Saturday, November 09, 2013

Matt 24 watch, 228a: The Pew Forum documents de-Christianisation trends in progress for the USA -- lessons for the Caribbean

There is a now classic remark that a radical new theory in science advances one funeral at a time. That is, deep changes tend to be across the divide of generation gaps. 

So it is no surprise that in the same Empty Churches book that we looked at yesterday, Kyle Beshears cites Pew forum on a generational trend in the USA that follows the pattern that Europe has already gone through. 

In looking at it, I felt it useful to do a little comparative analysis, to highlight evident trend drivers:

Yes, the 1960's - 70's marked a break in American culture, reflecting the impacts of that turbulent time. Yes, the polarising war in Vietnam and breakdown of trust in older more conservative institutions probably played a role. Yes, the rise of the electronic mass media (and now also the Internet) probably has significant impact. Yes, we should not underestimate the impact of Colleges and especially the proportion of the radicalised from the Vietnam era that went into academia and went for a Saul Alinsky-type march of radicalising institutions through tactics and habits learned during the Vietnam war era. Yes to that and more like that.

None of those trends by itself suffices to explain the sort of surge in disbelief in the gospel and in God that we are seeing in the Pew findings. 

For, it is easily accessible that for many hundreds of years and all around us today, millions have had their lives transformed by encounter with God in the face of Jesus through the gospel, the scriptures, the church and the Christian Faith. Far too many for "delusion" to work as a dismissal. Instead, something must be increasingly isolating younger people from that rich pool of human experience of the impact of God in lives, alienating them from the churches, ministries, scriptures and media where one may access that pool of live experience of God as well as evidence of its credibility, and must be indoctrinating in another worldview.Something that must be dominating media, schools and other institutions of influence.

As the comparison of the lingering impact of half century of communist indoctrination in atheism in East Germany shows, and as the sheer fact that there is one serious candidate -- radically secular evolutionary materialism that is often dressed up in a lab coat -- reinforces, we are seeing a major ideological thrust. Richard Lewontin's remarks simply summarise and inadvertently expose the crucial weaknesses in that ideology.

Now, too, we have long since been counselled:
1 Peter 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]

2 Cor 10:For though we walk (live) in the flesh, we are not carrying on our warfare according to the flesh and using mere human weapons. 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 again:
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]
In this light, it is sad and sobering to see Beshears summarise the response of the pulpit of Europe to the rise of hyperskepticism, evolutionary materialist scientism and so forth:
 During a time when Christian leadership was needed most, there was little defense for the faith. The pulpits remained silent.

It seems that when questions over the authority of the Bible and God’s character rose, Euro-pean pulpits shrank. There was a disregard for apologetics as a means to explain the gospel in Europe’s immediate context of warfare and skepticism. One may speculate that apologet-ics, being the art of defending the Christian faith against objection, would have been of chief importance during both the Enlightenment and the previous century of warfare in Europe. Not only were people no longer sharing the gospel through evangelism, neither were they defending the gospel from objection.

Of course, there were the exceptions. Most notably C. S. Lewis, who authored “The Prob-lem of Pain” in an attempt to answer of why evil and su"ering exist. Dietrich Bonhoeffer is another great example. This fiery anti-Nazi theologian railed against the dictatorship while offering sound apologetic arguments for faith in times of crisis. He paid for his message with his life.

These men were the minority. It seems that the vast majority of pulpits steered clear of the big questions. When the issue of the Bible’s authenticity and authority arose, the pulpits clung to a message of using scripture as a moral compass regardless of its trustworthiness. When the full implications of naturalistic evolution was realized - that humans are no more than clever animals - the pulpits were quiet on why God’s image-bearing creation is some-thing more than simply animal. When God’s loving character was called into question during  a century of warfare, there was simply no reply. [Empty Churches, p. 14.]
The late Eta Linnemann, iconoclastic former Bultmannian who became a staunch evangelical through the impact of personal life-changing encounter with God (testimony here), significantly deepens our insight:
Theology as it is taught in universities all over the world . . . is based on the historical-critical method . . . . [which] is not just the foundation for the exegetical disciplines. It also decides what the systematician can say . . . It determines procedure in Christian education, homiletics and ethics . . . . Research is conducted ut si Deus non daretur (“as if there were no God”). That means the reality of God is excluded from consideration from the start . . . Statements in Scripture regarding place, time, sequences of events and persons are accepted only insofar as they fit in with established assumptions and theories . . . . 

