Secularism and Pietism: Two Sides of the Same Coin

Secularism and Pietism: Two Sides of the Same Coin

As I’ve been thinking and reading about Christ’s reign being extended throughout the world and God’s kingdom advancing, I’ve realized that secularism and Pietism are two sides of the same coin. That might seem strange given the former is completely anti-religion and the latter is passionately religious, but both lead to the same thing: a secular society devoid of Christian influence. The realization I’ve had, and learned from others who’ve thought through these things for a lot longer than I have, is that because of the influence of Pietism, secularism triumphed as Christianity became primarily inward and personal.

Secularists love Christianity as long as it stays inside the four walls of the church or home, in the proverbial closet. Religion cannot be allowed to mar the sacred secular public space. I use the word sacred purposefully and ironically because secularism is a religion, another form of paganism whose gods just look different. The problem is that Christians who effectively embrace Pietism, as do most Evangelical Christians in our day, believe their faith belongs within those four walls and not in public. Therefore, secularism has free reign to dominate society and culture just as it has since World Word II in the once Christian West.

I’ve been thinking along these lines since my “conversion” to postmillennialism. The critical component of this optimistic eschatology is that it teaches us from Scripture, not speculation, that Christ did not come only to save our souls so when we die we go to heaven, nor to add personal holiness to that. His mission was far more expansive and far reaching. Specifically, he came to address the curse of sin for his fallen people, and the effects of sin on, in, and through us. For me, that latter preposition was what I didn’t get or discounted my entire Christian life until my “conversion” a year and a half ago. I heard a young Christian Twitter friend of mine, Joshua Haymes, say becoming postmillennial was like a drop of ink in a clear glass of water. It looks pretty cool and psychedelic for a bit, then in due course it colors every drop of water. Postmillennialism is like that; it colors everything I see because Christ came to win, here, now, in this life in this fallen world.

Christ’s Victory Over the Devil
Just as he frustrated the devil in the wilderness (Matt. 4), Jesus has been frustrating him for 2,000 years through His people whom he came to save (Matt. 1:21). I never knew that Isaac Watts’ Christmas hymn, Joy to the World was postmillennial:

 No more let sins and sorrows grow,
nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
far as the curse is found,
far as the curse is found,
far as, far as the curse is found.

There is a lot of wonderful theology in those words! Just as the curse is ubiquitous, so are the blessings that flow through us to overcome the effects of the curse. Every square inch of reality is Christ’s, and he has commissioned us to take it back from the devil.

We sell Jesus’ victory over Satan and evil short when we think it is solely for the consummated state when he comes again to judge the living and the dead. I used to believe Satan and evil had the upper hand down here in this fallen world. I thought, isn’t it obvious? But it’s not obvious at all for those with eyes to see beyond the obvious. I use that word three times to highlight how easily we interpret reality by what we see and feel, rather than by the word of God. For example, we’re told Jesus came to reign and rule until he has put all his enemies under his feet (I Cor. 15:25), the last enemy being death which will happen at the resurrection. Who and what are his enemies prior to the resurrection? Anything that is contrary to the law-word of God. That’s happening whether you think you can see it or not, and in due course it will become obvious too. We’re playing the long game here, pushing back the curse not just for now, but for generations to come.

Unfortunately, we give far too much credit to sin and the devil. God told us in Genesis 3 that the seed of the woman would strike or bruise the serpent’s head. We may think the devil is a formidable foe, but every scheme he can conjure up in that head of his will fail. Jesus (through his church, us) is in fact frustrating him; he cannot frustrate Jesus. And no matter where the curse is found Jesus is conquering it, pushing it back, transforming what the devil intends for evil into good. If we think this process of conquering evil is only for the church, or only to be done inside the church or our houses, we are missing the mission of God in Christ, why he came: to redeem and restore all creation by the nations being discipled. That indeed is a Great Commission!

I recently relistened to the James White sermon that initially cracked open my closed mind to postmillennialism in August of 2022. In it he said there are far more professing Christians alive today than lived on earth in the first century. Could anyone alive then have imagined such a thing? Now we need to help more of these Christians escape from the clutches of Pietism and bring King Jesus to every area of their lives to disciple their own nations.

Why Pietism Came to Dominate the Modern Church
As with any movement among peoples and cultures there are a variety of complex factors that cannot be neatly packaged as a cause. The same is true with these two isms, and it is important to realize how they grew symbiotically together as a poisonous weed in Christian Western culture.

Initially, Pietism was a response to a type of dry scholasticism that grew out of the Middle Ages tending to make faith a merely intellectual exercise. The early Reformers were products of that scholastic culture, and as such were profoundly intellectual. The Reformation was built on those intellectual efforts, but over time some saw those efforts as tending toward a dry formalism. Pietists were specifically looking for a more dynamic, experiential faith, and built a contrasting, non-intellectual version of Christianity. This developed initially among German Lutherans in the early 17th century. In due course through some strains of Puritanism and the First and Second Great Awakenings, it made its way into American fundamentalism, and became the default faith of modern Evangelicalism.

Needless to say, God made us in his image, therefore our intellect is not in any way opposed to or contrary to our feelings or emotions. God made us so our emotions primarily flow from our thinking, and our thinking not dominated by our emotions. This orientation of the rightly ordered man started to change in Western culture as the two isms made their way into the modern world. An excellent explanation of what this means is in C.S. Lewis’s classic book, The Abolition of Man. He starts with a withering assessment of a book intended for, “boys and girls in the upper forms of schools.” Keep in mind the book was written in 1943, some three hundred years after the two isms had come to dominance in Western culture, but not enough to dominate. That would come in what we affectionally call, “The ‘60s.” The authors of the textbook are addressing a work by English poet and literary critic Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1772-1834). The authors address a depiction of two tourists discussing a waterfall. Lewis quotes from the textbook:

“When the man said, That is sublime, he appeared to be making a remark about the waterfall. . . . Actually . . . he was not making a remark about the waterfall, but a remark about his own feelings. What he was saying was really I have feelings associated in my mind with the word ‘Sublime,’ or shortly, I have sublime feelings.’ Here are a good many deep questions settled in a pretty summary fashion. But the authors are not yet finished. They add: “This confusion is continually present in language as we appear to be saying something very important about something: and actually we are only saying something about our feelings.”

Lewis then shreds this perversion of thinking in his own indomitable way, but it doesn’t take having the towering intellect of C.S Lewis to realize what a disaster this shift entails. Here’s my take: Feelings are what count, what is important, and sublimity or beauty doesn’t exist objectively in God’s created world. The saying, beauty is in the eye of the beholder became absolute. As the 20th century showed us, ugliness could now be proclaimed beautiful.

Lewis called such people, “men without chests.” That is the title Lewis gives to the third section of his little book. In the classical understanding of anthropology, human beings are made up of three parts, the head, the chest, and the bowels. The head is the seat of the rational, the bowels the emotional, and the chest negotiates between the two. If the head through knowledge and faith doesn’t train the chest to manage the bowels, you get, well, the modern world, which is a feminized world where feelings and emotions through empathy dominate rather than rational calculations of the tradeoffs necessary to living in a fallen world more common to men. God created man, male and female he created them, that their two natures would compliment each other toward true human flourishing, or in biblical terms, blessing.

