THE NEW FACE OF THE CHURCH? PLEASE GOD LET IT BE TRUE!

Please watch the video on the link provided below.  Do leave a comment, as I would be most interested to read your thoughts and create a healthy debate.  Thanks.

http://abcnews.go.com/US/video/face-american-evangelicalism-10744135

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46 thoughts on “THE NEW FACE OF THE CHURCH? PLEASE GOD LET IT BE TRUE!

  1. Wow, I got the impression that these people have no Idea what they’re talking about.

    The christians have always been stronger under pressure…when they were not the dominant faith

    Like when, for example? In the history of the faith that never happened until very recently. And it hasn’t been good for the faith at all. It’s very dangerous for religion to be not the only option, but merely one worldview among many others. This is why the churches focus so much on indoktrinating children. How much adult conversions are there not from one belief to another, but from non-belief to belief? Not many. On the other hand, people in rich countrys quietly lose their faith all the time. They start sleeping in sundays, feel they don’t miss the church, and don’t make a big fuss about it. The conversion to faith is always public, the deconversion almost always quiet. The situation for belief is far worse than these people suspect, and I for one think that’s a good thing.

    Throughout the world, religion strongly correlates with a societys dysfunctionality factors [the rates of homicide, general crime, teenage pregnancies, abortions, divorces, and so on]. I don’t imply a causation, religion just seems to be one of the medieval behaviourisms that we shed as we move on as a cluture. I think that is a good thing.

  2. Hi there,
    Thank you very much indeed for leaving a comment. I do appreciate it.

    “Wow, I got the impression that these people have no Idea what they’re talking about.” I have to disagree; I think they know what they are talking about much more in depth than you give them credit for“The Christians have always been stronger under pressure…when they were not the dominant faith”

    “Like when, for example?”
    I think you have totally misunderstood what they mean by this statement. Christians are being persecuted and killed for their faith in many countries of the world today, such as China, Nigeria, to name a couple. And it is absolutely 100% true that persecution and pressure on one’s faith, makes genuine Christians more fervent in their faith and much more authentic in their convictions and the way they live their faith. It is for this reason that whilst you are right to say that in rich countries many lose their faith quietly, in persecuted nations the numbers of those coming to Christian faith is increasing and spreading like a plague. Unfortunately, these people fear for their lives and so many are in hiding and have to worship in secret, but the fact that they go unnoticed does not mean they do not exist.

    “In the history of the faith that never happened until very recently. And it hasn’t been good for the faith at all. It’s very dangerous for religion to be not the only option, but merely one worldview among many others. This is why the churches focus so much on indoctrinating children. How much adult conversions are there not from one belief to another, but from non-belief to belief? Not many. On the other hand, people in rich countries quietly lose their faith all the time. They start sleeping in Sundays, feel they don’t miss the church, and don’t make a big fuss about it. The conversion to faith is always public, the deconversion almost always quiet. The situation for belief is far worse than these people suspect, and I for one think that’s a good thing.”
    I do agree again that many are losing the faith, but they are not losing their faith in the redemptive power of Jesus Christ’s death on the cross and His resurrection, but their faith in the institutional church which is not being salt and light to this rotting world. People are losing faith in a Body of people who have been doing things wrong for hundreds of years, and the Body of Christ in the world is crying out for Christians to go out and make disciples by leading exemplary sacrificial lives, lived for others and not themselves. The blinders are coming off Christians and people are stopping attending church in some countries. I often do not go to church and yet my faith is stronger and clearer than ever. I just don’t believe in some men’s interpretation of what a Christian and The Church should do and live like. So YES, I agree with the panel that this is the best thing that could happen to the Faith, because it will force Christian Leadership to stop and reconsider that things need to radically change. This pressure will bring about a new Church, the Church this people are talking about, a Church that is not inward looking but outward looking, a missional church which is prepared to look beyond itself and to serve other than itself; a church that will follow the lead of God, and not that of men blinded by pride and dreams of self-glorification and manipulation.

    “Throughout the world, religion strongly correlates with a society’s dysfunctionality factors [the rates of homicide, general crime, teenage pregnancies, abortions, divorces, and so on]. I don’t imply a causation, religion just seems to be one of the medieval behaviourisms that we shed as we move on as a culture. I think that is a good thing.”
    I have to agree with much of this and yet there is a difference between legalistic religion and transforming faith. One condemns people and puts them into bondage, the other one seeks to bring freedom to people from sin and from guilt, as well as from people’s condemnation through the power of Jesus Christ. Genuine Faith in Jesus is the glorious spiritual force which brings transformation in individuals for their own good and the good of the community, both material and spiritual; is the force that brings about relief from poverty, hunger, sickness, addiction, remorse, evil, pain, a broken heart. If you would like me to give you a specific example of a ministry I am personally involved in, I would love to share this with you so that you don’t think I am just talking lofty rhetoric here, but actually speaking from personal experience and action. Yes, there are many Christians who have committed terrible crimes and many will continue to do so, but that does not mean that there are some who have been genuinely transformed by their faith in Christ and who have come back from an absolutely evil nature and behaviour to do awesome things to better the world they live in and to improve the quality of life of others. Please, let’s not throw the baby out with the bath water!

  3. Ochiudo,

    “Wow, I got the impression that these people have no Idea what they’re talking about…”

    Actually, I agree with you. These people were not a representative sample of American Christianity, and especially Evangelical Christianity. But they are, in fact, a sample of what is called “Social-justice” Christianity and are also known as liberal/progressive Christians.

    How many of the people interviewed mentioned sin as a problem for Americans? None. But all instead talked about what works that Christians should do, such as poverty, education, stop nuclear war, etc. And if we achieve these works, then Christianity will be the better for it.

    For the rest of your comments, where’s the supporting facts to back up your words? So, here’s one word to sweep aside your arguments: China.

    • Just a couple things…First, maybe one or two of them said things that would put them in the liberal/progressive Christian camp. Also, the video did specify that it features new young voices, not that it’s a representative sample of American Christianity. Beyond that, I don’t think you need to equate loving mercy with being a liberal. Just because Glenn Beck says that people who want to care for the poor are liberals doesn’t mean he’s right. Beck’s a Mormon for crying out loud and hardly a good spokesperson for Christianity. The second greatest commandment is to love our neighbor and the book of James says that faith without works is dead.
      While you don’t have to agree with their answers, I do think their actions represent valid criticisms of the lukewarm, seeker-sensitive, and sometime prosperity gospel evangelicalism that preceded them. The church could stand to do a little less talking and a little more doing.

  4. – A PRAYER FROM JESUS –

    This prayer is from Jesus that we may here from Him, that He may meet our needs. It only consist of

    three simple steps.

    1) We need to read one scripture. This will focus us in the word that brings everlasting life.

    2) Since this prayer is from Jesus we need to direct our prayer to Him personally. To often Christian

    focus they’re prayer’s to G_D the father. Scripture proclaims that Jesus should be the focus of our

    prayer.

    3) The simplest part of this Prayer is to ask Jesus one question. Please, all that is required for

    this question is to make it simple. Let Jesus Himself finish the question when He gives you that

    understanding through prayer.

    The PRAYER

    The scripture that is the focus of this prayer is “ACTS 2:38”. It’s not necessary to do any

    study into this scripture. Jesus Himself will bestow the understanding that will resonate in your

    heart.

    The most important part of this prayer is that we need to direct our prayer directly to Jesus.

    If you normally would say Father in your prayer, change your focus from the Father to Christ Jesus by

    lifting Jesus name up every time you would normally use Father in your prayer.

    Maybe the hardest part of this prayer is the question that we need to ask Jesus. For man as we

    are, try’s to understand the question when the answers are what’s important. The simplest question is

    all that is required, that is.

    ask why, Jesus

    • Thank you very much for your comment, though I am not sure how it relates to the post and the discussion taking place here.

      You said: “Scripture proclaims that Jesus should be the focus of our prayer”, and yet the Lord himself told us in Matthew 6:9-13:

      This, then, is how you should pray:

      “Our Father in heaven……

      Personally, when I pray, I mostly feel led by the Spirit to address my prayers to my Father in Heaven, but many other times I talk to Father, Holy Spirit and Son. I think what matters to God is the heart behind the prayers and not so much the “formula”. He knows our thoughts and needs before we even pray about them.

      Be blessed!

