willing to believe

When I was child, my father found a clever way to make me comb my hair. He told me that if I didn’t, it would turn green.

I believed him.

I worried about my hair, wondering if my furious combing was keeping the green strands at bay. Eventually, I questioned my belief in neglect-based hair coloration. It turns out the claim was false.

I was willing to believe in green hair because I failed to consider whether or not the claim was true. My misguided belief was caused by my father’s humorous method to handle my stubbornness, and in the end it cost me very little. A child’s willingness to believe their parents is a virtue, and the parent’s job is to keep the child safe and teach them what is true.

Children are willing to believe because they embrace the wonder of the world. The glimmer in their eye reflects a knowledge that the world they have mostly undiscovered is extraordinary.

Becoming more childlike is beneficial in many ways.

When Jesus’s disciples asked who will be the greatest in Heaven, Jesus responded: “I tell you the truth, unless you change and become like little children, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. Therefore, whoever humbles himself like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven” (NIV, Matthew 18:3-4). We are supposed to retain the humility we had as children–when we knew enough to know we didn’t know everything.

Questioning truth claims is essential for developing a healthy worldview, but it should not begin at age two! I have seen this happen, and it makes for difficult times.

A child’s belief involves a humbling dependency, a pure heart, and a trusting way. Children believe because they love their father, and they know of their father’s love for them.

As some grow older, the glimmer fades. The universe and everything in it is given a rational, natural explanation. Nothing is amazing, and the wonder is gone. The once-bewildered child bemoans the death of his dreams and the source of his hope. He is willing to believe what he is taught because he fails to give it further thought. But it does not have to end this way.

We cannot help but to believe in something. Even those who believe there are no beliefs cannot avoid their own contradiction–belief is an inescapable part of our humanity.

Many are familiar with doubting apostle Thomas, to whom Jesus responded, “Blessed are those who have not seen yet have believed” (NIV, John 20:29).

Are you willing to believe in something you have not seen?

Jesus taught us about our father in Heaven and what it truly means to love. It is because of his word that we love our Father, and we know of the Father’s love for us. His truth has stood the test of time, and his word can never broken. The world has been restored. Man has been redeemed. Those who don’t believe do so not because they can’t, but because they won’t.

The universe can be filled with wonder once again. That is, if you are willing to believe.

Photo credit: Hubble Heritage / Foter / CC BY-SA

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cannot be unseen

Some things cannot be unseen. Some of the best advice you can receive about the internet is not to click. This is especially wise when faced with the lure of sensational videos surrounding tragic events.

    • Warning! Graphic video

We are curious beings, and it’s tempting to click and see.

But some things cannot be unseen.

That Which Cannot Be Unseen

      • This media contains disturbing images

Read the article. Formulate a passionate response. Take action. But before you click and watch, ask yourself whether you really want to share a moment of barbarism with the figure on the film.

I have clicked before, and I have seen. And I wish I could un-see.

Life presents us with enough opportunities to witness human depravity. Media with shock-value is released for click-value. Horrific acts intended to terrorize leave us sick and burning with desire for justice. Some images demand a response, and after seeing some things you will never be the same.

He Who Cannot Be Unseen

Cowardly expressions of hatred certainly make lasting impressions, but they are not the only things which cannot be unseen.

In the age where no one has legitimacy and everyone claims authority, where facts are challenged and history is re-written, people are starving for the one thing an app cannot provide: truth.

We are bombarded with commentary colored by the experiences and presuppositions of the speakers. Without a filter to screen bad information, you could soon find yourself in front of a camera committing atrocities in the name of bad religion while encouraging others to join your unholy crusade.

Just as a moment of shock follows the witness of atrocity, it also follows the realization that truth is found not in a thing, but in a person.

“I am the way, and the truth, and the light.” Jesus knew his revelation would be seen as blasphemous, and he knew the consequences.

