Zombie Heresies – Theological Liberalism – Part 5

So how did the Church respond to Theological Liberalism? Better to ask how *is* the Chruch responding, for the book isn’t closed on this heresy yet. We’ve spent a lot of time in retreat, but there have been Christians who expertly confronted the Spirit of the Age.

Previous Entries:
Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8
Theological Liberalism – Part 1: https://youtu.be/f5B7MkjzczM
Theological Liberalism – Part 2: https://youtu.be/HZstlJNUwNI
Theological Liberalism – Part 3: https://youtu.be/apSL-as0ZPc
Theological Liberalism – Part 4: https://youtu.be/T7sGav0PbJA

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Why Do We Have Church?

As the saying goes, you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone. It’s a lesson many Christians are becoming painfully aware of as their local congregations are caught up in the various shutdowns and quarantines. We deeply desire to return to our church, so naturally, pastors, elders, and local church councils everywhere are struggling with the question of when and how much to reopen their doors.

It’s an important question, but not simply because of the pandemic. As families sit at home, huddled around a laptop watching services streamed into our living room, there is a question that inevitably weighs heavily on our minds: Why do we go to church? What is important about gathering together each Sunday?

Whether deliberately or not, our congregations are answering that questions for us in this time of crisis by their reactions to it. The practical decision of how to respond to a pandemic is inevitably a cost/benefit analysis. Covid-19 represents a real risk factor–overblown by a frantic media, to be sure, but a risk nonetheless. How do we weigh that risk of illness–or even death for the elderly and those with certain preexisting conditions–against what we have to offer at church? More precisely, how does it weigh against what we are responsible for offering? It depends, of course, on what you believe your church offers. Why should people go to church? Everybody will know your answer to that question based on what you offer as an acceptable substitute.

The thing we’re liable to forget is that it’s the same question that was asked before the pandemic, and it will be the same question asked afterward. The very answers we hear now will also apply when Christians decide when–or whether–to return. What congregations and church bodies tell their parishioners now–both explicitly in our words and implicitly in our actions–will resonate long after Covid-19 either goes away or, more likely, becomes part of everyday life. Closing your doors until the media tells you it’s safe and maybe streaming your Sunday service in the meantime may be the safe route, but will doing that for months on end deliver what you’re responsible for offering?

Message

You might think so if you believe church is fundamentally about hearing and receiving a particular message. You hear a sermon, you hear some hymns, you hear some prayers you can pray along with. It’s not really worth risking illness just to hear that message in person rather than via Facebook Live. Data-transfer works just fine over the internet, so those things are covered well.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, they’re covered a little too well. Data-transfer and communication are precisely what the internet excels at. If that’s why you go to church, online services aren’t just an acceptable substitute–they’re a superior replacement. I’ve written before that for my family, getting to church each Sunday is a struggle. It’s been MUCH easier to get everybody on the couch on time than in a pew on time. The little family tradition we’ve been building around our online services is much more comfortable and convenient than going to church in person was. If hearing a message is why we go to church, then why would we go back when this is over?

So many companies and employees who have been forced to experiment with remote work have discovered that it is much more practical in many circumstances. Accordingly, I suspect we’ll be seeing a lot more remote work going forward–it just makes sense. Congregations who believe they’re simply delivering a message are going to find exactly the same thing among their parishioners. And with distance being a non-issue online, they will eventually gravitate towards those few churches who deliver messages in a superior manner.

Community

Now, you might say, “No, it’s not just about the message. It’s also about our community! You can’t have a real community online!” If that’s what you offer at church, then you’ll probably think it wise to keep your doors closed amid the pandemic. With social distancing being our current norm, Americans have already collectively decided that enjoying community isn’t worth the risk. After all, while it’s sad that we’ll be away from one another for so long, our reunion will be all the sweeter once we can safely reopen.

But if we’re honest with ourselves, the presumption that you can’t have a real community online is a highly generational one. Boomers don’t think you can have a real online community. Millennials and Gen Z, on the other hand, have already been forming online communities for decades that they often greatly prefer to the flesh-and-blood communities around them. If community is why you go to church in the first place, then you’ll have your boomers and maybe some gen-Xers return when it’s all over.

