Tuesday, October 15, 2013

1 Chron 12:32 report, 114: Addressing the scandal -- yes, scandal -- of the state of today's Christian mind

It is no secret that I think our civilisation is in peril of lemming-like suicide as we head over a cliff in a mass- march of folly. Reformation is desperately needed, in the full sense of that term, from worldview foundations on up.

But, there is another side to the story, the sad state of the Christian mind in our day. A state manifest in how we tend to think about faith, the faith and our walk of faith; as well as in how we too often fail to seriously engage the discipleship challenge of integrating faith, moral transformation, renewal of the mind in light of the well grounded truth of the gospel, and engaging community and world with the challenge of gospel based transformation.

For just one instance, Os Guinness writing by way of rebuke in Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think and What to Do About It, notes:
 Loving God with our minds is not finally a question of orthodoxy, but love. Offering up our minds to God in all our thinking is a part of our praise. Anti-intellectualism is quite simply a sin. Evangelicals must address it as such, beyond all excuses, evasions, or rationalizations of false piety. We need to affirm certain truths: Intellectualism is not the answer to anti-intellectualism, for the perils of intellectualism-supremely in Gnosticism- are deadly and ever recurring. Our passion is not for academic respectability, but for the faithfulness to the commands of Jesus. Our lament is not for the destruction of the elite culture of Western civilization but for the deficiencies in our everyday discipleship as Christians. For anti-intellectualism is truly the refusal to love the Lord our God with our minds as required by the first of Jesus’ commandments [--> i.e., to love God with all of our being, explicitly including the mind]. Thus, if we take the commands of Jesus seriously, we cannot dismiss the charge of anti-intellectualism as elitism or intellectual snobbery. As God has given us minds, we can measure our obedience by whether we are loving him with those minds, and disobedience whether we are not. [Os Guinness. Fit Bodies Fat Minds: Why Evangelicals Don’t Think And What To Do About It. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books. 1994, 18-19. (HT: chab123 of ThinkApologetics blog.)]
Likewise, WK blog (for cause) summarises a recent lecture by Simon Brace on the core nature and challenges of spiritual warfare [cf. MP3], in part:
  • Christian slogans about spiritual warfare sound pious, but they are mistaken
  • Today, Christianity is focused on piety and zeal, not on study and knowledge
  • The result is that Christianity in the West is in a state of erosion and decline
  • What we are doing about spiritual warfare is not working to stop the decline
  • Preaching, publishing, programs, retreats, etc. are not very useful for spiritual warfare [--> i.e. if they don't systematically engage the sort of challenges we are highlighting]
  • Enthusiasm and passion without knowledge  are not very useful for spiritual warfare . . . 
  • The real focus and responsibility in spiritual warfare is specified in 2 Cor 10:3-5
  • What we ought to be doing is defeating speculations (false ideas), using logical arguments and evidence
  • Defending the faith is not memorizing Bible verses and throwing them out randomly
  • Defending the faith is not just preaching the gospel [--> save, that preaching the gospel should engage people where they atre and should overturn systems of thought and talking points that block people from listening to the gospel]
  • Demolishing an argument requires understanding arguments: premises, conclusions, the laws of logic
  • We should exchange [--> some of!] our pious Bible memorizing skills and the like for a class in critical thinking
  • The New Testament requires that elders be capable of refuting those who oppose sound doctrine (Titus 1:9)
  • It is not enough to preach a good sermon, elders have to be able to defend the Christian faith as well
  • People who run conservative seminaries do not mandate that M.Div graduates study apologetics [--> Do we have a core apologetics and a core critical thinking module in our own Bachelor's level seminary education, with electives to do more? Why or why not?]
  • Famous pastors like Driscoll, Begg, etc. need to teach other pastors to emphasize apologetics in church
  • People in church won’t engage the culture unless they have reasons and evidence to believe Christianity is true [--> and to answer the range of typical talking points likely to be encountered, as well as ways to handle the sort of aggressive attitude likely to also be seen]
  • We need a balance of both piety and intellectual engagement [--> which should also engage balanced life, community and cultural renewal by the gospel and gospel ethics]
  • We need to make our evangelism rooted in the intellect in order to have an influence at the university
  • Mission organizations also have a responsibility to defend the faith and not merely preach (1 Peter 3:15)
Quite an indictment, and, sadly, one that in material part rings all too true.

Let us therefore observe (by way of contrast) how Paul challenged the Athenians, c. AD 50:
Ac 17: 23 . . . as I passed along and carefully observed your objects of worship, I came also upon an altar with this inscription, To the unknown god. Now what you are already worshiping as unknown, this I set forth to you.

24 The God Who produced and formed the world and all things in it, being Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in handmade shrines. 25 Neither is He served by human hands, as though He lacked anything, for it is He Himself Who gives life and breath and all things to all [people]. 26 And He made from one [common origin, one source, one blood] all nations of men to settle on the face of the earth, having definitely determined [their] allotted periods of time and the fixed boundaries of their habitation (their settlements, lands, and abodes), 27 So that they should seek God, in the hope that they might feel after Him and find Him, although He is not far from each one of us.

28 For in Him we live and move and have our being; as even some of your [own] poets have said, For we are also His offspring.

29 Since then we are God’s offspring, we ought not to suppose that Deity (the Godhead) is like gold or silver or stone, [of the nature of] a representation by human art and imagination, or anything constructed or invented.

30 Such [former] ages of ignorance God, it is true, ignored and allowed to pass unnoticed; but now He charges all people everywhere to repent ([d]to change their minds for the better and heartily to amend their ways, with abhorrence of their past sins),31 Because He has fixed a day when He will judge the world righteously (justly) by a Man Whom He has destined and appointed for that task, and He has made this credible and given conviction and assurance and evidence to everyone by raising Him from the dead. [AMP]
Let us notice, how the apostle first exposed the fatally cracked foundation of the pagan superstitious- speculative philosophical worldview cluster, by highlighting how it had to acknowledge ignorance on the very root of existence, by literally building a a monument to its ignorance of God.  

