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Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss the difference between cultural missionaries and cultural warriors, how to engage with woke businesses, whether our souls are “sent to earth,” and how to make sense of the Uvalde massacre.
Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss how we define the difference between cultural missionaries and cultural warriors, and why we should exemplify humility as well as boldness (1:29). They discuss the difference between spiritual war and loving people (10:00).
One listener asks whether they should write to the CEO of a grocery store they love expressing displeasure with the LGBTQ support shown by the company, and Dr. Denison responds with how to actively engage in cultural change (19:25). They then consider why businesses feel the need to make statements about LGBTQ issues in culture (24:24).
They turn to another listener question that asks why our souls were “sent to earth” if our goal is to be in heaven (34:10). Dr. Denison responds by addressing some possible confusion in the question, showing the influence of dualism in some Christian theology.
They answer a final question about the problem of evil: How can God redeem the Uvalde tragedy and SBC abuse (39:56)? They continue by talking about how we can lament while ensuring we’re not overwhelmed with compassion fatigue (46:30).
You can submit a question too at email@example.com.
Resources and further reading:
About the hosts
Jim Denison, Ph.D., is an author, speaker, and the CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.
Dr. Mark Turman is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.
Mark Turman 00:02
Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison forum and host for today’s conversation. We’re back again today with Dr. Jim Dennison, the founder, CEO and cultural theologian here at Denison forum. Jim, how are you?
Jim Denison 00:17
I’m doing well today, sir, how are you doing? Great. We’re about to put you on the hot seat. So hope you’re ready for this experience. I’m not doing as well as I thought it was. Well, we’ll see at the end. Yeah. Give us a few minutes.
Mark Turman 00:27
We’ll see how how that works out. But this is our kind of semi regular experience of ask Jim. I was hoping that someday it might become asked Jim and mark, but we’ll see if we should grow to that.
Jim Denison 00:42
I think it should be asked Mark. Why don’t I get to ask the questions?
Mark Turman 00:44
Well, no, not right now. Well, we’ll maybe we’ll give that a shot at some point. But for all of you who are listening, if you have a question that you are wondering about, you’d like us to take on at some point, you can submit those questions in an email to ask Jim at Denison forum.org. That could be the problem. Maybe we’ll modify that. But for right now we’re going to keep you on the hook at ask Jim asked Jim at Denison forum.org. You can submit your questions there. We’ll get to as many of them as we can. And we have some. Let’s just say significant questions.
Jim Denison 01:21
We had no questions. Yeah, none came in so well. They weren’t out there. Let’s see if the Cowboys have the future. Let’s have that discussion.
Mark Turman 01:29
How about we talk golf? Yeah, let’s do that. You know, you know, as I said, in a recent article, why is it that I cringe when a British guy wins the US Open, but I think an American should always win the British Open? I think that’s a good question. We should have that discussion. You know, there’s deep, deep theology of hypocrisy in there somewhere. As one of my good friends says my hypocrisy knows no bound. That’s right. I’ve heard that before. Yes. And so let’s get into a few of these and see how we can do with this stump the chump kind of opportunity. All right. So one of our writers named Steve, raise the question that Denison Forum has used frequently the phrase cultural missionaries versus cultural warriors. Steve goes on to say whenever this phrase is used, I’m assuming by us, the connotation is always in a passive sense. Please explain to me why I should accept this advice or counsel, why should I be passive instead of rejecting passivity, accepting responsibility leading courageously and investing in eternity? I think I know, the pastor he’s been listening to passivity in the church is a major problem already, Steve says, and if the culture flows and read and reflects itself later in the church, why should I not have a bold stance for Christ? Please enlighten me on your continual use of this passive phrase, and give a better description if you can. Jesus was not passive in cleansing the temple?
Jim Denison 03:04
Well, I’d say he wasn’t I would say that would be triggered. I know, but certainly say the money changers would agree with that. Right? So and I appreciate Steve so much appreciate just reading the content, first of all, and then asking a very, very good question and asking it in such a gracious way. But my response and I’m hearing this obviously, the whole point of this conversation is to hear this for the first time and responded very spontaneous. Yeah, we didn’t tip you off. No, which is good. I didn’t want you to I’m happy to do it in this in this way. So my first response is to is very much to question the premise. The premise that a cultural missionary is by definition passive, has certainly never been our intention has certainly never been anything we would mean to connote and is not at all what a missionary would see a missionary doing. missionaries are not by definition, passive. They’re the opposite of that missionaries go to places where the mission that they’re called to do is needed. They move into the space, they learn the needs of the community, they build relationships and meet felt need to meet spiritual need. When I was a missionary in Malaysia, for instance, back in college, we were going to communities, eight of them. In fact, I was preaching, they’re doing evangelism, doing discipleship training, they’re trying to meet needs as I could with scripture. So it was very much an initiatory, proactive, proactive kind of a response. Really, when we say cultural missionaries versus cultural warriors. We’re talking about the spirit in which we do it not being passive or proactive at all. And if he’s picked up some passivity on this, well, then that certainly wouldn’t have been our intention whatsoever. Everything he said he wished he should be I would agree with absolutely need to be bold, absolutely need to take initiative absolutely need to stand courageously for biblical truth. I, I think we hope we say that a lot. Right? That that’s our purpose is to do it. But we want to do it in a spirit of humility. We want to do it in a spirit that does not connote that I’m better than you that we’re in a war like adversarial sort of environment, even though they may be coming to us in an adversarial way that shouldn’t be the way in which we would respond. Jesus certainly in cleansing the money changers from the temple was not being passive, right. But in the spirit in which he did it. that’s much more not his typical response. He would do that when he had to, he will come to that place when there was no choice when there was no other way to do this. But that wasn’t how you responded to Nicodemus, or does that key us wasn’t how you responded to those that came to him for healing, he would typically respond as graciously as he could, and then moved to judgment when he had to, I think you’d go there last year went there for
Mark Turman 05:22
I think, I can’t remember I think it was Calvin Miller that wrote this, and one of his books may have been somebody else. But I remember him saying something to the effect. There were times when Jesus walked away from a fight. There were times when Jesus stopped a battle, or stopped a fight. There were some times when Jesus started to fight, which might be the reason this This question relates to a biblical story of Jesus cleansing the temple very significant to me personally, because when I was not a Christian, at 1617 years old, this friend of mine had given me a Bible. And I didn’t have any understanding of the person life ministry work of Jesus, I just for me, at that point in my life, Jesus was just this figurine that we put out at Christmas time. And this very uninspiring person that I saw in stained glass at the church I went to in my childhood, or in a photograph, you know, on the side of the road, when somebody was selling a painting, there was nothing that inspired me about him as a person of strength or boldness. Until I got to this story. When I was my friend, encouraged me challenged me, read the Gospel of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and just learn the story of Jesus, everything hinges on him. And when I came to this story, it I even today have this memory that it was like Jesus came alive to me at this moment, my mother would tell you that I had a very volcanic kind of temper, at this time in my life, where I would be pretty quiet. My brother just kind of needled me all the time. He I say that he was born in a bad mood. He’s been in it for 62 years. Hope he hears that on this podcast, by the way, but my brother was always picking at me and other people as well. And then when I got to my tipping point, it was usually bad for him. And so the idea of Jesus having a temper, just connected to me in a deep way. But it’s but those aren’t equally weighted. If it is true, that Jesus sometimes walked away from a fight, de de escalated, we would say, or stopped a fight, or even initiated one, like you might say he did in the temple, that those were not equally weighted strategies for Jesus.
