Thursday, July 28, 2011

Five Modern Challenges to Christianity

I can understand why many secular thinkers believe traditional Christianity is going to cease to exist. We have seen a few factors that have historically helped Christianity change in modern times:

1. The control of parents over their children.

Public education and mass media have created a culture where parents cannot prevent their children from being exposed to ideas that they know will be attractive to their minds and destructive to their souls. Some still try. They home school and keep their kids away from TV and internet. But they get things from other kids. They don't even need to go to their house anymore. They have cell phones that can show your kids Lady Gaga anywhere.

So the option of protecting your kids is still needed but it isn't going to be enough. You need to explain to your children why things are wrong and why Christianity is worth the price of saying no even when they seem so alluring. The reality is most Christian parents have not been up to the task. Faith and morals have not been passed effectively from one generation to the next.

2.  Technology advances in contraception. 

Previous generations likely wanted to embrace contraception. They didn't have the choice. Sex and procreation were linked and they just had to accept it. Now God gives us that choice but asks us to keep the two linked anyway. That is one very dramatic way the fight against sexual temptation has become harder. It has always been a struggle to choose sexual purity. In every generation many souls have been lost due to sexual sin. That is why lust is one of the seven deadly sins. Now it is stronger than ever. The numbers are depressing. Contraception, premarital sex, abortion, divorce, etc. All are common and accepted by society. To some degree they are even accepted by Christians.

3. The advance of Islam

Islam came on the scene in the 7th century. Christianity was always very good at converting pagans. It has never been good at converting Muslims. Guess what? Muslims are growing in numbers and growing in influence. In many ways Islam has survived the onslaught of secularism better than Christianity. More of them practice their faith and follow their moral code. They have more people that are willing to be martyred for their faith. Most importantly they have children and keep them in the faith. They do that way better than Christians are doing that right now.

4. Disagreements Between Christians

This has been a problem since the reformation but it continues to get worse.When discussing the truth claims of Christianity it is one of the first objections raised. Christians don't agree on what the truth is so their claim to have the truth is not credible. Now the answer to this was given to us by the first Vatican council. That is the doctrine of infallibility. But protestants and even many Catholics reject that doctrine so they have no answer. The traditional answer that Christians agree on all the really important stuff is less and less tenable all the time. The nature of the disagreements has grown to include what everyone has to admit is the core of the faith. What doctrine is safe?

5. Loss of Wonder at Creation

Darwin is a big deal. Not because he explains where we come from. He does not. But he gave people the notion that every wonder of the natural world has a scientific explanation and therefore it does not require a religious explanation. Miracles? They are just gaps in our scientific knowledge. No need to wonder at them.

This loss of wonder is not limited to creation. Advances in genetics and our understanding of brain function have taken much of the wonder out of the human person. It is the matter of a partial answer allowing somebody to imagine a full answer. Then constructing a philosophy assuming the full answer is there. We don't have a full scientific answer to the origin of the universe. We are not really close. But people imagine we have it. Same with the mysteries of love and beauty. People assume science will soon be able to explain it all. It is a faith in science that was not possible until recently. Not so much for the deep scientific thinkers. They are aware of they limits of science. It is more for the people who know a little science and think they know a lot.

Conclusion

I believe in God's promises. The gates of hell will not prevail against the church. Where sin abound there grace abounds all the more. I still wonder what that will look like. Will we see the church unified like never before? Will we see a new persecution? Will some great new teachers arise? Will there be new high profile miracles? Something needs to happen. If present trends continue, well, present trends never continue. In this case we need to pray for something to turn things around. To bring the church back when there is no logical way it should come back. I am thinking there needs to be an urgency to our prayer that isn't there yet.

7 comments:

  1. This is a great post, Randy!

    The First Law of Ignorance: We don't know how much we don't know.

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  2. It might help if Roman Catholics priests stopped raping children and if the Roman church stopped protecting the rapists.

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  3. Yes, that would help a lot. But that is just one more aspect of the spiritual war that has been going on for 2000 years. Is it a new one? Not really. We have seen much more widespread corruption in the clergy before. Still the mass media makes it different. Cases in Ireland are widely know in the US. So the damage from one scandal is much greater.

    The reality is God has blessed us with many good priests and many good bishops. A few bad apples spoil the bushel in the minds of many but not in reality. The good ones are quietly doing amazing work.

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  4. Perhaps but a lot of good priests and bishops are outraged at the Vatican's handling of the various abuses. It has implications for Catholics who support subverting their moral judgement to the institution.

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  5. Thanks for coming back Observer. Glad to have a discussion rather than just a one liner from you.

    Catholics don't subvert their moral judgement to the church. They allow their conscience to be formed by thinking with the church. So you still make the choices based on what you learn from the bible and from saints and popes. None of that tradition was found to be wanting in the scandal. The problem was some people who were supposed to be following it were not. So it serves as a cautionary tale to remind us that nobody is immune from even the worst temptations.

    The suggestion that anyone will say because these priests did this it must somehow be OK is quite far fetched. Unless somebody is already engaging in such behavior and is desperate for something to say I can't imagine anyone arguing that way.

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  6. Observer, what an extremely classy reply!

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