Do our values determine how we think and behave, and even so, does it matter?
Hi, I’m Rex Rogers and this is episode #59 of Discerning What Is Best, a podcast applying unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world, and a Christian worldview to current issues and everyday life.
There’s an aphorism in political philosophy: “ideas have consequences.” Many attribute this to University of Chicago conservative political philosopher Richard Weaver’s book by that title in 1948. But the concept probably goes back to the Greeks.
Theologian John Piper noted how Victor Frankl, a Jewish professor of neurology and psychiatry, who was imprisoned in the Nazi concentration camps of Auschwitz and Dachau during World War II, and later became world renowned for his book, Man’s Search for Meaning, in which he shared the essence of his philosophy that came to be called Logotherapy—that the most fundamental human motive is to find meaning in life. He observed in the horrors of the concentration camps that human beings can endure almost any “how” of life, if they have a “why.”
Later in life in his 90s, Frankl said, “I am absolutely convinced that the gas chambers of Auschwitz, Treblinka, and Maidanek were ultimately prepared not in some ministry or other in Berlin, but rather at the desks and in the lecture halls of nihilistic scientists and philosophers.”
What he was saying is that ideas have consequences, for good or for evil.
The Nazis demonstrated this, crafting a comprehensive empire in just a couple of decades, one that ended in destruction and death, the logical consequences of their false ideas and ideology.
God created human beings in his image as reasoning, thinking, moral agents, people who can evaluate and make choices, whether motivated by nobility or ignobility. What people believe matters.
During the World Cup, word began circulating from Iran that an Iranian professional footballer had been arrested, accused of “waging war against God,” and sentenced to death.
Whether this tragedy occurs, he is by far not the only one scheduled for execution. People who are not famous, unknown to the world, are giving their lives for liberty. They will be killed because religious authorities hold to immoral ideas, which have consequences.
John Piper pointed to the Bible’s observation, “Whatever was written in former days was written…[that] we might have hope,” (Rom 15:4). The ideas presented in the Scriptures produce the practical consequence of hope.”
Ideas in Scripture – that is to say, revealed truth, principles – are there for our benefit so that we may know how to order our lives in a fallen world to serve God and others, to be free and productive, and to flourish.
Regimes like the one in Iran embrace ideas arranged in ideologies that lead to tyranny, destruction, and death.
In the U.S., we’re awash with ideas producing negative consequences.
--Identity politics leads to oversensitivity, cancel culture, seeing racism in everything, and more.
--An assumption that all human beings are basically good, generally the victim of their circumstances and environment, and a sense that all cultures are equal or relative, leads to consequences like the belief police are bad, secure borders are unnecessary, and crime is just the poor getting what they deserve.
--If we embrace the idea sex is just a physical act and nothing more, among the consequences is a celebration of the sexual revolution in all its perverse forms including now the sexualization of children, along with the ongoing hedonism and promiscuity promoted every day by celebrities and online influencers, something that only ends in degradation of lives and families.
--If we don’t think the idea of sin is valid, the consequence is we look for psychological sources to blame for problems, wrong choices, and evil. It becomes easier to call people’s bad behavior “mental illness.” Take Kanye West, now called “Ye,” for example.
I’m not arguing there is no such thing as genuine mental illness or that we should not care about or care for people struggling with mental illness.
I’m simply observing that “mental illness” is now a media “go to” whenever some celebrity behaves badly. It’s a convenient “Get out of jail free” card.
Kanye West has a history of abominable statements, including recently making antisemitic comments. He seems to get a pass from a lot media anchors who say, well, he’s sick, he’s mentally ill, and that’s it. Few people say, Kanye is making wrong choices based upon wrong values and he needs to repent before the Lord.
Ideas have consequences.
Jesus said, “What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them,” Matt 15:11. “But the things that come out of a person’s mouth come from the heart, and these defile them. For out of the heart come evil thoughts—murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, slander. These are what defile a person,” Matt 15:18-20.
In another passage of Scripture, Jesus said, “No good tree bears bad fruit, nor does a bad tree bear good fruit. Each tree is recognized by its own fruit.
People do not pick figs from thornbushes, or grapes from briers. A good man brings good things out of the good stored up in his heart, and an evil man brings evil things out of the evil stored up in his heart. For the mouth speaks what the heart is full of,” Luke 6:43-45.
What is in our heart is what matters, which is to say, our ideas, whatever the source, what we believe has consequences. These consequences emerge in how we think, behave, and the ways we approach living in this world.
In the Old Testament, we were enjoined to “Buy the truth and do not sell it—wisdom, instruction and insight as well,” (Prov. 23:23).
The late Christian philosopher Francis A. Schaeffer observed something similar. “Most people,” he said, “catch their presuppositions from their family and surrounding society, the way that a child catches the measles.
But people with understanding realize that their presuppositions should be *chosen* after a careful consideration of which worldview is true.”
If indeed ideas have consequences, and clearly, they do, then as Schaeffer reminded us, we should take care to choose carefully our presuppositions, which are our basic ideas or assumptions about life. We need to do what Solomon said in Proverbs, “Buy the truth and do not sell it.”
In the early 21st Century, a time saturated by information and online influencers promoting every evil known to humanity, and at a time when culture has rejected the idea of moral or even scientific absolutes, it is imperative individuals, especially Christians, stay moored to truth. For our own sanity and for the well-being of society, we must critique all ideas, recognize their consequences, and stand for truth.
Ideas have consequences.
Believe and act on false ideas and you will sadly, even if enjoyably for a season, drift with the masses along the broad road to destruction.
Believe and act on truthful ideas, and you will be a beacon of light in a dark world, a testimony that there is – still – love, beauty, blessing, and hope.
Well, we’ll see you again soon. This podcast is about Discerning What Is Best. If you find this thought-provoking and helpful, follow us on your favorite podcast platform. Download an episode for your friends. For more Christian commentary, check my website, r-e-x-m as in Martin, that’s rexmrogers.com.
And remember, it is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm.
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