Tag Archives: Popularity

Christian case maker warns Christians to trust the evidence, not their feelings

A conflict of worldviews
A conflict of worldviews

Alisa Childers posted a review of a recent dialog between Dr. Sean McDowell and former-Christian Bart Campolo, son of far-left progressive fake Christian Tony Campolo. The dialog occurred on the Unbelievable radio show.

Here’s an exerpt from Alisa’s review:

Recently, the two came together to have a discussion on Premier Christian Radio entitled, “Why Bart Lost His Faith, Why Sean Kept His.” It was a fascinating discussion, and the thing that most struck me was the reason they each gave for having become a Christian in the first place. Campolo described how he converted to Christianity after finding a youth group he connected with and attending one of their retreats:

There’s hundreds of kids there. It’s Saturday night, there’s candlelight and firelight and everybody’s singing “Our God is an Awesome God,” and “We Love You Lord.” And in the midst of that kind of environment I had what I guess you would call a transcendent moment…I felt something. It felt like there was something happening  in that room that was bigger than the group. I felt like I was connecting to something. And in that moment ….that was God.

I heard something. It was real to me. People that don’t believe in transcendent experiences—I always think like, “You haven’t been to the right concert… You haven’t used the right drugs. You haven’t fallen in love with the right partner.”

These experiences are real, and I think whatever narrative you’re in when you have one, it confirms that narrative. If I would have had that same transcendent moment with my friends in a mosque in Afghanistan, it would have confirmed Islam to me. But I was in the Christian world, so from that point on, Jesus was real to me.

In Campolo’s own words, he became a  Christian because of a transcendent experience….a feeling that resonated deeply in his heart.

He had a feeling, and he took that feeling as a reason for believing propositional claims about the external world. God’s existence? He had a feeling. Christ’s resurrection? He had a feeling. The reliability of the Bible? He had a feeling. Instead of focusing on truth, he spent his early life pursuing social justice. He didn’t look at evidence, he just tried to have experiences. He tried to chase feelings by having little Christian ministry adventures. Missions trips. Volunteer work. Community. Charismatic speaking to crowds about things he knew literally nothing about.

Further on in the dialog, he explains that his standard for allegiance is not truth, it’s literally “what works”. And he clarifies “what causes [people] to thrive, what causes [people] to flourish”. His emphasis (in his ministry) was always on feeling good by being nice to people, because they liked him. This perspective is rampant in the evangelical church, especially among progressive young people. The idea of testing the Christian worldview against science and history to see if it is true is absolutely out. Instead, it’s all about feeling good and making people like you by being nice to them.

Experiences made him an atheist. He worked with poor people, and he decided that God didn’t exist because he wasn’t making these people happy. He had gay roommates in college, so he decided that the Bible’s rules around sexual morality had to be wrong. Never any investigation of economics to understand poverty, no investigation of homosexuality in the peer-reviewed literature, etc. It was feelings all the way. A bit later, Campolo extols the virtue of blind faith, and blasts apologetics as ineffective at changing minds. And then later, he has a bicycle crash, and he becomes convinced from that accident that “this life is all we have”. So he disproved substance dualism, which is consistent with the Bible and supported by multiple lines of philosophical argumentation and experimental evidence… by having feelings about a bicycle crash.

Now, on this blog, we despise feelings and experiences. We discuss scientific evidence for a Creator and a Designer all the time. The origin of the universe, the fine-tuning, the origin of life, the Cambrian explosion, the habitality requirements, etc. For Campolo, Christianity was never about truth, and so he never conducted an investigation about whether it was true. The only God he would accept was a god who “worked for him” – who made him feel good, and who made people (including non-Christians) like him. It was all about him, never about adjusting himself to an objective reality that might have involved obedience to God, having some bad feelings, and being disliked by non-Christians.

The more emphasis that a person places on feelings, intuitions, travel, adventure, and social justice, the farther away they tend to be from analytical philosophy, historical investigation, scientific evidence, etc. You cannot establish the truth of a worldview by going on a missions trip to Haiti, or by holding orphans in Bolivia. The truth of Christianity is known through study of reality, using logic, science and historical analysis. Making feelings the foundation for a worldview is just a disaster waiting to happen.

Alisa has some words of caution to young Christians and their parents about experience as the root of a Christian worldview:

  1. You can be talked out of an experience.
  2. Your heart and feelings lie.
  3. You can fall back on evidence in times of doubt or suffering.