The life of Jesus of Nazareth demands a response. When you study his word, you not only see his life, you begin to know a person, and his truth becomes increasingly harder to un-see. Those who have seen the truth in Jesus Christ are changed forever.

Photo credit: John Steven Fernandez / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

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honor clean

Photo by LCpl Dan Hoasck

First to fight for rights and freedom / And to keep our honor clean…

These two phrases precede the final line of one of America’s most cherished anthems: the Marine Corps Hymn. Marines have earned their title, and they are proud to claim it.

Winning Our Nation’s Battles

Young men and women in the prime of their lives raise their hands to swear an oath of allegiance to support and defend the Constitution against all enemies foreign and domestic.

Marines are officers and gentlemen. They are the nation’s finest. They are the few, and the proud. They strive daily to uphold the Marine Corps values of honor, courage, and commitment, so help them God.

But it’s not easy staying clean in a dirty world. The uniforms are clean, but the mind is sometimes mired in Quigley-esque mud while ducking obstacles and avoiding snags on the obstacle course of life.

Marine are experts at fighting wars and winning battles. But the battles in the head and in the home can be as difficult as the fight overseas.

How do you maintain absolute honor in a world so heavily influenced by relativism?

Battling Relativism

Relativism is a concept with great utility. Einstein proved that matter, space, and time are co-relative, which has led to a lot of good. But relativism is not a universal truism. Relativism should not be a meta-narrative with which to explain everything that exists. Hitler’s application of social Darwinism was an outworking of moral relativism, which has led to a lot of evil.

How do you–and the Marines–navigate the murky waters of situational ethics, philosophical pluralism (the position that contradictory beliefs can be equally true), and political correctness?

In other words, how can Marines keep their honor absolutely clean in a world which denies absolutes?

The answer is to teach them that the rightness of their acts comes not only from their instant and willful obedience to orders, but exists intrinsically in the act itself. In other words, something is not right because someone says its right, or a culture decides it’s right. Rightness can only exist when there is an absolute standard of moral good from which to measure it. Take away the absolute moral standard, and you are back in Nazi Germany in 1944.

“In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.”

These words from the Book of John reveal to us the absolute standard which has been in place from the beginning: the Word. The Word is the person of Jesus Christ, who was with God in the beginning. Through Jesus Christ was everything made.  In him is life, and he is the light of all mankind.

Keeping Our Honor Clean

There is no doubt: Marines will charge the gun position. Marines will storm the compound. Marines will complete the mission.

Marines should be responsible with alcohol. Marines should never compromise another’s moral purity. Marines should think of others before themselves. Failure in these areas releases a speck of dust to settle upon our honor, and we have sworn an oath to keep our honor clean.

Is it time to clean house?

Photo Credit: LCpl Dan Hoasck, PD, http://www.marines.com/photos/-/photo-library/detail/browse/973543

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growing in exit strategy

If we have learned anything about entering a conflict in the Middle East, it is the importance of having a sound exit strategy. But exit strategies have broad application and should not be confined to military studies. Planning an exit strategy is an important life skill.

Everyone understands what it means to grow up. From birth to adulthood, you are in a state of transition. Every part of your body grows. We see the physical changes, and we recognize developmental progress via language and behavior.

But eventually you stop growing up.

This is where you begin growing in.

Growing In

When you are in a transitory phase of life, you should develop an exit strategy. Let’s use the “irresponsible phase” for example. This phase begins at the age when you are expected to act responsibly, but don’t (18 months), and continues indefinitely (or until your parents stop enabling you).

Developing an exit strategy for the irresponsible phase requires two conditions be satisfied:

  • The irresponsible phase must be recognized
  • The next target phase must be identified

For this example, you may identify the “responsible phase” as your target. You can hope to remain in this phase until death, at which point either your meaningless life will cease, or your meaningful life will continue in eternity (depending on your worldview).

