Tag Archive | worldview

A Brief Theology of Emotions

We all have emotions. How often do we consider emotions from a biblical perspective though?… Yet, what better place to turn than God’s word! So, what does the Bible say about emotions?

Emotions are part of God’s good design

First, it is important to realize that “Our emotional capacities are part of our nature as personal beings created in the image and likeness of God.”[1] Second, Emotions are part of God’s good design.[2] Third, We often don’t think about it but we are actually commanded to be emotional. For example, Psalm 2:11 says “Serve the LORD with fear, and rejoice with trembling.” And there’s a bunch of other examples (Deut. 28:47-48; Ps. 51:17; 97:10; 100:2; Matt. 6:25-34; Rom. 12:9, 15; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:15).

So, Jay Adams says:

“The fact is that there are no damaging or destructive emotions per se. Our emotional makeup is totally from God. All emotions of which He made us capable are constructive when used properly (i.e., in accordance with biblical principles)… All emotions, however, can become destructive when we fail to express them in harmony with biblical limitations and structures.”[3]

You may have heard: “Don’t follow your emotions” or “don’t let your feelings get the best of you,” or “use your head.” But emotions are not bad in themselves. God created us with emotions.

Even our negative emotions are not always wrong. It’s not always bad to feel bad. Sometimes feeling sad and angry is good and right. It’s important to realize that in the Psalms the genre of lament is most dominant.[4] It is also important to remember that there is no book of Joys but there is a book of Lamentations.[5] We don’t always have just “good” feelings and that’s okay. On the other hand, God made us at least in part to experience profound joy and to experience this forever, Psalm 16:11 says. So, our first take away is for us to realize that emotions are not bad in themselves.

But what’s wrong with emotions? Or, why is it that sometimes we can’t or shouldn’t trust our emotions? Because…

Emotions are broken by sin

A lot of us remember the (true) story of Adam and Eve. John Frame has said, “the fall… was rebellion of the whole person—intellect as much as emotions, perception, and will—against God.”[6] After looking at Genesis 3:1-6 (notice the highlighting) we can agree with what Frame says:

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Why should I believe the Bible? (pt 4)

“Why should I believe the Bible?” Well, one reason I believe the Bible is because I find it very… 

Compelling 

The Bible presents a very viable explanation of the world around us. It gives us a worldview that makes sense of reality. It adequately addresses and answers the most fundamental questions of life. Questions like: How did we get here? Is the world chaotic or ordered? What is a human being? Do humans have intrinsic worth? Why do we have a sense of morality? Is there truly morality; right and wrong, good and evil? What happens after we die? Why is it possible to know anything at all? What is the purpose of life? Why is the world so messed up? And is there any hope?

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Jesus and Jihad (part one)

Introduction

Islam has many expressions. It is not monolithic. We are wrong if we think we understand Muslims because we have met one or read the Qur’an. That is a simplistic and false understanding. “Islam is a dynamic and varied religious tradition.”[1] In the same way, if you have met a Christian and read the New Testament, for example, that does not mean that you understand Christianity. “The range of contemporary Muslim religiosity varies tremendously. One of the reasons for this is that people understand and ‘use’ religion in a variety of ways; that is true whether we are dealing with Islam or Christianity or any other religion.”[2]

As Christians have different beliefs regarding certain doctrines, Muslims have different beliefs as well. Christianity has many expressions, liberal and fundamental and various particular denominations. In this post (and in part two), we will explore the Islamic understanding of jihad and contrast it with Christianity. Our first observation is to realize the multifaceted nature of our exploration.

Many Expressions of Islam

As we have briefly seen, not all Muslims are the same and not all Muslims understand jihad in the same way. So, some Muslims emphasize the more peaceful passages (e.g. surah 5:32; 2:256; Allah is also repeatedly said to be “most gracious, most merciful”) and that the Qur’an seems to teach to not begin the fight (2:190; 22:39). However, others believe that those who have not confessed Allah and his prophet have already essentially made war with Muslims and should be subjugated.[3] Some Muslims are strict adherents to Islam and some are secular. Muslims are not homogeneous. (For example, we see two very different narrative accounts in Nabeel Qureshi’s, Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus and Mosab Hassan Yousef’s, Son of Hamas). In fact, “not all Muslims believe that the Qurʾān is the literal and inerrant word of God, nor do all of them believe that Islam requires strict conformity to all the religious and moral precepts in the Qurʾān.”[4] We could group Muslims into three broad groups: secular Muslims, traditional Muslims, and fundamentalist Muslims.

