In today's episode, Scott & special guest Rick Langer from Biola's Talbot School of Theology discuss these topics:

  • Michigan School Shooting Case: Discussion on a case where parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter linked to their son's school shooting, highlighting the negligence in ignoring warning signs and the legal and moral responsibilities of parents and schools in such situations.

  • Post-Truth American Universities: Analysis of a Gallup poll showing declining confidence in higher education and discussion on how postmodernism and the questioning of truth and facts have affected universities, contrasting this with the Christian worldview on truth.

  • Jordan Peterson's License Revocation: Exploration of Jordan Peterson's appeal loss regarding his psychology license in Ontario, Canada, focusing on his controversial remarks and the implications for free speech and professional governance.

  • Pope Francis on Surrogate Motherhood: Examination of Pope Francis's condemnation of surrogate motherhood as exploitative and deplorable, discussing the ethical, financial, and cultural implications, particularly in the context of rich-poor dynamics and reproductive technologies.

  • Listener Questions: Addressing questions from listeners, including a biblical perspective on debt and financial stewardship, and the order of creation.

Episode Transcript

Scott: Welcome to the Think Biblically weekly cultural update where we look at current events with cultural significance through the lenses of a Christian worldview and we'll answer some of the questions that you all have sent in. As a reminder, this is in addition to not a substitute for our regular Think Biblically podcast. We will post our weekly cultural update every Friday and our regular Think Biblically podcast will post on Monday or Tuesday. I'm your host Scott Rae and sitting in for Sean who's out of the country this week is my colleague Dr. Rick Langer. Rick, thanks so much for being with us for this conversation.

Rick: Thanks, Scott, for inviting me in.

Scott: Hey, your story number one jury selection was yesterday for a very unusual case that comes out of Oxford Township, Michigan. Parents were charged with involuntary manslaughter from unlawful negligence with respect and in connection to the school shooting that their son, a 15-year-old, committed over two years ago. This began all in in late 2021 when Ethan Crumbly of Oxford High School in Oxford Township, Michigan shot and killed four of his classmates, pled guilty, and was convicted of first-degree murder and then after trial took a while, sentencing took a while, but was sentenced in December of 2023 to life without the possibility of parole. Trial for the parents for involuntary manslaughter began yesterday with jury selection. Now, this is not the first time this has happened, but it is unusual. Previously a mother in Florida was charged with child neglect when her six-year-old got her gun, took it to school, and ended up shooting his teacher right in the classroom.

Rick: Somewhere in that sequence some things are happening that shouldn't be happening.

I just want to weigh in on that right now.

Scott: Well I appreciate that very, very profound sentiment.

Rick: I've been thinking about this for a while and that became clear to me. Go ahead.

Scott: So a number of, just a number of factual things that weighed into the decision to charge the parents were that the dad bought the gun for his son Ethan just after Thanksgiving in 2021. And it was in late November, just less than a week after he bought the gun for him, that he used it to open fire on four of his classmates. And the parents were essentially charged with this negligence based on their failure to heed some pretty specific warning signs. A teacher in his school, for example, saw him on the web searching for ammunition online. And when it was reported to the mother she ended up texting the son back, basically said, "Hey, next time don't get caught." So, that was sort of warning sign number one.

Rick: I'll add that to my list of things that shouldn't be happening.

Scott: That's good. And then the second part of this was a drawing that he had made while he was in school that really got the school's attention where it was a drawing of a shooter with a victim in a school setting saying, and written on there was, "These thoughts won't stop. Please help me."

Rick: Wow.

Scott: And so, at some point, I think there's blame to be laid both on the parents and on the school. The parents for not informing the school that he actually had a weapon and the school for not searching his backpack where they would have found the weapon. They referred him to mandatory counseling, basically said, "If you don't get counseling for him within 48 hours, Child Protective Services is taking him away." The parents refused the counseling and allowed him to stay in school that day and declined to take him home for the day. And the school officials allowed him to stay in school. Then the unthinkable took place and now here we are with both parents being tried separately for involuntary manslaughter. It's the first time that we're aware that in a mass shooting, the parents have been held legally liable for their part, not the whole, but their part in this. So, tell me what you make of the parents being held legally liable for actions that their son committed while under their care. Please say something more profound than you did before.

