Tag Archives: Pastors

How does church appear to someone raised in a non-Christian home?

Church sucks, that's why men are bored there

My friend Wes posted an article about how communication is set up in the church, and why it’s not effective at equipping Christians to defend their worldview in hostile environments. The article describes what I encountered in church, after I was raised in a non-Christian home and become a Christian on my own by reading the New Testament. The view presented in the essay is how I viewed the church, and is probably how most outsiders view church. I think it explains why young people leave the church in droves once they move out of their parents’ houses.

The author writes:

On the Internet, one soon discovers that many respected church leaders are quite unable to deal directly with opposing viewpoints. In fact, many of them can’t even manage meaningful engagement with other voices. Their tweets may be entirely one-way conversations. They talk at their audiences. They can talk about other voices, but fail to talk to them, let alone with them. Their representations of opposing viewpoints reveal little direct exposure to the viewpoints in question.

[…]Around this point, it can start to dawn on one that many church leaders have only been trained in forms of discourse such as the sermon and, to a much lesser extent, the essay. Both forms privilege a single voice—their voice—and don’t provide a natural space for response, questioning, and challenge. Their opinions have been assumed to be superior to opposing viewpoints, but have never been demonstrated to be so. While they may have spoken or written about opposing voices, they are quite unaccustomed to speaking or writing to them (not to mention listening to or being cross-examined by them). There are benefits to the fact that the sermon is a form of discourse that doesn’t invite interruption or talking back, but not when this is the only form of discourse its practitioners are adept in.

Many church leaders have been raised and trained in ideologically homogenous cultures or contexts that discouraged oppositional discourse. Many have been protected from hostile perspectives that might unsettle their faith. Throughout, their theological opinions and voices have been given a privileged status, immune from challenge. Nominal challenges could be brushed off by a reassertion of the monologue. They were safe to speak about and habitually misrepresent other voices to their hearers and readers, without needing to worry about those voices ever enjoying the power to answer them back. Many of the more widely read members of their congregations may have had an inkling of the weakness of their positions in the past: the Internet just makes it more apparent.

One of my friends who comments here as “Wintery’s Friend” actually did his M. Div, and I think it was he who told me that his seminary had dropped the lone course in apologetics that had been part of the curriculum. Now seminary grads don’t learn any opposing views. They just pre-suppose that the Bible is true in the same way that Mormons pre-suppose their Bible is true. It’s a Mormon epistemology that’s been adopted by Christian seminarians.

More:

If one’s opinion has never been subjected to and tried by rigorous cross-examination, it probably isn’t worth much. If one lacks the capacity to keep a level head when one’s views are challenged, one’s voice will be of limited use in most real world situations, where dialogue and dispute is the norm and where we have to think in conversation with people who disagree with us.

The teachers of the Church provide the members of the Church with a model for their own thinking. The teacher of the Church does not just teach others what to believe, but also how to believe, and the process by which one arrives at a theological position. This is one reason why it is crucial that teachers ‘show their working’ on a regular basis. When teaching from a biblical text, for instance, the teacher isn’t just teaching the meaning of that particular text, but how Scripture should be approached and interpreted more generally. An essential part of the teaching that the members of any church need is that of dealing with opposing viewpoints. One way or another, every church provides such teaching. However, the lesson conveyed in all too many churches is that opposing voices are to be dismissed, ignored, or ‘answered’ with a reactive reassertion of the dogmatic line, rather than a reasoned response.

You can imagine that the first questions that you’ll be asked by a non-Christian co-worker would be things like “why think God exists?” and “why think the Bible is history rather than legend?”. What I’ve learned from listening to pastors is that very few are equipped to answer those questions. Most just assume that God exists and that the Bible is inerrant. And they don’t show their work, because they haven’t done the work. Moreover, they actively oppose apologetics as “divisive” and “prideful”. And so their flocks can attend church for 20 years and never learn a single useful piece of information that can be used in a real-world discussion. If you’re wondering why kids raised in married Christian homes start getting drunk and shacking up with atheists the minute they hit college, then look at the pastors who mocked their honest questions instead of preparing to answer them with evidence.

