“Part of the Christian . . . call to love in our era is to upset the easy categories of Left and Right, good guys and bad guys, black hats and white hats – the simplistic and self-satisfied levels that bog down our contemporary conversations. This is . . . the key to good storytelling – and, more generally, to good writing.” (page 83) From the essay “The Writer” by Tish Harrison Warren included in Uncommon Ground: Living Faithfully in a World of Difference (2020) edited by Timothy Keller & John Inazu.
During each year our Praxis Circle members and friends send us many recommended videos, articles, and books that relate to various aspects of worldview. As you may know, our mission is “Building worldviews to renew a good and free society.” Actually, in a way this mission statement summarizes our Christian worldview, which emphasizes New Creation on an ongoing basis.
We really appreciate receiving all of the content recommendations and want to encourage it next year. As a result, we will award three prizes here for some of the best content brought to our attention in 2022. Since worldview is such a vast topic, we found it necessary to narrow the field by picking a specific worldview issue to define this year’s contest.
Two cases close to us of a political nature surfaced late this year.
First, on November 6 an LGBTQ+ group at the University of North Carolina – Chapel Hill disrupted a talk hosted at the Law School by the law student-run Federalist Society on the U.S. Constitution, regularly chanting “Founders were enslavers” and “More queer professors.” The Carolina Outlaws group (formerly Lambda, Lambda, Lambda) targeted the speech, referring to the Alliance Defending Freedom‘s speaker as a transphobic hater.
Second, on November 30 here in Richmond, Virginia, a restaurant priding itself on having an “inclusive environment” 90 minutes beforehand canceled the Family Foundation‘s banquet they had agreed to host and serve. The incident made national news, and Bacon’s Rebellion offers a short summary here.
Today, there is nothing particularly unusual about these events. To be fair, some Christians have declined to serve others on religious grounds.
However, in these two specific cases in Chapel Hill and Richmond we would only say that calling the Alliance Defending Freedom or the Family Foundation haters or accusing them of denying basic human rights is silly. Feeling something or saying it does not make it true. The quality of civil discourse across America is pretty dark right now, and we should all be concerned about that.
She brings up excellent points about how the definition of family is an important public policy issue with broad implications concerning the budget and morality. Citizens can disagree without hating each other. Research and common sense clearly indicate a serious need for children to know their real parents and for the state to place parameters around such basic concepts as citizenship and “welfare” (paying without limitation for children born outside of marriage).
Communities have addressed these important issues since the beginning of time, and they will not go away. It’s insane to model laws after very tiny, though extremely loud, angry, and disrespectful, segments of the population. A government that pays for every mistake its citizens make destroys incentives for and unreasonably burdens the self-supporting, vast majority. Only a very rich society can do that; a foolish State and its money are easily parted (and bankrupted).
In any case, this year our interviews and posts leaned toward issues of truth, language, and narrative that are dividing the country right down the middle between theistic Christian worldview (sometimes we refer to it as CJC or Classical Judeo-Christian worldview) and atheistic Ideological Social Justice (ISJ). Not that all social justice advocates are atheists or that all Christians dislike social justice.
What we do see is an increasing tendency for dialogue to break down and name-calling to follow. “The right” believes “the left” cannot hear them, and the right is also starting to seriously question the right-left dichotomy as meaningful. Language is important, and the right is tired of losing the language war when it believes truth is on its side. With disappointing mid-term results, Republicans increasingly understand they have a narrative problem.
Are the illiberal liberals liberal? Are the Anti-Fascists fascists? Is it fair to call limited government, family-oriented Christians fascists? Is Christianity “conservative” when it has obviously produced the most prosperity mankind has ever witnessed? Language is being manipulated; words aren’t making sense. For now, we will leave these questions aside and note only that we suspect the English language will be experiencing changes as things get even crazier over the next generation.
To get back to The Contest, we decided to center it on the issues of justice and morality that are deeply dividing the nation. We shall call it the Awakened CJCers versus the Woke ISJers. To be more specific, we judged The Contest on those materials that did the best job explaining our differences in the most clear and simple way across the whole spectrum of left-to-right.
Finally, we also wanted to honor one of the most gifted Christian worldview teachers, Tim Keller, as he continues to fight pancreatic cancer. Dr. Keller started his ministry in nearby Hopewell, Virginia, and, of course, leads the megachurch Redeemer Presbyterian in New York City, often co-writing with his wife, Kathy.
