Apr

09

2012

Tim Keller|11:34 AM CT

Why Is Christianity on the Decline in America?

I had the pleasure of reading the manuscript of Ross Douthat's new book Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (The Free Press, 2012), slated to be released on April 17. I am going to honor the publisher's request that I not quote or review the book until it is published because it is still being edited. Nevertheless, I want to interact with Ross's basic ideas because I think they are provocative and because this is essential reading for all Christians seeking to understand Christianity's relationship to culture in the U.S.

Everyone agrees that our culture has become far more secular and hostile to Christian faith over the past two generations, but what are the factors causing that change? Many in the evangelical and Reformed world see the decline starting in the early 20th century when most of the mainline denominations and their affiliated academic institutions and foundations fell into the hands of theological modernists and liberals. But it can't be as simple as that.

In his first chapter Douthat looks at four figures---Reinhold Niebuhr for powerful mainline Protestantism, Billy Graham for rising Evangelicalism, Fulton Sheen for popularly engaged Catholicism, and Martin Luther King, Jr. for the prophetic African-American Church of the Civil Rights era---who at mid-20th century showed the cultural and institutional strength of nearly all branches of Christianity. But by the beginning of the 21st century all four branches of Christianity are fragmented, declining, and in disarray, while the number of Americans who say they have no religious affiliation or even belief in God steadily climbs. Robert Putnam, in American Grace, nuances this a bit when he argues that the mainline church began declining first, in the late 1960s and 1970s, while the Evangelical church began doing so by the 1990s. Catholics have been battered with a different set of problems and so has the African-American church, but they are also definitely losing influence and people.

Five Social Catalysts that Changed the Church

In his second chapter, Douthat attributes the change to five major social catalysts that have gained steam since the 1960s:

First, the political polarization that has occurred between the Left and Right drew many churches into it (mainline Protestants toward the Left, evangelicals toward the Right). This has greatly weakened the church's credibility in the broader culture, with many viewing churches as mere appendages and pawns of political parties.

Second, the sexual revolution means that the Biblical sex ethic now looks unreasonable and perverse to millions of people, making Christianity appear implausible, unhealthy, and regressive.

Third, the era of decolonization and Third World empowerment, together with the dawn of globalization, has given the impression that Christianity was imperialistically "western" and supportive of European civilization's record of racism, colonialism, and anti-Semitism.

The fourth factor has been the enormous growth in the kind of material prosperity and consumerism that always works against faith and undermines Christian community.

The fifth factor is that all the other four factors had their greatest initial impact on the more educated and affluent classes, the gatekeepers of the main culture-shaping institutions such as the media, the academy, the arts, the main foundations, and much of the government and business world.

How does Ross Douthat's analysis compare with some older thinkers? Lesslie Newbigin blames the marginalization of Christianity in the West on the outworking of the 18th century Enlightenment---which promoted the sufficiency of individual human reason without faith in God---for a great deal of the shift. In this he understands historical patterns as being caused by ideas and intellectual trends working their way out through a society's institutions. I see no reason why Newbigin's history-of-thought approach and Douthat's sociology-of-knowledge approach cannot both be right.

A third kind of analysis could easily find the faults within the church itself. As H. Richard Niebuhr points out in his essay, "The Independence of the Church," the church becomes weak and even corrupt whenever it becomes successful in a culture. This is an important factor to add. For example, why did the mainline and the evangelical church get co-opted by American political parties and lose credibility? Wasn't this due to a lack of robust, vital orthodoxy within them? If all these approaches are right and complementary, Christianity in the West has been the victim of "a perfect storm" of trends, factors, and forces.

***

Editor's Note: This post was originally published April 9, 2012 at Redeemer City to City.

Tim Keller is the senior pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (PCA) in Manhattan, New York. He is also co-founder and vice president of The Gospel Coalition. For more resources by Tim Keller visit Redeemer City to City.

  • Stephen

    One of those ideas which has worked itself into and worked itself out through the church is evolution. This attacks one of the earliest doctrines in Scripture, God as the creator of the universe, to whom man must give account. Since this is counted by many as unimportant in Christian circles, then why can't other doctrines be treated with such disdain?

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      I don't know of any other-wise orthodox Christians who have let evolution obscure the doctrine of creation. I don't see this as a problem in the church.

      • william brown

        I think this and all widespread cultural assumptions, for example feminism, marxism, socialism, affect everyone to some degree. And these have, obviously at least to me, infected the orthodox church, although to lesser degree than other institutions.

      • David Severy

        According to many, the unbelief of Genesis Ch.'s 1-11 as being true undermines the entire truth. I agree with them. If God made everything out of nothing, how is it that He needed billions of years to accomplish that? God spoke everything into existence except man, whom He made from the dust of the earth! A god who needs billions of years to do things is an impotent god.

        • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

          Yes, but if I may push back @David, A God who "needs" seven days to do this is also an impotent God. God COULD have done it in seven minutes or seven weeks or seven seconds, or all at once and that is just how the author of Genesis chose to portray it.
          I AM playing "devil's advocate" here, I'm not saying the earth was created in billiions of years. I'm just saying that I think if you are a Christian who believes this it's ok, as long as you recognize that God COULD have created the earth in seven days, or seven minutes, or seven seconds. If you say, he "needed" a certain period of time, that's when it gets problematic.
          I think the important thing to realize is God used His Word to bring the world and time into being. As long as everyone agrees on that, I think it's fine.

          • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

            But by creating everything in six days and resting the seventh, God was laying a foundation for man to have a sabbath and the calendar year. Some would add that biblical numerology is important here also. Six + 1 is purposeful.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              It's true that the numerology is important. But it doesn't mean that the original days were literal. There are strong exegetical reasons to take Genesis 1 as symbolic: (1) "day" can be used figuratively in the OT (such as in the common phrase "the day of the Lord", meaning judgment); (2) It appears that the heaven and the earth were created prior to the first day on which light was created, therefore making it impossible to insist on a young earth from Genesis 1; (3) there are three days of "evening and morning" prior to the creation of the sun on the fourth day, something that wouldn't be literal possible since evening is the setting of the sun and morning is its rise; (4) subjectively, the structure and refrains of the chapter "feels" like poetry rather than scientific prose.

              I agree with Heather above: "the important thing to realize is God used His Word to bring the world and time into being." It's the doctrine of God as Creator that's important, not literal, young earth creationism.

          • Barry

            Heather~ I agree with you of course, having been engaged in these intramural debates for years.
            I've concluded with Dr. Bernard Ramm that the one thing we can be sure of and agree upon is that, "In the beginning GOD".

            As a geologist and biologist (and one who moved from young to old earth creationism) neither a theory of evolution nor geological phenomena (plate tectonics, et al) nor the big bang, cause any serious threat to biblical faith. As I study "processes" I have to bow in humble awe at the only Creator God.

            I likewise marvel at God's patient and longsuffering 'work' of creating our "Christ-likeness" - a work He could have accomplished by divine fiat.

            God bless~

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Excellent comment Barry! I wish you had been contributing to us when this debate was "live". But I hope to hear from you again.

            • Barry

              Tks John! Sorry to have tagged on so late.

              BTW, I've admired the scholarship of Hugh Ross for poss 2 decades; many do not realize his rare combination of intellect and humility - sadly commodities too often absent among some (YEC's) that deride his work and impugn his name. blessings~

          • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

            It was God in His Potency who was able, and who purposed in power to create all that is visible in 6 twenty four hour days. He could have done it in 6 seconds or 6 billion years. He did it in 6 days and rested the seventh. It is not for us to describe God according to our conceptions, it is for us to worship Him, and thank Him for making us a part of His Kingdom in Christ. If we do we can begin to see that it was His plan to create all as He did in LOVE FOR US (!!!) that we would have a place in His everlasting Kingdom.

      • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

        In my discussions with Christian evolutionists, uncertainty about the first several chapters in Genesis has spelled uncertainty and doubt about the entire Biblical faith. To apply such vacuum interpretative principles to the first several chapters is to allow these principles to reign across the entire panorama of the Bible.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          Hugh Ross' ministry, "Reasons to Believe", supports an "old earth" acceptance of the modern science AND insists on the 1979 Chicago Statement on Inerrancy. See: http://www.reasons.org/Search?q=Age+of+the+Universe. Francis Schaeffer was one of the leading advocates of Biblical inerrancy and wrote that Genesis is "history not chronology".

          Conversely, in my experience, fundamentalists who want to turn Genesis 1 into a litmus test for inerrancy and argue about creationism, often don't seem to really believe in creation. That is, they often have no concept of providence, that God works through nature (a conclusion of believing in creation); a shameful and degraded view of sexuality (as though God didn't create that); no concept of natural revelation; anti-intellectualism (e.g. pastors with no theological education, KJV only) which is based on the assumption that there is nothing to learn outside the Bible, etc. The Puritans said that "nature was God's other book", and they were pioneers in science, because they believe nature was God's creation. One doesn't find these impulses in modern fundamentalism because rather than think about creation, they want to argue about literal creationism.

          • Roger McKinney

            Your characterization of young earth creationists (YEC) is way off base. You really need to get out more. I suggest you try Dr. Walt Brown’s creationscience.com to start with. Keep in mind that Godly Christians, like Newton, created modern science and they were YEC for the most part. Atheists invented evolution and insisted on it as fact before they had any evidence. YEC use the same scientific evidence as evolutionists and old earth creationists (OEC), plus more and better evidence. We merely interpret the evidence differently. Hugh Ross insists that only the atheist interpretation of evidence is valid.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Roger,

              Can you name me one scientist who comes to a conclusion that the earth is about 6,000 years old based purely off the science? And, just to be sure that's what he's really doing, he's not a Christian (or otherwise religious)?

              My experience with fundamentalists and their YEC is fairly good. Your characterization of Ross is simply false. The fact, as I understand it, that the scientific evidence is overwhelming that the universe is billions of years old. (Ross says that he evidence for the age of the universe is more conclusive than that the earth is round.) One must either posit that God created the universe with signs of age and expects us to interpret Genesis 1 literally, despite the way He created the universe; or that Genesis 1 is figurative. The idea that YEC is truly based on science is false.

            • Roger McKinney

              You don’t have to think the earth is 6,000 years old to be a YEC. Most YEC scientists would say the evidence suggests the earth is less than 100,000 years old. The 6K figure is based on a single man’s estimate based on genealogies. Others using the same genealogies have estimated older ages for the earth. I understand that OEC think the scientific evidence is overwhelming. I also think people like Ross refuse to look at the evidence for YEC.

              Your statement “The idea that YEC is truly based on science is false” does nothing but advertise your ignorance of YEC science. It proves you have never read a good YEC science book.

              Just as atheists never read books with evidence for God, OEC like Ross refuse to ever crack a book by YEC scientists, and yet claim to have all of the evidence. On the other hand, I don’t know a single YEC scientist who isn’t well versed in the OEC literature, especially that of Ross.

              I don’t understand how people can claim to have considered all of the evidence while at the same time ignoring half of it.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Roger,

              I asked you a specific question: name one scientist who comes to a young earth conclusion based purely off the science? You weren't able to do so. Case closed.

              I doubt your statement about Ross is true, that he "refuse[s] to ever crack a book by YEC scientists". I've seen a video of him participating in a joint conference with Young Earth creationists. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XZITt-bckl0

              Further, the man you cited, Walt Brown, is a mechanical engineer and so not specifically qualified to speak on the exegesis of a text from a culture that frequently employed poetry or even on most of the fields of science that are relevant to the question of the age of the earth, like geology and astronomy.

              If you're going to suggest the earth is about 100,000 years old, then you've departed from a literalistic hermeneutic (the reason for young earth assertions.) And, you're also at variance with the science and so satisfying to nothing.

              Frankly, I don't believe there is any "evidence" for a young earth; that if there were, there would be nonChristian scientists who came to that conclusion.

            • Roger McKinney

              Every YEC scientist comes to the young earth conclusion based on science. Walt Brown is a mechanical engineer, but also a former PhD professor at the Air Force Academy. I recommended his book because it is an encyclopedia of YEC science. He quotes most of the top YEC scientists in their field, such as geology and astronomy. BTW, why would you expect Walt Brown to be a Bible scholar? He is a scientist.

              The science can’t prove that the earth is less than 100,000 years old, but it proves that it is not older than 100,000 years. Some science suggests that the earth might be 12,000 years old. The point is that the earth is no where near as old as Ross claims. The science proves it. No that doesn’t agree with what some Bible expositors have written, although some have suggested that Genesis indicates the earth is 10,000 years old. YEC scientist don’t claim to know exactly how old the earth is; just that it is less than 100K years old which proves that it is not millions of years old.

              I haven’t seen the video you mention, but have listened to Ross and read his writings. You will notice that he rarely addresses YEC evidence; he simply ignores it and repeats himself. That’s typical of evolutionists and old earth creationists.

              Your response doesn’t surprise me at all. I get the same response from all people who don’t want to know the truth and are afraid of any evidence that opposes their position.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Roger,

              That you can't name one scientist who comes to a young earth conclusion based off the science, as proven by the fact he's not a Christian and so not approaching the data with fundamentalist assumptions, proves that there is no science in favor of a young earth conclusion. If there were science in favor of the young earth, there would be non-religious scientists who came to that conclusion. The talk is linked above.

            • Greg

              There are non-Christians who come to Intelligent Design conclusions. That is still not a valid argument either way. Citing acceptance of a theory is in a sense appeal to authority, and human authority is invalid as proof of absolute truth.

              The fact remains that the Creation account is unequivocally part of the historical narrative of Genesis (merely our division of the law that it falls under). Metaphorical and symbolic interpretations would make sense, if it wasn't written as a historical account. Context is key, and context dictates that, if we are to take Scripture as inspired by God and therefore infallible, then we are to interpret historical accounts as statements of mere facts as they occur. The occurrence of metaphorical phrases that utilize the term "day" in no way invalidates this perspective. The word "day" still has a literal meaning, whether you use it symbolically sometimes or not, and there is no real need at all to think it means otherwise in this context, it being the beginning of the law of Moses, which is written as a historical account throughout.

            • Roger McKinney

              John, are you kidding me?! Is Dr. Walt Brown not a name? And as I pointed out, his book at creationscience.com is full of names of YEC scientists. That’s why I pointed you to it!

              “If there were science in favor of the young earth, there would be non-religious scientists who came to that conclusion.”

              Wow! What amazing naivete! Do you honestly think evolutionists or OECs came to their theories by the evidence? Evolutionists in the 18th century determined that the earth is ancient and evolution is true with no evidence whatsoever. All evolutionists arrive at their philosophy because it’s pounded into their heads from kindergarten on.

              I realize that scientists want to promote the myth that once they get their degree in science they have transcended the natural human tendency toward bias and are therefore superhuman. If true, that would mean that we don’t need Christ to change our nature; we merely need to get degrees in the natural sciences.

              The idea that scientists are super humans who draw conclusions strictly from the hard evidence was destroyed by philosophers of science decades ago. Honest scientists understand that all scientists have biases. Ben Stein’s documentary “No Intelligence Allowed” demonstrated how biased scientists are.

              Paul’s main point in Romans 1 is that the natural man rejects the truth and embraces the lie in order to promote his sin. Is Paul wrong?

              If scientists arrived at the conclusion of an ancient earth through the evidence, then they would be familiar with the YEC evidence. They are not. Not even Hugh Ross. On the other hand, YEC scientists know the opposition’s evidence as well as their own. So tell me, who is more honest, the YEC who know all of the evidence or people like Ross who are blind to any evidence against their philosophy?

              The only way to know the truth is to not care about the results of your investigation and to desire the truth more than anything, as the Proverbs admonish. That is hard to do. It means honestly investigating both sides.

              Evolutionists and old earth creationists refuse to even consider the evidence for the other side, just as you are doing. You stubbornly refuse to even read Walt Brown’s book. So how interested in the truth are you?

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              You're right about intelligent design. We could begin with Aristotle who concluded, from philosophy, that God is "the necessary Being". Recently, former atheist Antony Flew concluded that the intricacies of creation, specifically DNA demanded a Creator, an intelligent Designer. The idea of "Intelligent Design" is another expression of the Biblical doctrine of "Providence", that God works through nature for His ends (not just miracle.).

              However, that's a different question as to whether we must accept Genesis 1 literalistically. There are strong exegetical reasons to take Genesis 1 as symbolic:
              (1) "day" can be used figuratively in the OT (such as in the common phrase "the day of the Lord", meaning judgment); further, it would be unclear what a "day" means before the creation of the sun;

              (2) It appears that the heaven and the earth were created prior to the first day on which light was created, therefore making it impossible to insist on a young earth from Genesis 1; that is, literally, Genesis 1 simply does not say that everything was created in that first week, only that the order was imposed on it after the universe had been created;

              (3) there are three days of "evening and morning" prior to the creation of the sun on the fourth day, something that wouldn't be literally possible since evening is the setting of the sun and morning is its rise;

              (4) subjectively, the structure and refrains of the chapter "feels" like poetry rather than scientific prose. The ancient people didn't have strict divisions of genre, that something is "historical" and so has to be literal. You're imposing modern assumptions onto the text.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Roger,

              You are obviously intentionally misinterpreting my question, now posed for at least the third time. Can you name one NON-RELIGIOUS scientist who comes to a young earth conclusion? You can't. I'd ask you to reflect on -- not simply that fact -- but why you feel compelled to intentionally misinterpret my question.

              Further, Walt Brown doesn't appear even qualified to speak to the subject. His Ph.D. is in mechanical engineering, not geology or astronomy, etc., or in Old Testament or Church History or some related field to the question. A hard scientists, as mechanical engineers are, are prone to approach texts literalistically, since all their experience is working with literally written scientific texts.

              Third, evolution grew up out of Darwin, in the 19th century, not the 18th. So you don't know the history and obviously haven't done much investigation.

              Fourth, drop the conspiracy theory nonsense. If there were evidence for a young earth, non-Christian scientists would come to that conclusion. The scientists follow the evidence. There is NO evidence for a young earth, it's the conclusion of a literalistic reading of Genesis 1 imposed on the data.

            • Greg

              John,

              1) You assume that the concept of a "day" is based entirely on the sun and moon. From a scientific perspective, this would be correct; however, from the Christian perspective, we know that that is working in reverse, as God put the sun, moon, and stars in the sky for our benefit in order for us to be able to keep track of time. Time still existed at this point, and 24-hour units of time still existed. You're simply imposing your modern assumptions about the meaning of measurements of time on the text.

              2) I don't follow number two at all. Are you saying that there is no way for God to supernaturally do something? Because that's just silly.

              3) Again, evening and morning--see my first counterpoint.

              4) It's not structured poetically at all. I didn't say it was scientific prose, as no Scripture is. I said it was a historical account. There is a distinction in style between historical accounts such as the Pentateuch and the books of the Kings, and books like the Psalms and the Proverbs. Entirely different subject matter, entirely different phrasing structure. While it is true that a writer may insert poetry into a passage, there is no indication of such being the case in the first part of Genesis. And, as to "genre distinctions", you are imposing assumptions about how the world must have been created on the passage. There are indeed obvious "genres" to many of the different "books" of Scripture. Psalms is very obviously poetry. Including poetry or a quote in a historical account is no indication of lack of genre distinctions, and furthermore, I really don't know where you're getting that assumption in the first place.

              I would rather allow the passage to be interpreted on its own merit as entirely miraculous than try to explain away the conclusions of naturalists who have no reason to believe in miracles by acquiescing and reinterpreting Scripture in light of their "findings", which are based on presuppositions that are entirely in contradiction with Scripture in the first place.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              (1) You only dealt with the second part of the statement; besides, it's you who are assuming that the text must mean what we measure it as, about 24 hours. The first, part is more significant: "Day" issued figuratively in the OT (such as in the common phrase "the day of the Lord", meaning judgment); there's no exegetical basis to insist that it is always used literally.

