“That is why the church, the whole body of Christians showing Him to one another, is so important. It is so easy to think that the church has a lot of different objects – education, buildings, missions, holding services…the Church exists for no other purpose but to draw men to Christ. to make them little Christs. If they are not doing that, all the cathedrals, clergy, missions, sermons, even the Bible itself, are simply a waste of time. God became man for no other purpose. It is even doubtful, you know, whether the whole universe was created for any other purpose”. C.S. Lewis
For a year and a half I, along with a gentleman from my Sunday School class, met regularly with a man who is highly placed within the Mormon hierarchy. This man taught me much about how one may suspend logic and scientific truth if one is convinced that another greater thing has to be true. Let me explain.
I don’t believe in cookie cutter evangelism. In my conversations with a Mormon, for example, it is helpful to read books about what Mormons believe and to listen to what that person has to say about his beliefs. So, I read the Book of Mormon, cold, and thoroughly underlined and marked it up with my thoughts. I read the presented literature and then explored the Mormon websites to understand what they say about their beliefs. I spent hours listening to this man and his accompanying fresh- faced young missionaries. (I suspect the local Mormon church used me as a training ground for these guys). I even went to two of their stake services and got up and introduced myself as an “explorer.” They were stunned! The local leader even asked to see my marked up Book of Mormon.
Some foolish Christians warned me that I could have my faith destroyed by taking such a path. Deb would tell those people that it was the Mormons who had something to fear by my presence, and she believes that even more strongly today. I sincerely believe that Jesus calls us to go into these situations. “Upon this rock I will build my church and the very gates of hell will not prevail against it.” It seems to me that Jesus is calling us to pound on the very gates of hell. Besides which, the Mormons I encountered were actually quite nice and politely answered all of my questions.
I spent a lot of time asking questions. In fairly short order, they began to understand that my intention was to listen to them, and they were pleased. My Mormon friend explained that what most Christians want to do is lecture him. Finally, I got my chance and began to challenge my friend.
I read on the Brigham Young University website that Brigham Young, a prophet who was revered as somewhat infallible like the Pope, had made the following statement: “There are people living on the moon, dressed like Amish people and farming.” I said to my friend, “You studied engineering at the Naval Academy and now run a manufacturing company. You are an intelligent man. How do you explain this?” He was shocked that I found this claim on a Mormon site and not a Christian “hit” site as he called them. He asked what the website said about this. I told him that the answer on the site was: “We have not seen all of the moon yet.” My friend shook his head and couldn’t answer except to say that somehow this was a mistake. He held the printout I gave him from the Mormon website and appeared deeply concerned. (As a side note, I had not seen this interesting fact in any “how to” Christian books). Yet my friend would not renounce his faith in the prophets of the church.
Later it hit me. This has nothing to do with reality. It has to do with something far deeper. It strikes at our very meaning of existence. Belief in God gets mixed up in our psyche. Our closely held beliefs must be true because if they aren’t somehow we may cease to believe. And if that happens, we cannot bear it. So theology has the power to overcome even what we know to be false. I believe that this is why some Christians fear science and other forms of disciplines because deep down inside they fear it will prove their Christian faith invalid. Some Christians blow off scientists as arrogant and condescending because it’s far easier to do that than deal with their questions. And smart people accept dogmatic theological propositions because, well, isn’t that what good Christians are supposed to believe? They accept this at face value from their pastors and friends because, unlike science, theology is a bit harder to “prove.” If it was so easy, why do evangelicals disagree on so many points? Hmmm? (I know, you are the one who has the correct answers to it all because you read the works of the “right” Christian leaders like C.J. Mahaney).
This is a former church that I attended. Although they believed in evangelism, it was only a certain type of person that was worthy of being evangelized. And this meant one HAD to believe in a literal 6,000 year old earth along with the requisite literal 24-hour day. Surprisingly, their statement of beliefs did not include this anywhere. So, when a group of us wanted to put on a debate between the young earth (YE) and old earth (OE) perspectives, things got really rough! We went to the lead pastor and asked him about this matter. Well, sure enough, the church only taught young earth creationism and made the youth go through a course for one month every year to teach the “truth” of young earth creationism. When I asked why this YE position was not included in the congregation’s statement of beliefs, I was told that they didn’t want to “prevent” somehow who believed differently from coming to the church.
Well guess what? If you or your child (they had the course for adults as well) questioned the “science” that was being taught, you were summarily thrown out of the class! Don’t believe me? I am friends with both the man and the now college-aged student to whom this happened, and one of them sometimes comments on this blog. I believe that hidden doctrinal beliefs are deceptive and unworthy of the One who is the Truth. If by chance you think I am exaggerating that they embraced YE creationism as an essential belief, think about the following.
When I mentioned that there are “A” issues and “B” issues in the faith, said pastor,who just so happens to be a buddy of C.J. Mahaney, rejoindered, “Are you implying that creation is not an “A” issue?” This answer is deceptive, and he knows it! Of course all Christians accept the belief that God created, ex nihilo, the heavens and the earth. How long it took is a “B” issue. But this was his “arrogant” (hey, he called me arrogant first) way of dismissing a sincerely meant comment. But you SGMers out there know how this works. I had no idea that this Baptist pastor was also into that weirdness. Gosh darn it, why wasn’t the church straightforward about their YE position? My husband and I would have never joined said church. In hindsight, the pastors likely wish we had never joined either!
