Doctor of Leadership in Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

Manmade Solutions to Spiritual Problems?

Written by: on October 4, 2022

In reading Lyons and Solzhenitsyn this week, my mind took me in several directions, most of which ended up at a place of feeling ‘I can’t help but think that we’ve been here before.’ Perhaps it was in the Garden of Eden when we chose to listen to a voice other than the Creator. Or when we were so evil, corrupt, and vile that God saw no way out other than to preserve a few people and drown out the rest to start over. Perhaps it was when we were wandering the wilderness, complaining, making idols, returning to a place of disobedience, as if we hadn’t recently and ongoingly experienced tangible and miraculous sights of the Lord reminding us He was present. Or maybe it was when this man name Jesus entered the town, us excited for him to finally save us from the Romans, only for it to not look like how we wanted him to do it so instead, we crucified him. I could continue on with the world wars, the extermination of 6 million Jewish, the Rwandan genocide, apartheid in South Africa, Chinese internment camps, the torture and killing of [fill in the blank] – we have been here before. So while each of these can point back to evil people spearheading, committing crimes, and having to shut their humanity off, we are apt to remember the spiritual battle at play.

So, when Lyons looks around and raises the questions of “What is happening? Why is it happening? Where are we headed?” it makes the road ahead a bit more predictable.[1] Lyons speaks of three concurrent revolutions taking place: geopolitical, ideological, technological – all pointing towards the implications of what can be termed a ‘post-truth era.’[2] Philosophically, feelings can be real, but it does not make them truth. Lyons is highlighting the path that the United States is on with special note that we have “no direct experience of authoritarian or totalitarian ideologies to provide any inhibition to their spread.”[3] While some may want to simply classify the shifts taking place by which side of the political aisle someone identifies with, I feel that is too simple. So how do we decipher through the noise? How do we identify the truth? Is there any unbiased media outlet?

In my context of international education, one of my main resources is the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC). Having gone through a screening process, I receive an email three times a day that gives me updates as to the ongoing and potential security threats, travel warnings, political uprisings, and more by country. This allows me real-time information which is incredibly helpful while I have students on the field. In identifying how to view news closer to home, I will often go to a publication from another country whether the BBC, World News Digest, and the like as they’ll often report on a given topic with less implicit bias. Ultimately, publications will inherently hold bias and it is the responsibility of the reader to determine who to trust and how to continue to ask questions.

For the Christian leader, while cliché, it would do us well to filter all of our news through scripture. If we take the Bible at its word, we can look at any uprising, geopolitical or ideological issue and with a different lens. While the world may say something is truth, we know who is the truth. While the world may use fear to manipulate, we know we were not given a spirit of fear. While the world may say that things are destitute, we know we are called towards hope. While the world may want to say things are permanent, we know this world is temporary.

To Solzhenitsyn’s point, many have forgotten God. I found the two readings this week to be somewhat of a call and response. Lyons, most recently questioning the path that we find ourselves on and where it is leading us. And Solzhenitsyn, a voice of the not-so-distant past, that can already speak to those answers and why. As long as men and women continue to forget God, we ought not be surprised at the extent of evil rising up. Nor shall we be surprised as the events in Revelation continue to unfold as we are closer to the end times than ever before.

As Solzhenitsyn’s article repeats, “Men have forgotten God; that’s why all this has happened.”[4] He continues on that, “it has already come to pass that the demon of evil, like a whirlwind, triumphantly circles all five continents of the earth.”[5] No geographical location is out of reach. No people group untouched by the impacts of sin – committed by the self and others. The “drying up of religious consciousness” as he would state, only makes it “more and more apparent that even with the most sophisticated of political maneuvers, the noose around the neck of mankind draws tighter and more hopeless with every passing decade, and there seems to be no way out for anyone — neither nuclear, nor political, nor economic, nor ecological.”[6] These spiritual problems cannot be solved simply by manmade solutions, however innovative they may be.

My prayer as we journey through this week is from Hebrews 10:23-25:

“Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how to stir up one another to love and good works, not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day drawing near.”

[1] Lyons, 3.

[2] Ibid., 2.

[3] Ibid., 4.

[4] Solzhenitsyn, 3.

[5] Ibid., 3.

[6] Ibid., 5.

About the Author

Kayli Hillebrand

Associate Dean of International and Experiential Education

14 responses to “Manmade Solutions to Spiritual Problems?”

  1. mm Troy Rappold says:

    Kayli: I think the U.S. Department of State’s Overseas Security Advisory Council (OSAC) email would be a reliable and trustworthy source of this type of information. I also go to the BBC for world news, as I find it less biased than CNN or Fox News. Nice tie-ins with the readings this week. I liked Lyons’ essay, but I couldn’t help but feel that everyone is struggle just to understand what exactly is happening in our world right now. There are probably a thousand blogs just like his asking these questions. People are scared the world over and Lyons does a good job of trying to explain it. Solzhen itsyn goes a step further and puts forth faith as the answer to the chaos. But both readings complemented each other so well.

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      I agree Troy. I can’t help but feel in recent years that although being aware of what is taking place globally is important, how much does it become a distraction from the daily that I’m called to live in. Working with students and their parents, I often see that there are direct connections between their news sources and their fears.