Jim Denison 07:48
That’s right. And the Holy Spirit is the one that has to lead us to do this. You know, God is today preparing the hearts, He intends us to engage tomorrow. He’s moving ahead of us. He’s at that space. And he knows those places. And those times when we have to say, as the Apostle said, to the Sanhedrin, we must serve God not man. He knows those times when we have to be boldly proactive. Nathan’s saying to David, you are the man, right? You know, when we have to be prophetically calling out the sins of the culture. There are other times when what he’s asking us to do is to meet felt need to be spiritual need, like the woman at the well. Jesus didn’t start by condemning her sinfulness. He started by asking for water. He started by building an earning relationship with her. I’ll still I guess I’ll always remember mark. This many, many years ago, I was preaching First Baptist Church in Midland. I was pastor there at the time, and it was that sanctity of life Sunday that we had every January in Baptist life and so I preached the strongest sermon on abortion that I could from then till now, I absolutely believe that abortion is abhorrent. I believe every life begins at conception and abortion is just wrong is categorically wrong. And I made that very clear in the sermon. Afterwards, our counseling minister who was there for the service came up he thanked me for the sermon said he agreed with every word I’d spoken. But he asked if I considered the women in our church sitting in the sanctuary who had had abortions, which I had not. He knew their names, having been at the counseling minister at the church over these years he could have given me didn’t obviously, but could have given me names. I had not had that thought that for them. hearing me condemn abortion could have been a different experience. Right, then for those that have not had their experienced I’m not for a moment changing anything I believe about abortion. But there are some settings in which the way in which to communicate this is going to be different than others. And that’s what a missionary does. A good missionary knows where that missionary is and knows the language in which to communicate, knows that on occasion, you’re on the warpath on occasion, you’re doing something like this, but a missionary knows when and where to do that. To a culture warrior. Everything’s an adversary. Every person is an opponent to be defeated. Everything is a debate to be one. If you’re in war, the other side is the enemy. Right? That’s why I think that’s the wrong model. The right model is a missionary comes to express the love of Christ in their love, and do it in whatever way is appropriate to them. Good.
Mark Turman 10:00
So we’ve talked about this a fair amount, which I think is fair to say why Steve is hearing the he’s hearing this term from us, because we do talk through these terminologies a lot. Tell me if it’s fair, in your opinion, to look at it this way, when it comes to the way we think about opposing the devil in his influence in our life, his temptations that he puts in front of us, we do need to have a warrior mentality toward that. That’s what that war that’s Ephesians. That’s spiritual warfare, whole Ephesians, six armor, that kind of thing. There’s still even instructions in Scripture for us to flee the devil when he approaches us. So most time we think about warriors, we think anything that is about fleeing is cowardice. But that is a strategy we are given the temptation, we’re told de escalation in those kinds, it is a legitimate strategy. But when it comes to standing up to temptation, when it comes to confronting the devils attacks upon our life, we do need to have a warrior mentality. But when it comes to ministry and caring for people, even if they are attacking us, the missionary mindset of compassion, boldness and compassion is the more appropriate positioning of our lives. Is that fair to
Jim Denison 11:20
say? I think that’s right. And again, the spirit can on occasion, call us to be Nathan calling out David. Right. I mean, we do find those examples in Scripture Samuel, condemning the sins of Saul, you know, there are places where God calls us to do that. But that shouldn’t be our default position.
Mark Turman 11:32
Okay, so that’s a good question. Because I’m a, I’m gonna put a test in front of you tell me if you think this is a legitimate test, there are times when the Spirit as you said, can call us to have that kind of boldness like Jesus in the temple that day. Nathan, coming to David, absolutely. True. We would love to, we would all love to know that in the moment of when the Sanhedrin is telling the apostles to stop that we would be bold like they were bold, courageous, like they were courageous. I agree with the person said, You can’t know that you’re going to be courageous until you’re required to That’s right. You can’t you can hope for it, you can pray for it, you can anticipate you can’t know that that’s going to happen until the moment happens. But here’s the test, a simple little test about what is the default spirit that we are operating in? Are we operating more in the in the, in the broken heart had compassion intentionality of a missionary? Or are we in the default mind of seeing that person? As an enemy instinctively? Okay, so I’m just going to tell you straight up. I failed this test less than 18 hours ago. So during the summer, one of the favorite programs that my wife and I like to watch is America’s Got Talent. Yes, we love like the roof. We Yes. But we love the creativity of the show, we have seen some incredibly inspiring as well as some incredibly crazy performances. And who knows what Simon Cowell is going to do, right? Yes. So when we were watching it recently, there was an act that came out and as they often do, they ask this person about their, their story, how did they get to this? How did they come to this, and part of this person’s story was him sharing openly, boldly, joyfully that he was in a polyamorous relationship. And actually, his partners were in the crowd and they were showing on camera partners, plural, partners, plural, yes. And my wife and I instinctively side in this moment, and I felt myself instinctively becoming a bit angry after that feels like the default attitude of cultural warrior, not cultural missionary. And as I I started questioning myself, why do I now look at this person on my television screen in a certain way with a certain spirit? Why is their anger or something that feels like anger or frustration rising in me toward this person? Who is being he was clearly being celebrated by direct comments from the judges as well as by the mood of the audience? Sure, they were celebrating that he was in this kind of relationship and and boldly joyfully sharing it, and none of that surprise the producers, right and wasn’t you know, yeah. And it was clearly a reflection of just Yes, where our culture is, in many ways, rational strategy, right. But what I want to focus in is on my attitude as a believer and I found myself I got up went to the kitchen just kind of tried to think through this while this was pulled Hang on my television is like, Lord, what does it take for me to get to the place where I see this person with compassion, and with a sense of he doesn’t know what he’s missing?
