wednesday morning links

From Rod Dreher, at Crunchy Con, comes the results of a recent Pew Survey about religious affiliation in America.  As Dreher himself sums up the results:

To sum up even more tightly: the religion you practiced as a child, and the intensity with which you practiced it, has a lot to do with whether or not you changed religions in adulthood. And the reasons why you grew dissatisfied with your religion determines which religion you changed to (or whether or not you embraced unbelief).

Interestingly, most Protestants who move around within Protestantism don’t do so for doctrinal reasons, but because they either got married, moved, or had some other practical reason for jumping sides. No surprise there, given how blurry the doctrinal lines are in Protestantism these days. Also, it was interesting to see that the sex abuse scandal was only a minor factor in people exiting the Catholic Church.

This, as well as the recent ARIS survey, are significant for our understanding of evangelism in non-institutional churches.   I plan to go into this in more detail later, but it seems to me that many of our evangelistic strategies do not take into account precisely these kinds of shifts in the religious (and non-religious) world.

Second, a link to a Salon review of Terry Eagleton’s latest book, Reason, Faith, and Revolution: Reflections on the God Debate, a collection of lectures he delivered at Yale last year.  (It should be noted here that Eagleton himself is a professed atheist.)

A good deal of his argument centers on the assertion that the militant New Atheists, like Dawkins and Hitchens (or “Ditchkins,” as he refers to them), don’t understand the Christian faith and direct their attacks at a cartoon version of it.  Here’s Eagleton in the London Review of Books from a couple of years ago:

Imagine someone holding forth on biology whose only knowledge of the subject is the Book of British Birds, and you have a rough idea of what it feels like to read Richard Dawkins on theology. Card-carrying rationalists like Dawkins, who is the nearest thing to a professional atheist we have had since Bertrand Russell, are in one sense the least well-equipped to understand what they castigate, since they don’t believe there is anything there to be understood, or at least anything worth understanding. This is why they invariably come up with vulgar caricatures of religious faith that would make a first-year theology student wince. The more they detest religion, the more ill-informed their criticisms of it tend to be. If they were asked to pass judgment on phenomenology or the geopolitics of South Asia, they would no doubt bone up on the question as assiduously as they could. When it comes to theology, however, any shoddy old travesty will pass muster.

The Yale lectures referred to above seem calculated to offend both leftist secularists and the religious right.  Be that as it may, they have provoked me to a great deal of thought about how Christianity confronts and interacts with the philosophical challenges presented to it in our day.

Lastly, The Root carries an interesting piece on the rise of black country, which features the Carolina Chocolate Drops, a favorite of mine.

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3 responses to “wednesday morning links

  1. I’ve wondered about CoC evangelistic strategy (and this goes for other groups as well such as Catholic). It seems more geared towards attracting self identified Christians to worship more purely. This is not necessarily a bad strategy if your society is 95% Christian and you see these self identified Christians as mostly heathen anyway.

    Of course this goes with the whole purpose of the RM to begin with: the restoration of the work and worship of the church in its purity to bring about the union of all Christians in prelude to the conversion of the world. The divided nature of Christians being seen here as a hinderance to evangelistic efforts.

  2. Ken is right that the old evangelistic tactics involved “blasting the Baptists” and pushing “the one true church”, and those tactics often reinforced sectarian concepts. Seems like I see less of that now, however. A more effective tactic that I’ve seen become widely used in the last ten years by successful evangelists is to give invitations to personal Bible readings from Mark or Luke and then Acts.

  3. I was converted by reading the gospel of Mark with the preacher. Of course the gospel is what people need and I guess there is no better way than to have the very words of Christ there in front of you.

    Also, it works pretty good upon getting to the end and being asked if you want to be baptized. Sorta puts the person on the spot. As it did me. This is especially true since the church of Christ teaches “straightway” baptism.

    However, for someone that already sees themselves as a Christian it becomes an awkward moment about nature of baptism. Something that person may not be knowledgable enough to discuss. At that point it becomes a matter of trust and possibly authority . Do you trust the teaching you already received (from your parents, etc.) or do you trust this preacher of the Gospel, both of which claim Biblical warrant.

    I think, in some cases, preachers don’t realize what they are asking of potential converts. That’s because in most churches (denominations) the ministers are ordained or licensed to teach on behalf the the church and therefore have a measure of authority and people recognize that. On the other hand, that’s not the case in churches of Christ (I’ve never gotten a clear answer on what authority the “located preacher” or evangelist has to teach) which don’t claim any power to ordain or license. However, people outside of churches of Christ do not know that and assume that the person they are talking posseses the authority to speak on behalf of the Church and therefore place a measure of trust by virtue of the ministers position and not on any “self evident” understanding of Scriptures. People say to themselves “this person must know what he is talking about for he is a minister of the Gospel.”

    The above is certainly a side issue, but something that preachers should be aware of..

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