Christianity Still Sitting In The Dark Ages, Or The Tale Of The Self-Inflicted Foot Wound

(My biggest fear with this post is not strong disagreement but that it doesn’t even make sense. I plea for grace).

So yesterday’s post really got me riled up, so much so that it has to spill over into today, though I’m taking it in a very different direction. Repeat, I’m not simply rehashing yesterday’s subject matter.

Youth pastors spend a lot of time trying to convince their teenage listeners to take a stand for Jesus and to not be ashamed of their faith. The reason they have to preach these messages is because, well, Christianity isn’t cool to the average teenager and they’re ashamed of their affiliation with the faith.

Of course I’m not saying we need to make Christianity cool or hip, but I understand the shame. Christianity can seem very “old world” – it seems like we’re behind the times. It seems like we’re always the kid trying to chase after his school bus speeding toward the next stop without him.

It feels like we’re the late bloomers who pick up on things very last, just like the folks who put off buying a personal computer until 2004.

I’m being very vague I realize, but I think that Christians marginalize ourselves in this world – be it through rejection/mistrust of science, through black and white thinking or simple cut and dry explanations, through allegiance to cowboy politics (hope I don’t get in trouble for that one), or it’s unwillingness to consider other perspectives or even concede that others outside of themselves raise valid point. And this marginalizing puts us outside of and behind the society we try to transform.

I think our Christianity has difficulty distinguishing what’s just tradition, what’s cultural, and what’s foundational/immovable. I think Christians are afraid of change, fearing they’ll alter something that will destroy their Jenga, therefore crushing their salvation in the destruction.

The truth of our situation is that we live in a highly-intellectual society. Have you watched some of the movies coming out these days? We are a very forward thinking progressive society. Though of course you’ll always have shoot-em-up mindless one-brain-cell-needed action movies – the trend toward brainy psychological thrillers point to a very complex view of human life (ex: Inception or Shutter Island). We’re growing in leaps and bounds in our understanding of our planet, our brains, and the very universe we live in.

I think one noble work of the informal emergent church, dare I ever compliment them, is that they work to try to keep Christianity up with the rest of the world.

I’m not advocating that Christians simple evolve more high tech or progressive/alternative worship services, which is one way Christians have responded to the shift towards post-modernity (and beyond) – I’m simply saying that if Christianity wants to be considered a viable worldview then it needs to keep up with the times.

This is a slightly different style post for me, as its very non-specific. That’s because I’m not offering answers or possible solutions. I think it’s only natural that Christians will always struggle to know how to properly engage with the world in which they live. Partly because the world is constantly changing (and even more rapidly as of late), and partly because our ways of forgiveness and grace and servitude run against the grain and therefore keep us as aliens or strangers.

So, do you agree we seem to lag behind the rest of the world? Where do you see Christians marginalizing themselves? (I’ll start things off in the comments by leaving a specific example). How the heck do we move forward?

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20 Responses to Christianity Still Sitting In The Dark Ages, Or The Tale Of The Self-Inflicted Foot Wound

  1. (gosh I hope that post made any freaking sense)

    I mentioned my example – but I think the Christianity/evolution debate is really setting us back. First of all I think Christians approach such a complex issue, the origin of life, with really simplistic (and therefore inadequate) answers and squash attempts at debate, considering the matter settled. Those who do try to engage in debates with evolutionists get in over their head, not realizing that evolutionists tend to be very smart people. In no way am I claiming to be an evolutionist, but at the same time I think the 6000 year old earth theory makes us look ridiculous. And though it wouldn’t seem to have any relevancy, because our theory is so ridiculous it actually invalidates most other things we have to say, even if they are unrelated.

