“That ‘Nones’ May Not Perish”
Click on the picture at left to listen to my interview with Melanie Cogdill of the Postmodern Realities Podcast about who the “nones” are and how we can think about trying to reach them.
For parents of younger children who may consider the task of preparing them to engage an antagonistic culture to be a daunting proposition, fear not! You are not alone. But don’t wait for others to fulfill your responsibilities as a parent. And please keep in mind several undeniable facts that are applicable to the statistics we have about number of young adults (currently around 65% – 75%) who leaving the church after they leave home for work or for college:
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If you haven’t heard of J. Warner (Jim) Wallace, do yourself a favor and bookmark his website: Cold Case Christianity. It is a fantastic resource, and Jim is a fantastic apologist whose clarity and attitude should inspire us all to “bloom where we’re planted” as defenders of our Christian convictions. Jim is a retired cold-case detective from the Los Angeles police department who has been featured on several segments of NBC’s Dateline for solving murder cases many years after others gave up on them. Jim used to be a self-described “obstinate atheist” who looked at Christianity as a myth and Christian believers as intellectually weak fools.
Then he applied his cold-case detective skills to a study of the Christian faith. The result is that Jim has developed an engaging, unique approach to Christian apologetics.
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Stewart and Mickelson – June 20, 1999
This month, one of the biggest stories in the sporting world is about something that one of the world’s most talented and successful athletes won’t do. Recently, golfer Phil Mickelson announced that he will not be playing in this year’s U.S. Open. To some, this comes as a shock. After all, at age 46, Mickelson is still one of the best players on the planet (currently ranked #23 in the world), and has never won a U. S. Open — even though he’s finished 2nd a record six times. With that kind of history, and being as competitive as he is, you would think Mickelson would want to take advantage of every opportunity to finally win the thing. Realistically, those opportunities are fading fast.
The thing is, Phil Mickelson really, really does want to win a U. S. Open. But he’s skipping this year’s event for only one reason — his oldest daughter, Amanda, is graduating from high school on the Thursday that the U.S. Open begins. Phil Mickelson is choosing to be at an important event in the life of his family and daughter over pursuing his own personal fulfillment. These days, that’s pretty admirable all by itself. But the background to the story also makes it a touching memorial to a man and an event that probably made Mickelson’s decision a very easy one to make.
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It is not uncommon to hear fellow Christians, as they ponder a difficult life decision, agonizing out loud about their sincere desire to “find God’s will for their life.” Their consternation is understandable, especially in an environment where “seeking God’s will” has become the standard method of decision making within the Christian culture. The process can be confusing and terrifying. After all, what if they make the wrong choice by picking the wrong place to live, the wrong job, or, most dauntingly, the wrong spouse? If they marry the wrong person that means that their spouse should have married someone else who in turn also married the wrong person – and the string of wrongly chosen spouses soon multiplies exponentially. Something must be awry in a view that allows the possibility that one wrong decision could lead to consequences of such catastrophic, ungodly proportions. How do we prevent the calamity and avoid the uncertainty? Is decision making really supposed to be this daunting?
Making decisions is hard enough. We certainly do not need to add to it the burden of evaluating our options against a false understanding of whether or not we have properly uncovered the Divine Plan. The simple fact is that any of us can assess our alignment to God’s Will with clear assurance. To understand why this is so, we need only evaluate this commonly accepted way of thinking against a biblical understanding of the nature of God’s will.
“If there really is a perfect will of God we are meant to discover, in which we will find tremendous freedom and fulfillment, why does it seem that everyone looking for God’s will is in such bondage and confusion?”
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We’ve just seen the culmination of a “week of action” that started with “The March For Science” on Sunday, April 22, 2017 and continued through April 29th. It was brought to us by the steely-eyed, unbiased defenders of reason and “settled science” at 600 locations worldwide. It was meant to sing the praises of scientific consensus. According to The March organizers, their mission was all about:
“A call for science that upholds the common good and for political leaders and policy makers to enact evidence based policies in the public interest.”
Which makes it a little confusing. I mean, how did the references to “political leaders,” and “policy makers” make it into the mission statement of a pure “call for science”? And get this: The March began with a fiery call to action by Bill Nye, a mechanical engineer and stand-up comedian who has proven over and over again to have trouble even pretending to be a scientist. It ended with another march that proclaimed its purpose with perfect clarity on its website:
On the 100th day of Trump’s presidency more than 300,000 people in Washington DC and across the country joined together in a powerful demonstration of unity for jobs, justice, and climate action.
In summary, we have a non-scientist posing as the spokesman for a weeklong movement to undermine the public policies of a politician by demanding “jobs, justice, and climate action.”
Maybe it’s just me, but this doesn’t seem all that “scientific.” In fact, it almost sounds like the whole thing has very little to do with science, and a lot to do with Leftist politics. If you happened to be one of the few who listened to the rhetoric of The March’s speakers, you would find that is pretty much all they talked about.
