How are Christians to live in Post-Christianity America?

In an article he wrote for Tabletalk magazine titled “Keeping the Faith in a Faithless Age,” Dr. Albert Mohler, Jr, president of The Souther Baptist Theological Seminary in Louisville, KY, surmised that we are now living in a post-Christian America. That means our culture is cutoff from its Christian roots like a flower cut at the stem. God is not dead, as the Time magazine article suggested decades ago, but today, many Americans ape the Europeans in acting as if God doesn’t exist or is powerless to accomplish his will. The result of this reality, as Dr. Mohler states, is a loss of our moral center. “Our culture has moved swiftly toward a more complete abandonment of all moral conviction.” Relativism reigns supreme in our postmodern, post-Christian culture.

When a flower is cut off at the stem, it retains its color for awhile but its fate is sealed; it will eventually die. We Christians know that God reigns supreme over all his creation and will always preserve a remnant of faithful believers, but Christians should be concerned about how we are to remain a viable entity in a culture turned against all that we believe.

First of all, we must adjust to this changed set of circumstances; we must be willing to be a moral minority. Second of all, the church must resist following the “secular siren call toward moral revisionism and politically correct positions on the issues of the day.” We are to steadfastly hold on to what we believe and continue to speak for the mind of God. “We must hold fast to the gospel we have been entrusted to preach.”

In a way you could say Jesus Christ is our community organizer and challenges us to be “a community of character, the character produced by a people who stand under the authority of the sovereign God of the universe.” Mohler concludes by saying “the American church faces a new situation and eternity will record whether the church is willing to submit only to the authority of God or whether it will forfeit its calling in order to serve the lessor gods” of the unbelievers.

 

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Theological Evolution

In her best selling book, The History of God, Karen Armstrong discusses theological evolution, the belief that mankind’s concept of God has evolved over the centuries from worshiping many gods to a belief in one God, and is in fact logically evolving towards a belief in no God at all; and, as we read the works of nineteenth century atheists, God is indeed assumed to be non-existent; but, if there’s no God, why is there still religion?

Dr. Sigmund Freud speculated that religion has emerged as humans, to overcome their fear of the unknown forces in nature, wanted to see nature as being more personal, a mystical force they could negotiate with in an effort to control it. People had a god for every act of nature; a storm god, an earthquake god, a fire god, and gods for various sicknesses. Theologian Dr. R. C. Sproul opines that people believed these gods wielded natural forces to cause disaster, and they could plead with each of them to spare them from harm. As this evolution in theology progressed, eventually, these gods were consolidated into one single deity who was in control over all these forces of nature and man could plead with just him. When we understand the concept in this way, theological evolution makes some sense.  It certainly is possible, right?

Yes, it is possible, but not probable. There is a difference between possibility and actuality. I delve more deeply into this issue in Foundation of Belief of The Cabana Chronicles series, but, suffice it to say, although what Freud said is possible, this doesn’t mean the concept is the reality.

Sproul points out that there is a major hole in Freud’s theory. “If Freud’s theory is true, why, then was the God of the Bible ‘invented?’ This holy God we see in Scripture inspires far greater trauma in those whom He encounters than any natural disaster.” In effect, the cure is worse than the disease. So, why do we believe this is true? What’s so terrible about believing that God is righteous and holy? What does this this have to do with us?

Sproul answers that question by correctly surmising that a perfect, sovereign, righteous and holy God requires that we perfectly obey his law or be damned for eternity but, as sinners, we know we can’t do this so we lead an anxious life. We therefore logically conclude there is nothing in the universe more terrifying than being subjected to a holy and righteous God’s authoritative rule. This is a God who has the power to cast us into eternal judgment; this is not a God we would want to believe exists. This would not then be a God of our own design.

