by Peter Heck · Feb 19th, 2020 3:17 pm
When the Apostle Paul delivers a crushing rebuke of man’s sinful rebellion against God in the opening chapter of his letter to the Roman Christians, he pens a line that finds extraordinary application to contemporary American culture:
“Professing themselves to be wise, they became fools.”
There is perhaps no modern thinker who best embodies this trait than the celebrated intellectual fool, atheist Richard Dawkins. Please understand that my use of the word “fool” in describing him isn’t as a pejorative, but rather a biblical label given to those who would attempt to find or declare meaning and purpose to human existence apart from the reality of God.
While I pray that Dawkins will eventually admit the glaring inconsistencies in his worldview that he pridefully pretends do not exist, I am thankful that God uses him in such a powerful way to offer articulate insights into the reckless irrationality that accompanies godless thinking.
It’s one thing for Christians like myself to offer hypothetical illustrations to the world showing what happens to human ethics apart from God’s moral authority. It is another for Richard Dawkins to actually demonstrate them personally. And he’s at it again, praise God:Whoops! We couldn’t access this Tweet.
Two important clarifications:
- For those unaware, eugenics is the belief that only the most “fit” human beings should be allowed to reproduce. It’s the policy that was advocated by racists like Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger who wanted to make sure we didn’t have so many ignorant, handicapped, or black people running around. It’s the philosophical extension of social Darwinism that Hitler embraced as he committed genocide against Jews, gypsies, homosexuals, and all “lesser humans” in pursuit of the master (Aryan) race.
- Dawkins made very clear that he was not recommending or applauding a eugenic policy. Even though he has done so in the past, suggesting that killing unborn children diagnosed with Down Syndrome in the womb is the moral thing to do, he was adamant that he has changed his mind. His current belief is that we humans should oppose eugenics as immoral, even while acknowledging that it “works.”
As I read this self-owning tweet storm from the Oxford-educated zoologist, it was as if millions of atheist voices cried out in terror and were suddenly silenced in the morass of moral contradictions they foolishly embrace.
Dawkins has once again revealed the glaring failure of atheist thought to account for a moral reality to the universe. To the godless, there is nothing distinct or set apart about humans. We are, after all, just highly evolved animals who have emerged from the same ancestral ball of primordial goo as these “cows, horses, pigs, dogs & roses” Dawkins references. Therefore, it must follow logically that if eugenics works on all other living things, it must surely work on humans as well.
But after such an acknowledgement, something remarkable happens to Dawkins. He recognizes intrinsically that there is something distinct and different about human beings. There is a moral reality that must be accounted for when considering our behavior, and so he quickly demurs from any notion of advocating eugenics on humans. It’s not a question of whether it would work, he says, but whether or not we ought to allow it. And Dawkins offers an unequivocal rejection … on moral grounds.
But wait – where does this moral authority come from? Isn’t it Dawkins, after all, who has written so eloquently that,
“The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but pitiless indifference.”
Yet for one who embraces such a moralistically indifferent view, Dawkins sounds quite moralistic when he is condemning Christian parents as being abusive, when he is denouncing the perceived silencing of scientists through expansive libel laws, or when he is demanding that we reject eugenics on moral grounds.
My, what tangled webs we weave.
Dawkins and other atheists defend their moralizing on evolutionary grounds, of course. They say that morals evolve as a way to preserve our DNA and spare our species. Leave aside the fact that such an answer falls well short of explaining the vast majority of altruistic behavior of humans, and simply focus on this eugenic case to see the inconsistency.
At its heart, eugenics is intended to best preserve the species by carrying out the work of natural selection – ridding us of “lesser” humans and promoting the best genes. So if your moral compass is calibrated upon the sole end of perpetuating the species, Mr. Dawkins, why wouldn’t you advocate it?
Listen to his befuddled silence to that question and you’ll hear God speak.
We began the year 2020 by going out and sharing the Gospel of Jesus Christ with the people living in the village of Chea Sbai. We were grateful for the opportunity to bring God’s Word to the crowd of people in this village. Before we left, one person that heard the Gospel came to us and professed faith in Jesus Christ. This blessed time also allowed us to hand out many excellent full-color Gospel tracts. We know that these tracts draw people to open them and read them. When they read them, they are reading Scripture, and God’s Word is going into their hearts.
This month, we also conducted a session at my church with church leaders from our province. We focused on Leadership and Building a Faith on a Firm Foundation. I created this session to help all of us take God’s Word seriously and to build confidence and trust in the Lord. I wanted all of us church leaders, myself included, to persevere in difficult circumstances and problems that we face by finding our answers on how we should continue in the Word of God. This was a time of reminding each of us about our personal roles and responsibilities to be a servant to our churches and to each other.
