Who Wins the Battle of Ideas Wins the War

We’ve written recently about the importance of recognizing that the battle with militant Islam is a battle of ideas.

James Glassman was under secretary of state for Public Diplomacy under President George W. Bush. He was recently referenced by Helle C. Dale at The Daily Signal in her excellent piece, “In the War on Terrorism, We Must Win the War of Ideas.”

How do we fight this battle [with ISIS]? With a two pronged approach, suggests Glassman. On the one hand, says Glassman, we do it by persuading returning foreign fighters to be interviewed and broadcast about their experiences with Islamist extremism, which many find to be a much different reality, more repressive and far more violent, than anything they had been led to believe online.   …

Secondly, we need a forceful defense of Western principles based on freedom, justice, peace, tolerance– the principles indeed embraced by most of the world at this point. These universal principles, on which the United States itself was founded, stood up well in the battle against Communism, and would do so again in this battle if openly and forcefully embraced.

war of ideas says Emancipating the World about the conflict with militant IslamTo the degree this kind of clarity can characterize the key decision makers in the war of the West against militant Islam, we can look for long-term results. Because, the fact is, every battle begins at the level of ideas.

Here’s how Darrow Miller put it in his 2012 book, Emancipating the World:  A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism

 

 

A Battle of Ideas

Ultimately we face a conflict of ideas, ideals, and vision, a battle of worldviews and religious narratives. As Proverbs reminds us: “For as he thinketh in his heart, so is he!” (Prov. 23:7 KJV). As we have seen, our religious worldview not only tells us how to see the world but also determines the kind of nations we will build.

Each narrative has a symbol, a driving vision, and a focus.

Lifestyles_condom_packageAtheistic materialism’s symbol is the condom. The vision is “Eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die!” Its focus is the self and the immediate satisfaction of one’s natural instincts (narcissism).

swordThe symbol of militant Islam is the sword. Would-be martyr Ijaz Khan Hussein expresses its vision: “We went to the Jihad filled with joy, and I would go again tomorrow. If Allah had chosen me to die I would have been in paradise, eating honey and watermelons and grapes and resting with beautiful virgins.” The focus is obedience to Allah by murdering innocents through jihad.

crossBiblical theism’s symbol is the cross. The driving vision was stated by the apostle Paul: “It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. . . . You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free . . . use your freedom to . . . serve one another in love” (Gal. 5:1, 13). The focus is personal and national liberty through obedience to God’s order.

These radically diverse narratives lead to drastically different ends. The first ends in disorder (moral anarchy), the second in tyranny, the third in freedom.

This battle of ideas must be fought on two levels. First, the license of secular atheism and the freedom of biblical theism must face off. The winner—license or freedom—will confront the tyranny of jihadist Islam. The outcome will determine the future of Europe and America, the future of the Middle East, the future of the world.

To engage in this battle fully, we must see it from its deepest level—the spiritual level.

– Darrow Miller

Related posts:

Who Will Win the War of 9/11?

Ideas Have Consequences … A Columbus Day Reflection

What A Nation’s Culture Reveals About its God

  
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The War Against ISIS is a Religious War

In the War on Terrorism, We Must Win the War of Ideas.”

Helle C. Dale, senior fellow in public diplomacy at the Heritage Foundation, says it all in the title of her recent post at The Daily Signal.

Why is this true? Because in the same way that every action is rooted in a thought, entire movements spring from sets of ideas. To ignore this reality is hapless folly. As we watch the evil flow of jihadist terrorism engulfing wretched victims and threatening free societies, no effort to stem that tide which does not include the ideological element can ultimately succeed.

Unfortunately, the Western media, and intelligentsia, steeped as they are in an atheistic-materialist worldview, seem to be little inclined to consider how religious and ideological elements might play into these conflicts. But South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham is one exception. Graham effectively expressed the truth about this matter during an interview on Fox News last week.

We are in a religious war with radical Islamists who’ve embraced a religious doctrine that requires them, compelled by [Allah], to purify their religion, to kill all moderate Muslims or people who don’t agree with them within the faith, to destroy every other religion.

The jihadists themselves understand the religious nature of this war. Their recruitment messages appeal unabashedly to youths—male and female—who are disaffected with the superficiality in life in the West. They want to change the world and ISIS gives them that opportunity, as Holly Yan writes at CNN World.

It’s a message frequently posted by ISIS on social media: “You have to join. It’s your religious duty,” CNN terrorism analyst Paul Cruickshank said.

today's conflict with jihadism is a religious war says Darrow Miller in Emancipating the WorldThe false messages of ISIS can only be countered by the truths of the Bible. This is one of the messages from Darrow Miller’s 2012 book, Emancipating the World:  A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism. His analysis includes the following excerpt which speaks to the religious nature of the current conflict which, for many millions of people, effectively began on September 11, 2001.

A Religious War

Most Western media, news, and university elites are cultural relativists; they are tone-deaf to the pronouncements of the jihadists. They see the poverty of and injustices committed against Muslim societies as the primary source of jihadists’ rage against the West. And yet, as we have seen, this is not the rhetoric fueling al-Qaeda. The elites of the Western world are in a Neville Chamberlain mode, in denial of the dangers we face.

