New! A Comforting Answer to a Painful Question

Over the years I’ve encountered scores of people who had either walked away from God or had what amounted to an “arms-length” relationship to Him because no one had offered them a satisfying answer to this question:

If God is good, why is there so much tragedy and heartache in the world?

As I mentioned in a Facebook comment just days ago, virtually every “atheist” was really just someone who was mad at God or profoundly disappointed in Him.

Philosophers call it “the problem of evil.” Theologians call the subject “Theodicy.” Millions and millions just call it something like: “If God is good and loves people, why are tragedy, misery, and heartache constantly raining down on them in the world?”

In my new e-book, I reveal an answer that is simultaneously comforting, liberating, accessible, and thoroughly biblical. If you or someone you love has struggled to fully rest and trust in the goodness of God because of questions like these, these pages hold your “good-news” answer.

A Few Thoughts About “Deconstruction”

Deconstruction is a term you hear frequently these days in Christian circles. It tends to mean different things to different people, and I believe there is a reason for that. In my view, the term is being applied to three, very different phenomena. Let’s take a look at each of them.

1. The Open-Minded

It’s frequently being applied to people who have changed their minds about some significant piece of their theology. These were previously persuaded that the Bible says “X” about issue “Z” but have now come to believe that the Bible is actually teaching “Y” about issue “Z.”

If that’s deconstruction, then I’ve done it four or five times over the last 45 years or so. For example:

  • In college I changed my mind about “cessationism,” i.e, whether or not the gifts of the Spirit and miracles ceased when the writing of the New Testament was complete. (Thanks Jack Deere, et al.)
  • A few years later I changed my mind about the accuracy of Dispensational eschatology, particularly concerning the issue of when Jesus’ rule of planet earth begins. (I have a book in the works about this.)
  • Around that same time, I had a radical reformation of the lens through which I read Scripture in an awakening about the nature of Grace. (Thanks Dudley Hall. See any of my “Praying Grace” devotionals.
  • Several years after that, I changed my mind about the meanings of the terms “the elect,” “sovereignty and “free will.” And a few years after that, I changed it back again. (See my newest E-book!)
  • A few years ago, I experienced a complete overhaul of my understanding of “church” and being a part of a Christian community. (See this white paper I wrote!)

I think you get the point. These are all big doctrinal issues. Christians, at least a certain significant percentage of them, have always changed their views on core issues as they matured and grew in the faith. (Heck, in this sense, the reformers we all admire, Luther, Calvin, Zwingli, the Wesley Bros., were Deconstructors.)  I suppose there are some out there who got born-again at 7 years of age and died at 87 having never rethought a single doctrine of whatever stream or denomination they were born into, but I haven’t met any. 

2. The Abused and Disbelieved

The second way I hear “Deconstruction” used occurs within a very sad and serious space. Many people have experienced some form of abuse inside the church communities in which they planted their lives. That abuse is sometimes spiritual and sometimes sexual. And in far too many cases, if these people somehow found the courage to come forward, instead of redemptive arms of love and healing, they experienced shunning, victim blaming, and other forms abuse and gaslighting. And often, a circling of the wagons to protect the abuser.

Frequently that abuse was at the hands of the lead pastor. And because of the nature of the predominant model of “church” that I laid out in that white paper I mentioned above, there is no context or pathway for accountability for the abuser. 

In a recent Facebook comment, I wrote: “I’ve spent much of the last 40 years working with and for and around high profile leaders. Rare is the one who intentionally keeps some people close who are willing and permissioned to plainly tell him when he’s being a dolt or a jerk. Or a lech. Most are surrounded only by people with powerful incentives (employment, prestige, acceptance, etc.) to keep the party going. I said “rare” not non-existent. I know, and know of, wise leaders who are quite intentional about staying accountable. But we won’t hear about them in the news.”

In the wake of this under-recognized phenomenon, we have a growing sea of people who still love Jesus but aren’t sure they love His churches. And as a result, aren’t sure they believe much, or any, of what those churches have told them about what a life in Jesus looks like. 

They sense deeply that they were built for community but they, correctly, cannot believe that what they’ve experienced is what a good, loving God had in mind for that term.

They’ve lost their faith. (Note that I didn’t say they’ve lost their salvation.) They are understandably angry. They’re wounded. They’re confused. They are sheep without a shepherd. And sheep cut off from the flock are oh, so very vulnerable. 

They need our compassion, not our offendedness. They need our understanding not our tribalism. They need to have redemptive love applied and healthy New Covenant communities modeled. 

Healthy connection will ultimately fix whatever flaws there may be in their theology. Let’s heal their wounds before we fix their belief system—if it indeed needs fixing. The Samaritan “woman at the well” wanted to debate theology, Jesus refused and instead invited her to drink deeply of Him.

That’s two groups. There is a third group to which the term “Deconstruction” has been applied. And here is where I’ll probably step on some toes.

3. The Government Messianics

There is a large and growing contingent, of mostly younger Christians (or at least young people raised in church), who find the deep abiding positions of the church and widely accepted interpretations of the Scriptures at odds with their preferred political orientation and public policy preferences. 

Put another way, they can’t reconcile the way they want to vote with what their Bibles and their Bible teachers are telling them, so they look for a new way. It’s a form of reverse engineering that begins with what they want the Christian faith to command and require; and then go looking for proof texts and interpretations that fit the model, while ignoring any that don’t.