Of course, unbelievers state that Christians overcome this fear by inventing a God whom they believe forgives us for our inability to please him and guarantees our salvation in spite of our sin. Well, they would make a good point if all that we needed to do is to believe in Jesus Christ and presto, we can be absolved of our sin and keep on sinning, knowing God will continue to forgive us. Unbelievers refer to this belief as “cheap grace.”

But those Christians who understand our doctrine know that grace is not cheap. Christ paid for forgiveness of our sin with his life, and we pay for it through our recognition we are also to be holy; though we can never attain perfection in this life we know we are to follow Christ’s model of perfect obedience and continue to repent of our sin when we do fall short. Does that sound like an easy task? Of course not. Fallen man is a rebel and doesn’t want to be constrained under the authority of a righteous and holy God. Man instinctively wants to be a part of this world, but Christians know we are to remain apart from this world. Mankind’s ideal God would be a cosmic version of us, a more user-friendly god, a god like a kindly, half-senile grandfather who loves us no matter what we do because he just wants us to be happy and therefore imposes no requirements on us at all. That’s what an invented God looks like.

So then, we could say that those who want to believe there has been some kind of evolution in theology over the ages would concede that the Christian God is not one of those gods designed by man to accommodate a need. They would logically concede that the God of the Bible is unique; he didn’t just come along at the right time and the right place, he has been there all along, working out the salvation of his people. He has revealed himself to those who believe in his Word and in our hearts.

In place of the god whom atheists believe is not there, stands the undesigned, real God, the God of Scripture, the God actor Yul Brenner admitted to believing in in the movie, The Ten Commandments; recall the line “His (Moses’) God IS God.” If people want to accept Freud’s argument that here really has been some kind of an evolution in theology since the dawn of man, they must logically concede the point I hope to have made that this God of Scripture is unlike any God man has ever believed in, nor would want to design, and that we could say this “theological evolution” has indeed reached its zenith in revealing the triune God who has been there all along, the God whom theologian Francis Schaeffer referred to as “The God Who is There.” Believe and be saved.

 

What Skeptics Think About God

Michael Shermer, publisher of Skeptic Magazine, included in the Appendix of his book, How We Believe, a list of the reasons skeptics give for (a) why they believe in God (b) why they think other people believe in God, and (c) why they do not believe in God. I’ll present the results of his survey of their answers in three separate posts:

Why Skeptics Believe in God

1. Good design/natural/beauty/perfection/complexity of the world or universe (29.2%).

2. It is comforting, relieving, consoling, gives meaning and purpose to life (21.3%)

3. Experience of God in everyday life/God is in us (14.4%).

4. Just because/faith/need to believe in something (11.3%).

5. Without God there would be no morality (6.4%).

6. The Bible says so (5.5%).

7. The universe is God (4.0%).

8. Raised to believe in God (3.0%).

9. God has a plan for the world, history, destiny, and us (3.0%).

10. To account for good and avenge evil in the world (.10%)

Cumulative total: 99.1%. Other answers included “God answers prayers.”

I would be interested in what my blog followers have to say about what these percentages mean.

Evangelism

In the wake of the criticism for evangelist Joel Osteen’s apparent lack of charity in Houston after Hurricane Harvey breezed through town, I thought it appropriate to talk about evangelism to explain why Osteen’s behavior should not be used to judge a religion he allegedly subscribes to.

According to Dr. David F. Wells, author of The Courage to Be Protestant, there are three categories of evangelism in Christianity: 1. Classical Evangelicals. They are serious about the Christian doctrine. Their churches reflect this mindset. 2. The Marketers. As the name indicates, these evangelists capitalize on all the achievements of the classical evangelical movement which began after WWII, but they did this for their own purposes and success. As evident from Osteen’s display of wealth, he exemplifies this category.  Dr. Wells tells us that this particular group is characterized by its emptiness, loss of personal connections in its monster-sized churches, and capitulation to consumerist modernity.” 3. The Emergents. Dr. Wells tells us this “constituency would  be straining the definition of ‘evangelical’ to the breaking point if its leaders were not themselves distancing their world from evangelicalism. This constituency is made up of a loose coalition of churches that came together during the 1990’s and now constitute the so-called emerging church. Here, far more than was the case among traditional evangelicals, there is a continuum in the core beliefs that is so wide that it might be wise to distinguish between the emergent church, on the one end, and those who are simply emerging on the other…What they are against is often clearer than what they are for.” This group is heavily influenced by post-modern concepts and culture.