Three States

When you’re growing in, you are in one of three states:

  1. Stagnation
  2. Sliding backward
  3. Moving forward

Stagnation is where many people end up after they’ve stopped growing up. It’s coasting on life without thought or introspection. It’s going with what you’ve always known. It’s apathy. It’s a lack of vision and life without a plan.

Sliding backward is the state you fear. It’s giving in to temptation. It’s doing that thing one more time when you swore you’d never do again. It’s giving in and giving up.

When you recognize being in one of these two states, you must begin planning your exit strategy. Your goal is to begin moving forward. A catalyst can help with the transition. Maybe you’re newly married, or perhaps you’ve celebrated the birth of a child. Your life may be evolving into something even more wonderful than before.

But old habits and rituals may be weighing you down and stunting your growth. Your vices might be part of a phase of life meant to be outgrown. This is where it’s time to ask:

What am I growing in?

Growing In Christ

Christians have a peculiar phrase to describe spiritual growth: to be growing in Christ. To be in Christ means to be accepted into his family by accepting what he has done for you. He paid the price for the laws you have broken, for the evil in your mind, and the impurity in your heart.

Your actions deserve judgment. The verdict is guilty, and the sentence is death. But Christ paid the price in your place. To be in Christ is to know this, accept this, and to live a life of thanksgiving and praise. To be growing in Christ is to reap the rewards of a life infused with humility, where the ever-increasing light of God chases demons from the shadows of your heart.

To be growing in Christ is to move forward towards an ending with unparalleled significance, ultimate justice, and unending love.

What are you growing in?

Photo credit: Toffee Maky / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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Military religious freedom

WARNING! Sarcasm ahead.

Military religious freedom is being threatened by a book. In the drawer of hotel room at an undisclosed military installation, something sinister lurks in the darkness under a film of dust. This abomination, frequently referenced by Dominionist fundamentalist Christian supremacy religious extremist predators, has been placed in countless hotel rooms on hundreds of military bases and is violating the rights of service members.

This unconscionable artifact, which stands in blatant violation of the magnificent Establishment Clause of our beloved Constitution, lay deceptively dormant in dresser drawers waiting to be referenced by hate-filled militant crusaders on the barbaric Religious Right in times of need. This voluminous collection of biased and slanted text is placed in each drawer by an organization with an unmatched reputation for advertising their product and thereby threatening military religious freedom.

Monstrous, coercive commanders direct their subordinates to this book when they’re looking for something more and need help, and the tormented soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines, have no choice but to accept the radical personal violation of their military religious freedom forced upon them by their abusive prosyletizing warrior activist bigoted seniors. This cancerous witnessing by coercive spiritual terrorists in positions of power has a unified message of intolerance and is nothing short of spiritual rape: call upon these names and all your questions will be answered. What an incredible violation of military religious freedom.

It’s perfectly obvious which book I’m talking about. It’s a wonder it has remained on military bases for this long. The military must remain neutral on all things religious, all the way, all the time, all the deal.

All the deal? Whatever.

The existence of anything have anything having to do with anything religious must not–legally cannot–be allowed to exist in temporary lodging facility rooms on a military installation, base Chapel premises, the possession of military service members on or off base, or in the mind of any person who is currently or has ever been a member of the armed forces.

Or knows someone like that.

We must be unified to protect our precious service members’ military religious freedom from the unrelenting Bible-thumping orders-violating liberty-crushing hate-mongers who refuse to remove this un-neutral religious text from our Constitutionally mandated secular military facilities.

This text must be removed.

How long will these phone books be allowed to violate the Constitution?

There’s an entire section on churches in there. My fellow Americans, this is an outrage. The existence of a church, a Christian church–a religious organization–listed in these phonebooks constitutes government endorsement of Christianity. Where’s the endorsement of all the non-churches? Friends, that is not neutral. That’s bigoted fundamentalist Dominionist Christian supremacy terrorism. And it’s hurting your service members.

