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Here is some good news. You may recall that the Cal State University system derecognized InterVarsity clubs last fall because InterVarsity’s policy of requiring club officers to hold Christian beliefs went against Cal State's nondiscrimination policy. In a happy turn of events, InterVarsity has announced they’ll be allowed back on CSU campuses without having to compromise their commitment to having Christians lead their Christian groups on campus:
“Following substantive and cordial ongoing conversations, CSU clarified the intent and reach of Executive Order 1068,” said InterVarsity president Jim Lundgren. “We are confident we can choose leaders who are qualified to lead InterVarsity’s witnessing communities throughout the Cal State system.”
"Cal State has not changed the language of their 'all comers' policy," said Greg Jao, vice president of campus engagement. "They have clarified that the policy only requires that (a) we allow all students to become members, which we have always done, and (b) we allow all students to apply for leadership positions.
"We have been assured that we can have a rigorous selection process which reflects InterVarsity’s mission and message as a Christian ministry," he told CT. "We’re confident in our ability to choose leaders who reflect our mission and message."
InterVarsity has also posted an audio interview with Jao on the resolution.
What the administration was able to do was interpret how they will apply the law in a way that we think actually increases the diversity of campus by ensuring that religious voices remain on campus and remain distinctively religious.
Just under half (44 percent) of evangelicals told LifeWay Research recently that student groups at public schools should not be allowed to require their leaders to hold specific beliefs. Only a third (36%) of evangelicals said the same of groups at private schools.
I don’t know how to account for that large percentage. Relativisim and a belief that religious truth is subjective? A knee-jerk reaction against creeds? A hyper-individualism that resists any submission and conformity to an outside standard? Or was it merely a badly-worded poll question? Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to locate the study to investigate further. It certainly makes a difference whether or not the question was specifically worded to be about requiring leaders to hold particular beliefs in clubs centered around those beliefs. I would rightly speak out against a math club in a public school requiring particular religious beliefs, but it seems to me to be common sense that it’s appropriate for a Christian group to require the people who lead it to hold Christian beliefs.
Regardless, this is certainly good news overall. Let’s thank God today for this!
In Tim Keller’s book Prayer, he applies C.S. Lewis’s thoughts on friendship to our relationship with Jesus:
Prayer is therefore not a strictly private thing. As much as we can, we should pray with others both formally in gathered worship and informally. Why? If the substance of prayer is to continue a conversation with God, and if the purpose of it is to know God better, then this can happen best in community.
C. S. Lewis argues that it takes a community of people to get to know an individual person. Reflecting on his own friendships, he observed that some aspects of one of his friend’s personality were brought out only through interaction with a second friend. That meant if he lost the second friend, he lost the part of his first friend that was otherwise invisible. “By myself I am not large enough to call the whole man into activity; I want other lights than my own to show all his facets.” If it takes a community to know an ordinary human being, how much more necessary would it be to get to know Jesus alongside others? By praying with friends, you will be able to hear and see facets of Jesus that you have not yet perceived. (pp. 118-119)
[Many Christians] sing of [Christ’s] love on a Sunday—and there it is true—but walking home through the streets, past the people and the places where Real Life goes on, they don’t feel it is Christ’s world. As if the universe is a neutral place. As if Christianity is just something we have smeared on top of Real Life. Jesus is reduced to being little more than a comforting nibble of spiritual chocolate, an imaginary friend who “saves souls” but not much else….
Since Jesus Christ is the one “through whom all things came” (1 Cor 8:6), God’s agent of creation who continues to uphold and sustain the creation he brought into being, the marks of his artistry are all round us. From the tiniest sea urchin to the brightest star, all things bear his magnificent stamp. The heavens cannot but declare his glory, for they are his craftsmanship, and they continue to hold together only in him. His character is written into the grain of the universe so intimately that even to think against Christ the Logos you must think against logic and descend into folly (Ps 14:1). In his world, our faculties work better the more they are harnessed to faith in him. Then we are able to be more logical, more vibrant, more imaginative, more creative, for we are working with the grain.
As soon as any of us denies an aspect of the truth about Jesus, we begin to distort our understanding of reality (see the series I posted on Nancy Pearcey’s book Finding Truth for more on how this happens and its consequences).
If Christ is the foundation of all reality, if all things were made through Him, then to learn truly about Him is to align ourselves with reality—it’s to see truth more clearly in every area of life. If you’d like to think more clearly about the world He created, start by focusing on knowing Christ.