Believers and unbelievers alike should understand that not all evangelism is the same; nor is it even Christian. Only the classical evangelicals represent our reformed doctrine, and it is they who present the genuine Christian witness to the world.

 

Eternity is on our hearts

Most every religion attempts to address the reality that one day our life will come to an end. We humans are curious by nature and are inclined to wonder what will happen to us when that day arrives. Our fascination with death is one of the major reasons humans have embraced religion. Dr. Bruce P. Baugus, associate professor of philosophy and theology at Reformed Theological Seminary in Jackson, Mississippi, states in an article he wrote for Ligionier Ministry’s Table Talk magazine, “What becomes of us after death is a cardinal doctrine of nearly every religion, and it is ordinarily considered decisive for how we ought to live this life in preparation for what follows.” Christians believe that what we do in this life counts forever.

C. S. Lewis once observed that our longings run deeper and reach further and aspire to things far higher than anything ready at hand can satisfy. Dr. Baugus tells us that eternity is in our hearts and people who stifle this feeling and instead focus on the material world and the pursuit of temporal pleasure will lead an empty life. We ask ourselves is this life all there is? That’s one of our concerns theologians call “the big questions.”

Dr. Baugus opines that “no matter how vigorously one denies the afterlife, however, the sense that there is more than this present life stubbornly persists..so stubbornly that Immanuel Kant, who denied anyone could know such a thing, nevertheless conceded that we must a least believe in a an afterlife in order to live right in this life.” This sounds like a corollary to Pascal’s Wager, doesn’t it?

Jesus Christ told us that we humans are not only inclined to believe in an afterlife but to believe in our future resurrection as well. Dr. Baugus tells us that it is impossible to make sense of Christ’s life work and teaching without presupposing we will live somewhere forever and that “somewhere” is either heaven or hell. Jesus often spoke of these two states and emphasized how important it is to keep this actuality in mind as we live out our lives. He asserts that our destiny does not depend on our good works, but depends solely on our belief in him as our Savior, the second member of the trinity. “I am the resurrection and the life, whoever believes in me, though he die, yet shall he live, and everyone who lives and believes in me shall never die.” That’s the blessed assurance Christians should have. Dr. Baugus concludes his article with the most important question of all: “Do you believe this?”

Pascal’s Wager Explained

Pascal’s Wager is a philosophical argument presented by seventeenth-century French philosopher and scientist, Blaise Pascal. Basically, its point is that we wager our lives that God exists or not.

Pascal opines that a rational person should live as though God does exist and seek to believe in God. Pascal was a Christian so he is specifically referring to the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, not the philosopher’s God of presuming a cause (a Creator) for an effect (the creation.) Pascal postulates that if God does not exist, a believer will limit himself to some extent by paying homage to a power that doesn’t exist and thus will experience a finite loss (some pleasures, luxury, etc.) in living out his life. Whereas, if God does exist a believer stands to inherit infinite gain in his or her salvation in Heaven and avoid the infinite loss of eternity in Hell. So then, what does Pascal’s Wager mean to us? British author C. S. Lewis explains the wager this way in his classic, Mere Christianity.