  5. Well, I watched the video and read everyone’s comments so here goes mine. I really did not agree with that panel. They sounded secular in their beliefs. Their focus was on things like genocide and world hunger and education needs and that is all true. No one wanted to say what the three top problems in our world were. No one really wanted to “judge”. The commentator mentioned that no one spoke of abortion or homosexuality and the group did not want to respond to these areas. I submit that there is one major area that we should all be concerned with and that is SIN. Jesus said that in the ending days the hearts of many would grow cold. That is what we are facing.People are dying to eternal damnanation every second and it is not because of genocide or poverty. We will always have the poor and there will be evil in this world until Christ comes. Jesus confronted sin in the church and that is what we need to do. As long as we have preachers giving a watered down version of the gospel, there will be no power for people to change. The things that that group spoke of all has to do with sin issues. The more that receive the saving knowledge of Christ, the more our earth will be changed as the light of truth will fill the darkness. Jesus called sin by its rightful name. Homosexuality and abortion among other sins are acts that pervert the laws of God. If no one wants to offend someone who claims the right to kill an unborn child or who to same-sex marriage then the darkness will increase. Jesus offended everyone when he spoke the truth!! That is why they killed him. These are not my laws or my own interpretation of God’s laws – the bible makes it very clear that these are an abomination to God! He says that those who practice these things will not go to heaven. So why are we all afraid to speak the truth? The old time preachers of the gospel never compromised the truth. We are sinners in the hands of an angry God and we had better let those on the wide road know it now while there still is time!

    • You have left me speechless Marianne and full of conviction, because though I believe what you proclaim, I did not have the courage to tackle those issues also mentioned during that debate.

      I am beginning to understand the struggles you are experiencing right now, the reason behind their scale and intensity, and feel humbled to the core that I was recently giving you advice on some issues which directly relate to the zeal and passion of your faith. I am not worthy to be giving you advice of any kind when you are so willing to put your neck on the line the way you just did.

      You are one gutsy woman in the spirit and it is my prayer that that same confidence and conviction will overflow in your personal life too, so that as you sail through very turbulent waters, your spirit will remain still and confident in the promises of God.

      God bless you sister!

  6. David,

    No doubt, I should have prefaced my remarks by saying, “My guess is that most of the panel are, in fact, not a representative sample of American Christianity, and especially Evangelical Christianity….etc.” Then, we might not disagree very much, right?

    The video was brought about because of a Newsweek magazine article which referenced the “Decline of American Christianity” and supposedly these panelists were evangelicals who were glad about the decline of evangelical Christianity. Or at least, that’s what the moderator stated.

    So, if you think I have judged them incorrectly, how can the panelists be anything but liberal in their beliefs? As Sherlocke Holmes said often in the the movies, “It’s elementary, my dear, Dr. Watson.”

  7. Larry,

    I guess I don’t see it as cut and dry as you do. I could easily be one or two of those panelists given my opinions. And I’m quite a fundamentalist. I’m fine and happy about the decline of American Christianity if it means the growth of historic Christianity, something that American Christianity has drifted very far away from. Frankly, I’m less concerned if something is called “liberal” or “conservative” and more concerned if it is biblical or not. It would be helpful if more Christians took their criticisms and addressed them biblically rather than conveniently dismissing them as ‘liberal’. Calling something ‘liberal’ just seems like a convenient way to avoid having to interact with what someone is actually saying.

  8. David,

    I agree that labels are wrong, especially for Christians. You’ve made a valid point in your criticism of me and I ask forgiveness.

    But yet, you label yourself as a fundamentalist. Wouldn’t you consider that a label? And thus a way to supposedly show that you are biblical believer rather than a fuzzy-wuzzy one?

    Be that as it may, prove that what the panelists said was biblical. Show via scriptures what you have accused me of being – a judgmental Christian.

    • Dear Larry,

      I was not going to interfere at all in this debate going on, because it originated with the first comment you left and David’s reply to you and I did not have much to add to that, other than yes like you said, there is no mention of sin in the whole of the interview However, I believe that the work those people are doing is nonetheless commendable and I do not doubt for one moment that they are trying to make this world a better place.

      Many Christians will not even “get off their pews” to go and share the love of Jesus with others, let alone get involved in any work which seeks to make this world a better world in the name of Jesus. Whilst I agree that this is not The Great Commission given by Jesus Christ, the Church cannot continue as it is at present, and I for one can see a glimmer of hope in a bunch of people who are no longer content to sit in church and do absolutely nothing other than concern their whole life and ministry with getting bigger churches with bigger audiences.

      I have to agree with one of the members of the panel when he says the world regards Christians as moral nags. I have behaved like one on so many occasions, I cannot tell you! I am tired of sitting in judgement myself and doing little to change the face of Christianity today. Only Jesus who is Holy and perfect has a right to judge. The rest of us are all sinners and are in as much need of grace as each other. We have to try and be the light and the salt to this world by leading exemplary lives, by touching the lives of others with the love of Christ, and all those issues they mention: genocide, poverty, education, etc, etc are all good avenues to get started. Grace is what this world needs and not condemnation. Judgement belongs to God.

      I would ask both you and David to continue your discussion amicably and honourably, without exchanging harsh words. This is not about proving who is wrong or right, but all to do with being united in the spirit of Jesus Christ who seeks to redeem this world from sin, pain and bondage. Isn’t that what all of us here wish too?

      Please speak the truth in love ALWAYS!

  9. anewcreation,

    Forgive me if my words have appeared harsh. They were not intended to be that way, but they have been written to exhort others.

    The video was done by ABC News. It was intended to discuss a Newsweek Magazine article entitled “The Decline of American Christianity.” The panelists agreed that the decline of evangelical Christianity was a good thing. Why? Because then believers could focus on good works, such as helping the poor, public education, anti-war views etc.

    Now, good works need to be a part of believer’s journey. It was James who stated that faith without works is dead. So, we need good works, right?

    But Jesus did not preach a gospel of “good works,” He preached the gospel of the kingdom of God and said, “Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these things will be added onto you.”

    We believers need to return to a kingdom of God mentality and then do our works out of that framework. If you do it any other way, why do we even need Jesus?

    And as far as being moral nags, most likely this will always be a problem for us believers…even if we clean the planks out of our own eyes first.

  10. Hi Larry,

    I do agree with all you have said on your last comment. I would only add that I don’t personally know any of those people on the panel or the way they carry themselves and their faith and so I cannot really say whether in their hearts they are seeking the kingdom of God first or striving and praying to get others to do so.

    Jesus also said: by your love for one another, they shall know that you are my disciples. John 13: 35
    I am sure that most of that panel seek to challenge themselves daily in that area.

    Always blessed to have your input.

    Thanks

  11. anewcreation,

    Sometimes, a little bit of knowledge is dangerous and as I said earlier, “I should have prefaced my remarks.”

    ABC News is not a cheerleader for Christianity, not in the least. The network tends to use (sorry about the label) followers of Jim Wallis and the Sojourner Movement and then cast them as midstream evangelicals.

    This does not mean that I don’t love these Christians or that I know what’s in their hearts. But the Apostle Paul did talk about “another gospel” and how it diluted the gospel of Christ. We in America really suffer from a watered-down form of Christianity without power.

    And I believe, with all my heart, we have to move back to the basics of the gospel of the kingdom of God.

    Thanks. This was fun.

  12. First of all, I apologize for writing that comment in a hurry without thinking it through; saying that there was never any pressure on the church was thoughtless, I completely ignored most of asia in saying that.
    So I admit that there has been some danger for individuals in the church in their efforts to prosletyze in asia. However, the church as an organization was hardly in danger given the enormous economic power that the missionaries in china, japan and korea had behind them. But I won’t press this point. I know only little about church history in asia, so I will not try to enter a serious discussion about this.

    I do know, however, a fair bit about the situation of the church today. I said that throughout the world belief has a positive correlation with various symptoms of societal dysfunction, and that is my strogest point. On average, atheists simply behave better than religious people do.
    @ Larry:
    You asked me to back up that claim. Let me tell you that I’m not going to do your homework for you. All of those numbers and rates are publicly available, you can check them for yourself. Even within the US all this holds true for regional numbers. The more devout the inhabitants of a region are, the higher the crime rate, the number of abortions, STDs, teen pregnancies and divorces.

