Loving our neighbor with an open mind (because we love the truth)

It can be said that we must be open-minded in relation to our neighbor and what they believe, even if radically contrary to what we believe, and even if they perceive us as enemies. It is love to consider them, and to take them seriously, trying to know them and love them as Jesus commands. As Jason Baehr says, it is essential to Christian love to be open to giving serious attention to the beliefs of those that disagree with us (it is arrogance to do otherwise):

“What does such ‘enemy love’ require of us? While I cannot pursue this question in depth, surely it involves respecting and giving serious consideration to our enemies’ beliefs – and particularly to those beliefs that really ‘matter’ to them. If I feed and clothe my neighbor or enemy, but ignore, distort, or otherwise fail to ‘take seriously’ his deeply held beliefs, then surely I fail to embody the kind of love that Jesus commands.”[1]

Our ideal: As those who claim to love the truth, we above all people should have an interest and intention to see and understand things in accordance to reality, what they actually are. It is wisdom to understand things as they are, not as we wish, imagine, or insist, contrary to reality or the facts. We also, as those who claim to know the truth, out of love for others, must be prepared to have sufficient evidence and reason for what we believe, and not just claim to have it. Nor, do we ask others to “just believe” and not ask questions or raise objections. That is, we must be willing to follow the proper laws of logic, non-contradiction, and so-on, in order to humbly acknowledge our fallibility and willingness to adjust beliefs when found to be in error or incomplete. This is not to say we just hold a tentative, loose grip on the truth received in the Scripture as gospel truth. It is because we hold firmly to the truth of the gospel that we are able to examine honestly all counter-claims to it, as well as internal conflicts among those who embrace it. That is, we do not just hold loosely, or tentatively, the truths of the gospel while trying to be open-minded to other claims or objections. Rather we examine those through the gospel and examine them in light of the Scripture.

Being open-minded in this sense is therefore characterized by the traits of curiosity, compassion, charitableness, honesty, generosity, teachability, graciousness, and empathy. These must all be guided by a rational, logical, truthful effort to know and communicate the truth in love. It is often said that when we speak truth, if it is disagreeable to others, or they find it offensive, that we are not loving, or that we do not love, when in reality we seek and speak the truth because we love and want to share the joys of knowing the truth about reality, and the One who made it.

Cm9SL4rWIAA5lgN (2)

“Whatever its more detailed features, open-mindedness has something to do with how we respond to other’s beliefs, and typically at least, to beliefs or ideas that conflict with our own. An open-minded person does not cling blindly to her beliefs in the face of challenges or counter-evidence to them. She is not dismissive of beliefs or positions with which she disagrees. Nor does she shy away from rational dialogue or engagement with people who believe differently from her.”[2]

“Learning is far more than a task or a responsibility. It also changes us. It fulfills our innate (that is, God-given) curiosity about the world. It is a way of increasing our sense of what life holds, therefore inspiring us to create. Learning heightens our ability to understand and sympathize. It broadens our perspective. It makes us richer, more mature people.”[3]

“Real learning is the path to humility, trust, and faith. It can only be faithful learning and the learning of faith that directs us in the world. And this will reveal itself in our work.”[4]

“The whole process of curiosity, questioning, and discovery can be a journey, full of wonder and praise, into the mind of God, who created everything. Whatever can be studied, whether human nature or the physical universe, is what it is because God willed it and made it. To uncover the hidden laws that govern matter, to disclose the patterns of subatomic particles, to discover how human beings grow and interact, to discern an underlying pattern in history or in astronomy–all of these amount to nothing less than discovering God’s will. Just as God is inexhaustible, knowledge is inexhaustible. Our curiosity and understanding can never be fully satisfied in our earthly lives. As thirst is evidence for water, our yearning for knowledge points to Heaven, in which all desires will be fully satisfied.” (1 Corinthians 13:12).[5]

“The delight of learning, which impels people to study God’s works more and more deeply, is really finding pleasure in God.[6]

[1] Baehr, “Open Mindedness,” Being Good, p. 43.