How do We Escape the Two Isms?
This is the question confronting every Christian in our time. It’s not difficult to convince Christians they need to escape secularism, but if you tell them they need to escape Pietism, they’ll wonder what you’ve been drinking. Unfortunately, most Christians are as ignorant of history as most Americans, so they will think Pietism just means being pious. They need to be educated about the 17th century German Lutheran movement of the name, and its influence on how they live out their faith in the modern world.

The fundamental fact Christians must learn is that Pietism has made their faith irrelevant to the culture in which they live. The church effectively has zero impact on Western culture, and that must change because it is that to which we have been called. The Great Commission and the Lord’s Prayer make it abundantly clear the “culture wars” are not an option. Some Christian leaders think they are, and worse, are a distraction. I’ve heard more than one say, being involved in the “culture wars” is like rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic. And we wonder why American culture is such a hell hole.

Few people understand the culture is simply a people’s religion externalized. Because secularism is the dominant religion of the West, we have a secularized culture that treats Christianity as a threat to societal order. Aaron Renn says we are now in “negative world.” In an influential January 2022 article in First Things called, “The Three Worlds of Evangelicalism,” Renn argues that we’ve come to negative world through positive and neutral world. Prior to the 1990s, Christianity was seen in American culture as a positive thing. In the 1990s that changed, and the culture treated Christianity as neutral, neither good nor bad. Now, our cultural elites see Christianity as a threat to all that is decent and good, like abortion, homosexual “marriage,” and transgenderism.

I believe the issue is theological, specifically eschatological. What we think about how things will end determines what we see as our mission as Christians today. That is, we are his body to bring everything in submission to his kingship, including the nations. From the very beginning, God’s covenant promises of salvation were to the nations, a word used well over 600 times in the Bible. In the Old Testament, it is clear he blesses nations as nations who honor and obey him, and curses, even destroys, those that don’t. America was blessed because as founded its leaders and most of its people believed their success as a nation depended on honoring God as a people, as a nation. And Jesus said plainly, nations are to be discipled. I will end with a verse, 2 Chronicles 7:14, that applies to every nation on earth:

If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and will heal their land.

The context is the dedication of the temple by Solomon and the people of Israel. God’s people now inhabit every nation on earth, and we are called to pray for God to heal our lands. The temple no longer resides in Israel and belongs to one people, but Jesus is now the living temple of God as we are the temple of the Holy Spirit. This promise of God healing our land if we pray, seek him, and walk in his ways, is to us! It is why I pray most mornings for our land, America, what I call “the four R’s”: for Revival that will lead to Renewal to Restoration and finally Reformation. The goal isn’t just saved souls, but transformed people who will transform everything they put their hands to.


Third Wayism is Dead

Third Wayism is Dead

We live in clarifying times where we are forced to choose sides. If we choose not to do decide, as Geddy Lee of Rush sings in the song Free Will, we still have made a choice.

Those who know me know I was deeply influenced by the late Tim Killer, both for his gospel teaching and apologetics. Some even know he was my wife and I’s premarital counselor at Westminster Seminary in 1987. He always seemed to lean left, as in uncritically using the phrase “social justice,” but I was shocked by who he became after Trump. Something happened to what has come to be known as “Big Eva,” or the Evangelical establishment. Basically they lost their collective minds.

This establishment is represented by what used to be respected orthodox Christianity, like Wheaton College, Christianity Today, The Gospel Coalition, and others. Their move to the left didn’t come in the typical theological fashion as in the liberal Christianity of the early 20th century, but in response to secular political and cultural pressure. The culprit is what is known as “third wayism.”

Third Wayism and the Deceit of Moral Equivalence
Third wayism is a kind of moral equivalence between left and right, a third way, and Keller believed it. I will use a quote from a World Magazine article he wrote from early 2022 titled, “Handling a hostile culture: Assessing how the Church is responding to shifting cultural pressures”:

[T]he culture is definitely more polarized than it ever has been, and I’ve never seen the kind of conflicts in churches in the past that we see today. In virtually every church there is a smaller or larger body of Christians who have been radicalized to the Left or to the Right by extremely effective and completely immersive internet and social media loops, newsfeeds, and communities. People are bombarded 12 hours a day with pieces that present a particular political point of view, and the main way it seeks to persuade is not through argument but through outrage. People are being formed by this immersive form of public discourse—far more than they are being formed by the Church.

It is extremely disappointing that he really believed this. The phrase, “radicalized to the Left or to the Right,” is not only unjustified, but a distortion of our political and cultural moment. There is simply no comparison between the two because there is no “radical right.” It all turns on how one defines “radical,” and Keller never bothers to do that. In the summer of 2020, the truly “radical” left in the form of BLM and Antifa, with the tacit encouragement of Democrats and their media allies, rioted in cities throughout the country and the media called them “mostly peaceful protests.” There were billions of dollars of damage, and many lives lost. There is nothing comparable on the right. The so-called “insurrection” of January 6, 2021, was an FBI setup meant to demonize and silence Trump supporters and the entire MAGA movement.

Further, his point about what are in effect political feedback loops is nonsense. The secular left dominates all the organs of cultural influence, has the biggest megaphones, and their messaging cannot be escaped. They own all major media, practically all education, entertainment, and social media. People don’t have to do anything to be programmed in leftist groupthink. On the contrary, if you want alternative conservative views you have to search for them.

Andrew T. Walker had this to say about this Evangelical threading the needle:

Third-wayism in politics is a form of political Gnosticism as it assumes that there is a platonic ideal to politics that does not require engaging the kingdoms of the world as what they fundamentally are: worldly, temporal, & creational ordinances designed for proximate justice.

To think anyone can be apolitical in our day, least of all ministers of the gospel, is naïve at best, and delusional at worst. I’ve heard it said, you may not be into politics, but politics is into you, as the last several years make very clear. For the woke left, there is nothing beyond politics, which is why politics cannot be ignored or avoided. The very existence of America bearing any relationship to our founding is on the line. Politicians and ministers who don’t get the nature of the war we’re engaged in, and it is a spiritual war between good and evil, do not understand, in Jesus’ words, “the signs of the times.” As third wayism suggests, plenty of Christians don’t recognize the signs of the times in which we live.

The Curious Case of Alistair Begg
Begg, if you don’t know him, is a Scottish Born Reformed minister who has been a well-respected pastor of an Ohio church for decades. He also has a huge radio ministry, and thus wide influence among Christians. By now, many of us have heard about this curious case.

A grandmother had sent him a letter seeking pastoral counseling. She was conflicted about her transgender grandson, and an invitation to go to his transgender wedding. Begg decided to air his interaction with her on his radio program. His approach was third wayism at its finest, although prior to this moment I would never have pegged Begg as being capable of such a thing. He basically said, she should express her disagreement with the lifestyle, but by all means go, and even bring a gift. This went viral and all kinds of Evangelical “stuff” hit the fan. I am sure Begg has never come close to experiencing anything like this in all of his long years of public ministry.

