I have been concerned over the years as I have noticed how little people actually think about the serious things that turn their life and their eternal destiny. Most people seem to be surfers, some are snorkelers, a few do light diving, very few dive to any depths, and the ones that really attempt deep diving are rare.
I had always expected Christians to be different. I expected that the prodding of the Holy Spirit, the empowering of their new life in Christ, and God’s explicit demands in Scripture (e.g. “study to show yourself approved”, “be transformed by the renewing of your mind”) would make Christians more serious about thinking about faith and life in general.
That has not been born out in my experience. I see many Christians more excited and discursive about their favorite football team than their understanding of God and Scripture. I was reading a review of the upcoming Veggie Tales movie (The More You Preach, the Fewer You Reach) on ChristianityTodayMovies.com and was disappointed by something Phil Visher said about the Christian audience. My sadness was not because it was a new insight, but because it matched my own long observed opinion.
[Christian moviegoers often] don’t like to think hard. We think, Would someone just come out at the end of the film and tell me about Jesus so I will know it’s a Christian movie?
His opinion about the Christian film audience touches a much deeper problem. I could paraphrase his statement just as easily as:
Christians don’t like or want to think hard. They want someone to just tell them the answer, the solution to their current problem or theological discomfort. Give me the 1, 2, 3 and let me get on with my life.
Very few Christians, at least from my experience, care to think things through, to work out their salvation in fear and trembling, to contend for the faith, even in their own souls, much less in the marketplace of ideas. The current marketplace is dominated by fast food, immediate gratification, and easy solutions. This does not bode well for the future of Christianity, for dealing with the creeping apostasy in our churches, or the blatantly destructive pharisaic behavior of many who are supposed watchdogs of the faith.
One of the reasons I have liked the blogging community is that at least there you can find people who want to think. But even there it is often just a platform for immediacy rather than thoughtful reflection (who reads long posts these days? Are you getting past your word limit right now?).
Jesus asked if he would find faith on the earth when he returned and I often thought it was because faith was destroyed or it was tested and found wanting by most people. Not likely. I now believe it will be surfed away by the mass of Christians who refuse to think more than several inches deep, who want the quick facile answers to their questions, who by their uncritical mental attitude are allowing the creeping apostasy we see today…the failure of the American Episcopal Church is just another canary in the coal mine down the road to the takeover of “another faith”.
Sorry if I sound less than hopeful about this. Maybe God will enlighten me. I hope so, because from where I sit the future does not look all that bright.
Grace and peace.
This is a real problem. One example is the way people interpret 2 Corinthians 10:1ff. It’s about standing for the truth against false opinions, or contending for the faith in the marketplace of ideas. It requires understanding the truth deeply, and it calls for skill in handling ideas in general.
But more often the way I hear it taught is this: “When you notice you’re thinking a negative or faithless thought, hold your thought captive to Jesus Christ.” Entirely different; not at all what the passage is about.
It’s improving, though, according to reports I hear. I was at an apologetics conference a few months ago with several thousand teens and adults, and that was encouraging. I think blogs are helping, because as you say, it gives people who want to do this kind of work a place to do it, whatever level they may start at. So yes, it’s a significant concern, but I encourage you to see the hope there is!
An interesting observation about the internet, and blogging, while it provides more thought provocation … indeed we are getting overloaded and reading more and thinking less.
My personal experiences with Christian writers has been that the expositors write full and thoughtful (ie. http://theminorprophet.com) but that the reviewer and analysis type writers are getting less thoughtful and more like web aggregators.
The problem with expositors, is that no one reads the whole article because they read like sermons, and who wants to read an entire sermon?
Tom, one of my favorite books is Knowing Scripture by R.C. Sproul. He uses 1 Corinthians 11:1-16 to teach you how you interpret Scripture (by the way, due to this study my wife wears a head covering…). I am normally an optimist, but the carnaries appear to be dying left and right…
Dalton, re: “who wants to read an entire sermon?” I think that statement illustrates the difference between us moderns and earlier Christians. I have several books of sermons from preachers who lived before 1910. Sermons used to be printed in newspapers and were read far and wide. But today, as you said, who wants to read them…
I think we have become addicted to facile thinking which fits with short attention spans.
Grace and peace and thanks for commenting.
I agree that this is a problem. However, I think that we need to understand why it came about and why it continues. Hopefully this will give us enough information to come up with a solution.
BTW, JP Moreland has a new book out in which he discusses this very problem. It would probably be worth checking out.
Matthew – While we may discuss the road to perdition (pun on the movie), I take the view of knowing the real rather than spending too much time studying the counterfeits. With that in mind, I only know of one scripture that explicitly talks about how to actually change your life, not just telling what you should do or not do and that is Romans 12:1-2:
This goes well with Paul’s other statement in Philippians 5a:
We need a renewed mind, submitted to Christ, studying to show ourselves approved. That requires vigorous honest thinking.
People pursue fiction to be entertained. If they wanted to read theology, they’d go after non-fiction. The problem is people want to be entertained ALL the time. This is indeed cultural in our free-market ethics society. It’s also a problem of the heart. As you say: “Give me the 1, 2, 3 and let me get on with my life.”
This focus is still on “me” and “my”. The Christian with this attitude is living for themself. Far too many in our subculture want to “appear” Christian. Christ’s name for this is “whitewashed tombs”: they look good, but they’re still a place of death.
Coming from the streets of Chicago, you don’t listen when people tell you how “bad” they are. When someone lives it, you know they mean it. The Bible calls this: faith without works is dead.”
To God be the glory,
Frank Creed–novelist & founder of the Lost Genre Guild
Book Review Blog: http://afrankreview.blogspot.com/
Lost Genre Guild Site: http://www.lostgenreguild.com/
Lost Genre Guild Blog: http://blog.lostgenreguild.com/
The Underground Series: http://www.booksoftheunderground.com/