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[249] In the Box

Identity politics is an outgrowth of postmodernism.  The latter rejects the existence of objective truth in the non-material world, hence truth is customized to the individual, a construction of each individual for herself.

That shifts the focus from looking for truth outside oneself in a spiritual realm—a truth by which one would order one’s life—to one that must be constructed from within each individual box.  Clearly in an era of diversity one is quick to look at ethnic and gender categories as a beginning point to find that truth within one’s box.  Those identity categories (being female, gay, or a racial minority, for example) then become celebrated as the core of one’s being—the center of one’s life.  They become the main source for individual truth, and once that happens, they generate battles that verge on being Darwinian in nature.  Abortion rights, immigration, and nationalism become religious issues owing to their intersection with identity categories such as race and gender.

This is the result of a “spirit of error,” the result of a society that rejects spiritual truth.  These identity categories that once gave rise to important discussions of justice and equity, as we seek the divinely endowed rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, become much more than that—they become the basis of life itself.  DC

[248] Evolution

Evolution, according to Richard Cromwick, apologist and as well-read a scientific Christian scholar as I know, is a series of unsubstantiated hypotheses.  It is called a science, but it is not science as we define it—verifiable facts about the universe.  It is at best a form of forensic science—a set of theories about the past by applying what scientific facts we have and filling in the blanks with speculation.

For years we have heard of the “theory” of evolution, with “gaps” and “missing links.”  We no longer hear that. It is now proclaimed as a science with little mention of all the still unverified hypotheses that litter the enterprise.  Furthermore, the closer one examines the theory with its millions and billions of years timeline, the less plausible it becomes, given matters as basic as the deterioration of key elements (gases, for example) necessary for the universe to exist.

It is a theory, and a not a very strong one.  Creation makes more sense.  Much of the fossil evidence, for example, is more easily explainable by there having been a worldwide flood (per chapters 6-9 in Genesis) than that we are looking at millions and even billions of years of naturalistic unfolding.  While rendering a fair assessment of evolution is beyond the scope of this essay, to say there are major scientific problems with the theory would be an understatement.

So the question is this: Why is evolution taught as fact in the public schools?

Because the issue is binary.  There are only two choices.  If evolution does not stand, creation is the only alternative explanation.  There are no other academic interstates to travel.  And to accept creation not only necessitates absorbing the humiliating intellectual blow of realizing that we humans are not the most intelligent life form in the universe, but far more humbling, we need to surrender ourselves to the transcendent creator who is. DC

[247] Search

Few verses describe our times better than 2 Timothy 3:7 that speaks of people continually learning but never coming to a knowledge of the truth.  In short, many people do not want the truth.  They want to search for truth.  Name any serious thinking person, from your next door neighbor to your favorite university professor, and chances are she will talk about truth in terms of searching for it.

We have truth.  The very word appears roughly 250 times in the Bible (depending on the translation), the most authenticated book of all time.  But people do not accept the truth, because that truth goes beyond knowledge, it requires submitting to it.  And submission does not align with the fallen nature of humankind.  So the search goes on. DC

[246] Divorce

We have way too many divorces in the Christian world.  There are well-known Christian colleges with alumni divorce rates that rival the national average.  Many of us have contributed to these disturbing statistics.

These things ought not to be.  The church and Christian colleges need to address this.  In many instances, neither has really come to grips with why divorce rates have spiked.  In the pre-industrial and industrial eras (as Aren Renn of urbanophile.com calls them), marriage constituted a culturally approved economic unit.  Men provided for their wives and children, while women managed the household duties.  The latter included primary care and nurture for children and myriad other tasks including cooking, cleaning, etc.–sans the appliances of today.

In short, marriage was a practical necessity, and divorce was devastating—economically—to both parties. In those times if you asked a man if he liked his job, chances are he would snap, “It’s a job.”  I know.  I did it.  Men did not look for “fulfillment” in their jobs. They had to make a living.

Similarly, people did not necessarily seek deep, intimate, emotional bonds in marriage. Surely many marriages enjoyed such closeness, but a marriage bound mainly by economic convenience and the presence of children was not necessarily unsatisfying.

Things are very different in the current post-industrial age.  Marriage is not an economic necessity for either gender.  Sex is readily available everywhere and children are not always born in wedlock.  More important, we expect much more from marriage now.  We want intimacy and companionship in a lonely, segmented world.  And many of us marry people we did not know when we grew up.  We no longer live in a womb-to-tomb community that makes divorce taboo. Furthermore, we live in a secular, narcissistic culture, one in which lack of fulfillment is a sufficient reason to leave what was intended to be a lifetime union.