              (2) Read the first few verses of Genesis 1. First, the "heavens and the earth are created" (v. 1). In verse 2, the earth is "without form", etc. The "creation week" doesn't begin until verse 3, after the prior creation of the heavens (the cosmos) and the earth. That is, the creation week begins, not with the creation of the universe but with the creation of light. So, literally, Genesis 1 simply does not say that everything was created in that first week, only that the order was imposed on it after the universe had previously been created.

              (3) Your first point doesn't deal with this at all: there are three days of "evening and morning" prior to the creation of the sun on the fourth day. Literally, an "evening" is when the sun sets; a morning is when the sun rises. These words, taken literally, don't deal with a measure of time but with a regular astronomical event that depends on the existence of the sun. Without the sun, there cannot be a literal "evening and morning". Moses would have known what an evening and morning were. It simply doesn't work literally. It has nothing to do with modern assumptions but with reading the text literally. And so if the interpretation of it doesn't work literally, we have to search for how it was originally meant to be interpreted.

              (4) Honestly, I admit it's a matter of perception. However, it seems to me that the day structure, the refrains, "God said, Let . . .", "God saw that it was good", culminating in the climax of the creation of humanity being "very good", strikes me as figurative, poetic-like prose.

              I would rather allow the passage to be interpreted on it's own merits too: employing a frequently symbolic word "day", stating that the universe was created prior to the creation week, symbolically speaking of evening and morning prior to the creation of the sun, and using poetic features.

            • Greg

              1) There is no exegetical basis for assuming it is figurative.

              2) You're assuming that the "Creation Week" is figurative before this point, so it cannot be used as evidence for why it is figurative. That's called circular reasoning.

              3) There is absolutely no reason to believe God was not talking about a 24-hour period. Moses isn't the only one writing the book, here.

              4) And your perception is incorrect, on this count.

              Your interpretation requires an extra-biblical explanation of "what really actually physically happened"; you are not allowing it to stand on its own. God tells us he miraculously created every freaking thing there is. I believe that, and there is absolutely no real reason to think otherwise.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              1. And there's no exegetical reasoning for insisting it is literal.

              2. No. I'm interpreting the text, which apparently you won't read. The Bible says that the heavens and the earth were created before the first day. Do you believe the Bible? There's no "circular reasoning." I'm not even talking about a figurative interpretation of the text. Read the Bible! It says that the heavens and the earth were created prior to Day 1.

              3. Again, you've apparently not taken the time to think about what I said. Please re-read or else there's no use trying to dialogue with someone who isn't listening. That "evening and morning" are mentioned for three days before the creation of the sun is not literally possible because both are astronomical events. It has nothing to do with 24 hour period but with how the sun could set and rise before it was created. It can't happen literally. So we can conclude it wasn't intended to be read literally.

              4. You haven't dealt with what I said, just rejected it. Simple, literalistic narrative typically doesn't have structures and refrains.

              No, my interpretation does not require an extra-Biblical explanation. I've confined myself on all four points to what is in the text. You're just mindlessly repeating the same fundamentalists talking points and not thinking. And you're not even reading the Bible.

              The question isn't that God created the world but how.

            • Greg

              2) Ah, misread what you meant. Still does not lead to millions of years though. In fact, there must be light for the universe to be said to function properly.

              3) God says "a day". He spoke it in a way that was meant to be understood. There is no reason for it to be anything else. If it had been another period of time, he would have said so in a non-cryptic fashion. I think. A lot. You could be accused of the exact same thing you are accusing me of.

              4) I read a lot. And I write. Poetry and novels, in fact.

              The question isn't "how", because he states that he spoke it into being in a week. I'm not repeating "talking points" any more than you are. These are my own conclusions from Scripture itself. What an ad hominem.

              My point was that your interpretation of the text did not arise until extra-biblical conclusions were made about existing evidence, conclusions that require no biblical basis and therefore are not to be trusted, as they can change.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              2. once it is seen that the Bible doesn't say that the universe was created in six days (but before the week), then the whole basis for insisting on a youth earth is gone.

              3. Again, you're not reading. I'm not speaking of the "day" (that's point #1). I'm speaking of "evening and morning". These are specific astronomical events and they require the existence of the sun. Please go back and read what I wrote.

              4. Literalistic narratives, like science texts and newspaper articles, typically do not have structures and refrains.

              Both Luther and Calvin called Copernicus a heretic because he said the earth revolves around the sun. They did so based on what they thought was a literal interpretation of the Bible. But the result was a disgrace brought on Christianity as being anti-science. Further, some Christians insisted that the world was flat because of their literalistic interpretation of some Biblical passages. When the science proved beyond a doubt that they were wrong, they had to reassess their interpretation.

              According to people who study these things, the evidence is overwhelming on the age of the universe. I know of not even one non-religious scientist who claims the universe is only thousands of years old. You can continue to ignore the science, but the likely result will only be that you embarrass the faith.

            • Nelson

              @Roger,

              You are completely wrong Roger. YEC's do not use scientific methods. They come with a priori and make the data fit what they want. A great example is YEC's use of the second law of thermodynamics. Many YEC's use this to prove the evolution is wrong. They only quote part of the law. Also spin tactics are very much used in YEC science. The common mantra, "well evolution is just a theory." This is a faulty statement as scientific theory is not the same as the laymans use of the word theory. Gravity is still a theory yet I don't see YEC's jumping off buildings saying, "oh, it's just a theory, I'll be okay."

          • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

            John,

            Indeed, fundamentalists might suffer from other problems. Also, if I'm not mistaken, Hugh Ross is a Progressive Creationist. In any event, I am not well enough acquainted with him or Schaeffer to assess how theistic evolution has negatively impacted their faith.

            However, I have dialogued with the folk at Biologos quite a bit. I have observed that their fall-back position, when pressed on Scripture, is "Well, we have to be humble about the way we interpret Scripture." In other words, they are admitting a high degree of uncertainty about the Bible. If only they were equally humble about the way they interpreted the scientific findings!

            • Roger McKinney

              Daniel, exactly. I have read a great deal of Biologos and discussed some with the people there and their epistemology is clear: Bible interpretation is nothing more than opinion; truth exists only in the natural sciences. That's why they are so careless about hermeneutics.

              Some even deny that a science of hermeneutics exists, insisting that there are many different systems of hermeneutics, none of which is superior. That is no different from the Marxist position that there are many systems of logic and therefor no truth in logic.

              However, Christian philosophers, such as Ed Fezer, prove that the knowledge gained in science is the least reliable of all types of knowledge. Knowledge gained by logic and reason is far more certain, but the only certain knowledge is revelation. I highly recommend Ed Fezer's book "The Last Superstition".

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Daniel,

              I don't know "Biologos." We do have to be "humble" when interpreting scripture but resolute on matters it is clear about. "Humble", in the mouths of some modern people, can be a code word for being relativistic. But being "resolute", in the mouths of some fundamentalists, can be a code word for being closed-minded and dogmatic about every thing they believe. My feeling is that some fundamentalists simply believe in themselves. Since the Bible is part of their heritage, they believe in the Bible. That is, they are resolute about the Bible as an expression of their assertion of themselves. This is why, when it comes to Genesis 1, they'd rather argue about literal creationism than think about the implications of creation: such as the doctrine of providence, nature being God's "other book", etc.

              There's a link to a Ross lecture above:John Carpenter April 12, 2012 at 7:56 PM.

            • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

              This is for Nelson who wrote: "You are completely wrong Roger. YEC's do not use scientific methods. They come with a priori and make the data fit what they want."

              1) It is not as if Darwinianists are without their own a priori presuppositions. They presume knowledge of events supposed to have occurred billions of years before man existed. Christian YECers have eye witnesses to the creation God and angelic, and human too from the garden of Eden onward.

              2) To examine some of the scientific methods which support the Bible record of the flood see answersingenesis.org and search te topic flood.

          • Roger McKinney

            Greg, Well said! Carpenter needs to decide if getting a degree in science heals their nature so that they become sinless. He claims that scientists are sinless in that they no longer have the nature of fallen mankind which deludes them into believing lies.

            The Bible teaches that nothing but the power of the Holy Spirit in the followers of Christ can change human nature. If the Bible is correct, then scientists are no less sinners than non-scientists and as such can be liars, deceivers and promoters of falsehoods.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              I think here you illustrate how a literalistic, fundamentalist approach to creationism is related to a lack of understanding of natural revelation. Again, I believe that fundamentalists who want to argue about creationism often do so as a cover for their lack of belief in God as creator, hence, contrary to Romans 1, nothing is clearly revealed about God in creation, only in their interpretation of scripture.

            • Greg

              That doesn't even make any sense, John. How is nothing revealed about God in creation simply because one believes in a literal Genesis? That's just absurd, and it reeks of baseless ad hominem.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              What Roger said, or at least implied, was that only a Christian with the Holy Spirit can understand anything, because everyone else is blinded by sin. But Romans 1 says that what can be known about God is clearly revealed to people. Yes, they often turn away from the truth about God but the Bible supports the idea of "natural revelation". And, that's dealing with revelation about God in nature; they are blinded to that knowledge of God because in our sins we naturally hate God. But there's no reason to suppose that a nonChristian is any less able to discern knowledge about creation. Natural revelation means that creation "speaks"; what is says about God, sinful people reject; but there's no reason to believe that anyone is unable to learn about nature from nature. Fundamentalists don't seem to really believe in natural revelation but only in special revelation, and that only as they interpret it.

              Interestingly, Karl Barth too rejected the idea of natural revelation, as do many liberals. So it seems to me that fundamentalism and liberalism are different expressions of the same presuppositional disjunction between God and the physical world. That is, both don't really believe that the world is created by God. Ironically, the fundamentalist hides that Platonic disjunction between creation and the Creator by constantly arguing about creationism.

            • Greg

              Non sequitur. "It seems to me...", but it isn't. I wouldn't call myself a "fundamentalist", but I do believe that the Bible is the infallible, inspired word of God, and that it is the best source of knowledge. You're making assumptions about the beliefs others hold.

              Creation doesn't speak anything specific about God at all--it merely speaks to his existence. I don't see how that perspective leads to a rejection of the disjunction between creation and Creator. That just doesn't follow.

              I will re-iterate: evolution could happen, were God directing it. Sure, it could happen. God can do whatever he wants to. However, it is a rejection of his Word and his "supernaturality" to try to shape it to fit our fallible perceptions of what we think happens naturally.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              It's not a "non sequitur". In the history of Western culture, Platonism asserted a disjunction between God, who is pure Spirit, and material creation which is degraded and to be escaped from. Both liberals and fundamentalists show that they are carrying on these Platonic assumptions. Both reject the idea of natural revelation.

              Romans 1 says that creation speaks not only of God's existence but of His "eternal power and divine nature." Psalm 19 says it declares God's glory.

              I don't believe there is sufficient scientific to support evolution of human beings. But scripture does not exclude it. So it is not a rejection of His Word.

            • Greg

              Scripture does exclude it. God made man from dust and breathed life directly into his lungs, then took his rib and made a woman. I don't see how that can possibly include evolution.

            • Greg

              Also, you are making assumptions about the sort of people you are conversing with in believing that I believe in a Platonic disjunction between Creator and creation. Now that I understand what you meant by that, I can speak to it.

              I believe everything God made was good. I believe it speaks of God's glory. When I step outside in the cool of the morning, the dew on the grass whispers and the sunlight shouts his praise. I entirely assent to the precept of the earth declaring God's glory, and I don't at all see how the traditional interpretation of Genesis is an example of such a disjunction.

              In fact, I believe eternity will be physical. It will be elevated, re-made, and whatnot, but it will be everything good about this place, and more. So, your comment essentially falls apart because it is baseless.

              You did not demonstrate how such a disjunction is logically necessary for the position; you merely stated a fact, that "such a disjunction exists among such and such a group". Correlation is not causation.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              That fundamentalists often have no concept of providence, that God works through nature (a conclusion of believing in creation); a shameful and degraded view of sexuality (as though God didn't create that); no concept of natural revelation; anti-intellectualism (e.g. pastors with no theological education, KJV only) which is based on the assumption that there is nothing to learn outside the Bible, etc, suggests that they have, like the culture they are in, no real understanding of God as Creator. The Puritans said that "nature was God's other book", and they were pioneers in science, because they believe nature was God's creation. One doesn't find these impulses in modern fundamentalism because rather than think about creation, they want to argue about literal creationism.

            • Greg

              Again, there's a heck of a lot of assumption in that paragraph.

              See my other comment about sovereignty.

              I believe very strongly that God made sex and sexuality. They are a wonderful, precious, special thing in the proper context.

              Not sure how to answer your comment about natural revelation because it is so obvious that it occurs.

              I have studied Greek and taken hermeneutics courses. I plan further on attending seminary shortly. I use the ESV and HCSB in my own study.

              I generally wouldn't term myself a fundamentalist; I prefer the term "Reformed". I simply see no reason at all to accept the naturalistic view on origins.

              Your blanket statements demonstrate a level of ignorance of the variance of human thinking that is astounding, on par with psychologists who believe that everything goes back to sex.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              HI Greg,

              Good about your beliefs, especially being "Reformed". Go to a good seminary, like Southern, TEDS, Fuller, etc.

              Since you resorted to an insult, I'll state a fact: I'm much more knowledgeable and educated than you are. If you want to learn, learn.

            • Greg

              I did not mean it as an insult--merely as a statement of fact. Your comments demonstrate an attitude of one who likes to categorize people, and fails to acknowledge that his categories are insufficient to describe all cases and are essentially useless in this scenario. Stating what a group thinks sometimes is irrelevant to the discussion, and seems to demonstrate an attitude more concerned with distancing oneself from a particular group than it is with being accurate. I may be wrong though.

              Perhaps you are more educated, perhaps you are more knowledgeable; those things, however, do not make one correct. The Pope is quite knowledgeable, and quite educated, I'm sure. As is the Ayatolleh Khomeini. Barack Obama. Stephen Hawking. All knowledgeable, intelligent, well educated individuals. I don't agree with them on various topics though, often times the very topics they claim expertise in.

              I do want to learn even more, and I will learn, by God's grace.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              If you want to know why evangelicalism is declining (if it is), then generalizations are useful. Generalizations can be accurate, generally!

            • Greg

              Eh, true. We had pretty much changed the topic though :p

              I like you, John. You seem like a godly, honest man. I do apologize for my insulting comment earlier.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              Thanks! I think you're alright too and heading in the right direction.

              I think YEC is relevant to the decline of American Christianity because, as someone pointed out, the orthodox 19th century Princeton theologians didn't have a problem with old earth. John Stott, in his Romans commentary on chapter 5, suggests even that there could have been an evolution of a hominid with one being made into Adam by having God's Spirit in him, etc. Such people understand creation, providence, and what are truly the essentials of the faith: God as creator but not literal creationism. Modern fundamentalists won't accept this and end up fighting all the wrong battles. Perhaps it's just their hot-headedness. But I tend to think it has to do that they share the basic presuppositions of liberals, rather than being truly Biblical in their assumptions. Of course, that's a sweeping generalization and, like most generalizations, there are a lot of exceptions.

            • Greg

              Well sorry to disappoint you, but I'm not headed in any direction as regards origins. I simply meant to say that I respect you. I still disagree lol.

    • Albert Nygren

      Stephen is correct. The teaching of the Universe coming into being by accident from nothing in the so called "Big Bang" theory and the teaching that life came about by accident from dead matter and the "Evolved" into all life on earth and the teaching of all this as fact; has been disastrous to the realization of the truth that God created the entire Universe, all life and remains in absolute control of His Creation.

      This is definitely part of an organized effort to remove the belief in God from American life. Our "President" Barak Obama says that our country, "Is not and has never been a Christian country. The Secular Humanist Manifesto says that Christianity is one of the most vile belief systems on Earth and has to be ruthlessly removed from existence. The ACLU has sued and threatened to sue cities and states to remove any connection of Christ or the cross from their names and official seals.

      One thing to remember is that when Stalin took over Russia and the Communists took over China, the first thing they did was to ruthlessly remove any trace of belief in God and oppressed any who resisted this. There are people who would like to do this to our Country such as Obama and the left wing Liberal Elite.

      Again, I agree with Stephen that if a person who calls himself a Christian cannot accept the most basic message from God that He created all there is and we owe our love, gratitude, and allegiance to Him; then you can see why so many "Christians" are disdainful of any and all other teachings given to us by God in His Holy Word, The Holy Bible.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        You've conflated scientific theories with theological interpretation of them. The Big Bang and evolution are scientific theories. About the age of the universe, see Hugh Ross' "Reason's to Believe" ministry. The theories posit how the universe and life came about. To interpret them as accidents, is an atheistic interpretation and not necessarily called for in the theories themselves. One could interpret them as the means Providence used.

        • Greg

          One only needs interpret the evidence such that the theories are an acceptable explanation at all if one denies the supernatural nature of God. Therefore, I see the theories as absolutely unnecessary. They were only developed in the first place to allow room for an entirely naturalistic perspective.

          Modern "science" is not ideologically neutral. They come to their theoretical conclusions because of their presuppositions. As I reject their presuppositions, I need not accept their conclusions, and I do not.

          • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

            While I agree that science is not ideologically neutral, those conclusions are, ironically, essentially Christian: that nature is God's "other book". It's when one takes God out of the picture that science becomes impossible or meaningless -- hence the rise of "chaos theory", etc.

            Such things as the speed of light, the rate of radiological decay, erosion, etc. Are empirical and not ideologically laden. It's when one assumes that simply because a process can be explained naturally -- such as the development of the solar system -- that that is all there is to it. Such as when Carl Sagan asserted his dogma that "the cosmos is all there ever was, all there is, and all there ever will be." That's the interpretation. The Christian interpretation is that "The heavens declare the glory of God" (Ps. 19).

            Your position leads to an out-right rejection of science and thus to a rejection in God as the creator of the natural world, God's "other book".

            • Greg

              No, it really doesn't. I never rejected science as such; I reject naturalistic assumptions that lead to scientific understanding being seen as superior. Indeed, it is the exact opposite--special revelation is the penultimate superior means of knowledge of truth.

              The scientific evidence can be interpreted multiple ways based on your presuppositions, as you said. In addition, even though revelation is indeed superior to the "other book", there is NOTHING within the realm of scientific knowledge that inherently contradicts YEC. It is ALL about your presuppositions about the precedence of sources of knowledge.

              I'm a computer science student. I'm not an unscientific person at all. However, scientific knowledge-gathering has its limits, and origins lie beyond them.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              A naturalistic assumption, like Sagan, is saying that because science can show a "Big Bang" or the development of galaxies, that those events happened purely by natural laws that developed by themselves.

              What you are suggesting, is that because people like Sagan, have evidence for the development of the universe, that you're rejecting their evidence because you don't like their assumptions.

              There is no evidence for a young earth. That's why you don't find non-religious scientists coming to that conclusion.

            • Greg

              No, I'm rejecting their conclusion from the evidence because I don't accept their assumptions at all.

              Again, thought, it really doesn't matter whether non-religious scientists come to that conclusion or not. There's no evidence for an old earth either--it is merely a conclusion based on the presupposition that there is no God or that He can't do whatever the heck he wants to do.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              According to Hugh Ross, linked above, there is more scientific evidence for an old earth than there is evidence that the earth is round.

              Both Luther and Calvin called Copernicus a heretic because he said the earth revolves around the sun. They did so based on what they thought was a literal interpretation of the Bible. But the result was a disgrace brought on Christianity as being anti-science. I suppose you would have insisted that Copernicus has no evidence and that his conclusion is a product of his naturalistic assumptions (even though he was a Christian.)