Since other religions have their scriptures, one cannot assume the Bible is somehow unique and superior to them . . . . It is taken for granted that the words of the Bible and God’s word are not identical . . . the New Testament is pitted against the Old Testament, assuming that the God of the New Testament is different from that of the Old, since Jesus is said to have introduced a new concept of God . . . . Since the inspiration of Scripture is not accepted, neither can it be assumed that the individual books of Scripture complement each other. Using this procedure one finds in the Bible only a handful of unrelated literary creations . . . . Since the content of biblical writings is seen as merely the creation of theological writers, any given verse is nothing more than a non-binding, human theological utterance.

For historical-critical theology, critical reason decides what is reality in the Bible and what cannot be reality; and this decision is made on the basis of the everyday experience accessible to every person [i.e. the miraculous aspect of Scripture, and modern reports of miracles -- regardless of claimed attestation -- are dismissed as essentially impossible to verify and/or as merely “popular religious drivel”] . . . . . Due to the presuppositions that are adopted, critical reason loses sight of the fact that the Lord, our God, the Almighty, reigns. [Historical Criticism of the Bible: Methodology or Ideology? (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 1993), pp. 83 – 88 as excerpted.]

She adds, giving broader context:
There is nothing in historical-critical theology that has not already made its appearance in philosophy. Bacon (1561 – 1626), Hobbes (1588 – 1679), Descartes (1596 – 1650), and Hume (1711 – 1776) laid the foundations: inductive thought as the only source of knowledge; denial of revelation; monistic worldview; separation of faith and reason; doubt as the foundation of knowledge. Hobbes and Hume established a thoroughgoing criticism of miracles; Spinoza (1632 – 1677) also helped lay the basis for biblical criticism of both Old and New Testaments. Lessing (1729 – 1781) invented the synoptic problem. Kant’s (1724 – 1804) critique of reason became the basic norm for historical-critical theology. Hegel (1770 – 1831) furnished the means for the process of demythologizing that Rudolph Bultmann (1884 – 1976) would effectively implement a century later – after the way had been prepared by Martin K√§hler (1835 – 1912).  

Kierkegaard (1813 – 1855) . . . reduced faith to a leap that left rationality behind. He cemented the separation of faith and reason and laid the groundwork for theology’s departure from biblical moorings . . . . by writing such criticism off as benign . . . .  

Heidegger (1889 – 1976) laid the groundwork for reducing Christian faith to a possibility of self-understanding; he also had considerable influence on Bultmann’s theology. From Karl Marx . . . came theology of hope, theology of revolution, theology of liberation. [Biblical Criticism on Trial (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 2001), pp. 178 – 9.]
Linneman, in her testimony, therefore speaks of her experience as a young theology student in university under Bultmann et al:
When I began my studies, I had to start with the ancient languages-Greek and Hebrew. As I had practiced Greek some before going to the university, I had only to finish one course. Then I thought I was fit to go into the lectures of Bultmann on 1 Corinthians. I started attending when he was at chapter 12, and I do not remember what he had said concerning chapters 12-14. But I still remember what he said when he came to chapter 15:1-5, where Paul said,
For what I received I passed on to you as of first importance: that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Peter, and then to the Twelve. After that he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at the same time, most of whom are still living, though some of them have fallen asleep.
When Professor Bultmann came to the next verse, he said, "Here Paul is not at the usual height of his theology because he is speaking of the resurrection of Christ as if it were a historical fact.' Thus I learned as a young student in my very first term that we were not allowed to think of the resurrection of Christ as a historical fact. This great professor had said it, so it had to be. After all, how could I, as a young student, know more than my professors!
I must note here that this is why it is so important to get biblical teaching. We are surrounded by unbiblical ideas, and if we are not solidly trained in the Bible, we will not even realize what is contrary to the Bible. This is especially important for those attending universities, where authority is an issue. Suppose you are a student, just beginning to learn something, and your professor, who has been working in his field for maybe thirty or forty years, is an accomplished, recognized authority in that field. Additionally, the very reason you are at the university is to learn something, not to shut your ears and eyes, but to learn. So when you are taught the wrong thing, it is dangerous. Many students, even those with believing parents, have drowned in atheistic teaching from university professors and have grown to despise the faith of their parents. If you are a student, ask the Lord for guidance and never feel too secure. It is the Lord who can keep you, not your own wisdom. Do not think, "Oh yes, I have got everything, I have been in Sunday School and church all my life; nothing can happen to me.' If you are in that state you will fall. The devil is not sleeping; he will try anything to destroy you. You must be aware and know that God's word is better than all the wisdom of the world. Psalm 19 tells us God's word is more precious than silver and gold. It is more precious than any worldly wisdom in any discipline.