    On each of those numbers there is a vast amount of statistics, studies and meta-studies available.
    Just one example (of literally hundreds available!):
    “Cross-National Correlations of Quantifiable Societal Health with Populat Religiosity and Secularism in the Prosperous Democracies” published in the Journal of Religion and Society #7, 2005. Available at
    http://moses.creighton.edu/JRS/2005/2005-11.html

    here’s a quote from that study:

    There is evidence that within the U.S. strong disparities in religious belief versus acceptance of evolution are correlated with similarly varying rates of societal dysfunction, the strongly theistic, anti-evolution south and mid-west having markedly worse homicide, mortality, STD, youth pregnancy, marital and related problems than the northeast where societal conditions, secularization, and acceptance of evolution approach European norms (Aral and Holmes; Beeghley, Doyle, 2002)

    Gregory S. Paul is a good name to look up on this topic, as this is precisely his field of study. He and various collegues have also published a number of books on this topic, but as I said this information is all publicly available, easily accessible, and asking me to provide it rather than looking it up yourself is plain laziness. I’m not making this up, religiosity is associated with a lot of morally inferior behaviour. Another interesting number to look up is the percentages of atheists among the prison population versus their number among the general population of that country or region. Not many non-believers are going to jail, and it’s not because judges like us and let us run free.

    Consider, just for a second, that religion might actually be part of the disease rather than part of the cure. All numbers available so far speak for that hypothesis, and all new numbers keep adding to the pile of evidence.
    Try to find a study other than an online-poll that even suggests that believing in a diety is good for people. Believe me, I tried hard to find them. Unsuccessfully.

    @anewcreation:
    you said “there is a difference between legalistic religion and transforming faith.”
    Yes, but so what? People are having incredible transformations completely faith-free, too. I know I did. I found answers in the incredible richness of philosophy, poetry, art and music. Dostojewski handles ethic dilemmas much better than the primitive fairytales of the bible. Literature provides answers, written by people with rich experiences of their own. Reading Epicure shattered my fear of death, as simple as that. There is truth in what people do, write, and think – there’s nothing supernatural about even the most amazing transformations.

    You imply a causation where there is merely a correlation that is completely dependant on local customs and beliefs. Take away religion and people will have the same experiences and transformations. They’d lose not a thing.

    I’ll end with a challange open to anyone willing to accept it:
    Name just one ethical action or moral statement that a believer can do or say, that a non-believer is not capable of doing or saying.
    I can easily provide you with examples of the opposite, bad things that religious people do all the time that no non-believer would ever commit.
    The horrors of childhood genital mutilation, especially female, as one popular example. Only a believer is capable of telling a loved one they are going to burn forever because they do not share their particular faith. No person ever blew themselves or others up in the name of Secular Humanism, and no genocide was commited in its name. If you can name any area in which the religious perform consequently better or are morally superior to non-believers, I beg you to name it.

    • @ Ochiudo

      “You said “there is a difference between legalistic religion and transforming faith.”
      Yes, but so what? People are having incredible transformations completely faith-free, too. I know I did”

      The question is not whether atheists, non-believers can have incredible transformations or not through other avenues, the issue here is where does that transformation experienced within lead you? Has it led you to better yourself, has it led you to a more full life, has it led you to more responsible living, has it given your life a purpose, has it given your life meaning beyond the here and now which is so fleeting, just a breath? Has it led you to just be more content and satisfied yourself or has it transformed the old you beyond recognition into someone who has begun to live sacrificially for the good of others, someone whom those that know you best try to emulate and follow? Has it filled you with fire in your belly, a fire which nothing and no one can extinguish? Has it filled you with a voice which nothing and no one can quieten down, because it is something which you recognise is coming from outside of you, a force you cannot contend with or control? Have those truths and revelations you have leant through philosophy, literature, etc taken you to such a place? If so, I would love to hear the actions you have taken as a result of that transformation. I would love to hear the change you have experienced and the impact that that change has had upon you and those around you, for surely if you have been moved to such an extent, those around you must be able to see a transformation for the better, a positive evolution in your character growth. Trust me, I love philosophy, have a First Class Degree which was mainly based on the study of literature and philosophy. I have loved and studied the ideas of others for years, but none of it ever took me to the spiritual place where I find myself today. I cannot, will not, be a Christian because of statistics, the pull of a majority, or because I watch the rest of the world putting their faith or lack of it on this or the other. I am a Christian because the day I encountered evidence in my life that Jesus still lives, it was personal, it was raw, and it was as real as the air I breath and the water I thirst for. I cannot speak for what the rest of the world does and yes I know non-believers, atheists can be philanthropic and do wonderful things for the advance of the human race and for the quality of the world we live in, but I don’t care about what others do. I have my own personal responsibility to do the best I can with what I have been given, and though I am selfish and I fail a lot of the time, the day I accepted Jesus into my life, I changed beyond recognition, I became ashamed about a life just lived for myself and mine, a wasted life with so much potential to do so much good around me. Even my family have mocked me a lot of the time because they felt threatened by a force within me they did not recognise and they got scared, and that fear which resulted from the utter conviction they saw in my faith, led them to say some very nasty things. But you see, when you believe, nothing like that can really touch you. Yes, it hurts a little to begin with and then it just bounces off because those attacks are not really coming against you but against the one who made you, and He deals with it a lot better than I ever could.

      I am so grateful that you have been good enough to give us your opinions and insights on this blog and that you have remained polite and fair in your discourse. I will not try to convince you of anything, but I am glad you have opened up enough for me to be able to share my personal experience. That is all I can do! I will not make up clever arguements to engage in an intellectual fight with you. I cannot answer half the questions you have asked, and I will not make up answers just to satisfy my own ego and pride. I will only share of what you cannot deny which is the testimony of my own personal undeniable experience.

      May I please invite you to read a post I wrote way back with an absolutely awesome video which talks about the undeniable evidence of God’s existence all around us. Please you have nothing to lose by watching it, and if nothing else, you will learn about things you probably know already but have never taken any notice of. I challenge you to watch it and come back to me with your impressions. The link is:
      https://anewcreation33.wordpress.com/2008/12/01/has-the-global-crisis-got-the-better-of-you-yet/

      I hope we can remain in touch and that you will share of your progress as I have shared of mine.

      May I take the liberty, though this does not mean a lot to you, to say from the bottom of my heart:

      God bless you!

    • So what does “behave better” even mean to an atheist? If we’re just matter doing what matter does then where does the atheist get this moral compass that he can then evaluate morality? Do you call earthquakes and tsunamis wrong too?

      It’s a nice try, but you can’t even make any coherent claims about morality without borrowing the Christian framework.

      • Oh, come on david. You’re giving me the moral argument for religion? Hint: If an argument is so old that it has a name already, it probably has been refuted over and over again already. The moral argument has. look it up. Christianity is merely 2000 years old; are you implying that there was no such thing as moral behaviour before that time?

        I’ll give you an answer anyhow. So, here’s a very simplified and short idea of how secular ethics work:
        The one thing that all living beings share is their desire to avoid suffering and strife for happiness (of course according to their respective cognitive abilities). Hence, the goal of ethics is to reduce suffering and to foster happiness. This consequentialist ethic that equates suffering to “bad” and happiness to “good” is known as utilitarianism. Since utilitarianism was dreamt up by Bentham it has been developed, a more modern version of it is called prioritarianism. You can look all those terms up on wikipedia, from “consequentialist ethics” to “prioritarianism”. Have fun.
        Prioritarianism is derved completely from a) cognitive empathy (I say “cognitive” because I don’t want you to confuse it with the emotion of pity), which can be, and has been, explained in evolutionary terms, and
        b) rational thought as for how to go about achieving that goal.
        There you have completely secular, logical ethics. No supervisory being required. It is a somewhat glorified version of the golden rule, basically.

        The “christian framework” you talk about is not christian at all. Christians were still burning people at the stake when rational thinkers and humanists started moving our civilization in a more humane direction. The founding fathers of the US were deists at best, and children of the enlightenment more than anything else. It’s a very secular framework that you mistake for a religious one out of simple ignorance. Start reading up on ethics, see where the foundations for western societies REALLY come from. You’ll find a long humanist tradition that started in ancient greece, and has been opposed by christianity all the way, and has yet overcome it.

  13. Ochiudo,

    Some good thoughts on your part, but you have lumped Christianity with a whole bunch of other religions.

    What if I group you with other nonbelievers like Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot? Then, by association, does that make you a mass murderer because of your unbelief?

    No, it does not.

    So, it’s equally wrong to lump Christianity in with Islam and color them both the same.

