Saturday, March 24, 2007

Religious Illiteracy

There was an article in the newspaper today about religious illiteracy. Stephen Prothero is publishing a book about our lack of knowledge in America about religion; not just other religions, but our own. He particularly focused on Evangelicals who, though the loudest, tend to be the least knowledgeable. He says:

"Ironically,the United States became a nation of forgetters at the same time it became a nation of evangelicals. Believing in Christ became more important than knowing about Christ. To evangelicalism, therefore, we owe both the vitality of religion in contemporary America and our impoverished understanding of it."

A perfect example of this was shown on a blog that I frequent. There was a discussion going on about a teaching given with the topic "Finding God in the Other". In it, one of the writers proclaims their ignorance of theology, then attempts to present a theological argument. The rebuttal that came afterwards was stinging, but spot on. Here is that snippet:


Feb 24, 07:30 AM
Hi! I don't know a lot about theology or doctrine. But I can say this! Jesus Christ is the ONLY way to God, He is God,(for those who want to debate what this would mean…. I am not really into strong theological debate!!! The basis of the Gospel is simple!! Jesus, who is God, came down to live on earth, became human, lived among us and died to bring us back to God! He is alive today and we can know Him!!! That is it… FINITO! I know He is alive.. I know Him deeper than I know even my own family!!! THE GOSPEL IS NOT MEANT TO BE INTELLECTUALISED, THEOLOGICALLY DEBATED!!!! Jesus, who He is, His divinity, ... is the one unquestionable. undebatable fact!!! You either say He is the Only Way to God or you don't!!! It is that simple!!!!

Feb 25, 12:59 AM

This thread is such a great example of why Christianity gets a bad wrap. How do you expect anyone to take our collective faith seriously when our discussions are filled with people that are “confident” that these doctrines are bullet proof but then they start their defense with some comment like “I don’t know much about the subject but I’m sure I’m right”. That is harmful. The only people that talk that way are people that have not put in the time to study our religion and our sacred scripture. Spouting cliche phrases doesn’t help our cause here. Renouncing wisdom is rejecting the LOGOS that the author of John’s gospel tells us was “in the beginning… and became flesh and dwelt among us in the person of Jesus”. Rejecting wisdom is rejecting the aspect of God that was incarnated in Jesus.

If you are going to discuss theology then read a few books from various points of view so that you have the language at your disposal to help the conversation. If you are not here to add to the conversation then why are you here? Let’s work together to “flesh out the wisdom of God just as Jesus did”. Let’s not make our faith a religion for dummies.


I believe people can have a simple faith. I don't think faith has to be complicated. However, when you take it out to the public square I believe it is time to step up to the plate or stay home. As was shown in the exchange above, there are many Christians who have absolute faith and certainty about something of which they know very little. Unfortunately, it is often those who lack knowledge who are the loudest. Those who proclaim "the Truth" most sternly rarely have more than a few scriptures at their command.

I think this lack of education about our own religion is an example of how our Church (universal) has been shaped by culture rather than the other way around. In our present culture, education is something to be avoided. People often seem to take a sense of pride in how little they know. Our culture is into working longer hours to buy boats, RVs, vacation homes, gadgets and gizmos. As a nation, the sky is the limit as to how much we will spend on our entertainment. Our places of learning must fight for every dime they get. The Church has absorbed this mentality into its ethos. If the salt loses its saltiness........

Timothy 2:15 (Amplified Bible)

15 Study and be eager and do your utmost to present yourself to God approved (tested by trial), a workman who has no cause to be ashamed, correctly analyzing and accurately dividing [rightly handling and skillfully teaching] the Word of Truth.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Monday, March 12, 2007

The problem with Utah politics

Multiple times the people of the Valley said no to a public funded soccer stadium. But big business wanted it, so the legislators ignore the people and give it.

Few in Utah want public money to go to private Ed. But an out of state lobby group throws around some money, and bingo, here it is.

