Category Archives: general

JP Moreland on the Christian worldview

[HT Brain Auten]

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The radicalness of ordinary

The best way to write a bestseller is to have a compelling, action-packed narrative. In the Christian market it seems the best route to take is to buck accepted wisdom, to tell everyone that what they thought was a good idea really isn’t and that what we should do is overhaul our lives.

This isn’t exactly a new phenomenon, nor is it particularly wrong in itself to call to attention traditional practices of Christians that legitimately do need to be changed. Martin Luther was arguable one of the first christian bestsellers, and for a good reason. His books were lengthy and detailed. Luther wanted to convince his readers of the truthfulness of his position.

Today, however, I wonder if much of what passes for christian literature, is not meant (or otherwise merely has the effect of) producing an emotional reaction.

Take the grandfather of what I’ll call “get busy for Jesus” books. Charles Sheldon wrote In His Steps around the turn of the 19th century in order to encourage his readers to ask the question, “What Would Jesus Do?” The intent of the question is sound, to encourage people to be courageous Christians, but the method is wholly existential. In order to answer the question one is asked to, at some level, pretend they are Jesus. The result is that the answer to what Jesus would do turns out to be whatever the one asking the question subjectively decides.

The alternate to this approach, in case you’re wondering, is to ask “what did Jesus do and say?” This is the difference between a deconstructive and an analytical approach to the acquisition of knowledge.

But that’s the problem. Luther wrote to impart knowledge. Sheldon wrote to impart an experience. And it is Sheldon’s intent that I find in many Christian bestsellers today.

Three modern variations come to mind. Henry Blackaby’s bible study, Experiencing God, Francis Chan’s Crazy Love, and David Platt’s Radical series. Each one has, at its core, a call to an experience. And each one, if closely analyzed, is inherently against the analytical approach to gaining knowledge.

Another common factor in these books is a call to “be radical”. To make sweeping wholesale changes, preferably without much analysis or forethought. Not only is this reckless, but it runs afoul of what Jesus taught about carefully calculating the cost of any decision we make.

Sometimes radical changes are necessary. But more often than not they are merely destructive and should be avoided in favor of slow and gradual change.

One of Luther’s radical conclusions was that the normal, average person was important. That even the most ordinary work could be glorifying to God. That one didn’t need to be a rock-star in order to have an impact on the world.

What is really radical are ordinary people doing ordinary things day after day. What is radical is a family that lasts. What is radical is a responsible financial plan that helps mitigate unforeseen circumstances while allowing for a slow and steady accumulation of wealth to be handed down to subsequent generations.

Here are a couple of other great reviews of David Platt’s Radical:

Subversive Christians

Easter Sunday I participated in a lively discussion with a group of atheists on the topic of the resurrection. It was all kicked off by a friend who posted “Happy Zombie Jesus Day!”

And while the exchange with the non-Christians on the thread went pretty well, I was dumbfounded when the following was posted:

Dan can not prove the absence of God any more than believers can absolutely prove the existence of God. This is why it is called Faith (or lack of). So at the end of the day we should either celebrate either the second coming or the Easter Bunny bringing candy, whichever works for us individually, and move on. My position on the subject is my position, it neither grows stronger or weaker if I get someone else’s input. Actually, someone passionately challenging my position may only serve to strengthen my resolve. So for many Dan may actually be working to further solidify their faith. For others his comments may strike a chord of familiarity. At the end of the day those that believed in the second coming still will and those that think a pink bunny actually brings candy… well, they still will too. So, whatever you celebrate today, enjoy the fact that Winter is over and Summer is around the corner!

On the surface this may seem like a simple plea of “why don’t we all just get along?” But I suspected something else, so I posted this by way of reply:

George, your position sounds rather anti-intellectual to me and decidedly post modern. Facts matter and our discovery of them is absolutely paramount. If I am holding on to false beliefs I would certainly like to know and the best way for me to go about doing that is to regularly expose myself and my positions to others who hold differing opinions. Sure, that exchange may strengthen my resolve, Dan knows I appreciate his help in making me a better Christian, but it may also cause me to abandon false beliefs. The worst thing we could do, however, is to think that our persuit of truth is of no importance or to think that encouraging others to examine their positions does not enrich all of us (how’s that for self-interest Dan?).

