I read a lot about religion stuff, theology stuff, and church stuff. Two of my favorites are J. Warner Wallace (Cold Case Christianity) and Bobby Conway (One Minute Apologist). This video combines the two in a short clip about some of the reasons for young people leaving the church.
I would add to this another reason that young people leave the church: that many churches simply aren’t doing what they’re supposed to do. A friend told me last Sunday that their young adult son doesn’t want to come to church anymore because “it’s not relevant”. Who’s going to argue with that? Either the church is actually addressing issues that matter, or they’re not. While I don’t believe the church’s mission is to meet every need for every attendee, most of the churches I’ve been to in the past 40 years are missing the boat in significant ways. Those churches that seem to understand their mission (as laid out in the New Testament) seem to be larger, growing, and able to retain a larger number of young people.
I heard someone say we are in a culture war. What is a culture war?Sandra
That’s a good question, Sandra. A “culture war” is when one group’s ideas about what society should be like conflicts with another group’s ideas about what society should be like. One historical example of a culture war is modern slavery, as it was practiced in Europe and America from the 1600’s to 1800’s. Some believed that slavery was wrong, and others believed that slavery was just fine. They fought over these ideas for a long time, and (thankfully) the non-slavery side eventually won the legal battle. Slavery still exists, of course…so the two sides keep fighting. The difference is that while slavery was once legal in the West, it’s now illegal.
Most religions are at odds with the culture around them. Christianity, for example, teaches that we should love our enemies. Western society, on the other hand, accepts concepts like revenge as generally acceptable. These ideas conflict, so there’s a “battle” between those with different viewpoints over how society will end up. Clearly, there’s very little actual “battle” going on about love and revenge. More commonly, conflicts occur between Christians and Western culture over moral and ethical activities related to politics and abortion and sex and freedom.
It’s worth noting that the early church (as we see in the New Testament) wasn’t engaged in a culture war. They lived in the Roman Empire and were subjects of a foreign power that threatened their existence…but “changing the culture” wasn’t a priority for them. They worked to spread the gospel. While I’m all for individual Christians taking part in the political process, the marriage between Christians and positions of power have historically caused problems. Were the church to stick with simply preaching (and living) the gospel, it’s my opinion that we would see a very different, and much better, world in a very short period of time. Christians are called to support one another, preach the gospel, and love everyone in practical ways. We are not called to change the cultures we live in, to create “heaven on earth” by dominating the political landscape, or to force anyone to live as believers should live.
A GodWords reader asks:
I am not baptized but I am a Christian. I had a strange occurrence where I was consumed with love and happiness that made me light headed and trembly. I also could not hold back the tears of joy. Could this be the Holy Spirit? And what does this mean for me moving forward?Kelly
Whether they realize it or not, every Christian has interacted with the Holy Spirit. Here’s what Paul wrote to the Christians in Corinth:
Do you not know that you are a temple of God and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? (1 Corinthians 3:16)
That’s not the only place it says that, of course…there are several. The Holy Spirit dwells in every believer, so He’s been with you since you first trusted God with your life. This is true whether you have been baptized or not. Some people believe that any interaction with the Holy Spirit involves speaking in tongues, or prophesying, or something out of the ordinary. While those things may happen, it’s much more common to experience the kinds of things you’ve described to me. The Holy Spirit is directly involved with us in all kinds of ways, and the Bible talks about some of them. He convicts us of sin, for example (John 16:8). He helps us understand spiritual things…we couldn’t understand them without Him (1 Corinthians 2:14). He guides us into all truth (John 16:13). He leads us, empowers us to serve God, and a whole bunch of other things.
