Tag Archives: Ignorance

Drew explains what the church needs to do to reverse its decline, and I disagree

UPDATE: Everyone go look at Rebekah’s cute summary of the debate that Drew and I are having. It’s filled with adorable pictures that will make you smile!

Drew, who operates his own blog and also blogs at Laura’s blog Pursuing Holiness, comments on his own experiences in the church.

He writes:

But whereas Wintery Knight emphasizes the lack of apologetics in churches, I think the real problem is an overall lack of substance. In many churches, both the sermons and the music lack substance. And you have a better chance of winning the lottery than of finding a Sunday School class with meaty, intellectual teaching.

One problem is that lots of churches have given into the “seeker-sensitive” movement. This movement constitutes a corroding influence in Christianity akin to John McCain’s and Lindsay Graham’s influence within the Republican Party. That is, the movement tries so hard to please potential converts that it forgets to please God, and thereby cripples Christian churches from the inside. (In the long run, this dumbing down actually results in fewer converts.) The church where I officially hold membership, for example, has largely given way to this movement – to the point that it recently abolished Sunday School for all high schoolers. Apparently, learning is not a priority anymore!

Meanwhile, the simplistic worship music of the modern era often tends to lack any real doctrinal substance. Or worse, sometimes the lyrics are so poorly thought-out that they actually promote false doctrines.

The reason I emphasize apologetics is because it addresses the question “is Christianity true?”. To me, even if you go into a church that emphasizes sound doctrine in the sermon and in the singing, it’s still doctrine. And doctrine that cannot be tested cannot be believed in. At least, that’s my view! So I don’t doctrine is the whole story, but it’s part of the story.

And as soon as young people who have been raised on doctrine alone go out in the real world and it may be as useful as apologetics when are tempted to jettison their beliefs in order to be happy. I think our beliefs needed to be grounded on evidence to help us to hold up under fire. Without an emphasis on truth, these sound doctrines are just our community’s preference claims, like flavors of ice cream! They are not regarded as true objectively unless they can be tested against the laws of logic and the external world.

When they get out into the real world and feel pressured to dump their beliefs to fit in or to be happy, they are not going to constrain their actions based on the preferences claims of a bunch of church people. If you teach them preference claims, then watch out when they leave you – they will develop new preferences in a new community. Like binge drinking and hook-up sex.

The only way that a person can constrain their behavior under fire is when they actually believe that they are rationally compelled to constrain their behavior. And rational compulsion is not under the control of your will. The only way to be rationally compelled is by taking time to study issues like the existence of God and the historicity of the resurrection. Then watch some debates. That’s how you determine what is true. And you will always act on what you really believe is true. NOT just what you have been taught is true, and not what you say is true when asked.

Drew continues:

But even mainstream churches that have resisted these movements often tend to suffer from non-intellectualism. For example, most pastors have gotten into the habit of preaching three-point sermons. I’m not going to declare myself the voice of God and suggest that three-point sermons are sinful, but they do create the opportunity for pastoral laziness. I think pastors frequently take advantage of this opportunity, and wind up presenting watered-down sermons filled with extrabiblical philosophy.

I know what Drew means here, but I wish that pastors did bring in professional philosophers to discuss issues such as:

  • the problems of evil and suffering
  • the problem of the unevangelized
  • the problem of religious pluralism
  • the problem of the justice of Hell
  • the problem of hiddenness of God
  • the problem of free will vs divine foreknowledge
  • the problem of moral relativism
  • the problem of consciousness, free will and rationality
  • etc.

Not to mention the evidential arguments from science and history! And all should be capped by showing or hosting public debates to the entire church. Sound teaching alone is not sufficient to reverse the slide of the church into postmodern relativist universalist feminization. Without assessing whether these sound teachings are true, you are again just sharing your preferences in a community whose purpose is happiness, not truth.

I’ll bet Drew will oppose me here. Do your worst, Drew. You can’t beat me up any worse than Rich and Rebekah have already!

