The Kumbaya Christians (2)

Baal-and-Minneapolis

Worshiping our new god of fire.

Responding to the New Religion of Wokeness

There is a new religion being born out there in the arson, looting, murder, human cancelation, kneeling and virtue signaling.  Although currently unnamed, I will use “Wokeness” for the time being.  Numerous compelling articles have recently appeared to examine this development, one of which is by Kyle Smith.  The key definitional passage is:

Anti-racism is the most critical element of a broader new Woke Orthodoxy whose other elements include environmental apocalypticism, feminism, and a severing of sexual identity from genetic indicators. Settling on a term for the new religion will take some time. Wesley Yang’s suggestion (seconded by Ross Douthat) of “the Successor Ideology” is clunky, anodyne, and a bit euphemistic given the righteous, roiling fervor and unnerving credulousness that define the cult.

However, years ago Joseph Bottum saw this all coming down the pike in his 2014 essay titled “The Spiritual Shape of Political Ideas.”  Mr. Bottum ties the new religion to Christianity, but with eviscerating deviations from this source.

Our social and political life is awash in unconsciously held Christian ideas broken from the theology that gave them meaning, and it’s hungry for the identification of sinners—the better to prove the virtue of the accusers and, perhaps especially, to demonstrate the sociopolitical power of the accusers. … Twitter and Facebook may or may not be able to make someone famous, but they can certainly make someone infamous in the blink of an eye. And because sinners’ apologies never receive the same publicity as their sins, the Internet both casts its targets from the temple and leaves them out there, lost among the profanities.  …

Mr. Bottum then delves into the apocalyptic idea inherent in “Wokeness” that is utterly disconnected from the purposes of a just, loving God.

But then, it’s always the fate of humanity that is at stake when the prophet calls us to repentance, and an apocalypse always provides to its diviners and their listeners a sharp and wonderful clarity. In this … believers in the Christian apocalypse, albeit without much Christianity. Armageddon comes to us these days as an idea, a powerful moral intuition, that has finally broken free from its old theological constraints to wander, isolated and alone. It is the last, the greatest, simplification of all the messiness of life. And who, at some level, doesn’t want that?

Building on these insights, Mr. Bottum has recently extended his analysis to address our current political/spiritual state in an interview with Providence Journal.  His views are summarized in that venue as follows.

Bottum theorizes that Mainline Protestantism’s collapse left a spiritual vacuum in American culture that loosed myriad social demons. Post-Protestantism wants to wage war on social sins, but not personal sins. It identifies redemption with having politically correct opinions. And it finds sanctification in denouncing others who lack its spiritual and political insights.

Of course, the post-Protestant theory of salvation is not satisfying, which leads to despair and deconstruction. From its perspective, absent Providence and eschatology, there is no destination, which potentially leads to destruction and nihilism. Bottum warns that a society without a shared culture cannot measure progress or purpose and no longer believes in itself, causing it to see its history as a long list of crimes.

priests-kneel-to-BLM

Pathetic submission by “Christian” leaders to a Christ-hating group.  Perhaps when the “Woke” Bible translation is released Psalm 96:6 will read: “Come, let us bow down in worship, let us kneel before BLM our idol.”

So, how do the Kumbaya Christians respond to this new religion?  Well, while it’s priests swarm our streets looting, burning, pulling down statues, canceling human lives and murdering at will, they tut-tut at any even mild criticism.  No, their primary purpose is to convince their followers that the latest pronouncements of Christ-hating, Marxist proto-totalitarians is precisely what Christ would support were He here to speak.  They tell us that it is our Christian duty to kneel

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Shaun King is a prominent Black Lives Matter leader.  He thus is influential in setting the ideology to which “Christian” leaders have chosen to kneel down in pathetic submission.

before this new Baal and beg forgiveness for our existence.  Then we can return to our homes sure in the knowledge that we have earned our place in the new salvation of identity-based self hatred and identity-based sainthood.

