Two New eBooks at Amazon Kindle!

FacebookMySpaceTwitterDiggDeliciousStumbleuponRSS Feed

In Matthew 23, Jesus warns his true spiritual followers about the hypocritical Pharisees, people who Jesus said, “do not practice what they preach” (23:3). The Pharisees and other teachers of the law publicly and with great showiness tithed their income, yet “neglected the more important matters of the law—justice, mercy, and faithfulness” (23:23). Concerning the Pharisees, Jesus told his followers, “Everything they do is done for men to see” (23:5). Jesus said the Pharisees might be clean on the outside, but inside they were “full of greed and self-indulgence” (23:25).

The Pharisees judged everyone else based on their own man-made code of conduct. This penchant for making up their own rules for spiritual behavior was so pronounced, and the Pharisees’ consequent neglect of biblical principle so profound, that Jesus said, “You blind guides! You strain at a gnat but swallow a camel” (23:24).

Straining at gnats and swallowing camels. That’s the general condition of many Christians and churches in this postmodern culture. They’re not operating with a spiritually discerning, Christian worldview. They’ve forgotten about, never understood, or rarely applied Christian liberty. In their effort to be “Not of the World,” they’ve simply become “other-worldly,” focusing on minor matters and therefore exercising very little or no earthly impact.

Insofar as Christians worry about the cultural “gnats” in their environment, they miss some of the much more spiritually threatening “camels.” For example, Christians break fellowship with other believers over the color of carpet in the church (this is not an apocryphal illustration but has really happened in many churches) or whether hymnbooks are used in the service, while local schools, universities, and zoos teach evolutionary theory unchallenged.

Christians argue and split churches over use of drums or guitars in the church, while the philosophic implications of the use of technology of any kind are largely ignored. Christians become emotionally animated to the point of anger over a young person getting a tattoo or wearing a ring in an eyebrow, while Christian moral outrage is limited at best in the face of America’s seduction by legalized commercial gambling.

Christians are good at straining at “gnats,” and like the insect, there are seemingly an unlimited number of “gnat-like issues.” But there are two “gnats” that occupy more of our attention than any others: music styles, and fads and fashions.

Music is perhaps the number one “gnat.” While music clearly offers legitimate grounds for Christian liberty debates and sanctified disagreements, music can nevertheless be another “gnat” causing us to miss more spiritually threatening “camels.”

For example, is the person who makes the following observation a cynic or a realist? Consider these words: “American Christians dispute the type of music appropriate for worship while church members gossip, lie, and generally ignore pre-marital sex and adultery between its members.” These are fairly harsh words, but honesty requires us to admit that they’re an all too accurate description of many churches. We strain at “gnats” and swallow “camels.”

Music is a cultural battleground. No other issue causes more Church division than Christian culture wars fought over music. No other issue demonstrates more clearly that Christian liberty may be the least understood and least practiced doctrine in the Bible. No other issue better illustrates (or more wrenchingly illustrates) Christians’ lack of a fully developed Christian worldview.

A Christian worldview informs us: “The world as created is an unfinished symphony. God called man, his cultural creature and co-worker, to take up the work and bring it to the fullness of that perfection which God had placed in it as promise.” Music is part of that unfinished symphony. Christians need to understand music in terms of the biblical definition of life provided by a Christian worldview.

Christian culture wars are fought over issues of near infinite variety. It seems that our ability to create our own “holy lists” knows no limit. One more of these cultural issues significantly and perennially disrupts Christian unity and therefore demands our attention: clothing fads and fashions.

Clothing styles rank near music as an obstacle in our mission to fulfill the Cultural Mandate and the Great Commission. Given the amount of emotional and spiritual energy we pour into this debate, I’d have to say that clothing fads and fashions are another “gnat.”

Let me illustrate. A few years ago a nationally known preacher spoke at Cornerstone University. During that chapel message, he vigorously derided former NBA rebounding star, Dennis Rodman, for the constantly varying unnatural colors of his hairstyle. At the time there were two students attending the university who wore their hair in bright, unnatural, sometimes florescent colors. I saw them in the balcony during that chapel and wondered what was going through their minds. These were two young men who lived dedicated Christian lives, playfully enjoyed their differently colored hair, did not associate this action with unbiblical attitudes and values, and who today wear their hair in their natural colors.