I have found is that although apologetics-oriented issues that challenge faith are popular in the culture in books by New Atheists, Bart Ehrman and even fictional authors like Dan Brown or William P. Young, the church is not interested in addressing them. And the reason is simple: we think church is about fulfilling our needs, not about truth. We would never be so dismissive of truth concerns in any other area of life that mattered.

While the entire culture is being confronted by popular challenges from apostates and atheists, we just keep quoting the Bible to our congregations so that they can be really really clear on our spiritual preferences. But as soon as they step out of the church, they will be facing actual arguments in their workplaces, and classrooms. And you know what they’ll do? They will go silent. And God is not served by that silence.

Either we are going to put public, effective evangelism using apologetics first, or we are going to put our personal feelings and self-esteem first. Either we are going to drip tears onto our apologetics textbooks because studying is hard work, or we are going to make excuses that allow us to continue business as usual at church. The dimension that is never raised in these discussions is that people don’t want to do the most effective thing to defend God’s honor. Getting preached at on Sunday with sound doctrine is easy. Singing songs is easy. But engaging your co-workers with science, philosophy and history is hard. Which one has the most impact on the non-Christian culture? I say it’s engagement.

Drew, I want you to watch this debate online, if you haven’t already:

This debate was held at Purdue University in front over 3000 university students. It is a close debate – this was no blow-out for Craig.

Now I want you to leave me a comment telling me what would happen if every Christian who goes to church were to see this debate in their main Sunday sermon. What would happen if every Christian could defend their faith like William Lane Craig? Would God benefit from it? I don’t care how many people’s pride and self-esteem would be damaged by someone smarter than they are talking. Would God benefit from it?

What does Peter say in 1 Peter 3:15?

15But in your hearts set apart Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect…

With respect to God’s purposes in the world, our happiness is expendable.

Watching debates is not even about who wins and who loses. It’s about whether Christian claims can be defended using public evidence in the real world. And if we don’t have confidence that the churchgoers should be made aware of the arguments for and against Christianity, (because we are afraid they will lose their “faith”), then we should just drop Christianity entirely.

Christianity is a fighting faith. The purpose of it is not to make people have happy feelings and community so they, (and everyone they should be evangelizing), can be comfortable on their way to Hell. It’s either true or it isn’t. And if it isn’t then we shouldn’t waste another second on it. Period.

What does Paul say in 1 Corinthians 15:12-19?

12But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead?
13If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised.
14
And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith.
15
More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised.
16For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.
17And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.
18Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost.
19
If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.

Do the feminized churches believe that? THEY DO NOT BELIEVE THAT. No matter what they say, they do not really believe that at all. They may teach it as “sound doctrine”. But they do not believe that it matters whether the resurrection really happened. They don’t know or care to know if it really happened. And we know this by watching how little emphasis is put on the historical evidence for the resurrection in the church today.

Have you EVER in your entire life seen anyone speak from the pulpit about whether the evidence is good for the hypothesis that God raised Jesus from the dead? Ever? Anyone reading this – have you ever heard the resurrection addressed using mainstream historical approaches? A talk that DID NOT assume the inerrancy of the Bible, and that could have been delivered in a university classroom or in the workplace?

What are we even doing in church if not teaching Christians how to confidently defend the belief in the bodily resurrection of Jesus?

Am I asking too much?

Sorry to be so insistent and passionate, I hope you will take time before replying to be calm and realize that this is the passion talking, and maybe a little emotional distress, as well. I have been hurt by the church opposing me on this many, many, many times. And so have all my friends.

Please try to be charitable. I am not blaming you for this mess, but I don’t think sound doctrine alone is the answer.

Further study

Why won’t Christians defend their faith in public?

UPDATE: The Pugnacious Irishman has linked to me! Thank you for the link Rich! EVERYONE: GO READ HIS POST RIGHT NOW!

UPDATE: Neil Simpson has a debate going on about whether faith is opposed to reason. 50+ comments so far.

Shout out: Brian Auten of Apologetics 315 helped me to make this post nicer. He’s much nicer than I am.

I would like to describe a situation that arises frequently that concerns me. The situation I describe below brings out a flaw I see in the way that rank-and-file Christians respond to criticisms of Christianity in the public square.

