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Culture Clashes

Are you “blessed” or “privileged”?

They might seem close synonyms but the Devil is in the details **** A couple of years back a viral video showed a large group of older teens getting ready to race for a $100 bill. It was men and women, blacks and whites, athletic sorts and not so, and all things being equal, we’d expect one of the long lean guys to run away with the money. But the point of the video was to explain that things are not equal. The leader of the group, Adam Donyes, had a series of eight statements to tell the students before the race got started. The teens were supposed to take two steps forward for each one that applied to them: “Your parents are still married.” “You grew up with a father figure in your home.” “You had access to a private education.” “You had access to a free tutor growing up.” “You never had to worry about your cellphone being shut off.” “You never had to help mom or dad with the bills.” “It wasn’t because of your athletic ability that you don’t have to pay for college.” “You never wondered where your next meal was going to come from.” Doynes was trying to make a very specific point. He told the group that each of his statements had “nothing to do with decisions you’ve made.” The students up front were there not because of anything they had done, but because of the position they had been born into, or their parents had put them in. He told those students: “…if this was a fair race, and everybody was back on that line I guarantee you some of these black dudes would smoke all of you. And it is only because you have this big of a head start that you’re possibly going to win this race called life. That is a picture of life, ladies and gentlemen. Nothing you’ve done has put you in the lead that you’re in right now.” Then he shouted “go!” and the race was on. Drawing out biblical truths There are some clear biblical truths that could be drawn out of this video. Luke 12:48b might come to mind: “From everyone who has been given much, much will be required; and to whom they entrusted much, of him they will ask all the more.” Or we might think of how the three servants were given different amounts of money in the Parable of the Talents in Matt. 25. It’s important for us to understand that for those who have been blessed with more, God has raised expectations for us. The video also lines up well with 1 Cor. 12 where Paul notes our different gifts, comparing them to parts of the body. One person might be a hand, another a foot, and another an eye. And just like the "eye cannot say to the hand 'I have no need of you'" so too we shouldn't look down on those with different gifts than our own. That's an important lesson, and Doynes tries to make that specifically to those out in the front. But in this same chapter Paul also makes another point that would have been an important one for all those farther back. We are all part of the body, and we shouldn't overlook what God gifts has given us: "...the body does not consist of one member but many. If the foot should say, 'because I am a hand I do not belong to the body,' that would not make it any less a part of the body....there are many parts, yet one body." Guilt vs. gratitude So there was a lot to love in this video. But what made it go viral was how it seemed the perfect illustration of “privilege,” and specifically “white privilege,” since blacks were clustered in the back, and the very front was populated with whites. The way the term privileged is used it can seem like a close synonym to blessed. One person says, “I’m blessed to have always had a roof over my head” and another says, “I was privileged to never have to worry about being homeless.” Just a matter of tomato/tomatoh, right? Two terms for the same idea. But there’s an important sense in which the two words are actually opposites. Blessed is an inherently positive word. When we say we are blessed in this way or that, it is a note of appreciation to our “blesser” whether that is God, or maybe our parents, spouse, friends, or children. But whereas we celebrate the ways in which we are blessed, one admits to being privileged – we’re supposed to “check our privilege.” Being blessed makes us grateful, but being privileged brings guilt. Parents stayed together? You got to go to a basketball camp last summer? Lucky you, but not all of us are so privileged. There's more to privileged than just guilt. Often times it is shorthand for something like: "You're privileged so you don't know me – you haven't lived through what I've had to endure." There's truth to that – if we've been sheltered from some of the world's harshness that can bring with it a naivety. And that might leave a gulf between us and others who haven't been so blessed. But even in this usage privileged is a negative word. Noting differences can be a step to understanding, to beginning to know one another. But the way privileged is used it is not a conversation-starter. This is a putdown used as a conversation-stopper. While Donyes didn’t use the word privilege in his video, there was a reason so many others thought it fit – his video wasn’t a celebration of blessing; there was a touch of shame instead. If the difference between blessed and privileged is still muddy consider this: when we are blessed and others are not, what do we