It has come to my attention that Greg West’s The Poached Egg is turning five this month. I’ve written before about his regularly-updated list of apologetics Kindle deals (you should be checking this list!), but the rest of his site is worth bookmarking, as well. Greg collects apologetics articles, blog posts, videos, and quotes from a wide variety of contributors, so it’s a good way to get an overview of what’s going on out there in apologetics land. If you’re not familiar with the site (which now partners with Ratio Christi), it’s a good month to take a look!
I recently posted a video answering a challenge: When did you choose your heterosexuality? Someone asked a follow-up question, and I thought I’d share my response.
Here’s the question:
I listened to Alan's challenge about not choosing to be heterosexual. What my question is. Romans 1 says that people who reject God will burn in their lust for the same sex. I don't understand Alan's response. He said that same sex attraction comes from early experiences from age 1 to 5. Children at that age can't reject God because they haven't reached the age of accountability.
So my question is, does same sex attraction come from a bad experience in early childhood, or does it come as punishment for rejecting God as Paul says in Romans?
Below was my response:
Your question is a good one. I agree with you that my answer sounds confusing in light of Romans 1. That’s my fault. Let me clarify.
In my attempt to explain the causes of same-sex attraction, I did not intend to negate the impact of sin in the world or our sin nature. The world is fallen, we are sinful, and that contributes to a huge amount of the sin we commit. Furthermore, Romans 1 tells us that homosexuality is evidence of man’s deep-seated rebellion against God and how he ordered creation (specifically humans) to function.
Now, I wouldn’t say as you have that “people who reject God will burn in their lust for the same sex,” since not every person who rejects God is a homosexual. Rather, sexual desire for the same sex is one possible symptom of rebellion towards God. But you are otherwise correct about the importance of Romans 1 in our understanding of homosexual activity that Paul observed.
Let me add an additional qualification to the video. I often answer the question of what causes same-sex attraction from both a biblical (special revelation) and scientific (general revelation) perspective. Usually, in a teaching environment, I have more time to address the challenge, but these videos are intended to be under five minutes. That’s why I left out the biblical answer. Plus, I was answering the question with the non-Christian skeptic in mind. Since such a person would not consider biblical information as authoritative, I only gave an answer based on secular research.
The secular explanation that I offered, by the way, is only one known pathway towards same-sex attraction. I believe it’s the most common, but it’s certainly not the only one. If you want more detail about developmental pathway in childhood that can contribute to same-sex attraction, I encourage you to check out my short book The Ambassador’s Guide to Understanding Homosexuality that explains it. Or, for an abridged (and free) explanation, check out my article “Homosexuality: Nature or Nurture” (that I co-wrote with Greg Koukl) discussing one cause of same-sex attraction.
Anyway, thanks for asking your question and allowing me to clarify and explain myself.
The actual quote, from one of our earliest and most consequential Supreme Court opinions, McCullogh v. Maryland (1816), states, “The power to tax implies the power to destroy.” That mere implication of destruction defeated the government’s right to tax a federal bank in its borders.
Now, 199 years later, a different superior right—citizens’ First Amendment right to free exercise of religion—faces threat of taxation and the implication of destruction.
The argument we must make is rather simple. Take the Religion Clauses of the First Amendment: “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof,” and then take this passage from McCullough v. Maryland: “All subjects over which the sovereign power of a State extends are objects of taxation, but those over which it does not extend are, upon the soundest principles, exempt from taxation. This proposition may almost be pronounced self-evident.”
That government may make no law establishing religion or prohibiting the free exercise thereof is a clear statement that the power of government does not extend over the subject of religion. Therefore, religious institutions are exempt from taxation, not by tax code, but by self-evident, sound principles.
Religious institutions are exempt from taxation because our government has not been given the power to govern religion. This is an expression of the basic principles behind the founding of this country—that is, there is an Authority above the government that has established rights apart from the government, including free speech and freedom of religion. Since these rights were not created by the government—and, in fact, existed before any government existed—our government is restrained from infringing on these natural rights. There are things that are simply not rightly under any government’s control. To reverse this long-standing practice of tax exemption is to wrongly place the government in authority over religion.
It’s not by accident that the question about the tax-exempt status of religious institutions has been raised in connection with the government’s attempts to remake another pre-political institution: the family. When once a government starts gobbling up other spheres of authority, its appetite for control over competing institutions will only grow.
As Loftis explains, the coming debate will center around whether tax exemptions are subsidies, which would violate the Establishment Clause (and also imply the government owns our wealth), or whether taxation would violate the Free Exercise Clause because of its power to destroy. Then, she says, there’s the question of what qualifies as a religious institution. There’s a long road ahead of us.
