What’s so Merry about Christmas? Truth.

During the Christmas season I usually spend time contemplating what makes this time of year merry. As a Christian, my focus is on a baby born in a manger nearly 2000 years ago. What bearing does it have on merrymaking that a child was born in poverty so long ago?

One word in particular keeps coming to mind. That word is truth. John’s Gospel tells us that the child is God, the Word made flesh, who came full of grace and truth.[1] Years later when the child grew up, he announced that the truth he proclaimed would bring freedom.[2]

Truth brings freedom? Do we really believe this? The extent to which we lie indicates that we actually believe truth brings bondage. Why do children lie about stealing a cookie, politicians about their marital infidelity, or loved ones about taking illegal substances? We lie because we believe the truth won’t set us free. If we tell the truth things will go bad for us. We’ll lose the freedom we desire. We run from truth.

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Religion of None?

Someone once said, “Give me the making of the songs of a nation and I care not who writes its laws.”[1] In his book Can Man Live Without God, Ravi Zacharias gives the context of this quote, stating that these words “not only divulge a major cultural access point to our contemporary mind-set, but also acknowledge the extraordinary control of song lyrics upon the moods and convictions of the young, who are embattled by the tug of so many allurements.”[2]

This thought resonates with me. Maybe it’s because I’ve seen the truth of it played out in my life and the lives of those around me. I and so many of my generation are having our ideologies and worldviews shaped by the philosophies of the latest pop sensations. What do the songs of today tell us about our culture, our contemporary mindset, and the convictions of our youth and young adults?

There is one song in particular that I can’t get out of my head, which aptly describes the convictions of my generation and the generations following me. It’s on the radio constantly; the depth of the message hidden in a catchy, upbeat tune. The song is “Some Nights.” Sung by the band FUN, the lyrics are anything but fun. They capture the struggle to find purpose and meaning in this life. Continue reading

Bumper Sticker Worldview

Bumper stickers, like Facebook status updates, are common. If we are honest they rarely leave a lasting impression. They usually tell us of the driver’s political stance, if their child is an honor student, or if their boss is a Jewish carpenter. We see them, read them, and forget about them in the blink of an eye. Yet, once in a while, one will capture our attention and leave a lasting impression.

Today as I was driving I noticed two bumper stickers side by side on the car in front of me. This in and of itself was not significant, but the message they communicated together left an impression. The first one said, “Question authority,” and the second, “Christianity has pagan DNA.”  This skeptical worldview that questions Christianity’s validity, is it a worldview that can sustain itself?

Skeptical Worldview

It’s hard to deny that each of us holds to a worldview. We all interpret the events of life through the lens of certain beliefs; beliefs that help us make sense of the world and our place within it. The skeptic’s worldview is very common in our day and age. It does what the first bumper sticker says. It questions authority. Authority does not simply refer to positions of power held by people such as parents, teachers, or government officials. Authority is also anything that has power over ideas and behavior, calling for submission. This is the kind of authority the skeptical worldview calls into question with its inquiries. How can you say your way is right and my way is wrong? Can we really know anything from history? Is one religion really true to over others? Does God exist? How can you say abortion, homosexuality, or pornography is wrong?

Unsustainable Worldview

To a certain point, the skeptical worldview has validity. It’s good to ask questions and to test an idea’s authority, seeing if it’s worthy of our submission. Yet there is a difficulty with this worldview. The true skeptic should question their skepticism. The statement “Question authority” begs the question. Should I question this statement’s authority to question authority? On what grounds should I accept your statement is valid? If I’m to question authority than your statement has no authority and we’re left at an impasse. Likewise, if I’m to question authority, on what grounds can you say with assertion that “Christianity has pagan DNA?”  You’ve just made an authoritative statement based on what you believe is true, but it cannot be sustained in a skeptical worldview.

