In 2012 my wife, fed up with the public school system where she worked and where our kids went to school, was determined that our youngest would somehow escape before he got to middle school. My attitude at the time was that we, and our other two kids, survived the public school system, so he can too. She was having none of that, and boy am I glad she didn’t!. It wasn’t too long after her declaration that a new local Christian classical school was having a fundraiser featuring Christian guitar virtuoso Phil Keaggy. I missed the concert because of a business trip, but when I got back she was all fired up. It took me a while to understand exactly what classical education was, and get as excited as my wife, but now I’m a full-on evangelist!
Donald J., now President-Elect, Trump has never been and is not now seen by conservative Christians, Evangelicals among them, as one of their own, to say the least. But in an important way, he is very much one of us.
For the last 50 plus years, the dominant cultural apparatus (education, media, and entertainment) has grown increasingly strident in its secularism and hostility to Christianity. No longer can conservative Christians be accepted in polite company; they must be shamed and demonized because they believe in something as archaic as objective morality, absolute standards of right and wrong, and even worse, Truth!
I wrote in previous posts about how human beings have a visceral revulsion toward death. We hate it. You might be surprised to learn that Jesus hated death too. How do we know? First, Jesus wasn’t exactly thrilled to have to be tortured and endure a Roman cross to secure the salvation of his people. In the garden of Gethsemane he prayed three times that God would take this cup of suffering from him, and from Luke 22, “being in anguish, he prayed more earnestly, and his sweat was like drops of blood falling to the ground.” Death was no picnic for Jesus. But in another scene, in the Gospel of John, when he confronts the death of another we observe his own visceral revulsion to the existence of death.
In my previous two posts I wrote about how death in a movie contributes to a secular plausibility structure, and how death lends more credibility to Christianity than atheism/materialism. In this post I want to explain what death is from a Christian perspective, and where it came from.
According to Christianity, death is an aberration. It’s not the way things were supposed to be, and all human beings know this regardless of their beliefs. In Genesis 1 we read that God created the world very good, and Adam and Eve had the run of the place, it was all theirs. Except, that is, one tree. Would Adam (Eve wasn’t around yet) trust and obey his Creator:
15 The Lord God took the man and put him in the Garden of Eden to work it and take care of it. 16 And the Lord God commanded the man, “You are free to eat from any tree in the garden; 17 but you must not eat from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, for when you eat from it you will certainly die.”
“Comrade, your statement is factually incorrect.”
“Yes, it is. But it is politically correct.”
The notion of political correctness came into use among Communists in the 1930s as a semi-humorous reminder that the Party’s interest is to be treated as a reality that ranks above reality itself. Because all progressives, Communists included, claim to be about creating new human realities, they are perpetually at war against nature’s laws and limits. But since reality does not yield, progressives end up pretending that they themselves embody those new realities. Hence, any progressive movement’s nominal goal eventually ends up being subordinated to the urgent, all-important question of the movement’s own power. Because that power is insecure as long as others are able to question the truth of what the progressives say about themselves and the world, progressive movements end up struggling not so much to create the promised new realities as to force people to speak and act as if these were real: as if what is correct politically—i.e., what thoughts serve the party’s interest—were correct factually.
—Angelo M. Codevilla, “The Rise of Political Correctness”
In my last post on the nature of plausibility structures, I used a movie with death as a central character to show how subtle messaging in movies leads to making God seem more or less real to people, thus more or less plausible. As I said, death never caused one of the other characters to ever bring up God, as if the divine being is irrelevant to life and death. I want to make the case briefly that although death and suffering often cause people to reject God, they are a far bigger problem for the materialist/atheist than the Christian. My contention is that death and suffering lends credibility to the Christian faith, while making atheism/materialism less credible.
Plausibility is a word we don’t often hear in church (ever?), but the concept plays a crucial role in helping us keep our kids Christian. A familiar word, it is defined thus: having an appearance of truth or reason; seemingly worthy of approval or acceptance; credible; believable. One of the basic premises of my book is that most people reject the Christian faith, or drift away from it, not because they’ve studied all the evidence, worked through the logic of it, and come to a conclusion, but because it doesn’t seem real to them. It is not plausible to them. If we add structure to the word, we get a building, a structure, of belief in our minds such that certain things seem real and credible to us, and others don’t. The culture we inhabit contributes to that conceptual edifice.
In her fiction, O’Connor deliberately tried to alter her readers’ perception, to get them to notice what she called the “distortions” of modern life and to look at the created world closely enough that they might perceive in its depths proof of a creator. For secular audiences, she saw little point in subtlety, famously explaining her grotesque style in this way: “To the hard of hearing you shout, and for the almost blind you draw large and startling figures.”
—Cassandra Nelson, “Seeing Is Believing: What Flannery O’Connor Meant by ‘Vision'”
Liberal Christianity (J. Gresham Machen’s Christianity & Liberalism is an excellent study on the differences between liberal and conservative Christianity) got it’s start in America in the late 1800/early 1900s. It started with the 17th Century Enlightenment that made reason the ultimate arbiter of truth, which lead to German Higher Criticism’s study of the Bible as a merely human document. Without the supernatural, all that was left of Christianity was ethics, which became the sine qua non of liberal Christianity. When the welfare of human beings becomes the focus of Christianity, and not the glory of a Savior God in Christ, it eventually loses it’s power to captivate the human heart. That’s what happened to “The Evangelical Scion Who Stopped Believing.”
One of the best things about growing up is that, if you can learn from experience, you come to the realization that two things matter more than anything else, truth with a lowercase t and Truth with an uppercase T. You have to tell the truth, demand the truth from others, recognize lies and refute them; you’ve got to see the world as it is, not as you want it to be, not as others who wish to dominate you might say it is. Embracing truth frees you from false expectation, fruitless pursuits, disappointment, pointless anger, envy, despair. And the bigger kind of Truth, that life has meaning, is the sure source of happiness, because it allows you to recognize your true value and potential, encourages a humility that brings peace. Most important, the big-T Truth makes it possible for you to love others for who they are, always without consideration of what they might do for you, and only from such relationships arise those rare moments of pure joy that shine so bright in memory.
—Dean Koontz, The City, p. 96