Every law, every policy is going to be rooted in some morality, some system of right and wrong, good and bad. And if it's not the true one, the biblical one, it's going to be, by necessity, one that's going to be false, counterfeit, and destructive. And that will be legislated.
Hi, friends welcome back to Ideas Have Consequences. Today's episode looks a little different for two main reasons. One of those is that we're all traveling this week. So we're not in the studio and the sound quality is going to be a little different, I hope that's not too distracting for you. Also, today's episode is going to be a two part series. So at the end of the discussion, I'll let you know a little bit more about that and when and where you can find the next episode. Anyways, thanks again for joining us, and as always, the mission of this podcast and our mission is, as Christians, to spread the gospel around the world to all the nations. But our mission also includes to transform the nations to increasingly reflect the truth, goodness and beauty of God's kingdom. Tragically, the church has largely neglected the second part of our mission, and today, Christians have little influence on their surrounding cultures. Join us on this podcast as we rediscover what it means for each of us to disciple the nations and to create Christ-honoring cultures that reflect the character of the living God.
Well, welcome again to another episode of Ideas Have Consequences. This is the podcast of the Disciple Nations Alliance. My name is Scott Allen, I'm President of the Disciple Nations Alliance, and I'm joined today on our podcast by Luke Allen, by John Bottimore, Dwight Vogt, and Shawn Carson. Hi guys, good to have you together with me today here. We're kind of doing this on Zoom today, so it's nice to see your faces too. We're in different parts of the country, as we are recording here, a couple of weeks before Christmas. And today, guys, we're going to pick up the discussion of the the series that we've been doing on what does it mean to disciple nations? And we've looked at that from a couple of different vantage points, just from the vantage point of what are nations? How should we think about nations biblically, are nations important, and do we have a role in shaping nations, communities, nations? We answered some questions related to that. We looked most recently at the process for discipling nations, it's this inside out process of change that begins inside of people, in our hearts and minds, begins with regeneration, the power of the Holy Spirit to bring change to people, new life, new birth. And God's intention is for that change, that dramatic death-to-life change, to not just influenced us personally, although it certainly does. But to influence society, as well as culture and nations, it's to ripple outward, starting with the most basic kind of social unit, the family, and marriage, and some of those most basic relationships. And then it's spread beyond that into all the different spheres of society. So that was kind of our last discussion, we're going to shift gears now. And we're going to begin a series of podcasts on the importance of biblical principles for discipling nations, in other words, key foundational, biblical ideas, if I can kind of use an agricultural analogy, they're like seeds. And when they take root in a culture and they bear fruit, they bring incredible change. And when we think about powerful biblical principles, our minds can kind of run in all sorts of directions with that. At the DNA recently, we have kind of been doing an exercise to bring some order to this by saying if you had to choose just 10, 10 key biblical ideas or foundational biblical principles that when they take root in a culture bring enormous change, what would they be, and we've developed a list, it's obviously not, chiseled in stone, or this isn't God's list. This is just our own thinking on this. And we'll be sharing those principles with you in due time. But we're going to look at the first of those principles today. And in some ways, arguably all of these principles are hugely important. This one is arguably the most important and it has to do with the nature of what does it mean to be human? So let me just articulate the principles we have articulated it. It goes like this: Human life, all human life is created by God, and is therefore sacred. All people have God-given dignity, purpose, and worth or value. So this is an idea that comes from the Scriptures, it defines what it means to be a human being. And as I say, when that idea takes a root in a culture, it brings about change. And we can see that in human history, wherever the gospel has gone, and that idea has taken root in a culture. You see things change, for example, you saw the eradication of slavery in country after country that were shaped and influenced by this biblical idea of human nature. Why? Because God made people with an inherent dignity and with a God given right to liberty. And so when we think about these biblical principles, it's easy for us to think, Oh, these are what Christians believe,this is what the church believes. It's not what society believes. But I want us to think differently about it, I want us to think, well, first of all, it's not just what we believe, these are true, not just for us, as Christians, these are true for everybody. Because God created everybody, He created everything. This is His world. So there's not multiple worldviews that are equally valid out there. There's one truth. And therefore, when we think about our nations, our cultures, there's always going to be some set of policies, some set of laws, some set of educational curricula, right? That that society is going to uphold or embrace, right? And obviously, that changes over time. But those principles, those laws, those curricula, etc. They're always rooted in some principle. And that principle is also rooted in some belief system, this is something we teach at the DNA, there's always going to be a worldview, a belief system, a paradigm, that's upstream from all of these things that are shaping the culture. And my point here is, what that is, what that principle is, or that belief system matters. And if it's not the true one, if it's not the biblical idea, it's going to, by necessity, be a non-biblical one that's not true. And it's going to shape policy, law, curriculum, etc, it's going to be one or the other. Right? So as Christians then, we don't really have, at least this is the way I see it guys, I'd love your thoughts on just this process. But we don't really have the luxury of just saying, Oh, we don't really need to be involved in championing biblical principles in society or in the culture, we should just focus on preaching the gospel, and seeing people saved, getting them into churches, doesn't really matter what the culture does. To me that just isn't an option, because you're going to have either this principle or some other principle. We're going to look at the other principles today as well. And those other principles, trust me, they're going to lead to the destruction of human life, they're going to lead to the desecration and the destruction of human life. Right guys? God didn't put us here to contribute, even indirectly, in the destruction and the desecration of human life. Right?
