that mankind has brought upon ourselves by our rebellion against Him—to bring glory to Himself, then that is His choice.

It might seem a little callous of God still, though, if it weren’t for the fact that He stepped into this world and experienced evil to the greatest extent so that we might live. He took upon Himself intense suffering and evil! He is not aloof in any way to the evil in this world. He is not indifferent towards it. He experienced it to the deepest extent, taking it all upon Himself in that moment on the cross. He offered His perfect self for rebellious, corrupted lumps of clay! He was willing to demonstrate the Father's glory in that way.

And He defeated evil.

Death has no sting for those who trust in Him. Sin can be broken free of. Evil can be overcome with good! One day evil will be completely done away with, after all peoples have had a choice whether to accept God or not, but until then, God knows our suffering in the here and now and can comfort us like only someone who has gone through our same pain can. He empathizes with us and intercedes for us with groans too deep for words!
As I have wrestled with these questions, evil has become much less of a problem for my Christian Worldview. In fact, I couldn’t imagine trying to make sense of evil without a Christian Worldview. As one of our favorite hymns go, “Tis so sweet to trust in Jesus/just to take Him at His Word/just to rest upon His promise/just to know, thus sayeth the Lord.”
I sincerely hope this post helps you as you process the question of evil and come to your own conclusions. It may not have fleshed out all the different arguments and defenses, but I assure you, many an hour was spent researching and thinking through what I have written! It is my prayer that you will be able to sing the chorus to this favorite hymn with me, more clearly and assuredly than ever:
“Jesus, Jesus how I love you, how I proved you o’er and o’er. “Jesus, Jesus, precious Jesus, oh for grace to know you more”

Thursday, March 23, 2017

Disney: The Beauty or the Beast?

I love Disney.

I grew up with Buzz Lightyear being my best buddy. I was that kid who literally broke Buzz's arm, because I was so sure he could fly that I launched him down a flight of stairs. And of course, I sobbed at the realization that he couldn't, and my poor parents had a distraught kid on their hands as they tried with no success to but Buzz back together again. Even further proof that I was obsessed with Buzz? I, um, owe my being potty trained to him. Seriously. I wasn't getting it until my parents drew me a picture of Buzz sitting on the porcelain throne. If he could do it, I could do it.

I also loved Monsters Inc. and Finding Nemo. Disney and Pixar had a great thing going. Some of my best childhood memories are my times spent at Disneyland. Trips to that special land of happiness also mark important milestones in my life. A trip there when I turned thirteen, and again at 18.

Disney is interwoven into my life, like a familiar friend.

But I hardly recognize my friend anymore. My first glimpse of Disney's recent transformation was their film Frozen, with a glimpse at a potentially gay character and the possible Lesbian analogy in Elsa. Next came Zootopia, which encouraged us that you can be anything you want to be, and biology doesn't matter. It also featured a very strong secular humanist message (look inside yourself and be the change), a nudist colony made only slightly less disturbing by the fact that they were animals, and a wink wink moment where male characters are playing around with an app on their phone that lets them appear to dance sensually with Gazelle, a pop singer who is portrayed to be just as immodest and seductive as the pop singers of our culture today.  And now, judging off the Plugged In review, Disney's live action version of The Beauty and the Beast has a prominent gay character with a small handful of scenes dedicated to him and a crossdresser who preens towards the screen for us--and later shares a dance in the background with the gay character.

Disney has gone off the deep end. It's as if there is no longer anything ethically off limits for them. They have become very good at sneaking in filth while keeping a PG rating. But how much more of it are we going to take?

I seriously doubt we are going to find many more positive messages from Disney, unless they have a radical change of heart. Gone are the messages of the importance and steadfastness of friendship (Toy Story) or in letting go of your dreams to love selflessly (Up). Gone, most likely, is even the more ethically tolerable though still questionable message about pursuing your dreams with all your heart. Disney has been sucked into espousing the talking points of the liberal political agenda, which flies in the face of traditional conservative values. Giving moral, family-affirming messages is going to become less and less important for them as they continue to spiral down and continue the destructive cycle of a worldview completely apart from God.

So again I ask, how much more of this are we going to take? When will we no longer be content to give Disney a captive audience for an hour and a half as they attempt to weave glittering, brilliantly-put-together lies into our psyche? More importantly, will we allow our children to sit through these lies? What happens when they grow up with their Disney role models being negative ones?