Jim Denison 15:13
He’s filled his life in terms of intimacy in this direction. In clearly an unbiblical model. Why can’t I see this instinctively? from a, from the perspective of missionary and compassion rather than frustration or anger? Yeah. It’s a huge balance. It truly is. And it’s a challenge. In the midst of this as well, the wrong response would be one of acceptance, of course, I’d be one of oh, great, he’s found his way forward. Don’t we all grateful for that. And so we ought to be angry at the sin. I absolutely should be angry at the deception that’s happening here at the degree to which the producers and the show were advocating for polyamory, which we’ve all been saying was the next major. I mean, Chief Justice Roberts in 2015, with Obergefell said that this is going to be used for plural marriage, the exact same wording for same sex could be used for plural. The government can’t tell you what gendered American tell you what number to marry. Right? We all knew this was coming. And there are a number of municipalities now that are legalizing polygamous relationships. And so we all knew this was going to be the next shoe to drop and inside all of that, I think we should be angry at the sin should be angry at the deception should be angry at the strategy that’s behind this angry at the manipulation. And bringing that person into this setting. The normalization normal isn’t normalizing, you know, and again, those are the stages right is to normalize and then ultimately, you stigmatize normalized, legalized, stigmatized. And then criminalized is what’s happened with same sex relationships that will happen with polygamous as well. No question will be at that point. At some point in the future, just as we are now in same sex, I think we ought to be angry about all that. The differences, and this is hard for me as well, is to make a distinction between the center and the center. It’s what johnstones Treat says that we quote so often that ideas have consequences of bad ideas of victims. To see him as a victim of a bad idea, as you were saying that the metaphor that came to mind for me was when my son had cancer, but Ryan went through cancer 10 years ago, going coming up on 10 years now, we could not have been more angry at cancer. But we weren’t for a moment angry at Ryan. It wasn’t his choice, right? It wasn’t anything he had chosen to do. Now, the metal, the model would have been more transferable. If he had chose an activity that led to cancer. He had smoking, and gotten lung cancer, something like that, or use chewing tobacco or something like something like that, or alcohol, alcohol abuse and cirrhosis. Something like that would have been a better analogy, I think for this, but even in that setting. My mother was a lifelong smoker, and had lung cancer that contributed to her death, she didn’t intend to get lung cancer, right? She somehow believed in back when she started smoking as a teenager, they wasn’t the studies that were now and all of that, it was never her desire to do this, she did not know the consequence of the decision she was making. In Ryan’s case, there was no decision to be made his cancer had nothing to do with behavioral lifestyle. And so as angry as we were at the disease, we were therefore even more compassionate toward the patient. If I’m a doctor, and I see somebody that’s the victim of a horrific car accident, I’m angry at the accident, but not the victim. They were in the car where the accident happened, but they didn’t choose this. This person has no idea how deceived he has no idea how much he’s a victim of the lies of the enemy with whom we ultimately ought to be angry yet react to your earlier point. But if we transfer that to him, and make him the subject of our anger, number one, we’re misplacing our priorities and our anger. But number two, we’re pushing him away from the gospel, is he more likely to respond to let’s say, he’s your neighbor, let’s say your friend has been on AGT. Let’s say that you’ve discovered your friend is polyamorous now Is he more likely to respond to you when you call him out in anger as a cultural warrior than you when you respond to him out of compassion and humility, that says, Look, I’m not committing his sins, but then there are sins I’m committing, he’s not committed. We’re all broken sexually. We’re all tempted sexually. So let’s do this in a spirit of humility as any more likely to respond to that. And then if he’s your friend, and at the end of the day, you have to be bolder, you have to cleanse the money changers that do that when you have to. But don’t go there as your default position, right, and separate the sin from the center separate the anger at the sin, which should be there, from compassion for the victim, right?
Mark Turman 19:25
And that’s a big challenge for the Holy Spirit to help us on a daily basis. You can’t do that without him. And in that capacity, without the Spirit’s help, you cannot figure out how to resolve right, which the second question kind of goes in a similar vein, but ask for a specific recommendation. So here’s the second question from a listener named Pat. I was sickened recently, when I went in to Central Market a grocery store chain and the employees were wearing pride buttons. This is Pride Month. And the cashier said when I asked her if It was a corporate decision. I want I feel the need to write the CEO of this company to voice my concern, but haven’t been able to find that person’s name. Do you think writing to the CEO or to the company is a correct step to take? How else if other than writing might I express my displeasure with this decision?
Jim Denison 20:22
That’s a great question. First of all, I’m glad for the displeasure at the decision. grateful for that. Second, I wouldn’t take necessarily it to be true just because the employee said that, that that necessarily is the case. So if I do respond to the CEO, I wouldn’t respond in the accusatory tone that says, hey, I’m aware that it started with humility, start with humility, it’s been told to me, I’ve understood this. And I wanted as a customer, you know, so grateful for your if you can say this, grateful for your company, grateful for all the good of it. I just wanted to respond to you as one person but also as a person that reflects, I think, a broad base and make a reasoned argument. So yes, I guess I should have answered the question. First of all, I think it’s completely appropriate to respond to the CEO in whatever manner, whether that’s an email or a letter or a phone call, whatever weight seems to be appropriate, or all of the above, I think it’s completely appropriate. I think it’s appropriate to get other people to do this as well, not because we’re trying to inundate them. But because we’re trying to give them a sense of the scope and scale of the concern that is here. I think as we do this, we need to make an argument on terms that will be effective with this individual, that we want to do this in business terms, we want to do this, in a sense of Boy, this makes it tough for me to want to be here, you know, makes it this is for me an issue that isn’t just a Pride Month issue. This has to do with cultural issues. And I just want you to know that, right? If I were in your position, I would want to know that, I’d want to do it respectfully, I’d want to do it in a way that will connect that isn’t just my own personal beliefs, why would that matter to you, but I think this may reflect on how I can relate to your business going forward, and others may feel the same way. But then as we do this, understand that the power of one voice is significant, right? There’s a word in the restaurant industry. And this is long, long time ago. So I’m sure this is outdated information now, but I was told back in the day that they multiplied by 100 every complaint about the food in the belief that for every person that will complain, they’re 100, they just won’t come back. And they never know it, they have no way to know they lost that customer because of how they were doing whatever they were doing wrong. And so they took more seriously the complaint of the customer than the customer might have ever expected. Right? That being the point whatever the number might be, today, I’ve no idea if it’d be a one to 100. But the principle still holds. Don’t believe that that’s one letter that’s just going to be necessarily discounted. The more that you do this with compassion, and with logic and persuasion, the more effective that may will in fact be maybe the CEO doesn’t even know the degree to which this is the case, certainly may not know the degree to which you’re responding. And others would feel the same way.