Yeah, Scott, if I can jump into there are many many people in the political sphere, who say, we shouldn't legislate morality? How commonly do we hear that? And the question is not, do we legislate morality or not, it's which morality are we legislating, or which morality are we promoting? So it's only a cop out to say, we shouldn't legislate morality? That's just another way of saying, we don't believe in moral principles. We believe in do whatever you want. And anything can happen, because they're not godly principles. So that's just one illustration of that.
Yeah, no, but that's a really good one John, because I continue to hear people say that you can't legislate morality. And I understand what people are saying there. I think generally, what they're saying is you can't make people good through a law, which is true, but what's wrong with that statement is that every law, every policy is going to be rooted in some morality, some system of right and wrong, good and bad. And if it's not the true one, the biblical one, it's going to be by necessity one that's going to be false, counterfeit, and destructive. And that will be legislated. I mean, there's just numerous examples of this in our own country here, the United States today, we talked about this just recently, the law, or the bill that was passed in the House and the Senate to redefine marriage is an example of this that's rooted in a morality, a false morality, but it's going to shape the culture. Guys, as we get into the principle of human life, the biblical principle of human life, just before we get into that, any other thoughts from you on this process, and the necessity of Christians to be advocating for biblical principles in society, in the culture, because that that is controversial in the church today? Sadly.
As you're talking, Scott, I'm thinking, what's the counter argument here? Because we talked about worldview, and we talked about the importance of knowing the biblical worldview. And yet the challenge is, well, is that imposing a worldview? And you're saying no that's not, because worldview is truth. And I'm thinking about that, I'm going, to know God, is to know the biblical worldview, I think we can say that, to know God is to know how he relates to this world. To know God is how he made human beings. To know God is how he made the world and its purpose. All of those are worldview truths. And you can't actually know God without knowing his handiwork and his purposes for his handiwork. You relegate God to a sentimental being who is kind to your heart and gives you a good feeling. But you don't know the whole God of the universe. And I think that's where people, sometimes they see worldview as something, oh, we're imposing in our worldview instead of a Hindu world. No, truth is truth, and it's who God is.
And it's true, not just for us individually, but it's true for the world for us corporately, socially. It's true for the nations, all nations, all cultures, and all times, right?
And it's embedded in who God is. And so, anyway.
Yeah, really good points Dwight.
Yeah. To know God is to have a biblical worldview, I totally agree. But we're also born into a non-biblical worldview. And born into a world where there's a lot of other competing worldviews that we are constantly saturating even before we know God. And therefore it's a process to have a biblical worldview. It's something you have to replace your your older existing worldview with. And we need to work at that. And it's it's not easy at all. As we're talking about this, just with truth, truth is truth no matter what, that's really hard to wrap your mind around, that truth is the best thing. John 8:32, the truth will set you free. Do we actually believe that the Capitol T Truth will set us free? It's not an easy worldview to accept. And we have to continuously press into that.
Yeah, I think your point is excellent. Luke, again, all cultures, all nations are being shaped by some set of principles. There's no neutral space. It's really just are they true principles, or are they false principles? And we're born into these cultures, and so our own thinking, from the time that we're born, they're shaped if it's as it is here in the west today, if it's largely non-Christian principles, that've shaped us, that have affected us. So it does require a relearning. It requires a renewing of the mind, is the way the Bible puts it in Romans chapter 1. So you're correct about that. Well, these are great thoughts, Shawn, any thoughts from you on just this process of discipling nations and championing biblical principles at the foundation of change in a nation or a culture? I think some Christians again, would argue that that's (not) even our job. That that might be mission drift. That's taking us away from the simple mission of just evangelism, church planting, personal holiness, these kinds of things.
I think I've said this before but, God shows a people, Abraham, and his descendants, to be His people, and then he discipled them in what it meant to know God, to know Him and to live according to his ways. That's what the whole Old Testament is about. So when you get to the New Testament, and Jesus says, Hey, go and disciple all the nations, I think it's an another expression of that. It's not just one people, it's the world that we live in. But I think what's implied there is that this is a commandment given by God, to do something. So I think when God gives us commandments, we either align with him and do it, or we reject Him and do it. But we still do it.
We disciple nations one way or another. It's going to happen one way or another.
It's going to happen, he's told us to do it. Now how we do it, that's, that produces different results. So when we do it according to his way and his will, then it produces life and goodness and flourishing. When we don't, it produces just the opposite of that.
And as you said well, Shawn, there, it is our purpose. This is why we've been saved, I would argue this is why we're here to be God's people. And part of what it means to be God's people, is to be people that live out that model, and that speak out his truth in this world that he loves, so that this can become the principle, if you will, the thing that shapes the society and the culture.
Go ahead Luke.
