Being Unreasonable

Sometimes verses scream at you. Philippians 4:5 is one of them.

“Let your reasonableness be known to everyone.”

Reasonableness: the idea that we’re gentle, kind, courteous, and tolerant to everyone, not just those with whom we agree, but those with whom we disagree. It’s “a balanced, intelligent, decent outlook” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology). Not just to believers, but to unbelievers too.

It follows the command to rejoice always (Philippians 4:4Open in Logos Bible Software (if available)). That means that Christians are to be known for two qualities: joy and a kind disposition to everyone. This applies at all times, even when mistreated and hated. J. Gnilka observes that this command “prevents the church from being too preoccupied with its own interests.” We can’t control how others react to us, but our presence should be one of winsome, reasonable joy no matter what’s happening around us.

“There should be in the whole of our sentiments and demeanor, a diffidence which inclines us to suspect ourselves, and a candor which disposes us to make all due allowance for others,” writes Charles Simeon. We’re prone to divide and label others enemies, and to call “forth against each other … bitterest invectives.” Paul shows us a better way: to agree in the Lord, rejoice, be reasonable, pray, and think about what’s true, honorable, just, pure, lovely, commendable, excellent, and worthy of praise.

A Needed Word
I’ve sensed a growing stridency among some in the past year. I get the reasons why. We’re all on edge. It’s easy to issue declarations, write caustic posts, question motives, and take issue with others. It’s a problem.

I sense in my own life the same desire: to decry those people who are (in my estimation) fighting about the wrong things in wrong ways.

And that’s just the point. I’m no better than they are. It’s hard for me to condemn others when I sense the same impulse in myself. That’s why what Charles Simeon wrote about suspecting ourselves and making allowance for others is so valuable.

Don’t get me wrong. We need to discuss issues. We should care about the truth. There’s a time for taking a stand. But in all of this, we should cultivate a healthy distrust of our own motives, and a willingness to assume the best of others even when we have a hard time understanding.

Reasonableness in Action
Admit your own weaknesses. Distrust yourself, at least a little. Consider the possibility that you could be wrong.

Hang out with people who disagree with you. Affirm the areas where you agree. Try to learn from them. Choose the most charitable interpretation of their words and actions. “Argue as if you’re right, but listen as if you’re wrong (and be willing to change your mind)” (Adam Grant).

In all of this, maintain your joy. It will take a lot of prayer, which is where Paul goes next in this passage. But with God’s help, it’s possible.

In this shrill and polarized age, I long for this in my life and in the life of the church. “Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, rejoice. Let your reasonableness be known to everyone. The Lord is at hand.” (Philippians 4:4-5O)

We Need Bad Teachers

I was reading a newspaper report in which former Borrusia Dortmund strike Robert Lewandowski opened up on his relationship with Jurgen Klopp. He claimed Klopp was a ‘bad teacher’. Specifically:

Jurgen was not only a father figure to me. As a coach, he was like the ‘bad’ teacher. And I mean that in the best sense of the word.

“Let me explain. Think back to you when you were in school. Which teacher do you remember the most? Not the one who made life easy for you and never expected anything from you.”

“No, no, no. You remember the bad teacher, the one who was strict with you. The one who put pressure on you and did everything to get the best out of you.

“That’s the teacher who made you better, right? And Jurgen was like that.”

Daily Mirror
I thought that was an interesting way to speak about his former coach. He was like a ‘bad teacher’. Not in the sense that he didn’t teach well but because he would not settle for his players to waste their talent. He put pressure on them to get the best out of them. Those sorts of ‘bad teachers’, according to Lewandowski, are the ones you remember when you are older.

One danger in pastoral ministry is constantly trying to ensure you are liked by all. Those who want to be remembered as ‘good teachers’ (in the sense that Lewandowski would mean it) tend to end up being quite poor in the end. They are too busy seeking to be loved that, far from expecting much from their people, they are happy to peddle soft and fluffy teaching that is sure to upset nobody. Such are not good teachers in the end.

Perhaps some of us could learn a lesson from the bad teacher Jurgen Klopp. According to his players, he cared about them and wanted the best for them. As a result, he expected a lot from them and pushed them to achieve. I think there is something in this for the church.