But why would anyone else? Why would the younger generation come back on Sunday for community–particularly after you shut them out despite less risk to them from Covid-19 than there is from the flu? And if your boomers return alone, then your congregation has no future. That’s not even a community anymore–that’s a social club. And if that’s why people will go to your church after the pandemic, then maybe a social club is all you really had before.

Tradition

Still others might say that it’s more than a message and a community–we also offer a great tradition that reaches back into history. We have the liturgy. We have great hymns of the faith. We have these things which transcend the local church community and connect to Christians throughout the ages and around the world. By participating alongside them, we join in something greater than ourselves. Merely watching the traditions unfold is hardly the same thing. If this is your view, then temporarily suspending your traditions make sense. They’ve lasted for thousands of years, and will still be there when they come back.

Here we actually begin to get closer to the mark, but we have not yet stuck it. For one thing, it’s only a compelling answer if most of your parishioners actually recognize this kind of value in your traditions. Too few do. But even so, the answer is still insufficient because any tradition worth sharing through time and space must point to a reality beyond itself. Tradition for its own sake is nothing more than nostalgia. Too many churches were already finding nostalgia to be woefully insufficient to bring people back before Covid19. It’s not going to be any better afterward.

What then do our traditions point us to? It your tradition merely points to a message or a community, then you’re back to square one. After all, traditions change. In fact, you’re changing them right now due to the pandemic. And you *should* change your traditions in circumstances like this. Passing offering plates around the congregation at the moment is stupid. So is passing the peace. There are traditions that *should* go by the wayside, and there will inevitably be new traditions that grow into the spaces left by those we prune. That’s the thing about a living body of tradition–we’re always cultivating it, and it continues to grow and change organically. Those traditions will only retain Sunday services if they point to them in the first place.

Worship

But there’s more than even that, isn’t there? We also offer worship. On Sunday morning, we present an opportunity to join together to praise God, to recognize Him as our Lord, and confess our faith in him. If that’s what your church offers, then you may still think it’s wise to be online-only for the time-being. After all, God is omnipresent and can hear our praise from our living rooms without any issue. And if being in the same room is more ideal for confessing Christ before others, commenting “peace be with you” or “amen” on Facebook will do for now in the face of an epidemic.

But after the epidemic is either over or routine, God will still be omnipresent. We can still worship Him from home–and should be doing so throughout our daily lives. After all, worship is, at its root, worth-ship. We worship God by recognizing, appreciating, and proclaiming His great worth and praising Him for what He’s done.

And that’s precisely why so many people already think they can worship God from the golf course, their gardens, their dining rooms, their places of employment and so forth instead of coming to church. And they’re not exactly wrong. You praise the Creator when you appreciate nature. You praise Him when you thank Him for your food. You praise Him when you deliberately act according to His Law in your daily life. When it comes down to it, we can and should do all those things. We don’t need a church building simply to worship per se. At least, not unless you mean something more precise by “worship.”

The Body of Christ

And that is where we finally come to the real answer–or at least what should be the real answer–to our question of what we are responsible for offering as congregations. When we worship God on Sunday, we are recognizing his great worth for a specific reason–His amazing promises to us through the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We confess our sins before one-another because he is faithful and just to forgive our sins and cleanse us from all unrighteousness. But the Gospel is not simply an abstract message of forgiveness–it is embodied in the Sacraments. That’s why Lutherans use the phrase “Word and Sacrament Ministry.”

Christians aren’t simply those who have heard and believed a message, we are the Body of Christ–living stones being built into a spiritual house. We become part of that body through baptism. And throughout the rest of our lives, the apex of that embodiment is a specific divine promise for which we worship our Lord on Sundays: This is my body, given for you; this is my blood, shed for you for the forgiveness of sins.

When all is said and done, that is why we gather our embodied selves for worship in a physical place on Sunday morning. We recognize the great worth of what Christ has done on that Cross and receive in our mouths the fruits of that atoning sacrifice: forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation. That is the core of Christian worship as distinct from every other religion that praises the divine.