Mark Turman 22:47
Right and had a friend of mine turn that around on his head and say, don’t discount the power and weight of your compliments either. That’s right, that people are actually even more reluctant to give a compliment. Why? Because we’re just more used to giving criticism where whether we do it intentionally or unintentionally. And so where you see good things happening. It might be one to 1000 if somebody thinks the food is really great, tell them that you think it’s great. Because we don’t often do that. We don’t often go to a restaurant we will like and say hey, you got it really good today, you hit it out of the park, I went to a restaurant recently been to this restaurant a number of times every time I’ve recommended this restaurant, to dozens of people. And I went back because it was Father’s Day and I got to pick the meal. And they didn’t do their best work. They didn’t do their best work. But I’ll go back because that was the exception to a long string of really good meals. Okay, but let me take this straight Donald’s
Jim Denison 23:50
didn’t work out that exactly that particular Miguel tried to supersize and it’s water burger. It’s not Waterbury in my world. Okay, water burger born water burger bread.
Mark Turman 24:01
One day I’ll die water burger. Dan,
Jim Denison 24:03
are we are we getting money for this? And I don’t know if you knew this or not subsidized. Thank you for teeing this up for the opportunity for me to advance my career because my ultimate goal is to be the chaplain for Whataburger. Well I say, Well, maybe we helped and if you eat too much water burger, you probably need a chaplain. But that’s a whole other conversation and it survived long enough to be the chaplain. That’s right. No,
Mark Turman 24:24
but let me take this a slight different direction. Because I know you’ve thought written spoken about this in the past. So I know you have some good thoughts here. What is driving a grocery store to position themselves relative to a cultural issue a cultural Battlezone over human sexuality? Why would a grocery store or many other kinds of companies in our culture, feel a need to take a position and possibly even to mandate their employees expressed this in certain why would a baseball team feel the need to do that? Why? What’s driving companies and organizations in our culture to feel like they must stand make some kind of statement in these areas.
Jim Denison 25:15
Whatever the issue is now LGBTQ, just one example, right? There are companies that if Roe v Wade were to be overturned, and by the time this comes out, we’ll know obviously, what we don’t know is you and I are taping this, we’re still waiting on the Supreme Court decision as of today. But if that were the case, number of companies that have said they will pay for their employees to travel to states where they can get abortions, things like that. So well, companies is what they’re called. So they’re really five responses here and tried to do them very briefly, because we’d have a very long conversation about them. Number one is some of its just on the merits. There is a growing belief in the country that LGBTQ issues are the race relations of the day, the civil rights issue of the day, and those that disagree are white supremacist, they’re kk k. And so it’s risen to a level where we’re going to mandate support for this, whatever my company is, whatever my influence is, the same way in the 60s, I would have marched for civil rights. The same way in the 60s, I would have marched for desegregating the countertop, at my restaurant, whatever the case might be, there can be some one off tonight, where they’re just some issues that whatever, for whatever reason, that company feels rises to that level, where they wouldn’t have done this across the board, they wouldn’t have done the same thing for abortion they’re doing for LGBTQ are done the same thing. For African American race relations, necessarily, this is just an issue that is specifically motivating for them on some level. On a second response to that quickly, we’re at a place now, where CEOs are seeing their companies as a platform for personal influence in a way that was never the case in the past was a day you never knew who the CEO of IBM might be, or Xerox or whatever. And they were hired to advance the company not advance themselves. That’s right shareholder value was all that mattered here. Right? And so if you’re going to do if you’re going to lose customers over pride, advocacy, well, then you’re not doing your job. You know, on the other hand, if you can get more customers by advocating for pride, then maybe you are, but you’re making shareholder decisions, not personal celebrity decisions, not personal ideology decisions. Well, all that started changing in the 70s and 80s, when CEOs started becoming faces for their organizations, I remember Lee Iacocca, saving Chrysler and doing those ads back in the day, and no one had ever seen CEOs doing ads and that kind of a thing. So you all love it. And others have written about the degree to which now leaders see their companies as a platform for their personal beliefs. So is it possible taking that line of thought that the CEOs are simply a reflection of boards of trustees and or shareholders? Well, that’s the third answer. Okay. Yeah. And they go together. On the second, for all I know, it could be that the CEO has a personal agenda relative to LGBTQ advocacy, could be like that first idea, where this is something that’s important to them. And this is my company. And I believe in this and I’m going to advocate this to the degree I can use it my influence.
Mark Turman 27:49
And if they’re like, if they’re the majority shareholder, then they certainly have more power, you would think.