  2. First Charlie, I must admit to ignorance. There are some things I refuse to pretend I know anything about. Evolution is one of them. I believe in the creation story and that God created all things but I am not well-verses enough to give a “smart” answer. But to your post. I do agree with you that we are “johnny come latelies” to the party. It used to be said that what happened in California happened about 6 months to a year later in the east (probably longer in the bible belt). I tend to think we are that way in chrisitianity. Case in point: Christian music. I very very seldom (did I mention very?) listen to it. It not only all sounds the same but can someone say “copy?” what makes it worse is that I like rock and listening to “now-I-lay-me-down-to-sleep” music is not my cup of tea. There are a few exceptions but the emphasis is on few. Get creative for crying out loud! Why are we late to the party? Why are “we” taking the cue instead of setting the trend? Oh yeah, that would be conforming to or sounding like the world. Wrong! That is what happens after something has been said or done. I realize the need for “relevance” but puuullleeeaaaazzzee get a grip. I may be too simplistic with this question but we must honestly ask, “Is what I am doing/ is what the church community doing bringing glory to God or to ourselves?” sorry. My answer is a bit disjointed. I wrote as I thought and don’t have much time for proofing. thanks for making me think Charlie.

    • I think you actually nailed something in your response/question – the reason we are behind is because Christians spend so much time reacting to the greater culture – which automatically puts them late. Loved your response and to hear that you love to rock out!

  3. David says:

    First of all, Christianity is not a worldview, it is not a religion, it is not a social club – it is a relationship with a living God. The Bible contains truth in every word. It contains many different types of passages from allegory and parable to historical passages. Many scholars have attacked the Bible with their high IQ assaults, but unless they know God, it is futile.

    1 Corinthians 2:13-15 (NIV) 13 This is what we speak, not in words taught us by human wisdom but in words taught by the Spirit, explaining spiritual realities with Spirit-taught words. 14 The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit. 15 The person with the Spirit makes judgments about all things, but such a person is not subject to merely human judgments…

    Even for those that know God, many do not pursue a day-to-day relationship with Him.

    We are back to “the sheep know His voice.” (John 10:4) We are back to “EAGERLY desiring the gifts.” (1 Corinthians 14:1)

    I’ m sorry, but I think the proof in who is right lays somewhere near this:
    “For the kingdom of God is not a matter of talk but of power.” (1 Corinthians 4:20)

    It is not important whether we believe in evolution, or whether Adam and Eve had belly buttons. What meeter is the relationship we have with God to revel these truths to us. If we take everything in the Bible based on our own understanding, or worse, that of others, we are doomed as fools anyway.

    Romans 1:28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worthwhile to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done.

    “I think our Christianity has difficulty distinguishing what’s just tradition, what’s cultural, and what’s foundational/immovable.”

    Right, because they don’t read their Bibles, they don’t know how to hear God’s voice, and the follow the ways of their favorite preacher/church/denomination.

    2 Tim 3: 5 having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.

    A lot of ridiculous behavior would stop if people would read the word, and listen for God.

    I am a little riled up too!

    • I tend to inspire this “rileness” in you David, it appears. Still on the fence whether its good or not!

    • HolyRollerNovocaine says:

      I’ve heard people in my church, and in my small group say “Christianity is not a religion, it is a relationship.” Uh, sorry, but yes it is a religion. As a Christian I have a relationship not with “a” living god, but with THE living God, but Christianity is still a religion. It is every bit a religion. I feel we tell non-believers that Christianity is a relationship not a religion so we can get them to think they don’t have to worry about a bunch or rules and rituals. Once we rope them in we spring the rules and rituals on them.

      • that’s definitely true. I think that Christianity should be much simpler than we make it out to be – and when boiled down to its essence it becomes less a religion. The way I’ve explained it in the past is when Jesus came he stripped down the religion of his day to its raw powerful core, to what it truly is, and Christians have simply built the religion right back up again. I think we were uncomfortable with it, we wanted it tamed, categorized.

  4. There’s a lot to this one, as you know 🙂

    Much of Christianity lags behind intentionally – reference the fundie churches that pride themselves more on being “Old Fashion” (sic) than they do on preaching Jesus Christ. These guys are stuck in 1611 by choice. A very intentional choice. They feel this choice to be absolutely necessary to even be saved, let alone anything beyond that.

