When Christ is Supreme

I am angry. My heart remains heavy as I still try to process the events from last Saturday in Charlottesville. The displays and touts of white supremacy are sinful and pure evil. Yet, I am not only angry. I am disturbed. I am distraught over the response of some white brothers and sisters in Christ. What follows is not meant to condemn but to rebuke and correct. This cultural moment calls for Christian unity, not political pairings.

The Matter

When Colin Kaepernick chose to protest and sit during the National Anthem, some of these same white brothers and sisters were vocal about their disagreement with it. Whether you agree or disagree with Colin’s stance, the reality is it was a matter of free speech. What happened last Friday evening into Saturday was not. The actions of the Alt Right were blatantly sinful. Their hatred for other groups and races reveal the wickedness in their hearts. The proper response to such a malicious mindset is to speak out against it and to name racism for what it is: sin.

The Wrong Response

I am grateful for those who have spoken up on behalf of others in the body of Christ, particularly standing with their black brothers and sisters in Christ. At the same time, I am grieved by what I see from some who profess to be followers of Jesus Christ. In this cultural moment, their response to this tragedy is to get political. In the face of racism’s display, their stance is to argue about the statutes and to stand up for the president at what seems to be no matter the cost, even when his words fail to forcefully denounce such a sinful mentality. Don’t misunderstand me: we need to be praying for our president. However, that does not mean we have to affirm everything he says and does.

To Remain Silent is Sin

I want to be clear and say I am not calling my white brothers and sisters in Christ racists. But I feel I must say a word to my white brothers and sisters in Christ: we cannot remain silent. I believe to remain silent on this issue is sin. The Word of God from James 4:17 reminds us, “So whoever knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, for him it is sin.” Two chapters earlier, James exposes the Christian to the sin of partiality. So, for the one who calls themselves a Christian, knows racism is sin, but never speaks out against it, they are committing sin.

My Confession of This Sin

In transparency, I write these words as one who has committed such sin. In the past, my apathetic heart was not overly angered at the real issues going on. While I never would affirm or support racism, I failed to speak up for my brothers and sisters in Christ of other races. While I have shown private support for my black brothers and sisters, my public proclamations fail to mirror the unity I have with them in the gospel. To that neglect, I say “No more!”. I confess my apathy and my fear of speaking up. I ask for forgiveness from my black brothers and sisters in Christ. I repent of remaining silent when I know the right thing to do is speak up.

The Supremacy of Christ for the Joy of All Peoples

So, hear me my white brothers and sisters in Christ: We must speak out against the sin of white supremacy and denounce racism. We cannot live in a way which denies racism still exists or that downplays the problem we face. We all have been made in the image of God and are equal in dignity (Genesis 1:26-28). We must speak up and stand with all our brothers and sisters in Christ, showing we are one in Christ. When we do, we show the power of the gospel and witness to the world the supremacy of Christ. Because when Christ is supreme, our primary response to such events will not be political but spiritual, calling out sin. When Christ is supreme, we will be willing to listen to those who are of a different culture and color than our own instead of shutting them out with our preferences and presuppositions. When Christ is supreme, we will not seek to justify every word the president says but we will live out the Word of our God and Redeemer. Because when Christ is supreme, it is for the joy of all peoples (Revelation 5:9-10, 7:9-10).

#TBT: What is Truth?

What is truth? This is the question that many people today, especially in America, are asking themselves. As these individuals seek to find the answer to that question, they make assumptions, make historical connections, use proponents, and practice what they find to be their truth claim. However, this brings about another question. How can Christians confront these truth claims? How can Christians engage people who say or believe, “I cannot impose my truth on another or say that someone’s truth is wrong”?

In the beginning stages of the United States, many Europeans came to America for various reasons. One reason in particular was to escape religious persecution. With many different beliefs coming from different parts of the world, the United States began to allow religious tolerance. Thus, tolerance has always been a key component in the American lifestyle whether tolerating religion or lifestyle. Due to effects of The Revolutionary War, Americans realized how independent they could actually be. The result was individualization in America. Because American roots are founded in individualism, this is a key component for why everyone has their own truth to live by.  Therefore, people will not impose on other person’s truth because everyone has their own truth.  As a result of being individualistic, we are in control of our own truth so that no one can impose on another’s “personal” truth.

As the United States began to grow as a nation, there is one key factor that contributes to how American thinking went from absolute truth to “personal” truth. This key factor is when Charles Darwin introduced evolution. This was a naturalist point of view. When evolution came around, it introduced a whole different aspect of human beings, everyone part of an evolutionary process and trying to survive. Therefore, humans have no purpose because there is no Creator. Humans have to create their own purposes and they have to create their own truth.