In past months, I have asked for prayer concerning many of the youth in our church. They were forced to go into the big city to find some sort of work that will pay wages so that they can send money to help their families here since there are very few opportunities to earn any money in our area. Praise God, He has answered our prayers, and some of our youth have now returned home and have come back to church. My heart is grateful for the continuing time to shepherd them as they become adults, that their faith will be real and strong, on a solid biblical foundation.
Scripture for this month: John 15: 6-7: These scriptures teach about the True Vine remind me that my faith is growing when I am abiding in Jesus. Of course, this means to abide in the Word of God, in prayer, in meditation, and obedience. This Scripture is significant to all Christians to know that Jesus is the source of everything in life. For this reason, we, as the whole church, memorize these two verses so that we can have them in our hearts.
Pray for us that our church will get stronger in faith and that each of us will have a heart that desires to serve the Lord and desires to share the Gospel with the lost.
The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ and the love of God and the fellowship of the Holy Spirit be with you all.
January 16, 2020 by Lee DeYoung
(Including Christianity’s Cross-Cultural Translatability)
The Cambridge Dictionary defines a ripple effect as “a series of things that happen as the result of a particular action or event.” The Malawi Reformation Network’s primary work is to promote the growth and multiplication of solid Reformed churches in Malawi through the gospel ministry of godly and well-trained men.
By God’s grace, Rev. Confex Makhalira represents the firstfruits of MRN’s original efforts—completing his seminary degree and pastoral internship in Michigan and promptly returning with his family to Blantyre, Malawi last summer. Confex’s initial church planting and mentoring efforts have already impacted a growing circle of interns and fellow pastors. Based on my own experiences partnering with church leaders in other parts of East Africa, I’m convinced that the gospel-advancing ripple effects of Confex’s MRN-enhanced ministry will continue to multiply exponentially in many directions.
Since 2003, for example, the 8-million member Church of Uganda has greatly benefited from a series of indigenous ministers who earned graduate divinity degrees from a Reformed seminary in Holland, Michigan. When they returned to their homeland, these young leaders positively influenced their Ugandan peers in myriad ways. Beyond their augmented pastoral ministries, several also served as teachers, lecturers, and/or chaplains in Uganda’s Christian universities. One led denominational departments of mission and evangelism at the national level. Some have participated in media-based outreach ministries. One alumnus will soon be installed as his denomination’s next Archbishop and Primate. Each returning pastor has prioritized the supremacy of scripture over culture and human rationality. Their combined efforts have broadly advanced the Great Commission throughout East Africa and beyond.
Some graduates have multiplied their impact by authoring insightful Christian articles and books. In this information era, faithful Christian communicators need to engage in theologically sound writing to counter the mushrooming influence of false preachers and anti-Christian voices on social media and other areas of public discourse. This ripple effect could signal the beginnings of a welcome change since the impact of this past century’s global Christianity’s dramatic demographic shift to the Global South has lagged cross-culturally. This largely one-way directionality of Global North to South impact is a valid missiological concern which need not persist. In his 2019 article The 100-year shift of Christianity to the South, researcher Dr. Todd M. Johnson of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity in Hamilton, Massachusetts observed:
Christianity has been generally accepting of scriptural, liturgical, and cultural translation throughout its history, with the translation process of the Christian message going back nearly to its inception. Christianity is the only world religion for which the primary source documents are in a different language than that of the founder (the New Testament is in Greek, while Jesus spoke Aramaic). Cultural and linguistic translatability are some of Christianity’s greatest strengths; strengths that, in light of its recent demographic shift, ought to be seen more readily in the diverse communities of Christians worldwide. The kind of cultural translatability needed today is similar to that seen when first-century Christianity moved out of its original Jewish setting.”
Please join us in praying that the ripple effects of MRN’s future ministry efforts will include two-way (Global North-to-South AND South-to-North) cross-cultural interactions among future church leaders from Malawi and their North American mentors and colleagues. May the spiritual vitality and zeal evident among many in the Global South bear fruit in the Global North as well.
Many of you are here as parents of little ones and, in some cases, many little ones. For you, the worship of the Lord is a far more arduous task that it is for the rest of us. All of us are engaged in the work of worshiping the Lord, but you are carrying young ones in your arms as you perform the same labor that we do.