Of course, there can be ungodly and unhealthy ways to expect a lot from people. We must always be careful to guard our motives. It is not loving, caring nor right to push people and expect much from them simply because it is self-aggrandising. People are not there simply as resources to exploit for our own ends. They are not there to make ‘my ministry’ appear great and the more I make use of them the greater I look. We have to be careful that we aren’t encouraging people to perform for such reasons. They are not resources to be used, they are sheep to be cared for.

But I do think there is a godly way to expect things from people just as I rightly expect things from my own children and would push them to achieve things too. Good parents do not take an entirely laissez-faire attitude to their children, allowing them to do whatever they want all the time and giving in to their every whim. Most of us recognise that would be particularly poor parenting and can see our children will not grow into mature adults if this is what we’re doing. It is no better when that approach is applied to the church and we implement a similar culture of low expectations.

But when we begin to expect things of people they start to grow up in maturity. We can hardly expect to see people grow up to handle the Word well if we never expect them to be able and we can’t realistically expect to see people engaged in pastoral ministry if we never give them opportunities to engage in it. Our children don’t gain skills, knowledge and maturity by never expecting them to gain those things, giving them no opportunity to acquire them and always doing everything for them. No. We push them to acquire skills, to learn, to grow. These things are no less important for our churches.

Maybe some of us should start being the bad teacher so that our people might be taught well.

S. Kneale

Stephen Kneale

God Does Not Cease to Exist When We Deny Him

God, who is revealed to us in the Bible, is not diminished when we deny his existence; we are. Think for a bit about this very moment of your life. Right now, your mind, without a sound, is receiving communication from my mind, and I made this communication silently as well. Of course, the same communication could have occurred if I projected a series of sounds through the air that rattled against your eardrums.

You are a being of body and spirit. You have an intricate muscular and skeletal system keeping you from collapsing. A respiratory and digestive system are supplying a circulatory system that is nourishing your muscles and bones, and your nervous system is involved in all of it. Some of the acts you are doing at this moment, like reading, are voluntary, but thousands of acts are involuntary. You continue to do them without even thinking about it.

With all of this going on, your mind is processing hundreds of little markings into words that have meaning. You then continue to process the specific sense in which I intended those words by analyzing how I have linked those words together in sentences. All of this happens in mere seconds. Your ability for communication and knowledge is miraculous.

There is more to it than that. Your non-material conscious mind is analyzing and judging what I have written to determine if it is trustworthy. To do that, you are relying upon a universal, transcendent, unchanging reality known as the laws of logic. These laws are an expression of God’s mind in creation, and our ability to think thoughts after him is a communicable attribute. If these laws are not universal, transcendent, or unchanging, there is no reason to place our trust in them, and trusting them is what we are doing. In denying God, the naturalistic worldview cannot account for such universal realities as the law of logic.

On top of that, you are judging this post for its moral content. As you agree or disagree, you are determining whether my words align with or violate a standard of good and evil. You cannot do otherwise. As a created being, you are a moral creature. You have your Creator’s law written on your heart. Many try to deny this reality by explaining it away as evolutionary programming, but simply because something has been programmed does not mean it is good. You can never get from what is to what ought to be in a naturalistic worldview. Yet, those who deny their reality as beings made by a personal God and deny the existence of moral truth will continue to contradict themselves and live as if morality is a universal reality that applies to all people.

Though we often violate what we know to be right, this moral reality is such a part of our human nature it is the very reason most of you can read this post in safety. Societal structures built upon these moral truths protect you. For those of you who are not safe right now, you know that it is wrong. Your sense of justice, and ours as well, rises within to correct it. We are praying for you. The idea of justice is not some fanciful whim; it corresponds to the standard of good and evil grounded in God himself.

I have barely begun to scratch the surface. Time does not permit me to go into any depth to the fact that, while you are reading this, gravity is holding you to a large planetary body. That globe is spinning through space orbiting an intensely massive burning star that is supplying your body with heat, food for your digestive system, and thousands of other benefits. God is not only our Creator; he is also our Sustainer.

Believing that matter came from nothing, that life came from non-life, that conscious personhood came from non-personhood, that truth is a mere social construct, and that there are no moral absolutes violates every semblance of logic, truth, and communication you have been using to process and judge my writing. I agree with Francis Schaeffer when he says, “I am more certain of the existence of God than I am of my own existence.” God does not cease to exist when we deny him; we do.