Rick: [laughs] I'll do my best. It's actually very helpful to have the comparison to the woman who let her six-year-old take—and presumably the six-year-old hadn't been making drawings that showed him shooting or anything. The six-year-old probably just literally didn't know what he or she was doing. But the parent was clearly irresponsible for leaving the tools of this destruction readily available and ready to hand for the kid.

Scott: Obviously the gun was not locked up. The safety was not on, all of the above.

Rick: All of the above. And so, I do think that's a helpful analogy because you say, yeah, it isn't a crazy thought to just say a parent is responsible for a child's behavior. Oftentimes I would push back on that notion because, you know, children are people and they have their own responsibilities. But you see situations like that where they're going, no, it's a reasonable expectation for a person to not make it possible for your six-year-old to go and do that. And I do, by the time you're done describing your rather terrifying story here, Scott, I was feeling that way about not only the parents, but also the school. And what it really made me think was the fact that we talk about our moral decisions very individualistically. But you look at this context and go, wait, this is a family thing. Then it's a school thing. Then it's like, did you tell me he was surfing the web to buy ammunition? And you're like, oh, we live in a culture. And you begin to look at this and it's like a set of Russian nesting dolls of moral responsibility. And where do you draw the line in terms of who would get incarcerated or not is an interesting question.

Scott: Yeah. I think the legal question is a little different than the moral one. I think it is fair to say that the parents bear some moral responsibility and the school bears some moral responsibility. I would say not the lion's share of it. And I think what's unclear is whether that's enough of a share to warrant jail time. But I think, of course, the lion's share of responsibility is on Ethan, who was 15, not six, which I think makes a very big difference. And I suspect that there are things that teenage children have done despite the parents' best efforts to parent them properly that they should not be held responsible for.

Rick: Right. Yeah. And I think that the first question that comes to mind is, where does this cross the threshold? And I guess to me, in this case, it's more plausible than I would have thought at the outset when thinking about this. It was interesting that I was reading this article and they were talking about Ethan at his sentencing talking and saying, Look, this is my, I made this decision, not mom and dad or whatever. But mom and dad aren't actually being charged with making that decision. That's correct. They're charged with negligent homicide, right?

Scott: That's correct. They have involuntary manslaughter.

Rick: Yeah. And so, yeah, an interesting story. Yeah.

Scott: And I think you're from a Christian worldview too. I think we air when we think that, you know, that all moral decisions are simply individually and autonomously made as though there was no impact. I mean, yes, we believe in free will, but that doesn't mean that we don't also recognize there are forces that influence and impact the decisions that people make. And that the family context matters, the cultural context matters, not that those excuse those actions, but they do make them, I think they do, they do recognize that there's maybe more, a little bit more blame to go around than just on that individual.

Rick: Well it’s good from a Christian standpoint to look at a story like that and say, ask the question, how should we then live and have part of that be say, wait a minute, I shouldn't just be thinking about the crime that this 15 year old, you know, teenager committed. I mean, we need to have that judgment, but then we need to stop and think, wait a minute, what else was broken? What are things we do? What would be better? What is more like Shalom and say, how could we work towards it?

Scott: Here, here. All right. Story number two came out Wednesday in the Atlantic magazine with this really striking headline that American universities are post-truth, which suggests a significant loss of confidence in the integrity of the university system in general. And I think they're speaking of state secular universities in particular. And the article reflects that this is occurring on both sides of the political aisle. It's not just the right or the left that's making these charges. So, tell us a little bit more what this article is about and what you make of it.

Rick: Yeah. So one of the things that's really interesting about the article was, you know, kind of the launching point was the Gallup poll that was done in 2015 and 2023 regarding people's confidence in higher education. And Republicans in 2015, 56% of them said that they had quite a lot of confidence in higher education. And by 2023, that number is 19%. That's quite a drop. That is a cliff, a demographic cliff you have just driven off of. The interesting thing was the drop for independence was from 48% to 32%, which is a huge drop. And even for Democrats from 67% to 59%. So, I think it really does show the point that the article makes—I think it is right that this is a pervasive loss of confidence in our university system.

Scott: So what exactly does it mean? Does the article mean when they say that universities are post truth?

Rick: Well, I think they're pointing at the idea that we have gone through, we talk about postmodernism. And I think ideas have a slow burn through culture. They don't just flare up and all the consequences come at once. And I think postmodernism has been working through our culture in a way that began, I think by dismantling our values. So, you might call us at that point post morality or post moral absolutes, but they didn't stop there. So, we didn't just dismantle values, we began to dismantle facts. So, truth itself was called into question. It is not simply an objective fact, rather truth is the canons of reason and things like that are the products of the power brokers and power holders in a society. They use what counts as truth as a way to subordinate those who oppose their things and to keep themselves in power.