Because of the blow back, Begg decided to preach a sermon explaining himself, and instead of pulling it back even a little, decided to double, and triple down. In fact, he went so far as to accuse his critics of the most base and evil motives. It was truly shameful. Begg and others like him just don’t get “the signs of the times.” I’m going to link to three episodes of the Ezra Institute podcast that is an excellent discussion from three men who get “the signs of the times.”

Episode 1

Episode 2

Episode 3



The Other Not So Curious Case of Foot Washing During the Super Bowl
If you watched the Super Bowl, (I didn’t; I know virtue signaling), you probably saw an ad promoted by Big Eva called, “He Gets Us.” It was, as the youngsters say nowadays, cringe. It’s hard to watch. I’m not going to say much about it here because there has been copious ink spilled elsewhere, but to the left is a video by the Contra Mundum guys that captures the feeble nature of Big Eva to disciple the culture. That’s what we’re supposed to do, right? Disciple the nations, Great Commission?

This is perfect example of what I’ll call Alistair Begg syndrome, trying to be winsome to a culture that hates us so our judgmentalism won’t stand in the way of the gospel. That is basically Begg’s argument in his triple down sermon. In fact, being “winsome” means standing for righteousness and God’s law, forcefully, in a culture that calls evil good, and good evil. While I’ve never been confronted with being invited to a homosexual “wedding,” I have family members who have, and I was firm in voicing my opinion that I would never go to a wedding celebrating such a thing.

Why Third Wayism is On It’s Last Legs
In the end, and as we move there, all that stands in the way of advancing God’s kingdom will be exposed for what it is. That has been happening to third wayism, and like other things being exposed in our time of Great Awakening, it is fully committed to its perversion of truth. This dynamic is most obvious in the woke, Marxist left, and the Democrat-media complex supporting it. No matter what they accomplish, or what disasters it creates, they always double down. It is just this doubling-down that has finally woken up tens of millions of people all over the world. The left no longer tries to hide it or fake it. They are in your face 24/7. Begg and Big Eva have unfortunately done this as well.

The slow demise of the left and all associated with it, including the Evangelical Establishment, began as most things in these tumultuous times have, with Donald Trump coming down the escalator at Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his run for the presidency. He broke the left. Their reaction to him was unhinged, and only gets worse the longer he remains politically viable. It was the unhinged reaction to Trump that opened my mind to him in the first place. As much as I despised him and everything he stood for, and thinking his presidential campaign was a joke, I thought, nobody can be that bad. He had decently well-adjusted children who grew into solid adults who love and respect their dad, and narcissistic psychopaths don’t pull that off. Plus others I respected started to take his ideas seriously, so I decided I would as well.

Looking back I realize Trump was a trigger God has used to expose the lies and rot at the core of American culture, included Evangelical culture. There are men I once respected who I no longer recognize. It’s also happened to what I now call Con Inc., or the conservative establishment. In fact, one of these men, David French, recently wrote an editorial in the New York Times encouraging Nikki Halley supporters to vote for Joe Biden, which would have been shocking, but nothing David French does can now possibly shock. I once respected this man and read everything he wrote, especially in the run up to the left redefining marriage. Now he’s a leftist.

This process for me began one day in February 2016 when I got my copy of National Review in the mail. This has become known as the Never Trump Issue. The title on the cover, “Against Trump.” I read some of the pieces and it was spurious garbage. Mind you, I had been a subscriber since the early 1980s. Bill Buckley, who founded the magazine in 1955, was a hero of mine, but he was long dead. Now those who carried on the legacy went into Trump derangement lunacy. Looking back at the last red pill nine years, I’ve realized this is how it all had to happen. I call this a Great Revealing, and this revealing convinces me we are in the midst of another Great Awakening. Eyes are being opened to truth and to He who is the Truth like no time in modern history.

Until Trump most of us were living the somnambulant life, going on our merry way as if the people in charge knew what they were doing and would lead us to the promised land. This applies to establishments in literally every area of existence, from the most obvious in government, but also in medicine, food and agriculture, public health, media, entertainment, education, and even as we’re seeing, the Evangelical establishment. God used Donald J. Trump to trigger it all, proving he is infinitely wise and powerful, and is also hilarious!






The Guardians of “The Narrative” vs. Truth

The Guardians of “The Narrative” vs. Truth

I take this title from a piece by the great and erudite Roger Kimball where he asks if these Guardians will win. Before I discuss the Guardians, let me preface my comments by a brief history of where this idea of narrative comes from. The concept goes back to the 16th century, and it means, “a tale, a story, a connected account of the particulars of an event or series of incidents.” As such it was applied primarily to fiction, like the plays of Shakespeare, but it can apply to the ark of any story line. It’s the big picture, if you will, that helps define the meaning of the details of the picture. It’s most powerfully, and deleteriously, used in our time to push political and cultural agendas. We have Friedrich Nietzsche to thank for the initial idea that was then developed by postmodernist scholars in the 1970s and 80s when postmodernism became “a thing.”

Very simply, modernism given to us by the Enlightenment believed finding truth was attainable solely by reason. The romantic movement started pushing back against this in the late 18th century, and by the late 19th century Nietzsche pushed it off a cliff. That’s where the postmodernists (after modernism) come into the picture. They took his ideas and argued truth per se doesn’t exist, contrary to Nietzsche who believed strongly in truth. All that does exist is the meta-narrative (a culture’s big picture) and we derive our meaning of what is “true” or not from that. Basically we’re all living a novel, and whoever the societal author is (or in a culture’s case, the authors are) determines how we interpret the story. There is obviously some truth to that, but postmodernists literally believe truth doesn’t exist or even if it does it is irrelevant. These ideas were catnip for leftists, who not only do not believe in truth, but believe narratives are to be used to establish their political power.


This is a short video by two black liberal scholars who today are likely viewed as right wing radicals by the left. It is an excellent overview of these two poles of the metanarrative idea (they just used the word narrative). John McWhorter (on the right) says because of the way it’s misused, he hates the word narrative. Then Glenn Loury counters, explaining how narratives work and can be used in positive ways to help people interpret their past and present as a people. He acknowledges they can also be misused in ways that harm people. The black victim narrative is one such way that has created untold misery and suffering. It’s well worth a six minute and thirty second listen.

Narratives and the Will to Power
Nietzsche argued that because God was dead and Christianity no longer offered a metanarrative (he never used the word) that could hold Western civilization together, man must develop his own moral framework to accomplish that. He believed that could only be accomplished by great men he called Übermensch, often translated as Superman or Overman. He never fully defined exactly what such a man was, but he developed a complimentary idea in the will to power. I don’t know enough about Nietzsche to know how he developed all this, but the idea certainly originated with him, and fit his worldview. The attempts to interpret Nietzsche are numerous, and there seem to be as many interpretations as scholars doing the interpreting. In essence his worldview was the result of his desire to fulfill Satan’s temptation to Eve, that he could be like God knowing good and evil. In a universe without God that is kind of the only choice. You have to be your own god, and he knew that. Therefore, if you are going to mold reality to your will, you must have the “will to power,” must impose that will on matter, including human beings. It was another idea he never fully worked out.

