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Denison Forum on Truth and Culture Christian Blog and Commentary

Jim Denison

Dr. Jim Denison engages contemporary culture with biblical truth
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A van plowed into a crowd of people in Barcelona, Spain, yesterday. The death toll rose to fourteen this morning, with more than one hundred injured.

British actress Laila Rouass live tweeted her experience: “In the middle of the attack. Hiding in a restaurant freezer. Happened so fast. Praying for the safety of everyone here.”

Eight hours later, a second attack at the resort city of Cambrils was stopped when police killed five terrorists.

If these attacks had happened in America prior to 9/11, we would have been surprised and shocked. Even though Islamic radicals had been waging war for years, the 1993 shootings at the CIA Headquarters and the World Trade Center bombing in New York City were the only terror attacks on American soil.

But our ignorance did not change reality. From the 1979 seizure of our embassy in Iran until September 11, 2001, Wikipedia lists fifty-eight other jihadist attacks, killing more than two thousand people. These attacks did not shock most Americans because they seemed irrelevant to our lives.

Since 9/11, Wikipedia lists 419 separate attacks through June 9, 2017, killing more than fourteen thousand people. However, only ten of these were on American soil. The others did not shock most of us because we have grown callous to global jihadism.

Here’s my point: in our post-9/11 world, terrorism affects us emotionally to the degree it affects us personally.

This fact reflects our existentialist worldview. Most people in the West believe that truth is personal and individual. The world is whatever we believe it to be. History begins and ends with us. What doesn’t touch me doesn’t affect me.

What if our Lord viewed suffering this way? “God is in heaven and you are on earth” (Ecclesiastes 5:2). In a sense, nothing that happens here affects him there. We are sinful, but he is sinless (Hebrews 4:15). We are mortal, but he is immortal (Psalm 102:12). We are weak, but he is omnipotent (Jeremiah 32:27).

And yet, because God loves us, everything that happens here affects him there. In The Cross of Christ, John R. W. Stott asks:

“In the real world of pain, how could one worship a God who was immune to it? I have entered many Buddhist temples in different Asian countries and stood respectfully before the statue of the Buddha, his legs crossed, arms folded, eyes closed, the ghost of a smile playing round his mouth, a remote look on his face, detached from the agonies of the world.

“But each time, after a while I have had to look away. And in imagination I have turned instead to the lonely, twisted, tortured figure on the cross, nails through hands and feet, back lacerated, limbs wrenched, brow bleeding from thorn pricks, mouth dry and intolerably thirsty, plunged in God-forsaken darkness.

“That is the God for me! He laid aside His immunity to pain. He entered our world of flesh and blood, tears and death. He suffered for us. Our sufferings become more manageable in the light of His. There is still a question mark against human suffering, but over it we stamp another mark, the cross which symbolizes divine suffering.”

Now, our crucified God calls us to share his pain for our suffering world. He calls us to pray for those devastated in Barcelona as though they lived in our community. He calls us to pray for the conversion of radical Muslims as though they were our brothers and sisters. He calls us to see every hurting soul as a member of our family—because they are.

“The Lord is near to the brokenhearted” (Psalm 34:18). Are you?

 

Photo courtesy: ©Thinkstock/marianceccarelli

Publication date: August 18, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

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Karen Gaffney has participated in a relay swim of the English Channel. She has swum across Lake Tahoe, Boston Harbor, and San Francisco Bay (sixteen times). She has a college degree and an honorary doctorate.

She also has Down syndrome.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately one in every seven hundred babies in the United States is born with Down syndrome. About six thousand Down syndrome babies are born in the US each year.

Down syndrome occurs in people of all races and economic levels. No one knows what causes the chromosomal condition that produces it, though the chances increase with the mother’s age. Since many couples are having children later in life, the incidence of Down syndrome conceptions is expected to rise.

With recent advancements in clinical treatment such as corrective heart surgery, as many as 80 percent of adults with Down syndrome reach the age of sixty. Many live even longer. Studies show that 99 percent of people with Down syndrome are happy with their lives; 97 percent like who they are; and 96 percent like how they look.

Why am I writing about Down syndrome today? Because the lives of these precious people are more endangered than ever before.

In Iceland, doctors are required to notify women about prenatal screening for Down syndrome. Eighty to 85 percent of pregnant women then take the test. Nearly 100 percent of those who receive a positive result terminate their pregnancy. Iceland isn’t alone—the termination rate in the United Kingdom is 90 percent and 67 to 90 percent in the United States.