Let me illustrate this by turning a rhetorical device Jesus used on its head: 

  • You have heard it said that believers (individually) and churches (collectively) should care for the widows, orphans, the poor, and the oppressed. But I say to you, Christians should vote to have the government use its coercive power to confiscate wealth and redistribute as it sees fit.
  • You have heard it said, “He who gives to the poor lends to God, and He will repay.” And to “give cheerfully and willingly whatever is in your heart to do.” And to be “generous.” But I say to you “Be generous with other people’s money, not your own. Elect politicians who will force your neighbors to be generous whether they want to or not.”
  • You have heard it said to “know no person according to the flesh.” And that “in Christ there is neither male nor female, Jew nor Gentile.” But I say to you, “Adopt a lens that looks at people first and foremost as members of identity groups based on natural/fleshly characteristics, rather than as individuals. And assume all members of each group think the same and have the same experiences.”
  • You have heard it said that God loves us as individuals, saves us as individuals, and that we are individually responsible before him for our choices. But I say to you, believe in collective guilt–including guilt handed down from your ancestors. Assume that all people of certain groups are oppressors and all members of other groups are oppressed.  
  • You have heard it said that God created humanity, male and female. That both the masculine and the feminine are of his design. But I say to you, gender is cultural construct, and biological sex is a continuum with many points.
  • You have heard it said that “all scripture is inspired by God and is useful to inform doctrine and belief.” But I say to you, Paul is VERY problematic and you’re better off with a “Red Letter” Christianity.

I could continue but you get the point. Progressivism is increasingly a religion in our culture. One that elevates government to the role of replacement “messiah” for the true Messiah who came to make all things new. 

Thus some . . . I said some, Deconstructors are really just abandoning the historic Christian faith for a substitute that easily comports with the new, dominant, idolatrous religion in our culture. 

So the next time you hear the term, you might find it useful to discern which of these three phenomena you’re encountering. 

Decoding Revelation 12: “In Heaven an Event of Great Significance…”

This Christmas season has been filled with heart-rending news out of Israel and infuriating news from Western Civilization’s once-great capitals–New York, London, Sydney, Paris.

The former, as realities of what Hamas terrorists did on October 7 have trickled out from survivors and released hostages, and, of course, the terrorists own GoPro footage.

The latter, watching those who despise Western (Christian) Civilization either celebrate or excuse those atrocities.

This season is also one in which I’ve made my annual efforts to promote my 31-day advent devotional, Christmas Grace: 31 Meditations and Declarations on the Greatest Gift Ever Given through my puny social media footprint. Would it surprise you to learn that there is an intersection between my devotional and the the events of the last two months? Including the re-emergence of widespread hatred for Jewish people? Well buckle up!

On pages 91 through 94 you’ll find an entry titled “A Sign in the Heavens.” You should definitely go buy the devotional and read it, but I’ll spoil that one for you. It’s about the sign the “magi” in the east saw that convinced them the prophesied “king of the Jews” had been born.

There I make the same case others have made. Namely, that the “sign” the star watchers saw was the same heavenly sign John was shown in Revelation Chapter 12.

What was it?

“A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head. She was pregnant and cried out in pain as she was about to give birth.”

Revelation 12:1-2, NIV

If this indeed is the sign the magi saw, then it’s possible that Jesus was born on September 11, 3 BC–a date that coincides with the Jewish Feast of Trumpets that year.

What is abundantly clear is that the 14th chapter of Revelation is about the birth of Jesus; His entry into earth’s material/physical timeline; and His victory over Satan, signified and sealed by His ascension to the right hand of the Father. (This poses a bit of a problem for those who hold the “Futurist” view of Revelation–a view which holds that the book describes events that are future to us, yet Jesus’ birth and acension obviously lie in the past.)

What I want to get to in this post are the actions and reactions of the “dragon” in this prophetic vision. Let’s take a look:

Then another sign appeared in heaven: an enormous red dragon with seven heads and ten horns and seven crowns on its heads . . . The dragon stood in front of the woman who was about to give birth, so that it might devour her child the moment he was born. She gave birth to a son, a male child, who “will rule all the nations with an iron scepter.” And her child was snatched up to God and to his throne. 

Revelation 12:3-5

You probably won’t be shocked to learn that the dragon in this vision is Satan. (Verse 9 makes this explicit.)

Here, from a heavenly-spirit realm vantage point, we see Satan’s efforts to prevent the birth of the Messiah. Of course, he would. He’d heard God’s prophetic promise to Eve that one day her Seed would crush his head. In a sense, the entire Old Testament is a narrative of God’s preparations to fulfill that promise and the Serpent’s efforts to prevent it. Failing to prevent it, he does what he can to kill the “Child.” (Recall Herod’s “slaughter of the innocents” in Bethlehem.)

Here in the vision we see that the dragon fails and the Child is ultimately “snatched up to God and His throne.” So how does the dragon respond to these failures? He becomes “enraged.”:

Then the dragon was enraged at the woman and went off to wage war against the rest of her offspring—those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.

Revelation 12:17

Throughout Christian history, there has been much speculation about who “the woman” is in this vision. Not surprisingly, Roman Catholics see Mary, the mother of Jesus. Others have seen ethnic Israel as “the woman.” I think this is almost, but not quite, right.

For reasons I’m about to explain, I think the woman in the vision represents “believing Israel,” that is, the faithful remnant of Judah that was receptive to the preaching of, initially, John the Baptist, and later of Jesus and His disciples.

Many Old Testament prophecies speak of this “remnant.” (See, for example 2 Kings 19:30-31; Ezra 9:8; Is. 10:20; Is. 11:11; Is. 28:5; Is. 37:31-32; Jeremiah 6:9; Jeremiah 31:7; Micah 2:12; Micah 5:7; Zeph. 3:12; and many others.