And what of Jesus Christ?  He apparently will take a last bow and fondly wave goodbye as we achieve ever higher levels of narcissism, violence and pride, rising with this new Baal to the moral heights of Wokeness.

Kumbaya indeed!

 

 

Recommended for Your Consideration (1)

I’m recommending this insightful, relevant interview by Mark Tooley (Providence Journal) of Joseph Bottum (June 19, 2020).  I have read Bottum’s referenced book, which is a profound meditation on the decline of the Mainline Church in the U.S.  Regardless of our political leanings I suspect we all agree that something profound is currently taking place that has deep spiritual and ideological roots.  Mr. Bottum’s thoughts on this issue are well worth the 24 minutes of listening.

Gov. Pritzker Backs Down on Church Closures

firstamendment-2

The  Governor of Illinois, J.B. Pritzker, has unceremoniously backed down on his order closing all churches to any gathering greater than 10 people.

Gov. JB Pritzker has lifted all restrictions on churches in the state after challenge by the U.S. Supreme Court, and has issued a set of guidelines instead.

The surrender was ignominious and complete.

“Per the Governor’s announcement today, religious organizations are no longer subject to any of the gathering restrictions in any phase,” Illinois Attorney General Kwame Raoul and Solicitor General Jane Notz wrote in the state’s submission to the Supreme Court on Thursday night.

Context for this stunning development is provided in this article.

(The Center Square) – Just hours before his administration was to respond to a challenge to his authority in the U.S. Supreme Court, Gov. J.B. Pritzker’s office has announced guidance for places of worship to reopen, signaling he’s lifting his restrictions.

Pritzker has been under fire from churches that filed a handful of lawsuits, including one before the U.S. Supreme Court that his administration had to respond to before 8 p.m. Thursday.

Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver, representing the two Chicago churches said, “The unilateral actions of Gov. J.B. Pritzker is the classic example of tyranny. He knew he did not have authority to trample on the First Amendment rights of churches and houses of worship, but he did anyway and continued to do so until his case reached the U.S. Supreme Court. He cannot be trusted to obey the Constitution. The fact that he recently said that churches would never get above 50 people for at least 12 to 18 months, and now a few hours before he had to file with the Supreme Court he removes all restrictions, illustrates that he had no basis for the orders in the first place. The only thing that changed was he was dragged to the steps of the U.S. Supreme Court.”

Let’s be absolutely clear.  Gov. Pritzker did not collapse under the weight of a broad uprising of churches and their leaders.  No, it was only “a handful of lawsuits” by a few churches that brought down this man’s arbitrary and capricious (and unConstitutional) restrictions on our religious freedom.

The fact that so many churches passively accepted these orders is a scandal that will not soon be forgotten.  It will not be forgotten by the parishioners who watched their leaders submit without complaint and sometimes with enthusiasm to this illegitimate use of state power.  Nor will it be forgotten by those politicians and organizations who seek to destroy the Christian Church in the United States (for example, see herehere and here for attacks on our tax-exempt status and  here  here and here on the general situation).

No church is forced to reopen.  Nor are the policies of any church controlled.  Rather, the leadership of each church now has the reestablished right to make decisions unhindered by the state.

Decoding Progressivism (14)

COVID-19 Hysteria Edition

pritzker-5-step-plan

Gov. Pritzker’s “plan” to reopen Illinois.  Not dissimilar to “Our Vision for Health, Safety, Virtue, and Eternal Peace

Governor Pritzker of Illinois is only one of a cadre of Progressive governors whose apparently irrational and destructive policies are driving their states into wreck and ruin.  We on the receiving end of these policies can be forgiven for wondering just what could motivate these leaders to behave in this manner.  Particularly when their public explanations for what are without doubt their selected policy choices make no sense.

Gov-Pritzker-COVID-19-Dog

Are We in a State of Hysteria Over COVID-19? (6)

Reasons to Wonder

Model Based Projections

The IHME Model (Continued)

In previous posts I have cast doubt on the various COVID-19 models based on their demonstrated unreliability over time.  That is, they all have started with terrifyingly high projections of deaths (even with social distancing) but then were successively and significantly (massively in the Imperial College Model case) reduced, sometimes over a span of just days.

