Tag Archives: Pastor

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.

Can we raise declining marriage rates by telling men to “man up”?

Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day
Marine prays with his wife on their wedding day

The latest Prager University video features pro-marriage scholar Brad Wilcox:

I watched this video, and, as a card-carrying member of the Christian men’s rights movement, I was concerned that nothing was said about how radical feminism has weakened the attractiveness of marriage to men. I mean specifically things like women carrying debt, having liberal political views, being unchaste and even promiscuous, initiating the majority of divorces (70%), withholding sex if they do marry, and denying men child visitation if they divorce, single mother welfare making men superfluous, big government replacing men as providers, etc. The consequences of divorce for men are catastrophic, and I don’t just mean financially, but emotionally as well.

I contacted Wilcox to ask him why he did not recognize how radical feminism undermines the value of marriage to men, and he pointed me to this article he wrote in the leftist Washington Post.

He writes:

These days, 20something marriage has gotten a reputation for being a bad idea. That’s partly because parents, peers, and the popular culture encourage young adults to treat their twenties as a decade for exploration and getting one’s ducks in a row, not for settling down. In the immortal words of Jay-Z, “Thirty’s the new twenty.”

Indeed, the median age-at-first marriage has climbed to nearly 30 for today’s young adults, up from about 22 in 1970. Of course, there’s an upside to that. As my coauthors and I report in  Knot Yet: the Benefits and Costs of Delayed Marriage in America, women who put off marriage and starting a family earn markedly more money than their peers who marry earlier.

And here he sort of takes on my concerns about chastity, delayed marriage, and fertility:

First, you are more likely to marry someone who shares your basic values and life experiences, and less likely to marry someone with a complicated romantic or family history.  Those who marry in their twenties, for instance, are more likely to marry someone who isn’t previously married and shares their level of educational attainment as well as their religious faith. Marrying at this stage in your life also allows couples to experience early adulthood together. In the words of Elizabeth Gilbert, a 31-year-old woman who married in her mid-twenties, “My husband and I got to grow up together—not apart. We learned sacrifice, selflessness, compromise, and became better people for it.”

Women who marry in their 20s generally have an easier time getting pregnant, and having more than one child, than their peers who wait to marry in their thirties.  You’ll also be around to enjoy the grandchildren for longer.

You’re less likely to lose the best possible mate for fear of getting started too young on the adventure that is married life. One single, thirtysomething woman struggling to find a good partner put it this way to psychologist Meg Jay, the author of The Defining Decade: Why Your Twenties Matter and How to Make the Most of Them Now, and whose TED Talk on twentysomethings has garnered 6.9 million views: “The best boyfriend I ever had was in my mid-twenties. I just didn’t think I was supposed to be [married] with someone then.” And as psychotherapist Lori Gottlieb explains in her book, Marry Him, there’s a higher likelihood of finding a true peer and more appealing partner-for-life in one’s twenties, before those most appealing potential mates marry somebody else by their thirties.

I cannot fault Wilcox or Prager for being ignorant of the social changes that have undermined the value proposition of marriage for men, and that have also undermined men’s ability to fulfill their roles. Far from being a man-blamer, Prager is a warrior against radical feminism, and just today Wilcox tweeted a study showing the boys benefit from single-sex education – a position I favor myself. But I do want to head off the common “men need to man up” objection made by those who deny that the real problem is radical feminism.

Contrary to the “be a man / man up” crowd, my objections to marriage don’t come from a desire to be lazy about education, career and finance. Rest assured that I have a BS and MS in STEM, and nearly two decades of STEM work experience (internships, summer jobs, full-time employment). I do make six figures, like the person Wilcox discussed in the video, and I have the savings you would expect with a gapless STEM resume. So, complaining about “man up” isn’t going to work on me, and probably not on most men who have concerns about marriage.

Radical feminism causes women to delay marriage in order to have fun, travel and ride the carousel of promiscuity in their 20s. Women have been told that they will have more fun by delaying marriage and staying single in their 20s. Church leaders, friends and family should be discussing and demonstrating the value of marriage to women, and showing them how the lasting contentment of marriage is better than the temporary fun of drinking, sex, travel and career. Marriage is a better platform for lasting joy and for quality relationships. It’s up to the woman’s friends and family to make the case for marriage as more fun and fulfilling than the alternatives offered by radical feminism. Her friends and family need to be countering the feminist message that is everywhere in the culture: marriage is boring, children are a burden, and that husbands are needy and demanding fools. And women need to be told how spending a decade being selfish in their 20s undermines their suitability for marriage.

