On Rejecting Christianity

Why do people reject Christianity? It is a good question and there would be many answers one could give to it. What has become quite popular in Christian circles of late is to blame Christians for unbelief. We have done a lousy job in representing our Lord, and that is why so many reject Christianity.

Consider a recent book by David Kinnaman and Gabe Lyons, unChristian (Baker, 2007). Based on research from the Barna Group, it discusses “what a new generation really thinks about Christianity – and why it matters”. It suggests that many young Americans are rejecting Christianity because they perceive Christians to be insensitive, hypocritical, judgmental, etc.

What these writers – and others like them – are saying is that in large measure it is our fault that people are not becoming Christians. Until we get our act together and become far more Christlike, we will continue to repel people instead of attract them.

Here I wish to explore such claims in a bit more detail. Are these claims right? My short answer is, yes and no. Yes, we are all far from where we should be here. Since perfection is not attainable in this life, we will all fall down in this regard, and our witness for Christ will always be tainted by our own sin and selfishness.

So yes, we have often been our own worst enemy here. We have failed to represent Christ aright, and we have let unbelievers down in so often misrepresenting Christ, or worse, portraying him in an ugly and reprehensible light. So we can all improve here big time, and we certainly need to.

But in another sense, there is far more to this issue than our shortcomings as ambassadors for Christ. There is another major component, namely the fact that many people do not become Christians simply because they do not want to – they prefer living in their sin and selfishness.

One of the recurring themes found in the Gospels and Acts is the story of people rejecting Jesus and the disciples – for all sorts of reasons. We find it happening all the time as we read these five books. We are told that Jesus and his followers caused division, caused offense, caused controversy and caused public disturbances.

Many people not only rejected Jesus and his message, and that of his disciples, but they in fact became enraged and wildly opposed to the message of the gospel. Many utterly rejected the Christian message because they rejected its basic claims.

The idea that we are sinners in need of a saviour does not go down very well with most people. Indeed, it cuts right across human pride to even suggest such a thing. Thus it should not be surprising that many people will refuse to accept Jesus.

Indeed, Jesus had already made it clear that people would reject him. He mentioned this many times, and his discussion with Nicodemus as found in John 3 is a classic example of this. Note what he said about this in verses 18-21:

“Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but men loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what he has done has been done through God.”

Here is the final word on all this. People prefer sin and darkness to righteousness and light. That is the bottom line for so many who refuse to embrace the Christian message. Sure, we are often poor reflections of our Lord, but in many cases, even if we were terrific reflections of Christ, people would still reject the gospel.

Indeed, the most Christlike person in the world, Jesus himself, was rejected by many. Obviously he was not misrepresenting Christ. And as a man without sin, he could not be accused of being hypocritical, unloving, ungracious, and so on.

The authors of unChristian begin their book with these words: “Christianity has an image problem”. The truth is, based on what I have just said, this has been true for the past two thousand years. Christianity has always had an image problem.

It has always appeared to be out of sync with where people are at. It has always appeared to be unattractive to people for the past two millennia. This is for the simple reason that we are all sinners who gravitate toward self and away from God. We do not want to come to the light – instead we reject the light and withdraw from it.

People reject being told they are sinners in need of salvation. They find this offensive, intolerant, judgmental and narrow. Always have, and always will. Thus no matter how much we improve things on our end (and we should always be working on this very thing), there will still be plenty of people who will choose to reject the Christian message.

No matter how nicely and attractively we package the message, there will always be some people who will be uninterested, un-open, and/or resistant to it. Jesus obviously was the most attractive carrier of his own message, and yet people rejected him.

Thus it should come as no surprise that not everyone will come flocking into the Christian fold, no matter how pure and pristine our representation of Christ is. While a Christlike presentation of the Gospel will always be superior to an un-Christlike one, some people will not be persuaded no matter how cleverly we deal with our “image problem”.

So by all means yes, let us attempt in every way to become more like Christ. That in fact is what we are called to do. We are to be conformed to the likeness of the Son (Rom 8:29). We are to seek to attain to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ (Eph. 4:13).

We all desperately need to become more like our Lord. No question about it. And there is a place for listening to unbelievers and learning why they reject Christianity. But to only listen to their version of events is to only hear half the story.

The other half of the story I have outlined above. People are sinners who do not want to admit their sin, nor turn to the only source of remedy and release. That, at bottom, is the basic problem, and in that sense, no amount of repackaging on our part will fully deal with it.

Yes, let us seek to be as Christlike as we can, but always bear in mind that this is no guarantee that people will therefore lay down their arms and submit to the Lordship of Christ. In that sense, we will always have an image problem, just as Jesus had an image problem.

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50 Replies to “On Rejecting Christianity”

  1. Hi Bill,

    I would like to wish you and your family a happy Easter!
    May Christ continue to bless you and the wonderful work you do!
    Jane Petridge

  2. “It suggests that many young Americans are rejecting Christianity because they perceive Christians to be insensitive, hypocritical, judgmental, etc.”

    To believe in God, means to take a stand on many issues. You will never be able to do this without offending one person or another. God is very clear about the path to salvation.

    The perception of this generation is the result of years of subjection to a politically correct, relativist education system. Tolerance is the word and ignorance is the action.

    We can’t expect anything else from this brainwashed generation.