I represent ten people who are outraged and emotionally traumatized by the continued existence of this defiant religious evangelism. But with your help, we can beat it.

Let’s get some signatures or something. Then we can tell someone about this important issue affecting our troops. This is my war. Hear me roar.

Those other wars can wait.

The above post is riduculous, but others are writing columns with a similar tone in earnest. Pray these activist hearts would be softened and their eyes would be opened to the goodness which comes from the other book in the dresser drawer. 

Inspired by “U.S. Navy Removes Bibles from All Hotel Rooms after Atheist Group Filed Complaint”

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ears

“I don’t believe my ears.” We use this expression after hearing the unexpected.  The statement that sometimes follows is “I’ll have to see it to believe it.”

But why should we give more weight to what we see than what we hear when deciding what to believe? It is easy take our vision for granted. Sight feels like a fundamental part of the human experience. But the blind no doubt have a very different experience. They don’t have the luxury of seeing to believe. Perhaps the option to see is no luxury at all. Maybe our vision is actually preventing us from seeing truly.

Margaret Manning of Ravi Zacharias International Ministires writes more gracefully about sight and belief in her piece “The Work of the Invisible.”

We thrive on visual stimulation. A free market, a wired world, and portable media give us instant access to everything. We see both what we want to see, and what others want us to see. Creating and editing video is easy. A few hours of work and the desire to influence can turn hobbyist to lobbyist in a matter of clicks.

We immediately believe what we see often without thought. Because of this sight actually works against us. We want to see so that we may believe, but more often than not, seeing is believing.

We surf the internet on waves churned with deception. We have all become media skeptics. Cool picture? Probably fake. Amazing video? Staged. Jimmy Kimmel’s late night pranks are both funny and illustrative. They can teach us more than the depth of our gullibility. Why should we depend on what we can see when we can’t believe anything we see?

The internet and media provide a unique way for deception artists to make arguments with images. Life itself is full of opportunity to arrive at false conclusions from what we see. With sight alone, the logic of what is happening must be based on our assumptions. In order to truly understand what we see, our assumptions about what we are seeing must be correct. When our understanding of life comes mostly through the eye, we are sure to have trouble arriving at the truth.

However, when we understand life through the lens of language, we are more likely to filter out falsehoods and get it right. We can test statements for reason and logic without making false assumptions about what we see. The only assumption required is that words have meaning and their meaning does not change.

So you can believe your ears–as long as what they are hearing is true.

Photo credit: jeanbaptisteparis / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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problem of pain walmart

The problem of pain can be a persuasive critique of theism. While we can discover sufficient answers from several disciplines including philosophy and theology, suffering in the world continues to make us ask, “What do we do with pain?”

My toddler must have been thinking these thoughts recently. He would not have called it the problem of pain, but he was feeling its full effect.

“I have to run out for a few things,” my wife said, “Do you think you can watch the kids for a while?”

Can I watch the kids? I’m their dad, not a babysitting candidate. Of course I can watch the kids!

My wife means no disrespect. She is actually being considerate. Instead of nagging or going on an offensive rant about it being “my turn,” she actually asks before taking a small breather from her homeschool mom marathon.

It takes a lot for her to ask. I don’t help with my panicked phone calls from the Walmart parking lot three minutes after she runs in by herself.

The baby won’t stop screaming and the iTouches are dead, and I can’t find the source of this smell. . .

It doesn’t help when I tell her she was gone too long.

Seriously, how long does it take to get wipes and Sunny-D?

It doesn’t help when the kids are in bed early.

What was I supposed to do?

But occasionally, and against all prudence to save all favors for emergencies–it’s not a favor! I’m their dad!–she asks for a small respite from the never-ending requests for juice, Cheeze-Its, and instant solutions to boredom.

What could possibly go wrong?

The other day we made such an agreement. I was in charge of the kids. As she was about to leave, she looked around and asked, “Where’s the baby?”

