Tag Archives: Church

J. Warner Wallace: different answers to the question “why are you a Christian?”

This assault rifle is OK, but apologetics is better
This assault rifle is OK, but apologetics is better

I sometimes think about the horrible experiences I had encountering “normal” Christians in American churches after having become a Christian on my own through reading the New Testament, reading apologetics, and watching William Lane Craig debates. I heard a lot of different reasons from the church Christians, and what struck was 1) their reason had nothing to do with objective truth, and 2) their reason hasn’t resulted in them training themselves to explain to a non-Christian why they ought to be a Christian.

Well, J. Warner Wallace recently tweeted an episode of his podcast (the new 30-minute format) and I thought to myself that this might be useful to people who were confused by what they found in the church.

Here is the video:

And he has a blog post about it, where he explains all the responses to the question “why are you a Christian?” which he got from the church – none of which were like his answer for why he became a Christian.

Here are some answers that were not like his answer:

I Didn’t Become a Christian Because I Was Raised in the Church
I didn’t come from a Christian family. I wasn’t raised in the church or by people who attended church regularly. While students often tell me this is the reason they’re Christians, this wasn’t the case for me.

I Didn’t Become a Christian Because My Friends Were Christians
I also didn’t know any Christians. I was never invited to church by anyone as a child, and although I knew Christians in my college years, none of these folks ever invited me to church either. My friends were all happy atheists. I didn’t become a Christian to be part of a club.

I Didn’t Become a Christian Because I Wanted to Know God
I can honestly say I had no interest in God growing up, while in college, or while a young married man. I felt no “hole” in my life, had no yearning for the transcendent, no sense something was missing. I was happy and content. I didn’t become a Christian to fulfill some need.

I Didn’t Become a Christian Because I Wanted to Go to Heaven
I was also comfortable with my own mortality. Sure it would be nice if we could all live forever, but that’s just not the way it is. Live life to the fullest, enjoy your friends and family while you have them, and stop whining. I didn’t become a Christian because I was afraid of dying.

I Didn’t Become a Christian Because I Needed to Change My Life
My life prior to becoming a Christian was great. I had a meaningful and fulfilling career, a beautiful family, an incredible wife, and lots of friends. I wasn’t struggling and looking for a solution. I didn’t become a Christian to stop beating my wife or to sober up.

I’m sure that all my readers know that Wallace is a homicide detective, and an evidentialist. He handles evidence and builds cases with evidence, and that’s how he approaches his worldview as well. So he didn’t answer any of those.

Wallace’s answer was different:

[…][A]lthough these reasons might motivate students to start their journey, I hope these aren’t the only reasons they’re still here. I’m not sure any of these motivations will suffice when push comes to shove, times get tough or students face the challenges of university life. In the end,truth matters more than anything else. I’m not looking for a useful delusion, a convenient social network, or an empty promise. I just want to know what’s true. I think the students I met in Montreal resonated with this approach to Christianity. They are already members of the Church, have friends in the group, understand the importance of a relationship with God and the promise of Heaven. Now they want to know if any of this stuff is true. It’s our job, as Christian Case Makers, to provide them with the answer.

I’m actually much harder on church Christians than he is, because I found that the more fideistic the Churchian, the less you could count on them to act like authentic Christians. I have never met an evidential apologist who was soft on moral questions or tough theology, for example. To me, if you have an evidentialist approach to Christianity, then you have no problem with things like a bodily resurrection of Jesus, with exclusive salvation through faith alone in Christ alone, with a literal eternal separation from God called Hell, and so on. A truth-centered approach makes you indifferent to what people think of you. The important thing is that something is true, not who is or is not offended by it.