    Jane Petridge

  3. Jane.

    If the perception of this generation is the result of years of subjection to a politically correct, relativist education system and we can’t expect anything else from this brainwashed generation, then how can this generation be at blame in the eyes of God?

    People often try to blame the circumstances, and they are definitely a part of the problem, but man is never tempted beyond what he can resist. No one can stand face to face with God and blame someone els for their shortcomings. It’s always your choice if you sin, never anyone else’s, regardless circumstances.

    Josef Gustafsson

  4. A bit judgemental there, Jane.

    As a high school student and youth minister, I can say that a lot of young people don’t accept Christianity not so much because of ‘brainwashing’ as you call it, but because they aren’t presented with enough reasoning or opportunity to be relevant to their lives. Both my calling and job is to change that for them.

    And to say that you can’t expect anything else from my generation is as ignorant as the mainstream media. There are many, many young people who do good works; the media chooses to ignore that because it’s not going to sell the papers.

    http://www.ccjn.org/media for something that I, along with a group of other high school students, put on last year.

    Hew Sandison

  5. Can someone that is dead in his trespasses and sins convert by his “free will” to God? Unregenerate people can only reject God (1 Cor. 2.14 ; 2 Thess 2.10) and they will be converted in only one way, that is if the Gospel is preached (Rom. 10.17 ; 1 Cor 1.21). Trying to make the church more attractive to the World is making it more worldly. Spurgeon use to say: “You either feed the sheep or entertain the goats”. Don’t worry, the sheep of Christ will hear the voice of their shepherd and will come; just preach the Word. Jesus said to the unbelieving Jews of his time:

    “But you do not believe, because you are not of My sheep” (John 10.26).

    Note that he didn’t say “You are not my sheep because you don’t believe”, but the contrary. The only thing that the church has to do for sinners to be saved is to be faithful in everything that the Word commands!!!

    Pascal Denault

  6. Perhaps we have missed a third element in this discussion. Unless a man is born again by the Sprit of God he will never be able to accept the message.

    Until God opens the blind eyes and hard hearts of people they will never except the message.

    Let’s pray more fervently for God to show his mercy on this generation.

    Thanks Bill

    Mark Topping

  7. Hew,

    I have had the advantage of spending many years educating young children, and I assure you, even in schools that claim to be ‘Christian’, you can find teachers teaching Religion who openly claim to hate God, and any morality system.

    Secondly a curriculum exists to successfully destroy any notion that a God exists (except for RE studies) I can spend much time on this one for you.

    Unless you have devoted, passionate believers of Christ teaching RE, children drift through school, and grow to hate “GOD” stuff.

    I am sorry if I sounded harsh, but I am annoyed with the system that basically fails kids, when it comes to fully understanding Christianity. There are a few who try, but it is against a great wall of opposition.

    Jane Petridge

  8. Of course, set against historical perspective we have seen previous falling away as the church itself grew like the world and loved the world more than its Saviour.

    But God in His Great Grace reserved for Himself some who had not bowed their knees to the Baal’s of the day. The great British and American revival of the 18th Century, sparked in part by Count Zinzendorf’s Moravians is a recent example – and one indeed that spread the gospel throughout the world through the modern missionary movement.

    We in the West have been declining from this high point for over a century as our prosperity rose, but its fruits are still seen in Africa, China and elsewhere where believers still shine brightly.

    Stephen White

  9. Though it is good to be concerned about poverty reduction I can think of a lot more important things for the young people to be concerned about. I am an MK and honestly I am far more concerned about where people are going to spend eternity than seeking to make their lot on earth more enjoyable.

    One of the greatest quotes and the one that is the most difficult to put into practice is the one, “The greatest enemy of the best is the good.” Like I said poverty reduction may be a good idea and it may be a good thing to be concerned about it, it is far more important to be concerned about the spiritual poverty which is far more of an issue that financial poverty is.

    I have been very disturbed to see that young people nowadays, if they are concerned about anything other than themselves, are far more concerned about alleveating finacial poverty than spiritual poverty and more concerned about getting the government to do something about it then in doing something about it themselves.

    Also, no long term solution can be found for third world poverty apart from Christ and the change that comes from within. I grew up in a third world country that is very poor, not from exploitation from wealthier countries as left wing people would have us believe, but from their own laziness and selfishness. It has only been when the change that comes from a faith in Christ has occurred that their is any change. The country that I speak of recieves millions of dollars of aid a year and absolutly nothing is changed because one can lead a horse to water but you cannot make them drink. One can provide opportunities for people but if they are too lazy or too foolish to help themselves and refuse to listen to you then you can’t help them.

    That is why I say that even though the aim is to reduce poverty is good it is not the best aim and in the end will not produce any lasting change unless there is a change in the poor people themselves which will only come through Christ and learning to live lives as he would have them to.

    Timothy Coombe

  10. Hi Bill,

    Christianity does not present a unified image to the world. Worship ranges from the traditional denominations with their majestic cathedrals and robes and rituals, to the happy clappers with their stadiums and rock music. Social policy leanings in churches ranges from leftist social justice (usually associated with the traditional denominations) to the hard-right, survival of the fittest image of fundamentalist Americans.

    Some Christians do good in the world, but so do many non-believers, and most Christians do little to set an example that differentiates them from non-believers. Some Christians advocate peace, but others are more interested in fighting war. Some Christians accept an evolutionary past and the findings of science, while others despise it.