Jim Denison 27:54
Yeah, I’m aware of a hardware store in Arlington that has written has published my daily article and made it available to the customers when they come in, just left it laying around. So if they’re waiting for a car or something like that, there’s good chance I’ll pick up one of my articles and read it. Well, he’s using his influence to advance his personal beliefs, it’s his business, he can do that. And so that’s the second piece of it. A third piece is the degree to which employees are seeing companies as a platform for their personal beliefs as well, when they’re joining companies, to the degree that that company advocates for their beliefs, and that they can do so when they can use a social media platform to do so. And so they’re being driven some cases by employees who want them to be more woke, who want them to be more activist and whatever the issue is, and employees actually picking companies that’s based on this, this is a competitive issue, I’ll come to your company versus them because you’re more likely to be engaged in environmental issues, for instance, or climate change issues or because you are more willing to stand up for the rights of women in the marketplace, whatever the issue might were, I might be willing to go. I’m more interested in working for Chick fil A, if I’m conservative minded than actually working for something. Yeah. So it’s happening on both sides. That’s right. There’s an employee issue. And it is right, the fourth you’ve mentioned before, and that is the degree to which those in the governance are now seeing these companies as a means to advancing ideology as well. And some of the can be bottom line, which gets to the fifth, there’s no question that woke ideology in the context of consumerism is itself a capitalistic question. The degree to which target can have more customers by being more inclusive in bathrooms than if they don’t. It’s an I think it’s a rare company that makes a decision to pay for what’s called abortion tourism, where its employees can go to New York or California to get an abortion with no regard to the bottom line with no regard to where they’re going to sell more product, because they do that than if they didn’t. And that’s a bit manipulative, but at the end of the day, it’s how capitalism works. I’m going to do what’s going to generate the greatest bottom line, and that’s a part of this as well. And we’re in a culture that is increasingly seeing what we’re calling woke issues as issues for which they as consumers want To be championed as well, more likely to come to a central market, if they’re seeing pride, advocacy, that sort of thing, the same way I would have been in the 60s, if pick on Central Market, if they were advocating for inclusive ism relative to segregation, if they were the first grocery store and not to have black oriented, or black only bathrooms or water fountains or some such as that I’d have been more likely to go there. Well, they’re aware that their customer is more likely to come now for this reason as well. All that goes together.
Mark Turman 30:31
So take this one step further. And then we’ll move to another question. Since we’re doing that all of us are doing that, based on our beliefs and, and values. Is that unhealthy, in some ways, contributing to a greater sense of division within our culture? When we’re not when we’re picking? Where we’re going to buy groceries or eat dinner? Based on these kinds of thought process? Yes. You take that to its logical conclusion, you’re going to have a group of companies and a group of, of customers that go to these kinds of places, and then you have, you’re just going to have different pockets, and it becomes more and more and more ideologically splintered, you know, only these kinds of people shop at Target, and only these kinds of people shop and eat at Chick fil A. Is that where we’re headed? And what’s the, what’s the outcome of that?
Jim Denison 31:37
Yeah, potentially, we’re already there in a marketing world. As you know, a marketers are able to do analytics to understand customers on a level that’s really frightening. The degree to which they know what they know about you, your buying practices, that sort of thing. You ever click on an ad for the next year, you’re gonna see like ads show up on your Google searches to the internet and big data does for us. That’s what a neat, that’s exactly right. That’s what’s driving all of this. That’s why Facebook can make the money they can and Twitter can to the degree they make money, Google ads, that sort of thing. They know specifically how to place ads in front of people that are most likely to want that content. That’s why just to be stereotypical. You tend to see Cadillac ads, and golf tournaments and Ford ads at football games, you know, just to be generic about this. They understand better who the people that are that they’re trying to reach. So you’re already seeing kind of a splintering of the demography, as it were, on some level already, what you’re going to start seeing increasingly is that moving into geographic terms, as you’re seeing brick and mortar questions like Central markets and places like that, it’s more and more the case that we don’t just have blue cities and red cities, we have blue neighborhoods and red neighborhoods, we have people that are moving into areas because they’ve done enough analysis to know that they’re more Republicans living here and more Democrats living here. Austin, for instance, in Texas, where we live is known to be very much a blue city to be very much a woke city, while they’re enclaves around Austin that are known to be the opposite of that, right? They want to live in the hill country, they want the economy of Austin, but they don’t want to be in a place where the grocery stores are going to have pride, Logos display, you go to North Austin, Williamson County, just the next county and one of the most conservative counties in the state next right next to each other. Right. You know, my guess is that just picking on again, Central Market, they might be less likely to show pride logos in that county than they would have been in Travis County, you know, and because again, at the end of the day, the bottom line is the bottom line here. So we’re increasingly seeing even geography being expressive of Red State Blue State sort of divisions in the culture. And that’s going to continue to be the case. It just makes sense. Like attracts like, you walk into a party, the first thing you look for somebody, you know, if there’s nobody you know, who might you know, who looks like you, who’s somebody that you could connect to, it’s that homogeneous church growth principle that Wagner talked about that people are more likely to go to places where there’s somebody like them, I don’t want to live my life in conflict. I don’t want to be having arguments over politics, every place I go, I don’t want to be inundated with stuff I’m going to go where I can get at peace where I can be on some level of tranquility. And so I’m going to shop where people will like me, whatever that looks like, right?
Mark Turman 34:10
A lot to think about there. Well, let’s go in a completely different direction, in some ways, much more of a theological feeling. Question here. Jeff writes, I know what our purpose on earth is, as stated in the Bible. My question is why if we or our souls were already in heaven, why were we sent to earth when our goal is to be in heaven? I feel naive asking this question.
Jim Denison 34:39
I think that’s a great question by Jeff and a very common question that people ask, and again, and I’m grateful for his asking grateful for the opportunity to have discussion. As with the first question that was asked, I think the problem is in the premise, you know, the, the Greek concept a lot of what it was was behind Greek spirituality goes back to what’s known as the orphic cult that was six centuries before Christ that had this idea of this fella named Orpheus, who was a legendary singer and composer had this idea that your soul existed in a pre incarnate state, it sinned, we would say, and it was punished by being put in your body. And the point of life is to purify your souls so that when it dies, it can go back where it came from. Well, that idea influenced Pythagorean, his theorems and math class. Well, he did math because that was a way of purifying the soul. because math is immaterial how much the seventh way, right? You know, he was also interested in music theory. I used to be a professional musician way back in the day and wait, hold on, a professional musician played the trumpet for a living so I’ll work my way through school way back in the day, okay, that’s gonna be a revelation to a number of people on on this fight that was in a previous life. wasn’t a good living. I was in college at the time, but I was making my way there’s no records albums, we can find on which word right now iTunes or somewhere like, oh, we’d be so grateful that not you weren’t a part of this band Chicago back in the seventh day wish, although you would love to have been Yes, Lee locked name was my hero when I could play a stuff not as well as he did. But nonetheless, yes, we digress. But nonetheless. So but even in that space, when I met at that point in the deal, learning music theory, that sort of thing? Well, that’s because it’s immaterial. How much does a C scale weigh? You know. And so Pythagoras wanted you to do that which was immaterial to purify your soul. Well, Protagoras influences Plato, and Plato, the entire Western world. So Plato’s got this idea of the world of ideas, the world of forums and the world of shadows down here. And he says, in his analogy of the cave, that you’ve grown your whole life chained in such a way, you can only see this cave, and there’s a fire behind you, and you see the shadows on the cave, what you want to do is break the chain, so you can see the fire and not the shadows, the worlds a shadow of the real. All of that is Greek philosophy. And it’s this idea that your soul existed before it was put in your body. That’s not biblical. And the premise of the question is, therefore more Greek than it is biblical. The Bible does not on any sense, teach that our souls existed in heaven, before we were born on earth eternally. That’s right. They were in the mind of God, of course, because God’s not bound by time God knew before time began, he would create me one day, but when God created me, He created me. He didn’t take my eternally preexisting soul and put it in my body. And now I’m living on this planet, and I can’t wait for my soul to get back where it came from, and wouldn’t have rather never left, you know, so that would be Orphic.
