What if I told you we were doing it all wrong?

We see changes in our culture and it is freaking us out

It has been written and said that we are living in a post-Christian culture. A post-Christian culture can be defined as “a culture where the Christian faith and worldview no longer has a dominant influence in society.” Many of us were brought up in a world where there was common ground when it comes to absolute truth and morality. That is definitely not the case any more. The problem is the way in which Christians are responding to the changing culture. Out of fear and insecurity about the loss we are experiencing we have become angry and have begun to fight a culture war.

We need to understand what is going on beneath the surface in the hearts and minds of the people all around us

What we need to do is stop and realize that the arguments we are having are, for the most part, symptoms of something much deeper. Let’s take sexuality for example. Many Christians are shocked regarding how our culture’s view of sexuality has changed. So, what do we do? We will argue with people (very rarely in person) about the issue of sexuality. What we normally find is that our arguments have very little power to change anyone’s mind. Why do you think that is true?

The reason that it is true is due to the fact that their world views have completely changed. Our culture’s view of truth, gender, and morality have changed massively over the years. Think of it this way, we are arguing with people about the software when the real problem is the hardware. It might just be possible that our “conversations” are having little impact because they are not going deep enough.

We need to go beyond throwing truth grenades and look to build relationships

So what do we do? One main idea that I keep expressing time and time again is that we need to build actual relationships. We have to give up the idea that the hard hitting meme we post or the political rant is going to make any difference. All that it is going to do is push people away and make it less likely that they will ever come to know the Truth personally.

Imagine this for a moment. Christians, working hard to build old-fashioned relationships with people who are very different from them. Listening. Showing genuine empathy. Asking lots of questions. Being open to the idea that we can learn from others who come from very different backgrounds. It is in the context of a relationship that we can go beyond the surface and talk about the basis, or the foundation, for what we say we believe. The online post or rant is easy, and if we are honest, it feels good to throw out an occasional truth grenade and pretend that we actually accomplished something positive. To go deeper in relationship will come about only when we love people more than we love winning an argument. But the question we are faced with is this, will we take the time, get out of our comfort zone, and actually build relationships with people very different from us?

The Shift From Post-Modern To Post-Truth (Living In A “Your Truth” Culture)

The Oxford Dictionary defines “true” as “in accordance with fact or reality.”

Recently I was listening to a Gospel Coalition podcast where Abdu Murray was being asked some questions that pertained to his book, “Saving Truth: Finding Meaning And Clarity In A Post-Truth World.” In the podcast Murray made a particular point that helped clarify a lot of what we see going on in our culture today.

He pointed out that there seems to be a shift from a post-modern culture to a post-truth culture.

Post-modern culture=there are no objective truths.

Post-truth culture=our feelings and preferences are more important than truth. Truth may exist, but it does not really matter all that much.

When I heard Murray explain this change in how our culture thinks about truth it rang true with me. Think about all the times you hear things like this:

  • “I’m glad believing in God works for you, but that’s just not my thing.”
  • “All religions are just different paths leading to God.”
  • “That’s your truth it’s not “my truth”.
  • “As long as it’s not hurting anyone else no one has the right to tell me that what I am doing is wrong.”
  • “Follow your heart.” There can be little doubt that there is an increasing belief that our heart determines what is right, true, and best.

We even have post-truth politics. “Post-truth politics (also called post-factual politics and post-reality politics) is a political culture in which debate is framed largely by appeals to emotion disconnected from the details of policy, and by the repeated assertion of talking points to which factual rebuttals are ignored.” -Wikipedia Think of all the lying that takes place in the political world these days. Could it be due to the fact that truth is increasingly becoming relative to the leaders of our country?

Pontius Pilate
The craziness of Pilate asking the question, “What is truth?” while standing next to the Truth.