    In saying that, I’m not meaning to bash. I know that culture well. Very well, and I’m not over it entirely, either. People that I love dearly are in that culture. Some of them are more “stuck” than others.

    Much of how we approach this stuff is rooted in how we believe that we obtain salvation, quite honestly, and in how seriously we take preaching about hell. It also depends largely on the culture in which we first were introduced to church. It’s VERY hard to get out of a particular church culture without being accused of turning from your faith.

    My point? Yeah, we’re stuck, but it’s not just as simple as saying “we’re going to get unstuck, now.”

    • Excellent analysis Bernard from one who has been there and fighting to get out. You certainly bring a different light to this subject. My time in legalism (doctrinal) was shallow compared to what I have seen some have to go through to get out of a lifetime of legalism. I pray you continue your search.

    • David says:

      I think it is easy to get out of religion – if you want to.

      What happens is folks don’t want to think for themselves, read the Bible for themselves, or engage an unseen God. They would rather sign a sinner’s repentance card hoping that their “fire insurance” is now eternally paid and go on doing what they did before. They’d be freaked out if God did speak to them directly – amazing they don’t have problems reading “harmless” horoscopes in the newspaper or online. And worse, they go to psychics and spiritualists to find out the very things that God wants to dialog with them about.

      People got unstuck after 9/11. People sometimes get unstuck after years or addiction, failed marriages, incurable illness and bankruptcy. It’s too bad that is what it takes so many times.

    • I’m totally with you Bernard in that I’m still trying to get over the religion of my childhood. I wasn’t raised in an overt fundamentalism, more of a wannabe. So therefore I’m lucky, yet still damaged.

      I also agree that the way out is not so easy. Hence the post asking for everyone’s response – cause I certainly don’t know!

  5. Gotta agree with you Bernard. Religion, like David is talking about, is different than the type of fundie legalism you and others have been born and raised in. Julie, over at knows exactly what it is like and how hard it is to get out. I know you may not want to hear this Bernard but I highly respect people like you and Julie and others who were raised one way, realized something is amiss, and then work to get out of it. You ask questions. You study your bible for insight into God’s way. You talk to others. You refuse the status quo. May your tribe increase!

  6. Larry Hughes says:

    OK. Here comes thinking out side of the box . I will probably get blasted for these thoughts.

    One can really get bogged down in discussing evolution and creationism but in a sense they probably are closer related in the world’s beginning than we think. 6,000 years ago something happened in the Garden of Eden ( Adam and Eve). Were there also others ( humans) out side of the garden? It is a good possibility but the bible does not get into that. I am just saying there is evidence of humans through out the world dating before Adam and Eve. As it is said Adam, Eve, and the Garden was God’s creation for His chosen people. Sadly Adam and Eve spoiled that. By scientific manipulation? I don’t know, but you have to think God has super natural powers beyond our comprehension in this so called modern day and time. What is modern today will be ancient tomorrow.

    I have always had a deep interest in science in general and continue to study and learn about it. Science is the key to our advancement in who we are as humans. It is also said that the heavens will open up and there will be an explosion of knowledge in the coming times. Well I think it has arrived. Not only is God a perfect God filled with love and compassion but a highly scientificially advanced God beyond our ability to comprehend . He is capable of taking the bones of the dead in a desert, putting flesh on those bones, and breath life back into them.

    Does the Christian faith have to keep up? Yes it does and I am sure the Lord will reveal to us many things and wonders that are miracles based on scientific manipulation in the coming times. Just my theory.

    The church has also got to keep up too if they are to win others over to Christ. Old time religion is great but it does have to be flexible to the changing times with out loosing it’s main purpose in serving God and spreading His words.

    • one of my favorite Einstein quotes (which makes me sound like I’ve read Einstein when in reality I found this in a newspaper years back) says that we only know 1/10000000th of what nature has revealed to us. I like to imagine that someday God will hold a seminar called “Here’s what you guys totally missed.”

      I like your hope, that God will continue to reveal to us and push us along.