    • @ Larry:
      You do have a point, although it seems you missed mine. What I oppose is not the fact that you believe in gods. I don’t care about beliefs, I care about consequences. What I lump together or not depends on the consequences of what they believe, not on the label they chose for themselves. I will make a distiction between educated, liberal believers and young-earth-creationists, but I will not make a distinction between muslims and christians within those groups. Islam is going through a process that christianity has brought behind itself nearly a centrury ago: the process of being tamed by humanist thinkers. Christianity has mostly been de-fanged. Christians don’t burn people at the stake anymore, and in a few years time, due to the same process, muslims will stop stoning people to death. There really isn’t that much inherent difference, it’s just that the majority of muslims are fundamentalists and the liberals are a minority, while with christianity it’s the other way around.

      I like the fact that you don’t mention Hitler – it seems you’ve had this discussion before and know the dangers of doing so 😉
      The interesting thing is that “atheism” is a non-label. It’s negatively defined as “not being theist”. If you take a comperative look at me and Stalin, you will not find a single positive thing we share. Of course, we might both have hair that is not black, we might both not believe in atrology, we might both dislike horses and so on. But you won’t find much positive similarities.
      When I look at christians and muslims though, the same differences apply, but I can easily find a lot of important positive similarities:
      You both believe that there is a diety that cares about what humans do. That there is a book that carries divine authority to some degree and that conveys the will of god which by definition is universally true for all humans. You both believe in an afterlife; you both believe that god can hear prayers, and some of you believe that he answers them.

      And so on. The point is, the similarities that you can find between me and Stalin are none which have consequences for our behaviour. Our common non-belief does not lead to similar actions. The similarities I find between christians and muslims, however, *do* lead to similar behaviours, such as the opposition against things like gay rights, abortions and the supression of women.
      You are right, there are some very important differences between Christianity and Islam, I don’t deny that. However, for the point I try to convey those differences are irrelevant.
      What is relevant is that the belief in *some* sort of divine authority that is attributed to ancient, barbaric, homophobic, patriarchic texts. Where such belief has consequences, I oppose it.
      So I am well justified in lumping together huge groups that are largely different for the sake of that argument, because they do share the relevant view and do express the consequences that I take offense at.
      Please don’t think that that lumping together happened unconsciously or out of a lack of thought. It is very much intended.

      One more thing: Guilt by association:
      You might well be a liberal person with modern, rational views – and still be a christian. But the fact remains that the bible does say that homosexuality is “an abomination”. And it doesn’t matter wether or not you personally view that as metaphoric or not relevant to your belief, as long as the bible is viewed as having divine authority to some degree, any fundamentalist coming along will always have the power to revive the potential for barbaric hatred simply by saying “no, you haven’t been paying attention. Look here, this is the word of god, it says black on white that women mustn’t speak in church. Adultery is to be punished with death. Homosexuality is a sin. It says so right here.”

      As much as those “interpretations” of the scripture have become very very rare in christianity today, they are still possible as long as those books are viewed as something more than just books. As long as there is people like you proclaiming that a god, however liberal and modern in his views and demands, is real, it is YOU who invest fundamentalists with the power to revive the potential for hatred that sleeps in those texts.
      That is something that can never be said of my particular brand of atheism, Secular Humanism. My views do not hold the potential to be abused in that way, they do not hold the potential to do anything but improve the human condition. They can be abolished at best, but they cannot be used or misconstrued to do evil. Yours can.

  14. My $.02:

    The fact of the matter is that you can do anything with statistics based upon your bias. Never mind the atrocities of Stalin, Hitler, etc. that were done in the name of atheistic humanism, here is a study that shows atheists to have poorer ethics than evangelicals: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/atheists_more_immoral.html

    It seems to me that ethics or statistics is not the real issue here. When you suggest that those who believe in eternal reward and punishment are no more incented than an atheist to live morally and ethically I believe that statement is not very reasonable. All of the honest atheists I’ve met are keenly aware that the biggest weakness in atheism is the presence of a similar moral code across all of history and civilizations and are unable to logically explain that apart from some kind of supreme moral Being.

    Yes, I have considered atheism/humanism and found it lacking (this is by no means exhaustive):

    It, like Christianity, it is just a theory. Faith is always a part of any belief system.

    It, like Christianity, starts with a presupposition – that there is no God and there is nothing beyond what our senses allow us to know (and, by the way, they also deceive us and does not allow for a viable explanation for our emotions).

    It gives too much power to science – which has historically showed itself to be sometimes wrong, biased, and unreliable.

    It is inherently fatalistic – giving the believer no real purpose or hope.

    It devalues mankind to a grouping of chemicals, molecules, and atoms that makes us of little more significance than a rock (and I believe YOU and I have more value than that -:).

    It gives no place or credence to a moral or ethical code (talking about chaos!). Why, based upon atheism, would anyone be inclined to treat their neighbor with love, respect or fairness – why not lie, steal, murder, rape, etc. (after all we are just matter with no eternal destiny or no eternal consequences)?

    It is completely man-centered and mankind is not the solution in our world but the problem. With all of our scientific and intellectual “evolution” our world is still haunted by war, hunger, poverty, anger, crime, etc. not to mention the continued decline in the respect for human life on every level.

    But ethics, logic, and statistics are not the real issue. The issue is reasonable faith. In the end, we all believe in something. Some choose to believe in disbelief but it is still the exhibition of a form of faith. Since no one can absolutely disprove the existence of God or the facts of the Bible then even atheists are operating on faith. God’s Spirit has convinced me that faith in Him and His word is the obvious choice. If I have to wager my eternal destiny, I will choose to believe in God and the God of the Bible. The faith that He has given me gives solace and hope. No technical argument for or against the existence of God can replace the peace from believing in and knowing God through Jesus Christ.

    • Phillip,

      I will not publish your last comment because I will not allow rudeness and a lack of respect towards each other on this site. It is unnecessary and this is not the place to vent off your frustration or anger. That is not what this is about. If you decide to rewrite that last comment in a more respectful manner, I would be glad to publish it. Thank you.

      • I may never understand religious people. So, here is Linden, saying “the atrocities of Stalin, Hitler, etc. that were done in the name of atheistic humanism”

        This is in the very first paragraph of his reply to me.
        1) It’s a straight lie: Neither of those were ever described as Humanists by anyone who knew what that word meant.
        2) It betrays stunnging, willfull ignorance by that very fact: Linden is obviously absolutely clueless as to what a Humanist IS. Saying Hitler was a Humanist makes about as much sense as saying he was a Horse – This is not a matter of opinion, it’s simply factually wrong. The very definition of Humanism cannot possibly be bent to a such a degree to include Hitler by even the most well-meaning interpretation of his life and beliefs.
        3) Linden directly compared me to Hitler. How much more offensive and disrespectful can you get? The heads of states have resigned over comments like this. It’s no triviality. Just because I’m an antheist doesn’t make such a comparison less offensive.
        4) It ALSO betrays a stunning ignorance of History. I have read ‘Mein Kampf’, I have been taught about Hitler and the Third Reich my whole life – being german, you barely talk about anything else in school – Hitler was not a non-believer. He was clearly not a christian either, but his beliefs were far from being naturalistic. He definitely was a Theist, he even believed himself to be God’s chosen. Hitler blatantly says so himself in his writings, no serious Historian denies that.

        So there, in the very first paragraph, Linden offends me in one of the worst ways possible, demonstrates complete ignorance of the matters he talks about, He seriously misrepresents History in a revisionist manner and demonstrates the unwillingness to even look up a term like “Humanism” before he starts throwing it around.

        The rest of his comment doesn’t get much better.

        Understandably enraged, I reply by saying that I will not bother answering to such an ignorant, foolish comment, and get censored because I am disrespectful?

        Please note that this is is substantial criticism, not hating. I am angry, yes, but I hope you can understand that given the comments that Linden made. I do not accuse him of being an ignorant fool, I demonstrated that he is one, and I didn’t even need more than half a sentence of his to do so! I will do so with each and every of the sentences he wrote, a neat point-for-point rebuttal if you wish me to, but I don’t think it necessary nor effective for reasons I mentioned in the censored comment, namely: the experience of having done this before, many times, on various platforms. If it would help you to understand why I reacted the way I did, however, I’d be happy to do so.

        @Larry & Anewcreation: I have enjoyed the discussion with you two so far. Very much so. I’d be happy to continue this isightful discourse, but I won’t just accept, nor ignore, comments of the likes that Linden wrote. I am not willing to invest the considerable amount of time that would be necessary to accept his claims on face level and actually respond to them as if they were serious points. One of the reasons is that doing so would give the impression that they are serious points. They’re not. They’re ignorant babble. This is not meant to be disrespectfull, but Lindens comment display a clear unwillingness to even seriously consider the implications of a naturalistic position as plain as day, and I won’t be fooled again into taking such a comment seriously. As I said before, I am talking from experience here. You two seem genuinely interested in my answers, Linden does not.