And we can’t do that from our living room via Facebook. We call it “Communion” for a reason. We may or may not like each other, but we all believe and receive the same promise together from the same Lord at the altar. Our message, our community, our traditions, and our worship are all good, important things–things which we should be concerned about maintaining in times of crisis. But the Sacraments are the embodiment of our message. They’re the source of our community. They’re what our traditions point us to. They’re our highest form of worship. And they can’t be done online.

But what are we teaching our congregations about that through our reactions to the pandemic?

When, for example, our governors deem us non-essential, and we comply, what are we saying? Grocery stores stay open because they are essential–we need food to live. But Christ says is body is true food and his blood is true drink, and that we need it to live. To be sure, nobody is going to lose their faith because they missed a Sunday anymore than they’d starve because they missed one grocery run. Humans can go a fair amount of time without food. But even so, it’s still essential, which is why we keep grocery stores open–food needs to be made available. The same is true of the Sacrament.

But there’s more than just that. I’ve also heard all manner of nonsense about “fasting” from the Supper, and it isn’t going to fly. It’s already dubious for individual Christians, but it’s altogether senseless for the congregation itself. Delivering Word and Sacrament ministry to its members is the responsibility of the local congregation–its raison d’etre. We do not get to “fast” from responsibilities.

And, of course, there are other foolish statements.  There’s the constant refrain that it’s better to be safe than to offer Word and Sacrament–a view that’s hard to find anywhere in the New Testament. I’ve even heard “sorry for the inconvenience,” as though the Lord’s Supper is was merely a convenience for us in the first place. I don’t think there’s any deliberate malice behind statements like these, but we cannot be so casual in our responses.

When all is said and done, the question so many churches have been asking, “how long should we close during the pandemic,” is only secondary. Our primary question should be this: How can we provide Word and Sacrament ministry during the pandemic? How can we fulfill our responsibility to offer it? There may be many answers to this question–many of them good, many acceptable, and many more bad. Reasonable Christians can disagree reasonably over which ways are best. And yes, maybe offering it in one giant service on Sunday morning isn’t the best way at the moment. And yes, maybe other options are logistically difficult to accomplish. But consider the cost of our excuses for failing to do carry out our responsibilities.

So think long and hard: What does your church offer? Why do your people go to church? If it’s any of those other things–message, community, tradition, or worship–then there’s not going to be much of a reason for anyone to come back the longer this goes on. Have you accepted your civil government’s determination that you aren’t essential? Then many will still believe you’re non-essential when this is all over. Have you gone out of your way to get the Supper to your parishioners during this time? If not, then many of them have learned that there’s no reason to go out of their way to receive it.

Times of crisis have a habit of revealing what we’re made of. Let’s be cognizant of that. And let’s make sure we tend to our spiritual health as well as our physical health.

Posted in Gospel, Lutheranism, The Modern Church, Tradition | 2 Comments

Zombie Heresies – Theological Liberalism Part 4

Now that we’ve explored the roots of Theological Liberalism, it’s time to turn our attention to the fruits–and they are rotten indeed. As it turns out, the Spirit of the Age is anything but Holy, and the religion it creates is nothing like Christianity. In the end, Theological Liberalism denies both Jesus Christ and his Gospel.

Referenced:
Schori’s terrible sermon: https://episcopalchurch.org/posts/jeffertsschori/easter-7c-all-saints-church

Related:
The Father Is Not A Metaphor: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=420
Then We Can No Longer Refer To You As Christians: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=1007
Just Stay Ahead Of The Wind: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/?p=1075

Previous Entries in the Series:
Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8
Theological Liberalism – Part 1: https://youtu.be/f5B7MkjzczM
Theological Liberalism – Part 2: https://youtu.be/HZstlJNUwNI
Theological Liberalism – Part 3: https://youtu.be/apSL-as0ZPc

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Accuracy vs. Precision in Theology

This is an allegory; let the reader understand.