To this George responded:

Wes, enjoy the debate. I hope you find what you are looking for.

I am open to debate things that can be proven, debating things that can’t are largely mental masturbation. So I go with my beliefs on those, and you are welcome to respect those or not. Whatever your choice, I am fine with it. Not a factor here.

Me:

George I must admit that you’ve piqued my interest as to what you are looking for here. It seems to me that your aim is merely to shutdown the conversation through an appeal to relativism “that’s true for you but not for me” and/or agnosticism “I know that we can’t know”. Both, I would argue, are not only indefensible positions but also display a sort of intellectual cowardice. What’s worse than mental masturbation is mental impotence.

What makes you so sure that the resurrection of Jesus can’t be proven? I suppose that begs the initial question of what you would consider to be a proof and, from that, how much proof you think is required.

George:

Wes, for all of your “wisdom”, You don’t even know what my position is. I was once told by an old sales mentor that “to Assume makes an ass out of you and me”. So you are picking a fight with someone who may, in fact, be on your side (though I never stated a position and, as a rule, don’t debate my position on faith). A poor choice in battle plans on your part if that is the case. It is traditional to fight the enemy, not the allies.

Key is knowing who the allies, and are not, are before you aim and pull the trigger.

Not sure I would bother to debate someone that has not taken the time to figure out if I am even on the other side.

That, my friend, is what makes your argument simply mental masturbation and likely most important to you alone… My comment above was more focused on enjoying the day regardless of your position, because spending time on Facebook today is taking time away from faith, family or some other enjoyable activity. I have checked my blackberry far too much today and will remedy that. I wish you well as you debate anyone that responds, regardless of their position.

You did get pulled in by Dan’s comment that was delivered with great shock value (Dan’s apparent specialty). I laughed when I saw it, it was hard to take it too seriously.

You are one REALLLLY smart cookie…

From here I decided to take our conversation into private messages instead of continueing the conversation on our mutual atheist friend’s wall. And in the interest of full disclosure I’ll go ahead and tell you I wasn’t very nice in our private exchange.

Sadly this is not a fluke. I have a similar conversation with most Christians I meet. Not only are they ill-prepared to join in the battle we’ve been called by our common savior to join in on, they resent anyone who does.

I decided to make a blog about the exchange above to illistrate something I’ve thought for a long time. The biggest enemies the church faces today are not on the outside. They are professing believers in Christ who want to go to church every Sunday and get high on the religious expierience, but who never engage the world around them. In fact, they see it as

While some of the blame certainly falls on the pastor, I place most of the fault in the person who chooses to adopt the prevalent secular mindset which discourages any serious examination of worldviews in search for truth.

Free Market Environmentalism Is Not An Oxymoron

Something to keep in mind in the wake of the royal wedding

From this article on the UK Telegraph:

“We are living at a time where some people, as my daughter used to say, they want to test whether the milk is good before they buy the cow,” he said. “For some people that’s where their journeys are.

Why should we condone this “Try before you buy” mentality? I, for one, will vociferously fight this trend among my own children if nothing else than on the personal experience of what it almost did to my own marriage.

The only thing that saved us is something I desperately hope happens for the Royal newlyweds. A radical change in heart towards the creator under whose eyes their respective vows were undertaken.

Without that, they are in serious danger of walking down the same road as Prince William’s father and late biological mother.

Book review: Radical Together by David Platt

I have read a lot about David Platt’s first bestseller, Radical, so when I saw his latest book, Radical Together, on the list of books to review for booksneeze.com, I jumped at the chance.

Radical Together is meant to explain how to take what David wrote in his first book, Radical, and live them out. To do that David uses a lot of examples by way of illustration, mostly from his mega-church, Brook Hills.

David begins by telling how he and his family ended up at Brook Hills following the devastation wrought by hurricane Katrina. David uses this incident to introduce us to the notion that God sometimes does radical things to get our attention. Like flooding an entire city, destroying lives and property and displacing millions.