Here is the situation

Eve is busy programming away at her desk, rushing to check in her unit tests so she can spend her lunch hour reading the latest Stephenie Meyer horror novel, or looking through an Avon catalog. Suddenly Eve hears Alice talking to Bob on the other side of her cube. She stops typing to listen to the following unencrypted conversation.

Alice: I was watching a documentary on the Discovery Channel last night that said that the universe has always existed, so there is no God!

Bob: I was watching a documentary on PBS last night showing simulations of how the first life started on Earth! God didn’t do it!

Alice: I saw “Inherit the Spin” on the weekend! The only reason people oppose evolution is because of the Bible! Not because of science!

Bob: I’m going to see “The Va Dinci Code” this weekend! It says that the Gospels are unreliable and that Jesus didn’t even die on the cross!

Alice: I just bought the latest Dichard Rawkins book “Christians Should Be Fed to Lions and the Bible Should Be Burned”!

Bob: I will read that as soon as I finish Histopher Chritchens’ book “Why God is the Evilest, Stupidest Person in the World”!

Eve double-majored in business and computer science at the Indian Institute of Technology, and has an MBA from the London School of Economics. She has spent a ton of time, effort and money studying very difficult subjects for her job, and she even publishes research. She works full-time and runs her own business part-time, and earns about 200K per year. She lives in a huge house, drives a huge car, and goes on vacation abroad to all the best vacation spots.

Eve thinks she is a Christian. She has attended church since childhood, her husband is a church elder and she sings in the church choir. She reads the Bible and prays. She gives money to the poor. She teaches Sunday school to children.  She has even read all of the Narnia novels three times!

But even though God is being maligned in Alice and Bob’s conversation, Eve is not going to stand up to defend God’s reputation to them, (or even to her own children, who are both committed atheists).

Why won’t Eve stand?

I am wondering if anyone can explain to me why it is that most church Christians are not able or not willing to make a public defense when God’s reputation is called into question. It seems to me that there are two bad effects that follow from Eve’s unwillingness to stand up and invite Alice and Bob to lunch so that she can address their questions and concerns.

1) God’s reputation is being trashed by Alice and Bob on the basis of lies they’ve swallowed from pop culture. These lies about God’s existence and character could be easily corrected with a minimal amount of study, which Eve is capable of.  If someone said similar lies about her husband or children, she would speak up, but she won’t speak up for God.

2) Alice and Bob are bound for Hell unless someone cares enough to correct their mistaken beliefs, which, along with their sinfulness, is what is keeping them from a relationship with God that would go on in Heaven. If Eve’s husband or children were mistakenly about to drink poison thinking it was Aspirin, then Eve would speak up. But to save her co-workers from Hell, she won’t speak up.

Eve is capable of studying to defend the faith, because of her great success in other areas where so much time and effort were required to master difficult material. So why has she not applied herself to answering public challenges to her Christian faith from her professors, teachers, actors, the media, politicians, scientists, historians, etc.?

It seems to me that if she did spend some time studying, and then made her defense to her co-workers, then two things would follow:

D1) Eve would be demonstrating her love for God and her friendship with God by protecting his reputation when it is called into question by unbelievers in public settings. That’s what friends do – if Eve wanted to be God’s friend, she would care that no one believed lies about him and told lies about him in public settings.

D2) Eve would be demonstrating her love for her neighbor if she was able to correct some of these false beliefs, such as that the universe is eternal, or that a historical case cannot be made for the resurrection, or that evil is not compatible with theism. It’s important for Alice and Bob to know that Christianity is not stupid.

So why is it that Eve is able to go to church for 20 years, sing in the choir, read the Bible, read the Narnia stories, pray on her knees, and yet still be unwilling to do the best thing for God and the best thing for her neighbor?

Questions for my readers

Can anyone help me to understand why Christians are willing to accept this? Why is this not being addressed by churches?

Do you have an experience where a Christian group stifled apologetics? Tell me about that, and why do you think they would do that, in view of the situation I outlined above? My experience is that atheists (as much as I tease them) are FAR more interested in apologetics than church Christians. Why is that?

