the devastation that a hurricane can do

Hurricane Stories Help Us Identify Our Worldview

Like most Americans, I’ve been keeping up with the hurricanes that have recently wrought so much destruction to the shores of Texas and Florida. And I have found three hurricane-related news stories particularly interesting because they have approached this weather phenomenon from three completely different worldviews.

Naturalism

The first worldview statement was found in this Tennessean headline: “Science Explains Why Hurricanes Even Exist.” The article went on to say, “Simply put, hurricanes are the atmosphere’s attempt to move heat from the warm equatorial regions toward the cold polar regions.” This is naturalism, the worldview that says everything can be explained in terms of purely natural causes. There can be no supernatural element to the phenomenon we experience and observe.

But the article only explained what hurricanes do; it didn’t explain what produced the conditions that caused the hurricanes.

In this regard, as C.S. Lewis wisely observed in God in the Dock, the laws of nature relied on by scientists to explain hurricanes only describe “the pattern to which the movement of [something] must conform. Provided, of course that something sets [it] in motion. And here comes the snag. The law won’t set it in motion. . . [H]owever far you traced the story [of the movement] back you would never find the laws of Nature causing anything.”

Pantheism

At least pantheists are smart enough to see the limitations of science when it comes to ultimate causes, and it was actress Jennifer Lawrence who articulated that worldview. She said, “You know, you’re watching these hurricanes now, and it’s really hard . . . not to feel Mother Nature’s rage and wrath.”

This is a classic statement of pantheism. Nature is divinized by using capital letters in reference to nature (“Mother Nature”) and by ascribing to it purposes and personality through the words “rage” and “wrath.” The very notion that nature could exercise judgment is to attribute to it a uniquely human capacity.

But real pantheists—who are consistent with their worldview—have no basis upon which to distinguish good from evil or God from the physical world, because all is one. And, thus, Ms. Lawrence really has no basis upon which to judge any aspect of the hurricanes as good or bad in any real or meaningful sense or to differentiate between the physical effects of the hurricanes and God’s ultimate purposes.

Theism

And, finally, actor Kirk Cameron gave expression to the theistic worldview that sees God as Creator, distinct from His creation, but sovereignly controlling and directing all things toward an end that reveals and is consistent with the moral perfections He is.

Cameron said, “When he puts his power on display, it’s never without reason. There’s a purpose. And we may not always understand what that purpose is, but we know it’s not random and we know that weather is sent to cause us to respond to God in humility, awe and repentance.”

Scripture bears this out. In Psalm 147:17-19, notice that the psalmist draws no distinction between the “word” that provides the cause for acts in nature and the “word” of revelation in the laws given to Jacob (Israel): “He casteth forth his ice like morsels: who can stand before his cold? He sendeth out his word, and melteth them: he causeth his wind to blow, and the waters flow. He sheweth his word unto Jacob, his statutes and his judgments unto Israel” (KJV).

Sadly, many Christians are embarrassed by the clear import of such verses. They seem so unenlightened in our scientific age, but as Lewis noted, science can’t show how things “get a move on.” And, unlike the pantheist, whose worldview makes no differentiation between God and nature, the Christian can judge the physical effects of the hurricanes as actually and really horrible while still believing “that God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God, to those who are called according to His purpose” (Romans 8:28 NASB).

The point, however, is that we all have a need to explain and make sense of what goes on around us. And, in these three stories, we find the only three worldview explanations of ultimate reality that are available to us. So, if you want to know what your worldview really is, just find the explanation you would be willing to defend in public.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Sign that reads, "Immigrants make America great," President Trump against the U.S. flag, and the Mexican flag

DACA, ‘Dreamers,’ and My Dream

This week President Trump began the process of winding down the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program (DACA) that was instituted by President Obama by executive order. The program prevented the deportation of those adults who are not here legally but were brought to the United States as children by parents who were not here legally. “Dreamers” are essentially those who want Obama’s executive order to become law through the DREAM Act (short for the Development, Relief, and Education for Alien Minors Act). Well, I have a dream, too.

Let me preface my dream with a few observations.

Who Is to Blame?