I’ve experienced what you’ve described. Sometimes it seems that my heart is wide open toward God, and that my spirit is communing with His Spirit. In those times, I’m not actually trying to do anything specific, or thinking anything in particular…my soul is simply crying out to Him. Yesterday, it happened twice, which isn’t a usual occurrence. Once was while I was singing (this happens fairly regularly), and the other was while my pastor was reading a passage from Matthew 23 (this had never happened before). I would expect that, as you grow in your walk with Jesus, you will experience this a number of times. While it’s a mistake to chase this kind of experience rather than chasing God Himself, it’s certainly not a mistake to put yourself into the right circumstances to connect with God. That’s why Christians, throughout history, have spent time in prayer, studying the Bible, singing, sitting in contemplation, being alone with God, and so on. Again…it’s not the feeling we should be looking to reproduce, but we should look for opportunities to be in direct communication with God all the time. Sometimes it will an amazing emotional experience, sometimes it will be a learning experience, and sometimes it will be God teaching you to rely on Him more completely.
Is the Church over the Bible, or is the Bible over the Church? That’s the question Michael J. Kruger addresses, in response to an article by Friar Stephen Freeman. In his article, entitled There Is No “Bible” in the Bible, Freeman lays out what appears to be a very poorly constructed argument. Kruger’s article addresses Freeman’s main flaws better than I might, but I’d like to focus on one point in particular.
Freeman makes the following claim: The word “Bible” simply means “book.” Thus, it is a name that means “the Book.” It is a particularly late notion if for no other reason than that books are a rather late invention. There are examples of bound folios of the New Testament dating to around the 4th century, but they may very well have been some of the earliest examples of such productions. This isn’t just a bad argument, it’s ridiculous. By claiming that books are a modern invention, Freeman suggests that Biblical authority is a modern, Protestant invention as well.
First, the word book isn’t all that new. In fact, the Christian Scriptures are referred to as ta biblia as early as 223 AD. John Chrysostom wrote of ta biblia as early as 388 AD. These are well before the Reformation, and can’t be considered, as Freeman claims, a “by-product of the printing press”.
It’s easy to make crazy claims. It’s so easy that one can search the internet and find almost every claim imaginable. Unfortunately, many people are easily swayed by such claims, and are quickly led astray by claims that don’t deserve an audience. Take the time to read both articles, and think through the evidence, and come to your own conclusions.
I get a fair amount of email from GodWords readers (thank you!), and questions about avoiding temptation come up frequently. This song has helped me keep a wise perspective on such things, and I’ve been singing it to my son at night for over a decade. All temptations offer a trade: momentary pleasure for long-term suffering. The Bible acknowledges that sin is pleasant, but points out that it’s only pleasant for a short time. While the consequences of sin outweigh the benefits, we still seek the temporary pleasure.
Psalm 119:11 points to a very wise strategy. David wrote “I have hidden your word in my heart that I might not sin against you.” When we truly understand how much God loves us, and when we truly want to live as we should, we will naturally begin to turn away from sin and temptation and turn to God instead. When you are tempted, let the Holy Spirit guide you. Pray for the strength to avoid sin.
I love science. I always have. I can’t resist clicking to news articles that talk about the discovery of a new species, or some tech advancement, or about the chemical makeup of my favorite soft drink. At the same time, I don’t always love discussions about science. The reason is simple: most people don’t think very well.
Evolution is a loaded word. It means a number of different things. One common use of the word suggests that all animals and humans ‘evolved’ from a common ancestor. I’ve long suggested that this isn’t a scientific conclusion, but a faith-based conclusion. I’ve seen no evidence to suggest otherwise…and I’ve looked. There are a lot of ideas, and a whole bunch of leaps in logic, but I see no actual, scientific evidence. In fact, the evidence I’ve seen points away from this kind of evolution.
In this video, Ray Comfort asks a bunch of folks who believe in evolution for one simple thing: a single bit of solid, scientific evidence that shows one kind of animal turning into another kind of animal. He makes the natural and reasonable distinction between adaptation (changes in a population to match environmental conditions) and speciation (where one kind of animal, over a long period of time, becomes another kind). It’s interesting to see the different reactions from those being asked. One man appears to get angry when his viewpoint is questioned. Some seem thoughtful.
One final note: Comfort somehow got PZ Myers to appear on camera. Myers is a very well-known biologist, and an outspoken critic of any idea that challenges or competes with Darwinism. I find his inclusion in this video very telling, especially since he doesn’t appear to have a good answer to the question.