DC
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Author Archive

[263] Evangelism

Piggy-backing on my last blog, “Out Yourself,” let me share some thoughts from Ed Stetzer (https://www.christianitytoday.com/edstetzer/2019/december/how-do-you-define-evangelism.html). He makes clear that evangelism involves more than a setting a Godly  example, or engaging an admirable discipleship.

It is communicating the gospel simply, clearly, and directly.

He sagely debunks the silly quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi: “Preach the gospel at all times. If necessary, use words.” First, it is a misquote–St. Francis never said it, secondly, it is shabby theology. “You can’t preach the gospel without words any more than you can breathe without air,” says Stetzer.

The Assisi misquote is a much-used copout—a form of cowardice.  It is a lot easier to behave properly than it is to step out and take the risk of rejection involved in telling our friends—no matter how tactfully–their eternal well-being may depend on their making some major changes in the interior of their lives.  You can tell people you are a Christian, but for many secular souls that just means you don’t vote Democrat or are pro-gun or against abortion.

We are wise to assume nothing with respect to others’ knowledge of the gospel, and begin letting them know there is some good news on which they may be missing out.

DC

[262] Quiet Death March

The secularists, by intention, move quietly, but they are moving.  They have very quietly used laws, organizational policies, and political correctness campaigns to drive the gospel out of the culture.  For example, at Chicago’s Millennium Park, Wheaton College students were forbidden to pass out literature or preach, while Young Life was voted off the campus at Duke University because of YL’s stance on homosexuality.  Add to that the vehement opposition to teaching anything other than naturalistic evolution in the public schools, attacking Catholic Hospitals in court for refusing to perform abortions, assailing Chick Fil A and other business owned by Christians for their beliefs, all but eliminating any depiction of the Nativity Scene in public areas, opposing even saying, “Merry Christmas,” along with myriad other attempts to silence, or least intimidate believers from expressing their faith publicly, and you see this spiritual death march in action.

 

Again, the goal is to eliminate theism, most notably Christianity, from the culture.  And it is working.  According to Pew Research, ten years ago 77% of the US identified as Christians.  It is now down to 65%, while those claiming to be non-religious has gone from 17 to 26%.

 

None of the previously mentioned actions to drive out religion was put to a vote.  The secularists know better than to do that.  They cannot win a “Let’s get God out of everything” campaign at the ballot box.  Instead, they enter lawsuits, introduce anti-religious policies, and push a secular political correctness, knowing that the more God-consciousness can be removed from the society, the fewer the number of believers there will be in the long run. It’s a slow game, built on the long view, but it is working.

 

Will the Christian world ever awaken to this?  Will it make countering this quiet death march a major agenda item?  DC

[261] Holism

In June of 2019, Mark Galli, the beleaguered soon-to-be former editor of Christianity Today, argued passionately against the notion that the purpose of the church is to be “missional, existing for the sake of the world.” If you believe the purpose of the church “is to make the world a better place, why bother with the church, because it is clearly not very effective in this respect.  Better to give oneself to UNICEF or the Democratic Party,” stated Galli.

Then comes the hook.  Galli is talking about mainline (in other words, theologically liberal) churches.  It becomes clear when he states that it is this missional notion that is among the main “reasons for the numerical decline of mainline Christianity.”

Methinks not.

The decline of mainline Christianity is much more about what Galli terms the belief “that it [the church] has to be a place where the world feels comfortable, it has dumbed down the preaching and the worship, so that in many quarters we have ended up with a common-denominator Christianity.”

That is the reason.  The make-the-world-a-better-place mission is a symptom of the mainline drift out of biblical orthodoxy.

And Galli was dead wrong about his larger, missional thinking.