These are the the Jewish inhabitants of the Land who embraced the message that Jesus was the promised Messiah.

Simeon and Anna who rejoiced to see the infant Jesus when Joseph and Mary brought Him into the Jerusalem Temple are representative of this believing remnant.

Having failed to prevent the birth and acsencion of the Messiah, notice what the “enraged” dragon’s next move is . . . He “went off to wage war against the rest of [the woman’s] offspring.” And who are these offspring? “Those who keep God’s commands and hold fast their testimony about Jesus.”

In other words . . . Christians.

The book of Revelation was written in the midst of a fierce persecution of Christians by the Roman Empire. John’s vision of the woman and the dragon serves to explain to believers in that era that the trouble they were currently facing was the aftermath of a cosmic spiritual battle that Satan had just lost.

In a series of recent blog posts, I’ve made the case that Leftists and Progressives hate Israel for the same reason they despise Christians, the traditional family, traditional marriage, traditional gender roles, and childbearing. You can read them here, here, and here. That reason is that Israel represents an island of Western Civilization in a pagan sea.

But what of the persecution of Jews throughout history. It is not, as some Christians have surmised throughout the centuries, divine judgement resulting from the rejection of the Christ.

Matthew’s gospel is is very careful to note that the Jerusalem mob that demanded Jesus’ crucifixion cried out, “His blood be upon us an upon our children.” (Matthew 27:25) That’s two generations. And significantly, it is that second generation that experienced the judgment that both John the Baptist and Jesus had prophesied. Precisely 40 years to the day after Jesus’ Passover Eve crucifixion, Roman armies began surrounding Jerusalem–a sign Jesus had expressly told the Jerusalem beleivers to be on the lookout for! (Luke 21:20)

A few months later, the Temple was a pile of smoldering rubble, just as Jesus had warned. (Matthew 24:2)

No, the persecution of Christians and Jew-hatred share the same hellish spiritual root.

Namely, that dragon, enraged by his failure to stop the emergence of that Child-King from the womb of a faithful remnant of Israel hates ethnic Jews almost as much as he hates Christians. Which explains why perpetrators of the most vicious atrocities against Jews have had demonic/occult leanings.

You may be aware that Hitler’s Nazi regime was rooted in demonic occult fascination. The KKK showed its demonic cards by making cross burnings a centerpiece of their pseudo-Christian cult. And the sadistic perpetrators of The Inquisition were as likely to torture proto-Protestant Christians as they were Jews.

The “dragon” was desperate to prevent the birth of the Child (Jesus) and, failing that, to tempt and decieve this second “Adam” the same way he had deceived the first one. The First Adam failed the test of obedience in a lush garden with a full belly. The Last Adam passed the test of obedience in a barren desert while starving.

Satan wasn’t sure precisely how Emmanuel spelled his doom. (Otherwise he would not have crucified the Lord of Glory. (1 Cor. 2:8) But he knew it nonetheless.

In closing, let me direct your attention to a special prophecy concerning the age of the Messiah. In a passage prophetically addressing a believing remnant of Judah, Isaiah 26 speaks of a “woman” in labor:

As the pregnant woman approaches the time to give birth, She writhes and cries out in her labor pains;

Isaiah 26:17 NASB

The prophecy continues into chapter 27, where we read:

On that day the Lord will punish Leviathan the fleeing serpent, With His fierce and great and mighty sword, Even Leviathan the twisted serpent; And He will kill the dragon who lives in the sea.

Isaiah 27:1 NASB

Yes, the dragon continues to be “enraged.” But he is also in retreat. And under a death sentance.

For 2000 years he has been a “fleeing serpent.” And the day of his complete destruction is a forgone conclusion. The moment that Last Adam ascended to the throne and began gathering willing, believing Jews and Gentiles into Himself, creating “one new man,” Satan became an outlaw and a trespasser on planet earth.

So now you know how the Christmas story connects to the current global eruption of hatred for Jews. Its source is the same force that animates persecution of Christians in China and Nigeria and Iran and Algeria and pretty much everywhere in the non-Western world.

As Jesus followers–both Jew and Gentile–our posture toward unbelieving Jews has always been a complicated matter. Paul recognized this and so spent most of the book of Romans–the longest of his epistles–addressing it. His case culminates in chapters nine, ten and eleven.

That complexiity and tension is summed up toward the end of chapter 11, where Paul describes Jesus-rejecting Jews as both “enemies: and “beloved.”

In relation to the gospel they are enemies on your account, but in relation to God’s choice they are beloved on account of the fathers; for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

Romans 11:28-19 NASB

Summary:

It seems abundantly clear to me that the same unholy spirits that hate the King, His Kingdom, and His Body (the Church) despise Israel– both national and ethnic. Those spirits animate the mass protests filled with people carrying signs saying “By Any Means Necessary . . .” and “From the River to the Sea” while chanting “globalize the intifada.”

They rationalize and justify monstrosities while calling the victims monsters. They advocate for genocide while accusing their targets of genocide.

What’s vital to keep in mind is those spirits are part of a “fleeing serpent who is under judgement and already experiencing punishment. And that “our struggle is not with flesh and blood but with the principalities, with the powers, with the world rulers of this present darkness, with the evil spirits in the heavens.” (Ephsians 6:12)

When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them – Part 3

I simply don’t have time for a long post here, but I must mention a couple of other groups that have shown their true colors since October, 7th.

You’ll find the Part 1 here, and Part 2 here.

6. The UN and it’s worse-than-useless Human Rights committees and agencies and sub-agencies.

7. Human Rights Watch, an organization fully possessed by the anti-Western, anti-colonial cult spirit.

8. And perhaps worst of the entire bunch other than Hamas itself . . . the international news establishment. Please take a few minutes and read through this well-researched Twitter thread:

When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them – Part 2

From the University of Maryland common square.