Dr. Mary Habeck, associate professor of strategic studies at Johns Hopkins University, has written:

The consistent need to find explanations other than religious ones for the attacks says, in fact, more about the West than it does about the jihadis. Western scholars have generally failed to take religion seriously. Secularists . . . discount the plain sense of religious statements made by the jihadis themselves. To see why jihadis declared war on the United States and tried to kill as many Americans as possible, we must be willing to listen to their own explanations. To do otherwise is to impose a Western interpretation on the extremists, in effect to listen to ourselves rather than to them.[1] [emphasis added]

We have witnessed this over and over again in the politically correct statements of President Obama and his administration. In November 2009 US Army major Nidal Malik Hasan, a Muslim radical, cried “Allahu Akbar” as he murdered fourteen people and wounded thirty-one at the Fort Hood army base. Janet Napolitano, secretary of homeland security, commented on the rampage: “This was an individual who does not, obviously, represent the Muslim faith.”[2] In February 2010 the Department of Homeland Security’s Quadrennial Homeland Security Report “failed to make any reference to the Islamist nature of the threat.”[3]

Today many academics, reporters, and government officials view the world through an atheistic and materialistic set of glasses. They see all problems and their solutions through political and economic lenses. They cannot understand how jihadists can be motivated by religious belief. Robert Spencer, American author and director of Jihad Watch, writes:

Even at the Wall Street Journal they don’t understand that the primary motivation of the jihadists is a religious ideology, not resentment born of economic injustice or marginalization. Economic injustice and marginalization are things they understand; a religious ideology that can move men to give up good lives and devote themselves to murder and destruction is so far out of their purview that they cannot even imagine it, and take all the evidence of it that is in front of their faces as indications of something else.[4]

–  Darrow Miller

[1] Mary Habeck, Knowing the Enemy: Jihadist Ideology and the War on Terror (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2006), 7.

[2] “Napolitano Warns against Anti-Muslim Backlash,” Fox News, November 8, 2009, http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2009/11/08/napolitano-warns-anti-muslim-backlash/.

[3] Kim R. Holmes, “Who Links Terrorism to Islam? Not America,” The Washington Times, February 19, 2010, http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/feb/19/who-links-terrorism-to-islam-not-america/.

[4] Robert Spencer, “Does America Have a ‘Muslim Problem’?” FrontPageMagazine.com, September 9, 2005, http://archive.frontpagemag.com/readArticle.aspx?ARTID=7325.

 

 

See these related posts:

Every Conflict is Rooted in a War of Ideas

What A Nation’s Culture Reveals About its God

Home-Grown Terror: The Fruit of a Neglected Worldview

 

  
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Every Conflict is Rooted in a War of Ideas

Our colleague Dwight Vogt recently pointed us to an article at The Daily Signal by Helle Dale, “In the War on Terrorism, We Must Win the War of Ideas.”

Asked recently by CNN what the United States needs most to fight ISIS on the Internet, James Glassman former under secretary of state for Public Diplomacy under President George W. Bush answered, “A commitment to the war of ideas.” Fighting the terrorists on the battlefields in Iraq and Syria will not be enough. We need to engage in the ideological war, “just as we did during the battle with Communism.”

Put down our response as a resounding Amen. It’s heartening to see public officials recognize where the real battle is fought. Every Christ follower should be operating at this level, as informed by the apostle Paul when he wrote, “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ,” 2 Cor. 10:5 ESV. The word translated “thought” is “the psychological faculty of understanding, reasoning, thinking, and deciding – ‘mind.’”[1] Paul is not merely endorsing positive thinking; he is identifying the mind as the battlefield of ideas.

war of ideas one theme of Emancipating the WorldDarrow treated this aspect of the relationship between Islam and the West in his 2012 book, Emancipating the World:  A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism. Here’s one excerpt very relevant to the discussion.

 

Three Competing Narratives

The politically correct view is to frame this conflict in criminal terms: terrorists like bin Laden are criminals who must be brought to justice. But this is war, not just criminal activity. Soldiers, terrorists, and civilians—innocent mothers and children, including Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, secularists, Jews, and Christians—are being killed. Cities are being bombed.

The clash we are facing is a battle for the hearts and minds of people and souls of nations. It is a clash of civilizations, to use the provocative title of Dr. Samuel Huntington’s book.[2] It is a battle of conflicting visions shaped by three metaphysical big ideas: moral anarchy, tyranny, and freedom.

Moral anarchy, or license, is the product of the atheistic materialism and secular humanism of the West.[3] This ideology regards truth, morals, and beauty as relative; people are free to do what is right in their own eyes. Another dimension of this worldview is hedonism: “eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we die.” The symbol of this way of life is the condom.

Another big idea, one that has enveloped many nations throughout history, is tyranny. This was the reality of communism and fascism in the twentieth century and is currently espoused by the jihadist minority of fundamentalist Islam.[4] Tyrants rule over others in oppressive and often violent ways. The symbol of tyranny is the sword.

