Saturday, April 25, 2015

Christianity in the Public Square: The Apologetics & Philosophy Renaissance

Christianity in the public square?  For the public good?  The people of the United State are divided in many ways, but in this area the consensus seems to be: Sure you can practice your religion, as long as you do it behind closed doors on Sunday.  Of course a religion that only functions an hour a week on Sunday and is silent the rest of the week is useless, pointless, and might as well be discarded.  Freedom of religion must, and indeed does, by definition, mean freedom to practice that faith at all times, in the public square, at work, at home, and everywhere in between.  We the people of the United States do not have freedom of speech to talk about the weather, we have freedom of speech so we may freely proclaim controversial views.  

We seem to be at a watershed moment in our history as a nation.  All of the shared values of the past are being called into question.  Many things that were once considered sacred are no longer considered such, like marriage and sexual intimacy.  What might be considered "traditional moral views"are often disregarded by a growing movement that insists on "our way or the highway" with an added hashtag "#tolerance."  Tolerance indeed.  Perhaps better stated "tolerance if you agree, but intolerance if you disagree with our opinion."  Or "endorse or we will punish you."  

Issues unrelated to civil rights have been portrayed as civil rights movements.  If I were to say, "I'm an alcoholic, stop oppressing me, and just let me drink.  Oh and by the way, you need to endorse that position or my buddies are going to get you fired from your job" you would think I was crazy.  Yet issues of mental health and unhealthy behavior are being portrayed just like that, despite the scientific, medical, and sociological evidence to the contrary.  

The very crux of the situation is this: We have been sold on the lie that the United States, in the public square and in the realm of government must be divorced entirely from Judeo-Christian values for the sake of fairness.  The idea of cutting off the United States from Judeo-Christian influence is painted as the only way to allow for a freedom of thought.  But one might as well core an apple and see how long the peel stands without it.  The United States was founded on freedom of religion, not freedom from religion.  The founders of our great nation knew full well, that the Constitution governing the people of the country was only an effective document if implemented for the governance of a religious people.

The view was simple, the founders knew they did not want a theocracy (a government ruled by religious authorities).  But they also knew that the USA could only function if the people were moral, and spiritual.  So they used the term "God" often, on the print currency, on government buildings, in various legal documents, in the pledge of allegiance, and in the declaration of independence.  The idea was that faith was reasonable, logical, and indeed many hold to religious convictions.  That needed to be encouraged.  They would leave the specific "God" open, so that people would have the freedom of religion (not from, but of) to fill that in with whatever God they worshiped.  And if the individual did not worship any God, well, then they would not be compelled to.  But they may have to be occasionally "offended" by the word "God" on money, government buildings, and other areas of society.  And that was acceptable.  Sometimes, well, people can just be offended.

Is it any surprise then, as the people of the USA have discarded moral behavior and spiritual thought, the United States has had to become increasingly authoritarian with endless pages of laws and statutes to prevent every manner of behavior destructive to society.  Or as the philosopher G.K. Chesterton said, "If man will not be ruled by the ten commandments they will be ruled by the ten thousand commandments."  It seems he was right.  A deeply moral and religious nation doesn't need authoritarian governance, and for a depraved population, even an authoritarian government won't be enough to keep it standing.  

It seems the voices that want to endorse any and all behavior the culture of the moment deems "good" fails to learn from history.  The ancient Roman empire was in just the state we are in now when it fell to internal corruption and external powers noticing her weakness.  For anyone who has studied in depth the fall of ancient Rome, the similarities are absolutely striking.  Click here to read an article I wrote on just that topic.  

Faith is at the very core of our being as a nation.  In fact people all across the planet are deeply influenced by religious thought.  It is at the core of the human nature, the desire to know a transcendent power.  This is the case for not just the United States people, but of all thinking humans on Earth.  In fact, 84% of the population of the planet hold to a religious view (32% of them being those confessing to follow Jesus Christ)(Statistics from a 2012 survey).

Unfortunately the process of secularization continues in the United States. Yet this was not ever what was intended for our nation.  In fact over our nation's we've always had the Bible taught in public schools.  The Ten Commandments and other spiritual statements were placed on buildings and in the official documents of the nation, such as the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution.  This was not just from the founding of the nation, but also throughout the history of the nation, up until the 1940s and 1950s. 