A woman’s friends and family should train her not to view the moral and spiritual leadership of a man as threatening and dangerous, just because it disagrees with her feelings and desires. Instead of recoiling in horror when a well-educated, successful, wealthy man tells a woman with a history of poor decision-making to get a full-time job, pay off her debts, and start investing, her friends and family ought to welcome it. A good man’s practical advice should not be seen as stifling a woman’s freedom to “follow her heart”. And her friends and family certainly should not celebrate when she chooses a penniless, unemployed, empty-resume man who never questions her reckless decisions. Women should be encouraged to choose men who have demonstrated ability as protectors, providers and moral and spiritual leaders, even if she would rather have a doormat who lets her be wild, selfish and irresponsible. Doormats are not intimidating, but they are also not decisive about marriage. When a man wants to marry a woman, he is very interested in encouraging her to be practical and responsible. This is a good thing.

Lesbian relationships are the most unstable and shortest-lived relationships. This suggests that there is a tendency in women to reject commitment when it goes against their feelings and self-interest. Women’s emotions can make them unstable, and less capable of commitment. Friends and family need to recognize that tendency, and help women to learn practicality, responsibility and unselfishness at a young age, so that they are capable of making commitments.Men look for women who have demonstrated that they are able to complete things that they start. We know that women initiate 70% of divorces, and mostly because of feelings of unhappiness. Finish a tough STEM degree, work a tough job for a few years, pay off debts, pay off a car loan, etc. Men look for women who can make and keep commitments through good times and bad times, even when it goes against their self-interest.

A good basic book to read on this issue is Helen Smith’s “Men On Strike“.

Here’s a short video about her book:

A longer interview from News Max:

And an even longer interview with a homeschooling man:

Some men are ignorant of how radical feminism makes women less suitable for marriage while simultaneously making school and work more difficult to boys and men. It is these men who need to “man up” and “be a man” by challenging women to reject radical feminism and embrace early marriage to strong men who lead. If you’re not willing to fight the radical feminism that causes the underlying problems, then you can’t complain when men wisely reject marriage to women who aren’t ready to be wives and mothers.

Simon Brace on the nature of spiritual warfare and a plea to churches

C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you
C.S. Lewis has some words to live by for you

This passionate, challenging lecture has been getting shared a lot on Facebook, so I thought that I would do a summary of it.

First, you can grab the MP3 file here.

Note that this talk is given by a very conservative evangelical Christian who is speaking to Christians. So this is not intended for a non-Christian audience. However, non-Christians are free to tune in if you want to hear a really passionate, fire-breathing conservative evangelical go non-linear over the superficial turn that the evangelical church has taken. If you are familiar with J.P. Moreland’s view that spiritual warfare is really about disputing speculations and falsehoods using logic and evidence, then you’ll know the meaning of the term “spiritual warfare” he has in mind. When he says spiritual warfare, he means apologetics: knowledge and preparation.

I would really caution you not to listen to this if you are not passionate about defending God’s honor. It will overwhelm and upset you. Having said that, this lecture reflects my convictions about the churches need to drop anti-intellectualism and take up apologetics. And not pre-suppositional apologetics, which I think is ineffective, but evidential apologetics. Evidential apologetics is effective, which is why everyone in the Bible used it.

About the speaker:

Simon Brace is the Director of Evangelism of Southern Evangelical Seminary. Simon was born in Zimbabwe and grew up in South Africa. Simon has a construction background and has lived in a number of countries and travelled extensively. He has a MA in Apologetics and BA in Religious Studies and is currently working on an MA in Philosophy at SES. Simon leads TEAM which is the missions program of SES on local, national, and international trips. In addition, Simon has worked with Ratio Christi at SES, and has an extensive knowledge of Ratio Christi’s history and operation. Simon currently resides in North Carolina with his wife Nel and children, Eva and Olivia.

I liked the second part of the lecture more than the first part, so there is less summarizing of the first part.

Topics:

  • What does the New Testament say about spiritual warfare in Ephesians?
  • Christian slogans about spiritual warfare sound pious, but they are mistaken
  • Today, Christianity is focused on piety and zeal, not on study and knowledge
  • The result is that Christianity in the West is in a state of erosion and decline
  • What we are doing about spiritual warfare is not working to stop the decline
  • Preaching, publishing, programs, retreats, etc. are not very useful for spiritual warfare
  • Enthusiasm and passion without knowledge  are not very useful for spiritual warfare
  • The Church has a theoretical understanding of spiritual warfare, but no real capability
  • Doesn’t work: trying to make Christianity seem popular and cool
  • Doesn’t work: making Christian music and art that non-Christians will like
  • Doesn’t work: pastors trying to be relevant by having cool clothes and cool haircuts
  • Doesn’t work: fundamentalists getting angry about peripheral issues
  • Doesn’t work: not read things apart from the Bible and sound foolish when speaking in the public square
  • Doesn’t work: church leaders think that careful exegesis and expository preaching is a good answer to skeptics
  • What works: we need to train people who are prepared and willing to defend the truth of the Christian faith
  • Evangelicalism has a deep suspicion of reading things outside the Bible, so they are unable to refute anything
  • Evangelicals are hyper-spiritualized and hysterical, focusing on demons, prophecy and end-times, etc.
  • Evangelicals have a pagan view of using their minds to alter reality, which is irrational and superstitious
  • Evangelicals like conservative celebrity preachers who do nothing to correct anti-intellectualism in the church
  • Evangelicals are focused on their personal relationships with Jesus instead of their whole worldview
  • Evangelicals focus too much on homeschooling and not enough on how to impact the secular universities
  • Church programs for youth are about “strumming guitars and eating pizza once a week”, not apologetics
  • Evangelicals have an over-inflated view of the effectiveness of their (non-intellectual) evangelism methods
  • The primary focus and primary responsibility in spiritual warfare is not dealing with supernatural evil
  • The real focus and responsibility in spiritual warfare is specified in 2 Cor 10:3-5
  • What we ought to be doing is defeating speculations (false ideas), using logical arguments and evidence
  • Defending the faith is not memorizing Bible verses and throwing them out randomly
  • Defending the faith is not just preaching the gospel
  • Demolishing an argument requires understanding arguments: premises, conclusions, the laws of logic
  • We should exchange our pious Bible memorizing skills and the like for a class in critical thinking
  • The New Testament requires that elders be capable of refuting those who oppose sound doctrine (Titus 1:9)
  • It is not enough to preach a good sermon, elders have to be able to defend the Christian faith as well
  • People who run conservative seminaries do not mandate that M.Div graduates study apologetics
  • Famous pastors like Driscoll, Begg, etc. need to teach other pastors to emphasize apologetics in church
  • People in church won’t engage the culture unless they have reasons and evidence to believe Christianity is true
  • We need a balance of both piety and intellectual engagement
  • We need to make our evangelism rooted in the intellect in order to have an influence at the university
  • Mission organizations also have a responsibility to defend the faith and not merely preach (1 Peter 3:15)

And here is his closing quote from C.S. Lewis:

To be ignorant and simple now not to be able to meet the enemies on their own ground would be to throw down our weapons and to betray our uneducated brethren who have, under God, no defense but us against the intellectual attacks of the heathen. Good philosophy must exist, if for no other reason, because bad philosophy needs to be answered.

I was really humbled by this, because I sort of knew that the church was anti-intellectual, but I didn’t really reflect on how everyone else in society thinks that we are anti-intellectual. It’s troubling. The quickest way to make Biblical Christianity respectable again is to hit the books and defeat all comers in intellectual disputations. Are we ready to make the sacrifices to do that?.

Pastor explains why the pulpit must address public policy issues

Crusader knight prepares for battle
Crusader knight prepares for battle

My friend Scott pointed out this brave and necessary article from pastor Michael Sherrard, who is currently studying for his PhD in New Testament.

Pastor Sherrard writes:

[…][P]astors are… watchmen. And when the enemy is before us, the watchmen better not have his head down wiping the eggnog off his ugly sweater as the walls are being scaled.

Rather than be caught defenseless, pastors must equip their people to engage a culture that is becoming increasingly hostile toward Christianity. And so, the pulpit must be political. Yes, I know that Christ’s kingdom is not of this world. Let’s get that out of the way. I already hear your objection: “We should care more about salvation than society.” Sure, I agree. It is better to lose the world than your soul. But if you think that society can go to hell as long as people don’t, you’ve fallen for an old trick and you’ve misunderstood the nature of the gospel.

A politically silent pulpit is one that is catering to the secularist’s agenda: “Keep your religious beliefs private. They are not wanted in society. They are no good to us.” And for some reason, we’ve bought into the propaganda of those that want to fashion a society after their own values. Somehow they have convinced us that the only good beliefs for society are the beliefs of atheists. But beliefs that are true are true for all and are good for all. It does not matter where they come from. And if the Christian message contains truth, the application of that truth is far reaching. It does not end at the capital steps.

Christianity is an all-encompassing worldview. Meaning, it is a set of true beliefs that affect all of life. The gospel itself has implications that go beyond ones eternal destination. We see this truth in Paul’s ethics. Pauline ethics might be summed up this way: because Christ humbled himself and died on a cross, so should you be humble and willfully offer up your life for the good of others (Phil 2:1-11). Our faith manifests itself in ways that benefit others, if it is a real faith. You must repress your hope in God to keep it private. I doubt you disagree with this.

So why are politics off limits? Why is it right for us to sit back and allow harmful policies be legislated? Why shouldn’t we expose candidates that seek to preserve the right to kill babies? Why do we think we have to let atheists run our country? Are Christian teachings not good? Do they not promote human flourishing? Why do we think a Christian influence equals a theocracy? How have we become so simple minded about our civil responsibility? Pastors we have failed our people. If it is not our job to instruct the people of God on these things, whose job is it?

