The Coming Tsunami a year later: Dr. Jim Denison on politics as religion, AI ethics, and peaceful cultural engagement

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The Coming Tsunami a year later: Dr. Jim Denison on politics as religion, AI ethics, and peaceful cultural engagement

May 8, 2023 -

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Dr. Jim Denison and Dr. Mark Turman discuss Dr. Denison’s most pivotal book, The Coming Tsunami, one year later, the history of American ideals, AI ethics, Paul’s example of peaceful cultural engagement, and hope.

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Show notes:

Dr. Denison begins by giving the elevator pitch of The Coming Tsunami, discussing the history of how America’s ideals and why the culture opposes Christianity (1:58). They discuss how America has turned to politics as a new religion and why postmodernity cripples us against AI ethics questions (11:51). They discuss how to prepare rather than panic, to hope rather than fear, and how Paul and Jesus modeled peaceful engagement with the culture (14:48). They discuss why looking at the history of ideas is so important and how one kind of freedom can turn into tyranny (29:14). They talk about why opposition to Christianity in the US is significant, even if persecution against Christians is not new to the world or history (40:21). They close by considering how Christians can practically steward their influence to act as salt and light to the world (45:25).

Resources and further reading:

Get your copy today: The Coming Tsunami: Why Christians Are Labeled Intolerant, Irrelevant, Oppressive, and Dangerous―and How We Can Turn the Tide, Dr. Jim Denison

About the host

Mark Turman, DMin, is the executive director of Denison Forum. He received his DMin from Truett at Baylor and previously served as lead pastor of Crosspoint Church.

About the guest

Jim Denison, PhD, is a cultural theologian and the founder and CEO of Denison Ministries, which is transforming 6.8 million lives through meaningful digital content.

Dallas-based Denison Ministries includes DenisonForum.org, First15.org, ChristianParenting.org, and FoundationsWithJanet.org. Jim Denison speaks biblically into significant cultural issues at DenisonForum.org and DrJimDenison.com, as well as on radio, TV, podcasts, and social media.

Transcript

Transcribed by Otter.ai

Mark Turman  00:10

Welcome to the Denison Forum Podcast. I’m your host Dr. Mark Turman, Executive Director of Denison forum. We’re sitting down again today with our founder and cultural apologist Dr. Jim Dennison. We’re going to review a book that he released last year called The coming tsunami, how Christians are labeled intolerant, irrelevant, oppressive and dangerous, and how you and me as Christians and the church at large in America can turn the tide. This book has been well received, and is an important, perhaps the most important work that Dr. Denison has written and will help you to understand our culture, and how you can use your influence to make a difference for Christ, how to be salt and light, how to be a culture changing Christian, we hope today’s conversation is useful to you, and that you’ll share it with others as well. Dr. Jim, welcome back to the Denison Forum Podcast, we’re glad to get to sit down and talk with you today about the coming tsunami one year later. I think if I’m remembering right, it’s probably been 20 some odd months, probably at least since you sat down to write this book that you described to me a year ago is one of the most important if not the most important thing that you feel like you’ve ever written. So to get started, as we kind of just come to this very important work a year later since its release, maybe 16 months later. First of all, could we just get you to give us the elevator summary if you stepped onto an elevator carrying a copy of the book The coming tsunami by Christians are labeled intolerant, irrelevant, oppressive and dangerous and how we can turn the tide. So I said, Hey, What’s the book about what would you say in an elevator pitch?

 

Jim Denison  01:58

Yeah, thank you, Dr. Derman, glad to be in the conversation with you. And I still believe as I said a year ago that it may be in fact, the most pivotal book I’ve written just because the times in which we live are in fact that pivotal. So if I had just a moment to talk to someone about the thesis of the book, it is this. The culture is changing on such a level now that those who follow Christ and seek to defend biblical morality are seen as dangerous to society in a way that’s unprecedented in American history. We’ve been here before in Christian history. Certainly there are Christians facing oppression and persecution around the world on a level we don’t know in America. So I’m not at all disparaging that or on any way minimizing that but in America, we have not seen in the founding of our nation to the present at a time when those who follow Christ and defend basic biblical morality are seen to be as countercultural as oppressive, as homophobic, as bigoted, prejudiced, narrow minded, discriminatory, and even dangerous as we are right now. That’s the tsunami that’s coming at us. And now’s the time to get ready before it hits, so that we can then redeem that in the Prophet providence and, and the grace and the strength of the Lord.

 

Mark Turman  03:05

If somebody said to you, Dr. Jim, when did you feel like this pivot started? When did you feel like the tsunami started to grow? Is there a timeline that is in your mind around all that?

 

Jim Denison  03:17

Yeah, really, you go back to the late 50s, early 60s, it’s in this point of time, we’re after World War Two, we’re bringing a lot of European scholars to America and our scholars are studying over there. And we’re picking up now on something that’s been going on in Europe for a couple of centuries that we now call post modernism comes out of a manual contest, you know, through Frederick Nietzsche and a group of others. But it essentially says that your mind interprets your senses. So what you believe to be truth is just your truth. There’s no such thing as truth. It’s just your truth in maitri, your mind isn’t mine, your senses are mine. And so what you perceive the world to be, it’s just how you perceive the world. Well, that’s been conventional wisdom in Europe for a very long time. It’s turned churches into museums, it’s turned ministry into peripheral at best, because they’re just this idea that the religions are different roads at the same mountain doesn’t matter what your beliefs as long as you’re sincere, intolerant. Well, that idea started getting traction in the academy and America in the late 50s, early 60s, it transitions over on a popular level into what we call the sexual revolution of the 60s. If all truth is personal, individual and subjective well, then that certainly applies to sexual truth, right? That applies to what I do with my body, my body, my choice, do what I want. Birth control was legalized in 1960. And now we can have sex with less fear of pregnancy. You started seeing movements toward normalizing LGBTQ behavior with in the 60s and especially the Stonewall riots in 1969. You think of Roe v Wade in 73, and the sexual revolution, that now legitimizes my right to do with my body what I want to do with my body, well, if you oppose that on some religious ground that that makes your religion at the very least irrelevant. It’s sideline And then ultimately, it makes us on some level dangerous. And that’s how we got where we are now. So it’s not just a sexual revolution, we see it in a variety of other places, too. But it starts in the late 50s, early 60s And this foundational belief, that truth is what I believe it to be. If that’s true, then that applies to every dimension of life. And it makes the Bible no longer the objective word of God, and the Christian faith no longer the objective means by which we relate to the Lord of the universe.