What I found is that the anti-intellectual approach to Christianity is correlated with a liberal approach to Christianity. That annoys me because I don’t see liberal Christians as reliable allies. The safest and funnest place for me to be is in the company of self-sacrificial, committed Christians. That’s where I can let my guard down among my true friends. My closest friends all have some sort of plan and some skin in the game. They are evidence-driven and truth-focused. We are not interested in Christianity as fun, good feelings and community. We are interested in Christianity as truth, and that truth creates obligations on us to study, debate and serve self-sacrificially. You can trust an evidence-driven, truth-centered Christian to stand up for what they believe in.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

Pastor Matt discusses his past experiences as an atheist

A long journey through the night
A long journey through the night

Don’t worry, he was an atheist then, and now he’s pastor Matt, thanks to God’s grace.

In this post Pastor Matt talks about why he was once an atheist. (Note: I have just been informed that the link to the post is now broken, but fear not, the blog is being put back up somewhere new)

Excerpt:

I am sometimes asked, by both skeptics and believers alike, why I was once an atheist and what convinced me to become a Christian.  I will answer the latter in another post but let me deal with the former now.

I am a “PK” or “preacher’s kid.”  My father served as the founding pastor of the largest church in southern Ohio.  It is a non-denominational, evangelical congregation that grew very quickly.

As a PK, I was privy to a lot of “inside information” and it was not encouraging.  I learned men and women who sang hymns with passion and shouted “Amen!” with gusto during the sermon were cheating on their spouse or on their taxes.

By the time I was a teenager I understood why those who called themselves Christians lived secret lives–they wanted to believe but really didn’t.  I understood because I became one of them.

I was an active member of an ’80′s evangelical youth group.  So, I rocked out to Stryper, had comedian Pat Hurley tapes and volunteered for the children’s ministry, which consisted of videotaping episodes of Superbook and The Flying House for the kids.  However, I actually seriously doubted if God even existed.

I was struggling with the normal sins of a teenager and begged for help in prayer.  I also petitioned God on a regular basis to feel His presence but that didn’t happen either.

I eventually came to the conclusion that Christianity simply didn’t work.  I declared myself an atheist at age fifteen and remained an unbeliever for the next ten years.

I ran away from home at age fifteen as well eventually making my way to Hollywood.  During those days I partied like it was 1999 (until 1997) and like Aldous Huxley is quoted as saying decades before, I came to not even want God to be real because even the possibility interfered with my desire to create my own morality.

Christianity is not something where you just profess it and suddenly you are automatically perfect. You get the gift of eternal life immediately by faith in Christ, but becoming more like Christ takes time. It’s easier to act consistently with the teachings of Christ if you have spent the time studying, practicing and growing as a Christian. You shouldn’t expect perfect behavior on day one – that is crazy. You should expect that as your beliefs become more solid, then your outward actions will change naturally. And often what you hear at home and in the church is not the best for finding truth through investigation and debate.

It would be terrible to have to put out “good” actions when you never settled the questions of what is true and how are we going to apply what is true in our own decisions. Sometimes, I think that young Christians face too much pressure to appear to be perfect when no one has been willing to help them work through the grounding for the behaviors they are expected to display. And I think a lot of the behaviors they are expected to display are either not important or not Biblical. Behaving like a  Christian should be natural – it should proceed from free inquiry, not dogmatism.

Now I’m skipping a lot, but here is his advice for people who were in his situation:

I’ll get to my conversion later but keep in mind: (1) just because a person attends a church, even if they are a PK, that he or she truly comprehends the Gospel because I didn’t a full understanding; (2) pastors need to constantly remind their parishioners that sin is easy and living for Christ is difficult because believers are part of a cosmic struggle; (3) the spiritual disciplines are invaluable especially so for young people; and (4) there are many solid arguments for the existence of God and few for materialism and all Christians deserve to know them.

I’ve spent some time mentoring young Christians who had fallen away for some period of  time, and I always make a point of asking them why. Their answer is usually something like this: “I knew that what I was doing was wrong, but I didn’t care because no one else cared.” The first thing to do with a person who is rebelling is to get in there and start to ask them questions and get involved in helping them to succeed in their lives. People do bad things because they feel that no one cares. So you better start caring for these young people, whether they are smart, dumb, pretty, ugly, poor, rich, popular, unpopular – it doesn’t matter. They all have souls, and they were all made to know God. Get in there and be real with them before they make a mess of their lives.