But I learned in my first term that we were not allowed to take the resurrection of Christ as historical fact, hearing it from the great Bultmann himself. I do not think he thought about what Paul said in the same chapter, in verses 17 to 19: "And if Christ had not been raised your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are to be pitied more than all men.' This is the situation of the historical-critical theologians and of any who adhere to higher criticism, as it is called in America. Because they have some belief in Christ, they are convinced that they are believers, but they are believing for this life only. Paul says those who do this are to be pitied more than all other men.
All of this, of course, brings us full circle, to Heine's warning to Germany (and France) as long ago as the 1830's, in his Religion and Philosophy in Germany -- as was cited yesterday:
Christianity — and that is its greatest merit — has somewhat mitigated that brutal German love of war, but it could not destroy it. Should that subduing talisman, the cross, be shattered [--> the Swastika, visually, is a twisted, broken cross . . .], the frenzied madness of the ancient warriors, that insane Berserk rage of which Nordic bards have spoken and sung so often, will once more burst into flame. …

The old stone gods will then rise from long ruins and rub the dust of a thousand years from their eyes, and Thor will leap to life with his giant hammer and smash the Gothic cathedrals. …

Do not smile at my advice — the advice of a dreamer who warns you against Kantians, Fichteans, and philosophers of nature. Do not smile at the visionary who anticipates the same revolution in the realm of the visible as has taken place in the spiritual. Thought precedes action as lightning precedes thunder. German thunder … comes rolling somewhat slowly, but … its crash … will be unlike anything before in the history of the world. …

At that uproar the eagles of the air will drop dead [--> cf. air warfare, symbol of the USA], and lions in farthest Africa [--> the lion is a key symbol of Britain, cf. also the North African campaigns]  will draw in their tails and slink away. … A play will be performed in Germany which will make the French Revolution look like an innocent idyll.
In short, we have no choice but to answer the philosophical, theological and evolutionary materialistic hyperskepticism and question-begging ideological impositions that now increasingly confront us. At least, if we are going to be responsible to our stewardship.

As a first level in a visual age, that calls for a video 101 response to the two main thrusts. 

Lee Strobel is a good place to begin:

1: The Case for Christ:

2: The Case for a Creator:

(For a next level of reading perhaps here, here and -- on origins -- here, may be helpful.)

My next thought is  to also link the response to Patrick White's promotion of atheism, skepticism and homosexualism in Jamaica's Gleaner (July 1, 2013): 1: 2: 3: 4: 5: 6: 7: 8: 9: 10

Then also, you may want to consider the proposal for taking this up to the level of a cyber campus and local micro-campus centre initiative here.

Let us close off on a happier note, citing a testimony Beshears gives, cases from what I have recently been told is now the fastest growing church in the world, Iran:
Like many churches in Europe, CMK has also experienced the miracle of Iranian converts happening  all  throughout  Europe.  One  day,  an  Iranian  refugee  by  the  name  of  Macmud came to CMK during the month of Ramadan. Macmud explained to the pastor that he had recently had a dream in which Jesus instructed him to go to CMK and hear about God. Naturally, the pastor obliged.

Another story happened when a young Iranian refugee attended a CMK Sunday service. The young man had something urgent to say. Unfortunately, he spoke neither German nor English (as CMK is bi-lingual). Eventually, he found a pen and paper, then drew a vision God gave him of Jesus on the cross and of how deeply God loved him. [Empty Churches, pp. 21 - 22.]

Whatever we do, we must awaken to the seriousness of what now confronts us. END