Greg Koukl

Silly Putty Bible Study

Only when we are properly informed by God’s Word the way it was written—in its context—can we be transformed by it. Every piece becomes powerful when it is working together according to the Spirit’s design. The sword of the Spirit is the Word of God (Ephesians 6:17). Used properly, it parries deception and pierces the heart. It protects us from error. A sword made of putty, though, has no power. It pierces nothing. It offers no protection. And it has no place in the arsenal of a Christian.

21st-century kids have cell phones, YouTube, and Xboxes. When I was a kid, we had simpler delights. One was a handful of malleable goo that could be pulled, twisted, or distorted into any shape imaginable. It was called Silly Putty®.
Sadly, many Christians use their Bibles like Silly Putty®. Just add the Spirit, and the Bible becomes putty in their hands, able to be molded into almost anything at all. Rather than approaching the Scripture as a treasure of truth for all Christians, some evangelicals have the dangerous habit of searching the text for a personal “promise” or “word” of guidance from the Spirit that is unrelated to the text’s original meaning.
Often, the results turn out to be silly. Other times, they are dangerous. Regardless of the outcome, this practice is always a bad habit. Here’s how it often looks.
The Holy Spirit Give-Away
Instead of studying to find the objective meaning of a passage and then making personal application of that scriptural truth to their lives, many Christians read the Bible looking for verses or isolated phrases the Spirit “impresses” on them with personal messages that are foreign to the context.
For example, a Christian woman who has been praying for her family’s conversion stumbles upon Acts 16 during her quiet time. Her eyes settle on Paul’s response to the Philippian jailer, who asked, “What must I do to be saved?” “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved,” Paul answered, then added, “you and your household” (vv. 29–31).
Encouraged by these words, the woman begins to claim the “promise” that her own household will be saved, with the justification that “the Holy Spirit gave me this verse.”
Why would she use that particular wording to describe what she experienced? Because in the normal, natural understanding of that passage, the verse wasn’t “hers” to begin with.[1]
Rather, she believes that, under the Spirit’s influence, there was a mystical transformation that took place causing the meanings of the words to change just for her, conveying a private message not intended by the original author (Luke, in this case) and not intended for anyone else. It was a private message from God just for her incorporating the words of the biblical text, but not previously in those words.
Notice, her confidence is not based on the objective meaning of the passage but on the unique subjective meaning given to her by the Spirit in the moment. I—or any other Christian, for that matter—could not claim that verse for myself unless the Holy Spirit “gave” the verse to me, as well.
Experiences like these are powerful because they seem intensely personal. But there’s a problem: Acts 16:31 is not her promise. It’s the Philippian jailer’s promise, if a promise at all.[2] Using the passage as she has done is an abuse of God’s Word. It’s also deeply relativistic.
Relativism is the defining characteristic of the age and has influenced the church in subtle yet profound ways. When an objective claim (a verse) communicates completely different meanings (“truths”) to different subjects (people), that’s relativism. Since truth is not in the objective meaning of the words but in the personal, subjective experience of the reader—in this case, an experience allegedly caused by the Holy Spirit—a personal prompting can be “true for me but not for you.” Since there are different experiences for different people, there are different “truths” for each.
Let me speak plainly: There is no biblical justification for finding private, personal messages in texts originally intended by God to mean something else. This approach is the wrong way to read the Bible. One reason I know this is because of what the Bible teaches about itself.
The Bible on Bible Study
First, the Bible teaches that the written words of Scripture are inspired.
“All Scripture [graphe, Gr.—the “writing”] is inspired by God” (2 Timothy 3:16). The wording here is important. Paul says that the writing itself is “God-breathed,” not the thoughts, impressions, or private messages that occur to us when we read the writing.
God told Moses to speak to Pharaoh the specific words of God: “I will be with your mouth, and teach you what you are to say” (Exodus 4:12). “Let them hear My words,” God said later at Horeb, “so they may learn to fear Me all the days they live on the earth” (Deuteronomy 4:10). These are the “living words” that Stephen said have been passed on to us (Acts 7:38).
God told Jeremiah, “Write all the words which I have spoken to you in a book” (Jeremiah 30:2). He said to Isaiah, “My words which I have put in your mouth shall not depart from your mouth, nor from the mouth of your offspring, nor from the mouth of your offspring’s offspring” (Isaiah 59:21).
God has always been concerned with the words because precise words are necessary to convey precise meaning. That’s why Paul confidently refers to God’s revelation not as words of human wisdom, but as “words…taught by the Spirit” (1 Corinthians 2:13).
Second, the Bible teaches it is important to accurately understand these inspired words of Scripture.
Note Jesus in Luke 10:25–28:
And a lawyer stood up and put Him to the test, saying, “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?” And He said to him, “What is written in the Law? How does it read to you?” And he answered, “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your strength, and with all your mind; and your neighbor as yourself.” And He said to him, “You have answered correctly.”
Jesus did not ask, “What does the Spirit say to you on this issue?” He asked, “What is written? How does it read?” Then he waited to see if the lawyer got it right.
There is a correct and incorrect way to read the Bible. Paul tells Timothy to handle the Word accurately to avoid bringing shame on himself (2 Timothy 2:15). Jesus scolded the Pharisees for not understanding the Scripture properly. He then made an argument for the resurrection that hinged on the tense of a word: “I am the God of Abraham, and the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob. He is not the God of the dead but of the living” (Matthew 22:29–32).
Third, the Bible teaches that private interpretations do not yield the accurate meaning.
Peter is clear on this point. He writes:
But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation; for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God. (2 Peter 1:20–21)
Because there is a divine author behind prophecy, the apostle argues, there is a particular truth—a determinate meaning—that God intends to convey.
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Don’t Be Taken in by the Tolerance Trick