    My point is that our human worldview dominates our Christian worldview, and the reason is because there is no consistent Christian worldview.

    Now I’m sure that some here will argue that there is such a thing as a Christian worldview, which just happens to coincide with their own. But that would merely prove my point.

    So instead of judging others as rejecting Christianity out of selfishness, perhaps we should judge ourselves and consider the conflicting, confusing and sometimes downright ugly image we present to world.

    Roger Williamson, Sydney

  11. Thanks Roger

    So was Jesus in John 3 “judging others as rejecting Christianity out of selfishness”? If so, was he wrong to do so? Or was Paul wrong to do so in Romans 1? I said often in this piece that “we should judge ourselves”.

    But the point of the article is that both aspects are important in this issue, and it is not a question of choosing one against the other. Both are true here.

    BTW, I am just not buying all the silly and blatantly biased caricatures which you throw out here, as you seek to demonise the so-called religious right while glorifying what is essentially the secular left.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  12. ” “what a new generation really thinks about Christianity – and why it matters”. It suggests that many young Americans are rejecting Christianity because they perceive Christians to be insensitive, hypocritical, judgmental, etc.”

    How can you take this seriously? Claiming Christians are hypocritical is not “real thinking”. It’s prejudice. Out of a billion Christians you are sure to find some that are hypocrites. And if some are prominent in the public eye and you judge all Christians by that then you are “guilty” of salience and availability bias in your thinking. Hypocrisy is a common failing. Ask any teenager in conflict with her parents. Atheists, Humanists and Rationalists can also be hypocrites. Watch them preach “critical thinking” and “Sovereign Reason” then weigh their actual reasoning. It can be a stream of slothful prejudice.

    As for being judgmental, there was a nice essay by Michael Levin in Quadrant years ago on the secular taboo against being judgmental. I think this taboo arose in the sixties as an attempt to silence the critics of that decade’s immoral and self-righteous radicalism.

    John Snowden

  13. Bill, I haven’t read the book but taking your review at face value, I suggest that they start off okay but almost immediately it seems they scoot away on a tangent.

    The authors of UnChristian begin their book with these words: “Christianity has an image problem”.

    However, their solution sounds like it totally depends on us fixing the image problem. No room for God to work, and no acknowledgement that the image problem may be mostly in the minds of the opponents of the gospel and the people who are indifferent to the claims of Jesus.

    John Angelico

  14. Hew, in support of Jane’s basic stance, I suggest that somewhere we must make a stand.

    As Schaeffer said, we must stand for the Truth as opposed to Falsehood in a worldview based on Antithesis.

    This means that somewhere we will be opposed to someone, and offence may come (nay, is likely). As Bill writes, our task is to ensure that so far as it depends on us, it is purely the offence of the gospel, the confrontation between good and evil, that occurs.

    Otherwise, we are giving a rebel an excuse (in our behaviour or attitudes) to refuse the gospel message, and stay with his back to God.

    John Angelico

  15. Well put Bill. It is both a yes and a no situation.

    Grace is what we all need at every moment to believe, to hope and to love. Christ exhorts us all to pray always and to partake of His Sacraments; and live out the Faith.

    Michael Webb

  16. It seems to me that the folk I hear talk about the church being unattractive don’t seem to talk about sin and rebellion at all. The folk I hear talk this way also seem to have a neutral attitude to “the world” which is discordant with the Bible’s attitude to “this sinful and rebellious generation”

    It’s as if they think people are neutral intellects just waiting to hear a good argument. I have never seen a person investigate and then reject Christianity who did not also have some moral or spiritual issue at play.

    Hew,

    I would have to agree with Jane, when the media, politicians and teachers are all agreed that tolerance of homosexuality is the ultimate morality, when they regard abortion as a sanctified right, then the easy conclusion is that Christians are bigoted and jugemental. We do have an image problem, but it is based in ignorance, not in knowledge. In my town people are constantly surprised that I am not like they thought Christians were, because they never knew any, just relied on the media and secular portrayal.

    And so, Hew, you are right, in that there are people of your generation who do honour God and love the Lord. It happens when God is at work in them and when they do know authentic believers. Whether it is a PR problem or a sin problem, the answer is the same, to get amongst them, live holy lives, love them selflessly, pray and proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ.

    Also, Hew, one point I really want to put strongly, as I read back it’s not exactly what you said, but it crosses over a bit, and it’s something I hear a lot. If we are talking about youth groups and church kids, it is not the youth leaders job to answer all their questions and show them the holy life. It is the parents’ job. One reason we lose so many kids, because the parents live lacklustre lives and leave it to the professionals to teach their kids the faith. When you live with lukewarm Christianity 12 hours a day, it’s very hard for 3 hours on Friday night to overcome your contempt.

    A youth leaders job is also to provoke and inspire parents to raise their kids in the way of the Lord.

    But, good post Bill, and nice conversation, everyone, some good thoughts there.

    I’m left pondering how I bring my kids up in the way of the Lord more faithfully.

    God Bless all,
    Michael hutton

  17. I just read the book and it was a bit of a weird journey.  Some good, a lot bad, and, to paraphrase Douglas Adams, mostly useless.