        Anyhow, neither my last comment nor this one even remotely compare to what Linden said to me, neither in terms of rudeness nor lack of respect. Though I can see how it might look different to a believer.

      • Phillip (@Ochiudo)

        Hi Phillip,

        I just wanted to clarify that the general tone of your comment which I censored was insulting and disrespectful towards a person that you barely know. Linden is actually a very educated person with a PHD and a man who has already published 4 books, so I would suggest that you take some caution when making the assumptions you make about others. Linden is also a regular visitor on my blog and someone who is probably much older than you and who has shown me nothing but kindness and encouragement over these last few months, so on those grounds alone I would ask that you treat him respectfully In any case, it was primarily your choice of language/swearing which got you censored. I understand you feel offended by some of what he said and I hope Linden will reply to the issues you raised but that is between Linden and yourself, not a personal vendetta that should continue here.

        I too have really enjoyed exchanging views and ideas with you, but other than what I have already said in my last comment to you, I have nothing to add. Statistics mean nothing to me. My own personal experiences do and I have to make decisions and choices according to those. I am genuinely glad you took part in this debate and really hope you will come back again. Do let me know what you thought on the content of those videos.

        By the way, my daughter’s Godfather is German and one of my husband’s best friends. Colonne is a great city. You are blessed to live there.

        I wish you all the very best and hope you will keep in touch.

        Mercedes

    • The fact of the matter is that you can do anything with statistics based upon your bias. Never mind the atrocities of Stalin, Hitler, etc. that were done in the name of atheistic humanism, here is a study that shows atheists to have poorer ethics than evangelicals: http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/atheists_more_immoral.html

      It is important to note that the study linked to above is not a study of evangelicals versus atheists. It is a broad study of a 1003 adults, 18 and above, across the United States in May of 2008. There are several aspects of this study.

      Zeroeth, for some strange reason, it wants to determine how common cussing, of all things, is. It does not politics, sex, or religion into account; it merely looks at a percentage of adults.

      First, it seems to compare young adults, those 18 – 24, against their older counterparts. It does not take religious orientation into account.

      Second, it seems to compare liberals to conservatives, though it appears to use self-described terms. In other words, it accepts the respondents’ description of themselves. Again, it does not take religious orientation into account.

      Third, it compares men to women. It does not take religious orientation into account.

      Fourth, and here’s where we get to the meat of the discussion, it compares evangelicals to atheists/agnostics as if atheists and agnostics were even the same thing. The table looks bad for atheists/agnostics until you realize that all it does it highlight the difference between what evangelicals think is good moral behaviour and what atheists/agnostics think. The hard questions: “What are your views on abortion to save the life of the mother?” “What are your views on murder?” “What are your views on child abuse?” “What are views on cheating on your spouse?” “What are your views on theft?” “What are your views on bribery?” “What are your views on corruption?” These questions are surprisingly missing.

      Also, we have no real idea how many of those 1003 people were actually atheists/agnostics. Since the study doesn’t actually compare evangelicals directly to the a/a, but rather to a wide assortment of belief systems of which a/a happens to be one(two, rather).

      Hard numbers are not reported, only percentages, but it is impossible to know what they are percentages of. It is also hardly surprising that a specifically-Christian organization that serves churches would fail to confirm the church’s greatest fears.

      Mr. Wolfe, you’re absolutely correct that one can do pretty much anything with statistics. I, for one, applaud godandscience.org for assembling that table. However, I would be leary of using statistics from a source that apparently refuses to return phone calls..

      # The missing data could not be obtained, since Barna ignored weeks of attempted contact by telephone and email.

      In the end, I’m not really sure what the study proves apart from showing that the world is full of people who think and behave differently, many of whom have little regard for the beliefs of evangelical Christians.

      On a separate topic, Hitler wasn’t actually an atheist. He seems to have been inspired by the anti-semitic ravings of Luther and thought he was doing the Lord’s work. Stalin didn’t do what he did because he was inspired by his atheism; I’m not even sure he was an atheist.

      There’s more to your post, and I’ll see if I can reply to it later.

      • Here are a few answers, as I see them, to some of your points.

        …All of the honest atheists I’ve met are keenly aware that the biggest weakness in atheism is the presence of a similar moral code across all of history and civilizations and are unable to logically explain that apart from some kind of supreme moral Being.

        Then they are not thinking. That a similar moral code exists across all of history and civilizations does not mean it had to have come from a supreme moral being. It merely means that across all of history and civilizations, humans have come up with the same moral code to improve their own, and others’ lives.

        It, like Christianity, it is just a theory. Faith is always a part of any belief system.

        No, it’s not. It’s merely a negation of theism. I don’t have faith in the position I’ve chosen, I have reasoned understanding. Why do you think I’m here? I want to make sure my ideas are valid, and not just once, but as often as I can. Simply chewing things over in the silence of your mind is not the way to reason.

        It, like Christianity, starts with a presupposition – that there is no God and there is nothing beyond what our senses allow us to know (and, by the way, they also deceive us and does not allow for a viable explanation for our emotions).

        It does no such thing, though I suppose the answer might depend on whether you’re talking about positive atheism or negative atheism, and it certainly makes no propositions regarding senses. Speaking of senses, have you considered that the senses telling you Jesus is real might likewise be wrong? It cuts both ways, you know.

        It gives too much power to science – which has historically showed itself to be sometimes wrong, biased, and unreliable.

        It does no such thing. An atheist is not obligiated to believe in the Big Bang or the Theory of Evolution. But speaking of science, even if it sometimes shows itself to be wrong, biased and unreliable, overall it has shown itself to be far more useful and provides far more answers than religion which provides no answers—ever—and its usefulness is suspect—always.

        It is inherently fatalistic – giving the believer no real purpose or hope.

        It is not fatalistic, but you have the second part right. The atheist is not required to have purpose or hope as an intrinsic part of atheism; that comes from elsewhere.

        It devalues mankind to a grouping of chemicals, molecules, and atoms that makes us of little more significance than a rock (and I believe YOU and I have more value than that -:).

        Once again, it does no such thing. It makes no qualitative or quantitative statements about mankind, one way or another.

        It gives no place or credence to a moral or ethical code (talking about chaos!). Why, based upon atheism, would anyone be inclined to treat their neighbor with love, respect or fairness – why not lie, steal, murder, rape, etc. (after all we are just matter with no eternal destiny or no eternal consequences)?

        I’ve heard this line before, and quite frankly, it frightens me. When stripped of all emotionalism and reduced to its bare essentials, it basically says that everybody in the world, including the religious, are ravening liars, thieves, murderers, rapists, etc, and the only thing keeping the chaos at bay is religion. Which means that, should the believer ever lose his faith, he’ll instantly turn into the kind of monster described above.

        That the only thing keeping the Christian from lying, cheating, stealing, murdering and raping is the threat of eternal punishment. Wow! I never before thought Christians were really such bad fellows; do you really think I should reconsider that opinion?

        It is completely man-centered and mankind is not the solution in our world but the problem. With all of our scientific and intellectual “evolution” our world is still haunted by war, hunger, poverty, anger, crime, etc. not to mention the continued decline in the respect for human life on every level.

        Wow! I’m not even capable of that level of hatred of humanity, and I’m an atheist!

  15. I’ll echo Linden here and say that he is absolutely right about presuppositions. Your evolutionary system cannot move from descriptive to prescriptive. From “is” to “ought”. If it does, then it is no better than survival of the fittest or might makes right. There is no cosmic justice, just pragmatic justice (which isn’t really justice at all).

    • I don’t see you echoing Linden here – your point is completely different from what he said.

      Anyhow, I did not propose a “prescriptive evolutionary system”. What I said is that evolution can explain (descriptive) how we came about developing prescriptive systems. The Origin of secular ethics are explained by evolution. They do not consist of evolutionary theory, as you seem to imply I said. My point was that the common theistic argument is “you cannot explain morality, therefore god”, my answer was “actually, I can explain morality just fine.”

  16. Pingback: Open Letter to Liberal Believers « Just a Little Common Sense

  17. @ all who have engaged in discussion with me so far:

    Would it be alright with you if I posted your comments and my replies to them on my own blog? I notice that my replies tend to become somewhat lengthy, and I feel that if I’m gonna put so much effort into this debate, my blog should profit from it aswell. I will of course link back to this so people can read all the comments in the original context, and I will try as best as I can not to misrepresent any of you in the quotes that I’d use.