During the next week’s chapels, I took what is a very rare step for our university and commented about this speaker’s diatribe. I noted the focus on Dennis Rodman’s hair. My point with the students was that from a Christian point of view the color of Mr. Rodman’s hair was the least spiritually objectionable thing about the man. His fame came more from his outrageous, degenerate behavior than from his basketball exploits. At the time, Mr. Rodman lived a highly public, in-your-face, immoral, even debauched lifestyle founded upon a worldview antithetical to the Christian faith. The color of his hair, like the blue colored hair of the elderly lady in church, simply does not mean much. It’s a “gnat.”

Fads and fashions are notoriously fickle. During these postmodern times of rapid social change, clothing and personal appearance styles come and go, or more likely are simply layered, with astonishing speed. This fact alone should make Christians proceed with a bit more caution in creating bandwagons of resistance to fads and fashions. More to the point in terms of a Christian worldview, unless fads or fashions are immodest, we need to appreciate the variety and move on to more important concerns.

“Modesty” is the key biblical principle governing clothing choices. When Adam and Eve sinned against God in the Garden of Eden and knew that they were naked, they sewed fig leaves together and covered themselves. Later after God dealt with their sin, He made garments of skin and clothed them (Genesis 3:7,21). How extensive these coverings were we do not know. We do know that regardless of the culture in which we live and whatever the clothing styles of the moment, we are to dress modestly.

Beyond modesty, the Scripture does not give us law; it gives us liberty. We are responsible to spiritually discern how to participate in fads and fashions in a manner that allows us to live in the world while being not of the world.

This text is excerpted from my book, Christian Liberty:  Living for God in a Changing Culture (Baker, 2003).


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

Cornerstone University announced today that it will teach character principles to students in West Michigan public schools. The university will use the NAIA’s Champions of Character program.

In a precedent setting move, the university’s program initiative has been endorsed by the Ottawa-Kent Athletic Association. This association represents some 50 schools and about 50,000 students.

Character breakdowns are now a major problem in competitive athletics. Not a week goes by without some new revelation of sports figures involved in some questionable or even nefarious activity that undermines the purity and joy of competition governed by fair play. Cheating, doping, sports wagering, poor sportsmanship by athletes, coaches, and even fans, and even violence all threaten the very integrity of the game.

Even as I write this piece national sports news coverage has focused upon the details of a possible sports gambling ring surrounding hockey great Wayne Gretzky and his wife. Gretzky has not at this point been directly implicated, and I hope he is not involved. But the story is young. Either way, another sports character scandal is now in the news.

In part because of this growing breakdown of character in sport, some 70% of student athletes quit competitive sports forever by the time they are 14 years of age. Young student athletes say that what they dislike most about playing sports is “the car ride home”—which points to the negative influence parents and guardians often have upon young people’s understanding of the purpose and potential joys of competitive athletics. Something must be done.

The NAIA’s Champions of Character program is part of the answer. The program teaches students five core values: Respect, Responsibility, Integrity, Sportsmanship, and Servant Leadership. These values may be taught using as much biblical theology as one cares to offer, or they may be taught based upon the broad public moral consensus shared by most individuals, regardless of their religious persuasion. Cornerstone University is a NAIA Champions of Character Program Center and is among the NAIA’s leaders (among some 300 schools) in supporting this character building program.

Cornerstone University’s Champions of Character program is being taught through the Athletic Department to all university student athletes. CU’s Athletic Director Dave Grube and Champions of Character Program Director Mike Riemersma lead the university’s athletic character initiative. Champions of Character seminars will be offered free of charge to area public schools, thus not adding to school district financial burdens while developing a quality experience that can literally transform students’ lives.

The goal of CU’s partnership with the O.K. Association is to help students learn to be not simply better athletes but better human beings.

I could not be more pleased with this development. Teaching character principles is a direct extension of the university’s biblical worldview. It engages us in a current cultural problem, and it allows us to help provide a solution. This program has enormous potential, so we are hoping CU will be able to expand this program throughout the State of Michigan.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at


Aristotle once said, "Anyone can become angry. That is easy. But to be angry with the right person, to the right degree, at the right time, for the right purpose and in the right way -- that is not easy." Aristotle got it right.