Scott: So truth is a social construction?

Rick: Truth is a social construction and therefore it is also going to fall prey to the same thing as any other, as the moral values that were dismantled first, you know, into our thinking. Truth is now gone and you could probably forecast it won't be too long till we have universities, American universities are post reality. Because I'm already seeing people use that language about each person having their own reality. Truth wasn't enough. We're extrapolating that to just kind of almost the worlds we all live in.

Scott: So it's extended from, you know, live your truth to construct your own reality.

Rick: Construct your own reality. And the interesting thing, the evidence that the writer gives for this is really instructive because he isn't talking about just the things you may think of immediately, you know, social justice kinds of concerns that Trump concerns in the academic kind of context. We're saying, no, no, the actual research academics are doing, they are cheating on this research. Or they're saying, well, the standards of evidence don't apply in cases in which someone is pushing back against Euro-American colonialism, for example. And they gave an example of a particular case in which someone identified that a Jamaican metallurgist had developed this metallurgical process that actually was patented by an English person later. And so they tell this whole story kind of that fits into an oppression narrative, but they don't give any evidence for it. And then when the magazine, the journalist called into question for having done that, their response is, well, you can't just take these things for granted, these standards of reason and accountability, and they talk about, you know, ethno-European empiricism as a, you know, that that is sort of the thing that says there's facts in reality. And they're saying, well, you can't take that for granted. And you're really just saying we can't have actual standards of reason and warrant warranted belief because those are all power products.

Scott: So, by contrast, Christian universities have an entirely different view of truth as part of God's revelation, both in His Word and in His world. We hold that there's a natural law notion that God reveals Himself and His moral values in His world as well as in His Word. And we stand unapologetically for the notion of truth and that it's not culturally determined. Now, how the lenses through which we perceive the truth can be clouded because of the general entrance of sin. But I think the lenses through which we read the Scripture can be similarly clouded through self-interest and, you know, cultural factors that you may not recognize until you actually get outside your dominant culture that you're in. So, I think the Christian worldview forms a necessary and helpful contrast to this because what eventually happens if I create my own reality and I live my truth, where does that leave us when it comes to math and science and engineering where a single clear standard of what's true and what's accurate is going to make a big difference about whether I have confidence driving my car over that bridge or not.

Rick: Well, one of the interesting things in this article is that he cites some of these things and he talks about the loss of confidence. And what you're really seeing, it isn't just that people have done these dismantling of truth in all of, and of course, values before that. But the point the article is making is we've done that for so long that now it isn't just conservatives who are upset about this, but independents, everyone is losing faith in the university. And I think I often say to people that reality has a way of doing away with fantasy. You can say these things all you want, but sooner or later, no matter how many followers you have for your fantasy, reality is going to stick its nose in there. And I think some of these things happened with the October 7th events with Hamas and we're suddenly saying, hey, this is all, we drop it into a discourse of oppressor oppressed and the Palestinians are the oppressed. So, we will side with the oppressed against the oppressor. And all of this language kicks in and you have a whole bunch of other people just looking at it and saying, 1200 people were killed in cold blood. Babies were beheaded. Women were raped and sexually abused. And we're okay with this? We're not actually. And so there was a lot of that kind of pushback. And likewise, with some of these other standards that people just looked and said, well, that's just nuts. And I think reality is pushing back in a very wholesome way on that.

Scott: Yeah, I think that's a helpful way to put that reality. Sometimes it does push back rather harshly.

Rick: Yeah. And that's been a big shock for the universities right now really are going through a bit of a crisis. Just looked at the Chronicle of Higher Education this morning and had an article about the kind of the left and the person who wrote it was a progressive, but the left is kind of lost. It has a split vision for what the university is supposed to be. And it's kind of losing its way. And I think it's making a lot of people all across the spectrum think, and yeah, welcome to reality. It's helpful that way.

Scott: Yeah. Now, I think it's been widely noted for some time that free speech and academic freedom has taken a major beating in most secular universities with speech codes and things like that.

Rick: Yeah. As you say, in institutionalized beating, it isn't just students who aren't listening to it, but it's being enforced by those mechanisms. Yeah.