For us the flood depicts the radical call of Christ to Christians and the [local] church. When Jesus calls us to abandon everything we have and everything we are, it’s almost as if he is daring us to put ourselves in the flood plain. To put all our lives and all our [local] churches, all our property and all our possessions, all our plans and all our strategies, all our hopes and all our dreams in front of the levee and then ask God to break it. To ask God to sweep away whatever he wants, to leave standing whatever he desires, and to remake our lives and [local] churches according to his will.

David then talks about how he reluctantly came to be the pastor of Brook Hills. He was asked to preach one Sunday and the people there liked him. But he didn’t want to go because he didn’t think he was qualified. David uses this story to express a concept from Henry Blackaby’s Experiencing God bible study, that God operates on a mystical plane and that we should expect to find God in whatever it is we don’t want and are (or think we are) wholly unqualified to do.

All of this is in the first chapter where David is describing a problem found in most churches where people are busy but their business is not necessarily geared towards productive ends.

I mostly agree with David’s assessment but he seems to equivocate a lot between church as the body of Christ and church as a particular 501c3 non-profit organization.

At the same time we were studying James, we were going through our church budgeting process. To be honest, I hate budget season. As a pastor, I believe this is when the church comes face to face with hoe prone we are to give our resources to good things while ignoring great need. Christians in North America give, on average, 2.5 percent of their income to their [local] church. Out of that 2.5 percent, churches in North America will give 2 percent of their budgeted monies to needs overseas. In other words, for every hundred dollars a North American Christian earns, he will give five cents through the church to a world with urgent spiritual and physical needs. This does not make sense.

From this David draws the conclusion, which appears to have formed a large part of his previous book, that American Christians are greedy and materialistic. Never mind the fact that Americans out-give all other nations on earth. Unfortunately David seems to think that Christians are required to tithe (exactly how does a charity “earn” anything?) and that local church businesses are the best, if not only, means of giving aid and comfort to the poor. Oh, and we are also told that the people we should be primarily concerned with are the poor in nations other than our own.

From here David begins building his case for what he considers a radical Christian life. Put simply, that life is spent asking the same question Charles Sheldon asked in his book In His Steps, “What Would Jesus Do?”

Throughout Radical Together what struck me the most was how ordinary the message was. While I respect David’s desire to call people to live lives that are more consistent with their stated Christian beliefs, what I kept thinking was how neurotic a person who actually takes David’s (or Sheldon’s for that matter) message seriously.

Through Radical Together it seems like the overall message is to go out and make big changes. That thinking about the problem and are fully planning and, as Jesus said, counting the cost are something we should avoid in favor of, basically, living in the moment.

The only bright part of David’s book was where he brought up and championed the home/small church model. It was refreshing, though somewhat perplexing considering the context, to read a mega-church pastor advocating the employment of all believers equally in the body of Christ and that meeting in a small intimate context is more conducive to the discipleship we are called to practice among the body of Christ.

In the end I wouldn’t recommend Radical Together to anyone to read. If you want to read a “get busy for Jesus” book you would do better to read Sheldon’s classic, In His Steps. Or better yet, throw off the existentialism inherent in the notion that in order to truly follow Christ one needs to be “radical”.

Movie review: To Save A Life

As a rule I tend to avoid explicitly Christian films like Facing the Giants, Flywheel, Fireproof1, and To Save a Life. However every now and then I make an exception to that rule. Most of the time I am merely reminded why I maintain the self-inflicted rule in the first place, but every now and then I run across a movie like To Save A Life and it makes up for all the rest. Well, at least it reminds me why I make the ocassional exception.

The movie begins with the funeral of Roger, a kid with no friends and no hope. One of the 31,000 teenage suicides that happen in the US each year.

At the funeral is Roger’s former bestfriend, Jake. Jake and Roger grew up together but in highschool, Jake decided to ditch Roger in order to become more popular.

Jake and Roger are broken, and through the course of the movie we come face to face with the frank brokenness of many characters. And this is where the rest of the story unfolds. Tracing lines of brokenness with the looming question of whether anything is capable of making a real, lasting difference.