As I mentioned in Part 1 of this dissertation, “one positive aspect of the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas is that the atrocities, and Israel’s rational response to them, have caused many masks to drop to the ground. The true nature of many groups and individuals is suddenly on public display.”

In Part 1 we covered three of them: 1. Hamas; 2. Colleges and Universities; and 3. Unlimited Immigration Advocates. Let’s keep going.

4. Islamists

It’s hard to believe but the 9/11 attacks were more than 22 years ago. Which means we have roughly 44 million voting-age citizens who have no meaningful memory of the events that introduced us to the term “Islamo-Fascism.” That’s millions who haven’t read the research and histories that show the affinity many modern Islamic thinkers have for Nazi ideology and will therefore be puzzled by the term. That’s millions who don’t understand that in many quarters, Islam has metastasized into something very dark and malevolent.

What’s more, the more recent ISIS atrocities in Iraq and Syria are seemingly now forgotten. I can tell you who does remember them: The Yazidi women of Iraq and Syria. So do the Christian girls of northern Nigeria abducted by Boko Haram (a.k.a. the Nigerian Taliban).

What many of these should remember, but clearly don’t, is what ISIS and its Islamic imitators around the world think of them and their pet causes such as female empowerment and sexual libertinism. Ask the girls of Afghanistan who just lost the right to an education (again). Or these girls . . .

There are no words . . .

For us old guys, the “both sides” arguments sounds depressingly familiar. Only us gray-hairs remember the “moral-equivalence” arguments of the Cold War era. Apologists for the Soviet Union’s brutal repression of freedoms and human rights at home and around the world invariably tried to paint the West as equally cruel, even as millions behind “the Iron Curtain” risked their lives to escape.

The apologists for Communist oppression and Soviet expansion invariably found reasons to blame the West, especially the U.S., for Soviet atrocities. Their crimes were always somehow our fault. If we didn’t insist on maintaining a strong military deterrent, we were told, the Soviets wouldn’t be trying to replace democracies all over Africa, Latin America, and Southeast Asia with Marxist dictatorships loyal to Moscow.

For American and European Progressives, at best, the Soviet Bloc and Western democracies were moral equals. At worst, the West was the bad guy and the Communists held the moral high ground. Today’s corollary are those who shrug and apply “both sides” arguments to the current conflict. They see . . .

  • Hamas: enters Israel and intentionally (and gleefully) targets civilians, including the elderly, children, and infants; then retreats to hide behind Palestinian civilians, including the elderly, children, and infants. They do this knowing that any Israeli reprisals, no matter how careful, will create civilian casualties; and confident that Western media outlets will do their propaganda work for them.
  • Israel: Uses intelligence and technology to precisely target Hamas fighters and leaders and minimize collateral damage. It drops leaflets and broadcasts messages throughout Gaza directing civilians to safe zones.

Many view these contrasting approaches and, at best, see no moral high ground for either side. But most see Israel as the monster here. Why? Because Isarel is of one culture (Western). And Palestinians are largely of another (Islamic).

Note those wringing their hands about the causulty count in Gaza and see if you can find any of them ever uttering even a word of concern when Muslims kill other Muslims by the hundereds of thousands.

See if you can find a word of distress or dismay about Assad’s Sunni body count in Syria that is estimated at 700,000 deaths. (Assad was and is backed by Iran. We’ll deal with Iran in a moment.)

See if you can find any alarm from those claiming Israel is bent on “genocide” in Gaza about the 377,000+ deaths in Yemen over the last ten years or so. Search for expressions of outrage over the 85,000 children who have died in Yemen as Muslim religious factions fight there.

Find, if you can, condemnations of China’s authentically genocidal oppresion of the Muslim Uyghurs. You’ll likely search in vain.

It is a related phenomenon to the complecency about the weekly body count in Chicago. Those deaths seemingly don’t matter because the killers aren’t the right group to fit the narrative.

In honor of all the concern and indignation about the Israeli “occupation” we’ve seen from the Hamas apologists, I posted the following on Facebook recently.

  • Me: While I’m doing “History Jeopardy” here, I’ll take “Conquests and Occupations for 1000, Alex.”
  • Alex: “The Jeopardy answer is: It stands as the most massive conquest, occupation, and colonization since Alexander the Great.”
  • Me: “Alex, what is the Arab-Muslim conquest of AD622 to AD750, wherein Arab armies overran and subjegated hundreds of ethnicities, forced their converstion to Islam, and settled the areas with ethnic Arabs as a ruling class. With the exception of Spain and Portugal, these colonizations and occupations remain until this day. Compared to this, the British Empire and Ghengis Khan’s Khaganate were mere flashes in the pan in terms of longevity.”
  • Alex: “Correct! The board is yours.”

North Africa was for several centuries one of the most Christian places on earth. Today Libya, Tunisia, Algeria, and Morocco are dotted with the crumbling, forgotten remnants of once-flourishing churches.

Ironically, for many in the Middle East, the root offense of Israel’s existance is that it represents a tiny piece of “de-colonization.” A sliver of 1300-year-old Islamic occupation and colonization has been rolled back.

5. Iran

Speaking of illumination and clarity . . . If it wasn’t already clear, the nature of game Iran is playing is now on full display. With the backing and encouragement of Russia, Iran funded, supplied, and trained the October 7 attackers. They have smuggled an astonishing quantity of rockets and arms into Gaza, which, by the way, is supposed to be some sort of impenetrable Escape from New York-style prison according to the Israel critics.