This mom, for one, is no longer willing to put up with Disney. Brooke Poston, author of the blog This Modest Mom, cancelled her family's $6,000 dollar trip to Disneyland and started a boycott of all things Disney. You can view and sign the boycott here if you are ready to take that step.

Or, maybe you're like me, and are not willing to completely ban Disney. I definitely don't plan on visiting Disneyland any time soon but will be taking a movie-by-movie approach to banning their films. If they are willing to return to a friendly, positive family film like UP, then I will support that movie. However, like I said, the chances of that seem to be getting increasingly rare.

It's time, guys, to start cutting ties with Disney. You may decide to go completely cold turkey off all things Disney. Fair warning, though: this will mean banning more movies than you would at first assume, because Disney has their hands in the Marvel movies and Star Wars for instance. Or, you may decide to go it by a movie-to-movie basis. But please do something. If nothing else--because realistically, thinking we can boycott Disney out of business is a stretch--do it for your children. Don't let them be captivated by brilliantly put together lies that pull at their young heartstrings.

Cutting ties with Disney will leave a void, sure, but this is not necessarily a bad thing. There are tons of great books out there to opt for instead. I found family reading time to be way more profitable than sitting in front of a screen anyway! Also, it would appear that Disney and Hollywood in general are fresh out of ideas, as Eric Metaxes pointed out in Breakpoint yesterday. Christian storytellers, be inspired! Let's use our redeemed creative abilities to write and film captivating, original stories that will reach an audience that might just be getting tired of the same old same old.

It's painful seeing the end of an era; it's painful watching Disney evolve from the beauty of their brilliant, morals-affirming stories to the beast of their present, glitzy filth. But there's no need to mourn. We're Christians. Our satisfaction is found in Christ and the amazing story of grace, forgiveness, redemption, and triumph that can be found in Him alone. Maybe Disney will one day realize this and turn from their destructive deceptions; we should definitely be praying for them. But until then, let's be careful to fill our minds with stories other than the new Disney norm.

 Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.
Philippians 4:8 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Before You Throw Away the (W)rapper

There is a funny joke that goes:

"I listen to music the way I eat candy; I throw away the wrapper."

I've shared this line plenty of times when asked about my music tastes, but to be fair, it's not entirely true. When it comes to rap, an acrostic for Rhythm And Poetry, I do not have much of a taste for it. However, that is not because I have strong moral objections to it like a lot of my conservative Christian peers. I do not believe that "all rap music is evil".

I believe we have to be careful here to not paint with a broad brush, like so many Christians do, and condemn a whole genre. Sure, most of the rap out there is terrible, but so is secular music produced by more conventional means these days. Does that mean we should stop using drums and the bass guitar in our music, because so many secular artists have polluted the music styles that use those instruments? Isn't that the same reasoning that Christians use to discredit all rap and Christians' attempts to use it?

I find a much more helpful way to look at the issue of Christian rap is the opinion of Kevin Swanson in his book The Tattooed Jesus. According to Swanson, we need to judge music artists according to their trajectory. It is so unfair of us to expect a man who has grown up in the rap culture to sudden switch to singing 17th century hymns. We should support them in their attempts to conform their culture to Jesus Christ, even as they grow away from it.

A good example is Derek Johnson Jr., who goes by the stage name of Derek Minor. I recently saw him in concert at the Rock and Worship roadshow, and despite his heavy rapping, I actually came to appreciate him. I could tell, unlike Family Force 5, that he had a sincere heart for God and for people. He gave smiles and high fives to the crowd even while he performed, and several of his songs had a strong testimony to Christ.

According to his Wikipedia page, Derek had a rough childhood. His biological father was distant, and his step father was a drug user. It was the faith of his mother that gave him his only context of Christianity, as she often would play gospel songs at their house and sang in a choir. Derek started rapping when he was 12, and it was rap music that gave him some connection to his biological father again. His Wikipedia page is full of ups and downs, rebellion and loss, redemption and gain, but at the center of it is his relationship with Christ. For instance, here are a couple of snippets of his life story:

"Removed from his strict home environment, Johnson rebelled. He pursued music, women and money until 'the season of death' shook up his life. Within a short time span, Johnson lost his grandfather, grandmother and godmother. This loss sparked a realization of the fleeting nature of life, and Johnson decided to dedicate his life and talents to God."