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Let’s Live Consistently

We must follow our beliefs to their logical conclusions even if some would label those beliefs as crazy. It must be noted that unless we truly believe the truth of the Bible and its gospel, it will appear insane to literally or metaphorically take up our cross and follow Christ. Once understood rightly, however, it will be realized to be the logical response. We are told in Romans to present our bodies as a living sacrifice because that is our reasonable (logical) worship (12:1). 1 Kings 18:21 says, “How long will you go limping between two different opinions? If the LORD is God, follow him; but if Baal, then follow him.”

Charles Spurgeon comments: “If God be God, serve him, and do it thoroughly; but if the world be God, serve it, and make no profession of religion.” Later he goes on to tell us, “Either keep up your profession, or give it up… Let your conduct be consistent with your opinions.”

If the Bible and the gospel are true we must live as though they are. We must live in line with what we believe. As the scriptures say, “The LORD is God; there is no other… therefore be wholly true to the LORD our God, walking in His statutes and keeping His Commandments” (1 Kings 8:60-61). If we succeed at living out the logical conclusion of what we believe we may appear crazy but we will be quite sane. Radical, but sane. 

Francis Schaeffer said, “As Christians we must consider what the logical conclusions of our presuppositions are.” I whole heartedly agree. James R. Sire adds:

“It is important to note that our own worldview may not be what we think it is. It is rather what we show it to be by our words and actions… Even when we think we know what it is and lay it out clearly in neat propositions and clear stories, we may well be wrong. Our very actions may belie our self- knowledge… If we want clarity about our own worldview… we must reflect and profoundly consider how we actually behave.”

If we say God is Lord over our entire life but do not show that He is Lord in our lives then it is very unlikely that we believe it. Further, if God is not our Lord then He is not our Savior. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer said, “The religion of Christ is not a tidbit after one’s bread; on the contrary, it is the bread or it is nothing else.”

In a survey The Barna Group conducted in 2006 they found that

“Faith commitments sometimes play a role in what people do – but less often than might be assumed. In comparing the lifestyle choices of born again Christians to the national norms, there were more areas of similarity than distinction… In evaluating 15 moral behaviors, born again Christians are statistically indistinguishable from non-born again adults on most of the behaviors studied.”

This should not be the case because as Christians we are called to be different. We, as believers, are called to act in accordance with our beliefs and live holy lives devoted to the Lord. It is possible to profess to know God and yet deny Him by our works (cf. Titus 1:16) but let this never be true of us. May we always profess to know God and also demonstrate that we know God by how we live our lives.

Let’s live like the new creations that we are. 

How do you see the world?

We all have dispositions. A certain bent to live one way and not another. We all see the world through a lens. A lens of upbringing, culture, education, and more. We each have a view of the world. This is known as a worldview.

So, what is your worldview? How do you view the world and what are the shapers of that view? These are important questions because, whether we know it or not, we all have a view of the world and what makes up the “good life.” And it is shaped by all sorts of things. But is it shaped by the right things?

Do we get our worldview simply from our parents? Our education? The entertainment we ingest? Everything is speaking to us.

However, are we listening critically or just unconsciously breathing it all in?

The vehicles we drive are all equipped with windshield wipers so that our view will not be obstructed. It is dangerous for yourself and others to drive when you cannot see clearly.

In the same way, it is important that as we drive down the road of life we see things in the correct way. It is important that we have a worldview that is in line with reality and will not send us or others crashing to our deaths.

When traveling down life’s road it is important to consider the destination. There are pertinent life questions that need answered if we are to go down the path of life with direction and intentionality. If we have a correct view of life, i.e. worldview, we will avoid many pitfalls along life’s path.

God is outside time. He is the author of time. The author of the cosmos. And He is also the author of Scripture. We would be wise to get our view of the world from the great Architect.  His Word truly is a light to our path (Ps. 119:105). C. S. Lewis said, “I believe in God like I believe in the sun, not because I can see it, but because of it all things are seen.”

How do you see the world? Start by considering these questions:*

  • What is reality? What is really real?
  • What is the nature of the world around us? Is it chaotic or orderly? Is it all natural or is there supernatural?
  • What is a human being?
  • What happens to a person at death?
  • Why is it possible to know anything at all?
  • How do we know what is right and wrong?
  • What is the meaning of history?
  • What personal, life-orienting core commitments are consistent with this worldview?
  • What do you desire? What is your view of the “good life”?

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*Cf. James W. Sire, The Universe Next Door (Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 2009).