The raw honesty in this movie is refreshing. Its not like the marital fight scene in Fireproof where nary a curse word is to be heard. No. In To Save A Life, the imperfections and frailty of the main characters hit you like a 2×4 between the eyes.

Through Jake’s perepsective we encounter a number of issues including; teen suicide, peer pressure, drugs, drinking, sex, pregnancy, divorce, betrayal, and even cutting.

And unlike many movies where the main character undergoes a mostly linear character progression, Jake regresses during the film. Showing us that a mended heart can break itself again.

Overall we are introduced to the notion that brokenness is best dealt with in community. But not just any community. Along with various types of characters we are shown varying types of communities.

There are the drug addicts, the popular crowd, the outcasts, the youth group, and the Christians. I particularly enjoyed how the movie dealt with the difference between the youth group and the Christians, those performing religious observance and those seeking a genuine relationship with a living God.

And even through the youth minister’s advice and dialog annoyed me at some points. Overall he proved to be a solid character with a love for those he serves and a desire to see them grow and mature.

This is one of those films that should be shown to every teen and pre-teen in America.

  1. Ok Fireproof wasn’t all that bad. []

Why doesn’t the state just get out of the marriage business altogether?

Marriage against the State: Toward a New View of Civil Marriage, Cato Policy Analysis No. 671

In his report, Marriage against the State: Toward a New View of Civil Marriage, Jason writes,

Although privatizing all aspects of marriage may well be appealing, such an approach would result, at both state and federal levels, in much greater government interference in family life, higher taxes for married couples, invasions of privacy, difficulties related to child custody, and other negative consequences. In some areas, marriage is a defense against state power, and such a defense should not be lightly discarded. However, marriage should be decoupled from the tax code by adopting a flat tax; the Defense of Marriage Act should be repealed; and Congress should adopt language making it clear that civil and religious marriage are not the same institution, and that the existence of marriage as a legal category is neutral with respect to religion. Wherever possible, marriage penalties and bonuses in the tax code and welfare system should be eliminated.

While it is certainly true that marriage cannot be completely privatized, Jason fails to really address why that is. It is because marriage alone is capable of producing the new citizens necessary to replenish the national supply. Instead, marriage is seen as merely another contractual situation.

Because of this popular, though not well thought out stance, all objections to public contracts between same sex partners1 are seen as objections from “the religious aspect of marriage”.

The problem with this notion, however, is that no religion to my knowledge, and that includes Christianity, Judaism, and Islam, understand the public purpose of marriage anything other than what our law currently supports. Additionally, Jason is simply wrong when he asserts that faith communities “do not
always agree about the proper conditions of entry or exit, the proper norms of continuance of a marriage, or what constitutes an ‘ideal’ marriage at all”.

Jason goes on to note that marriage is a pre-political arrangement, he writes

A good way to think of the relationship between marriage and the state is that marriage is ontologically prior to the state. Although all existing marriages are chronologically younger than the U.S. government, they are not dependent upon it for their survival. If the government were to dissolve, probably no one would imagine that their marriages and families had also been dissolved. On the contrary, in such alarming circumstances, perhaps our first thoughts would be for the protection and maintenance of our families. Even in the resulting disorder, churches, families, and couples would very likely continue to practice marriage. And if they wanted to preserve their freedoms, one of these would surely be the freedom to marry. As the Court wrote in the landmark case Loving v. Virginia (1967),

The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men. Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival. . . . To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law.

Or, as the Court wrote in Griswold v. Connecticut (1965),

We deal with a right of privacy older than the Bill of Rights—older than our political parties, older than our school system. Marriage is a coming together for better or for worse, hopefully enduring, and intimate to the degree of being sacred. It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects. Yet it is an association for as noble a purpose as any involved in our prior decisions.

Marrying and forming a family, the court has repeatedly said, are fundamentally personal acts. As such, they are acts that governments should not be allowed to interfere with for anything less than compelling reasons. Yet there are clearly at least some ways that state or federal governments can interfere unacceptably with marriage, as with most other individual rights. Such actions are forbidden to the U.S. federal government, because to marry, to have children, and to raise and educate them according to the dictates of one’s own conscience are all a part of what it means to have a free society. By the same token, the government of a free society must respect those instances when this liberty has been exercised—and therefore perhaps must formally recognize them. In other words, perhaps the government should recognize marriages only so it can more effectively leave them alone.