And, specifically on his music trajectory:

"Johnson co-founded Reflection Music Group, then-called Christ Like Entertainment, with his friend Doc Watson, who he met while working on a second mixtape, Transformers. Johnson released his debut album The Blackout in 2008. According to DaSouth.com, the "braggidocious, swagtastic approach" that Johnson took on the album met with controversy in the Christian hip hop community.  Johnson took a break from rapping, and was challenged and influenced by a new friend, BJ, that he met at his new church in Memphis, Tennessee, and was further challenged by Christian hip-hop artist Lecrae. Johnson reflected that his first album was mostly about haters and how good an emcee he was, and was convinced that it should have been more focused on God. In January 2010, Johnson released the mixtape PSA, which he considers his first full-length installment of 'mature' Christian music."

I believe our approach to Christian rappers should be much along the same lines as the approach Derek's friend took. We should seek to challenge him to continue to conform his culture to Christ; we shouldn't immediately discredit his attempts at producing music because it is, after all, rap.

Finally, where does that leave us who have had a much better baseline to start our trajectory from? Should we embrace rap music and become avid fans? No, I am definitely not condoning that. For us to do so would be to take a step backwards in our trajectory, and it would not be helpful to our own sanctification process. There's no debate that the modern day hymns of Keith and Kristin Getty, for instance, more profoundly draw us to worship God than rap music. If we have grown up listening to hymns and songs by Chris Tomlin and Steven Curtis Chapman, it would be most unprofitable for us to become avid rap fans.

Again, it all boils down to our trajectory. We can appreciate the efforts of Derek Minor and Lecrae to conform the culture they have grown up in to Jesus Christ, even while we don't personally engage a ton in their music. They are reaching an audience that Chris Tomlin or Kristin Getty will never have a chance to, and we should be immensely grateful to them for it. Let's be careful to embrace these Christian rappers as our brothers and sisters in Christ, and to do all that we can to help them to continue to be transformed! Let's not immediately discredit their work. Let's not immediately toss the (w)rapper.

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Family Force 5: A Force for Christ or Post-Modernism?


I recently had a chance to see the band Family Force 5 (FF5) in concert. They were one of eight bands at The Rock and Worship Roadshow, put on by the amazing Christian humanitarian organization Compassion International. I confess I had very little clue of who the band was going in to the concert. The only song I had ever heard from them was “Walk on Water”, which I liked almost enough to put on my I-pod. Almost. The lyrics lacked a direct reference to Jesus, but it was clearly implied that He was the one they were singing to. The chorus was all about “walking on the water” trusting Christ wouldn’t let us sink and was everything He says He is. What’s more, the music was catchy and upbeat, and really pulled me in. The only thing I had against the song, then, was that it just sounded kind of cliché.

Needless to say, armed with only this bite-sized sampling of their music, I was curious to hear more from FF5. When they were announced on stage, I clapped cordially enough and even stood up, feeling the anticipation that buzzed through the crowd. Then, in one ear-grating explosion of music, I got my chance to get to know FF5 up close and personally.

Things started going downhill fast.

First, the music was loud—as in blow-you-back-a-few-feet, bass-reverberating-in-your-chest kind of loud. Secondly, it was quite foreign and funky music, somewhere close to chaotic. You could barely hear a word they were singing, and neither could you find the lyrics floating around on one of the giant screens above, behind, or to the sides of the band to clue you in. You were left with a vague sense that the band was, indeed, trying to communicate something to you by the way they sang passionately into their mics.

Given you couldn’t hear a word they were saying, you were left with watching their dance moves. They could dance, that was for sure! I almost imagined that Michael Jackson had been reincarnated. There was no moon walking going on, but plenty of similar, jaw-dropping foot work. Even while watching them dance around the stage, though, my fascination turned to unease. Their dancing at times could have been easily interpreted as sensual. Their skin-tight jeans and constant flipping of their long hair didn’t help with that interpretation.

Then, to top things off, FF5 couldn’t seem to get enough of themselves. The main singer and another band member each took a turn at grabbing a camera from the production crew filming the event and turning it to focus exclusively on them, close up. The lens must have been literally inches from their faces as they yelled into the mic they held in their other hand.  The main singer also laid down on the stage at one point, holding out his feet towards the audience to touch—as if his feet had earned the right to be idolized because of their incredible dancing.

