Top 10 YouTubes of 2017

It’s time for my annual posting of the Top 10 YouTube Videos of the Year (see last year’s list here). This ranking is totally unscientific. Only one person was polled to compile this list—yours truly. This year’s slate of videos is mainly humorous, with some other odds and ends thrown in. They are not all YouTube videos this time. Three Facebook videos and one Twitter video made the cut this go round. If you think I’ve left something out, let me know. I’ll think about adding it to the “Honorable Mention” category at the bottom. Continue Reading →

Let every heart prepare him room!

How could there possibly be anything more mysterious and wonderful than the incarnation of Jesus Christ? God became a man. God took on mortal human flesh and became subject to all the things that every other mortal is subject to. He sneezed. He coughed. He got headaches and an upset stomach. Every morning he got up, shook the dust out of His hair, and put his hand to the plow in his Father’s field.

Jesus Christ was not only subject to sickness, but also to death. The eternal Son of God was die-able. In fact, he did die. And three days later, what was mortal became swallowed up by immortality in the resurrection.

Even now, the resurrected Christ sits at the right hand of God in glory. As I type these words, the incarnate God intercedes in the flesh for His people before the Father (Romans 8:34). And it all began in a manger 2,000 years ago. No, actually, we have to go nine months before that—when Jesus Christ was first conceived by the Holy Spirit within the virgin Mary, when the God-Man was an embryo. “Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God. . . The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy offspring shall be called the Son of God” (Luke 1:30, 35).

How can it be that God has come in the flesh? How can it be that he is in the flesh now? Yet this is precisely what the Bible teaches. “Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people” (Hebrews 2:17).

As we ponder the imponderables of God, let us never cease to be amazed at the manifold mercies of God that have come to us through the incarnation of King Jesus. Let every heart prepare Him room.

Merry Christmas!

Jonathan Haidt: “Intersectionality aims for… an inflaming of tribal suspicions and hatreds”

Jonathan Haidt has a fascinating essay dealing with two kinds of identity politics—the good kind and the bad kind. The good kind is that espoused by Martin Luther King, Jr. in his “I Have a Dream Speech.” The bad kind is intersectionality. Unfortunately, it’s the bad kind that dominates university campuses today. Haidt explains:

King’s speech is among the most famous in American history precisely because it framed our greatest moral failing as an opportunity for centripetal redemption. This is what I’m calling the good kind of identity politics.

Let us contrast King’s identity politics with the version taught in universities today. There is a new variant that has swept through the academy in the last five years. It is called intersectionality. The term and concept were presented in a 1989 essay by Kimberlé Crenshaw, a law professor at UCLA, who made the very reasonable point that a black woman’s experience in America is not captured by the summation of the black experience and the female experience. She analyzed a legal case in which black women were victims of discrimination at General Motors, even when the company could show that it hired plenty of blacks (in factory jobs dominated by men), and it hired plenty of women (in clerical jobs dominated by whites). So even though GM was found not guilty of discriminating against blacks or women, it ended up hiring hardly any black women. This is an excellent argument. What academic could oppose the claim that when analyzing a complex system, we must look at interaction effects, not just main effects?

But what happens when young people study intersectionality? In some majors, it’s woven into many courses. Students memorize diagrams showing matrices of privilege and oppression. It’s not just white privilege causing black oppression, and male privilege causing female oppression; its heterosexual vs. LGBTQ, able-bodied vs. disabled; young vs. old, attractive vs. unattractive, even fertile vs. infertile. Anything that a group has that is good or valued is seen as a kind of privilege, which causes a kind of oppression in those who don’t have it. A funny thing happens when you take young human beings, whose minds evolved for tribal warfare and us/them thinking, and you fill those minds full of binary dimensions. You tell them that one side of each binary is good and the other is bad. You turn on their ancient tribal circuits, preparing them for battle. Many students find it thrilling; it floods them with a sense of meaning and purpose.

And here’s the strategically brilliant move made by intersectionality: all of the binary dimensions of oppression are said to be interlocking and overlapping. America is said to be one giant matrix of oppression, and its victims cannot fight their battles separately. They must all come together to fight their common enemy, the group that sits at the top of the pyramid of oppression: the straight, white, cis-gendered, able-bodied Christian or Jewish or possibly atheist male. This is why a perceived slight against one victim group calls forth protest from all victim groups. This is why so many campus groups now align against Israel. Intersectionality is like NATO for social-justice activists.