want for them? Don’t we want them to have what we have? But when we admit to being privileged, is that a state we’d wish on anyone else? Being privileged isn’t something you aspire to. This is part of the “victimhood culture” where the worse off you are, the less guilt you have to feel for what you have. But when it’s good, or at least less shameful, to be hard off, then it’s bad to become more “privileged.” A wise man once said that the battle we're in is over the dictionary, and this is an example. These two words – blessed and privileged – seem almost synonyms, but whereas the first takes us to gratitude and God, the second leads to unremitting guilt and stagnation. Inequality vs. poverty Inequality and poverty are also used interchangeably. When we see people who don’t have a warm bed to sleep in, or don’t have money for needed medical expenses, then we’ll quite naturally wish their situation wasn’t so unequal. We want them to have what we have, and wish that they could live like we do. But what we’re really lamenting here is not inequality but poverty. If inequality was our concern, we could be happy as long as everyone was equally needy. But that’s not what we’re after. Our real goal is for the poor to be raised out of poverty.  So here, too, there’s a sense in which this is all just tomato/tomatoh– we might use different words, but we all want to help the poor. But once again there is an important sense in which two seeming synonyms have dangerously different meanings. Whereas “fighting poverty” is focused on helping the poor, fighting inequality is sometimes about tearing down the rich. That shift of focus happens whenever we start believing that one person’s success happens at other people’s expense. That’s what Donyes taught in his video. Donyes told students that his $100 race was like “this race called life – this is a picture of life ladies and gentlemen.” But his race had only one winner. And that winner could only succeed if others failed. In this setting every two steps someone got to take forward diminished the chances of winning for all those left behind. If that’s how you thought the world operated, what sort of attitude would you have towards millionaires and billionaires? If you believed they got their wealth by impoverishing the rest of us, what would you see as the best way to help the poor? Just that quick, concern for the poor becomes “Let’s get the filthy rich!” The world’s wealth isn’t fixed and limited. If it was, would the Tenth Commandment (Ex. 20:17) make sense? There God tells us it’s none of our business what our neighbor has, but if our neighbor could only get wealthy by keeping others poor, wouldn’t we all have a legitimate interest in making sure he didn’t get too much? The truth is, life is not a winner-take-all-race. We can thank God that’s true spiritually, with God’s children numbering as the sand on the seashore – God has made us all champions, and there are too many of us to even count. And it’s just as true materially. Even if someone beats me out for my dream job, that doesn’t mean I have to go jobless. There are other careers. I can succeed too. And if I start a successful business, yes, I might grow wealthy, but I’ll be making my money by creating a product that others find useful enough to pay for. I won’t become wealthy at my customers’ expense. They’re only buying my widget because they think it is worth more than I am asking for it (or they would never buy it). In a very real way in all the countless merchant/customer exchanges that take place around the world both sides are the wealthier for it. That’s why both customer and merchant will say thank-you at the conclusion of a sale – both have become richer...and at no one’s expense. Of course, robbers do exist – some people do become wealthy only by taking from others. But that’s not the rule. God has so made our world that we can work together to each other’s benefit. That’s why the Tenth Commandment makes sense. And when we realize that our neighbors’ wealth isn’t making anyone poor, then we can get back to fighting poverty in fruitful, rather than covetous ways. Conclusion Does that mean we should shake our finger at anyone who speaks of being privileged or uses the word inequality? Not at all. We can put some care and attention to what terms we use, but we don’t need to stress it when others use something else. Rather than going all grammar-nazi on them we can listen in humility, try to be understanding, and use context to hear what they are saying. What’s actually important is seeing through the Devil’s gambit here. Many a best-of-intentioned Christian loves the Lord with all his heart, but there’s a reason God also demands our minds (Matt. 22:37). The Prince of Perversion loves to misdirect what is good and right to his own completely different ends, and our guard against Him is knowing God’s Word, and learning how to apply it. Otherwise, the Devil might have us, in the name of helping the poor, casting covetous eyes at the wealth of our neighbor. And if he could, he’d love to rob God of the praise that is His due by making us feel guilty, not grateful, for all the blessings our Father showers on us. Thankfully, in the great blessing of the forgiveness of sins, we can put away all guilt and all envy, and instead respond in wholehearted, full-throated gratitude to our great God....