For several decades, Iran has been at the center of a larger drama playing out in the Middle East. Islam’s version of Catholics vs. Protestants is Sunnis vs. Shiites. It’s an ancient, bitter rift in Islam that goes back to the earliest years of the religion–immiedately after the death of Mohammed (if he really existed.) Catholics and Protestants stopped killing each other 500 years ago (except in Northern Ireland).

Today, Saudi Arabia leads the Sunni faction in the Middle East. And Iran is the champion of the region’s Shiites. The Saudis and other Sunni kingdoms have decided to acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and play nice (see Abraham Accords). The Iranians remain vocally and unapologetically committed to seeing Israel wiped from the map.

Iran’s proxies in the Middle East are some of the worst groups on the planet. Death and misery are all they produce.

All of this has been evident to anyone with a functioning set of eyes. The real mystery is why the regimes of both Mr. Obama and Mr. Biden clearly favor “Death-to-America” Iran and the Shiites in this ancient conflict–even as the Sunni kingdoms have taking huge risks in normalizing relations with Israel. And why both left-leaning administrations repeatedly undermined the sanctions regime by releasing billions of dollars to an Iranian regime that hates us and is training and arming some of the worst terrorist factions on the planet. Oh, and has relentnlessly pursued access to nuclear weapons. I have a theory about that but I’ll save it for another blog post.

Let it suffice to say, the actions of Hamas (in Gaza) and Hezbollah (in Lebanon) reveal, again, the true nature of Iran. October 7 has also made clear why Israel, or the U.S. for that matter, cannot allow Iran to achieve its nuclear weapons goal.

Summary:

As I pointed out in a previous post, much of this makes no sense . . . UNLESS . . . unless you the understand the invisible, 2000-year-old spiritual conflict between the Kingdom of Jesus the Christ and the retreating, increasingly desperate “anti-Christ” forces.

Understand that, and you’ll understand why the same groups, institutions, and individuals that hate the United States, hate Israel, and hate everything associated with Western Civilization. It’s why eco-terrorist target our great works of art. It’s why 36 years ago Jesse Jackson led 500 marchers down the main square of Stanford chanting “Hey Hey, Ho Ho, Western Civ has got to go.”

Leviathan is a “fleeing serpent.” (Isaiah 27:1) But a fleeing serpert is the most frantic, angry, violent kind.

As I said in the opening of Part 1 . . . “It’s a good thing to know the truth.”

Above. An Israeli mother’s final message to the world.

Recommended reading:

When People Show You Who They Are, Believe Them – Part 1

Warning: Some difficult things to read ahead. But it’s important to face the truth, even when . . . especially when . . . the truth is awful.

As the folks who attend the Cup & Table Co. gatherings will attest, a consistent prayer of mine over the last several years has been that hidden things would be revealed. And that people, institutions, organizations, and nations that are not what they purport to be would be exposed as what they truly are.

One positive (although appalling) aspect of the October 7 attacks on Israel by Hamas is that the atrocities, and Israel’s utterly rational response to them, have caused many masks to drop to the ground. The true nature of many groups and individuals is suddenly on public display.

And that’s a good thing. It’s good to know the truth.

Of course at the top of that list is Hamas itself, although only the clueless and the self-deluded were surprised by the barbarity of their attack. (Digital evidence is abundant. Proud Hamas militants uploaded GoPro video of their heroic exploits to the social media site Telegram.) Israeli first responders report finding families in which childrens fingers and feet were amputed in front of their parents, whose eyes are gouged out, and then all shot. They report little girls with broken pelvises, suggesting atrocities that I will not spell out here. The list of unspeakables gleefully and proudly perpretrated by Hamas in a few short hours would fill a book.

Those of us who have bothered to acquaint ourselves with Hamas’ tactics over the last 20 years–and those of other militant Islamist groups–were not remotely surprised by the barbarity. But for many political liberals here in the West, it’s been a shocking revelation. The reality of Hamas doesn’t fit the preferred narrative.

No, Hamas coming out as ISIS 2.0 wasn’t that much of a surprise. Far more revealing has been the response of many groups and individuals here in the U.S. and the U.K. who, at minimum, made excuses for the butchers of 10/7, and often cheered and celebrated their work.

Here are a few of the folks that have just put their true selves on public display.

1. Antifa / BLM / DEI Zealots / Identitarians / Decolonizers . . .

. . . 1619 Project-ers / Critical Race Theorists / Human Extinction Environmentalists / Throwers of Paint on Priceless Works of Art / Occupiers of Wall Street / Users of the Term “Whiteness / Etc., Etc., Etc.

I lump these groups together becuase there is so much overlap in their ranks, assumptions, and objectives. For some time I’ve been pointing out that at the root of all of these cult-like groups is a white-hot hatred for Western Civilization (which they incorrectly view as being “white” but correctly view as having Christian underpinnings.) (At the root of the roots is what the Bible calls an anti-Christ spirit.) See this recent post for example.

It explains why these groups uniformly despise the arts, science, capitalism, the traditional family, traditional marriage, child-bearing, sex roles, and pretty much everything that has contributed to human flourishing and freedom over the last 2000 years.

The vocabulary and branding changes but the agenda never does. It’s the same toxic hybrid of Marxism and Paganism we’ve seen since the sixties. It’s just that the sixties campus radicals are now running all of our nation’s core institutions. One of the most recent buzzwords they’ve rolled out is “decolonize.”