It’s important to recognize the distinction between accuracy and precision in mathematics. Take the value of pi for example. Is it 3? 3.14? 3.14159? 3.1415926535? Well, in each case, the answer is yes and no. Pi is an irrational number with never-ending decimal places which cannot be fully expressed numerically. Because of that, pi isn’t really 3, 3.14, or 3.14159. However, we can say that 3, 3.14, 3.14159, and so on are all accurate representations of pi because in each number, the given digits speak the truth assigned to them. Where they differ is in how precise they are. The more decimal places there are, the more precise the value is. Nevertheless, they’re all imprecise to some extent because the decimal places go on to infinity–far more than can be written down by mere humans.

So how precise does a person’s value for pi need to be? It really depends on a variety of factors. It depends, for example, on how precise your measurements are. When making calculations, you should always keep the concept of significant figures in mind because you shouldn’t claim greater precision than you’ve been given. It also depends on what you’re doing with pi, for some applications require more precision than others. It even depends on how educated you are. It’s proper for college students to know pi more precisely than kids in elementary school. Ultimately, answering the question of how much precision is required necessitates good judgement in each individual case, for to whom much is given, much is expected.

Because of this, I think It’s very good for mathematicians to argue about pi so they can learn it’s value more accurately and more precisely. Iron sharpens iron, after all, and truth is a noble pursuit. What’s more, if you’re going to build anything circular, you need to make sure you’re working with an appropriate value for pi–something that’s both accurate and precise enough for your project. Otherwise, you’ll end up with a deformed circle or a different shape entirely. Accordingly, argument is also important when false mathematicians promote inaccurate values–they need to be corrected.

But not all kinds of arguments are helpful. And people who fail to remember the distinction between accuracy and precision are doomed to suffer an eternity of making stupid arguments about the value of pi. For example:

Pi is not 3! It’s 3.14159! Anyone who says pi is 3 has denied mathematics!”

This is not so. 3 and 3.14159 are both accurate values for pi. The latter is merely more precise. It’s entirely inappropriate for Dr. 3.14159 to be telling Mr. 3 that he’s wrong. It’s good for a man to have greater mathematical precision, but he should not be lording it over anyone. Rather, he should patiently and humbly lead people from 3 to 3.1 or from 3.1 to 3.14 as needed.

He should also keep in mind that not everybody needs the same level of precision. The man who is fabricating sophisticated scientific devices with circular components needs more decimal places than the man who is building a hula hoop. We all have different callings and different gifts. Accordingly, we should respect those who express accurate values with different levels of precision.

Pi is not 3.14159! It’s 3.0! The 3 is the only important thing, and anyone who looks beyond the decimal point is just an arrogant egghead trying to confuse the issue!”

This is not so. On the contrary, 3.0 is actually an inaccurate value for pi and needs to be corrected. True, 3 and 3.0 may be numerically equal. But in its virtuous humility, 3 does not reach for greater precision than it possesses. In its pride and arrogance, 3.0 insists on specifying digits of which it’s ignorant, and consequently falls into error. Mr 3 should not be contemptuous of Dr. 3.14159 or scorn his precision. Not only is that precision useful in certain applications, anyone who is interested in geometry will naturally want to learn more about pi. Those with greater intellectual gifts will usually learn its value more precisely.

If you aspire to greater precision, then work hard to learn the decimal places accurately. Otherwise, remain silent about them. Once again, all would-be mathematicians from greatest to least need the humility to recognize different gifts and callings.

“How dare you reject my favorite mathematician who says that pi is 9.14159! So what if he has one little digit wrong? He’s GREAT about the decimal places!”

This is truly foolish. The decimal places may look very very similar, but 9.14159 is a wildly inaccurate value for pi! Unfortunately, it’s quite easy for precision-loving mathematicians who spend their lives calculating decimal places to forget how important the whole number is. After all, they learned the whole number long ago, and now concern themselves with “deeper” matters. But deeper in this sense is a matter of precision while the basics are a matter of accuracy. By their very nature, some digits are far more important than others. If you get the whole number wrong, it doesn’t matter how many decimal places of pi you have correct. Building anything circular based on that value would be an absolute disaster.