 It was then that the US Supreme court began handing down some very troubling decisions regarding the future of our nation.  Those decisions have indeed been truly terrible in their scope.  Since Roe v. Wade over 56 million children have been exterminated at abortion clinics.  Not to mention today those abortion clinics are state funded.  Since the shifts in scientific thought surrounding the scopes trial, the Bible was banned from public schools by the Supreme court in 1963.  Prayer was banned from public schools in 1962 (Engel v. Vitale).  Since then the teen suicide rate has tripled.  

Unfortunately in our country something is taking place called secularization.  Secularization is the process by which religious institutions have lost their social significance.  Secularization could also be defined as the process by which Christian thought is evicted from the public square and government body.  

Many have celebrated this as a good thing.  They say "why should one religion be forced on anyone?"  Christians back-peddle in the face of this argument.  Yet is this a good argument?  The United States, our form of government, the Constitution, Bill of Rights, and Declaration of Independence were all directly and indirectly informed by Christian principles.  There is no way to entirely disconnect the government of the United States from Judeo-Christian values.  One might as well try to rewrite the entire form of government.  Though I imagine many would like to.  President Obama himself has called the Constitution a deeply flawed document.

There is no need to disconnect Christian principles from the US government.  If Christian ethics inform the United States government, her leaders, politicians, and laws, so be it.  And if that "offends" people, then it's high past time that we let them be offended.  Maybe they need to be offended for a while.  Maybe it's time that we stop worrying about offending people.  If a law were passed to outlaw everything that offends this person or that person, then everything would be illegal.  

There are in fact a few things that offend me.  Do you know what offends me?  I'm offended by the depravity on the television screen.  I'm offended by LGBT activists shutting down mom and pop pizzerias.  I'm offended by the naturalist religion taught in public schools.  I'm offended by the decline and death of morality in the public square.  I'm offended by the war on religious freedom.  But it doesn't matter what offends me.  It doesn't matter at all.  The most important thing to consider is this: What will allow for the best possible future for the United States?  

There is an incredible drive in my home country, the USA, to cut out the Protestant ethos, the Christian ethic, and toss it aside.  History is rewritten in many ways, in the hearts and minds of young people.  No mention is made of the many, many good deeds of great Christian men and women across the ages.  But the bad is emphasized, underlined, boldened, and even worse, exaggerated, and many times simply made up on the spot.  Eventually the general mindset is that religion is always bad, and on inspection has led to nothing but suffering and darkness for the body of man.  Yet upon my own inquiry, actually studying events... I found that it wasn't true.  

I had never been told that the first hospitals and orphanages were devised by Christians.  I had never been told universities in the United States were largely founded by Christians.  I had never been told many of the founders held seminary degrees.  I had never been told of Bonhoeffer, Wilberforce, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther, G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, the Salvation Army, or any of the other giants of history.  I had been told of the crusades, yet no one had mentions they were in response to the Muslim invasion of Europe.  I had even been led to believe that the dark ages were the fault of Christians.  But I discovered that too was false.  I had never been told, history had been preserved in the monasteries of Christians during those times.  I had been told about the religious wars that ever rage, yet upon inquiry I had discovered that the most brutal genocides had been committed by dedicated Marxists and atheists (Stalin's Russia, Hitler's Germany, and the Cambodian Genocide).  I believe they call that revisionist history? 

So what is at stake?  What is the problem with evicting the Judeo-Christian ethic?  Myself, and many others believe it will lead to nothing less than the collapse of western civilization.  Many will respond that such a thing could never happen.  Really, is that so?  Consider what has happened already.  The family has really totally collapsed.  50% of marriages now end in divorce.  Culture has declined and sexual depravity, and media depravity are on an incredible rise.  The atheist, agnostic, liberal is generally unphased by that argument.  But here is where their ears perk up:  Look at the growing corruption in business, economics, and government.  That is one thing both liberal and conservative can clearly see.  It is a very serious problem.  The recent great recession underlines the issue.  What happens when our business leaders live out the new values of the culture: moral relativism, post modernism, and naturalism?  Corruption grows by leaps and bounds.  I think we all take note when the moral problems of the nation begin to adversely affect our bank accounts.  