Secularists and jihadists are not irrational. They are functioning rationally but from faulty assumptions. They may be sincerely motivated, thinking that they are advocating and working toward “good for mankind,” but sincerity does not make their convictions or actions right.

The third big idea, freedom, comes from Judeo-Christian theism— the biblical worldview—which is the root of Euro-American civilization. Freedom is the foundation of all thriving cultures and nations. It flows from the gospel of Jesus Christ, lived and proclaimed.[5] The symbol of this way of life is the self-sacrificial cross of Christ.

Looking at these three narratives, we understand that this clash of civilizations is a struggle between the disorder (license without order) of modern and postmodern atheism, the tyrannical order (without freedom) of the jihadists, and the freedom (the order of internal self-government based on biblical principles) found in the kingdom of God.

This war will not be won by swords, bullets, or bombs. It will be won by the side most convinced of the truth of their moral vision. It will be won by lives lived well and even sacrificed for others. It will be won by truth over falsehood, justice over corruption, freedom over tyranny, liberty over license, love over hate, and beauty over vileness. It will be won by those with the best set of ideas or “theology,” a theology fleshed out in the midst of our poor and broken world.

[1] Louw-Nida Greek-English Lexicon of the New Testament Based on Semantic Domains, 2nd Edition, Edited by J. P. Louw and E. A. Nida.  Copyright © 1988 by the United Bible Societies, New York, NY 10023. Used by permission.

[2] Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1996).

[3] We must distinguish between moral anarchy as the absence of moral restrictions and political anarchy as the absence of government. Most Western secularists are moral anarchists but not political anarchists.

[4] As we will see later, moral anarchy ultimately leads to tyranny: when all values are relative and there is no objective truth, those in power will impose their values on others. Communism and fascism were both atheistic ideologies that led to tyranny.

[5] Luke 4:18–19.

See these related posts:

Who Will Win the War of 9/11?

LOVE NEVER FAILS: The Christian Response to Jihadism

LOVE CELLS: The Christian Answer to Terror Cells

  
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What Wisdom Has to Do with Wealth

We wrote recently about the implications of wisdom in human life as an attribute from the creation. Wisdom is the framework for humans to flourish as God intended.

It’s not hard to see wisdom vs. folly played out in simple economics. By wisdom wealth can be created, and used to bless families and societies. On the other hand, when we see wealth destroyed or stolen we are seeing the fruits of folly.

Wisdom allows individuals and nations to create wealth.[1] Those nations in which some measure of wisdom has taken root have succeeded in building wealth, have provided for its people to rise above poverty.

Folly, on the other hand, influences individuals and nations to misuse wealth. Sometimes this presents as stealing. Others waste wealth with prodigal living. Some destroy wealth by irresponsible behavior or even anarchy.

wisdom in short supply among Cuba's leadersToo often, wealth is destroyed through corrupt practices, including government policies that destroy initiative. I recently visited Cuba. It was stunning how foolish the government has been. Cuba is a paradise, with incredible agricultural potential, and an imaginative and innovative people. But government policies have stifled the potential of her citizens and impoverished her people. All these foolish behaviors have consequences. When we violate God’s order by crippling human potential for enterprise or by actually destroying wealth through personal, corporate, or government foolishness and/or malfeasance, we are causing others (and ourselves) to flounder rather than flourish.

People who work in the world of finance talk a lot about “capital.” We generally think of capital as money or stock used in business.

But just as not all wealth or poverty is material, not all capital is material. As our colleague, Dwight Vogt, observed some time ago, every human being possesses an inherent metaphysical capital. Created in the God’s image, humans have the ability to develop new ideas, dream new dreams, imagine new worlds.

Look around you. Whatever you see beyond the natural world has come from this God-given inner capital of a human. Every book ever written, every building ever constructed, every song ever composed, every technology ever invented, every sculpture ever formed, every garden ever cultivated … all of these came to fruition because of the metaphysical capital of the human mind.

Wisdom calls us to steward this internal capital, as well as the external capital of creation, to mimic God’s creative activity by producing culture that glorifies God.

Man, made in the image of God, is the secondary creator. Man discovers truth which God has placed in the creation. Man discovers through three “books” from God: “the book of revelation known through the Scriptures, the book of nature known inductively through the senses, and the book of the mind—which was logic.”[2]

Man discovers and then imitates the creator. God creates out of nothing; man creates by starting from the raw materials in the primary creation and producing art, technology, systems, ideas. Man creates to the glory of God. He manifests the Primary Creator and the primary creation through his creative activity.

The Landfill Harmonic is an example of the secondary creation: beauty discovered in the garbage dump! Children are playing beautiful and inspiring music on instruments crafted from transformed garbage.

Models of Flourishing

We have written before about the multiple dimensions in the growth of the Messiah: growth in wisdom, as well as in the physical, social and spiritual dimensions.