[2] Baehr, “Open Mindedness,” Being Good, p. 31.

[3] Marshall, Heaven is Not my Home, p. 68.

[4] Marshall, Heaven is Not my Home, p. 68.

[5] Veith, Loving God With All Your Mind, p. 151.

[6] Veith, Loving God With All Your Mind, p. 152.


Allah, Yahweh, sexism, and racism at Wheaton?

YHWHThe inanity of professing Christians is oftentimes baffling. For example, Wheaton College recently dismissed (whether she chose to  resign is not clear) a professor for her interfaith displays of “solidarity” with Muslims, an act apparently in defiance of the code of doctrine and faith at Wheaton. Now, ethically speaking, it seems in the least surprising that a teacher would so blithely (perhaps ignorantly?) assume that her actions would not arouse trouble on campus, and that Muslims and Christians alike would not be offended that she seems to associate YHWH with Allah. Even more peculiar is the group of protestors who seem to object to a school being consistent with its faith-convictions (while its administrators were seen tripping over themselves to be gracious and kind, and even apologetic). These protestors have had an “unsanctioned rally” in front of the Wheaton chapel “to launch a 40-day fast encouraging evangelicals to ‘confess and repent of the sins of racism, sexism and Islamophobia, and recognize that all humans have dignity and are created equal in the eyes of God'” (as reported in Christianity Today  by Morgan Lee and Jeremy Weber/ February 10, 2016). Now, the question is, are they repenting of their own sins of “racism, sexism, and Islamophobia,” or everyone else’s (presumably at Wheaton)? I am curious also to know what they might say to Jesus’ words that we should take our prayers and repentance into our closet, and not make a pompous show (with trumpets, fanfare, and sackcloth)? I am doubtful of getting answers to my questions, but I would also like to know why these repenting  people are so racist, and sexist, and fearful of Islam?

But perhaps I misunderstand altogether, and that they actually are rather pointing the guilty finger at others’ guilt. If that be the sad case, then I would recommend they go back to class (and not starve themselves to death), where we would hope that they would learn that racism is an unbiblical attempt to find one’s true identity in one’s ethnicity (a.k.a. “skin color”) while denigrating others’ efforts to find their identity in their own ethnicity (a.k.a. “skin color”). And, also let us hope that they would learn that believing the Bible’s teaching on homosexuality, and sexuality in all its forms, is not sexism (I am not sure what sex is as an “ism” anyway). And, that it certainly is not fear, nor hatred, of Muslims that leads Christians (who read and believe the Bible) to conclude that Islam and its god Allah are not in any clear way synonymous with YHWH or biblical faith. And lastly, above all, they should learn in a Christian college that it is precisely why Christians believe that all people are made in the image of a holy God, and have intrinsic dignity, that they invite them to believe in the true and living God and to trust in Christ his Son for their salvation. This invitation includes the message that one can truly find one’s identity only in Christ (and in nothing finite, such as ethnicity or skin color). And, that immoral sexual behavior is only symptomatic of the deeper problem of this so-called sexism, that of the futile foolishness of seeking one’s identity in one’s sexuality. And also, we would hope they might learn that fear of Islam is a silly characterization of those many Christians, who do not believe that Allah and YHWH are synonymous, but who would willingly lay down their lives for the followers of Allah and his prophet Mohamed, in the hopes that they would come to faith in Jesus and receive his gift of loving and eternal grace.

Though befuddled by these questions, still praying that the light of reason prevails at this beautiful campus and college “For Christ and His Kingdom.”

Christianity, Culture, Literacy, and Biblically Prophetic Perspectives

Christianity, Culture, Literacy, and Biblically Prophetic Perspectives

Cultural-LiteracyIn recent decades, there has been a widely chronicled rise of Evangelical interest and participation in cultural pursuits. This has been seen as a return from the wilderness of isolationism (or cultural separatism), typically blamed on what many pejoratively have labeled “Fundamentalism.” There are many academic, political, philosophical, social, and aesthetic examples of this resurgence, and welcome to those of us who are advocates of cultural engagement. Therefore, these brief comments are not intended as an academic rehearsal  of these examples, but rather some personal reflections on Christianity and culture in relation to that engagement and our own cultural literacy.