Scott: Now, story number three sort of relates to this—

Rick: Uh-oh. I thought we were... [laughing] I thought we'd had enough of that. Go ahead.

Scott: On Tuesday, I suspect many of our listeners are familiar with the rather celebrated Canadian psychologist Jordan Peterson. Yes. He's made a lot of headlines. He said a lot of very controversial things, but has attracted an incredible following as well. On Tuesday, Jordan Peterson lost his appeal, his second appeal, in an attempt to keep his license to practice psychology in the province of Ontario in his home country in Canada. Now, responding to complaints, and to be clear, no complaints were lodged by any of Peterson's clients. These were outside—most people think they were activists who were out to get Peterson. The Ontario College of Psychologists, which is not affiliated with a university, it's called the College, they said that's the British Canadian name for the oversight board. It's like the American...

Rick: Psychological Association or whatever.

Scott: The American Psychological Association for California responded to these complaints by ordering Peterson to undergo social media education, which he termed, "Reeducation," or forfeit his license to practice psychology. He sued in lower court, arguing that his political and social views are not subject to the oversight board's authority. He lost in lower court, and on Tuesday, the Court of Appeals also ruled against him. So he's faced with the choice either to surrender his license or attend mandatory social media training sessions. So here's the controversial remarks that got the attention of the oversight board. He's accused, based on his view of COVID vaccines, that he was very skeptical about a lot of things coming out of the scientific world about COVID and vaccines. He also told on Twitter, those who believe the world is overpopulated that they are free to leave any time, which the board said that was actually... It was constituted inciting suicide. I told trans activist Ellen Page and others that they were having their breasts removed by criminal law, and that obesity was not beautiful, and "no amount of authoritarian tolerance was going to change that." Those were just some of the comments that got the board's attention. So, he said in the aftermath of this, basically to Canadians, that the Charter of Rights that you base your freedoms on is not worth the paper it's printed on, and that free speech is essentially dead. So I'm interested to hear your response to that, particularly in light of the previous piece on the post-truth university.

Rick: Yeah. So I mean, this issue of it being institutionally enforced, when this was beginning, I was... I don't know what I'd exactly pictured when I'd heard some of these headlines, but kind of a bunch of people who were pushing back on Twitter or social media, whatever, or perhaps even his own university, because that has happened a lot here where universities don't like what a person's saying and they will put pressure on. But this is the secular governing board that licenses people to carry out, to be a psychologist, to be a therapist. That's really disturbing to me, because this is one of those things that you think the government is exactly there to prevent this sort of a thing from happening, because, I mean, his views aren't the kinds of things that Ethan. Cromberly was proposing doing or killing people, which have come up a lot on these things, where you realize, "Oh, I know this is talk. I believe this happened with a Hamas thing with a student at Cornell who was talking about going into Cornell Jewish—they have a kosher place where they can eat and shooting people up and all these terrible things that are the kind of thing to go, "Wait a minute. This sounds dangerous," and the guy ended up being arrested." But these are relatively mundane statements. They're political opinions, and he does word them, so the idea that they can feel free to leave the planet. I mean, I guess, but inciting suicide with that kind of a comment seems a little bit of an overstatement of what's going on there, particularly in a generic sense. This isn't what he's saying in an individual counseling appointment, right? This is just his Twitter comments.

Scott: Yeah, for our listeners, on Tuesday, it's available on YouTube. His daughter interviewed him about the court decision, and it was very revealing. I think he has no intention of attending these mandatory reeducation sessions.

Rick: I would love to be the fly on the wall of him attending one of those mandatory reeducation sessions. That would be worth it. I would love to have a video of that.

Scott: Yeah, I'm not sure I'd like to be the instructor at that point.

Rick: I don't know that I would, either. That's true.

Scott: I think the social media mobs have tried to cancel him and silence him for a long time, but his popularity has proven somewhat immune to that. So, it'd be very interesting to see where this goes next, because the way the court of appeals left it was that there was no other option legally for him. So I suspect he will surrender his license peacefully, or at least somewhat peacefully, and continue to make the kind of cultural observations that he's been making for some time.

