Ligon Duncan on the Non-Negotiables of the Gospel

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  • Thursday, October 30, 2008

    Christian Response to Terry Anderson's Guardian Article "A slow but certain demise"

    Terry Anderson argues that "religion will die". Here's a Christian response to his basic arguments:

    1. There are signs that in the western world (including the US) religion is, indeed, beginning a long, slow – although accelerating – decline.

    Tim Keller's position (The Reason for God) that "the world is polarizing over religion" is better supported. As Kellar states: While the non-churchgoing population in the U.S. and Europe is steadily increasing, the number of americans answering 'no religious preferrence' to poll questions has skyrocketed (having doubled or even tripled in the last decade, and though there was a shift from a formally Christian foundation in U.S. universities to an overtly secular one; at the same time, certain churches with supposedly obsolete beliefs in the infallible Bible and miracles are growing in the U.S. and exploding in Africa, Latin America, and Asia. Even in much of Europe, there is some growth in church attendance. And despite the secularism of most universiteis & colleges,... it is estimated that 10-25 percent of all the teachers & professors of phillosophy in the country are orthodox Chrfistians, up from less than 1 percent just thirty years ago."

    The point is that not only are there signs even in the West of Christianity's staying power, but if one considers the world at large, religion (true religion) is not only not declining, but advancing even as Christ himself proclaimed it would!

    Anderson's thinking is wishful and deluded.

    2. In order to survive, a religion's mythology must be imbued into the next generation at an early age, before critical faculties that might prompt resistance develop.

    Response: First, Anderson fails to substantiate that all religions are myth. Second, he suggests that religion will be more easily resisted by those with "critical faculties", yet as Sire points out there are those at every level of society and in every academic discipline (in science, humanities, technology, business) who take their theism with complete intellectual seriousness and honesty. Anderson's statement is not only arrogant but fails to explain how reason handles all the problems that naturalism fails to answer or provide for.

    3. Evangelists know that it takes only three or four generations of unchurched people for the mythology to fall from consciousness, to disappear from the culture. People find that actually they can manage perfectly well without it.

    Response: I don't disagree that the influence and effects of Christianity (as with all worldviews) tend to pass and weaken without propagation and moreso internalization. However, given the nature and needs of man along with the incredible testimony of the gospel which has spread regardless of attempts to kill it(by the power and providence of the Holy Spirit!), while it should not surprise us to see the gospel disappear in some (geographic) places where it has previously thrived, at the same time history has powerfully shown the gospel itself is not disappearing but forcefully advancing even to the ends of the earth.

    Additionally, in regard to Anderson's statement that "people find they can manage perfectly well without it" he fails to define the word "well". Does he mean they can get by though they have no basis for (consistent) ethics? Does he mean they can consistently live out their naturalistic beliefs without ending in nihilism? Does he mean they can possess meaning and significance that's meaningful? Does he mean that their worldview provides assurance (and satisfaction) when it comes to death? Does their worldview account for the possibility of genuine knowledge the facticity of the external universe, or the existence of ethical distinctions, etc.?

    4. In the developing world we are told that religion is strong and, apparently, unassailable.... do they really believe what they purport to believe? Or is the religious meme so strong in poor countries that it is inescapable? Does religion control so much of the culture that it is simply not possible to function as anything other than a religious adherent, whether sincere or not?

    Response: There's no doubt some not only fail to fully examine their own worldviews and to investigate others because of relationships and external pressure placed on them by their culture. There's also do doubt that many fail to deal with known tensions or inconsistencies between the worldview they have embraced and the evidence around them. However, examination in these areas if done, while it may lead some to atheism, would also (as history has shown) lead many others to Christianity, which unlike atheism is able to stand the test of an adequate worldview (see Sire: The Universe Next Door ... An adequate worldview should possess inner intellectual coherence; be able to comprehend the data of reality, explain what it seeks to explain; and be subjectively satisfactory (i.e., satisfy by being true - either consistent with or providing a framework for what one experiences!))

    5. The spiritual-but-not-religious brigade represents a creeping disease that can eventually kill religion.

    Response: While it's true that the form of godliness without possessing the power of godliness is detrimental both to the individual along with their influences and actions; it does not stop true religion, nor it's adherents and witnesses.

    Professors of false religions have been around for quite some time but have not stamped out religion yet. Anderson's position of this is not historically verified!

    6. Religions do eventually die.

    Response: While this may be true of some religions, Christianity has stood the test of time, and is advancing at the present time with promise of greater advances. The question is not whether religions die and whether he will be there to see it, but whether there is religion that is true (i.e., whether Christ is and is alive!) and whether his present denial of him will stand the test of time!

    1 comment:

    skeptimal said...

    Having not read the entire article, I can't say I agree completely with Schaeffer, but in the sense that many scientists are Christians, I think it's time that religious people recognize that.

    An interesting point: "Those scientists who speak definitively about how the universe began, though, are going beyond science."

    This is a point that I have tried to make numerous times on this site. The statement above is correct, and the statement would be just as true if it went this way:

    "Those Christians who speak definitively about how the universe began, though, are going beyond science."

    This is why creationism is not science. It is inevitably faith-based. Evolution, on the other hand, is evidence-based and deals only with how species evolved and when. How evolution got started, the "spark of life" question, is still unprovable one way or the other.

    Yes, evidence of evolution disproves the 6,000-year earth creationism myth, but it does not disprove the existence of gods. To some, that isn't an important distinction. I think it is.