Yeah, and it's a great call to, it's amazing, Truth produces life. We know that, and Jesus came to give us life and life abundantly, John 10:10. And we can share that, we can share His truth, which will give other people life and life abundantly. And isn't that what we want for everyone? So, it's an exciting call.
Yeah. And when we think of the good news, we think of the gospel being good news, which it is, we tend to think immediately, again, I'm speaking as evangelicals here, we tend to think immediately of the good news of salvation through faith in Jesus Christ. And that is good news. What we don't think about are these biblical principles, but they are also incredibly good news. And so then the question is, are we telling all the good news we have to tell? Or are we just kind of limiting the good news to one message and ignoring other ones. Let's look at this good news. Because this is this is actually kind of amazingly good news. Let's go back to that principle again, guys. It's the biblical principle that all human life is created by God and is Sacred, with God-given dignity, purpose, and worth. And because our culture has been shaped by that idea, at least historically, even though I would say it's not particularly the dominant idea. We'll talk more about that in a second. I think it's easy for us to kind of, in some ways, take this a little bit too much for granted. But I just want to dig into this a little bit with you guys, so that we don't take it for granted. All human life. And I think again, of that word, all, is created by God, even the weakest, even the most vulnerable, even the most degraded human life, has incredible purpose, has dignity, has worth, is loved by God. There's no other worldview, I would argue that's ever existed, no other religion that has this idea, this powerful idea that lifts up the value and the worth of human beings. I want to get your thoughts on that. But before I do, let me just read some verses, I just want to anchor this biblically, this principle, this is obviously, you're going to find this idea throughout the Scriptures, but there's a few places where it's just deeply anchored. And, of course, it starts right away in Genesis 1:26-28. Let me read those verses, then God said, Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish of the sea, and the birds of the sky, and the livestock and the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground. So God created mankind in his own image, in the image of God, He created them, male and female, He created them. And He blessed them and said, be fruitful and increase in number, fill the Earth and subdue it. Rule over the fish in the sea, and the birds in the sky, and over every living creature that moves upon the ground. That's Genesis 1:26-28. This is really where this idea is first introduced in the Bible, of what it means to be a human being. It means to be somebody who's very much like God, who's made in the very image and likeness of God, who's created by God and with a purpose, to rule, to govern this creation, as we say, to take what God has made and to do something with it to make it better, to wisely rule over all that God has made. And this image of God it says here applies to male and female, God created male and female. That's a controversial subject today. Right away in the Bible, we see that human beings are created male and female here. Let me just read I think another one that's very powerful that always comes to my mind is Psalm 8, I may not read that just for the sake of time, but encourage people to read that. It's it's kind of a repeat of Genesis 1:26-28, with a little bit more poetic language. But I will read one more passage here, because it's Christmas time, guys. And let me read Philippians 2, starting with verse 5. It says this: In your relationship with one another, have the same mindset as Christ Jesus, who being in the very nature of God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped or to be used to his own advantage. Rather, he made himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, and being made in human likeness and being found in the appearance of a man, He humbled himself by becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. Therefore, God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus, every knee should bow in Heaven and Earth and under the Earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord to the glory of God the Father. I chose this passage because it talks about the Incarnation, how God, it says, Jesus being in the very nature God, Jesus is God. He's the second person of the Trinity. He's the Creator of all things. He, it says here, became a human being, he became made in human likeness, and was found in the appearance of a man. And that's what Christmas is about. We celebrate this amazing mystery of God taking on human form, in this helpless baby, and what that means for what it means to be human. I think this is what we don't reflect on as much as we should. The fact that God himself became man, became a human being, it dignifies what it means to be a human being in a way that nothing else really can. And the fact that Jesus, even today, as he's seated at the right hand of God, is in human form. When we see Jesus, he'll be in human form. It's kind of amazing, it's really mind blowing, that that's the case. Jesus's favorite word to describe himself was son of man, which means he was born of a woman, he's born as a man, even though he is God. Guys, thoughts on on this kind of biblical grounding of this principle, or just the principle itself. And maybe what it means, This is Ideas Have Consequences, of course. What are the consequences of this profound, powerful biblical idea of what it means to be human?
You didn't quote the Psalm 8 verse, but I like it, because he makes it even more clear there. He says, you made them rulers over the works of your hands, that's everything. Not just birds and living things, but the works of your hands, and put everything under their feet. That's pretty powerful, he used the word rulers, and the works of your hands, and everything under their feet. That's that's pretty much all inclusive. And yet the worldview today says human beings are weak, and subjects of nature, not rulers of nature. And if we are seen as rulers, it takes on a really negative slant.
Right. Exactly. Destroyers of nature, we'll talk a little bit more about that.
Yeah. In contrast to what you just described in Philippians 2.
And certainly there's a truth to that negative view because we are fallen. The Bible says, this is another profound thing that it says about human beings, we're created in God's image and his likeness were also fallen, we rebelled and therefore we become bent. We are not what God created us to be. But he's redeeming us. Right? That's the whole dynamic of history, that he's redeeming this broken thing and we can regain through faith in Christ. We can regain this humanity that God intended for us back in Genesis chapter 1, and that's his purpose in sanctification, that's a theological word, but it just means becoming human again, really becoming like Christ. And Christ is, he's the model of what it means to be a true human being, right? He shows us what it really means to be human.