While the above information is devastating to these models’ credibility, there is another, more technical, means by which to judge them.  All responsible modelers acknowledge that there is uncertainty in their predictions.  They admit that, by use of uncertain / incomplete data and artificial mathematical manipulations, they cannot claim to predict the future with total accuracy.  The metric often used to convey this uncertainty is called the Confidence Interval.

methodsfig1

The 95% Confidence Interval for a population of results with a Gaussian probability distribution.

A confidence interval, in statistics, refers to the probability that a population parameter will fall between two set values for a certain proportion of times. Confidence intervals measure the degree of uncertainty or certainty in a sampling method. A confidence interval can take any number of probabilities, with the most common being a 95% or 99% confidence level.

In more simplistic terms, the modelers use statistical theory to determine the range of output values for which they are, say, 95% confident that the actual, real world data will be within.  Thus, if the model is useful and the mathematical calculations correct we expect that for 95% of real world cases the values will fall within the model’s 95% Confidence Interval.  However, if it turns out that far less than 95% of actual data falls within this Confidence Interval then the model has failed by its own terms.  That is, the model has failed to adhere to the level of uncertainty that the modelers themselves have specified.

Based on these concepts a group of researchers decided to test the predictions of the IHME COVID-19 model using the Confidence Interval defined by the IHME modelers themselves.  The chose the easiest possible future prediction test; that being:

Given all the deaths by State data up to a given date, prediction of the next day’s number of deaths per State.

In other words, all the IHME model had to do was predict the next day’s death count per state within the Confidence Interval (i.e., the actual number of deaths is between the least and most death values for which the modelers said they could predict with 95% confidence).

The paper’s authors picked four dates: March 30 & 31 and April 1 & 2.  Since for each date the number of predicted deaths were made for each of the 50 States in the U.S., this resulted in a total of 200 model predictions.  If the model performed with the confidence predicted by the modelers that would mean that only 10 of the 200 predictions would fall outside of the 95% Confidence Intervals.  The following chart shows what actually occurred.

IHME-CI-Model-Results

Confidence Interval IHME Model results from “Learning as We Go: An Examination of the Statistical Accuracy of COVID19 Daily Death Count Predictions” for next day number of deaths prediction by State.  The total number of data points utilized is 200 (i.e., 50 States times 4 days).

Note that the number of next day predictions that fall outside of the IHME modeler’s defined 95% Confidence Interval is 130 as opposed to the expected 10.  The unavoidable conclusion is that the IHME modelers are not able to accurately predict the reliability of their model’s output data even for the easiest test case (i.e., predict the next day’s number of deaths).  The paper authors summarize their findings as follows.

Our results suggest that the IHME model substantially underestimates the uncertainty associated with COVID19 death count predictions. We would expect to see approximately 5% of the observed number of deaths to fall outside the 95% prediction intervals. In reality, we found that the observed percentage of death counts that lie outside the 95% PI to be in the range 49% – 73%, which is more than an order of magnitude above the expected percentage.

But it’s far worse than this.  For a model that is incapable of predicting number of deaths one day in advance has been used by policy makers to predict weeks, even months into the future.  This result exposes the entire COVID-19 public safety initiative as having been based on modeling that is utterly discredited even if evaluated on the terms set by the modelers themselves.  This is the basis upon which our economy has been devastated, with potentially millions of citizens forced into poverty and lost hope, with all of the associated lives lost due to increased suicide, drug abuse, depression, domestic and community violence, undiagnosed disease, among other causes.  This is a massive scientific scandal with direct devastating consequences for hundreds of millions and indirect for billions of human beings worldwide.

Christian Charity, Mission and Compassion Reconsidered (5)

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This figure shows the utter failure of public education in large U.S. cities.  Note that the displayed percentages are of students who are not proficient in reading.

