Have you ever met someone who is a Posivitist? What is a positivist? Someone who will only allow positive thinking (c.f. mindfulness), affirmations, self-empowerment, promotes a “positive space,” displays or writes positive plagues or mantras, advocates acts of kindness, feels and uses ‘energies’ and never accepts critique or realism. This is a positivist and positivism is positively growing in our society!
When I first encountered a positivist I was—frankly—confused. Where is this coming from? What does this person believe? How widespread is this and what effect is this having on our culture? Without knowing more I was unequipped to deal with it as a Christian.
Where does such thinking come from?
There are a number of possible sources by which some might arrive at this way of thinking:
Simply put Positivist believe that fostering “a positive mental attitude, supported by affirmations, will achieve success in anything.” How one thinks is central to tapping into the spiritual universe to bend it to your will. Spirituality is impersonal and self-focused.
What affect is it having on our culture?
In a culture that desires to appear spiritual and fix their problems themselves Positivism offers a lot of perceived benefits (chiefly feeling spiritual without God). If you look around it has worked its way into self-help workshops, schools, counselling, stress management, corporate practice, preaching, etc. You might say it is ‘everywhere’ and its way of thinking is so prevalent bits of it can be absorbed into our way of thinking often without even realizing it.
A Biblical Critique/Alternative
Now certainly the Bible would have much to say against ‘impossibility thinkers’ as it related to faith and hope in the God of the impossible; yet the Bible is also a realistic book (we call this truth) and often speaks in the negative concerning sin or lies (“thou shalt not”), while positively endorsing what is right and true (“Honour your father and mother”).
On key questions that religions and worldviews address, Christianity and Positivism are more often than not at complete odds:
How can we share the Gospel with a Positivist we may know or love? Certainly there are inconsistencies, certainly upon what objective truth one basis their belief needs to be considered; yet ultimately we share the Gospel with gentleness, respect and conviction and let it reverberate against their worldview. They are looking for someone; it’s Jesus. Point them to him as the answer to their spiritual quest.
However, if you profess to be a Christian but still haven’t come back to church now is the time to seriously consider coming back because the disadvantages far outweigh the perceived advantages.
I have recently observed a growing distrust, of the news, of government amongst Christians. What shall we make of this? Here are some meandering thoughts.
Jesus said, “…the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32b)
Hold onto those works, we’ll return to them in their context.
First, in our world today there is growing distrust of truth and impairment of freedom. This in turn produces a form of bondage. In the old days news was supposed to be unbiased, a presentation of the facts more or less, leaving the readers or viewers to decide. The pursuit of truth requires a freedom to inquire and follow where you believe the facts take you. It seeks to be objective. The moment freedom is removed or facts are viewed in a biased way then truth itself is compromised. The prevailing philosophy of our time, postmodernism, has no doubt underpinned this as it views all truth as subjective, your truth, my truth, not the truth. The problem is that over time growing subjectivity in the media (on the left and the right) meant that biased news began to be labelled “fake news.” Both left and right used this to advance their agenda and exploit the other side. “Fact checking” became the hallmark of left and right. Echo chambers have paralyzed any meaningful conversation. The recent pandemic has only exacerbated this. What is true? What is real? A want of truth paralyses society because relationships are rooted in trust and so mistrust becomes a form of bondage.
Second, the rise of authoritarianism threatens truth and freedom. Putin’s authoritarian coverage of Ukraine is a prime example of this. Today I listened to a Russian living in Ukraine trying to convince his Russian father that what he was being told on state media wasn’t the same as reality on the ground. But this is where truth and freedom come closer to home. Here in Canada Covid states of emergency shut down reasonable discussion over the virus and our response, Bill C-4 has restricted expression and investigation into areas of morality and identity, the recent use of the Emergency Act allowed political dissent to be deemed as treason, and the controversial Bill C-10 would grant further powers of censorship. But this should not surprise us because neo-liberalism—a prevailing ideology—places the group ahead of the individual and uses tactics of demonization and power to advance its agenda rather than logic and truth. Thankfully we’re not so far along in this process as other countries in the world but the development is disconcerting. Even journalists of our own state funded media outlet, CBC, have quit the company over this sort of culture. We should be rightfully concerned over the normalization of cultural and state promoted authoritarianism and what this will mean for tangible freedom.
Truth leads to freedom because unhindered by lies we can better our lives in light of the truth.
However, given the news and politics we shouldn’t stop believing everything or to believe the opposite as some are inclined to do or embrace conspiracy theories. We must remember that thinking is part of God’s common grace (c.f. Mt 5:45), a non-saving gift to all (or most!) of mankind. For example, even though we may disagree with someone’s worldview in country X,Y, or Z we may still trust that the product they produce can be worn, eaten, driven or used.