Fast forward to today, and the modern left epitomizes the “will to power” in the use of narrative. The left and the Guardians of the narrative (the media) have completely taken over Western culture, using their influence for political power, defined as legalized coercion. Governments have the monopoly on the use of force, which makes politics a very important business. The Democrat Party and legacy media shamelessly use the “will to power” in pursuit of their ideological agenda. Their hypocrisy is so in your face it’s almost impressive. Controlling or directing the narrative has always been important and a fact of existence in politics and government, but it is critically important in the information age. The left controls the narrative, however, specifically to mold and shape opinion regardless of truth. The only “truth” they care about is what serves their ideological interests and political power. This has become more egregious since Obama became president as we learn from “the paper of record,” the New York Times.

In the Spring 2020 journal Academic Questions, Dr. David Rozado did a word frequency usage study on New York Times articles written between 1970 and the end of 2018. He was looking for progressive/Marxist buzzwords used by groups with an ideological agenda. He discovered in 2010 and the years following such words and phrases had exploded in frequency. There are numerous charts in the article graphically displaying the jump in terms such as climate change, sexism, patriarchy, transphobia, homophobia, white supremacy, and so on. Apparently, all these things became such critically important issues around 2010 that America’s “paper of record” found it necessary to endlessly report upon them. In fact, they were doing what the left always does, driving “the narrative,” but in this case it went into overdrive. Joseph Goebbels would have been impressed.

The driving of “the narrative” took steroids when Trump came down the escalator to announce his run for president in June 2015. Speaking of the rebarbarization of civilization, Kimball gives an example we’re all too familiar with:

The 2020 election . . . took place during the period of eagerly embraced Covid hysteria. That hysteria provided a justification or, more accurately, an alibi for the numerous violations of the law in the conduct of the election. The Constitution of the United States stipulates that state legislatures are in charge of determining voting procedures. But various governors and secretaries of state, from blue states mostly, swept that Constitutional provision aside in their eagerness to assure the appearance of a Biden victory. Such anomalies were noted and commented on at the time but somehow never got traction. Why? Because the media, that great tool of The Narrative, determined that it oughtn’t to get traction.

Now that the media are “Guardians of the (left-wing) Narrative,” Edward R. Morrow must be rolling over in his grave. In their latest futile effort to destroy Trump, the Guardians have pulled out all the stops on narrative building because of the danger Trump poses to our DemocracyTM if he gets elected again. Oh the horror!!! Peter Berkowitz highlights some of these efforts in a piece explaining how these people imperil the rule of law (they believe they are a law unto themselves). He writes:

[A]nti-Trumpers have been sounding the alarm continuously against Trumpian tyranny since 2016 and have picked up the pace this cycle. This gives Democrats time to grasp the grave threat and take suitable precautions. But what precautions are suitable to thwart the authoritarian conquest of America.

For those who believe Trump is Hitler, there is nothing they won’t do to try to stop him.

God obviously has a terrific sense of humor. He not only picked Donald J. Trump, billionaire New York real estate developer and reality TV star to be the primary agent of change in this moment in history, He also apparently made him unstoppable. Everything the left and the Guardians have thrown at him for over eight years has only served to make him more popular and influential. Now that is funny!

Truth Wins
“Will the Guardians of The Narrative Win?” is the title of Kimball’s piece. I don’t believe he intended this to be a rhetorical question, but I do. Of course they won’t! If we live by sight, the odds of defeating them seem impossible, but God is in the habit of making the impossible possible. For example, the Lord tells Abraham and Sarah when she’s 90 and he’s 100 that they will have a son in a year. Sarah laughs at the absurdity of it. In reply, the Lord asks, rhetorically, “Is anything too hard for the Lord?” Although not meant to be answered, Paul speaking about Abraham gives it to us anyway:

He is our father in the sight of God, in whom he believed—the God who gives life to the dead and calls things that are not as though they were (Rom. 4:17).

For the God who created everything out of nothing, raising the dead and doing “the impossible” is what he does for breakfast.

Every time you’re tempted to live based on what you see rather than trust, which leads to fear, worry, and doubt, first repent. Then remember He makes things to exist that currently do not exist. I encourage you to think about this revealed truth for a while. Not only does the truth therein apply to you personally, your life and problems and dreams, but to entire societies, or Jesus would never have commanded the Apostles to “make disciples of all nations,” not individuals. It is, of course individual people who make up nations, but Jesus was giving us the big picture, the meta-narrative, the purpose for which he came to earth. When people repent and believe on the Lord Jesus, it isn’t only for their personal salvation and holiness, or to grow the church and populate heaven, but to bring his kingdom reign to the entire earth, his blessings transforming this fallen world “as far as the curse is found.”

However, sometimes, as in the depth of the Covid scam, it appears the Guardians will win, but it is impossible for lies to ever triumph in the long run. The Negative Nellies and Pessimistic Pauls always give power to lies they do not possess. In the Trump years I’ve come to call them doomers because for them it always seems to be doom and gloom, the worst just around the corner. They have an unhealthy level of skepticism we call cynicism. I love this definition of that unhelpful state of mind: a faultfinding captious critic, especially one who believes that human conduct is motivated wholly by self-interest. If you didn’t know the definition of captious either, it means, marked by an often ill-natured inclination to stress faults and raise objections. The word nature is important. Such people are inclined to be this way because that is who they are. Christians, by contrast, should never be cynics or captious because it’s sin and it’s not who we are in Christ. So if you’re a cynic or given to cynicism, stop it! If you’re given to doom and gloom, repent, and pray for God to give you a spirit of trust in his almighty power. If Romans 8:28 is true, then all things in our lives, both personally and societally, work for our good and his glory. If you believe that, I mean really buy into it, circumstances, including other people, will have no power to control you, specifically your emotions and peace of mind. As the prophet Isaiah says,

You keep him in perfect peace whose mind is stayed on you, because he trusts in you (Is. 26:3).

There is a reason truth will always win eventually: Jesus. He who is the Truth (John 14:6) will make sure of it. But it’s bigger than that. Our confidence, even optimism, is based on what happened when Christ ascended to the right hand of God after his resurrection. As he says in the Great Commission, all authority had been given to him, therefore go. We go and work and plan and make it happen not in our authority and power, but in the authority and power of Jesus Christ. He is now reigning over all things toward his glorious ends in a new heavens and earth until every last enemy is vanquished, the last being death. Knowing this, we understand that the Guardians are spitting into a gale force divine wind. They don’t have a chance.