William Lane Craig: churches should focus on apologetics to attract more men

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there
Church sucks, that’s why men are bored there

I saw that Triablogue quoted an interesting passage from William Lane Craig’s newsletter.

Here it is:

One overwhelming impression of these engagements is the way in which the intellectual defense of Christian faith attracts men. Both at Texas A&M and again at Miami every single student who got up to ask a question was a guy! I wondered if the girls are just shy. But then I remembered a lengthy clip Jan and I watched of cast members of Downton Abbey doing a Q&A with an audience in New York. Almost every person who came to the microphone at that event was a woman! It wasn’t until late into the evening that a man finally asked a question, which was remarked by all the cast members. Why the difference between that session and the ones I experienced?—simply because the Downton Abbey program is highly relational, which is more appealing to women, whereas my talks were principally intellectually oriented, which is more appealing to men.

Churches have difficulty attracting men, and the church is becoming increasingly feminized. I believe that apologetics is a key to attracting large numbers of men (as well as women) to church and to Christ. By presenting rational arguments and historical evidences for the truth of the Gospel, by appealing to the mind as well as the heart, we can bring a great influx of men into the Kingdom. I’m so pleased that the church in Canada seems to be awakening to this challenge! I’m convinced that we have the opportunity to revolutionize Western Christianity by reclaiming our intellectual heritage.

I could tell you many, many stories of what it was like for me being shut down by churches who were overly sensitive to the desires of women. In college, I and the other male students had every attempt to bring in scholars to lecture or debate shut down by female leadership. Every single week it was prayer walks, testimonies, hymn sings… over and over. Eventually, the more manly Christians just quit going. Later on, I witnessed apologetics being shut down in the church from the top down and from the bottom up, as well.

I remember one week an excited male friend invited me to his church because his male pastor was giving sermons using Hugh Ross and Gerald Shroeder books. He was trying to tie in the existence of God to cosmology. Well, I showed up the next Sunday to hear, and was disappointed. I could tell that the pastor wanted to go back to that subject, but he never really did. Later on, we found out that a female parishioner had complained that too much science and evidence had ruined her experience of feeling good and being comforted.

I could go on and on and on telling stories like this. To this day, I cannot stand being in a church unless that church has organized things like apologetic training classes, public lectures, public debates or public conferences. But that’s the minority of churches. The fact is that churches are attended far more by women than by men, and pastors are catering to women more than men. Not only will apologetics not be mentioned, but elements of feminism will creep into doctrine (egalitarianism) and all political issues will be avoided. Church has become a place to have good feelings, and it is far divorced from anything like evidence or politics which might be viewed as judgmental and divisive. And yet those are the things that men like to talk about most: right and wrong, public policy, evidential apologetics.

ADF offers advice on SCOTUS marriage redefinition ruling

States with non-discrimination laws
States with non-discrimination laws

(Source: ACLU)

Erik Stanley of the Alliance Defending Freedom offers advice to churches on how to respond to the Supreme Court’s decision to redefine marriage to remove the gender requirement.

He says:

[…][T]he greatest threat for churches lies in the application of the Court’s decision to believers who live in jurisdictions covered by so-called “non-discrimination” laws and ordinances. Everywhere that marriage has been redefined in the last several years has seen an awakening of non-discrimination laws that prohibit discrimination in employment, housing, or places of public accommodation on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. These laws are peppered throughout the states and local governments and are a linchpin of the sexual revolution’s broader legal and political strategy: to establish non-discrimination laws at all levels throughout the country and to to “ensure that religion is not used as an excuse to discriminate.”