Science - Creation/Evolution

I believe in theistic evolution

I recently realized I believe in/affirm theistic evolution.  Depending on your perspective, have I sold out or have I finally come to my senses?  Neither.  Let me explain. It has long perturbed me that those who affirm or allow for Darwinian macroevolution to be compatible with a biblical worldview will sometimes call themselves "creationists" or will claim to believe in/affirm biblical creation.  They do this knowing that biblical creation is usually understood to refer to a view that holds to God having created in six ordinary days on a timescale of some thousands (rather than millions or billions) of years ago.  By claiming to believe in creation they lay concerns to rest, whereas all they have really done is disguise their true position. Stephen C. Meyer has helped me to see I could do the same thing with theistic evolution.  Meyer wrote the "Scientific and Philosophical Introduction" to Theistic Evolution: A Scientific, Philosophical, and Theological Critique, a massive volume published in 2017 by Crossway.  He notes that theistic evolution can mean different things to different people, as can "evolution" without the modifier "theistic."  For example, it can refer to common or universal common descent or to the creative power of the natural selection/random variation (or mutation) mechanism.  But evolution can also just simply mean "change over time."  And if one believes that God causes "change over time," then that can be understood as a form of theistic evolution.  With that, Meyer contends, no biblical theist could object (p.40).  He concludes, "Understanding theistic evolution this way seems unobjectionable, perhaps even trivial" (p.41).   So, in the sense of believing or affirming that there is change over time directed by God, I am a theistic evolutionist -- and I suspect you are too! But what's the problem with this?  Let's say I were to (miraculously) get myself invited to a BioLogos conference as a speaker who affirms theistic evolution.  It appears I'm on board with the BioLogos agenda.  The conference organizers are a little doubtful, but I insist that I affirm theistic evolution and they take me at my word and welcome me in their midst.  Then I give a talk where I evidence that I'm actually a six-day creationist who believes Darwinian macroevolution to be a fraud.  "But you said you hold to theistic evolution!"  "Oh, but you didn't ask me what I meant by that.  I believe that God causes change over time -- that's how I'm a theistic evolutionist."  Would anyone blame the conference organizers for thinking me to be lacking in some basic honesty? Integrity is really the heart of the matter.  If I say, "I read a book and I realized I'm a theistic evolutionist," most people will hear that and conclude that I still believe in God, but I also affirm Darwinian evolution.  And that is not an unreasonable conclusion.  Furthermore, what would be my purpose for making such a claim?  Would it be to tell something designed to mislead so as to advance my cause?  Does the end justify the means? If you affirm Darwinian macroevolution as the best explanation for how life developed on earth and you believe God superintended it, then man up and say so.  Honestly say, "I am a theistic evolutionist."   As for me, believing that God created everything in six ordinary days on the order of some thousands of years ago, I will say directly, "I am a biblical creationist" or "six-day creationist," or "young earth creationist."  But let's all be honest with one another. Biblical creationists also have to stop being naive.  Just because someone says they believe in biblical creation doesn't mean they actually believe the biblical account as given in Genesis.  They can fill out those terms with their own meaning.  So we have to learn to ask good questions to ferret out impostors.  Questions like: Do you believe God created everything in six ordinary days some thousands of years ago? Was the individual designated as Adam in Genesis ever a baby creature nestled at his mother's breast? Was the individual designated in Genesis as Eve a toddler at some point in her life? Do you believe it biblically permissible to say that, as creatures, the figures designated in Genesis as Adam and Eve at any point had biological forebears (like parents/grandparents)? What does it mean that God created man from the dust of the earth? These are the types of questions churches need to be asking at ecclesiastical examinations for prospective ministers.  These are the types of questions Christians schools need to be asking prospective teachers at interviews.  True, even with these sorts of questions, there are no guarantees of integrity, but at least we will have done our due diligence. Dr. Bredenhof blogs at yinkahdinay.wordpress.com and CreationWithoutCompromise.com where this first appeared. ...