Mark Turman 37:25
So, so to think biblically about this, is this a there was a, a time in place when you, me, others everyone did not exist. That’s right. We were known in the mind of God, but we did not actually exist. The preexistence soul is Greek not biblical. And when God decided that we would exist, that was a particular moment of creation. That’s right, from nothing to something that’s right. And then from that point, we are eternal. That’s right. Human beings are, do have God put eternity in our heart, the Bible says, which means we will be living for all of eternity from this moment of creation, either with God or without God.
Jim Denison 38:09
That’s right, exactly. I believe that’s at the moment of conception. That’s why abortion is so important to me. Because we’re talking about eternal beings created by God at that moment of conception forward. And as you say, from that moment forward, we are eternal. If we’ve trusted Christ, we have eternal life, John 316, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish but have everlasting life. I am eternal. Now your eternal person that reject Christ will live eternally, tragically separated from him. But either way, you’re exactly right. But prior to that moment, I did not exist, except in the mind of God as an idea. But I did not have what we call ontological status, I did not, my soul did not exist before it was put in my body. That’s a great concept.
Mark Turman 38:48
Well, yeah. And again, coming back around to the idea of abortion, which is why it is so horrific as as an attack upon this particularly divine. That’s the ability of God to create something out of nothing. And he has described in the book of Genesis, that that is unique to God. And abortion is an attack upon that sacred, incredible moment of power, and beauty and creativity
Jim Denison 39:19
that’s exactly right, created uniquely by God out of nothing in his image. We are image bearers. In a way trees are not in a way animals are not God created us in His image after his likeness. And that makes that human being from the moment of conception, especially sacred and that’s why we speak of the sanctity or the sacredness of life. And so it’s not as though you existed before you weren’t created in your body. But from that moment forward, right, you are an eternal being. And God loves you as much as he loves even Mother Teresa and Billy Graham. I love the statement by St. Augustine or Augustine, the God loves each of us as if there were only one of us, that applies to you and to me, and to enter Jeff as well.
Mark Turman 39:56
Right. Well, the next question painfully, that’s somewhat in the same space. It has to do with the recent shootings that we’ve experienced in particular here in Texas, that you’ve all the shooting lots of information, even recently coming out on just the details of that horrific situation. So this listener writes to us and says Dr. Denison has publicly proclaimed in the past, and often God redeems all he allows. How does this apply to the Uvalde? Shooting and to other any other slaughter of children in particular? How does this apply to things like recent sexual abuse scandals within the Southern Baptist Convention?
Jim Denison 40:39
That’s the hardest thing there is. It absolutely is. That’s how I came to that place of believing that God redeems all the allowances in the context of innocent suffering. That was my father’s stories. I’ve told in the past that he was very active in the church fought in the Second World War and never went to church again, he could not square his theology with the innocent suffering that he had experienced there. So some years ago, I was writing a book called wrestling with God and I was looking at apologetic issues, and I wanted to talk about innocent suffering. So I really kind of wanted to take it down to the ground and start over what do I know about God? Well, I know that God is holy. In fact, the Bible says he’s Holy, holy, holy. In biblical language, repetitions, emphasis, we would say, Holy, yes, they would say, Holy, Holy, holy, He can never therefore make a mistake. I know God to be sovereign, he must allow her cause all that happens. Jesus was clear about that a sparrow doesn’t fall to the ground apart from the father’s knowledge. I also know God to be love. God is love. First, John four, eight, not just that he does loving things. His character is love. He can’t help but love. That’s who he is. So how do you put all this together? Well, that was reasoning through this working on this chapter in this book on happiness and suffering that occurred, this thought occurred to me, I was actually speaking at a retreat center in Chattanooga, Tennessee. I remember it very clearly, I remember the ministers cottage where I was working on this book on that particular week when this insight came to me, if God doesn’t redeem for greater good, everything that he allows her causes, he made a mistake by allowing it. But he can’t make a mistake, because he’s wholly. So his character requires him to redeem for greater good all that he allows for causes. That was the formulation I came to. Well, as soon as I came to that thought, which I absolutely believed to be true theologically, I believed to be absolutely a way to synthesize God’s holiness, His sovereignty and his love, is what I just said. My first response was, what about the Holocaust? That was my first immediate reaction to that. What does that mean? I mean, even at that point in time, I’ve been to Israel several times, I love the nation of Israel, love the Jewish people. Every time I go, there, we go to Yabba Shem. And I weep again, that’s the Holocaust Museum there show up museum go through that children’s memorial to 1.5 million children massacred, murdered in the Holocaust. That was my first reaction was that my second thought? Was my father suffering the horrific suffering of World War Two? Is that what I’m saying here? And so then my response to that thought was, and this is how I would respond to the question would be the same. Scripture is so clear. Now we look through a glass darkly, but one day face to face one day, I’ll know even as I’ve known, I don’t have to understand that to believe it. I don’t have to experience it to believe that ultimately, in God’s eternal Providence, it is true. I don’t understand airplanes that I fly on. I don’t understand the technology by which we’re recording this conversation right now. I am not here to say that I can show you so much good that it outweighs the Holocaust. So much good that now I can explain 911 So much good that I can explain to you validly massacre, I would never say that. I can’t say to you, I have so much good that it outweighs my father’s death when I was in college, still the greatest tragedy of my life. But I am here to say that in God’s eternal sovereignty, it will. And God’s eternal sovereignty, he must redeem for greater good the valley suffering, or he made a mistake in allowing it and he can’t make a mistake.