In Our Secular Culture Use the Word Creation, Not Nature

In Our Secular Culture Use the Word Creation, Not Nature

I’m planning on writing a book down the road called, There is No Such Thing as an Unbeliever: Faith in a Secular Age. One of the most pernicious things secularism has allowed “unbelievers” to get away with is pushing the notion that there is such a thing as an unbeliever, that belief or faith is only for ostensibly religious people. Christians have played into the secularists’ hands by using the biblical word “believer,” a word that should never be used in the modern secular context, but Christians do this all the time. In most modern versions (i.e., not KJV) it’s used about 20 times, but it was unproblematic in a world in which everyone believed in the divine, but in the last two or three hundred years it is very much problematic. This is an unfortunate habit most Christians don’t realize they need to break. I now call people either Christians or non-Christians, or whatever faith they embrace, like atheism or Hinduism, etc., not believer or unbeliever.

Because of the rise of secularism in the period we’ve come to refer to as the Enlightenment, which has in fact brought us suffocating darkness, we must also be very careful about using the word Nature. I recently read a wonderful little book called, History in English Words by Own Barfield. The name sounded vaguely familiar to me, and I recalled he was a friend of C.S. Lewis and part of the Inklings, an informal literary group. Starting at Oxford in the late 1920s, the first three members were Lewis, Barfield, and J.R. Tolkien. That is quite the start to any group. In the book, Barfield discussed how words change their meaning over time depending on cultural circumstances. One such word he discusses is natural or nature, which as the Enlightenment developed in the 17th century completely changed its meaning to how we think of it today. The change of this word indicates a massive worldview shift in what used to be called Christendom:

At the beginning of the seventeenth century we first find the word Nature employed in contexts where medieval writers would certainly have used the word God.

Think about that shift. We might accurately describe it as plate tectonic, the earth literally moving under the feet of the meaning of words affecting how we see and interpret the world. It is a complex symbiotic relationship of life lived among human beings and how their perceptions are formed—how they see reality. There is never a simple one-to-one correlation in the meaning of words and culture as much as we might like to think there is; words and their meaning are as complex as human beings.

The Influence of Newton on the Rise of Secularism
Sir Isaac Newton (1642-1727), one of the most brilliant men in history, and a devout Christian, would be surprised that his physics paved the way for the destruction of Christendom. Needless to say that was not his intention, but the devil is very good at what he does, lying to distort our understanding of God’s perfectly good creation, and everything else. Remember, the fall didn’t make God’s “very good” material world bad, a Platonic gnostic notion, but distorted us in our relationship to it. Thus, Newton developed a cosmology that made creation appear to be like a machine, a clock, and once God set it in motion there was no need for him to be involved. In fact Barfield’s next to last chapter is titled, “Mechanism,” and in it he writes:

[w]e should have to look deeper than all this for the true causes of a change of outlook as rapid and emphatic as that which swept through the last century. If we did so, we should probably discern, as one of the most efficient, that vivid sense of orderliness and arrangement which had grown up during the eighteenth century, the reverence for Reason, and especially for Reason reflected in the impartial laws which govern the working of Nature. To minds thus attuned direct intervention by the divine at any one point in the natural process could only seem like an intolerable liberty; and feeling as well as thought began to revolt at the conjuring-tricks apparently reported in the Gospels.

Newton did not believe this at all because he believed God not only created material reality, but He also sustains it at every moment. Without the “direct intervention by the divine at” every point, the so called “natural process” could not even exist. There is nothing in that sense that is at all “natural” about it.

You’ll notice that Barfield writes reason with a capital R to indicate not merely a God-given mental faculty, but reason having turned into rationalism—big difference. Rationalism gave man the impression that Satan was right, that he could become like God, knowing good and evil. Newton was only a baby when modern philosophy and secularism got is most substantial push with another Christian, French philosopher and mathematician René Descartes (1596-1650). He is most famously known for his phrase in Latin, cogito ergo sum, or I think therefore I am. That, brothers and sisters, gave up the game, even though as a pious Catholic that wasn’t his intention either. We have two choices in the reality God created. We can either start with us, or with God. One leads to disaster, the other to life and flourishing; Jews call it shalom, a kind of ubiquitous peace in which everything works as God intended it to work. Descartes, Newton, and many others, eventually lead to Darwin and the plausibility of a God-less universe in the minds of intellectual elites in the West.

Throughout the 18th century it was far too controversial to come right out with atheism, but in due course materialism became the dominant worldview of Western elites. Initially this was called Deism, the idea that God was a cosmic watchmaker who got it all started and sat back and let it roll. In Aristotle’s phrase, God was the “first mover,” who basically pushed the first domino and forever it goes. Once we get to the middle of the 19th century the intellectual and worldview playing field was set up for Darwin, who made plausible the idea that everything came to be the way it is based on “natural laws.” All we know is that the fittest somehow survive by some inexorable process, or laws, that “science” supposedly shows us is true.

The Doctrine of Creation, Not the Doctrine of Nature
Here is where we come to the contrast between creation and nature, and why as Christians in secular culture we need to always use the former and retire the latter. At least as long as the world remains driven by a secular view of reality. Nature as most people use the word today has the image of something running by itself and coming into existence by chance. Going back to William of Ockham (1285-1347), the Christian West slowly decided that it was a good thing to get rid of the concept of telos, or purpose, in nature. There were convoluted philosophical reasons in the battle over the idea of telos between Plato and Aristotle among Catholic intellectuals, but when Newton came along telos was slowly getting ushered out the back door—Darwin gave it the final kick in the behind to rid the Western intellectual house of it once and for all. Clocks, no matter how complex they are, run just fine without the messy idea of telos having to be introduced. “Nature” like a giant cosmic clock is no different. Creation, however, is an entirely other thing.

In Genesis 1, we are told God created everything according to its kind; the word is used 12 times in the chapter. I think maybe God was trying to make a point. Each kind has its own end, its own purpose, its telos. This is built into the creational order, the way God made things to be. The material world is only “natural” in that it is the nature of the way He created it to exist. But our secular world drenched in Darwinian assumptions sees in nature something that exists independent of God. In effect, nature is a product of chance. The problem with chance, however, is that it cannot create anything. Everyone knows this, of course, but indoctrination and brainwashing are powerful means to delusional ends. Yet we are all given to such secular delusions because secularism is the cultural air we breathe, which is far more dangerous than second hand smoke.

This is why Christians need to consistently remind themselves, their families, friends, and anyone who will listen, that we are not products of chance, not products of mindless, purposeless material processes. We are, as David said, fearfully and wonderfully made, as is everything in creation. We are not merely lucky dirt! But using the word nature or natural allows people, including us, to think we are. Not too many years ago I realized how easy it was for me to be seduced by the lies of secularism, and that some things are “natural.” For Christians, however, there is no distinction between natural and supernatural. C.S. Lewis points out that Mary’s conception by the Holy Spirit was no more miraculous than any other woman’s conception. Sadly, I had never really considered that. Undoubtedly, he’s right! Is not a new being’s creation utterly miraculous? Are we really supposed to believe the process of creating a new life is solely “natural?” Nothing in all of creation is “natural” because all things are created and sustained by the word of God’s power!