              Creation contains evidence. It tells us that the universe is billions of years old, with the light form distant galaxies, the radioactive deterioration of elements, etc. You either have to believe God created the universe with signs of age and expects us to interpret the Bible literally or that our interpretation has been wrong.

            • Greg

              Why yes, you've hit the nail on the head there. I do believe that portions of the Bible intended to be taken literally (portions not written as poetry) should be taken as such, and that the earth was created with signs of old age. Didn't you catch that from my earlier statements?

              Further, the mere existence of a previous case that you believe to be similar doesn't have any bearing on the current conversation, logically. Your supposition is meaningless. You would have to demonstrate exactly which passage they thought literally meant that the sun went around the earth, and why such an interpretation was arrived at. Then you would have to demonstrate that I am applying the same principles of interpretation. You can't just make such a comparison and expect it to stand and everyone just say "Yeah, okay, I see now."

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              "Those who do not learn from history are doomed to repeat it." As with the flat earth and the geocentric solar system, otherwise faithful Christians insisted that a literal interpretation of scripture required believing in those things. You can keep repeating the mistakes of the past, or you can learn from them and stop pressing figurative passages, written in a time when poetry and figures of speech were common, for what you assume to be a literal reading (although you forgot about the first 2 verses of the Bible).

              To say that God created the universe with signs of age in it is to suggest that He purposely sought to deceive us or to bizarrely test our faith.

            • Greg

              Well it wouldn't be the first time (well, okay, I suppose it technically would be, but it wouldn't be the only time) he did something that was intentionally cryptic if not outright deceptive-seeming. Jesus did so in his parables.

              By contrast, by the same token, the same could be said of Scripture if the old-earth perspective is taken.

  • AStev

    I suspect #4 is the primary reason, and #s 1-3 are ex post facto rationalizations, and I do agree that Newbigin's approach is compatible. Enlightenment ideas provide people the "cover" they seek, after they have already decided to be their own autonomous authority. Like Adam & Eve choosing to sin and then realizing their nakedness, there is something in the human heart that knows the foolishness of sin, and yet, rather than repent, would rather clothe itself in tattered rags.

  • Greg

    In regards to Stephen's comment, I would add to it that the existence of the theory of evolution as it pertains to origins is due entirely to speculation in light of a purely naturalistic worldview, one in which there is no room for God or his inspired word.

    Once accepted as God's inspired word, however, the Scripture explains the supernatural origins of mankind in the historical account found within the first few pages of Genesis. There is therefore no need, nay, not even any justification, for a believer to accept the theory of evolution as a legitimate explanation of origins.

    Inherited mutations combined with natural selection that lead to variation within a kind? Sure. We know as much happens, and have known ever since humans began breeding animals. Origins, however, are not a matter of scientific inquiry, any more than the resurrection is.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Why are not origins a matter of scientific inquiry? You're just assuming that it is a matter of miracle and not Providence? Do you believe in providence? Science?

      • Greg

        I believe the scientific method is useful sometimes. I believe in Providence, so much so that it scares people sometimes. I am a firm believer in the sovereignty of God. God made the world and is literally holding it up as we speak, moving all the little parts, directing human hearts, orchestrating every event to his own glory.

        The reason they are not is because we cannot know for certain just from the evidence exactly what occurred. We need someone to tell us what happened, someone who was there.

        Miracle is merely "Providence" that breaks natural law. God is always sovereign, always directing everything. Romans 9 is perhaps my favorite passage of Scripture :)

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          I agree with all that. I think from God's point of view (which is the truth) the difference between miracle and providence is insignificant if not non-existent. And this is what helps us see the problem with the naturalistic world-view, which doesn't allow for miracle, and the Platonic (spirit vs. nature, Barthian, Deistic, etc) one that makes an inseparable disjunction between them. The later live in the world just as the naturalists do.

          But anything is a matter of scientific inquiry to which there is evidence in nature, such as the age of the universe.

        • Greg

          Yeah, that's the thing about miracles, I totally agree with you there.

          Thing is, I see the creation of the world much like the resurrection, and I see no reason to see it otherwise. There is evidence, possibly, still lying around--however, any conclusions about the events themselves without an eyewitness account are untrustworthy. That is why it is not a matter of scientific inquiry.

          Past events cannot be experimented with or observed. Processes that attempt to mimic past events may be observed, but there is no reason to assume that the mimicry represents what actually happened, especially when one allows for the supernatural, which may have stepped in miraculously at any point and done something differently, especially when the text AT LEAST allows for such an occurrence (or, as in my mind, requires it).

          • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

            Look into Hugh Ross' "Reasons to Believe" linked above.

            Anything that happened (or happens) is a matter for "scientific inquiry". Even the resurrection. If scientists could produce the corpse of Jesus, that would disprove the resurrection with science. But they can't because it really happened in history -- history itself being a kind of science, the documentation of what happened in the past.

            Since scientists can prove the age of the universe, that's something that is a matter of scientific inquiry.

  • http://www.speculativefaith.com E. Stephen Burnett

    Greg's thought leads to my comment: the fact that, contrary to all his solid Gospel basis and Biblical exposition, Pastor Keller seems to have reacted to malinformed "creationist" advocates, and chosen to throw the whole thing out in favor of de facto acceptance of anti-God origins worldviews that are masquerading as "science."

    (Source: the recent BioLogos convention in New York, which Keller had attended, recently covered in Christianity Today.)

    I say this not to troll, to blast Pastor Keller, to question anyone's faith or ministry, or to advocate any kind of spiritual Separationism. That would be plain old silly! Rather, I simply suggest: that Keller is too cool and moreover, too Biblical, for that kind of nonsense (which is not by itself heresy, but is darn close). Please don't be intimidated by anti-God origins religions that take the guise of "science." Also vital: apply your same emphasis on Gospel-driven exegesis to the book of Genesis.

  • Nyasha

    Hi I'm from zimbabwe. I'm really saddened by the direction in which your country is going especially at a time when more people than ever are seeking God in my own country. I pray that people in the US may realise their mistakes and get back to worshiping the only true God whatever their reasons for turning away from Him in the first place may be.

    • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

      @Nyasha: Wonderful news from Zimbabwe. Thank you for your prayers for us!

      • Daniel

        It is nothing to do with HIM that more and more people in 3rd world countries are developing faiths. The real fact is that the christian missionaries pumping money to the 3rd world countries including my country India when they have failed in the developed countries. There is a saying in Africa “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

        Bishop Desmond Tutu

    • william brown

      Amen Nyasha.

      We have much to learn from the African church. We are largly too fat and happy. Our lack of suffering and persecution has resulted in complacency.

    • Susan

      Nyasha,

      I think that a major problem is that the evangelical church has fallen near-silent in the area of evangelism. The church is distracted by postmodern priorities and verbal proclamation had died down. In an effort to be well thought of in the culture many churches put all of their eggs in the good-deed-doing basket and forget to do the more difficult task of preaching the true gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ....as is being done so much in Africa!

      Also there is so much confusion and discussing which redefines the very gospel itself. If the church isn't clear on the gospel it's not in a very good position to proclaim it!

      Keep praying for us dear brother!

  • scott price

    The reason for decline is due to the lack of dependence on God and a seeking after God. If you follow Christ, you will also see a decline in the numbers in the "church institutional" but for all the right reasons.

  • Jens

    The next step should be an comparative analysis of church declines in North-America and Western Europe. I have not read the books refered by Keller but their analyses appear local(US). I think a comparative analysis could add additional insights. I hope some one has the capacity and resources to do such an analysis in the future - or do anyone know of existing comparative studies?

    • http://jotsandtittles.wordpress.com/ Raj Rao

      You read my mind Jens. That was exactly my thought as I was scrolling down.

      I am not a historian but ... My suspicion is that what took place in Europe was a full scale assault on the veracity of the Bible. In the US, there was at least a battle for the Bible - the Fundamentalist/Modernist Controversy. In Europe this never really happened in a substantial way.

      The unfortunate thing with the attack on the Bible that took place in Europe is that today we look at the darts thrown at the Bible by the likes of Strauss, etc... and see how mediocre they are. We can respond now... but the damage has already been done. As Jude said... contend for the faith once delivered, but there is also an time and place for that.

      All that said the Church in the U.S. is still strong enough to effect a cultural U-turn. We must pray and fast for the nation. As for Europe - in many countries such as the Scandinavian ones, there is a resurgence in Apologetics. Praise God!

  • Michele

    I moved a lot in my life causing me to attend many different kinds of Christian churches. The primary problem that I encounter with most churches is that they are not Christ-centered. I have sat through many services in many different so called Christian churches during which Christ was never mentioned. Another problem that most churches have is that they don't readily offer baptism. Some churches claim that a person has to go through some kind of classes to prove their faith to some other person before being allowed to be baptized...as if some pastor has the authority to deem a person worthy of salvation or not rather than God. Some churches only offer baptism if people seek out the right person at the right time and make an appointment to be baptized. What happened to running down to the river to save souls? Why do Christian churches set up so many barriers and/or deterrents to being baptized? I have been a Christian all of my life but am hard pressed to find any church within a 20 mile radius that actually preaches simple Christianity which is Christ and baptism.

    Let's talk about the real problem with Christianity though. Catholicism teaches that the pope stands between us and Christ and, unfortunately, many other Christian sects follow that lie. Preachers stand in Christ's place and deem whether people are worthy of membership or baptism or acceptance. Christ has been replaced by mere humans in most Christian churches. People are expected to follow the pastor or elders rather than Christ. But did you know that churches that do that are following after idolatry and false religions? Did you know that research indicates that Simon the Sorcerer from the book Acts founded Catholicism? If Catholicism is a Babylonian religion and if most Christian churches are derived from or try to imitate Catholicism then most Christian Churches are following after Babylonian religions of idolatry. This video describes the root of the problem with most Christian churches:
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wUT4j0Oy1RM

    • Melody

      Michelle you need to research your denominations better instead of going on rumor.

      • Michele

        Well, at least you can't feign ignorance now and say that nobody ever told you that Catholicism is a false religion. In fact, I'll be your witness. If you choose to continue to participate in Catholicism's idolatry then you now do so knowingly.

    • bob

      Michelle, I share your experiences with Christ-less "Christianity".

      • Michele

        Most Christian churches have forsaken their first love. Rev 2:4

        I'm not a Christian because I want to follow after some fallible man or woman. I'm a Christian because I follow Christ. Any man or woman that tries to come between me and Christ is practicing idolatry. Any person that allows another person to stand between him/her and Christ is practicing idolatry.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      I agreed with the first comment about churches not being Christ-centered and then you went down-hill from there. Our problem isn't that we ask people to be disciples first before being baptized. Baptism is for disicples, not people who "run down to the river to get saved." And as much as I disagree with Catholicism, it wasn't founded by Simon the sorcerer. That's complete nonsense.

  • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

    I can't wait to read this book.

  • Charles Grinn

    The church is still the church. Those who have left were never the church to begin with.

    Also, Roman Catholicism is not a problem for christianity. They aren't christians. They are a problem for themselves.

    • Michele

      However, I believe that Catholicism and the Vatican, in particular, will be a problem for the true Christian church in the days to come. I have read many articles that lead me to believe that the Vatican is actively trying to establish a one world religion based on Judaism, Christianity, and Islam by deceiving people into believing that Yahweh, Yeshua, and allah are all the same being even though allah rejects Christ in the Koran. Allah actually tells Muslims that anybody that claims that Christ is the son of God deserves to be murdered. This is how we know that Allah is not the same being as Christ's Father. Christ's Holy Father would not tell some to follow Christ but yet tell others to kill Christ's followers. Christ's Father would not say thou shalt not murder but then tell others that its okay to murder. Christ's Father and allah are not the same being. We have every reason to believe though that this great deception will be presented by the Vatican. Therefore, I believe that the Church needs to identify Catholicism's lies, as well as Islam's, Hinduism's, etc., in order to help true Christians to steer clear of the one world religion's deception of universalism. The primary problem with a lot of Christian churches is idolatry and it is with idolatry that the Vatican deceives many into following after antichrists. Many Christians have already stopped following Christ and instead follow after idols that take the forms of popes, priests, pastors, preachers, Mary, saints, angels, antichrists, false gods, demons, and deceiving spirits.

      1 Timothy 4:1 The Spirit clearly says that in later times some will abandon the faith and follow deceiving spirits and things taught by demons.

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  • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

    Because religion became, and has become, irrelevant. It's primarily Christianity's own fault.

    • Michele

      It's primarily Catholicism's fault but Catholicism in not Christianity. Catholicism is paganism/idolatry so, yes, it's primarily idolatry/paganism's fault. Religion has always been and still is relevant and you will see that when the Vatican presents its new and improved one world religion with which it intends to rule and control the world. Religion is very much a part of the E.U. and Vatican's plan to establish a new world order. The E.U. and Vatican are just revamping the same old emperor/pope/pharaoh playing dress up as gods routine though.

      • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

        What a load of crap.

      • James Rednour

        Michele, you are either a troll or you need to seek help. Either way, you demean your fellow brothers and sisters in Christ. The Bible says that "If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you shall be saved." Almost all the Catholics I know fit those two criteria, so Paul says they have been saved. Why do you think you know better?

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          James, it takes more than a superficial profession to be saved. One has to "believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead". That living faith in the heart will show in certain serious ways, like refusing to worship idols (including those of Mary and Francis of Assisi.) Much of what Michele writes about the EU and papal conspiracy theory is complete nonsense. But it's also nonsense to make salvation only a matter of a nominal confession.

          • James Rednour

            Of course, John. A life that does not reflect the teachings of Christ is not one that has expressed true repentance. Luckily, many Catholics live those types of lives just as many Reformed Protestants do not. I doubt titles and denominational labels matter much to a God that can see the human heart.

  • James Rednour

    As a former devout Protestant (Southern Baptist, specifically) who is now comfortably agnostic about the idea of God, I can add an anecdote. The ever-increasing knowledge we are gaining through science and archaeology is enough to convince anyone with an open mind that the Bible is not a reliable historical text. For example, research into the human genome clearly shows that humans and chimpanzees share a common ancestor (human chromosome #2) and recent archaeological finds have shown that the Israelites were actually of Canaanite origin. As the Biblical narrative continues to be shown to be incorrect from an historical perspective, the entire Christian story is becoming an increasingly difficult position to hold for many.

    • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

      Well, from a fundamentalist perspective, at least.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      James, you don't know what you're talking about. The man who lead the research into the human genome, Francis Collins, is an evangelical Christianity and wrote a book about it, called "The Language of God." Read it. That the Israelites first lived in Canaan is also the teaching of the Bible. (Abraham, Isaac, & Jacob lived there.) That they were of "Canaanite origin" is not something that archaeology could really discover. You're simply misinformed.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      I think James illustrates one of the causes of the decline of Christianity in America: the rise of overtly hostile, anti-Christian propaganda masquerading as scholarship.

      • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

        Actually, I think you illustrate it - appeals to the 'teaching of the Bible', rejection of evidence, calling legitimate research propaganda.

        • Greg

          I love how you just assume that the research James is referring to is legitimate. For the Christian, the "teaching of the Bible" is indeed the ultimate authority. Granted, it is up to us to utilize proper interpretive technique in seeking the appropriate meaning, though.

          Furthermore, John here doesn't "appeal" to the teaching of the Bible so much as explain and defend it. Nor is he necessarily rejecting evidence--so much as particular interpretations of that evidence that do not jive with Scripture.

          • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

            Have you read the book he's referring to? It is indeed legitimate research - I may disagree with their conclusions but that certainly doesn't mean it's not real research.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Unless I missed something, James Rednour doesn't refer to any specific book. (I did.) He just assumed that the scientific research supports agnosticism. The leading scientist on the human genome disagrees.

          • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

            The thesis RE the Cannanites/Israelites was put forward in a hefty book by two scholars roughly 10 years ago, so no, he's not just assuming 'the scientific research supports agnosticism.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Joshua, yes he is. He's assuming that the "hefty book" is true and the Bible is false. Why would he assume that? And then there was the human genome stuff which obviously he knew nothing about.

            • James Rednour

              My goal was not to disprove the Bible; it was to put forth and anecdote specifying a reason why I am no longer an evangelical Christian. The book which details the research that leads to the conclusion that Israelites were of Canaanite origin is here: http://www.amazon.com/The-Bible-Unearthed-Archaeologys-Ancient/dp/0684869136. This thesis is quickly being accepted as the de facto origin of the nation of Israel by a majority of Hebrew archaeologists. It is largely the evangelical Christian community which is resistant to accepting the idea that all of the Bible prior to David and Solomon is on shaky ground from an historical perspective.

              And I'm well aware of Francis Collins. I just think he's coming to the wrong conclusions. We see what we want to see, and disregard those things which we are predisposed to ignore. Believe me, I've been doing it for about 30 years, and I'm through with that. All Collins' beliefs tell me is that it is possible for a person to hold two completely opposite beliefs and act as if both are true. I believe Orwell called this doublethink.

              Regardless, I don't care what you believe John. I have no desire to pull you into the agnostic/atheist camp. If your life is better because you have faith in Christ, then I am happy for you. All that any human wants is contentment and freedom from suffering. If you find that in Christianity that is a good thing, IMO.

            • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

              Mr. Rednour,
              I think the reason the evangelical community is reluctant to accept that idea may have a bit to do with the fact that it's bunk.
              I'm glad to hear you admit; however, that that you see what you want to see.
              You cite "freedom from suffering" as a basic human desire, and I think that isn't true for Christians. An acceptance of suffering as part of the human existence is actually a very Christian concept. We rejoice in the suffering we experience (quite contrary to what atheist/agnostics do which is try everything to get away from suffering) because we know God is using it for a reason. If I wanted freedom from suffering, I would not be a Christian.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Heather, you're right that it's bunk. The synopsis of the book I read doesn't show that is presents anything new at all, the same ideas that I heard in an Old Testament Survey 101 class in college almost 30 years ago. It's nothing but inferences based on assumptions, themselves based on the presupposition that the Bible isn't reliable. Hardly the stuff to base a life on. And his rejection of Francis Collins is just hubris, as though he knows the implications of science better than a leading scientist. A leading British atheist, Antony Flew, became a believer in God based on the reality of DNA, that it's too complicated to have formed by chance.

              As for suffering, I agree with you as far as this life is concerned. But in the long-term, I'm with John Piper, that the Christian life is, ultimately, the happiest and most free of suffering.

            • James Rednour

              Heather, you call the research bunk but I'm sure you've not read it or familiarized yourself with it. In fact, there IS no amount of evidence to sway most fundamentalist Christians which is why we see so many who still believe the universe is only 7000 years old when that is clearly an impossibility given what we now know about the universe. The one thing that has the potential to sway many Christians away from the faith in mass numbers is finding life on another world, Enceladus for instance. That discovery, which I believe will happen within the next twenty years, would shake the foundations of Christianity far beyond any other scientific discovery in history. Still, there are some for whom nothing could sway them from their faith in the Christian God.

              As for your second point, Christians endure suffering in this life with the idea that they will not suffer in the next. Now that is not the ONLY reason people follow Christ, but it is always lurking in the background.

            • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

              Mr. Rednour: Are you sure about that? Quite sure? You know me and know what I've read or not read? Interesting...

              I'm very confused as to WHY life on another "world" would sway anyone's faith. If God made life in this world, I'm sure He could make it elsewhere. I have no problem with that. I kind of...doubt it, and now immediately think "Oh you are one of 'those' people." But if that happened it wouldn't affect my belief.

            • James Rednour

              "A leading British atheist, Antony Flew, became a believer in God based on the reality of DNA, that it's too complicated to have formed by chance."

              Not really. We just haven't gotten to the point where we understand the processes yet. Keep in mind, Watson and Crick only discovered DNA a mere 59 years ago. We're still at the infancy stage of our understanding. BTW, scientists have already synthesized the basic ingredients of RNA in the lab. Give it another decade or so...