Mark Turman 43:58
A couple of couple things stick out of that in my in my listening to you, which is just fabulous. But I don’t have to understand or experience how God will redeem all that he has allowed a cause.
Jim Denison 44:05
That’s right. And I may not participate in it. Judas rejected the Gospel and didn’t participate it Pharaoh’s heart and heart he didn’t get to participate in the Exodus. So I’m not even saying that in my own life. God is obligated to redeem for greater good because I have freedom of will here I can choose against that right but then God even uses my rebellion. God used Pharaoh’s heart and heart God you use Judas rejection of Jesus for obviously greater good. And so that’s the ultimate assertion here is that the ultimate greater good is done by God in and through this whether I participate in it personally or not as my choice.
Mark Turman 44:48
and as you’ve said, on occasion, at this juncture we are not capable of of understanding this that’s right or or even experiencing it. We’re are not capable. We don’t have the capacity for this. I was talking to one of my church leaders recently about this. And he said, Well, we have to start at this point. When you look at something so horrific, as the Holocaust or the eovaldi shooting, you have to start at the point of your brain is trying to make sense out of something that is nonsensical outright. And which points to this lack of capacity on our part, and goes back to a previous conversation we had with Carmen L’Auberge about this. We have the ability to lament over it. And we should to lament over such a grievious evil. I have gone to sleep through the aftermath of the Uvalde shooting. And even more recently, as more details have come out. I can’t even bear the idea of what some of these children must have experienced over an hour or more of time, I can’t let myself even go I don’t even want to go there. No, I think about my grandchildren, I do and, and my children and a lot of children that we’ve had the privilege of being a part of their lives because pastors get to do that. Right. I just I don’t even know how to go. Go there. I don’t want to go there. And yet, at the same time, trying to embrace a word that has started to become more and more resonant in our culture, which is this idea of lament, and almost feeling in some ways, Jim, an obligation to go there on their behalf.
Jim Denison 46:30
I know this is dating us relative to when this will come out with I’m planning to make that my article for tomorrow is that very thing. As we’re having this conversation, there was an earthquake in Afghanistan, and now maybe 1000 people have been killed in it maybe a lot more than that. My first reaction was, that’s terrible. My second reaction was to move immediately beyond it to the rest of the news. My third reaction was my second reaction was wrong. I should be grieving that as though it were in my own backyard. Right, I should be grieving 1000 deaths in Afghanistan as if there were 1000 deaths in Dallas. And if I don’t, there’s something wrong with my heart. And what do I do about that. And so that’s my plan to make that actually the article for tomorrow is to ask God to break my heart with what breaks his heart. Ask him for the spirit of lament, ask him for the compassion that he has. And the less I feel it, the more I need to pray for it.
Mark Turman 47:17
Yeah, and I think we’re all struggling with this Mark Legg on our staff, Associate Editor for us, posted on our website, recently, an article about Doom scrolling. And just this reality had a conversation with an Australian pastor yesterday, our ability in a technological age to know what’s going on in so many different places. I remember when 911 happened, that we just didn’t even know how it was affecting us. And I thought, well, I’m at least insulated. I’m in Dallas that’s in New York. And I’m I have that geographical distance, it got to be much more real when my pilot neighbor across the street was one of those pilots who had to put his plane down very quickly, somewhere in the country. And nobody knew if or when he or any of these other people in pilots would ever get back home. When a few years later, someone who was in New York, at a building close to the World Trade Center, became a member of my church and started telling me her story. And started telling me things like I don’t know if I can be in church on the Sunday closest to 911. Because you’re probably going to say something, and it triggers so many things for me. I don’t know that I can be in worship with you. And we’ve we’ve walked through that for several years now. Then, then I start thinking, what if that were me? What if that were my wife? What if that were my son or my daughter in one of those buildings or in one of those planes?
Jim Denison 48:55
And I, I’ve had experiences probably like you and many others have? I can’t watch 911 related movies.
Mark Turman 49:04
It’s it is it just takes me back there and is too painful. But then again, second. The second thought is that that response is wrong.
Jim Denison 49:16
They lived through it, and their families and friends still live through it.
Mark Turman 49:22
How do we share in that?
Jim Denison 49:23
And you’re right, those are the two wrong responses. The one is the one I was mentioning earlier where I’ve moved past it because it was Afghanistan and Dallas. Right? The other response is I move past it because I just can’t go there. Now we all have to know our own hearts. We all have to know the degree to which we can and cannot process something in a given moment. I completely respect the church members decision not to be in church near 911. I understand that. As I said, I can’t even imagine my grandchildren being in Uvalde. I just can’t. I understand that being the case. But that doesn’t want to be the pattern of our response. This is so terrible. I won’t engage it right? This is so terrible. I won’t even think about it. If I’m at that place, I can’t be part of the response here. Now I’m Keeping salt in the salt shaker now I’m keeping wider under the basket. Now I’m not using my influence in a redemptive way. One of the ways God redeems what he allows is using his people as a means to that end. It’s in Matthew nine, where the disciples are told by Jesus to pray for the Lord to send harvesters out of the harvest field, then you turn the chapter to chapter 10. And God’s sending them out answering their own prayers. Right. You know, I remember reading about Spurgeon being asked to a group that was praying for money to be raised to build an orphanage and he refused. They ask why. So will any one of you could write that check? We’re not going to pray for God to do what you should be doing. You know. And so there’s a balance as I work, God works here. And part of the redemption is me being engaged in that redemption, I can’t do that if I just run past it, because it’s not Dallas, or I just won’t engage it because it’s too painful. There’s got to be that mental place there. And again, as we say, so often, the Holy Spirit will help us do that he’ll give us the heart of God, the mind of Christ, he’ll help us know what our kingdom assignment in this space is. There’s very little I can do about Uvalde. But what can I do about Dallas? What can I do about my own school district? What can I do about the schools around me? What difference could I be making in the context now ought to be the question I’m asking.
