Thursday, December 13, 2012

When Athiests Seek Disciples

The American Atheists are at it again.  This time, they've purchased a billboard in Times Square in New York proclaiming "Keep the Merry, Drop the Myth."  (I guess someone forgot to tell them there isn't a war on Christmas anymore.)  ((Tongue now removed from cheek.))

Am I offended by this display?

No.  Not hardly.  Not only do the American Atheists have every right to put these thoughts out there, and not only do the American Atheists have every right to seek converts to their way of thinking, but I think we as Christians ought to welcome their challenge.

For too long, American Christianity has had it easy.  We were the dominant religious group by far--and we still are.  Everything in the culture revolved around our calendar, and for the most part, it still does.  Schools still have Christmas break, and many have Easter break; although the Christian influence is certainly waning.  Some schools have gone away from having a couple of days off at Easter.  Many sporting groups are unhesitating about scheduling events on Sunday mornings.  Such things would not have happened 40 years ago, but they do now.

And what has been the Christian response?

Sometimes anger, but it is an anger rooted in an "I'm offended that you do this, but I'm still going to brink my kids to play sports instead of taking them to church."  The folks who schedule the games win.

Other times, it's an anger of, "Those people shouldn't schedule events on Sunday morning."  Why?  "Because people go to church."  And if people choose to take their kids to sports instead of church?  "Those parents ought to be tarred and feathered."  But it is their choice, isn't it?  They are free to do it?  "But it isn't right?"  Then perhaps you should go talk to those parents who are taking their kids to the ballgames and let them know.  "I'm not going to do that.  You go do it.  I've got other things to do." 

This is called shirking responsibility and trying to pawn it off on someone else.

Other Christians have almost gleefully embraced the move away from what is called Christendom with a kind of now-we-can-get-away-from-the-cultural-trappings-and-return-to-first-century-Christianity attitude.  Yet, such embrasure has led to church attendance decline, decline of revenues, and a further irrelevance of the faith to today's culture.

Others have intellectually embraced relativism and universalism essentially saying, "It really doesn't matter what you believe.  Just try to be a good person."  (This is actually the utmost in laziness in my estimation.)

A very few, have taken the challenges of atheism and science seriously.  A very few have taken the intellectual step to engage atheists and others who seek to convert Christians to the atheistic world view.  They have chosen to look at the athiests' arguments, wrestle with them, dissect them, find their weaknesses, see how Christian arguments stack up against atheist arguments, and then put all the stuff on the table to let people decide.  I've enjoyed reading the works of these Christians.

One of the first things each of these Christian authors will articulate is the need for Christians to embrace doubt--to realize that our faith cannot be proved by reason or science.  And the dirty little secret is the very basis of atheistic arguments are based in faith--unprovable assumptions as well.  Sometimes this is a very discomforting thought both to atheists and Christians, but it is the truth, none-the-less.  And it is from this point that atheists and Christians can both come to the table, engage one another, and take a serious look at the questions we both face and see who might answer the deep questions of life better.

If we can actually reach this level of conversation, I am quite confident in Christianity's ability to not only defend itself, but bring people to faith.  It's got a 2000 year track record of being pretty successful at it and helping people find meaning, purpose, and sustenance. 

Christians are called to make disciples.

Atheists are trying to do likewise.

Let's put the chips on the table without shame, offense, or anger.  Let's put our world views out there for all to see, and let's see who ultimately can bring hope to the world.

6 comments:

Kathy said...

You write:

"Let's put our world views out there for all to see, and let's see who ultimately can bring hope to the world."

Yes! When I was a young woman, I began to search for a church. I was raised Lutheran so I went to Grace Lutheran in Needham, MA. The Rev. Timothy F. Lull was a first-call pastor there. I liked him very much, and asked him to explain what Lutherans believe. He gave me a small pamphlet, about 20 pages -- I still have it -- "What Lutheran Believe Today." Today? 20 pages?