All the while, the Christian world has (a) not addressed the challenges of post-industrial marriage, and (b) tacitly made divorce more acceptable.

That has to stop.  Christian colleges and churches need to confront this crisis head-on.  Classes, workshops, seminars—from a Christian perspective—need to be present in churches in colleges. The family is the most important institution in a society.  When it crumbles, the society crumbles.  When it crumbles in the Christian world, we have no witness. DC

[245] Development

Whenever there is a discussion of increasing student diversity in Christian colleges you will hear this retort:  We could get more [you can fill in the blank here] but they are too far below the academic standards of our school to succeed.

There are two responses to this not-very-intelligent objection.  First, how hard is the school trying to get “qualified” minority students?  And while we are at it, how hospitable is the school to such students?  How “at home” will they feel?  Why should they want to come to the school?  For many such students, they are trading off a supposedly Christian education for an atmosphere—at the state university—in which they feel more welcome.

But let’s yield the point on the foregoing and focus on those “academically deficient” minority students.  There are two types of academically limited students.  There are those that do not have the intellectual capacities to succeed.  There are students of all colors in this group.  There are also those who are intellectually capable, but who—owing to the high schools they attended–have not had an adequate preparation to succeed in an academically demanding environment.  There are so many “Homeless to Harvard” stories out there that there should be no dispute as to the existence of this second group.

Why aren’t Christian colleges pursuing these students with an eye toward developing their academic potential?  There are myriad developmental programs available.  They began to appear in the 1970’s and have proliferated ever since.  In our electronic world there is unlimited access to them.  You don’t have to have a very good success rate for these developmental programs to pay for themselves.

If our Christian colleges truly value people of all races, and wish to develop disciples– body, mind, and spirit, they need to get past superficial barriers and engage the task aggressively.

DC

[244] Diversity at the Christian College

Christian colleges continue to struggle in attracting African-Americans and Hispanics.  There are more than a few reasons for this.  One is that these colleges draw a huge slice of their students from white evangelical churches, who by the way, are woefully behind the national population in diversity.

The colleges cannot change that.

There are things they can do.  They all involve a commitment to cultural diversity.  The key word here is cultural.  I am not talking about adding a black or Hispanic faculty member here or there, or another vice president of this or that.  This is ornamentation. A black or Hispanic student is not going to say, “Oh wow, I met this black professor.  This is the place for me.”

It goes much deeper.  Christian colleges need to examine every aspect of their culture.  Here are just a few questions for them to consider.  (Evangelical churches would also do well to adapt some of the following.)

–Do African-American or Hispanics consistently hear their sound in the music on the campus?  At least in chapel?

–Is there black and Hispanic art prevalent on the campus?

–What about the food in the cafeteria—is there diversity there?  In the campus union?

–Does the school recognize MLK Day and Hispanic holidays?

–Is there diversity among guest speakers?

–Are there courses that engage diversity?

–Are members of these groups adequately represented on student governing groups?

–Does the school have an ongoing committee whose task it is to advance diversity?

You will find many Christian colleges that cannot answer in the affirmative to any of these.  In short, they are failing to create an environment in which minorities feel at home. 

It’s not about a few more African-American and Hispanic faces in the faculty and the staff any more than that the basketball coach is a minority.  It is about an entire environment—an ethos.

Don’t try to rework diversity with white people at the throttle.  Looking at the environment through a white worldview is what has created the problem.  Call in Christian minorities who will be candid.  They are out there.  They will be willing to help.  Some are on the campus now—students.

Addressing the need for cultural diversity is a very important step.  It is not only an affirmation of the old Sunday School song, “Red and yellow, black and white; all are precious in his sight.”  It is a huge stride toward providing a genuinely relevant Christian education.  DC

[243] Evangelism II

Recently I used this space to discuss the absence of evangelism among biblical Christians?  Two points were made—the secularization of the larger culture, and an absence of sermons on the afterlife.

The second one begs the question: Why.

A recently published poll indicated that a sizable slice of pastors—over 30% (if memory serves)—fear saying anything that may generate what we now call “pushback” from their congregations. In short, they do not want the gospel to be a stumbling block—which, of course, is exactly what it is.  Think about that.  One-third want to shape their message to the appetites of their parishioners, rather than have their parishioners be shaped by their message.

Might that be true among campus pastors as well?