Thankfully, it's not all bad news.  I'm seeing a turning of the tide in our country.  I'm seeing a new great awakening.  It's a sort of apologetics and philosophy renaissance in this country.  A Christian awakening.  Some have called it an emerging evangelical intelligentsia, with a power to influence culture.  I'm deeply encouraged by this new movement.  Many are standing up for religious liberty, including people like Frank Turek, Ravi Zacharias, Lee Strobel, William Lane Craig, and Eric Metaxas.  It's a beautiful thing to witness, Godly Christian men standing for their principles.  There is much hope left.  We have reason for hope, faith, and to be pleased and encouraged.  I walked in with the bedrock laid, and now I stand on much of what will help turn the tide in our great nation.  And we will.  I promise you, we will.  But you, the reader, must stand with us.  Please do, in the name of Jesus Christ, the savior of all people, of all nations.

The best moments in the history of the United States have been the enlightenments, the temperance movements, and the great awakenings.  Our best moments as a people tend to be when it's all on the line.  Consider the valiant charge of good men to the front lines of World War II.  Consider how Americans noticed a rising evil, and didn't think, they didn't stutter step, they simply brandished their weapons like giants, walking to the front lines, voices silent, eyes shining like the glass of a church window, indwelt by the Spirit of God to change history, and change the world forever.   And change the world they did.  They swept across Europe driving the enemy back on all fronts, and ended the war.  They won the day.  

So how can it done?  We must ask ourselves, how can we prevent the destruction of our way of life?  Don't be mistaken, it is on the line.  

It would take a uniting of the various strands of the Christian movements in the United States.  Protestant groups, Catholics, Lutherans, Christian apologetics ministries, Christian charities, Young Earth, Old Earth, small churches, mega-churches, influential leaders, bloggers, writers, Christian newspapers, Christian websites, and most important, ordinary everyday Christians all aiming to stand for religious liberty, Christian ethics, the end of abortion, and dedication to change culture.  Evangelism is vital.  Getting loud about our faith is so important.  Standing our ground is a must.  Most important we must petition the Lord daily in prayer, and just as importantly, live for him in public, with love, humility, and dignity.

We face some very powerful, entrenched strongholds.  Those strongholds must be taken.  They are the strongholds of the public schools, the mainstream television media outlets, the major universities of this country, Congress, and the Supreme court.  If we keep avoiding those strongholds and calling it "impossible" then we'll have to keep fighting a losing battle.  These are the institutions that keep us on the defensive, continuously falling back.  Why?  The reason should be obvious.  Those institutions shape the minds of young people.  The naturalists and atheists were smart, they knew which institutions to move in on.  And now they're entrenched.  They've evicted the Bible, and their ideologies are taught in public schools, universities, and largely in all the media outlets.  That is an untenable situation for the future of Christianity in the USA.  If those institutions are not retaken, there isn't much hope.  

I called it an apologetics and philosophy renaissance.  But those are actually the words of William Lane Craig.  Why apologetics and philosophy?  The answer is: Because people are hungry for answers.  Young people are hungry for answers.  Young people are tired of all the scams and schemes, they're tired of people trying to take their money and use them.  They want to know the truth.  They want to know what it all means.  Within the realm of apologetics and philosophy we translate the words of the Bible for people of today to connect to in a real way.  

In a lot of ways, in our society, we have to watch out for scams.  We have to watch our for people trying to con us.  Many assume Christianity, at least stateside, is about taking your money.  Just dressed up differently.  In fact a lot of things in our country are dressed up ways for somebody take your money.  Some might even argue college has become something like that even.  I remember my sister telling me she had graduated with honors from the University of Wisconsin, but upon graduation they wanted to charge her an extra $100.00 for the honors cord, so she elected to skip honors.  Ridiculous, don't you think?  So when I tell someone that Jesus Christ is the way, the truth, and the life the first thought is inevitably going to be: "Why?  Why should I believe that?  What evidence can you show me that this is true?"  

That's where Christian apologetics come in.  Christian apologetics is the practice of Christians going about apologizing for being so religious. Just kidding. Apologetic comes from the ancient Greek word "apologia" which means to give an answer, to give a defense of the reason for faith in God. Christian apologetics is analogous to what the apostle Paul did when he spoke to the Greeks at Mars Hill. 

