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October 5th, 2010
07:00 AM ET

My Take: Young Christians optimistic despite Christian America’s demise

Editor's Note: Gabe Lyons is author of The Next Christians: The Good News About the End of Christian America (Doubleday) and founder of the Q learning community.

By Gabe Lyons, Special to CNN

Every data point I’ve seen indicates that Christianity in America is in sharp decline. According to recent surveys, one of the fastest growing religious categories in America is “non-religious.” While some megachurches are flourishing in suburban Christian enclaves, the number of self-identifying Christians has fallen 10 points over as many years. Each year, the Christian church experiences a net loss in attendees and the waning political influence of the movement is now more than apparent.

What has driven this shift? According to Michael Spencer of the Christian Science Monitor, the answer is two-fold. First, the church’s rabid pursuit of “relevance” and “pragmatism” has produced in many churches a shallow vacuity. Second, he says, we have become too closely identified with political partisanship and the American culture war. Such attitudes among young non-believers were confirmed by the national study commissioned for Unchristian, a book I co-authored a few years ago.

Some Christians are understandably frustrated by the demise of “Christian America,” and many of them have exerted considerable energy into slowing the decline. Among old guard evangelicals, for example, there are many who still preach of moral decline and proudly wear the battle armor of cultural war. But young Christians, it turns out, are far more optimistic about what the future might hold for the two-thousand-year-old faith.

Over the last several years, I’ve conducted hundreds of focus groups, interviews, and gatherings of young Christian leaders. I have tracked and compiled a list of their common characteristics—from the desire to create good cultural artifacts to a strong sense of calling—and these leaders’ optimistic outlook on the future has steamrolled me.

There is my friend, Scot, in New York City whose organization’s is leading the way in giving clean water to those who lack it. There is Phileena in Nebraska who believes the church can be reconciled with the poor when we roll up our sleeves and serve alongside them. And Gary in Washington D.C. whose vision for how the world ought to be put sex trafficking on the map for many Americans and policy-makers.

When Katrina ravaged the coast, there was much cause for discouragement. But Jon, a leader in the fashion industry, launched an initiative to mobilize volunteers to build homes and serve the aching gulf coast communities. I could share many more stories, but suffice to say these are not isolated examples.

Interestingly, these Christians have shaken off both reasons Spencer gives for Christian decline. Rather than strive for relevance or some amorphous “cool” factor, they simply set out to accomplish good for the sake of the Christian Gospel. The only thing pragmatic about them is the way they try to solve pressing problems.

Additionally, they are far less interested in partisan politics. We are seeing more diversity in the ways young Christians define themselves politically, if they choose to do so at all. For example, when given the choice between “traditionalist/conservative,” “centrist,” or “modernist/progressive,” almost all choose “centrist.”  In order to solve problems and make progress, young Christians are finding they often have to reach across party lines and work issue by issue.

As I’ve studied the next Christians, it’s apparent that they have a particular way of thinking, being, and doing that is radically different from previous generations. They are purposeful in choosing their careers, optimistic about changing social problems, and eager to infuse the world with beauty and grace.

“Christian America” as we’ve known it is no doubt coming to an abrupt close, and the jury is out on how the next generation of Christians will shape public perceptions or solve pressing global concerns. Only time will tell, but if you ask them, they’d tell you the future is bright.

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Gabe Lyons.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Christianity • Church • Leaders • Opinion

soundoff (103 Responses)
  1. Venus

    seek and ye shall find logic and truth

    "try to logic it away"?
    and you think you can convince people without logic? Nothing you say needs to make sense?
    Jesus is not the God of nonsense and irrationality. Or is he?
    Maybe what's "in your heart" is more important then being able to think clearly.
    Yeah, go with that. Just don't be surprised when Jesus tells you how screwed up you were in believing things that didn't make any sense.
    Since the concept of "heII" makes no sense, either, you should feel right at home there

    Jesus and I still love you, and hope you will put away your foolish things. You cannot logic a spirit, can you?

    October 6, 2010 at 6:38 pm |
  2. Reality

    Ooops,

    Professor Wayne Grudem- His work and life rely on the Pentecost but was the Pentecost even a historical event or simply more myth concocted by Luke to gain members to the newest cu-lt in town??

    e.g. Luke, the only gospel writer to note the Pentecost, started this tale in Luke 24:49 i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically unreliable, therefore Wayne Grudem is dealing from a very “flawed deck”.

    e.g. http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=479_The_Promised_Spirit (remove the hyphen in "ti-tle")

    Ditto for John Frame. Ditto for C.S. Lewis. Ditto for Irenaeus, Ditto for Strobel. Ditto for Piper. Ditto for Chandler

    October 6, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
  3. Laura

    Frogist

    @Venus: I do not want a god that wants me to come to him out of fear.

    I don't see where she said anything about fear?
    I Quote Venus:
    One does not love God, out of fear of him, but out of love for him

    You reading comprehension skills are lacking, mayby?

    October 6, 2010 at 4:18 pm |
    • Muneef

      @Laura.
      Our Islam teachings tells us that people are not the same it is said that people are consisting of three groups explained here under:
      -Some worship God out of fear and that is the worship of slaves.
      -Some worship God out of greed for more richness and that is called the worship of business men.
      -Some worship God out of belief and love and that is the worship of true believers.

      October 7, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  4. BILL

    I'm glad people are becoming less religious. Maybe now there will be less hate in the world.

    October 6, 2010 at 1:14 pm |
  5. Ron

    Hi peace2all...why do you have such a passion for your viewpoint.....why do you have a name like peace2all....if you were able, how would you bring peace to all? Curious...

    October 6, 2010 at 9:25 am |
  6. Sandra

    Unfortunately, as the religion dies out, the remaining few are just getting more and more insane. Our grandchildren will only know Christians are a hate-filled, ignorant group of chickenhawks.