Rick: Yeah, it's interesting for me to think about some of this person, because Jordan Peterson, he does word things so as to be inflammatory. That's part of what builds his clientele. Rush Limbaugh did this. And I've never been personally a super big fan of that, but that's so different than asking whether or not I think it should be legal, or a person should lose their license for saying that. That I find really different than just looking at some statements and saying, "Well, he's just trying to be a provocateur," or whatever. Well, to an extent he is. But I just don't understand how that should make you lose your license for something like this.

Scott: And lose your livelihood as a result.

Rick: In his case, I think he’ll be fine, but yes.

Scott: I think he will be fine. All right. It'd be interesting to encourage our listeners to watch and see where that goes. So, keep your eyes open for that. If you want to access that interview, it's very revealing. All right. One more story I think we have time for. Not too long ago, just in the last week or so, Pope Francis declared surrogate motherhood deplorable and called for a worldwide ban on it, saying it promotes the commodification of children. It is an assault on the intrinsic dignity of both women and children. It is accused of being used in connection with various forms of human trafficking and is essentially exploitative of women. All right. Now the Pope, not surprisingly, got a lot of pushback from families that had been successfully constructed via surrogacy. And our listeners should know that this is really only for the very well off, which is why celebrities are increasingly becoming public about their surrogacy arrangements, particularly older celebrities who have waited to have children. And we see gay couples are now some of the biggest customers of all forms of reproductive technology, but particularly gay men's couples. They have to have surrogacy in order to make this work. And they are now roughly over half of the clients of the surrogacy cases from around the world. And we've been outsourcing surrogacy for some time because women in India, especially if they're not genetically connected to the child that they're carrying, all they are providing, according to some, is the gestational environment, which is shelter and nutrition. Some have termed it prenatal babysitting, a womb for rent, things like that. And in most of these cases, the surrogates have no parental rights to the child that they're carrying. And so you can pay women in the developing world. In fact, some surrogacy agencies will actually say they are looking for women who are increasingly desperate, because if they don't have the financial resources to keep the child, they won't be tempted to do so. And so a surrogacy arrangement here in the US doesn't take a lot of imagination to see that going into the high five figures, low six figures to do, which you can do in India or other parts of the developing world for roughly $5,000, which for these women, that's a year's pay for them. So, what do you make of the Pope's statement here calling... He really had some of the strongest languages we've heard from him in this area.

Rick: So, that was my first thought when you were describing this, is how strong that language is. And that's from... Pope Francis has not been a beacon of that kind of strong language. I think it really is clearly attached to probably what is one of his driving passions, which is this issue of the rich exploiting the poor in any variety of ways around the world. And it is interesting. I am pretty sympathetic to that thought about how surrogacy works. There's a huge amount of exploitation and there's an interesting slippery slope beginning with IVF and going on down to surrogacy that... I mean, it runs something like this. So at the beginning you have IVF with your own sperm and egg from the members of the couple implanted in the woman's, the wife's womb, because perhaps you've had some sort of tubal obstruction or whatever, whatever the reason is. You have that as kind of the beginning point. And then you have the purchased sperm from a sperm bank that's implanted in the wife's womb. Then you have in vitro fertilization with a family member's womb. So, a loaned womb, so to speak. And then you have...

Scott: Altruistic surrogacy.

Rick: The altruistic surrogacy. And then you have the unrelated womb, the rental womb. And I have to admit, do you see the words I use? Purchase sperm from a bank, loaned womb, rental womb. Those are awfully economic, financial and commoditizing terms. And I didn't really grab those words without intention. That just seemed to be the best description of what was going on.

Scott: I think from a Christian worldview, I think the Bible, I think, is fairly clear about the continuity between marriage, procreation, and parenting. And that third parties entering the matrix of marriage for procreative purposes is something I think Scripture finds problematic. And there are a variety of reasons for that. We can't go into that now. But I think that the ideal in the Scriptures is that it's husband and wife without any third party intervention. So no donors, either sperm, egg, or womb donors for that process. Now, I think there are couples that will push back on that saying that, "Hey, we got a child out of this. What can be wrong with that?" But I think I would suggest that the means as well as the ends make a moral difference here. And I think there is no doubt that with the outsourcing of surrogacy to the developing world, what people feared about the exploitation of women, I think, has somewhat materialized. I think in the West that may be different, because even though I think the women are... they are financially needy, but they're not... generally the surrogates in the West are not desperate. Like young development. In anything in the same world.