  7. Chris says:

    Hey Charlie,

    you said: I’m not advocating that Christians simple evolve more high tech or progressive/alternative worship services, which is one way Christians have responded to the shift towards post-modernity (and beyond) – I’m simply saying that if Christianity wants to be considered a viable worldview then it needs to keep up with the times.”

    What exactly does it mean to “keep up with the times?” Because the culture moves a certain way or adopts a particular view is it incumbent upon followers of Christ to move that way or adopt those views? I really don’t see support for that anywhere in scripture. That we are to be followers of the culture in some way. In fact, all of the low-brow imitation art that you’ve been discussing is some of the worst examples of following the culture. But there is another kind of culture following that can be even more detrimental.
    What I do see however is that we are to be translators of the message TO the culture. The apostle Paul brilliantly modeled what this looks like, when he became “all things to all people.” We don’t do a very good job of translation today. We (the church) are in the culture, but we don’t even know it and we don’t even speak the language. Something that is often forgotten though is that there is an offense that is inherent to the message. We don’t want to add offense by acting goofy, cranky, stupid, or obnoxious, but we dare not remove the offense inherent within the message.
    I think in terms of responding to a so-called progressive or postmodern (they aren’t the same thing) culture, Christians have to be first and foremost lovers of the truth. There is a great deal of ink in scripture (and a lot of it is red) devoted to the idea of truth. Truth, it seems mattered a great deal to Jesus, and so it matters to me. The idea of truth, knowing it objectively, and epistemology are huge topics. Suffice it to say that I do not hold to the postmodern view of truth and have consciously taken a different view. Which brings me to the Emerging Church, which you’ve mentioned a few times.
    First, I am not a hater of the Emerging Church movement. I think the EC has in many ways identified some seriously wrong-headed and crazy things the church has done and/or become in it’s present form. For that reason alone, Charlie, I can see your fondness for it. So let me repeat, I do not summarily reject all things emergent and I actually am thankful in some ways that they have come along and really enjoy interacting with my EC friends.

    One of the mistakes, I feel, that the EC has made is it’s wholesale infatuation of postmodernity. They do a pretty good job of diagnosing the culture, specifically the church culture, but in terms of cure, not so much. As I see it, it’s a kind of a cure-that-kills-the-patient problem. A big problem I also see is that, although the EC has done a very good and rigorous critique of modernism (I would almost call it a prophetic critique), it has not (as far as I can tell) applied an equally good and rigorous critique to post-modernism, and as a Christian I feel I’m obliged to say, a pox on both your houses. The church should not be swallowed up by, or entangled too closely with either modernity or postmodernity. The church after the Enlightenment became too closely attached to modernity and a lot of things went awry. The EC should have learned the same about postmodernity.

    You asked: “How do we move forward?” I’m not really sure. Yes, love will certainly take us a long way. But if truth is omitted, then it’s just a system of ethics that we’ll be in love with. Yes, a supernatural gifting is paramount. But if truth isn’t present we may not know its source. And at the risk of sounding too cryptic, I do believe there are spiritual battles taking place.

    • I definitely agree that love will take us a long way. And if I did have any sort of cure, it would be a stripping down of churches, a cutting back all the fluff and getting back to love. It’s not the fastest “growth strategy” because it spreads from person to person rather than through one guy preaching to thousands of people, but it actually penetrates the strong defenses of the heart.

      Though I may have a fondness for the emerging church, in no way do I think they’ve got it figured out. I think they’ve also tried to communicate they aren’t heavy on solutions, partially because they don’t know and partially because they’re leery of being arrogant like the fundamentalists they critique.

      I think Christians, as I said in the post, will always struggle to figure out the proper balance of their place in the culture. We certainly know that leaving altogether isn’t the answer, however the converse of following the culture closely isn’t it either (especially because Christians in the past have done such a wretched job of following the culture).

  8. jay @ bethegospel says:

    Christians are afraid of change? What? I disagree. To show how much I am willing to change I am going to shock everyone and do nothing at all – leave everything the way that it is now!

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