    The whole premise of this book – the amount of importance it gives to “image” and “perceptions” in the minds of those hostile to Christianity – is fundamentally flawed.  No-one who has read the New Testament can necessarily attribute such attitudes as meaning that Christians are getting it badly wrong as far as being good witnesses of Christ.  This doesn’t mean we can’t or shouldn’t grow, or that we have a licence to offend – it just means that I don’t think that this motivation matters nearly as much as the authors think.  I’d rather measure myself against God’s Word.

    Oddly enough, one of the book’s best moments comes towards the end from one of its guest contributors.  I don’t agree with everything that Andy Crouch says here, but this part of his comment seems rather incongruent in a book that endeavours to motivate Christians to change on the basis of “outsiders” opinions.

    So I’m not eager for us to manage perceptions of Christians, Christianity, or Christ.  Jesus, thankfully, doesn’t need our spin control – he emerges in every age and culture as an admirable and compelling figure.  Christianity is and has been – at least from the days of the house churches at Corinth and Galatia – quite a remarkable mess, and that’s surely not going to change in the next thirty years.  As for Christians, well, we really have just one thing going for us.  We have publicly declared – in my church, we declare every week, aloud, together – that we are desperately in need of Another to give us his righteousness, to complete us, and to live in us.  We have publicly and flagrantly abandoned the project of self-justification that is at the heart of every person’s compulsion to manage perceptions. (p. 230)

    I read that and wondered how that quote ever ended up in the final copy.

    I made so many notes about this book, I could write a couple of chapters myself, but for the sake of this blog, this book needs to be distilled down to the overriding question – how do we as Christians positively influence the world we live in?

    So what really is the answer?  The most disappointing aspect of the book is its almost total failure to point to the only practical Christian solution that exists – and that is to study the life of Jesus by getting to know the Bible, all 66 books of it.  Jesus quoted from 24 of the 39 books of the Old Testament, and even in Revelation 2 & 3 was directly quoting (Rev 2:27/Ps 2:9) and alluding to various parts of it (eg. ‘Baalam’ (Rev 2:14), ‘manna’ (Rev 2:17) and ‘key of David’ – Rev 3:7/Isa 22:22)
    So Jesus still thought the OT was important – even after the tearing of the temple curtain – and, if I may speak personally, the most profound changes in my life have come from simply focusing on his Word and studying it – really working through it carefully – especially over the last few years.  No other book – not even any from the great C.S. Lewis – comes close to the same power to effect change – not by my own effort, but by the work of His Spirit.  And no lasting work for God’s Kingdom happens without His involvement.  So – read the Bible!

    The fact that UnChristian fails to emphasize this, despite having multiple contributors having multiple opportunities to do this is a very serious indictment on this book indeed.  God just seems to be relegated to the background.  Most worrisome of all, is that I know some Christian leaders think the content of this book groundbreaking.  I think not.  The reality is that Jesus summed up the situation years ago.

    All men will hate you because of me, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.
    A student is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. It is enough for the student to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If the head of the house has been called Beelzebub, how much more the members of his household!
    Matthew 10:22, 24-25

    UnChristian is not telling us anything new, nor is it really giving us the solution for reaching those aching to find hope in a lost world.  Too much about man’s ideas and efforts, and not enough about God and His transformative power.  If we do not call on God to help us both individually and corporately, all our efforts – including this research of the Barna Group – will come to naught.  Christians, more than anything, first need to be deeply schooled in God’s Word, not just know a few quotes here and there as a background to some new manmade methodology.  We need to be students of Jesus, who was very adept at quoting relevant parts from memory in disarming and clever ways.  I admit, it took me a while to realize this too in my Christian walk, but that is the simple truth of the situation.

    Mark Rabich

  18. Why do people reject Christianity? Well, for one thing, some people have IQ scores in the triple digits.
    For another, after becoming aware that if the some three dozen savior gods who were born of a virgin and rose from the dead who preceded Jesus were all myths, than Jesus is likely a myth too.
    Todd Pence

  19. Thanks Todd

    So are we all supposed to rush out and embrace atheism after reading this so very representative atheist remark, replete with ad hominem and straw men flourishes? Never mind the millions of great intellects – academics, scientists, lawyers, philosophers, doctors, PhDs, etc – who have accepted the Christian truth claims, many of whom would have far greater IQs than you or I.

    And spare us the foolishness of the historical Jesus being in any way similar to earlier myths, in which the glaring contrasts far outweigh any superficial similarities. Just pretend the scholarship of world-renown authorities like Metzger, Yamauchi, and Boulanger does not exist. These and others have decisively deconstructed the furphies about Attis, Isis, Mithra, Osiris, Adonis, etc., as in any way being even close to the gospel accounts of Jesus Christ.

    I’m afraid you have converted no one here with your sophomoric atheist clichés.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  20. Todd,
    We just looked at Luke 24:13-35 today. Two of Jesus’ close crowd of disciples meet him and fail to recognise him after he was raised from the dead. Why? Because the resurrection was so far out of their field of thought. Even after Jesus warned them himself, the ladies told them, and some disciples confirmed the empty tomb, they still did not believe. There is no way they had a “dead and raised saviour” mythology floating around.

    You on the other hand have lived with the benefits of the progress of Christianity, down to the attributes of nobility, sacrifice and service and humility that used to be honoured in our society. You are familiar with these ideas without knowing much about them. Familiarity breeds contempt, particularly when it is coupled with pride. And your IQ comment does stink of pride and arrogance.