Rick: Yeah. Yeah. One thing I'd add on the Christian worldview about how these things are linked together, you mentioned this, but let me just unpack it a tiny bit, is that the idea that marriage, sex, and family are like three steps on a staircase. They're packed together. And the one thing you don't ever do, like once you start up a step, you don't just say, "I like step two on the staircase," and like state it. Staircases are meant to be traveled. And I think that is that way, biblically, where you assume if you're getting married, you're going to have sex. And particularly in the biblical context, somehow our technologies made us think that sex and babies don't have anything to do with each other. But that was certainly not true in any time other than the last maybe 80 years that you could reasonably really and plausibly dissociate those two. So you go up like that. Then we had a level that was kind of like, well, maybe we want to get married and maybe we want to, you know, then first we want to have sex, maybe we want to get married, and then we're going to have kids. And they're all three completely separate things. They're like separate floors where you could stay at any one of those. The continuity. And then the hookup culture has made it like they're three separate buildings. There's no connection between relationships and our sexuality. There's no reason our sexual activity would be connected to marriage completely separate thing. And kids, you can buy it as a commodity. You can get through surrogacy. You can do all kinds of other things. So, we've blown up what God has put together.

Scott: Yeah. And I think just to be clear, I would suggest that not every child that's conceived has to be conceived through sexual relations. Because as you pointed out until the last 80 years, that's the only way it was possible. So, I think it's, but I think what the Bible mandates is that it be done within this general sphere of marriage, whether it's specific acts of sexual relations or not, I think is less clear.

Rick: Well, yeah, you think of the covenant context of a marriage that is designed to be also the creation of a covenant context family, so to speak. And that's why I said when I was talking about my slippery slope, you have, you begin at a thing that looks an awful lot like what you have and you're using a different technology for some, you know, obvious reason. And as you go down, you get completely different things and questions. Where do you draw a line? Same things happen with keeping people from having babies, what do we—

Scott: Contraception.

Rick: Contraception. And again, the Catholic Church has been very strict on this whole package. Protestant churches have been more open to the idea of using contraception. And likewise, I think with some of the things with IVF, because I believe IVF is prohibited also, not just seriously, by both branches.

Scott: Yeah, I think the Protestants tend to view that a little differently. Yeah. I mean, I tend to view that differently.

Rick: Correct. And I would as well.

Scott: So, all right, let's answer a couple of questions in the time we have left. First one, this is a very thoughtful question. It's not anything we've addressed, but I think we should. In light of some of the financial chaos that we're dealing with, both in terms of businesses, individuals, and nationally, what is a biblical view of debt? Are Christians committed to be countercultural by avoiding debt? Paul says in the ancient world, "Owe nothing to one another except to love one another." But that was in an era where there was no such thing as modern banking. Credit was not really the lifeblood of how business works. So, I think for companies, I think debt can be managed very responsibly and as a way to fuel the growth of a company. It can also sink you if you're not careful. Individually, I think is maybe a different story. I don't think there's a biblical mandate to avoid debt, but I think it makes financial sense to avoid it as much as possible. Maybe mortgages notwithstanding, because I'm not sure how people buy homes without that today. But I think the average person in their 20s and 30s has tens of thousands of dollars in consumer debt, which is very high interest, which I would say, biblically, I would say that's unwise. I don't think the Scripture necessarily mandates against that, but I say that's unwise and perhaps is poor financial stewardship.

Rick: Yeah, let me go wild on this one and say maybe Scripture does say something more about that, not disputing actually what you were, the technical thing you said, but in terms of the disposition, if I were to think of what are good financial goals for Christians, usually talk about well, getting multiple streams of income and accumulating wealth, being able to retire early, all these sorts of things. I'm like, well, what if the biblical goal would be that we live a life of moderation and contentment, that we Lord give me neither poverty nor wealth, as it says in Proverbs chapter 30. And so literally a biblical goal is moderation. A biblical goal might be open-handed generosity, that we imitate God, the one who opens his hand and satisfies the desire of every living thing, that we care for people around, just the poor, but also the non-poor, just people that we just open-handed. And then, of course, special provision and giving for the church and needy people and whatever. But I think sometimes we don't view those as actual financial goals, they're just things you might do with it, with money. And we're thinking the thing we really want the money for is the accumulation, just like this listener has put in. And I think that listener is asking a great question. And I do think we should be pushing more towards moderation, not really saying no debt.

Scott: I think we should recognize too, envy is what drives debt in a lot of cases.

Rick: In a lot of particular consumer debt.