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I believe that there are various problems in the Church that are exacerbated by this. Where they are led by voices that can’t cope with difference or challenge, churches will tend to become fissiparous echo chambers, where people are discouraged from thinking critically about what leaders are saying and doing. The integrity of the Church’s theological conversation will not be tested through criticism and challenge. Churches that are led by such leaders will habitually develop polarized oppositions with their critics.

Unfortunately, in conservative churches, pious church leaders like Al Mohler, Russell Moore, Denny Burk, etc. oppose the use of evidence in apologetics, especially scientific and historical evidence. They don’t like the idea that humans can consider evidence rationally, and make a decision – even though Jesus regularly presents evidence to people who don’t believe in him in the Bible, and expects them to respond to it. The approach of pious Christian leaders to Christian teaching is to parrot Bible verses and hope that it has a magical effect of compelling faith in unbelievers. I call this the magic-words view of the Bible. For example, these pastors would not use peer-reviewed evidence from the social sciences when discussing moral issues like premarital sex, they would just cite the Bible’s teaching on it – to non-Christians!

I don’t know about you, but I think that a peer-reviewed paper on the dangers of premarital promiscuity has far more weight than something like this from Denny Burk:

If the Bible is the word of God, then it merely needs to be proclaimed. It has intrinsic power that cannot be nullified by the most hardened of skeptics. For that reason, we can have confidence in proclaiming it to anyone. And we can say “the Bible tells me so” without blushing.

That’s just fideism, and it’s the majority view among conservative church leaders. If you had to pick a single passage that explained the decline of Bible-based Christianity in America, you couldn’t find a better passage. What’s most surprising is that this fideistic view of Christianity is not even Biblical. The Biblical view of faith is that faith is trust in God, based on evidence. This is why Jesus offered his own resurrection as evidence to a generation of unbelievers. His miracles were also evidence offered to unbelievers. And the Old Testament is filled with examples of people like Isaiah presenting evidence to unbelievers. The fideist view sounds more like the Mormon “burning of the bosom” view.

I think the Mormon / fideist camp is just imposing their own man-made views onto the text in order to get out of the hard work of having to actually study and prepare to have debates with non-Christians. The motivation is laziness, and piety is just how they dress up their laziness to make it seem positive. Unfortunately, the product of this pious laziness is ignorance, and ignorance costs young people their faith. It doesn’t seem to bother these pastors at all that they can’t have meaningful engagements with non-Christians, or that they don’t equip young Christians to defend themselves. They’re oblivious to the world outside of the church doors.

In conclusion, we really need to stop giving respect to fideist pastors, if we expect to train up a generation of young Christians who are able to retain their faith and have an influence. We would never accept Mormon fideism as a sign of competence in any other real-world area of our lives, e.g. – auto repair, software engineering, surgery or tax law. We shouldn’t accept Mormon fideism as a sign of competence in teaching the Bible, either.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

UK judge rules in favor of firing people who disagree with transgenderism

Thinking about transgenderism
Thinking about transgenderism

This case is from the UK, but keep in mind that the United States is just a few years off from this, depending on who wins the presidency in 2020. A woman tweeted that transgender women (biological men) are not the same as biological women. The judge ruled that it should be legal to fire employees who say that a transgender woman (biological man) is not the same a biological woman.

Here is the story from Insider:

A judge in the UK ruled on Wednesday that it was legal for a leading think tank to fire a worker for arguing publicly that transgender women are not real women.

The Centre for Global Development (CGD) sacked tax expert Maya Forstater in March 2019 over a series of tweets in which she supported the notion that “men cannot change into women.”

She sued the CGD on grounds of discrimination, but her argument was rejected by a judge, who said her position on the issue is “not worthy of respect” and does not enjoy legal protection.

[…]Before her dismissal Forstater was accused by her managers of using “offensive and exclusionary” language and “fear-mongering,” the Times of London reported.