Jason goes on to “examine a different facet of federal marriage law and ask whether it can be justified as part of a framework of negative rights.”

The Income Tax Trilemma

The first thing Jason hits is the wildly unpopular “marriage penalty”. This penalty exists because of competing goals with regard to marriage.

In practice, the pre-2003 tax code tended to penalize dual-earner marital units, because on marriage, the partners were treated as though they held one—albeit higher—household income. This placed them in a higher marginal tax bracket, and they paid more tax than they would if they had remained unmarried, much like couple B after their taxes are raised to the level of couple A’s. As dual-earner marriages came to make up a greater and greater proportion of married households, the marriage penalty was felt more widely, and more couples found that divorce was, perversely, a way to save money on taxes.

While it sounds like the abatements made in 2003, which will also likely be made permanent under Obama, are a good thing. I would like to point out that if we step back and look at the public purpose of the underlying marriage and re-frame the question with regard to that, we will see that the pre 2003 tax code should be preferred. Actually, the most ideal situation would be to abolish income taxes altogether, as Jason also notes, but next to that I would argue our society has a vested interest in encouraging couples to have and raise children and not to shuffle those children off to daycare.

There is a reason we incentivised one family structure over all others in the pre-2003 tax code structure.

Now I agree that it was and is a mess, and I would be remiss to pretend the tax situation wasn’t fraught with holes in the pre-2003 system. But since public policy has the effect of encouraging and discouraging behavior, I figure its worth mentioning that what we consider the goal of marriage has an impact even on the tax policies we choose to enact.

Jason goes on to indicate that stay-at-home parents (usually moms) are a luxery item and that so-called provider/dependant marriage arrangements hurt the poor. I disagree with that notion on historical grounds.

Nevertheless, I agree with Jason’s conclusion in this section that

Taxation, then, should be made marriage-neutral, perhaps by enacting a flat tax, which would have just that effect.

This is one area where the federal government most certainly should withdraw from marriage.

Immigration

Jason notes that the ability of citizens to marry foreigners and bring them back as recognized citizens is a big advantage of marriage. He also notes that

Marriage is older than, and superior to, the law of nations. It would be a strangely limited U.S. citizenship, more of a curse than a privilege, if it entailed never marrying the one you loved.

While this is an excellent observation, Jason goes on to explore the implications of this policy with respect to our policy of not recognizing same sex relationships as marriages.

It is not easy to estimate the number of visas that might be granted for same-sex partners under a regime of immigration equality. Some same-sex couples may be opting to keep a low profile to avoid detection and deportation of one of the partners. Others may have obtained other types of visas through more circuitous or risky routes. Still other couples have simply broken up.

There are a number of assumptions here. One is that we understand a marriage to be a lasting condition and not as transitory as the data shows vast majority of same sex relationships to be. Another is the assumption that marriage is exclusive to two parties and not fluid as the data also shows same sex relationships to be.

In the end, I agree with Jason’s overall assessment on this point as well. The state should step in and grant citizenship to married partners for the purpose of maximizing liberty.

The Presumption of Legitimacy

Marriage creates a set of default rules for child custody and for presumed relations of guardianship. These rules are sensible, well understood, and best left in place. Privatizing marriage—getting the state out of the marriage business—would leave all children in great uncertainty, because legal custody would not be guaranteed for any children, in any life situation, whether their parents were (privately) married or not. Privatizing marriage sounds reasonable until we realize that it entails privatizing child custody, alimony, and child support, providing some private mechanism of assurance and trust for them, and then providing a private enforcement mechanism as well.

I think Jason is spot-on here so I’ll just quote a bit more

The presumption of legitimacy does much of the practical work that social conservatives rightly praise marriage for doing. It ties sex and reproduction to childrearing and support, ideally in the context of a stable biological family. It allows the family to get on with the business of raising their children, free from most forms of inquiry about their origins, and certainly from any routine ones.