-D. Eaton

Hell Is An Answer

Answering challenges can feel like Whac-A-Mole. Whac-A-Mole is an arcade game where players use a mallet to hit little moles that pop up at random and then disappear back into their holes. What makes Whac-A-Mole so difficult is that you can only hit one mole at a time.

Apologetic conversations can feel like that sometimes. A particular issue is raised, we respond to the particular issue, only to have another particular issue pop up.

Let me suggest a better approach. Would Whac-A-Mole be easier if the mallet could hit more than one mole at a time? Of course it would! This is the advantage of answering challenges from a big picture, worldview perspective.

When it comes to Hell, there are some debated details. Is the fire literal or metaphorical? Is it torture or torment? Is the punishment physical, or psychological, or both? Is the punishment everlasting or annihilation? We become so focused on debating the details that we lose sight of the big picture.

One strategy I’ve found helpful in talking to unbelievers about Hell is to focus on its significant worldview implications. Namely, I believe Hell isn’t the problem people think it is. In fact, it’s a solution to two problems.

First, Hell helps answer the philosophical problem of evil.

The problem of evil is not the problem for Christianity people think it is. It’s a problem for atheism, but not for us. Why? Because our entire story is about the problem of evil. It starts in the third chapter and doesn’t get solved until 66 books later. But it does get solved.

Christianity has a lot to say in response to evil. We won’t get into all of that here. But one part of our larger response is that, in the end, evil is defeated. All wrongs will be made right. There will be a day of reckoning.

Christians shouldn’t be surprised by evil. It’s part of our Story. And our Story isn’t over yet. There is a day coming when all evil and suffering will finally be defeated.

So, first, Hell helps answer a philosophical problem—the problem of evil.

Second, Hell satisfies our existential longing for justice.

Many people have no problem with a God who forgives. The problem is a God who punishes. I think this might be a secular Western phenomenon, though. Most of us in the Western world live protected lives. We have “rights.” And when those rights are violated, we look to the government for justice. When injustice takes place, we go to the police, or lawyers, or government officials to make things right.

It’s easy for us to scoff at divine justice when we’re used to counting on human justice. But in places where there is no human justice, they don’t scoff at divine justice; they cry out for it.

Yale theologian Miroslav Volf—who saw thousands killed and millions displaced in his homeland of Yugoslavia—has us imagine delivering a lecture in a war zone on how God’s retribution is incompatible with His love. He says,

Among your listeners are people whose cities and villages have been first plundered, then burned and leveled to the ground, whose daughters and sisters have been raped, whose fathers and brothers have had their throats slit….

[I]f God were not angry at injustice and deception and did not make the final end to violence, God would not be worthy of our worship.

In his book Free of Charge, Volf says,

Though I used to complain about the indecency of the idea of God’s wrath, I came to think that I would have to rebel against a God who wasn’t wrathful at the sight of the world’s evil. God isn’t wrathful in spite of being love. God is wrathful because God is love. [Emphasis in original]

There is no incompatibility between love and final justice. As Volf points out, a god who is indifferent towards injustice would not be good. In fact, it is precisely because God is good that he punishes the guilty. The goodness of God requires final judgment. It is a manifestation of the perfect justice of God.

Even within the current cultural moment, we long for justice. This is why people say, “No justice; no peace.” This is the mantra of many who are marching in the streets in response to what they see as injustice. Our hearts cry out for perfect justice, but that’s something no earthly justice system will ever satisfy. Only God can provide that.

We cry out, “No Justice; no peace.” But if there is no God, there can be no final justice. The truth is, “No final judgment; no ultimate justice.”

With this argument, I’m appealing to what Francis Schaeffer called the “mannishness of man.” In the book Tactics, Greg Koukl says, “Because we all live in God’s world and are all made in God’s image, there are things all people know that are embedded deep within their hearts—profound things about our world and about ourselves—even though we deny them or worldviews disqualify them.”

There is something within us that demands that those responsible for injustice stand before a judge and pay for their crimes. But here’s the rub. We are all responsible for injustice. Therefore, we will all stand before Jesus, and we will all give an account for the wrongs we’ve done. The books will be opened containing a complete list of every crime we’ve ever committed. God misses nothing.

“Will that be fire? Will that be forever?” That’s not our concern right now. Whatever the judgment looks like, it’s going to be worse than your worst nightmare, and you do not want to be there. That is the bad news.

