Friday, March 12, 2010

Road Blocks to Jesus

Our Bible study consist of 3-4 couples and one single guy (in his 50s) Bob. In our entire church, only Bob seems to be on the same page as me on a lot of things.

Last night we were studying Hebrews Chapter Eleven, the Faith chapter. It is a long convoluted story, but our discussion led me to bring up the conversation I had with my friend, Chris (who everyone in the group knows), earlier in the week (see a previous posting about church attendance).

When I described to the people that Chris had an honest desire to know Christ, and even to be part of this church, but had a significant road block, his knowledge (as a geologist) that the earth is not just 6,000 years old. I didn't mention to the group that it is Chris's father-in-law, our church elder, that insist he believe in a young earth before he can be a Christian.

My point was that it is tragic that we would put insignificant barriers in front of anyone who desires to come to Christ. I said, "It is a sad thing when churches use the belief in the age of the earth as a litmus test on whether someone can be a real Christian."

I didn't say this last night, but it reminds me of ;

Matthew 18:6 (New International Version)

"6But if anyone causes one of these little ones who believe in me to sin, it would be better for him to have a large millstone hung around his neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea."

I really thought my point would be a no-brainer. It was not. Bob and I both sat in silence while the two other men in the group took turns lecturing us on how people who believe in an old earth do so because they don't believe in God and that someone can't become a Christian unless they repent from their old ways, including believing in an old earth, yadda, yadda, yadda.

Bob and I just looked at each other. He actually believes in evolution (man from apes) which I do not, yet I completely respect him and wouldn't doubt his faith for a second.

So, if you listen to these guys, who represent our church and represent the heart of Evangelicalism, then not only should Chris stay away from Jesus (he shouldn't touch Jesus with his dirty old-earth hands) but Bob and I can't be real Christians either. This bothers me and you don't have to read between the lines to understand why.

Part of me feels angry, but I know that if I spoke back last night much more than I did, then the whole meeting would have deteriorate into an argument. So I quickly switched us back to the topic.

It is discouraging what we are up against. I know, someone will say, CHANGE CHURCHES! That is the real dilemma.

My wife is totally opposed to me changing churches, even if I go to a new one and she says with this one. Church, to her is about friendships and the women at our church are her best friends. She believes my reason for wanting to change is silly. She says, "I couldn't care less about the age of the earth." But that's my point too. I, personally, couldn't care less. But it is hard to be involved with a church when the majority of (men at least) say that I'm not a Christian. Speaking of barriers, that's a huge barrier!

So my choices are to stick it out and keep my distance (because every major discussion ends up with implications that I'm either a flake or a non-Christian) or I move over the Presbyterian church (were you don't HAVE to be a Republican, disbelieve in global warming, believe the earth is 6,000 years old. and all the other baggage that is attached to the Gospel in my church.) But if I do switch churches, then there will be some major marital problems and the issue will come up every single Sunday for ages to come.

But, I'm sorry if this sounds like another personal problem of mine. My honest point is to look at the broader question of Evangelicalism and what ails it. I do hope, as Michael Spencer has suggested, that this movement dies and in its place a much better Christian movement appears.


Steve Martin said...

Hi MJ,

Here! Here! Excellent article. To put my cards on the table, I'm with Bob on the biological evolution as God's tool for creation ... I had a similar article to yours in Evangelicals and Evolution: Why the Discussion Matters .. my point#4 was similar to yours (with a different scientific topic) ... anti-evolutionism is often a road block to Jesus.

I see you have Noll's "The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind" on your "interesting books" list. Not sure if you've seen Noll's new paper Evangelicals, Creation, and Scripture paper he gave at the Biologos conference late last year that discussed the compatibility of evolution and an evangelical expression of the Christian faith (about 50 evangelical leaders took part - two other authors on your list - Yancey and N.T. Wright were also among the 50).

Trevor Morgan said...

Every time I read a post like this I think 'wait, that can't really have happened, can it?'

I don't have any sage advice for you, but I appreciate you documenting the utter weirdness that is contemporary US evangelicalism; not least it makes any problems I might have with my church pale into insignificance. At least I never feel that I have to sacrifice my intellectual integrity to be allowed to walk through the door.

