Quote of the Day

We have staked the whole future of American civilization, not upon the power of government, far from it. We have staked the future of all of our political institutions upon the capacity of mankind of self-government; upon the capacity of each and all of us to govern ourselves, to control ourselves, to sustain ourselves according to the ten commandments of God.

–James Madison.

“Male and female he created them . . . .” “Transparent” in the 21st Century

TransparentThe last month or so I’ve been seeing pictures online of what is obviously a man dressed up like a women promoting a TV show called Transparent. Apparently it won some Golden Globe nominations last month. I had an inkling why. Doesn’t it figure that in 21st Century America the first streaming series from Amazon is about a transgendered person. This is obviously the next great wave of cultural transformation brought to us by our secular progressive cultural elites. Obviously we need to become more tolerant and accepting of minorities and those different from us. Notice what this show is about:

“Transparent,” the latest gift from the streaming Gods, is being released in its entirety Friday, the better for binge watching one half-hour episode after another.

The Amazon series, created by “Six Feet Under” and “The United States of Tara” alum Jill Soloway, revolves around an L.A. family that would give Fox News anchors a cow if they stumbled across it: The father (Jeffrey Tambor) has been secretly dressing as a woman for years, and eldest daughter Sarah (Amy Landecker), a stay at home mom with kids, begins screwing around with her lesbian lover from college soon after they meet again. Then there’s music producer Josh (Jay Duplass), who has had a secret affair with the family’s baby sitter, and is carrying on with a young musician client Kaya (Alison Sudol).

Youngest Ali (“Girls” co-star Gaby Hoffmann) has no job and questionable judgment.

The Pfefferman family, is other words, is gloriously unconventional. Even better, it is not studiously so. Family members can’t help but follow their hearts wherever they lead them; they are not trying to create waves.

How quaint. This is quintessential post-modern America, post-Christian in every way. The ethical imperative, what is truly virtuous in our day is to “follow our hearts” because there is nothing more important than self-fulfillment, of being “authentic” to our true selves. This is of course absurd because the writer would never say the rapist or racists or sexist or thief or murderer or bully or any person with any number of such vicious actions or attitudes should “follow their hearts.”

The last thing a fallen sinful human being should do is “follow their heart.” As we’re told in Jeremiah 17:9: “The heart is deceitful above all things and beyond cure. Who can understand it?” Yet American culture is awash in such blather about being true to ourselves. The secularist cannot have it both ways. They claim some kind of objective morality doesn’t actually exist, but themselves impose a moral standard because some moral must be imposed one way or the other; the question is whose or what moral standard.

It will great when some day sophisticated and talented Christians are making TV shows that deal with reality as reality really is. Until then we have to put up with characters like our transgendered hero that “follow their heart” and then be told this is the pinnacle of virtue.





Quote of the Day

Whenever we come upon these matters in secular writers, let that admirable light of truth shining in them teach us that the mind of man, though fallen and perverted from its wholeness, is nevertheless clothed and ornamented with God’s excellent gifts. If we regard the Spirit of God as the sole fountain of truth, we shall neither reject the truth itself, nor despise it wherever it shall appear, unless we wish to dishonor the Spirit of God.

–John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion (p. 273)

First Century Text of Mark Discovered

Old TextA critical part of Christians effectively engaging the culture is something called apologetics, which simply means defending the veracity of the gospel and Christian worldview. The term comes from I Peter 3:15:

But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have.

The Greek word for “to give an answer,” or sometimes translated as a defense is ἀπολογίαν, apologia. Thus the term apologetics. We cannot be effective witnesses for Christ in the culture unless we know what we believe, i.e. theology and doctrine, and why we believe what we believe, and are able to effectively, and winsomely, defend it.

One of the reasons Christians can have confidence in what they believe is that we can be reasonably certain that what we read in our New Testaments is what was actually written by who it was written by. Even when they disagree with the who part, non-believing scholars agree that the text of the New Testament we have comes to us pretty much accurately from the first century. We know this because of a science called textual criticism, which simply means how we handle ancient texts to get as close as possible to the original manuscripts, in our case what was actually written by Matthew, Mark, Luke, John, Paul, et al.