Here is the good news. There is another book, the Book of Life. In The Story of Reality, Greg Koukl says, “It also contains a record, the names of those who, though guilty, have received mercy, at their request: ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner.’ All those who have accepted their pardon in Christ will be absolved.”

So, in the final judgment, there are two options. Either Jesus pays, or you pay. Perfect mercy or perfect justice.

In the final analysis, Hell is a solution, not a problem. It helps make sense of something in the world and something in our hearts. First, it helps answer the problem of evil in our world. Second, it satisfies the longing for justice in our hearts by explaining how that longing will be satisfied.

Tim Barnett

Head and Heart

You have heard the distinction as often as I have—the distinction between head knowledge and heart knowledge. We learn facts about God, about his character, about his Word, but it is not until those facts reach the heart that they become spiritually beneficial. They say the journey from the head to the heart is the longest journey of all.

I’ve never been too comfortable with this distinction between head knowledge and heart knowledge, and recently Andrew Davis helped me sharpen my thinking a little bit. In his book An Infinite Journey (see my review) he tells about a testimony he once heard.

“I grew up in a Christian home, said the young lady who was sharing her testimony at an evening church service, “and I learned a lot about the Bible. But it was all head knowledge, not heart knowledge. It wasn’t until all that head knowledge moved down to my heart that my life began to change.” I watched as she pointed from her head to the center of her chest, to represent the movement of this knowledge, almost like the journey food travels through the esophagus to the stomach.

We have all heard people speak like this and we know what they are getting at. Yet here’s my concern: When we speak in this way, we pit the two kinds of knowledge against one another, with head being the enemy and heart being the friend. It’s like we need to battle the head in order to reach the heart, or like head knowledge is the necessarily evil we need to endure to reach the heart.

Now obviously there is a genuine concern that is being addressed in language like this. I was once much like this young lady. I grew up in a Christian home and knew facts about God and the Bible and the Christian faith, but without actually being saved. I think of a man like Bart Ehrman who, though an ardent enemy of Christianity, has a vast knowledge of the Bible. In God’s Word we encounter demons who know that God exists. We encounter apostates who once professed the Christian faith and knew a great deal about it before they wandered away and eventually revoked the faith.

I believe we need to affirm the importance of believing what is true without disparaging the facts and knowledge necessary to even know what is true. Head knowledge is good; heart knowledge is good. More head knowledge is better than less head knowledge and more heart knowledge is better than less heart knowledge. Head knowledge is good because heart knowledge is impossible without it. Christianity is and must be a faith that involves the mind just as it is and must be a faith that involves the heart. The problem comes when there is a radical disconnect between the two.

Davis says it well:

We must keep growing in knowledge or we will cease making progress in the Christian life. All of that knowledge begins as head knowledge, concepts understood by the mind, before anything else can occur. And we must have as much of that head knowledge as possible. But woe to us, if through unbelief, we do not allow that knowledge to transform us into the image of Christ and change the way we live our lives.

Tim Challies

Same Ole Same Ole

Ecclesiastes 1:9 says, “What has been will be again, what has been done will be done again; there is nothing new under the sun.” It never ceases to amaze me how these words of Solomon’s, written 3,000ish years ago, are so precisely true today. Solomon’s words especially ring true when you look at the theological and spiritual trends that are popular today. Theologically speaking, there is definitely nothing new under the sun.

In theology, the two biggest controversies of the early church were the Trinity and the deity of Christ. Any disagreements on those doctrines today? Um…yeah! There are tens of millions of adherents to pseudo-Christian cults that deny the deity of Christ and/or the Trinity. In the pages of the New Testament, several writers had to deal with disagreements over the role the Old Testament Law has in the life of the Christian. The whole “Hebrew roots movement” that is gaining steam today is nothing but the Judaizers of the New Testament being revived (Galatians 2:16; 3:11; 5:12).

We have followers of Christ who attempt to use the grace of God as a license to sin (Romans 6). We have followers of Christ who go to the opposite extreme and turn the Christian life into a list of dos and don’ts (Colossians 2:21). We have entire denominations of Christians who do the exact opposite of what Paul prescribed in 1 Corinthians 14. We have churches dividing based on their favorite famous teacher (1 Corinthians 3). Many of us have still not grown past elementary matters (Hebrews 6:1-2).

