Think While It’s Still Legal

Written by Warwick Alcock, Director of Strategic Operations.

[The] dragon became furious with the woman and went off to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep the commandments of God and hold to the testimony of Jesus.            — Rev 12.17

Because of God’s common grace, followers of Jesus Christ live and work shoulder-to-shoulder with people of all world views — people of peace from all religions as well as no religion — for the common good and the flourishing of all. We celebrate together our common humanity, for all people are made in the image of God. However, we live in a militant world and a sometimes confrontational culture. How then do we live out the  gospel of peace (Eph 6.15)?

‘Militant atheism’ (as distinct from secular humanism or ordinary atheism) means an uncompromising intolerance of religion. Militant atheism is committed to the suppression and elimination of religious beliefs that compete with atheism, which is considered the only acceptable truth, and the only acceptable virtue. Militant atheism seeks to replace religion with an atheistic world view through all available means, from propaganda to force.

What does this look like in practice? In the Soviet Union from 1922 to 1991, legislation was used to restrict religious practice; criticism of atheism was forbidden, and critics faced forced retirement, arrest or imprisonment. Education and the media were flooded with atheistic propaganda. Churches were destroyed, and religious leaders were ridiculed, harassed, incarcerated and executed. Militant atheism in the Soviet Union is estimated to have resulted in the deaths of 12-20 million Christians.

George Orwell’s futuristic novel published in 1949, Nineteen Eighty Four, extrapolated the cultural trends of his time, which anticipated a future totalitarian state characterized by propaganda, historical revisionism, fabrication and deception to keep rebellious individuals in line and under the control of a power-hungry privileged elite. In this kind of repressive society, critical thinking is a ‘thought crime’.

The ideology of today’s militant atheism is distilled in Richard Dawkin’s book, The God Delusion, published in 2006. Dawkins, professor of public understanding of science at Oxford University until 2008, argued, like militant atheists of the USSR, for the moral superiority of atheism. Religion, according to Dawkins, is evil because it causes misery and war; so get rid of religion. That’s one of the core messages from Dawkins and his friend Sam Harris in The End of Faith. 

It’s an obviously untenable position, as many thoughtful critics have pointed out. Militant atheists such as Mao Zedong and Joseph Stalin loomed over the twentieth century’s bloodiest history, between them killing 70-100 million people. Some estimate that atheist Pol Pot presided over the death of a quarter of the Cambodian population. Dawkins says children of non-atheists should be taken from their parents and re-educated; atheist writer Sam Harris thinks we should quarantine, invade or subjugate a culture that could impose unacceptable risks on the rest of us. These ideas are virtually identical to those in the Soviet Marxist playbook, and they’re a recipe for conflict. So much for rationality and peace.

Today’s militant atheist ideologues resort to the kind of revisionist propaganda that Orwell anticipated: it cherry-picks evidence, plays games with language, and stokes intolerance. Its ideology has become firmly entrenched in some quarters in secular academia, which can be a veritable Animal Farm of political correctness and double standards. It’s a bankrupt worldview, though it has profoundly influenced Western institutions and culture. The outcomes can be bizarre, as D.A. Carson, a research professor at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School, points out in his book, The Intolerance of Tolerance.

Here’s one example: Franz Biebl’s Ave Maria was forbidden to be played at a graduation ceremony by the school’s wind ensemble at Henry M. Jackson High School in Mill Creek, Washington in 2006. Why? It might be construed as endorsing religion. To be clear, the music was going to be played, not sung. Still, the thought police said it might make atheists think of God. Some other examples from Carson’s book:

  • Four years after the Columbine High School tragedy, the father of a victim was forbidden from including words of faith in the school’s remembrance display, because they could be offensive.
  • Dartmouth College forbade Campus Crusade from distributing C.S. Lewis’s Mere Christianity because it might offend non-Christians.
  • The Hastings College of Law at the University of California banned the local Christian Legal Society because its Christian statement of faith discriminates against non-Christians.
  • Edinburgh University banned the local Christian Union from discussing sexual ethics on campus because orthodox Christian views are offensive.
  • In 2003, the ACLU used the legal system to stop the Scouts from leasing public land because the Scouts are considered a religious entity.
  • Pageant contestant Carrie Prejean was in 2009 publicly labeled an ignorant disgrace because she held a traditional view of marriage.
  • Some public libraries have banned certain Christian books.
  • Counter-terrorism exercises run by the Muskegon County, MI and Burlington NJ Police Departments in 2004 and 2007, featured homeschoolers and Christians as terrorists.
  • In Australia, Canada and the UK, Christian pastors have been found guilty of hate crimes for declaring the superiority of the Christian faith against another religion.

The irony of the above examples lies in their hypocrisy. The stated purpose of silencing Christians is to promote diversity and tolerance for the common good — yet banning, fining, humiliating and jailing Christians and Christian practices restricts diversity and is itself intolerant and counter-productive. As Ed Stetzer, Executive Director of LifeWay Research, has noted, increasing sanitization and demonization of religious voices marginalizes Christians who serve the poor, care for the orphan, or speak against injustice. If current trends continue, is the Orwellian nightmare all that unthinkable?

