Wintery Knight

…integrating Christian faith and knowledge in the public square

Survey: young people losing their Christian faith in record numbers

From the very liberal Washington Post.

Excerpt:

A growing tide of young Americans is drifting away from the religions of their childhood — and most of them are ending up in no religion at all.

One in four young adults choose “unaffiliated” when asked about their religion, according to a new report from the Public Religion Research Institute and Georgetown University’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace & World Affairs.

But most within this unaffiliated group — 55 percent — identified with a religious group when they were younger.

“These younger unaffiliated adults are very nonreligious,” said Daniel Cox, PRRI’s research director. “They demonstrate much lower levels of religiosity than we see in the general population,” including participation in religious rituals or worship services.

Some of them will return to their faiths as they age, “but there’s not a lot of evidence that most will come back,” added Cox, who said the trend away from organized religion dates back to the early 1990s.

The study of 2,013 Americans ages 18-24 focused on the younger end of the cohort commonly known as the “Millennials” or “Generation Y,” which generally includes young adults as old as 29. Interviews were conducted between March 7 and 20.

Across denominations, the net losses were uneven, with Catholics losing the highest proportion of childhood adherents — nearly 8 percent — followed by white mainline Protestant traditions, which lost 5 percent.

Among Catholics, whites were twice as likely as Hispanics to say they are no longer affiliated with the church.

White evangelical and black denominations fared better, with a net loss of about 1 percent. Non-Christian groups posted a modest 1 percent net increase in followers.

But the only group that saw significant growth between childhood and young adulthood was the unaffiliated — a jump from 11 percent to 25 percent.

And this is very interesting:

An overwhelming majority of white evangelical Protestants (68 percent) said they believe that some things are always wrong, compared to 49 percent of black Protestants, 45 percent of Catholics and 35 percent of the unaffiliated.

I’m a non-white evangelical Protestant, and I think that in general, evangelical Protestants are the ones who emphasize theology, apologetics and worldview integration the most. I think that any other church that wants to stop the losses will have to get serious about apologetics and worldview. It’s especially important for churches to emphasize that Christianity is about truth, to emphasize how we know it’s true (science, history) and to explain why some things are wrong and why Hell is fair. We just don’t have the requirements straight right now – too much emphasis on Christian culture and externals, and not enough emphasis on theology and apologetics and moral reasoning. And parents – not pastors – need to take the lead in teaching their own children after church is over.

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Why would God want us to praise him?

From Amy K. Hall, staff apologist at Stand to Reason. (H/T The Poached Egg)

Excerpt:

I was recently asked why God would want us to praise and worship Him. This is a question I hear every so often since we immediately assume that a person who demands praise is a pompous big-head. I think there are many Christians out there who secretly wonder about this—afraid to ask the question (lest they be thought unspiritual), but bothered all the same.

God is completely self-sufficient and doesn’t need our praise and worship. However, He does deserve it. Would you agree that it is right and good to praise someone who is worthy of praise? We instinctively know this and praise people for all sorts of achievements. We praise the people we love and admire, and it’s not right or good for us to withhold praise from them.

We all understand the concept of praise being due certain people. Imagine that you crafted an incredibly beautiful sculpture and won a prestigious award for your creation; but when the time came for the award ceremony, they gave the prize for your sculpture to the wrong artist! That would not be just, right, or good. In the same way, God—as the only being perfect in goodness, justice, love, etc.—is worthy of our praise. We do, in fact, owe Him that praise. He wants us to praise Him because it is right and good for us to do so. Since God wants us to do right and good things, of course he wants us to praise and worship Him.

Beyond the praise being right and good (and because of its being right and good), worshiping God also brings us joy and enhances our relationship with Him. We see this in human relationships as well—think of a man with his wife. Doesn’t it bring him great joy to praise her?

I think it it’s interesting to note that very often, non-theists try to explain things like the creation of the universe and the fine-tuning of the universe and the origin of life as being the result of blind forces. That is the opposite of praise – that is speculating about nature to avoid giving credit to nature’s Creator and Designer. They are trying to escape the obligation to worship by attributing the great miracles of God to no one, so they can be accountable to no one. This is not the kind of thought life that God looks kindly on.