This means that on any campus where intersectionality thrives, conflict will be eternal, because no campus can eliminate all offense, all microaggressions, and all misunderstandings. This is why the use of shout-downs, intimidation, and even violence in response to words and ideas is most common at our most progressive universities, in the most progressive regions of the country. It’s schools such as Yale, Brown, and Middlebury in New England, and U.C. Berkeley, Evergreen, and Reed on the West Coast. Are those the places where oppression is worst, or are they the places where this new way of thinking is most widespread?…

Intersectionality aims for… an inflaming of tribal suspicions and hatreds, in order to stimulate anger and activism in students, in order to recruit them as fighters for the political mission of the professor. The identity politics taught on campus today is entirely different from that of Martin Luther King. It rejects America and American values. It does not speak of forgiveness or reconciliation. It is a massive centrifugal force, which is now seeping down into high schools, especially progressive private schools…

Students who major in departments that prioritize social justice over the disinterested pursuit of truth are given just one lens—power—and told to apply it to all situations. Everything is about power. Every situation is to be analyzed in terms of the bad people acting to preserve their power and privilege over the good people. This is not an education. This is induction into a cult, a fundamentalist religion, a paranoid worldview that separates people from each other and sends them down the road to alienation, anxiety, and intellectual impotence.

Read the rest here.

A drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business

In A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens, Ebenezer Scrooge has a startling conversation with the ghost of his dead business partner, Jacob Marley. Jacob is damned in death for his misdeeds in life, and he appears to warn Scrooge that he is headed for the same fate. Scrooge resists the suggestion that Jacob’s life was damnable. Scrooge understands that if Jacob’s life is damnable, then so is his own. So this exchange ensues:

“But you were always a good man of business, Jacob,” faltered Scrooge, who now began to apply this to himself.

“Business!” cried the Ghost, wringing his hands again. “Mankind was my business. The common welfare was my business; charity, mercy, forbearance, and benevolence were all my business. The dealings of my trade were but a drop of water in the comprehensive ocean of my business!”

Well done, Mr. Dickens. Well done. Lord, help us to understand what is the comprehensive ocean of our business.

He has told you, O man, what is good;
And what does the Lord require of you
But to do justice, to love kindness,
And to walk humbly with your God?
Micah 6:8

Some personal reflections on the ministry of R. C. Sproul (1939-2017)

The news just went out that theologian R. C. Sproul has passed away. I cannot overstate what his influence has been over multiple generations of evangelicals. I was not personal friends with Dr. Sproul and never had the pleasure even to meet him (I am eager to hear the stories of those who did know him). Nevertheless, his ministry has had an enormous influence on me personally, not least because I discovered his ministry right when I needed it most.

I was in college in the mid-90’s when I first heard of R. C. Sproul. In those days, there was no “Young, Restless, and Reformed,” no Gospel Coalition, no T4G. But there was Sproul and Ligonier ministries. Dr. Sproul was reformed when reformed wasn’t cool—at least it wasn’t where I grew up in the deep south. Resources were limited in those days, and that is why Dr. Sproul’s ministry meant so much to me.

There are four signal moments that stand out to me from that time: Continue Reading →

Are Christians crying wolf about mistreatment and marginalization?

Bethany Allen-Ebrahimian alleges that Christians are crying wolf with claims of marginalization and persecution and that those claims need to be vigorously challenged. Why have liberals failed to challenge them? She answers:

Why are we reluctant to challenge such claims? It’s the result of a tacit social contract, an uneasy truce after the 20th-century wars over science and the role of religion in the public sphere. According to this social contract, institutions outside the religious sphere will not use scientific methods to criticize religious beliefs, so long as those beliefs are not combined with sweeping political claims that extend far beyond the walls of the church.

This paragraph is astonishing on a number of levels:

1. Allen-Ebrahimian claims there is a “tacit social contract” in which secularists will not use “scientific methods to criticize religious beliefs.” Really? I can hardly believe that she would make this claim. Has she read any of the contemporary debates between creationists, evolutionists, and intelligent design advocates? The writings of the new atheists? To be sure, each side can give as good as it gets. But to say that Christian belief has been free to operate without scientific critique is just incredible.

2. Without realizing it, Allen-Ebrahimian exemplifies the very reason conservative Christians are concerned about marginalization and mistreatment. She says that Christians are free to practice their belief within the walls of the church but that they dare not do so “beyond the walls of the church.” Right there is the problem. It’s the difference between freedom of worship and freedom of religion. Freedom of worship relegates religious observance to the church house. Freedom of religion—our nation’s first freedom in the Bill of Rights—allows believers to practice their faith outside the walls of the church in their work, community, etc. So for example, if a Christian baker doesn’t want to participate in a gay wedding, freedom of religion says he shouldn’t be forced to do so. But the freedom of worship folks believe that he can bake cakes however he wants at church, but outside the church the state can use its coercive power to force him to violate his conscience and participate in gay weddings. It’s easy for Allen-Ebrahim to say “nothing to see here, move along.” She’s not the one facing public sanctions for believing what Christians have always believed about marriage.