In coming days, the threat from these non-discrimination laws will materialize in numerous ways as same-sex couples marry. But there are proactive steps your church can take to protect itself.

I put the map from the ACLU above. I think that’s what he is talking about when he says non-discrimination states. Keep in mind that the ACLU supported redefining marriage, and opposes religious liberty.

Erik’s article covers 3 areas:

  1. Church’s statement of faith
  2. Pastors officiating same-sex marriage ceremonies
  3. Church’s facility usage policy

Part 3) was the most interesting to me:

3. Churches should ensure their facilities usage policies are revised to allow only uses consistent with the church’s religious beliefs.

In the wake of the Supreme Court ruling, some churches may be approached by same-sex couples seeking to be married in the church facility. Churches should not feel as if they have to close their doors to the community just to prevent wedding ceremonies with which they disagree. Churches must continue to be a welcoming presence in the community and can do so through updating or revising their facility usage policy. The key point is to tie usage of the church’s facility to the statement of faith and religious beliefs of the church. And then to make clear that uses inconsistent with those religious beliefs will not be allowed. Alliance Defending Freedom has a sample facilities usage policy available in our Protecting Your Ministry manual.

So you update your statement of faith, and then tie usage of the the facility to that statement of faith. Simple.

I took a quick look at the booklet, and it also talked about tying employment within the church and church membership to the statement of faith.

Denny Burk summarizes those:

2. Religious Employment Criteria

Your church can best avail itself of the First Amendment’s protection in employee disputes if you create and faithfully enforce religious employment criteria for every employee. That requires churches to do at least two things: (1) require all employees and volunteers to sign a statement affirming the church’s statement of faith and standards of conduct, and (2) create written job descriptions for every employee and volunteer position.

4. Formal Membership Policy

If your church does not have a membership policy, you need to change that. Biblically, this should already be a priority for your church. You need to specify what the requirements for membership are, how one joins, how one resigns, and the procedures for church discipline. If all of this isn’t spelled out up front, your church could be exposed (see ADF guide pp. 17-18).

So what to make of this? Well, the ADF is an organization that I admire and trust. I cannot abide Christians who do not want to understand the details of what is happening with religious liberty in their country. The ADF has first class lawyers from the top law schools, and they defend religious liberty at every level of our justice system, up to and including the Supreme Court. If you want to help your church protect itself from prosecution, then you must point them to the ADF booklet linked above.

And this is especially true if you are in one of those states in the map above. In looking over the map, I noticed that much of the trouble we have been having with Christian businesses getting sued are in states that have these laws… Oregon, Washington, New Mexico, New York, and so on. Pay attention to that map and make decisions about where to live accordingly.

New study: women who attend church regularly are healthier, and live longer

Church is good for you
Church is good for you

CNS News reports on a new Harvard study that was published in JAMA Internal Medicine.

It says:

A new study by the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health and published online in JAMA Internal Medicine found that women who attended religious services more than once a week were more than 30% less likely to die during a 16-year-follow-up than women who never attended.

The study also found that compared with women who never attended religious services, women who attended more than once per week had a decreased risk of both cardiovascular mortality (27%) and cancer mortality (21%).

“Our results suggest that there may be something important about religious service attendance beyond solitary spirituality,” said Tyler VanderWeele, professor of epidemiology at Harvard Chan School and senior author of the study. “Part of the benefit seems to be that attending religious services increases social support, discourages smoking, decreases depression, and helps people develop a more optimistic or hopeful outlook on life.”

[…]Most of the women in the study were Protestant or Catholic. The baseline age of the participants was 60 years or older – and “therefore the study cannot be generalized to men or young adults.”

Now, note: this is not an apologetics argument, it’s just something interesting to get a discussion started. Obviously, we don’t believe things just because they make us happier or healthier. I would raise this to get a discussion started about whether a secular life that suppresses questions of meaning and purpose can really be satisfying at all. My goal is truth, though. Not life enhancement. We have to keep the focus on truth.