The Philippians 2 verses are frequently described as downward mobility. So it's a real irony to what we think, that Christ came to Earth as a babe, a helpless Babe, and came to serve, and came to die. He didn't think that equality with God was a thing to be grasped. And so this idea of downward mobility is so contrary to our normal human thinking. It's so ironic. And the very nature of us being created in God's image, and therefore being called to be humble like God is humble, is also the very thing that when we are operating in a biblical worldview, and with the Holy Spirit qualifies us to rule and to serve, because we are doing it with a heart of service, we're not doing it with a heart of lordship, and a heart of power grabbing, and a heart of destroying, but a heart of building. So it's a beautiful picture of what being created in God's image means, as opposed to shaping God in our own image, which really just becomes a power game or a societal shifting-sand kind of thing. And another verse that you didn't talk about Micah 6:8 applies very well here: He has told you, oh, man, what is good, what does the Lord require of you, but to do justice, love kindness, and walk humbly with your God. And so our ability to do those things is entirely tied in this idea that we are created in God's image as humble beings. And we only have our life and our breadth and our ability to do good. When we operate under his strength, otherwise we are selfish and arrogant and power grabbing, etc, etc. Any other ill that we have in our own nature. So just wanted to share that.
Good thoughts, John, thanks.
I think it's interesting that God decides to come to planet Earth and make himself known. And he's the all-knowing, all-powerful one, and how does he choose to reveal Himself? Through a man that he's already created. But I think that speaks volumes as well, as to God's hierarchy of creation is that man woman created in his image, and when He comes again, He comes as a man and to redeem man. I think it's also interesting, because we look at Genesis 3, and we find out that because of man's rejection of God, everything gets broken, everything's broken, I'm broken, you're broken, the world's broken, systems are broken, etc. And yet, the Bible says that Jesus is a reflection of the second Adam, He's coming to restore all things. So as a man, and God, He comes and restores everything that has been broken through himself. So I just think this idea of image of God that we carry that within us is super powerful. I mean, God could choose to do it any way he wanted, but he chose to do it through us and through His Son that looks like us. We contemplate that even at Christmas time, I think, well, there's a there's a soberness, that comes along with that idea.
Yeah. Oh, go ahead Dwight, yeah.
Oh, no, I' thinking of him being a man and the Incarnation, and it brings to a point we're talking about the the cultural mandate. And my question is, did Jesus fulfill the cultural mandate too, we're talking about making us rulers of all things, putting all things under your feet, ruling over the birds in the air? did Jesus do that? And then we go, Oh, he did miracles. But if you're coming from my background, it says, Well, those are to prove he was God. Those were just miraculous signs to prove who He was. But if you look at what he did, it really was subduing creation. I mean, he took the blind man and gave him sight. He took me bread of all things, he made wine. But in a sense, he really was the master over creation. And it wasn't just about doing some nice little miracles, but it was to demonstrate the cultural mandate.
Yeah Dwight, to your point there, I think it's really profound when you consider that Jesus had a vocation, we think about the three years of his ministry where he was doing his healing and miraculous signs, but for most of his life, before that, what was he doing? He was working as a carpenter. He was taking wood and using his God-given capacity to make the world a better place, and crafting furniture, and I sure would love to see what he made. I bet it was incredible. I bet it was made with incredible care and quality. So yeah, Jesus dignifies work, he dignifies what it means to be a human being in all its aspects. And in a way that nothing else can I think that again, there's nothing like this biblical view that's ever existed in human thought, or worldview. Nothing comes close to this. And I want us to shift in and think about the impact of it, the impact of this idea historically. Again, I think we take it too much for granted. So when I think about this, one thing that comes to my mind is a book written by Rodney Stark called The Rise of Christianity. And he's looking at, specifically, how could such a small, persecuted group of people, this was the early Church, grow in such dramatic fashion that it gained enough power and influence to topple the Roman Empire, essentially. And that was the question he was looking at. And really interestingly, what he did is he looked at this period of time in the Roman Empire after Christianity had been around for a little while, but the church was being heavily persecuted, even by Roman rulers. This was the time of the gladiators and the persecution of the Christians in the Colosseum, being fed to the lions and this and that. This is not a group that you would think would have a lot of influence in the world. What he said, there were plagues that were sweeping through the world at that time, really horrible plagues and diseases that lots of people were dying from. And when people in a family, let's say, got sick from the disease, people were so fearful of it. And of course, post-COVID here, we can relate a little bit to this. But they were so fearful of catching that disease, that they literally left those people to die, could have been a family member of son, daughter, family, her father, mother, they would flee, they leave them in the home to die, so that they didn't catch the disease. And they didn't think a lot about that, because in the Roman world, they didn't have a particularly high view of human life. And we know that for a variety of reasons. Here come these Christians along and what they did is when they saw those people abandoned and dying from diseases is they they recognized, first of all, this is a human being this is somebody created in the image of God that God loves, they have dignity, they have worth. And furthermore, Jesus died to give them new life. And so they went and ministered to them, they walked into those homes. And they started caring for these people, basic healthcare kinds of things. And very often they themselves contracted the disease and they died. But they were willing to do that, because God Himself did that by coming into Earth, as we read about in Philippians 2, taking on human form and going to the cross. God died for the fallen, you know, human race. So they're following in his footsteps willing to die for this broken, diseased human life is pretty powerful. Stark goes on and he says, because of that, many of these people that were sick and had the disease, because they receive care, were healed or recovered. And because of the influence of the Christians in their life, this kind of unbelievable influence of this demonstration of love, they became Christians. So it had this multiplicative impact on the growth of the Church and the Roman Empire. And what it was all built around was Christians living out this principle, believing, knowing it, believing it, and living it out, particularly within the lives of some of the most broken and desperate people at the time, these people that had been infected with this disease or plague and were dying. So you see that over and over again in the history of the church, you wouldn't even have things like hospitals, hospitals were an outgrowth of the church. And you don't see it in China, you don't see it in these other areas, it comes about because of the church, beginning to show this kind of love and care for broken, sick, hurting people. Food For The Hungry, the organization that many of us worked for many years, this whole idea of Christian relief and development, we've got to go into the poorest parts of the world, the most broken parts of the world, we've got to feed people who are hungry and care for people. I mean, these are very much Christian ideas, rooted in this principle, right? I mean, this is why we do it, because of this principle. I could go on and on, I have other things I'd like to share. But I'd like to hear, as you guys think through the consequences of this idea.
