Culture Friday: A Christian anthropology

MARY REICHARD, HOST: It’s Friday the 28th of September, 2018.

Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.

NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher.

It’s Culture Friday and time now to welcome John Stonestreet. He’s president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. Good morning to you.

JOHN STONESTREET, GUEST: Good morning, Nick!

EICHER: John, this is going to be my nod to yesterday’s reopening of the Supreme Court confirmation hearing for Judge Brett Kavanaugh.

Now, I’m old enough to remember the Clarence Thomas hearing. I was at that hearing. For the first part, I should stress, not the Anita Hill part. Because there was a first part, then the explosive allegations came later.

Nothing new under the sun, right?

But I bring up the Thomas hearing to contrast it with this hearing. Bad as the Thomas hearing was, it seems to me there’s a viciousness all around with respect to the Kavanaugh hearing. Today’s climate is substantially angier and more tribal.

So I’m going to read to you from an email we received this week, a story theme I think we ought to flesh out, but I want to start with your reaction to the questions posed.

Here’s what the listener suggested:

“I would love to hear a story about Christians who find themselves increasingly overwhelmed with our current state of politics, toxic culture, and political correctness in the workplace. How do we tune out yet balance our obligation to engage our political system and be responsible to the freedoms and liberties we enjoy. What’s the balance? How do we cope?”

That’s a story to develop, but I’d love to hear your thoughts on the idea of how Biblical worldview thinking discovers that balance. How would you respond to that listener?

STONESTREET: Well, I think it’s the right question. I think it’s the question that Christians in any generation, in any cultural moment have to ask which is what is a response here that is allegiance first and foremost not to political party or ideology or the side that I want to take, but ultimately to Christ? And I think what we saw this week is a clear sign that by and large the political divide has become the single thing that is determining everything. It’s the worldview through which a whole lot of people are seeing the world on both sides. This was a terrible week in terms of what it told us about America.

And, I think, the question is—whatever we think should have happened and whatever is ultimately going to happen with this particular nomination—a very real question has got to be how do we become the sort of people that can bring healing. How can we be the sort of people that can actually heal this sort of divide? How do we become the sort of bridges? And, of course, we need to understand that it’s not just a matter of being nice. I mean, that’s something that we hear is, well, we’ve got to get more winsome. Look, we’re in a political moment that you can’t be winsome enough. If you’re on the wrong side of a cultural narrative that’s already been dominated or you’re on the wrong side of the new sexual orthodoxy or anything like that, you’re not going to be able to win.

But, look, we can’t determine our position based on where those who do not agree with our worldview say we have to stand or say. Our response cannot be in the same tone and tenor of what’s happening. But at the same time, we’ve got to be really clear on what’s most important. I think ultimately one of the things I was reminded of over and over and over again over the last couple of weeks is C.S. Lewis’ astounding piece “The Weight of Glory” in which he talks about nations and cultures and arts and civilizations are mortal and they have no value compared to the value of every single individual. We are now in a cultural moment where everything, including human identity and value and dignity, is sacrificed on the altar of agenda.

And Christians, I think, have to provide a stark contrast to that. We don’t have to do it by compromising truth or pretending that things that are historic Christian positions are suddenly out the window. But we’re going to have to figure out, as I’ve said on a number of occasions I feel like the last year, to walk and chew gum at the same time and to strike a decidedly different tone that prioritizes first and foremost the dignity of every single human person, even if ultimately we’re not only going to disagree with them, but we’re going to call them to account for despicable behavior. We saw a lot of despicable behavior on display this week. But where else is the answer going to come from? Clearly it’s not going to come from politics. Clearly it’s not going to come from the Senate. Clearly it’s not going to come from media pundits. So, really, the church is the one that has the answer.

EICHER: This week, a once-beloved American actor experienced a judgment day of sorts. Bill Cosby, sentenced to at least three years in prison, for sexual assault. Branded a “violent sex offender.” Removed from the courtroom in handcuffs. Sad end to a sad story for a man once known as “America’s Dad.” And to say that is not an attempt to minimize a thorough legal process or its conclusion. It’s proven beyond doubt that Cosby committed this crime, and it has severe consequences.

How do you judge the cultural import here? It’s a toppling of an image we had, an image admittedly created and maintained by media, and just like that, it’s just shattered. Is there a lesson here about how we choose our heroes?

STONESTREET: I think like it or not there’s a cultural lesson here, and it’s one of the positive things of the #MeToo movement. It’s hard to admit this, but clearly we were a culture—we’ve been a culture for a long time—in which victims were not allowed to actually bring their accusations to public, that men had an ability to abuse their power. That doesn’t mean that with the #MeToo movement there’s not going to be false accusations and there’s not going to be the ability, like we’ve seen this week, for allegations to completely destroy a man’s life and career. That potential is going to be there. I think they have to always be taken seriously and that demands a response, but to say that a woman would never lie, a woman would never mislead, or something like that is to say that the fall doesn’t cross the aisle there. I think in the past men were given a pass and I think that’s what we saw in the case of Bill Cosby. He was a great role model. He lifted up good values, he talked about behavior and consequences of actions and at the same time had this deeply evil thing about him.

And, of course, that tells us something, I think, about Christian anthropology, that the problem with the world is not out there, it’s in the human heart. I think it tells us that every single person is this mix of being made in the image of God and being fallen, with capacity for grave evil. This is Christian anthropology at work and it is sad. I’m with you, Nick, I grew up on the Cosby Show. That was—when I was literally a kid, every single week of the 1980s this was the No. 1 show on television and my kids have now watched some episodes of the Cosby Show. And you go back and watch with them, looking at this man thinking the lessons he was teaching, the respect, the way to treat women, and this is what he’s doing on the side. It’s like, what’s happening here? It’s so hard to believe. But, keep in mind, this is what Blaise Pascal said about human nature. It’s one of the reasons I love Pascal’s vision of what it means to be human, that humans are the glory and the garbage of the universe, he said. And we have worldviews that say that humans are divine, there’s nothing wrong with us, that we have a spark of God inside of us and, therefore, there’s no such thing as sin. You’ve also got worldviews that basically describe humans as being just animals with a conscience and always living for survival. Well, Christianity, I think, holds it together, that we’re made in the image of God, but we act like animals. And that’s what Pascal said, and I think that’s what’s on full display.

I think in terms of how we choose our heroes, there is a good lesson and that is specifically we can only do that not just along political lines or ideological lines, we have to base our understanding of people—and that includes our heroes and our enemies—on a Christian anthropology. And can I just call the church to get back to teaching that? I feel like the church teaches how to be saved and how to go to heaven and this is a Christian view of morality. I think we need to get back, because this is really the great battleground of our culture, to what’s a Christian view of what it means to be human? We need a distinctly Christian anthropology, which the Bible offers and which is an incredibly clarifying framework to understand what we’re dealing with in today’s cultural moment.

EICHER: John Stonestreet is president of the Colson Center for Christian Worldview. It’s Culture Friday, John, thanks so much. We’ll talk to you next time.

STONESTREET: Thanks, Nick.

(Mark Makela/Pool Photo via AP) Bill Cosby, center, leaves the courtroom after he was sentenced to three-to 10-years for sexual assault on Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018, in Norristown, Pa. 

WORLD Radio transcripts are created on a rush deadline. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of WORLD Radio programming is the audio record.

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