You might think yourself wise and sophisticated for getting decimal places right, but never take the whole number for granted. The things we take for granted are precisely the things we lose over time. And nobody should ever trust a mathematician who let themselves get that far off track–not until they’ve recognized and publicly acknowledged the reality and magnitude of their error.

“Look: mathematicians throughout history have never really agreed on the value of pi. Some say 3, others 3.14, still others 3.14159, and so forth. Some have even said it’s 3.142! Clearly, pi has no definitive value. So why should anyone have a problem with me saying pi is 89.4?”

This too is foolish. Our limited ability to express the value of pi precisely does not mean we cannot express it accurately or that all inaccuracies are equal. Of course those kinds of disagreements will happen among those mathematicians who strive for greater precision. That’s all part and parcel of working out calculations. But we shouldn’t confuse disagreements in how many decimal places to use or when to round with disagreements over the value of pi.

What’s more, we shouldn’t assume that differences between mathematicians about pi means that any and every value is fair game. Just because answers with different levels of precision are all accurate doesn’t mean there are no inaccurate values. Anyone giving a value like 89.4 is not talking about pi, but about another number entirely. Trying to pretend their value is actually pi is inherently deceptive. And that deception will be a catastrophe for anyone who believes that lying mathematician and then tries to make something circular.

It may be the case that nobody can fully understand the value of pi, but that does not excuse deliberately misunderstanding it.

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Zombie Heresies – Theological Liberalism Part 3

So where did academic theology go after Schleiermacher? The Enlightenment presumption was that the Bible was altogether false in terms of historical narrative. Accordingly, the academic question ceased to be “what does this say” and instead shifted towards “how did this evolve?” and “what experience does it give us today?”

In this episode, we’ll take a brief look at the development of Higher Criticism and the attempt to “demythologize” God’s Word.

Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8
Theological Liberalism – Part 1: https://youtu.be/f5B7MkjzczM
Theological Liberalism – Part 2: https://youtu.be/HZstlJNUwNI

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Is Christian Exclusivity Arrogant?

Is it arrogant to believe Christians are right about God and everyone else is wrong?

Nathan Rinne adroitly addressed that question from a student on his blog recently, and it got me thinking. As common as the question is these days, it’s always seemed odd to me. How could it be arrogant simply to believe that you know the truth? I believe that I’m sitting at my desk as I write this, and if anyone were to tell me otherwise, I’d believe them quite wrong. Surely such a claim of truth doesn’t make me or anyone else arrogant. If I likewise believe that Jesus Christ is God incarnate who literally rose from the dead 2000 years ago, then it’s hard to fathom why it should be considered arrogant merely to claim that I am correct and that contrary claims are false. There’s nothing arrogant about evidence.

And yet, so many people do think it’s arrogant. In circumstances like that, when the senseless seems so sensible to so many, I find it useful to pause and consider why. In this case, the question itself betrays something about our view of religion in general–and Christianity in particular. If we can better understand the faulty reasoning, then we can give better answers. So what are some of the ways one could mentally categorize religion in order for that kind of accusation of arrogance to make sense?

Preference

If I were to assert that chocolate is the best flavor of ice cream and that everyone who disagrees with me is incorrect, then I’d certainly be arrogant. After all, taste is highly subjective–rooted as it is in feelings and personal perception. Why should one person’s subjectivity be superior to another’s? And that is, indeed, how many people in the West view religion: If you prefer crosses, steeples, and the Apostle’s Creed over crescents, minarets, and the Shahada, is that not largely a matter of personal taste? If that’s your view of religion, then it really does make sense to condemn a person who looks down religions other than his own.

But that’s not what Christianity–or any religion–is (which is why you never see religion springing up around things like chocolate ice cream.) Religion is about worship in the sense that there is something we recognize as objectively having more worth than anything else–a god that transcends matters of personal taste. The Christian faith doesn’t lift high the Cross because we like it’s clean lines & simple design, but because God truly died upon one to pay for the sins of the world. We know this not because we prefer the idea, but because it’s a matter of historical record that the same Jesus who died also rose from the dead.