“Genetic Homosexual?” and our morality…

John is attracted to men. Jane is attracted to women. And so, our cultural says, “Go for it! If that’s the way you feel (the culture’s only form of “objective” truth). After all, that’s the way you were born. It’s in your genes.”

I, Paul, am attracted to women (pl.) and yet I am married, to a singular woman. I also have the tendency, bent, disposition, because of innumerable factors (nature, nurture, etc.) to be angry and act out in anger. If I left myself unchecked and just did whatever I felt like, I, sad to say, would be an abusive adulterer. Something that would not be good for me, my wife, my children, or society. 

So, even if I am by nature a genetic abusive adulterer is that ok? Should I be content with that? Promote that? 

I do not see how that is admirable. Many people would lead me to believe that is the higher good; to be something akin to animals. To do whatever we want, whatever our natural self would want to do. It sounds like many would sniff the wind and follow their inner impulse. However, does anyone realize that our inner impulse, whatever it might be, will often lead to some very bad places?

We all have many dispositions: selfishness, pride, boastfulness, etc. but that does not make it right; even if natural. If we want to just say that everyone should just do whatever their genetic disposition has given them, then we should just do away with the penal system and society in general. For what, in that line of thought, would allow us justification to repress any inner and natural desire?

Many studies, for instance, show that many drug addicts, whether meth, heroin, or cocaine, have a genetic disposition to drug addiction. However, we don’t say, or most of us don’t say, that drug addiction is okay. Why? Many would say because it harms the body and harms society. Just because someone has a disposition for something does not justify that disposition. 

The logic that says homosexuality is fine because people have a disposition towards it is faulty. That just does not follow. People have dispositions in all sorts of ways. But that does not make it morally good. 

People say: “To your own self be true” and other such phrases. But where does our deepest self lay? In our pants? Or does our mind and our convictions play a pretty big part? Maybe being “true to our self” also, and more fundamentally, means being true to our convictions, to what we think and believe at the core of our being. If I ask, “Is love more than bodily fluids?” This will be answered not unbiasedly but according to other deeper and more fundamental questions.  The real issue at stake in this conversation is about fundamental convictions; how we see the world, our ultimate desires, our view of life and our view of “the good.”

People, for instance, compare sex to eating. Yes, sex is like eating in some ways. It is a natural enough thing (although much more significant psychologically, relationally, etc.), yet if we don’t eat we die. That is not the case with sex. Yet sex, under certain belief systems, e.g. naturalistic hedonism, will be seen as close to ultimate. Whereas the Christian sees sex as a good gift from God. A gift that must be enjoyed in the right way to the right end. In the Christian’s belief system there is something more awesome more significant than sex, infinitely more.

When the Christian, whether their tendency is more towards heterosexual, homosexual, or bisexual temptation, has found that there is something more significant, lasting, and satisfying than sex (yes, something better than sex!) it obviously impacts them. They can be recreated and desire what is more significant than some of their inner dispositions.[1] Through relationships, whether with friends, a spouse, or God, we see that we are not just sexual animals; that is one part of our constitution. It is not, or I don’t think we should let it be, the fundamental and driving part. That view is shallow, problematic, and simply just not accurate to reality.

What we are seeing in our culture is two worldviews colliding. One says we are fundamentally animals and thus expects us to live according to our innate animal desires. And from that worldview, it’s consistent. Only why stop with adultery or homosexuality?… whatever one finds to do, whatever the desire, it should be allowed in that system.[2] The other worldview says we are not animals and we should not live simply according to our desires. Our desires can be wrong, very wrong. The Christian says that we were created in the image of God but have been marred through sin. We need to be remade in God’s image by listening to His Word. The problem happened in the beginning exactly because we were not listening and did what we (wrongly) desired.

Our desire must be shaped, informed, led by He who knows; namely God. God has all wisdom. Not us. He, as our good Father, knows how to give good gifts, even if we think we want something else. He knows what we ultimately need and what will ultimately satisfy.

So, there may be “genetic homosexuals” that are not practicing homosexuals. I myself am a “genetic adulterer” yet, by God’s empowering grace, I am not a practicing adulterer.

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[1] Of course, here, if someone sees humans as fundamentally just sexual animals then what I am saying will be scoffed at. However, I will also rightfully scoff at their shallow, sad, and bankrupt view. If we are mere animals then what of love, what of society, what of the penal system? Obviously, “non-Christian presuppositions will lead to non-Christian interpretations and ultimately to non-Christian conclusions” (Michael J. Kruger, “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics,” 87 in The Master’s Seminary Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 2001). Yet, those conclusions are chaotic, problematic, and wrong.