            • James Rednour

              "Mr. Rednour: Are you sure about that? Quite sure? You know me and know what I've read or not read? Interesting..."

              I never said I was sure of anything. I said it "had the potential" to sway many Christians away. Finding microscopic life on a barren moon like Enceladus would seal the deal for the case for abiogensis and would strongly hint that life could spontaneously appear in many places in the universe. Many Christians would disagree and say that God had a reason for creating said life, but that would be a weak argument for many and would further the image of Christians as people opposed to discovery and the furthering of human knowledge.

            • Greg

              Yeah, life on another planet wouldn't change my mind. I've always said, "It just means God created life elsewhere as well." It is doubtful, in my mind, but if such a discovery were to be made, cool story. The assumption that life was ONLY created on earth, upon which you hinge your belief that Christians would leave the church en masse if life elsewhere were discovered, is not justified by Scripture. It's highly unlikely, in my opinion, that life exists elsewhere, however, if it does, it will come as no surprise.

              As to "what we know about the universe"... there really is no reason for that to disprove God if you believe in him... as a Christian, you believe in a supernatural God. Since he is the creator God, the infinite, supernatural being he is, and can do whatever the heck he wants to, there is nothing about this universe that would surprise me. There's no reason at all that the universe has to be older than 7000 years. For all we know, he could have made it in such a way that it is as if large quantities of time have passed. For all we know, enormous galactic processes could have been moving at a different speed in the past.

            • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

              "We're still at the infancy stage of our understanding. BTW, scientists have already synthesized the basic ingredients of RNA in the lab. Give it another decade or so..." Aaahhh the zealous faith of the atheist. You have to give them credit, if they have presented with facts they stand firm against them until someone comes up with a reason to reject them.

            • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

              Mr. Rednour: Sorry you misunderstood me. When I asked if you were "quite sure" it was in response to you saying you were sure I hadn't read The Bible Unearthed. It seemed interesting that you could make that statement without knowing what I read.

              No. Seriously. No one would care about life on other planets. I mean, I'd care. Like Greg said, cool story. But it would just mean that God had a reason to create life there too. Not to say we shouldn't...exchange information with said life...if we find it. Or learn more about them. That would be neat, and I'm sure we could learn a lot. God's pretty amazing giving us so much to discover and so much creative ability.

            • James Rednour

              Anyway, I've enjoyed the discussion. My goal was not to dissuade anyone from their faith or to defend my unbelief; it was simply to add to the discussion about why many, including myself, are deserting Christianity. I don't think there is anything wrong with Christian faith. In fact, I think it provides comfort for millions of people even though I believe it to be false. It would shock many here to know that I have taught - and still do to this day -Bible study at a Reformed church for over twenty years. I am a deacon in my church and have served as chairman several times in the past and even served as chairman of a pastor search team at my church that called a new pastor. I still attend regularly and still find satisfaction in helping others work out their faith. No one would know I don't believe the superstitious aspects of the faith anymore, and I think that given my standing at my church that it would be detrimental to the faith of many if they did know. Every person has to work out their faith on their own terms, just as I have.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi James Rednour, You don't know Christianity very well at all if you think discovering life on another planet would shake confidence in it. C.S. Lewis' science fiction trilogy, both contained extra-terrestrial life and was written as a defense of Christianity.

              You've assumed a simplistic understanding of the faith which from the outset excludes the doctrine of Creation and providence, that God can work through natural means. You assume that if there are natural laws then God is not behind or working through them. This is why you think Francis Collins has to be resorting to "doublethink" to be both a Christian and a scientist. You presuppositionally exclude the idea that God created the laws of nature and uses them. You should have read Francis Schaeffer earlier. You have no understanding of the Biblical worldview.

              Further, as for the age of the earth, see the ministry, Reasons to Believe, with Hugh Ross.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi James, assuming your account about being a deacon in a church is true, that means, besides being an apostate, you're a total fake, a liar, a fraud, and a traitor. I don't mean those to be insults in any way. They are simply objective descriptions of the kind of person who on the one hand intellectually rejects the truth of Christianity (without really understanding it) and then continues as a member, even having a say in the organized expression of the faith that you inwardly oppose. Please, either convert to Christ or at least have the integrity to be true to yourself and leave the church. Please stop the double-life.

            • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

              Mr. Rednour: You said "I still attend regularly and still find satisfaction in helping others work out their faith. No one would know I don't believe the superstitious aspects of the faith anymore, and I think that given my standing at my church that it would be detrimental to the faith of many if they did know."

              Wow-a! I agree with @John Carpenter's assessment of what you are doing. I can't believe you'd just admit that. I hope you are just making that up for the purpose of discussion...or something. I'd rather you lie to some faceless people on the internet than people who would call you a friend.

              However, it may please you to know that if the faith of those you are misleading and wretchedly lying to, is a true faith, it won't be shaken by all your deceit and ill-treatment of them.

            • James Rednour

              John, you're a pretty nasty person. In this thread you have managed to call me misinformed, a person who doesn't know what he's talking about, a traitor, a fake, a liar, a fraud and an apostate. OK, that last one is true. You make atheists look like friendly reasonable people by comparison. Anyway, you opinions don't matter a whit to me as neither of us knows anything about the other. I wish nothing but good for you, and I mean that. My choices are my own and I have very good reasons for them, and I know there are many others just like me who comfortably live as Christians who reject the aspects of Christianity for which there is no evidence or which require you to discount things that are self-evident in the world in order to keep the faith.

            • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

              Mr. Rednour: So what! You called him nasty. Guess you are now even.
              And what else do you expect? You just told us you serve as a deacon in your church and basically show a false face to those around you. What else is that other than a fraud and a liar? Those who pretend to be Christians while "rejecting aspects of Christianity" are also frauds and liars.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi James,

              No, I'm not "nasty." I said what I said because they are objectively true. I have three theological degrees, including a Ph.D. and I used all of my descriptions of you not as pejoratives but as accurate statements. If you were just an atheist expressing your faith in a self-created universe, that would be one thing. (Absurd but not morally hypocritical, etc.) But that you reportedly take part in the organization who's faith you oppose -- implicitly lying to the church that you uphold their faith -- is diabolical and . . . "nasty."

          • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

            I'm not going to argue about what this guy was/wasn't assuming. Maybe he was convinced that evidence showed that aspects of the Old Testament narratives didn't happen in the way they are traditionally conceived, or didn't happen at all. So what? That's the last thing I'd lose any sleep about.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          Hi Joshua, Actually I'm the one who cited legitimate research (Francis Collins' "The Language of God"). And simply assuming that the teaching of the Bible is not a source of knowledge, is the problem. People like Christopher Hitechens, Dawkins, Bill Maher, Bart Erhman, etc., say things that they claim are founded on "legitimate research" but are not, or are at best highly debated.

          • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

            Why is Collins book legitimate but the Cannanite thesis not?

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Joshua,

              Francis Collins was the leader of the mapping of the human genome and is (last I heard) the head of the National Institutes of Health. He doesn't cite any specific scholarship supporting some kind of archaeological evidence for Canaanite origins of Israel. I don't even see how archaeology could possibly do that. It could prove that Israelites lives in Canaan prior the time in Egypt but since the Bible already teaches that, that would be no surprise. How could it prove that Israel originated from Canaanites? Dig up a written text saying so. And then, why would you believe what was dug up rather than the Bible which is also an ancient text.

            • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

              That doesn't really answer my question.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Yes, it does answer your question. Collins' book is legitimate because it's legitimate research by a competent scholar. You've cited no book (by name) and offered no reason how an archaeologist could prove the Canaanite origins of Israelites or why their conclusions should be accepted over against the Bible. And so, we're back to my point: the proliferation of anti-Christian propaganda masquerading as "research" -- or sometimes, real research misunderstood and turned into anti-Chrisitan propaganda which if a Christian says he disagrees with becomes the basis for him being attacked as a mindless fundamentalist.

            • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

              No, I haven't cited any book. It's easy enough to google it if you wanted to take a look at it- took me roughly 5 seconds.

              http://bit.ly/HxSEM9

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Since you didn't give me the name of the book, it would have been difficult to google. The synopsis I read makes it appear as if the book doesn't offer anything new; no questions that a good Old Testament Survey book would probably handle, like LaSor, Hubbard, Bush. But the larger point is, again, the new propaganda; the insistence that everything new that questions the Bible has to be accepted as fact until otherwise refuted -- like Bill Maher categorically stating that the gospels weren't written by eyewitnesses (probably something he picked up from Bart Ehrman). That very disposition -- that the Bible is false until proven true and everything that questions it is vice versa -- is really nothing but presuppositional disbelief, which is a fancy word for apostasy.

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  • http://andrewtlocke.wordpress.com andrewtlocke

    Christianity is on the decline in the West because Christians don't take Christ seriously. If Christians took Christ seriously they would be about the business of:

    "Go and make disciples...baptizing them...and teaching them all that I have commanded (including the command I just gave you)" Matt 28:19-20 para.

    Douthat's analysis seems more like it is dealing with symptoms rather than root causes. The bottom line for me is that people WANT Christianity to go away, even Christians do. But, instead of saying so, they simply continue the game, the routine, of Sunday morning. They are not on mission with Christ, they do not see his commands as all-encompassing, they do not see that he owns them. the Christian Church has become little more than a social club for many a "believer" and the shallow messages coming from the pulpits, which masquerade as sermons, challenge no one to live a life worthy of the name of the one who has called us, but instead give us twelve steps and four points, and here's why you shouldn't worry about what Jesus said to the rich young ruler.

    The preachers and pastors in our churches are responsible for this destruction of the Word of God, capitulating to every wind that blows, even the slightest breeze which questions the truthfulness and validity of the Scriptures. 2 Timothy 3:1-7 and 2 Timothy 4:3-5 are at work here. It is simple. There are a thousand and one symptoms of this. The enlightenment, Liberalism, whatever. Paul told Timothy this would happen, we should not be surprised, but we should be responding with lives and words on mission to draw people back to God. Do you hear that? It's God's wake-up call to the Church.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi, I largely agree with you. See the article linked below. However, don't blame the pastors themselves. They don't appoint themselves to their pastorates. They are selected by the people in the churches because many of those people want superficial messages. Blaming the pastors for the decline of the churches is like blaming the politicians for the decline of the government. But who votes for the politicians?

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    From a church history point of view, the analysis sounds too short-sighted (but I could be wrong, just based on the review). For a long-term view of the decline of evangelicalism in America, see: THE FOURTH GREAT AWAKENING OR APOSTASY: IS AMERICAN EVANGELICALISM CYCLING UPWARDS OR SPIRALING DOWNWARDS? (JETS 44/4 (December 2001) 647–70) http://www.etsjets.org/files/JETS-PDFs/44/44-4/44-4-PP647-70_JETS.pdf

    • william brown

      Good stuff in ETS John.

      Now I have yet another great publication I must add to my teetering reading pile! :)

  • Ali J Griffiths

    From reading these comments I suspect that the reason the world doesn't take Christians seriously is their love of chasing red herrings, arguing about secondary issues and standing on judgement on each other. It's hard for ME to take you seriously and at least some of you commentating are my siblings in Christ.

  • http://www.thedoorcfc.com Harold Warner

    The trend today from Newsweek to Christian authors is to discuss "Why Is Christianity In Decline?" I know that "judgment must first begin at the house of God" and God knows we all need to grow in Christ-likeness. But, instead of this steady stream of self-analysis (what's wrong with me?) maybe we should pause and ask WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD? The Gospel and the church, warts and all, is still God's answer for a sin-sickened world.

    • william brown

      ..."maybe we should pause and ask WHAT'S WRONG WITH THE WORLD?"

      Of course there's a pretty easy answer. I recall GK Chesterton's answer to this question (as he wrote in response to a letter writer in his daily news)........

      "I am".

  • http://www.redeemer.com Tim Keller

    Hi John Carpenter --
    I don't think Douthat's analysis is too short-sighted. Niebuhr's excellent essay "The Independence of the Church". indicates that the church throughout its history has continually had cycles of health and growth and then doctrinal and spiritual decline. Those cycles go back to the beginning and they have many features in common--worldliness, the corruption of power, and so on. But each one of those cycles also has specific and particular features that are not shared with all the others. Douthat's book is looking for the specific factors that have accelerated the decline in the last generation or so in the West. I believe that is a legitimate and needed project.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Dr. Keller, Since you've read the book, I'll trust your appraisal. I was just responding to things like political polarization, the sexual revolution, globalization, that are relatively recent. It seems to me that any thesis of the church in decline has to be diachronic, that is long-term. Often simplistic denunciations of church and cultural decline are rooted in a superficial appraisal of one's perceptions of the church about a generation or two ago. For example, in the South one hears about the "good ol' days" of the "old time religion", forgetting that that "old time religion" lived peacefully with institutionalized racism (even within the churches). Further, as suggested at the end of my article, I think globalization can be a spur to renewal to American evangelicalism as many of our Asian and African brothers are going to challenge us to greater faithfulness. But, in the end, I agree that the church is in decline, sadly.

  • http://www.pastorguy.com/ Guy R Vestal

    Apostasy is running rampant because "god Money" is the deity worshiped by the Current Incarnation of the New Testament Church. The book of Revelation is the place to start when trying to understand why the Church in Acts is long gone, and Mammon will never let it return...

    Yeshua has been replaced by Je$u$ ¢hri$t...

  • http://johnmarkharris.net John Mark Harris

    Im not sure I buy the politics or many other factors. We've been more divided. That should increase the different parts. I think the "age of reason" and the "flattening" of leadership via social media and a general arrogance, individual focus, and skepticism about central organized structures. Plus, a moving away from the verbal gospel in Evangelical churches. But I'm sure there's other factors.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      You're right that we've been more divided. There can't be any worse political polarization than that which occurred during the 1860 election. About 600,000 Americans died because of it! I like you're other comments too.

  • http://christianlythinkings.wordpress.com/ Stephen J. Higgins

    Decline...apostasy...money... The Kingdom is greater than any country - Paul says there is neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, male nor female we are all one in Jesus. When the Church in His Kingdom forgets that we are all one in Jesus that is where it starts, thrives and ends then there will be massive change and fear of loss. It may not be a decline we are witnessing but a transition back to our more ancient ways of faith from the first to 5th century?
    Both the missional church and the traditional western church need to not fall prey to pride, as Bonhoeffer said: “It is not good if the church boasts of its lowliness too hastily. It is equally bad if it boasts of its power and influence to hastily. It is only good if the church humbly acknowledges its sins, allows itself to be forgiven and acknowledge its Lord. Every day it must receive the will of God afresh from Christ. It receives it because of the presence of the Incarnate, Lowly and Exalted One. Every day this Christ once again becomes a stumbling block for its own hopes and wishes. Every day it comes anew to the sentence, “You will all be offended because of me’ (Matt 26:31), and every day it holds anew to the promise, ‘Blessed is he who in not offended in me (Matt. 11:6).” You might say so what… the base line is simple, no matter what “church” you are not your own you were bought with a price, get over yourself and serve the living Christ…because when the Son of Man comes will He find faith?

  • http://www.avcopc.org John A. Hartley

    Suppose the history-of-thought and sociology-of-knowledge analyses do indeed cover all the bases in this project. If so, I do not think it is necessarily more light for the Church per se. That is, I do not think getting this sorted out provides us the recipe-in-reverse for curing the problem (not that anyone is saying that...yet). Rather, the problem is the cure. The sovereign Lord has been providentially and creatively sending the Chaldeans (see Habakkuk) while repeating over and over "the just shall live by faith." Newbigin and Douthat are showing us the manifold ways the world and the Western church seek to justify themselves without faith in Christ. The cure is to see those ways fail, to once again find no treasure here. Now, I am not suggesting a "throw up your hands and sit on the grass" way forward. So what is the good of getting it sorted it...the good of Newbigin and Douthat? Hunter's faithful presence comes to mind. We understand the world our anti-Christ justifications make - and are chastened - and so become reliable guides in showing others from whence they've come and how to really get home.

  • Roger McKinney

    The Bible is the best place to turn for answers to the question “why is Christianity in decline in America”? Jesus gave several reasons in the parable of the sower and seed. Paul wrote in Romans 1 that everyone knows the truth but suppresses it because they don’t like it. If people want to know the truth, they will see the lies in non-Christian ideologies and reject them; but if they don’t want to know the truth, they will be suckers for all kinds of lies.

    I don’t think the church has failed or that Christians are worse witnesses in the US than in other parts of the world where Christianity grows rapidly, or worse than Christians at other times in history. As the history of Israel in the OT demonstrates, some generations care about truth and embrace God while others don’t. We happen to live in a generation of very hard hearted people.

    I have had many conversations with atheists and the main reason they have given me for rejecting God is their love of sex: they want to have all the sex they can with anyone they wish at any time. Sex is more important to them than the truth.

    God has many tools with which to soften such hard hearts. They start with financial problems, such as depressions, move on to natural disasters and war. That may seem cruel to some, but such measures are insignificant in the face of the ultimate and eternal result of allowing mankind to reject God.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      I agree with you and think you've made a good observation that much of what drives the current skepticism is simply a love for sex. I believe this is what is behind the on-going push to legitimize homosexuality, since if one can justify that, one can justify any sexual practice. Hence, the worst thing one can do today is express disapproval of homosexuality. Our church was actually banned from a nearby ex-Christian college because an elder of our church was asked about homosexuality and gave the Biblical response, in a gentle way. The full story is here: https://www.facebook.com/permalink.php?story_fbid=10150591505718269&id=209898478268&ref=notif&notif_t=like

    • william brown

      "I have had many conversations with atheists and the main reason they have given me for rejecting God is their love of sex: they want to have all the sex they can with anyone they wish at any time. Sex is more important to them than the truth."............

      This is so true. If you peel back the layers of assumptions and rationalization of the liberal secular mind, it seems to be an unstated (? subconcious) foundational building block of so much of what they try to justify and do.

      • Roger McKinney

        When I was in college I wanted to argue people into the kingdom. When my pastor told me that the intellectual objections to Christ were nothing but cover for sin I thought he was obtuse. But the more I dealt with atheists the more wisdom I realized he had.

  • Roger McKinney

    PS, the theory of evolution does not cause people to lose their faith; it is an excuse for the already faithless who violently oppose the truth.

    • James Rednour

      Not true. If one accepts evolution as fact, then the doctrine of original sin falls apart. If there was not first man who sinned and brought sin into the world, then one of the major pillars of Christian doctrine collapses. Also, if one accepts evolution, then one accepts that God created a world with suffering already present before man arrived on the scene. What would be the point of millions of years of death before humans arrived on the scene if humans were what was most important to God. I agree with Albert Mohler that Christianity and evolution are mutually exclusive. Since evolution is a fact supported by scientific research and Christianity is a belief system supported by ancient texts with questionable origins and authenticity, the choice between the two was easy for me after many years of trying to make them play together nicely.

      • Roger McKinney

        You’re right that “If one accepts evolution as fact, then the doctrine of original sin falls apart.” But why does one accept evolution? Your response, “evolution is a fact supported by scientific research and Christianity is a belief system” proves that you don’t care about the truth. God reveals himself to us through the natural world and our consciences. You rejected those and that made you a sucker for junk science. Proof lies in the fact that you have never once read a book on creation science or books authenticating the history of the Bible. That’s just a guess, of course. I don’t know what you have read. But from 40 years of experience dealing with atheists that is a very safe guess. Atheists and evolutionists can’t risk reading anything that might endanger their faith.

        • Jimmy

          Like nearly all Christian arguments yours betrays a complete lack of substance. You don't have any arguments beyond ad hominem attacks and assertions. It was only after reading books on "creation science" (by authors like Behe) that I became completely confident in evolution. The decline in Christianity the above article describes happened (and continues to happen) in part because Christian thought is largely unable cope with modern scientific advances. For a long time Christians could not accept that the Earth revolved around the sun, but the evidence became so overwhelming they could no longer deny it without losing all credibility. The same process is happening with Christianity and evolution. I just hope Christians like you fight hard against evolution so that the world and the historical record can gain a proper appreciation for the validity of Christian claims.

          • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

            Hi Jimmy, I agree with you in substance, not in hopes. Please note my prolific contributions on this page. I am an evangelical pastor and someone who believes in the inerrancy of scripture. I agree that the mistake that the Young Earth people are making today is the same as those who previously criticized the Copernican solar system. But remember: Copernicus was a devout Christian too.

            Also, Look into Hugh Ross' "Reasons to Believe" linked above.

      • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

        I think if you look closely Roger McKinney actually would agree with you. He said it's an excuse for those who already don't have faith and truth.
        I'm saddened to hear about you placing your faith in a religion that doesn't save. I just hope it's not permanent.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        There are a lot of assumptions inserted here. First, there could be evolution of animals without evolution of homo sapiens. There is, after all, very little evidence for the evolution of homo sapiens; whole skeletons of dinosaurs but they have to rely on fragments of skulls they believe are early humans, etc.

        Second, there could be, as suggested by John Stott, evolution of a "hominid" (leading up to homo sapiens) into which one God "breathed" His Spirit and made Adam (and the story of the creation out of the dust of the earth is a picture of that). So, there could be both a kind of evolution (up to a point) and the Fall.

        Third, the Bible never really says that there was no death prior to the Fall. Romans 5:1f says only that death came to "all men" because of sin and the Genesis account implies that Adam and Eve were mortal at creation and could only achieve immortality by eating of the tree of life; contrary to what some Christians teach, there is no explicit teaching that death did not exist before the Fall, only that man could have avoided it.

        All this is simply to say that Christianity never has anything to fear from real science. Indeed, Christians invented modern science. It is when absolute and theological conclusions are drawn from the (misunderstood) science -- such as Carl Sagan piously proclaiming that the "cosmos is all there ever was, all there is, and all there ever will be" -- that it turns into a propaganda tool against the faith.

        Have you really read the Francis Collins book, "The Language of God"?

      • https://theologiansinc.wordpress.com/ Joshua

        I fully hold to an evolutionary explanation of life, reject any dichotomy between religion and science, and think Mohler is full of crap. And, in spite of it all, I'm still a pretty orthodox Christian. Maybe I'm just that cool.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          Hi Joshua, I don't think you're position is that strange or necessarily contradictory. I've heard that the 19th century Princeton orthodox theologians received evolution similarly. For the age of the earth, I'd recommend you look into Hugh Ross' ministry "Reasons to Believe." You might like that. As for Mohler, from what I've heard (which is not extensive), it sounds like he is speaking to a purely naturalistic explanation for human life, which I do think Christians have to object to.

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  • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

    Preaching the Gospel would be more helpful than writing books about Bad Religion. The problem is that so few are committed to truth. Truth is Jesus and what He says is TRUE.

    2Timothy 2:15 Work hard so you can present yourself to God and receive his approval. Be a good worker, one who does not need to be ashamed and who correctly explains the word of truth. (NLT)

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Please stop the anti-intellectualism. It doesn't help the gospel. I agree with Dr. Keller above, this kind of book "is a legitimate and needed project." If it helps us reform our churches and communicate the gospel better, it will be better than anti-intellectualism.

      • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

        1 Corinthians 2
        12 Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the spirit which is of God; that we might know the things that are freely given to us of God.
        13 Which things also we speak, not in the words which man's wisdom teacheth, but which the Holy Ghost teacheth; comparing spiritual things with spiritual.
        14 But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God: for they are foolishness unto him: neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.
        15 But he that is spiritual judgeth all things, yet he himself is judged of no man.
        16 For who hath known the mind of the Lord, that he may instruct him? but we have the mind of Christ.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          Perhaps if you read more, you'd know that the KJV is both an inferior translation to the best modern one and, second, not readily understood by modern people. If you're concerned about evangelism, you should use a translation they understand.

    • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

      Have you read this book? How do you know the gospel is not within the pages?

      • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

        The gospel is within the pages of the Bible infallibly. When U.S. Treasury agents are trained to identify counterfeit bills what do they study? REAL bills. They never study fakes. Then when they see a fake they know it immediately. I have not read this book. I have read the Bible and I do read other books. They Bible is infallible. And the word "religion" only appears 5 times in it. In one verse we see good religion described.

        James 1:27
        Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world.

        That text says quite a bit. Do I need to know what bad religion is? No. Not if I know what Pure and undefiled religion is before God. You may say the gospel is bigger than this verse, and for that we have the rest of the Holy Bible.

  • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

    Romans 15:6
    That ye may with one mind and one mouth glorify God, even the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

    2 Corinthians 13:11
    Finally, brethren, farewell. Be perfect, be of good comfort, be of one mind, live in peace; and the God of love and peace shall be with you.

    Philippians 1:27
    Only let your conversation be as it becometh the gospel of Christ: that whether I come and see you, or else be absent, I may hear of your affairs, that ye stand fast in one spirit, with one mind striving together for the faith of the gospel;

    Philippians 2:2
    Fulfil ye my joy, that ye be likeminded, having the same love, being of one accord, of one mind.

  • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

    @Dave Severy: Do you understand the point of this book would be my next question. I think it's saying, watch for these things, lest they undermine the gospel. I don't see what is wrong with that.

    Do you listen to and learn from sermons? Hopefully the gospel is being preached there too. What I meant by my comment is that people can talk about the gospel AND other things.

    If you read other books like you say, why do you have a problem with this one? Some people are gifted evangelists. Some are gifted pastors. Some are gifted professors. Some are gifted garbage collectors. Some are gifted writers. They are all in a way proclaiming the gospel and honoring the Lord in what they do. To say one is better than the other is just absurd.

    • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

      Perhaps it is a worthwhle book. My experience has been that church follows after man and leaves the Lord Jesus in the dust. A pastor advised me to compare everything I hear from pulpits to the scriptures. I think that is very wise. And compare other books too.

      RE "To say one is better than the other is just absurd."
      There are some books that are better than others, and some authors, teacher, preachers better than others too. The Bible and Holy Ghost are far and away better than them all.

      • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

        I'm left wondering if you are purposefully misunderstanding me....

        What I meant is, no occupation is "better" than another occupation. Of course some pastors are better than other pastors. Just as other garbage collectors are better at garbage collecting than other garbage collectors.

        Of course you should compare what you hear from the pulpit and read in books, with the scriptures. What I had a problem with was your initial comment "WHY do we need a book...why don't we just talk about the gospel." My answer is....why can't we do both.

        Also, the actual church can't follow after man (though some local bodies of the church do fail) because Christ is the head of the church. Wherever the (real) church is, Christ is.

        • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

          "Wherever the (real) church is, Christ is."

          God is everywhere. In my life it has taken effort to live in that reality. There were many days when I would leave my house for work or shopping or whatever and totally forget that I was a christian and that God existed. I still have those times, thankfully much fewer and shorter.

          I am a living stone in God's house and when I meet another living stone on the street, bus, in the store or the pew, I share the presence of God who is everywhere with that person or persons. I can do this because Jesus saved me, and makes me free! It is His gift to me and to all who receive it to enjoy being the church wherever they are and wherever two or more are gathered, even in prison!

          Does this happen all the time? No, but in heaven it will be happening ALL THE TIME and beyond comprehending TIME as we know it will cease.

          This is GOOD religion too I think, and I believe we need to engage in that. If we did this, if we pushed out of ourselves and lived openly as believers IN THE LOVE AND THE WORD OF GOD in Christ, we would be amazed at the results! Bad religion would flee. Bad religion is essentially the devil and the sour grapes he feeds the world.

          CHRISTIANS: Stop feeding on the devil's sour grapes!~

  • http://www.youtube.com/user/wfbrown1234/featured william brown

    David,
    Your comments are certainly valid. But, I also would say that not valid for everyone. I take the charge to love the Lord with all my mind seriously. Reading good (the key, of course is having discernment and wisdom here) books is part of that injunction. By no means would the Bible be secondary to that. However, I consider it an honour and privilege to use my mind in service to Christ, and part of that is reading a lot and widely. I find it a joy to work and stretch my mind, and nothing does that so much as reading theology, commentaries, philosophy, history. Let's face some reality - we are dumbed down to an unprecedented level in these modern times.

    Sloth is a deadly sin (remember the line in Dicken's "Christmas Carol": "Fear both of these (as the Reaper points to the two sickly waifs cowering underneath his heavy black cloak - reresenting 'ignorance' and 'sloth/penury'), but fear her (as he points to 'ignorance') the most". Everything in our culture militates and trains us against the use of our intellect. For God's sake, let's unplug and start to enjoy good books and become more human, more interesting, and more of what God meant us to be.

    • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

      Well I guess if I wanted to take an intellectual approach to bad religion, I would get a good reference Bible, Strong's concordance and study Revelation Ch.'s 2 and 3.

      • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

        I think the book answers the question: What is going wrong in America right now with out the church is handling issues? I don't...think you will find the answer to that in Revelation chapters 2 and 3. Although I think you should read the bible in addition to reading this book. I mean, no one said you had to read the book, but if you are interested in why Christianity is in decline, this might be a good reference.

        • David Severy

          Could the church be in decline because we don't know the gospel and the power of God?

  • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

    Wow...you are Christ? I had no idea.

    • http://Www.godcamedown.com Christ Centered Teaching

      "Heather, you are out of line here."

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        She was responding to a comment that has since been deleted. The person implicitly put himself in the place of Christ. Her comment was appropriate.

        • http://www.godcamedown.com Christ Centered Teaching

          Sorry for the misunderstanding Heather.

          • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

            No problem. It was actually fairly snarky in retrospect anyway (so you might be justified in calling me out for it ;-), but someone WAS commenting something along the lines of "Wow obviously everyone here is mean and horrible and Christ isn't welcome, so I'm not welcome." I thought it was slightly amusing that he was comparing himself to Christ.

          • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

            And WOW! I just looked at that and it REALLY looks like I was responding to your comment. Yikes! I wasn't. I totally agree with your comment.

  • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

    But Guy, we do love each other even if we do it clumsily.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    Actually, the only one I see finger pointing is you, with you're assumption that citing one's academic credentials is bragging, that describing people is "name calling", etc.

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    • David Severy

      I read the list at the site linked. I agree that these things are distractions from the Spirit led way. How do we overcome these things? By seeking God's power to overcome. We have the authority to become the sons (and daughters) of God. John 1:12. The Gospel is the power (dynamis) of God to save (heal and deliver) us.
      Romans 1:16 As rich as we are we don't feel the need for power. Healing, miracles and the gifts in general have been ignored. Blessed are the poor...

      I would also say that a reason for decline is the failure to seek unity amongst the denominations. There is only one church. But some follow the Pope, some Calvin, some Arminius, some the WCC, some the Anglican gay church...

      Jeremiah 6:16
      Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. But they said, We will not walk therein.

      1 Corinthians 11:
      17 Now in this that I declare unto you I praise you not, that ye come together not for the better, but for the worse.
      18 For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there be divisions among you; and I partly believe it.
      19 For there must be also heresies among you, that they which are approved may be made manifest among you.

  • Eric V

    Interesting conversation and a good topic. I believe Mr Douthat's assessment is largely true and that research of this sort is needed to stimulate discussion and to observe how the LORD has worked in our history.

    I would add to the rise of prosperity and consumerism the rise of the Corporation. Not that Corporations and capital markets are "evil" in and of themselves - I work for the investment arm of a bank after all - but as American businesses took on the face of CEO's, board of directors, supply/demand, etc. the Church has also followed suit and emulated those same structures and methods - to its detriment.

    In addition to adopting the structure of the surrounding world, the character and behavior of the world also snuck in creating a church on every corner to meet every perceived need and a culture of "Christian consumerism" that may be more akin to the religious idolatry in Athens during Paul's time.

    Again, some of these things may be covered in "Bad Religion" which I look forward to reading.

    Lastly, I ache from the comments because I see another problem within the Church which is by no means unique to our culture or time - it is that there are "members" within her who are completely hostile in mind to the gospel and the LORD whom she holds dear. So on top of consisting of living sacrifices - who may be prone to take themselves off the altar - the Church has wolves within her who would tear the sheep apart and snatch them from the Savior - if it were possible.

    A lesson that I have pulled away from my reading of Israel's history is that generations swing like a pendulum drawing near to the LORD and drawing away from Him. Yet even in the darkest times, the LORD has preserved those that are His - see those in Elijah's time who have not bowed the knee to Baal or the likes of Daniel, Shadrach, Meshac & Abednigo.

    We may lament some of the failures of Christian leaders or misguided initiatives but thankfully, we will achieve "effectiveness" the same way as we achieved our "salvation" - wholly and fully relying on the LORD (Phil 1:6). In the plan to save His people, the LORD's plan will not be hindered (thankfully) by misguided, insolent, disobedient, finger pointers like us.

    • Greg

      Agreed.

    • http://www.lambspoet.blogspot.com David Severy

      TY Eric V for this verse!
      Philippians 1:6 (ESV)
      6 And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ.

  • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

    Good comment Eric! Thanks for sharing it. Two points: There should, as you suggest, be no question that God will fail to save His people. He will not! However, what happens to America, whether the church here is going the way of secular Europe or now apostate Israel, is, I take it, the question of this book (and an article in JETS linked above). Secondly, we've seen on these comments a man who, on the one hand, professes to be an agnostic, a complete skeptic regarding the Bible, and yet, on the other, shamelessly is a member of a "reformed" church, even a deacon and former member of a pastor search committee. (What kind of pastor do you think an agnostic approved of?) Calling such a person a "wolf in sheep's clothing" is accurate, needed, and is not "finger pointing" -- or, if it is, then sometimes we need finger pointing to point out the wolves.

    • Eric V

      Thanks guys

      -On one hand, it appears that the Church in America is going through some struggles and may be heading toward the path of secularization and apostasy - on the other, this is a unique time in the life of the Church - in America and abroad - where men of separate denomiations are able to set aside secondary differences and come Together for the Gospel (cheesy?). I have a limited knowledge of Church history post-Acts but I'm not sure that this level of interdenominational cooperation has been achieved in prior years.

      Additionally, there seems to be an acknowledgement in "secular" media of the uptick of conservatism within the church (New Calvinism, articles in the WSJ, etc) which I'm sure will pose a new set of issues in the next generation but seems to be a source of great encouragement and hope for how the LORD will use His churches here. All to say - what a wonderful time to be a believer!

      If anything, I can see the gospel becoming CLEARER as the world can observe the theology and behavior of those in false churches vs true churches. I'm encouraged to see books like Mr Douthats which acknowledge and study the shortcomings of the American church and I pray that leaders here will humbly consider them and lead their congregations well.

      -As far as our friend above is concerned, I lament that his situation is probably not unique and there are churches where such things can occur - maybe frequently. I pray that those places would be cleansed by the Spirit with great conviction & mourning.

      • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

        Actually, as far as interdenominational cooperation, there has been a lot of that within evangelicalism since the Reformation. The Great Awakening saw George Whitefield, a Calvinistic Anglican, working with the Arminian John Wesley in England, the Presbyterian Tennants New Jersey, the Moravians, the Congregational Jonathan Edwards, etc. The so-called "Second Great Awakening" frequently had camp meetings of Presbyterians, Methodists, and others working together. As for the supposed growth of conservativism, keep in mind that prior to about a century ago, there were very few "liberals", that most believers were "conservative" and so the recent appearance of conservative growth is only in comparison to the prior apostasy of liberalism. It may be partly the result that the end result of liberalism is the disappearance of those churches, leaving only the conservative ones. But, I appreciate your hopefulness and your earnest desire for a more lucid gospel witness.

  • Susan

    We just left the church I attended nearly my entire life. After 22 years it is rather apparent that the head elder is a liar and a phony, as it seems is the senior pastor. The lies, deceit, mistreatment of members and gross injustices that we have seen from these angry men is the past year has been shocking.....but their remains an unsuspecting flock which has watched his children grow up and can't conceive that those men would lie. There are many things about this situation which help me to now understand how Nazi Germany...and the way the church stood by and let it happened, could happen. The senior pastor has led every pastor into his new theological framework...incrementally, over a number of years. His method of influencing pastors and elders is to have them read books and articles by the questionable scholars he reads and then teach the stuff from the pulpit without waiting for anyone's approval. To raise questions about the emphasis and the lack of interest in evangelism is to be faced with their hostility.

    The pastor doesn't seem to identify anything as sin from the pulpit, and typically avoids portions of the text he's in which speak of sin and judgment....yet he's now become adept at identifying "sinning members" (i.e. those who have tried to bring these problems to light). The method employed is to come up with a list of twisted (false) allegations against the person and notify them that they will be announced from the pulpit and disfellowshiped (excommunicated) if they don't seek Matt. 18 reconciliation and confess to their false charges. These people end up leaving. They are some of the most godly, solid, Bible teaching and upholding members of the church. I never would have thought all of this possible in this Brethren church which nears its 100th year of existence. This pastor has shifted from the historic teaching of the church....but the shift has been subtle. He doesn't preach the gospel correctly, nor call people to respond in such a way that they would come into personal relationship with Christ. It reminds me of the words of Jesus in Matt. 7--you will know them by their fruit, and also his words about the Pharisees---you lead men to hell.

    Many who are now leaving a parting from long-time friends and family members. We left behind our 21 year old daughter (several familys leave children in their 20s). Our children were being indoctrinated for years...but we didn't realize it while they were going through the youth groups.

    So, I'm sickened by the confession of the wolf in sheep's clothing on this thread who will be used by Satan to plant bad seed and lead people astray. God sees. His justice will come. Hell is a real place of eternal punishment. Beware!

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Susan,

      I'm struck by the ambiguity of your accusations, despite your rather long post. What "lies" exactly? What clear Biblical doctrines is the pastor not preaching exactly? Since he holds to obeying Matthew 18:15ff, he doesn't sound like a theological liberal. How can it both be true that the pastor "doesn't seem to identify anything as sin from the pulpit" and yet he calls sinning members to repent? (What is he calling them to repent of?) What's wrong with him asking other leaders to read articles? Who are the "questionable scholars"? Please name them. Why do you think the pastor needs some one's approval for what he teaches? Who's approval do you think he should get? Yours? The only specific thing you mention that sounds like a real problem is a lack of interest in evangelism. That is a problem. Is that your gift and burden? If so, are you called to do evangelism, along with others, for that church? I think the ambiguity of your accusations and the severity of your words raise questions as to whether you ought to go back with more questions and a teachable attitude.

      • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

        John, I think Susan (if I may speak for you Susan) is only referencing the earlier comments by James Rednour, who admits he has been disguising himself as a believer and is a wolf in sheep's clothing. I think she's saying she had a similar experience with a James Rednour type person, and she's warning against that type of behavior. At least that is how I understood her comment.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          Perhaps you're right. But I don't think a guy like James Rednour would be in favor of church discipline. Liberals don't usually call for that but some traditionalists only want to hear how homosexuality and drunkenness is wrong (which is true) but not how gossiping, racism, etc., are wrong. My concern, as a pastor, is that some people simply misunderstand something new, react against it, and refuse to be Bereans, search the scriptures with a teachable spirit. Jonathan Edwards was driven out of his pastorate because the members of his church refused to listen to him and change from the traditions of their previous pastor (who was ironically Edwards' grandfather).

          • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

            This is true. You definitely have a point.

