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Showing posts from May, 2015

That Study You Just Read Might Be False (Against the Sufficiency of Data)

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Both studies and people can lie, but only one of them can admit it.
No demographic has been the subject of recent studies and surveys more than Millennials (those born approx. 1980-2000). Ironically, there's also no demographic that hates those studies and surveys more than Millennials. And not just the ones about them--my generation is resistant to this kind of evidence, in general.
For example, the recent Pew study on America's changing religious landscape indicated that Millennials are increasingly driving the growth of "nones" or the religiously unaffiliated. That data is one thing, but the plethora of interpretations is quite another.
As I said in my last post, I take issue with the assumption that nones are the faithless products of nominal Christians. This is the narrative currently permeating evangelical circles and it's saturated with even more studies and statistics. So modern-thinking, older folks are convinced that arguing with this interpretation wou…

The Church Created the Nones

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Those who claim no religious affiliation are not who you think they are.

Last week, Pew Research Center released a study showing that Christians in America fell almost 8% over the past decade. Conversely, the religiously unaffiliated or "nones" grew nearly 7%. The response to this has been mixed. Some are still in denial while others are leveraging the data for their political campaigns or just saying dumb things in general.
Remarkably, the evangelical response has been more positive. Russell Moore of the Southern Baptist Convention has noted that, "Christianity isn't normal anymore, and that's good news," because, "secularization in America means that we have fewer incognito atheists." Likewise, Ed Stetzer of LifeWay Research has said, "Christianity is not dying; nominal Christianity is." While I share their optimism of a brighter future, I think these analyses are fundamentally flawed.
Both Moore and Stetzer believe that the key to the…

Believing in God is not Faith

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Does Christianity have to be true for you to believe it?
For most Christians, the answer is obviously yes. If Jesus wasn't the son of God, if he wasn't sent to us by God, and if he wasn't sacrificed for our sins by God, then there is no reason to believe. Even Paul said that without Christ's resurrection, our faith is useless.
But there are some who would say that it all depends on how you define truth. Since most people would define it as that which corresponds with reality or facts, the initial question really means does Christianity have to be historically evidenced for you to believe it?
Most will still say yes, but some will say no. For them, truth might be defined by whatever works. Meaning that belief in God only needs to bring them closer to him for it to be true. Or truth might be whatever is coherent with their set of beliefs. In these cases, Christianity isn't any less true, it just doesn't need to be factual.
If that sounds completely incongruous wi…

Every Christian Likes Style

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Whether high church, low church, house church, or mega church, we all attend churches in part because of how they look.

Rachel Held Evans recently published an article in The Washington Post entitled, "Want millennials back in the pews? Stop trying to make church 'cool.'" This has been her soapbox lately and the subject of her latest book because, like many younger folks including me, it's her story. So I can relate to pain, confusion, and desire to understand the reasons we left and the reasons we came back. Unfortunately, I think her conclusions are reductionist and dismissive of history.

The problem, like most discussions, begins with terminology. Rachel's thesis is that churches are unsuccessfully trying to win back disillusioned young people by being cool. And by cool, she means an emphasis on style or image. Further descriptors of style include slick, sleek, and shallow. Clearly, she doesn't like light shows, fog machines, and other flashy parapherna…

Don't Pray for Our Nation

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Prayers are meant to be made for people, not policies.
I've often wondered what other people do during public prayer. For me, it feels like those times as a kid when you had to wait for your parents to finish their conversation with another grown-up. It's not appropriate to join in but you can't run off to do something else either. Sometimes I'll peek around to see how pious everyone else is. Or take a quick nap.
Obviously, I have no delusions that I understand corporate prayer (or individual prayer for that matter). But based on what I've heard from others, I'm not sure anyone else does either.
The National Day of Prayer is probably the most dramatic example of such ignorance. It's a day, formally recognized by Congress, that's dedicated to prayer for the nation. Many churches will hold special prayer services and many Christians will actually show up to offer their prayers for all of the country's ills. Some will pray against abortion, others whit…