The truth is that this “movement” is meant mainly to empower the wielders of professional hatchets who are armed to destroy the careers and reputations of anyone who dares question the approved “scientific” narrative. These are people who disguise their political agenda not behind science, but behind a secularized worship of science called scientism.
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Those of us who share the conviction that Christianity is actually true, believe that a reset button got pushed on the first Easter Sunday when the Old Covenant was replaced by the New Covenant through the atoning sacrifice of Jesus of Nazareth. No argument about that here.
But, as a result of that mindset, many Christians seem to take that view to mean that the Old Testament was therefore rendered invalid, overridden, or somehow not applicable to how we understand our faith. Beyond citing the creation story or the 10 Commandments once in a while, we seem to have disconnected the Old Testament from the New. But doing so strips the overarching story of the relationship between God and man of much of its meaning. The history we see in the Bible has always been leading somewhere. It’s all about the same God. It’s all one story — and it’s a rich story that gets even richer when you take the time to see the unmistakeable connection between Old and New.
Nowhere is that more apparent than in the life and mission of Abraham and the covenants God made with him that foreshadowed everything that would happen thousands of years later. In the story of Abraham we see all there is to understand about The Plan God put in place from the very beginning to save humanity. In Genesis 12:3 we get the biggy — “… all the peoples on earth will be blessed through you.”
All the peoples.
The nation of Israel was a “chosen people” only insofar as from that nation, and from the House of David within that nation, would come the Messiah for all the peoples. Israel was never meant to be the only nation God would save. It was simply the nation through which He would make a way to save Israel and everyone else.
The way He would do it was through a covenant relationship like nothing anyone had ever imagined before. It would be a covenant of law and love that was both conditional and unconditional simultaneously. If that sounds weird, it is. It is “weird” because the God who fashioned it is like no other God and the way in which He offered to save mankind was unlike what any other god could offer. He demonstrated it to Abraham in Genesis 15 when God showed Abraham the meaning of Easter.*
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A few years ago, a friend of mine told me about his own personal tradition of fasting during the Lenten season leading up to the celebration of Easter. He said that the impact the experience had on him the first year he attempted it was powerful and had led him to continue the practice every year since. He didn’t tell me what he meant by “powerful” but he challenged me to give it a try.
Coincidentally, I had been considering doing exactly that, though on a much smaller scale than he suggested. My friend had researched the issue and found that the original practice of the monks who instituted Lenten fasting was to fast every day except Sunday for the 40 days leading up to Easter Sunday. The monks apparently believed that Sunday, being a day of rest, should also include resting from the practice of fasting. So, though he was not in any way Catholic, my friend had decided to do the same thing. He suggested that instead of going directly to a full-blown fast, I should wean my way into it by eating only fruits and vegetables for the first week. He told me this on the day before Lent began.
The next morning (after breakfast), I decided that instead of just teaching and talking about the spiritual disciplines (you will find a good summary of what they are in a blog series by Ken Boa here: Spiritual Disciplines, Part 1, Part 2, and Part 3), I might actually try putting them into practice. And so, almost on a whim, I vowed to give it a shot. I had no idea what I had signed up for.
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I can only recall a few movies that have left me speechless. “Silence” is one of them. The film makes you live up to its name while you are experiencing it because the intensity is overwhelming at times. When the action goes silent, the theater you are sitting in also feels like a tomb. No whispering. No shuffling of feet. No rustle of people moving in their seats. But it also leaves you in stunned silence days later when you can’t get it out of your mind. It is a movie that makes you contemplate some of life’s most serious questions. Is God out there? Does He know I exist? Why all the suffering?
Silence is a movie that doesn’t give answers to those questions; it only makes them more real. There are no clichés thrown around. No neatly wrapped conclusions. This movie will not make any religious believer feel better about the topic of doubt but it will make them less prone to dismiss it.
Without spoiling the plot, or trying to pontificate on the profound topics this film explores, here are some practical takeaways I think are worth mentioning
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The Story of Reality (Grand Rapids, Michigan: Zondervan, 2017)
Click Above To Order
Greg Koukl’s newest book, The Story of Reality: How The World Began, How It Ends, and Everything Important That Happens In Between, is a clear, concise, non-threatening overview of the Christian worldview. The beauty of this book is that it turns the common arguments for the Christian God into exactly what the title suggests — a story that makes sense of everything we observe and experience in this life. It is a masterful presentation of the oldest definition of truth as the correspondence between what we believe about something and the way the world actually is.
Koukl’s weekly radio show and podcast are always informative and entertaining. I consider him to be the most clear, down-to-earth, understandable Christian apologist on the planet. His calm demeanor, and his ability to sift through complex questions and clarify useful answers with grace and wisdom, is truly something to behold. With this book, he has taken that gift of communication and put it on paper to deliver a masterful picture of the Christian message. If you are serious about your faith, buy this book and devour it. If you know someone who is a seeker, or even someone who already considers themselves to be a Christian but wants to be better able to articulate their Christian convictions, give them this book as a gift. You will both be glad you did.