    October 6, 2010 at 2:06 am |
    • peace2all

      @Sandra

      Maybe true..... but just like in life, as one matures and grows mentally, physically, intellectually, emotionally, and on some spiritual level, we begin to realize that there really isn't a 'Santa Claus'.... or 'Easter Bunny' or babies truly aren't delivered by a 'stork', etc..

      Including the mythologies of the bible. Yes, sad but true.... some are clinging even harder to the christian equivalent of the santa claus or stork myths. Time to begin to outgrow such things....

      Peace...

      October 6, 2010 at 2:52 am |
  7. Venus

    There is a God, his name is Jesus Christ. Every word he spoke in the bible is true, He will be back.He does exist and is very much alive. There ispeace and love and acceptance of all in his kingdom. He does not love me anymore then he loves you. He comes to you all with love. He is not the blame for all the discord in the world, but is the answer. Open your hearts people, syop listening to the lies that man has told, You were not there when the foundations of the earth were laid, nor when God created the world. He is what you seek, but your logic tells you you are too smart for him.
    Please don't believe it. For God is a spirit, and you cannot prove him because he is not material. Thats why you must have faith.
    When you die, you will stand before him.
    One does not love God, out of fear of him, but out of love for him.
    Why do some say fear is what controls a Christian? Thats not true, his perfect love casts out all fear. Peace love and joy, are what comes with God.
    We cannot go against his holy teachings. Therefore we cannot accept some of the ways of the world. For they lead to a bad place. You may not believe it, and try to logic it away, but truth is truth. We will all one day (and I believe soon) stand before the Lord Jesus Christ.
    If I am wrong, (and I know I am not,) then I will be no worse off then the unbliever, for there will be nothing beyond the grave. But I wil have lived a good life, and have hurt no one. But, if I was an unbeliever, I would have alot to fear.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:53 pm |
    • seek and ye shall find logic and truth

      "try to logic it away"?
      and you think you can convince people without logic? Nothing you say needs to make sense?
      Jesus is not the God of nonsense and irrationality. Or is he?
      Maybe what's "in your heart" is more important then being able to think clearly.
      Yeah, go with that. Just don't be surprised when Jesus tells you how screwed up you were in believing things that didn't make any sense.
      Since the concept of "heII" makes no sense, either, you should feel right at home there....

      October 6, 2010 at 2:26 am |
    • peace2all

      @Venus

      Wow.... Sure glad to hear the voice of reason and logic... and... especially 'open-mindedness.'!!!!

      1)You claim-–The bible is the absolute literal word of god...every word is true.

      Really..... everything is absolutely true... Please google 'bible contradictions'.... and please take up some science courses, then get back to me.

      2)You claim-–There is nothing to fear about god.....He is perfect love, peace, etc...

      So, how come this god, that loves beyond anything we could imagine, would send us to eternal damnation...? Are you a parent..? Would you even consider setting up a system that would even allow this kind of absolute ridiculous thinking..?

      3) Like a lot of believers you trotted out a version of Blaise Pascal's wager from Philosophy 101. i.e...... You said..."If I am wrong, I have only lived a good life, as there is nothing beyond the grave, however, if I am right(which I know I am) then you unbelievers have a lot to worry about"

      The Wager or 'game' is easy to break as far as debate. For instance. You could be wrong...and still be alive(after death). There could be reincarnation, the god of the muslim's could be the god.... Heck, god could send you to 'hell' with all of the other christians for so 'distorting' the meaning of his word... and he is p-i-s-s-e-d off at you guys..! I bet your closed mind has never allowed you to consider that ... and the almost infinite possibilities that might come with a life in the here-after.

      You are not being intellectually honest if you don't consider these things, but to especially claim that you absolutely *know the truth*...

      Peace...

      October 6, 2010 at 2:48 am |
    • Mike

      Peace just an fyi, taking up your challenge I came across the site
      http://www.infidels.org/library/modern/jim_meritt/bible-contradictions.html

      Of course it may take some time to get back to you... is there a perticular one you were interest in?

      October 6, 2010 at 9:37 am |
    • Frogist

      @Venus: I do not want a god that wants me to come to him out of fear.

      October 6, 2010 at 10:20 am |
    • Mike

      Froggist correct come to him out of Love for all that He has created and given to you.

      October 7, 2010 at 12:53 pm |
  8. The Professor

    Looks like Satan has blinded most of the world. No wonder Jesus said few will enter in. Very Sad!

    October 5, 2010 at 10:39 pm |
  9. Kristin Jones

    I agree with what you've written, Gabe, but I wonder what you hope will come of this information.

    The reason I seldom name myself a Christian is not because I am ashamed of Christ, my desperate need of Him, or my devotion, it's because I feel that the word Christian conveys something I don't intend. Focus groups, statistics and anecdotal stories are for politicians and marketers. Christianity will survive and grow because of the Sovereignty of God, the Beauty of the Gospel, and Love of Christ expressed through His children, not because "christianity" gets a makeover or a good PR consultant. I fear that you are only helping to perpetuate the problems that your research has identified. It seems that the Christian Church at large conducts itself as a business and has given itself over to greed and it's entanglements. It should not be surprising at all that less and less people are buying the gospel they're selling. It's empty, lifeless and, in large amounts, toxic; the equivalent of a McDonald's hamburger, having the shape and form of food, but lacking substance and nutrition.

    I sincerely hope that your efforts don't end up producing churches and political leaders with false fronts, in the effort to gain congregants and win votes. If social justice is approached as a means to an end, it runs a very high risk of doing more harm than good. It would be a tragedy if the marginalized, enslaved and orphaned were exploited in this way.