Even in those who attack and oppose the Christian faith, there is nothing new under the sun. There has been a recent reinvigoration of the claims that the “legend” of Jesus Christ is nothing but a copy of the ancient myths involving Horus, Mithras, Osiris, etc. The early church fathers refuted these claims centuries ago. Morally speaking, the biggest complaint against Christianity has been, and always will be, that it forbids people from having sex with whomever and whatever they want, whenever they want.

There is nothing new under the sun. That is why the Bible is so eminently relevant. The issues it addressed 2,000 years ago are still issues today. The people it describes experienced the same trials, temptations, and struggles that we do today. The doctrinal and theological confusions and disagreements the early church debated are still being argued today.

“For the word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.” (Hebrews 4:12)

“All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

S. Michael Houdmann

Three Score and Ten

As time passes, I find myself increasingly drawn to old authors and old books. I scour the used bookshops to look for lost treasures. At the back of one such nineteenth-century work I found this old poem by Edward Morris. I don’t know who Edward Morris was or when he lived, but I’m grateful for the sweet poem he left us, a poem which celebrates the days so many lament—the days when life has grown long and death draws near.

To me the years have gentler grown,
And time more gracious now than then,
Though here I sit and muse alone,
Threescore and ten.

The best of living is the last,
And life seems sweetest at its close;
And something richer than the past,
These days disclose.

I mourn not now the silvered hair,
The trembling hand, the failing power,
As here I wait and calmly dare,
The coming hour.

What dreams of honor or of gain,
Of wreaths or crowns to grace my brow,
Once stirred my spirit, none remain,
To stir me now.

The tossing life, the hope and fear,
The strife, the pain of earlier days,
On these, all past, I look with clear,
Unshrinking gaze.

And even when I sorrow most,
Yet happy are the tears I shed,
And bright the memories of the lost,
The pious dead.

The increase of the corn and wine,
And growing gladness in the heart,
And wondrous grace and joy are mine,
From men apart.

Alone, but not alone, I stand;
Around, above, a Power divine
Is shining, and a heavenly hand,
Is touching mine.

Strange glories gild my closing day,
And one bright star from out the west
Calls me in tender tones away,
From work to rest.

And voices which amid the din
Of outward life I could not hear
Are gently whispering within,
Their words of cheer.

So, welcome is each flying year,
And welcome is this silent bliss;
Nothing the noisy world can yield,
Compares with this.

And so, reclining on the slope
Of life, apart from busy men,
I firmly grasp this larger hope,
Threescore and ten!

Tim Challies

Is It Cruel to Ask Women to Keep Their Unborn Child?

Despite their emphasis on choice, the pro-choice movement leaves many women feeling that they have no choice but abortion. Abortion is constantly portrayed as the preferred choice. After all, a woman facing an unplanned pregnancy wonders, what’s the alternative? Raise a child she seemingly can’t afford, and who will disrupt her life choices like going to school and pursuing a career? Or experience the heartbreak of giving up a child for adoption?

But “abortion or misery” is a binary trap that keeps women from pursuing—and society from providing—positive alternatives. It’s a terrible thing to present pregnant women with inadequate choices, leaving them in an apparent no-win situation. We must reject this trap of presenting the choice between abortion and misery, as if there were no misery in abortion, and as if there were no alternatives.

Why does Planned Parenthood, with its over one billion dollars from tax reve­nues and foundations, not devote itself to a third alternative, such as adoption? Since it makes millions of dollars from abortions every year, giving it huge vested interests in abortion, how can Planned Parenthood be expected to offer real and objective choices to pregnant women in need?

Do they share the stories of women who kept their children, and are grateful they did? How about the stories of women who chose adoption, and though it was difficult, have been left with a sense of peace, knowing they have given someone the gift of life? Or how about the wonderful stories of women who have been reunited with their birth children years later?

Does Motherhood Mean Poverty and No Opportunities?
Many women attest that being a mother doesn’t ruin their lives, as is sometimes claimed, but expands and enriches them in beautiful ways, even when it’s challenging emotionally, physically, and financially. Unfortunately, that possibility is likely the farthest thing from the mind of a woman who finds herself pregnant and wishes she weren’t.

Maria Baer, a volunteer counselor at her local pregnancy resource center, writes:

Women facing an unplanned pregnancy often have reasonable, here-and-now fears. They may fear the loss of financial stability—or the loss of the ability to ever reach it. They may fear the loss of an already teetering status quo in which every available ounce of food is already consumed at home—perhaps by other children they’re already parenting. Pregnant women may lose a job, or they may not get the job they were hoping for. They may fear a violent boyfriend or father.

