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[278] Vision

The church, and its associated Christian colleges, have a long history of being the caboose on the controversial issues train.  They had their heads in the sand with respect to the Civil Rights and Women’s Movements.  Long after the government and the secular world engaged these matters, they started making changes.  Too many Christian organizations had to be dragged kicking and screaming toward embracing racial and cultural diversity, and myriad bras had been burned before they engaged gender issues.

Why is that?

Because it seems too many Christian institutions cling tightly to the status quo, resisting change much out of fear–imagining if they ignore challenging issues, they will go away. Let me be clear here.  This is not a manifesto advocating radical action and change in Christian institutions whenever they see an issue on the horizon.  They could very well choose not to change.  But they need to do so, not out of being reactionary, but out of Christian conviction.

Look at future issues in the church and the college: polyamory, ongoing LGBTQ issues, co-habitation, student revolts, cyber crises, taking a stance on political issues—they are but a few elements of the new reality.

Christian institutions are awash in study groups, committees, and task forces.  Many of these are irrelevant.  Why not have one that is visionary; one that enables churches and colleges to meet the future head-on, rather than react to it after all the avoidance alternatives have been exhausted? Christian institutions need to be salt and light in a dark world. They need to be on the watch tower, providing vision and direction.  Not trampled under the wheels of an ever-changing secular culture. DC

 

 

[277] Customized God

One of the most pernicious threats to Christianity is what I call a “customized God.”  I am talking about the increasingly-common practice of making God into our image of him rather than aligning ourselves with the God of scriptures.  In short, like a tailored suit, we customize God to fit our perceptions of truth.

Though not the focus here, customizing God is a natural result of a growing postmodernism—the notion that truth is different for each individual.  This form of postmodernism is evident everywhere.  I remember the story of Jane Fonda.  After encountering biblical Christianity, she began identifying herself as a Christian.  Now, not so much.  Over time she apparently picked and chose those elements of the faith with which she felt comfortable, rejected the rest, and now no longer proclaims an allegiance to the biblical Christ. Perhaps more alarming, however, is that this thinking is very evident in Christian communities, and especially Christian colleges where the demographic most given to postmodern notions is dominant. We regularly hear statements that begin with, “I don’t believe in a God who…”  Third rail issues like divorce, homosexuality, abortion, capital punishment, and on and on, are not prayerfully studied in light of scripture, but are decided on the basis of individual (and often uninformed) perceptions of morality.

When individual perceptions become the basis of our understanding of God and discipleship, his ways are no longer higher than ours.  He is formed in our image, not we in his.  When we do that, we are on our way to being our own god, the very enticement the serpent used to initiate the Fall.  DC

 

[276] Art & Worldview

Don McLean, he of “American Pie” immortality, recently stated that [today’s] “music doesn’t mean anything. The music reflects the spiritual nature of the society. We have a kind of a nihilistic society now.  No one believes in anything, no one likes anything, no one has any respect for anything much. The music shows that.”

Though this is a rather broadside attack, McLean is correct on two fronts.  First, music (and art in general) reflects the spiritual nature of a society.  It gives us an insight into a society’s worldview.  Second, we live in a society that is heavily nihilistic.

The descent into a nihilistic worldview is not hard to trace.  A nation once bound by Judeo-Christian thinking and values slowly becomes secularized.  God is increasingly and systematically trimmed from the public consciousness.  He is removed from our schools, courtrooms, public displays, and attitude toward the sanctity of all stages of human life.  His very public mention elicits objections based on a false rendering of the First Amendment’s separation of church and state.

Without God there is a society without meaning—the essence of nihilism.  It becomes one that regards empirical science (and not even that in every instance) as the sole source of truth.  There is no certain purpose, no real direction, and can only be driven by the pursuit of pleasure and the absence of pain rather than any loftier objective.

In such a nihilistic society there is no metaphysical truth.  Each person becomes her own god, determining what is truth for herself.  Philosophers call that postmodernism, and art reflects that worldview.  DC

[275] Relevance II

In a recent blog I critiqued the effort of mainline Protestant churches to become relevant by liberalizing their stances on hot-button issues.  All if this begs the question: How does the church, of for that matter, the Christian college become relevant?  By aligning itself to the community it serves.  Rather than recklessly chucking time-honored doctrines and policies, it needs to become a vibrant member of its geographical community.  It begins by “exegeting” a community.  Who (demographically) lives there?  What are their income levels?  Where are the jobs?  What is the quality of education?  What other churches are there, and what are they doing?