First, the children of those brought here by their parents’ illegal entrance into this country are not culpable in the decision to enter illegally. Though the average age of “Dreamers” covered by DACA is estimated to be between 22 and 25, they did not create their illegal status of their own volition. Unfortunately, however, children often bear the “sins” of their parents.

Second, the child’s parents aren’t the only ones having a measure of culpability in creating their child’s illegal status. While there will always be families here illegally, the magnitude of the problem is the result of failures by past presidents and Congresses to uniformly and routinely enforce our immigration laws.

Third, notwithstanding the “sins” of those who created the problem, no dependent child should be deported without his or her parents being deported as well. However, at some point the child becomes an adult and is, in fact, here illegally. Of course, Congress can exercise its legislative power to bestow citizenship or some other form of legal status on them or provide a means by which they can lawfully obtain citizenship status, and that brings me to my next point.

Congress is inept, irresponsible, and willing to shirk its constitutional duties to avoid making tough decisions—either by taking steps to “encourage” or demand presidential enforcement of existing immigration policy or by changing the policies that define an illegal presence in our country so as to conform to current practice. Thus, Congress was willing to let a president get by with an unconstitutional executive order.

What Is the Dream?

So, with all that being said, what is my dream? It’s that someday we will have presidents and members of Congress who have at least a limited understanding of the rule of law and will take it seriously.

If they will not believe in the real rule of law—that civil laws should have as their foundation and be judged for their rightness by the laws laid down by our Creator God—then may they at least believe in a rule of law that requires them to adhere to the Constitution, with presidents not doing the work of the legislature by executive order and Congress challenging unconstitutional usurpations of its power by the executive branch.

Dreaming With My Eyes Wide Open

But right now, it seems that other things are more important to a number of us than even a constitutionally-based rule of law. Many business owners don’t care about the rule of law, for any number of reasons, not the least of which is that rescission of DACA could lead to the deportation of employees and, of course, those deported would be consumers of their goods. Republican leadership doesn’t seem to care about the rule of law, because the rescission of DACA puts them on the spot with the DREAM Act, the passage of which might irritate the Republican electoral base that elected President Trump. Democratic leadership doesn’t seem to care about the rule of law because rescission of DACA eliminates benefits that appeal to their electoral base.

Thus, I suspect that my dream will go unrealized for the time being, at least until the rule of law regains its rightful place in the minds of a majority of us, and we have candidates that we can, in good conscience, vote for who understand and govern according to the rule of law. But if others can dream, then so can I.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Nashville Statement

Will You Affirm or Deny the Nashville Statement?

This week a group of evangelical heavyweights met in Nashville and released a document called the “Nashville Statement.” It speaks to the issues of human sexuality rooted in the psalmist’s declaration that it is God “who has made us, and not we ourselves.” Not just the content but the structure of the statement itself was important. Its structural importance was brought home by Nashville Mayor Megan Barry’s response to it.

As one would expect of evangelicals, the Nashville Statement affirmed the creational goodness of the sexual complementariness of male and female. It affirmed sexual intimacy in the context of marriage.
But the basis for those affirmations was rooted in a keen and fundamental insight contained in the Statement’s preamble:

Many deny that God created human beings for his glory, and that his good purposes for us include our personal and physical design as male and female. It is common to think that human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.

In other words, if God made us bodily male and female, then that distinction is important and related to human flourishing within God’s created system, His “beautiful plan.” If the difference is simply due to random genetic mutations that could have been otherwise, then we are free to import our own sense of meaning into those distinctions.

It is nothing less than a particular application of what I said last week about history, namely, that “if Genesis is not history, then that . . . changes everything.”

Thus, the Nashville Statement is instructive and worth considering at the profound level of what we believe about origins, one of the foundational philosophical issues with which man has grappled since antiquity.

The Necessity of Denials

But the structure of the Nashville Statement is important, too. In 1987, very similar affirmations were made in something known as the Danvers Statement, but what is different thirty years later is the affirmations made in the Nashville Statement are accompanied by a corresponding set of denials.

In other words, the new Statement not only says we believe X, but that X means we deny and do not believe X’s opposite. In other words, if we believe God made us male and female and what He made is good, then we deny that to disregard God’s design is good. If sexual intimacy was designed by God for expression in the marital context, then we deny that sexual intimacy by other means and in other contexts is good.