Here is number 2:

The prophet Jeremiah described the human heart as “deceitful above all things and desperately sick.” Proverbs 3:5-7 tells us not to “lean on our own understanding.” Jesus described the human heart as being filled with thoughts like murder, adultery, sexual immorality, theft, false testimony, and slander. Proverbs 28:26 tells us that whoever trusts his own mind is a fool.

In other words, do not, under any circumstances, follow your heart.

This, of course, stands in stark contrast to the themes we are constantly encountering in entertainment and on social media. However, when it comes to spiritual beliefs, trusting our hearts and following our feelings can lead to all sorts of aberrant theology, sinful choices, and a distortion of true Christian faith.

See that?

“In other words, do not, under any circumstances, follow your heart.”

We need more Christians saying this in the church. Especially Christian women – it’s better when women put evidence at the center of the Christian life, and push feelings out to the edges.

By the way, she mentions a quotation from J. Warner Wallace about not being a Christian because “it works for me“. I wrote a whole post about this.

If you want to read another deconversion story that shows how a focus on feelings and experiences leads to atheism, check out the story of Dan Barker. I know so many people who were raised in the church by pastors who were anxious to “protect” Christian truth claims from  being proved or disproved by evidence. They thought that their approach was more pious – how dare we let science and history stand in judgment over the Bible? When I look at Dan Barker and Bart Campolo, I can see where that fideism ended up. Piety is a cheap way of gaining respect without having done any work. We need to demand better from pastors. They ought to be able to show their work. They ought to be able to demonstrate what reasoning and evidence led them to their convictions. Not their feelings and experiences, but actual reasoning and evidence.

The sooner we get to the point where Christianity is true because of reason and evidence, regardless of individual feelings, the better off we will be at being authentic followers of Jesus.

Finally, if you liked the Unbelievable show dialog between McDowell and Campolo, there is a 3-hour discussion on the same topic, which was held at the Faith Beyond Belief conference in Calgary, Alberta, Canada last week. The video has been posted on YouTube.

Positive arguments for Christian theism

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.

Is it better to be liked than respected?

Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour - The wounded soldier
Étienne Prosper Berne-Bellecour – The wounded soldier

As soon as I saw the title of this post from Cold Case Christianity, I knew it would be significant to me.

J. Warner Wallace writes:

Popularity often requires agreement. It’s easy to like people who hold the same opinions and values. It’s not really surprising, therefore, that many of us, in an effort to be liked, try to find a way to come to agreement with the people around us. And that’s where the trouble usually starts. There are two ways to form agreement:

1. Influence others toward our position, or
2. Simply embrace the positions of others

We can try to move them toward us, or we can simply move toward them. One of these strategies will ensure our likability but the other is the path to respect.

[…]We want our kids to influence others rather than allow their friends to influence them, don’t we? While it may be easy to embrace the beliefs of others to gain approval, we know the courageous path requires us to point others to the truth, even when it’s inconvenient or unpopular. It’s time for the Church to take this second path. We’ve spent far too much time trying to become like the world in order to win its acceptance, rather than having the moral courage to make the case for what we believe. Only this second way will win the respect of those around us. I want to hear people say, “Jim, I don’t agree with you at all, but I respect the fact that you’ve tried to be thoughtful about your position and you were kind to me along the way.” That’s the kind of reaction I’m looking for.

Recently, I had to make a hard choice about whether to agree with someone else, or tell her the truth. I found myself discussing education, career and finances with a young lady. I was telling her about the likely consequences of some of the choices that she was making that were related to one of the two areas that I actually know something about. (The other area is apologetics, and she already knows lots about that)

I gave her some advice based on my understanding of these things – from my experience. There was no doubt that when it came to these areas, I had more experience than she did, and more results to show for my past decisions in those areas. But I could feel her slipping away the more evidence I showed her. She preferred to listen to people who agreed with what her feelings were telling her. Eventually, I lost her. But there was nothing else I could do. I spoke the truth based on what I knew and experienced myself in those areas. I wouldn’t have given her advice in many other areas where she knew much more than I did – just in this one, where I actually knew what I was talking about.

Fortunately other young people do take my advice in those areas, and it does work out well for them. But for me to tell them what they don’t want to hear does take courage. And sometimes, you end up losing someone close who just doesn’t believe that you know what you are talking about. So I would say that telling the truth and pointing to evidence does not always get you respect for what you know about. It gives you a chance of being respected.