Listed below are some ways we can respond (with acknowledgements to D.A. Carson):

  1. All people are made in the image of God. So treat everyone with courtesy and respect, including those with whom we profoundly disagree. Practice, encourage and model civility to all people everywhere whatever their persuasion, and however unkind they may be.
  2. Pray for revival. God has chosen to work through the gospel, so don’t shy away from it. Make good friends, give an open and honest statement of the gospel, let hearers make up their own minds — and stay good friends regardless of the outcome. God redeems people and societies where the gospel thrives.
  3. Stay grounded in truth. Truth demands loving confrontation. Insist on truthful speech, truthful analyses, and factual evidence. Engage in respectful and winsome conversation, and expose the bankruptcy, inconsistencies and contradictions in militant world-views.
  4. Expose the condescending arrogance of the supposed moral superiority of militant world-views, and their insistent and coercive imposition on everyone else.
  5. Help people see that militant atheism as just another world view with its own assumptions, blind spots, mythology, taboos and zealots, like any other religion.
  6. Wherever possible, find common ground with people of peace, regardless of how different they are from us, and work together for the common good and the flourishing of all.
  7. Cheerfully delight in and trust God. Whatever happens, we’re in safe hands!

Village Schools of the Bible helps people think through their faith and its implications for everyday life. Consider signing up for a Cover-to-Cover Bible study. For more information, see here.

Also, we help young adults think through different world views and learn to defend their faith. See details of our apologetics speech competition here. Coaching resources are available.

In your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect… – 1 Pet 3.15.


Carson, D.A. The Intolerance of Tolerance. Eerdmans, 2012.

Dawkins, R. The God Delusion. Bantam, 2006.

Harris, S. The End of Faith. Norton, 2005.

In contrast to the Dawkins perspective on Christianity, see the web site of John Lennox, Professor of Mathematics and Philosophy of Science Fellow at the University of Oxford, here:

Think While It’s Still Legal

Bolt 7; Phelps 28; Nero 1,808

Olympics LogoFor the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. — Heb 12.11

What do Bolt, Phelps and Nero have in common — and how are they different? Let’s begin with a quick review of Olympics history. According Greek mythology, Olympic races first took place in Olympia, Greece, to entertain the newborn god, Zeus — who later became chief god of the Greek pantheon residing on Mt. Olympus. Zeus’s 42 foot ivory-and-gold statue — one of the seven wonders of the ancient world — wafted in incense in a Doric temple at Olympia, and in his honor 100 oxen were sacrificed at each of the Games.

The first Olympic Games held in 776 BC consisted of competitors from various Greek city-states with runners announcing the games to participating cities every olympiad (every four-year period of time). To participate, you had to be a freeborn Greek male youth who had not committed murder, and swear before the statue of Zeus that you had trained for ten months.

Originally the Games took place on one day featuring a single 200 meter sprint the length of a stadium (said to be the length of Hercules’s feet). Later, the Games grew to five days and included 5K races, running in armor, wrestling, jumping, boxing, discus, javelin and chariot racing. Up to 50,000 spectators attended. Winners were awarded an olive branch, money, front row theater seats, tax exemptions, vats of olive oil, and free meals for life. (Take that, Vikings!) Sculptors crafted statues of Olympic victors, and poets sang their praises.

Controversy is not new to the games: Emperor Nero, competing in the Games at Olympia in 67 A.D., fell off his ten-horse chariot (which he had entered for a four-horse chariot event), but was declared the winner by bribed judges on the premise that he would have won if he’d finished the race. Nero made judges agree to his poetry and music being added to the Olympics and various other sporting events from which he accumulated 1,808 first place prizes — making the Bolt’s and Phelps’s 7 and 28 medal accomplishments rather modest indeed.

At least Bolt and Phelps have been honest and decent. On the other hand, Nero was responsible for the death of his mother and two wives, his mentor and possibly his step-brother; he castrated and married a teenage boy; fiddled while Rome burned, and beheaded, crucified or set aflame Christians for an imperial festival.

Later, after the rapid spread of Christianity, Roman emperors adopted Christianity, one of whom, Theodosius, abolished the Olympics as a pagan practice around 391 A.D. After a long hiatus, the Olympic idea re-emerged in a renaissance of interest in all things ancient. Delegates from nine countries approved French baron Pierre de Coubertin as International Olympic Committee president, and the reconstituted Games first took place in 1896 in Athens, Greece.

But I digress.

The writer of Hebrews may well have had the ancient Games in mind when he wrote in chapter 12 of the importance of discipline in the Christian life.

[S]ince we are surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses, let us lay aside every weight and sin…and run with endurance the race that is set before us, looking to Jesus, the founder and perfecter of our faith…[Do] not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord.…For the Lord disciplines the one he loves… It is for discipline that you have to endure … [The Father] disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it.

Bolt and Phelps would surely agree that becoming fit is inconceivable without consistent focus, rigorous discipline, and a great coach. You can’t win without discipline. You need spine. Character. Fire in the belly. Persistence. Blood and sweat. There are no Nero-style short cuts to true victory. One key difference of course: we’re not pursuing medals, but something of eternal value which we share with others — the inestimable life of Christ.