          • Susan

            John, my response to your last comment posted below...but I will now respond to this one. Our pastor has in the past, said to individuals, that he does not believe in church discipline. It appears that he never did until now...when it serves HIS purposes. One woman I know said that when her husband was involved in an affair with another woman at the church she went to the pastor and asked him to speak with her husband. The pastor said that he would only tell her husband that he loved him, and said that he didn't believe in church discipline. Believe me, I've spent countless hours being a Berean in this situation. It takes hour to transcribe a sermon but it's the best way to carefully examine what its being taught, and it has allowed me to look carefully at how he is selectively handling a given text.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              HI Susan,

              If he said he doesn't believe in church discipline and refused even to confront a man in adultery and, more broadly, doesn't mention judgment, depravity, etc, when those doctrines come up in scripture, then I would agree with you that that is a very serious problem.

              About 15 years ago, I left a church myself for similar reasons. I would commend to you the ministry of 9 Marks and perhaps find a "9 Marks" church in your area. http://www.9marks.org/

  • Roger McKinney

    In the short run, the US may go the way of Europe and become very irreligious. But consider China and Iran and the long run. Christianity is growing rapidly in both places after centuries of being anti-Christian. Of course, God took them through some very difficult times before a generation appeared that would listen. Some have said that Khomeini and the current Islamic regime in Iran have been Christianity’s greatest missionaries in the nation. We see the same pattern in the OT: Israel rebelled against God; God punished them with drought, famine and war; the next generation repented.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      But Israel isn't a good example: after over 2000 years they have been apostate and still refuse to accept the Messiah. A hardness has come over much of them. It's true that the church is growing greatly in some places, like China. The question is whether the church in the US is fading away.

      • Roger McKinney

        I referred to Israel in the OT, not to Jews since Christ. In the OT they cycled between belief and rebellion.

        Many Jews have become believers of the centuries since Christ. Even in times of repentance, not all Israel repented. Remember that only a remnant returned from Babylon/Persian exile.

        Definitely the Church in the US is fading. It's part of the cycle of rebellion, judgment and repentance that Israel followed in the OT.

        Remember that men love darkness more than light; sin more than truth.

  • http://www.avcopc.org John A. Hartley

    With all due respect, it appears that too much virtual pastoring is going on this comment thread. In your eagerness to defend the faith, defend before someone who knows you. Yes, contend for the gospel, but contend for it with those who can see your whole life. The locality of mutual knowledge is a necessity for the love called for in the Law - neighbor love. The sovereignty of God releases us from having to find all his far flung sheep by ourselves on one blog. Be at peace beloved brothers, quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.

    • http://nohappinesslikemine.blogspot.com Heather E. Carrillo

      Ehhh, I disagree. I think part of the problem with these threads is that it is too easy to misunderstand one another. But part of the beauty of it is that if I say something totally untrue or dishonoring to God, I have TONS and TONS of brothers and sisters who care enough to write a comment and say, "Heather, you are out of line here." I think that's great. Personally, I welcome more iron sharpening iron, and I don't mind it being in a different geographical location.

  • Susan

    John, your comments hurt, to be honest, after all that I have seen and been through.
    Scholars he favors: Walter Bruggemann, Peter Enns, J.Richard Middleton, N.T. Wright (mixed bag)....so many, many more...

    They claim to follow Matt. 18 but it is not true at all. It is merely the TERM they use to sanctify before the onlooking eyes of the congregation when the truth is they are the guilty party. Once their bad behavior became publicly known they had to make up lies to cove up...and turn the tables by identifying those whom they had wronged as divisive members who were lying. There is documentation to prove that they have changed their stories. There is proof that their charges are false. It it sickening to see them CLAIM to follow Matthew 18 when the truth is that those who were initially wronged by them are the ones who truly sought Matt, 18 reconciliation but were blocked and disallowed from doing so (the ones who wronged them wouldn't meet with them, and were in some cases ordered by the pastor not to speak with them). This is corruption.

    Over the years there have been times when the pastor fired pastors and lied about it, making it appear to the congregation that these men left of their own choice. There are pastors who validate that this really happened. There has been a history of lying which began soon after the pastor came. The thing is, everyone wants to give the pastor the benefit of the doubt, and no one wants to be guilty of causing disunity...so many cases of mistreatment have gone on without being addressed. People who've experienced this just leave instead. I myself experienced shocking amounts of anger from both the senior pastor and the head elder on separate occasions. I experienced the pastor's hostility when I went to him to suggest how we might equip members for evangelism (something he has never sought to do). I was humble, respectful and calm throughout the conversation while he blasted me.

    I began transcribing sermons and sent some of them to highly known and respected NT scholars who identified the problems with what was being taught. One scholar noted that he consistently leaves out Romans 1-4 from his 'gospel'. He doesn't identify man's problem as sin and separation from God. He preaches a judgementless gospel. He gives only token mention of the atoning sacrifice of Jesus on the cross and the significance of that, no discussion of the concept of justification nor the need for personal conversion. There is no call to repentance, no mention of hell. Very selective theology! BUT, he talks about the significance of the resurrection....that it validates Jesus as the world's true king. The end-goal in his theology is that we become 'fully human', and our mission is to bring 'human flourishing' and 'shalom' (actualizing the kingdom).

    And NO, the pastor doesn't need to seek my approval (thanks for your kind words!). He doesn't seek the approval of the elders, he has shifted the doctrine of the church while yearly signing a statement that he believes and will teach, the statement of faith (and having his pastors and elders sign it even though they don' agree with all of it (he has hired all but one pastor). A new statement of faith came up for vote in Feb. and was voted down. Instead of conceding the new head elder sent out a letter saying that they now realize that people don't understand the new statement so they are going to do an all-church teaching series on the new statement of faith. There will be no discussion time during this teaching series.

    Just to give you an idea....
    Several solid, godly, long-time elders have left recently, and many more over the years...including several former chairmen of the board of elders......since you seem to assume that I am an ignorant woman.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      HI Susan, I didn't mean to hurt your feelings but please understand we do have a problem today of traditionalists sometimes objecting to mere changes in style. Look at what happened to Tullian Tchividjian at Coral Ridge, even though he is reliably evangelical. But after more explanation I do agree there is probably something amiss. I'm sorry for your ordeal and hope you find a good church home. More above.

  • Susan

    I read an article about Tchividjian's tirals when two churches were joined, though I don't really know what the issues were. I recently defended Dan Kimball against false charges in a similar situation. In his case he's routinely plagued by slanderous remarks on the Lighthouse Trails discernment website. When churches falter and someone says 'emerging/emergent'...and someone googles and that site comes up, it all starts again. Some people at our church were passing around a booklet on the emerging church which accused Kimball of blasphemy. I was shocked to see it since I'm well-aware of his ministry. I tried to address the problem in conversation with the author, to no avail, so I put him in contact with Kimball who then dialoged with the author. Unfortunately, the author refused to see his wrong. Turns out he had learned that Kimball was the supposed culprit to go after through Lighthouse Trails. Kimball has also tried to set the record straight with the head of that website, but the man will not correct misinformation about him posted on the site. Sad to see good preachers of the Word torn down by lies.

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  • Stephen Vosler

    I do believe that we have moved away from the final authority of the bible. What I mean to say about this is that in these closing days of Laodicean apostasty, many have departed from the faith because of a wave of politically correct bibles, "seven-eleven" repetitive Christian shallow rap, and other miscellaneous perversions of the word of God. Regardless of the number of bibles studies available, none ever expects the group or class to "rightly divide" the word as expressly commanded by Paul. Hence the majority of Christians have been cut adrift of the fundamentals of the faith and left to defend a position that they cannot defend. Without the use of the AV KJV 1611 the church of Jesus Christ no longer understands how to "rightly divide the Word of Truth".

    • Greg

      Stephen, those same things irritate me... but the problem isn't translations. I use the ESV and the HCSB personally, two excellent translations, and I seek to properly understand the original intent of the authors of Scripture, not impose my own meaning on the text.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      The KJV is a deficient version, based on inferior manuscripts and translated with specific political pressure put on by King James I in order to make the Bible sound as if it supported his state church.

      KJV-only-ism is yet another manifestation of traditionalism and anti-intellectualism.

  • http://pocketpurposeblog@wordpress.com Carlene Byron

    The one place where perhaps Dr. Douthat has missed the mark in relation to the most recent history (and of course, I'm basing this solely on the review) is the issue of colonialism. This affected perceptions of Christianity in the Boom generation, and is beginning (happily) to reshape missiology in the current generation. But we still function in the US as a colonial church: that is to say, it is primarily those of European backgrounds, with advanced academic training, who are considered wise analysts of God's church and its needs.

    Meanwhile, rapid-growing immigrant congregations are functioning as both servant churches in their communities and sending churches to their countries of origin. The African-American church, although undergoing its own generational transitions, retains a more integral understanding of how the full Body provides full faceted service to its community than almost any Anglo congregation.

    But we neither ask for their insights nor know of their accomplishments in God's service. Like true colonials, we "cannot see" them.

    Of course, in God's economy, this will ultimately redound to their credit. Those who were last will be first, while those who are first will find themselves last. I only wish that those born to first place could take the opportunity to watch, listen, and learn from those we don't know how to see.

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  • Roger McKinney

    John, I didn’t intentionally misrepresent your question. It wasn’t clear. So you want me to name an atheist that accepts the evidence for a young earth? That would be as easy as finding an atheist who believes that Jesus is the Son of God. YEC science implies that God exists and the Bible is true. You won’t find any atheists who believe that.

    Walt Brown is a PhD mechanical engineering scientist. He includes in his book writings by PhD scientists in geology and astronomy as well as other sciences. If you would bother to read the book you would know that.

    No one, especially not Walt Brown, claims that he is a theologian or has expertise in Bible interpretation. Hermeneutics is the field for that. Apparently, you don't want to know anything about hermeneutics, either.

    And you don’t know your history. Evolution was very popular among atheists in the 17th century. Darwin was the only fool willing to publish publicly the ideas that had been popular for decades.

    The fact that scientists can sin is a matter of human nature and the Biblical account of it. And it is a matter of the epistemology, about which you seem totally ignorant. There is sufficient evidence for Jesus being the Son of God in history, but no atheist historians accept it. There is plenty of scientific evidence for God, but no atheist scientist accepts it.

    “If there were evidence for a young earth, non-Christian scientists would come to that conclusion.”

    That’s about as naïve as I have seen anyone get. So all scientists accept the scientific evidence for God and for Jesus as the Son of God, which means there are no atheist scientists, right? Wrong! Most scientists are atheists! So you think atheists have a lock on truth while Christian scientists who see evidence for a young earth are liars? You have things backwards.

    “There is NO evidence for a young earth…”

    We know that you will never know whether there is evidence of a young earth or not. You will continue to chant the mantra “there is no evidence” while refusing to read any of the evidence that scientists present.

    The only people as stubborn as old earth creationists about the scientific evidence are atheists. You guys have a lot in common.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Roger,

      First, my question was clear and repeated. So you're simply wrong and you failed to apologize. Then you resort to empty insults, like a typical fundamentalists that doesn't want to think. I have four theolgoical degrees, including a Ph.D. So I certainly know something about hermenuetics.

      Please apologize for your empty, unChristian insults.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: “Your position leads to an out-right rejection of science and thus to a rejection in God as the creator of the natural world, God's "other book".

    As Greg has pointed out, you’re becoming somewhat hysterical in your comments. Maybe we should quit before you hurt yourself.

    YEC science does not reject science. You’re becoming irrational. YEC science merely offers different evidence that leads to different interpretations of the age of the earth. YEC scientists have great articles on the science of radioactive decay. Some are in Brown’s book. But one thing we can know for sure, you’ll never know that because you’ll never read anything by a YEC scientist.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: “Your position leads to an out-right rejection of science…”

    By “science” do you mean what the National Academy of Sciences says, or do you mean the scientific method? People who are afraid of the idea of a young earth switch between definitions without telling anyone and that is dishonest. If by science you mean the statements of the NAS on the age of the earth, then yes, YEC is not science. But if by science you mean the scientific method, then YEC is science because YEC scientists follow the scientific method. Honest people stick with one definition of a word when using it, but I have noticed that evolutionists and old earth creationists have trouble being honest.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: “There is no evidence for a young earth.”

    How do you know? You stubbornly refuse to read anything that offers evidence.

    John: “That's why you don't find non-religious scientists coming to that conclusion.”

    No. As Jesus said, men love darkness more than light. If atheist scientists even considered the evidence for a young earth it would threaten their atheistic faith. So they suppress the truth, as Paul wrote in Romans 1.

    John: “…everyone else is blinded by sin.”

    I didn’t make that up. That’s actually in the Bible.

    John: “Fundamentalists don't seem to really believe in natural revelation but only in special revelation…”

    Now you’re bearing false witness against your neighbor. YEC scientists take natural revelation very seriously. That’s why they’re scientists. They simply care about the truth more than others.

    John: “… and that only as they interpret it.”

    Again, you’re guilty of bearing false witness. YEC theologians, not scientists follow the principles of hermeneutics first written down by Aristotle and refined by Thomas Aquinas. Those principles are the application of logic to interpretation and nothing less than honest interpretation. Anyone who doesn’t follow the principles of hermeneutics is a dishonest person and guilty of putting words in God’s mouth.

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  • Roger McKinney

    John: “I don't believe there is sufficient scientific to support evolution of human beings.”

    So you’re rejecting science? “Science”, at least the National Academy of Sciences, insists that human evolution is a scientific fact. Show me non-religious scientists who deny human evolution.

    Joshua: “But scripture does not exclude it. So it is not a rejection of His Word.”

    The Bible implies that human evolution is wrong. The Bible says that God created mankind as morally good. Human evolution says that God created mankind as flawed, then rejected man because of the flawed nature that God created. The Bible refers to the first Adam, an honest interpretation of which requires an actual human being, which human evolution denies. The Bible asserts that physical death came as a result of sin; human evolution says that massive death and destruction created humans. I could go on.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Roger,

      I don't think there is sufficient science to support evolution of human beings. I'm not rejecting science. I'm saying it's not there. Read carefully.

      I agree that the Bible requires a literal Adam. If you read Romans 5:1f carefully, the Bible only says that death came on "man" because of Adam's sin (not on all life). The Genesis story suggests that man was mortal and could have only of achieved immortality by being allowed to eat of the "tree of life." That's why Adam was driven out of the garden, to prevent him from gaining immortality. It doesn't say that man was created immortal.

      Many of the problems with literal creationists is that they read too much into the texts.

      • Roger McKinney

        John: “I don't think there is sufficient science to support evolution of human beings. I'm not rejecting science. I'm saying it's not there.”

        I was merely applying your criteria to human evolution. You insist that if someone rejects an ancient earth they are rejecting science. Most scientists would say that if you reject human evolution you are rejecting science, too.

        You don't see the evidence for human evolution, so you reject it. YEC scientists don't think the scientific evidence for an ancient earth is good, either. What is the difference? The only difference is you have chosen not to even look at the evidence that YEC scientists present.

        BTW, You may think you're being so very scientific by agreeing with atheists about the age of the earth and universe, but if you actually read them you would find they are laughing at you for insisting on injecting a ghost into the machine.

        I think old earth creationists read far more into the text than do fundamentalists. Fundamentalists follow hermeneutics. Old earth creationists just make it up as they go.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          You're not reasonable.

  • http://pocketpurposeblog@wordpress.com Carlene Byron

    Friends, I can't say for sure why Christianity is on the decline in America.

    But when I opened my email a few minutes ago, I had 32!! messages from this thread, representing almost five hours of conversation between just two commenters.

    The only thing I do feel reasonably sure of is that neither of those commenters was making disciples "as they went" today. They were both sitting at their computers engaged in fruitless disputation of uncertain things.

    19th century evangelical Christians had no problem with evolution. 20th and 21st century evangelical Christians often do.

    Pick your century gentlemen and move forward. Please, move forward.

    • Greg

      But... I work as a web developer, so it's entirely reasonable that I spend my entire day in front of a computer.

      In addition, we weren't conversing the entire time. On my side, only as I got spare moments, here and there. It happened to span about five hours though.

      No discussion of Scripture and theological matters is inherently fruitless, as even if a consensus is not reached, both sides are challenged in their thinking and grow in their resolve to study and learn.

      Uncertainty is no reason to not probe these questions.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Hi Carlene,

      I certainly didn't spend the last five hours just here. In fact, in that time I managed to get a lot of work done, jog for about an hour, get my kids (off for Spring Break) to do some chores around the house, eat lunch and watch some TV.

      I'd rather have the 17th century but you didn't leave that as an option! :)

      On a more serious note: I think one of the major sources of decline of the modern American church is the rise of anti-intellectualism, represented by (among many things) young earth creationism and the reflexive objection, anytime someone invests time in debating ideas, that we're wasting our time.

      • http://pocketpurposeblog@wordpress.com Carlene Byron

        I enjoy debate. I don't particularly enjoy debates that aren't resolvable or whose resolution won't change the world. And as for century of preference, it rather depends on where you're located, doesn't it?

        So any time you want to discuss strategies for solving teen illiteracy in the US, or work force reentry for ex-cons, or job discrimination against professionals with disabilities, or making sure that widows and orphans are cared for, or even a simple old testament concern like protecting the life of the mama bird "that your days may be long and you may live long in the land" ... I'm up for it.

        But, as Dr. Douthat points out, since we've become (as a church) political pawns of the party system, we can't even think as a church about such things. So we debate for hours about things that prove to the culture that we and our God are irrelevant.

        Of course, I don't believe that we or our God are irrelevant to this world. But if I'm to debate, it will be something that's on the road to a solution that matters to God -- not down a theological rabbit hole.

        Here's the thing about our ability to understand stuff. The most common element in the earth's crust is granite. The most common illness is the cold. As humans, we have yet to understand how granite is formed or how to cure the cold. If we can't figure out those small creations of God, why should we assume we can figure out such large answers as you two are intent on resolving?

        Rams have to butt heads. So butt heads. But don't think you're doing any more than that.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: "To say that God created the universe with signs of age in it is to suggest that He purposely sought to deceive us or to bizarrely test our faith."

    Miracles are confusing. The Pharisees couldn't understand why Jesus healed on the Sabbath, so they attributed his power to Satan. If you refuse to believe that creation was a miracle and insist on looking for natural processes as the cause, you will always be confused.

    The issue is less that there are signs of age and more to do with naturalistic assumptions.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Roger, if (1) a galaxy is billions of light years away and (2) we can see that galaxy, then that means either (a) God created the light in route as part of creation (b) or the literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1 (that oddly enough fails to account for the statement that the universe was created prior to the week) is wrong. A "naturalistic assumption" (which is your excuse for refusing to think) only comes into play if you conclude from the age of the universe that no God was involved.

      If you choose (a) then you're essentially saying that God choose, at best, to test our faith, or even, from some people's point of view, to leave evidence to deceive us.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: “Since scientists can prove the age of the universe, that's something that is a matter of scientific inquiry.”

    Yes, scientists can prove the age of the universe, but only if you accept their naturalistic assumptions, which are not provable or reasonable. Science can prove anything if you start with the right assumptions.

    The “scientific” inquiry into origins is not at all like looking for Jesus’ body. It’s more like trying to explain with modern medicine how a dead man could come back to life without a miracle taking place.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Things like the time it takes light to travel, the radiological decay of elements, erosion, formation of certain stones, etc., are not matters that one comes to different conclusions based on "naturalistic assumptions."

      Again, you show the anti-intellectualism that is part of the problems with modern fundamentalism.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: " have four theolgoical degrees, including a Ph.D. So I certainly know something about hermenuetics."

    You certainly don't show it with your posts! So why do you think it's OK to violate all of the rules of hermeneutics?

    Fredrick Hayek once wrote in "The Fatal Conceit" that intelligence is highly overrated, especially by intelligent people. They may be intelligent, but lack wisdom because they lack humility.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      You're just being insulting and should repent of your sin.