If humans create their own truth, then people will tolerate each person’s truth because that truth works for them.  This way of thinking has flooded the American thought.  Many people don’t believe in absolute truth, but that truth is different for everyone. As a result, there is no confrontation which would result in conflicts. This breeds well in the age of Post Modernism, the belief that there are no absolutes truths, but truth is based on everyone’s own experiences (Glossary Definition: Post Modernism).

In America today, there are countless examples and practices of accepting and tolerating everyone’s “personal” truth.  The first example is found in the media. In the show “Dancing with the Stars” from a few seasons ago, there was a transgender dancer on the show, known as Chaz Bono. Of course, the acceptance of transgender would not have happened without the support of homosexuality. No one should be able to impose their beliefs onto somebody else for their lifestyle.

These examples point directly to the assumptions our culture makes. The first and obvious assumption made from this statement is that truth is not absolute, but rather it is relative. One could say the assumption in this way, “My truth is true for me and your truth is true for you.” Looking at this assumption, though, makes one question what truth even is. Who sets the standard for the truth? Yet, these are not the only assumptions being made about this claim.

Another assumption comes straight from the statement is that nobody is wrong. One person cannot tell the other person that they are wrong so you would have to make the assumption that they are not wrong. This leads to an even more distracting assumption. If nobody is wrong, then that means everybody is right in their own eyes about what the truth is. It echoes Judges 21:25, “In those days there was no king in Israel. Everyone did what was right in their own eyes.” Truth becomes merely what works for the individual, and the individual takes control of their truth. They become the standard.

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At the root of this truth claim is the question, “Who says?” As one can see, the answer is that the person does. However, one cannot tell others what their standard is as it is their standard. In other words, human beings become their own standard. People become their own truth and nobody can tell them that their truth is wrong. The reality is individuals cannot simply be the standard, because, if they are, there is no stable standard for judgment, for good and evil. People also cannot be the standard of judgment because we are imperfect. We need a perfect Being to be the standard, a standard outside of ourselves.

This standard is none other than Yahweh Himself. He is “the way, and the truth, and the life” (John 14:6). Truth is spoken in the name of the LORD (1 Kings 22:16; 2 Chronicles 18:15), displaying a connection between truth and the LORD. Needless to say, if these proponents of tolerance and control all come back to the issue of standard, one can see that the standard of truth is Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ sets the standard for which we are shown what true tolerance is and what is implies and, even more importantly, humans see who the Controller of Truth is. It is God.

Christians know their truth through the Word. The Word reveals Truth which, in turn, reveals reality. According to J.P. Moreland, Christians are responsible to present their knowledge of the Truth in a world that is so tolerant of “personal” truth. Christians are responsible for ensuring that absolute truth is taught to others.  This is our duty.  Jesus is the Truth and Christians must convey His Truth to a postmodern, individualist, tolerate society.

This post is a revised excerpt from a college paper written by Theron St. John and Katie Campbell in 2011 for the course, Introduction to Philosophy, taught by Dr. Mark Eckel at Crossroads Bible College.

Moral Absolutes

Maleficent is important. She is important because she is an icon, a symbol. She is a symbol of evil, a powerful sorceress and a fire-breathing dragon who delights in tormenting others. In fact, she is almost equated with Satan himself, as though she were a she-Devil. In the original Disney film, Sleeping Beauty, she is said to wield the fires of Hell. She is said to be pure evil. Not only that, but Satan’s symbol is the serpent, or dragon (Rev. 12:9), and Maleficent has the ability to take the form of a black dragon. Take these three things, as well as her headpiece which has horns, and you have a symbol of pure evil, a representation of Satan himself.

But wait! That’s only part of the story! There is another side to Maleficent, as can be seen in the modernized version of Sleeping Beauty, titled Maleficent. Maleficent didn’t start off evil. She was betrayed by her lover. That’s why she turned evil. And in fact, Princess Aurora herself actually earns Maleficent’s affection, and serves to redeem Maleficent from her evil. Maleficent has regrets about the evils she has wrought. What we find in this modern retelling of a classic fairytale is a villain who is not two-dimensional, but three-dimensional. The villain is no longer pure evil, but a person with feelings, and a reason for their evil.