 

Mark Turman  05:27

Yeah, a lot, a lot to think about and a lot to consider. In the last, you know, people who are unfamiliar with the publishing process probably don’t realize how long it takes to not only get a book on paper, but then to get it actually published and distributed. So as I said, it might have been 20 to 24 months, even since you sat down to actually write this book. And then we had a chance to introduce it about a year ago and 1000s of people have picked up the book. I don’t know exactly the number. But in the last year, two years, have you seen indications that the opposition that you write about in the coming tsunami is, have you seen some new examples of how opposition is rising and continuing to increase against biblical living against Christian morality?

 

Jim Denison  06:18

I have, unfortunately, this is one of those places where I would love to be wrong. Or I would love to have overstated the case where I would love to have been engaged on some level of hyperbole here. And maybe the culture isn’t moving away from biblical morality on the level that it is, maybe we’re seeing a return to what we think of as a Christian worldview in the culture that sort of, in the last year, year and a half, we’ve absolutely not seen that to be the case. One quick example that comes to mind that wasn’t at the forefront, obviously, back when the book was being done, is the consequences of the Coronavirus pandemic. And what we’ve seen in church attendance, what we’ve seen on the other side of that, obviously, church attendance was decimated during the pandemic during the lockdown when people couldn’t be in public couldn’t, couldn’t gather in public. But on the other side of that now that all of that is essentially gone, and those restrictions are gone, we’re seeing church attendance, not be anywhere near what it was before, across the board. Even in the Evan Jellicle churches, the conservative churches that have been the growing side of Christianity, we’re seeing church attendance being on kind of average, maybe a third down from where it was before. We’re seeing financial challenges that we didn’t see before, we’re seeing kind of a distance learning sort of being applied to our spiritual lives as well. People discovered they could work from home, well, they could worship from home as well. And they could do that on their own terms. They could download whatever sermon they want to whenever they want to, they can engage in spirituality in whatever way they wish to. We already had a spiritual but not religious move kind of going on in the culture. And technology is making that easier than ever. And what we’re seeing on the other side of this from the just church engagement side of that is certainly moving in the wrong direction. Another example that we’re thinking about just in recent weeks, that’s been headline news has been what’s happening with artificial intelligence, what we’re seeing with chat GPT, what we’re seeing with a movement that’s accelerating every day, toward this kind of artificial intelligence, moving the culture, we’re seeing no ethical boundaries around that. Any attempt to come forward and say, Well, let’s talk about the sanctity of human life here. Let’s talk about what it means for individuals to be created in the image of God. And therefore, for there to be some protections around that that’s getting no hearing in the culture at all. We’re getting no sense of that at all. We’re getting a sense of look, if we can make money off of this, if we can make our lives easier. If our lives can be simpler on some level, and let’s just rush into this and consequences or whatever they are. We’re not seeing an ethical conversation that we desperately need to have a third example very quickly is the midterm elections relative to the issue of abortion. on pretty much every level where we had a pro life candidate out there there was advocating for abortion restrictions, they lost. There were some exceptions to that, but not very many of them. The trajectory is really clear in the Dobbs, the post Dobbs world where abortion is no longer really a federally mandated so called right now it’s on the states and even the municipalities and the pro choice movement, the pro abortion movement has taken massive opportunity there. And we’re seeing very clear public response to all of that, that wants abortion to be legal, more and more with fewer and fewer restrictions. We’re seeing a movement toward whole of life abortion, nine month abortion, recent legislative attempts to guarantee the life of the child that survives the abortion were struck down in some of the state houses and so we’re seeing a very clear move toward a much stronger pro abortion kind of an ethic happening in the culture and that’s I think it’d be reflected in the 24 elections as well.

 

Mark Turman  09:49

And is is really going to become more of a almost not only a state by state but even a city by city kind of Yes, phenomenon that was passed. Sibley there, but it’s going to become much more defined. Right?

 

Jim Denison  10:03

Yeah. A quick example of that mark in Dallas, where I’m having this conversation with you right now, a couple of weeks ago, the city council voted 10 to one to endorse abortion? Well, no to endorse it on a federal level to wish for abortion protections. I don’t know why our city council thinks it needs to speak into federal issues, but Iris did. And on a 10 to one vote, it took a strong a pro choice or pro abortion position as a good

 

Mark Turman  10:28

in the city of Dallas in a state that is typically regarded That’s right, nationally, and even globally as a pro life state.

 

Jim Denison  10:35

That’s right. Yeah, we didn’t get the memo in Dallas, they didn’t get the memo in Austin. Right? You get them didn’t get the memo in Houston. And so this whole idea that you can have state seceding, you know, from the nation that you hear about a lot these days? Well, it depends on what part of the state you’re talking about, right? Texas is very much a blue state, if you’re in Dallas, or Houston, or in the urban areas, it’s pretty much a red state, if you’re in the less urban areas. And that’s true of a lot of the so called red states, or even the so called blue states, look at an electoral map of California. And if all you’re doing is great to get on a percentage basis, it’s something like 90%, red, it’s just the 10% are in all the urban areas, right. And so it’s nothing like state by state, it’s very much city, by city, municipality by municipality, Mark, we’re seeing people right now that are choosing where to live based on political demographics. They can know that now, you can know based on zip codes, the New York Times had a thing out recently, where you can type that I did it, you can put in your zip code and discover what percentage of your zip code in the last election voted red or blue. And then people are doing this and deciding where to live based on the voting demographics of that specific neighborhood. So it’s not just a it’s it’s not even cities, it’s neighborhoods, within cities within states. That’s how polarized we’re becoming.