    October 5, 2010 at 9:49 pm |
  10. JohnQuest

    senoy, are you saying that if you (personally you) did not believe in God you would be a mur der, rap est, child mole ster, or perhaps you would consider owning slaves a good thing? If your answer is no then where do you get your moral compass, if your answer is yes then you are an amoral person and only the fear of punishment is keeping you from heinous crimes.

    October 5, 2010 at 5:41 pm |
  11. Frank

    America has never been a 'Christian nation', conduct-wise. As for Christianity being the majority faith waning a bit, there's a lot of reasons for that. We are going through a period of changes, not least through immigration. Churches are still having good attendance and most people still believe in God in some way, though. Same for young people.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:39 pm |
  12. Bob

    > Your defination of love is funny. do you conside lots of money acts of love, do you have two kids and they grow up differently? How can they not in a world that is broken.

    Your thought process is funny. If I purposefully leave one child to stave and to die a horrible death and give another food, warmth, shelter and the method to be successful, I cannot, by definition, love them equally.

    Because if I loved them equally and I could give to them anything, I couldn't rationalize why one should starve while the other is fed.

    October 5, 2010 at 4:38 pm |
  13. NL

    I'm a realist, so I know that Christianity will be around for a few more generations at least. So, if we're still going to have people around calling themselves Christians I'll prefer that they be kinder, gentler and less political than the current variety. Young Christians looking towards the future with optimism will be a refreshing change from the rapture-ready, glum kids around now.

    Of course, their kids will likely swing the pendulum back in twenty or thirty years to what we have now, and we can all rest assured that they will absolutely know, for sure this time, that Jesus will be coming back any day.

    October 5, 2010 at 3:01 pm |
  14. Bob

    Christianity is on the decline because as education levels increase, so does the belief in religion. It simply does not make senes that God would have to impregnate a virgin with himself to give birth to himself so that he can sacrifice himself to himself so that he himself can undo a rule that he created.

    What was this rule? All mankind is damnned because a woman convinced her husband to eat an apple after being tricked by a snake.

    What nonsense.

    October 5, 2010 at 11:22 am |
    • Mike

      Why is it nonsense?

      October 5, 2010 at 1:07 pm |
    • Bob

      Because it's moronic. Why would God, with an IQ of over 8,000,000 act like a moron. It doesn't make any sense. The problem is that people are conditioned by the church never to "question" what's written down.

      For example. How can God love everyone equally, but give some people a home, a family and lots of money while he forces others to starve and die horrible deaths through disease. The answer is God cannot.

      How can God give us free will when he creates us with a plan in mind, knowing full well what decisions we will and won't make based on the minds he has supplied?

      How can God punish us for sin when we specifically act upon his plan and his design by his will.

      It's nonsense. It doesn't make any sense.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:54 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Was the father of Jesus a Roman archer named Tiberius Abdes Pantera? A picture of his tombstone in Germany is in the book THE JESUS DYNASTY by James Tabor. The dates in which he lived would coincide in fathering Jesus combined with the fact he was stationed in Palestine. Also, Jewish critics of Jesus wrote in the Talmud his father was a Roman soldier named "Pantera."
      Back in the 1980s, Jane Schaberg wrote a scholarly book called THE ILLEGITIMACY OF JESUS which also touched on these controversial subjects.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:08 pm |
    • Mike

      For example. How can God love everyone equally, but give some people a home, a family and lots of money while he forces others to starve and die horrible deaths through disease. The answer is God cannot.

      Your defination of love is funny. do you conside lots of money acts of love, do you have two kids and they grow up differently? How can they not in a world that is broken.

      How can God give us free will when he creates us with a plan in mind, knowing full well what decisions we will and won't make based on the minds he has supplied?

      You have a will for your child to clean their room but you don't do it for them when it is not done. Replace clean room with, become a doctor, marry someone who treats them well.

      Paraphrasing CS Lewis Mere Christianity.

      I will see if I can find Chandlers sermons on God's will for you.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:05 pm |
    • Bob

      Really, so the comparison of a parent and a child is a reasonable response to God and us? Did the parent create our minds, our potential for intellect and our ability to reason? Does a parent damn their chidren to hell forever simply because they do something that they don't like?

      Your inane ramblings betray that you really didn't understand my arguments and that you're happy to feed any sort of nonsense to win the argument. You're a sad, sad man.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:35 pm |
    • Frank

      The Son is not the Father. Same Essense, different Person.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:41 pm |
    • Frank

      "How can God love everyone equally, but give some people a home, a family and lots of money while he forces others to starve and die horrible deaths through disease. The answer is God cannot."

      Man has created the systems by which those things happen to people, not God.

      "How can God give us free will when he creates us with a plan in mind, knowing full well what decisions we will and won't make based on the minds he has supplied?"

      Him having foreknowledge of things doesn't mean He is making them happen. Calvinists may disagree, though.

      "Does a parent damn their chidren to hell forever simply because they do something that they don't like?"

      People put themselves there through their own actions. You have your own choices to make in life. Are you going to live for yourself or live for something higher? As has been said before, if you don't want to be with God, He's not going to force you to.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:47 pm |
    • Mike

      Does a parent damn their chidren to hell forever simply because they do something that they don't like?
      No
      Does a parent damn their chidren to the death penalty in accordance to any countries law if their child committed Treason?
      I would hope so.

      That is what sin is treason against God. Treason against His creative order. It is the same rebellious hard that kills a person, that steals and also raises their voices to their parents stating they do not have to obey authority.

      We are all worthy of death. Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord for taking on double imputation that we may receive everlasting life and not death.

      October 6, 2010 at 9:32 am |
    • Muneef

      @Bob.
      @Frank.
      Will give you leads to verses of Quran that speaks of your comments if I may with out offending any one:
      Sura 03:59 to 63 the 64 to 92 very interesting.