All is smooth sailing, and then we hit an iceberg
The presumption of legitimacy may even discreetly paper over a sexual transgression, allowing the marriage, and the family, a second chance if the parties want it.

In this Jason is talking about cases where (the woman mostly) has had an affair and has borne another man’s child. According to the presumption of legitimacy legal doctrine we simply assume this child to be the legitimate offspring of the marriage into which he is borne. But does papering over the fact that this is not the biological offspring of the parents really solve anything? I don’t think it does. If the marriage survives such a transgression it will only be due to the combined commitment of both marriage parties with respect to any of the other children they have or may have and not with respect to the child who is, in fact, the offspring of an illegitimate union. And even if the marriage continues to function, the legal problems and pitfalls are still sitting there like a landmine waiting to explode at any point down the line. So while I agree that genetic testing shouldn’t be a rule, we shouldn’t pretend that genetics plays no part in the marriage relationship.

Marriage, Divorce, and Disposition of Property

On separation, matters grow still more complicated—and expensive. Married couples who divorce may make use of the gift tax exemption to divide up their property as they see fit, but cohabiting couples or those in civil unions or domestic partnerships don’t have that option. Such couples are liable for federal taxes on transfer of property—rendering the federal government effectively a third partner in their dissolving relationship. Once again, getting the state “out” of marriage only means more state intrusion. Wood writes, “If you look at a many-year relationship with significant assets, the taxes at stake can be enormous. In fact, the tax bill can be so big that in some cases, unmarried couples trying to untangle joint assets might consider getting married just so they can then qualify for the benefits of a tax-free divorce!” At least one heterosexual couple Wood knows has done so, he reports.

I don’t see how Jason’s case for the legalization of same sex marriage to prevent the state’s intrusion into the dissolution of a relationship makes much sense. In a heterosexual marriage prenuptial agreements are quite common and it seems that an equivalent arrangement is readily attainable by anyone seeking to form a private and legally binding agreement. What will cause the government involvement to increase is if we change the definition of marriage to accommodate the >10% of the 1.7% of homosexuals in America.

The Scope of Marriage: Who Can Marry

In this section Jason first takes on the question of rights. I would maintain that rights are conferred from a transcendent source and not derived from any subjective source like a social contract.

Jason then argues,

Besides its coherence, there is also room to question the relative strength of the taxpayers’ objection to same-sex marriage. Considered as just one competing among many, it is surely no stronger, and arguably a great deal weaker, than the objection raised by the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers) that their tax money goes to pay for war, an activity which they likewise find abhorrent. And the sum of tax money that pays for warmaking is orders of magnitude greater than that which would subsidize same-sex marriage.

I must also point out here that the moral question here appears to be too lightly brushed aside as if there were no objective moral standards or ways of knowing those standards with any degree of certainty. In other words, I would argue the Quakers are wrong in their assertion of a seamless garmet of non-violence.

Jason then raises the issue of whether legalizing same sex marriage would save taxpayers money. I would argue it doesn’t compared to the damage it would do. And that is the answer to the quote above. It is not just that taxpayers would be forced to fund something they have a moral objection to, it is that they would be forced to affirm that which they object to and, moreover, they would be forced to sacrafice their own institution since, as we have seen elsewhere in the world, redefining marriage does not have a neutral effect on the institution of natural marriage.

Conclusion

In the end I wholly agree with Jason that the state’s involvement in marriage is not a viable option. But the reason I think this is so is because of the possibility of children. Without that biological factor it seems that marriage would otherwise be no different than any other contractual agreement between private parties.

  1. Simple civil contracts between consenting adults can legally be obtained today in all 50 states, which makes the argument from civil liberties on the matter quite absurd. []

Book Review: The Next Christians by Gabe Lyon

Gabe Lyon brings into clear focus the mountains that modern Christians will need to move if they are to avoid being altogether cast from serious public consideration.

In his book, The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America first accurately diagnoses the problem facing Christianity in America and then offers an excellent 10-point outline of characteristics that are common of the Christians he believes, and rightly in my estimation, are going to be the best bet in turning that tide.