Science - Creation/Evolution

Why I am a six-day evolutionist

We all know that fish is a good source of protein, but did you know that some are a good source of information? It’s true – I know that evolution is true and it’s all because a little fish told me. The Astyanax mexicanus is a cave-dwelling fish. The river-dwelling version of this species can see with the best of them, but this, the cave-dwelling cousin, has adapted to its lightless surroundings by losing its eyes. As a result, the two versions of this fish look quite distinct. However, they can still be interbred which shows that they are the same species. The evolution of the blind fish The history of this fish is easy to imagine. At one point some sighted fish made their way into dark caves where they were subsequently trapped. These caves had no light so their eyes served no useful purpose to them. Not only were their eyes useless, having eyes in this environment might actually have been harmful in one critical way: eyes are softer than the rest of a fish, so as these fish bumped around in the dark their eyes were susceptible to gouging and cuts from the rocky protrusions on the cavern walls. So imagine that a fish without eyes is born into this environment. In the outside world, this would be a disadvantage. But here, in the darkness, no eyes simply means it has no soft flesh to get gouged. This eyeless fish is, therefore, hardier and fitter than its sighted siblings. That makes it more likely that this blind fish will reproduce and pass on its blindness to the next generation. Over a number of generations this blind fish and its offspring must have competed with the sighted fish until only the blind fish – the fitter fish – remained. This is a clear example of survival of the fittest, of evolution in action, and it is quite convincing. It is why I am an evolutionist. Evolution’s two meanings But while I may be an evolutionist, I don’t deny that God created the world in six literal days, because, after all, that's what the Bible tells us. I’m an evolutionist, but I’m also a creationist. I was rather shocked when I first came to this realization. I had been raised a creationist and for a very long time I thought that meant I had to reject evolution in any and all forms. But it turns out that the word “evolution” can mean a number of different things, and some of those meanings do not conflict with the biblical account. There are two very common meanings to the word: Evolution is often used to describe the small changes that animal species may undergo over time. Perhaps a species of bird might, on average, start having larger beaks – scientists would readily call this evolution. This particular use of the word is sometimes referred to as microevolution. Animal species are adaptable (just think of how dogs have adapted in a variety of ways to meet different needs) so this use of the word isn’t particularly controversial. A second use of the word is where the battle actually commences. “Evolution” can be used as a descriptor for the theory that says man evolved from a single cell, which in turn emerged from the primordial soup eons ago. This molecule-to-man hypothesis is sometimes called macroevolution and it directly conflicts with the six-day creation account given in Genesis 1 and 2. Equivocation The reason this all matters is because evolutionists often use examples of microevolution to try to prove macroevolution, their molecules-to-man hypothesis. And similarly sometimes amateur creationists waste their time (and their credibility) arguing against microevolution because they think they have to be against all things evolutionary. The Astyanax mexicanus fish is a good example in both cases. Since this fish seems to have adapted to its dark cave environments by losing its eyes, evolutionists think it is compelling proof of their molecules-to-man theory. It is so compelling that this blind fish might bother some creationists. But creationists need not worry – the blind fish’s beneficial mutation doesn’t contradict creationism. We live in a fallen world, and that means children and offspring are sometimes born with handicaps via mutations. An eyeless fish is just another normal outcome of this fallen state. Most often these mutations will be harmful but in some rare circumstances, like the Astyanax mexicanus fish, the mutation may actually be beneficial. But it is important to note here that the loss of eyes is an example of devolution, rather than evolution. This fish has lost an ability it once had – the part of its genetic code responsible for making eyes has been short-circuited. The molecules-to-man theory of evolution says that complex life arose from simpler life, but this blind fish is an example of a complex animal becoming simpler and less developed. If this fish is evidence of anything, it is that we live in a broken world (Rom. 8:22). Conclusion In any debate it is vital to first define the terms. This is particularly important in the creation/evolution debate since it is by confusing the terms that evolutionists make their most compelling case. They can’t point to macroevolution in action so instead they use examples of microevolution. Then they act as if there is no difference between the two, calling both the same thing – evolution. Therefore creationists have to be careful that when they argue against evolution they haven’t made the mistake of arguing against microevolution. Arguing against microevolution is a losing proposition since we see animals undergoing small changes all around us. Evolution in this sense is an indisputable fact. But evolution on a larger scale – the whole molecules-to-man hypothesis – flies in the face of what God tells us in the Bible, and also what He shows us via the degeneration and decay we see going on in the world around us. So I am, and will remain, a six-day evolutionist....