But my experience suggests that most people are not as particular as Aristotle about how they become angry, what they become angry about, or whether they’re aiming their anger—or criticism—at the right person in the right way.

I’ve said for years that you can’t be in leadership for longer than ten minutes without being criticized. Leaders always attract both more kudos and more blame than they deserve. Criticism is part of the reason Harry Truman said, “If you can’t stand the heat stay out of the kitchen.”

But the kitchen is getting hotter. What seems to be changing is the intensity of criticism. People don’t just criticize. They criticize even relatively minor actions of leaders at a level of emotional and rhetorical intensity that is at times startling in its rancor. This is true whether you are a nationally recognized leader like the President of the United States or you are a leader in your church, community, or local organization.

My experience teaches me that when people disagree with a leader’s decision or action some respond by asking questions and expressing concern. These people are looking for understanding and resolution, not self-righteous victory. But these people are dwindling in number.

My experience also suggests that an alarmingly increasing number of people who become upset with a leader’s decision respond in one of the following ways:

They make assumptions, do not check their facts, and respond in a manner that has the leader tried, found guilty, and preferably “executed” before he or she is given an opportunity to answer the criticism.

  • They use emotionally loaded terms, even invective.
  • They question not simply the merits of a decision or action; they question the integrity, motives, and character of the leader.
  • They do not ask questions; they attack.
  • They demonstrate an incredible level of cynicism or outright distrust toward leaders and toward organizations.
  • They assume leaders make decisions or take actions wholly driven by self-interest and without regard for others or what might be considered objectively and morally right or best.

I realize this list paints a rather dark picture. But I’ve read too many letters, notes, or emails and participated in too many calls or even direct conversations characterized by one or more elements of this list.

I believe the increasing emotional and rhetorical intensity I see in criticism is rooted in the moral breakdown of culture. People do not trust anyone anymore because they’ve been “burned” by family members who’ve abandoned, abused, or otherwise rejected them. People believe others always lie because they’ve often been lied to. Too many people react angrily because they do not know how else to react.

The solution to this problem is obvious but not easy to implement. Our culture and in turn each one of us needs a spiritual revival. We need to understand that “God is love” so that we can love others. We need to know that God will forgive us so that we may forgive others, seasoning our speech with longsuffering, hope, and trust.

I cannot be responsible for everyone else’s behavior, but I certainly am responsible for my own. I can learn to receive and give criticism in a manner that honors God.

By no means am I perfect and by no means have I always responded properly to others with whom I’ve disagreed. But as a pattern I think I have learned to proceed carefully, check my facts, ask questions, and treat the other with respect. If after all this I still disagree than I can at least disagree agreeably.

I tell people never to respond “in kind,” never put in print what will shame you if it makes the newspapers, and never attack. I’ve learned to offer constructive criticism, and I’m hoping to help others to learn the same. How to criticize is, ironically perhaps, one of the lessons I’ve learned in leadership.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

There’s probably not a week that goes by that I am not called upon to defend the “Christian-ness” of Cornerstone University on some issue or in some fashion. Usually I find this phenomenon rather fascinating. Sometimes, I confess, I find it frustrating.

People question the university's Christian commitment based upon their understanding of the phrase, and the number of these perspectives seems infinite.  No real consensus seems to exist anymore in what it means to be Christian.

Words that used to work in this defense no longer seem to work. For example, if I say CU is “conservative” people will assign their own definition to the word, which may include---theological understanding (which is what I mean when I use this word: CU is theologically conservative, which is to say that we believe the Bible is God’s Word and that it is our guide for faith and practice), political positions, rules or lifestyle commitments, or an organizational style or orientation as in not innovative, risk averse, or cautious. But CU does not demand that its employees always adopt politically conservative positions, CU bases its spiritual formation program upon spiritual discernment rather than rules, and CU is actually a rather progressive and innovative organization.

If I say that CU is “evangelical,” then people will think of everyone from Jim Wallis on the Left to Jerry Falwell or Pat Robertson on the Right. I do not and CU does not niche on either end of this continuum. Or people hear the word “evangelical” and think CU is representative of the “Values Voters” who put Bush back in the White House in the 2004 election. Or people hear that word and think Fundamentalist, legalistic, or a group that doesn’t work and play well with others, has a vision for the world that brooks no disagreement, and in general is comprised of people who would not make good neighbors. Actually, if I say CU is “evangelical,” I mean that we believe the Bible and we believe that Jesus Christ is God’s Son through whom one may receive salvation from sin.