I encourage people to do a number of things: diversify the sources that you read for your news and think about what is presented (I read many of the major global news networks). Also ask good questions like what are the facts? are the sources trustworthy? am I approaching this subject in an unbiased way? am I thinking about it logically? Am I really interested in the truth?
We’ll find a measure of freedom in these two things.
More importantly, let’s return to that quote from Jesus and see what true truth is and how to find real freedom. Here is John 8:31–32:
31 So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32 and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.”
When we come to believe the ultimate truth, our Creator Jesus, and accept Him as Lord and Saviour then we are freed spiritually from the bondage to sin and the lies of the enemy. Not only is our soul freed but our mind; we gain a new worldview to see things rightly through the lens of Scripture. This is all very liberating.
The irony is that those who may be physically free in this world (free media, free countries) may indeed be spiritually enslaved, and those who are physically oppressed and enslaved (c.f. a Christian in a North Korean work camp) are actually spiritually free.
Freedom is important. The freedoms we enjoy in the West are a result of Christian influences. However, the greatest freedom we can possess is the freedom of our soul, a freedom that no one can take away.
Power- the ability to do something. Gangs have power, power of force or coercion. Gangs have power to take things from you but not the authority to do it.
Authority- the right to do something. By-Law officers have authority, authority to issue tickets, but not the power to enforce the payment of those tickets.
In Jesus’ day the religious leaders had power but they lacked authority because most of what they did and taught rested not on the Word of God but their traditions (Mk 7:7).
When Jesus spoke as God’s Son and from His Word everyone was amazed at the authority by which He did so. That authority had a positive effect. For example when Jesus finished the Sermon on the Mount it says:
28 And when Jesus finished these sayings, the crowds were astonished at his teaching, 29 for he was teaching them as one who had authority, and not as their scribes. (Mt 7:28–29)
Likewise in Mark when Jesus had begun His ministry it says:
22 And they were astonished at his teaching, for he taught them as one who had authority, and not as the scribes. (Mk 1:22)
In Acts when the authoritative Word went forth the Church grew (e.g. Acts 6:7 and others in Acts). Carried forth by the Spirit it also had power.
We should take courage from this thread in Scripture. Politicians, media, interest groups, squeaky wheels in our community, spiritual opponents all often wield great power yet want authority. Yet Christ has given authority (His Great Commission) and power (His Word & Spirit) to His Church. As ambassadors of Christ’s Church Christians can use the “living and active” (Heb 4:12) Word of God to great effect. When we teach its truths, cite it, quote it, counsel from it, write it, share it—because our culture speaks from power but not authority—people will be astonished by the authority by which we speak.
So as the world seeks to coerce believers into silence from speaking the truth, let us remember that as we trust God’s Word we will speak with power and authority, which will bear much fruit.
this is impossible; such practices are deeply rooted in Eastern religions. Such a lie is simply meant to ensnare the unsuspecting in an ultimately unhelpful and spiritually harmful exercise.
How did Western culture move from the Lord’s Prayer to Eastern Meditation? Two basic things: a) as many Christian churches became nominal and prayer became lifeless people sought for an alternative to meet a most basic human need, and b) during the 60s, and through the influence of groups such as the Beatles, the West was introduced to Eastern Transcendentalism, or the practice of meditation. This fit very well with the reactive Hippy years.
Now meditation is now wrong, it just depends on how we define it. Eastern meditation involves “emptying” whereas Christian meditation involves “filling.” Both are aiming at peace but only one can achieve true and lasting peace. Christian filling produces a peace that comes from getting right with God through belief in the Gospel, a peace that comes from asking God to fill you with more of His Spirit, a peace that comes from seeking forgiveness, knowing Him, and bringing your deepest longings and needs before Him, a peace that comes from worshipping Him in thanksgiving. Christian meditation is the exact opposite of Eastern meditation. Likewise, when Scripture speaks of meditation, we think or ponder upon God’s character as revealed in His word; we meditate upon Scripture, its meaning and application (Josh 1:8).
In Lk 11 Jesus told the story of a person who had a demon cast from them, yet the troubling sequel of how, “finding the house swept and put in order,” that demon went and found seven of its nastiest friends and returned! (Lk 11:24–26). I’ve often likened this story to the ejection of nominal Christian in Canada and its replacement with many false religions more dangerous than the falseness of nominal Christianity. More specifically, if we meditate and let our mind “float,” “drift” and be open and free, what spiritual force are we opening ourselves up to be filled by (other than the living God)!
