Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Book review: Praying Upside Down



In this book Praying Upside Down, Kelly O'Dell Stanley uses imagery, simple techniques, and artwork to help the readers to creatively connect with God like never before and to move their prayer life away from the preconceived and expected to a new level of intimacy.  God, as the author calls it, "...is the Master of Creativity, the original Artist, and He rarely responds in the ways we expect"

Kelly is a graphic designer and writer - which explains the contents of this book: the product out of the junction of all of her passions - faith, art and writing. 

Praying Upside Down basically offers a fresh chance to learn something new, hear an answer we may not anticipate, and experience God in a more real, tangible way.

As she explained in the introduction section of this book, praying upside means to allow God to let us see - truly see Him at work, see Him in action, letting go of our own expectations. To pray upside down means to allow Him to throw our world out of orbit, turn our thoughts topsy-turvy and changing us from the inside out. Praying upside down will definitely mean that our perspective will never be the same again. Similarly, in chapter 3, the author defines praying upside down in this way:
Praying upside down is a way to move your prayers away from the expected so that you can learn something new, hear an answer you didn't anticipate, or see God in a unique way.
And again, in chapter 4, the author says that
Praying upside down is any way that God shakes you out of your comfort zone. It's a new perspective, an altitude of exploration, the wonder and marvel of sacred revelation.
As she says, before we can pray upside down, we have to learn to see upside down - or sideways, backwards, from other angles and vantage points. This disciplines trains our minds to examine things from a new perspective, much like an artist does. Preconceived ideas are discarded allowing our brains to see the actual shapes that we might have missed when the image was right side up. To pray upside down means we must be prepared to embrace  - and expect, the unexpected.

As she said:
Whatever we are viewing, once it's inverted, we become more aware of its nuances - the shapes of the dark shadows, the space between the edge of the object and the side of the page. We see it for what it is. The goal of reproducing the image hasn't changed, but the end result of the upside-down drawing is more accurate.

To introduce the core content of the book, she first picked up the brush and sketched out the background in the form of her own testimony when she and her husband were contemplating of buying a house. They were praying for someone to buy over her old house, when God prompted her to pray for the woman who was her potential buyer instead of about her own house.

As she wrote in the next chapter:
To make art, we have to be able to enter a complicated dance between knowing and not knowing, between what's clear and what's chaotic
To me, that can be scary especially if you are someone who is a control-freak or constantly worry or been disappointed before. As the author says in chapter 3,
God's answers to our prayers may seem upside down. He may ask you to forgive, even if you are the one who is wronged. He may ask you to become the wife your husband needs, rather than turning your husband into the man you always dreamed of. He may not save your job, but He might give you the time you've always needed to learn more about Him., or free your schedule to finish he renovations on your kitchen. He might not deliver you from poverty but instead teach you how to budget, balance, and take care of what He's provided. Or He may show you that even if you have very little, when you can find ways to give what you do have, you will feel wealthy.
For these groups of people, the author has this to encourage:
Maybe you are feeling stuck. Worried that God doesn't hear you. Convinced that you don't deserve to have your prayers answered. Wondering how, when, or even if God will answer you. Your need may be huge....You might have been hurt by "religion" or had someone twist the words of the Bible against you. You may have seen the way God answered one of your prayers and didn't like it, so you're afraid to try praying again.

We are face hurdles. Our issues, personalities, and abilities color our faith and guide our behavior. Whether you want to overcome issues from the past or you're taking your first tentative steps of faith - wherever you fall on the continuum of human experience - this is your chance to give prayer another chance, or to deepen your existing practice of prayer. To ask and to watch for answers. To try to see God in a new way.

Jesus Himself turned the world upside down because the world by itself is already upside-downed. To quote Billy Sunday:
  • The world is wrong side up. It needs to be turned upside down in order to be right side up.

