Best Reads - April 20, 2020
“Proxy Wars Over Religious Liberty” - Ryan T. Anderson, National Affairs
Every Christian feels the pace of the social and moral revolution taking place around us. Most of the time, these issues fall into debates about religious liberty. Abortion, gay marriage, and transgenderism have arisen not just as issues in themselves, but as threats to Christian freedom; “The ‘freedom to marry’ becomes the duty to bake the cake.”
Despite the clear-cut moral difference between Christians and progressives, few have rebutted these issues on moral grounds. Few have challenged the prevailing notion that abortifacient contraceptives are healthcare. Few have challenged the notion that sexual expression is not a social good. Abortion may the single hold out. On every one of these fronts, arguments are made on the basis of religious liberty, not any of the underlying issues. This is the proxy war of religious liberty. Christians, and other religious groups, actually believe in far more than just freedom of religion or freedom of expression. So why not argue more boldly?
Anderson argues that one reason is that these issues are typically settled in the courts where freedom of speech and the freedom of religion are more clearly defined. Here’s where the pro-life movement is different than any of these other social issues; “Indeed, the pro-life movement was more successful at protecting religious liberty precisely because it also mounted a public, substantive defense of the sanctity of human life.” Anderson makes the point, convincingly I think, that arguments for religious freedom won’t hold up if we aren’t willing to make the underlying arguments; that the vision of life we espouse as Christians is actually good for society. If we surrender that, arguments for religious freedom will be stripped of any lasting power.
“Is the Bible’s Teaching about Homosexuality Offensive” - Rebecca McLaughlin, Crossway
If you read it right, the whole Bible is offensive; not in the thin, in-your-face way that edgy Christians make it more offensive than it needs to be, but in a deep, unsettling, confrontational way that confronts the very foundations of what we believe about the world and about ourselves. Biblical teaching on sexuality is one of the most offensive parts of the Christian faith because of the direction our culture has gone, but what we have to remember is that it’s not the most controversial or counter-cultural claim the Bible makes. Conversations about sexuality with non-believers should be a gateway to more foundational differences. We do expect that what we believe about sexuality should be different from the world, but that’s because it’s rooted in an entirely different worldview. The Bible’s teaching on sexuality isn’t arbitrary, it’s consistent with the words of Scripture, the world that God has revealed, and what’s ultimately best for the people he created.
“What We Lost When We Stopped Reading” - George Will, The Washington Post
Binge-watching is in; binge reading, not so much. But why does it matter? Our brains respond to what we do all day, and some of the things lost in the digital world we live in today are the ability to think critically, hold complex opinions in our minds, dialogue with other perspectives, and focus our attention for long periods of time. Scrolling through a feed decreases our abilities to do these things, but reading actually increases them, at least deep reading does. But most of us know the discomfort of trying to jump back into deep reading; “Deep reading, like deep writing, is difficult, hence unnatural. It is unpleasant to those who, tethered to their devices, have become accustomed to lives that are surface straight through.” Deep reading is the habit of reading long enough to get immersed in a story or an argument; to hold and observe it, to live by its rules, to explore its boundaries. There’s a lot to be gained in cultivating this practice again.
“Is This a Judgment” - Peter Leithart, The Theopolis Institute
I’ve seen a number of people chastising Christians who believe God might have something to do with the plague. It’s a popular secular trope, but it’s also become popular from the fringe evangelicals who have made an industry out of poking fun at Christians. But for all the vitriol, those of us who read the Bible and take it seriously have to wonder - is this judgment from God? You can’t read the Bible for very long without being confronted by God’s judgment on a large scale. The pages of the Bible contain plagues, conquering armies, sickness, famine, and misfortune, and often God is at least proximately involved in these calamities.
This essay from Peter Leithart is sober, thoughtful, and biblical. He lists ten reasons we could be experiencing worldwide judgment from God. The difficulty is we don’t always know what brought the judgment on, but we do know what judgment is for: repentance. In every case, the judgment of God is meant to help us see our sins, individually and nationally, and bring us to repentance. Regardless of whether we can agree on the cause, we should agree on the result. We need to repent. This list of ten would be a great place to start.
Cole Feix is the founder and president of So We Speak.