Basis of Authority

“Question authority” may actually be a good idea. But another question arises, whose authority? Your authority; my authority? When we question authority we are assuming that there is an answer and a supreme Authority that rules over all smaller authorities. There is something out there that makes sense of everything else and should influence what we think, how we feel and how we live.  Therefore, it seems crucial that we discern the real basis of authority, or life could go horribly wrong.

Jesus, on What Authority?

The New Testament accounts of the life of Jesus show that he was no stranger to the skeptical worldview. His public ministry was decidedly marked by people questioning the basis of his authority surrounding his teaching and works. He claimed his authority came from the Father. More than that, he claimed unity with the Father, thereby being the greatest Authority. Even in his arrest and death sentence for his claims, he asserted that it was by his authority he would die and rise again on the third day. Today nothing has changed. People still question his assertions. They still question the message of Christianity. Whether it’s in the form of a question such as, “How can you say Jesus is the only way?” or it’s in a statement such as, “Christianity has pagan DNA,” we’re skeptical. To this skeptical worldview the words of C.S. Lewis resound with authoritative urgency, “Christianity is a statement which, if false, is of no importance, and, if true, of infinite importance. The one thing it cannot be is moderately important.”[1] On whose authority will you base your beliefs? That is the real question.

[1] C.S. Lewis, “Christian Apologetics,” in God in the Dock

Questioning the Purpose of Life in Toy Story

Have you ever noticed that children’s cartoons often have very adult messages? Recently my niece has fallen in love with the characters of Disney Pixar’s Toy Story. When she isn’t watching the three animated movies, she assumes the role of Buzz Lightyear, running through the house declaring, “To infinity, and beyond!” When I first saw the movies I loved the heartwarming, and often comical, story. Now having seen the movies more times than I can count, I’ve realized that they are much more than the favorite cartoon of my three-year old niece. Through the eyes of a few toys, the human heart’s longing for purpose becomes clear, and I think, the answer to where that longing is found.

As Buzz, Woody, Jessie, and the rest of the toys face their insecurities surrounding their ‘toyness’ and worth, we face with our own human longing for purpose. For example, in the first movie Buzz Lightyear has no idea he’s a toy, believing he’s actually a space ranger on a mission to protect the galaxy. As the story unfolds Buzz discovers who he really is to the undoing of his understanding of reality.

In despair he tells Woody, “I’m just a toy; a stupid, insignificant toy.”

And into his brokenness Woody speaks words of truth, “Look, over in that house is a kid who thinks you are the greatest, and it’s not because you’re a space ranger, pal. It’s because you are a toy. You are HIS toy.”

Buzz had to learn that his purpose and worth was found in fulfilling the role he was created for. He was a toy created for the purpose of being loved and played with by a child. His meaning was found in acknowledging his toyness. As he embraced this reality he found joy, contentment, and peace. When Buzz accepted the love of the child he was made for he found the significance he longed for.

I wonder how often we are like Buzz Lightyear. We have grand ideas and plans surrounding our identity and purpose. Yet there inevitably comes a point in life when we’re confronted with the reality that we’re not all we thought we were. We’re not capable of what we thought we could do. And like Buzz, we’re overwhelmed with our smallness and seeming insignificance. Like Buzz we need to discover our created purpose, our reason for being. Because it is only when we fulfill our created purpose that we find true contentment and peace.

So what is our created purpose? Where do we find our meaning? St. Augustine once said, “Thou hast created us for Thyself, and our heart is not quiet until it rests in Thee.”

This echoes Paul’s word on humanity’s created purpose: “… that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel their way toward him and find him. Yet he is actually not far from each one of us, for ‘In him we live and move and have our being.’” And, “All things were created through him and for him.”[1]

Buzz found his worth in accepting his created purpose of being a beloved toy. Likewise, we need to find our worth from accepting our created purpose. We were not created to rescue the galaxy. We were made for so much more. Where is your heart seeking its worth and rest?

[1] Acts 17:26-28; Colossians 1:16