I am actually quite fond of this idea. However, I believe that this modern portrayal of a classically evil character has an underlying view of humanity behind it. Consider Into the Woods. Originally a play, Disney took it and made it into a musical. In it, classic ideas and symbolic figures are turned on their heads. Prince Charming is only that—charming, and also lascivious! The witch of the story has been hurt and abused by others, and that’s why she has put a curse on the baker and his wife.

As a writer, I’m very fond of three-dimensional characters who have a lot of depth and can change and grow in a story. These characters are known, in literature, as dynamic or round characters. But two-dimensional and one-dimensional characters, also known as static or flat characters, also have their place. Often, they serve as symbols of two absolutes: good and evil. In a post-modern society, thinking in such absolutes is frowned upon. In fact, in post-modern thinking there are no moral absolutes.

I watch quite a few movies, and I think there has been a shift in cinema. The bad guy is no longer the bad guy. Or at least, he’s not as bad as he was before. And the good guy is no longer the good guy, or at least not as good as before. This shift in cinema, particularly in Disney I think, speaks to an idea very common to modern man and his estimation of man: humans are born basically good. It is only when bad things happen to and warp them that they become evil and do evil things. Additionally, there is no pure good or pure evil.

This estimation of man is the predominant view in today’s culture, at least in the United States. It is especially prevalent in psychology, despite psychology’s father, Sigmund Freud, believing that humans were inherently selfish, not good. This colors how we view human beings, their suffering, and their failings. This idea leads to the disintegration of personal responsibility and becomes a game of “who done it”. Suddenly, a man’s struggle with pornography becomes no fault of his but from the way he was raised or from experiences he had in early childhood. People are no longer violent because they naturally have violent tendencies or simply aren’t good people. No, video games and easy access to guns have made them this way!

But is it so wrong to have evil be evil and good be good? Doesn’t it create an unrealistic duality that cannot be seen in reality? I don’t think so. To see this duality as unrealistic necessarily implies that there is no such thing as this duality. But this is patently false for the Christian. Christians know that there are moral absolutes, and that there is someone who is purely good and someone who is wholly evil. They are God and Satan respectfully. As for man—man is sinful. People naturally fall on the spectrum closer to evil than to good.

It is true that man is not wholly evil but that their whole being has been affected by sin. As bad as any person may be, he or she could always be worse. But man is not naturally inclined to good, either. Absolutes serve to demonstrate how man ought to be and how man ought not to be. Absolutes in stories serve to teach truth: there is a dualistic reality of pure goodness and whole evilness. Even if it is not found purely in human beings, human beings exist in that reality and they will always be closer to one side of the spectrum: good or evil.

Not only do absolutes teach the truth of our morally dualistic reality, they also teach children how they should be and how they should not be. The world is not some fluffy, idealistic place where people are basically good and friendly. People are selfish. The world is hard. It is cursed! Evil is real, and evil will be punished. There are consequences for one’s actions. But this means that good is also real. And because good is real, and good is stronger than evil (God is infinitely stronger than Satan), we know that good will triumph in the end.

This gives us hope! And every man and woman and child, no matter who they may be or where they come from, needs hope. Hope is that spirit in man that drives him forward, longing for better things and striving for better things, and indeed waiting for better things. So, while it can be good to have evil characters who can be related to, it’s also important to discern the view of mankind behind the creation and portrayal of such characters, and also to remember this: whether man does good or evil, there is only one who is purely good, and there is also one who is wholly evil.

This post was written by Joshua Wagner. Joshua is 26 years old and happily married to his wife, Heather. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Counseling at Crossroads Bible College. He is passionate about the Church, art and literature, theology, philosophy, and writing.

Worldview Analysis: Wicca

“You’re a wizard, Harry.” So said Hagrid to the young Harry Potter, the boy who would go on to the capture the imaginations of people, young and old, throughout the world. J.K. Rowling’s series on “the boy who lived” has made tons of money—and lots of publicity, both positive and negative. Christians still attack Rowling’s works of fiction to this day. “Witchcraft!” they cry. I once heard someone describe Harry Potter’s battle with Voldemort this way, “It’s basically evil fighting against evil.”

Interestingly enough, J.K. Rowling herself claims that she intended for Christian religious themes to be in her books, subtly. This subtlety, of course, was almost abandoned completely in The Deathly Hallows, with Scripture references and Harry Potter as a Christ motif, sacrificing himself for others, experiencing a resurrection, and defeating Voldemort. So, while Harry Potter may have been a gateway for many young people to enter into the practice of “witchcraft”, “Wicca”, and “Paganism”, the books themselves are not nearly as insidious as one might think.