Over the last couple of years we’ve seen calls to “decolonize the curriculum” in schools; “decolonize the arts”; and to decolonize everything from physics to farming. Just hours after the horrors of the October 7th attack became known, Najima Sharif, a contributing writer to several U.S. publications, including Teen Vogue magazine, posted these words on X:

What did y’all think decolonization meant? vibes? papers? essays? losers.

Najima Sharif

I, for one, knew precisely what decolonization meant, and therefore wasn’t remotely surprised when America’s “decolonizers” celebrated and cheered the gleeful slaughter of Oct. 7. It means rolling back, “by any means necessary,” the progress, modernity, liberty, prosperity, and social mobility that Western Civilization has made possible as it has spread.

Maybe learn to spell Israel before speaking truth to power about Israel. (Someone “decolonized” the spelling curriculum.) Which brings me to another group illuminated by recent events.

2. Colleges and Universities

In our “elite” universities, we’ve seen Jewish students holed up in a library in fear while angry mobs shouted for the extermination of all Jews. A “clean” world is the euphemism.

Sane voices have been sounding the alarms about higher education in America for decades now. Among scores of books and essays I could cite, Allan Bloom’s The Closing of the American Mind (1987) and Robert Bork’s Slouching Toward Gomorrah (1997) stand out for me. But until recent weeks many Americans remained largely unaware of what cesspools of Marxism-Paganism college faculties and administrations have become; or the degree to which the public education system that is feeding students into those universities has been transformed into a machine designed to indoctrinate students into the new state religion. It’s a faith that holds up the State as the Messiah and Western Civilization as the devil.

A three-year-old survey of American adults 18-39 both explains some of what we’ve observed on college campuses and serves as Exhibit Z in an indictment of the education system. In a 2020 survey, nearly two-thirds of US younger adults said they were unaware that six million Jews died in the Holocaust. Anad another 23 percent said said they believed the Holocaust was a myth. That leaves about 10 or 12 percent of people under 40 who actually know the historical truth.

Not good, but it explains a lot.

I’m generally a hopeful, optimistic person. But it’s difficult to imagine how the American educational complex can be salvaged or reformed at this point, even if the necessary public will to do so could be summoned, which it can’t. The only course of action may be to wait for the inevitable collapse, dismantle the entire thing, and salt the earth it formerly occupied. Then build something new from scratch.

3. Unlimited Immigration Advocates

For decades now, both Europe and the U.S. have largely pursued a policy of allowing (and frequently encouraging) large-scale third-world immigration. During his 2020 campaign for president, Mr. Biden signaled that, if elected, he’d reverse most Trump-era restrictions and effectivelly throw the floodgates open. Almost immediately, millions began preprarations to head to Mexico.

Many Progressives favor mass third-world immigration for the same reasons they want to “decolonize” the math cirriuculm and purge Palestine of Jews “From the River to the Sea.” Namely a visceral hatred for Western Civilization and it’s values. This, and slavery to a related narrative about Oppressors (always white) and The Oppressed (always non-white).

To be fair, other powerful interests have favored wide-open immigration spigots as well. (2 million new illegals last year alone.) Particularly Wall Street interests who covet ultra-cheap labor at the low end of the economy and cheaper software developers and systems designers for the tech sector via abundant H1B visas.

By the way, anyone who wants (as I do) to see higher wages for the working poor and preservation of a social safety net of welfare programs will oppose mass immigration . . . but only IF they can do basic math and understand anything about economics. (I know that’s a lot to expect.)

And they will oppose it IF (as I do) they understand that Western values and assumptions undergird the prosperity, freedom, progress, and order that makes this a place everyone wants to live.

There are more groups showing us who they really are right now. We’ll take a look in Part 2 of this diatribe.

A Wider War?

War is a terrible thing. It’s also an old thing. Unimaginably old.

There is evidence in the Bible that there was a war in the heavnelies before there was even an earth. And that that conflict spilled over onto this planet at some point, with horrific, far-reaching consequences.

But every once in a while a war, with all the horror one entails, resolves things. Leaves things more stable and more conducive to human flourishing than if low-level, simmering, festering, attritional, “peace” had continued.

These are my thoughts today as I have a strong sense that war is coming. A war on a broader scale that what we’re witnessing in southern Israel and Gaza. A war that actively involves U.S. forces.

Again, war is ugly. It should not be romanticized, glamorized, or clamored for. But my sense is also that the aftermath of what’s coming, whatever it looks like, will leave things better for a lot of people who have suffered under oppression for far too long.

It’s just a sense . . . a feeling. Perhaps I’m wrong. I hope so.

Here’s what I know with great certainty . . .

God doesn’t cause all things. But He does cause all things to work together for the good of His people. (Romans 8:28) That, I know.

I also know that nothing catches our Heavenly Father by surprise. And that King Jesus is presently ruling in the midst of His enemies. (Psalm 110:1-2) And of the increase of His kingdom, and of peace, there shall be no end. (Isaiah 9:7)

Book Review: Finding the Right Hills to Die On

I was in Scotland. And over a warm brown ale so thick you could almost eat it with a spoon, I was getting to know a Baptist pastor I’d just met. (When in Scotland . . . !) I was looking forward to discussing one of my favorite 19th century Scottish Baptist preachers, Alexander MacLaren.

My companion outlined his journey in ministry for me, and mentioned how he’d started among the “Strict Baptists” but then later took a church affiliated with the “Particular Baptists” before ultimately finding himself in the non-denominational space. He recalled how he had once been asked if he was affiliated with a third denomination—the “Strict & Particular Baptists.” His smiled as he recounted in a gravelly Scottish highlands brogue his playful reply to that question, “Ahhh, I suppose I am a wee bit strict, but I’m not especially particular.”