Rather than following the CAA article’s 5 steps, allow me to recommend 5 better and biblical steps:
 Nigel Scotland, The Baker Pocket Guide to New Religions. (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2006), 193.
Recently our small town has become host to, not one, but two pot shops (and also boasts a grow op)! Additionally, in visiting someone in the community I came across their legal limit of marijuana plants growing on the deck. Canada is truly going to pot.
Aside from critiquing the fact that the government is promoting this and yet also promoting not smoking and other contradictions (such as the argument that legalized marijuana would get rid of the black market), what shall we make of Christ and Cannabis as Christians, are they compatible? As a general statement, NO! I can think of at least 7 basic Biblical principles:
1. Delight and Idolatry
The Bible resounds that we were made to enjoy God. To find ultimate enjoyment, or delight, in anyone or anything else is idolatry, the worship or enjoyment of someone or thing other than God. Certainly this does not mean we cannot enjoy lawful and good exercises but arguably (see below) substances don’t fit this category, and what is more so, they are consumed purely for the purpose of getting a ‘high.’ If we knew the Lord we wouldn’t have need of such a high and so at its very core people seek it out for idolatrous spiritual reasons rather than rejoicing in the Lord.
2. Upon Whom Do You Trust?
The Bible likewise resounds with the call to faith, to trust in the Lord and His word. Those who use substances are placing their trust in a substance to meet their deepest and spiritual needs and not the Lord.
3. Dominion and Lordship
The Bible, again, is very clear that Jesus is Lord. He is our creator, we’re meant to love and serve Him. The addictive nature of substances means that our lives come to be under another power (the substance) rather than Christ.
4. Loss of Control
The high received by substances comes at the expense of one’s mind such that we lose self-control, something which the Bible says we are to be vigilant to maintain. This can lead to other sins, which is why the Bible prohibits drunkenness for example.
5. Harm to Bodies
We were created in God’s image, given our whole person (including our mind and bodies) to be stewards of (not to mention our finances). Being ungodly stewards is therefore sinful. Further, if we are a Christian, as we are united to Christ, to smoke pot would be to make Christ a pot smoker Himself! Not only does smoke harm our lungs it also harms our brains. Studies have shown how progressively the brain dies as one smokes marijuana.
6. Seek Goodness
The Bible commends us pursuing things that are noble and good and lovely. Smoking something that smells like skunk, not to mention the other negative spiritual and moral outcomes, surely doesn’t qualify here.
In Scripture we’re called to live above reproach and not associate with questionable company. Cannabis, however, has a long and present history of being associated with the morally questionable to the outright dangerous (like gangs). It is a portal into darker things.
Whether a non-Christian or a Christian there is ample evidence why you should put a lid on pot; Christ and Cannabis don’t mix; nor should Cannabis be legal in Canada.
In my short life I’ve moved five times prior to being married and eight times since being married. This has meant living in four distinct areas of the province of Ontario and also a five year period overseas.
Two locations, more than the others, helped me to know what it meant to be an exile, and also the Christian’s call not to be of or love the world.
Living in England, as similar as it is to historic Canada, and as much as I fit within its culture, there was also, as a resident, the reminder that I was an exile. Every time I spoke was enough to indicate that I wasn’t from there (though the more time I spent there the more my accent did change, then people thought I was Irish or Botswanan!) and the privileges of a citizen that were not available to a resident meant that no matter how much I felt a part of the culture I didn’t belong.
Second, having spent time overseas and then moving back to my native province, yet after considerable and rapid liberalization, the very province I returned to didn’t feel like the province I had known.
Through these experience I’ve learned a lot about living as an exile and how worldliness is sin.
1 Peter is addressed to the “elect exiles” (v. 1). Election is a reminder to these believers of their assurance in Christ; exile that this world is not their home, their citizenship is in heaven (Phil 3). Christians are aliens, living in this world but not of it, instead ambassadors of Christ’s heavenly kingdom, to be captivated by our allegiance to its King and His values.
The tension we feel between our heavenly values and the world’s values serve as an ever present reminder of our other-worldliness.
All of Scripture resounds with the call for the Christian to fix their eyes on Jesus (Heb 12:2; Mt 5:6, 6:33; Col 3:1–4). We are to cling lightly to this world and highly esteem instead eternal things.
If we love the world we will be sorely disappointed. If we love the world too much we may indeed show we’re not of Christ but it:
15 Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. 16 For all that is in the world—the desires of the flesh and the desires of the eyes and pride in possessions—is not from the Father but is from the world. 17 And the world is passing away along with its desires, but whoever does the will of God abides for ever. (1 Jn 2:15–17).