Among many larger churches—those with big websites and lots of visitors–we hear the “searcher” copout.  “We want to appeal to those who are searching, questioning whether they want to accept Christ.”  There are plenty of faith crises among Christian college students, placing many of them in this category.  Apparently, telling those spiritual wanderers their eternal security hangs on their relationship with Christ may be a put-off—particularly in a postmodern (truth is personal not factual) culture in which claims to exclusive truth are rejected as intolerance.

Do you think Paul would be muzzled by that?  And while we’re at it, is not the eternal dichotomy very much a part of the whole counsel of God?  Further, might not a more fearless rendering of spiritual truth be exactly what the searchers need to hear?  Might not it be wiser to spell out the truth in love and trust the Holy Spirit to apply the words than juke around the entire subject?

But there may be another, more disturbing reason: a creeping universalism among evangelicals, including pastors.  We are in an era of analytics, even in Christian circles.  Polls indicate a strong strain of postmodernism and its concomitant universalism among believers.

I have no idea if this latter reason contributes to the absence of afterlife preaching.  I hope it does not.  But until I hear a lot more such preaching, I will be wondering.

DC

[242] Evangelism?

Why is there not more evangelism going on among orthodox Christians?  Concern about this is expressed in publications like Christianity Today and less celebrated websites and publications.

Here are some thoughts.

Evangelism is about salvation, which in turn is about life after death.  The more the culture secularizes, the more God-consciousness moves off the cultural org chart and into irrelevance.  And with it concern about anything beyond the here and now.  When one considers how many US citizens do not have real savings or sensible financial plans for the future, it is not hard to imagine these people spending much time thinking about the great beyond.

But that is about the larger non-Christian culture.

How about the church?  I cannot remember the last sermon I heard about heaven or hell.  And I am there every week.  In fact, I cannot remember the last time I even heard a clear and pointed reference to heaven or hell.  Instead, I have been on the receiving end of one long stream of sermons about discipleship—putting Christ and his principles into Monday through Friday.

Christ spoke a great deal about heaven.  More specifically, he spoke even more about hell.  Even more important, he did not pull any punches as to the eternal consequences of one’s decision with respect to him. But pastors everywhere—including campus pastors, I suspect—pretty much leave the afterlife out of the narrative.  When we do that we make evangelism less urgent.  If I were really locked in on what is at stake for those who show no evidence of knowing Christ, I might feel more compelled to communicate my faith.

Until then, as I leave church each week I am more inclined to think about what we will have for dinner than how I can get the bread of life into the souls of others. DC

[241] Evidence

“We have enough evidence to convince the whole world [of the validity of the faith].  It is just a matter of people listening.”  So says biblical scholar, Richard Cromwick a friend who debates atheists in public settings, and under whom I studied recently.

Then why do so many Christian college students (and others) struggle with their faith?

Because we do not teach apologetics in our colleges and churches.  As a result, it is open season for skepticism and postmodernism.  We sit on the sidelines and let secularism dominate the playing field.

Many Christian college academic administrators—and pastors–should buy land out here in the Las Vegas desert.  They seem to be comfortable with their heads in sand. DC

[240] Stewardship

Whenever you hear the word stewardship you immediately think of tithes and offerings.  Stewardship is the tag used to fill the collection plates.

It is, however, a wonderful word that needs to be looked at more expansively.  Recently I watched the 20/20 segment on the fall of Jim and Tammy Bakker.  We can do all the forensic examining we want to determine just what went wrong at PTL and I believe we will land in one place.  Jim and Tammy believed they were the ministry.

PTL and they were one. They were accountable to no one, not even God in many ways.

But Jim and Tammy are easy targets.  I am currently watching an urban church commit ecclesiastical suicide in slow motion.  The pastor badly wants to align his church with the local community, if only to make it relevant, but the landed gentry (almost none of whom live in the local community) want to keep the status quo.  It is their church, not the church of the unwashed in the community nor that of the pastor, who they happened to call.  I don’t hear God mentioned much as the real owner by this crowd, and stewardship seems to be confined to the offering envelopes.

How about the Christian colleges?  Many are filled with fiefdoms—departments, powerful professors, and administrative structures–squabbling over control of the larger enterprise.

In each of these instances, no one is talking about stewardship; that these entities belong solely to God.  That he owns 100% stock in each, and those people he has—by his grace—put in charge, have a one-item job description: to do his will..  They are too busy tearing up his kingdom to consider that. DC

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