Other notable quotes by Kelly O'Dell Stanley in this book:
  • God wasn't late. He was right on time. He saw the big picture, knew what was at stake, and steadily put things in motion. 
  • Praise your child only for what he has actually done. Don't exaggerate. When you set unrealistic goals for your children, you're setting them up for feelings of failure and inadequacy.
  • Even in the lowest times, God's still there showing me truths, He never condemns, He doesn't want my disappointment in myself to keep me away.
  • In matters of spiritual growth, as in art, one of the best ways to learn is by observing someone who has been doing it for a while. It's one thing to bow your head, maybe even raise your hands in the middle of a church service during the swelling chorus of your favorite song, alongside a hundred of other people. But it's another to do it when you're on your own, alone in a quiet room.
In generally, I love this book. This book is not just for read, but for action. It's an invitation. It's an encouragement for us to chew of the goodness of God, to savor the aroma of His love.

(Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this e-book free from Tyndale House Publishers  as part of their book review program called Tyndale Blog Network. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions I have expressed are my own. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 : “Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.”)

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Book Review: Trying Not To Try by Edward Slingerland




This book attempts to blend the Chinese philosophy of wu-wei with some recent researches from cognitive sciences. Wu-wei or “non-action” implies that our action is done without our doing. We are the object through which the natural forces work.

As much as the author tries to explain how wu-wei can be achieved in our daily lives, he alludes to the elusiveness of this task or as he quoted from Shunryu Suzuki in chapter 8: “You cannot try, but you also cannot not try; trying is wrong, but not trying is also wrong.”

I do quite like some of the things he said, many of which I find to be very meaningful and consistent with my own Christian beliefs. For example in Chapter 4, he wrote: “Knowing the contentment of contentment” requires resisting the siren call of consumer culture and instead holding fast to primitive and simple pleasures.” The Bible too has much to say about contentment: “Now godliness with contentment is great gain.  (1Ti 6:6 NKJV)” and  “Not that I speak in regard to need, for I have learned in whatever state I am, to be content (Php 4:11 NKJV)”.

Slingerland further wrote: “The desires of the eye form, of course, the entire basis of modern advertising industry, which has turned the continuous ramping up of our desire for “goods hard to come by” into a refined science. The minute the latest iPhone is released, our current iPhone suddenly seems less attractive. And as author puts it “Our belly may be perfectly comfortable in our current car, but our eye can see the nicer, newer car in the driveway next door (or in the magazine ad or billboard), and this perception immediately decreases our satisfaction with what we’re currently driving. The car itself has not changed the slightest bit, but our benchmarking mind has demoted it anyway.”

The Bible says: “For all that is in the world—the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life—is not of the Father but is of the world. (1Jn 2:16 NKJV)”

This is called the hedonic treadmill, where positive or negative events result in only temporary increases in happiness or unhappiness (http://tinyurl.com/o8zd3n3). Or to state it in another way, human beings have the tendency to quickly return to a relatively stable level of happiness despite major positive or negative events or life changes. This term was first coined by two psychologists, Brickman and Campbell, in 1971.

One of classic experiment on the concept of hedonic treadmill is a study by Brickman, Coates, & Janoff-Bulman in 1987 titled “Lottery winners and accident victims: is happiness relative?” (Download full text in pdf: http://tinyurl.com/kr5rupg) In that study, the authors found that, although there were strong initial emotional reactions of happiness and sadness respectively, but in the long term, neither group appeared to be happier than the other. 

The basic mechanism for hedonic treadmill is adaptation. It is a phenomenon where after perceiving something for a certain period of time, your sensory system “adapts” to it, causing it to recede into the background. Adaptation can be good as it helps to cope with our tragedies. But adaptation can also be bad when we begin to covet what others have that we do not. And this never-ending cycle of initial euphoria, adaptation and covetousness results in a rat race.

As Slingerland says, again in chapter 4: “Another source of dissatisfaction is our incessant need to measure our achievements against those of our peers…once a certain minimum threshold of material well-being is reached, our objective level of wealth seems to be much less important than our relative wealth – that is how we stack up against our neighbors or colleagues. Once you have enough money to buy the basics and indulge in some pleasures, like eating out or buying new clothes, ranked status comes to matter much mire than wealth per se.  Status, in turn, is inherently unstable because it is by its very nature relative – the benchmark is always moving as others around us rise or fall. Moreover, we seem designed to focus more on what we don't have than what we do; we are much more irked about those two people ahead of us than pleased about twenty behind.”