Here’s the point: Affirmations and denials are now necessary because we live in a culture that can increasingly hold to contradictory positions. We uncritically say we are against all discrimination, and then discriminate against those who don’t believe that. We urge everyone to be tolerant of others, but we can’t tolerate those who don’t.

The point is that Christians need to increasingly say not just what we believe but make clear that what we believe also means we don’t believe other things. More and more, we don’t like to do that because it feels judgmental and puts other people on the spot. It makes them choose sides.

Mayor Barry’s Response

And that leads me to Mayor Barry’s response to the Nashville Statement. Mayor Barry tweeted that the Statement “does not represent the inclusive values of the city (and) people of Nashville.”

Perhaps it does not. But that Mayor Barry responded is significant. The Statement was theological in nature, not political, so by responding, Mayor Barry, consciously or unconsciously, recognized that the theological always has implications for the political.

And so, with its inclusion of denials, the Nashville Statement left Mayor Barry with no room to accept its affirmations and still politically embrace homosexual marriage and sexual self-identification.

Taking Sides

Mayor Barry has clearly taken a side that is consistent with the premise in the Preamble that “human identity as male and female is not part of God’s beautiful plan, but is, rather, an expression of an individual’s autonomous preferences.”

That, of course, is her prerogative, but it also means she has taken the side that says we were not created by God or that God’s creational design in making us male and female is not meaningful or important to our human flourishing. Otherwise, as a matter of brotherly love, she would not use the law to encourage confusion in regard to that which she believed would undermine human flourishing.

And that’s what Jesus and the Gospel do when presented rightly; they make us choose a side. So, thank you, sponsors of the Nashville Statement, for leaving us no room for fence-straddling on one of the most pressing issues of our day.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Karl_Marx-by John Jabez Edwin Mayal [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons and Jennifer Beals at L5 by Eliška Vyhnánková, originally on Flickr / CC BY 2.0

Jennifer Beals, Karl Marx, and Monuments

With all the controversy now swirling over monuments of those who fought on behalf of the Confederate States of America, I found a comment this week by actress Jennifer Beals worth pondering. Rarely do I find anything coming out of Hollywood worth repeating, much less worth pondering, but I couldn’t help but wonder if both Karl Marx and God would agree with her.

Ms. Beals’ comment was not related to the monument issue—though it should give us pause as we debate that issue—but was about more recent revelations that Hollywood cooperated and collaborated with the Nazis during the decade leading up to World War II. Producers did so in order to protect their business interests. Apparently, the Nazis threatened to exclude American movies from viewing in Germany, where American movies were popular, unless the Hollywood studios cooperated.

This connection was brought out in a new television series called The Last Tycoon, based on F. Scott Fitzgerald’s final unfinished novel, in which Ms. Beals is a leading character. She was asked in an interview about the show, “Why is this part of history not widely talked about today?” Her answer was as follows:

Why is any part of history not talked about today? Why don’t we talk about history, period? There’s so many things that aren’t taught. I don’t know if history is necessarily taught to the degree to which it should be in order to be helpful in changing behavior and changing policy.

There’s much about what she said that is deserving of reflection, but it was the last sentence that caught my eye in particular—that our understanding of history can influence our future actions and influence the policies by which we govern ourselves.

When we don’t know where we have come from as individuals, when we don’t really know who we are, we have no true sense of identity. Absent a sense of identity, we can have no real wisdom as to where we should be going, what we should be doing, and what future course is consistent with who we really are.

The same can be said of a society and a nation. Karl Marx once said, “A people without a heritage are easily persuaded.” Using Ms. Beals’ terminology, Marx was saying that people who don’t know their history can be easily persuaded to change their behavior and their policies.

No doubt there are many, of all political stripes, who are taking advantage of what we’ve not been taught about our nation’s history or what we’ve been taught that isn’t so, to “persuade” us to their way of thinking, to the policies they want imposed on the rest of us.