Many Christians tend to think of doctrine as dry, boring stuff. But without it all we have is puzzle pieces and no idea how they fit together into the bigger picture. The doctrine of creation is such a big, huge, beautiful picture. It tells us that we are dependent, contingent beings; in every way imaginable creatures who are not self‑sufficient. The rebellious human heart we inherited from Adam and Eve, on the other hand, tempts us to deny that it is God who gives us “life, breath, and everything else.” Grounding our perspective in this essential dependence on God for literally every breath opens us to the significance and wondrous meaning of all things.

The Importance of Wonder and Amazement
We’ve all heard the saying that familiarity breeds contempt. Since we are material beings who swim in a material universe, like fish swimming in water, it is easy to lose the wonder of it all, to get lost in the urgency and intrusion of the now. We must learn and teach others around us to wonder. We must fight the constant tendency to take reality for granted, and lose the amazement at how bizarre life really is. Just contemplate for a moment your existence, your consciousness, the you-ness of you. How weird is that! The ancient Greeks argued that philosophy begins in wonder, and if we are not constantly marveling at the amazing complexity and beauty of nature, and of existence itself, we are doing something wrong. We must have an abiding amazement, even astonishment, at God’s astounding creativity to help us break through the banal and apparent predictability of it all.

A good example in my life is the human body. Two and a half years ago I started a journey learning about health. Listening to very smart and knowledgeable people talk about the human cell, for example, is breathtaking. To think the cell could be a product of “natural” selection and some kind of random merely material process is absurd in the extreme. In Darwin’s day they thought the cell was some kind of blob, and not what in fact it is, an infinitely complex information processing system that allows living things to live. There is only one possible explanation: God! I listen to health oriented podcasts a lot, and often hear people describe “mother nature” as doing such and so, or something “evolving” over millions of years. Baloney! That drives me nuts.

I had a wonderful example recently of someone who in spite of her Darwinian worldview couldn’t help seeing God in the human cell. I had a discussion with a woman who owns a company called Beam Minerals. I discovered her on Dave Asprey’s podcast back in May of 2021, which got me started on my health journey. As she was describing what the cell does to optimize our health or destroy it depending on our lifestyle, she was getting an amazed look and sound at the stunning complexity of it all. I said, God is the only explanation for it. And she got this strange look on her face and said something along the lines of, “I still believe in evolution,” not very convincingly, “but the complexity is just too much to be a coincidence.” Bingo! I wish I could have pushed the conversation toward Jesus, but I put a pebble in her shoe and pray she will be fully opened to God in Creation in due course.

Here’s the lesson and exhortation: Let Creation remind us that we are part of something bigger, much bigger, and more meaningful than our own often petty worries and desires. We are part of God’s grand narrative to redeem all creation!


Strunk and White: God Revealed in Words

Strunk and White: God Revealed in Words

It’s amazing how easy it is for us to not see God in everything. The reason is because secularization has squeezed the divine out of life. Canadian philosopher Charles Taylor describes our secular age as disenchanted, or the loss of the transcendent, what is over and above and beyond this material world. Life in the secular age becomes entirely horizontal. All that matters to secular man is the immanent, what he can see and hear and taste and touch. Described differently, we tend to see life as atoms and events colliding willy nilly, sometimes benefiting us, most times annoying and often harming us. These purposeless (secular) circumstances mostly get in our way and keep us from getting what we want. This focus on the here and the now, the mundane, the every day, primarily focused on us, strips the wonder we should have in the magical mystery tour that is life. And unlike with the Beatles, we don’t need a reservation. The magic is laid out on a platter for us every day right before our eyes. We merely have to break through the secular and learn how to see the divine. As the Apostle Paul says, it is everywhere (Rom. 1):

20 For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so they are without excuse.

The “they” Paul is referring to are those “who suppress the truth by their wickedness.” In other words, they have no incentive to see God’s invisible qualities in the visible because they prefer their sin. They like being their own god, thank you very much.  We are all given to this temptation, but we can learn to see God’s creation in the material world, His “eternal power and divine nature,” thus see God in everything. We can start the process learning from the ancient pagan Greeks, Plato and Aristotle, who said philosophy, or the love of wisdom, begins in wonder. We have to be taught to wonder, to learn how not to be secular, which is a challenge in a secular age. But we can be encouraged knowing it gets easier, that it is matter of obedience. If we want to please God and be blessed by him, we will see his invisible qualities in everything.

How Not to Be Secular
How exactly do we do this? First, we must realize how secularism blinds us to the truth of God, and in all the ways it happens. It’s rarely a brick in the face; the subtle ways we are programmed into secularism are often difficult to spot. As we develop our skills and a wary eye, in due course we will see the secular “agenda” everywhere. I put the quotation marks around agenda because this is not planned by a cabal of nefarious God haters to suck us into their illusions of a God-less universe. Rather, it is simply people’s secular worldview expressed culturally in all they do, be it in their art, or scholarship, or news, or how they see and do law and government, architecture, everything. An obviously not obvious example is TV and movies. Again, this is mostly subtle by treating God as persona non grata, i.e., a person who is unacceptable, unwelcome, or ignored, mostly ignored. God haters don’t sell well to Americans, but an invisible God doesn’t have to be sold.

Any show or movie that isn’t obviously Christian could be given as an example. One we recently watched and enjoyed very much was a documentary series on Netflix about British soccer star David Beckam. The only time the divine makes a showing is when Beckam utters the name and title Jesus Christ in frustration, and the word God makes an appearance or two. Like most art through film, there is no anti-God animas—He’s simply irrelevant. I realized some years ago as I became aware of the insidious nature of secularism that the irrelevant God is probably the most powerful weapon against faith (i.e., trust) in God in the modern world. This secular mindset can easily develop in us if we’re not careful, and a certain kind of God unawareness becomes how we start viewing the world. Almost in a moment, a world of a missing God seems more plausible than one with an omnipresent God.

The Power of Plausibility Structures
I learned about this sociological concept a long time ago, but was reintroduced to its power when I wrote my first book, The Persuasive Christian Parent. Put simply, societies develop the mechanisms (i.e., structures like a building we live in) that make certain things seem true and other things not true. Whether they are true or not isn’t the point, only if they seem true, or seem plausible, to us. This concept is why Taylor wrote his book with the title, A Secular Age. In the Western world today, secularism is the dominant, and often oppressive, plausibility structure, and it appears to many people Fort Knox strong. For example, most people who do not think critically or carefully about things, and from a very specifically intentional Christian worldview (i.e., seeing God in everything) will look at a show like the Beckham documentary and never ask, “Where is God?” God is just as irrelevant to their lives as he is to the Beckham’s.

The easiest way to grasp this concept is to think of it in regard to a movie or TV show or a novel. If they are done well, the story will grip you with its realness, its verisimilitude. You won’t be distracted knowing there is a camera following the character, and likely dozens of people in the room doing the work to make the scene seem plausible. If you yourself were in the room watching it being shot, it would appear to you exactly like what it is, one scene being shot in a movie or TV show. If you’re reading a good novel you won’t think about the person who wrote it making this all up; it will have the plausibility structure to move you; it will seem real. This brings me to the reason I wrote this post.