“Most people, if they had really learned to look into their own hearts, would know that they do want, and want acutely, something that cannot be had in this world. There are all sorts of things in this world that offer to give it to you, but they never quite keep their promises…Now there are two wrong ways of dealing with this fact, and one right way:  (1). The Fool’s Way…he puts the blame on the things themselves. He goes on all his life thinks that if only he tried another woman, or holiday, or whatever, then this time he would really catch the mysterious something. (2). The Way of the Disillusioned “Sensible” Man…He soon decides that the whole thing was moonshine. And so he represses the part of himself which used to cry for the moon. (3). The Christian way…The Christian says (and here is the argument): Creatures are not born with desires unless satisfaction for these desires exists. A baby feels hunger,  well there is such a thing as food. A duckling wants to swim, well there is such a thing as water. Men feel sexual desire, well, there is such a thing as sex. If I find in myself desire which no experience in this world can satisfy, the most probable explanation is that I was made for another world.” Probability is what Pascal’s Wager is all about.

The fool pursues materialism to fill the void in his life; he will never achieve this goal. Money can’t buy us love or anything else of such value. The “sensible” man believes life is absurd so why try to find any meaning in it other than what meaning we can give to it? He tries to ignore God, but he cannot effectively ignore him because, as Lewis once said, “He is all around us.” Pascal tells us both of these people lead lives of despair.

Both the fool and the “sensible” man are making the wrong bet by turning their back on the strong clue God has given us as we observe his creation and become aware of what he has laid on our hearts. The Christian believes through faith that God is personal and is not some sadistic creator who implants a desire for him in our hearts without giving us the means to connect with him.  Most sane people know they should never bet against the house; they will inevitably lose.  That’s Pascal’s wager.

 

Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals

One of my left-leaning Facebook connections asked me to elucidate on why I am so critical of Saul Alinsky’s Rules for Radicals. First let me remind readers of the Rules. There are twelve of them, but I find half of them particularly offensive. As I have mentioned before, I believe the trick to living a contented life is in the balance, and Alinsky’s Rules are overly ideologically unbalanced. Here are six of them; judge for yourself.

1. people are encouraged to build power and influence by focusing on an external antagonist and turning him, her or them into a common enemy. The people would then become unified in their opposition to this common enemy. 2. Focus on increasing anxiety, insecurity and uncertainty. Stir up the pot of division in our culture; create an “us against them” mindset. 3. Use ridicule and keep the pressure on. 4. Remember that the threat of a group like the white supremacists is probably more terrifying than the thing itself.  5. Emphasize the negative and it will sooner or later become a positive. 6. Pick the target, freeze it, personalize it and polarize it; cut off its support network by ridiculing its proponents.

Does any of this recommended game plan to divide and conquer seem familiar? In an effort to personalize the conflict, malcontent cultural warriors have primarily focused on Donald Trump and his various character flaws more than they have attacked his presidency. They have tried to build their power by turning him into America’s common enemy. Ironically, Trump himself has seemed to play along with them and has actually created anxiety, insecurity and uncertainly in the majority of Americans who mention this when surveyed. It’s the primary reason his opinion polls are so low, and it’s the main reason those of us who voted for him are concerned about the future of our beloved country.

In addition, the lefties have focused on Trump’s misstatements in response to the Charlottesville tragedy in an effort to make the threat of white supremacy and nazism more terrifying than the thing is itself. I’m no historian but I know America is not post-WWI Germany. This is not the fertile ground for a revival of nazism Alinsky’s followers would have us believe. Nonetheless, when demonstrations like this erupt in violence, it serves the Alinsky objective well in encouraging over-the-top public demonstrations which strengthen their cause to divide America.

So then, I hope my readers can see how current attempts of Trump’s opponents to destroy his presidency are following the Alinsky model to a “T.” But it’s not just the lefties that follow the model; the Tea Party followed it too. Saul Alinsky died in 1972, but his rules for dividing and conquering live on. This is not the time for Saul; it is the time for St. Paul who called us to unify, unify, unify. We Americans have a common enemy and Donald Trump and his supporters aren’t it. Our real enemies, Russia, China, countries dominated by radical Islam, those are our real enemies, and the more we squabble among ourselves, the more they are encouraged to wait us out until we destroy ourselves from within. It’s the old Pogo saying come home to roost: “We have met the enemy and he is us.”