At Village Schools of the Bible, we come alongside those who are eager to put themselves on a disciplined, character-forming collision course with God’s Word, so that we can be as one approved, a worker who has no need to be ashamed, rightly handling the word of truth (2 Tim 2.15).

Do you have what it takes?

See what our students say here.


Bolt 7; Phelps 28; Nero 1,808

Let the Lord build the home — Discipling children

Unless the Lord builds the house, those who build it labor in vain (Ps. 127.1)

Discipling kids

Too often, busy parents abdicate responsibility for their children’s spiritual formation, dropping them off at the youth group, and hoping for the best. This is simply not a good idea. Research reported in the Christian Education Journal shows that most young people active in their youth groups drop out of church in their twenties. Apparently they’re not being spiritually fed or being meaningfully discipled in their church or youth groups. This is a strong reminder to parents that the home is where children primarily need to be nurtured. How do we as parents disciple children well?

Disciple children with a clear goal in mind. Prioritize God, and help children lay a strong spiritual foundation. Don’t just leave it up to the youth pastor — he or she can’t do it all. The goal for parents (with dads taking the lead) is to proclaim the gospel to your children to help them set their hope in Christ. Identify each child’s gifts, ask God for a vision of who He wants them to be, then build them up accordingly.

Help children internalize the Gospel. Deuteronomy 6:4-9 shows how the gospel can be internalized: with diligence and consistency. The parable of the sower teaches the importance of parents planting seed in good soil (Matt. 13:23 ff.). God’s Words have transforming, fruit-bearing power, so invest in Scripture internalization and memorization. Help children teach others the gospel out of a heart in which the gospel itself has been deeply internalized.

Set examples. Modeling gospel truth is a key way of discipling. Model servant leadership, Bible reading, and seeking God’s character in your life. Children need to see Scripture come to life — let them see how wives submit to their husbands and how husbands love their wives per Eph. 5:22-25; let them see forgiveness modeled (Matt. 5:23-24).

Find good mentors. Research shows that young adults will stay in the church if they have 2-5 godly people (other than their parents) investing in their lives. In an abundance of counselors there is safety (Proverbs 11:14). Children need quality relationships with good mentors.

Make time. Don’t get caught up in the rat race.  Our lives are far too busy than is good for us or our children. Get priorities straight and schedule a family night once a week in what’s best: investing meaningfully in family relationships and discipling.

Carry out the Great Commission (Matt. 28:19-20; Acts 1:8). Help children internalize and live out the Great Commission in their world and beyond. Help them see needs and show compassion locally, in their communities and internationally.

Discipline with love. To use J.D. Greear’s words from his study guide on discipling children (see our book review here), discipline entails disentangling your children’s hearts from sin (Heb 12:1). Let your kids know you are fighting for them, not with them (See Eph 6:4; Col 3:21). Focus on the beauty & majesty of Jesus, and what He accomplished on the Cross. Help kids see that Jesus is more worthy of their lives than anything else. Replace the lies they believe with the truth of the gospel. Show them God’s way is best.

Release for God’s Purposes. Pray for wisdom, and pray for your children. Pray for their hearts each day, and listen to God about your family. Godly success is found in faithful obedience to God (not having many degrees, a large bank account, a job title, or having kids that are sport stars). Don’t try and keep and control your children — release them to the great adventure of following God for His purposes!

Does this sound like a daunting task?

Village Schools of the Bible can come alongside parents and help. The Cover-to-Cover Bible Survey course can equip you to disciple your children. Encourage your young adult children to take the course, or take it together with them. Here’s one parent’s testimony:

My eldest daughter Sydney and I took Cover-to-Cover together. It was a wonderful shared experience. The credits that Sydney has earned through Village Schools will help her complete her Bible minor at the University of Northwestern, St. Paul. This is a wonderful blessing — but the true and eternal blessing is the spiritual growth we gained in studying the Word of God together.  I am currently taking Cover-to-Cover  with my second daughter, Alexandra, and I cannot begin to put a value on the knowledge shared and heart-changing effect of studying God’s Word through Village Schools.                                                                                                                         — Sonja Lindgren

Also, young adults need the time and space to think through their faith in order to own it for themselves. To help young adults ask searching questions pertaining to their Christian world view (including questions asked by radical atheists), Village Schools is hosting an apologetics speech competition on October 29, 2016. With God’s grace, they may grow to defend their faith winsomely, with confidence and deep conviction.

To find out more:

Click here for more about the apologetics speech competition.

To learn more about the Cover-to-Cover Bible survey course:

Click here for the online option.

Click here for the classroom option.


  • Greear, J.D. & V. Ready to Launch: Jesus-centered parenting in a child-centered world. LifeWay, 2014.
  • Powell K. et al. High School Youth Group Seniors Transitioning to College: Risk Behavior, Social Support, Religiosity, and Attitude Toward Youth Group. Christian Education Journal.
Let the Lord build the home — Discipling children