[2] “Logic, science, and morality make no sense within the non-Christian worldview. For example, how can the atheist justify and explain the origin and universal applicability of moral absolutes? He simply cannot. Consider philosopher William Lane Craig as he explains the impossibility of moral absolutes in an atheist worldview: If there is no God, then any ground for regarding the herd morality evolved by homo sapiens as objectively true seems to have been removed. After all, what is so special about human beings? They are just accidental by-products of nature which have evolved relatively recently on an infinitesimal speck of dust lost somewhere in a hostile and mindless universe and which are doomed to perish individually and collectively in a relatively short time. Some action, say incest, may not be biologically or socially advantageous and so in the course of human evolution has become taboo; but there is on the atheistic view nothing re ally wrong about committing incest. If, as Kurt states, ‘The moral principles that govern our behavior are rooted in habit and custom, feeling and fashion,’ then the non-comformist who chooses to flout the herd morality is doing nothing more serious than acting unfashionably (William Lane Craig, The Indispensability of Theological Meta-Ethical Foundations for Morality, located at http://www.leaderu.com/offices/billcraig/meta-eth.html, 4)” (Michael J. Kruger, “The Sufficiency of Scripture in Apologetics,” 83n35 in The Master’s Seminary Journal, Vol. 12, No. 1, Spring 2001).

The Breadth and Width of Musical Expression

It’s important for a painter to paint with a full pallet; yellows, reds, and blues and various types of hues; orange, green, and pink, in short, a full panorama of colors. This allows one to do better justice to reality. If a painter paints for very long and very well, he will eventually use the full range of colors.

Shouldn’t it be the same for musicians? Should not they, at times, have clashing symbols, bludgeoning bass, and frantic whispers? Is not there a time for aggression as well as joy? Soprano singers have their place, that’s true; but left to their own devices they won’t be able to communicate the breadth of the human condition and reality. We need waltzes and swing, we need metal and Mozart, we need jazz and, surprised to say, we need pop. However, that is not to say that all forms or types of music are good. That is not true in the artistic or moral sense. What I mean, rather, is that human experience is so broad that we need lots of “colors” and “easels” to express it. Look at the Psalms. Or look even just at David’s Psalms. David would have understood (and perhaps wrote) pop praise songs akin to what we hear on the radio as well as laments. David did not paint with broad bland strokes but used the appropriate “brush” for the appropriate picture.

I think we see a parallel also in the breadth of literature or genres in Scripture. One genre or form of literature simply won’t do in the communication of truth.[1] In the same way, contemporary Christian music in the vein of CCM, won’t be able to communicate the full breadth of truth in Scripture.[2] There are things worth screaming over and musically weeping over. I, for instance, am personally convinced that Christians need double-bass “fight” songs from time to time. I would argue that some heavy music is better than a lot of the stuff we hear on Christian radio (see here and here). 

Popular contemporary Christian music tends to paint with brood bright strokes, using mainly happy and poppy major chords. Dark colors and minor keys seem to be all but forgotten. It’s like they’ve remembered redemption but forgotten the Fall. There are reasons to rejoice. But there are also reasons to weep, and scream. Christianity offers a full-orbed worldview. It deals with the pain and paradoxes of life. Much of contemporary Christian music doesn’t. A lot of secular music deals with angst; and that, that I can relate to. The world has much good in it, yet much bad, we are vying for meaning and redemption, and we have a thirst that can’t be quenched here. Much of contemporary Christian music, through lyrics and arrangement, doesn’t deal with or admit angst. It often seems ingeniune.[3]

Witness the realness and struggles of the Psalms. They are not always just poppy and happy. Sometimes they are, but not always. They incorporate a richer view of what it is to be: Blacks, browns, grays as well as pinks, yellows, and light blues; they use minor as well as major cords. They sing and scream. They cry and rejoice.

When all Scripture references to music making are combined, we learn that we are to make music in every conceivable condition: joy, triumph, imprisonment, solitude, grief, peace, war, sickness, merriment, abundance, and deprivation. This principle implies that the music of the church should be a complete music, not one-sided or single faceted.”[4]

The Psalms and the Bible broadly communicate and speak to the human condition and I hope more and more Christian art will as well.

Christian music as a role should take into account the major plot turns of Scripture. Neither stuck in the Fall or New Creation. To do justice to Scripture and reality, much of Christian music must expand its scope to include the Fall and the tragic pain and loss that humanity now suffers as a result.