By the way, I could still be proven wrong with that lady I was advising. It’s happened before. I think I told her the truth, and I hope one day she will see that.

The dangers of judging others based on physical attractiveness

UK apologist Calum Miller has a long post up at Dove Theology about people making judgments based on physical appearances.

Here’s the part that really struck me:

Quite obviously, most people put an emphasis on physical appearance. They decide who to date or be friends with at least partly on the basis of physical appearance, and by doing so they create an expectation of the opposite sex (or the same sex) looking good enough. They make comments about people looking good or looking bad. They make comments about people wearing nice or unimpressive clothes, or combinations of clothes. They spend obscene amounts on improving their appearance. They include physical criteria in their lists of what they look for in a partner. They reject people because they don’t match some physical criteria. They ogle at others, sometimes making comments to their friends while doing so.

Sometimes they do much of this non-verbally: they make faces to indicate disgust (or something less extreme, but of the same genus) if a suggestion of romantic or social interest is raised regarding someone who has an obvious deformity, or who is wearing something unsightly, or who is too short, or whatever else. Or they gesture to direct friends’ attention towards a good-looking person, it being incredibly important that such a person be noticed and lusted after.

Men and women both do this, and do so to enormous degrees. The fact that men have less resources to change how they look, or that some people go to further extremes in their shallowness, or that some people make these ratings and judgments quantitative, is not really the main problem. The main problem is these underlying attitudes and behaviours pervading society at a much deeper level. I know very few people of either sex who don’t make comments about others’ looks, height and clothes, and that includes champions of these recent campaigns which claim to challenge such shallowness.

The fact that this image seems so farcical is a testament to the fact that this shallowness is something propagated by both sides. The fact that many women will spend their time looking at topless men in magazines while men peruse infamous lads’ mags confirms this further. And really, I will controversially suggest, there is not much difference between the woman who fawns over the face and body of a male model with her friends, and the man who comments, “nice t*ts” to his. The latter may be more extreme, more sexually explicit, and more crude, but it is really the same kind of thing: an objectification of the other sex, and an instance of lust, which is an indulgence in sexual attraction and the use of another person’s body for self-gratification, without the context of a marital commitment and the promise of life-long self-sacrifice and mutual giving.

And the most hard-hitting part of all of this is that Christians do all of this too, in my experience to just as significant a degree. Christians reject people on their looks, they include stringent physical criteria when looking for partners, they lust regularly and verbalise their lust to their friends, and by doing all these things they create expectations which others feel obliged to fulfill, and which make others feel inadequate and excluded when they don’t fulfill them (either because they don’t spend extortionate amounts of time and money doing so, or because no realistic amount of time and money would suffice to fulfill them).

Read the rest. I am not sure if I go as far as he does in the rest of the post, but I definitely agreed with him on the paragraph in bold.

This is something that struck me very hard when I was a young man, and it was especially annoying when Christians did it. I always believed that the most important thing about a person was their character, and that this would especially be true for Christians. Imagine my surprise when I found that Christians in the church were just as likely to judge on appearances as anyone else. There isn’t much that people can do to improve their appearance, but we can do a lot to have good theology and sounds apologetics. But in the church, it seems to me that theology and apologetics are on no one’s list of priorities. If our job was to preach the gospel, then it seems to me that we should be valuing skills that help us show that the gospel is true.

But there’s more to say. Everyday, Christians have to decide who to evangelize, who to defend the faith to, who to disciple, and who to make friends with. It seems to me that we need to remember that every person was made to know God. So we can’t be picking and choosing who to do Christianity with based on appearances. Furthermore, if you are assembling a team of Christian friends to serve as resources, we shouldn’t be picking on the basis of appearance, we should be picking on the basis of interest and aptitude. If your job as a Christian is to focus on theology and apologetics, and the application of that in loving God and loving your neighbor, then you will pick a completely different set of friends than if your job is to be popular.

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

I saw that Triablogue quoted this passage from William Lane Craig’s April 2013 newsletter, which made me very excited and happy.

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.

Commenters on Triablogue think that Dr. Craig will draw flak for his comment, but he’s not going to draw flak from mature Christians. What he said is correct. Mature Christians are right behind him on this point. Christian men who have tried to act to defend God’s reputation in public know that there is something wrong in the churches. And eventually, men just tune out of church because we know that there is nothing there for us. If women want men to come back to church, then they have to change the church away from what it is now.