The work includes great things, like keeping everyone in fellowship throughout the whole service, and trivial things, like finding your place in the psalter. The work is daunting, and it is sometimes easy to forget why you are doing it. There are three things for you to keep in mind as you continue
The first is that while you sometimes need to be reminded why you are doing this, God knows exactly why you are doing it. Do not grow weary in doing good. God sees, and your labor in the Lord will bear good fruit. Your labor is before the Lord—He sees, and He rejoices. When you need to be reminded, there is one who can always remind you. You are here with your little ones because God calls you to worship Him together with all the children He has given you.
This means, secondly, that God receives, as true worship, every distracted shush, every dropped hymnal, and every time you have to take your child out to have a little word with him. You are not taken away from true worship by these things, but farther into true worship than most of are privileged to go. If Christian discipleship consists of “my life for yours,” what is worshiping with four to seven little ones?
Third, do not think of this time as the time of distraction, but rather as a time of fruitful planting, and trust God to be kind. He will bestow a time of fruitful harvest. The sun is hot and the soil is hard—but it will all come back to you, thirty, sixty and a hundred fold.
Film Review By Hamilton Richardson
I recently went and checked out the new and potentially controversial Taika Waititi film, Jojo Rabbit.
Before I jump into my thoughts and reactions to the movie, I need to explain myself a bit, mostly because this review will find itself before a new audience.
Over the last several years, I have gotten the great opportunity to review a lot of movies. Many of those reviews were written for two print publications and some were for publication on the web. Now to be clear, I haven’t reviewed as many films as some prominent critics and I would never claim that I have. But I’ve reviewed a good many and for the most part, I’ve loved every minute.
With so many critics out there, why would I even attempt to join the ranks of those who share their thoughts and opinions on the latest films? Simple. I love movies. And its not just that. I love great movies. Movies that stir the heart. Movies that make you feel courageous, hopeful and that point you to something bigger than yourself.
But the only way to find those rare films is to, obviously, watch them and to try to sift through the rubble to find the gems.
Jojo Rabbit is just such a gem.
The new Taika Waititi film is the latest creative endeavor from the director of Thor: Ragnarök (2017). Waititi is also well known for co-directing the strange but hilarious cult classic, What We Do in the Shadows (2014).
Jojo Rabbit is a period piece set in WW II Germany, which is part drama, part parody and in an unexpected way, part tragedy. The mix of those three genres is what makes this movie so remarkable. One moment you’re laughing out loud, the next you’re brought to tears.
Jojo, whose full name is Johannes Beltzer, is a smart, thoughtful young boy who dreams of becoming a Nazi. He even talks everyday to his own personal Hitler, played to hilarious perfection by Waititi, and asking for advice about how to succeed in Hitler’s Youth. Jojo is played so well by young actor Roman Griffin Davis, who after this could have a bright future in films.
Jojo’s mom, Rosie, played by Scarlett Johansen, is a funny, tough and devoted mother. As the film unfolds, we learn that Rosie, although appearing to support her son’s love of the Fuhrer, actually has other plans in the works. Johansen may have given the best performance of her career here.
So what does a young precocious Nazi boy do when he discovers a Jewish young lady (Elsa played by Thomasin McKenzie) living in the walls of his house? Well now you see the unfolding crisis in this well-told, superbly performed motion picture.
Although a very serious topic is on display in Jojo Rabbit, it is interspersed with kooky comedy and parody beyond compare (I mean who doesn’t want to see Adolf Hitler running around the forest with a boy screaming the benefits of being a Nazi?). And let me not neglect to mention the hilarious Sam Rockwell who plays Captain Klenzendorf, the one-eyed (and recently demoted) Nazi officer tasked to train Jojo and a group of German youth to be good soldiers. We find out early on with Klenzendorf that he has just about had enough of the war and is killing time until it’s over.
I must interject in the midst of all this hilariousness, that there are some painful, truly tragic and even shocking parts of Jojo Rabbit. It’s a war movie after all and the devastating truth of what the Nazis did to the Jewish population is not lost on Waititi. And he’s not afraid to show it, which also makes the film so moving.
Now I can already hear the complaints and moans from those who see this film as a travesty. I can hear it now. How can you make Nazis look funny? How can you laugh while people are being killed? How could you fall in love with a young boy who just wants to be a good Nazi?
That’s the beauty of this project. You’re able to laugh in the face of death, yet never forget that death is terrible. Never forget that Nazis were evil. Never forget that boys can get awfully confused about life.
But in this rare gem of a film, we are forced to choose– in the midst of war and abuse and injustice—to take a few minutes to laugh.