The Bible has much to say about the deceitfulness of our heart that can never be truly satisfied with the material things. "The heart is deceitful above all things, And desperately wicked; Who can know it? (Jer 17:9 NKJV)”

The Bible also has much to say about covetousness: “Therefore put to death your members which are on the earth: fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, and covetousness, which is idolatry. (Col 3:5 NKJV)”

There are also a number of Christian paradoxes that have similarities with the wu-wei concept. For it is in surrendering our lives that we can find true meaning of life (Matt 10:39).  For it is humbling ourselves that we find ourselves exalted (Matt 23:12).  For it is in giving that we receive (Luke 6:38). For it is in our weaknesses that we become strong (2 Cor  12:9,10). 

Note:
I received this book from the Blogging for Books program in exchange for this review.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Defending Propositional Divine Revelation: Why the “I proposition” is the best rebuttal against the critics’ “E proposition”




Defending Propositional Divine Revelation: Why the “I proposition” is the best rebuttal against the critics’ “E proposition”

In his book, The Word of God and the Mind of Man, Ron Nash talked about propositional knowledge. What exactly is propositional knowledge? Propositional knowledge is the declarative knowledge that can be reasoned or justified.

Prophecy is a great illustration of whether the revelation is propositional or not. Prophecy cannot be said to be propositional (which means, cannot be proven whether it is true or false) until it has come to pass.

That's exactly what it is said in Deuteronomy 18:22 (also Jeremiah 28:15-17; 29:30-32):

..when a prophet speaks in the name of the LORD, if the thing does not happen or come to pass, that is the thing which the LORD has not spoken; the prophet has spoken it presumptuously; you shall not be afraid of him.
(Deu 18:22 NKJV)

That's why God, the Ultimate Logos, is so brilliant and beautiful, because essentially God has categorized prophecy into a propositional knowledge. It is verifiable. Otherwise, how do we know whether someone is true prophet or not?  On the other hand, historical events like the resurrection of Jesus Christ and the Exodus of Moses, as pointed out by Nash on page 45, technically are non-propositional because we cannot travel back in time to verify them. Only the traces or evidences of the events can be verified to a large degree so as to allow us to give the best explanation for the conclusion.

In chapter 4 of this book, Nash goes into great length to dispel the myth by the critics that the only contradiction to the E proposition (no S is P) is all S is P (the A proposition). If we buy into the all-or-none myth that ONLY the A proposition (All S is P) contradicts the E proposition (as argued by the critics) then we will be trouble because we will soon realize that some divine revelations are non-propositional (some S is not P, the O proposition), for example, the historical event of Jesus' resurrection or a believer's experience with the Holy Spirit's guidance.

After all, the E proposition (no S is P) can be rewritten as “All S is not-P” which means this premise is very tightly knitted as BOTH the subject (“ALL of S”, no exception at all!), and the predicate (“ALL are NOT P”, no exception at all!) are distributed.

In other words, as long as we can show that either the subject (S) is not distributed (i.e., some S, not ALL S) OR the predicate (i.e., some are P, not ALL are NOT P) is not distributed, that would be sufficient to contradict the E proposition (no S is P , or rewritten as, All S is not P). After all, there is no degree of contradiction. It is either "contradicts" or "not contradicts".

Which means BOTH I proposition and A proposition can contradict E proposition:

Some S is P (I  proposition) can contradict All S is not P (E proposition)

and

All S is P (A proposition) can contradict All S is not P (E proposition)

because it both cases, the P is no longer distributed (of course in the I proposition, the S is also not distributed).
(** Note: in the A proposition, the S is distributed but in the opposite direction)

But, if we take the A proposition (All S is P) as a rebuttal to the critics' E proposition (All S is not P), then we are not honest to ourselves because we know that there are some S which is not propositional (Some S is NOT P, the 'O proposition').

Therefore, the preferred/honest contradiction to rebut the E proposition, (as rightly pointed out by Nash) is the I proposition, not the A proposition.