Why, then, is this mistake so common? Well, many secular Westerners mistake religion as a preference precisely because mere preference is their own rationale for rejecting Christianity. That’s a sad reality about our civilization, to be sure. Nevertheless, it’s ultimately a matter of projecting their own disdain onto others. They fail to understand religion in general and so ignorantly assume it’s a matter of preference for its adherents as well.

Heritage

If I were to assert that America is the only real nation in the world and that anyone who belongs to a different nation is wrong or deficient, then I’d certainly be arrogant. One can argue about the pro’s and con’s of different cultures, of course, but to make a blanket statement that every nation other than one’s own is an utter failure is a bigotry that we’re particularly sensitive to post-WW2. We tend to forget this in the postmodern secular West, but religion is an almost ubiquitous part of cultural heritage. If that’s fundamentally how you see religion, then once again, it does make sense to think that condemning another religion as false is a kind of cultural self-aggrandizement.

But this isn’t a particularly accurate view of religion either. While cultural heritage usually embraces religious particulars to varying extents, a great many religions are much broader than that–they allege realities that transcend culture. Even tribal religions like Hinduism or Judaism–which are so tied to their respective heritages that outsiders can’t wholly convert to them–still espouse ideas and practices that outsiders can and have adopted.

How much more is this the case with a religion like Christianity which is explicitly universal with its claims of a singular God who died for the sins of the entire world and its directive to make disciples of all nations? Even the Jewish culture to whom the law and prophets were given is explicitly transcended as Christ died for Jew and Gentile alike. Christianity makes some absolutely audacious claims and commands which really do exclude many elements of different cultural heritages that run contrary to its teachings. Because of that audacity, it’s only natural that people would be offended when their own sacred cows are being gored.

But audacity is not the same thing as arrogance. Different cultures have made different assertions about the Sun, but the same Sun shines on them all. Accordingly, any assertion about it makes a claim to objective truth. And so, inasmuch as any religious claim is matters of objective truth, those claims are not arrogant–any more than it inherently arrogant to dispute any culturally entrenched falsehood on factual grounds. It can be done arrogantly, but those who see it as arrogant per se are simply wrong.

Utility

If I were to assert that my diet and exercise plan is the only one that leads to health and that everyone who doesn’t follow it is unhealthy, then I’d certainly be arrogant. After all, health is a complex and multifaceted concept. While it’s not subjective to the degree that preference is–you can at least identify discrete goals and measure the effects of different plans–the wide variety of different health goals along with natural biological variance among different groups of humans precludes a single “right” answer on diet & exercise. There is, as they say, more than one way to skin a cat, so insisting that your way is the only effective way would indeed be arrogant.

But whenever the subject of utility is broached, one must ask what it’s useful for. Here, answers vary widely by religion. People all over the world want things like feelings of inner peace, healthy crops, moral rectitude, or other forms of worldly prosperity or piety coram mundo, and they look to their gods to provide them. And this includes Christians. We regularly petition God for many such things. Inasmuch as we proclaim Christianity as the best or only path to such things, I’m afraid we are indeed being arrogant.

But it is not on any matter of worldly prosperity that Christianity claims exclusivity. On the contrary, Christian teachings are quite clear that God causes the rain to fall on the just and the unjust alike.  They’re also clear that God’s Law is written on the heart of those who never heard the Law and the prophets. It is precisely on the matter of coming to the Father–of eternal salvation and righteousness coram deo–that Jesus Christ claims to be the only way.

But this returns us to a matter of basic objective fact. If you want to know the details of life after death, then who better to tell you than somebody who physically, historically died and who physically, historically returned to life three days later? That’s orders of magnitude better than intuition born from meditation, voices heard in caves, seances, legends, near-death experiences, and the like. As Paul indicates in Romans, everyone knows about God to some degree. But Christians alone know God because we alone know Jesus Christ–who made this absolutely ridiculous claim to be God but nevertheless demonstrated the clear truth of that claim.