    Blaise Pascal was a Christian apologist and a mathematical genius. He contributed more to science in one night with a toothache than you have (unless wikipedia and google have overlooked your contributions – I did do some basic research). Blaise Pascal is a real person, not just a vague generalisation, you can look him up.

    But it seems to me you are more comfortable with arrogant contempt than real investigation or open argument. I suspect you are classic example of what Bill is talking about in this article. Unless you want to be brave enough to share why you really hold a grudge agains God or the church??

    Michael Hutton

  21. I guess Todd just ironically confirms why we should be wary of giving great weight to the perceptions of those antagonistic to Christianity. Slightly prejudiced and somewhat badly informed, do you think?

    The challenge is now for you, Todd, to demonstrate your clearly superior ‘IQ score’ by backing up your claims. Otherwise, it just proves that what you wrote is the intellectual equivalent of losing a Test match by an innings and 500 runs in less than three days and still claiming you’re part of a better cricket team.

    Mark Rabich

  22. Another excellent article, Bill. And Jane Petridge in her first comment is right and Hew Sandison’s comment and link kind of proves Jane’s point that a large part of the problem with today’s generation is due to their brainwashing through the “politically correct, relativist education system”. I saw in Hew’s link to the website of CCJN much talk about “social justice” within what appeared to be a humanist definition of the term.

    Furthermore, the most serious abuse of “social justice” in our society seems to have been totally ignored by this group. That is, of course, the denial of life to tens of thousands of pre-born Australians every year. But because it is not politically correct to oppose abortion, but is considered politically correct to address poverty, it is the latter that seems to get the attention of the trendy Christian progressives.

    Not only does CCJN appear to neglect the abortion holocaust but even promotes as “fantastic organisations….making a difference” groups like Amnesty International which according to LifeSiteNews.com promotes abortion and homosexual “rights”.

    Ewan McDonald, Victoria.

  23. Thanks guys

    Yes Kinnaman mentions several times that today’s young people are weak on moral absolutes and so on. Years of PC propaganda, secularism, and denial of biblical truths have all taken their toll. Yet what is the response? To merely accept this new threat of relativism, or in fact challenge it?

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  24. Ewan,

    One of the things I noticed about this book was how it hardly dealt with the issue of abortion, especially in the chapter ‘Too Political’. It seemed to me that the authors have accepted the idea that it is ‘just another issue’ and not about life or death and of primary importance above most others.

    Indeed, this is confirmed by one of the guest contributors at the end. Jim Wallis, had this to say:

    We won’t just focus on abortion and gay marriage, as we’re often accused of today. These two issues are important, but they’re simply not the only important issues we should focus on – especially in a world where every day thirty thousand children needlessly die of hunger, preventable diseases, and a lack of clean drinking water. (p 235)

    Maybe Jim isn’t aware that daily 110,000 unborn are killed globally, nor is he aware of the flawed political basis for the engagement of approaches to things like controlling malaria with DDT or the responses to the spread of AIDS. The book fails to properly address that one of the major reasons for people’s perceptions is that the media lie and twist information on these and other issues routinely and yet seems to think that somehow those messages are going to change any time soon. Of course, we can all endeavour to reflect Christ better, but disparaging legitimate causes is not a good start.

    How refreshing instead to read this quote from Martin Luther:

    “If I profess with the loudest voice and clearest exposition every portion of the truth of God except precisely that little point which the world and the devil are at that moment attacking, I am not confessing Christ, however boldly I may be professing Christ. Wherever the battle rages, there the loyalty of the soldier is proved and to be steady on all the battlefield besides is mere flight and disgrace if he flinches at that one point.”

    Mark Rabich

  25. But Mark, to speak out against abortion is being so judgmental! We would just alienate all the relativists out there by doing such a thing! After all, we want to win them, don’t we?

    Forgive my facetiousness here, but that is the impression one gets at times in this debate.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  26. Can I say that, after reading this superb reflection, not to mention all of the excellent comments which certainly provide scope for a great deal of action by which Christians can understand and redress the highlighted deficiencies , we have overlooked one extremely important factor. The sin of pride, which led to the downfall of Lucifer, and Adam and Eve and was largely responsible for the rejection of Our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ by His historical contemporaries; and more recently by modern man. In other words, people need to realise that there is a vast difference between God and our own darkened, tainted human nature. It is pride, causing us think that we are the equal of God, which is the root cause of our predicament. The solution is for us to adopt in our lives the very antithesis of pride: humility.
    Dunstan Hartley

  27. Bill,
    The Barna group has long called the church to do a complete make over and be ‘relevant’ to the times. Call in a consultant, do your research and market your church accordingly to ‘customers or market needs’ to bring in the unchurch. Create the right image. Change your church name and logo, minus the cross or anything sensitive or “offensive” . Better still make it appear to be an entertaining centre or social organisation or club so everyone who comes will feel comfortable and don’t feel threatened. Play rock beat music that mesmerise, change the message, preach sermons that are entertaining, motivational and relevant to living in this world. Make the sermon easy to listen, and quit harping about sin and repentance and carrying the cross, or that we are mere pilgrims on the way to our Heavenly Jurusalem. It’s about the here and now and talk of eternity and judgement don’t meet our physical needs and wants and is therefore unnecessary. Never mind, if in the end we preach superficially and produced superficial christians as long as we bring in the crowd. What prevents many from being a christian is the gospel itself and it’s cost, but a superficial gospel will bring many ‘conversion’. If this is the trend, Lord have mercy on us.
    Barry Koh