Scott: And that is my definition of contentment, it's not original, but contentment is wanting what you have.

Rick: Yeah. And to think that you could attain contentment, not by accumulating more, but by changing your desires. And that's the unthought thought in all of America.

Scott: All right. Here's another one. We addressed this a little bit last week, Sean and I did, but we'll just quickly address this. I'm sure you're already thinking about this, navigating this election year would be challenging for a lot of Americans. Any thoughts you have on the election and politics in general would be helpful. It's always good to be reminded, stand firm for truth in the gospel, but with gentleness and all love. Maybe that's not really the question, but maybe that's a mic drop moment. But just a couple of quick thoughts on that. I encourage you to go back to our session a week ago to hear a little bit more. But I think a couple of thoughts that I think are important. One is that our allegiance to the kingdom of God is primary, over nation and over political tribe. And then second is to recognize that all political platforms are flawed for two reasons. One is that they were constructed by flawed, self-centered, sinful human beings, but also because none of them were written with biblical fidelity as their goal. So, they're all going to have places where they are somewhat consistent and somewhat inconsistent with the biblical texture for what society should look like.

All right. Here's question number three. We've got time for one more. I have many doubts about God, which are upsetting me. I appreciate that from the very beginning. I will ask two questions. Could you help me understand why in the creation story it says the sun was created on day four, but plants were created before that on day three and the light before that on day one. I have scientific concerns about the order. What do we say to that?

Rick: Well, so it is interesting that you have light before you have the sun in this narrative to begin with. And by the way, so once you have light, I'm not sure it's that much of a problem to have the plants. This is how in the world was the sun getting there. Of course, there's all kinds of theories about where's the sun there, but became visible on the fourth day. But that's why I like it. People have all kinds of tales about that. But the other thing that's happening in this narrative is images, you know, that begins with this phrase in the earth was in the world without form and void. And you have three days of forming to solve the unformedness of it. And then you have three days of filling. And so, day one, you're forming this firmament, day four, you're filling the firmament. And likewise with the, you know, sea and the dry land and all these sorts of things, you have that pattern form, fill, form, fill, and it's day one, day four. And so, a lot of people, and I would actually share this viewpoint that I would be reluctant to overly literalize this sort of a process to just to read this as a sense of, oh, this must be sequential. And it must be that kind of a, you know, a situation that, you know, the light could only be the light the way we see it now. And give a little bit of room and the pattern seems to be laid out as a literary technique to make a point.

Scott: Fair enough. Second part of this listener's question is that John, John seven, or the last part, John seven, John eight, the one caught in adultery, is a well-known story. I've read the story. It's not that it's not an original part of the Bible because it was added until after the time the rest of the New Testament was put together. If this is true, wouldn't this best be described as an error in the Bible? Well, I think actually the answer to that would be no, no, because it was not added after the New Testament was completed. Earliest manuscripts don't contain that particular narrative. It is in later manuscripts of the New Testament. I think the best way to put this is we're just textually not exactly sure whether that was part of the original text or not. So textual problems don't, are not automatically errors in the Bible. Things about which we have legitimate textual questions, I don't think is fair to say that those are errors in the Bible.

Rick: Yeah. And the people who are editing any particular edition of the Bible have to make a choice countless times about textual discrepancies, and this is one more of those instances. By the way, with John, he's also the guy who's saying, and there are countless other stories about Jesus that haven't been recorded. I would never lead to this being an error or something Jesus didn't say or do as much as you might have a debate about whether this is one that was edited out, edited in, when was it? Because it seems like there's a lot of these stories even as John was writing the book of John. Yeah, he doesn't seem to lose a lot of sleep over that.

Scott: He doesn't seem to lose a lot of sleep over it. Well, and I'll tell you what, this is thanks for your questions. We really appreciate you sending them in. We do our best to answer them each week, and so please keep sending them in. So Rick, thanks for joining me on this.

Rick: Thanks so much for giving me the chance to do it, Scott.

Scott: This has been an episode of Think Biblically, Weekly Cultural Update, brought to you by Talbot School of Theology here at Biola University. This has been comments, ask questions, or make suggestions on issues you'd like us to cover or guests you'd like us to consider or news stories you'd like us to talk about. You can email us at That's Thanks so much for listening. If you enjoyed this today, give us a rating on your podcast app and share it with a friend, and remember, Think Biblically about everything.