 

Mark Turman  11:51

Yeah. So we we even get down one more level beyond that we’re seeing some numbers of people who are saying they would rather their their child marry somebody of a different religion as opposed to a different political party. Exactly. Exactly. And we turned into a religion in a big way. No. Well, we

 

Jim Denison  12:12

have and there’s all kinds of stuff inside that, isn’t it? I think that’s really true. The degree to which politics have become religion, and opposed to religion, culture on so many levels, but yeah, the recent numbers are the largest percentage in American history do not want their children to date, somebody of a different political party. I mean, that’s the divisive pneus that we’re seeing right now in the culture.

 

Mark Turman  12:30

Right. I want to go back to what you mentioned a minute ago about technology and an AI. Is that another example of a post? Truth is, is it indicative of a post truth culture, that you rarely if ever asked the ethical questions about an innovation, that we don’t sit down and say, and we’ve had conversations like this relative to medical advances at times, just because we can do something? The ethical question is, Well, should we do something? Is that question, really the question that’s being lost in the midst of a postmodern mindset, a post truth mindset, it really doesn’t matter whether we should or shouldn’t do this. It just simply matters whether we can and make money off of it.

 

Jim Denison  13:15

Yeah, you’re absolutely right about that. And I think the foundational reason for that is if I decide there’s no such thing as objective truth, and there could be no such thing as objective ethics, so there really can’t be an objective right or wrong. Why are we debating right or wrong for AI? Because that’s just You’re right. And that’s just you’re wrong. That’s just your truth, as opposed to my truth. Back to the abortion issue. It’s my body, my choice. I mean, you see that on the placards, right? Well, it’s my AI my choice, I can give it as much access to my personal information as I wish, I can use it to write term papers if I wish I can use it to conduct interviews for me or to find doctors for me or do whatever I want to do with it. Because it’s really my choice to use with to do with it as I wish because there can be no such thing as objective right or wrong. Now, that’s, of course, an objective truth claim. Right? Right. To say there’s no such thing as truth is to make a truth claim. Well, there’s no such thing as as ethics, and we’re sure of it is essentially where we are right now. It’s back to the 60s again, Joseph Fletcher’s book situation ethics, that was such a milestone in this conversation, the idea that ethics are of what’s right or wrong, depending on the situation and the individual in the situation. So you can have an ethics conversation about genomics, about a genetic trend advances in medical ethics, for instance, because who gets to decide what North on the campus looks like, and you can’t do it around AI, you just can’t have that conversation anymore, because the basic building blocks of the conversation are no longer assumed to be valid.

 

Mark Turman  14:48

It really kind of goes to my next question about one of the great gifts I think that you have is the ability to bring clarity to big and complex questions and that’s one of the great things about this book, it brings a lot of clarity. But it also, in some ways is not an easy book to read, because it can raise a lot of, of concern, even possibly to the point of alarm or of even stoking fear, perhaps, when you’re when you’re writing and expressing yourself through this book. What was your goal in terms of trying to get to preparation and engagement as opposed to something like panic when you are a Christian, and you’re trying to live your life along biblical ethics and biblical morality? And you read, particularly in the first part of the book, some of the examples that you cite about what’s going on? Glow in the legal system within the judicial system within the Congress, within medicine, within business? How would you encourage people as they read through this book, as they think through these issues? How do they not get consumed into a place of panic, but rather into a place of preparation?

 

Jim Denison  16:03

Yeah, and that’s a great question. And it’s something we talked about, as we lay the book out toward the answer is read the back half of the book first. Because in the back half is where we get to hope. That’s where we get to what God is doing in the world today, what God has always done through scripture, and still does the fact that he’s still king of kings and Lord of lords. None of this surprises him, all of God, there is is in this moment, if God could use us in this moment, we wouldn’t be in this moment. It’s in the back half that we make claims such as God has not only a place for you, but a time for you, by us providential where to live 100 years ago, or 100 years from now, the Lord Terry’s and so if he couldn’t use us in this moment, we wouldn’t be here. And so lots of reasons to have hope, based on who God is based on the sovereignty of God, the old knowing that the old lovingness of God, and based on what he’s doing in the world, the fifth Great Awakening happening in the world. What’s happening in the Muslim world was right now, what’s happening in Cuba, what’s happening in Sub Saharan Africa and underground church in China? So all of that is there. There’s enormous hope. So when we laid the book out, that was really a question we wrestled to deal with. We don’t want it to be so alarmist that people give up halfway through that people see it as a boy crying wolf, or they see it as somebody kind of overstating a case to make a point or something like that. On the other side, and the reason we set it up the way we did, I’ve been very persuaded by a conversation that Francis Schaeffer, the great apologist back in the 1970s, had, or someone asked him, if you had an hour to spend with someone on a train in Europe, obviously, where he wasn’t Switzerland, a lot of people get around on trains. And now we’re to talk with a person to persuade them to become a Christian, how would you do that? He said, Well, I would spend the first 45 minutes in what’s called the APA yogic task, which is showing them what’s wrong with their worldview. I would spend the first 45 minutes showing them why they needed Christ, then the last 15 minutes of explaining who Jesus says would be easy. If I can explain to someone why they need the hope. We find in Christ why they need the Good News of the Gospel, why they need biblical truth. Well, then explaining biblical truth, and how relevant it is that has some change, because human nature is unchanging isn’t the hard part. The hard part is opening the eyes first. So we chose to follow that strategy of doing the APA Gothic before the apologetic as it were, of showing the need before we show the answer of trying to convince a patient that their sickness here before they’ll turn to the antidote. And so that’s the way it’s laid out is to get from here to there, probably on the cover should have said warning, read the entire book, or read the back half first, or something like that, just to get us to the hope that you’re describing because there’s enormous reason for hope. I mean, as frustrating and discouraging as these days are for us and America, my Cuban friends for whom I pray for every day, every day would not consider us persecuted. My friends that I met when I was in Beijing would not consider us persecuted. Right? The friends that I met in Bangladesh, who are risking their lives, to share the gospel, literally risking their lives would not consider us persecuted. Go back through Christian history. Read Second Corinthians 11. And what Paul went through to serve the Lord, I don’t know that Paul would have a lot of sympathy for our fear that we might lose our 501 C three standing in this country. Yeah. And so if we get ourselves in a larger context, then we see the hope that’s there. But the other side was I don’t want to minimize the unprecedented historical moment in which we find ourselves. So that’s the balance that we want to maintain here. There is very little hope, in this culture left to itself. But there’s enormous hope in the Christ to transcends culture,