      @ Frank. God has given us the power of choice to decide our destiny and there is good and bad in every one any the Jihad is to compress it fight it check the Quran verse Sura 99:01 to 08.

      October 7, 2010 at 7:11 pm |
  15. Doc Vestibule

    Not sure why this keeps getting censored.
    Back in 1829 a fellow named Rapp did some bibli-cally based calcul-ations and determined that the second com-ing was to occur on September 15th. Unfortunately, The Sav.iour failed to show up for his appo-intment.
    Shor.tly there.after, someone else (Miller) noted that he forgot to carry the 1 in his equat-ion and released a revi.sed date of October 22nd, 1844.
    Again – nobody appears to have informed The S.on's secr-etary of that appoi-ntment and He was a no show.
    Chuck Rus.sell, a Jeh.ovah's Witn-ess, said that J-esus would be coming to dinner in 1874, but the L.ord stood him up too.
    Sun Myung Moon said it would be in the 1930's.
    In 1981, Bill Mau.pin told his flock to sell all their posse-ssions and meet on a hill-top cuz Ol' Tho.rny Hat Himself was a’ comin! Again, all that hap-pened was a group of gull-ible people wound up broke.
    I hope you can understand those of us who consider tales of impending rapt-ure a load of mal-arky – even if it comes from someone as reputable as Mike Seaver.
    Oh well. At least Miller gave the world the majesty of the Corn Flake.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:55 am |
    • Mike

      Why would anyone tried to calculate the date?

      1 Thess 5
      1Now, brothers, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3While people are saying, "Peace and safety," destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.

      Rev 14
      14I looked, and there before me was a white cloud, and seated on the cloud was one "like a son of man"[a] with a crown of gold on his head and a sharp sickle in his hand. 15Then another angel came out of the temple and called in a loud voice to him who was sitting on the cloud, "Take your sickle and reap, because the time to reap has come, for the harvest of the earth is ripe." 16So he who was seated on the cloud swung his sickle over the earth, and the earth was harvested.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:12 pm |
    • Bob

      Why do people quote the bible to back up their arguments. Like it holds any weight.

      October 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • NL

      Point is, the people who claim that the date has been found and the people who claim that it cannot be found are quoting from the very same Bible. Both sides insist they are right. Both sides claim to be the authentic Christians. For it to be this open to interpretation the Bible hardly inspires trust, does it?

      October 5, 2010 at 2:08 pm |
    • David Johnson

      Jesus predicted he would be back in the 1st century!

      Verily I say unto you, This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled.” – Matthew 24:34
      This controversial verse is in all three of the Olivet Discourse accounts. (These accounts are to be found in Matthew 24:1-51, Mark 13:1-37, and Luke 21:5-33). For some time, critics of the Christian faith have argued that Jesus explicitly said here that all of the events prophesied in the Olivet Discourse, including His return, would happen before the last person living at that time died.
      Jesus promised, that He would return within that generation, but He did not. Since He was wrong, He could not have been God, so the Christian faith, is based on error. To bolster the argument, in all of the other places in the Gospels where Jesus used the term “this generation,” he was referring to people living at that time.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:18 pm |
    • Mike

      NL
      Who uses those verses to predict a date?

      NL and Dave
      2 Peter 3
      15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:00 pm |
    • NL

      Mike-
      They look to prophecy like Daniel and they interpret 'signs' to indicate their dates, yes?

      October 5, 2010 at 4:33 pm |
    • NL

      Mike-
      "2 Peter 3
      15Bear in mind that our Lord's patience means salvation, just as our dear brother Paul also wrote you with the wisdom that God gave him. 16He writes the same way in all his letters, speaking in them of these matters. His letters contain some things that are hard to understand, which ignorant and unstable people distort, as they do the other Scriptures, to their own destruction."

      Again, this is another instance where the Bible itself insists that it is true, which is part of the circular logic I mentioned before. It's fine for the Bible to make such claims, but where is the logical proof of which it alludes to? Nowhere, right? You have to believe first in order to accept what the Bible claims, but where does this belief come from but the Bible? If you attempted to teach Christianity to somebody without the Bible, say an adult and not an impressionable child, do you think that you could convince them that it was true?

      October 5, 2010 at 4:52 pm |
    • Mike

      NL to answer your question, no I can't but we had this discussion before

      You cannot convince a person that rational thought is the highest authority without making a rational argument.
      You cannot convince a person Marxism without pointing to the work of Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels

      When arguing for what drive the highest authority it must always concede to a circular argument because you must use the source you are arguing to make a case.

      October 6, 2010 at 9:27 am |
    • NL

      Mike-
      Marxism is a rather specific ideology, so I would have to agree that it's highly unlikely for someone to develop it for themselves without reading Marx, or Engels. Rationalism, however, is a pretty general principle really. I think most parents teach their kids to make well informed choices, to weigh options and consequences before acting, to keep their emotions close to their vests while discussing business, and to think through what someone is proposing before accepting it as a good idea. Did everyone who ever jotted down points on a pro vs. con list first study Socrates, Descartes, Kant, or Spinoza?

      Like I said to you before, I know that Christians are capable of rational thought. They, like everyone else, use it every day to make choices specific to their needs. Maybe they even chose which church to join based on logic. This one is closer, but this one is where my parents go, while I really like the pastor over here, and so on. Now, all I ask is did they also ever take the time to run all of their religious beliefs through the same filter? What's wrong with asking yourself if the Trinity makes any sense, or why it was a good thing for God to command the Hebrews to exterminate all the Amalekites, including the women and children, or why eating a lobster isn't at all sinful even though the Bible calls it an abomination too, or anything else that just doesn't jive with our sensibilities or intelligence?