“Oh. I think he went outside,” I said. I was pretty sure I saw him toddle out the back door. Besides, our yard is fenced in.

She looked at me funny.

I swallowed hard. She’s not even gone and I almost lost him.

“Okay, yeah. See? There he is. He’s out there in the back.”

She glanced at me with suspicion and then left, resigning our children’s fate to the will of God.

What she doesn’t remember is that we usually have a great time when she’s away. The Mom Rule is no longer in effect. The Mom Rule states:

All children must regress to their most wretched behavior when Mom is present. During her absence, all tantrums, fits, rages, and all other forms of disagreeableness will be deferred until first sight upon her return.

And so she left. I was evaluating my 5-year-old’s chess strategy of capturing as many pieces as possible regardless of type (I keep reminding him: it’s not like checkers) when I saw a flash out of the corner of my eye.

It was something outside the back patio door, and about the size of a small toddler.

It was my toddler, and he was bent over with eyes clinched. His mouth was open, but the sound would not come. His blanched cheeks shook with pain coursing through his otherwise red face.

Oh, no. . . Wait for it. . . waaait for it. . .

I started in his direction when the inevitable wail burst forth. He grasped his mouth. A wave of nausea surged through my body which at the same time became hot–the automatic response to a possible weekend emergency room visit.

Now some injuries allow children the option of a comfort source. He or she may opt for the greater comfort of Mom to the immediacy of Dad. This is their right. There is no greater comfort in the world to a child than a mother’s embrace.

But occasionally the level of pain and fear of the unknown causes the child to forfeit his choice and accept the most immediate agent, and sometimes this is agent Dad.

When this happens, the arms raise to the heavens and willingly accept the embrace of whomever can make things better.

After this fall, I knew my toddler, perfect as he seems to me, would now be changed: he would be marked with a scar–a nice little scar on the lower lip.

Well, at least now he’ll match his brother.

When my 2-year-old fell, in that moment of confusion and terror, with the stress of the unknown and at a loss for any other solution, he raised his hands, as if reaching beyond the comforts of this world for a transcendent solution to his otherworldly pain. Mother was not there to make everything better, nor will she be the one to settle our accounts hereafter. He needed his father.

The problem of pain makes us groan, but it serves its purposes. It alerts us to physical and spiritual danger and reminds us that we live in a fallen world. The problem of pain, while its effects linger in the present, is finished in eternity with the work on the cross.

But there is another problem masquerading as a solution to what Pascal calls the “God-shaped vacuum in the heart of every man.” It creates an insatiable appetite for the novel and the new, and it distracts us from our work : the problem of pleasure.

Postscript: After battlefield triage and dismissing the requirement for a tourniquet, I immediately called my wife and advised her to abort the mission to Walmart and return to base to care for our wounded. She returned, and things were better. 

Photo credit: star5112 / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 2.0 Generic (CC BY-SA 2.0)

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a paratroopers faith

George B. Tullidge III. Photo Courtesy of Anne Tullidge Bell

Green Light

On June 5th, 1944, high above a war raging in Europe, a paratrooper’s faith helped calm a 20-year-old soldier from the 82nd Airborne Division. The vibration of the military transport plane might have put George to sleep if not for the peril he was about to face. He was about to jump under cover of darkness into occupied France with fellow paratroopers from 507th Parachute Infantry Regiment. He closed his eyes and recalled a quote he memorized long ago:

Hard things are put in our way, not to stop us, but to call our courage and strength. . .