Whenever you’re charged with intolerance, always ask for a definition. If tolerance means neutrality, then no one is ever tolerant because no one is ever neutral about his own opinions. This kind of tolerance is a myth.

In today’s relativistic, postmodern world, one word can stop an ambassador for Christ in his tracks: “tolerance.” No judgments allowed. No “forcing” personal opinions. All views are equally valid.
Once, in a discussion with a class of Christian high school seniors, I wrote two sentences on the board. The first—“All views are equally valid”—expressed the current understanding of tolerance. All heads nodded. Nothing controversial here.
Then I wrote the second sentence: “Jesus is the Messiah, and Jews are wrong for rejecting him.” Immediately, hands flew up. “You can’t say that,” an annoyed student challenged. “That’s intolerant,” she said, noting that the second statement violated the first. What she didn’t see was that the first statement also violated itself.
I pointed to the first statement and asked, “Is this a view, the idea that all views have equal merit?” The students all agreed. Then I pointed to the second statement—the “intolerant” one—and asked the same question: “Is this a view?” Slowly, my point began to dawn on them. They’d been taken in by the tolerance trick.
If all views are equally valid, then the view that Christians are right about Jesus and Jews are wrong is just as valid as the idea that Jews are right and Christians are wrong. But this is hopelessly contradictory. They can’t both be true.
“Would you like to know how to escape this trap?” They nodded. Reject the postmodern distortion of tolerance, I told them, and return to the classical view characterized by two principles I learned from Peter Kreeft of Boston College:
Be egalitarian regarding persons.Be elitist regarding ideas.
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Faith is Not Wishing

The record is clear from the Old Testament to the Gospels, from the very beginnings of the early church to the epistles of the apostles: Biblical faith isn’t wishing; it’s confidence. It’s not denying reality, but discovering reality. It’s a sense of certainty grounded in evidence that Christianity is true—not just “true for me,” but actually, fully, and completely true.