      I know that Christians are told to have faith that some day all of this will actually make logical sense, but you can't help but notice that it's the Bible itself that gives us this reassurance about itself. Imagine you met somebody looking for an investor for his idea of an invention that sounds outlandish to you and the only assurance he can give you that it will work is his own personal guarantee. Based on only that, would you invest?

      October 6, 2010 at 2:31 pm |
  16. Frogist

    "the waning political influence of the movement is now more than apparent"
    I sure hope so. But I think the author is mistaken. The political influence of the religious right is alive and well in the public arena. And unfortunately instead of trying to help the impoverished or seek human rights for all or bolstering an international peace movement, they swat down gay rights, women's right to choose, equal treatment for all religions, a separation of church and state and label anyone who doesn't tow the line as anti-christian. A term which in itself is ridiculous since they cannot even agree amongst themselves who the real Christians are.
    If Christians as he says are more focused on doing good deeds than exerting their influence politically to tramp down the rights of others, then more power to them. But I think the author has blinders on if he thinks that's what's really happening.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:27 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Frogist I think the author is implying that we as a society are moving steadily and slowly in the direction of pragmatism.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:32 am |
    • Sarah Caldwell

      Blinders on? You have blinders, too. Lyon says he's been with thousands of people over the last several years and describes what he's seen. I read their books, Jesus for President, The Hole in Our Gospel, even A Lover's Quarrel with the Evangelical Church; these writers, from a range of Christian thought, agree that we need to pay more attention to the hurts of the world than trying to get the government to enforce any view of Christian morality.

      Our perspective depends on what we're looking for. We could focus on the millions of dollars spent on Proposition 8 through the decisions of a relatively few people. Instead, I focus on the millions of dollars in no-interest loans made by thousands of Christians to American and developing countries' entrepreneurs through kiva.org, decisions made mostly $25 and one enterprising person at a time.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:24 pm |
    • Frogist

      @JohnQuest: I do not see this pragmatism. I hope that we are moving towards it. But again it's hard to see that Christianity is taking a non-political route to their ideals for this country when we have people claiming to be the voice of god and wanting to be elected for it.
      @Sarah: You may choose to focus on what you like as well but it doesn't cancel out the fact that in our political arena today, we have religious right politicians coming out of the woodwork and campaigning on their alleged moral superiority. You simply cannot ignore the push for anti-gay, anti-women, anti-religious tolerance sentiment coming from politicians and public figures who claim a personal audience with the christian god. The author says christianity's influence on politics is waning, and he is wrong.

      October 6, 2010 at 10:03 am |
  17. Leebert

    What you choose to believe is your 'chice'. Nevertheless, there is a God and He reveals himself everyday in
    His creation. Either Jesus spoke the truth or he was a madman? I choose the former. He changed my life and
    placed in it the hope and reality of the God who lives among us and loves us too.

    Christ spoke of this day (and this time) in the book of Matthew. We are approaching very tumultuous times prior to
    his return. Again, you can 'choose' to believe it or not. The God of the Bible has been reliable to me and
    he will reveal himself to you also (but only if you wish him to do so). If you do, reach out to Him and ask.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:08 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Leebert I think a person should believe whatever they want, I just think a person should have some proof before they expect other people to believe it too. There is no proof of a God but there is proof that we are all born Atheist, which should we believe?

      October 5, 2010 at 10:29 am |
    • Bob

      Jesus could have been the following...
      The Son of God, a scam artist, a liar, insane or genuinely mistaken. I prefer to go with scam artist. Because if you look at the "trial of Jesus" they didn't even know what he looked like.

      As for "eyewitness testimony" that's suspect. Hell, even today we have nutters talking about the "mothman" on animal planet. or how they've seen bigfoot. Or that Elvis is still alive.

      October 5, 2010 at 11:25 am |
    • NL

      Another option is that Jesus, had he been real, could have just been another rather progressive thinking Jew. It's what Paul and others made Jesus to be that could be a lie. Imagine being at the death bed of a fabulous orthodox rabbi and whispering into his dying ear that you will convince the world that he was, in fact, God. Do you think that he would die happy?

      October 5, 2010 at 2:00 pm |
  18. Helen

    Societies based on Christianity are hands down the most civilized, progressive and afflouent in the world. There is a reason for this, it's the same reason, the inate knowledge of God, that causes people to reach out to the Supreme Being when they are in trouble. Humans, left to their own devices, aren't capable of balance, and either degress morally, socially and spiritually, or fail to progress at all.

    October 5, 2010 at 10:08 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Helen, that are also the bloodiest and suppressive, fortunately we do not have any, I think the last one was the Germany government that ended in 1945.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:25 am |
    • Bob

      Boon by assoication eh? Does it work the other way?

      Christian nations have the most per capita of drunk driving deaths in the entire world. I suppose by your logic, Christianity is responsible for that.

      When will you grow up intellectually and rationally investigate your claims?

      October 5, 2010 at 11:20 am |
    • NL

      Not to forget that Christian America has the most prisoners of any country. Hardly a glowing account of our higher morals.

      China's economy will likely outpace ours and, when it does, should we take it as a sign that God has chosen it to be His new favorite?

      October 5, 2010 at 1:55 pm |
    • Charles

      LOL, that may be true right now, but turn the clock back a thousand years and you'd see a very different view. Back when Christian civilizations were in the dark ages, it was Muslim civilizations that were keeping things like art, culture, and algebra going.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
  19. Reality

    My take on all religions- (for new members only)

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity by the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants to include the topic young Christians" will quickly converge these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired. Ditto for houses and classes of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    October 5, 2010 at 9:41 am |
    • Mike

      What flaws, follies?

      As for frauds they are a dime a dozen.

      October 5, 2010 at 10:15 am |
    • NL

      Mike-
      Isn't saying that Christian frauds are a dime a dozen basically the same as saying that Christianity is riddled with fraud? That really wouldn't inspire anyone to take up the faith, now would it?