Jun Vencer is Chairman of the Board of Trustees of the Alliance Graduate School, Philippines. Dr. Vencer is one of the world’s leading thinkers on wholistic development. He has encapsulated the concept of flourishing on a national level as follows:

  • Individual and national righteousness
  • Economic sufficiency for all
  • Lasting social peace
  • Lasting public justice, even for the poorest of the poor

Poverty is the Result of a Counterfeit Order

The opposite of order is disorder. God built order into the creation. Among other things, this means that, generally, human flourishing comes from following the order built into the creation. By the same token, abandoning order—pursuing disorder, results in human withering. God’s creation order affirms the sacredness of human life, the sacredness of one-man-one-woman marriage, the dignity of work. When these creation principles are twisted or abandoned, disorder and poverty follow.

In August 2013, Fox News aired a special report, “The Great Food Stamp Binge.” The gist of the story was a poll conducted by Fox indicating that 74 percent believed that “Americans rely too much on the government and not enough on themselves.” The ultimate example was a 29-year-old man named Jason Greenslate. In the report, Greenslate told the interviewer about his life as a California beach bum happily living on welfare, partying and eating lobster bought with government-issued food stamps. Why not? he asked.

Greenslate’s question effectively captures the issue. If Darwin is correct, if the universe is the product of chance played out over innumerable years of evolution, if there is no Creator who fashioned and sustains the world around us, if there is no metaphysical reality … why should anyone attempt to live according to any order?

But the evidence suggests otherwise.

- Adapted from a forthcoming book

[1] We have written elsewhere about the characteristics of nations that encourage wealth development. See Rethinking Social Justice: Redeeming Biblical Compassion. (last chapter, look for Hernando Desoto story).

[2] Ibid. This “three book” paradigm was originated by seventeenth century Czech Moravian educational reformer John Comenius.

Check out these related posts:

CREATING WEALTH is Better Than Curing Poverty

Wealth Creation: The Theological Dimension

Why Wealth is Better Than Riches

  
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Eric Metaxas Asserts that Science Makes the Case for God

science makes the case for GodIt’s mere exaggeration, not hyperbole, to note that, these days, one can measure in hours the time lag between affirmations of Darwinism by public figures. Especially distressing is watching Christ followers line up at the “of course evolution is true” booth. Why do so many Christians feel the need to accommodate the doctrine of spontaneous generation, like a used-car salesman afraid to disagree with an obnoxious customer for fear of losing the sale?

Happily, we have some compelling exceptions. Consider, for example, a recent piece in the Wall Street Journal by Eric Metaxas. He tackles evolutionism on the fundamental level—the origin of the universe—demonstrating with potency and style that as discoveries continue to develop, science makes the case for God.

Every Christian needs to digest Metaxas’s article. We are happy to point our readers to it here.

– Gary Brumbelow

~

“Science Increasingly Makes the Case for God”

In 1966 Time magazine ran a cover story asking: Is God Dead? Many have accepted the cultural narrative that he’s obsolete—that as science progresses, there is less need for a “God” to explain the universe. Yet it turns out that the rumors of God’s death were premature. More amazing is that the relatively recent case for his existence comes from a surprising place—science itself.

Here’s the story: The same year Time featured the now-famous headline, the astronomer Carl Sagan announced that there were two important criteria for a planet to support life: The right kind of star, and a planet the right distance from that star. Given the roughly octillion—1 followed by 27 zeros—planets in the universe, there should have been about septillion—1 followed by 24 zeros—planets capable of supporting life.

With such spectacular odds, the Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence, a large, expensive collection of private and publicly funded projects launched in the 1960s, was sure to turn up something soon. Scientists listened with a vast radio telescopic network for signals that resembled coded intelligence and were not merely random. But as years passed, the silence from the rest of the universe was deafening. Congress defunded SETI in 1993, but the search continues with private funds. As of 2014, researches have discovered precisely bubkis—0 followed by nothing.

Copyright law prevents us from sharing the article in its entirety, and a link here won’t get you through the subscriber firewall. But if you copy the line below and paste it in a search window, the top link will take you to Eric’s piece at the Wall Street Journal.

WSJ Eric Metaxas Science

  
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“Emancipating the World” Featured (Again) at WORLD Magazine

WORLD magazine excerpts Emancipating the WorldLast October, our friend Marvin Olasky, editor at WORLD, published chapter 3 of Darrow’s book, Emancipating the World: A Christian Response to Fundamentalist Atheism and Radical Islam.

Now Marvin has returned to the book, publishing chapter 7 with his post, Opening the door to the enemy.

Here’s Marvin’s introduction:

Two months ago we published Chapter 3 of Darrow Miller’s Emancipating the World: A Christian Response to Radical Islam and Fundamentalist Atheism. The chapter provoked a good discussion on the website and elsewhere, so we’re back with one more, Chapter 7, which reports on and analyzes the “pathological self-loathing” that characterizes much of Western civilization’s contemporary intellectual output. 