The principle here is that true Christianity is observable. So it's observable in that healing. It's observable even in gritty and dangerous and perilous circumstances, like you described about getting sick, or dangerous situations where someone can die. And so that's why it's so much more than just being saved and living life the way you want to, we're called to be as Jesus was, and to be to be humble in that way. And so those are just great examples that show that our faith needs to go in all of life and all spheres of life. And you also said, and it's very observable, that Christianity's rise in the West is the primary if not only source really of advances in healthcare, and education and such.
And basic human rights. I mean, the whole concept of human rights wouldn't even exist apart from this principle. We think it does, oh, there's human rights. Well, human rights just don't float out there in mid-air, they've got to be supported by some worldview that grounds them and gives them some basis. And there's only one that actually gives a grounding for human rights.
Matthew says that you will know them by their fruits. And these are clearly demonstrations of fruit, even in hard circumstances.
My wife and I were in the Middle East, in Jordan, two months after 9/11. And we have multiple people we would talk to in the streets or markets or whatever would say to us, Hey, can I talk to you? And like, what is your government doing? You guys are absolutely crazy. You are going, you are defending people who got killed in a building by terrorists, and you're going after them full force. They said you would even do that for one person, your government would even do that for one person. Why would you do that? Our government would never do that for us. Our people wouldn't do that for us. Why do you do that? That was a burning question for lots and lots of people, and I think it goes back to just what we're talking about. We see the inherent value and dignity of each individual, where even as a government. We just traded for Brittney Griner to come home.
The story of the WNBA basketball player that was being held in Russia there.
So I just think, again, it's something that we take for granted, we don't understand necessarily, and lots of people don't even know where that comes from. But as a believer, as someone who is rooted and grounded in the truth, we see where that comes from, it comes directly from God, because we are made in His image. We carry that genetic, we carry that value. And when we live that out, it puts on a show, so to speak, for the people.
It's transformational, it really is. It transform society like nothing else.
On that point, I just think of how much of a norm throughout the vast majority of history slavery has been. I mean, that's in the last 200 years and a little more that that's culturally become very taboo, which it should be. But that was such a norm until William Wilberforce essentially stood up and said, We need to stop this, because he recognized the dignity of all human life and human rights. And now we take that for granted. But I mean, 99% of history, slavery has been completely normal in every culture around the world.
And that goes back to books like Philemon in the New Testament, which is about slavery. And it's Paul encouraging his dear friend, to essentially treat his slave like a brother in Christ, because that is what he is, this slave that this friend of Paul's essentially the owner of, is a brother in Christ. Well, when you start treating or seeing your slaves as human beings with dignity and worth and brothers, fellow brothers in Jesus Christ. That kind of undercuts slavery basically, is what it does. And that's what happens wherever Christianity has spread, is these principles of, oh, I have a right to enslave you or to use my power to extract a benefit for myself, that idea can't coexist with this biblical idea that all people are created by God with inherent dignity and worth and value. And these rights come from God, life, the right to life, and the right to liberty.
That's why I like Oh Holy Night, that's the number 1 Imago Dei Christmas Carol or Christmas song. There's two lines, you guys know it well.
Well tell us what you're thinking though Dwight.
Well, there's two lines in there. As you're talking, I'm thinking of them. One is, the slave is your brother. That sticks out, it just jumps out, the slave is your brother, because Christ has come. And the other one is the soul felt its worth, which talks about the human realizing the dignity they have in being made in the image of God. Soul felt it's worth because Christ came and energized us and says, I will give you my life. And now you have the worth that I designed you to have. So anyway, that's Oh Holy Night. It's Christmas season. You got to pull that in.