They may even fear pregnancy itself, which is often full of terrifying sickness, physical pain, loss of emotional control, and embarrassing bodily problems. …That means one of our first steps in ministering to a woman facing a crisis pregnancy is to acknowledge her fear. Don’t judge it, don’t shrug it off, but take her seriously. It is scary. Don’t offhandedly offer adoption as a quick solution. Don’t immediately start in on the logical fallacies of pro-abortion apologetics. Let her be afraid, and tell her she’s not alone. (Better yet: Mean it.)

Once we acknowledge her fear—and, if she’ll allow it, pray for her—we can start to talk through potential solutions to her various worries.

These fears are all understandable. But because the life of another human being is involved, financial distress does not justify abortion. It does mean that women who choose to keep and raise their children instead of choosing adoption need support and help. There are pro-life organizations in the U.S., including pregnancy resource centers (which outnumber abortion clinics), Young Lives (a branch of Young Life), Students for Life, and Feminists for Life, that offer support for pregnant and parenting students. LifeNews reports, “College pro-life groups also have been working to make campuses more friendly, welcoming environments for student-parents by advocating for diaper changing tables in restrooms, offering free babysitting, and encouraging the school to adopt policies to accommodate pregnant/parenting students.”

Feminists for Life addresses the situation of a pregnant woman who is poor and lacks support:

A woman who is pregnant needs to know that there are perfect strangers who will care for her even if the people she counts on the most have let her down. She needs information about child support laws that prohibit coercion by the father either by physical force or by threats to withhold child support.

…We do not eliminate poverty by eliminating poor women’s children. It is degrading to poor women to expect or imply that their children aren’t welcome. We believe that poor women deserve the same support and life-affirming alternatives as wealthy women.

…Abortion is not an enriching experience. An abortion won’t get a woman a better job or get her out of a bad (for example, abusive) situation.

Completing school and working are desirable things in many cases, and perhaps even necessary financially. Pregnancy can make them difficult. But a woman normally can continue school and work during pregnancy. If she places her child for adoption, she need not give up school or work. If she chooses to raise the child herself, there are childcare options available if she must work outside the home. Help is available in many forms.

I am not suggesting this is ideal, nor do I say it callously. I have worked with and helped single mothers and know their difficulties. I am simply pointing out there are alternatives, any one of which is preferable to an innocent child’s death and the undesirable consequences to her mother. Regardless of the challenges, one person’s right to a preferred lifestyle is not greater than another person’s right to a life.

Furthermore, when the only choice presented is abortion, a woman is frequently kept in a negative cycle which can result in multiple abortions. Having and raising a child or choosing adoption can be an enriching and growing experience in taking responsibility, thereby possibly resulting in better choices in the future.

Is Adoption: a “Regrettable Punishment”?
I am amazed at the negative light in which adoption is often portrayed in abortion rights literature. Pro-choice advocates Carole Anderson and Lee Campbell say of adoption, “The unnecessary separation of mothers and children is a cruel, but regrettably usual, punishment that can last a lifetime.”

Adoption is hardly a punishment to a woman carrying a child. It is a heaven-sent alternative to raising a child she is unprepared to raise, or to killing that same child. Adoption is a fine alternative that saves a life and makes another family happy; it’s tragic that adoption is so infrequently chosen as an alternative to abortion. (There are two million families waiting to adopt, and newborns are especially desired by adoptive families.)

Maria Baer writes,

Women may fear…adoption. Though morally clear, the thought is often experientially vague: It seems, or feels, much less repugnant to have a hidden medical procedure in the first weeks of pregnancy than to consciously hand over a smiling, babbling baby to a woman whose body never knew him or her. It’s cognitive dissonance, sure, but it’s a real—and understandable—fear.

One way of addressing a woman’s fear is to demonstrate the beauty and courage of allowing another family to adopt. Because a woman has not yet bonded with her child, the abortion might seem like an easy solution, while parting with her child after birth might be emotionally difficult. But the child’s life is just as real before bonding as after.

I’ve talked with several women considering abortions who had identical reactions to the suggestion of adoption: “What kind of mother would I be to give up a child for adoption?” The better question, which we need to gently help her ask, is, “What kind of mother would I be to kill my baby by abortion?”

