Saturday, February 25, 2012
Friday, February 24, 2012
Thought v Education
Conventional wisdom has it that there is a growing relationship between a person's level of education and their religion. Most people assume that the more a person is educated, their level of religion goes down because they start forming ideas of their own.Interesting dichotomy is it not? Education v non-education, high-church v low church, inerrancy....
However, a new study indicates that the opposite may be true.
Sociologist Philip Schwadel from the University of Nebraska-Lincoln (UNL) studied this phenomenon. He discovered that people today tend to become more religious as they further their education.
Schwadel, the author of the new study, will publish his findings in the journal Review of Religious Research.
He said studying the effect of education on religion shows the complexity of defining it. For one thing, contrary to a popular misconception, education has a positive association with church attendance.
Schwadel said: "It all falls down to what you consider to be religious."
"If it’s simply attending religious services, then no, highly educated people are not less religious. In fact they’re more religious.'
His study cites that each year a person adds to their education, he or she is 15 percent more likely to attend religious services. The catch in his study determined that when an individual attends a church service, they are less likely to take Scripture literally.
"If it’s saying the Bible is the literal word of God and saying that only one religion is the true religion, then they are less religious,' he said.
One could analyze this to death, but one thought keep creeping through my brain - They are ALL religious! Jesus wants us all - educated and uneducated, literalists and less so, Presbyterian and Pentecostal - we are all Christ's. And each of us serves a function for each of us can reach others more like.
People are amazingly diverse and Christ wants to grant his gifts across that diversity, so He needs a diverse church, some of it seeming more religious than other parts.
Thursday, February 23, 2012
If There Is A Problem...
Church Marketing Sucks carried a couple of posts on "The Problem with Excellence." They are really the standard "don't set your sites too high," "best is the enemy of better," but that title set me to thinking.
We Christians are really good at "cute." We use an obvious oxymoron to try and make a point, AND get people to read what we write. Problem is, the oxymoron becomes a trite phrase everybody seems to know what it means, but after a few years, people just start to believe two contradictory thing. What was a cute oxymoron has now become truth and no one sees it for an oxymoron. I promise you someday, some 8-year-old being disciplined by his parents for bad grades is going to tell his parents, "but there is a problem with excellence," and likely cite the blog. Oops.
Sometimes, we might want to think beyond the next 10 minutes when we're attempting to make a point.
Related Tags: Illuminated Meditation
Wednesday, February 22, 2012
God Said What?!
Every believer wants to hear from God. Why would you follow God closely if you didn’t want to know His voice or hear what He has to say? We want to know…Is this God?…Is this what He is telling me to do?…or…Am I being swayed by the circumstances of my life?Personally, the older I get, the more I have come to conclude that God generally speaks to use far more subtly than even Edmondson is talking about - and I think that is with good reason.
One thing I’ve observed is that we often listen for the grandiose voice of God. Sometimes God speaks that way, but many times God is more subtle than that. Often God speaks through those quiet moments, through other people, and through life’s circumstances. In a crowded world of noise and life distractions sometimes it’s hard to understand what God is saying. How do we take the circumstance of life, as mixed up and confusing as they can be, and figure out what God could be saying to us?
I can tell you way too many stories of harm, injury and other mischief that has come from those that "hear God speaking to them." But it is rare that I can cite such things from those that have grown in maturity in the Lord to the point where it's not about "hearing God" but about having been transformed to the point that their will is more or less aligned with God's will.
I have found over the years that it is best NEVER to claim to to have heard God's voice, through circumstance, reason, or miracle. Such belies a less than humble repose. Rather I have fund it best to always strive to hear Him, assume I have botched it to some extent and submit myself to examination both by others and by prayer.
I cannot claim to understand how the prophets or apostles were able to speak with such authority and get away with, I just know I have never met their kind in my lifetime. I presume and other-worldliness that will belie the authority with which they speak.
But until I meet someone like that, I cannot help but think it best to presume I cannot hear God clearly.
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Whether or not these books can be credited with sparking current trends, it’s clear the spirit of both of them is alive and well in American Christianity. The so-called “New Reformed” movement is living out Noll’s call for greater intellectual engagement and doctrinal sophistication. And legions of younger Christians are taking up Sider’s vision to seek social justice in Jesus’ name. I support both of these relatively recent developments, more or less. But I think they have the same shortcoming in common. As different as they are, they both appeal to the intellect in one way or another. They both seem to assume that if we simply believe the right things (whether it’s the doctrine of atonement or the Christian’s moral responsibility in the world) then we’ll behave the right way.O'Brien has a point, though I think he ignores the entire Pentecostal movement which seems to be wholly about finding a non-intellectual plane and pretty much ignoring the intellect altogether.
I’m not convinced.
I think there’s another, deeper problem in evangelicalism, what I’ll call (for consistency’s sake) the scandal of the evangelical imagination.
I don’t mean that evangelicals produce bad art (although we do), and I’m not issuing a call for more sophisticated creative engagement with culture (though we need one). Imagination is broader than that. The dictionary defines imagination as “the faculty or action of forming new ideas,” or “images or concepts of external objects not present to the senses.” This has to do with faith at its core. We are accustomed to trusting our senses to tell us what is true. But imagination offers a broader perspective on truth. If imagination is the capacity to visualize, and be confident in a reality, even if it contradicts our experience, then it refuses to let our senses determine the limits of what is possible. Faith requires us to envision and inhabit a world that we cannot perceive with our senses--a world where an invisible God lovingly maintains his creation, where the Son of God can become a human child, can die on a cross to save sinners, and be seated at the right hand of God in glory.
I also think he has taking a misstep by using the word "imagination" in this context. I even agree with his thesis, but it's not about imagination - it's about spirit. I've seen people "imagine" themselves into deep and significant heresy. Worse, I've seen people imagine themselves quite literally to death. (Long story)
But our spirit, that piece of the supernatural in us, when aligned with God's Holy Spirit will not lead us down false paths. Maybe I am piking a nit here, but I think it is an important one.
We need to move past our intellect into God's actual presence, but I am not at all sure imagination is how we get there.
Monday, February 20, 2012
No Shock Here
There is a declining depth of commitment among born-again Christians to their faith over the last 20 years, according to a “State of the Church” study by the Barna Research Group released this week.That is a definite sign that we have dropped the bar on what it takes for people to be able to self-identify as "born-again." Cheap grace indeed abounds.
In interpreting the study, which shows a drop in church attendance, Bible reading, and priority in faith, research group founder George Barna warned that American Christians have become complacent.
The study in regards to those identified by Barna Group as born-again Christians showed that:
Attendance at weekend church services has declined among this group by seven percent since 1991, falling from 66 percent to 59 percent.
The proportion of born-again adults who read the Bible during the week, not including when they are at a church event, has decreased by nine percent since 1991. The weekly average is now at 62 percent.
Volunteering at church during the week for those identified as born-again Christians has dropped from 41 percent in 1991 to 29 percent today.
The study also found that those who self-identify as Christians are 10 percentage points more likely to be unchurched than in 1991. The 31 percent who fit this profile have not attended any church service during the past six months, excluding special services such as weddings or funerals, according to the study.
This study is hold now, and I have seen almost no discussion of it. I am sure most people have dismissed it since "anybody can identify themselves as anything." But let's be serious here - most people don't self-identify as Shriners or Rotarians or Mormons. Why do you think that is? I think we are past the point in the country where you need to be Christian to be socially acceptable, that's not what's driving the identification. People self-identify in this way as opposed to others becasue they see no impediment to such identification - there is no threshold to cross, no bar to get over - or at least none that matters.
In other words, practically speaking, being "Christian" is meaningless.