I don’t like the word “faith.”
It’s not that faith isn’t valuable. True biblical faith is essential for salvation. But faith is often deeply misunderstood in a way that hurts Christianity and harms Christians.
Some think that having a level of certainty about the truth of Christianity makes “belief” unnecessary or irrelevant. That kind of knowledge undermines genuine faith and offends God.
The reasoning goes something like this. We all know God wants us to have faith. In fact, without faith, it’s impossible to please him (Hebrews 11:6). However, gathering evidence for God and Christianity leaves little room for faith. After all, how can one have faith in something he knows is true? Faith, then, is opposed to knowledge. Therefore, apologetics undermines the faith project and thus displeases the Lord.
On this view, faith is believing the unbelievable, clinging to your convictions when all the evidence is against you. Faith is a “leap,” a blind, desperate lunge in the darkness. When doubts or troubles beset us, we’re told to “just have faith,” as if we could squeeze out spiritual hope by intense acts of sheer will.
This view of faith reduces Christian conviction to religious wishful thinking. We can hope, but we can never know.
But this will never work. Someone once said, “The heart cannot believe that which the mind rejects.” If you are not confident the message of Scripture is actually true, you can’t believe it even if you tried.
The “I just take Christianity on (blind) faith” attitude can’t be the right approach. It leaves the Bible without defense, yet Peter directs us to make a defense for the hope that is in us.[1]
Also, the biblical word for faith, pistis, doesn’t mean wishing. It means active trust. And trust cannot be conjured up or manufactured. It must be earned. You can’t exercise the kind of faith the Bible has in mind unless you’re reasonably sure that some particular things are true.
In fact, I suggest you completely ban the phrase “leap of faith” from your vocabulary. Biblical faith is based on knowledge, not wishing or blind leaps. Knowledge builds confidence, and confidence leads to trust. The kind of faith God is interested in is not wishing. It’s trust based on knowing, a sure confidence grounded in evidence.
The following biblical examples make my point.
Blood, Boils, Frogs, and Flies
Israel’s exodus from Egypt was depicted in a clever animated film called The Prince of Egypt. After seeing the movie, my wife and I spent time reading the original account in the Hebrew Scriptures.
Though I’d read this passage a number of times, something jumped out at me then that I hadn’t seen before, a phrase God kept repeating over and over in the account.
The material relevant to my point starts in Exodus 3. Reading the encounter with God at the burning bush, we realize Moses is reluctant to be God’s deliverer. And it’s understandable. Why would Pharaoh, the most powerful leader in the world, submit to a renegade Jew? Why would two million Hebrew slaves follow a murderer and a defector?
“What if they won’t believe me or listen to me?” Moses demurred. “What if they say, ‘The Lord hasn’t appeared to you’?”
What God didn’t say in response is as important as what he did say. He didn’t say, “Tell Pharaoh he’s just going to have to take this on blind faith. Tell the Hebrews the same thing. They’ve got to have faith.”
Instead, God asked, “What’s that in your hand?”
“A staff,” Moses answered.
“Throw it on the ground.”
So he threw it down, and it became a serpent.
“Stretch out your hand,” the Lord said. “Grab it by the tail.”
Reluctantly, Moses did as he was told. When he grabbed the snake, it became a staff again.
“Do this,” God said, “and then they’ll believe that the Lord, the God of their fathers, has appeared to you.”
More signs followed that got the people’s attention: the river of blood; frogs covering the land; the gnats, flies, and locusts; the boils and pestilence; the hail; the darkness; and finally, the angel of death. All for one purpose: “That they might know there is a God in Israel.” Not simply “believe,” “hope,” or “wish.” Know. This is no idle comment, but a message that is central to the account. In fact, the phrase is repeated no less than ten times throughout the account.[2]
What was the result? “And when Israel saw the great power which the Lord had used against the Egyptians, the people feared the Lord, and they believed in the Lord and in His servant Moses” (Exodus 14:31).
Note the pattern: a powerful evidence (miracles, in this case), giving the people knowledge of God, in whom they then placed their active trust (faith).
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A Tip for Serving Your Waiter

People are important to the Lord, and if they are important to him, they should be important to you and me. Addressing people by their name and showing genuine appreciation for their service are simple ways to show they’re valued. This speaks volumes about the One you represent. Never underestimate the power of simply being warm, pleasant, and polite.