What Should be Done?

I certainly don’t expect Progressive individuals and organizations to embrace conservative ideas for welfare reform.  However, even this position doesn’t preclude the finding of common ground.  For example, the Progressive community could say something like this:

“While we believe that conservative ideas on welfare reform are fundamentally flawed, we yet agree that the current set of welfare policies has not achieved their intended results.  In fact, on numerous key measures of well-being the beneficiaries of welfare have significantly digressed over the past decades.  Therefore, we will support an open discussion on what has gone wrong and why.  From there we will support an open debate on the reforms necessary to correct past mistakes and increase the likelihood of future success.”

The tragic truth is that virtually no one finds this imagined statement by our Progressive elites to be in the slightest credible.  This is because their power rests on the false assumption of their intellectual and moral superiority. Thus they cannot survive if they ever admit to have been wrong.  Not surprisingly then, what we have observed is retreat into reactionary positions from which any criticism of the Welfare State or proposal for welfare/education reform is viciously attacked.  When “welfare reform” was passed in the 1990s the Progressive community pulled out all the stops to retard and ultimately reverse this initiative.  The Progressive community continues to be opposed to “school choice” even though a majority of disadvantaged parents support it.

In the 1960s and 70s Mainline denominational leadership tied itself to the secular Progressive movement as the vehicle for positive social change.  We can legitimately debate the wisdom of this decision within context of what was known at that time.  However, from the 1980s on it has become progressively more clear that the Great Society and associated policies have had the opposite effect of those claimed to be intended by their supporters.

We Mainline Christians must seriously ask ourselves what we really are accomplishing by our continuing support of these destructive social policies.  If we want an endless supply of people in poor and oppressed communities as recipients of our charity then by all means continue on.  In that direction lies the continued affirmation of a godless elite class who value us only to the extent that we slavishly uphold their power and follow their political line.  In that case Jesus’ words should burn in our souls.

1“Be careful not to practice your righteousness in front of others to be seen by them. If you do, you will have no reward from your Father in heaven.

2“So when you give to the needy, do not announce it with trumpets, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and on the streets, to be honored by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward in full.”

Matthew 6:1, 2 (NIV)

If we want to actually improve the lives of the people trapped in these communities then we must open our hearts and minds to the concept of reforms that challenge the current Progressive orthodoxy.  In that direction lies suffering, as we will be subjected to the full force of hatred that holds current policies in place.  We will be called terrible names.  Our motives will be attacked.  Our Christian faith will be denigrated.  Everything will be done that can be to make the world consider us pariahs.  But if we reject their power to destroy we may actually through God’s grace find new paths that lead towards renewal and hope.

18“If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’

26“But when the Helper comes, whom I will send to you from the Father, the Spirit of truth, who proceeds from the Father, he will bear witness about me. 27And you also will bear witness, because you have been with me from the beginning.

John 15:18-27 (ESV)

 

Christianity’s Contemporary Headwinds (2)

McGrath-Doyle

Twitter personality Titania McGrath (left) is really Andrew Doyle (right).

There is another person, Andrew Doyle, who has earned my high regard.  However, whereas Dr. McClay’s work is in the scholarly domain, Mr. Doyle’s is in bareknuckled satire through his ingenious Twitter creation, Titania McGrath.  That said, Mr. Doyle is a serious man who has obtained a deep and well rounded education.

Mr. Doyle is a man with whom I could enjoy long discussion on points of agreement and disagreement.  He is utterly committed to the concept of free speech, which makes him an ally on one of the most important issues of our time.  Therefore, the following criticisms are not intended to undermine his overall position, but rather to illuminate the  power of Christianity’s headwinds.

The source for this discussion is a long interview with the American Mind.  There is obviously much more of interest in this interview than I will here discuss.  My entry point is where Mr. Doyle (A.D.) is asked by the interviewer  (S.K.) about the “religious” nature of woke ideology.