Acts 17:22-31 (NIV)

22 Paul then stood up in the meeting of the Areopagus and said: “People of Athens! I see that in every way you are very religious. 23 For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: to an unknown god. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you.
24 “The God who made the world and everything in it is the Lord of heaven and earth and does not live in temples built by human hands.25 And he is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else. 26 From one man he made all the nations, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he marked out their appointed times in history and the boundaries of their lands. 27 God did this so that they would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from any one of us. 28 ‘For in him we live and move and have our being.’ As some of your own poets have said, ‘We are his offspring.’
29 “Therefore since we are God’s offspring, we should not think that the divine being is like gold or silver or stone—an image made by human design and skill. 30 In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. 31 For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.”

Did the apostle Paul quote the Bible to the people of Athens? No he didn't. Paul most certainly did quote the Old Testament when he taught Jews about Jesus, because Jews believed in the authority of the scriptures. But the ancient Greeks did not. If a Christian tells you that we're going to win over atheists and agnostics by quoting them scriptures, they've missed the incident at Mars Hill. Did you notice what Paul did in his apologia?

He did several very important things:

1. Notice how he was polite. He went out of his way to compliment the Greeks. He calls them a deeply religious people (v. 22). Paul is polite and nowhere does he rebuke the Greeks.  He doesn't throw it in their face that they're decadent pagans, or insult their false gods.  In fact he works hard to find common ground.

2. Notice how Paul built a bridge by describing the altar to the unknown god (v. 23). He continues to build the bridge by correcting the Greeks in several areas, and indicating what God is truly like. He completes the bridge by relating the truth about God to what the Athenian poets are already saying about men being the offspring of god (v. 28). Paul then invites the Greeks over the bridge through a request to have a change of mind and move to God through Christ (v. 30, 31).

3. The third thing Paul did was he encouraged the Greeks to pursue a relationship with God.  Paul suggests the idea of seeking God, and finding him (v. 27).

The Christian of today seeks to do the same with the current western culture through apologetics. We look into the natural world and see God's footprints. In astronomy we see design. In history we see evidence. In archaeology we see confirmation. In biology we see information. In mathematics we see probability. In logic we see reason. In philosophy we see truth. In Christ we see love. In the manuscripts we see inerrancy. In the scriptures we see God.

Western man has often been sold the lie that Christian thought is basically a fool believing something that is contrary to reality.  That is what men like Richard Dawkins indicate.  However that is most certainly false.  Christian faith is reasonable faith, in a reasonable God who does in fact existence.  There are many evidences for that God, many of which we have discussed on this website.  Perhaps the most powerful evidence for the existence of God is the argument from design (the fine tuning argument).  Of course there are many other ways to approach the topic, from historical verification, archaeology, textual criticism, and other areas.  But I would say the best arguments come from science ironically, the discipline often used by naturalists to explain away creationism.  Yet the universe had a beginning, and everything that has a beginning has a cause.  Given the scope of the universe, it's cause must be timeless, omnipotent, and outside the system much like... God.  Can you see how this can be put to powerful use toward the minds of skeptics, liberals, agnostics, and uninterested parties?  Yet how many times have I been told "love is the answer" and then been rebuked?  Quite a few.

Of course once the apologetics are presented, Christian philosophy helps to put the faith into practice.  Christian philosophy helps us to coordinate the facts of the Bible into a strategic framework, into a coherent worldview that answers the pertinent questions of the day like: Why am I here?  What is the meaning of life?  What morals should govern a society?  And what is my ultimate destiny?  

Do you see what I'm getting at?  The only way to win the culture is 1) Retake corrupted social, government, and media institutions and 2) Bring the lost to a loving relationship with Jesus Christ.

Can it be done?  I believe it can.  And it must.  The time it late.  The board is set.  The pieces are moving.  It has begun.  God is with us.  Godspeed. 1 O LORD, how many are my foes! How many rise up against me! 

2 Many are saying of me, "God will not deliver him." "Selah" 

3 But you are a shield around me, O LORD; you bestow glory on me and lift up my head. 
4 To the LORD I cry aloud, and he answers me from his holy hill. "Selah" 
5 I lie down and sleep; I wake again, because the LORD sustains me. 
6 I will not fear the tens of thousands drawn up against me on every side. 
7 Arise, O LORD! Deliver me, O my God! Strike all my enemies on the jaw; break the teeth of the wicked. 

8 From the LORD comes deliverance. May your blessing be on your people. "Selah"