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Archive for the ‘F & L Insights’ Category

[339] Multiculturalism

There seems to be a growing interest in multicultural Christian institutions. In a pro-diversity society, churches and Christian colleges seek multiethnic populations. But being multiethnic is not the same as being multicultural. In a recent Barna study called Beyond Diversity, 29% of blacks claimed to have experienced racism in a diverse church. That is not a surprising finding, as there are always people who are slow to open their hearts and minds to people different from themselves.

More important is that 27% of blacks felt pressure to give up a part of their cultural identity, with 28% finding it difficult to build relationships, and 33% feeling there are barriers to moving into a leadership position. I suspect one would find very similar sentiments at Christian colleges.

The punchline to all this is that demographic diversity is not synonymous with being multicultural. Too often what looks like multiculturalism is a can’t-tell-the-book-by-its-cover situation. Institutions like these practice what sociologists call forced assimilation. Non-whites are welcome to the extent that they blend in with the majority white culture. It may be unintentional but it is real and subtly oppressive. One civil rights leader–when innocently asked about cooperation–said that too often cooperation meant blacks doing the co-ing and whites doing the operating. Demographic diversity is often no more than skin deep and Christian institutions–colleges and churches–need to do better than that. DC

[338] Exvangelicals

In the taxonomy of religion and theology we now have a fresh term: exvangelical.  The term is new, but the it labels is not. Exvangelicals refer to to former evangelicals who may be almost anywhere on the theological spectrum. Some claim they still believe in Christ, others have chucked the faith entirely, and others, well, they are just not sure.

In almost every instance those carrying the label exvangelical claim to have “deconstructed” their faith, another new term for an old practice. Apparently, this involves dissecting one’s religious beliefs and questioning and re-examining them. I realize there are spiritual imponderables as we see through the glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12), but that is not what I think is going here, because almost invariably this re-examination results in less faith.

I suspect these people, many being “professional Christians” (often Christian entertainers), have long ago become lax in pumping spiritual iron–practicing the spiritual disciplines of prayer and scripture reading–only to find themselves entertaining doubts and alternative belief systems.

Truth is not a static commodity. It will slip away amid false teaching if believers do not commit themselves to staying strong in the Lord. There are forces and counterforces in the spiritual world, and in an increasingly cunning, secular culture the forces of unbelief are particularly powerful. Paul urges believers to put on the full armor of God (Eph. 6:10-18) so they can thwart “the devil’s schemes,” one of which is deconstruction. DC

[337] Secular Freedom II

I used this space recently to discuss the concept of secular freedom. That the result of total, unfettered, freedom for fallen humans, is the loss of freedom.

Freedom was almost lost a few months back for Oral Roberts, Loyola, and Liberty University. During the NCAA basketball tournament, USA Today columnist, Hemal Jhaveri called for the expulsion of ORU from the tournament field because of its stand on homosexuality–one shared by Liberty and Loyola’s Catholic Church. Jhaveri rooted his argument for ORU’s removal in the notion that its biblical values were not only “a relic is the past, but wholly incompatible” with the NCAA’s emphasis on equal treatment.  Though Jhaveri conceded that Christian universities have a right to impose whatever restrictions they regard as appropriate, such standards of behavior violate “the basic values of human decency.”

Don’t miss the point here. This is not about homosexuality. Indeed, there is much debate among Christians on that. It about penalizing an institution for beliefs the secular Jhaveri does not share. Jhaveri’s rant would be troubling enough were it just that, a rant. But it wasn’t. It was a call for expulsion, a call to remove the freedom of a Christian college’s right to compete in a basketball tournament. It was secular freedom in action. DC

[336] Secular Freedom

The forces of secularism have been pushing hard to establish their own concept of freedom. Secular freedom is characterized by being liberated from traditional norms of thinking and behavior. It advocates escaping from the constraints of the nuclear family, community, and God in pursuit total individualism. Freedom actually becomes rootlessness. And rootlessness leads to lawlessness and social chaos. And ultimately, tyranny.

Expressions of secular freedom were played out before our very eyes throughout 2020, as parts of urban America became ungovernable, universities became havens for revolutionism, and public civility evaporated. Social groups shouted down those with whom they disagreed. Cities erupted in riots, and any respect for the past crashed as loudly as statues regarded as objectionable.

What you saw was secular freedom–a removal of all restraints in quest of total, individual liberation.

Christians will say that all this is not freedom.

And they will be wrong.  It is freedom.

The question is whether total freedom is good for anyone.  It would be if we were not fallen and fallible organisms. You see as long as our natures are sinful. we cannot handle total freedom. Instead of leading to fulfillment, total freedom leads us sinners to chaos, violence, and oppression–ironically things that ultimately remove the very freedoms their practitioners have been seeking. Ironically, when the forces of secularism are unleashed, might makes right, only the strong survive, and the casualty is freedom. DC

[335] Teach It

We need more evangelism. In the church, in the university, and yes, in the Christian college.