So, may we remember that we are exiles and aliens and love our Kingdom and King vs the age in which we presently live.
Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God’s the things that are God’s.
—Jesus (Mk 12:17)
Gratefully, in our region at least, we’ll be able to lawfully gather together as Christians again this Lord’s Day. My heart goes out to those brothers and sisters for which this won’t be the case (and the prospect that the entire province might face yet another lockdown in some future 3rd wave).
What is curious, however, is that schools in Grey-Bruce returned to in person learning on January 18; many other regions of the province returned on February 8 and schools in the GTA returned this week, February 16; all before churches being able to reopen (or in some cases without them being with a prospect of opening). In Grey-Bruce that means schools returned to in class teaching 5 weeks before churches have been allowed to reopen. What is curious is twofold: a) the logical inconsistency in this approach and b) the apparent apathy of the Government to places of worship.
Note 1: I sympathize with the mammoth task Government has in dealing with a pandemic and the pressures this puts upon them. This is not intended to be a gripe but a constructive conversation starter.
Note 2: Throughout the pandemic I have, personally and as a Christian leader, sought to model and exhort Christians and all people to cheerfully submit to the Government. We have also been open about praying for our leaders. We want to be good witnesses (1 Pet 2:12). While I believe in the command to worship, I likewise believe in the command to submit to the government and love our neighbours, something which a pandemic, I believe, calls us to in the name of public health; to grievously and temporarily pause large worship gatherings in favour of alternative forms (online, small groups, etc). However, I have not been without my reservations of Government policy, which I have expressed to the appropriate authorities with charitability. Yet, compliance does not mean disengaging critically. In fact, democracy dies when its citizens fail to engage and when its politicians fail to listen. Most Christians think there is a line in the sand on these matters somewhere, but it can be difficult to determine exactly where it is. Could the issue of schools and churches be a legitimate marker? Put another way, would this inconsistent Government approach pass from the realm that justifiably requires submission to one that justifiably requires obedience to the “things that are God’s”?
Firstly, the act of opening schools (and some businesses) yet not churches is one logical inconsistency in the Government’s approach. The interests of some commercial and educational interests seem to be ahead of places of worship. Now, I believe people need to eat and work and learn, but the Government needs to be consistent in these matters and help people—through media—understand their actions. This builds trust.
Returning to schools and churches, both important places in local communities (churches often preceding schools in the formation of our country); how is it that schools that host hundreds and hundreds of children and staff, meeting together in one location 5 days a week, can reopen when churches (at 30%) of say dozens and dozens of people meeting in accordance with Government guidelines predominantly once a week must remain (or did remain) closed. If it’s unsafe to reopen, let there be restrictions. If it is safe for schools to reopen, why not churches? See the inconsistency? Why does this exist?
To me the simple answer is religious apathy or a disinterested ambivalence, even if it is arguably passive rather than active. This is something that should be a cause for concern regardless of whether you are a person of faith or not.
In both lockdowns I have perceived that the Government has held a disinterested ambivalence toward places of worship. This is partly because “religion” is such a complex area of society that the Government finds it difficult to provide a catered approach. It’s also largely because the Government, like much of society, has embraced a horizontal naturalism in which religion, particularly the Christian faith, is not real and so comes second behind more real matters like business and education. It is also because, culturally, classic liberalism which championed individual rights is being replaced by the philosophy of neo-liberalism that champions the rights of one group over another. This is why places of worship are treated inconsistently, they lack a priority in Government eyes. (Yet churches remain important centres where millions of Canadians find meaning and hope; necessary things, especially in a pandemic. See the Halo Project for more on the economic benefit churches bring communities).
While I speak the language of Scripture, allow me to speak the language of Government, the “Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms (1982)” (click here to view).
Religious gatherings, as the Government calls them, are not optional or something Christians just do. A Christian’s faith in Jesus Christ, central to which is fellowship and corporate worship, is fundamental to who we are. It is not a mere option or something we do like playing soccer or attending the cinema. The Charter 2.a recognizes this by describing freedom of religion (including assembly, 2.c), along with conscience, as not just any right but the most fundamental ones. The freedom of religion and conscience is the number one listed right in the charter.
I realize that the Charter likewise lays down where these rights can be temporarily limited (section 1 and 33), however, this must be justifiable so. I recognize that a pandemic qualifies for a temporary limitation; however, consistency of approach is central to validating the necessary nature of the limitations put in place. If it is deemed safe for schools to reopen (hundreds x 5 days/week, not a fundamental right) but not places of worship (where dozens and dozens gather predominantly once a week, and which is a fundamental right) then to me and many others, there is an inherent inconsistency that seems to abrogate the temporary limitation of the right put in place by the Government. In other words, favouring education over places of worship is not only logically inconsistent, it not only displays apathy, it is dangerous to our fundamental Canadian freedoms.