Miller, who heads the Disciple Nations Alliance, asks why many in Europe and America are reluctant to speak about “Islamic terrorists,” why many feminists are silent about Muslim oppression of women, and why we tolerate the intolerant. He also points out some painful truths that lie within the Islamic moral critique of the West: Many in Europe and America are spiraling into a spiritual and moral abyss. 

WORLD has recommended some of Miller’s excellent books, especially LifeWork: A Biblical Theology for What You Do Every Day. For more of Miller’s thinking, please see the interview we ran in WORLD in December 2009. Happy New Year, everyone.

Thanks, Marvin, for this welcome publicity!

 

 

  
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Imitating the First Artist: The Place of Beauty and Creativity in God’s Design

God the first artist made the world

We are happy to reproduce here, by permission, the following excellent post from Reconciled World.

Creator & Creation – The Place of Beauty & Creativity in God’s Design

Have you ever walked into a movie late? What was that experience like?

After shuffling through the theatre’s darkness, you sit down with a sigh of relief, and dive into the action on the screen.

If you’re not too late, you get most of the story but can’t shake the feeling of being robbed of something good. But if the traffic really held you up, the storyline may just not fully make sense. In fact, chances are, without seeing the beginning of the movie, there are crucial things about the film that to this day you may never realize you have completely missed out on.

For many of us who have grown up in the evangelical church, it’s as if we have walked into the movie late. Our story, as we experience or narrate it to others, often starts in the middle of a bunch of action up there on the screen. The way we tell it, our story begins with John 3:16, or Romans 3:23, in short, with the Fall. And as a result, although there is much we understand about God, ourselves, and the task at hand, the storyline doesn’t always add up. At its worst, we may not even realize we are missing some of the most central plot lines of the movie.

Our story, of course, doesn’t start with the Fall, but with Creation. And in the course of three blogs we want to explore what the opening chapters of Genesis reveal about God, ourselves, the task at hand, and in particular, the place of beauty and art in it all.

The First Artist

“In the beginning God made the heavens and the earth.” Genesis 1:1 tells us our story starts with God, the source of all reality, the beginning of history, and the fact that He is an artist. God creates, and as he constructs the world, he doesn’t do so just for utility. Genesis 2:9 tells us: “Out of the ground the Lord God caused to grow every tree that is pleasing to the sight and good for food.” God could have made the tree functional, in monotones, a grey shed to provide us shade with a box of fruit in the corner. Instead He chose to make the trees both good for food and pleasing to the eye in all their fractal detail and myriad diversity. Beauty is no accident, beauty is intentional, core to the way God did things and planned life to unfold from the very start.

In India, Reconciled World’s Create Commission project makes art with some of the poorest, neediest people in the world, destitute men and children living in slums. Should we not be using our resources better? Instead of art, should we not be giving the children food, or providing medical care to the destitute? The truth is, we spend our resources on making art with these precious friends, because our story doesn’t start with hunger and disease, it starts with creation and beauty.

The Original Task

God creates Adam and Eve, in his image, and places them in the Garden. He gives Adam a task, to name the animals. Here’s a question: Why didn’t God name the animals? He should have, shouldn’t he, because He created them, and they belonged to Him. But the Bible says, “He brought them to the man to see what he would call them.”God is curious, fascinated by Adam’s creativity. Scripture says, “Whatever the man called a living creature, that was its name” (Gen 2:19). God respects Adam’s creativity. In fact, He not only respects it, He expects it. Why? Because that was what Adam was created to do. That was Adam’s job-description.

Before any talk about saving the world, helping the poor, liberating the captives, fulfilling the Great Commission—all the things that we concern ourselves with because of the Fall— Genesis tells us that human beings were created for a specific task. In Genesis 1:28 God blesses Adam and Eve and then gives them this mandate: “Be fruitful and increase in number; fill the earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky and over every living creature that moves on the ground.”

These activities constitute what theologians call the ‘Cultural Mandate,’ a social, developmental, scientific, and artistic mandate to take a world that was created perfect, yet not finished, and make something of it. In effect, it is a mandate to create culture. Ken Myers defines culture as ‘what we make of the world’—in both senses of the word, the stuff we make of the world, and the sense we make of it.[1]

When we add the Fall to our story, the place for beauty and creativity does not disappear, the Cultural Mandate does not expire; these things only get augmented with a redemptive quality. The Great Commission, to ‘make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you’ (Matthew 28:19-20), is in many ways a recasting of the Cultural Mandate, bringing a normative, prophetic, redeeming function to our original task.

In the work of Reconciled World’s Create Commission, we believe that by giving people the chance to be creative, they become more human, more of what God intended them to be from the start. In our work with the marginalized and dispossessed, we see beauty and creativity play a role in healing. In discovering their God-given identity, men, women and children start exercising a part of themselves they have rarely had the chance to before.

But we also recognize the central, God-intended responsibility human beings have to create culture. And we are excited about working with professional artists, those with a powerful ‘engine’ for creating culture, exploring the redemptive role that art plays in bringing truth to bear on society and speaking out on behalf of the poor and vulnerable.