3. Allen-Ebrahimian claims that Christians can believe what they want so long as “those beliefs are not combined with sweeping political claims.” This is staggering. Christianity is nothing if not a sweeping political claim. We believe that Jesus is Lord and that Caesar is not. That is why we sing at this time of year that he is “King of kings and Lord of lords and he shall reign forever and ever.” We don’t believe these words to be pie in the sky. We really do believe that our highest allegiance is to a crucified and raised Jewish man from Nazareth. We believe that he will judge the nations in righteousness, including the United States. We also believe that there will be sorrow for everyone who comes up short at that judgment. Those truths have sweeping implications for the way we live our lives now as citizens. And there are sweeping political implications for the way we view human dignity, justice, war, and a host of other public issues.

Christians aren’t crying wolf or being paranoid about the challenges to religious liberty that are increasing nationwide. They are happening whether Allen-Ebrahimian acknowledges them or not. And her wish to banish religious observance from the public square is precisely why we are concerned.

The big story from Alabama’s senatorial election is the absence of evangelical voters

In a column for RNS, Jonathan Merritt takes Albert Mohler to task for Mohler’s analysis of last night’s election results. He writes:

Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, appeared on CNN around 1 am to give conservative Christians credit for the controversial Republican’s defeat. “[Moore] lost because so many evangelicals didn’t show up. That’s the big story … what didn’t happen,” Mohler said.

But Mohler’s assertion flies in the face of the facts. Eight in 10 white evangelicals cast their vote yesterday for Moore, a man credibly accused of sexual misconduct with multiple underage women. That’s roughly the same number who one year ago voted for Donald Trump, a man credibly accused of sexual misconduct with several women who has also admitted to engaging in such behavior. (Additionally, the percentage of evangelicals who voted for a write-in candidate was roughly on par with the general electorate.)…

Mohler is a shrewd thinker and capable culture watcher, so I assume he must be referring to the evangelical share of the total electorate. White evangelical Christians comprised 44 percent of all voters yesterday, compared with 47 percent of voters in the 2008 and 2012 elections. But this tiny shift, which The Washington Post referred to as “slight signs of slippage,” is nothing to crow about.

I agree that there is nothing to “crow” about, and thankfully nobody (including Mohler) is doing that. And I would agree that certain self-identified evangelicals do have some soul-searching to do.

Having said that, Merritt has misunderstood the significance of these numbers and as a result has come to some erroneous conclusions about evangelical involvement in yesterday’s election. Merritt says that the white evangelical turn-out yesterday was only a “tiny shift” from previous elections. But he is comparing apples to oranges. The shift from 47% to 44% represents percentages of two totally different voter turn-outs.

The total vote yesterday was a fraction of what it was in previous election years. Yesterday 1,344,406 people voted in the Alabama senatorial election. According to exit polls, 44% of those votes were cast by evangelicals, which comes out to about 591,539 votes. Moore got about 80% of those votes bringing his total evangelical support to about 473,231 votes.

That means that out of 1.8 million adult evangelicals in Alabama, only 26% of them voted for Roy Moore last night. In previous elections (2008 and 2012), evangelicals were about 47% of 2 million voters in Alabama. As David French has observed, that means that about 350,000 fewer evangelicals turned out for this election than turned-out in previous elections. That is more than the difference in this election. The evangelical absence from this election more than accounts for Doug Jones margin of victory. RNS‘s own report earlier today confirms this and contradicts Merritt’s narrative:

White evangelicals were less motivated to go to the polls than other voters (black and white), and those that did were less likely to vote GOP than in 2012. My back-of-the-envelope calculation is that had they turned out and voted the way they did then, Moore would have won by 2-3 percentage points instead of losing by 1.5.

Lyman Stone’s analysis comes to the same conclusion as this one. He writes,

Many commentators are going to position Moore’s defeat as some kind of big let-down for evangelicals. It isn’t. More than 60 percent of the white evangelical adults in Alabama did not cast a vote for Moore.

True, very few voted for Jones, perhaps because Jones supports abortion, which must of us adult white evangelicals consider to be murder. But white evangelical turnout fell from nearly 75 percent in the 2016 race (which, of course, had a presidential election as well), to about 45 percent in 2016. That’s not some marginal change by a few evangelicals of conscience; that’s a powerful expression by a large share of Alabama’s electorate that political nonparticipation was better to them than the options they were offered.

Bottom line. Albert Mohler’s analysis of evangelical involvement in this election is correct, and Jonathan Merritt’s is wrong. About 75% of evangelical adults in Alabama chose not to vote yesterday. Tens of thousands of evangelicals would not vote for Doug Jones and could not vote for Roy Moore. They stayed home, and that made all the difference in this election.