George took a deep breath and turned his thoughts to what he loved most: God and his family. He often wrote letters to his younger brothers encouraging them to act rightly and stay on the right track. George was carrying two weapons into the battle that night, one was a weapon of war, the other, of the spirit.

a paratroopers faithThe Little Book

Tucked somewhere on his body was a small blue booklet. It was complied by his mother, Anne Archer Hogshead Tullidge, so that he might “receive an inspiration and help from. . .thoughts of great minds and souls of the past and present.” He called it the “little book.” She later titled it A Paratrooper’s Faith. It was Anne’s hope that “. . .in the lonely, anxious and trying experiences he was passing through, a few moments reading of these might give him hope and strength.”² 

Author and fellow Army veteran Bill Cain describes the unit’s mission:

Their D-Day objective was to secure the crossing over the Mederet River.  During the jump, the unit missed the drop zone and was scattered for miles due to heavy German anti-aircraft fire and low clouds.”¹

After escaping enemy fire and landing miles off target, he attempted to remain calm. Priority number one: find out where I am.  No–first, prayer:

I can do all things through Christ which stregtheneth me. . .

I can. . .

Be strong and of good courage; be not afraid, neither be thou dismayed; for the Lord thy God is with thee whithersoever thou goest. . .

Be not afraid.  I am not afraid.

He thought about what he wrote to his younger brothers, Tommy and Arch: a good belief in Christianity . . . gives a fellow something to grasp when the going gets tough, and it does at times.  This was one of those times.

Unusual Courage

The next day, near Fiere, France, George’s unit came under heavy attack while attempting to hold a bridge outside of St. Mere Eglise. George had to make a decision. He closed his eyes again, and remembered:

It makes a difference to all eternity whether we do right or wrong today. . .

a paratroopers faith 4

George at Virginia Tech. Photo Courtesy of Anne Tullidge Bell

Without hesitation, George took control of a light machine gun and held off the enemy attack, eventually leading to the safe withdrawal of his unit. This paratrooper carried with him a secret weapon: a mother’s faith.

The little book his mother made gave him peace, hope, and a strength only possible with the promise of peace and justice in the presence of almighty God. George found that peace on June 8, 1944 after succumbing to a massive hip wound sustained two days earlier while defending the bridge. I wonder what George must have thought as he was transported to a hospital in Britain.

For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding and eternal weight of glory. . .

A Family of Heroes

George B. Tullidge III was awarded the Bronze Star for his heroism, but he wasn’t the only Tullidge to be recognized.

On July 24, 1989, Anne Archer was awarded the Decoration for Distinguished Civilian Service at the Pentagon by the Secretary of The Army, John O. Marsh, Jr.,  with the Citation:

a paratroopers faith

Anne Archer Hogshead Tullidge

“Mrs. Archer Tullidge is officially commended for her distinguished civilian service to the United States Army, to our veterans, and to the nation over the last 50 years. During World War II, on her own initiative and at her own personal expense, Mrs. Tullidge voluntarily duplicated and mailed to over 300,000 soldiers the booklet entitled, ‘A Paratrooper’s Faith.’ Her personal commitment and deep concern were appreciated by many returning soldiers who commented on the strength and courage they received from the booklet’s message. Mrs. Tullidge’s strong support and patriotism did not end with World War II as she continues to dedicate her life to volunteer services to The Woodrow Wilson Rehabilitation Center. This unselfish devotion to our American soldiers, strong personal commitment, and selfless service to the United States Army stands as a worthy example for all Americans to emulate.”³

A Paratrooper’s Faith has been inspiring service members since 1944, and it continues to inspire today. If you like to see what other inspiring words are included in the legendary booklet, click here.

Are you encouraged?  Send this to a service member. Please click here to share with your followers on Twitter.