[1] As paraphrased by Andy Crouch on page 31 of ‘For the Beauty of the Church: Casting a Vision for the Arts,’ Edited by W David O Taylor, BakerBooks (Grand Rapids: 2010).

Stefan runs the Create Commission project in India.  He is passionate about the interface between faith, art, and social issues, and the powerful and necessary role that art plays in speaking truth and shaping society.

Related posts:

Christian Artists: Imitators of the Grand Creator

BEAUTY Will Save the World

CREATOR and CREATION: How Did God Make It Happen?

  
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Divine Conception, Human Birth: What Pregnancy Teaches Us About God, part 2

The Christmas season–the celebration of Christ’s birth–gives us opportunity to think about human pregnancy and how it pictures something truly magnificent about God. For example, God gave birth to the nation of Israel.

The Song of Moses is  the composition that marks the celebration of God’s deliverance of his people from the darkness and slavery of Egypt. This is the story of the conception of a free nation–Israel, a nation born from a group of slaves–the Hebrews in Egypt. Their gestation was 430 years in the “womb” of Egypt. Their exodus marked the birth and birth pangs of a people.

We see the Song of Moses in three passages, including Deuteronomy 32:1-3. Moses’s song includes several fascinating references to the paternal and maternal heart of God.

In verse 6 we see that Israel has acted wickedly towards the Lord, their Father and Creator (all Scripture references in this post are from the NIV): “Is this the way you repay the LORD, you foolish and unwise people? Is he not your Father, your Creator, who made you and formed you?” He made and formed them. (Although the Hebrew word translated “formed” is never used of pregnancy nevertheless we see the linguistic connection between gestation and forming.)

God gave birth to Israel and nurtured them as a bird does her youngIn vs. 10-11 we read: “In a desert land he found him, in a barren and howling waste. He shielded him and cared for him; he guarded him as the apple of his eye, like an eagle that stirs up its nest and hovers over its young, that spreads its wings to catch them and carries them on its pinions.” Note the maternal imagery! God’s behavior is pictured by a mother bird that hovers over (the same word used of the Holy Spirit in Genesis 1:2) and protects her chicks. We read that the one who is known as the Rock of Israel, like a mother eagle, rescues Israel from danger.

In vs. 15 we read: “Jeshurun [another name for Israel] grew fat and kicked; filled with food, he became heavy and sleek. He abandoned the God who made him and rejected the Rock his Savior.” Note that the Rock is the Savior of Israel. But note the indictment: Israel abandoned the God who made him. God did not abandon Israel.

God conceived and brought into being the nation of Israel, he is their Rock, their protector.

Now we come to a most fascinating verse. Here (vs. 18) is imagery at its most powerful: “You deserted the Rock, who fathered you; you forgot the God who gave you birth.” Israel “neglected,” was “unmindful,” “did not pay attention to” the one who fathered them. Israel “forgot,” “ignored,” “overlooked” the One who “gave [them] birth.” How could a child turn his back on a parent in this way? But this is what Israel did.

But now let us look more closely at two other words in this text. Moses identifies God as the Rock who “fathered” Israel. The Hebrew word, yā·lǎḏ, means to “beget,” “impregnate,” or “father” a child. This is the process of conceiving a child. Moses says this is the role of the father.

A leading Hebrew-language resource, The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, notes the following about the term yā·lǎḏ.

In its narrowest sense y¹lad describes the act of a woman in giving birth to a child (e.g. Exo 1:19; 1Kings 3:17-18), but it is sometimes used of the father’s part in becoming a parent (e.g. Gen 4:18; Gen 10:8, 24, 26; Gen 22:23; Gen 25:3; 1Chr 1:10-20, Prov 23:22). It may be used with reference to the whole procedure involved in producing a child (e.g. Gen 38:27-28) or it may even be specifically applied to the pains of a woman prior to the actual birth (e.g. Gen 35:16; Mic 5:3).[1]

The second term to examine is the phrase “who gave birth.” This is the Hebrew word chuwl and means “to writhe in pain [as in childbirth],” “to bear,” “to bring forth.” This is the description of the consummation of pregnancy with the birth of a child. So we find that God “gives birth.”

Keil and Delitzsch, in their classic Commentary on the Old Testament, have this to say about Deuteronomy 32:18:

To bring out still more prominently the base ingratitude of the people, he represents the creation of Israel by Jehovah, the rock of its salvation, under the figure of generation and birth, in which the paternal and maternal love of the Lord to His people had manifested itself.[2] (emphasis added)

It was the Rock who conceived and it was God who gave birth. Israel’s traitorous nature is reflected in that they turned their back on the Lord who “fathered” and “mothered” them.

I would like to conclude this reflection by quoting from Lord Jonathan Sacks, former Chief Rabbi of the United Kingdom, speaking at the recent Vatican Humanum, a Colloquium on the Complementarity of Man and Woman in Marriage. To read his statement in its entirety is to see that Chief Rabbi Sacks is suffering from the sacred–secular dichotomy of too many other Jews and Christians. His religiousness occupies one “silo” of his life and naturalistic science the other “silo.” This is seen to some extent in his remarks reflecting on Genesis 1 and 2. But I excerpt  him here because he speaks so eloquently about the dignity of women as women – “the mother of all living,” not simply in their dignity but also in their humanity.