Sometimes, being a good representative of the kingdom hinges on the simplest things, almost trivial. Let me give you an example from my own life.
I’ve had some of the most interesting conversations about spiritual matters with ordinary people who serve my table in restaurants. Since any contact with others is an opportunity to be an ambassador, I try to keep an eye open for what might turn out to be a “divine appointment.”
This is something you can do, too. Here are some ways to set the stage to engage them in a friendly way.
First, find out the server’s name.
This is simple if they’re wearing a name tag. If not, simply ask. If it’s a unique name or suggests some ethnic history, ask about it. It’s a friendly thing to do—even flattering—and will help you remember their name better.
Begin to use their name immediately. If you’re like me, it’s difficult to keep track of names, especially of people I encounter for the short duration of a quick meal. But there are a few things that help.
Just the conscious effort itself may be enough to help you remember. Another way is to associate something new with something old. When you tie the new thing to something you already know, the job is much easier. In my case, if the waiter’s name is Mike, I immediately think of Mike, my good friend and former tennis partner. That alone will temporarily fix the waiter’s name in my mind.
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When Debating Biblical Inspiration, Let God Do the Heavy Lifting

Don’t get into a tug-of-war with skeptics about inspiration. Instead, invite others to engage the ideas first, then let God do the heavy lifting for you. The truth you’re defending has a life of its own because the Spirit is in the words. Once your friend has listened a bit, any further reasons you give for biblical authority will have the soil they need to take root in.

I want to help you solve a problem that has troubled many Christians. First, think for a moment about this statement Paul made to the Thessalonians:
For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe. (1Thess. 2:13)
Now, here’s the problem. A woman I once spoke with expressed frustration with a friend who had dismissed the Bible as “only written by men.” Her insistence that the words were inspired by God was no help. Instead, it led to a fruitless cycle: The Bible is God’s Word—But it was just written by men—But God inspired those men—But men make mistakes. Round and round they went, going nowhere.
Maybe you’ve encountered this problem, too.
Here’s one way you might respond: Give specific reasons why it’s reasonable to believe the Bible is a supernatural book of divine authorship and not merely the musings of men.
For years, I have taught six of these reasons in a talk called “The Bible: Has God Spoken?” If you’ve heard the talk and are able to recall the points and explain them, you may get someone thinking. It’s a way of putting a stone in their shoe, so to speak.
This approach is much more effective, however, after something else has happened first. Before I tell you what that is, I have a confession to make.
Though I give this talk often, these are not really the reasons I personally believe the Bible is God’s Word. They are sound evidences, and they have their place (I’ll explain more on that in a moment), but they are not how I came to believe in the Bible’s authority in the first place. I suspect they’re not the reasons you believe, either, even if you’ve heard the talk and thought it compelling.
I came to believe the Bible was God’s Word the same way the Thessalonians did, the same way you probably did: They encountered the truth firsthand and were moved by it.
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Social Injustice & Civil Wrongs

There is a difference between CRT as an explanatory paradigm (remember, the “T” stands for “Theory”) and racism as a reality. Classically understood, racism is a kind of group bigotry. CRT, by contrast, looks at power structures in cultures to explain why that bigotry and the inequity it causes exist and how they operate within social structures. It may be that CRT fails as a theory when closely examined. That does not mean racism doesn’t exist, though, but only that CRT does not describe the dynamic of racial oppression well.