¹ Bill Cain, “A Paratrooper’s Faith: My Connection to A Soldier’s (and Family’s) Sacrifice,” Bill Cain Online, July, 2008, http://billcainonline.com/?p=2937

² Charles Culbertson, “Staunton man’s death led to book to inspire thousands of soldiers,” Newsleader.com, October 29, 2011, http://www.newsleader.com/article/20111029/LIFESTYLE22/110290302/Staunton-man-s-death-led-book-inspire-thousands-soldiers

³ Dr. William Josephson, Anne Archer Tullidge Obituary, revised 31 January, 2010, http://www.eng.auburn.edu/~josepbe/ParatroopersFaith/AnneArcherTullidgeObituary.htm

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dead enders

Insurgent Dead-Enders

In the early stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld dismissed a rash of deadly attacks on U.S. troops as the last throes of a small group of “dead-enders.”  Early tactical victories during the war led some to believe that these dead-enders, comprised of members of Saddam’s former Baath Party, Fedayeen paramilitary, and other loyalists, would be quickly rooted out, captured, or killed.  Planners assumed that once the dead-enders found their end, peace and stability would become a possibility for the region.

Eleven years later, Iraq is again devolving into turmoil.  Many Iraqi insurgents were indeed dead, but we are far from the end of Iraq’s struggle to overcome centuries of regional conflict.  The Butcher of Baghdad is gone, but the floodgates he controlled with his violence and intimidation burst open, and a new river of unimaginable evil is now rising.

Fighters in Iraq in opposition to the U.S. vision for Iraq turned out to be anything but dead enders.  They were more like “alternate-routers.”  This should not come as a surprise.  Does a fleeing criminal give up when he runs into a cul-de-sac?  No. He jumps a fence, cuts through a backyard and escapes into the night.

Worldview Dead-Enders

While it is unwise to label military opponents as dead-enders, perhaps the term more adequately describes worldviews which fail to answer life’s biggest questions with logical consistency, empirical adequacy, and experiential relevance.  These worldviews can take you for an exciting ride, but sooner of later you’ll end up staring at a wall, wondering where you made the wrong turn. A worldview is defined by Ronald Nash in Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas:

“A worldview, then is a conceptual scheme by which we consciously or unconsciously place or fit everything we believe and by which we interpret and judge reality.”1

Author and apologist Ravi Zacharias notes that all spiritual questions ultimately seek to answer questions in four arenas:

  • Origins
  • Meaning
  • Morality
  • Destiny

Any worldview worth keeping must answer these questions with consistency and coherence. Some worldviews will lead to a dead end, and some philosophical fences cannot be jumped.

Naturalism

Naturalism is a worldview. It seeks to explain everything about life and the universe while assuming the natural world is all there is, ever was, or ever will be. Naturalism has a popular explanation for origins hinging on Darwin’s theory of evolution.  Naturalism has a plausible (albeit depressing) theory for destiny with the extinction of man and the extinguishing of the universe.  But Naturalism has no way to explain meaning or morality in life. They must dismiss the human perception of meaning and objective morality as merely an illusion with survival value.

The logical conclusion for Naturalism: there is no meaning or purpose in life. As a worldview contender, Naturalism is a dead ender.

New Age Thought

New Age thought is a worldview. Birthed from the woo-ish womb of Russian occultist and con-artist Madame Helena P. Blavatsky and popularized by charismatic spiritual teachers in the late 19th century, the term New Age is used to describe a plethora of spiritual beliefs or practices. However, a few common principles permeate the Aquarian adventure. Highly personal, subjective, and mystical experiences are common to New Age thought as well as models based on healing and holistic health. If you have ever had trouble understanding New Age teaching, it is because as Nash states, “Clarity and consistency of thought are two qualities that do not characterize New Age advocates.”

New Age thought is dreadfully inadequate in answering any four of the important arenas of spiritual inquiry; however, it is particularly corrosive to concept of marriage. Author Brad Scott “escaped” the movement and wrote about his experiences in Embraced by the Darkness.  He predicts life in a future state of planetary evolution and consciousness:

“More and more people would never marry because they would see no spiritual advantage in it.  They would leap into and out of relationships to find their ‘soul mates’ or burn up their karma with one insignificant other after another, all in the name of their single-minded effort to liberate themselves from the clutches of maya.”2

On New Age thought, there is no answer for origins, morality is relative, and the prediction on destiny–a global awakening and transformation of consciousness–raises more questions than it answers.