If we read the text carefully, we see that until now the first man had given his wife a purely generic name. He called her ishah, woman. Recall what he said when he first saw her: “This is now bone of my bones and flesh of my flesh; she shall be called woman for she was taken from man.” For him she was a type, not a person. He gave her a noun, not a name. What is more he defines her as a derivative of himself: something taken from man. She is not yet for him someone other, a person in her own right. She is merely a kind of reflection of himself.

As long as the man thought he was immortal, he ultimately needed no one else. But now he knew he was mortal. He would one day die and return to dust. There was only one way in which something of him would live on after his death. That would be if he had a child. But he could not have a child on his own. For that he needed his wife. She alone could give birth. She alone could mitigate his mortality. And not because she was like him but precisely because she was unlike him. At that moment she ceased to be, for him, a type, and became a person in her own right. And a person has a proper name. That is what he gave her: the name Chavah, “Eve,” meaning, “giver of life.” At that moment, as they were about to leave Eden and face the world as we know it, a place of darkness, Adam gave his wife the first gift of love, a personal name. And at that moment, God responded to them both in love, and made them garments to clothe their nakedness, or as Rabbi Meir put it, “garments of light.”

I’m grateful to my friend Eduardo for prompting in me a new, deeper reflection about the reality that the image of God reflects both His paternal and maternal heart. A woman not only has a common dignity with man; she has a unique dignity in that she can carry, birth, and nurture a child. She has the wonderful and unique ability to gestate and consummate a pregnancy, bringing into the world a child, a unique human being. Both in her being and nature she is like God.

Unto us a child is born!

As we rejoice at the birth of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, let us also celebrate the role that a humble Galilean teenager played in his birth and in the affirmation of the wonderful role that a mother plays in gestating and consummating life.

  • Darrow Miller

[1] The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, by R. Laird Harris, Gleason L. Archer Jr., Bruce K. Waltke, originally published by Moody Press of Chicago, Illinois.  Copyright © 1980.

[2] C.F. Keil and F. Delitzsch, Commentary on the Old Testament in Ten Volumes, volume I, p 476

Check out these related posts:

The Maternal Dignity of a Pregnant Mom

Divine Conception: What Pregnancy Teaches Us About God

MOM’S Compassion is Like God .. And So Is Dad’s!

 

  
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One Mother’s Unspeakable Christmas Love

Christmas loveThis is that wonderful time of year when we observe the birth of Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior. He was the ultimate gift of love: “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son … (John 3:16 NIV).”

Here’s a story to illustrate that love, the love we celebrate at Christmas. Some months ago we wrote about Elizabeth Joice who refused cancer treatments to save the life of her baby, and in the process succumbed to the deadly disease. Now a similar story has come out of China.

Recently, my son Nathan sent me a link to an article about a young Chinese mother named Qiu Yuanyuan. Qiu was a TV host in Zhengzhou, China. She became pregnant in March and then was diagnosed with advanced cancer of the womb. The doctors told her she needed to begin chemotherapy to save her life. But this medical treatment would mean the loss of her baby’s life.

What should a mother do, sacrifice herself or her baby? Qiu made the choice to sacrifice her own life to save her baby. She refused the chemotherapy. By the time her baby, Niannian, was born in September it was too late for the medical treatment to save her. She died December 10. Qiu literally gave her life to save her child.

As I read this story, the realization flooded over me that this is what Christmas is all about. Jesus Christ, the Savior of mankind, was born to sacrifice his own life to save yours and mine. What kind of love is this? This is why we celebrate Christ’s birth.

Thank you, Qiu! You gave your child life and reminded all who will hear what Christmas is all about.

Joy to the world, the Lord has come!

– Darrow Miller

Related posts:

Elizabeth Joice: The Mother Who Gave Her Life For Her Baby

What a True Feminist Said About Female Courage

The Maternal Dignity of a Pregnant Mom

  
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Divine Conception: What Pregnancy Teaches Us About God

the pregnancy that consummated in Bethlehem teaches us about GodWhat a wondrous time of year!

For to us a child is born, to us a son is given, and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.

Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the LORD Almighty will accomplish this (Is. 9:6-7, NIV).

It is Christmas and we are reminded that the birth of a child was the supreme event in history. The transcendent God entered humanity! Who could have anticipated that at the birth of Jesus Christ, the God who conceived and created the world entered that same world to live? How wonder-filled: God lived for nine months in a womb that he created, the place of compassion sculpted in the body of a poor teenage girl.

He is a “born child,” a “given son” – the very son of God given for our salvation. The very child of the Holy Spirit’s conception is birthed – the gestation is completed with the consummation of the pregnancy.