When politics are ignored in the pulpit the message to the world and the church is clear: Christianity is irrelevant. It tells the world that what we care about is our little club, and it tells those in the club not to worry about what goes on outside.

Yes, yes, yes!!!!! This is exactly what my main complaint about pastors is – that they are so contain to discuss castles in the sky and angels dancing on the head of a pin. They want to chase Christian theology into some far-off area where it has no connection with anything real. They want to make our happy feelings everything, and leave us with nothing hard to do for God. But being a partner means doing work that achieves goals, and politics is surely one of the areas where we can show God that we are with him, and that we love him.

Now, the pastor got a lot of flak from nitwits for that post, and so he wrote them a response, with the title “No, your’e right. We should let the atheists run the country”.

Here’s the best part:

Oh and you’re right, who cares who holds office. The Bible doesn’t say anything about voting and our role in democracy. (You’ll be happy to know I’ve also stopped teaching my kids math because Jesus didn’t say anything about that either.) Who cares if there are candidates that would exclude us from the first amendment. Religious freedom is overrated. I mean look how the church is growing in parts of the world where Christianity is illegal. We could benefit from a dose of persecution. You know, I think I’ll pray for it. Tonight I will huddle my family and pray that we will soon find ourselves in a country where I could lose my head for my faith. That sounds biblical.

Religious liberty is my most important concern. I would be willing to flee my country in order to get it back.

I think it’s worth it to read both his posts in full. Why aren’t more pastors like that? Why all this focus on feeling good and being liked, and doing whatever we “feel led” to do? How about we do what is necessary, whether it makes us feel good or not?

Barna poll: what would people like to hear about in church sermons?

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

This is from Glenn Beck, not someone I pay any attention to. But the poll was done by Barna, and the results are interesting.

Excerpt:

An prominent Christian pollster joined Glenn on his T.V. program Tuesday night to unveil the findings from a new poll, which sought to identify the top issues church-goers want to hear about from their pastors. The findings fascinated Glenn, who has been saying for a long time the way to wake our country up should be through our churches.

Joined by historian David Barton, pollster George Barna from the American Cultural & Faith Institute presented his research in which nearly 3,000 active church-goers were surveyed about the issues they want to hear about most in church.

Top 12 Issues the Church Wants to Hear:

1. Abortion: Beginning of life, right to life, contraception, adoption, unwed mothers. 91%

2. Religious persecution/liberty: Personal duty, government duty, church response, global conditions. 86%

3. Poverty: Personal duty, government role, church role, homelessness, hunger, dependency. 85%

4. Cultural restoration: Appropriate morals, law and order, defensible values and norms, self-government. 83%

5. Sexual identity: Same-sex marriage, transgenderism, marriage, LGBT. 82%

6. Israel: Its role in the world, Christian responsibility to Israel, US foreign policy toward Israel and its enemies. 80%

7. Christian Heritage: role of Christian faith in American history, church role in US development, moder-day relevance. 79%

8. Role of Government: Biblical view, church-state relationship, personal responsibility, limitations. 76%

9. Bioethics: Cloning, euthanasia, genetic engineering, cryogenics, organ donation, surrogacy. 76%

10. Self-governance: Biblical support, personal conduct, impact on freedom, national sovereignty. 75%

11. Church in politics/government: Separation of church and state, legal boundaries, church resistance to government. 73%

12. Islam: Core beliefs, response to Islamic aggression, threat to US peace and domestic stability. 72%

David Barton went on to present several Action Steps that church-goers can do right now, to help get their churches off the sidelines and their pastors preaching about these important issues.

Well, I certainly found these poll results interesting, and that’s why I try to have a variety of topics on this blog.

The first thing I thought when I read that list is that pastors would have to be reading about things outside the Bible in order to know how to speak about them. For example, to talk about abortion, it helps to read books by Scott Klusendorf, Frank Beckwith, Robert George and Christopher Kaczor. Now, I’ve talked to some friends who have been through seminary, and it sounds to me that they read very little on the substance of these kinds of issues, and a lot about spiritual fluff. Maybe, instead of focusing so much on the packaging, they can focus more on the content. The list is pretty clearly a list of serious controversial issues. But in church I feel that the emphasis is always on feelings and agreement.

So, let’s see. How should we go about getting the churches to speak about these issues? I really have no idea, and I’m not holding my breath waiting for them to start to talk about how the Bible is supported by evidence, or about what anti-Christians skeptics say, or about how the Bible applies to issues in the real world. The pastors just seem to be not interested in all the most interesting things in the world, for some crazy reason. I love the list – I wish I heard these things discussed in church.