Tish Warren’s relevant quote above is taken from a recent Keller book, Uncommon Ground (2020), that includes essays from noted Christians across the political spectrum. The winning content we selected offers clear, binary analysis that will help you cleanly sift through the wide range of political views encountered today. In the end here, we also suggest two more recent Keller books on Christmas and Easter.
Without any further ado, the winners are:
Buddy Childress, the founder and former Executive Director of Needle’s Eye Ministries in Richmond, Virginia for his recommendation of Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Call to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis (2020, 202 pages – large type) by Scott David Allen.
Tyson Langhofer, Senior Counsel and Director of the Center for Academic Freedom in Northern Virginia for his recommendation of Jonathan Haidt’s lecture presented at Duke University linked at top entitled How Two Incompatible Sacred Values are Driving Conflict and Confusion in American Universities (2015, 1:06).
Allen Corey, founder and Chief Executive Officer of SquareOne Holdings in Chattanooga, Tennessee for his recommendation of The 5,000 Years Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World – Principles of Freedom 101 (1981/2014, 310 pages – large type) by W. Cleon Skousen.
Concerning the authors and lecturer, Scott Allen is an evangelical minister (President of Disciples Nations Alliance) who dedicated much of his life to missionary work abroad. He started out on the left but migrated rightward as he learned how to better help the poor and underprivileged.
Similarly, Jonathan Haidt is a social psychologist (Professor of Ethical Leadership at New York University Stern School of Business and a founder of Heterodox Academy) who studied the underlying motives of political views (The Righteous Mind: Why Good People Are Divided by Politics and Religion, 2012). He regularly characterizes himself as remaining on the left but having moved rightward as he came to understand the right’s more balanced political position.
And Cleon Skoussen was a brilliant anti-communist and stereotyped “hard righter” who spent his long career studying and thinking about the principles that underlie the American Experiment.
Brief Comments about Each Winning Presentation
Having read and examined dozens of books on Christianity and Wokeness, Scott Allen’s book is the clearest and simplest in explaining the fundamental theological differences that make Biblical worldview completely incompatible with Ideological Social Justice, which emanates from Critical Theory. He is concerned with the motive of the growing influence of social justice thinking inside Christian evangelical circles. The book is well written in language all can understand, and its charts on pages 56 – 58 are a good summary of the Biblical and ISJ worldview differences. Furthermore, Allen has an excellent grasp of worldview and understands its vital importance to social stability and positive change. Here’s a quote from the book’s “Introduction”:
Words matter. They shape our ideas and form our belief systems. These belief systems, in turn, drive our culture, which shapes how we think and behave, for good or bad. Most people take words for granted. We use them but rarely take time to think about them, unaware of their incredible power. All cultural change begins with language change. Changes in language – new words, new definitions – can usually be traced to powerful thought leaders who may have lived hundreds of years before . . . The Bible is far more than a message of salvation, as absolutely vital as that is. It is a comprehensive worldview that defines and shapes all aspects of reality and human existence. Is is God’s “Transforming Story,” but unlike other worldviews, it is true. It accords with reality as it actually exists. It defines for all times, and all peoples, what words such as truth, love, justice, and equality actually mean. These true, biblical definitions give rise to distinctively Christian cultures. In the words of theologian Robert Louis Wilken, “culture lives by language, and the sentiments, thoughts and feelings of a Christian culture are formed and carried by the language of the Scriptures.” (pages 2 and 3) Why Social Justice is Not Biblical Justice: An Urgent Call to Fellow Christians in a Time of Social Crisis (2020) by Scott David Allen.
Dr. Haidt’s lecture (linked at top) from 2015 seems ahead of the curve today. He explains that most American universities were founded to pursue truth. He entered Yale in 1981 and took pride in its motto, Lux (light) and Libertas (liberty). (Interestingly, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill has the same motto.) He then clearly explains how American universities have moved so far to the left since the 1990’s, how they adopted social justice for “victims” as a mission, giving up any orientation toward truth, and how social justice is not justice at all. He explains why universities are not producing real diversity.
He stresses the pursuit of truth and viewpoint diversity as vital social goals, and he offers alternatives to the “us versus them” divide we face inside most American schools. He emphasizes free, civil behavior and speech as cures for Cancel Culture. In other words, we need more speech rather than less, tougher shells to operate inside the public square, and more highly developed civil discourse skills.
