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[256] Canadian Churches

A few years ago, a five-year study of growing and shrinking churches in Canada found that conservative churches, with a literal interpretation of scripture, were the ones growing. The distinguishing feature of these churches was their commitment to biblical orthodoxy, not positions on hot-button social issues.

Should anyone be surprised by this?

Forgive my simplism here, but does it not seem logical that churches committed to scripture would grow because they not only accept the bible as truth, but also because scripture is radioactive spiritually, being infused by the Holy Spirit?

The more one studies the validity of scripture with a cold scholarly eye, the more convincing it becomes as the organ for divine truth.  Studies of manuscripts, archaeology, prophecy and even science authenticate the bible.  More important than that, however, are the changed lives—in Canada among other places–that result from a commitment to its message.

[255] Faith Crisis in Xian Colleges

The August 30, online edition of Christianity Today included an article suggesting that doubting one’s faith is “part of the process” for many students at Christian colleges.  It reported a study done by Christian Higher Education showing how common faith struggles are among students at these schools.

“Contemporary leaders at Christian colleges and universities don’t really have to push students to spiritual crisis,” says the article. “They expect students to come to this point in their faith and prepare to help them through it.”  The article also tells of how evangelical missionaries of the past “almost always talked about their college experience as a time of spiritual struggle,” according to historian, Adam Laats.  The big concern is to get students to acknowledge their doubts rather than hide them in guilt.

From there, the discussion moves to how to minister to this population of doubt.  There is much variety among colleges on that front, much of which involves individual or group support.

I have two suggestions for how to do that.

First, in the context of any Christian worldview, confront postmodernist thinking at every point.  The notion that non-material truth is relative, or a function of one’s personal perception, is arguably the single most destructive force facing Christianity.

Second, offer a required course on Christian apologetics.  Much doubt among students is rooted in intellectual challenges to the faith—what Paul calls the wisdom of men vs. the foolishness of the gospel.  We have powerful, intellectually-defensible reasons for why we accept Christianity as truth.  Armed with those reasons, the labels of foolishness and wisdom are quickly reversed. DC

[254] Properity

According to Christianity Today, the prosperity gospel is taught to 40% of evangelical churchgoers.  This heresy is the notion that believers have to do something on their end to gain material rewards from God.  Works not grace.  In short, it makes the money tossed in the collection plate not a tithe or offering, but an investment for which a return is expected.

There are regional and denominational differences with respect to adherence to a prosperity gospel, according to LifeWay Research, that published its findings in 2018, but the very existence of the prosperity heresy is disturbing.  It makes our faith about material gain rather than the glory of God.  It replaces the cost of discipleship with an investment strategy.  It essentially repudiates all of the verses about persecution sprinkled through the New Testament, and all but ignores the very biographies of the apostles—eleven of whom gave their life for the faith, with the twelfth dying in exile.

To the extent that this toxin has found its way in Christian colleges, how does this prepare students for a life of discipleship?  Particularly considering the increasingly secular culture in which they will be living that life.  The gospel is about earning alright.  It is about having earned God’s rage, only to receive his gift of salvation instead.  God owes us nothing but his condemnation.  We owe him everything. That envelope in the collection plate is not a seed planted for an eventual harvest benefiting us, as the grinning, well-dressed, heretical televangelists past and present try to lead us to believe..  It is a symbol of our total indebtedness to him.  DC

[253] Cos and Locals

Many years ago I read an article about college faculty, dividing them into two groups: Cosmopolitans and Locals.  Cosmopolitans were faculty establishing a name for themselves in their discipline through publishing and conference presentations.  The Locals confined their activities to the local college.

This split is sharply evident in Christian colleges.  There is a minority of faculty, Cosmopolitans, that do publishable research—books, articles, and conference presentations.  By doing so, they put themselves and their institutions on the larger academic map.  The majority, however, are Locals.  Often because these colleges are “teaching institutions,” they opt to limit their activities to teaching, committee service, and publishing in non-academic, denominational periodicals, often claiming these endeavors consume all of their time.

This is unfortunate.  Please understand, teaching a worthy priority.  Committee service can make a contribution.  Writing articles in denominational magazines have their place.  But none of these are terribly difficult to do, and they certainly do not establish oneself as a scholar in one’s field.  In fact, they hardly constitute a full-time job.  I know that firsthand.