Once exegeted, the next steps become obvious.  First, communicating the gospel in a way that its neighbors can understand.  Second, constructing ministries that address troubling issues.  In other words, being relevant in carrying out the two Great Commandments.

This goes for the Christian college as well.  Grand Canyon University was built in a low-income area.  One of its missions has been to employ neighborhood people in as many jobs as possible.  Other similarly located Christian colleges have embraced the urbanity of their community by involving their students in difference-making services to their geographic neighbors.  Rather than flight, they chose to be salt and light.

Think tanks and task forces have their place.  They do.  But relevance does not come through revisionist thinking.  It comes through healthy relationships.  DC

[274] Relevance

The church is irrelevant, so say many.  It is an anachronistic institution that has little or no impact on the culture.  The research supports this thinking, particularly among mainline Protestant denominations.

So what have they been doing to avoid the specter of distinction?  They accommodate secular notions, snuggling closer to politically correct thinking by harmonizing their stands with the secular mainstream.  There are plenty of examples.  Going soft on abortion, divorce, homosexuality, etc.  It usually starts with asking for “dialogue.”  Rather than holding on to settled positions, why not put everything on the table—open all of it up to discussion, and well, rethinking?  Can the Task Force or Study Committee be far behind?  No, it comes next.  And then, Voila! the special entity comes back with a recommendation for a more liberal (the word is tolerant)—approach to whatever the issue may be.  Many colleges that identify themselves as Christian colleges take the same route.

Why does it almost always go that way?  Because the subliminal goal of these flagging institutions is all too often not faithfulness to the will of God.  It is survival– by being perceived as relevant.  Freeing themselves from being the laughingstock of secularists because of their non-progressive stances.

We need a disclaimer here.  This is not to say that re-examining the aforementioned and other issues in the light of scripture has no value.  Slavery would still be sanctioned were that not the case.  But it stretches the credulity of a reasonable person to regard this mainline trend as an example of such spiritual re-examination.  Not when the issues of choice are almost invariably those that separate these entities from politically correct positions.  Especially not when the fix appears to be in—the recommendation invariably moving in a secular direction.

There are ways of being relevant, and we will talk about them in a future blog.  DC

[273] It Never Ends

The problem I have with the term, secular progressivism, is as much in the second as the first word.  Progressive means ongoing—never ending.  In short, SP advocates will aim at introducing an action.  This can be a point of view, a law, a policy, whatever.  In and of itself, the initial move usually may not seem very radical, but what most people fail to realize is that that first move is just that—the first move.  It is only the beginning.  You start with legalizing some abortions.  Eventually, you are all but killing out-ot-the-womb offspring.  You start by outlawing mandatory prayer in public schools.  Eventually there are no more public nativity scenes and the Ten Commandments come down from the courthouse wall.  You start by introducing evolution as a theory.  Eventually, naturalistic evolution is taught as fact, despite its myriad holes.

The argument for the never-ending nature of SP is that it is a product of naturalistic evolution.  In brief, humans are considered the most intelligent species in the universe, an ever-evolving, ever-more perfect species.  As they evolve, humans rightfully should have done with old traditions and thinking—whether it is the Constitution or the Ten Commandments–and put a more new-and-improved progressive stamp on all phenomena.

There is no greater target for secular progressivism than theism in general, and Christianity is particular.  SP is really not progressive.  It is a retreat to the wicked, pre-flood days of Noah.  DC

 

[272] Last Chance

I went to a Christian college.  Although the thumping majority of students came from Christian homes, I encountered a number who did not believe.  I have no reason any of them believe today. They left the college and their faith for the secular world, secular friends, and ultimately secular marriage partners.

Often, the Christian college is the last chance venue for evangelizing non-believers from allegedly Christian homes.  Granted, evangelism is not the primary objective of Christian higher education, but it has to be on the list somewhere.  So how do we reach them?

First, it was my experience that most of the arguments from non-believers were intellectual.  Second, with many coming from doctrine-heavy church backgrounds, there was little in the way a personal experience with Christ among friends and family.  Finally, I suspect many were not well discipled by their parents, leaving the church and often the Christian school to do the spiritual tidying up.

The points above may lead to some prescriptions.  First, at least one apologetics class is a must.  Student skeptics need to be exposed to the “reasonableness” of the faith.  If that is not addressed, the door to their hearts is likely to remain closed, as they see no rational reason to believe.  Be aware, many believers have come to the faith by studying the authenticity of scripture.