The reason the former question is asked more often than the latter is our capacity to deny reality. Pregnant women who think “I don’t want to be a mother” tell themselves, under the influence of pro-choice rhetoric, that they still have a choice about becoming a mother. There are certainly choices open to them, including whether or not to raise their child themselves or place their child for adoption. Both choices require sacrificial love, for sure. But the fact is, they have no choice about whether or not they are mothers. That ship sailed the moment they became pregnant—the moment the baby was conceived.

Many years ago we took a pregnant teenage girl into our home. Though she’d had two abortions, she chose to carry this baby and, with our help and support, placed him for adoption. It was not easy, but this wonderful woman (one husband and three more children later) told me: “I look back at the three babies I no longer have, but with very different feelings. The two I aborted fill me with grief and regret. But when I think of the one I gave up for adoption, I’m filled with joy, because I know he’s being raised by a wonderful family that wanted him.” Several years ago she was able to meet her grown biological son, in a gathering arranged by his adopted mother. My wife, Nanci, and I were invited to attend this reunion. It was one of the most unforgettable and truly wonderful experiences of our lives. We witnessed the beautiful result of a painful but courageous decision made 33 years earlier. Everyone present at this reunion, without exception, had great reason to celebrate!

A woman facing an unplanned pregnancy has no easy options. She has three choices—have her child and raise him, have her child and allow another family to raise him, or kill her child through abortion. Two of these options are reasonable and constructive. One is not. I believe it’s a moral imperative that we clearly tell pregnant women, “You can choose life and goodness and a future for your child without raising him or her yourself.”

Tragically, too often “pro-choice” ends up meaning “no choice but abortion.” Let’s do all we can to show women the real choices besides abortion—which are far superior, with outcomes involving life, not death.

Randy Alcorn

Crash and Turn

Growing up in Colorado, I used to be an avid skier and would go skiing numerous times every winter. On December 29, 1993, my view of skiing, and more importantly, my view of God’s plan for my life, changed dramatically.

Two of my friends and I, all three of us very good skiers, had been tackling black diamond (difficult) runs all morning. We decided to race down a blue (intermediate) run. Wanting to win the race, I was essentially skiing straight down the mountain. I have no idea how fast I was going, but it was fast. Right when I recognized that I was on the edge of being completely out of control, I saw a sharp turn forced by trees quickly approaching. I knew I needed to slow way down. I decided to attempt a giant hockey stop/slide, and it didn’t end well. I crashed badly, and while I tumbled down the mountain, I felt my leg bend as if a new joint had formed in the middle of my shin. I instantly knew my leg was broken.

I finally slid to a stop and waited there until my friends caught up with me. Not knowing I was injured, they both sprayed me with snow and jokingly criticized me for littering my ski equipment all over the slope. Once I convinced them that my leg was indeed broken (one of them actually told me to get up and shake it off, not realizing that might have actually been literally possible at that moment), they skied down the remainder of the run, got the ski patrol, and came back to where I was lying. The ski patrol positioned me on a sled and took me down to the lodge.

I knew my leg was broken, but I didn’t know how badly it was broken until I saw the look on the ski patrol guy’s face when he cut open the leg of my ski pants. I looked down and saw my tibia sticking out of the skin. I had what is known in the skiing world as a “boot break,” a compound open fracture of both my tibia and fibula (the two bones in the lower part of the leg).

I had surgery that evening. Surgery was followed by two months in a cast from my waist to my toes, followed by six weeks in a walking boot (with minimal walking allowed), followed by another four weeks in the walking boot (with more walking allowed). Praise God, I made a full recovery and the injury rarely bothers me.

I went skiing the following winter, but quickly realized that I had turned into a very different skier. Instead of black diamonds, moguls, and jumps, I was simply making big S’s down intermediate runs. The crash, injury, and recovery had ended my love for skiing. I still enjoy it somewhat, but I have no passion for it. I am open to going skiing. But, I seriously doubt I will ever be an avid skier again.

Far more important than how the injury changed my view of skiing, God used the recovery time to change my view of His plan for my life. The injury occurred during the Christmas break of my freshman year of college. I knew God wanted me to go to Bible college, but I was fighting it. I was resisting what I knew was God’s desire, partly out of uncertainty of what I wanted to be when I grew up, and partly out of a desire to finally win the heart of a particular girl I had a huge crush on (which never happened). But, whatever the reason, I was outside of God’s plan. I had the wrong priorities, the wrong plans, and the wrong perspective.