      October 5, 2010 at 1:49 pm |
    • Reality

      Mike,

      The frauds, follies and flaws in Christianity have been posted here many times. Suggest you "google" the topic to see the most recent copy.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:11 pm |
    • Mike

      NL, no I am saying frauds, that claim to be Christians, are a dime a dozen. So know what a Christian is, what they believe, and why they believe it

      Reality, google it was my last advice to you. Still waiting to hear about the people who have debunked Crossan.

      October 5, 2010 at 3:51 pm |
    • NL

      Mike-
      OK, now I see what you were saying. Still, how can anyone know what a true Christian actually is when all groups claim to be true Christians, despite their many, sometimes opposing differences?

      October 5, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
    • Reality

      Mike,(in case you missed these comments in a previous thread)

      One more time. Wikipedia is only a backup source of information. Remember contemporary historians to include Professors Crossan, Reed, Borg, Fredriksen, Wright, Brown et al use critical search methods when determining what really happened for example in first century AD/CE i.e. are there any eye-witness accounts, the time and location of the account, the archeological records and are there attestations of said accounts. To do this, they read and exhaustively an-alyze texts from the time period/location and all the archeology/anthropology from the same time period/location.

      Once again, just some of the texts reveiwed and exhaustively analyzed by the likes of Professors Crossan, Reed, Borg, Fredriksen, Wright, Brown et al and the conclusions thereof:

      . Historical Jesus Theories, earlychristianwritings.com/theories.htm – the names of many of the contemporary historical Jesus scholars and the ti-tles of their over 100 books on the subject.

      2. Early Christian Writings, earlychristianwritings.com/
      – a list of early Christian doc-uments to include the year of publication–

      30-60 CE Passion Narrative
      40-80 Lost Sayings Gospel Q
      50-60 1 Thessalonians
      50-60 Philippians
      50-60 Galatians
      50-60 1 Corinthians
      50-60 2 Corinthians
      50-60 Romans
      50-60 Philemon
      50-80 Colossians
      50-90 Signs Gospel
      50-95 Book of Hebrews
      50-120 Didache
      50-140 Gospel of Thomas
      50-140 Oxyrhynchus 1224 Gospel
      50-200 Sophia of Jesus Christ
      65-80 Gospel of Mark
      70-100 Epistle of James
      70-120 Egerton Gospel
      70-160 Gospel of Peter
      70-160 Secret Mark
      70-200 Fayyum Fragment
      70-200 Testaments of the Twelve Patriarchs
      73-200 Mara Bar Serapion
      80-100 2 Thessalonians
      80-100 Ephesians
      80-100 Gospel of Matthew
      80-110 1 Peter
      80-120 Epistle of Barnabas
      80-130 Gospel of Luke
      80-130 Acts of the Apostles
      80-140 1 Clement
      80-150 Gospel of the Egyptians
      80-150 Gospel of the Hebrews
      80-250 Christian Sibyllines
      90-95 Apocalypse of John
      90-120 Gospel of John
      90-120 1 John
      90-120 2 John
      90-120 3 John
      90-120 Epistle of Jude
      93 Flavius Josephus
      100-150 1 Timothy
      100-150 2 Timothy
      100-150 T-itus
      100-150 Apocalypse of Peter
      100-150 Secret Book of James
      100-150 Preaching of Peter
      100-160 Gospel of the Ebionites
      100-160 Gospel of the Nazoreans
      100-160 Shepherd of Hermas
      100-160 2 Peter

      3. Historical Jesus Studies, faithfutures.org/HJstudies.html,
      – "an extensive and constantly expanding literature on historical research into the person and cultural context of Jesus of Nazareth"

      4. Jesus Database, faithfutures.org/JDB/intro.html–"The JESUS DATABASE is an online annotated inventory of the traditions concerning the life and teachings of Jesus that have survived from the first three centuries of the Common Era. It includes both canonical and extra-canonical materials, and is not limited to the traditions found within the Christian New Testament."

      5. Josephus on Jesus mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm

      6. The Jesus Seminar, mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria

      7. Writing the New Testament- mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/testament.html

      8. Health and Healing in the Land of Israel By Joe Zias
      joezias.com/HealthHealingLandIsrael.htm

      9. Economics in First Century Palestine, K.C. Hanson and D. E. Oakman, Palestine in the Time of Jesus, Fortress Press, 1998.

      10. 7. The Gnostic Jesus
      (Part One in a Two-Part Series on Ancient and Modern Gnosticism)
      by Douglas Groothuis: equip.org/free/DG040-1.htm

      11. The interpretation of the Bible in the Church, Pontifical Biblical Commission
      Presented on March 18, 1994
      ewtn.com/library/CURIA/PBCINTER.HTM#2

      12. The Jesus Database- newer site:
      wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?t-itle=Jesus_Database

      13. Jesus Database with the example of Supper and Eucharist:
      faithfutures.org/JDB/jdb016.html

      14. Josephus on Jesus by Paul Maier:
      mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm

      15. The Journal of Higher Criticism with links to articles on the Historical Jesus:
      mtio.com/articles/bissar24.htm

      16. The Greek New Testament: laparola.net/greco/

      17. Diseases in the Bible:
      etd.unisa.ac.za/ETD-db/theses/available/etd-08022006-125807/unrestricted/02dissertation.pdf

      18. Religion on Line (6000 articles on the history of religion, churches, theologies,
      theologians, ethics, etc.
      religion-online.org/

      19. The Jesus Seminarians and their search for NT authenticity:
      mystae.com/restricted/reflections/messiah/seminar.html#Criteria