The newspaper headline read, “Critical Race Theory Coming to a School Near You?” The paper was The Conejo Guardian,1 the monthly publication of Conejo Valley—the quiet, diminutive basin where I make my home in southern California, just beyond the teeth of the LA sprawl.
The article was a warning.
Critical race theory (CRT) is coming to a school near you—to your high schools, to your middle schools, even to your elementary schools (the universities have already been thick with CRT for years).
Critical race theory is coming to your public schools, and to your private schools,2 and has even stolen into some of your Christian schools and churches.3 And it’s coming to your workplace, too (if it hasn’t already), in the form of “inclusion” or “diversity” training.4 And, generally, it’s not optional—in school or on the job.
The indoctrination rapidly penetrating all levels of society is controversial, contentious, and divisive—aggressively pitting one group of people against another. It’s also thoroughly political, with the current federal government championing CRT—and legislatively backing it—lock, stock, and barrel.5
Regarding the aggressive education efforts in California (and in other parts of the country where CRT is penetrating the educational system), Anna Mussmann warns in The Federalist:
Parents need to understand that behind the waterfall of vocabulary is a militant ideology. When kids are taught to subject all of life to “critical consciousness” in order to find the “oppressor” and the “oppressed” everywhere and at all times, they are taught that the only ultimate meaning in life is power.6
As with other efforts with a totalitarian impulse, disagreement is not welcome. Dissenters are frequently treated with disrespect, harassed, and bullied:
Critical race theorists want students to accept the assumption that anyone who fails to swallow these rules wholeheartedly is a tool of oppression. Ultimately, it’s a highly effective way of preventing dialogue and pitting students against students.7
The attraction of CRT for people of conscience is its emphasis on “social justice” as an answer to racism. But CRT isn’t your parents’ (or your grandparents’) civil rights movement.
Not MLK’s Civil Rights
I was a senior in high school when Martin Luther King was murdered. It’s a vivid memory for me, as are the civil rights efforts of that time. The movement was a flashpoint for change in a long, ugly, brutal chapter in the American experiment, a test to see if the noble ideals of the Founding Fathers and of the Declaration of Independence would be enjoyed, finally, by all Americans.
That is how Martin Luther King Jr. understood civil rights, since he referred to those documents frequently. As a preacher from a long line of preachers, he also based his stand on Scripture. In his “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” he cited the Bible liberally.
In King’s celebrated “I Have a Dream” address delivered from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, he envisioned a nation where people “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”
This famous line reflected a commonsense, liberal (in the best sense), and biblical ethical principle. The most important element uniting every human being—more significant than any differences that divide us—has nothing to do with any incidental physical characteristic. What ought to unite us is our shared and noble humanity.
“Now is the time,” King said, “to lift our nation from the quick sands of racial injustice to the solid rock of brotherhood.” He based his dream—his vision of a just America for every human being—on the reality that we are all brothers fashioned in the image of God.
Frederick Douglass, the eminent 19th-century black abolitionist, wrote these words to his former slave master in September 1848:
I entertain no malice towards you personally. There is no roof under which you would be more safe than mine, and there is nothing in my house which you might need for your comfort, which I would not readily grant. Indeed, I should esteem it a privilege, to set you an example as to how mankind ought to treat each other. I am your fellow man, but not your slave.8
Note Douglass’s moral kinship with King. A licensed preacher, Douglass understood that the theological “solid rock” of any appeal to racial justice was that we are each other’s “fellow man,” equally precious in God’s eyes. We are also, I will add, all equally broken at the foot of the Cross.
Keep these two things in mind—our universal intrinsic value as one race of human brothers and our universal moral guilt—as we explore the hazardous world of CRT. They are central to everything we need to know when dealing biblically not only with racism, but with all forms of human oppression. They trade on the notion that genuine justice is always grounded in truth, not in power.
King’s principal thrust during the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s was undoing segregation—whether on buses (the bus boycotts and the “Freedom Riders”), at lunch counters (Greensboro, North Carolina sit-ins), in public schools (Little Rock Central High School), and in higher education (the University of Mississippi).
Those days are over.
Today’s fight against racism lacks King’s noble intention to judge people by their character. In fact, rather than de-racializing our country, the current effort is to re-racialize it. Segregation is everywhere now—in graduations, in classrooms, in clubs, in adoptions—systematically endorsed and promoted by the new anti-racism movement.
There’s one significant difference, though. People of color are not the ones disqualified, disenfranchised, or demonized now. Rather, the ones currently disqualified, disenfranchised, and demonized by CRT advocates are white people. And males. And “hetero-normative” people. And “cisgender­normative” people. And, of course, Christians.9
The consequences are already tragic. At the moment, racial tensions are the highest they’ve been in the 21st century and continue to intensify.
Ask yourself this question. Regardless of your race, or color, or national or ethnic origin, do you feel, as a result of the events of the last 15-18 months, more comfortable amid the ethnic diversity of your community or less comfortable? The trend does not bode well.
What is going on?
Word Games
A sage once observed, “When words lose their meanings, people lose their lives.” Proverbs 18:21 instructs us, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” In short, words matter.
In 1984, George Orwell’s 1949 classic (and oddly prescient) dystopian vision of future totalitarianism, the manipulation of language is a powerful tool of distortion and deception. Orwell calls it “Newspeak” and “doublethink”—deceptive vocabulary that the citizens of Oceania were socialized by peer pressure to adopt. Some refer to it as “doublespeak”—clever efforts to purposefully distort, obscure, and euphemize ideas, masking their otherwise objectionable, unappealing, or even vile qualities. Orwell’s Animal Farm slogan, “All animals are equal, but some animals are more equal than others,” is a case in point.