 

Mark Turman  19:25

which would be true of any culture, that there’s no hope without Christ. And that’s right culture. That’s right. And a lot of times one things I’ve discovered over the years is that many times when we see anger, what is behind the anger is fear. And you and I’ve talked before, we’ve talked a lot about this book in different contexts, and what you were conveying. We see metaphors in Scripture. You relate many of them in the book as well Jesus as the Lamb slain before the foundation of the world slain for our sin. We could talk about him as the lion who over came sin and death and rose from the grave. The book of Revelation particularly talks about him as a coming King. All of those metaphors kind of swirl around in our minds as Christians. And as we read through the Bible and try to learn who Jesus is and how Jesus looks at the world. But it seems like a lot of Christians are adopting what I would call an anger strategy when it comes to the culture. And you see that a lot people become in many ways bold on social media on things like Twitter and Instagram, Facebook, that they’re, they’re really expressing what feels like and looks like and sounds like an aggressive, angry approach, that Jesus is a warrior king coming to crush the world is one way you might say that. But, but there’s also we had conversations with some of our friends that that reminded us I had this conversation with somebody in my life yesterday, look, no matter what the situation you’re in, the fruit of the Spirit is never put on hold, it’s never set aside for some greater goal that you are trying to accomplish. And that you think is of of the Lord. Can you kind of talk about that a little bit of, of how sometimes we get these metaphors confused or draw aspects of them out that are perhaps inappropriate, they’re all significant in one way or another. But what would you say to those Christians who, maybe at times are letting their fear get the best of them? It starts to show up as an anger strategy when it comes to approaching individual conversations, even at the family level, or expressing themselves on social media.

 

Jim Denison  21:45

Well, I’m so glad you went there. There’s such an issue inside that isn’t it? As we’ve talked before, we’re called to be cultural missionaries, no cultural warriors. And there’s a massive kind of cultural difference in those two things and how we relate to all that. I think the first thing is to admit the reality of what you just said that anger is often a product of fear. The first thing to do if I’m being angry about something is asked myself why. What is it about this, it’s causing this emotion? Why am I feeling as am Why am I responding as I am, and get to the root of that and then respond to the root rather than the symptom? If it is because I’m afraid of what’s happening. Well, then stop and pray. Okay? The Lord is not the author of fear. God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power and love and a sound mind. Let’s turn that fear into faith. Let’s bring that through immediately to God. A Rasmus said Satan hates nothing so much as for evil to be used for good. So let’s turn that fear into an opportunity to trust this to gobble, Lord, I’m trusting the election to you. I’m trusting the abortion issue to you. I’m trusting the local school board issue I’m so frustrated about to you, I’m trusting my children’s teacher to you, whatever it is, that’s really causing this fear that’s being manifested as anger first get to that, and really deal with the underlying piece. And then second, understand that the way we respond to this as as important as what we respond, how we do it is as important as what we do. We’re here not so much to win arguments as to win souls. And I’m not aware over certainly in my life, that anger has been a great motivator to adopting another person’s position, that someone has angered me into changing my mind that somebody has through conflict and confrontation caused me to agree with your position. The old saying that you draw a lot more flies with honey than vinegar, right? And so if what we’re about here is changing hearts and minds that let’s adopt a strategy that’s for that, let’s move in that direction. And anger is very seldom the means by which that happens. And then the third piece of that is to ask the Holy Spirit to help us then to do what we just said. Anger isn’t a natural, inevitable human emotion. When I’m feeling that toward another person. Then I stop and say Holy Spirit, please replaced by anger with your love. Give me your eyes for this person helped me to see them the way you do. Help me to remember that Jesus died for them. Help me to remember that while they I think are wrong on this. I’m probably wrong on other things. Well, they’re committing this sin. I’m committing sins I’m probably not committed. Right? There’s no sin I can’t commit helped me to be humble about this helped me to be a beggar helping beggars find bread helped me to recognize they are not the enemy. Satan is the enemy, but they are deceived. They are the victims of this. We so often, quote our friend John Stonestreet, that bad ideas, have victims, see them as a victim of a bad idea and recognize I’m a victim in other areas of my life, probably. And so pray for that humility, that allows me to speak the truth in love, not the truth and anger. If we’ll get to that place as the body of Christ, I think we’ll see a great deal more persuasion in the culture at a time when the culture desperately needs to hear the truth in love.

 

Mark Turman  24:37

And that something we can really pick up on as we see Jesus after the resurrection. What his approach was, I mean, he, he came back from the dead we’re in this season, celebrating after Easter and considering the celebration of Pentecost, the birth of the church and that type of thing. You would have thought if Jesus was going to pivot to a completely different stripe Reggie, post resurrection would have been the time to do it. Right Great point. And what we see in the resurrection appearances, and what we see in the early church is something that’s just full of the Holy Spirit and full of the fruit of the Holy Spirit. I’m thinking of Peter on the day of Pentecost, if he was ever going to preach a blistering sermon, to those who put Jesus on the cross, this was the prime opportunity. And certainly we see a change, at least in terms of his courage, and his boldness. And I would also say, you know, we don’t see any sermons from Jesus, or from Peter before the resurrection. We see sermons after the resurrection. But talk about that a little bit that that? Yes, we do believe as we often say, in church, right, the book of Revelation tells us Jesus wins, and that he is the king, all throughout the Bible, even before the Easter story. But that the position of the church is not one of, of political power. It’s not one of military power, it is not one of Kingdom making in an earthly sense, or an empire building in terms of an earthly sense. And you see that in the post resurrection life of Jesus, you see it in the birth of the church and how the early Christians went about that. Isn’t that the model that we’re continued, are called to continue?