If a university student goes to a dance, than it must mean the university is no longer Christian. If a professor uses a book in his class that was produced by a non-Christian, than this must mean the university no longer cares about its faith. If the university hires according to its faith principles this must mean people at the university stand in judgment of all others who may affirm slightly different views of Christian faith. If an university athlete does not comport himself or herself well on the court or field of play, than this must mean the entire university is given to poor sportsmanship and non-Christian attitudes. If people give to the university and allow it to build a beautiful structure this must mean the university is more about materialism than missions or ministry. If a faculty member writes something someone else does not like, this must mean that the professor’s view is the university’s view and, thus, the university is no longer to be trusted. And so it goes.

Cornerstone University is a Christian university. What does this mean? It means that all of our trustees and personnel are authentic and dedicated Christian people. It means that our academic, athletic, student development, seminary, and radio programming are intentionally constructed upon a biblical worldview with the purpose of teaching or propagating a biblical worldview. It means that we make decisions we believe will advance our mission—“to enable individuals to apply unchanging biblical principles in a rapidly changing world.” It does not mean we are perfect, but it does mean we strive for excellence, consistency with our biblical worldview, and effectiveness.

Sole Deo Gloria.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

“How much fiction can a nonfiction book contain before it must be re-classified as fiction?” That’s the question of the month that’s raising eyebrows far beyond publishing industry.

James Frey’s book, A Million Little Pieces (2003), a drug-addiction novel-turned-memoir, sold more copies in 2005 than any other book except J.K. Rowling’s latest tome in the “Harry Potter” series. Everything was going swimmingly for Frey, including an October 26, 2005 appearance on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and Oprah’s selection of the book for Oprah’s Book Club, which resulted in some 2 million book sales (3.5 million total to date) and counting just from Oprah’s fans.

Then the website, The Smoking Gun, outed the book’s numerous fabrications built into the supposedly true, gut wrenching story of addiction rehabilitation. Frey and his publisher, Doubleday, have been doing damage control since including an appearance (with his Mother sitting at his side) on “Larry King Live” January 11, 2006 during which Oprah literally placed a last minute call blessing the book’s “underlying message of redemption” and saying the book, “still resonates with me.” Later she added, “To me, it seems to be much ado about nothing.”

Frey has refused to respond directly to The Smoking Gun’s allegations and has threatened the site with a lawsuit. Larry King zoned in and Frey responded to accusations of falsehood by bizarrely admitting to 18 pages of “embellishments,” which he said represented “less than 5 percent of the total book.” For Frey, “The important aspect of the memoir is getting at the essential truth.”

So now instead of Truth we have “essential truth,” which is a bit like Al Gore’s “no controlling legal authority” or Bill Clinton’s “It depends on what the definition of ‘is’ is.” Clinton still owns the Baby Boomer Fabricator-in-Chief title with his finger-pointing “I did not have sexual relations with that woman, Miss Lewinsky.” But Frey is introducing his generation’s definition of truth, which is to say, “essential truth.”

Neither Frey nor Doubleday much care about the hoopla, for it simply sells more books. And Oprah thinks its much ado about nothing. But shouldn’t the rest of us care? If nonfiction is fiction aren’t we left with Orwellian double-speak offering no certainty and eventually no hope. Former New York Times reporter Jason Blair lost his job for fabricating stories. Why is what Frey did any different?

Frey’s book was first conceived as a bloody, graphic novel, which was, according to Frey, rejected by a dozen publishers. When his agent then suggested Frey call the book a memoir it sold and sold big. Memoir is a form of the word “memory,” and everyone’s memory grows dim with time. But “memoir” also means “one’s personal experiences,” which is to say that the author tripping down memory lane is remembering, however dimly, actual events, times, places, and people---not fantasy.

Politicians are often accused of “spinning” the truth, which may mean putting one’s best foot forward (actual occurrences) or it may mean stretching the truth (which is a form of not telling “nothing but the truth” and, therefore, a lie).