  28. Good article and posts!

    Many reject or discard Christianity because of credibility problems. If the Bible is not credible history re life, good and evil, then it is useless. To illustrate: consider my recent experience visiting a Church in another city:

    The Sunday before Easter their newsletter gave the Pastor’s response to “The Rise of Atheism” international convention, where the atheists claimed that religion caused most world problems. The Pastor argued that Christianity was a different religion which gave hope based on the “historical reality” that “death did not hold (Jesus) down … He rose from the dead … many hundreds witnessed it”. Good stuff. A church pamphlet asked: “Can we trust the Bible? Did the things we read about in the bible actually happen?” Good defence – but it defended only the New Testament NOT ‘the Bible’.

    For Good Friday they had letterboxed the area to invite people to an Easter drama. The sermon, after the drama, stated that Genesis was poetry and that it was SIMPLY NOT IMPORTANT (emphasised repeatedly) whether Genesis and Adam and Eve and the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil were real or not. The sermon made numerous excellent references to the Fall and Adam and Eve’s sin and our sin and that Jesus paid for our sin on the cross.

    Excuse me! If we concede that Adam and Eve and the Fall may not have happened, aren’t we in the region of pie in the sky invent your own religion? And Poetry? Grammatically Genesis 1-11 is almost exclusively Hebrew historical narrative NOT poetry!

    As from three earlier threads, I await an answer to the following challenge that does not tacitly concede that Genesis is myth. Does the silence admit a credibility problem? Is it only atheists and Young Earth Creationists (YECs) who see the elephant in the room?

    “Now that we know that Adam and Eve never were real people the central myth of Christianity is destroyed. If there never was an Adam and Eve there never was an original sin. If there never was an original sin there is no need of salvation. If there is no need of salvation there is no need of a saviour. And I submit that puts Jesus, historical or otherwise, into the ranks of the unemployed. I think that evolution is absolutely the death knell of Christianity.” Atheist Frank Zindler.

    Peter Newland

  29. Peter, no worries – I stand corrected! Excellent bit of detective work on that link and quite recent I notice too.
    Mark Rabich

  30. Bill,
    A very well written and thought out article – you definitely have a gift for using the pen – I am constantly recommending friends of mine to visit your site and see what you are covering. Keep it up!
    Steve Davis

  31. Hi Peter
    Your comments re the importance of Genesis 1-11 are spot on. As you also rightly point out, destroying Genesis – or accepting it as ‘myth’ – seems to be understood more by atheists than many who call themselves Christian and who somehow seem to think that a position that basically states that Jesus died for a myth is defendable.

    I have made the comment in previous posts that what is tantamount to unbelief is being taught from the vast majority of pulpits these days – and that unbelief stems from what the ‘leaders’ are taught in Bible College. From what I have experienced personally, and also picked up from talking to many others, it seems most Bible Colleges today are more interested in deconstructing the Bible than in teaching apologetics courses to defend it! Is it any wonder there is such a rejection of Christianity!

    Equally, to suggest God didn’t mean what He said in Genesis, or that He is unable to preserve Scripture across the centuries is to deconstruct God and make Him into a lesser being.

    Roger Williamson above states that a humanistic worldview pervades our Christian wordview. Sadly this is true, depending of course on one’s definition of ‘Christian’ because the church in general has failed to teach the basis of WHY Christians should believe what they hear on Sunday in preference to what they hear Monday – Saturday.

    However, what today IS a Christian? The liberals in the church who deny the Bible? Or perhaps people like Roger Williamson, in a comment that I am surprised hasn’t been picked up, that deny there is even such thing as a Christian worldview – and then construct an argument in such a way that anyone who disagrees with it proves them right (in their own eyes)?

    However, note the reference to a Christian worldview – which I would accept is ill-defined – rather than a biblical worldview. I know the liberals will challenge even a biblical worldview, but at least they then have to do what the church you attended did and come out openly and admit their unbelief.

    For all the liberals in the church and even those who call themselves Bible-believing but who deny Genesis 1-11, ask yourselves: Why did Jesus die and why did He have to die in the way He did (e.g. on a cross), and also fit a CV (e.g. first born, male, without blemish) that had been defined in the Old Testament? Just where do these people start to actually believe what the Bible says?

    Frank Zindler realised this in your quote but, sadly, the basic reason I believe so many people are rejecting Christianity (even if they still go to church!), is that we are not being taught the whole what God actually caused to be written in the Bible.

    Roger Birch

  32. Watchman Bill, another fantastic, sound, timely and correct article, it is so good to see how you come back to what the Bible says on a subject instead of allowing humanistic reasonings to interpret the various manifestations of the convicted. The Gospel promises to make people mad, sad or glad, either way, the sower sows the Word and his job is done, its not up to us to overly interpret the response. After 17 years of constant evangelism we only improve on our methods to come closer to the Biblical pattern of evangelism and striving to being like Christ in the way He would do it.