      20. The New Testament Gateway – Internet NT ntgateway.com/

      21. Writing the New Testament- existing copies, oral tradition etc.
      ntgateway.com/

      22. The Search for the Historic Jesus by the Jesus Seminarians:
      members.aol.com/DrSwiney/seminar.html

      23. Jesus Decoded by Msgr. Francis J. Maniscalco (Da Vinci Code review)jesusdecoded.com/introduction.php

      24. JD Crossan's scriptural references for his book the Historical Jesus separated into time periods: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan1.rtf

      25. JD Crossan's conclusions about the authencity of most of the NT based on the above plus the conclusions of other NT exegetes in the last 200 years:

      faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan2.rtf

      26. Common Sayings from Thomas's Gospel and the Q Gospel: faithfutures.org/Jesus/Crossan3.rtf

      27. Early Jewish Writings- Josephus and his books by t-itle with the complete translated work in English :earlyjewishwritings.com/josephus.html

      28. Luke and Josephus- was there a connection?
      infidels.org/library/modern/richard_carrier/lukeandjosephus.html

      29. NT and beyond time line:
      pbs.org/empires/peterandpaul/history/timeline/

      30. St. Paul's Time line with discussion of important events:
      harvardhouse.com/prophetictech/new/pauls_life.htm

      31. See http://www.amazon.com for a list of JD Crossan's books and those of the other Jesus Seminarians: Reviews of said books are included and selected pages can now be viewed on Amazon. Some books can be found on-line at Google Books.

      32. Father Edward Schillebeeckx's words of wisdom as found in his books.

      33. The books of the following : Professors Marcus Borg, Paula Fredriksen, Elaine Pagels, Karen Armstrong and Bishop NT Wright.

      34. Father Raymond Brown's An Introduction to the New Testament, Doubleday, NY, 1977, 878 pages, with Nihil obstat and Imprimatur.

      35. Luke Timothy Johnson's book The Real Jesus

      October 5, 2010 at 5:30 pm |
    • peace2all

      @Reality

      Is that ALL you got...? Because, you and pretty much everyone else here on these blogs know that you can cite 'thousands' of references, and Mike will continue his close-minded evangelical fundamentalist beliefs.

      Peace...

      October 6, 2010 at 2:59 am |
    • thwack!

      @peace2all

      hahahahahahaha! You hit the nail on the head there! hahahahaha! Thwack!

      October 6, 2010 at 3:06 am |
    • Mike

      Peace, why is it close mindedness, I did look into the top person on his list Crossan, his career background and thoughtfully rejected. I am still working on the Early writings site, good site but a lot of information to go through and reply on this blog.

      What I have not seen is Reality's reply to
      Grudem
      Frame
      CS Lewis
      writing of Irenaeus
      Strobel

      Modern Christians
      Tim Keller
      John Piper
      Matt Chandler

      October 6, 2010 at 9:21 am |
    • Reality

      Mike,

      Professor Wayne Gruhem- His work and life rely on the Pentecost but was the Pentecost even a historical event or simply more myth concocted by Luke to gain members to the newest cu-lt in town??

      e.g. Luke, the only gospel writer to note the Pentecost, started this tale in Luke 24:49 i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically unreliable, therefore Wayne Gruhem is dealing from a very “flawed deck”.

      e.g. http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=479_The_Promised_Spirit

      Ditto for John Frame. Ditto for C.S. Lewis. Ditto for Irenaeus. Ditto for Strobel. Ditto for Piper. Ditto for Chandler

      October 6, 2010 at 4:01 pm |
    • Reality

      Ooops,

      Professor Wayne Grudem- His work and life rely on the Pentecost but was the Pentecost even a historical event or simply more myth concocted by Luke to gain members to the newest cu-lt in town??

      e.g. Luke, the only gospel writer to note the Pentecost, started this tale in Luke 24:49 i.e. a single attestation and therefore historically unreliable, therefore Wayne Grudem is dealing from a very “flawed deck”.

      e.g. http://wiki.faithfutures.org/index.php?ti-tle=479_The_Promised_Spirit (remove the hyphen in "ti-tle")

      Ditto for John Frame. Ditto for C.S. Lewis. Ditto for Irenaeus, Ditto for Strobel. Ditto for Piper. Ditto for Chandler

      October 6, 2010 at 4:19 pm |
    • Mike

      Reality
      Really?

      Can you expand on your statement?
      Professor Wayne Grudem- His work and life rely on the Pentecost

      Could not find a source on my own to help explain that statement

      As for the Historical event of Pentecost the actual event in Acts 1-2 and not in Luke, did happen again infront of witnesses
      Ok you want a not Luke source

      John 14

      So again Luke, the cnn reporter of his day, writes all of this information in His day and within the life span of his witnesss and there are no known objects and that you don't believe but dawkins and crossan you take at their word?

      You have Paul reconfirming the celebration of the event that "did not occur" in Corithains.
      You have no objective to the 500 that witness it, and the 100 plus in the upper room.

      Your claim as bad as it is, is baseless

      The link you provided just listed three passages... I missed the tie in

      October 7, 2010 at 12:51 pm |
    • Reality

      "Acts of the Apostles

      The Acts of the Apostles, also simply referred to as the "book of Acts" or "Acts", is a narrative of the apostles' ministry after Christ's death and resurrection, from which point it resumes and functions as a sequel to the Gospel of Luke. Examining style, phraseology, and other evidence, modern scholarship generally concludes that Acts and the Gospel of Luke share the same author. This is also suggested by the dedication to a certain "Theophilus" at the beginning of both works.[5]

      The Acts of the Apostles, thought to have been written by the author of the Gospel of Luke for the reasons mentioned above."

      Google "Grudem Pentecost" to see the number of places where said author cites the Pentecost as being a major part of Christianity if not the most important to those enlightened by the "spiriit/ghost/dove". Ditto for the rest of the "experts" previously cited.

