In our more or less ongoing series on recent church history and the culture driven church Jonathon Miles mentioned something last week in Revivalism in the Burned-Over District Part 2 that he and I have been talking about in order to help the readers understand the run of history and impact of a variety of events and people which although initially unconnected none-the-less converge in unanticipated ways which then change the course of future events and indeed society and its institutions. Let’s let Jonathon speak to this again:
I like the analogy of the streams rather than dots. Connecting dots could imply direct connection from one thing to another. As I warned earlier, history just isn’t that simple. Furthermore, connecting dots doesn’t show how strong the influence of one thing is on another. But the stream analogy does. When you look at a river, it is made up of streams of water that flow from many different sources–some creeks and some tributaries. Sure the Mississippi has its headwaters in tiny stream dribbling out of Lake Itasca Minnesota but no one would say that Lake Itasca is the one source of the Mississippi. Likewise, the Romanticism of Emerson or Finney’s perfectionism can’t be definitively the source of the ills of the Burned-Over district. But they are tributaries in what would become a river. And like a river the route is seldom straight and picks up all sorts of debris along the way. When I last posted, I thought Finney’s revivalism was just a stream. Turns out that his perfectionism was tributary all its own.
As I pointed out in Training the Mind of Faith in America, there was a major shift in theological focus from Christocentric (Christ centered) to Anthropocentric (man centered) in the early 19th Century. The church opted Continue reading …
Matthew, Mark and Luke recorded the words of Jesus when He said:
YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND.’ (Matt. 22:37)
Mark adds “strength” (Mark 12:30) and Luke adds “strength:” and loving your neighbor as yourself (Luke 10:27). IN spite of this, the mind in the life of faith is an aspect of the faith that has largely been lost over the last 200 years or so within the church on the whole. In the seventeenth and early eighteenth century, the life of the mind was still held to be an important aspect of faith. Harvard University was established in 1636 for the purpose of training Christian ministers. Ten years later they adopted their “Rules and Precepts”:
2. Let every Student be plainly instructed, and earnestly pressed to consider well, the maine end of his life and studies is, to know God and Jesus Christ which is eternal life (John 17:3) and therefore to lay Christ in the bottome, as the only foundation of all sound knowledge and Learning. And seeing the Lord only giveth wisedome, Let every one seriously set himself by prayer in secret to seeke it of him (Prov. 2:3).
3. Every one shall so exercise himselfe in reading the Scriptures twice a day, that he shall be ready to give such an account of his proficiency therein, both in Theoreticall observations of Language and Logick, and in practical and spiritual truths, as his Tutor shall require, according to his ability; seeing the entrance of the word giveth light, it giveth understanding to the simple (Psalm 119:130).
In 1701 a collegiate college was founded by several ministers in the New England colony of Connecticut “to the end that they might educate ministers in their own way.” It is said that the Mather family “also were among those in Boston who welcomed and labored for the establishment of a seminary of a stricter theology than Harvard” This Collegiate School of Connecticut was named Yale in 1718 after a wealthy benefactor by the name of Elihu Yale made a fairly substantial donation to the institution. Although arts and science were an important aspect of the instruction, they were to be viewed theocentrically (God centered) and grounded in sound theology:
The charter of 1701 stated that the end of the school was the instruction of youth in the arts and sciences, that they might be fitted for public employment, both in church and civil state. To the clergy, however, who controlled the College, theology was the basis, security and test of arts and sciences. In 1722 the rector, Timothy Cutler, was dismissed because of a leaning toward Episcopacy. Various special tests were employed to preserve the doctrinal purity of Calvinism among, the instructors; that of the students was carefully looked after. In 1753 a stringent test was fixed by the Corporation to ensure the orthodoxy of the teachers. This was abolished in 1778.
It is approximately here that a theocentric (God centered) and specifically a Christocentric (Christ centered) view of Scripture and life began to be replaced with an anthropocentric (man centered) view. By the time we get to the nineteenth century Continue reading …
But I find it amusing to ask Veinot where he thinks his morality comes from. Did God speak to him? If so, when? (And was Veinot murdering, raping and killing before his god spoke to him, and then he suddenly changed?) Was that the same god who spoke to Son of Sam? bin Laden? the Pope? George Bush? Or, if Veinot’s god did NOT speak to him then did Veinot get his moral code from the Bible? (And was Veinot murdering, raping and killing before he read the Bible, and then he suddenly changed?) And if his moral code comes from the Bible, then of course, we’re into all the genocide, and killing of homosexuals etc. And by the way, why the Bible? What authority figure told him the Bible was the correct moral guide? And how does Veinot know that the authority figure was correct? Did Veinot employ some independent verifying entity to confirm that choice? But if the Bible is not the source of Veinot’s moral position, what is? (Maybe it’s Darwin after all!)