In other words, the validity of the O proposition (in the case of divine revelation) invalids the A proposition.

Nonetheless, as our God is a relational God, not only propositional knowledge is necessary (the assignment question of the week), non-propositional knowledge is also necessary. He relates to us, he guides us through the Holy Spirit. But these experiential knowledge, by and large, are non-propositional.


Reference:
Nash, Ronald H. The Word of God and the Mind of Man. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 1992.

Saturday, October 25, 2014

How anti-intellectualism may impact church's evangelistic effort


In 1 Peter 3:15, we are exhorted to “always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have” (1Pe 3:15 NIV). Although apologetics should never be the main focus in evangelism, nonetheless, anti-intellectualism has adversely impacted the church’s evangelistic effort in a number of ways:

Anti-intellectualism results in a compromised evangelism
When the church is unable to an intelligent response to doubts raised by unbelievers, the church may compromise by substituting it with personal testimony sharing as a way to evade intellectual questions. While personal testimonies may be a great addition to gospel sharing (an example of a great testimony would be in John 9:25), it should never be a standalone strategy in evangelism because it is not the gospel message of Jesus Christ. Furthermore, not every Christian would have a great testimony to tell but that does not excuse anyone from playing a role in evangelism.

Mark Dever, in his article What Evangelism Isn't (Christianity Today, Dec 2007) says:
“An account of a changed life is wonderful and inspiring thing, but it's the gospel of Jesus Christ that explains what it's all about and how it happened.”

Anti-intellectualism results in a canned evangelism

Lack of intellectual preparation in evangelism may also lead to the church to resort to a canned strategy, i.e. a “memorized steps” approach to evangelism.  Unfortunately, such approach is impersonal, mechanical and even foolish.

To quote Jonathan Dodson:
“These approaches are foolish because they treat people like projects to be completed, not persons to be loved…Paul says “know how you ought to answer each person.” (1 Pe 3:15). This means that most of your gospel explanations will be different, not canned. It also implies a listening evangelism. How can we know how to respond to each person if we don’t know each person…Rehearsing a memorized fact, “Jesus died on the cross for your sins,” isn’t walking in wisdom. Many people don’t know what we mean when we say “Jesus,” “sin” or “cross.

Anti-intellectualism results in a “can’t” evangelism

The worst-case scenario is a complete paralysis of any evangelistic effort. The fear of sharing and the fear of not knowing what to say may overwhelm a Christian brought in an anti-intellectual church environment. This phobia may be especially strong for a Christian who believes in the misconception that the success of evangelism is dependent on the number of soul conversions, forgetting that while it is our job to bring Christ to the lost, it is only God’s job to the lost to Christ.

To quote Mark Dever again:
“The Christian call to evangelism is a call not simply to persuade people to make decisions but rather to proclaim to them the good news of salvation in Christ, to call them to repentance, and to give God the glory for regeneration and conversion. We don't fail in our evangelism if we faithfully tell the gospel to someone who is not converted; we fail only if we don't faithfully tell the gospel at all. Evangelism itself isn't converting people; it's telling them that they need to be converted and telling them how they can be.”

References:
1.     Dever, Mark. What Evangelism Isn't. Christianity Today, Dec 2007.
2.     Dodson, Jonathan. Two Big Reasons Evangelism Isn't Working. In ChurchLeaders.com Available at URL: http://tinyurl.com/kwqkxae Accessed 26 Oct 2014

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Is Hierarchical Pastoral Leadership Biblical?


J.P. Moreland in one of his lectures on why our cultures has become secular said that he believed the notion of the senior pastor is an unbiblical notion. Moreland said:
“I do not be such thing called senior pastor… [The] single thing that has damaged the church is the idea that we ought to have a person called the minister.”

But how does this concept of hierarchical leadership in the church come about?
After all, there is only one scriptural reference where the word “pastors” is mentioned and it is in Ephesians 4:11 and even then it is stated in its plural form. The Bible makes no mention of hierarchical pastoral structure. Ephesians 4:11 merely mention pastors as a function in the church, just as some are to function as apostles, prophets, evangelists and teachers. It does not describe who these pastors are.