      You will have to read Professor Crossan's book, The Historical Jesus, to understand the connection of the three passages so cited in the previous web address. As noted previously, it involves the search for passages that either are independent or dependent/copied from passages and when and who wrote them.

      October 7, 2010 at 4:53 pm |
    • Mike

      I will google when I get some more time but a quick point I didn't get, the first paragraph, yes Luke and Acts were written by Luke... I don't think that was ever a disputed points that is why I had reference John and 1 Corithians. The question was what is the work that said, this Luke who did all the reporting and misrepresented my interview with him. When he mentions King Agrupa(sp have to google the actual king, no time) where is the King's response that says no it did not happen. Where are the greek philosphers that say Pual never came to Mars Hill.

      October 7, 2010 at 5:08 pm |
    • Mike

      Also would add since I reread Mere Christianity and now going through Strobels The Case for the Real Jesus, his second book where he interviews NT scholars to answer the six objection mostly raised by Crossan and Ehrman. Anyway the point was penacost not referenced in either of those works.

      October 8, 2010 at 8:58 am |
    • Mike

      Really, just doing a google search on grudem pentecost first hit is major book Systematic theology, which pentecost is mentioned firt in the pages of the 300s then the 100s. I must disclose I have not read Systematic theology I am working up to it but take the abridge book Bible Doctrine. Where pentecost is first mentioned in the 10th Chapter about 200 pages in. How do you say someone's work is based on this one princliple when there are 9 chapters including clearity and inerrency of the bible, Attributes of God, Trinity, Creation, Sin preceeding the "major point" of all the author's works and belief system?

      October 8, 2010 at 9:59 am |
  20. JohnQuest

    I live in a predominately Christian city, from my own experience church attendance is down and churches are closing their doors. I hope sooner than later we'll have no need for Churches, Mosques, Synagogues, Temples and the like. There are Atheist groups and conversations popping up everywhere which is the surprising in this area of the country.

    I have yet to figure out why Christians think that we need a God figure to do good works for other people. I like to thing that we do good because its the right thing to do, not because we are afraid of a Gods punishment.

    October 5, 2010 at 9:10 am |
    • Selfish Gene

      People fear the unknown. Religion answers the tough questions without a second thought. And from the church goers I know, precious thoughts are few and far between.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:45 am |
    • JohnQuest

      Selfish Gene, sad but true, I like to think it is changing. How could a Pastor reconcile telling a third grader that God created everything when he/she learned in school that natural selection caused what we see? Sooner or later that third grader will have a conflict, the future of religion lays in how that third grader resolves that conflict. I think (hope), science and reason triumphs.

      October 5, 2010 at 9:52 am |
    • Mike

      Science and Reason, created by God does triumph:

      http://qideas.org/video/overcoming-the-faith-and-science-divide.aspx

      October 5, 2010 at 10:17 am |
    • Bob

      @Mike That was netiher logical or scientific. Perhaps you should gain a base of understanding in what Science is before being swayed by "I don't know how it oculd have happened" nonsense.

      October 5, 2010 at 12:02 pm |
    • Charles

      Science always wins in the end. Always. It may take years, decades, or centuries, but in the end science always triumphs.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:13 pm |
    • senoy

      Without a God, what does 'good' even mean? At best it's a social and biological construct and at worst an individual one. The term good ceases to have meaning. Without an objective source of 'good', then we can't even discuss what being 'good' to your neighbor even means. The concept of 'good' that we have in the West is merely the product of Christian cultural indoctrination and hardly a universal (providing of course that there is no God.) I would conjecture that without God, it is impossible to do 'good things' because 'good things' aren't real. At best you could do actions that are preferred by the majority of a given society.

      October 5, 2010 at 4:17 pm |
    • Frogist

      @senoy: I disagree. If you give a starving man a piece of bread, does it matter whether you believe in god or not? The action remains a good one for the starving man. Does good come down to motive? If so, then the believer who is only doing a good deed to get into heaven or because god told him so is doing "good" for selfish purposes or by command and therefore dilutes the "goodness" of the act. While a non-believer has no such motivation of future reward and the good of their act is their own alone.
      I say that there is no objective source of what "good" is. Good cannot only or even necessarily be measured by feelings, or social impact, or legal terms. Good must be measured by all these things as well as the persistence of time. Because that is all we have. We cannot rely on a god to define the terms of goodness because there is no absolute, unerring record of said god. In other words, if God cannot be quantified, neither can the goodness that comes from him. We can clearly see that believers in God do evil as well as non-believers and we can clearly see that non-believers do good as well as believers. That certainly takes any god out of the equation. In the end, no matter what we believe, we only have ourselves to define what goodness is.

      October 6, 2010 at 9:39 am |
    • senoy

      @Frogist: You would be correct in saying that the goodness of the act of giving a starving man a piece of bread is not determined by a belief in God. You would be wrong in saying it is not determined by the existence of God. Without an objective moral source, then morality is simply opinion. If you wish to say that goodness is only determined by the self, then I posit that goodness doesn't exist. It's an imaginary construct. You may say that giving the starving man a loaf of bread is good, but I may say that beating the starving man to death and then eating his liver with fava beans and a nice chianti is good. Without an objective source, both are equally valid claims.

      You say that we can clearly see that believers do evil and non-believers do good. I agree with you. It seems very obvious to me. Without God though, this is a nonsense statement. How could a believer do evil when they think they are doing good? All that matters is their own belief. They aren't doing something evil, they are simply disagreeing with your opinion.

      I think that you also conflate our knowledge of good with the existence of good. It may be true that we are incapable of understanding what is good or understanding God. We may indeed screw up what we think good is. This doesn't mean that good becomes non-objective. It means that our perception of good is non-objective. These are two very different things.

      October 6, 2010 at 4:40 pm |
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