James Emery White, from Gordon-Conwell Seminary, reported in curchandculture.org that church membership has–for the first time in 80 years–dropped below 50% in the US. In 2020 just 47% in the US said they belonged to a house of worship, whether it be a church, synagogue, or mosque. 

That is a 23% drop in two years.

But simply telling Christians that they need to evangelize more is not very helpful.  It may generate some guilt but I question whether it stimulates more missionary activity. Why?  I submit that one of the reasons is that many don’t know how to communicate the gospel to others in the everyday flow of life.

It is harrowing enough knowing that so many feel faith is personal, not anyone else’s business. With that shadow hovering over potential interaction, many well-meaning believers wonder how they can bring a casual conversation around to the person of Christ.

We need to teach people how.

I would lay some heavy odds that were you to ask ten believers how they would witness to their unbelieving friends, at least seven would be less than helpful. Look, there are ways to bring others to talk about things in which we have an interest–whether it be football, cooking, movies, art, or current news.  We do it all the time. Salespeople are regularly taught the skill of moving the discussion needle from the weather to life insurance. I am not saying we have to sell the gospel. The Holy Spirit will close that deal. I do say we need to develop the skill of engaging others in a comfortable conversation about the faith.  Who will teach us that? DC

[334] Why Not Both?

No one seems to know the direction young people are moving with respect to the church, other than that many are leaving. There are articles claiming that this demographic–tired of being marketed to with gimmicks and entertainment–is looking for a more grounded spiritual experience. Others regale a charismatic approach as the solution–an emotionally expressive style that celebrates the visible activity of the Holy Spirit.

So what about the campus chapel at the Christian college?

I suggest they offer both. 

Make no mistake, there are many believers who liken the traditional worship approach to a dose of valium, while others find the expressive style lacking in substance.

If we are going to reach our campus student population, we need to reach them through the channel in which they live.  And there is no consensus on that.  DC

[333] The Sociology of the Kingdom

Eric Geiger of Ericgeiger.com makes an interesting observation on the sociology of the kingdom of God.  When people ask, whose side is Jesus on? he states that the political environment of Jesus’ time on earth was more divisive than it is now.  People were choosing sides.  They are still doing so today. Long ago Jesus picked his side.  In Geiger’s words, “[Jesus] is for the poor, the widow, the orphan, the immigrant, the unborn, and the brokenhearted…He is for people of every ethnicity…tribe, tongue, and nation.”

Geiger finishes by saying, “And his followers should be as well.” DC

[332] Devil

Education is not a panacea.

Education is inherently neither good nor bad.

If you educate a moral person you contribute to a healthier society.

If you educate an evil person, you create a devil.  DC

[331] Agenda

Whenever I read of people like Brian McLaren, Richard Rohr, and Rob Bell–what one might call “progressive (or postmodern) theologians”–I smell an agenda, a desire to make the scriptures say what they want them to say rather than simply trying to understand what they are saying.

Much of it has to do with hell. They don’t buy the idea of hell. In fact, it is very difficult for most of us to imagine that a loving God would cast parts of his creation into eternal torment.  When, however, there is a refusal to accept the reality of hell, or at least leaving the mystery of hell in God’s hands, can universalism be far behind?

There are many spiritual imponderables for us finite mortals.  What happens to those never exposed to the gospel? To infants who die well before any age of discretion? To people so badly abused they cannot understand the gospel?  And on and on. 

Indeed, we see through a glass darkly (1 Cor. 13:12) on this side of the eternal divide. But that needs to be OK for us. If we had all the answers there would be little need for faith.

We are called to a discipleship of faith in an infinite God through someone we do know, his son, Jesus.

What we are not called to do is take the darkness out of the glass by making God be want we want him to be. DC

[330] Gender–Two Camps

For the past half century, Christian institutions have been struggling with gender relations in general, and the role of women in particular.  Much of the dust has settled and it seems there are two basic camps–complementarianism and egalitarianism

Complementarianism is the traditional view, advocating that men and women are equal as persons, but that each have separate roles in marriage, family, and the church. The notion is that these differences complement one another.  In marriage, the man becomes the authority, but must love his wife sacrificially, as Christ did the church–dying for it. Genesis 2:18, Ephesians 5;21-33, and 1 Timothy 2:11-13, and Titus 2:3-5 are the bedrock passages.

Egalitarianism affirms absolute equality, removing all gender restrictions when it comes to role. The view is rooted in the notion that Jesus and the writers of the New Testament abolished gender-specific roles in addition to those associated with class and race.  Galatians 3:28 is the pivotal passage. Egalitarians also point to Romans 16:17 where there are references to women in leadership positions.

The issue is no longer about who is right. The issue is explosive and Christians are split on this, heavily along gender lines. A case can be made for each.  In the interest of peace, what is important is that Christian institutions (churches and yes, Christian colleges) as well as individuals that hold a position on gender relations, make clear where they stand with respect to these two camps. For example, if a complementarian man and an egalitarian woman are considering marriage it would be well to resolve this matter before any “I do’s” are exchanged. Similarly, Christian institutions that advocate–even teach–one or the other view be similarly clear so their adherents know to what they will be exposed.  DC