One of the purposes of church, and the Christian college, most definitely is to make the world a better place.  There are two Great Commandments.  One is vertical, the other horizontal, and there is plenty in scripture about the horizontal one.  There are over 400 verses indicating God’s love for the poor, and over 70 affirming his concern for justice.  The church is called to holism—to minister to body, mind, and spirit.  In the city–where most people live–it is imperative that the church minster to the hurting and be a relevant social force in its own community.  Anything short of that has the church offering a stone when people ask for bread.  Anything short of holism—in the church or the Christian college’s understanding of discipleship–falls short of the words and example of Christ. DC

[260] Culture Wars

Sociologist James Davison Hunter popularized the term, culture wars, in his book of the same title. He described the issue of one “rooted in different systems of moral understanding,” something Duane Litfin reviewed in Christianity Today (September, 2019).  This split is not new. It harks back to 1791, when we see two interpretations of the nation, a “providential” (religious) one, and a secular one–a vertical.one grounded in transcendent authority and a horizontal one founded in humanism.  These two views have been jousting for decades on the turf of American institutions–law, government, policies, and education. According to Steven D. Smith, the Supreme Court tipped the balance to the secular side with a series of decisions running from the 1940s on into the 1960s.

That SC tilt worked against the providentialists in the past few decades, as the secularist agenda gained the edge on issues of homosexuality, gender, abortion, marriage, and religious freedom in the courts.  The secularist agenda became the essence of Political Correctness, with those who objected to this secular catechism branded as at best, out of touch, and at worst, racist, homophobic, misogynistic, and bigoted.

With things looking bleak for the providentialists, enter Donald Trump.  He willingly supported the providentialist—even evangelical– agenda. Backed in a cultural corner due to the ever more dominating force of secularism, providentialists were faced with a surprising choice: they could either back Trump, despite his less than sterling moral past and often ungracious demeanor, or watch the secular march go unopposed.

And there is where we are today.  We have a powerful and very aggressive secular movement being resisted—at least politically–by of all people, Donald Trump.  God certainly works in mysterious ways.

DC

[259] Why Xian Colleges

Recently, Christianity Today (October 18, 2019) published an article by Kelly Kapic of Covenant College on why we still need Christian Colleges. Kapic notes that despite widespread prosperity there is a strain of unhappiness, dissatisfaction, and mental disorders throughout the society.  The author connects this with an absence of vocation—purpose in people’s lives.  Some Christian colleges are on to this.  Grand Canyon University includes “Find Your Purpose” in its marketing.

On a related note, Kapic sees an absence of holism to the faith of many prosperity-chasing Christians, resulting in what he calls “bumper-sticker” Christianity, a faith life largely separated from an engagement with the outside world.

All of this leads to something I feel tops the list for Christian colleges: transmitting a Christian worldview.  By this I mean teaching the student to look at the world—from arts to economics, from history to athletics—through the lenses of faith.

A Christian worldview requires committed, truly Christian scholars, guiding their students toward a mature Christian perspective on all things.  The Christian college is uniquely able to do this.  And it is sorely needed.  I know many Christians who do not have a Christian worldview.  They are alive in their faith but unintentionally live a compartmentalized existence, with their faith—as important as it is–not really permeating all aspects of their lives.  A Christian worldview has no boundaries.  It tints the believer’s view of all of reality as surely as a pair of sunglasses tint one’s physical view.  We need this desperately in a world of false philosophies, one requiring the believer to debate and wrestle with difficult ideal, according to Kapic.

Perhaps most important, the Christian college needs to be up to this task—able to deliver.  It needs to demand nothing less than genuine Christian thinking and expression from its faculty.  The spiritual battle of our times is for the mind.  Having the actual mind of Christ is an ideal, but there is no higher calling than pursuing it.  DC

 

[261] Xianity Today

Christianity Today recently published a silly editorial advocating the removal of Trump from office.  In brief, the charge was immorality on two fronts.  The first was that he “attempted to use his political power to coerce a foreign leader to harass and discredit one of the president’s political opponents. That is not only a violation of the Constitution; more importantly, it is profoundly immoral,” stated the editorial.  The second was his immoral behavior with women “for which he remains proud.”

