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Culture Friday: Searching for affirmation

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WORLD Radio - Culture Friday: Searching for affirmation

Plus: some praiseworthy aspects of culture, and a scientific breakthrough


Kanye West arrives at the Balenciaga show on May 22, 2022 in New York City Photo by Gotham/GC Images

NICK EICHER, HOST: It’s the 14th day of October, 2022.

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

PAUL BUTLER, HOST: And I’m Paul Butler. It’s Culture Friday!

Joining us now is Andrew Walker. He’s a professor of Christian ethics and apologetics at Southern Seminary and managing editor of WORLD Opinions.

Good morning, Andrew.

ANDREW WALKER, GUEST: Hey, good morning, Paul and Nick. Good to be with you, as always.

EICHER: Andrew, I loved your WORLD Opinions piece by Bethel McGrew’s on Kanye West. I’ll place a link in the transcript. It’s just good writing and good thinking. But I’d like to use it as a jumping off point to talk about what happens when a massive celebrity like Kanye West says something we kind of agree with—in this case, recently, on pro-life issues.

So I’m seeing the value of talking with an ethics prof here, but what is it about us that we derive so much validation from a person who’s a celebrated artist expressing views more or less in line with my own? And this happens in reverse, too. When the celeb is out of step with my views, I’m quick to dismiss it.

But talk about why we need this validation.

WALKER: Now, that’s a good observation. It’s such a fascinating moment for us to reflect upon on multiple levels. I think one of the things we want to say is that a lot of Christians often see themselves as the weird ones. We feel as if we’re out of step with culture, and so when someone from the towering heights of culture identifies as a Christian it kind of paves over what I call like the perennial evangelical inferiority complex. It shows we’re not actually so culturally backwards as the culture tells us that we are.

Even still, in these types of moments, there needs to be a lot of caution exercised, I think. For one we should celebrate whenever a celebrity comes to faith or is overt in sharing how critical their faith is for them. But at the same time, we also need to be especially tentative and not just assume that because they’ve come to faith that they are therefore mature Christians. I mean, there’s an argument here from when Paul talks about coming to faith. What does he do [as a new Christian]? He kind of goes off for a long time and prepares himself for ministry in a place of solitude. I think there’s a healthy pattern for us to reflect upon here.

I don’t think we should question someone’s faith necessarily. I don’t want my faith questioned; you don’t want your faith questioned. What we should do is take this “wait and see approach” and observe how they are maturing in their faith. We have to understand that if they are immature Christians, they’re probably going to say some immature things. We can’t expect that these immature Christians all of a sudden are capable of writing systematic theologies.

But at the same time, we don’t want to make them out to be Christian celebrities. The best thing for Kanye West is for Kanye West just to be an everyday Christian, and not for culture hungry Christians to impute all of their desires for cultural approval onto Kanye West. Let Kanye West be Kanye West, and be the Kanye West Christian that he calls himself without us trying to affix all of our cultural hopes and aspirations on him.

BUTLER: Well Andrew, one of the reasons why we talk with you and John Stonestreet each week is because we want to wrestle through some of the challenges facing our society, our churches, our families. But the scriptures also tell us to meditate on those things that are true, and noble, and just, pure, lovely, of good report and so just a little different question this morning for you. What sort of things are you thinking about today that fit that category? Praiseworthy things going on around us?

WALKER: That’s such a great question. A few things come to mind. I think first and foremost—and I say this cautiously—it seems to me that we really have turned a corner past COVID. I know it seems like we have been saying that for the past six months, or even for the last two years. But here we are: It does seem as though life really has returned to normal in all parts of the country. And so we should just rejoice at that reality.

Another thing I think that I would see optimism in is the growth of classical Christian education nationally. That gives me great hope. Christians are always asking the question of how we can transform the culture. One of the ways you transform the culture is by transmitting culture to the next generation. And one of the the reasons classical Christian education is so important when it comes to that transmission is that it takes the very best of the Western tradition and tries to pass that on. And so much of the Western tradition has been bound up with Christian history.

My family is heavily invested in classical Christian education. My wife is a classical Christian educator herself. We see the impact of this on our community, on our children. And I see stories about this replicating all over the nation. I think this is just a really healthy thing to be happening in the culture: That we’re not automatically deferring education to the state. But I think we’re starting to get really entrepreneurial in creating opportunities through education for a robust Christian culture that cares about the common good and loving our neighbor.

The last thing I would say is—to borrow from Brad Littlejohn’s column— when we look at the hurricane that happened a couple of weeks ago— not to make light at all of the severity of the hurricane as far as the loss of life and of people’s dwellings—things weren’t as bad as they could have been. We can agree that this is one of those moments where the government actually operated like we hope government would work. And this is one of those moments where I think the federal government and Governor DeSantis actually acted upon the best interest of their citizens. Now, there’s a lot of cleaning up to do. And I’m sure there’ll be a lot of hiccups. Sure. But it’s not often we get to say that our government did something good. And I think this is one of those instances where we can say they did.

EICHER: Andrew, I want to point our attention to a scientific breakthrough, something WORLD’s Liz Lykins recently wrote about. It’s a new study out of Iceland that seems to indicate doctors might soon be able to look at a person’s blood plasma and place a pretty good estimate on his or her lifespan. I’m sure there are some positive things that could come out of that knowledge, but honestly my mind goes to how it would be harmful—from a privacy standpoint, from a mental-health standpoint.

Now, I don’t expect you to know about this study, but again, as a jumping off point, it reminds me of something that seems common and that’s the idea of ethical considerations as an afterthought.

Don’t we see this a lot, and I’m not talking about just here in this case, but where the science gets way out in front of the ethics?

WALKER: I think these are those types of moments where you’re right: The science can move faster than the ethics. And we have recently seen this type of incidence in Canada. Just in the past week, a physician from the Quebec College of Physicians speaking to a joint committee in Canada was recommending euthanasia: Not just for the elderly, but for newborns as well. So for those newborns who have severe deformities, this physician recommends euthanasia as government policy. I think this is tragic. And I think it’s gonna be hard to put this genie back in the bottle, because whenever euthanasia regimes tend to come into effect, the criteria justifying its use only tends to expand over time. So this is just one area where the science can kind of move faster than the ethics.

Another area to look at is the transgender issue. A lot of people may not notice this if they’re not studying it closely, but practitioners of transgender medicine are kind of backpedalling as far as the standard of treatments that they’re recommending for individuals with gender dysphoria. And I think this speaks to the reality that the practice of medicine has moved ahead of the ethics of medicine, and also ahead of the philosophy of medicine. If you’re paying attention to what’s happening—especially in Western Europe—you’re seeing the fact that even in socially affirming environments that are very, very progressive, medical procedures and medical practices are recommended now that contradict established medical practices which were recommended just a few years ago.

I think this speaks to the reality that when you try to reject nature—when you try to play fast and loose with the body—and you don’t have good principles and good philosophical and ethical principles to protect the medicine, then the medicine can do great damage to the body. And it’s happening in real time. And the horrifying thing about this is that we’re going to have a whole cast of victims that will be experiencing long term repercussions of the actions of these progressive voices in medicine. I’m hopeful that in the long run that we will see a return to normalcy, but it’s not going to happen. And we’ll be seeing a lot of heartache happening in the process.

BUTLER: Andrew Walker is professor of Christian ethics and apologetics at Southern Seminary and managing editor of WORLD Opinions. Thanks, Andrew!

WALKER: Thank you.


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