If you are still wondering if this post-truth stuff is really a thing then you might want to know that ‘post-truth’ was voted the word of the year in 2016! So, what does this mean for the Christian living in this post-truth culture? How should we respond? Here are a few ideas:

  1. Christians need to embrace the fact that we will increasingly be thought of as crazy or radical. In a culture where man decides that truth is whatever feels right, the Christian who is standing on the Word of God will seem like a unenlightened lunatic. In fact, communicating basic orthodox Christian beliefs are starting to be labeled “hate speech.” We have to put on our big boy pants and accept that the world is going to think we are flat out weird.
  2. We need a proper view regarding God’s Word. This is not incredibly shocking, but the world around us does not hold the Bible in high regard. The problem is not just “out there.” Too many churches are compromising on the authority and inspiration of the Word of God. I believe this happens, at times, because our heart desires something and so we tweak God’s Word to make it say what we want it to say.
  3. We need to change our strategy when it comes to talking to those who do not yet know Christ. In the past the strategy of apologists was to help people to see that to say that objective truth did not exist was a self-refuting statement. Now, increasingly people do not care if their beliefs are contradictory. It really just comes down to what they want, what they desire.
  4. We need to learn to be honest, and open, when it comes to the way that we interact with others. Do we really listen to others and what they have to say on social media? Are we interested in building relationships or just angrily stating our opinion and acting like something significant has occurred? As we humbly model this behavior (listening) to a watching world we reveal to them that we genuinely value the truth and recognize that there is always room to grow and learn new things.

I will wrap this up with this question, is there really anything to fear if there is no such thing as truth? What would our world look like if there was no such thing as absolute truth? Listen to Ravi Zacharias give an answer to that question.

The featured picture is taken from Time Magazine

Questioning Christianity: Dealing with tough questions about the faith

questioning christianityOn Sunday, September 9th I am going to begin a sermon series entitled “Questioning Christianity: Dealing with tough questions about the faith.” It will be six weeks long. Here are the questions we will be asking and answering:

• Science Clearly Contradicts Christianity. Why Believe It?
• Can We Really Trust The Bible?
• How Could A Good God Allow Suffering?
• I’m A Good Person. Why Would I Need God?
• Why Believe In Christianity When So Many Christians Are Hypocrites?
• How Can You Say Jesus Is The Only Way?

I plan on sharing my main points from each sermon here on this blog over the next 6 weeks. During my first sermon (Sep 9th) I will briefly share details about the reluctant conversion of one of Christianity’s greatest writers. Here is a clip from a movie that reconstructs what a conversation between C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien might have looked like. In case you did not know, C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien were good friends in real life. They were also part of a group called the Inklings. You can read more about that group HERE. It is fascinating to think about the impact this group of writers had on the world.

If you want to learn more about Christianity, here are some resources for you to check out:

I would be happy to read through any of these books with you and discuss them. As long as I get to drink coffee at the same time! Another book you may want to check out is all about C.S. Lewis’ story of coming to believe in Jesus, “Surprised by Joy.”

I hope you will come back over the next six weeks as we continue to discuss the questions that many people have regarding Christianity!

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The above picture is of C.S. Lewis and J.R. Tolkien while they were at Oxford University. Picture is taken from gospelheralddotcom.

18 Of My Favorite Quotes From “Making Sense of God” By Tim Keller

Secularism is on the decline

Demographers tell us the twenty-first century will be less secular than the twentieth. There have been seismic shifts toward Christianity in sub-Saharan Africa and China while evangelicalism and Pentecostalism have grown exponentially in Latin America. Even in the United States the growth of the “nones” has been mainly among those who had been more nominal in their relationship to faith while the devoutly religious in the United States and Europe are growing. P. 10-11

Are you longing for something that does not exist?

If this life is all there is, why do we long so deeply for something that doesn’t exist and never did? Why are there so many experiences that point beyond the world picture of secularism, even by those who do not welcome such perceptions? And if this life is all there is, what will you do with these desires that have no fulfillment within the closed secular frame? P. 22

Secularism is based on faith

The Christian believer is using reason and faith to get to her beliefs just as her secular neighbor is using reason and faith to get to hers. They are both looking at the same realities in nature and human life, and both are seeking a way to make the best sense of them through a process that is rational, personal, intuitive, and social. Reason does not and cannot operate alone. Contemporary secularity, then, is not the absence of faith, but is instead based on a whole set of beliefs, including a number of highly contestable assumptions about the nature of proof and rationality itself. P. 41

Secularism does not lead to love

However, if we are just a decaying piece of matter in a decaying universe and nothing more significant than that, how does it follow that we should live a life of love towards others? It doesn’t. Why shouldn’t we live as selfishly as we can get away with? How do beliefs in individual freedom, human rights, and equality arise from or align with the idea that human beings came to be what they are through the survival of the fittest? They don’t, really. P. 42

Where did the values of Western culture come from?