      See above, vis-a-vis Greg, dealing exegetically with Genesis 1 if you want to learn something about hermenuetics. Read carefully and I think you should stop responding for a while. Like a typical fundamentalist, you've made up your mind as to what the text says and will not really look at it.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: “Things like the time it takes light to travel, the radiological decay of elements, erosion, formation of certain stones, etc., are not matters that one comes to different conclusions based on "naturalistic assumptions."

    YEC scientist address all of those issues with reason and scientific evidence that you refuse to consider. Evidence doesn’t interpret itself; people interpret it based on their assumptions. If you’re so well educated you would understand that is basic philosophy of science 101.

  • Roger McKinney

    John: “if (1) a galaxy is billions of light years away and (2) we can see that galaxy, then that means either (a) God created the light in route as part of creation (b) or the literalistic interpretation of Genesis 1 (that oddly enough fails to account for the statement that the universe was created prior to the week) is wrong."

    Your education is severely limited. You can only come up with two options? Your imagination is limited, too. Check out the writings of Robert V. Gentry. He served as a physicist (B.S., M.S.; University of Florida) in the nuclear/space defense industries and taught college/university math and physics. He has a nice little book “Creation’s Tiny Mystery” that offers a very credible and scientific explanation. Of course, I know you won’t bother, but I posted that for other readers who might care about the truth. Hint: the answer lies in the differences between black holes and white holes.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      You're still being insulting. You are sinful and need to repent of your arrogance and insulting approach. This is the last time I'm responding to you until you express sincere repentance for your grievous sins.

  • cboyer

    I'm always surprised at pastors and scholars who try to pinpoint the reason Christianity has taken a nose dive. What's happening with this Christian nose-dive in terms of not being "influential" (a light/candlestick to a sinful world) is the mirror image of Old Testamanet Israel's fall. Israel's kings became corrupt, beginning with David and his fornication. Then Solomon, going in his dad's footsteeps and taking 700 wives to himself. Then the kingdom split in two and finally Babylonian armies destroyed Jerusalem and the Temple. It should be no wonder that New Testament epistle writers continually warn Christians to "keep yourselves from fornication and from idols." Paul tells us that any bitterness (toward God, or anyone) leads to spiritual fornication, which leads to physical fornnication. Little children, keep yourselves from fornication and from idols (which Paul explains to us is covetousness). Stop it. Knock it off. Then no amount of "evolution teaching" or any other crap will get a foothold. IT'S THAT SERIOUS. Men (rather, guys) get bitter at their women/wives if they are not "subservient," but they forget that they are to submit to Jesus--and that means acting exactly like the Lord Jesus. These men then become bitter and think they can fool around, view porn, etc. NOT SO FELLAS. It is because the "church" has acted the same way as the un-saved world is the reason for the Lord taking away it's candlestick (influence in the world). Have you not read His address to the 7 churches?

  • cboyer

    Hey, what about that guy who was born over 2k years ago and is still alive today? Yah, that guy who was born without the detriment of the male sperm. Yah, Jesus. The guy who rode into Jerusalem on the very day prophesied by Daniel (Dan. 9:24) exactly 483 years to the very day. The same guy who, by raising up nations such as the US, Great Britain, etc. defeated the Nazis in WWII, thus paving the way for Israel to be miraculously re-established as a sovereign nation after an over 2k year absence on the world stage. (How can it be that the US hasn't won a war since then? It is corrupt. The church is corrupt.) The same guy (Jesus) who in Ezekial told us that (soon) Damascus will be a ruinous heap (Damascus is the oldest established city on earth and Syrians are going to bomb the heck out of it shortly). The same guy who told us through Ezekial that (soon) Israel's enemies will gather in war against it and the US and all the "young lions" (empires) will stand back and watch. Watch as God will fight for His people Israel. Take that, evolutionists, and all the backslidden idiot "christians" who like to use big words, misplaced commas and rediculous worldly "reasoning" to fight against principalities and powers in high places. We do not war against flesh and blood. Blood is formed in the fertilized ovum by the male sperm. Get out of that sinful nature, deny yourself, and maybe you'll get some insight from the Holy spirit.

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  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    From my experience, theistic evolution inevitably involves an entire re-visioning of the Bible – the compromise of the faith. A representative example is Karl Giberson who had insisted that there is no problem being a Christian and an evolutionist. However, he admits:

    • “Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science. Dennett’s universal acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, “Christ as the second Adam,” the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.” (Saving Darwin, 9-10)

    However, Giberson later wrote:

    • OT God “tyrannical anthropomorphic deity,” “commanded the Jews to go on genocidal rampages…but who believes in this [OT] deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old? Modern theology has moved past this view of God.” http://biologos.org/blog/exposing-the-straw-men-of-new-atheism-part-five/

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    From my experience, theistic evolution inevitably involves an entire re-thinking of the Bible – the compromise of the faith. A representative example is Karl Giberson who had insisted that there is no problem being a Christian and an evolutionist. However, he admits:

    • “Acid is an appropriate metaphor for the erosion of my fundamentalism, as I slowly lost confidence in the Genesis story of creation and the scientific creationism that placed this ancient story within the framework of modern science. Dennett’s universal acid dissolved Adam and Eve; it ate through the Garden of Eden; it destroyed the historicity of the events of creation week. It etched holes in those parts of Christianity connected to the stories—the fall, “Christ as the second Adam,” the origins of sin, and nearly everything else that I counted sacred.” (Saving Darwin, 9-10)

    However, Giberson later wrote:

    • OT God “tyrannical anthropomorphic deity,” “commanded the Jews to go on genocidal rampages…but who believes in this [OT] deity any more, besides those same fundamentalists who think the earth is 10,000 years old? Modern theology has moved past this view of God.” http://biologos.org/blog/exposing-the-straw-men-of-new-atheism-part-five/

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Look into Hugh Ross' "Reasons to Believe" linked above.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    Jimmy wrote:

    • “The decline in Christianity the above article describes happened (and continues to happen) in part because Christian thought is largely unable cope with modern scientific advances.”

    Had you instead stated that Christianity is out-of-step with the times, I would agree with you wholeheartedly. It always is and should be. However, I am dumbfounded that because Christianity instead affirms the first two laws of thermodynamics in opposition to evolutionary naturalism and points to the inability of naturalism to even begin to explain such things as the origins of DNA, life, the cell, freewill, consciousness, the unchanging and uniform laws of physics, and the fine tuning of the universe, you would charge that “Christian thought is largely unable cope with modern scientific advances.”

  • Roger McKinney

    Barry, I don’t know of anyone who derides the work of Hugh Ross or impugns his name. YEC merely disagree with him. That is neither derisive nor impugning.

    Here’s the main mistake that Ross makes: he tries to explain the miracle of creation in terms of natural science. That would be similar to explaining the resurrection in terms of natural science, which many “scholars” do. Science has proven that miracles cannot occur, so true scientists have to look for a natural explanation of the resurrection.

    The swoon theory is very popular among them. We know that people sometimes appear to be dead but aren’t. I just read a story about a woman whom rescue workers put in a body bag after a tornado hit her house. Later, someone heard her moaning and released her from the bag.

    Ross’s method for the creation should lead Ross to accept the swoon theory of the resurrection. When the disciples placed Jesus’ body in the cold tomb they realized he wasn’t dead and took him home to recuperate. He didn’t rise from the “dead” three days later, but six months after he had healed.

    I could have more respect for old earth creationists if they would treat YEC with more respect. They treat atheistic evolutionists with more respect than they treat Christians who believe the Bible.

    • http://pocketpurposeblog@wordpress.com Carlene Byron

      235 posts later and two weeks later ... keep it up, all y'all.

      Meanwhile, I just spent a fascinating evening learning about the evolution of electronic textiles. It seems that within the next 10 years or so, you won't need to have your "John 3:16" shirts printed ... you'll be able to program your scripture du jour onto your electronic shirt. (You actually could do it now, but the color isn't good and the cost is high.)

      So you could have this whole long chest-butting conversation on your chests, in public. Admittedly it will look a little odd when you're staring into your phones to key messages to each other on your T-shirts. I'm not sure if that's brilliant or bizarre (or just a really hysterical public representation of the non-relationship you're having right now), but it will be possible.

    • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

      Roger here (May 2) says, "I don’t know of anyone who derides the work of Hugh Ross or impugns his name."

      Earlier (above), on this post he wrote: "OEC like Ross refuse to ever crack a book by YEC scientists". That's both deriding and impugning. So his statement today is a lie.

      Besides, the origin of the universe is a legitimate field for scientific inquiry.

      • Greg

        The burden of proof is on those who think so, John. I, for one, would like to see conclusive evidence for why the origin of the universe is a legitimate field for scientific inquiry. Or rather, how it possibly can be, given the assumption that miracles (i.e., unnatural, or "supernatural" occurrences) can happen, and therefore the conclusion that we have no absolutely sure record in the physical universe, as we cannot be absolutely certain that something miraculous did not occur in the past to influence the appearance, physical properties, and chemical makeup of things now.

        • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

          That kind of argument is likely one of the reasons why Christianity is declining in the US. Do you realize what the effect would be if, in a debate on a university campus, you stated that asking about the origins of the universe isn't even a field for scientific inquiry because you insist that it is miraculous? It's circular reasoning in a very tight circle. No thinking person would think that Christianity is a faith for thinking people.

          • Greg

            Well obviously, as Christianity's basis is faith, not reason. It never makes the claim to be entirely based on logic. Acceptance of its presuppositions are acts of faith, not reason. This is why it is miraculous when God opens the mind of an individual and grants him the gift of faith.

            I am well aware what the effect would be were I to state such a thing on a university campus, but frankly, that has no bearing on its truthfulness, and I don't really care what the response of others would be. It isn't my job to prove Christianity to anyone.

            Please define what exactly you mean by "thinking person", as such a term is of necessity subjective, since you cannot literally mean "thinking person". All human beings think, therefore your last statement is false (and reeks of intellectual arrogance).

          • Greg

            Well obviously, as Christianity's basis is faith, not reason. It never makes the claim to be entirely based on logic. Acceptance of its presuppositions are acts of faith, not reason. This is why it is miraculous when God opens the mind of an individual and grants him the gift of faith.

            I am well aware what the effect would be were I to state such a thing on a university campus, but frankly, that has no bearing on its truthfulness, and I don't really care what the response of others would be. It isn't my job to prove Christianity to anyone.

            Please define what exactly you mean by "thinking person", as such a term is of necessity subjective, since you cannot literally mean "thinking person". All human beings think, therefore your last statement is obviously false (and reeks of intellectual arrogance).

          • Greg

            Further, I never insisted it was miraculous in that comment. I merely insisted that insistence that it was entirely natural is unsupportable.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              I thought we resolved some of this earlier.
              First, you appear (at least in part) to be working with an unChristian world-view what separates the world of "faith" and the natural. I'd encourage you to read Francis Schaeffer. Your dichotomy sounds neo-orthodox, or even the post-modern idea that truth doesn't matter (that there's no such thing as "true truth" as Schaeffer might say).
              Second, anything that happens in the natural world, is a legitimate field for scientific inquiry. If scientists could prove (through archaeology or DNA, that Jesus did not rise from the dead (by some how recovering portions of His body) they would have dispoved Christianity. The Apostle Paul says so in 1 Cor. 15, if Christ has not been raised our faith is in vain, assuming that the physical reality has direct bearing on the spiritual faith.

              Third, as for creation, if scientists could somehow prove the the universe is eternal and not at all created; that may also create a problem for Christianity. But current science believes the evidence shows a definite point of creation ("the big bang"). This would tend to support all the cosmological arguments for the existence of God that caused Aristotle to conclude that God is the "necessary Being."

              So an informed Christian could argue with a Charles Dawkins at a university that Christianity supports science, that it has nothing to fear from science, and that science can go on inquiring of anything it is capable of inquiring; it just has to understand the difference between what it can prove and what some interpret it's evidence as saying. For example, Carl Sagan stating that the "cosmos is all there ever was, all there is, and all there ever will be" was a theological statement and one without any scientific support.

            • Greg

              We didn't "resolve" anything lol.

              I have nothing to fear from science. I am myself a scientist. However, your final point is exactly the point I am trying to make.

              "science can go on inquiring of anything it is capable of inquiring; it just has to understand the difference between what it can prove and what some interpret it's evidence as saying"

              This is exactly what I am trying to say. Science is not capable of inquiring about origins, any more than it is capable of inquiring about the resurrection itself. They cannot prove that it did not occur, short of constructing a time machine or finding a body and being able to prove beyond reasonable doubt that it belongs to Jesus. My point isn't that they can't if they have evidence; my point is that they have no real evidence, because it does not point to their conclusion without certain presuppositions, naturalism (total absence of the miraculous) being a key one.

              I in fact believe in a "true truth" and have read much of Schaeffer's work. There is only one truth. I am not working with a view that separates faith from the natural; the two are in no way opposed, especially considering that "faith" and "the natural" are not even in the same category of consideration. There's "natural" versus "supernatural", and there's "reason" versus "faith". I don't at all see how you could come to that conclusion from my posts alone.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Ah Greg, you were doing so well! You were just about to cross the goal line but then you fumbled with this: ""faith" and "the natural" are not even in the same category of consideration. . . . there's "reason" versus "faith"." No! That's exactly wrong. That's what Schaeffer spilled so much ink denouncing. There is only one realm of "truth." Sure, some truths we have to accept by "faith" while others we can ascertain ourselves with science. But it is NOT that they are in different categories. There are simply different sources of information, revelation or science. If science appears to contradict revelation then either: (1) our interpretation of the revelation is wrong (as was the case with those who called Copernicus a heretic) or (2) our understanding of the science is wrong (as in the case of Sagan's wildly theological assertion). And as for " "natural" versus "supernatural"",that only has to do with the means God used to do something, either providence or miracle. But the source is the same. We don't just say they are of different categories of "truth"; that's the mistake you seem to occasionally lapse into.

            • Greg

              Thanks for the condescension due to your utter misunderstanding of my comments. Helpful and indicative of your intellectual prowess, I'm sure.

              I didn't claim they were different categories of truth, my whole point in calling them "categories" was in correcting your improper understanding of my distinction between sources. You said "faith" and "nature". I was merely pointing out that "faith" and "reason" are "means" while "revelation" and "nature" are "sources". It was nit-picky, but that was my actual point there.

              "(1) our interpretation of the revelation is wrong (as was the case with those who called Copernicus a heretic) or our understanding of the science is wrong (as in the case of Sagan's wildly theological assertion)."

              I do not disagree at all with this, nor am I drawing it as if there were two categories of truth. My point all along has been that "our understanding of the 'science' is wrong", as science is being used inappropriately when applied to origins. It is not the proper source for the truth about origins.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              HI Greg,

              You're welcome for the condescension!

              I need a simply answer about a scientific question (for sermon prep): Is it fair to say that the second law of thermodynamics means that the universe is winding down, like a clock? That it is "in bondage to decay" in the words of Romans 8:20?

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              I need a scientific evaluation of this statement:

              "The stars will burn out; planets and comets will eventually run out of gas; atoms themselves will lose power and break down. In science they call this “the second law of thermodynamics” That heat and energy is eventually running out and so one day, with enough time, there will be nothing but a cold, dead universe – if, of course, it stays in bondage to decay."

              True or not? I know it's simplistic but is it basically accurate? Thanks.

            • Greg

              Assuming that naturalism prevails and nothing supernatural occurs to disrupt it, then yes, it is basically accurate to say that the universe will eventually run down. We can't really know though whether it actually will or not until it occurs. It's a prediction, a conclusion drawn from the evidence (second law of thermodynamics) that nonetheless relies on the presuppositions of naturalism, and therefore, I tend to doubt that such a future will actually occur.

              Be sure to separate in your own mind the law itself from the naturalistic conclusion drawn from it. The law itself, the "bondage to decay", is scientifically verifiable. The "heat death" is not; it is merely an extrapolation into the future based on this evidence and the belief that nothing supernatural will occur to change this.

            • http://www.covenantcaswell.org John Carpenter

              Hi Greg,

              Thanks. That's helpful. I'm working on a sermon on part of Romans 8 and it appears that what Paul calls "the bondage to decay" is what modern scientists call "the second law . . .". One day, Paul tells us, the creation will be released from that law and so won't completely die out.

              So, you were helpful to my sermon prep!

            • Greg

              Ah, wasn't expecting that, lol, but I am glad to have helped in such a way.

              You're welcome!

              Greg

              P.S. -- I tend to see the second law as being a direct result of "The Fall". Looking forward to that day when it is finally broken :)

              But of course, for now we have to live with it.

  • Roger McKinney

    John, the truth is the truth. If you show me a book in which Ross honestly deals with the scientific claims of YEC I’ll retract my statement.

    I never stated that investigations into origins isn’t a field for scientific inquiry. You made that up. However, no one can conduct controlled experiments on the origin of the universe and so limits the scientific method. Origins is more of a history subject than science. All evolution does is project into the past what we know about the future and so is not very scientific.

    At the same time, science should lead to truth. What would be the scientific evidence for a miracle? If creation was a miracle, how would we know it? Projecting natural processes we understand today backwards in time will rule out miraculous creation even if it was true.

    Your analogy of finding DNA for Jesus is a bad analogy. That puts the proof beyond possibility after 2,000 years. It merely removes the possibility of disproving the resurrection. All modern science tells us that it’s impossible for people to come back from the dead. Can you provide a scientist today who disagrees?

    So according to modern science, Jesus did not rise from the dead. Resurrection is impossible because it violates the laws of physics. In the same way, all that old earth science says is that the universe appeared according to the laws of physics and natural processes that we observe today because anything else is impossible.

  • Pingback: An Agenda for Recovering Christianity in America – The Gospel Coalition Blog

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  • http://Www.godcamedown.com Christ Centered Teaching

    We have left our first love for these external influences. The heart is always at the heart of the matter. We are looking for a complex answer to a seemingly complex problem, and one we will not find, for the answer is simple. We have left our first love and ignored our first priority. For if we love God with all that is in us then we will not have the capacity to love anything contrary to Him.

  • http://www.godcamedown.com Christ Cenered Teaching

    Thanks for clearing that up John.

  • Pingback: Tim Keller – An Agenda for Recovering Christianity | LifeChurch

  • http://www.godcamedown.com Christ Centered Teaching

    Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.
    If Christ is no longer supreme in my heart and daily living, then I have lost the Way, neglected the Truth, and turned away from Life.

  • http://www.godcamedown.com Christ Cenered Teaching

    : )

    • Daniel

      It is nothing to do with HIM that more and more people in 3rd world countries are developing faiths. The real fact is that the christian missionaries pumping money to the 3rd world countries including my country India when they have failed in the developed countries. There is a saying in Africa “When the missionaries came to Africa they had the Bible and we had the land. They said, 'Let us pray.' We closed our eyes. When we opened them we had the Bible and they had the land.”

      Bishop Desmond Tutu

  • http://www.vardhanksv.wordpress.com Vardhan Kothapalli

    Hello, Greetings to you in the Name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. Now-a-days even America has more number of atheists. I really feel like, America is need of Gospel than any other country in the world. It is the country which taught the world about Christianity (Spreading the Word of God). But its present situation is very pathetic. So I strongly believe that Sponsors in America should concentrate on their Country first. As you an see, many Americans are being converted to Islam or Hinduism or they they don't believe GOD. It has become fashion or style of being an atheist. In Matthew 7:5 It is written that "You hypocrite, first take the plank out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to remove the speck from your brother's eye". So, my sincere request is to save Christianity in Christian Countries.

    If you can see the ratio, the percentage of Christianity is being increased in Asian Countries and there's a great downfall in European and American countries. This is all because of not having an Intimate relationship with God. Those countries are working hard to increase their power in the world, but they doesn't know what they are loosing. Remember, Put God first and you will never be last.

