(I was going to title this, The Church, Theology and the ETS President’s conversion to RCC, but it grew)
Over the last several months (more intensely this past month) I have been doing some reading and study (not nearly enough of either) and have become more concerned over not only the biblical illiteracy that I see but theological illiteracy. And then Sunday night I read that Dr. Francis J. Beckwith, the current president of ETS had just converted (or in his case converted back) to the Roman Catholic Church (you can read it in his own words and the ETS response)
So, rather than simply being concerned, I decided to try to start cataloging some of the areas I am concerned with:
1. the average attendee knowledge about God–some are functional Open Theists, others so rigid in their focus on sovereignty that they question even a challenge to pray
We often challenge people to live for the glory of God, but do they really know who He is?
2. the challenge we face on the authenticity and authority of the Bible–in the face of modern yet recycled attacks from the Da Vinci Code, Misquoting Jesus, the Jesus tomb, et. al.
How will we enable individuals and particularly our youth to develop a trust in the Word of God and the ability to withstand the “attacks” they will face?
3. issues related to the atonement and evangelicals moving away from substitutionary atonement
Several recent articles and books (some from a philosophical perspective, others from a more theological perspective) are denying penal substitution. How do we communicate the central accomplishments of the cross?
4. science and the Bible–it seems in some areas of science we are undiscerning (reproductive technologies for examples) and accept what doctors and scientist state, but in other areas (creation issues for examples) we don’t even want to engage in discussion
How do we engage wisely in the discussion between science and faith? Should creation issues be elevated to core doctrines (some are using this as a litmus test for orthodoxy, even salvation and spirituality)? How can we help people understand the issues, think biblically and know what is absolute or fundamental and what is not? How do we equip our children with truth not to win arguments but to share the gospel? How do we as a church engage in difficult issues without attacking people?
5. a lack of a reasoned biblical world view, the ability to think biblically, to understand when I am thinking culturally, traditionally and perhaps not biblically–and with that, the willingness to be biblical even when it goes against tradition or even political lines
This is tied to number 4, how do we balance teaching truth and teaching people how to think? How do we equip people, particularly young people, to withstand the attacks of the “new atheists” and developed sound world views that will enable them to deal with constant change?
6. a tie to tradition and individualism that keeps us from valuing relationship (not to say anything about the need for a culture of change or the challenge to keep 20 and 30 something’s)
How do we move people from a deep-seated American individualism to a biblical focus on community, the body? Does our programming conflict with what we communicate is a value?
7. our ability to interact, engage and challenge a postmodern world and emerging/emergent church (where traditional apologetics don’t apply)
Are we willing to ask the difficult questions? Can we engage a culture in which 72% don’t believe in absolute truth and where 94% of college students believe there are no moral absolutes? A world in which our belief in a singular means of salvation labels us intolerant and hateful rather than loving? We must be willing to evaluate our preunderstanding, understand where traditional apologetics and “church as normal” may not be appropriate. Be willing to refine our ability to speak to the emerging culture, but also not so align ourselves with culture that we make the same mistakes the emergent church says the modernist church has.
8. And that’s without saying anything about the ability to dichotomize or compartmentalize our lives to the degree that some have knowledge without change or how character development at the heart level is easily replaced by a focus on external, behavior modification or behavior containment.
How do we challenge those who teach to not simply dispense information, but actively engage people in thinking, processing truths of Scripture in a way that heart issues are addressed and applications are lived out? How do we speak truthfully about social evils without becoming legalistic? How do we challenge people to self-examination–so that we are aware when we become desensitized to sin, comfortable with exposure to something that is not beneficial or that doesn’t build us up (
I realize we can never force people to change, but we can change our methodology so as to hopefully challenge people’s thinking and therefore to real change. (This is convicting)
To this list, I would probably also add the redemptive-movement / complementarian hermeneutic (though not extensive yet), the passionate attack by egalitarians on those of us who “still believe” in biblical roles for men and women, and the politicalization (if that is a word) of the church.
I’m sure there are a number of other issues that you would add, and I would value your input and additions to this list. But not only your additions, but suggestions and help in addressing these issues. I have so much to learn and in many of these areas feel woefully inadequate.
We have work to do.
So to keep the conversation going (to borrow a common phrase)
What do you think the top 3 issues are?
Where would you start?
How would you start?