At Landspitali University Hospital in Iceland, Helga Sol Olafsdottir counsels women who have a pregnancy with a chromosomal abnormality. What does she tell them? “We don’t look at abortion as a murder. We look it as a thing that we ended. We ended a possible life that may have had a huge complication . . . preventing suffering for the child and for the family. And I think that is more right than seeing it as a murder—that’s so black and white. Life isn’t black and white. Life is grey.”

No, it’s not.

A baby with Down syndrome is either aborted or allowed to live. He or she is not a “thing.” Every child is a person created in the image of God (Genesis 1:27).

Iceland is not eradicating Down syndrome—it’s eradicating people.

Where do we stop? Prenatal screening can detect physical defects such as a cleft lip and palate, a malformed heart, a limb with a part missing, and spina bifida. It can also reveal genetic conditions such as cystic fibrosis and muscular dystrophy.

Should all babies with these conditions be aborted?

In addition, prenatal screening can be wrong 50 percent of the time. How many babies are dying because of wrong information?

Watch Karen Gaffney’s amazing TED Talk and her claim that “all lives matter,” then ask yourself whether she should have been aborted. Then thank the Lord that your mother gave you life. And pray for expectant mothers to give their children the same gift their mothers gave them.

“Children are a heritage from the Lord, the fruit of the womb a reward” (Psalm 127:3).

 

Photo courtesy: Thinkstockphotos.com

Publication date: August 17, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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NOTE: In response to the continuing controversy over neo-Nazis and white supremacists, I have written an article for our website titled Hitler’s Lies: Responding to Nazism Today. The article explores Hitler’s ideology, the continuing popularity of Nazism, and three biblical responses. I invite you to read it here.

The recent premiere of HBO’s Game of Thrones drew a record-setting 10.1 million viewers. Coupled with digital viewers, the show averaged 25.1 million viewers last year. It was by far the most watched show on television, nearly double the viewers of the second-place show.

Why is Game of Thrones so astoundingly popular? What does its popularity say about us?

I must begin with a disclaimer: I have never seen Game of Thrones, for reasons I’ll explain in today’s article. But Internet reviews are so abundant that it’s not hard to identify reasons for the show’s enormous popularity. Each of them says something frightening about our culture today.

One: The plots are unpredictably complex. As Forbes notes, “Central characters are killed, psychopaths claim power, weddings become bloodbaths, and bad guys develop consciences as time passes.” The show is built on the premise that there is no logic to life, that we live in a chaotic world with no central purpose or direction.

Two: The show embraces amorality. “Good” characters make horrific mistakes, while “bad” characters act redemptively. One psychologist lauds the “progressive tolerance” the show legitimizes. In a postmodern culture that views all truth as personal and subjective, the characters legitimize our rejection of right and wrong.

Three: All sexuality is endorsed. Rape, lesbianism, sex between siblings, prostitution, and other acts so despicable I won’t mention them here—all are regular fare. As millions of people watch such perversion, they are desensitized and far more likely to embrace the “sexual liberation” the show articulates.

Four: Violence is normalized. Heads are crushed, people are stabbed through the eye, victims are burned alive, mass murder is depicted graphically. Why is this a problem? Exposure to media violence is clearly linked to violent acts as watching violence changes brain patterns and alters behavior.

What would God say to Christians tempted to watch such ungodliness?

One: Guard your heart. Scripture teaches us to “keep your heart with all vigilance, for from it flow the springs of life” (Proverbs 4:23). We are commanded to “think on” whatever is “pure” (Philippians 4:8). Our thoughts determine our actions, which determine our lives (Proverbs 23:7 KJV).

Two: Guard your witness. Our skeptical culture looks for reasons to reject our faith. If we are ungodly, how can we call others to be godly? “A truthful witness saves lives” (Proverbs 14:25).

Three: Guard your relationship with God. Would you want your parents to watch you as you watch the nudity and violence depicted on Game of Thrones? Your heavenly Father sees all that you see. His Spirit lives in you and is subjected to whatever your experience. “Do not grieve the Holy Spirit” (Ephesians 4:30).

Jesus taught us, “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God” (Matthew 5:8). Thus, we can see Game of Thrones, or we can see God, but we cannot see both.

 

Photo courtesy: HBO

Publication date: August 16, 2017

 

For more from the Denison Forum on Truth and Culture, please visit www.denisonforum.org.

Do you want to live a life in whole-hearted pursuit of loving God and others? 

Read today's First15 at www.first15.org.

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