As new discoveries have been made over the last century the case for the validity of the New Testament text has only grown stronger. Now we have an exciting new discovery that has given us the oldest copy of a gospel text known to exist. This fragment from the gospel of Mark, the earliest written of the four, has been dated to before 90 AD. The implications for our faith are too deep to go into in a blog post, but they are multifaceted and encouraging. You can find out more at this book review of Craig Blomberg’s The Historical Reliability of the Gospels, and if you’re so inclined read the book. It’s on my Wish List.



Quote of the Day

Daniel Patrick Moynihan, a lifelong New Deal liberal and accomplished social scientist, warned that “the issue of welfare is not what it costs those who provide it but what it costs those who receive it.” As a growing portion of the population succumbs to the entitlement state’s ever-expanding menu of temptations, the costs, Eberstadt concludes, include a transformation of the nation’s “political culture, sensibilities, and tradition,” the weakening of America’s distinctive “conceptions of self-reliance, personal responsibility, and self-advancement,” and perhaps a “rending of the national fabric.” As a result, “America today does not look exceptional at all.”

George Will: “The harm incurred by a mushrooming welfare state”

The Appearance of Design?

300px-Da_Vinci_Vitruve_Luc_ViatourIf you are at all familiar with the so called “new atheists” that are not really new, this phrase will sound familiar. To anyone with up to five senses the universe is an amazing, awe inspiring place; so much so that it almost appears as if someone purposefully designed it this way. I say almost because design in nature is something the atheist cannot allow, but since the evidence for design is so overwhelming they will admit that it appears as if it is designed. They know better of course because evolution is a “fact,” and natural selection and random mutation are unguided processes that somehow for no reason at all “make” things that appear designed. A title of a book I read recently tells well my response such thinking: I Don’t Have Enough Faith to be an Atheist.

For 90 plus percent of the people on earth, what appears to be designed actually is. All the artifacts of human civilization made by human beings also appear to be designed because they actually are designed. From the simplest to the most complex, we all know the inference from design to a designer is just plain old common sense. But when it comes to nature the atheist thinks such an inference is invalid. What this tells us is that the atheist has an a priori commitment to naturalism: there is no God, an unprovable assumption btw, ergo any appearance of design is an illusion.

I thought of all this when I saw an article last week with the title, “The Beautiful Math Inside All Living Things.” This short piece, with no mention of God, shows us the amazing precision of life mathematically considered. It is mind blowing. The rational response should be doxology. How such exquisite beauty would not create a crisis of doubt in the atheist’s faith commitment to naturalism leaves me dumbfounded, but alas we know why this is. We call it the fall. But for those who know better, the fundamental fact of existence is found in the very first words of the Bible: “In the beginning God created . . . “

Quote of the Day

Here’s my suggestion: You can’t beat something with nothing—perhaps better, you can’t beat something with nothingness.

If all that Europe can say in condemning the despicable murders of Charlie Hebdo’s cartoonists and editors is “We are all Charlie Hebdo,” then what Europe is saying is, in effect, “We are all nihilists.” And how, pray, is nihilism—nothingness raised to a first principle, skepticism taken to the last extreme—supposed to defeat conviction, however warped that conviction is? If all that Europe can say to murderous jihadism is “Why can’t we all just get along?” its fecklessness will make it an even softer target for the kind of lethal fanaticism that recently turned Paris into a war zone.

–George Weigel, “Europe and Nothingness”

Profile – Education: Gabrielle D’Virgilio

ImageGabrielle D’Virgilio, a 2014 graduate of Hillsdale College, got her first job teaching fifth grade at a new charter classical school near Tampa, Florida, Classical Preparatory School. With a passion for liberal arts and classical education received from Hillsdale, Gabrielle is able to bring the classical ideals of goodness, beauty and truth to a public education setting not normally hospitable to such ideas.

What was your college experience like at Hillsdale?

Life at Hillsdale is such a unique world. I could talk forever about my college experience, but the most important thing you can know about Hillsdale is how much the leadership, faculty, and staff of the college care about the heart, mind, and soul of each of their students. It is a college where the professors know each student by name and invite them over to their homes for a meal with their family; where its president sits down for lunch regularly with his students in their main cafeteria to discuss, “What is THE good?” It is a college that constantly strives, in every way, whether sports, fraternities, organizations, or classes, for Truth, Goodness, and Beauty—although we admittedly don’t always do so perfectly, we desire and search for the Higher things constantly. This atmosphere and philosophy pervades every aspect of campus and can’t help but capture the hearts of its students. I would not have the heart and mind that I do, nor would I be the person that I am without the influence of every professor and fellow student I had the privilege to learn under and from throughout my four years at Hillsdale College. It is a place where all striving to learn the true meaning and purpose of life and of mankind, and do so with diligence, humility, and perseverance. It is because of these things and so much more that I could never put into words why I could not be more proud and honored to call Hillsdale College my Alma Mater.