News

Saturday Selections – January 11, 2020

If conversion therapy is bad why is "sex reassignment" good? It's been said that our culture wars are really just a battle over the dictionary. "One trick of LGBT activists is changing the meaning of words. We see this in the way they celebrate 'sex reassignment' as 'gender affirmation' but condemned conversion therapy as 'sex reassignment.'" Impeachment: Quid Pro-choice Christianity Today's editor, Mark Galli, sparked controversy last month when he came out in favor of US President Donald Trump being impeached. Is the President guilty? Galli acknowledged the process wasn't fair: "No, Mr. Trump did not have a serious opportunity to offer his side of the story in the House hearings on impeachment. But the facts in this instance are unambiguous..." Two Scripture passages leap to mind – Prov. 18:17 and Matt. 7:1-2 – and the question, is Galli judging here by a standard that he'd want directed his way? Carl Trueman and Peter Jones weigh in. Untangling the theology of Star Wars This 300-word read gives a quick overview of the confusing and empty theology of George Lucas' space trilogy². Evolutionists are playing word games Both evolutionists and creationists believe animals change over time – we all believe in that sort of "evolution." The controversy is over how we got from molecules to man – i.e. how simple early cells gained information over time to eventually produce the incredibly complex creatures that we are. When evolutionists demonstrate wolves can beget Chihuahuas if you break the right genes – when they show change over time that involves a loss of complexity – and then pretend this is evidence for the molecule-to-man sort of evolution, we need to recognize this for the dishonest word game that it is. As evidence of evolution, they are presenting devolution.  And as the author writes, much of the changes we see in animals comes from broken genes, not new genes. "Behe... learned that one of the favorite examples of evolution — the change from the brown bear to the white polar bear — was also an example of breaking genes: 17 genes in this case." US Park to remove all "glaciers will be gone by 2020" signs Turns out things are "much more complex" than they knew... Extreme poverty in a historical context "On every day in the last 25 years there could have been a newspaper headline reading, 'The number of people in extreme poverty fell by 128,000 since yesterday.'” But you haven't seen those headlines, have you? Why not? Because it's harder to foster envy and ingratitude when things are getting objectively better. God has blessed us materially, and we're being tricked into believing that our rise in population is dooming more and more to poverty. Don't be fooled. This article has charts and diagrams, and while not a difficult read, it is a somewhat dry one. But it is one well worth reading, or even skimming if that's all your time permits....

Apologetics 101

One simple question: "What do you mean by that?"