Irrespective of how people feel about the 45th President, the editorial was incredibly weak, naïve, and worse, destructive.  It was weak in that it stipulated no real crime or even proof that the President tried “to coerce a foreign leader” for his own ends.  No documentation for harassment and discrediting. In fact, the Ukrainian leader stated he felt no pressure from Trump on the Biden matter.  The article smacked of naivete, indicating a less than sophisticated understanding of how chiefs of state work, and what their proper sphere of influence happens to be.  For example, the magazine may have considered the opinion of Alan Dershowitz—hardly a Trump advocate or evangelical.  Dershowitz stated that as Chief Executive, Trump had not just a right, but a duty to look into executive branch ethical violations of even past Vice Presidents.  As for his carousing, I do not recall any recent braggadocio from Trump about sexual escapades from his past.  I do remember reading that something happened in his life over a decade ago that changed his behavior.

On a related note, there are a number of well-respected evangelicals–people much closer to the President than the bards in the metropolis of Carol Stream, Illinois–who happen to think that Trump is a believer, however immature may be his discipleship. The article drew a strongly negative reaction from many, including Ralph Reed and Franklin Graham, whose father, Billy, founded the magazine.

The editorial was destructive as it needlessly divided the Christian community in a public fashion, the kind of division scoffing secularists watch with glee and report with abandon.

Christianity Today exhibited more hubris than wisdom, more naivete than insight in rendering its proclamations on Trump.  Let’s hope this error in judgment will quickly be lost in the rearview mirror with other past and forgettable events.  DC

[258] Foolishness

Nearly 20 years ago a George Barna poll found that 70% of churched youth walk away from their faith within one year of attending a secular college or university.  A chilling report.  I cannot imagine that number is any lower today. Recantation of what appeared to be a Christian faith is not uncommon. Bart Campolo, Frankie Schaeffer, Rob Bell, and Aaron Rodgers are contemporary examples. What we have here are cases in which the foolishness of the gospel—which confounds the wise—is swapped out for the wisdom of man’s false teaching.

We need to stop and look at this.  In 1 Corinthians 1:18, Paul makes no secret of how foolish the gospel looks in the eyes of the unbeliever.  Moreover, throughout scripture we are warned against false teaching.

So what are the takeaways from this 70% finding?  Here are a few.  First, it is a ringing endorsement for Christian higher education. In the secular university, faith is not merely not supported.  It is attacked.  When young people are not intellectually armed to confront sophisticated, carefully-constructed, humanistic counterarguments the gospel indeed looks foolish, rather than the power of God to salvation.

Second, the Christian college must get serious about teaching apologetics and Christian worldview. It simply cannot rest on the comfortable, complacent assumption that students do not lose their faith in a Christian environment.  They do. They lose their faith when they are confronted–through reading or conversation—with secular humanist ideologies, particularly in a vacuum of proactive efforts to defend the validity of Christian truth and a Christian worldview on their own campus. They become no more immune to apostacy than their counterparts attending secular universities.

Third, the church needs to see the danger of this devious, evil enemy, waiting for its children who have been no more deeply educated in their faith than what they learned in Sunday School or catechism classes. We have so many resources now—visual and literary. Churches need to incorporate those that offer a grounding in the validity of scripture and truth of a Christian worldview into their educational curriculum.

Not to do so, would indeed be foolish. DC

[257] Progressive Christianity

Bart Campolo, the apostate son of the renown Tony Campolo, offered a sober warning to those orthodox Christians who want to avoid losing their faith.  He did so by describing his journey out of faith by way of socially progressive Christianity.

“I passed through every stage of heresy,” said the once ordained Campolo. “It starts out with sovereignty going, then biblical authority goes, then I’m a universalist, now I’m marrying gay people. Pretty soon I don’t actually believe Jesus actually rose from the dead in a bodily way.”

He has predicted that as many as 40% of progressive Christians will become atheists in the next ten years.  According to Campolo, it is a “progressive” disease, a domino action in which one doctrine falls after another.  Once a shift out of orthodoxy starts, there is no discernible stopping point.

Says Campolo, “When you get to this ragged edge of Christianity when people say ‘God’ they sort of mean ‘the universe’ and when they say ‘Jesus’ they sort of mean ‘redemption’ – they’re so progressive they don’t actually count on any supernatural stuff to happen, they’ve dialed it down in the same way I did.”