Christians are guilty too. For years I have disliked the phrase “evangelistically speaking,” which is used as a generally kind but sometimes biting comment about a preacher’s tendency to exaggerate his statistics. I’ve never liked even the kindly use of the phrase for it seemed to indicate the preacher was either an uninformed boob who could not get his facts straight, an avid spinner creating a fuzzy impression, or an outright liar. None of these images seemed very preacherly to me.

Lying began in the Garden of Eden. As part of Adam’s race, we’ve all lied at some point if not multiple points in our lives. But this condition of the human race does not make lying acceptable, whether its called prevarication, fabrication, spinning, equivocation, hedging, evangelistically speaking, dissembling, pulling the wool over his eyes, fibbing, “truthiness” as has been cited on comedy channels, or lying.

The concept of “essential truth” fits neatly within moral relativism-the idea that there is no such thing as absolute, for-sure, for-certain, “true even if you don’t believe it” truth-which is one of the defining characteristics of postmodern culture. Francis A. Schaeffer coined the phrase “True truth” a long time ago, just to convey the reality of divinely given ultimate, objective truth. Truth is, whether James Frey, Oprah, Bill Clinton, Jason Blair, you or I own it or not.

No one ever said nonfiction can have no fiction within it, just that respect for God, truth, one’s own integrity, the writer’s craft, and the reading public demands the fiction be identified. I’m glad Frey is no longer addicted to drugs. Let’s hope he can break his addiction to falsehoods. Even more, let’s hope the publishing industry rediscovers the definition of fiction and nonfiction.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at

New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin thinks recent catastrophic weather is a message from God.  During a Martin Luther King, Jr. Day rally yesterday, the Mayor said, "As we think about rebuilding New Orleans, surely God is mad at America.  He's sending hurricane after hurricane after hurricane.”

Nagin also interpreted God’s purported view of African Americans, noting, "But surely he's upset at black America also. We're not taking care of ourselves. We're not taking care of our women. And we're not taking care of our children."  Mayor Nagin’s comments caused enough reaction that he apologized today.

Earlier this month it was Pat Robertson (re his comments about Ariel Sharon) on the Right, now it’s Ray Nagin on the Left—both seem to believe they know exactly what God is doing and why.

Mayor Nagin has worked hard under extreme pressure.  He’s clearly blessed with certain leadership skills, and I would not question his heart for the people or the city of New Orleans.  But you never know quite what he’s going to say, including borderline race-based commentary accusing the Federal government of ignoring the city simply because many of its residents are Black.  In yesterday’s comments, he also said God wanted New Orleans to be a “chocolate city” once again, reinforcing what some consider a racist view of the city and its future.  Hopefully, he’s discovered that kind of rhetoric doesn’t work very well or attract many followers.

Is God at work in this world?  Of course he is.  Is he sovereign over everything, including good and evil—and for that matter the weather?  Yes he is.  Is God out of touch with what’s happening in America in 2005-2006?  No he is not.  Can we read the Bible and learn something about God’s character, his will, and his pattern of relationships with human beings, nations, and history?  Yes.

Can we, then, experience, read, or watch breaking news and know for certain that God is accomplishing some specific divine intent?  No we cannot.  God does not give us that kind of information.

The doxology of Romans 11:33-34 says it best: “Oh, the depth of the riches of the wisdom and knowledge of God.  How unsearchable his judgments, and his paths beyond tracing out!  Who has known the mind of the Lord?  Or who has been his counselor?”

Mayor Nagin has every right to his opinion, and I am glad he is seemingly interested in what God is doing.  But I don’t think the Mayor has a hotline to God that allows him to make the claims that he did.  I disagree with the Mayor’s statements, even as I’ll try to understand something of the stress under which he made them.  Still, we generally have the right to expect more from our leaders.  Anyone can make a mistake, but measured, well considered responses ought to characterize the Mayor’s public pronouncements.

God may indeed be displeased with America.  He may be concerned about families without faithful fathers—White or Black.  We should examine what God says about the faiths of nations and families.  But we should avoid speaking ex cathedra, even if we are an over-wrought politician.


© Rex M. Rogers - All Rights Reserved, 2006

*This blog may be reproduced in whole or in part with a full attribution statement. Contact Dr. Rogers or read more commentary on current issues and events at or follow him at