But what is this “witchcraft” practice, exactly? People will talk a lot about “Wicca” and “witchcraft” without knowing a lot about them. Many assume that these practitioners worship Satan. However, things are not as cut and dry as people might think. You see, witchcraft is part of a practice under the umbrella religion of Neo Paganism. Neo Paganism often has very little to do with the Christian figure of Satan in the direct manner that people usually think.

There are a variety of beliefs in Neo Paganism. However, since Harry Potter is often lumped together with Wicca, and because Wicca is a popular spiritual belief in America, I will be focusing on this form of Neo Paganism. Even in Wicca there are some varying beliefs. Some may consider “Wicca” and “Witchcraft” to be the same thing, but others would say they are not, for example. This is just one of many views, and this varied system of belief is part of the appeal of Wicca—practitioners are free to add or subtract beliefs from their practice as they see fit. Nevertheless, there are some ideas commonly held by practitioners.

The first is simple: “all is one”. The cosmos is essentially undifferentiated, universal energy. Furthermore, all living things have equal value. Human beings are not special creatures, but are part of the whole of nature. In this manner, Wicca is much like Pantheism, a religious/philosophical system I discussed in the September blog post.

The second is this: “I am divine”. Wiccans believe that they have divine power. They are themselves gods and goddesses of a sort. The third is the idea of limitless power. Wiccans do not believe that their powers are limited by any deity. There is a kind of deity, however, that is generally believed in by Wiccans: The Mother Goddess.

The fourth is a focus on altered consciousness. Wiccans have strong beliefs in the supernatural, the spirit world, and in altered states of consciousness, which are attained through rituals, rites, and spells. These spells are cast by using the power and energy of the spirit world. There are a variety of spells for a variety of problems. There are love spells, blessings, curses, and even the art of Divination.

Fifth, Wiccans are anti-authoritarian. Again, this is one of its most appealing qualities. They also do not believe in absolute “good” or absolute “evil”. Despite the idea that Wiccans worship Satan, they do not, at least consciously. They do not believe that Satan even exists. So the idea that witches intentionally call upon Satan and demons for their power is a false one. The Halloween movie Hocus Pocus is lightheartedly suggestive of this false idea. When the Sanderson sisters, the witches of the movie, see a man dressed as Satan, they refer to him as “Master”.

Sixth, and lastly, most Wiccans do follow a certain ethic, called the Wiccan Rede. It states this, “If it harms none, do what you will.” They also believe in something called the Threefold Law, which states, “Anything you do will come back to you three times.”  For this reason, most Wiccans are peaceful people who prefer to do good, and not harm—generally. This is because all living things are of equal value and whatever you do will come back on you threefold. So if you put a curse on someone, get ready for worse stuff to happen to you!

In Harry Potter, “witches and wizards” are born with an innate talent to cast spells. They do not call upon the spiritual world, but rather on their own power. Additionally, there is nothing about the Wiccan Rede or the Threefold Law at all in Harry Potter. There is no belief in a Mother Goddess or in the pantheistic things seen commonly in Wiccan beliefs. Harry Potter’s magic is fictional. There are other stories, however, that are not so fictionally docile, such as seen in the films Practical Magic and The Craft.

As Christians, our interactions with Wiccans should be loving. We know that there is only one true God, and that He has made human beings in His image. When we converse with Wiccans, we can share common ground with them. There is great value in creation, because God created it and it reflects His glory. We are to be stewards of what He has created. And there is a vast supernatural side to existence, and we should do to others as we would want them to do to us.

But salvation cannot be found in spells and rites, or in communing with the “spirit world”. Salvation can only be found through the atoning work of Christ on the cross. We are not limitless, and we are most certainly accountable for our actions. This accountability must be emphasized. But a robust relationship with the living God should also be emphasized. Many Wiccans became Wiccan because of a deep spiritual yearning that was not satisfied in the Church.

May it be that we, as the Church, can show Wiccans that there is, in fact, a very satisfying, spiritually fulfilling, reality in Christianity, and that is a relationship with Jesus Christ, who bought us with His own blood. For there is nothing more spiritually satisfying or engaging than a walk with Christ. Wiccans thirst for a fulfilling spiritual life. Christ offers water that satisfies, and the one who drinks it will never thirst again (Jn. 4:13-15).

This post was written by Joshua Wagner. Joshua is 26 years old and happily married to his wife, Heather. He is pursuing a bachelor’s degree in Biblical Counseling at Crossroads Bible College. He is passionate about the Church, art and literature, theology, philosophy, and writing.