He says he has slipped past “progressive re-vamping” of Christianity and went straight to the logical conclusion that God doesn’t exist. He encourages Progressive Christians to stop pretending God exists in the form of “the universe” or other wishy-washy language, and embrace their unbelief.

There is a world of progressive Christianity out there, filled with podcasts, books, and events aimed at young evangelicals, encouraging them to reassess orthodox evangelical doctrines on hell, sovereignty, biblical infallibility, sexuality etc. There are many “neat, cool, fuzzy” (according to Campolo) leaders to follow, like Rob Bell and Donald Miller.  This is a faith and learning issue, as these progressive efforts are aimed at the educated, thriving in seminaries and mainline Christian colleges.

“Once you start adjusting your theology to match up to the reality you see in front of you,” says Campolo, “it’s an infinite progression.” What Campolo is doing is putting some bright lights of warning on what Matthew 7:13 describes as the broad road leading to destruction. DC

[260] Kamala Harris

Kamala Harris has dropped out of the presidential race.

And with her, went the Democrats’ best hope of defeating Trump.

In my judgment, Harris entered the race as clearly the strongest potential candidate among the Democrats. Three reasons for that.  First, she is a woman of color, and that counts for plenty in an era of identity politics. She also has minimal baggage. She has never held a truly lofty executive political office like that of governor, cabinet member, or mayor of a large city, one in which opponents can tie her to unpopular policies of the past, or a faulty track record. She was Attorney General of CA, but that is a comparatively minor office when set against the national landscape.

Perhaps most important, she is stunningly attractive. As politically incorrect as such a statement may be, physical attractiveness carries heavy political currency. See JFK, Ronald Reagan, and Barack Obama.

Yet she is one of the first out. What happened?  Two things, neither of which has anything to do with race, despite the Senators’ public statements to the contrary. First, she undercut the vote-getting value of her attractiveness by adopting an often hostile, confrontational demeanor, one that repelled rather than drew people toward her. In short, she tried to be tough rather than warm, often displaying a traditional male “tough-guy” persona, rather than a more likeable style like that of Tulsi Gabbard or Amy Klobuchar.

Second, she ran in the wrong direction—to the extreme left, where the largest pack of Dems resided, rather than to the center where her only real rival would have been a faltering Joe Biden.

Kamala Harris is a human political object lesson. In politics you do two things—play to your strengths and position yourself where the voters are. Oh, I can hear some of you saying, “Isn’t the latter disingenuous?  Shouldn’t a candidate express her real views?” In a word, yes, but I greatly doubt Harris’ hyper left-wing utterances were altogether genuine. Her behavior smacked more of trying to keep pace with the liberal pack in their collective, frantic sprint leftward that deep-set political sincerity.

Kamala Harris proved neither likable nor smart.  And without those two, you go home early.  DC

[259] Polyamory

In a culture of loneliness and fractured relationships we now have polyamory, presented by the American Psychological Association as a healthy relational option.  In simple terms, polyamory is having romantic and sexual relationships with more than one person at the same time.  This can be gay, straight, or bi.  It’s all healthy and good.  And it is being taught in school to 12-year-olds in some states.

This is disturbing on its own merits—or lack of merits—but it goes deeper than simple immorality.  It goes to the issue of a culture caught in a spirit of error.  In short, it is taking an unhealthy and immoral practice and promoting it as healthy and good—twisting truth to support a humanistic worldview.

And that is the spiritual challenge of our age.  In the past, the issue was a matter of the will, with world tempting us to behaviorally violate what we knew to be right and true, because such actions appealed to our fallen natures.  Now, the issue is about the mind.  Before any action is even considered, we are challenged intellectually to reorder what we believe is right and wrong.   The behavior follows the shaping of the mind.  That is now the strategy of the secularists; challenge basic beliefs with humanistic notions, and do that in the public school system.

In a sense this is a new trend.  In another it is not.  False teaching was first reported in the third chapter of Genesis.  Remember, the snake did not ask Adam or Eve to rebel against God.  It simply deceived them into believing that God’s command was not really worth following.

Like polyamory, eating the forbidden fruit was promoted as a healthy option.  We need only recall the consequences of that option to view the danger of this false teaching. DC

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