Then, he pointed out the evident fact that we live in a unified, common creation, and share a common Father, who now calls all of us to repentance and reformation, through the gospel -- which includes the message that we are accountable before God. A gospel of which he has given evidence to us all by raising Jesus from the dead (with over 500 unshakable witnesses).

In case we need a refresher 101, let us again embed the Lee Strobel The Case for Christ video that is permanently hosted on the RH "references and links" side of this blog:

And so, from small and despised beginnings, that unshakable witness confronting that foundational absurdity and its manifest consequences of moral chaos, at length prevailed.

Here, too, we see faith as it should be: being based in soundly rooted conviction, leading to well warranted and confident, penitent trust in the God  who speaks in Scripture.

But instead, as we have been indicted above, we too often tend to assume or even assert that faith and reason are opposites. A major error, manifest in a sort of anti-intellectual attitude that hampers our ability to stand in an evil day.

Which error, we need to address fairly directly and set to rights.

 The error is perhaps most blatantly seen in how we misread a key text in 2 Cor 10, on spiritual warfare, one that was already linked:
2 Cor 10:For the weapons of our warfare are not physical [weapons of flesh and blood], but they are mighty before God for the overthrow and destruction of strongholds,[Inasmuch as we] refute arguments and theories and reasonings and every proud and lofty thing that sets itself up against the [true] knowledge of God; and we lead every thought and purpose away captive into the obedience of Christ (the Messiah, the Anointed One [AMP]
. . . and in how we far too often outright seem to ignore this instruction in 1 Peter 3:15:
1 Pet 3:15 But in your hearts set Christ apart as holy [and acknowledge Him] as Lord. Always be ready to give a logical defense to anyone who asks you to account for the hope that is in you, but do it courteously and respectfully. [AMP; NIV: be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have, KJV: be ready always to give an answer to every man that asketh you a reason of the hope that is in you.]
Yes, given that Satan is the Father of Lies, it is no surprise that a liberating gospel would start from breaking the destructive foundations of worldviews and cultures rooted in such lies and errors, and replacing them with well-founded, confidently explained truth. Therefore the strongholds we primarily overthrow in spiritual warfare are fallacious arguments, flawed reasonings rooted in errors, and pride-filled lofty systems of thought and agendas for life that block people from accessing the knowledge of the true God. No wonder we should be always prepared to answer courteously according to the reason for the hope we have in the gospel.

Yes, there is a place for prayer, praise, worship, intercession and maybe even things like exorcism or the like [yes, there are indeed frighteningly dark and evil spiritual forces out there . . . ]; but that is by extension and in the broader context of these pivotal texts. The plain, stated, main and direct focal thrust of the texts is quite explicitly on the worldview war advanced by the truth of the gospel and good reason that explains its warrant as true and reliable, then calls for a fundamental change of mind and of attitude -- what metanoia, "repentance," in essence means . . .  --  that liberates the mind and soul enslaved by lies, errors and deceptions. If you cannot see that yet, kindly simply read them again. And again, and again and again,  if you have to -- until it breaks through.

Biblical, gospel faith is a confident, truth-based trusting leap of grace-given liberating light into truth and hope and right in the welcoming arms of God. It is not a mind-blind leap into the dark of empty myths and ill-founded speculations, deceptions and bondages -- whether dressed up in a lab coat or standing at the lecturer's podium or coming at us as news or entertainment media or as the confident declarations of a politician or however else it may be packaged.

That is why Peter -- facing judicial murder at the hands of a demonically mad Nero, on a blatantly false charge of arson against the city of Rome, c. AD 64 -- confidently said as part of his last will and testament to the church:
2 Peter 1:16 For we did not follow cleverly devised myths when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but we were eyewitnesses of his majesty. 

 17 For when he received honor and glory from God the Father, and the voice was borne to him by the Majestic Glory, “This is my beloved Son,[i] with whom I am well pleased,” 18 we ourselves heard this very voice borne from heaven, for we were with him on the holy mountain. 

19 And we have the prophetic word more fully confirmed, to which you will do well to pay attention as to a lamp shining in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts, 20 knowing this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture comes from someone's own interpretation. 21 For no prophecy was ever produced by the will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy Spirit. [ESV]
Yes, I know I know, YouTube, the many online atheistical forums, bestseller book lists, Islamist forums and more are full of talking points against the gospel. Yes, there is an unprecedented climate of hostility against the Christian faith, Biblical ethics and the scriptures abroad in our time.  Yes, our civilisation, with the attempted homosexualisation of marriage is actually going farther than Sodom and Gomorrah and is using a wrenching of the concept of "rights" to smear us as "bigots" or worse for daring to object -- setting up the abuse of civil rights and anti-discrimination law to slander and persecute us for daring to stand on principle-guided conscience under God.  [Cf. a, b, c, d, e, f.] Yes, naked atheism dressed in a lab coat has seized control of science and science education, often expelling those who dare object. And more.

All of that is a call to intellectual arms and to standing steadfastly for the faith once for all delivered unto the saints.

We have come to the kingdom for such a time as this.

Let us arise and build -- just like Nehemiah, with the guard that we need while building.

And as a first step, we need to get faith straight and spiritual warfare straight.

Then, let us pay careful heed to the sorts of issues we need to cogently address, so that the average Christian will not be hopelessly outclassed at the barber shop, or on the street corner or the verandah or in the classroom, or in the Board room, or the Court room, or the Parliament, or the Cabinet.

Why not now, why not here, why not us? END