S.K. That’s something I’d like to ask you more about: this mode of gaining power. On the one hand you suggested that there might be a strategy behind it, but you’ve also compared it to a kind of religion, as we have done also here at The American Mind. Which would suggest a more unconscious impulse, less than an explicit strategy.

A.D. Yes, that’s the theme of Tom Holland’s last book, Dominion. Holland makes that point that in the absence of Christianity, there’s something instinctive about finding these belief systems. And it does have the same hallmarks: it has the aspect of original sin, the Augustinian concept of original sin which now comes in through whiteness, or being heterosexual—having these immutable characteristics that make you a sinner. And then you’ve got the heresy concept, the idea that anyone who doesn’t think the right things is a heretic who needs to be cancelled, and then you get the metaphor of cancel culture, which is a lot like witch hunting, and burning people at the stake as the Inquisition might have done.

And of course so much of the theorizing behind woke ideas is based on entirely unsubstantiated, faith-based positions. They believe in unconscious bias, and institutional power structures—things that you can’t quantify or put your finger on that just sort of exist in the ether like spirits. And to ask them to prove any of these positions is to simply get the response that well, they do exist because we know they do. Which is what a religious zealot would say.

So I think that certainly the best way to understand the social justice movement is to see it as a cult. Because then it all makes sense, and it also makes sense why they’re able to behave so barbarically toward those who don’t subscribe to their belief system. Because the hallmark of many religions is tolerance to a degree. And then where things start going wrong, where witches start getting burned at the stake and heretics start getting executed is where that tolerance runs out. And I think that’s what happened here: the social justice movement is a fundamentally intolerant movement. And fundamentally illiberal. There’s nothing liberal about it.

To accept this discussion as an accurate commentary on the Christian religion one would have to assume that Christianity as practiced in the 17th century has continued unchanged into the 21st century!  I must ask Mr. Doyle when was the most recent “witch hunting” activity conducted under the auspices of a Western Christian denomination?  When was the most recent trial of a heretic?  If Mr. Doyle wishes to claim that 21st century woke ideology shares some of the worst aspects of 17th century Christianity then we may be able to find common ground.  But this is not his contention, which is odd for a man of such clear intellectual power and educational achievement.

Mr. Doyle then proceeds to explain the “totalizing system” that is capable of defeating wokeness in the absence of Christianity.

S.K. … do you think there is some other, more healthy totalizing system through which we can view the world? Something that can defeat and take the place of wokeness?

A.D. Yes, I’d call it liberalism. And I mean that in the classical sense of the word. The best way to build a humane society is from the liberal position: everyone is free to say and do whatever they want to do, to identify however they want to identify, to live their lives as they want, so long as it does not encroach on the freedoms of others. And that strikes me as the most sensible solution to anything.

So if you take the trans debate, the liberal position is that anyone has the right to do to their bodies whatever they want, to call themselves whatever they want, but they have no right to demand that others would use the language that they would like them to use. It has to be about individual freedom, and that strikes me as the best way to run a society.

Firstly, I’d argue that a better term for Mr. Doyle’s position is “libertarian.”  Be that as it may, one might erroneously conclude that “classical liberalism” arrived ex nihilo into Western Civilization.  In point of fact “classical liberalism” arose uniquely in a Western Civilization dominated by Christianity.  I am not here claiming that “classical liberalism” is a Christian ideology.  However, I am claiming that “classical liberalism” depended on the existence of  Western Christianity for its birth and persistence.  Only the fact that Christianity has receded in Western Civilization allows us to erroneously assume otherwise.

My point is this: Even a man of impeccable intelligence and learning such as Mr. Doyle is able, knowingly or not, to assume that “classical liberalism” exists independently from Western Christianity.  This assumption undermines the rightful place that Christianity holds as the means by which a humane theory for civilizational organization originated and grew.  By this error our “classical liberal” friends neglect their natural allies in the existential battle with totalitarian evil.