The Elements of Style and The Revelation of God
I recently read a book called, The Elements of Style. For that past eight years I’ve been on a journey to become a “writer.” Like everything else in my life, I was not naturally good at it, and for a while insecure and doubtful I could master the skills necessary to communicate clearly through written words. I have improved considerably, I think, and continue my journey to improve my craft daily. I had read Elements years ago and thought a re-read of this classic was in order. I was pleasantly surprised I’ve adopted many of the rules laid out as necessary for effective writing, but it was the last chapter on the intangible thing called style that made me shout out, God! I’ve always known words are spiritually profound because our Savior is called the Word, or logos-λόγος in Greek. Also, God created the heavens and the earth using words; God said, and it was. That is power! And we are made in God’s image, so our words have power as well, although in our case for good and ill. Words are primarily and ultimately spiritual in nature, and in some sense communicate He who is the Word.

As I read the following passage introducing the concept of style, I could not help thinking of Romans 1, and God’s invisible qualities:

Here we leave solid ground. Who can confidently say what ignites a certain combination of words, causing them to explode in the mind? Who knows why certain notes in music are capable of stirring the listener deeply, though the same notes slightly rearranged are impotent? These are high mysteries, and this chapter is a mystery story, thinly disguised. There is no satisfactory explanation of style, no infallible guide to good writing, no assurance that a person who thinks clearly will be able to write clearly, no key that unlocks the door, no inflexible rule by which writers may shape their course. Writers will often find themselves steering by stars that are disturbingly in motion.

What the author is trying to describe can only be known when we see or hear it. It is magic, or more accurately, the divine, be it in music or words. What these do to us goes beyond sound waves and ink on a page, and he gives a wonderfully simple example. In the darkest days of the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine penned these immortal words to start a series of essays called, The American Crisis:

These are the times that try men’s souls.

He then gives the same or similar words rearranged to show how it is only these eight simple words arranged exactly this way that exhibit the “high mysteries” of language:

  • Times like these try men’s souls.
  • How trying it is to live in these times!
  • These are trying times for men’s souls.
  • Soulwise, these are trying times.

These are all grammatically correct and the meaning is clear and the same as Paine’s, but they would have been “marked for oblivion” the moment they were written. We can all see the power and superiority of Paine’s version, but none of us could say why exactly it has that quality. We just know that it does, that it moves us, and says something profound we cannot forget.

Music is the same way. I often think of this with my favorite bands and artists of the ‘60s and ‘70s. What was it, for example, about the four young men who made up the Beatles that made their music so magical to so many millions of people all over the world? Listening to their catalog it seemed almost impossible for them to make a bad song. For me, Led Zeppelin was the same. The 1970s version of Stevie Wonder as well. Or take Frank Sinatra. He could sing a song and bring out the magic in the notes and words, while other singers of the same song make me yawn. Nat King Cole had that magic too. Everyone’s taste is different, but this extends beyond taste. I’ll never forget at a function my wife and I attended in the 1990s where I experienced this. I heard a group perform the song Crazy by Patsy Cline, and even though the music wasn’t my “style,” I couldn’t get over how heavy the song was. It had that undefinable magic, and we became Patsy Cline fans instantly. The same happened for me when I learned about singer-songwriter Martin Sexton and his album, The American. In fact, when I first played the CD for my family, my daughter said, “Dad, this is not your kind of music.” I knew there was magic in a bottle in that album, and my family soon agreed with me.

The question is what explains the magic. What is it that gives one combination of notes or words appealing and enduring staying power? That thing we can’t really explain or put our finger on, but everyone knows it when they see or hear it. The other question is does it even require an explanation. The unequivocal answer is that it compels us to ask the question because we know that something like this doesn’t explain itself, any more than does the beauty of a sunset or full moon. Every work of art speaks to the nature of the one who created or performs it, and creation is God’s canvas.

One of my favorite apologetics concepts gets us to the answer. It is worth remembering because it will help you see God in everything: Explanatory power. It simply means what is the best, most plausible, reasonable, rational explanation for something. That which explains something better than any alternative has explanatory power, and we must always consider the alternative. When I read the pages explaining the mystery of style, I got chills because I was clearly seeing “God’s eternal power and divine nature.” I knew the only explanation for it is God, and He became even more real for me in that moment. His fingerprints are powerfully obvious in every square inch of reality for those with eyes to see. The alternative is atheistic materialism, which explains absolutely nothing as I argued in a recent post. We all know matter plus time plus chance cannot explain the “high mysteries” and the magic. We are encountering something deep, something profound, which are “God’s invisible qualities.”






Matthew Perry: What Does it Profit a Man . . . .

Matthew Perry: What Does it Profit a Man . . . .

The recent death and sad life of megastar Matthew Perry at 54 is a tale many of us can learn from. Unfortunately, most will learn the wrong lessons. Some will conclude that fame and wealth are bad things in and of themselves. They are not. They can be a huge blessing depending on the person. Others will see fame and wealth having destroyed Mr. Perry. There is some truth to that because he obviously couldn’t handle it, but no external circumstances cause anything. Almost four decades ago when I started my theological journey with Charles Hodge’s Systematic Theology, I learned something about money I had never considered. After all, I was only 24 at the time. Money, he said, is a reflection of character, it reveals who we really are, and it also allows us to develop better character as we earn more of it. That, of course, depends on our character, who we are (this article about his parent’s divorce is instructive why he was who he was). Those lacking good character, for whatever reasons, will tend to be corrupted by having considerably more money than required to meet their daily needs. Unfortunately, this seems to have been the case with Matthew Perry. I am not at any point addressing his eternal destiny, although the verse in my title always tends to be interpreted that way.

The Christian Understanding of Wealth
God declares that “wealth and honor” comes from Him (I Chron. 29). Fame is a kind of honor, but a distinctly modern phenomenon. Whenever we attain wealth and honor, or fame, we are confronted with a question: What are we going to do with it? Jesus put the rhetorical question this way:

 For what does it profit a man to gain the whole world and forfeit his soul?

Matthew Perry would have said, none at all. It destroyed him. But wealth (i.e., money and what it can buy) is an unqualified good in Scripture. You can’t get more unqualified than this (Deuteronomy 8):

17 You may say to yourself, “My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me.” 18 But remember the Lord your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your ancestors, as it is today.

But like any good, it can be perverted by sinners who don’t acknowledge it comes from Him.

As I argued recently, God wants to bless us. I would encourage you to read Deuteronomy 8 to see how this wealth-creating ability granted by God is in direct correlation to our obedience to Him. In other words, material blessing is baked into the salvific cake of God’s relationship to His people. This is sadly misunderstood by many Christians today, partly because we over spiritualize everything, and also mistakenly judge God’s good creation by those who abuse it.  (This is one reason, lamentably in my opinion, that almost all Evangelical churches serve only grape juice during Communion.)