    @anewcreation: I will take the time to watch the videos and get back to you with a reply. Might take a day or two though, since my schedule is quite full and I spent more time on answering the other comments than I had planned to originally.

    • I don’t have a problem with that so long as you faithfully copy and paste to the letter those comments not written by yourself, ie. my ones for example, but be sure to get everybody’s permission before you go ahead or you may create for yourself some unnecessary grief.

      I look forward to hearing your feedback on the videos.

  18. @Ochiudo

    I always appreciate a free exchange of views. Thank you for engaging in this debate!

    Something that troubles me greatly is that non-believers judge God on the basis of the behaviour of mere humans. One of the basics of the Christian faith is that we are all sinners – even and especially Christians. Only one human being was without sin – He came from God and He is God. We human Christians in our bad and average moments give God really bad PR. In our best moments, we can only hope to be salt and light to the world and be a more true reflection of Jesus, the human-being-God. Can I implore you to judge my God not on the basis of what you see in the world (actions taken by sinners, by me), but on the basis of the existence and conduct of Jesus Christ? I apreciate that’s a bit of an odd thing to say to an aetheist! However, there is a great deal of evidence that Jesus existed and that what the bible says of him is true. I think you would find “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel a very interesting read. As an aetheist investigative journalist, Strobel began his own investigations into the wild claims of the bible in regard to Jesus and surprised himself with what he discovered. I’d love it if you would check out this book – you are of course completely free to come to your own conclusions!

    My own Christianity comes not from the desire to fulfil an idealism, nor because it is an easy path (it’s not!), but because I believe in God and in Jesus Christ with all my heart. And I have, without a shadow of a doubt, experienced God in my life. He meets me and my needs in ways that coincidence could not, and more frequently than coincidence could.

    May I ask you one thing? Do you believe in absolute truth?

    Happy for you to publish this, in it’s entirety, on your blog, and look forward to hearing from you.

    – Lisa

    • Hi Lisa,

      I feel honoured that you took time during your work to catch up with this debate and to have some input.

      You raise a very fair point. Humans do have a tendency to judge God based on the behaviour of humans.

      The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel sounds like a cracking read, so I will be sure to get hold of that myself. Thanks for the suggestion.

      I hope you come back again soon.

      Bless you

    • @ALL:
      I’m sorry, but your comments are comming in faster than I can provide proper answers. As I currently work in gastronomy, I’ll have a huge amount of work to and very little sleep over the coming weekend, starting in about two hours from now. Next monday will be the next possibility for me to sit down and take the time to properly read all of your comments and respond to them thoughtfully.

      @Anewcreation: I watched the first three parts of the video, and so far, I am not impressed. He is a brilliant rethoric, but there isn’t much substance to what he says. Not a single novel idea or argument so far. I’ll watch the rest of it and get back with an answer about that and the rest of what you wrote as soon as I can. Do you know if there is a written transcript of that sermon somewhere?

      @Lisa: I’m sorry, but you got me completely wrong. Try to actually understand what it means not to believe in god. I don’t believe in god the same way that you do not believe in santa or the monster of Loch Ness.
      That means: I do not judge god. Why would I? He doesn’t even enter my equation. All I care about is people, and what people do, and the effects that their subjective beliefs have on what they do. Note that wether those beliefs are true or not is completely irrelevant for how believing in it will affect your behaviour.
      What I judge is people who do bad stuff. If you mutilate the genitals of a newborn girl and so forever ruin her chance at ever enjoying sex, I’ll judge you. If you go about denying gay people to lead a happy life, I’ll judge you.
      The sole reason I criticise your believe system is because it is the sole reason for you to behave that way. I attack that foundation with the sole goal of changing your behaviour for the better. (This is hypothetical, by the way. I do not suggest that you actually do any of these things.)
      Can you see where my focus is? On people. I don’t care about god one way or the other – I think it is a concept so unlikely that I needn’t waste my time with it until believers come up with some evidence to make it plausible enough to be worth investigating. But I do not judge god but in the sense that I judge him as a mythical concept that effects people’s behaviour. I judge him only in the sense that I judge other fictional characters I meet in books.
      I know it is a common notion among believers that atheists “reject” god – that is simply not the case, I really, honestly, do not believe in the concept of deities. It’s a natural world we live in, even the most amazing experiences take place WITHIN our heads, and no matter how unlikely a coincidence you experience, it is still just that – a coincidence.

      • Hi Phillip,

        Sorry you did not get much out of those videos but glad you took the time to watch some of it. You see, every time I see those I have to kick myself for forgetting how awesome and powerful God must really be to create such a universe. I will never tire of admiring His creation, including us, the human race. How else can one explain such beauty, such diversity, originality and creativity, such perfection and harmony?

        I will look into getting the scripts for those sermons. I am sure they can be found somewhere. Give me a few days. Weekend is coming up and I am going away.

        Have a good weekend. Don’t work too hard!

  19. I have read all this so-called reasoning coming from Ochiudo but he sadly is missing the whole point. He speaks of religiosity as if that is the basis of a Christian’s claim of righteousness or morality. Religion has absolutely no part in salvation. I consider religion as man’s way to God and that will get you nowhere. Scripture tells us in Psalm 14:1 “The fool says in his heart ‘There is no God.'”. And fools will continue to argue that there is no God despite the fact that all creation proclaims otherwise.
    Ochiudo makes a point to address the point that Christianity is a mere 2000 years old. What he does not understand is that thousands of years before Christ came to earth as a man, believers awaited the promise of the Messiah which was given to man after the fall in the garden. It was the Promise of Christ that they awaited and put their faith. Christ was always with them. The pre-Incarnate Jesus was the fourth man in the furnace with the three Jewish boys; he was the destroyer of Sodom and Gomorrah; and it was he who spoke the worlds into existence! An atheist does not want nor care to hear this therefore there is no sense arguing. To believe that all things came from nothing surely goes against all scientific reasoning. God says through his word in Isaiah. ” I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate” . Those who feel they are wiser than the God they do not believe in will pay the price. This argument could go on forever but in the end, there is only one truth! Those who say there is no God will bow one day to the God they rejected.
    I cannot save anyone. Only the Holy Spirit can unveil a man’s eyes to the truth, I do not debate the spirits of those who continue on with these foolish arguments. It serves no purpose.

    And not all who say they are Christian are truly Christian. And not all religions that say they are Christian are truly Christian. Christians are those who put their faith solely in what Christ did on the cross at Calvary and who continue to follow in his ways.

  20. Ochiudo,

    Actually, I find you interesting and recognize that you are bright and have a good argument working for you.

    And I, too, was an an agnostic/atheist and knew quite a few arguments myself. But the one argument that I could not overcome was the time another believer demonstrated the power of God to me, and it was on the day that I planned to commit suicide. You can read it here:

    http://larrywho.wordpress.com/testimony/

    Now, at best, you will read and refine your argument over the rest of your life, but no matter what, at the end of your life, you will still have an argument. And hopefully, for your sake, no one will attempt to build a society on your argument. Why? Because like Marx and Lenin before you, your argument will fail.

    I myself don’t really have an argument, I have an experience; and that personal experience can never be argued or taken away. You can hold a gun to my head or torture me, and maybe in my anguish, I might recant. But even at that, my life-changing experience is still real.

    And I agree, “Catch-22” was an awesome book, far better than the movie. You gotta love Major Major Major.

  21. Hey Phillip!

    No problem here – I am not the least bit offended or upset. Frankly, I seriously doubt that you could say anything about me that would truly offend me or make me angry. That’s because my identity and security is found in Jesus. I, in the kindest sense, will continue to pray that you find that as well – all of the indescribable peace, hope, and joy to be found in Him. Now you may think this is just ignorant silliness but it is not to me (or to some of the other commenters). You will not persuade me that my experience is not real. Plus, I do not think you are the kind of person that would be so intolerant as to presume someone ethically and intellectually inferior to you just because they hold a different belief system. I think you to be a much better and more liberal person than that. So I wish you the best. Forgive me if I believe that Jesus is the best. I will never be ashamed of that. Take care!