Second, the personal experience with Christ needs to be communicated at chapel and other Christian events.  Non-believers need to hear testimonies from peers and others who have met the Savior.

Finally, relationships need to be forged.  In a recent blog I wrote about Missional Communities—small groups built on a relational foundation with other (not always Christian) neighbors.  Here discipleship can flourish as it becomes a part of a larger, personal relationship.

I claim no panacea here.  How could I?  It is the Holy Spirit’s business.  But he works through us.   It is probably our last chance.  DC

[271] Alignment

Alignment is a popular word these days, and one what works well in faith and learning.  The Christian faith in general, and the scriptures in particular, align very well with reason and science.

Trying to contort scripture to synchronize it with science is not necessary. In fact, it is demeaning from a scholarly standpoint, as it smacks of a desperate attempt to gain the approval of secular science, with the latter as the final authority.  Among the many authentications of the Bible are its scientific content—purification rites, etc., in Leviticus—and its Old Testament prophecies.  Furthermore, there is more evidence for a young earth than one thought to be millions of years old by those trying to accommodate the loose ends and missing links of evolution. Refuting Compromise, by chess champion and chemist Jonathan Sarfati, is heavy-going, but nothing short of brilliant in laying this out.

Christian scholars need to stop being intimidated by self-promoting secular intellectuals, trying to curry their approval.  They will never that approval in a binary world of God or no God.  Besides, they are wrong.  DC

[270] Missional Campus

Steve Launer, whose name appears here on occasion, is a deacon in a Missouri Synod Lutheran church.  He gave me a report on the impact of missional ministry.  In short, it states that we live in a post-church age.  For many non-believers, the church is irrelevant—even viewed with suspicion.  We live in a culture quite similar to that of the 1st Century church, in which believers were but a small island surrounded by often-hostile unbelief.

Seeing the church decay in England, Mike Breen started a new movement that followed the system used in the early church, building “missional communities.”  Small groups would go into their local communities, get involved, and invite their fellow residents into the Missional Community.  As the communities grew, they would split off and continue the process.  There would be occasional larger group get-togethers comprised of a number of smaller ones, but the essential model of multiplying through connecting with the unchurched in their communities remained the same.  This methodology reportedly is now working in the US—and in China, where as many as 30,000 a day are being baptized.

So what about the college campus?  I could see something like this being very effective in a Christian college community.  Not every Christian college student is a believer.  Among those who are, there are plenty of faith crises.  Rather than confining outreach to weekly chapel services and Bible Study opportunities, would it not be more effective to put together some of these groups lead by committed Christians, and have them build relationships with fellow students in spiritual need.  With the studies indicating that Gen Z thirsts for authentic relationships, and eschews what they see as corporate groupthink, it is hard to see Missional Community ministry not working in the current context.

And while we are at it, for those ministering on the secular campus—where we really have a replication of 1st Century unbelief—Missional Communities may have an even greater impact.  DC

 

[269] Christian Worldview

If we educators have any desire to prepare our Christian students for effective discipleship in their future lives, we need to become much more serious about teaching a Christian worldview.

Discipleship without a Christian worldview is akin to driving in the unknown without a map or GPS.  It is a Christian worldview that provides the lenses of truth through which one views, understands, and analyzes the world.  Without those lenses, perceptions and judgment, already distorted by our fallen natures, are vulnerable to all manner of deceit.

Many Christians, educated in elite secular universities, do not have a clear Christian worldview.  I know a number of them.  The intellectual lenses of these potential difference makers for Christ have been shaped by secularists, rendering them continually vulnerable to value-laden, non-Christian perspectives that result in poor judgment.

If Christian colleges do nothing else, they need to take advantage of their opportunity to develop “minds of Christ” among the intellectually gifted population in their charge.  This needs to go well beyond nuanced efforts to tuck in an occasional Christian notion in basic academic classes.  It needs to be deliberate.  Obvious.  Intentional.  This means required classes—even majors–on Christian worldview, just as there needs to be at least one required course on apologetics.

We need genuinely Christian colleges.  A Christian college is more than an institution with chapel services, often less than vibrant theology courses, Christian faculty members, and a high percentage of students from Christian homes.  It is an academic institution aimed at equipping disciples—future Christian leaders–with the “mind of Christ.”  If the education is not academically sound it is not really a college.  If the college is not teaching a Christian worldview it is not really Christian.  DC

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