Why did you decide to go into teaching?

Like I told my students, the idea of being a teacher has always appealed to me; however, what I was interested in when I was little (i.e. being the boss, writing on the board, sticking it to “the man” that is public, government funded education) changed hugely after my education at Hillsdale. Minoring in Classical Education and learning from professors who truly loved it and everything it stood for, I started to see my reasoning for going into education shift. I was told that if you don’t first and foremost love learning, the life of the mind, and the life-long pursuit of truth, goodness, and beauty, there is no reason to go into teaching.

Secondly, I must love people and care about the formation of their minds, hearts, and souls. I was asked to really reflect on my intentions and search my heart to see if they were in the right place while completing my apprenticeship at Hillsdale Academy. I completed this apprenticeship in my last semester of my collegiate career, a timing for which I am grateful. I could tell that my mind and heart had been molded and shaped to seek out the higher things in all that I do, and my love for other human beings (even those who are difficult) had been truly engrained within me—especially through my experience in my fraternity, Kappa Kappa Gamma. I wanted to make the world a better place through teaching others to believe in the dignity of man and to love/grapple with the difficult journey to wisdom and knowledge. It is because of these acquired desires attained through my family and through Hillsdale that I went into education. I am so grateful I did.

What is it like as a Christian teaching classical education in a public school setting?

I’ve gotten this question often once people learn that I, as a Christian, am teaching at a classical charter school: “How can you have a classical education without Christianity?” I have asked myself that question a lot, and what I have found is that it is impossible. I am a firm believer that all Truth is the Triune God’s Truth; therefore, every bit of Truth that I teach my students is the Truth of Christianity. The beauty of learning about classical education through Hillsdale College is that they made me realize that Christianity fulfills this old type of education specifically.

There is a prevalent school of thought that believes the ancient Greek and Roman philosophers came so close to Christian truth without Christ himself. If they had known of him, surely they would know that this is the God-child who is meant to fulfill all knowledge, earthly and otherwise. I tend to agree with this thought. Although our human reasoning can only take us so far until revelation has to step in, we were created with a mind to seek Him in knowledge and a Heart to seek after His own; therefore, as a Christian educator in a charter school, I come to each and every lesson with that belief. Everything I teach my kids is meant to mold and shape them—to make them better, more virtuous human beings. This is not just any Truth I am teaching them, but God’s perfect and satisfying Truth, and THAT is what makes teaching so satisfying. I know I am doing them good. I know I want what is truly good for them, and I know, with the right intentions and heart, nothing can lead me astray—not even the most secular, anti-Christian setting (which I am not currently in, thankfully).\

How are you able to teach public school children without your faith going beyond public school rules and etiquette?

It is difficult to stay within the confines of public school standards when it comes to sharing my faith; however, it is not impossible. The first and most obvious way to share my faith with my kids is by living the example of a Christian life. I do this by loving those kids who struggle to accept it, pour my heart into those who don’t deserve it, and talk about the dignity of man and the beauty of Truth as much as I possibly can. Another way is by simple presenting the argument from a Christian perspective, and following up with this proposal: “At our school, we believe there is an ultimate, objective Truth that is ours to obtain. I will not sit here and tell you what that Truth is; however, I will say that it is our duty as men to seek out every avenue that tells us ‘This is THE truth,’ and to see if it complies with that which is Good, and True, and Beautiful. This is not a simple endeavor, but it is a worthwhile one, and I hope that I can instill the curiosity in you to try and find it for the rest of your lives.”

Do you have any suggestions for other Christian young people who aspire to go into education?

DO IT! Jump into education no matter how difficult and hopeless it may seem. It is SO incredibly necessary. All I can say is we need to be and are called to be the light and salt of the earth. We need to show the way to Him and benefit people through our love and faith in Him, and what better way than being in a classroom with malleable minds and hearts for seven hours a day, 180 days a year?