The logical conclusion of New Age thought: morality is optional and the elevation of the self above all else. As a worldview contender, New Age thought is a dead ender.

Christianity

Christianity is a worldview. The Christian worldview:

  • explains our origins in the mind of a loving and benevolent God
  • affirms meaning in life by the existence of meaning in eternity
  • acknowledges God as the ultimate standard of good in which to ground objective morality
  • provides hope in an eternal destiny where ultimate justice prevails

The logical conclusion of Christianity:

  • You were designed out of an act of love and infused with a purpose.
  • Your acts and thoughts are meaningful.
  • You have moral obligations to do what is right and good.
  • There is hope for the future in the promise of eternity in his presence.

As a worldview option, Christianity is more than a contender.  But only if you are pursuing more than a pragmatic solution to the problem of the human condition. Christ is not simply an answer; he is the answer to a question Pontius Pilate rhetorically asked in the presence of the living God, and one we will all ask at some point in our lives: what is truth?

1 Ronald Nash, Worldviews in Conflict: Choosing Christianity in a World of Ideas (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1992), 16.
2 Brad Scott, Embraced by the Darkness (Wheaton: Crossway, 1996), 164.

Photo Credit:  Menendj / CC BY SA / http://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Iraqi_insurgents_with_guns.JPG

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Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”

 

principle of legitimacy malcolm gladwell

Malcolm Gladwell’s latest book David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants seeks to explain several different phenomena by using a simple concept: the inverted U-curve.  Gladwell uses this tool to help us understand when conditions will either be advantageous or disadvantageous.  Understanding when a situation is operating with an inverted-U curve can help us predict future effects and avoid being surprised by unexpected results.

Gladwell uses the inverted-U curve to explain a variety of conditions, including:

  • why school classes can be too big, or too small
  • why some statutory penalties can be too harsh
  • why you can have too much money

Along the way, Gladwell describes another principle which is required if those exercising authority expect their commands to be obeyed: the principle of legitimacy.

The Principle of Legitimacy

Gladwell describes the required ingredients for the principle of legitimacy:

  1. The people expected to obey must have a voice.
  2. The law must be predictable.
  3. The authority has to be fair.1

Commanding Officers expect their troops to obey, and fathers expect their children to behave.  Both roles require the calculated application of the principle of legitimacy.

As both father and Marine, I have seen most issues occur due to a lack of proper application of step #2.  When the consequences of violating your will are unclear, you can expect your will to be violated.

Perfect Application, Imperfect Response

The greatest application of the principle of legitimacy is given to us by the greatest leader of all time: Jesus of Nazareth.  Jesus never failed at step #2.  Jesus was consistent in warning people about the consequences for violating his commandments.

If Jesus was an expert at applying the principle of legitimacy, then why do people disobey his commands?  One reason is that some people do not view Jesus as fair.

“How could a loving God send people to hell?”

The thought of a repentant murderer going to Heaven, or a seemingly good person ending up in hell is difficult to accept when the question is phrased in such a way.

But the question itself is flawed.

The Wrong Question

God does not send anybody to hell.  Hell is the place for people who refuse to be with God; he doesn’t send them–they send themselves.  Jesus tell us in John 14:15:

“If you love me, you will obey what I command.”

Anyone who truly seeks the mind of God will grow to love him, and everyone who truly loves him will find heaven.

Legitimate authorities must give their people predictable consequences for refusing to follow their commands, but perhaps the principle of legitimacy has another requirement: that the authority acts out of love for the people and not lust for power.

1 Malcolm Gladwell, David and Goliath: Underdogs, Misfits, and the Art of Battling Giants (New York: Little, Brown and Company, 2013), 207.

Photo credit: Tyler J. Bolken / Foter / Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)

Related Briefs

Disclosure of Material Connection: Some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I believe will add value to my readers or will assist them in establishing a coherent worldview. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”