So what, then, can we learn from this? Understanding these reasons for perceiving arrogance gives us a rhetorical edge when we proclaim Christianity. We can’t blithely assume that just because we know our religion is first and foremost a matter of objective truth, that other people will automatically approach it in the same way. We need to be aware that not everyone categorizes religion as Christians do. We also need to be aware that not all Christians categorize it as they should. Accordingly, When we preach and teach, we need to make it clear what category we’re talking about–and which ones we aren’t.

In so doing, we can avoid some pretty common mistakes. Sadly, we are plagued by false teachers of prosperity Gospels, but we can make sure that we explicitly put the forgiveness of sins, life, and salvation front & center when we proclaim Christ. When we preach the Law, we can make sure we avoid conflating God’s Law with American cultural norms. (For example, we can avoid preaching the “law” to Muslims by condemning them for being insufficiently feminist or democratic–I can’t tell you how often I’ve seen Conservative Christians engaged in that kind of idiocy.) And most importantly, we can make sure that we always point to the brute facts of history that anchor Christianity in the realm of objective truth: We preach the crucified and risen Christ.

A historical Resurrection changes everything about religion. As we continue to claim that our religion is true and all others are false, let’s make sure our audience knows that that is what we’re talking about.

Posted in Apologetics, Culture, Gospel, Theology | Leave a comment

Is Easter Really a Pagan Holiday

“Ackshually, Easter is a pagan celebration which was culturally appropriated by early Christians trying to make their religion popular!”

As Christians prepare to celebrate the resurrection of our Lord each year, we’re often confronted with this assertion by pagan and secularist wannabe know-it-alls. But is this really the case? Or is it just another example of an old and dubious speculation masquerading as fact?

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Zombie Heresies – Theological Liberalism Part 2

Theological Liberalism is very much a product of its time. Unfortunately, it projected that same characteristic onto Christianity–replacing it with an evolving, experience-based religion that rejected everything Enlightenment intellectuals found unfashionable.

In this episode, we’ll take a look at two men whose philosophies deformed academic theology in the West for generations: Georg Hegel and Freidrich Schleiermacher

Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8
Theological Liberalism – Part 1: https://youtu.be/f5B7MkjzczM

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Zombie Heresies – Theological Liberalism Part 1

Does Christianity need to change or die? Is it just an expression of our own religious experience which needs to evolve along with that experiences? Is the Resurrection merely an inspiring story rather than a life-giving reality?

While not as ancient as the other heresies we’ve covered, Theological Liberalism is no less deadly to those it has deceived.

Introduction to Zombie Heresies: https://youtu.be/WhXcjI52eO8

You can find more of my material at…
The 96th Thesis: http://matthewcochran.net/blog/
The Federalist: http://thefederalist.com/author/matthewcochran/
Amazon: https://www.amazon.com/Though-Were-Actually-True-Apologetics-ebook/dp/B01G4KWQJW/

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Finding Real Life in Quarantine

Like most Americans, my corner of the country is largely shut down at the moment due to the Chinese Virus–schools, churches, restaurants, etc. are all closed for at least a month. We’ve certainly been fortunate to be less disrupted than many families. I already work remotely, so outside of Sunday, my daily routine is mostly unaffected.  So far. School and therapy sessions have been cancelled for my kids, though, so we’ve gone from part-time homeschooling to full-time, and I’ve been taking some time off to help my wife care for them.

Of course, it’s a very different story for many other Americans. For parents whose kids are in school full-time, workers whose jobs are indefinitely on hold or even lost, people whose states of health make them vulnerable, and so forth, it’s been a much more drastic change with very real hardships. It’s nothing I would ever wish on anyone. But whatever we might wish,  it’s here all the same. And because its here, it’s worth pausing to reflect on what kind of silver linings we might ultimately find in this storm.

Like most times of trouble, a major disruption like this also an opportunity to learn to adapt to change, discover some of the fragilities of modern life, and to simply experience life outside of the routines we’ve been stuck in. Many companies are forced to experiment with emptying their traditional cubicles and allowing many workers the opportunity to work from home. Many households are forced to think further ahead when purchasing consumer goods and re-evaluate just how much of that consumption is truly necessary. Americans are forced to reconsider many aspects of globalism–open borders, free-trade, outsourced manufacturing, etc–that have made something that’s really a relatively minor illness such a game-changing pandemic. And perhaps most significantly, families need to take a long break from outsourcing their children’s education to the government, and spend more time with them–playing, teaching, and growing alongside of them.