Why is religious apathy dangerous? Because our Government is supposed to be a champion of our personal liberties, chief among them being freedom of religion. The neo-liberal shift to privileging certain freedoms over others, as evidenced by this subject, should not only concern people of faith, particularly Christians, but our neighbours. An erosion of freedom of religion and of conscience toward one group (places of worship) is a destabilization of the freedom you enjoy; might you in some way be on the receiving end of this trend in future?
What can you do?
…you will know the truth and the truth will set you free.
—Jesus (John 8:32)
Someone recently sent me a quote attributed to George Orwell, “The further a society drifts from the truth, the more it will hate those that speak it.” This got me thinking.
If you were like me you had to read one of two books (or both) in high school, George Orwell’s Animal Farm (1945) or 1984 (1949). In these books Orwell showed both insight into wartime totalitarian regimes (Nazi Germany and Soviet Russia) and also great prescience, forward thinking, as he warned of many dangers to personal freedom that such regimes, and their way of thinking, were liable to cause in the future. Evidently, Orwell didn't believe society had seen the end of such tyranny.
Animal Farm is about the animals of a farm that revolt against their farmer and establish a commune. In the end this communist experiment goes awry as power is centralized with the pigs. The slogan that had begun, “All animals are equal,” degenerated into the most famous line in the book, “All animals are equal, but some are more equal than others.”
1984 is a story of a distant time (in the past now!) in which a utopian society had been produced through centralized control under the guise of offering “freedom.” Newspeak, Doublethink, Big Brother and the Thought Police are all key words that give a window into the control that existed within this "utopian" totalitarian society. As the main characters begin to think for themselves they yearn for true freedom.
Classic liberalism championed the freedom of the individual as created in the image of God (Gen 1:27, and thus was a predominantly influenced by Christianity). This was the basis of modern Western society—a secular freedom as close to real freedom that one can arrive at apart from Christ—but which is now under attack by a creeping new influence: neo-liberalism (or neo-Marxism), that privileges the group against the individual and seeks to exert coercive influence against any that would oppose its worldview.
Let’s think about the wisdom of Orwell and apply it to today (i.e. where can we see seeds of his critique in society at large? [btw- this is no attempt at a conspiracy theory!]).
What similarities do we find in our present culture?
As post-Christian society becomes further unmoored from its foundation in Christ, Christians will be called to speak the truth in love, and will often bear the brunt of hatred as a result.
But individual freedom and the pursuit of truth aside (as important as those are), is not what Jesus is getting at in Jn 8:32. He is saying we are actually all spiritually enslaved to sin but that He came to offer the greatest liberty, freedom from it and the ability to follow Christ and live the good life we were created to live. Jesus is the truth, not only the ultimate reality but true and good. We are false and sinful. He came not only to live out a true life, but to die for our falseness so we might live truly. He calls us to believe in His truthfulness, so we might be restored and walk in the truth ourselves.
Thanks George, but thank you most of all Jesus.
 I couldn’t find the original source but this certainly sounds like Orwell, and even if it isn’t is still a helpful quote.
 Orwell was a nominal Anglican (at best). Yet, it is striking how this quote bears a Gospel semblance. Jesus spoke a similar truth concerning what He was hated and why His followers would be likewise hated in Jn 15:18.
The crowd, the media, pressures people to abandoned independent thought, and through fear, make them conform to their program. That is what lies behind virtue signalling.
Virtue signalling, a buzz word these days, is when you go along with the flow, not believing it to be true, but accepting or giving lip service to it, so that you do not face its wrath or intimidation.
But this is so very dangerous, to go along with something you don’t believe in simply out of the fear of public reprisal. This is how Nazi Germany developed, with too many Germans fearing taking a stand and so becoming virtue signallers for the safety of their families, economic benefit or continued social standing.
An old county song I recall from my youth had this poignant line, “you’ve got to stand for something, or you’ll fall for anything.”
Biblically, that something ought to be what God has said is true. In grace, we need to pray that as Christians we would have the boldness to speak the truth; that He would give us the courage to stand with the Lord in faith and not go along with the world in fear.
So many men of women of the faith from the Bible and history come to mind when I think of this, however, one verse strikes me, “Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.” (1 Cor 16:13)
May we be radiant signals pointing people away from the world and to Christ!