Christianity’s Contemporary Headwinds (1)

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In the previous post I briefly discussed the cultural forces against which contemporary Western Christianity struggles.  Generally, what comes to mind are those people and institutions that aggressively attack Christianity out of ideological and/or personal hatred.  From my perspective the most effective opposition to Christianity has originated not from the pagan/atheistic/multicultural outside, but rather from the institutional Christian inside.  This concern has led to innumerable blog posts and ultimately to an eBook.

There is another identifiable group who, while not overtly opposing and sometimes clearly admiring Christianity, yet create headwinds against which it must struggle.  I have not previously commented on this group, the one minor exception being the profound meditation by Wilfred M. McClay on “The Strange Persistence of Guilt.”  Anyone familiar with my blogging and books knows that I have the highest regard for Professor McClay’s essay, as I consider it to be one of the most insightful and important of recent years.  However, even within this great admiration I yet voiced a brief but significant criticism of his perspective.

What Dr. McClay may not understand, and many of our denominational leaders certainly do not understand, is that Christianity’s power for advancing the social good is a consequence of actual, real belief. And, without that real belief as a first thing, Christianity can’t be anything more than a derivative, inefficient and unreliable vehicle for social change.
It is only through real belief in Christianity’s foundational truths made available to flesh and blood people that there is any hope for humane social change.

I was here responding to this section near the end of Dr. McClay’s essay (emphasis added).

What is to be done? One conclusion seems unavoidable. Those who have viewed the obliteration of religion, and particularly of Judeo-Christian metaphysics, as the modern age’s signal act of human liberation need to reconsider their dogmatic assurance on that point. Indeed, the persistent problem of guilt may open up an entirely different basis for reconsidering the enduring claims of religion. Perhaps human progress cannot be sustained without religion, or something like it, and specifically without something very like the moral economy of sin and absolution that has hitherto been secured by the religious traditions of the West.

Clearly Dr. McClay is here viewing Christianity from the perspective of its utilitarian impact on Western Civilization.  That is, rather than embracing Christianity itself he speaks about its positive impact on Western Civilization’s development.  Christianity isn’t a power for good because it’s the Truth about God and His purposes for humanity.  Rather we need Christianity “or something like it” to adequately deal with humanity’s “persistent problem of guilt.”

Dr. McClay is no enemy of Christianity.  For all I know he may be a Christian himself.  My point is that, by treating Christianity as something less than what it ultimately is he undermines the very foundation upon which he hopes to rebuild Western Civilization.  Thus, even in this most powerful meditation on the issues of sin and guilt whose persistence has driven our culture nearly mad, Dr. McClay adds to the headwinds against which Christianity must struggle.  This is part and parcel of the civilizational tragedy that continues to unfold before our tearful eyes.

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (2)

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Title: Psalm 11:3 (NIV)

Even were Western Christianity strong it would find itself struggling against the overwhelming tide of secular opposition.  Our mass culture is saturated with messages critical of organized religion in general and Christianity in particular.  Our educational institutions are dominated by a shallow scientism that pushes all questions to the materialist domain.  Our concepts of morality are increasingly sourced from a kaleidoscope of contemporary ideologies created by aggressive political activists.  And perhaps most significantly, anyone claiming Christian belief is held to the ultimate standards of that faith, thus exposing them to the apparently credible charge of hypocrisy.

So, I do credit Nietzsche for his prophetic insight that God had died as a foundational concept for Western Civilization’s morality.  I also give credit for his fearful premonitions of what would happen when the full effects of this moral void were felt.  One can only shudder when surveying the terrors visited upon Europe in the 20th century.

The nature of those terrors were predicted by another genius of the late 19th century, Fyodor Dostoevsky in his novel The Brothers Karamazov (1880).

“If God does not exist, everything is permitted.”

This idea was put into practice in the 20th century’s total war, genocides and totalitarian terror states.  It continues to animate the 21st century Progressive project of Intersectionality, abortion and Marxism.

However, this entire edifice of nihilism is built on the unproven assumption that God is a human creation.  The alternative is that God is real and exists utterly independently from human belief.  More particularly, that this objectively real God has chosen to reveal His nature and purposes through the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, that is, the Christian Bible.

