Do We Live in a Dark World?

People who see the world as “dark” aren’t held in high regard. They are called curmudgeons, pessimists, even villains.

By contract, people who see the world in a positive light are considered optimistic. They’re the good guys.

Donald Trump’s speech at the close of the Republican National Convention was castigated by the opposition and the press as being “dark.” President Obama was so bothered by its tone that he felt compelled to reply the next day, “This idea that America is somehow on the verge of collapse—this vision of violence and chaos everywhere—doesn’t really jibe with the experience of most people.”

Taking politics out of this discussion (I know, that’s nearly impossible), this sunny statement by the president against the negative images conjured by Trump begs an important question, one that doesn’t concern only our time, but all of time, the way it’s always been, at least since the fall.

continue reading

6 Ways Christians Can Respond to the Growing Police Dilemma

When we heard about the shootings last week, my wife and I were heartsick. Seven people died in what feels like an escalating national crisis. Two people died at the hands of police officers, while five officers died at the hands of a single suspect. The tension and distrust between African Americans and police officers is at the highest level in my lifetime. As my son Jimmy (a third-generation police officer himself) flew as a member of the Honor Guard to represent our agency at five officer funerals in Dallas this week, I began to gather my thoughts about how we, as Christians, might respond to the growing dilemma. I’ve tried to accurately communicate the nature of police work, but for every person who asks for my police perspective, there’s another who wants my advice as a pastor and Christian Case Maker. In this article, I’d like to outline six things each of us, as citizens and Christians, can do to respond to the growing dilemma:

continue reading

Held to a Higher Standard

Criticizing, marginalizing, shaming, and otherwise denigrating Christians has become something of a national pastime. And we don’t just hear the negative talk from the unwashed. A lot of the critical words come from Christians themselves.

Are you surprised? We Christians can be hypocritical, judgmental, and holier-than-thou—sometimes all at once. And when we are, we embarrass ourselves, not to mention the God we claim to follow. So we call out the offenders, mostly in blogs or books, hoping they’ll straighten out and fly right.

You know who we’re talking about. We wrote about them in our book, I’m Fine With God…It’s Christians I Can’t Stand. Here are a few categories from our book, plus a bonus category:

  • Christians who impose their morality on others
  • Christians who think science is the enemy
  • Christians who use the Bible as a weapon
  • Christians who don’t practice what they preach
Bonus Category
  • Christians who support Donald Trump
continue reading

In Between the Best and Worst

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

Charles Dickens’ first line in his classic A Tale of Two Cities is one of the most famous in all of literature for a very good reason. Every person in every era in every part of the world knows what it means, even if they’ve never read the book (which applies to just about everybody, including us).

Not only is the line true, it’s disquieting. It’s one of those universal truths you acknowledge but wish were not the case: The relentless parade of human achievement that makes our lives better and longer is offset at every turn by the ongoing plight of human misery. Often, the contrast comes in a moment.

Something very good happens to you, and then you check your phone to scan the headlines and a picture of a two-year-old Syrian refugee laying face down on a beach slaps you across the face and makes your heart ache. And once again you are reminded of Dickens’ famous first line.

continue reading

The First Book You Need to Read in 2015

A disclaimer: Frank Turek, President of CrossExamined.org and author of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist is a friend of mine. More than that, I consider Frank one of my closest friends and a true partner in ministry. But that’s not why I’m writing about his new book today. If I didn’t think Frank had written something important and special, I wouldn’t use my platform to tell you about it (regardless of my relationship with him). But Frank’s written a book you need to read and give to your friends. In fact, Frank’s new book, Stealing from God: Why Atheists Need God to Make Their Case, is the first book you need to read in 2015. When Frank shared the concept of the book with me over a year ago, I will admit I thought, “Dang it, why didn’t I think of that book?!?” After all, doesn’t it sound like something written by a police detective? If you’ve enjoyed my approach to Christian Case Making, you’ll relish Stealing from God. It will help you understand why the Christian worldview is unique in its ability to explain (and make sense of) our world, even as it demonstrates the fatal weaknesses of an atheistic worldview.