Where, then, did the moral values of Western, liberal, secular culture come from, including the importance of the individual, equality, rights, love, and concern for the poor, and the necessity of improving material conditions for everyone? Many scholars have made a strong historical case that they came down to us from Jewish and Christian thought. P. 46

Is meaning in life possible without God?

So is meaning in life without God practically possible? Public discourse is filled with loud religious voices insisting that life without God is inevitably pointless, bleak and unworkable. Other the other side there are plenty of secular people who insist that they not only have satisfying meaning in life but also have a kind of freedom that religious people do not. Who is right? Can we have meaning in life without any belief in God at all? To be fair to all, I would argue that the answer is both yes and no.

I say yes because both by our definition and by lived experience secular people can certainly know meaning in life. We define “meaning” as having both a purpose and the assurance that you are serving some good beyond yourself. If you decide that the meaning of your life is to be a good parent, or to serve a crucial political cause, or to tutor underprivileged youth, or to enjoy and promote great literature-then you have, by definition, a meaning in life. Plenty of secular people live like this without being tortured and gloomy in the manner of Camus. It is quite possible to find great purpose in the ordinary tasks of life, apart from knowing answers to the Big Questions About Existence.

But I also say no. Secular people are often unwilling to recognize the significant difference between what have been called “inherent” and “assigned” meanings. Traditional belief in God was the basis for discovered, objective meaning-meaning that is there, apart from your inner feelings or interpretations. If we were made by God for certain purposes, than there are inherent meanings that we must accept.

The meanings that secular people have are not discovered but rather created. They are not objectively “there.” They are subjective and wholly dependent on our feelings. You may determine to live for political change or the establishment of a happy family, and these can definitely serve as energizing goals. However, I want to argue that such created meanings are much more fragile and thin than discovered meanings. Specifically, discovered meaning is more rational, communal, and durable than created meaning. P. 64-65

Secular people and the big picture in life

When secular people seek to lead a meaningful life, they must have discipline to not think so much about the big picture. P. 67

The dread that comes from a lack of meaning in life

If you believe that there is no discovered meaning in life, only created meaning, then if you really start to think globally-about the fact that nothing you do is going to make any difference in the end-you are going to begin to experience the dread of nausea of the modernists. And, of course, you don’t have to think like this-you can put it out of mind-and that is certainly how most people in the secular culture live today. But that is my first point. That is not a very rational way to have meaning in life. Created meaning is a less rational way to live life than doing so with discovered meaning. P. 69

We distract ourselves from the emptiness of our lives

James Wood refers to the pursuit of “jobs, family, sex, and so on-the usual distractions” by which we hide from ourselves the emptiness of our lives.” P. 83

Where does our discontentment come from?

The ultimate disordered love, however-and the ultimate source of our discontent-is failure to love the first thing first, the failure to love God supremely. P. 90

Where does contentment come from?

Here, then, is the message. Don’t love anything less; instead learn to love God more, and you will love other things with far more satisfaction. You won’t overprotect them, you won’t overexpect things from them. You won’t be constantly furious with them for not being what you hoped. Don’t stifle passionate love for anything; rather, redirect your greatest love toward God by loving him with your whole heart and loving him for himself, and not just for what he can give you. Then, and only then, does the contentment start to come. P. 94

Everybody worships

David Foster Wallace, the postmodern novelist, puts it like this:

In the day to day trenches of adult life, there is no such thing as…not worshipping. Everybody worships. The only choice we get is what to worship. And an outstanding reason for choosing some sort of god or spiritual thing to worship…is that pretty much anything else you worship will eat you alive. If you worship money and things, if they are where you tap real meaning in life, then you will never have enough. Never feel you have enough…Worship your own body and beauty and sexual allure, and you will always feel ugly, and when time and age start showing, you will die a million deaths before they finally plant you…Worship power – you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will end up feeling weak and afraid, and you will need ever more power over others to keep the fear at bay. Worship your intellect, being seen as smart – you will end up feeling stupid, a fraud, always on the verge of being found out. P. 111

True view of ourselves is powerful

(Miroslav) Volf answers: “No one can be in the presence of the God of the Crucified Messiah for long…without transposing the enemy from the sphere of monstrous humanity into the sphere of shared humanity and herself from the sphere of proud innocence into the sphere of common sinfulness.” P. 146