One important result of studying the world, including science, is to be able to understand what God has done in the world and to give him appropriate recognition for it. It is part of being in a relationship with him that we know him and respond appropriately to his real character. The refusal to acknowledge God is one of the symptoms of rebellion against him.

Matthew 10:32-33:

 32 “Whoever acknowledges me before others, I will also acknowledge before my Father in heaven.

33 But whoever disowns me before others, I will disown before my Father in heaven.

And this also appears in Luke 12:8-10:

8 “And I tell you, everyone who acknowledges me before men, the Son of Man also will acknowledge before the angels of God,

9 but the one who denies me before men will be denied before the angels of God.

10 And everyone who speaks a word against the Son of Man will be forgiven, but the one who blasphemes against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven.

This passage is an early passage from Q, because it’s shared by Matthew and Luke, and Q is a source for those two early gospels. To get on the right side of this verse, it’s important to study what God has done, so you can give him the praise that he has earned. He wants to be acknowledged, and we want to hold up our end of the relationship and give him that acknowledgement. He did the deeds, and that means he should get the recognition for it.

One more thing I want to say about this. I see a lot of people singing songs about God in church, expressing praise for things they have no reason to believe that God has done. I think a good way to have authentic praise for God is to tone down the singing in groups and the emotional highs and the pretty buildings for a while, and focus on apologetics. Focus on learning the real stuff that God has actually done that we can know about – by studying science and history. In fact, it really scares me when I see young people singing and raising their hands and closing their eyes at church when I know good and well they have no intellectual grounding for these activities – it makes me feel like I am in some cult or something, surrounded by self-serving, fun-seeking weirdos.

You know that brings up an interesting question. What do you suppose would happen if I gathered together all the pastors and singing church people into a room and told them that we were going to do a scientific study of what God has done in nature, and a historical study of what God has done in history? My guess is that they would attack me, drive me out of the church, and go back to singing songs in groups with big musical bands and colorful lights in the ceiling. I think we need to guard against making Christianity about feelings and experiences and group gatherings, and make it more about knowledge. What has God really done that we can know about?

Let’s lay down a base of knowledge about God from nature and history, and then once we know he is real and he is good, we can talk about theology, and praising him for all of that. We don’t want what we do in church to be in anyway comparable to what non-Christians do in night clubs and concerts – gathering in groups and dancing around ecstatically. Blech! Christianity is about truth, not feelings.

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Should pastors preach against false ideas and false ideologies in church?

From Thinking Christian.

Excerpt:

Justin Buzzard tells this story:

About ten years ago I heard Ben Patterson, campus pastor of Westmont College, say something that I will never forget. Ben told the story of a retired pastor who began noticing that his former congregation was sliding away from orthodoxy. The pastor saw this as his fault, noting the one thing he thought he did most poorly as a pastor. The pastor stated, in two sentences, his great failure as a pastor:

I always told people what to believe. My great mistake is that I never told my people what NOT to believe.

It’s possible to be so “biblical” that we’re unbiblical.

I’m referring to pastors, churches, and individual Christians who say, “we’re sticking to the Bible, and we don’t ever need to study anything but the Bible.” The great men and women of the Bible didn’t say that. They didn’t just preach in support of God’s truth. They knew the lies that were current in their cultures, they named those lies—with very contemporary examples—and they exposed what was false about them. When Isaiah ripped apart idol worship so sarcastically in Isaiah 44:9-20, he knew what he was talking about. So those who only study the Bible are failing to follow its example!

I think the reason for this is because the church is so focused on providing a happy music show every week, so that people can feel happy and affirmed, that they would never want to be negative and exclusive. That might make the people in the audience feel offended or excluded. That’s why pastors never set up Christianity as being true in distinction to other views that are false. And pastors surely would not appeal to external evidence from science and history – that might make people who don’t know any science and history feel bad, and spoil their happy feelings. It seems to me that pastors need to get back into the habit of connecting the Christian to real life. False ideas are harmful, and the pastor’s job is to stand up to wolves that might harm his flock – not to ignore the wolves. A very good place to start would be in the area of capitalism and taxation, or maybe in the area of sexual ethics and marriage.

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Does the church prepare people for the difficulty of evangelism?

Battle-scarred means battle-ready

Battle-scarred means battle-ready

This post over at Reason to Stand is the kind of post that I wish I had written.