Thank you Dwight. No, it's true. I love those lines. We tend to sing the first chorus, we don't get into those other choruses that have great theology. So here's your assignment this year. Sing all of the courses of Oh Holy Night.
I'll Listen to them.
One more story for myself. And again, I don't want to close it off to you guys. But one person in my early Christian life that had a huge influence on me was was Mother Teresa. She's passed away now. But when I first joined Food For The Hungry out of college, this would be in the late 80s, I had a chance to travel with Food For The Hungry to Calcutta, India, where she was doing her ministry, this was before she passed away. And I had really an unspeakable privilege of meeting her. She was there at the time, she was world famous. And so she was traveling and doing a lot of speaking at the time around the world, but she was there. And I'll never forget that encounter, because the guy that was kind of guiding us in Calcutta that day, had mentioned to us, there was me and a few other people. He said Mother Teresa's here in town, do you want to see her? And I thought what? It's kind of like going to Washington, DC. And your guide would say, oh, the President's in the White House, do you want to go say hi to him? You just don't think that that could ever happen, right? And we said, well, how can we see Mother Teresa, we're nobodies? How can we go and see Mother Teresa, this famous person, I'm sure she's very busy. And he said something that I'll never forget. He said, if she has the time, she'll see anybody. Because in her view, there are no small people. She won't even make an appointment with the Pope. She treats him just like anyone. And I thought, wow, so she had this understanding of the value of human beings so worked into her daily life that it affected even this simple thing of just, oh, I'm too busy to see you, you're not important or whatever it is. She didn't think that way. So yeah, long story short, we went and visited her and shook her hand, and it was it was really a powerful time. But she's so famous. She became famous, I think the person that put her on the map was a British journalist named Malcolm Muggeridge. And he was in communist at the time, he was this hard bitten atheist, but he was hearing about Mother Teresa, this person in Calcutta that was doing this ministry to dying Hindu men, why are you doing this? What's the point? These people are kind of trash, they're just littering the streets of your city, why are you bothering with them? So he went to do a story about her and spent time with her. And they had an encounter, as they were walking through the streets of Calcutta, which if you've been to Calcutta at least at that time, there were dying people living on the streets in abject poverty. Even when I was there, I saw that. And it just filled, just some of the most inhuman conditions you can imagine. And here they come across a man in that condition, and they're looking at the same person, but they see two different things. This is the power of principle and worldview. As an atheist, Muggeridge sees trash, he just sees garbage. Mother Teresa looks at the same person, and she sees what she called Christ and His distressing disguise. And what what she meant by that, she was referring to Matthew 25, where Jesus says, as you've done it to the least of these, you've done it to me, speaking of those who were in prison, or those who were poor, naked, homeless, and in challenging the church to care for those people, to show real care for those people. Because when you do that, you're doing it to me. And I think what Jesus meant by this very profound thing that he said, Jesus in Matthew 25, he relates to these most broken, most vulnerable people, because he was, and he created them. And he received the blessing when we care for them. That's a such a powerful thought. And that motivated Mother Teresa's entire ministry. And so she called these people Jesus or Christ in His distressing disguise. When I see that dying Hindu man, I see Christ in His distressing disguise. Well, what will you do for Christ, there's nothing you won't do for him. And what that motivated her to do is to set up homes for the dying, to rescue these people off the streets, to show them incredible dignity, to clean them, to nurse them back to health. And in many cases, they were too far gone. And so it was simply to love them, and show them dignity before they died. And that ministry continues in Calcutta to this day, and I had a chance to see some of that ministry myself and go to some of these homes for the dying even, and help out volunteer there and amazing ministries. But I just think she got this in such a deep, profound way, this Biblical principle and built her whole ministry around it. Now she's not obviously the only one many today still today are doing this. But she always comes to my mind as really a hero in terms of living out this biblical principle.
And she knew that real change and outcomes were in the hands of God. And as she told a visiting US Senator one time who just observed the squalor and said, how could you do this, this whole place just looks terrible or whatever. You haven't been very successful. And she looked at the Senator and said, Senator, God calls me to be faithful, He doesn't call me to be successful, that is in his hands. And so what an amazing perseverance and grit as I said earlier and everything, to just carry on, knowing that the final outcome is in his hands.
She just had a profound understanding of what it means to be human, of this principle we're talking about. It really shaped her in every respect, one time she traveled in New York City. It was shortly after Roe v. Wade was passed in the 70s. And she made a comment about New York City being poorer than Calcutta, she called it was the poorest city in the world to her. And people were like, well, what it's not nearly as poor as Calcutta, what are you talking about? But she said, you're throwing your babies away, you're literally throwing them in the trash cans legally. And she said, There's no greater poverty than that. And she said, Give me your babies, don't throw them away, give them to me, I will treat them with dignity and respect and raise them as human beings. And, again, just very profound and just very powerful person and she again, she's just one, there's so many, and we've all met those people, guys, as you think through the impact of this principle in your own life, or people that you've met, or things you've done even what what comes to mind, what are some of the thoughts that you have on this?