What if your best reasons to doubt God actually proved He exists? Frank examines claims critics of Christianity (and theism) typically offer to make the case against God’s existence, and shows how these aspects of reality actually require God’s existence in the first place. Frank’s book is brilliantly concise, including six chapters examining C – Causality, R – Reason, I - Information & Intentionality, M – Morality, E – Evil, and S – Science. As always, Frank presents the material in a memorable way, demonstrating how “…in order to construct any valid argument for atheism, the atheist has to steal tools from God’s universe because no such tools exist in the world of atheism.” Frank’s arguments are pointed and supported by many illustrations and examples. He demonstrates how theism forms the foundation for reason, morality and science, and how it best explains the causality, information and evil we see in our universe. These aspects of our existence are typically offered by skeptics as evidence against theism, but as Frank often says in his talks and presentations, “Atheists must sit in God’s lap in order to try to slap Him in the face.” Unless theism is true, none of these features of the universe could actually exist.

I’m encouraging you to read Frank’s book for two reasons. First, as Christians, we need to master the arguments and evidences described in Stealing from God. These broad categories of reality are under direct attack from critics of Christianity and we need to be ready to give a defense (and help our young people master their response as well). Stealing from God is yet another important resource to help all of us become better Christian Case Makers. But there’s another reason I am recommending Frank’s book: I believe in Frank’s ministry and approach. When I first met Frank, I knew right away we would hit it off. His “New Jersey” approach to the evidence for God’s existence (and the truth of the Christian worldview) is desperately needed in this age of “New Atheism”. There are times when Frank takes a “gloves off” approach to the issues, and his “apologetics with an attitude” approach seems perfectly suited for the time in which we live. Look, for example, at the titles of Frank’s books: of I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist and Stealing from God. These are provocative titles, perfect for the provocative climate in which we live. I speak at college campuses all over the country and I can tell you students (especially atheist students) respond to Frank’s messages because they are appropriately provoked by the titles. Frank has written yet another book you can give to skeptical friends, and I bet the title just might provoke them to read it. Frank has written a great book, and he’s written it with a great approach.

Frank gets right to the task at hand and systematically works through each of the six points skeptics typically use to argue against God, showing how these aspects of reality are all dependent upon God’s existence. Frank then reviews the four-part case for Christianity he first presented in I Don’t Have Enough Faith to Be An Atheist (Does truth Exist? Does God exist? Are miracles possible? Is the New Testament historically reliable?) So if you’re looking for a book to strengthen what you believe as a Christian or a book you can give to a skeptic, Stealing from God will achieve both goals. To top it off, Ravi Zacharias even took time from his incredibly busy schedule to write the book’s foreword.

If you read my blog often, you know I don’t typically take time to write book reviews or offer endorsements of this nature. But there aren’t many books I wish I’d have written, so Stealing from God has earned a spot here at Cold Case Christianity. It’s an important book written by an important Christian Case Maker, and it’s the first book you should read in 2015.

continue reading

How Christian Case Making Turns “Free Riders” Into “First Responders”

I’ve been part of a first responder family my entire life. I was born while my father was in the police academy and grew up during his law enforcement career. Prior to his retirement, I entered the academy and my son was born. He watched me serve as a first responder as he grew up and then entered the academy as well; he’s been serving as an officer for several years now. I’ve listened to the stories of first responders (or told my own) for the past fifty-three years. I’ve learned an important truth about law enforcement first responders. There are no “free riders” in a police patrol car. When two officers are working together in a unit, there are no passengers. Each has a job to do. The driver obviously guides the unit, decides where the tandem will patrol, and is responsible for safely navigating the car, even during incredibly tense and difficult situations. But the officer sitting in the passenger seat is just as active and engaged as the driver; he’s not just along for the ride. He’s responsible for all radio communications with the station, is primarily responsible for the reports written during the shift, and is often the best set of eyes in the unit. First responder “passengers” can teach us something about our lives as Christians.