“Modern and postmodern art often claim to tell the truth about the pain and absurdity of human existence, but that is only part of the story. The Christian approach to the human condition is more complete, and for that reason more hopeful (and ultimately more truthful). Christian artists celebrate the essential goodness of the world that God has made… Such celebration is not a form of naive idealism, but of healthy realism. At the same time, Christian artists also lament the ugly intrusion of evil into a world that is warped by sin, mourning the lost beauties of a fallen paradise… There is a sense not only of what we are, but also of what we were: creatures made to be like God… Even better, there is a sense of what we can become. Christian art is redemptive… Rather than giving in to meaninglessness and despair, Christian artists know that there is a way out.”[5]

Hopefully there will be more and more Christian artists that deal with the damning affects of the Fall. That will deal with the angst and anger we often feel. But also the amazing promise of hope, redemption, and shalom through Messiah Jesus. This world is fallen but we must not forget the future, the coming reign of Christ, or what He has already accomplished on the cross.

True Christian expression should take into account the dark night of the soul, the melancholy madness we sometimes feel, as well as exuberant joy. It should recall our suffering Savior on the cross as well as His coming reign in which He’ll slay unrepentant sinners. It should at times acknowledge doubt and affirm belief. It should encompass the whole range of human emotions, various genres of Scripture, and the full sweep of the Christian story and the end (telos) of it all should be the glory of God through the exaltation of Christ.

This then would be real, rich, and weighty musical art. Music that strives, obtains, aches, yearns, realizes, weeps, and rejoices. Music that is accurate and true; music that is richly diverse and leaks over into other genres. Music that reflects the great story that we all find ourselves in—the creation of all things good, the Fall and thus futility we all reckon with, the redemption offered in Christ, and the Judgment and New Creation that awaits. Music that is rich, hopeful, and honest. Music that is hard and peaceful. Music that does justice to the world we live in, in all of its beauty and pain. Music that offers hope and redemption but that’s not naive about pain and pointlessness and suffering.

Music has a distinct ability to distill, channel, and focus truth and beauty into a unified whole so that the result is a type of laser that cuts into our core to wreak havoc and heal. As Augustine said, sounds flow into our ears, and truth streams into our hearts. Music is important and it shapes us.[6] It is thus important that it is done well and shapes us well, to the right end (telos).

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[1] “When the psalmist says, ‘Sing to him a new song; play skillfully, and shout for passages throughout the Psalms refer to all four main forms of music: strings, woodwinds, brass, and percussion. The ascriptions to the Psalms also contain evocative references to musical tunes, such as “The Death of the Son’ (Ps. 9) and ‘The Lily of the Covenant’ (Ps. 60). The Bible is full of many kinds of music. And as for literature, what further endorsement is needed beyond the Bible itself, which is the world’s richest anthology of stories, poems, historical torical narratives, romances, soliloquies, psalms, laments, prophecies, proverbs, parables, epistles, and apocalyptic visions?” (Philip Graham Ryken. Art for God’s Sake: A Call to Recover the Arts [Kindle Locations 180-185]. Kindle Edition.)

[2] “By continuously ‘praising the Lord’ the CCM artist rarely shows evidence of a comprehensive worldview. In fact, the world is not viewed at all. What is viewed is personal spiritual experience and usually only its more beautiful peaks. The valley of the shadow of death is rarely traversed, nor is the valley of indecision” (Steve Turner, Imagine: a vision for Christians in the arts, 52).

[3] “The problem with some modern and postmodern art is that it seeks to offer truth at the expense of beauty. It tells the truth only about ugliness and alienation, leaving out the beauty of creation and redemption. A good deal of so-called Christian art tends to have the opposite problem. It tries to show beauty without admitting the truth about sin, and to that extent it is false-dishonest about the tragic implications of our depravity. Think of all the bright, sentimental landscapes that portray an ideal world unaffected by the Fall, or the light, cheery melodies that characterize the Christian life as one of undiminished happiness. Such a world may be nice to imagine, but it is not the world God sent his Son to save” (Ryken, Art for God’s Sake, 242-246).

[4] Harold M. Best, Music Through the Eyes of Faith, 186.

[5] Ryken. Art for God’s Sake, 217-227

[6] “Music gets ‘in’ us in ways that other forms of discourse rarely do. A song gets absorbed into our imagination in a way that mere texts rarely do… Song seems to have a privileged channel to our imagination, to our kardia, because it involves our body in a unique way… Perhaps it is by hymns, songs, and choruses that the word of Christ ‘dwells in us richly’” (Smith, Desiring the Kingdom, 171).

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