Because of the injury, I had to drop out of the spring semester of college. I was stranded at home and had a lot of time to myself. My youth pastor gave me a stack of books to read, with the Bible on top, of course. I had never really read and studied the Bible for myself. I think I read most of the Bible during my recovery time. God seemed to especially focus my study of His Word on the importance of eternal things, taking my eyes off of the things of this world and instead living for things that matter for eternity (Matthew 6:19-21).

I don’t remember all the books my youth pastor gave me to read, but I vividly remember reading the Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis. The way Screwtape and Wormwood conspired to distract “the Patient” from following Christ was eye-opening. By the end of my recovery, I not only knew God wanted me to go to Bible college, but I wanted to go to Bible college. I didn’t know what God had planned for my life, but I knew I wanted His plan.

I’m sure I had pity-parties after the injury. I am sure there were some “why me?” and “how could You do this to me?” moments. But, by the end, I knew why God had allowed it to happen. God used the crash, the injury, and the recovery to turn my life in a different direction. He used it to change my heart and open my eyes. While I still wish I could have learned the lesson from someone else’s mistake, instead of by my own reckless stupidity, I can now say without any hesitation that I am glad I broke my leg.

I refer to it, lovingly, as my “crash and turn” moment.

S. Michael Houdmann

We Are So Not Into History

It’s increasingly obvious that the modern West has become antihistorical. The past is no longer seen as a useful guide to the present or future, but a misleading, unreliable one. Those who lived in the past are more likely to be dishonored than honored. The study of history itself is often seen as wasteful or even dangerous. When reading Carl Trueman’s Histories and Fallacies, I was interested to see his explanation of how we have arrived at such a point. He offers four reasons.

The first reason is the dominance of science. Many people today understand science to be the only way to achieve objective knowledge. When we reject the notion that truth is available through Scripture or anything else, we are left only with the narrative of science, which assumes that the present is superior to the past and the future will be superior to the present. After all, new scientific discoveries almost invariably supplant those from the past and lead us to greater knowledge, greater wealth, greater health, greater safety. Surely, then, our focus should be on the future far more than the past. Surely one is more important and reliable than the other.

The second reason is related to technology. In former times technology was the domain of the elderly who would instruct young people in its use (such as when a father would teach his son how to use a loom). Today, though, technology is the domain of the young who constantly need to instruct their elders in how to master it and integrate it into their lives. Thus “it invests the young with wisdom and power and makes the old look inept and incompetent.” This helps create and foster a spirit in which we believe there is little wisdom to be gained from the past or from those who have lived in it. Rather, the old must cede to the wisdom of the young.

The third reason relates to the dominance of capitalism and consumerism. They are built upon innovation and, thus, the constant creation and recreation of markets. They also promote commodities that have their own obsolescence built into them. Fashion and phones are equally meant to be temporary rather than permanent, to loosen our grip on the past and present in favor of the future. Yesterday’s wisdom is surely as unfashionable as yesterday’s styles; yesterday’s lessons are surely as useless as yesterday’s computers, for everything is fleeting, everything from the past is soon supplanted by something in the future.

The fourth reason is the rise of the critical attitude embedded in Marxism and postmodernism. These ideologies see history as little more than propaganda that is meant to defend the power of the strong over the marginalized. Added to that is the suspicion that language even has the ability to convey meaning and that a historian can do anything more than manipulate his or her readers according to ideology. In such a context “the writing of history looks like a murky and disreputable trade indeed.” As this critical attitude moves from the minds of the philosophers to the universities, grade schools, and board rooms, it carries its ideologies and skepticisms with it.

Trueman, as a natural contrarian and a trained historian, disputes such antihistorical tendencies and insists that understanding the past is necessary if we are to thrive in the future. “In short, I believe we have a choice. We can ignore history, and thus doom ourselves to understanding our own small world as reflecting nature, just the way things are, and by so doing doom ourselves to be enslaved to the forces around us that remain unseen but which nonetheless exert a powerful pressure on us. Or we can study history, and in so doing, simultaneously relativize ourselves and our times and, ironically, somewhat liberate ourselves in such a way that we understand more of our world and how we fit into it. Only the man who knows the forces that shape the way he thinks is capable of resisting those forces; and history is a great help in identifying and exposing such hidden things.” As for me, I’m with him…

Tim Challies

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