  2. mm Andy Hale says:


    Your thoughts on viewing the world through the Scriptures challenged me with this thought.

    The challenge with taking scripture at its word is that we are looking at that scripture through the eyes of our nationality, economic status, contextual morals, gender, and so much more. Therefore, the challenge is learning about the filters we see the Word through and how we might see it differently.

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Andy: I hear you. I think that is particularly a reason why I’d love to see more education for how to truly understand a cultural context of any given scripture. For me, taking scripture at its word also means I dive into the historical and cultural context for which it was written. When I dive in and learn what things really meant or were intended to say given the biblical languages, it makes so much more sense and is no longer a nice quotable instagram post.

  3. mm Roy Gruber says:

    Kayli, you wrote: “These spiritual problems cannot be solved simply by manmade solutions, however innovative they may be.” What spiritual solutions do you see to these spiritual problems? Also, you mentioned that we’ve been here before, and I agree. If you were to think about the history of Israel in the OT, where do you think we are relative to their journey with God? In my opinion, I feel like we are the nation on the verge of heading off into captivity.

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Hi Roy: I would agree with you in terms of where we are headed in relation to the nation of Israel. I often think personally how much I complain when I’ve literally woken up that day with provision of my needs. I forget very quickly.

      In terms of a spiritual solution, I’d say we undervalue the resource of prayer. I recently heard a pastor say that if we took just a few seconds to really think about who we are praying to before we started, it would likely change what those prayers are. For me, prayer reminds me of who hold the power and that it’s not my job to out-do Jesus.

  4. mm Henry Gwani says:

    Kayli, I like how you highlight the fact that all these challenges (geopolitical, ideological, technological) are happening because men have forgotten God. Like you, I pray that we all experience a spiritual awakening that will remind us that spiritual challenges can only be addressed with spiritual solutions.

  5. Elmarie Parker says:

    Hey Kayli, thank you so very much for your post and the spiritual, leadership, and global themes you wove together.

    I found myself asking a similar question to Andy’s about the filters we all bring to how we read God’s word and thus invite God to guide our discernment of the ‘spirits of the age.’ What are your thoughts on this?

    I also found myself asking another question–from the conversations I’ve had the opportunity to be a part of over the past several years, I’ve learned that there are many Christ followers from many contextual locations who are part of influencing and developing what Lyons calls this ‘new ideology.’ I’ve learned that they are reading the scriptures through a different filter than I grew up with in the white evangelical world of Salem, Oregon. It has challenged me to interrogate my own filters and ask Christ’s Spirit to help me see where my filters are limited and where I need to heed the filters of my siblings in Christ. I have moved from feeling threatened by these new conversations to leaning into them to learn more, seeking to listen and learn with both a generous and ‘critical’ spirit (in the sense of asking questions). I’m curious to learn more of how you have or haven’t encountered this dynamic in the global trip contexts you invite students to engage and even on campus or in academic cirlces?

    • Kayli Hillebrand says:

      Elmarie: I think the beauty of being able to work with so many international partners over the years is that I have had access to watch how the body of Christ lives, functions, worships, and engages in a wide variety of contexts. This has actually led me even more into taking scripture at its word because I know academically, that the contextualization of any given scripture illuminates the intended meaning behind the original biblical language that has likely been misinterpreted or mistranslated over the years when language and culture don’t always have commonalities on which to draw from. It’s not taking it at its westernized, translated word, but at the original contexts and meanings if that makes sense.
      So when I have the opportunity to take students to different nations, including Israel, for study and service purposes, it is always encouraging to watch as their minds and hearts are opened with these ‘ah-ha’ moments of getting a glimpse that perhaps the lens they grew up with isn’t always accurate, their cultural understanding not fully developed, or their interpretation of scripture not the same as those who live in contexts more closely aligned with biblical times. In the process, mine are widened too.

      • Elmarie Parker says:

        Thank you, Kayli, for sharing more of how you and your students journey in other contexts! I’ll be interested to hear how what they learn abroad helps them to listen with new ears to how others within Christ’s body in the USA are hearing scripture speak to them in the context of some of the ‘new’ conversations that are unfolding.

  6. mm Nicole Richardson says:

    Kayli, I resonate with your statement and questions, “While some may want to simply classify the shifts taking place by which side of the political aisle someone identifies with, I feel that is too simple. So how do we decipher through the noise? How do we identify the truth? Is there any unbiased media outlet?”

    Out of all our readings, which ones offer a way through the simple to provide insight to answer your questions?

  7. mm Eric Basye says:

    Amen sister! You state,

    “For the Christian leader, while cliché, it would do us well to filter all of our news through scripture.”

    I am unashamedly biased here, but I 110% agree with you here! This is so important for us to maintain a sense of rootedness and balance, especially when the world seems to be increasingly interconnected, smaller, and fast-paced.

    Hebews 13:8, “Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.” Amen y amen!

  8. mm Denise Johnson says:

    Thank you for sharing your sources. To be honest I hadn’t thought of them. I look forward to exploring them further, especially, OSAC.

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