He begins his lecture with this beautiful quote from J.S. Mill. We like to think it’s about worldview, and it’s an indication of the quality of the rest of his lecture:
“He who knows only his own side of the case knows little of that. His reasons may be good, and no one may have been able to refute them. But if he is equally unable to refute the reasons on the opposite side, if he does not so much as know what they are, he has no ground for preferring either opinion . . .” J.S. Mill (1849).
To Boomers, anyone named Wally will suggest Wally Cleaver, the Beaver’s older brother on the classic 1950’s/60’sTV show, Leave It to Beaver. Similarly, anyone named Cleon will suggest the famous Klingon aliens from Star Trek.
But Cleon Skoussen was a respected “conservative,” Mormon, and freedom fighter against the very real threat of Communism during the height of the Cold War. He loved America deeply and mixed in circles including presidents. His background brings plenty of baggage and offers much ammo to anyone who wants to throw stones, but his summary of the political implications of Christianity as it manifested itself through the Founding and into the 1980’s is flat excellent.
Truth doesn’t change, though the application and development of truth and natural law does. Mr. Skoussen outlines 28 principles he believes undergird America’s founding and continue as pillars today. While The 5,000 Year Leap says nothing about “social justice” (it was only starting to develop in the 1980’s), it does offer an excellent overview connecting Judeo-Christianity to American political structure and strategy.
The title itself is rather amazing. Skousen seems to have grasped what constitutional freedom was doing for the world before the Berlin Wall fell and before it became popular to write about what our PC Contributor Deirdre McCloskey calls The Great Enrichment (based on liberalism). Today, liberalism with “capitalism” is on track to cure poverty worldwide. We recently covered this in our webinar “The Christian Economic Model.” Mr. Skousen wrote and rewrote his list of principles for decades. The “5,000 Years” he mentions in the title refers to the approximate length of recorded history.
Humble about America, Mr. Skousen is not. But is the book true?
Mr. Skousen argues that America was in a unique position in 1776 to redefine politics to fit Christian worldview, and he believed in 1981 (when the book was first published) that these principles remained the best pathway forward.
Many with a Biblical worldview today would say the last 40 years of history have proven him right. The growth of the State and destruction of family and education have done far more harm than good. To Mr. Skousen, family and church take precedence over government, and he sees husband and wife as equals. We read the book critically, and, based on general knowledge, we would have to say it’s true in principle and historical narrative.
Yet we understand how ISJ academics would attack it. All of this ground has been well-tread over the last 20 years.
As a sample, here’s one of Skousen’s 28 principles:
5th Principle: All things were created by God, therefore, upon Him all mankind are equally dependent, and to Him they are equally responsible. The Reality of a Divine Creator: “The Founders vigorously affirm throughout their writings that the foundation of all reality is the existence of the Creator, who is the designer of all things in nature and the promulgator of all the laws which govern nature.” The 5,000 Years Leap: A Miracle that Changed the World – Principles of Freedom 101 (1981/2014) by W. Cleon Skousen.
Buddy Childress, Tyson Langhofer, and Allen Corey will each receive a copy of Tim Keller’s recent companion books, Hidden Christmas: The Surprising Truth Behind the Birth of Christ and Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and Meaning of Easter. It’s a miracle that Tim Keller can remain as productive and positive as he is given the cancer he’s experiencing. Only one with strong faith could accomplish this. His summary of the Bible’s references to the Resurrection on pages 8 – 11 in Hope in Times of Fear is particularly good.
Below is a quote from Hope in Times of Fear. The Truth is every Christian sees Christmas as a renewal of light, love, and truth, and no good Christian “hates” other human beings. All of us are capable of hate, and Christians are no exception. But no other worldview coaches more strongly against it:
“There are two kinds of religious knowledge . . . these are the knowledge of truth as it is revealed in the Holy Scriptures; and the impression which that truth makes . . . when rightly apprehended. The first may be compared to the [raised] inscription or image on a seal, the other to the impression made by the seal on the wax . . . an inward experience of their efficacy on the heart.” (page 120) Tim Keller quoting Archibald Alexander, the founding professor of Princeton Theological Seminary (1844) in Hope in Times of Fear: The Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter (2021).
Thank you for a terrific 2022!
We will leave you with an R & B song that could have been a gospel song. Stevie Wonder’s classic has theological implications. It’s a favorite of many Boomers, and, for sure, it’s no Christmas tune. But it’s romantic and spiritual with no need to change any words to embrace God’s grace from Christ’s New Creation, spilling out everywhere today.
During Christmas, peace to you and your family and friends.
“Signed, Sealed, Delivered: I’m Yours.”