He will:

  • Be the Sovereign King of all nations
  • Bring righteous rule, endlessly growing peace
  • Reign from David’s throne
  • Establish and uphold justice and righteousness

He is called:

  • Wonderful Counselor
  • Mighty God
  • Everlasting Father
  • Prince of Peace

And how will these things come into being? God Almighty’s zeal shall accomplish this. He miraculously conceives a divine child in the womb of a virgin teen. He forms his very son in the womb of a woman and will bring forth the Child at the appointed time. The pregnancy is marked by a three-fold progression: Conception -> Gestation -> Consummation.

A few weeks ago, my friend from Chile, Eduardo Gallegos Krause, sent me a beautiful reflection that he made after hearing my message on the maternal heart of God (from the book Nurturing the Nations: Reclaiming the Dignity of Women in Building Healthy Cultures). We posted Eduardo’s reflection as a guest article last week.

Eduardo and his wife, Paulina, attended the recent DNA Vision Conference in Asunción, Paraguay. They had recently had their first child, a baby boy named Mateo. Through the message on God’s maternal heart, Eduardo saw his wife, the mother of his first child, in a new and refreshing way. Eduardo had understood that as a father, he would be able to learn more about God the Father. But Paulina would not have the same benefit. After learning about God’s maternal heart, Eduardo realized that his wife would be able to learn more about the nature of God through the maternal heart she shared with her Creator.

Eduardo’s musings caused me to reflect at a deeper level than I ever had about God as the One who conceives, the One who fosters pregnancy. Genesis 1:2 says: “Now the earth was formless and empty, darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was hovering over the waters.” At the beginning of creation, we see the Spirit of God “hovering,” “trembling,” “quivering,” like we have witnessed in a mother bird over her nest and chicks. This hovering over the raw material of creation corresponds to the gestation period of a pregnancy.

God created the universe out of nothing, by speaking (Genesis 1; Psalm 33:9; Hebrews 11:3). It was the Italian astronomer and physicist, Galileo, who stated: “Nature’s great book is written in mathematical language.” British astronomer and physicist Sir James Jean famously followed with, “God is a Mathematician.”

Contemporary mathematician, theologian and philosopher William Dembski argues that language is the key to creation. In his book, The End of Christianity, Dembski writes:

God speaks, and things happen. . . . Any act of creation actualizes an intention by an intelligent agent. . . . But in general, all actualizations of intentions can be realized in language. For instance, a precise enough set of instructions in a natural language can tell the sculptor how to form the statue, the musician how to record the notes, and the engineer how to draw up the blueprints. In this way language becomes the universal medium for actualizing intentions.

Dembski writes that Creation is a three-step process of the triune God. Each member of the Trinity participated.

  • Forming an intention – Conceiving – the Father
  • Articulating an intention – Speaking – the Son
  • Actualizing an intention – Willing – the Holy Spirit

It is the word “conceiving” that caught my attention in this scheme. God conceived of the creation and then he created his conception. The actualizing of the intention is the work of the Holy Spirit in “hovering” over the raw materials of the creation.

We discover that God conceives the universe and then speaks it into existence. He conceives the plan of salvation, the rescue of the fallen human race and executes that plan in the life, death, and resurrection of his Son, Jesus Christ. He conceives of the nation of Israel, creates and marries her. He conceives of the church as the bride of Christ and then provides her bridegroom. He envisions the radical idea of human sexuality for the creation of human families and makes male and female in His image.

This progression—conception -> gestation -> consummation (birth)—is known as “pregnancy.”

Now let me be clear, so I am not accused of heresy. I do not mean that God is a mother; that’s a pagan concept. However, in the sense that God conceives of a thing, then develops the idea – gestates, and then brings the idea into reality, or births it, we can say that God is transcendently “pregnant.” (Consider that we already use the term “pregnant” in other ways such as, “a pregnant pause” or “a pregnant silence” by which we indicate that the pause, or the silence, carries something not yet visible.) The things that God does by his very nature—conceives, gestates and consummates the fullness of a thing conceived—is the transcendent version of what we speak of in biological terms as pregnancy. The creation of something from the mind of God is the archetype of which pregnancy is the derivative.

In the book of Numbers, Moses, in his frustration at the Hebrew people, reveals something of God’s nature. The people of Israel have been set free from Egypt and they have been wandering in the wilderness. Three days into their journey from Sinai to Kadesh Barnea, the people begin to complain about God’s provision. In frustration, Moses cries out to God:

Why have you brought this trouble on your servant? What have I done to displease you that you put the burden of all these people on me? Did I conceive all these people? Did I give them birth? Why do you tell me to carry them in my arms, as a nurse carries an infant, to the land you promised on oath to their forefathers?”  Numbers 11:11-12, NIV, emphasis added.

Moses complained “I did not conceive all these people.” The implication? It was God who conceived the nation of Israel, who gave them birth, and is now carrying them to the land of promise. We see here the language of “pregnancy” – conception and birth. In this case it is the conceiving and birth of a nation, by God.

… to be continued

– Darrow Miller

Related posts:

The Maternal Dignity of a Pregnant Mom

A Mother’s Womb: Where the Lamp of the Soul is Lit

MOM’S Compassion is Like God .. And So Is Dad’s!

  
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