In both works, Orwell was lampooning Soviet totalitarianism. Journalist Rod Dreher reminds us of “the Marxist habit of falsifying language, hollowing out familiar words and replacing them with a new, highly ideological meaning.”10
The Third Reich did it, too. Segments of the population who were “impaired” were described in German as “Lebensunwertes Leben,”11 literally, “life unworthy of life.” Thoroughly cleansing the European continent of Jews was called the “Final Solution.”
There is a lesson here for us that we have not learned well, especially the younger adults in our communities: beware of deceptive political euphemisms.
In its current course towards totalitarianism, the Left has shown itself a master at manipulating language. “Antifa,” for example, despite its members’ fascistic behavior, stands for “anti-fascist.” Who could argue with that? The noble name “Black Lives Matter” makes the organization virtually unassailable regardless of its views. “Social justice” is, well, justice, isn’t it?
“Liberals today,” Dreher observes, “deploy neutral sounding, or even positive, words like dialogue and tolerance to disarm and ultimately defeat unaware conservatives.”12
The manipulation of language is characteristic of totalitarian movements. This is especially true with the retooling of “connotation” words—words like “tolerance” or “racism” that have a certain feel to them. Their rhetorical force remains even when the words themselves are subtly redefined and pressed into service for different ends.
To that point, a significant shift has taken place between the civil rights language of the 1960s and the rhetoric of today’s “anti-racism” and “anti-white supremacist” CRT movement. That shift in language also signals a shift in substance.
The operative words sixty years ago were bigotry, racism, prejudice, discrimination, and segregation. Each had a particular meaning, a commonsense definition that resonated with ordinary moral intuitions. Each was connected to the others in a series of cascading vices terminating in terrible injustice: treating our human brothers made in the image of God in a way that denied their inherent dignity and value.
Bigotry was the first step, which Webster’s dictionary defined in 1965 as an individual character flaw of “intolerance toward those who hold different opinions from oneself”13 (“intolerance” here means “unwilling to grant equal freedom and protection especially in religious matters or other social, political, or professional rights”14). Bigotry festers into an unreasonable contempt or even hatred for members of a group based solely on amoral qualities or characteristics like skin color, ethnicity, or gender.
Bigotry is an ugly vice in individuals—a kind of personal pride or arrogance, an I’m-better-than-you conceit—but it’s deeply dangerous on a wider cultural scale, where it often develops into racism.
Racism was a familiar term in the 20th century—indeed, it was national policy for two great powers—Germany and Japan—that dragged the world into global war. It’s “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” (emphasis added).
In racism, then, one “race” is above the rest—Aryans and Japanese, to give two classical examples—being superior (allegedly) in extrinsic capabilities, and therefore having superior intrinsic value. All others are inferior.
Racism is bigotry writ large. It is deeply vile and degrading, denying the intrinsic value of every human being based on irrelevant extrinsic differences between groups of human beings.
The sense of racial superiority in racism becomes the breeding ground for prejudice, a “preconceived judgment . . . without just grounds or before sufficient knowledge . . . an irrational attitude of hostility directed against an individual, a group, or [a] race.”
Prejudice is evil because it ascribes vice to others based on factors unrelated to anything genuinely moral. A Jew, for example, was “pre-judged” as vermin in the Third Reich simply because he was Jewish, completely unrelated to any individual vice. In America, blacks were demeaned, judged by the color of their skin rather than by the content of their character—the antithesis of King’s dream.
Racial prejudice inevitably results in discrimination against those groups considered ethnically inferior. The root concept merely means “to distinguish between” and could be a virtue or a vice. Practiced properly, discrimination is benign (consider the thoughtful “discriminating” person). It’s an evil, though, when one discriminates “to make a difference in treatment or favor on a basis other than individual merit.” This is invidious discrimination—an arbitrary and irrational bias that disenfranchises whole groups of people without legitimate justification.
Segregation, the “separation or isolation of a race, class, or ethnic group,” is an application of invidious discrimination and the final consequence in this chain of civil rights abuses. It is racism in action, bigotry in practice. “Whites Only” policies of the early 1960s and before, for example, regulated patronage in restaurants, seating on buses, the use of bathrooms, and access to housing and education according to whether one was white or black. These are just a few of the disgraceful discriminatory practices of the time.
Bigotry, racism, prejudice, discrimination, and segregation made up the chain of social inequities that civil rights activists addressed in the 1960s. Individual bigotry led to corporate racism that resulted in a generalized prejudice against blacks. The result was illicit discrimination against them, not treating them equally under the law. Instead, they suffered the indecency of segregation.
Breaking that chain was the program of a bygone era of civil rights activism. That quest for racial justice is now behind us, and a new quest has replaced it, one bearing little moral kinship to the noble efforts of the past. Many of the original words remain, but they have been invested with new meanings and endowed with new values.
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Notes1. The Conejo Guardian, May 2021.2. Ibid.8. Rod Dreher, Live Not by Lies (Sentinel, 2020), 119.11. Robert Jay Lifton, The Nazi Doctors—Medical Killing and the Psychology of Genocide (Basic Books/Harper Collins, 1986), 21.12. Dreher, 119.13. All definitions in quotes are from Webster’s Seventh New Collegiate Dictionary, 1965. I’ve used an older source not influenced by current rhetorical trends.14. The current postmodern understanding of intolerance is significantly different. See