I have been meaning to write a blog on the corruption of Utah's mono-powered legislature, but this editorialist from the Deseret News did a much nicer job than I could.

Click to read:
Must Citizens Fight their Government?

Saturday, March 10, 2007

I have a confession

I would have, at one time in my Christianity, written a blog exactly like this one (Click here). I relished reading scripture about judgement (everyone else's, not mine). Mine was a theology of hell, fire, and brimestone. Sure, I loved people - I loved them with the TRUTH! Scripture in my hands was a weapon and you would have to be damn sure of your orthodoxy and righteousness in my prescense.

Thank God chinks began to develop in that armor over time (it pains me to think of the damage I caused back then). I remember one of the first chinks. A friend of mine popped in a Leslie Phillips cassette and she sang out, "It's your kindness that leads us to repentance O Lord".

"What a stupid thing to say", I retorted. "The fear of the Lord is the beginning of wisdom. Her sin being revealed will cause her to repent".

Later that night I read in the Psalms - It is your kindness that leads us to repentance O Lord. I sat there stunned... what a wimpy thing... this sounded almost liberal. I knew then that God was kind enough to reveal to me something about his nature that I was choosing to overlook.

Looking back now, I realize that it was my own insecurities that were driving my hard-nosed theology. Being right and using God as your trump card gives one a great sense of power and satisfaction. Thank God that, as Malcom X said near the end of his life, "I am more flexible now".

I responded to the blog mentioned above and I will paste it here. It is interesting that, as I re-read it, I still hear my own sense of "I am right, you are wrong". I wonder if that need will ever be fully exercised from me?

I have to disagree with the over arching view of the author's point.

Paul's main rivalries in the faith were those Christian's who wanted to maintain the law and thereby make of the gentiles a second class citizen in the faith (or better yet, not a citizen at all). He was encouraging the Romans to avoid those who would say "my Christianity is better than yours and you need to be like me". The ones he was telling them to avoid were, in effect, trying to place a monopoly on the Grace of God, so that others would have to come to them in order to be judged qualified. Paul encouraged the new converts to avoid them because, like the Pharisees, they were right and everyone else was wrong, and it is impossible to hold a conversation with someone caught up in that kind of thinking.

I am sure there was some arrogance driving the Pharisees and later the Christians who wanted to be on the top tier, but mostly I see it as fear. They say most bullies do what they do out of a need for control. The Pharisees ran around pointing out where everyone else was wrong. Like bullies, it gave them a sense of security to put others beneath them. Paul later dealt with the Christian version of the Pharisees (they never really go away).

The thing is, the Pharisees were not wrong. In a technical sense, they were not wrong to say many of the things they said (even against Jesus). However, they had a horrible attitude about people. I am sure they would have said, "Hey, we are just showing we love them by telling them the truth!" Jesus didn't buy that line then, and I think we should reject it now.

Jesus probably would be judged a heretic by many of today's Christian churches. He would probably fail at many points of orthodoxy, and he would enjoy the company of people who annoy most Christians.

We would be like the Pharisees and Zealots of his time. We would want him to fight against the immoral structures, speak out against an ungodly society, help us separate wheat from the chaff. Join us in the battle of us vs. them. Stand for truth!

He would look at us with loving bewilderment. "Umm... I was just gonna head down to the park to spend the day talking to the homeless, but I would love to have you join me".

We would shake our heads as he walked away. Slowly, we would convince ourselves that it was not him but a false Christ that was trying to deceive us. Having ferreted out another false Christ, we would walk away a little deeper in our pride than we had been formerly.

I don't think Paul was telling us to avoid people who did not believe rightly about doctrinal points such as the trinity. Remember Paul's core point was "Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am foremost.” The people Paul was telling them to avoid were those Christians who thought they were better than everyone else (they did not see themselves as foremost among sinners... they were sure they had it together). He wanted us to avoid those who felt we had to measure up to their standard in order to be acceptable to Christ.

Jesus dealt with these people, Paul dealt with these people, and we are still dealing with them today.
Related Posts with Thumbnails