That conversation revealed to me that over the last couple of centuries, the Baptists of Great Britain have divided and atomized into ever-more granular particles. (With their collective influence diminished with each divorce.) Today there are Regular Baptists, Union Baptists, General Baptists, United Baptists, Strict Baptists, Particular Baptists, and, of course, Strict & Particular Baptists, just to mention a few of dozens. 

Of course, one can easily trace similarly branching family trees among any and every Protestant denomination. It’s tough to make a credible argument that the Body of Christ is under-fragmented.

It seems there is no more deeply entrenched habit among Christians than to fall out with one another over some difference in doctrine. Many of those differences tend to seem quite minor to the dispassionate outside observer. 

Which brings me to Gavin Ortlund’s important book. 

What is indeed “minor?” And what’s a big deal? Finding the Right Hills to Die On is Ortlund’s valiant and extremely helpful effort to at least provide us some tools for answering those questions.

In the first half of this quick and engaging read, he makes a powerful case for what he calls “Theological Triage.” That is an intentional and thoughtful sorting of differences into Primary, Secondary, and Tertiary. Before that, he outlines the ditches on either side of the path he’s taking us down. Namely, either being too picky or not picky enough. 

The second half is practical application of the principles he set forth in the first half. He then concludes with a short section titled, “A Call to Theological Humility which, alone, is worth the price of admission. Here’s a quote from that conclusion, one that reflects the very humility for which the author is calling: 

In this book I am less concerned with convincing others of the particular judgements I have made and more concerned that, even where we disagree, we do so in a spirit of trembling before the word of God. This attitude is both the ground and the goal of theological triage.

Gavin Ortlund–Finding the Right Hills to Die On

Here’s why you need to read this book. It is the same reason I needed to.

Most of us have heard the noble bromide about doctrinal differences: “In the essentials, unity. In the non-essentials, liberty. In all things, charity.” 

All heads tend to nod when it is uttered. What few believers know is who first expressed those words. Or when. It was an early 17th century Lutheran theologian named Rupertus Meldenius. He wrote those words in the middle of the Thirty Years War—the conflict that soaked the soil of central Europe in blood over sectarian differences. Estimates of deaths range between five million and eight million souls. 

Which hills to die on indeed. 

What’s the Attraction? How to Comprehend the Incomprehensible.

As you know, last week Hamas revealed itself to be “ISIS 2.0.” As you also know, Hamas’ surprise attack on Israel on the 50th Anniversary of the “Yom Kippur War,” and the savagery that followed, sparked celebratory rallies in places like London, NYC, and Sydney. (As well as countless college campuses.)

Because of where I live and what I do for a living, I travel among people who are largely conservative and Christian. So, I’ve seen and heard their questions everywhere recently. Questions I’ve heard from my bride over the last week. Those questions?

Why would people who say they value:

  • tolerance for LGBTQQ+ individuals;
  • equality for women;
  • Abortion access;
  • Socialist economics; and
  • democracy (Now!)

. . . side with Hamas–an Islamic terrorist organization–over Israel? Why would many Leftist organizations in America–particularly those on college campuses–try to rationalize and sanctify the barbarous murder of civilians, including women, infants, and the elderly?

Especially given that Israeli society embodies all of those values in that bulleted list above.

I recently described Tel Aviv and Haifa to a friend as cross between NYC without the skyscrapers and South Beach, Miami.

In a saner world, American Progressives would view Israel as a shining example of what they want America to be. But that is not the world we’re living in. (Below: Gay pride parade in Israel) Again, why?

Gay pride parade in Israel.

Seemingly every Christian I talk to, my sweet wife included, is bewildered and stunned at every image of a Pro-Palestine protest and every instance of seemingly intellgient political leaders who just can’t bring themselves to call murder and barbarism what they really are. Their jaws hang open as LGTBQQ+ activists proclaim support for a medieval system that would happily kill them and all their friends if given the opportunity.

They listen in disbelief as Harvard professors and congresswomen and professional talking heads describe Hamas’ invaders as “resistance” to an “occupation” that actually ended in 2005 with Ariel Sharon’s catastrophic return of Gaza to Palestinian control.

Many are quick to attribute it all to “anti-semitism” but I don’t think it’s nearly as simple as that. The ancient impulse of anti-semitism has spiritual roots that go back to Satan’s rage at a remnant of Israel bringing His destroyer, the Redeemer, into the world. But anti-Semitism is merely a thread in a much more colorful tapestry that is now on full display. To explain what I mean, allow me to regroup and take you back to last Monday.

Sassy Weather Apps and Apologists for Butchery

Monday, October 9 was Columbus Day; and Hamas’ Iran-funded invasion of Israel by air, land, and sea was roughly 48 hours old.

Now, I need to explain that I have a quirky weather app. It’s called Carrot and when you install it you can dial-in precisly how snarky you want it to be, on a scale from “bland,” to “somewhat snarky,” all the way up to “brutal.” I, of course, chose the “Snarky” setting. On typical days, the current weather summary includes a remark like this one, displayed just now as I’m writing this post:

These random comments are usually just goofy. But on Monday morning . . . I wish I had screen grabbed it . . . I launched the app and it said something along the lines of, “It’s Columbus Day. Let’s celebrate the mass murder of millions of people!”

The connection may not be immediately evident, but the view about Christopher Columbus tapped out by the clever twenty-something employee at the company which created Carrot, is very much of a piece with the views of the very groups that view Hamas as the righteous “resistance” in the current war. They have all been drinking from the same poisoned well–both philosophically and spiritually.