    A Christian lady watched as an evangelist witnessed the Gospel on the streets and then approached him and remarked regarding his ministering ‘I dont like your style’, the evangelist humbly responded ‘I dont like it much either, whats yours’, to this the lady replied ‘ I dont have one’ the evangelist then responded ‘I like mine better’, and to this little jingle there is a lesson true, ‘something is better than nothing’ keep it biblical and for Heavens sake keep it going, thanks again Bill.

    Dorian Ballard

  33. In Britain there will be the general election, probably to be held on the 6th May. All three major parties are lead by men who deny and show contempt for Christian values. Humanly speaking, Britain, identifiable as a distinctly Christian nation, along with its history and cultural heritage, is about to disappear, swallowed up by Marxist Europe. Barring intervention from God, Britain will disappear from the map and re emerge as an economic region, administered from Brussels by faceless bureaucrats who are neither known or elected:

    http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/worldnews/europe/eu/6623928/Herman-Van-Rompuy-and-Baroness-Ashton-the-EUs-perfect-couple-of-nobodies.html

    Meanwhile, the remnant of Christians, desperately call on those of faith or none to defend what is left of our Christian heritage. But will the people respond?

    http://www.anglican-mainstream.net/

    David Skinner, UK

  34. The Jesus that we present is the one that we think people want to own. In his own time, people wanted to fashion him into a an earthly leader of their own making. How many times do we hear people say, even bishops, dare I say, ” I like to the think of Jesus as …………………(fill in your own preference).”

    Whereas, he has thankfully not left us with this option:

    Luke 12: 49–53: ?I have come to bring fire on the earth, and how I wish it were already kindled! But I have a baptism to undergo, and how distressed I am until it is completed! Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division. From now on there will be five in one family divided against each other, three against two and two against three. They will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against mother, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against mother-in-law.”

    Where is the equality, diversity, inclusion and tolerance here?

    David Skinner, UK

  35. Another well-balanced article Bill and many excellent responses. My simple contribution is 1 John 3:16a, “This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us.”
    Only the Spirit of Jesus can convict the human heart to respond to such amazing love. If Jesus on the cross does not melt the heart, then nothing else will.
    Graham Lawn

  36. Thanks Roger.

    May I clarify? I think that some “who call themselves Christian and who somehow seem to think that a position that basically states that Jesus died for a myth is defendable”, are real Christians with their names written in “The Lamb’s book of Life” and with faith in Jesus strong enough to ignore the logical contradictions. But rather than making themselves acceptable to ‘science’, Richard Dawkins regards them as ‘barking mad’ (http://creation.com/dawkins-on-compromising-churchians). Nevertheless, Jesus says that He will not cast out anyone who comes to Him – so clearly His grace and mercy does not insist on A+ for Theology101.

    However, we must avoid injury to the credibility of the gospel. We must always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks re our faith, but with gentleness and respect (1 Peter 3:15). Hence we should be able to give logical answers – consistent with the real evidence and real history. Here we have a problem: on the one hand, how do we defend against the ‘barking mad’ inconsistency of a mythical 1st Adam and a real Jesus; on the other, how do we defend Genesis 1-11 as real history?

    Now there are sites that logically defend Genesis as real history compatible with the hard evidence of science and with Jesus as Saviour and Lord (e.g. http://www.creation.com), but where are the logically consistent defenses against the ‘barking mad’ allegation?

    Peter Newland

  37. Meanwhile two thirds of the worlds human population are not Christians.

    Are these 4 billion living-breathing-feeling human beings therefore beyond the pale.

    Plus hundreds of millions of Christians would not subscribe to your brand of self-righteous religiosity too.

    Plus we live in a time when all of the Sacred Scriptures of the entire Great Tradition of humankind are freely available to anyone with an internet connection.

    And every philosophical point of view that has ever been made too.

    So somehow your essentially intolerant point of view is the only one that is true or real?

    Sue Caldwell

  38. Thanks Sue

    If a doctor tells someone to strictly follow the instructions on a medicine bottle, is that being intolerant? If a person warns about a bridge which is out ahead, and to survive, you must turn around immediately, is that being intolerant?

    If you do not believe that there is such a thing as absolute truth, then every truth claim will appear to be intolerant. But that of course just tells us about relativists like yourself, and nothing about whether a particular truth claim is in fact true or false.

    If the claims of Christ are true, then his followers will of course tell others about them. Those who reject such claims will think this to be intolerant, but so what? The real question is, are these claims true? If they are true, then we all must deal with them, one way or another.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  39. Hi Sue.

    Let me ask you a couple of simple questions. The following is a quote from Jesus:

    I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. (John 14:6)

    Jesus is basically saying it’s about him, and nobody else. Is that an “intolerant point of view”? And, if I profess to be a follower of Jesus, what am I supposed to believe on this subject?

    Mark Rabich

  40. A Response to my critics.

    The great calling of Jesus was/is to love the Lord Thy God with every dimension of ones being, then on that basis to love all beings unconditionally on the lived understanding that, at the level of the thus awakened feeling-heart, that my neighbour quite literally IS myself.

    Such a heart-awakened disposition freely blesses all beings exactly as they are, and without any power-seeking agenda(s) to convert them.

    I find such a heart-blessing disposition to be totally absent from this site.

    Sue Caldwell

  41. Thanks Sue

    Sorry, but you misrepresent Jesus and his mission. He came to save sinners, who we all are. He came to restore our relationship with the Father based on repentance and renunciation of a sinful and selfish lifestyle. He calls us to evangelise the whole world and make disciples of all nations. We either believe him when he tells us this, or we call him a liar.