Many reviewers of Gabe’s book seem to get hung up on the opening line of the book where Gabe makes the case that it is often socially awkward if not downright embarrassing to be identified as a Christian in America. I wonder if these reviewers have had many lunch encounters like I have. There we are, sitting around the table laughing and cutting up and generally having a good time and then someone goes and makes a comment to the effect of “oh come on guys, its not like ANYONE believes ________ anymore”. You can fill in that blank with just about any Christian position but the one that I’ve seen most frequently cited is intelligent design which is commonly confused by non-Christians as merely an alias of young earth creationism.

I mention that not to take a pot shot at YEC but rather to demonstrate the insight found in Gabe’s conclusion that things are rapidly changing and we, Christians, must adapt to the prevailing social landscape.

After outlining the cultural shifts that face us, Gabe tells the story of meeting with a Hollywood movie producer who, after noticing the success of Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ, wanted to gain some insight into the Christian market. As a side note, I wonder if this meeting, with Lionsgate executives, is what influenced to brought about the movie “The Book of Eli”.

Gabe describes to them, and us, two major groups and their immediate subgroups. They are:

  • Separatists
    • Insiders
    • Culture Warriors
    • Evangelizers
  • Cultural
    • Blenders
    • Philanthropists

Gabe outlines each group and what characteristics differentiate them from the rest. This grid is valuable and might be worth the price of the book by itself. As some reviewers have noted, The Next Christians is a further contribution to the Christ and Culture series started by H. Richard Niebuhr’s “Christ and Culture”, and then Craig Carter’s “Rethinking Christ and Culture”, which are great if you want further reading on how Christians relate to the culture they’re in.

At the end of this section Gabe introduces a third overall archetype of Christian which is the main focus of his book, The Next Christians. Overall we can classify these Christians as “restorers”. Christians who aren’t interested in either separation or immersion in culture. They are, in short, culture makers. Subversive agents who seek to use culture where appropriate and transform it gradually to be more Christlike.

Gabe shares numerous anecdotes to illustrate his points. Gabe introduces us to ministries like “To Write Love on Her Arms” which gives a good example of how the Next Christians are characterized by rolling up their sleeves and getting their hands dirty in the brokenness in the world. This isn’t altogether different than how Jesus, his earliest disciples, and many Christians throughout the ages have approaches the cultures in which they live.

Throughout the book Gabe gives good examples of how Christians should tactfully engage the world around them. Navigating the current cultural current by not being too abrasive nor being too complicit. But allowing Christ to work in them to transform hearts and minds.

To that end I was thrilled when Gabe made the observation that the next Christians are people who see every aspect of their lives as sacred. A great example Gabe gave on this point is a couple who moved out to California from the south and decided that since no Christian community existed where they moved that they would create one.

I believe Gabe hits the nail on the head when he writes about how the Next Christians are not interested so much in inviting their friends to church to sit through an event. Not that doing so is horrible per se. But the Next Christians are more interested in bringing Christ to the culture around them. Of being the church in the world.

Overall I found Gabe’s book to be a blessing. It is encouraging to hear how Christians are recognizing the changing landscape, are planning ways to deliberately confront the culture in more winsome ways, and finally, how they are throwing off the shackles of unbiblical traditions which have been dragging us down for quite a while now.

The Next Christians serves as a great field map to help us keep our cultural interface in check so we can more effectively engage with people around us.

And for anyone looking for encouragement about the future of Christianity in America, his book provides it in spades.

Loosing faith: My deconversion story

I’ve weighed the evidence, listened to the best debaters, and carefully examined the scriptures. And I’ve reluctantly come to the conclusion that I simply can’t believe in it anymore.

The most articulate priests and prophets were unable to persuade me of the validity of their position. And they were wholly unable to answer the serious questions I had about the sacred texts. Even in the original languages its plain that the texts are hopelessly riddled with errors and omissions.

If I had to pinpoint what tipped me over the edge, though, I suppose it would have to be the dismal performance of one of the faithful’s most ardent defenders in a recent debate.

If I’ve throughly unnerved you by this point then my post has Happy April fools day! And in case you haven’t figured it out yet, my post is about scientism with the priests and prophets being the new atheists and the sacred texts being their books and others including Darwin’s classic, Origin of Species.