    Linden

  22. It Is Finished
    As I consider the state of the evangelical church at the beginning of the twenty-first century, I observe a people who have swapped their faith for a bumper sticker and a church that has been caught up with the wrappings of religion. Many in the church have grown tired of that old-time religion, and they have become enamoured with the affluence of get-holy-quick, pop-Christian programs. They have joined arms with the razzlers and the dazzlers of the world’s marketplace, and they have set out on a journey down a yellow-brick road that will lead only to the great and powerful Judge whom they do not recognize, for without even realizing it they have abandoned their first love. For all practical purposes, the person and work of Jesus Christ have become commonplace, and the finished work of Christ’s atonement is largely taken for granted.
    Nevertheless, the atoning death of the Lord of glory is never to be regarded merely as a pleasant fact of history. Redemption has been accomplished. God promised that the seed of the woman would crush the head of the serpent, and He promised that the Christ would be a stone of stumbling and a rock of offence. When the fullness of time had come, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, in order to redeem those under the Law for the express purpose that we, His people, might be adopted as sons of God. God’s Word is filled with the story of God’s enduring love for His people. From Genesis to Revelation, God reveals the progress of the salvation of His people culminating in the death of death in the death of the Saviour who cried out “It is finished.”
    Although no one would ever admit it, many have attempted to displace the redemptive work of Jesus Christ — wrapping the entire doctrine of redemption in ornate packaging with colourful bows and ribbons in order to make Jesus look as attractive as possible so that He would not be an offence to anyone contemplating the option of religion. However, it does not matter if we dress up Jesus in the most colourful robes of our culture, and it does not matter how we decorate the cross of Christ; it will always be an offence to the unbelieving world. We cannot disguise the cross of Christ, nor can we hide its radiance. For it was upon the cross the Prince of glory died so that we might live, move, and have our being, before His face and for His glory alone.

    What is it to Preach the Gospel?

    “For though I preach the Gospel, I have nothing to glory of: for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me, if I preach not the Gospel!”

    1 Corinthians 9:16

    What is it to preach the Gospel? Is everybody preaching the Gospel? No!
    Is everybody who claims to preach the Gospel preaching the Gospel? No!
    What is it to preach the Gospel? To Preach the Gospel is:

    To Tell The Truth About God

    First, to preach the Gospel is to preach the truth about God.

    1. We preach the God of eternal existence. The Scripture says, “in the beginning God.” When Moses came to the burning bush, God said, “Go down and deliver my people out of Egypt.” Moses said, “whom shall I say hath sent me?” and God replied, “I AM.” Not, I was; not I shall be, but I AM, the eternal I AM, the everlasting I Am. I Am that I Am!
    2. . We preach the God of creation. “All things were made by him and without him was not anything made that was made.” In him we move, we live and we have our being. God created all things.
    3. . We preach the God of sovereign mercy. The Scripture says “Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord.” The Bible says, “I will have mercy upon whom I will have mercy; I will be gracious to whom I will be gracious.” We preach the God of mercy, yes, but sovereign mercy, the God of grace, yes, but sovereign grace. God will be gracious to whom he will be gracious. He owes no man anything; if he bestows grace, his mercy, it is sovereignly bestowed. He is an immutable sovereign, and unchanging sovereign.
    4. . We preach the God of righteousness. Our Lord said, “I will in no wise clear the guilty. The soul that sinneth it shall die. Sin when it is finished bringeth forth death.” God Almighty is a righteous God. He is a holy God, therefore, Christ Jesus came into the world that God might be just and justify the ungodly. We preach a God that cannot show his love at the expense of his holiness. We preach a God that cannot show mercy at the expense of his truth and only at Calvary can mercy and truth meet together, and righteousness and peace kiss one another. The God we preach is the God of righteousness.
    5. . He’s the God of unchanging grace. “I am the Lord,” he said, “I do not change; therefore, you sons of Jacob are not consumed “Why is there no fear of God before the eyes of this generation? They’ve heard preached a false god; they’ve heard preached a weak god; they’ve heard preached a failing god; they’ve heard preached a disappointed god; they’ve heard preached a god whose hands are tied; they’ve heard preached a god who says I have no eyes but your eyes; I have no feet but your feet; I have no hands but your hands. That’s a lie! The God of the Bible is totally and completely independent of his creatures as far as his strength, his wisdom, his power, his beauty and his glory are concerned. We do not add to his glory! We receive and share in his glory. The God we preach is the God of eternal existence, the God of creation, the God of sovereign mercy, the God of righteousness, and the God of unchanging grace. He is the God upon whom we depend; the God to whom we look; and the God without whom we can’t exist! All things that we have we receive of him. We return nothing but that which he gives us. What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to preach the truth about God.

    To Tell The Truth About Man

    Secondly, what is it to preach the Gospel? It’s to preach the truth about man. Men do not want to hear the truth about God; and they do not want to hear the truth about themselves. But Gospel preachers preach the truth, not only about God, but the truth about the sinner, and they leave that sinner empty, broken and destroyed with all his foundations of flesh swept from under him, and all his self-righteous rags stripped from off him, leaving him naked and unclothed before the searchlight of God’s holiness. What does the Bible say about man? It says in Romans 10:3, “there is none righteous, no not one, there is none that understandeth; there is none that seek after God.” What are men seeking? Seeking their own pleasure; seeking their own comfort; seeking their own glory; seeking their own wills; seeking their own satisfaction, everybody seeks his own, they do not seek God. “They are all gone out of the way, they are together become unprofitable, for there is none that doeth good, no, not one.” Christ said, “you have not the love of God in you.” Somebody says, “Well, I love people.” No you don’t. You just consider whom you love. You love yourself. You try and think this minute “is there anybody in this world you really love? Well, you say, “I love my wife,” that’s yourself. That’s your wife. Well, “I love my mother and father.” That’s still loving yourself! You love them because they are your mother and father. Well, “I love my son or daughter.” Your son and daughter! Do you love anybody else’s son or daughter? “I love my brothers and sisters” That’s yourself. Well, “I love my Saviour; my own personal Saviour.” That’s loving yourself. If He weren’t your Saviour, you would not love Him. Everything you love is connected with your own sinful, selfish self. Your whole world revolves around yourself, your own pleasures, your own delights, your own passions, your own seeking.

    “There is none good, no, not one. Their throat is an open sepulchre, with their tongues they have used deceit the poison of snakes is under their lips; their mouths are full of cursing, bitterness, murmuring, complaining, fault-finding, gossip, back-biting, their feet are swift to shed blood, destruction and misery are in their ways, the way of peace, they know nothing about it.”

    There’s no genuine, honest, sincere fear of God before their eyes, they don’t fear God; they do not tremble at the presence of God; they don’t fall at His feet as dead men, even religious worshippers today don’t fear God. If they feared God, they would be silent in the presence of God; they would choose their words carefully; their worship would be marked, not by shouting, but by awesome reverence and fear. Job said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I said I have spoken once, yea, twice, but I’ll never speak again.”

    John said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I fell at his feet as a dead man. My eyes have seen the Lord.”

    Isaiah said:

    “When I saw the Lord, I cried, woe is me, for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell among a people of unclean lips. When I saw the Lord I saw my guilt.”

    The average person goes to church and he comes away feeling good. If the preacher had preached the truth about man, they would have come away from that place crying:

    “O, God, be merciful to me a sinner!”

    To Tell The Truth About Christ

    Thirdly: What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to tell the truth about God and man, and it is to tell the truth about Jesus Christ. My friends, Jesus of Nazareth is not a weak, frustrated reformer; Jesus Christ of Nazareth is very God of very God. He is the Messiah. He did not die as a martyr; he did not die as an example, he came down here and died on the cross as the victorious, conquering, successful Redeemer of his people. He died as the covenant Redeemer. He died for the covenant people; he died to accomplish a task given him by the Father before the world’s creation. When he completed his suffering on Calvary, he said, “It is finished.” He cannot fail! Christ is not a frustrated Redeemer; he is not a disappointed Saviour; he is not a defeated Saviour; he is not a poor, weak, reformer up there in heaven, crying his eyes out because people won’t let him have his way. He is the conquering, victorious Messiah who is seated at the right hand of the Father, waiting until his enemies become his footstool! He is the Lord of the living and the dead. A preacher said to a congregation one time, “won’t you make Jesus your Lord?” I emphatically declare that you cannot make Jesus Christ your Lord! The Father has already beaten you to it! He is your Lord! He is your Lord if you are saved; he is your Lord if you are damned! He is your Lord if you are on the right hand with his sheep; he is your Lord if you are on the left hand with the goats! He is your Lord! Every knee shall bow and every tongue confess in heaven, earth and hell that he is Lord. You don’t make him Lord, you recognize him as Lord. God made him Lord. The Father has delivered all things to the Son; the Scripture says he is the Lord. He purchased that right through his death on Calvary. Jesus Christ is not a fire escape from hell, he is the Lord; he is not a doormat named Jesus, he is Lord. If any man shall confess with his mouth that Jesus is Lord, and believe in his heart that God has raised him from the dead, he shall be saved. His life is a perfect righteousness; his death a perfect sacrifice. We’d better start telling the truth about this man called Jesus. To preach the Gospel is to tell the truth about the Lord Jesus Christ.