 

Jim Denison  26:34

Absolutely true. You see that not only in that so called Palestinian context of the early church, and Acts two and three and how they met needs, how they cared for people how God used them to heal bodies and to heal foals. And it was in that context of this kind of therapeutic sort of grace, centeredness, that they were able to attract so many people to the gospel and bring people to Christ. You also see it in Paul’s life. You see, when Paul gets out of that kind of Palestinian context into the larger Greco Roman world, Acts 16, the Philippian jailer who’s been instrumental in beating Paul and Silas and imprisoning them, and at midnight, they’re singing hymns to God, and the other prisoners are listening, and God sends this earthquake and prison doors are going as we know, we’re all open and the guard thinks that they’ve escaped and he’s about to kill himself. This is Paul’s opportunity. Be silent. Let your guy get puts coming to let the guy that’s beaten you illegally. He’s a Roman soldier, he’s beaten him illegally, just be silent, let him have the consequences of his own sin here. And instead, Paul, as we know, intervenes, jumps ahead says no, don’t injure yourself. Don’t hurt yourself. We’re all here. And that leads him and his whole family to faith in Christ. Here’s Paul being the opposite of that kind of culture warriors sort of conquest, kind of a spirit, much more grace centered, much more willing to forgive and to pray for and to be a person of conciliation. Really mark, the only thing the only people I can think about Paul’s life, they even get close to that kind of antagonistic anger, or his relations with religious authorities. It’s really when he’s on trial there, you know, in Acts 23, through 26, with religious leaders, that he gets the closest to being conflictual with them because they’re so wrong. They’re so abusing their authority. And even then He’s respectful to the high priest. You know, when someone slaps him, and he says, This is how you treat the high priests. And he said, Oh, I didn’t realize that as the high priests, because the Bible says, not to speak ill of your, of your authorities, you know, of your of your leaders. And so even in that place at that context, you see him in the shrimp in the shipwreck, intervening to save the lives of the sailors, you see Paul counseling those on the ship to take some food and to be encouraged and, and not to be discouraged. And so even in Paul’s life, even way outside of that Jewish show, kind of Jerusalem context, you see what you’re describing right now you see him speaking the truth in love. You see him advocating for others, you see his humility, calling himself chief of sinners, you see the way that he’s reacting to other people in the Spirit of Christ. You see the fruit of the Spirit in this life. That’s the model for us, is to be Paul, in our culture. Today, I think,

 

Mark Turman  29:14

I heard a pastor talking about one of the liturgies that he had created for His church. And part of the liturgy was a responsive reading, that he described in part was this, that we are here to worship an enemy loving God. startings good. Starting with the idea that we were the enemies of God in our sin, all of us were the enemies of God, and God still loved us even while we were yet sinners. The Bible says that Christ loved us and died for us. And if we start with that idea that we were the enemies of God and yet he still loved us, then that sets us up, to follow in those footsteps, right to love our enemies, even when it’s really hard, really scary. And we start to become concerned not only about our own lives, but about our children, our grandchildren. that type of thing. And it’s it is a daunting task to come before God every day and say, God helped me to walk in that spirit of speaking the truth in love. And what we see in those early believers rather than letting our fear and our anger get the best of us, let me pivot a little bit to something that is in the book that I want to also get to, which is, again, a great deal of clarity about how our culture got here. We related to that or mentioned that earlier. But there you’re You’re an incredible philosopher, as well as a theologian. But part of what’s in this book is explaining to us this is how our culture got to this mentality of being post truth, and postmodern, why is it important for us as believers to understand how we got here? What’s, what’s the benefit of that?

 

Jim Denison  30:54

Yeah, that’s a good question. Because I can certainly understand why someone would say it doesn’t really matter how we got here, as long as we know where we are, right? Once I got out of the car, and now I’m on the side of the road, how I got to this spot on the side of the road, with the past isn’t really all that relevant, I just had to figure out what to do. Now. If my doctor tells me I have cancer, I don’t really need to know where the cancer came from, I just need to know what to do to treat it. The reason this is different than that is really, I think, on two levels. First of all, if we don’t understand how we got here, we won’t understand where to go based on how we got here. If I don’t understand how susceptible I am, to the post truth mentality that got us here, I am going to participate in that mentality, I am just as tempted bull as anybody else is, I’m just as able to be lured by the sexual morality, sexual revolution as anybody else’s, I’m just as susceptible to Genesis three, you will be your own God, knowing good and evil. So if I understand that, that’s really what’s behind this, then I can find this in this tendency in my own life, I can see those places where I’m more tempted than I realized I was where I am more willing to go along with this culture than I thought I was. And so I first of all, understand how I got where I have to keep from staying there, I have to know where I am in order to know what to do about it. If I don’t know what kind of cancer I have, I don’t know how to treat it. If I don’t know where it came from, maybe this isn’t the primary tumor, maybe this is a secondary tumor. So let’s treat that. But let’s get back to the primary tumor, we can’t really treat the disease here. There’s a sense in which we have to know the history of this in order to keep from repeating the history of this. And so that’s a part of it. But then the other pieces were I think responsible for explaining to the culture, why the culture is what it is. So that we can help the culture get to a different place. If all I’m going to do is condemn you for where you are without explaining to you why you are what you work, and why if where you are is a bad place to be, than it really can’t win a lot of arguments there, let let alone be persuasive toward the direction we need to go. It’s so critical. I think that the culture understand the what would one say the logic of living in a world where there’s no such thing as truth except my truth and your truth. It’s so critical that we understand where this is going, where this is taking us what this is going to do what it’s doing, to families, what it’s doing to people what it’s doing to children. Mark, I heard the other day, I’m not going to use this in a daily article in essay, I hesitate to bring it up right now because it’s maybe on some level too graphic. But I saw a story the other day about a young patient who died as a result of a medical procedure in which doctors were attempting to create a in a biological male, a female sex organ, using a different part of this person’s anatomy and infection set in and the patient died. And I’m reading these things. And I’m thinking, How is this not bizarre science fiction? How is this not? Can we not see what we’re doing to ourselves here. But again, if it’s my truth, and I can do with my body, what I want to do with my body, and history started today, and that idea has no history, and it has no predictive capacity in it, then how do I not see the danger signs, and the warning that we’re in right now, you know, it’s a little like not paying any attention to meteorology, and paying no attention to that storm front that’s predicted to get here in an hour, and therefore not taking shelter until it’s too late. In a sense of understanding where we are in the sense of cultural meteorology and why we got here and what’s going to happen if we don’t do something about it. In some ways of speaking the truth and love how wrong it is of me not to explain to others what I have come to understand about the gravity and the enormity of our situation. Again to change metaphors. If I’m an oncologist and I see a CAT scan here that says that mark, you’ve got a tumor we’ve got to deal with and I don’t tell you that I don’t want to hurt your feelings. I don’t want to bore you with unnecessary knowledge. I don’t want to impose my beliefs on you. I don’t want to impose my truth on you. What kind of a doctor, am I right? At the end of the day, compassion, I think requires us to understand where we are to be those minutes the car that understood the times to know what Israel should do. I think that’s a crucial calling in this day and time.