This alternative likely seems nonsense to many in the younger cohort of Americans (i.e., Gen. X, Millennial and Gen. Z).  After all, they have been raised in the Progressive dominated mass media, education and political era.  Thus their exposure to the idea of God outside of a church is saturated with contempt for a figment of the ignorant or hateful human imagination.  For many who were raised in a church the prevailing attitude had little power to oppose godlessness and too often reinforced it.

The question thus arises: Is there a Book of the Bible that can testify afresh to generations permeated by ideologies of the Progressive era?  Many candidates come to mind, with one of the four Gospels seeming a natural answer.  Although I would never discourage anyone from reading these direct commentaries on the life and purposes of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ, I also wonder if they only indirectly address the specific intellectual barriers to faith.  Anything from the Old Testament seems right out given the impediments raised by time and culture.  It must be said that God’s Holy Spirit cannot be denied any means by which to bring broken sinners to faith.

Were I to choose one Book by which to challenge the prevailing contemporary ideologies of disbelief it must be the Romans Epistle.  No other Book so explicitly and methodically excavates the layers of human need for the Gospel down to the very foundation.  No other book is written to an audience as cosmopolitan and multicultural as were the citizens of Rome.  And no other Book addressed a congregation more oppressed by the ideologies of power and prestige as those living in the seat of power for the great Roman Empire.

So, if Western Christianity is going to reestablish its credibility as a source of God’s Good News then a great place to start is in the Romans Epistle.

 

“When the foundations are being destroyed, what can the righteous do?” (1)

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Title: Psalm 11:3 (NIV)

We live in a contemporary world where Christian faith for many has become not difficult, but rather incomprehensible.  When in 1882 Friedrich Nietzsche had the perception to notice and the courage to say that “God is dead,” he was commenting on a civilizational process that, while then hidden, was already well established. 

“God is dead! God remains dead! And we have killed him! How can we console ourselves, the murderers of all murderers! The holiest and the mightiest thing the world has ever possessed has bled to death under our knives: who will wipe this blood from us? With what water could we clean ourselves? What festivals of atonement, what holy games will we have to invent for ourselves? Is the magnitude of this deed not too great for us? Do we not ourselves have to become gods merely to appear worthy of it?”  [The Gay Science, Section 125]

The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy provides necessary assistance in interpreting this assertion (references have been removed).

… his doubts about the viability of Christian underpinnings for moral and cultural life are not offered in a sunny spirit of anticipated liberation, nor does he present a sober but basically confident call to develop a secular understanding of morality; instead, he launches the famous, aggressive and paradoxical pronouncement that “God is dead.” The idea is not so much that atheism is true— … he depicts this pronouncement arriving as fresh news to a group of atheists—but instead that because “the belief in the Christian God has become unbelievable”, everything that was “built upon this faith, propped up by it, grown into it”, including “the whole of our European morality”, is destined for “collapse.” Christianity no longer commands society-wide cultural allegiance as a framework grounding ethical commitments, and thus, a common basis for collective life that was supposed to have been immutable and invulnerable has turned out to be not only less stable than we assumed, but incomprehensibly mortal—and in fact, already lost.

We tend to focus on the contention of God’s loss as a foundation for Western Civilization’s morality.  But when we read his prophetic words again there is something even more subversive at play.  Nietzsche is here claiming that, to the extent that God ever lived, it was entirely due to our belief.  That is, we have the power to kill God because He is our creation.

If we wish to understand why contemporary Western Christianity is so irrelevant then this is one key.  We see this assumption at work in the Mainline denominations where “Christianity” is used as just another means by which to advance a secular and godless political ideology.  In the Catholic Church, what but a disbelief in God’s existence can explain the powerful and persistent clique of pederasty in its clergy? There is virtually no “fear of God” left in the Western Church, be it in the leadership or many in the pews.  For how can we “fear” something that we have created and that thus has lost its power to demand our allegiance?