Though my first prayer is for health, recovery, and protection for our nation, my second is that this pandemic would be an opportunity for us to step outside of some of the artificial bubbles we’ve created for ourselves. If we can get past the fear and danger that’s inherent in turmoil, it might uncover much of value that we had forgotten–the joys of family, the value of faith, and the necessity of coming together as a nation–both to cooperate in sensible precautions that inconvenience us and to move forward with courage in the face of danger. This is all a hardship, to be sure, but hardship has a habit of making us stronger people in the long run.

It’s precisely the presence of these real hardships and real opportunities that have me laughing so much at the media lately. Not because of all the ridiculous fear-mongering–that’s simply abhorrent. But I laugh when I see them frantically trying to return our minds and spirits to the same old artificial concerns that have been overshadowed by issues of greater import.

While some households are wondering whether they’ll have enough money to pay rent this month, media figures and obsolete politicians would desperately like us to be afraid that terms like “Wuhan Flu” or “Chinese Virus” are racist. It’s kind of a hard sell, though, since it’s not exactly beyond the pale for anyone to name pathogens, diseases, and conditions after their place of origin. To be sure, not everyone is going to be aware that the Zika Virus and Lyme Disease are named after specific locales or that SARS and MERS are acronyms that include South Asian and Middle Eastern respectively. Nevertheless, we all remember West Nile from a few years ago, Stockholm Syndrome is pretty firmly in the public consciousness, and we’ve been told about the Spanish Flu every 5 minutes for the last 2 months. In short, there are few people stupid enough to actually feel offense at the term, so its painfully obvious that the concern trolls are just playing shame games–at a time when people are struggling to keep their pantries full.

Other people are concerned about their aged relatives and family members with suppressed immune systems. While the Chinese virus isn’t particularly dangerous for the young and healthy, there are people close to most of us to whom it represents a very serious mortality risk. But the media can’t have you worrying about whether Grandma will still be with you by Mother’s Day. No, they want you to refocus on the *real* issue: the strain on our health-care system might make it harder for men to pretend they’re women.  But try as they might to raise the stakes by throwing “life saving surgeries” into the headline, we’re well aware that the danger to transgenders comes mainly from themselves. As we get to know our boys and girls better over the next few months, (particularly without schools trying to confuse them about their sexuality) the blatant absurdity of a supposed obligated to cut your son’s balls off because he likes the color pink is only going to be harder to ignore.

And of course, we can’t have anything without Planned Parenthood chiming in. After all, though the Guardian fears the impediment to sterile orgies [link] that the pandemic represents, our nation’s most prominent baby murderers have a greater fear: As couples find comfort and togetherness in physical intimacy during times like these, their affection runs the risk of blossoming into new life. We can’t have that, so Planned Parenthood wants to make sure there’s no baby boom resulting from this pandemic.  “Too many children” has always been the concern of those who love humanity but hate actual people. But amidst our eerily quiet streets, social isolation, and more of our grandparents being taken from us (all at a time when our birth rate is at its lowest level ever,) it’s harder to maintain the illusion that having a family is a great evil from which we need protection.

One has to find a way to laugh–even in hard times–and I laugh at things like this because they are all the last gasps of a dying worldview. Decadence is never sustainable in the face of genuine hardship, and blatant stupidity has a shorter shelf-life when danger forces us to be more practical. That’s something every nation has to face sooner or later because some form or hardship will always come knocking eventually. It’s only been such a shock to us because of the fragility of many of our economic and social systems.

So everyone: Stay safe. Be smart. Don’t despair. God is with us even in times like this–especially in times like this. By all means, mourn with those who mourn. But don’t forget to look for goodness as well. And as you pray for health and recovery, remember to pray that our perseverance through these times will build character as well.

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