Do you see? People want substance. Depth. What do Lutherans believe? Who can I ask? The Rev. Mark Hanson? Is he the authority? Will he change his mind after a quota-driven assembly? If people are going to commit their lives, and in my case as a young mother, the lives of my family, to a religion, there had better be something there.

Kevin Haug said...

Oh, I agree whole heartedly, which is why I continue to work on such defintion of what Lutherans believe; however in a denomination which seeks to be "a big tent where all are welcome" such self-definition: aka boundaries, are not exactly welcome. Yet, I continue to work despite the criticism from within and without.

Kathy said...

I have several "favorite" saints, and I have found as I go through life, I like certain saints at certain times in my life.

When I was in my late 30s, I liked St Teresa of Avila a lot. A good friend -- a Lutheran -- gave me a statue of her for my birthday.

The reason I liked -- and still like -- Teresa de Jesus is because she wasn't stupid. She lived in Spain. She was afraid of the Inquisition. Her friend, John of the Cross, had been imprisoned. (Today he is featured on Bishop Rinehart's blog.)

Teresa, like you, loved the Church. Like you, she would not leave the Church even though it had become corrupt. Like you, she worked as a reformer within the Church.

To be blunt, I respect you. I do not respect Luther. He should not have done what he did. Reform in one thing; schism is another -- and he bears the ultimate responsibility. He, like Teresa, could have humbly submitted to rightful authority, but he did not.

John 17: 21 "That they may all be one." This is the Will of Christ for His Church. There is no way to spin it, "interpret" it, or get around it.

Kevin Haug said...

Kathy,

When the Roman Church implemented 90 percent of Luther's reforms...

When the Roman Church had the arrogance to put to death reformers of the period for daring to suggest the Roman Church was corrupt and wrong...

When the Roman Church tried to force Luther to revoke the teachings it now considers to be true...

When the Roman Church excommunicated Luther for daring to call the Church to repentance and reform...

I think they bear just a slight bit of responsibility for the whole ordeal as well.

While you have no respect for Luther (for which you are entitled), I believe you are viewing your own denomination with glasses that are too rose colored.

Kathy said...

By no means, my dear Kevin. If you think I am viewing the Church Catholic through rose-colored glasses, then I am not doing a good job of explaining my position and the position of the Church.

I fully intend to start a blog. Maybe then we can go in depth --comments are just sound-bites. I would love to do some sort of back-and-forth because I don't know if ideas will pop into my head without someone questioning me.

Right now I am extremely upset -- sick actually - over the school shooting. I cannot even think of a comment. Guns? God help us.

Kathy said...

The real reason I like to "blog" is that I find it relaxing and fun -- it takes my mind off other problems. So... since I am badly in need of some relaxation now, I will respond to your comment....

I have practiced both the Lutheran and Catholic Faiths -- Lutheran, 27 years; Catholic 40 years. True, I do not have a Ph.D. (as did my husband) in Theology (his was in Physics), BUT I have read a lot and have had a lot of experience.

You say : "When the Roman Church implemented 90 percent of Luther's reforms..." First, pleez don't call it "Roman." That's not very accurate and it hurts my feelings, making it against Charity. I would say, from experience, that the Catholic Church has implemented *more* that 90% of Luther's reforms. Luther lost his faith in the Magisterium -- the power of the Magisterium to reflect the Will of God. I believe this is the central problem today. We need to fully explore and understand this issue. I will try to address it vigorously in my blog.

Also, pleez don't call the Catholic Church a "denomination." It is the Church -- not a break-away "named" entity. We have discussed this. It is technically NOT a denomination.

Your other points -- we have been over them... Of course the Catholic Church bears responsibility for its sins. After 500 years they are patent. They are also 500 years old. The Church has forgiven Henry VIII for executing Thomas More (and a few others) even though they had declared him a Defender of the Faith for opposing Luther.

I believe in my heart we can clear this up. Now is the time to repair the broken body of Christ.