In chapter 5 of their book Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices, Frank Viola and George Barna documented from various sources a number of factors of how the plurality of pastoral leadership evolve into a hierarchical one with the senior pastor. These include:

1. Ignatius of Antioch (35 – 107 A.D.)
Although Ignatius of Antioch may have the good intention of combating false doctrines and preserving church unity through a rigid power structure patterned after the centralized political structure of Rome, but this has inadvertently he was the first one to have set the ball rolling down a slippery slope towards hierarchical pastoral leadership.

Ignatius of Antioch in his series of letter elevated one of the elders above the others. The elevated elder was called the bishop.  Ignatius of Antioch said:
“Plainly therefore, we ought to regard the bishop as the Lord Himself…All of you follow the bishop as Jesus Christ follows the Father….He that honors the bishop is honored of God.

2. Clement of Rome and Tertullian
Clement and Tertullian were among the first writers to have distinguished the clergy from the laity. The word laity is derived from the Greek word laos, which means “the people” and the term clergy is derived from the Greek word klēroō which means “a lot, a share, an inheritance”. But the New Testament never uses the word klēroō for any particular leader or groups of leaders. Rather, it uses the word for the whole people of God (see Eph 1:11, Gal 3:29, Col 1:12, 1 Pet 5:3).

3. Hippolytus
The writings of Hippolytus further gave power to the bishops to even forgive sins! 

4. Cyprian of Carthage
Cyprian of Carthage reintroduced a number of OT concepts such as the need for priests, temples, altars. The bishops began to be called priests. Cyprian also introduced the doctrine of spiritual covering because he believed that the bishops have no other superior other than God. Cyprian also taught the notion that when the priest offered the Eucharist, he was actually offering the sacrifice of Jesus Christ. By the fifth century, the concept of the priesthood of all believers had completely disappeared from the Christian practice.

5. Constantine and the influence of Greco-Roman culture
Under Constantine, Christianity was both recognized and honored by the state. But this has blurred the demarcation between the church and the state. Bishops were given tremendous privileges by Constantine and they began to became involved in politics. Secular-spiritual, laity-clergy and profane-sacred gaps widened.

6. The reformation.
Although the reformation brought about many good things, it failed to address the issue of hierarchical leadership structure. Although the office of the bishop was rejected, but the underlying concept of hierarchical leadership in the church was maintained albeit a different name, i.e. pastors.

In my analysis, I agree and disagree with J.P. Moreland. I would agree with him that hierarchical pastoral structure with the senior pastor at the top is not found in the Bible. The only verse regarding pastors is in Eph 4:11 and that is expressed in its plural form to describe the shepherding function for some in the church. Nowhere did it mention the senior pastor as compared to lower ranked pastors.

I agree that the notion of senior pastors can sometimes create codependency between the senior pastor and his members as long as both of them continue to depend on each other to meet each other's psychological and spiritual fulfillment. For the members in need of counseling, they will look up to their senior pastor for answers. For the senior pastor, the danger occurs when he feeds on the admiration and praise of his members for affirmations and identity. Furthermore, this sort of hierarchical pastoral structure can create a lot of loneliness for the people on top.

However, for J.P Moreland to say that this is the single thing that has damaged the church, I think this is an overgeneralization. A lot of good things can come out from the senior pastor leadership when the senior pastor is one who is humble and sensitive to the leading of God. Paul, although is not officially declared a senior pastor, is often looked up to and probably has played the role of the senior pastor.

Reference:
Viola, Frank, and Barna, George. Pagan Christianity?: Exploring the Roots of Our Church Practices. Carol Stream, IL: Barna, 2008.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Hume's gap and its consequences in the church today

As outlined by Nash in his book The Word of God and The Mind of Man, a common misconception about the philosopher David Hume is that Hume was an atheist outright to disprove the existence of God. In reality, according to Nash, Hume was not an atheist. In fact, Hume actually denied the supremacy of the human reasoning. To a certain extent, I agree with Hume that our human reasoning has definite boundaries.