Think about it. When you encourage and exhort your children to obey you, and punish them when necessary if they don’t, do you expect the outcome in their daily lives to be good? Do you not want them to flourish and thrive in this life? Of course you do. You specifically do those things because you want your children to have a better life, not a worse one. Why would it be any different with God and his people? It isn’t! Jesus confirms the analogy to our heavenly Father in Matthew 7:11:

If you, then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give good gifts to those who ask him!

Yes, I know, life is “unfair,” and material blessing is not in the cards for some people. Just think about what appears to us the lottery of where someone is born. Nonetheless, the blessings of obedience to God, even trusting his goodness and love in suffering, always lead to a spiritual flourishing in our relationship to Him that cannot be determined by our circumstances. Not to mention, we are going to live forever with God in a resurrected body on a new heavens and earth!

Dualism and the Soul
In our tendency to over spiritualize is a kind of dualism, material/spiritual, earthly/heavenly, temporal/eternal. I want to suggest that we cannot neatly separate those, not in the least. That separating came as a result of the fall and man’s rebellion, and Jesus came to earth to bring them together, not further separate them. Let’s put it this way:

  • The material is the spiritual, and the spiritual is the material.
  • The earthly is heavenly, and the heavenly is the earthly.
  • The temporal is the eternal, and the eternal is the temporal.

There are many reasons we don’t think this way, but I believe ancient Greek dualistic assumptions are a primary cause. We can’t explore that here, but instead of seeing life fully integrated and wholistic in the omnipresent life of God, there are sharp distinctions like this in our minds.

Because we do this we automatically see the reference to losing or gaining souls as Jesus talking about going to heaven or hell. I don’t think he is. That’s an implication, but it’s much bigger than that. This dualism makes us think we are made up of two substances, body and soul, and when we die our soul goes to heaven to wait for our resurrected body. That could be true and I tend to believe that, but we can’t be sure. The New Testament only gives us the barest hints that it is, but ancient Hebrews and Jews of Jesus’ day as well, didn’t think this way.

So, what did Jesus and the first Jewish Christians mean by the word soul? I’m convinced it had a much more earthy, this life meaning, more Hebrew than Greek. The Greek influence in early Christian thinking came in the centuries that followed as the church slowly became increasingly Gentile. Certainly the Greek thought influenced how Jews saw the world given that the process of Hellenization (the influence of Greek culture) started when Alexander the Great conquered Judea over 300 years before Christ, but it would not change the fundamental character of Jewish thought. So instead of seeing what Jesus said dualistically, let’s look at it as a first century Hebrew/Jew might.

What is the Soul Biblically Speaking
The Greek word soul, psuché-ψυχή, is where we get our word psychology. The English automatically brings in the Greek dualistic assumptions by its meaning of mind, that our psyche is about what and how we think and why. That’s helpful to learn and understand, but it’s too narrow. Let’s see what the biblical ancient Greek meaning was according to Strong’s:

Usage: (a) the vital breath, breath of life, (b) the human soul, (c) the soul as the seat of affections and will, (d) the self, (e) a human person, an individual.


5590 psyxḗ (from psyxō, “to breathe, blow” which is the root of the English words “psyche,” “psychology”) – soul (psyche); a person’s distinct identity (unique personhood), i.e. individual personality.

5590 (psyxē) corresponds exactly to the OT 5315 /phágō (“soul”). The soul is the direct aftermath of God breathing (blowing) His gift of life into a person, making them an ensouled being.

This broad understanding of the word is critically important to understand if we’re to escape from the prison (chains) of dualism. Notice especially that soul is the unique identity of a person, their one of a kind personhood, who they are. That includes their body as much as everything that goes on inside them. It includes this life and the life to come.

I know this is heavy philosophy stuff, but bear with me. Even though I am probably a dualist, meaning I think we are body and soul, two distinct entities, I am also a monist in that I believe the two are inextricably bound to one another. Unfortunately, a very real separation occurred between the two, between us, who we are, our soul and our bodies, when mankind crashed and burned in the fall. It is helpful to understand the Apostle Paul’s theological perspective of the human body. He uses the word in Greek, sarx- σάρξ, over sixty times. It is a foundational part of his anthropology, or his understanding of the nature of man (anthropos in Greek). It is the principle of sin that inheres in us, in who we are. Not being a Greek dualist, Paul isn’t saying the flesh, our bodies are sinful and evil, but a principle of rebellion against God is part of who we are. We could say our souls, who we are, is infected with this sin principle.

I won’t go any deeper into this, but the point is that this sin principle ruins everything it touches in this life. The implications are not only eternal. All Christians know this, but given our Greek dualistic assumptions we’re always thinking eternal consequences are more important. Of course they are because, well, they are forever, and that’s a long time! But God is every bit as concerned with this life, with who we are in terms of who we are becoming, and the material implications for here and now. I encourage you to read Deuteronomy 8 and  Deuteronomy 11 where Moses lays out the blessings for obedience to God, and the opposite if we don’t. Despite what many Christians think, this was not just for Israel. He’s built his law into creation such that our relationship to him has real, substantive, material consequences one way or the other.

Christians sometimes have a hard time with this line of thinking as I used to because I thought of it like a kind of “prosperity gospel” position. I think Britannica defines this well in case you’re not familiar with the phrase:

It is also referred to as the “health and wealth gospel” or “name it and claim it.” Central to this teaching are the beliefs that salvation through Jesus Christ includes liberation from not only death and eternal damnation but also poverty, sickness, and other ills.

Well, it does! But there is nothing magical about this like I used to think. We are saved from sin unto good works. It is only in obedience to God’s law that he can bless us because that’s the way he made things to work! If we live our lives in obedience to the Ten Commandments the best we can, our lives will turn out a whole lot better than if we don’t.

Matthew Perry Loses His Soul
Unfortunately, Matthew Perry didn’t obey the ten commandments. As I said above, I can’t speak to the eternal aspect of his soul, but he clearly lost it in this life. Wanting the entire world, so to speak, apart from God, he got it. He lost his soul in the process, and his life for good at the young age of 54. His mistake was thinking something like the fame he craved could ultimately fulfill him, but he likely responded as many people do when they get it: is that all there is? As I’ve heard it said, idolatry is turning good things into ultimate things. Making an idol of fame, which drives so many in our secular culture, is a recipe for disaster. How that plays out in each individual’s life who achieves it depends on the person. For some who don’t place their ultimate worth in the idol, they can deal with it in a way that brings wisdom. Even at that, it is not easy.

We are in the middle of fascinating documentaries about two men, and one woman, who achieved massive wealth and fame and came out the other side better people through the pain and struggle that comes along with such success. One is about soccer superstar David Beckham (and his Spice Girl wife), and the other is Rocky, Sylvester Stallone, both on Netflix. Like Perry, they had their dreams come true beyond their wildest imaginations, and struggled to come to terms with it. It’s interesting to see the young Beckham with no tattoos, and the now 48 year-old with a bunch of them. To me those are a reflection of the struggle. He seems, though, to be a genuinely good bloke, as the Brits would say. Stallone too seems to have come out the other side a better human being.

What this means for their eternal soul we don’t know, but ultimately that’s the only thing that counts.