Excerpt:

There is an old saying that “war is hell”. That saying applies as much to ideological warfare as it does to physical warfare. Sure, the pain and consequences are often (though not necessarily) radically different, but the brutality is no less real.

I am constantly amazed by other Christians who oooh and ahhh when I relay stories of past exploits where I’ve engaged people from various ideological backgrounds. They are usually enamored by such tailes and some even form a desire to join in such exploits themselves among the people they encounter on a daily basis.

But for far too many, it ends there. I never see them later and hear their grand tales of past exploits. They never take the steps to become a warrior.

Why is that?

And then he quotes a quote from Dietrich Bonhoeffer which has a special meaning for me. I know that quote very well.

This post really struck at the core of my frustration with the church. Basically, the biggest problem with church is that it is all about having fun and having your emotions tickled. There is no part of church that suggests the idea that being an authentic Christian might require any work at all. And certainly nothing to make you think that being a Christian might involve any conflict – like opposing atheism in debates, or opposing abortion, or even secularized public schools that teach evolution and sex education with taxpayer money.

I was recently listening to an episode of Unbelievable where an atheistic female politician was debating Os Guinness, who I consider to be a functional atheist. But forget about the debate. The main thing that was interesting was that the woman was quite a high ranking politician and she attended church because she enjoyed the beautiful building, the community of nice people dressed up, and especially the nice music and singing. But, her actual beliefs were atheistic.

I actually know a few women who are pro-abortion, pro-same-sex-marriage, pro-big-government, who also enjoy attending church for the singing, and such. And my point is that church, as Wes noted in his post, does nothing to tell people that there is anything more to Christianity than singing, pageantry and community. What matters is the show. In Catholic and Orthodox churches, the show is the liturgy. In Protestant churches, the show is the dancing and the singing and the talking about life having meaning and someone looking out for us who will give us goodies no matter what we do.

Do you know who gets left out of the church in this picture? People who actually think that Christianity is true, and who know how to talk about it, and how to live it out. It’s disgusting. Read Wes’ post and think about it. We need to be celebrating our warriors, not the pastors and especially not the worship leaders. The people who actually talk about Christianity outside the church. That should be the marker of authentic Christianity – not singing, and not talking about things from a pulpit in a sing-song voice.

Filed under: Commentary, , , , , , ,

Is the practice of tithing binding on Christians?

Wes at Reason to Stand doesn’t think that it is. He cites the Old Testament verses that are used to support tithing and explains why he doesn’t think they are applicable to Christians.

Then he says this:

Christ fulfills the requirements of the law in the NT. So for the same reason we no longer sacrifice animals on alters or consider buildings as sacred or see the Levitical priesthood as being in effect, we no longer tithe to support a theocratic system of government.

[...]the tithe has not been reinstituted in the NT. And yes, the tithe would have to be reinstituted since in the OT the tithe was given to a specific place (the temple) to specific people (the priests) under a theocratic system or partially independent Jewish state as the case is in the NT until about 90AD when they were eliminated as a sovereign or even semi-sovereign state.

In the NT we are told that we are to give to the poor, the needy, etc. It may be the case that man-made organizations such as 501c3 non-profit businesses may do a good job of filling the needs of the poor and needy. However it is wrong to conflate the ekklesia or assembly of believers with either the temple of the OT (to which tithes were to be paid) or a building/man-made organization which is meant by most pastors who advocate tithing.

Finally, in the NT we are told that our giving should not be under compulsion and in accordance with what we’ve decided in our hearts to give per 2 Corinthians 9:7. A tithe, by contrast stands directly opposed to this sentiment as it is both compulsory (Malachi 3:8-12) and it is a specified amount (Numbers 18:26).

In the NT we are called to practice grace-based giving to those in need. While some may choose to give to organizations that can and often do meet the needs of those in need quite well, others don’t. Neither, however, are sinning in how they choose to spend their money. However it is wrong to assert that the tithe is still in effect today. Especially when what we are supposedly tithing to is 1. not the temple and 2. often horribly mismanaged and/or spent almost exclusively on infrastructure (like props for the big show on Sunday morning).

I can tell you right now that I only do targeted giving for specific events that the church holds. The rest of my giving is to specific scholars and to build up other Christians who are doing good work with non-Christians.

 

 

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