    One obviously cannot love God while living in a state of disobedience and rebellion against him. That is why Jesus came – to deliver us from our sin-soaked and selfish ways, and to enable us to love by the power of his Spirit.

    Consider just a few passages about the message and mission of Jesus:

    Luke 11:23 He who is not with me is against me
    John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son.
    John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s wrath remains on him.
    John 8:12 When Jesus spoke again to the people, he said, “I am the light of the world. Whoever follows me will never walk in darkness, but will have the light of life.”
    John 10:7-10 Therefore Jesus said again, “I tell you the truth, I am the gate for the sheep. All who ever came before me were thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not listen to them. I am the gate; whoever enters through me will be saved. He will come in and go out, and find pasture. The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy; I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full.
    John 14:6-7 Jesus answered, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me. If you really knew me, you would know my Father as well. From now on, you do know him and have seen him.”
    Acts 4:12 Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.
    1 Tim. 2:5 For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus.
    1 John 5:11-12 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son. He who has the Son has life; he who does not have the Son of God does not have life.

    Jesus and his disciples were terribly intolerant by your standards. If you are claiming to be a Christian, and claiming to be concerned about those who have not heard the Gospel, then the way forward is clear enough: take Jesus at his word, and don’t seek to water down his clearly exclusivist and “narrow” message about salvation. Then go tell as many people about what Christ has done for them at Calvary as you can.

    If you find that to be intolerant, then you simply accuse Christ of being intolerant. Indeed, you put yourself in a place of standing in judgement over the Bible and Jesus. It of course should be the other way around.

    Bill Muehlenberg, CultureWatch

  42. Sue,
    “……. Such a heart- awakened disposition freely blesses all beings exactly as they are, and without any power seeking agendas to convert them. ”

    You are only speaking for yourself. Jesus’ last words before His ascension to Heavens were: “Go, therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”
    That’s the reason why Christian missionaries are sent out to the nations of the world, to bring people to a saving knowledge of Jesus Christ and that they might be saved through grace as they receive Him as Savoiur and Lord.

    Barry Koh

  43. Sue,

    Here’s another verse –

    “The time has come,” he said. “The kingdom of God is near. Repent and believe the good news!” (Mark 1:15)

    Repentance means to admit major failure – ie. sin, and seek to go the opposite direction. Jesus applied the need for repentance to everybody. This site – as far as I would define it, and as much as Bill sticks to biblical teaching – is about the good news that we can spend eternity with God and be freed forever from all the consequences of our sins. As a demonstration or foretaste of that promise, we also fight in various ways against the many evils that pervade this society we live in, and proclaim that which is good – the fruit or outcomes of which gives some small and fleeting glimpses into what eternity with God will be like.

    Contrary to your conclusion, I very much find that a “heart-blessing disposition” because the ultimate result of this is Life, not to mention truth, clarity and good teaching. I don’t think you properly answered the very narrow definition given by Jesus – it’s either about him or not. The very words of Jesus contradict what you are claiming. How can I take you seriously? Why are you so enamoured with ideas that lead nowhere and are so easily debunked? Do you really care about your fellow man or are you just interested in fuzzy “heart-blessing” feelgood ideas? I wish you would re-examine your views to see that outcomes do not always match intentions, however heartfelt. And I hope you realize that your views on who Jesus was/is aren’t accurate either.

    Mark Rabich

  44. Hi Sue,

    You say:

    “Such a heart-awakened disposition freely blesses all beings exactly as they are, and without any power-seeking agenda(s) to convert them. I find such a heart-blessing disposition to be totally absent from this site.”

    But then why don’t you take your own advice and bless those on this site exactly as we are? It seems very much like you’re trying to convert us to your own agenda?

    Mansel Rogerson

  45. Thanks Peter
    May I also clarify?

    I totally agree that not believing the Bible 100% does not, in itself, negate your Christianity. However, what it does do is increase the probability of you falling away – which is the basis of Bill’s article. The staggering proportion of Christian youth who lose their faith in the US when they attend university and are confronted with the full blast of humanism is evidence of that.

    The problem is, how far can you NOT believe the Bible and still be Christian? Getting A+ in Theology 101 is not always the answer – in fact at many Bible Colleges these days it can almost be an impediment!

    We may never be able to achieve purity of doctrine, but I suspect those who read this site and who are towards the Bible-believing end of the spectrum can easily detect the intolerant and hypocritical remarks of those who are at the other end of that spectrum.

    Sue, above, talks of hearts being awakened. But, hearts may be awakened in may ways, and ‘feelings,’ although they might be wonderful for a time, can be extremely fickle and are hardly the basis of sound doctrine.

    To imply there are many ways to God, or that the philosophy of man should override God’s word may be ‘tolerant’ but it is ultimately a vacuous message.

    Roger Birch

  46. Bill, you say that perfection is not attainable in this life. I am not sure that scripture agrees with you. If you believe as I do that every generation has the opportunity to bring back the King,and when he does come back he is coming for a perfect bride, then we have to accede that perfection is reachable for all of us through our own death to self and ressurection as a new man, if we personally want to see the return of Jesus.

    This will only come at a price, one that we will not pay if we cling to middle class western christianity, which is determined to keep us spiritual paupers.
    Roger Marks

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