It’s groups like: The 1619 Project, BLM, Antifa, Democracy Now!, the mega-corporate champions of DEI (diversity, equity, and inclusion), militant LGBT alphabet soup orgs, the identity poltics obsessed, the “de-colonisers,”and the usual stealth marxists in the major universities and teachers’ unions that have been chugging water from that well for a while now. A couple of generations of young people were raised on it.

The view that Columbus was unambiguously evil and the protests in New York, Sydney, and London celebrating the slaughter of grandmothers and babies in Israel are tiles in the same mosaic picture.

Want to understand why the members of BLM Chicago and Harvard Pride hate Israel so much they’ll cheer the slaughter of infants. Settle in. Stick with me and the world will likely make more sense to you than it does right now.

Clash of Civilizations

Right after 9/11 many smart people suggested reading one particular book if you wanted to understand why Al Qaeda militants flew airplaines into buildings in New York and Washington D.C.. So I did. I’m glad I did so.

The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order by Samuel Huntington came out only five weeks before the 9/11 attacks.

In it, Huntington points out that the world could (and still can) be viewed as a collection of “civilzations.” China, India, Russia, and Subsaharan Africa are all representative of individual civilizations.

There is an Islamic civilization that spans the Middle East, North Africa, and parts of Southeastern Asia. And then there is Western Civilization, centered in Europe, with a specific expression of it residing in England, Canada, the United States, Australia, and New Zealand.

All civilizations, including ours, spring from a religious/spiritual foundation.

  • Indian . . . Hindu
  • African . . . Animism
  • Chinese . . . Confucianism and Folk Religion
  • Islamic . . . (take a guess)
  • Western Civilization . . . Christianity

It is significant that Winston Churchill used the terms Western Civilzation and Christian Civilization interchangebly. He understood something that many people, including many Christians, do not. Namely that the spread and deep rooting of Christianity across Europe ultimately created the greatest conditions for human flourishing the planet had ever seen.

In other posts (like this one) I’ve pointed to the work of academics like Rodney Stark and Tom Holland, who have demonstrated brilliantly and persuasively how Christianity made modern science and progress possible. Christianity leads to human flourishing because God is for human flourishing. It is He who so loved the world . . .

Christianity produced a civilization that, as it matured: found slavery abhorrent, elevated the status of women, fostered social mobility (the ability of lower class individuals to rise to higher levels through hard work and ingenuity), and raised living standards for all.

For reasons rooted in the “Unseen Realm” of the spirit, different religions produce different types of civilizations. Even different forms of Christianity produce varying types of cultures or civilizations. You may have noticed that Roman Catholic nations such as those in southern Europe and Latin America get levels of prosperity and stability that are different from the nations with Protestant foundations. Likewise, the Russian Orthodox version of Christianity produced a few of the benefits seen elsewhere, but not all of them.

So let me cut to the big thesis statement of this post and then follow it up with some explanation and defense: Israel is hated by Hamas for the same reason it is despised by American, British, and Australian leftists. They detest Western Civilization, and . . .

Israel is an island of Western Civilization in a sea of pagan, Islamic Civilization.

Which is why the rallying cry for Palestinian extremists and terrorist organizations is: “Palestine Must Be Free, From the River to the Sea.” Over the decades, Palestinian leaders have repeatedly been offered a “Two State Solution” in which they could could operate as a sovereign, autonomous nation, living in peace beside Israel. They have consistently rejected those solutions.

No, for them the only acceptable solution is the removal of all aspects of modernity and Western Civilization from land once controlled by Islamic Civilization.

It’s an expression of the larger “clash of civilizations” that has defined much of the world for the last 30 years. Western (Christian) civilization VS Islamic civilization. And although not expressly “Christian,” Israel is an island of Wester Civ. In a sea of Islamic Civ. And therefore must be eradicated.

That explains why Muslims across the Middle East despise Israel. But it also holds the key to why the BLM-ers and DEI-ers and 2SLGBTQQ+-ers and “decolonisers” in America despise Israel, too.

They all are operating from a (spiritually rooted) deception about Western Civilization. They view it as uniquely evil. They view it as the source of all oppression and slavery and stolen-land occupying.

Again, the roots to all of this are spiritual and connected to a spiritual conflict that has been underway since Jesus, having just restored “all authority in heaven and on earth” to Himself, sat down at the right hand of the Father in order to observe the making of “His enemies a footstool.” (See Matthew 28:18; Hebrews 10:13; and I Corinthians 15:24-27)

This conflict has been playing out for nearly 2000 years.

This hell-spawned hatred for Christian Civilization is the same thing that causes leftists (including feminist orgs and LGBTQ orgs) in the West to by sympathetic to Iran, even though Iran hangs gays and forces women to wear the hijab. And why both the Obama and Biden administrations have fallen all over themselves to cozy up to Iran. (It’s very much the Apostle John’s “spirit of antichrist” that he said was already in the world when he was writing his epistles.)

I don’t view the world through the lens of race, but BLM/Antifa/DEI does–obsessively and completely. Their narrative views Western Civilazation as “White” and as the root of all evil in the world. In their delusion, Western Civ. is always the “Oppressor” and any non-white cultures must be “The Oppressed.”

Take note that the Israeli-Palestinian situation fits this narrative perfectly. The same feminist and gay groups that side with Iran, side with Palestine against Israel.

This is why they furiously hate the very system that has produced all of the things they claim to value. It is why they hack furiously at the branch they, and all of us, are sitting on.

None of that makes sense unless you understand the spiritual dynamics of the (anti-christ) anti-Western cult. And make no mistake . . . it’s a religious cult.

Yes, it’s distressing to watch. But there is comfort in knowing that God determined long ago how this conflict will end. And He is as patient as He is kind.