Maybe not just personally, but I just was thinking, in some of them just been going through my mind, and you just said, Mother Teresa knows that when she receives and cares for people that she's honoring God, she's blessing God because she's being obedient to what he's asked from her. And I think when it goes to the idea of even discipling nations, when we don't do that, we're not participating in the things that God calls us to do. But when we do, we do bring glory and honor to him and therefore our discipleship should bring glory and honor to God, right? And the principles that motivate our discipleship, the values that drive us, the fruit that we see, should be fruit, just like the fruit the Mother Teresa sees, is that it should bring glory to God, it should honor him in the way we do things. And the result of that is people are loved, they're cared for. They're given dignity, they're respected. And I just think it's just an invaluable lesson to think, when we do discipleship, whoever's doing it, at the end of the day, who's getting glorified? Am I? Am I doing it for my sake? Am I doing it for my parties' sake? Or am I doing it for God's sake? And is my doing it even for my churches sake? They might be okay reasons, but the highest purpose is to glorify God in what we do. I think Mother Teresa just epitomized that to me as well, she was happy to be second, she was happy to take the low road, she was happy to serve. And I was much inspired by her life as well.
Your talk about discipleship, Shawn, I think is really profound. Because when we think of discipleship as evangelicals, we tend to think, especially discipleship of new believers, we've got to teach people to read the Bible, and to know how to pray and to know. These are all important things to know, how to do evangelism, to know the basics of Biblical faith. But how often do we add into our discipleship curriculum, go find somebody who's weak and vulnerable on your street or in your family or in your city, and go and show them the love of Jesus Christ, show them in a practical way, live out this principle in their life. I don't think we do that enough. Somehow that doesn't factor into our training as Christians like it should.
Certainly foster care and adoption is an example, a widespread example, all over the world of this kind of an example. And the one I'll give here is not foster care and adoption exactly. But we were involved many, many years ago, in a Christian home where we lived, and it had kids from maybe 12, to 18 or so. And so I just really felt called to do some volunteer work there. And we did everything from just kind of coming and playing with some of these kids. And a few times I organized career nights, where I'd have some friends come and talk about their careers, just to give these kids some idea of what might be in their future and what they might keep working hard in school towards and be obedient to the parents that lead them in this children's home and that sort of thing. I mean, there's so, so, so, many things like this that we can do that we might not think might have lasting outcomes in these kids lives. But I hope and pray that things like that did. We just seek to be faithful and let the Lord take it for outcomes. But I loved being involved in that home for the period of time. And we had done something similar to that when we lived in Japan with some younger kids and took kids for weekends. And they stayed with us and that sort of thing. That was just a wonderful way to reach out.
John, you and your wife, you really modeled this, I think in a lot of different ways. I've been inspired by a lot of what you personally do to live this principle out in your life.
Well, especially Kim.
So Dwight, well, you were gonna share something.
Yeah. When I think of human dignity. It's interesting, because I also had the privilege of visiting Mother Teresa's home for the dying. And yeah, wow, it was mind blowing, and disturbing and yet not disturbing. Really beautiful. When I think about human dignity, though, I think the thing that's most transformative in my mind is the idea that God created us with agency. And I think, Mother Teresa worked with the dying. I mean, you don't try to encourage agency with them. I mean, they're dying, you give them mercy. An infant that's thrown in the trash heap, you don't teach agency to that. John, you talked about working with foster boys or bringing in somebody that would train them in vocation. I just think of the amazing thing that God created us with this agency, and in fact, he's gonna judge us from that. He says you can believe or not believe. Another word for that is freedom. He gave us liberty, freedoms, but it's the liberty and freedom to do something. And what is it you're going to do? Are you going to do good? Are you going to do harm? Are you going to do evil? Are you going to do beauty? Where am I going with this? I just think that this idea of helping people see their agency and ignite that were good is such a gift, such an important thing to always be attentive to.
Yeah, Dwight, I agree, I think just basic human dignity and basic human worth is something I think we kind of understand but this idea that God has made us with his capacity to make choices and those choices that we make shaped the world and, and were made that way, God made us to have dominion to have this position of authority or rulership in the world. So our decisions matter. People don't think that way and they don't act that way. In other words, they don't fully understand what it means to be a human being. And that's what I hear you talking about.
And our culture is moving away from that.
That's exactly right.
I mean, it can't in the sense that its gravity, you can't actually move away from it, because that's the way we're wired, that's who we are. But in terms of popular culture, we're moving away from that. Yeah, we're robbing people of their dignity by saying you're basically a victim, you have no control.
Somebody else is controlling you.
Somebody else is controlling everything. And by the way, the world is coming to an end, so you need to die.