 

Mark Turman  35:22

And as just as I was thinking about preparing for this conversation actually got to have an opportunity to present some of the truths of your book to a group of pastors even yesterday. But it just occurred to me, this idea of being in a post truth environment, and that all truth is personal and subjective. On the face of it in some way, sounds very liberating, very freeing, in some ways, but it really isn’t right. It’s actually the opposite it

 

Jim Denison  35:55

really on two levels. First of all, if I’m going to be if, if truth is my truth, and I can do whatever I want to do, that doesn’t hurt you. I am ultimately going to default to my base instincts, right to the things that and that’s why the sexual revolution has been so successful. Chuck Colson said, decades ago, that sexual Liberty was going to collide with religious liberty, and sexual Liberty was going to win. At the end of the day, on some level, we’re animals. On some level, we have a sexual impulse that has been part of human condition from the fall forward. And if I’m going to default to that, I’m going to be imprisoned by that,

 

Mark Turman  36:31

like we’re going to we’re going to become enslaved to all the Freudian instincts that he exactly,

 

Jim Denison  36:37

right, exactly. So and now we’re talking about sexual addictions, we’re talking about behavioral addictions, we’re talking about base instincts that on every level make us less than who we wanted to be who we need to be. There’s that old saying, sin will always take you further than you wanted to go, keep you longer than you wanted to stay and cost you more than you wanted to pay. It just always does. And so we become enslaved by the very freedom that we’re claiming for ourselves. So that’s one piece of it. The second piece of it is once I start driving that car out of the garage, out into public, where we have no speed limits, where we have no stop signs, where we have no police to govern behavior. How long does it take before somebody else’s freedom impacts my freedom? How long does it take before you’re driving however you want to drive keeps me from driving however, I don’t want to drive. And now we’re to the golden to the golden rule of our day, which is he who has the gold makes the rules. Right? Now we’re at that place where it’s the will to power, where it’s the survival of the fittest, where it’s the person that can do whatever it takes to win the elections or whatever it takes to impose their morality on everybody else. We’ve seen this party before. We have seen this movie we’re seeing it again in China right now. We’re seeing it in Cuba again, right now. We’re seeing what happens when you decide that and Marxian Leninist sort of terms that you’re gonna have a classless society, will somebody’s going to rule the classless society. And at the end of the day, what I thought was freedom is an imposition on a level that democracy can begin to understand today. And so yeah, I become enslaved to my base impulses and enslaved to others, who, at the end of the day, inflict their power motives on me. It that hasn’t worked. It’s never worked, and it doesn’t work today

 

Mark Turman  38:18

is do you think it’s also possible that this is in some ways contributing to the rise of mental health challenges, even things like suicidal ideation? Because what it seems to me is, is when you if you’re living in a completely immersed society that believes that all truth is personal and subjective, that means there’s no anchor points, there’s no time, there’s no foundation, other than the foundation that each of us has to create for themselves if they even bother, and that that actually becomes exhausting, if not terrifying. So there’s nothing for me to build on or build around. I have to try to invent all of that for myself. That that seems like you’re setting up an entire culture of for both an exhausting and terrifying experience.

 

Jim Denison  39:13

Well, I think you’re right, Martin Heidegger, the atheistic philosopher said you’re an actor on a stage. You have no script audience director past or future courageous to face life as it is called a dot sign in the German it means that the anxiety of the being there of being in this moment, well, if ultimately, life has no meaning, if it has no purpose, if we’re a dot rather than a line, and we’re going nowhere, then the first time I’m up against opposition, I don’t want to face the first time up against discouragement that I can’t push through. The first time I’m dealing with loneliness or with discouragement or depression. And there’s no meaning beyond this moment. And literally why go on? Literally, why move past this? If there’s nothing beyond this, right? If I’ve decided that my life has no meaning, no purpose, no reason to live, than the moment my life gets painful. The moment it gets hard. The moment I’m not happy with who I am and where I am, well, then why would I stay here? Why would I be in this place? Love it, I stay on this cruise ship if I’m tired of being on this cruise ship, if I don’t like the food anymore, if I don’t like the other passengers, if I don’t like where we’re going, if I think the cruise ships not taking me to a destination that’s worth going to, then why stay on the ship.