Unfortunately, Hume went too far to the extent to say that in the metaphysical realm, in religion as well as in ethics, our human reasoning is subservient to our non-rational nature or our “passion”.  Hume believed that man couldn’t possibly have any knowledge about the transcendence.  Nash called this “the Hume’s gap”.

To quote Nash,
“According to Hume, we should ignore the arguments of the rationalists and trust our instincts. He believed that investigation ought to be limited to areas, such as mathematics, where knowledge is possible. Speculative knowledge-claims about certain topics in metaphysics, theology and ethics should be avoided; such matters should be accepted on the basis of faith, not knowledge.”

Hume’s own preference seems to have been for a non-rational faith in a god unsupported by reason, revelation, miracles or evidence of any kind.

Hume’s Gap is the rejection of the possibility of a rational knowledge of God and objective religious truth. Hume was a precursor of those philosophers and theologians who insist that religious faith must be divorced from knowledge and who believe that the impossibility of knowledge about God will in some way enhance faith.”

Unfortunately, I believe, this kind of dichotomy has serious consequences to the church today.

1. The dichotomy between reason and faith results in spiritual laziness in the church

The creeping of Humean philosophy in the church promotes a sense of inertia among Christians to engaging their minds with reasons. After all, if God cannot be known through reason and knowledge, why should we even be bothered to try anyway? This leads to spiritual laziness among many Christians. As a result, many Christians would say that they should just accept these metaphysical assertions “by faith”. Unfortunately, when such Humean philosophy is cemented as a form of dogma, some churches would even say that to doubt and reason is a sign of a lack of faith. Just accept it by faith!

Furthermore, our ideas have consequences. If a Christian believes that he can’t possibly integrate faith and reason, then he is threading down a slippery slope that would lead him to a “god-of-the-gaps” belief.  The “god-of-the-gaps” belief is the tendency to invoke the concept of “God” to plug the holes where science is incapable yet to explain. Unfortunately, the “god-of-the-gaps” is not the God of the Bible because as scientific discoveries increase, increasing number of phenomena can be explained naturalistically, thus, the role of “God” diminishes accordingly. It is a caricature that is spineless that would lead to increasing skepticism.

2. The dichotomy between reason and faith results in spiritual abuse in the church

As a consequence of the spiritual laziness as delineated above, the dichotomy between reason and faith results in a lot of subjectivism in the church. Many christians may delegate the onus of their Christian education to their pastors, church leaders, etc. They put their church leaders on a pedestal and depend on them to tell them what is right, what is wrong, what is God’s will for them, etc.  This can open to all sorts of spiritual manipulation, deception and abuses. This is especially so for Christians who are gullible in seeking for miracles, emotionalisms and signs.  Those who seek for the gifts more than the Giver without a firm foundation of the reasonableness of their faith would risk being deceived and manipulated. This is so unlike the early Berean church in Acts 17:11 where they diligently studied the Word of God to see if what they had been taught by Paul is true.

I strongly believe that the effect of Hume’s philosophy is compounded in the juvenilization of Christianity, as expounded in an article titled “When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity” by Thomas E. Bergler, in the June 2012 issue Christianity Today. In that article, Bergler defines juvenilization as “the process by which the religious beliefs, practices, and developmental characteristics of adolescents become accepted as appropriate for adults”.  The positive side of juvenilization of Christianity was the rejuvenation of church attendance in the 1970s and 1980s when young people began to enjoy attending church services.