The question is, do we have any moral responsibility to seek such literacy?
See essay here: Christianity, Culture, and Literacytelevision_67345
cartoon from http://www.toonpool.com/user/250/files/television_67345.jpg

The generosity of God for the world from Ecclesiastes

“To such a world, Ecclesiastes has something to say. He does not come as a formal philosopher; it is a word from God he has to share, despite his reflective low-key approach. He does not present half-a-dozen arguments for the existence of God. Instead he picks up our own questions. Can you cope with life without having any idea where you are going? You don’t have all the answers to life’s enigmas, do you? Your neo-pagan view of life doesn’t give you any hope of achieving very much, does it? Nature will not answer your questions, and you are bored by it anyway. History baffles your attempts to understand it. You don’t like to think about your own death; yet it is the most certain fact about your existence.  What would it be like, asks the Preacher, if things were utterly different from what you thought? What if this world is not the ultimate one? What if God exists and is a rewarder of those who seek him? What if one of his supreme characteristics is his utter, incredible generosity, his willingness to give and give and give again, his utter acceptance of us just as we are. Could it be, asks this provocative and seemingly negative Preacher, that the barrenness and hideous purposelessness of life stems only from the fact that you will not believe in such a God?” Michael Eaton, Ecclesiastes, IVP, 1983, p 158.

Biblical Rhetoric and our Beautiful Gospel

The Biblical Ideals of Rhetoric and the Beautiful Gospel

Our ideals for communication should flow out of our Biblical Theology of the Scripture. They should reflect the whole gospel of the whole  Bible, for the  whole person, for the whole world. Therefore, we take the wondrous gift of communication with grave sobriety, matched only by our great joy. We do not often achieve our ideals, but is it not possible to have substantial success? Sadly, we must admit, we too often communicate  in such a way that others might conclude that our God is not worthy of their  admiration or praise. It is, consequently, all the more imperative that we make every effort to rightly represent him as he truly is. To do so, our communication, our rhetoric, should accurately exemplify the character of Christ: that is, he loves perfectly, and communicates his love perfectly. As God, he loves the truth perfectly, he loves his creation perfectly, and he loves his people perfectly. As God, he communicates perfectly his character and his purposes. He communicates his holiness to unholy creatures perfectly.

Nevertheless, unlike God, in our sinful state, we can only humbly strive to represent him in our character and communication, praying that he will give us sufficiency and strength of character beyond our ability. One important aspect of our representing him in our love for him, his truth, and his creation, is that our rhetoric in all aspects should be beautiful. When our rhetoric lacks beauty, it is of course ugly. Though this is an “unscientific” assertion, lacking completely objective  definition, it can be fair to say we all know when we are being unkind, unloving, uncivil, ungracious, unforgiving, impatient, insulting, discourteous, harsh, cruel, close-minded, arrogant, pompous, cynical, and ugly. Consider even the most severe judgment texts in the Bible: they are never demeaning, degrading, insulting, impatient, or arrogant, etc. In fact, they are written in the most beautifully exalting prose and poetry known to humankind, in language that expresses all of the beautiful perfections of God’s character. Importantly, the Scriptures are the only perfect place to find a model for rhetoric, since God has given us there the most extraordinary, and perfect, balance of love and holiness, of mercy and judgment. Even where the prophets, and Christ,  most strongly excoriate there is never any degrading or demeaning of the audience/recipients since God always communicates from his holy, loving, and glorious nature. His communication is therefore always perfectly loving and perfectly just. We, on the other hand, recognize that in ourselves we are unjust and unloving, and our communication is so often corrupted by our sinful hearts. Therefore, we must all the more give careful attention to our rhetoric as a matter of obedience to Christ. In this way, we pray to be affirming, complimenting, encouraging, humble, kind, gracious, patient, courteous, civil, forgiving, gentle, open-minded, long-suffering, and loving, and thereby approximate a modest representation of his most beautiful character.