Perhaps the importance of history is why God put such an emphasis on history. God did not download into those who authored the books of the Bible a multi-volume treatise on systematic theology in which abstract theological propositions were set. Instead, He put what we needed to know in the context of history.

In addition, those whom God gave the charge of representing and introducing Him to the world were repeatedly told, “Remember.” They were even instructed to build moments, of a sort, for the purpose of passing down their history to future generations.

For example, in Joshua 4:4-7, we read that when the Israelites crossed the Jordan into the Promised Land, they were instructed to set up a memorial of stones so that when their children asked, “What do these stones mean to you?” there would be a ready-made opportunity for the adults to discuss with their children their history as a people.

And that brings me to the most important bit of history, “In the Beginning God,” the famous first line of Genesis. When we forget, disregard, treat as irrelevant, or deny this bit of history, then we can be easily manipulated by those who, in place of the real God, want to lord it over us with their own rules for their own glory.

That’s why I appreciate that a friend of mine has put out an excellent documentary called Is Genesis History? You can actually find it on Netflix. I commend it to you, because if Genesis is not history, then that doesn’t just change our behavior or our policies, it changes everything.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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Statue of Robert E. Lee in Charlottesville, Virginia

Charlottesville’s Chaos Provided the Reminder I Needed

As I read about the violence that took place in Charlottesville last Saturday, I thought about both what I needed to say in this commentary and what I could say that might constructively add to what has already been said by other concerned commentators. Thinking through these two questions brought me back to a comment a dear friend made to me in 1991.

What needs to be said is that so-called “white supremacy” is evil.

Different people with different worldviews will advance different reasons for that conclusion. Mine is rooted in the fact that I believe God made a real first man (Adam) and first woman (Eve) in His very image from whom we all are descended. The evil of “white supremacy” and all racism is rooted in the necessary denial of those two twin truths. That, for me, is an absolute basis upon which to decry racism, regardless of time or culture.

But the second thing—what could be said—was trickier. I knew that saying certain things would be understood by some and not understood by others. And I could, despite really good intentions, bring more discord than already exists. That’s what brings me back to 1991.

That year I was among a small group of people who were invited to go through a Christian leadership training program in my hometown. The participants, though all Christians, were diverse. We were diverse ethnically, economically, educationally, geographically, and denominationally. Few of us actually knew anybody else in the group.

Early in our first meeting, the leader of the sponsoring organization, who became a dear friend, said, “We are all captives of our own environment.” Over the next few months, I realized how true his statement was.

In our time together we covered what the Bible has to say about any number of topics, but the session on race stood out then and still does now. United in our love for Christ and our shared commitment to develop a biblical view of the topics we covered, we were able to ask honest questions of one another and share candid observations. We wanted to break free of our own environments and build honest, authentic relationships.

And we did. I could call the black men in my class about political issues that touched on race and ask them honest questions. I knew they would help me see the issue from a perspective that was foreign to the suburban, white-collar environment in which I’d grown up and lived. But I also knew that their goal in doing so was not to achieve a political result, but to help me achieve biblical clarity on the issue and communicate that respectfully.

I share that experience because it bears on what I believe must happen if there is to be substantial progress in race relations on this side of eternity. No progress is going to come when the goal is to “win” an argument or achieve a political end.

Progress will come when enough sincere Christians do what those in that leadership class did, put their love of Christ and His Word at the top of their agenda, and begin to build authentic relationships across racial lines in which the balm of Gilead salves the initial pain that an honest question or candid observation might produce.

That doesn’t mean that agreement will be reached between the races on all matters, even as spouses and good friends don’t reach agreement on all matters, but there should not be ugliness in any disagreement. There may even be times when disagreement produces profound sadness, but the larger issue of Christian unity grounded in the Word of God will be the bridge that will allow us to cross over the smaller, particular issue on which we disagree to work on other larger issues.

There will be those who will not want racial reconciliation to succeed; some feed off of division. So, it won’t be easy, but I have seen it done.

Charlottesville reminded me that I still have a lot of my own work to do, but one thing I can do right now is to commend to you the training offered by my friend at OneNationTraining.org.


David Fowler served in the Tennessee state Senate for 12 years before joining FACT as President in 2006. Read David’s complete bio.

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