Russell and Duenes

Jesus Prefers Godless Secularism

with 2 comments

One of my friends has said that he can “roll off a list of young adults who walked away from the ‘faith’ they learned as children and a longer list of people who weren’t taught faith as children but came to faith with a hunger and openness I rarely see in America.” Further, he has intimated that there is an “idolatry of religion” that pervades the lives of many Americans, and I assume he would see their upbringing in the faith to be integrally connected to this in many cases. In other words, somehow the Christian upbringing inoculated them against a faith that is “hungry for and open” to Christ.

He’s certainly not alone in this opinion. I don’t know what percentage of Christians hold to it, but I’m guessing it’s on the increase. Yet there seems to be a hidden premise – or maybe not so hidden – lurking within this view, namely, that somehow scores of people might be better off if they were not taught the Christian faith as a child, and left to themselves to come to faith as adults, for then their faith might be more genuine. Now I know that my friend is not raising his children that way, and he might well disavow this premise of mine, which I should be glad if he did. But if he does so, then I wonder what his point is in noting that he can roll his list of people who walked away from the faith they learned as a child. Is his point that raising one’s child diligently and faithfully in the Christian faith has little correlation to whether one’s child believes faithfully and genuinely as an adult? Indeed, the Christian upbringing might be a hindrance to faith. In other words, whether a person becomes an actual vibrant and faithful Christian is a crap shoot? Or is his point that Jesus has no opinion one way or the other about the kind of culture we live in, and indeed, might prefer a secular, godless, religiously pluralistic culture to a “Christian” culture because, as we know too well, “Christian” cultures only produce hypocrites, tepid Christians, and idolatry of religion?

I don’t know the answer. Only my friend can answer (and perhaps he might). But I’m wary of what seem to be the implications of his statement above. One implication being that somehow, too much Christendom in a culture leads to hypocrisy and lukewarm faith, almost by definition. The further implication being that, therefore, Jesus largely intends his gospel to stop at individualistic salvation, rather than working so thoroughly in and through His children that it works itself like leaven into the whole of a culture, wholly transforming it. I think we can see that some kind of teaching is going to work itself thoroughly into a culture and give overwhelming shape to people’s lives. We saw this with the Soviet Union, even if many people came to Christ nonetheless, and we have seen it in America, where our form of government and the lasting freedoms we have enjoyed  were the fruit of a largely Christian culture. There is a good reason why constitutional republics have not taken root in the Muslim Middle East, and why they could, and likely would take root, if there were a large movement of the gospel in people’s lives, as there has been elsewhere throughout history.

I would be willing to bet that the lukewarmness among Christians in America had little to do with the lukewarm being raised in a home where the Christian faith was consistently taught and practiced, or with being sent to a private Christian school or homeschool, and more to do with the overweening secular, materialistic, scientistic, and statist idolatry which we have been afforded over numerous decades by our Christian culture. In other words, the Christian capital given to us by our forebears is what has allowed us (and Europeans) to enjoy freedom and prosperity, thinking that we can continue to have it without Christ. The capital is running out, and the checks are bouncing.

-D

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Written by Michael Duenes

October 13, 2013 at 2:14 pm

2 Responses

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  1. That notion dogs me at times (usually after trying do something truly ambitious – you know, like read one sentence from the Bible to my kids – but failing to hold their attention long enough to read the word “the”, let alone lead them in some sort of soul shaping meditative discussion). If you spiritualize “crap shoot” to “in the hands of the sovereign God who alone can move the heart of man”, it might be closer to true, but then I’m confronted at every turn in Scripture by the many admonitions to teach your children well (uh, not in a Crosby Stills & Nash way, more along the lines of Prov. 22:6). So if you say it’s beyond your control you might be partly right, but concluding “Therefore we should not teach them” would be silly. I’m not sure what your friend had in mind either, but it might be a bit of despair over “raising one’s child diligently and faithfully in the Christian faith” – I think we can reasonably expect a high correlation between that and “desired outcomes”, but presuming too many parents think they did that and saw their children walk away from the Lord later in life, what are we to conclude? It could well be they simply weren’t diligent, despite the best of intentions. It’s all too easy to deceive ourselves. Kind of like what I’ve heard on Christian divorce, that the divorce rate is “the same” in the Church, but if you drill down to “couples who prayed together often” etc., the rate drastically decreases. In any event, talk to me in 2032 🙂

    Andy M

    October 14, 2013 at 12:08 pm

  2. Which is to say, as a bonus news item for readers of your blog (as if they care), we are expecting #8 in 2014, so s/he would be 18 in 2032 …

    Andy M

    October 14, 2013 at 12:10 pm


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