It is also true that perceptions vary from one culture and generation to another. For example, in what might be regarded as harsh at one time might be perceived  as witty and persuasive at another time. What might be insulting to one generation might be received as a powerful polemic to another. This does not mean that our biblical ideals are relative, but that we must attempt to understand our own generation to discover what best exemplifies biblical standards of rhetoric so that our communication presents Christ and his gospel with as much love and beauty as is humanly possible (by the help of his Spirit). Knowing how often we fail (when we do not depend on his help nor follow his example), should incline us to even greater humility, patience, kindness, gentleness, and love as we fervently pray to better communicate the beauty of his holiness. In our desire to follow Christ our King, whose teaching and rhetoric was unparalleled in every aspect, we must work especially hard to best communicate in our rhetoric so as to proclaim, to demonstrate, and to teach the glories of his truth with the immeasurable
and unmatched beauty of his love.

In so doing, we present him as he truly is, as the one most worthy of all love and praise.



Atheists hope [in what is seen]

the-mountainUnbelievers, those who choose the label “atheist,” often hope to be consistent with their view that this extraordinarily wondrous universe, and our miraculous existence and lives within it, are just a [hopeless] blip on the radar-screen of infinite time, and that we exit without any [hope of] anything after. And, in order to cope with the consequences of such a horribly empty [truly hopeless] perspective, they sometimes opt for the classification of “agnostic” in the hope that there might be some hope somewhere, after all. The atheist and agnostic must hope that they are correct in their assessment of these things, but we are confident that such hope will disappoint, and forever.

I did not use the word “meaningless” to describe this hopeless state of the atheist/agnostic, since they often claim to have meaning in their lives, though this meaning is typically rooted in finite things that cannot give true hope. We all know the litany of those things that people believe and hope will give them meaning or some satisfaction, and what they serve to that end, so there is no need to repeat that here. Yet, it is reasonable to say that those things actually can give no hope at all, and can even blind us to true hope and thus to true meaning and to real significance. In other words, in this case, it is impossible for finite things to give us an everlasting hope or an infinite reference point of meaning and significance for our eternal lives. These things are simply incapable of, as insufficient for, such a monumental spiritual, philosophical, emotional, and moral task.

For the truth, we are compelled to tell the unbelieving atheist and the unbelieving agnostic that there can be true hope, and lasting hope, a hope that “does not disappoint,” but it must be found at its source. But I must conclude with saying that this hope we have is not just hope to have hope, or hope in hope, it is the present and coming reality of what God has promised. This hope must relinquish the vain hope in the finite mirage of what is seen, and patiently wait for the fullness and reality of what we do not yet see fully.

Paul addresses this very beautifully in his letter to the Romans (8:18-23):
“I consider that our present sufferings are not worth comparing with the glory that will be revealed in us. The creation waits in eager expectation for the sons of God to be revealed. For the creation was subjected to frustration, not by its own choice, but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope that the creation itself will be liberated from its bondage to decay and brought into the glorious freedom of the children of God. We know that the whole creation has been groaning as in the pains of childbirth right up to the present time. Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what he already has? But if we hope for what we do not yet have, we wait for it patiently.”

“. . . .may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, , so that you will abound in hope . . .” (Rom 15:13).

On Mocking Creation Ex Nihilo and the Global Flood


Remarkably, many (even professing Christians) today mock the view that God created the world by his word (out of nothing) and that there was a global flood of judgment on the earth, as 2 Peter 3:3–6 so clearly predicted thousands of years ago that this would be indicative of the end of the age when people would ridicule our hope in Jesus’ return, the final judgment, and the restoration of the creation:


On our trip down the Canyon in 2013.

Know this first of all, that in the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts, 4 and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation.” 5 For when they maintain this, it escapes their notice that by the word of God the heavens existed long ago and the earth was formed out of water and by water, 6 through which the world at that time was destroyed, being flooded with water.

2 Peter 3:3–6  (New American Standard Bible: 1995 update, 1995, LaHabra, CA: The Lockman Foundation).