Mark Turman 51:05
So carry this idea one step further, and bring a pastoral word here. So talking to pastor author Mark Sayers recently, and in his book he talks about in our technological age, global communication actually increases anxiety, rather than decreases and it does. So, talk to us for just a little bit about what your recommendation would be about how a person puts limits governors. Again, this idea that Mark Legg explors in Doom Scrolling, how do I frame my life in such a way that I don’t produce unnecessary anxiety? I want to be engaged, I want to be prayerfully supporting what God what is going on in the world, everywhere that I can. But I don’t want to get into a mental health pattern that is unhealthy, where I’m consuming more and more and more drama of the world and in an unlimited fashion, as a concerned, compassionate Christian, but it’s actually doing harm to me because there’s no boundaries to it.
Jim Denison 52:17
I think that’s a great question. A very practical question. That one I’ve not been asked before. I love that question. And boundaries, I think is the point here is the key. So many, many years ago, when I was my first semester of PhD work, we were in a research and teaching seminar that they made everybody go through and they made us read Adler’s book, how to read a book, I thought, well, that’s kind of, first of all, if I couldn’t read a book, how could I read that book, right? I mean, it seems a little nonsensical, how to read a book, a book about how to read a book. But the whole point of the book was to read for purpose. Read intentionally come to the book, knowing what you want out of the book. If it’s a novel, you might read every word because you’re wanting to experience the book, if it’s poetry, that you’re reading that differently. If it’s something in your research discipline, you know, ask your questions before you go to the book, and then narrate the book and endured now, on some level, interrogate the book around what it is that book is going to do to help you do what you’re going to do. When I was in Israel a couple, few weeks ago, I had an hour on a car ride out to Ben Gurion Airport, I read a book in that hour and important book, but I could do it in an hour because I knew what I wanted out of the book for the article that I was writing, then I knew you knew what your questions were, I knew what my questions were coming in. That would be my advice, I think relative to news, what’s my kingdom assignment? What is it that God’s calling me to do in this world? What is my salt? What does it look like? Where is my soul to be applied? What is it that God’s? What issues what causes what concerns? Where is it that God’s moving me, and then I’m going to narrate the news in that context. It may be that I was recently talking to a person in Israel whose heart is for pro life issues. That’s just her passion. So she’s going to read pro life stories and issues as being much more relevant to what she’s called to do. Then she might read stories relative to LGBTQ activism or issues relative to euthanasia, whatever, because those are going to be in the spaces where she’s called to work. Pastors read this news differently than engineers do. Doctors read medical breakthroughs differently than lawyers do. So know what your kingdom assignment is. And read in that context would be number one. Number two, ask again, the Holy Spirit to direct you to those stories he intends you to especially understand and engage with, and he will do that. I do this every day with a daily article. What I could literally write on anything that’s in the news. I mean, there are occasions when I know ahead of time the topic I have to address if if it’s a massive issue coming down, but a lot of the time, I could really kind of go in any number of directions, unless the Lord board draw me to things and it’s amazing how he does that. How I’ll just find my attention drawn to a story. I’ll just open something I hadn’t planned at all to read. I just find myself moving in a direction I’ll have thoughts occurring in my mind I’ll see applications I’ll hear Biblical verses in my heart as I’m reading something and as if God’s narrating in me, and for me what he wants me to do in the space of all of that, he does that for us, He will guide us to that place, what he doesn’t want us to do is to be overwhelmed by the content that’s there to be at a place of anxiety and adversity that causes us to pull back from all of this, either to where we get numb to it on the one side, or we retreat because we just can’t engage on the other doesn’t want that. So he will guide us in that space. But I’d be intentional about reading the news in the context of the calling God’s already placed on your life,
Mark Turman 55:29
and that he doesn’t want us to get to the place of compassion, fatigue, that’s right. And he understands our limits around that. And he will give us wisdom in that if we pursue him as you were saying, I just had the thought one of that one of the practices I’ve tried to incorporate in my life, the last decade or more, is praying for a different continent each day that would love that. And maybe a good way to do that would be okay, I’m praying for China. Today, I’m going to do a search on the news for two or three things that are happening in China, that God might want me to pray about, that’s great cause I don’t live in China, I don’t have any plans to go to China don’t have much influence in China, except particularly in my prayer life, which As believers, we would all say is phenomenally important. We don’t understand how all that works, how our prayers move and intersect with the heart and will of God, we just know that it does, because Scripture teaches us that right? And we do have this enormous privilege of being connected to the world more than any other generation that’s ever lived. A redemptive way to do that is to be aware of things that are going on both positive and negative. We pray too much of our lives, I think just simply about the negative rather than praising God for the good things that happened, where our sinfulness makes us much more attuned to what’s broken in what’s wrong, rather than what’s good and what’s right. So let’s look for both. And let’s celebrate in praise. And then let’s pray about what what the needs are as well.
Jim Denison 56:57
It’s a great practical way to do that. So ask God to lead me so that I’m reading in the context of my intercession, and in the context of a larger Kingdom assignment, right?
Mark Turman 57:03
And I can’t remember if you might, you might know if it was Watchman Nee, who said no Bible, no breakfast. So instead of starting with the Daily News, we’re going to start with scripture. Absolutely. Always make sure you’re spending more time with Scripture than you are with other kinds of news. In our current world, right, make sure that your diet is healthy in that way would also be another good recommendation.
Jim Denison 57:28
Glasses before you start reading the news. That’s right. You read the world through the lens of Scripture, not the other way around
Mark Turman 57:32
and all through the day. Absolutely. Jim, thank you for the conversation. Thank you for never handling those rangers of the Cowboys know what we’ll pay that future you know, and we were not to the All Star break yet. So you know, the whole Rangers baseball thing is still kind of early in the game. That’s right. But there is more hopefulness for us here around the country. So at least to this point, that’s right and if not, if it doesn’t go well, mini camp for football is just around just around the corner. Just you know, soon as we get through with our Fourth of July celebration, we’ll be looking for football to get geared up. It’s almost a 12 month calendar for those guys. But if you have questions for us, please send them to us again. The email address is ask Jim not ask Mark but ask Jim at Denison forum.org. If you have a question that you’d like to share, send it to us. We’d love to get to it in a future broadcast. Thank you for being a part of today’s conversation.
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