Escaping the Clever “Kafka Trap”

The “You’re a racist either way” charge (called a “Kafka trap”) is just one current example of the kind of nonsense used by our own culture’s thought police to cloud our minds and confuse us. Racism exists, of course, but claiming all whites are racist because they’re white simply trivializes genuine racial bigotry.

The secular world clearly controls the language game. Be careful you’re not taken in by it. Let me show you what I mean.
Since critical race theory is the latest worldview counterfeit (see July’s Solid Ground), consider this example of linguistic arm-twisting. Someone says, “If you say you’re not a racist, that just proves you are a racist.” How would you answer?
I suspect you already see the verbal sleight of hand—the ham-handed attempt at rhetorical manipulation. If you admit you’re a racist, you’re a racist. If you deny you’re a racist, you’re a racist. Racist if you do; racist if you don’t.
Even though the nonsense is obvious, the charge still catches good people off guard. What now? I have a tactical response to this challenge that I’ll share with you in a moment, but first let me show you what’s going on.
Nearly 75 years ago, George Orwell wrote 1984, a dystopian novel about a totalitarian world of mass surveillance and iron-fisted political/cultural suppression. The despotism was abetted in part by “Newspeak,” a clever manipulation of language that Big Brother employed to obscure truth and make it almost impossible to think clearly about any issue opposing the Party.
Orwell’s work was prophetic, though the world he warned of didn’t begin to materialize in liberal democracies like ours until decades later than he predicted. The practice of manipulating language to confuse or even silence opposition, used so effectively in Orwell’s time by Stalinist Russia and Nazi Germany, is now standard fare.
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