    I'm sure that in coming years, America and all other Christian countries will need Gospel than any other country in the world. So, Please do pray for all the people out there who believe that they were lost and particularly those who doesn't believe in God.... Real GOD. Praise God Amen.

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  • http://vardhanksv.wordpress.com vardhan kothapalli

    Greetings to you in the name of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. If you observe the present situation in America you can predict its future. America is digging its own hole by ignoring God. Well it still may be presenting itself as a God Centered country or God trusting country to the world but If it take a closer look within, it situation is not the same. You see...... If there isn't any purpose for our lives we wouldn't be here on earth. Without a cause, nothing is created. The main cause of the decline in Christianity is that Human's priorities are changing. They got no time to spend with God at least to think. Remember God, is hope. No other religion in the world taught us to Love, Hope and Peace. Only Christ taught us that. But, not only America, every developing country is Ignoring God. Not because they want to but they have to. Because, in this century development is not dependent on Human Resources or Peoples lives. Its all about increasing their Power to increase their Army, or increase their Ammunition...which Religion (Christianity) is opposing. If their were to truly follow religion, they should be promoting peace and should be satisfied with what they have which to too hard for the people. America will be blessed only when it turn out to God again. In America, most of the people, particularly teenagers were atheists just because they consider it Fashion being it an Atheist or they don't care at all. The main church congregation were all above 50. Such a pathetic situation. Not only America, even every so called Christian Nation has got no Christians. And many were Liberal Christians who wants to do what ever they like being Christians giving the only reason we are living in this world and we got to move on. I always think... aren't they afraid of what has to come. As it is written in Revelation 1:7 - Look, he is coming with the clouds, and every eye will see him, even those who pierced him; and all the peoples of the earth will mourn because of him. So shall it be! Amen. The day will come. So I urge you...everyone of you to spread the word of God and first you live your life as an Example. Remember if your trust the Lord God you will never ever regret. Psalm 37:25 - I was young and now I am old, yet I have never seen the righteous forsaken or their children begging. Praise the Lord. AMEN. - vardhanksv.wordpress.com

  • Neil

    I realize that I am a late comer to this but after reading the points listed in the above article, I felt compelled to give my own perspective. My question is this. Have any of you seen what calls itself Christianity these days? Willfully ignorant men and women who insist on denying anything inconvenient to their faith discovered by the world of science. Men in halls of power that can't even grasp the basics of human reproductive biology because they were strictly raised in Evangelical bubbles. So called men of God living the good life after creating the excuse to shed modesty called "Prosperity Ministries". Mega churches that resemble shopping malls. Christian politicians who would rather spend every waking hour attempting to reconstruct this secular society into their own brand of theocracy than actually solving nationional problems. Dominionists infiltrating the Armed Forces and attempting to create an Army of God.

    The list could continue but really, what's the point? It matters not how concise the reasons are, most believers will simply plug their ears and regurgitate the mantra that this nation is doomed because it isn't following their brand, their denomination, their sect of religious fervor. If only everyone held to the old ways when nobody was allowed to dissent for fear of physical violence or death. If only they would follow the interpretation of the book that I subscribe to.

    Look around you. Christianity is changing by the minute into either a justification for mistreating others or a vague, New Age philosophy. Both are still relatively exclusive as the members of the faith are still ultimately the ones who decide just who's "Christian" enough to join the club. It is (as it always has been) an easy way to make a buck and a quick look across the religious landscape will yield a surprising number of charlatans who fleece the flock on a regular basis.

    The Bible is full of horror, murder and mayhem but those who shake it at we unbelievers have either never read those parts, choose to ignore them or justify them. Once again, I could go on about this but as I said before, what's the point? Things will slowly change as generations come and go and there's nothing anyone can do about it. No amount of hand wringing, prayer or a demands that all people succumb to the will of the faithful will slow progress. So for those of you who are convinced that you have all of the answers, just keep telling yourself that everything is going to Hell along with the country and everyone in it but please, try to imagine how the more zealous of you look before making claims about why it is that a growing number of human beings don't want to be part of the Christian club. I am certainly relieved to no longer be part of it. Good day.

  • william brown

    Wow, that's cynical. I honestly don't know what planet you live on Neil. You picked out all the very worst aspects you could find, none of which have anything to do with Christianity. Yet, you seem to be unaware of your own worldview, which is theocratic and religious, and just happens to have a much, much worse historical record in terms of human misery and suffering.

    --Bill

    • Neil

      How nice of you to respond Bill. Thank you. I am actually a very happy and satisfied man. I am a musician and I spread happiness to those who enjoy my work. My views on the subject come from being indoctrinated into religion {Assembly of God) during the early Eighties when to be Christian meant that you voted only Republican. My spiritual well being was never a consideration for those recruiting people to follow Ronald Reagen to the ends of the Earth.

      Look, it is simple. There are leaders and there are followers. Human nature shows this to be true every time. If you do not set an example that people want to follow, they won't. They will even disdain you if you are unfortunate enough to be in a small enough out group. Think you've seen real persecution? Try walking in an atheists shoes for awhile.

      The problem here is that what happened yesterday is irrelevant to how you choose to present yourself today. You can point to every good thing that religion has done in it's history (and I will agree that much good has come from it) however if you are going to use it to claim precedent, you must also take ownership of the bad as well. The usual tit for tat arguments about Stalin, Mao and Hitler are generally brought up at this point but I don't live my life according to their philosophies either and therefore they are just as irrelevant to me as Christianity. Stalin, Hitler and Mao are dead. They were deposed. Representatives of the Christian faith such as Benny Hinn, Pat Robertson, Joel Olsteen, Rick Warren and the rest of the fat cat evangelists are alive and well but never questioned for their motives even as they pull away from the curb of their mansions in a $90,000 Mercedes. They take full advantage of the fact that nobody is allowed question their motives because we're all unworthy to judge according to scripture. Perhaps you grit your teeth and mutter under your breath when you watch one of these guys make a declaration that is utterly ignorant or worse.

      Because I don't follow the Christian faith, I am under no obligation not to call a spade a spade. These men are crooks and liars. They are also seen by the public as representatives of Christianity which leads me back to my original point. Would you want to be associated with this sort of behavior? No I'm not talking about the average believer who bears a simple and honest faith. One who does not attempt to impose their will on the country through legislation because they can't convince anyone otherwise through the market place of ideas. A humble and modest servant of God is very unlikely to find themselves at the head of a multi-million dollar Mega Church but again, you don't get to make the distinction of who is genuine, humble and modest because faith is untouchable.

      If noticing the difference is perceived as being cynical, then so be it. I do not take it as a negative despite the assertion to the contrary. I won't allow myself to be accused of generalizing by those of a vague faith (at least in the face of Biblical literalism) either. If you want more people to live to the standard set forth by what Thirty Thousand different denominations and sub groups are claiming we should live by, the message and actions has to be a little clearer than what is being presented. As I stated before, will this happen? No, because everybody is right and everybody else is wrong.

  • william brown

    Neil,

    Thank you for the thoughtful and sincere reply.

    It sounds like your beef is with certain popular representatives of the evangelical church. I must concur with you on many of the points you stated. However, the issue seems to be more directed at hypocrisy per se, than to the teachings of orthodox Christianity, which proclaims the necessity of suffering, humility, charity, and self-sacrifice. The fact that popular TV figures may not measure up to the doctrine of the Bible and Church (which is 95% in agreement across all denominations), or might fall far short, says nothing about the veracity of the faith. It only reveals the depravity and fallenness of man and, if anything, points even more strongly to our need for a compass and a standard, which is Christ.

    --Bill

    • Neil

      I will agree that many of my complaints lay at the feet of the monster that is Organized Religion however I can cite many examples of the same type of hypocrisy, deception and all out arrogance from everyday Christians. I don't hold this against their faith though. People will be how they will be. What troubles me is that in most instances, their own faith blinds them to the fact that they're acting this way. Now it is true that I could be accused of judging Christianity at large by the actions of a few bad apples but many of these people are generally held in high regard by those around them. They are small business owners and neighbors. The same folks that will sneer at anyone who doesn't share the same faith but will happily skip church if the fishing is good. Besides, by whose authority can anyone say that they aren't walking the right path? These are the examples that other people observe and contemplate when asking themselves if they want to take part. For better or worse, people judge by the least of a group many times.

      When I considered myself Christian, I did my level best to be the guy that people admired because I always tried to do what I thought was morally right. Not what church leaders told me I should do. I didn't wear my faith on my sleeve nor a cross on my lapel. I wanted folks to see my integrity flowing from my faith and not simply an artificial byproduct of it. I felt that in order to truly be humble before God, I must never proclaim knowledge of that which I couldn't know. I accepted scientific discovery as simply more evidence of the genius of the Creator. I accepted that the Bible is flawed in many respects with contradictions and errors but I never claimed that it was perfect and precise. Only that it was the best interpretation that the men of the age could come up with when attempting to document revelation. (At least until I began to really grasp the implications of the authors, scribes, kings and councils that edited it to pieces) I always tried to maintain a direct link with God and was thankful for every minute thing including the suffering so that I might appreciate the good things more.

      I never once felt connected though. I watched my contemporaries flinging themselves into the aisles Pentecostal style, speaking in tongues, swaying in the pews with upraised hands and I never felt inclined to do the same despite my fervent longing for any sign from the Almighty that I was living right. I watched people cheapen my faith by acting like bullies and side show freaks. I prayed earnestly for understanding after being told that my faith simply wasn't strong enough. A few years beyond that, I shed my faith and found that I still had a reason to be the good and decent human being that I had striven to be in those earlier years. I found the natural explanations for why things are the way they are much more satisfying and accepted that this Universe doesn't care and won't change simply because I believe that it should in order to match my views. I see death as the same non existence as before ever being born and I appreciate each moment to experience life so much more. I no longer have to listen to apologists twisting and torturing logic to somehow prove what can not be proven.

      In short Bill, I am happy, content and thankful for the opportunity to be alive. When I consider that I had a million competitors swimming toward the egg and that I was the one that actually made it, it gives me reason to be humble. I have many harsh opinions on the doctrines of Christianity (which I will not go into here) but I don't blame the people for what they believe. I have far too much respect for my fellow Homo Sapiens to callously cast them aside. I'm not trying to evangelize here. Just stating my opinion. This is my synoptic testimony as it were. I wish well to all provided they realize that their reality doesn't have to superimpose itself over mine. Cheers brother!

  • william brown

    “If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for me will find it. What good will it be for a man if he gains the whole world, yet forfeits his soul?’” (Matthew 16:24-26).

    Those who take the path of self-denial (in an age of self-expression, self-worth and self-indulgence), will be set free. A proud heart is an imprisoned heart. A humble heart that looks to God is free and full of grace.

    • Neil

      At issue here is that it is you that accuses others of having a "proud heart". Can you not see this? You cast judgement upon others who don't share your view and justify it with whatever scriptural passage validates your words. The Bible is not a ventriloquist dummy my friend. If you are to draw peace and inner conviction from the book, use it to enlighten your own life rather than as a cudgel against someone who doesn't agree with your interpretation of it.

      • william brown

        Neil,

        I'm not accusing. These are not my words. And they were not directed at you. My point was only to say that it seems that so many of the bad experiences you relate would not have happened if these Christians were following the tenets (that this verse alludes to) of their own faith. I was agreeing with you.

        I've been to charismatic services and it's not my style. I am probably too quick to judge the sincerity of others faith but I have been really turned off by much of what I've seen. I've trended more toward a liturgical Anglican style, and even find much of value in the ancient Roman rite. But, this is mainly a matter of style I think. I certainly do not judge a faith by the inability of some adherents to follow it. I've had a much different experience than you. I came to faith primarily by the witness of a number of saintly men whose lives spoke volumes about the truth of the Christian faith.

        Since that time,at age 15, my faith has only deepened the more I study the evidences for the Christian faith and learn about it's history. I only have ever wanted to follow the truth, wherever that might lead me. The evidence becomes impossible for me to deny.

        • Neil

          William, I appreciate your clarification and apologize for the incorrect conclusion I came to from your initial post.

          I can no longer draw a distinction ceremonially between ancient Mayans atop a pyramid in South America and modern church services that practice traditions from almost the same time period. I understand the human desire for ceremony but the drama and theater have never done anything for me. Perhaps that is why I never felt and still don't feel comfortable in any type of service. As a professional musician, drama and theater are an integral part of my livelihood and I see it all from the nuts and bolts perspective of behind the curtain. Couple that with the fact that I am not of the faith and it becomes a pointless weekly endeavor to me. Please allow me to reiterate the last two words of that sentence. To me. I have no bone to pick with anyone that enjoys the experience. I do not.

          I understand the benefit of fellowship although I would be lying if I didn't admit that there is a part of me that views it as nothing more than mental reinforcement and enforcement of dogmas upon the flock. It is ironic that after being treated as badly as I was while I believed myself to be in the faith that I would find myself in a place that guarantees abuse and discrimination. As someone who never felt the presence of what so many profess to be graced by, my own integrity will not allow me to fake the same experience merely for the sake of social cohesion. Thus here I am. An Atheist attempting to explain on a religious web site why it is that so many have decided to take a different path than what is viewed as traditionally acceptable.

          A lesser forum would have banned me for even daring to give my opinion. I would have been descended upon with paragraphs of cut and pasted scripture meant to somehow enlighten me while ensuring that those who correspond with me are aware that they are conversing with the devil himself. I thank you for the honest dialogue. Not all of us Atheists are militant unless we are invited to a barbecue at the stake in our own honor.

  • http://www.godcamedown.com Christ Centered Teaching

    concern troll

    English

    Friends. I too come from a background of pentacostal influence.
    But unlike this example, I didn't stop seeking truth and studied the Bible enough to settle all the doubts I had about it being infallible.
    "Neil", is the perfect model of a Concern Troll.
    Beware!
    He will waste huge amounts of your time and energy as he repeatedly seems to agree and then launches long comments that
    accuse others as he makes himself appear the victim, all the while he is the sly predator.

    concern troll (plural concern trolls)(Internet slang) Someone who posts to an internet forum or newsgroup, claiming to share its goals while deliberately working against those goals, typically, by claiming "concern" about group plans to engage in productive activity, urging members instead to attempt some activity that would damage the group's credibility, or alternatively to give up on group projects entirely.

    • Neil

      You have quite the gall to accuse anyone of anything amigo. Especially while under such a heavy veil of self righteousness. You are the one to cast the first stone at someone who does not bear the same belief as yourself and I am convinced that it is believers such as yourself that would waste no time in nailing Christ himself back on the cross if he were to come back and spread a message you didn't agree with. Don't you dare call me a troll for having the honesty to admit where I'm coming from simply because you don't like it. Please be careful when climbing off your horse brother. It's a very long way down. You, yes YOU are the type that has people turning away from Christianity, This article needed only wait for a guaranteed response like yours to so finely illustrate the point. You know what though, I'll forgive you because you simply don't know any better. I pity you but I forgive your insult.

      Perhaps you need to scroll back to the top of the page to refresh your memory as to what this article is about. That is unless you'll only be satisfied with the explanations rendered by insiders alone and again, only if they have your concordance. If you aren't interested in first hand experience of someone who is quite relevant to the topic at hand then by all means, continue to accuse me of actively working against you somehow.

  • http://www.godcamedown.com Christ Centered Teaching

    Christ is the Way, the Truth, and the Life.If Christ is no longer supreme in my heart and daily living, then I have lost the Way, neglected the Truth, and turned away from Life.

  • http://www.godcamedown.com Christ Centered Teaching

    he is little; would fain be happy and sees that he is miserable; would fain be perfect and sees that he is full of imperfections; wood fain be the object of the love and esteem of men, and sees that his faults merit only aversion and contempt. The embarrassment wherein he finds himself produces in him the most unjust and criminal passions imaginable, for he conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults." ~Blaise Pascal~ Pensees

    On the contrary, it is you ,Neil,who's being rude.No one here was taking issue with an atheist before you showed up and no one is taking issue with you now. You are simply not being honest with yourself. You quit looking for the truth before you found it. Instead, you are raging against Christians in Christianity and the real problem is inside you.

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  • Shasiti

    That was quite entertaining and in it self explains why Christianity is on the decline in America and everywhere. Christians argueing over who's interupitation of the bible is right or wrong. Everywhere you go on the internet to similar websites you will find at least 2 Christians getting into it over who is right and who is wrong. I have to go with the Old Earth Creationists. There is not one YEC that is a REAL scientist whom studied at a real accredited school that will tell you that the earth is only 6,000 yreas old. Explain the KT boundry, Explain why there are no mammals found below this boundry. Evolution is a proven FACT and has been for a hundred years. Until all you Christians pull together and come up with real answers to some hard questions Christianity will be gone in 50 years. Hating Gays, abortion, immigrants, and other religions will not get you any brownie points with young adults either, because they are not haters. Or most of them are not because they are being raised in communities of tolerence.

    • http://donotletthisuniverseforgetyou.blogspot.com Heather Carrillo

      Christianity perhaps may be gone from America in 50 years (read the title of this post), though I highly doubt even that, but never from the world Shasiti.
      I'm glad you're firmly entrenched in a "FACT" that has been around for one hundred years, but you see, I'm firmly entrenched in a fact that is roughly 2,000 years old (the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ). Since I'm unlikely to die within the next fifty years, I don't think Christianity will be gone. I highly doubt I'm the only one.
      I wish you would differentiate between despising sin as sin yet still feeling for the people lost in sin (abortion, people of other religion, homosexuals) before you use silly terms like "haters."
      ~A Young Adult who is not a hater.

    • Greg

      I concur with Heather. I would also point out that your assertion regarding there being no "real scientist" who is also a YEC is patently false.

      "Ken Ham earned a bachelor's degree in Applied Science, with an emphasis in Environmental Biology, at Queensland Institute of Technology and a diploma in Education from the University of Queensland." -- wikipedia

  • Shasiti

    Heather I am happy you are not a hater but I grew up in the Christian Religion and I witnessed a lot of HATE. These people you say are lost in sin, who are you to judge? "DO NOT JUDGE LEST YOU BE JUDGED" And yes I truly believe Christianity will be gone in 50 years. Did you read Christian against Christian as they fought it out on who knows scripture better then the next? You must not have read the comments all the way thru or you would understand what I am talking about.

    • http://donotletthisuniverseforgetyou.blogspot.com Heather Carrillo

      @Shasiti, I'm willing to bet you didn't grow up in the Christian religion then because it shouldn't be characterized by hate. If it was they probably weren't Christians.
      So, when Jesus told the woman who was caught in adultery to "go forth and sin no more" was that "judging"? See, people use the "judge not" passage SO wrong and it makes me crazy. That doesn't mean you can't say something is wrong! I mean, clearly you can call 'hate' wrong, and I'm sure you and I would agree that kidnapping or rape or sex trafficking is wrong. I can call abortion wrong and I can call homosexual sex wrong. The "judge not" passage just means you can't say who is going to hell and who isn't. That is for God to decide. And it is. I have no idea who is going to be saved and who won't be. I do know that certain acts are sins.
      What I saw in this thread is people who DO know their bibles and people who do not know their bibles arguing it out. I also saw people who aren't Christians arguing with people who are. Yeah, I mean, some of it wasn't "nice" but that sort of seems to be what happens in online forums. It doesn't mean Christianity will be gone in fifty years. I mean, how could it be? Do you think me and ALL of my friends my age who are very committed Christians will be dead in fifty years? I mean, that's statistically impossible.

    • http://donotletthisuniverseforgetyou.blogspot.com Heather Carrillo

      And also, do you truly believe an all powerful God would let His followers disappear completely? No. Surely you are not so easily fooled.

  • http://www.mannsword.blogspot.com Daniel Mann

    In our age, contending for theological truth seems narrow and divisive. However, in past ages, theological truth was regarded as foundational for all else - how we treat others, how we regard ourselves, and how we relate to God.