 

Mark Turman  40:21

And we start to get to that that cry of Solomon’s heart in the book of Ecclesiastes. Right? Meaningless. Everything is meaningless. And had a side definition it is right, sure. Want to go want to go back to something that you mentioned just a moment ago, which is we’ve been here before this idea that, you know, Solomon said, in the book of a class, Ecclesiastes, there’s nothing new under the sun. And you’ll hear people say that, hey, we’ve been here before, certainly in church history, 2000 years or more of faith history? In what sense? Should we be thinking along those lines of hey, this is this is nothing new we have culture has been here before? And then in what sense? Should we be saying that? Well, there is something significant, unprecedented and new about where we are in this moment in this culture and as the church in this moment? How do we put those two things together? nothing new under the sun, we’ve been here before. And yet something unprecedented is happening. How do we put that in perspective?

 

Jim Denison  41:29

Great question, because there’s a balance in that, no doubt about that. It depends on what we mean by we, of course, on the first we that collectively, we as human history, we as the human race, we as humanity have been here before. In that absolute sense. That’s true. You think about the fall of the Roman Empire, which you had 300 years before Christ is as school of philosophy school called skeptics, which very postmodern actually an odd sense, in the sense that truth is individual personal and subjective. They were making that claim centuries before Christ. Well, that idea ultimately becomes pervasive in the Roman culture. When Pilate says to Jesus, what is truth what it means that you’ve got Aristotelian ‘s here and Platanus over here, and skeptics and Stoics, and Epicureans, and cynics and you’ve got the followers of Zeus and Apollo’s and you’ve got the mystery cults, and you’ve got Jews, and you’ve got Christians. And you’ve got this smorgasbord of ideas out there in the Roman Empire with no ultimate governing north on the compass, no sense of what reality is. And so ultimately, you get this kind of hedonistic sort of creep, mission creep inside the soul of the Empire. By the time the Empire fell from outside, it had already fallen from inside. There was already such decadence in the Roman Empire that they’re living in a place. Just as one quick example, no one wants to serve in the military anymore. They want to eat, drink and be happy, they don’t want to do the hard work of maintaining the Emperor. So the Emperor starts conscripting the very people that’s conquered by its military. And at first blush, these people are going to turn on their former conquerors. And that’s when you see the the rise of those that eventually led to the demise of the Emperor. Because there was no internal strength. There was no internal consistency Agustin talks about in the city of God, the absolute loss of the soul of the Roman Empire and the decadence in the fall of the Roman Empire. As a result of all of that, we see that as just one example of what happens when an empire or a culture decides that there are no governing values, no governing principles, no north on the compass that is worth living for and dying for and defending and being around, we see this happening again and again in human history. Now, on the other side of your of your question, I wasn’t there in 476, for the fall of the Roman Empire. And so if America is repeating the Roman Empire, that’s new to me, that’s new to us. Right? I have not had before, if, if I was diagnosed with cancer yesterday, well, that’d be be a new experience. To me. It’s not new to humanity, but it’s new to me. And so in a sense, I can learn from people that have had cancer in the past my kind of cancer if I had that I don’t, but if I had that diagnosis, I can learn from the hill, from their history, what to do in my context. But it’s still new to me. In my moment, Christians have not in American history, faced the kind of vitriol and opposition and antagonism we’re facing right now. That’s new to us. But it’s certainly not new to Christian history. Certainly not new to the Christian experience around the world, even right now. It’s been estimated that 90% of all people who died for the Christian faith in human in the last 20 centuries were true in the 20th century, more people died for Christ in the 20th century in the previous 19 centuries combined. So that’s certainly not a new thing. It’s just new to me. And so I think there’s the balance, is to say, Okay, we’ve been here before, so what can I learn? What can I learn from my Cuban friends or my Chinese friends or from Korean Christian history? That applies to my unique situation? That’s not unique to culture, but it’s unique to meet and how do I drive that into my my life and my experience, that’s where history can help us? In a sense, history is history, as they say, right. All of this is God’s story. God is the great I AM. All of God there is in this moment, but he can teach us from the past how to live in the present. I love those historic psalms that continually remind the Jews of their history that tell them again about the Exodus. The reason Passover is so important, something we’ve just come through. And in Israel, the reason that’s so important is so they can remind themselves of where they’ve been. So they find the strength where they are, where they need to go. So there’s that both and I think

 

Mark Turman  45:25

we talk a lot about at Denison forum, what it means to be salt and light. For the kingdom of God Jesus told us about that called us to that in the Sermon on the Mount Matthew five, we talked about doing that, as we said, truth and love. What I’m wondering is, you obviously want this book to mobilize believers into the culture, how do you want them to steward their influence? There’s a movie coming out soon about former heavyweight champion George Foreman actually got to meet George Foreman when I was pastoring. In Far East Texas where he was living this was before the grill became so popular. But George Foreman, is his story is coming out in movie form, about how he transitioned from heavyweight champion to pastor to preacher. He said in a recent interview about the upcoming movie that the best reason maybe the only reason to be alive is to be an evangelist. How would you hope that people would respond to reading the coming tsunami in terms of stewarding their influence?

 

Jim Denison  46:36

Well, thank you for that practical question. The first thing to do is to identify your influence. What’s your unique mission? My calling is fill in the blank. My ministry is fill in the blank, Clergy Laity is heresy. Every one of us is just as cold as all the rest of us are. You have your unique mission field, you have gifts, abilities, opportunities that God has uniquely combined in your own story. So first of all, ask yourself that, God, why am I here? What is my purpose? What is my mission here? If you don’t know your spiritual gifts, find those out. We have on our website at Denison forum, as you know, a spiritual gifts inventory and, and a book published recently that we’re releasing right now that knowing and using your spiritual gifts, ask your friends, what do you think my influence is? Where do you think I’m making the biggest difference? If you were me? What would you do with my life and my resources. And so first of all, define that every single day, I think we have to remind ourselves every day I’m here for this reason, I’m here for this purpose, my north on the compass is so start with that second, submitted to the Holy Spirit, every single day Ephesians 518, be filled with the Spirit, submit that purpose and say, Lord, help me to fulfill my purpose today. Open Doors and closed doors. Give me words, I didn’t plan to say, prepare the hearts of the people you want me to speak to prepare my heart for them. And then third, look for the god moments all through the day. Lord opened my eyes to the opportunities to do a George Foreman said to plant seeds of the gospel, to speak a word for you to pray for somebody that tell someone you’re praying for them to say to the waitress at the restaurant, I’d like to pray for you. Is there a way I can pray for you to say to a friend who’s going through a hard place? Well, how can I pray for you? What can I do for you? How can I serve you in this moment? Look at every moment as an invitation for God to use your purpose by the power of His Holy Spirit. Look for the god opportunities, look for the god moments all through the day. And then last, when the day comes to a close, I think it’s a really important discipline to spend a few moments in reflection. Lord, what did I learn even journaling? Or what what did we learn today? Where did you use me? How could this encourage me for tomorrow? How could I not do some things again that I did today? Lord, how did today advance the kingdom? How did I fulfill the prayer Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven? If we’ll make that our pattern, I promise you, God will use your life in ways you can see in ways you can’t see. You’ll plant trees you never said under. So I’ve sent it off. And you cannot measure the eternal significance of present faithfulness, that God can’t write. And he is in the business of doing that. And I’ll do that every single day.