The judge said that the defendant “is absolutist in her view of sex and it is a core component of her belief that she will refer to a person by the sex she considered appropriate even if it violates their dignity and/or creates an intimidating, hostile, degrading, humiliating or offensive environment.”

NBC News had an article up where the author explained why the ruling was justified:

This, then, is what Forstater wanted the courts to uphold: Her right to make her co-workers uncomfortable… her right to be… rude and disrespectful in social and professional contexts; and her right to disrespect U.K. law, which defines transgender women as women and transgender men as men…

Courts, of course, tend to look askance at being asked to rule that an employee should be allowed to harm their employers and co-workers based on “philosophical beliefs” they’ve decided are both “biological truths” and tantamount to religious canon.

Indeed. So the mainstream view among the progressive elites is that not affirming the views of transgender people is “harming” them. And the right way to stop dissent from the LGBT agenda is to have these people fired, so that they have to choose between feeding their family and supporting the LGBT agenda. And this is all fine with the “compassion” crowd, who are more concerned with the feelings of transgender people than with free speech and conscience rights.

By the way, the UK judge’s position is the same as about half the people in this country – the half that votes for the Democrat Party. The Democrats in the House have already passed a bill called the Equality Act, which would make American laws match the UK laws that make it acceptable for people who express disagreement with the LGBT agenda to be fired.

Personal application

I’ve noticed that a lot of evangelical pastors and leaders are drifting away from the teachings of the Bible on sex, marriage and morality in general. And it’s becoming a real question about how far they will go with this. Like, I don’t know where “conservative” evangelical pastors and leaders would stand on this question of firing someone who isn’t “generous” about accepting a transgender person’s preferred pronouns.

Based on what I’m seeing right now, I don’t expect that Bible-believing conservatives who disagree with LGBT agenda are going to get any help from the “conservative” evangelical pastors and leaders . And that affects how free those Bible-believing conservatives are to be generous about taking on additional responsibilities, like charitable contributions, marriage, and children. After all, if the “conservative” evangelical pastors and leaders aren’t concerned when a secular leftist fires a dissenter from LGBT orthodoxy, then why should that dissenter take on additional obligations to others that reduce his ability to survive being fired?

Here is what Paul said in 1 Corinthians 7:

32 I would like you to be free from concern. An unmarried man is concerned about the Lord’s affairs—how he can please the Lord.

33 But a married man is concerned about the affairs of this world—how he can please his wife—

34 and his interests are divided. An unmarried woman or virgin is concerned about the Lord’s affairs: Her aim is to be devoted to the Lord in both body and spirit. But a married woman is concerned about the affairs of this world—how she can please her husband.

35 I am saying this for your own good, not to restrict you, but that you may live in a right way in undivided devotion to the Lord.

And here’s Paul again in 2 Timothy:

 Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus.

No one serving as a soldier gets entangled in civilian affairs, but rather tries to please his commanding officer.

I do understand that evangelical pastors and leaders think that men just marry for love, and they don’t even think about how much providing for a wife and children costs. But that’s delusional. Men DO calculate the costs of having a wife and children, and they understand that it is easier to be faithful on controversial issues when you are a single man, than when you are burdened with a wife and children. If pastors don’t want to do anything to defend free speech from the secular left, that makes marriage less attractive to men who are committed to fighting the secular left.

How to help fatherlessness women make better choices about men and marriage

Here's some helpful advice for women about choosing a man
Here’s some helpful advice for women about choosing a man

I found a YouTube video featuring a conversation about the fundamental problem that I see with young, unmarried women: their decision to have recreational premarital sex with hot guys throughout their teens and 20s. I realize that this is controversial, but I think by listening to a woman who did this, we can get some clues about how to talk them out of it.

Here is the conversation: (just listen to the first 7 minutes to start)

Note: this conversation contains vulgar language. Listener discretion is advised.

Molyneux gets her talking about the most important question that women who fail with men never want to answer: why did your mother choose this awful, awful man, to be your father out of all the other men in the world? At the end, she really has learned her lesson and gives a good warning to other young women at the crossroads.