    To Tell The Truth About Salvation

    Fourthly: I am come to preach the Gospel and tell the truth about God, about men, about Christ and to tell the truth about salvation. Now let me tell you something about this thing of salvation. We use that word rather loosely in this day. Salvation from sin is not by the deeds of the law. Even those who are supposed to know something about salvation by grace have to remind themselves again and again that salvation is not by the works of the flesh, not in any way! Salvation is not by reformation; salvation does not come by decision; salvation does not come through church ordinances; salvation is not ours by church membership; salvation is in Christ the Lord. That’s where salvation is, not in man’s purpose, not in man’s plan; it’s in a Person. It’s not in a proposition, it’s not in walking an aisle, it’s not in a church ordinance, it’s in Christ! It’s not in a law; it’s not in the deeds of the flesh; salvation is in Christ. A man does not have salvation until he comes by the power of God’s Spirit through faith to a living, personal, vital, intimate union with Christ as the Lord. A man is not a Christian until he has a vital union with Christ. A man is not a Christian until he is inseparably joined, personally joined to Jesus Christ. A man is not a Christian until Christ becomes his life. A man is not a Christian unless you can cut into his heart and find love for Christ; cut into his mind and find thoughts of Christ; and cut into his soul and find a panting after Christ. Christ in you, that’s the hope of glory. The Holy Spirit convicts a man of sin; the Holy Spirit empties a sinner; the Holy Spirit brings a man to faith in the Son of God, faith in the living Lord. “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creature. Old things are passed away, behold, all things are become new.” Most people’s so-called Christianity can be taken off with their Sunday clothes; but a man who is genuinely saved has Christ living in him as an everlasting fountain springing up into everlasting life, he’s been born-again, he’s been resurrected from the grave, he has the very image of the Son of God stamped on his heart and it cannot be moved. What is it to preach the Gospel? There are not many folks preaching the Gospel because there are not many people telling the truth about God. Everybody has a god. But eternal life is to know the living God. What is it to preach the Gospel? It’s to tell the truth about man, and we are not going to like what we hear. It’s to tell the truth about, Christ, and it’s to tell the truth about salvation.

    Nothing To Glory Of In Preaching

    The next thing that Paul deals with here is “though I preach the Gospel I have nothing to glory of. Why is it that we who preach the Gospel have nothing to glory of? Well, firstly, we are conscious of our guilt. Any man who is not conscious of his own guilt can’t preach the Gospel because he doesn’t know the Gospel. And you can’t tell what you don’t know any more than you can come back from where you haven’t been. A man who preaches the Gospel is conscious of his own guilt. The man who was led of the Spirit to write this Scripture said, “I am not worthy to be an apostle, I see no worthiness in myself.” Later on he said, “I am less than the least of all the saints.” Pick out the least saint in God’s house and I am less than the least saint. Then later on he said, “Jesus Christ came into the world to save sinners, of whom I am chief.” When somebody asked, “Paul, who is the chief of sinners?” He replied, “I am.”
    A man who really knows God never graduates above that statement right there, “I’m only a sinner saved by grace.” He may grow in grace, grow in talent, grow in gifts and grow in knowledge, but he’s still only a sinner saved by grace. We have nothing to glory of, we’re just using borrowed gifts. 1 Corinthians 4:7, states:

    “Who maketh thee to differ?” Are you able to preach? Who gave you the power? Do you have a little more than somebody else? Who gave it to you? Do you have more talents than the next fellow? Who made you to differ? “What hast thou that thou didst not receive? Now if you received it, why dost thou glory?”
    Why do you glory in your beauty? God gave it to you. Why do you glory in your strength? Without God you would not have it. Why do you glory in your wealth? God gave it to you. Why do you glory in your talent, in your singing ability? Without God’s grace you’d be a simpleminded imbecile. Who made you to differ? What do you have that God didn’t give you? If you are walking around with something, something somebody gave you, why are you bragging as if you have it of your own natural ability? Why do you think that you are better than anybody else? Only God’s merciful grace; God’s gracious grace enables you to be anything.

    Necessity Laid Upon Me To Preach

    Read the next line of our text: “Necessity is laid upon me.” Why is it necessary for me to preach the Gospel? Preacher, why are you so compelled; why is it that every time you speak it’s always Christ and him crucified the Gospel? I’ll tell you why because of the truth and the beauty of the Gospel. I see in the Gospel of substitution a beauty beyond all things. I see in the Gospel of Jesus Christ the Good News of the Son of God, the truth of God. Only Christ can meet the perfect law. Only Christ can satisfy the justice of God. Only Christ can open the way for us into the holiest of all, into the presence of the Father. Only Christ can supply the need of the bankrupt sinner, and only Christ can keep me from falling.

    “Now unto him who is able to keep you from falling, and who is able to present you faultless before the throne and the presence of his glory with exceeding joy; to him be glory both now and forever.”

    That’s why it’s necessary for me to preach the Gospel: the beauty of it, the glory of it, and the truth of it. I could tell you that salvation is in the church, but it wouldn’t be true. I could tell you, let me baptize you, and by obeying the baptismal commandment you will go to heaven, but it wouldn’t be so. I could tell you that if you live a good life and pray and go to church on Sunday and give a little offering, God will take you to heaven when you die, but it wouldn’t be so. I could tell you to quit drinking, live a good, moral life and you will go to heaven when you die, but that would be a lie.
    But when I tell you that Christ died for our sins; that Christ is a sufficient Saviour; that Christ is an effectual substitute who came down here and gave us a righteousness which we didn’t have and couldn’t produce, went to the cross, bore our sins, paid our debt, satisfied the justice of God; that he is our living advocate at the right hand of the Father; and that if you come to a living, vital union with him, you’ll be saved, that’s the truth, and the only truth that will make you free.

    Woe Is Unto Me If I Preach Not

    Paul said it first, the Holy Spirit inspired him to say it, “Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel.” I’m in trouble, real trouble. I can’t think of a crime more terrible than to be entrusted with the immortal souls of eternity-bound boys and girls, young people, men and women, like every preacher is entrusted every Sunday, and then stand up in church and waste precious time talking about myself, about my problems or my so-called denomination or my church, or talk about my ideas of what is right and what is wrong. I can’t think of a more awful crime against society than to deceive people who are given to us to instruct in the things of the Lord. I’ve got to preach the Gospel! Woe is me if I don’t. God have mercy, and he won’t, if I don’t! Woe unto the cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, woe unto the Christ-crucifiers of Jerusalem, but double woe upon the preachers and shepherds and pastors who for advantage, filthy lucre and praise of men deceive men’s souls. God help them, but he won’t. Woe is unto me if I preach not the Gospel, and there’s not another one, it’s the Gospel of Christ. If an angel from heaven preaches unto you any other gospel, Paul said, “Let him be accursed.” I’m preaching as a dying man to dying men; I’m preaching as one who may never preach again, and under God I’m going to tell you the truth. I say this, woe is me if I preach not the Gospel; but I have something to tell you: woe is you if I preach it and you do not believe it. You may not understand it; and it may not fit in with your tradition; and it may not fit into your denominational pattern, and I’m sure if it’s the Gospel it won’t because Christ didn’t fit the denominational pattern when he came down here either. He didn’t fit into their religious theology; he didn’t fit into their tradition; and he didn’t fit into their mould; and they crucified him!

    What is it to preach the Gospel? It is to preach the truth about God, the truth about man, the truth about Christ, and to preach the truth about salvation.

    I hope I have done that, and that you acknowledge Jesus Christ as your Lord and Saviour.

    • Dear Harry (if that is your real name),

      Thank you very much indeed for your lengthy and heart-felt comment.

      There is nothing I want to add or take away from it.

      It is my prayer that for those who read it, something inside will stir and push them to discover for themselves the meaning of the gospel and its power.

      I thank God for your zeal, your passion, and determination to speak the truth. May the Lord use you for His praise and glory.

      Mercedes

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