 

Mark Turman  49:05

Good word. Just as we get ready to wrap up. Let me just ask you a couple of broad questions. Just let us zoom out to whatever degree you want to but grief and gratitude lamenting and I think that’s one of the words that God may be weaving into the heart of the church in our part of the world right now is, what does it mean to properly lament, but combining in some ways, both grief and gratitude, what, what causes you on a broad basis relative to where we are at this point? What causes you to have some sense of lament and then what are you grateful for?

 

Jim Denison  49:43

Thank you for that. That’s it’s a common question. On the women’s side, the first part that grieves Meisel and when it happens have to stop immediately and pray about this and pray for humility and pray for transparency and pray for God’s heart about it is the people who know better and don’t do it. You know, it’s One thing mark. To be fair I was before I heard the gospel at the age of 15. I had not ever been to church. I mean, you know my story growing up my father, having horrible war experience coming back, not going to church and ever going to church as a kid. I didn’t know the gospel, I did not know biblical truth. I didn’t know who Jesus was. I knew there wasn’t Jesus. I couldn’t have explained Christmas or Easter to you growing up in Houston, Texas. I had no sense of a biblical worldview at all. Well, on one sense, there’s grief in a person that’s never heard the gospel that doesn’t, doesn’t know what they don’t know. Right. But my greater frustration these days is with people that do know better. People that have the word of God and aren’t living it out people that are choosing postmodern post truth ism rather than clear Biblical Exposition, people that are changing their minds on biblical factuality, people, pastors, denominations, denominational leaders, were advocating for what is in my mind clearly on biblical morality, clergy that are praying for God’s blessing on Planned Parenthood, abortion clinics, all denominations that are abandoning belief in the necessity of faith in Christ, abandoning belief in the historic virgin birth and bodily resurrection and second coming of Christ, and still claiming to be Christian. I drive by churches in Dallas and see rainbow flags out on the church building, you know, and and it’s frustrating to see people that I think on some level should know better. And then I always have to stop and say, Okay, God, where do I know better? God, what is it that I’m doing? That isn’t what I know, where am I committing sin? That is? Obviously not what I know, in Scripture, I always have to do that have to pull back from that. But there’s a grief in that for me and eliminating that and a prayer. Lord, how do I speak the truth in love in this kind of a context in this space. Now, on the positive side, where I get, I get really discouraged when I’m around people my age, who are really discouraged, I get really encouraged when I’m around people half my age, are so encouraged, right, about all the ways we’re seeing God at work in their lives and their families, and in their systems of relationships. Wall Street Journal had an article the other day, I’m going to try to write on here in coming days, about a real Renaissance or rebirth of faith in young people on the other side of the pandemic, how they’re seeing the need for something bigger than themselves need for something bigger than this broken culture. Now, it’s not getting registered in church attendance on Sunday morning yet, if it ever does, it’s Bible studies on Tuesday nights, it’s groups that are coming together to worship online. It’s people that are doing life together in ways that are really redemptive. But we’re seeing this we’re seeing it on college campuses right now. We’re seeing a real move on call, as you know, toward orthodoxy on college campuses toward historical rootedness and reform, thinking in ways that kind of are evidence of people wanting historicity around their lives inside. And so it’s not necessarily getting in the in the front pages. And though we’re seeing this on high school campuses, and college campuses, and the people that are really saying, Okay, I’ve seen this story, it’s not gaming, well, this movie is not going where I want, I don’t want to be in this movie anymore. And so there’s really some encouragement as to get around some people younger than me that really have a sense that God’s not done with us yet. And they want to make a redemptive difference in the culture.

 

Mark Turman  53:17

Yeah, some of the research that we’ve been able to do at Denison forum, particularly around this rising generation, sometimes called Gen Z, that they are more open to spiritual conversation and spiritual pursuit than perhaps any generation recently. That they are hungry and thirsty for that and eager, even eager to talk to people your age and my age, which is encouraging people that they, they have an openness and a hunger for that. And that’s an opportunity for us as a church, to, to engage relationship and to build conversations with them that not only help them, but also help us and help us to share the good news that has become so transformative in our lives. Jim, thank you again for writing the coming tsunami. If our audience today hasn’t picked it up yet, I hope that they will, they can find it at Denison forum.org. And I hope that they will take that time to read and be encouraged, as well as to be equipped. Thank you for that work. Thank you for all the work that you continue to do through Dennis and for

 

Jim Denison  54:24

that it’s my privilege to do that and especially to do it in partnership with you march. So glad for this conversation for the brilliant way in which you do these podcasts and just for the ministry God’s given you the privilege of doing it with you, my friend.

 

Mark Turman  54:36

Well, I feel exactly the same want to thank our audience for being a part of our conversation today. If this has been helpful to you, please rate review us on your podcast provider and share this with others so that they can be a part of the conversation as well. God bless you. We’ll see you next time on the Denison Forum Podcast.

 

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