Said lead pastor denied anyone had been thrown out of class over their position on creationism, although he had received numerous complaints. You remember the axiom – “Deny the problem and it doesn’t exist.” Sovereign Grace Ministries does this very well! When I raised the question of churches in history denying scientific evidence like the fact the earth revolved around the sun which went against church doctrine and landed Galileo in jail, said pastor called me “arrogant and condescending” and accused me of having “hostile body language”. How well he learned from his “good friend” C.J. Mahaney! What a piece of hooey.
During my time there, I never once saw professors who were not Christians present. The very few were Christian who toed the line theologically with this creation “non requirement.” Well who needed them anyway? They may have tacked Baptist but they were reformed and didn’t need to worry about the salvation of these folks. After all, they just weren’t part of the “elect”, were they?
I will never forget the ugly faces of some young earthers who invaded the class during the debate. They were insulting and rude to people in the class who believed differently and are the reason that some people don’t darken the door of churches. And, to be truthful, I am glad that nonbelievers weren’t present in this class.They would have run for the hills.What is so sad is that the leaders of the church encourage this behavior by their lack of concern.
Oh, and one leader type, affiliated with this church, went to debate one of those atheist professor types at one of the major colleges nearby. He was so confident with his pat little talking points. It was a disaster! The professor wiped the floor with this man. It was a match of the arrogant versus the arrogant. Unfortunately, several Christian present said they were embarrassed by the performance of this overly confident “Christian” man. However, since his church didn’t attract such individuals, this man had never gone up against an intelligent man with well thought out atheistic beliefs.
But something far deeper was going on here. The faith of these folks was irrevocably tied up in the belief of a young earth. And sadly, it must be because they have tied their entire construct of Christianity to this nonessential fact. They are willing to break fellowship with the majority of Christians who believe otherwise.
Even more importantly, they are willing to make this a requirement so that many will never darken the door of their church. This former church was a Calvinista stronghold. So, we got out of Dodge and joined a church that we had known for many years.
This church, nondenominationally affiliated, sits right between two of the three major universities in the area. The majority (if not all) of the pastors believe in an old earth. Oh, and before any reader gets a snit up his nose, they are conservative in the great truths of Christianity. They just think the earth is old and that the Bible clearly allows for this. I am currently attending a class on faith and science. It is a full class and has to meet twice a week because it attracts well over 100 people. But, what a group of people! I have been told that there are a lot of professors who attend and some of them are nonbelievers. Yet, they feel comfortable and welcome.
Last week I filled in and did a talk entitled “Are You A Heretic or Just Plain Stupid?” I called it an Oprah look at the conflicts of creationism in Christendom. Let me tell you about the responses I got. A well known scientist who researches oncology and runs a huge lab told me that he liked my talk and wanted to share a book with me about a scientist who could not become a Christian because he was told he had to believe in young earth creationism. When he found out that well over 95 percent of all Christian scientists were either old earth creationists or theistic evolutionists, he came to Christ.
Another man introduced himself and said that he was so tired of hearing Christians call scientists “arrogant”. He told us of a group of scientists in the university who gather monthly to give a talk and then discuss how they mesh faith with science. They always invite the students.
But, for me the most moving incident occurred when I told the class that when I became a Christian during an episode of Star Trek at seventeen years of age (true story), I read the Genesis account and did not once think that God was talking about a literal twenty-four hour day. A man raised his hand and asked, very sincerely, if I could remember what I thought as I read it. You see, this man is a retired science professor who is not a Christian. I had to struggle not to show my tears. You see, I would have never had this opportunity in my former church because such a man would have not been welcomed if such a discussion was going on. If he disagreed with the science, he would have “thrown out.”
I told him what I thought because I remember my thoughts very well. I realized that this was the God who created the universe – the nebulas, galaxies, novas, stars, and things I couldn’t begin to understand. I shared with him that this Creator was telling me a simplified story so that this young girl could understand just a bit of what happened. However, God revealed enough truth to me so I would realize I had a sin problem. But, even in that story, He alluded to a plan to take care of that issue as well. I then shared how I wasn’t even sure that in heaven I would fully understand how God did it because, even then, I am still God’s creation and He is the Creator.
I watched this man’s face and realized, as he nodded along, that he was interested in my response. I don’t know what impact it had on him, but I am honored that he asked me. And I am honored to be part of a church that really gets it. I go to a real church that actually attracts unbelievers and isn’t doing it with silly sermons on silly topics. It is a deep, theologically faithful church, which truly lives out the axiom: In essentials, unity; in nonessentials, liberty; and in all things, charity.
Church #1 TALKED THE TALK; Church #2 WALKS THE WALK
*************************10 days and counting**********************************
In celebration of our well-received Wonderland series, The Wartburg Watch is eagerly awaiting the fifth of March, which is the opening day of the uniquely produced “Alice in Wonderland”. We have just heard that it is available in 3D, which should give depth of perspective to Lewis Carroll’s intent. We will try to move over our archives before that time so those of you who are new to The Wartburg Watch can read our fractured take on this delightful story.