My answers

My answers to these problems are given in the following previous posts.

In general:

Also, this debate I blogged about before talks about postmodernism and relativism, which has infected the church and has an impact on this question of whether we will study and defend our beliefs in public. I highly recommend giving it a listen – you will learn something about how we got to this point.

Disclaimer:

I want to clear that this is a problem for male and female Christians. I have seen it manifested by equal numbers of men and women in leadership roles. I picked these names because there is a running gag in computer network security where these names are used to describe the actors. Eve is the eavesdropping hacker, get it?

Obama’s corporate tax hike would cause Microsoft to outsource jobs

This Bloomberg article may be helpful to those Democrats who voted for Obama because they hoped that Obama would stop outsourcing by taxing “the rich” and by taxing “greedy coporations”. (H/T Club For Growth)

Excerpt:

Microsoft Corp. Chief Executive Officer Steven Ballmer said the world’s largest software company would move some employees offshore if Congress enacts President Barack Obama’s plans to impose higher taxes on U.S. companies’ foreign profits.

“It makes U.S. jobs more expensive,” Ballmer said in an interview. “We’re better off taking lots of people and moving them out of the U.S. as opposed to keeping them inside the U.S.”

…In a roundtable discussion today, Ballmer, Symantec Corp. Chairman John Thompson and the heads of smaller companies such as privately held Bentley Systems, an Exton, Pennsylvania-based maker of engineering software, said such policies would hurt domestic investment, reduce shareholder value and increase the cost of employing U.S. workers.

See, there’s a difference between what Obama thinks will happen (fantasy) and what actual will happen (reality). He is probably very surprised that corporations are responding to his socialism by shipping jobs overseas. What an unexpected surprise! Let’s recall the simplest possible economics lesson from Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson”.

From this aspect, therefore, the whole of economics can be reduced to a single lesson, and that lesson can be reduced to a single sentence. The art of economics consists in looking not merely at the immediate but at the longer effects of any act or policy; it consists in tracing the consequences of that policy not merely for one group but for all groups.

Obama shows no evidence of knowing this lesson. And neither does anyone who voted for him. And it isn’t just that he and his voting bloc seem to know nothing about economics, it’s that they seem not to know anything about anything. And this, coupled with disregard for the unemployment rate, the budget deficit and the national debt, is what fuels his domestic policy.

Isn’t it mysterious that Bush cut taxes across the board, and tax revenues skyrocketed, while unemployment dove down below 5%? It’s a mystery! At least it’s a mystery to people who have never cracked open a book.

How communists operate

Here’s a preview of what we can expect from someone like Obama, who has no doubt absorbed the views of many left-wing arts professors, who, like him, have probably never run so much as a lemonade stand. Chavez doesn’t even have a college degree. (I have not seen Obama’s grades, he hasn’t ever released them – but he used alcohol, pot and cocaine).

IBD writes about Chavez:

It ought to worry people that what’s happening at GM is perfectly recognizable in Caracas.

In 2004, Chavez began by expropriating cattle ranches in Venezuela, saying he only wanted to clarify property rights, not confiscate land. End result: Virtually all productive land now is in his hands, redistributed to his loyalists in serfdom.

After that, he went after the U.S. oil industry, snagging prizes like Exxon Mobil’s $1 billion heavy-oil complex on the Orinoco River in 2007, citing a different legal issue: tax disputes.

He did similar expropriations with steel, cement, ports, banks, sugar, rice, pretty much any industry that was viable.

Running out of companies to steal, he now persecutes private media — not, he claims, to stifle dissent, but to protect children from smut, his pretense for shutting down RCTV in 2007.

For the last remaining nonstate TV station, his concern is now environmental desecration, with Chavistas using the pretense of some old antlers on the wall of a Globovision executive following an open-ended state raid as the excuse to shut down the TV station.

Whatever Chavez’s legal concerns are, the punishment is always the same: expropriation and more power to the state, the two pillars of socialism.

Read the whole thing, it goes on to juxtapose Obama and Chavez. (MP3 Podcast is here)