Finding myself disgusted by the band, no matter how cool their dancing was, I turned my attention to the crowd. Some looked equally disgusted, sitting in their seats with arms crossed.  Others looked confused, caught somewhere between trying to dance along with the music and searching around for lyrics to learn what in the world the song was about. Finally, there were a lot of fans going out of their minds dancing along to the music—quite comically, some of them. I envied them and wished I didn’t have these rising qualms inside me so I could join in their dancing. But my qualms remained even after Family Force Five disappeared off the stage, and they eventually organized themselves into a burning question.

What in the world was Christian about FF5’s performance?

I took that question home with me, and decided to do a little investigating on it. My first place to start was Googling Family Force 5 with the only (literally, only) line  that I was able to pick out from their perfomance: “Crank it like a chainsaw”. The search results gave me the words to FF5’s song, “Chainsaw”*:

Yeah, they like the way I do this
When I crank it like a chainsaw
Yeah, they like the way I do this
When I crank it like a chainsaw

Full throttle heavy metal
Set the bar next level
Wasteland gettin' all janky
Soul Glow, chainsaw

Lay in the cut with them elbows back
Engine smokin' just like this track
Shirt be soakin' from all this sweat
Catch my breath, chainsaw

Now hear me roar
I'm an apex predator
From the sycamores, let's get Skeletor
Chainsaw, chainsaw

Watch and learn, watch and learn
Get that thang crankin', yeah, slash slash burn

Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it, crank it, crank it back
Crank it, crank it, back back

Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it, crank it, crank it back back
Crank it, crank it, crank it back back

Crank it like a chain, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it like a chain, crank it like a
Crank it like a chain, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it like a chainsaw, chainsaw

Fresh flannel shirt, country bumpkin
Lumberjack your moves, a.k.a. Paul Bunyan
Run yun yun-yun-yun yun-yun-yun yun-yun
I make it run I make it run I make it run run
Chainsaw

Drop it, drop it, drop it, down low
Chop it, chop chop it, chop, here we, here we go
Beats so sharp that they're callin' me Jaws
I'm your boss, baby, crank it like a chainsaw

Chainsaw

Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it, crank it, crank it back
Crank it, crank it, back back

Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it, crank it, crank it back back
Crank it, crank it, crank it back back

Chained out (Chained out), head hunter (Head hunter)
Cyberpunk, yeah, I'm a blade runner (Blade runner)
Turned up (Turned up), automatic (Automatic)
Full tank, you ain't gotta think about it
Chainsaw

Chainsaw
Yank it, crank it, swank it,
And you put it inside whatever you ride
Turn it all the way up and hear you crank it
Chopped the block no ginsu
Wilderness but I'm chivalrous

From Texas but no massacre
Unless it's a beat we killing it
Chopping down trees, can't you see
Watch some things fall
Bows to my knees I mean
I crank it like a chainsaw
Do it to these trees
I'll see these things y'all
Burn it up now burn it down
Now let me see you chainsaw

Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it, crank it, crank it back
Crank it, crank it, back back

Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Bows to the knees, yeah, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it, crank it, crank it back back
Crank it, crank it, crank it back back

Crank it like a chain, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it like a chain, crank it like a
Crank it like a chain, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it like a chainsaw, chainsaw

Crank it like a chain, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it like a chain, crank it like a
Crank it like a chain, crank it like a chainsaw
Crank it like a chainsaw, chainsaw

My first thought about the song when I read these lyrics was, “Nihilistic”. I found their claim at being an “apex predator” and a “head hunter” that "slash slash burns” things to outweigh their promise that they were “from the wilderness but I’m chivalrous, Texas but no massacre”. My second thought was “post-modernistic”. There’s no way this disjointed, schizophrenic song could be anything but a product of that worldview. But how could that be? Wasn’t this, after all, a Christian band? Weren’t they the same Christian band that made that pretty good song I had heard on the Christian radio station Air1 about trusting Christ?

I decided to see what FF5 said about themselves on their website. On their “About” page**, I heard a lot about their “hip-hop hues, guitar bludgeoning, smoov R&B melodies, eye-winking pop-culture references, stentorian grace, personal reflections and infectious optimism”, but not a single word about their faith. Not a single reference to Jesus, let alone God. The closest I got to anything Christian was this quote about two-thirds of the way down their long “About” page:

“On the joyous, celebratory ‘Let It Be Love,’ Jacob [FF5’s lead singer] delivers a couplet that is all-encompassing: ‘It’s not about the stand you take/but the grace we give/It’s not about the name we make/but the life we live.’ It’s a sentiment that transcends attitudes, belief systems and the spiritually empty things humanity puts entirely too much emphasis upon.”