In this final installment this group of questions hang together in a general category of the basis of morality. Rather than simply asserting my personal opinion I thought it might be interesting to look at it from the perspective of the founding of this nation and how this question informed the Declaration of Independence, Constitution, etc. Mark Levin, who is not a Christian and to my knowledge has not professed a particular specific belief in God, points out in his excellent book Liberty and Tyranny:
The Declaration of Independence appeals to “the Laws of Nature and of Nature’s God.” (p. 26)
For the Founding Fathers the question of morals (how we ought to behave) was very closely linked to our rights. The Founding Fathers viewed our rights as “unalienable.” They did so predicated on the belief that our rights are given to us by God not other human beings. The Founding Fathers were of a variety of denominations as well as at least two deists (Thomas Jefferson and Ben Franklin). But could it be that they were wrong and man simply makes them up. Levin again responds: Continue reading …
Last week we looked at a few of the objections which were sent to Harry, a friend of the ministry. How much time should we spend on such an individual? That would seem to depend on whether they are serious about discovering truth or not. Those who seem to specialize in attacking the faith without any real desire to seek whether it is actually true or not often simply make assertions without actually providing evidence for their assertions. In other words, no evidence or documentation. The truth of a claim is more easily ascertained if we provide documentation to substantiate what we have asserted. For example on the question the founder of Planned Parenthood, Margaret Sanger, and her belief and promotion of eugenics, Harry’s email acquaintance claims:
But it is clear that Veinot knows little about Margaret Sanger, who was resolutely opposed to Hitler and the Nazi programs, and said so publicly (which is more than what Veinot has done regarding fundamentalist Bush’s killing in Iraq). It’s interesting to see Veinot improperly imputing the most base motives to Sanger’s advocacy of birth control, thus perverting her larger view of women’s rights in this area.
I am not sure what the writer means by “most base motives” but Sanger was committed to Social Darwinism and cleansing of the inferior races and other less evolved humans through eugenics. Abortion being a key method of weeding out and breeding out those less desirable in the “human garden.” Was she in agreement with or opposed to Hitler and the Nazi programs? The answer is yes to both at different times. Social Darwinism was very prevalent among “progressives” at this time in history. In Germany Hitler achieved the political clout to officially implement eugenics to perfect the race. Sanger held the same fundamental views on Social Darwinism. Michael Flaherty, in his review of Ellen Chesler’s book, Woman of Valor: Margaret Sanger and the Birth Control Movement in America, notes:
What the book leaves out is Margaret Sanger’s interest in eugenics. Miss Chesler fails to mention many of the most haunting phrases in Mrs. Sanger’s landmark book, The Pivot of Civilization. Perhaps her most popular work, it addressed what she saw as troubling demographic trends, notably the growing number of “nonAryan people” in the United States, who constituted “a great biological menace to the future of civilization.”A mix of racism and class snobbery, the book admonishes readers to beware of “inferior races,” whose members “deserve to be treated like criminals,” and urges the “segregat[ion of] morons who are increasing and multiplying.” Miss Chesler ignores most of this, though she quotes some of Mrs. Sanger’s more sanitized utterances, such as “More from the fit, less from the unfit–that is the chief aim of birth control.”
My friend Jhan Moskowitz, North American Director of Jews for Jesus, often says that only real questions deserve real answers. As he points out, belief is an act of the will not a function of information. People choose to believe, they are not argued in to the faith. This does not preclude evidence and reason, the stuff of apologetics, but apologetics (defense of the faith) is pre-evangelism. It is in order to inform belief however, in the end each individual must choose to act on that evidence and reason and believe. Last week I used an email to Harry, a friend of mine, from an antagonist of the faith and responded to it in the blog. It was a great launching point to respond to general objections to the Christian faith. Although Harry has suggested several times to the author that they contact me directly they have opted not to do so but instead continue to email Harry. That’s fine and is good experience for Harry. My observations to Harry were that the individual does not appear to have any real interest in debating the issues, making a case for their position or demonstrating their assertions about individuals they have never met, read or dialogued with. In fact, I suspected their primary motive was to take pot shots at the faith through misrepresentation and caricature. Oddly enough they subsequently wrote to Harry and started off with:
As I’m sure you can tell by now, I love blasphemy. The more sacred the cow, the more I love to search for the vilest, most repugnant way of characterizing it.
Sometimes the dilemma we face is one of how much time, if any, to devote to this sort of endeavor with individuals who appear to be militantly resistant. By their own admission this individual is not even attempting to object with real questions but is intent on finding the “the vilest, most repugnant way of characterizing” the faith. On the other hand, some individuals have what they believe are legitimate objections to the claims of Christianity. For example, atheist Antony Flew was an atheist who advocated that we should presuppose atheism until evidence for the existence of God could be put forth. He debated Evangelical Christian scholar Gary Habermas on a number of issues but particularly the resurrection of Jesus Christ. Antony Flew had legitimate questions and deserved real answers. Antony Flew and Gary Habermas were both more interested in discovering truth than militantly holding on to a position in spite of evidence. The result was Continue reading …
A good friend of mine who is also a missionary to cults and New Religious Movements once observed that “in this type of ministry conflict is not a possibility it a job description.” He is correct. When we question someone’s worldview and/or beliefs and assumptions they can get very angry and sometimes abusive. At least verbally abusive. Sort of our inside joke on this is that Jehovah’s Witnesses have called Joy the “Whore of Babylon” so often we just call her floozy for short. Somehow name calling and wild accusations are used to replace valid argument and evidence in many of these exchanges. I have another friend, Harry, who spends some time talking with non-Christians over the Internet. If he doesn’t have answers he looks for material on our website Journals and Crux Blog as well as other ministry’s materials to forward to the lists. On occasion he forwards some of them to me to see how to respond. He sent one such email this week: Continue reading …