In the May 17, 2016 Breakpoint Daily, John Stonestreet shared a few questions he uses when he finds himself in a tough conversation. The first and most helpful is: “What do you mean by that?" The battle of ideas is always the battle over the definition of words. Thus, it’s vital in any conversation to clarify the terms being used. For example, the most important thing to clarify in the ongoing gender discussions is the definition of "gender." So when the topic comes up, ask, “Hold on, before we go start talking about personal pronouns, puberty suppression, or surgeries, I want to ask, what do you mean by gender?” Often, when it comes to these crucial issues, both sides are using the same vocabulary, but not the same dictionary. So to present the antithesis – to speak God's Truth to a confused culture – we have to begin by defining our terms. Defining terms can also serve as a good defense when you're getting attacked, not with an argument, but simply with an insult. When someone tries to dismiss you by calling you a name, the best response is to question the insult. "You're just a homophobe!" “What do you mean by that?” “Um, I mean you hate gays.” “But I don’t hate gays. I do disagree with their lifestyle – I think it harms them by separating them from God. Is disagreeing the same thing as hating?” “Yeah, of course!” “But you’re disagreeing with me? Wouldn’t that mean you’re hateful?” "Well...um....but you deserve it!" As in this dialogue above, defining the terms might not win you the argument, but it can expose the vacuous nature of what the other side is saying. And even when you don't win over your debate partner, clarifying the terms is one way to help bystanders see through the name-calling. However, the most important reason to lead with this simple question – "What do you mean by that? – is because showing the anthesis, making plain what the two sides actually are, brings glory to our God. And who knows how He might use the seed we plant? ...

News

Christians now forced to stand on the Bible, not the dictionary

“Ain’t” is in the dictionary, and something else you might not expect is now too. In September, the US’s oldest dictionary publisher, Merriam-Webster, announced they were adding in a “nonbinary” definition for the word “they.” According to the new entry, “they” can be “used to refer to a single person whose gender identity is nonbinary.” In other words, if a guy who thinks he isn’t a guy wants us to call him “they,” he’s now got the dictionary backing him. But lest this depress, there is a shiny silver lining to this story. With the addition of this definition, God has taken away one of the worst arguments Christians might otherwise be tempted to use: an appeal to the dictionary. But that was never an authority we should have stood on. We don’t know we’re male and female because the dictionary says so, but rather because God says so (Gen. 1:27, Mark 10:6). Our stand isn’t based on the authority of the dictionary but on the authority of God’s Word! And now that’s all we’ve got. We can thank God, then, for giving us all that we need, and thank Him also for taking away a red herring that might otherwise tempt or distract us from standing on His Truth....

News

Saturday Selections - June 22, 2019

Preparing parents for the sex talk This 11-minute video from a conservative Christian group has some great thoughts for parents to consider, including quotes like this: Your kids will talk to you about the things you talk to them about. Your kids won't talk to you about things you won't talk to them about. And: To put it simply: children and adolescents do not need one 100-minute (awkward and painful) sexual health conversation. They need 100 one-minute conversations. They need sexual and relational education delivered in many, many sound bits, weekly, across their entire childhood and teen years. Controlled vs. controlling: the difference parents need to understand Our children need limits and rules for their safety, health, and spiritual well-being. But they also need to be able to experiment, grow, take responsibility, fail and recover, and learn how to learn on their own. So how can parents create a controlled environment, without crafting a micromanaged one? Why we need English class: reality isn't whatever we want it to be If students want to know why they have to study English, there is no better illustration than this article. The battle over the dictionary – how we use words, and how we define them – is a matter of life or death. Some try to use words to reshape reality, and while our words don't have that power (Ps. 33:9), we can use them to deny reality. We can call men "women" and vice versa, and babies "fetuses," and blessings "privileges," covetousness "justice," and more. However, as John Stonestreet notes, when we deny reality the victims pile up. The economics of climate change: what universities won't teach college students We don't often hear about the economic harm climate agreements may cause. And we rarely hear about how little impact these agreements – even according to their advocates – are expected to have compared to doing nothing. Pride parades: pros and cons A Manitoba Christian philosophy professor, writing in his local town paper, crafted this careful and courageous take on Pride Parades. You are more than your brain (7 min) When atheists deny the supernatural, that leaves them with only the natural – only the material – to explain everything around them. Thus the only logical conclusion for them to draw is that all we are – our personality, consciousness, preferences, opinions, etc. – is what we find in the three pounds of material that make up our brain. But as this creative video highlights, the evidence shows that materialism doesn't measure up. ...