The Postmodern, Post-Christian nature of Western Civilization reflects a change in how Postmodern people perceive biblical Christianity. For much of the late 20th century, genuine, biblical Christianity was regarded as irrelevant. In the early 21st century, it is regarded as bad for society. A recent study by the Barna Group, which is also reflected in David Kinnaman’s book, Good Faith, examines the perceptions of faith and Christianity in our Postmodern culture. The conclusion is that millions of adults now view biblical Christianity as extremist. Four short statements summarize Kinnaman’s research:
Ligonier Ministries recently released a study entitled its “2016 State of American Theology Study” conducted by LifeWay Research. Among other things, the study focused on six key doctrinal areas and where Americans differ on each theologically. The results evidence confusion, inconsistency and a superficial understanding of basic doctrinal truths. From the “Executive Summary” part of the report, here is a brief summary of several salient results of the study:
Romans 1:18-3:21 declares quite clearly that God has revealed Himself in three major ways: Through His creation, through human conscience and through His moral Law given to Israel. Further, Hebrews 1 (and indeed the entire New Testament) also makes clear that Jesus is God’s crowning revelation. Each of these four revelations of God insists upon a responsible and accountable response. In short, humanity cannot ignore these revelations of God.
For Christians, Christmas is about Incarnation—the Creator stooping to enter His creation. The Incarnation challenges the proposition that this is a purely physical and purposeless universe, inhabited by evolutionary accidents whose sense of self is probably illusive. The Incarnation also shatters myths about God: He is not distant and unreachable; He is not uncaring and unconcerned; He is not unmerciful and arbitrary. We thought we knew God, but the Incarnation proves us wrong. The Incarnation is about God revealing Himself in Jesus as the loving, compassionate, merciful, gracious Savior; the Creator is now forever identified with the creature.
The Youth Ministry model American churches have followed since World War II has not been a terribly effective one. It has not enhanced parent-teen relationships and has actually fostered a superficial, shallow Christianity among many young adults. Consciously or unconsciously, when children reach age 12 or so, parents “hand them off” to the youth leader, in effect saying, “I’m done; now you take over.” Often this model stresses fun, huge events (e.g., ski trips, retreats, wild antics, and occasional mission trips), but has little focus on the Bible, mentoring or a disciplined walk with God.
When the Fundamentalist-Modernist controversy of the early 20th century was brewing, one of Christianity’s greatest minds, J. Gresham Machen, wrote a book entitled Christianity and Liberalism which was published in 1921. In my judgment, it remains one of the most important books of the 20th century. It is relevant today for it reminds all of us who name the name of Christ, that the Christian faith is not only a faith commitment to Jesus Christ, but is also a set of doctrinal beliefs.
Bart Ehrman, religious scholar, bitter critic of biblical Christianity and former evangelical, has written, “The God I once believed in was a God who was active in the world.
That we are free in Christ is a central teaching of genuine biblical Christianity. In the non-moral areas of life, we have the responsible freedom to choose. Christians have often not appreciated this freedom, choosing instead to universalize their convictions in certain entertainment areas of life, as well as in leisure time activities. The result has usually been some form of legalism that ignores God’s grace and the freedom it brings.
One of the key themes of Issues in Perspective is the articulation and defense of the Christian worldview. That worldview is discerned from a study of the Bible and the application of that worldview to life. Two recent studies validate that worldview.
Perhaps you have heard of Jodie Foster’s seven-minute speech at the Golden Globes Award ceremony on 13 January 2013, when received the Cecil B. DeMille Lifetime Achievement Award. The speech was random, disorganized and at times evidenced confusion. She publically admitted what most people already knew—that she is a practicing lesbian. Few were shocked by such transparency; some in the audience even applauded. But it was the end of her speech that was rather haunting.