Christianity is the only true world wide religion

One of the unique things about Christianity is that it is the only truly worldwide religion. Over 90% of Muslims live in a band from Southeast Asia to the Middle East and Northern Africa. Over 95% of all Hindus and in India and immediate environs. Some 88 percent of Buddhists are in East Asia. However, about 25 percent of Christians live in Europe, 25 percent in Central and South America, 22 percent in Africa, 15 percent (and growing fast) in Asia, and 12 percent in North America. Professor Richard Bauckham writes, “Almost certainly Christianity exhibits more cultural diversity than any other religion, and that must say something about it.” As we have seen, Christianity has been growing explosively in Asia and Africa for over a century now. It is no longer a Western religion (nor was it originally). It is truly a world religion. P. 148

Death makes our lives better

All death can now do to Christians is to make their lives infinitely better. P. 166

The best way to think about moral truth

Yes, of course, believing in universal moral truths can be used to oppress others. But what if that absolute truth is a man who died for his enemies, who did not respond in violence with violence but forgave them? How could that story, if it is the center of your life, lead you to take up power and dominate others? Remarkably, then, we can conclude that a professed Christian who is not committed to a life of generosity and justice toward the poor and marginalized is, at the very least, a living contradiction of the Gospel of Christ, the Son of God, whose Father “executes justice for the oppressed, who gives food to the hungry” (Psalm 146:7). Bauckham says, “Distortion of the biblical story into a theology of oppression has to suppress the biblical meaning of the cross.” All of these characteristics of the biblical story make it “uniquely unsuited to be being an instrument of oppression.” P. 210

Greater percentage of the world is Christian than ever before

Today a greater percentage of the world’s population than ever before is Christian, and Christianity adds to its ranks over fifty thousand persons a day, or just under nineteen million new people a year. P. 229

Nothing compares to Jesus

Particularly impressive to readers over the centuries has been what one writer has called “an admirable conjunction of diverse excellencies in Jesus Christ.” That is, in him we see qualities and virtues we would ordinarily consider incompatible in the same person. We would never think they could be combined but, because they are, they are strikingly beautiful. Jesus combines high majesty with the greatest humility, he joins the strongest commitment to justice with astonishing mercy and grace, and he reveals a transcendent self-sufficiency and yet entire trust and reliance upon his heavenly Father. We are surprised to see tenderness without any weakness, boldness without harshness, humility without any uncertainty, indeed, accompanied by a towering confidence. Readers can discover for themselves his unbending convictions but complete approachability, his insistence on truth but always bathed in love, his power without insensitivity, integrity without rigidity, passion without prejudice. P. 233

 

You Need To Know About Progressive Christianity

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. -2 Timothy 4:3-4

If you hear that something is “progressive” you might think that it is a good thing. That is simply not the case when it comes to Progressive Christianity.

Let me share with you a few of my own thoughts about Progressive Christianity before I have you read the excellent article below by Alisa Childers. I believe that we need to be aware that there are a growing number of people, churches, denominations, universities and ministries that identify themselves as Christian but do not hold to what we would consider an orthodox or traditional understanding of the Christian faith.

Maybe you are thinking, “Michael, pipe down, don’t you know you are going to make some people angry?” That’s not my goal but I really am OK with it. I made peace with the fact that I will not make everyone happy a long time ago. We need to remember that the truth is not always warmly received. John the Baptist clearly taught the truth of God’s Word and the result was that he had his head cut off. Just sayin’.

He (elders in the church) must hold firm to the trustworthy word as taught, so that he may be able to give instruction in sound doctrine and also to rebuke those who contradict it. -Titus 1:9

I need to state that defining Progressive Christianity is not easy. The reason for that is because it encompasses lots of people who come from very different theological backgrounds. You can check out THIS from Wikipedia.

So what is at stake with this whole discussion? What kind of issues are we talking about? I believe Progressive Christianity gets in wrong in a number of really important areas (same sex attraction, gender, marriage, hell, substitutionary atonement, absolute truth and the trustworthiness of the Bible). These topics, and others, are all currently being redefined and we need to know what we believe and why we believe it.

There is another side to this that I want to briefly mention. We need to be careful about stating our theological position and then shutting down all dialogue. For the person who is wrestling with questions about the Bible we need to be willing to listen and have genuine dialogue. God loves the skeptics and those who are intellectually curious and so should we!

HERE is the link to Alisa Childers article, “5 Signs Your Church Might Be Headed Toward Progressive Christianity.” I strongly encourage you to read it!

I would love to hear your thoughts, ideas and questions! Please leave me a comment!