I love C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, a novel about people in Hell taking a bus ride to Heaven. They’re allowed to stay in Heaven if they choose to, but they find it unappealing for one reason or another. The book is less about the actual Heaven and Hell than it is about the various reasons why people reject God in this life.
I was listening to an excellent audio version of The Great Divorce the other day, when I was struck by a dialogue between one resident of Hell (formerly a famous artist on earth—the “Ghost” in the dialogue below), and a “Spirit” of heaven (also formerly an artist). The Spirit was attempting to show the Ghost the beauty of heaven that waited for him, but the Ghost was more interested in something else:
‘I should like to paint this.’
‘I shouldn’t bother about that just at present if I were you.’
‘Look here; isn’t one going to be allowed to go on painting?’
‘Looking comes first…. At present your business is to see. Come and see. He is endless. Come and feed.’
There was a little pause. ‘That will be delightful,’ said the Ghost presently in a rather dull voice.
‘Come, then,’ said the Spirit, offering it his arm.
‘How soon do you think I could begin painting?’ it asked.
The Spirit broke into laughter. ‘Don’t you see you’ll never paint at all if that’s what you’re thinking about?’ he said.
‘What do you mean?’ asked the Ghost.
‘Why, if you are interested in the country only for the sake of painting it, you’ll never learn to see the country.’
‘But that’s just how a real artist is interested in the country.’
‘No. You’re forgetting,’ said the Spirit. ‘That was not how you began. Light itself was your first love: you loved paint only as a means of telling about light.’
‘Oh, that’s ages ago,’ said the Ghost. ‘One grows out of that. Of course, you haven’t seen my later works. One becomes more and more interested in paint for its own sake.’
‘One does, indeed. I also have had to recover from that. It was all a snare. Ink and catgut and paint were necessary down there, but they are also dangerous stimulants. Every poet and musician and artist, but for Grace, is drawn away from love of the thing he tells, to love of the telling till, down in Deep Hell, they cannot be interested in God at all but only in what they say about Him. For it doesn’t stop at being interested in paint, you know. They sink lower—become interested in their own personalities and then in nothing but their own reputations.’ (pp. 83-85)
As people who endeavor to learn how to tell others about the God we love, we all have to guard against being “drawn away from love of the thing we tell, to love of the telling.” There is, indeed, a difference between being interested in God and being interested in what we say about Him.
Today, visit your First Love. Come and see. Come and feed.
BACKGROUND & CONTEXT: Philippi was a prosperous Roman colony and the Philippians were Roman citizens, a fact in which they took pride (Acts 16:21). Most likely, there weren’t very many Jews, which would account for the absence of Old Testament citations. With such heavy Roman influence, the Philippian church would have to battle the influences of power and prestige and a hierarchical approach to leadership.
Paul’s reason for writing this letter is to thank the Philippian church for their partnership in the gospel (1:3-11), particularly for their gift to him (1:5; 4:10-19), and to update them on his current circumstances (1:12-26). This epistle can almost be viewed as a missionary support and update newsletter. In addition, Paul uses the letter to encourage them to further partnership in the cause of the gospel.
Just prior to chapter two, Paul says that when he receives an update on their progress he is looking forward to hearing how they are “standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel” (1:27). Chapter 2 consists of Paul unpacking this idea of “standing firm in one spirit” or unity. Unity is achieved through humility (2:1-4) of which Christ is our model (2:5-11). In addition, unity is achieved through their work in the cause of the gospel, as they “appear as lights in the world” by holding out “the word of life” (2:15-16). Thus Paul is sending Timothy and Epaphroditus to partner with them.
REFLECTIONS: There were two insights, particularly regarding leadership and community, that arose in this passage. First, we see Paul’s continued emphasis on unity within the body. In this particular passage, Paul points us to Jesus as our example. Jesus was not concerned with status, power, or prestige, as he “did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (v. 6). Rather, he “emptied Himself” and “humbled Himself to the point of death” (v. 7-8). For the Roman-influenced Philippians, this message was absolutely radical. It was also necessary for them to understand in order to achieve unity.
Secondly, we discover that there is nothing that unifies the body like partnership in the gospel cause. In Philippians, the word gospel is used 9 different times. Paul informs the church that they are a light in this world (2:15) because they hold out the “word of life” (2:16), the gospel. Paul has poured out his life for this cause (2:17) and wants them to share in his joy (2:18). Fellowship events, potlucks, small groups, and other avenues are helpful things for building unity in the body, but nothing brings unity like partnering in the cause of the gospel. Even as a youth pastor, I saw how true this was. Fellowship events were helpful in building unity in the group, but nothing brought unity like a mission trip where we were immersed in the work of the gospel cause.