It's funny the litmus tests that people choose to decide who's an acceptable Christian and who isn't. Maybe you should turn round and ask them how well they're keeping clear biblical instructions such as, well, Luke 3:11.

I keep reminding myself of that one. All the while I've got more than one coat in my closet, I better not start telling other people that they're not measuring up.

MJ said...

Hey Steve, thanks for the references. I like Mark Noll a lot. At the time I read his first book, I knew no other human being who was having the same thoughts as I was (and expressed in his book).

MJ said...

I just went back and proofed my posting for the first time. Whew. I think I corrected 10 typos. I hope that I got most of them.

Trevor, sometimes I think my church experiences are fringe, then, I where-ever I go within Evangelicalism, I run into the same thing. So, it must be mainstream. I have to realize once and for all that I am not an Evangelical any more.

I became a board member of a large Christian youth ministry a few years ago. I was hoping to interact with more open minded people. I do have a heart for the youth. They need someone to answer their honest questions. But I was so disappointed. It wasn't only a non-intellectual group but an anti-intellectual group. The deepest thinking they did was watching a Ken Hamm video. But they decided that Ken was far too smart for them to understand. So, their major ministry activity was watching live and caged wrestling as a group once a week.

These kids were being taught to be very superstitious. God spoke to the leaders through cloud formations, or raindrops or dreams all the time. Anyway, I was again a fish out of water and did not renew my term after two years. But among the 10 board members, I was completely alone in my desire to be more honest and to dig deeper.

Anyway, this kind of Evangelicalism is pervasive.

Johan said...

I sit here sighing in sympathy with you.
Luckily I attend a church where there's at least openness to intelligent design and evolution (one of our worshipleaders is a scientist in the field of nano-biology who published in Nature and Science), but I recognize this way of thinking.
I myself have some of your dilemma, albeit in much smaller terms: do I stay at a church where I know friends, but I sit cringing during the sermon almost every sunday? Or do I leave this institution and become a 'free ranger' of sorts? I honestly haven't figured the way out yet.


Anna A said...

MJ, like you and Michael S. I'd love to see this kind of fundamentalist Evangelism become a footnote in history.

What I fear for them is final judgement, where they will have to account for the many people that they have turned away from Jesus; maiming others,etc.

Anonymous said...

The deepest thinking they did was watching a Ken Hamm video. But they decided that Ken was far too smart for them to understand. So, their major ministry activity was watching live and caged wrestling as a group once a week.

Let me get this straight. Their major ministry activity was WATCHING PRO WRESTLING?

I'd like to hear just how they Spiritualized that. Pro Wrestling For Jeesus?

These kids were being taught to be very superstitious. God spoke to the leaders through cloud formations, or raindrops or dreams all the time.

Questions, everybody:

Isn't that called "Preistcraft", controlling the commoners by claiming a Direct Line to God (and can call down curses on anyone who gets uppity)?

And claiming signs and wonders and Magick to prop up their Divine Right to be Lords and Masters?

Why am I seeing the sacrifice scene from Apocalypto just now? The one timed to coincide with a solar eclipse (predicted by Mayan astronomy) at the climax?

And the Duvalier regime in Haiti, which encouraged Voudun among their people to keep them dumb and superstitious? And in fear of the Tontons Macoute?

Wasn't one of the Romans' beefs with this Christian cult was that they weren't properly superstitious enough?

Headless Unicorn Guy

MJ said...

The "pro wrestling + Jesus" is quite a mix that I've seen before. In Seattle there's a "Cage-fighting" church where the pastor preaches and then the men all beat the hell out of each other.

Here's a different cage-fighting ministry:

Anwari said...

I sure do hope you suggested to Chris that he attend the Presbyterian church you wrote about. I fear that were he to try your church, his seedling faith would be strangled by the weedy vines of anti-scientism. You & Bob might want to accompany him, too, just to make sure he didn't feel too lonely the first time. In the some of their congregations the "frozen chosen" are not immediately welcoming to new comers.