Evangelicals had a decisive influence in this election—just not in the way that many commentators predicted. And certainly not in the way that Merritt alleges.

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Correction: An earlier version of this article included calculations based on 2.4 million evangelicals in Alabama. That number is actually 1.8 million adult evangelicals in Alabama. Other figures have been re-calculated to reflect that correction. HT: Alan Cross.

Is the Pope right about the Lord’s Prayer?

Last week, The New York Times reported that Pope Francis wishes to change the English translation of the Lord’s Prayer. From the article:

Pope Francis said the common rendering of one line in the prayer — “lead us not into temptation” — was “not a good translation” from ancient texts. “Do not let us fall into temptation,” he suggested, might be better because God does not lead people into temptation; Satan does.

“A father doesn’t do that,” the pope said. “He helps you get up right away. What induces into temptation is Satan.”

In essence, the pope said, the prayer, from the Book of Matthew, is asking God, “When Satan leads us into temptation, You please, give me a hand.”

French Catholics adopted such a linguistic change this week, and the pope suggested that Italian Catholics might want to follow suit.

I think the exegetical case for this change is pretty weak. The words and phrases simply don’t mean what Pope Francis wants them to mean. I agree with Tony Esolen, who writes: Continue Reading →

Who will stand for the children if their own parents won’t?

It is a shame that there is need for a video like the one above, but there is. Doctors are telling parents to put their gender-confused children on puberty blockers and cross-sex hormone therapies which eventually render them infertile for life. Some are even recommending the surgical removal of functioning reproductive organs. All of these harmful therapies are in the service of a destructive, untested transgender ideology.

Who will stand for the children if the parents won’t?

Parents, don’t be taken-in by the erroneous, totalizing claims of transgender ideologues. Protect your child from destructive “therapies” that are irreversible and that cause permanent bodily damage. If you don’t stand, it is very unlikely that anyone else in the medical community will.

The Daily Signal has a transcript of the video above at the following link: “I’m a Pediatrician. Here’s What I Did When a Little Boy Patient Said He Was a Girl.”

The Lesser of Two Evils Does Not Vindicate Evil

Sohrab Ahmari has written a penetrating op-ed for The New York Times titled, “Supporting Roy Moore Is a Devil’s Bargain.” I agree with just about everything in this piece, but I want to highlight one part of it that evangelicals would do well to pay attention to.

Ahmari points out that many evangelical voters felt that the binary choice of the 2016 election meant that voting for a morally compromised candidate was necessary in order to preserve the Supreme Court and to advance the social conservative cause. And then Ahmari highlights this defense from evangelical Trump supporters:

Well, respond the Trumpian conservatives, our vote is just the opener. We will call our leaders’ moves as we see them — the good and the bad.

Except they don’t. They might take issue with this or that White House policy. But they rarely if ever call out the president’s moral degradations. And such criticism is the only kind that truly irritates Mr. Trump.

This point needs to be underlined. I understand why some evangelicals felt they had no choice but to support a compromised candidate because of the binary nature of the general election. I disagree with that calculation for reasons that I made well-known throughout 2015-2016. I still disagree with it. Having said that, I understand and am sympathetic with those who felt constrained by the poor alternatives before them. I disagree with the decision, but I get it. I really do.

But the choice to support a candidate that one knows is morally compromised also brings with it an obligation to be morally consistent. You still have to call balls and strikes with your morally compromised candidate. The lesser-of-two-evils approach to voting is not a vindication of the “lesser” evil. The so-called “lesser” evil is after all still evil. And evil doesn’t become good simply because someone else’s evil is perceived to be greater.

And that means that you cannot pretend that a politician’s obvious moral degradations are irrelevant. Nor can you turn a blind eye and pretend that they don’t exist. In short, you have to recognize evil as evil and cannot treat it as something else. “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; Who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; Who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!” (Isaiah 5:20).

Nor does the lesser-of-two-evils approach to voting relieve the Christian of his obligation to speak and bear witness to truth. Why? Because such a Christian now has the burden of proof that his principles are not beholden to earthly partisan interests but to the eternal and unchanging word of God.

That means that when the president says or does something morally bankrupt, it is wrong for his supporters to pretend that he didn’t. It also means that when a party fields a morally compromised candidate, it is wrong for Christians in that party to turn a blind eye to the moral degradation in their midst.

The sins of another do not justify your own. Likewise, to call out the sins of the other political party while ignoring those in your own is rank hypocrisy. “You shall not show partiality in judgment; you shall hear the small and the great alike. You shall not fear man, for the judgment is God’s” (Deut. 1:17).

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Recommended: “How to Live Under an Unqualified President” by John Piper

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