According to Bergler,
“[Juvenilization contributed to increased church attendance among young people]…by making the Christian life more emotionally satisfying. Passion was in, duty was out. This kind of individualized, emotional connection to God sustained religious interest in a changing society in which custom, tradition, and social pressure would no longer motivate people to care about faith or attend church.”
Unfortunately, to further quote Bergler,
 “Juvenilization tends to create a self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith. In their landmark National Study of Youth and Religion, Christian Smith and his team of researchers found that the majority of American teenagers, even those who are highly involved in church activities, are inarticulate about religious matters. They seldom used words like faith, salvation, sin, or even Jesus to describe their beliefs. Instead, they return again and again to the language of personal fulfillment to describe why God and Christianity are important to them…Teenagers learn these beliefs from the adults in their lives. It is the American cultural religion. Teenagers are "moralistic" in that they believe that God wants us to be good, and that the main purpose of religion is to help people be good. But since it is possible to be good without being religious, religion is an optional tool that can be chosen by those who find it helpful. American Christianity is "therapeutic" in that we believe that God and religion are valuable because they help us feel better about our problems. Finally, American teenagers show their "deism" in that they believe in a God who remains in the background of their lives—always watching over them, ready to help them, but not at the center of their lives.”

3. The dichotomy between reason and faith results in skepticism and apostasy

The divorce between faith and reason as a consequence of this Humean philosophy results in increased skepticism.  One way many Christians deal with this is to keep their faith compartmentalized and private, away from our public life in schools and workplaces. However, as Timothy Keller pointed out, ultimately it is impossible to keep our faith completely compartmentalized because we derive the convictions of our conducts in the public square from our faith.

That is why, in 2011, in a five-year project headed by Barna Group president David Kinnaman to explore the challenges of faith development among young people from 18 to 29 years old, it is found that 3 out of 5 Christians (60%) leave church, either permanently or for a long period of time after the age of 15 years old. According to this research, one of the six reasons why young people felt disconnected from church is because of the tension they see between Christianity and science. The most common of the perceptions in this arena is that “Christians are too confident they know all the answers” (35%), “churches are out of step with the scientific world we live in” (29%) and “Christianity is anti-science” (25%).

Conclusion

In conclusion, to reiterate what Nash said about Hume, Hume did not directly attack Christianity by denying the existence of God. Rather, Hume said that metaphysical topics such as the existence of God cannot possibly be studied through reason and knowledge. But this proposition is far more damaging like a malignant cancer that grows subtly and slowly. To quote Nash again,
"The threat to Christianity today from the legacy of David Hume is not a full-fledged frontal assault upon Christian theism with all the troops advancing in full light of day. This kind of attack would fail because it would arouse Christians to a rational defense of their faith. David Hume's legacy is more insidious. It undermines the faith not by denying it but by directing our attention away from the importance of its knowledge-claims and its truth-content."

References
  1.     Nash, Ronald H. The Word of God and the Mind of Man. Phillipsburg, NJ: P&R Pub., 1992.
  2.     Bergler, Thomas E. “When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity” Christianity Today. June 2012. 56(6).
  3.     Keller, Timothy J. The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism. New York: Dutton, 2008.
  4.     Six Reasons Young Christians Leave Church. In: The Barna Group website. Available at: https://www.barna.org/teens-next-gen-articles/528-six-reasons-young-christians-leave-church Accessed 17 Oct 2014

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Is the logos more important than the pathos or the ethos?

Although the intellectual component of the Christian faith is important, it is also vital to remind ourselves that the intellectual component does not take precedence over the other aspects of persuasion.

As Aristotle said, there are three means of persuasion - the ethos, the pathos and the logos. Speaking for myself, if I am not careful, I can be easily drawn to the logos (logic, intellectual, etc) to the exclusion of the pathos (the emotional side of persuasion, e.g., for all we know, the person who is resisting the gospel may be having an issue of the heart rather than an issue of the head). Ethos (our integrity, our credibility) too must never be neglected because people are watching our lives as much as our message. It is not just our orthodoxy (the doctrinal basis of our faith) that is important, but our orthopraxy (how we practice our faith) as well.

Ravi Zacharias used to often say:

“...behind every question is a questioner, who brings the context with which they are asking the question. We must answer not only the question, but also the questioner”

I find that I can be quite cold and hard in “winning” an argument to the point of losing the conversation and losing the person. To quote Ravi again, “once you’ve cut off a person’s nose, there’s no point giving them a rose to smell.” How we say it is equally or even more important than what we say. This is my constant struggle, and a constant reminder to me to cool down, and not to say anything than to say anything that I may regret later.

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