What is even more unfortunate is that many Christian colleges not only do not encourage cosmopolitan activity, but have faculty that–perhaps out of jealousy—subtly denigrate colleagues who go more widely. I experienced that as well.

In short, in many of these schools you can become a full Professor without having done a shred of research beyond your doctoral dissertation, provided of course that you taught your classes, served on designated committees, and carried out the other pedestrian tasks of your employment.  Conversely, publications and research are generally not highly regarded.  In fact, you may be penalized should your research take you away from campus with any frequency.

Christian colleges need to address this.  Ideally, faculty that do research should have accommodations made in their workload, affording them more time to do scholarship.  At the very least, these institutions need to recognize, encourage, and applaud their Cosmopolitans who are making a mark for Christ in secular academe.  It is the Cosmopolitans who are models of what scholarship really is.  It is they who are preparing their students, by example, to serve Christ in the world. DC

[252] PM as Philosophy

Postmodernism (PM) is everywhere, even in the Christian College.  A professorial colleague of mine lamented at how PM has seeped into many of this presumably Christian students.

The pernicious notion that objective metaphysical (spiritual) truth does not exist undermines the foundation of the Christian faith.  For the believer, as certainly as you cannot drive anywhere but north from St. Louis to get to Chicago, you cannot be a disciple without accepting immutable, unbending, spiritual truths.  Truth is the pathway to Christ.  In the King James version of the Bible, truth appears 118 times.  PM, by making truth subjective, contradicts the teachings of scripture.

The Christian college needs to confront this heretical strain eroding the structure of their students’ faith.  More particularly. PM needs to be treated as a philosophy, and critiqued as such in basic philosophy, apologetics, and theology courses.  The stability of their students’ faith may depend upon it.  DC

[251] Spirit of Error

As our nation departs from its Judeo-Christian moorings it enters a spirit of error.  The Judeo-Christian tradition is rooted in a set of beliefs; high among them is that humans are flawed, error-ridden by nature, and unable to find their way to non-material truth apart from engaging the truth of their creator.  The writings of the founders are anchored to this belief.

Secular progressivism denies the very existence of that creator, and hence the very existence of that truth.  Instead, humans are viewed as the highest form of life in the universe.  Furthermore they are viewed as an ever-evolving, ever-improving life-form—and therefore capable of determining ever-better prescriptions for human thought and behavior.  In short, they can determine what is politically correct.

In the secular-progressive world, there is no metaphysical truth because there is no metaphysical foundation to life.  In other words, we humans are on our own.  For the Christian, the consequence of this thinking is inescapable.  It means flawed humans are now attempting to construct our national sense of reality.  Moreover, because of their flawed natures, it is impossible for their constructions to be accurate.  We hear more and more public pronouncements, often from political figures, that run counter to Christian values.  They are disturbing, and they should be, because they are the outflow of a society lost in a spirit of error.  DC

[250] Correlations

According to Michael J. Knowles, atheists are now the number one religious group in the U.S.  Americans who profess no religion now constitute just under a quarter of the population, nosing out Catholics and Evangelicals for first place.

Because of this growth, open defiance of Judeo-Christian principles has become louder, bolder, and more frequent.  In decades past, the cultural overlay of the nation’s Judeo-Christian heritage functioned as a sort of informal censor throughout the country, keeping non-believers from openly attacking the gospel and its adherents.

There are some disturbing correlations with our national abandonment of religion.  Here, according to Knowles, are a few.  One in 5 U.S. adults experiences anxiety disorders, the latter being now the #1 mental illness in the nation.  One in 6 take antidepressant medications, with the number soaring among younger Americans.  The suicide rate among U.S. teenagers is up by 70% since 2006.

Conversely, the psychological research indicates that people who attend religious services regularly are twice as likely to describe themselves as “very happy” than those who attend sporadically or not at all.  Religious people engage in “happy-making behaviors” (marrying for example) to a significantly greater degree than those who are not.

Indeed, as Andrew Breitbart pointed out, culture is the downstream of religion; and as our faith erodes so does our sense of meaning and ultimately happiness.  Ironically, in a culture characterized by a frenzied search for meaning and happiness, its members are looking in all the wrong places.  Meaning and happiness are hiding in plain view.  DC

[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

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