You're making the transition I wanted to make, which is to look at the other views. This biblical view, this biblical principle, is certainly not the only view that's out there. In fact, I would say, it's not even necessarily the predominant view that's out there in our society in the United States or in the West more broadly. What do I mean by that? There's completely different principles and we're going to look at that. Yes, the United States and the West generally has been deeply shaped by this biblical principle of the value and the worth of human life, the dignity of human life, human agency, human rights, that's deeply shaped the West in so many ways, and it's not completely been eradicated or erased, there's a residual nature to that still really profoundly with us, thank God. And I would say even just probably the majority of people in the West would kind of subscribe at some level to what this principle is saying, they would probably like to have this notion that there are human rights, that human beings have some dignity and deserve certain rights. But increasingly, we're living in a time where we're living in a post-Christian time. So these Christian ideas are being eclipsed by non-Christian ideas, and these non-Christian ideas, including non-Christian ideas about what it means to be human being are now taking center stage, and are becoming dominant in our society, at least in terms of, if not pure numbers of people, I would say in terms of the people that have the most influence on shaping the culture. The philosophers, the theorists, the people with political power, the people in our universities, so Western universities would not subscribe to what we're just describing here, this biblical view of human life. They're going to have other ideas. I want to talk about those here in this next section of our discussion. But just to come back just briefly on what we were talking about earlier, I was thinking because it's Christmas, it's a great time to think about the value of human life at Christmas and John, as you were talking and Dwight, as you were talking it brought to my mind, another Christmas story that's all about this. And I just want to encourage our listeners if you haven't read it, to read it this Christmas. Our family has a tradition of reading it every Christmas. It's the Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. And it is so much fun to read. You can literally read it in two sittings, you can do it as a group. It's just a fun thing to read because it's so well written and so humorous. And it's just such a powerful story and really this is what it's about, Scrooge in the story represents this kind of secular atheistic idea of human nature. He's a pure materialist. He's greedy and all he cares about is personal gain. And it's Christmas Eve and people are coming to the door of his counting shop asking for him to give some alms and some money to help all of these child factory workers and the poor that are in London at this time, there's many. And it's an interesting backstory. But Charles Dickens was one of them, actually, he grew up as a child factory worker in London. But Scrooge will have none of that, he's not interested in helping these people. And that these people are imploring on him, if you don't help, they'll die. And then he has this famous line, well, then they ought to die and decrease the surplus population. It's a line that captures so well this kind of atheistic view that it doesn't matter if they die, they should! Let them die and decrease the surplus population. And then the whole story of his redemption is built around the story of Tiny Tim, this handicapped young boy who's dying. And just the story is the value of his life, the value of Tiny Tim for his father, for his whole family, and for the whole of society. And as Scrooge is redeemed, he at the end of the book, of course, we all know this story, but he would do anything to save the life of Tiny Tim. So that's a deeply biblical story. A deeply biblical story of the value of human life contrasted with this kind of secular atheistic view that's still with us to this day. And it's just such a powerful story. Read it. That's my encouragement, your assignment here at Christmas. Again, not hard, easy to do and fun. Do you guys read that story to your family at Christmas at all?
Just saw the movie.
I know we all see the TV shows and the movies, but the book is so much better.
I also love how what changes Scrooges mind throughout the book is that the ghosts of the past and present and future and so forth. What they have to do to change his mind is just point to his common humanity. And what we can all recognize in life, they point to the beauty of family, they point to the beauty of celebration and Christmas and food and color and all these things, but then ultimately to life, and how we all recognize a human life matters. And Tiny Tim, that's what tips Scrooge over in the end of the book. Sorry, I'm giving it all away.
I think we all know the story, but you're right.
It's kind of pointing to those, we all recognize what I'm saying. So when you're confronting these worldviews sometimes it seems so difficult, confronting worldviews with biblical worldview, big words. We all recognize the beauty of this world that God's given us and the beauty of life and the beauty of relationship and family pointing to those, pointing to God.
Well, exactly. We're going to divide this podcast, it's going a little long into two episodes. And I'm going to kind of set us up here for the next episode, because we want to look at the dominant views in our culture today, dominant meaning the ones that are the most influential in terms of shaping curricula, policy, law. Again, it's not this biblical idea. And we can see that in our curricula, public school curriculum, we can see that in the laws, we can see it in business policies, we can see it in so many ways. So the biblical idea, even though it's been deeply powerful in shaping Western thought, is not the one that's dominant today, that should bother us as the church that should be something that we don't just sit back in a cavalier way and say, oh, it doesn't matter. That's not really our concern. We just need to get people into the church and get them saved. No, we need to be concerned about this, deeply concerned. So yeah, just to set up this discussion, we're going to look at a couple of ways that this new this new dominant view is kind of manifesting itself in the world today. So this is where we'll wrap up this part of our discussion.
Thank you for joining us today on this episode of Ideas Have Consequences brought to you by the Disciple Nations Alliance. As you just heard, this is going to be a two part series, where we're gonna be discussing this critical question of what it means to be human. In part two of this series, we are going to be addressing the two most predominant worldviews that are redefining what it means to be human. To listen to that episode, you're going to have to hang with us for a few weeks, as we're going to be taking off a week for Christmas. So that episode is going to be coming out on January 3, Tuesday January 3, at 5pm Mountain Time. As always, if you'd like to take a deeper dive in today's topic, feel free to visit this episode's landing page, which I've linked down in the show notes below. On that page, you can find all of the resources that we mentioned here in this episode, as well as the transcript broken up in chapters key quotes, anything else that will help you further study this topic. Thanks again for joining us for this discussion on Ideas Have Consequences. We'll see next year!