Summary of key admissions:

  • Caller: I’m a 41-year-old single white female who was a bad girl in my 20s. I was raised fatherless by a loving Christian mom. Question: what caused me to fail at life and be living with my (divorced) mother?
  • I was gifted, very intellectual, top of the class
  • My mom is a very caring person
  • My mom approached my Dad when he was already in another relationship (i.e. – her mom was the woman her father cheated with on another woman, then her mom married this cheating man and he dumped the previous woman)
  • My mom was very attractive, and could have chosen different men, but she was really attracted to this terrible man
  • My mom had a desire to get away from her strict parents, who she resented
  • when I was 15 I chose a man, I had recreational sex with him before marriage, and he stalked me and humiliated me
  • I felt like an adult at age 15, and I had sex with this man then so that I could put childhood behind me and become an adult
  • My mother counter-acted the absence of my Dad by raising me as a Christian – she was a radical, intense Christian and that hyper-religiosity made me not want to talk about sex with her
  • My mom divorced my father because he was a jerk
  • My mom did not mind that he had other children from past relationships, was underemployed, and was lazy
  • I used to sneak out of my room and sit on the back porch and drink alcohol with the neighbor kids
  • My mom was a worrier and a control freak, so I rebelled against her warnings and attempts to set boundaries on my wildness
  • I and my 15-year-old recreational sex partner used a condom from my devout Christian mother’s drawer
  • I had sex with 5 different boyfriends from age 15-18 and caught mono
  • My mom had temporary boyfriends after the divorce
  • In my 20s, “there wasn’t much to do except go out and drink”. “two to three times a week, me and my girlfriends would get dressed up, go to the clubs, and try to attract hot guys”.
  • From 21-30, I stopped looking for relationships, I just hooked up with hot guys for one-night stands and FWBs
  • I felt better about myself, more confident and in control when I would drink and have one-night stands with these hot guys
  • “I don’t know why I was so focused on looks” in these guys
  • The hooking up stopped at 30, then dating (with sex) resumed
  • I realized that the hot guys I wanted were not going to settle down, especially with new younger women available
  • From 15 to now, I’ve slept with 60 different men, sometimes repeatedly, and on and off
  • I never admitted the true number of men I slept with to any of these men
  • last relationship was 5 years ago (at age 36)
  • I have lost interest in sex, and lost interest in men
  • I don’t have the mental toughness to be in a relationship
  • I have “been broken” by too many failed relationships
  • nobody told me that my decisions with men were not going to go well

In the final 8 minutes where Stefan explains the larger consequences of women’s choices for civilization is very important, I think. I was surprised that he spoke directly to the “hot” alpha males that women want and told them that they are breaking women, and share the blame for destroying our civilization. The thing is, I don’t think those hot alpha males care about civilization, or anything except for themselves. So I don’t think it’s going to work to speak to these degenerate men. We have to speak to the women. They are the ones who aspire to marriage and security, and they make the choices that do not lead to the future they want.

I think we need to teach young women, especially fatherless women, to connect their choices with men to the tasks that men actually perform in a married home. I am talking about non-Christian women AND Christian women. What do men do in a marriage on a day-to-day basis? They protect. They provide. They lead on moral issues. They lead on spiritual issues. So, we need to sit down with women and tell them what is important in a man. I have heard Christian women tell me how they married non-Christian men who they were attracted to for superficial reasons, then spent the rest of their lives watching their children grow up without a spiritual leader in the home. I want this to stop happening.

I think the problem is that we need stronger men who are willing to confront women and speak about moral boundaries so that young women who don’t have guidance can at least have the opportunity to make better choices. What we need less is men who agree with women who are making bad decisions. And we need less men who blame that bad men that women freely choose for being bad. Bad men are going to be bad. The only way forward is to tell women not to choose them. This is hard to do, but it is the loving thing to do. It’s not loving to tell women that they can expect the man they choose to give them the traditional male roles when they chose him for superficial qualities that have nothing to do with the traditional male roles.