I feel convicted to tell you (although we all know this in essence) that you will never do this perfectly. Your kids need to know you are imperfect so they can relate to you. The other reason I say this is because you will not always succeed in your pursuit of changing lives. You are not the sole person responsible for raising this particular child in the way he or she ought to go. True education is a partnership between you, as the teacher, the leadership of the school, and (most importantly) the parents. This, however, does not mean you aren’t important and vital in the life of a given child. Even if you feel incapable at the thought of having to mold young minds and hearts, if you have the love of learning and of people and rely on the strength of the Lord, you can and will make it through.

Not only will you simply “make it through,” but you will do so excellently and will learn so much about yourself, your purpose in life, and how you can make the world a better place by the simple act of influencing kids each and every day.  If you are sure of yourself and most importantly, sure in the strength of Christ, you can, in even the most hostile environments, change at least one heart and mind; and even one changed soul is worth every effort in the world.

Martin Luther King, Jr. Secular Saint?

martin-luther-king-1965-selma-hero-fix-HI just finished reading Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” which I had never read from start to finish before, and I was struck by what a deeply intellectual and Christian man he was. I knew this, but reading his words themselves at length and not the man mediated by a secular media really brought this home. Many forget that the civil rights movement was driven by men, and women, like Dr. King who were deeply religious. In fact you might be tempted to think from the general cultural portrayal that the movement was primarily secular in nature, and that religion was somehow tangential to its driving force and success. Nothing could be further from the truth.

This isn’t to say that what we learn in school or popular culture ignores that he was a minister, or that his faith inspired him, but you’ll rarely see his Christian convictions given the emphasis it deserves as the very reason that he did what he did. His Christian faith was the driving force of his life, and Christians should never tire of reminding Americans that this was the case. King was no secular saint, and there would have been no civil rights movement if there had been no Christianity.

As you read the letter you will see that Christians don’t get off without blame for either being quite in the face of or endorsing the evils of segregation. As we see all throughout the Bible itself, God’s people are deeply flawed, fallen creatures, as was King himself. But the moral foundation of the Jewish religion that was fulfilled in Christ, gave the world a moral north star that always shines through the fog of fallen human nature. King is a perfect example, a prophet who changed the course of history, and like many of the prophets who came before, gave his life for it. Just like his Savior did.

Quote of the Day

MLK JailWe have waited for more than three hundred and forty years for our constitutional and God-given rights. The nations of Asia and Africa are moving with jet-like speed toward the goal of political independence, and we still creep at horse and buggy pace toward the gaining of a cup of coffee at a lunch counter. I guess it is easy for those who have never felt the stinging darts of segregation to say, “Wait.” But when you have seen vicious mobs lynch your mothers and fathers at will and drown your sisters and brothers at whim; when you have seen hate filled policemen curse, kick, brutalize and even kill your black brothers and sisters with impunity; when you see the vast majority of your twenty million Negro brothers smothering in an airtight cage of poverty in the midst of an affluent society; when you suddenly find your tongue twisted and your speech stammering as you seek to explain to your six-year-old daughter why she can’t go to the public amusement park that has just been advertised on television, and see tears welling up in her eyes when she is told that Funtown is closed to colored children, and see the depressing clouds of inferiority begin to form in her little mental sky, and see her begin to distort her little personality by unconsciously developing a bitterness toward white people; when you have to concoct an answer for a five-year-old son asking in agonizing pathos: “Daddy, why do white people treat colored people so mean?”; when you take a cross-country drive and find it necessary to sleep night after night in the uncomfortable corners of your automobile because no motel will accept you; when you are humiliated day in and day out by nagging signs reading “white” and “colored”; when your first name becomes “nigger,” your middle name becomes “boy” (however old you are) and your last name becomes “John,” and your wife and mother are never given the respected title “Mrs.”; when you are harried by day and haunted by night by the fact that you are a Negro, living constantly at tip-toe stance never quite knowing what to expect next, and plagued with inner fears and outer resentments; when you are forever fighting a degenerating sense of “nobodiness”; then you will understand why we find it difficult to wait. There comes a time when the cup of endurance runs over, and men are no longer willing to be plunged into an abyss of despair. I hope, sirs, you can understand our legitimate and unavoidable impatience.

–Martin Luther King, Jr., Letter from a Birmingham Jail