Ah ha, that’s all good, just as long as you don’t put Christianity under that title of “spiritually empty things”. You see, lacking is a strong cry to reject the things of the world and turn to the love and grace of Christ! In fact, here is the worldview of FF5, taken again straight from their page about themselves:

“[FF5] have come to party positive with big beats and rapidimente rapping while offering moments of sincere inspiration. Producers Riley Friesen and Seth Mosley ably captured the band’s forward-in-all-directions worldview for maximum joy and reverence.”

I am not quite sure what is meant by “forward in all directions worldview”, but it would not seem to be consistent with Jesus Christ, who is “The way, the truth, and the light, no one comes to the Father but through me”. (John 14:6) Still, though, perhaps none of the actual band members had written all that about themselves. I wanted to see a direct interview where they were asked about their faith face to face.  I found such an interview on YouTube***. The reporter asked them directly what role their faith played in their music. Their answer, after a moment of awkward silence, was “A big one,” followed by nervous laughter and more awkwardness.

One of the band members (the lead singer, looked like) then elaborated:

“You write songs with experience and what you’re going through. And I think, um, this last record we, we were, uh, really writing out of that. And so some of our songs like “Let it be Love” and “Walk on Water” are our more faith driven songs. And you know, they’re what we were feeling at the time. Then you also have, like, stuff that’s like berserk and’s like ‘ah we’re just going to go crazy and have a good time.’ So . . .”


Pay careful attention to his words about “writing songs with experience” and “that’s what we were feeling at the time”. These are both cut and dried tenants of Post-Modernism, the belief that your own experiences and feelings define truth for you—because ultimate truth is unknowable. Your identity isn’t fixed in Post-modernism. In fact, it jumps around from identity to identity as you continually find your truth from each different revelation you have given to you by your experiences. Think of pop singers who have switched from identity to identity like Miley Cyrus (Can you believe she used to be the innocent Hannah Montana?), Justin Bieber, and Brittany Spears. And now, apparently, FF5 as they switch from their Christian Identity to their pop, secular hip-hop identity, or maybe even to their Nihilistic identity in “Chainsaw”.

Another telling sign of Post-Modernism is its avoidance of any absolute truth. Since truth is relative to your experiences, it would be wrong to try and force any overarching truth on anyone. As a result, you have to be intentionally vague and non-intrusive in whatever truth you personally hold to. So, for instance, if you are a Post-modern artist, your works are highly random and impressionistic. You randomly fling paint on your canvas, because it is not important (and even detrimental) that you paint a clear picture of something real, but that your audience is allowed to interpret their own truth as a result of gazing upon your random art.

If you are a post-modern music band, your work will also be highly disjointed and vague. It won’t speak to absolute truth, but will allow you to form your own conclusions. That sounds remarkably like FF5’s “Chainsaw”, and the majority of their songs. If we really agree with Christ that you will know people by their fruit (Mathew 7:20), then we need to look with careful discernment at the rotten fruit hanging from FF5’s spiritual tree and reject them as being a Christian band. They are a Post-modern band who may personally hold to faith experiences, but don’t think Christ is an absolute truth worth devoting all their music to. It is sad that a sincerely Christian organization like Compassion International allowed this band to tour with Christian greats like Steven Curtis Chapman, Francesca Battistelli,  Passion, and Rend Collective—as if FF5 was just as valid as these artists who actually sang of absolute truth,  who actually worshiped absolute truth.

This is not about criticizing FF5 because I have a different taste for music than they do. This is about the discernment we as Christians need to have. It is our duty to guard each other from false prophets, and that’s what I am doing here. Please, be wary of Family Force 5, and approach listening to them with a healthy dose of salt. Or, even better, steer clear from listening to them at all, until they are willing to truly let Christ be the absolute truth worth writing and living their music for.

15 “Beware of the false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly are ravenous wolves. 16 You will know them by their fruits. Grapes are not gathered from thorn bushes nor figs from thistles, are they? 17 So every good tree bears good fruit, but the bad tree bears bad fruit. 18 A good tree cannot produce bad fruit, nor can a bad tree produce good fruit. 19 Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 20 So then, you will know them by their fruits.
Mathew 7:15-20

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