If you’ve been a member of a local church for any period of time, you’ve probably noticed twenty percent of the members serve actively while eighty percent usually enjoy the benefits of this service (the old 20/80 principle). There are many “free riders” in the church who are willing to attend but don’t seem to be engaged in much more than this. Well, I want to confess something to you: I am now part of that eighty percent. With my speaking and writing schedule, I am seldom at home on Sundays and when I am, I am usually unable to help out at church. I often feel lucky to be there at all. And there’s something else you probably already know: the twenty percent who are working hard to help out with the weekly service may still be unengaged in what they believe as Christians. Even though they are working hard, they still may not know much about Christianity. You can be a “free rider” even though you appear to be working hard.

So, what makes the difference between those who are coasting and those who are engaged? How can “free riders” become “first responders”? It all comes down to case making. Let me return to the analogy of first responder “passengers” to make the point. These officers may look like they are along for the ride, but they have an important role to play, just like those of us who may appear to be sitting in church pews:

continue reading

When We Fast

I got sick a week or so ago, and it was awesome.  The reason is that when I get sick, I don’t go to work, don’t do errands, and I don’t do chores – I rest and recover.  My method of recovery when sick often justifies hours of catching up on TV shows, or enjoying my XBOX – guilt free.  I mean, what else can I do when my choices are sit on the couch or lay in the bed…lest I infect everyone around me and wear my body down further?

This particular round of sick had me bingeing on a certain crime drama TV show that was taught, tense, and filled with great cliffhangers every step of the way.  The kind of stuff I can’t look away from.  And, it all served its purpose – I didn’t have to focus on my sore throat, my rising and lowering temperature, and the loss of hearing that comes from my body’s production of mucus that seems trapped between my ears.  I was able to distract myself from those pesky symptoms.  As long as the TV was on, everything else was off.

continue reading

Are You Free to NOT Drink?

Brett McCracken is one of the original team of bloggers for ConversantLife.com. His newest book, Gray Matters (Baker Books), examines some of the hot-button gray matters of Christian cultural consumption. In this excerpt, Brett explores the matter of alcohol.

I went to an evangelical Christian college that did not permit the consumption of alcohol. I grew up in a household and a conservative church culture–Midwest to boot–where drinking was out of the question and seen as bereft of goodness. I’m the child of an American evangelicalism that has had a decidedly contentious (to put it mildly) relationship with alcohol (see Christians and Alcohol: A Timeline”).

continue reading

Trayvon Martin as Shape Shifter: Why Truth Matters

I wrote this last year when the Martin tragedy first came to light. Today, it's still important.  

In literature and mythology, Shape Shifters are deceptive characters who cross boundaries at will, moving between worlds to confuse the sacred and the profane. Sometimes a character even finds its shape changed by someone else through a curse or spell. The transformation may or may not be voluntary. 

And so goes the tragic story of Trayvon Martin, the newest Shape Shifter in a long history of American journalism. 

In this world, some things are pure and innocent while other things are evil. Racism and bigotry are transcendent evils, while defending the innocent is universally just. But Trayvon’s tragic death--and its chaotic aftermath--teaches us that perception is often a Shape Shifter. Under the spell of one version, Trayvon teaches us that trigger-happy racial profilers are alive and well. Under the spell of another version, Trayvon teaches us that young black men often contribute to their own violent downfall. 

continue reading

Don’t Hang All Your Stuff on the Fridge: How an Audience Can Ruin Good, Honest Work

You love an audience. If you were born since 1985, you’ve always had one. For years now you and your circle of friends have become each other’s micro-paparazzi, watching each other dance in videos, sing solos with ukuleles, write fan fiction, and pose for photo shoots. Andy Warhol, who famously quipped that everyone in the future would be famous for fifteen minutes, was not some cultural prophet like some have suggested. All he needed to do was read about the Greek figure Narcissus who after staring at himself in a pool of water was dying to upload that pose. Since 900 BC, I guess, we’ve been needing an audience.  

Now that technology has caught up with our narcissism, I offer some principles that might help guide our pursuit of an audience. 

Principle One: The size of your audience should be proportional to the quality of your product.

continue reading
Syndicate content

Bloggers in God And Culture


Sign-up for the Newsletter
Sign-up for the Newsletter
Get the latest updates on relevant news topics, engaging blogs and new site features. We're not annoying about it, so don't worry.