Future of Faith in America

Future of Faith in America
If you read any survey of what Americans believe, you have to understand that faith in God and the validity of New Testament Christianity is in decline. We have pointed out before, that when pollsters ask people about their religious faith, almost one-fourth of all Americans respond with “none.” When we separate those numbers by age group, the picture is even more dismal with young adults largely rejecting Jesus as the son of God. We should be concerned about the future of faith in America.

The two primary sources of the decline in church membership are pluralism and the complete rejection of the Bible as God’s one authoritative guide. Most churches have not taught the evidence for God and the validity of the Bible. Most young people have not seen an example of Christian living in the lives of their parents or religious leaders. We can either sit back and watch congregations die with the older people of faith, or we can roll up our sleeves and do something.

This situation is not new. When the people of Jesus day saw that following Jesus required some commitment, most of them left. In John 6:35-69 people rejected Jesus as having come down from heaven. Later in the Temple, they wondered at the wisdom of Christ’s teaching. In John 7:16-18 Jesus told the people, “My teaching is not mine, but his who sent me.” He then referred to the evidence seen in what people do: “If anyone chooses to do God’s will, he will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.” We must find some method of answering people’s doubts about God and showing them that Jesus is “the Way, the Truth, and the Life” (John 14:6). That is what the future of faith in America must be about.

We can no longer rely on inherited faith to build faith-filled adults. Young people being dragged to church three times a week is not going to do the job. There has been too much hypocrisy, bickering, and inconsistency in churches for young people to blindly accept what their parents and grandparents believed. We can no longer rely on talented speakers and youth leaders to emotionally stampede young people into becoming active, dynamic Christians. There are too many speakers with conflicting views for modern adults to respond to emotional pleas at worship services, youth rallies, camps, or lectureships.

The war for the minds of 21st-century adults is going to be won or lost on the battlefield of evidence. That was true in the days of Jesus and the church in the first century. We have a tremendous advantage over those who lived in the first century. Quantum mechanics has opened the door for us to understand how gravity, electric charge, and matter/energy were created. The complexity, wisdom, and design of the formation of electric charge and the wave nature of gravity show that the cause of these things must be outside the realm of the physical world. Quantum mechanics leads us to dimensions beyond our own, which is the concept the Bible has always given us about God.

In today’s world, we see the results of following systems other than the biblical pattern. When people follow other guidelines as to how to live their lives, the result is inevitably disastrous. When people who call themselves Christians fail to follow what Jesus taught, the result is also disastrous. If we study the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7 and compare it to all other ways of life, we see the truthfulness of Jesus statement, “By their fruit ye shall know them” (Matthew 7:16). The future of America depends on the future of faith in America.

Scientific knowledge of the world around us continues to amaze us. Rather than presenting God as a magician who zaps things into existence by tricks and illusions beyond our understanding, we must show people that what God does make sense and many of God’s methods are within our ability to understand. People have had enough of mystic explanations and magic tricks. If they are going to commit themselves to discipleship, it must be clear and logical both in purpose and in methodology.

The church has the capacity to present this message. Young people respond to evidence that doesn’t depend on tradition or blind, mystic faith. When 1 Peter 3:15 tells us to “be ready to give an answer to anyone who asks for the reason of the faith that is within you” it includes not just the ancient shepherd in the hills of Judea, but also the educated engineer living in 2018. Today, the fields are ripe unto harvest (John 4:35), but our outreach must change with changing needs. The future of faith in America depends on it.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Faith During a Crisis

Faith During a Crisis
On January 13, 2018, something happened that reminds us of the importance of faith during a crisis. At 8:07 AM Hawaii’s Emergency Management System sent out an alert telling the people of Hawaii that there was a ballistic missile threat and they should seek shelter immediately. The New York Times reported that “people flocked to shelters, crowding highways in scenes of terror and helplessness.”

This is not the first time this kind of panic has taken place in America. On October 30, 1938, a radio drama about a Martian invasion was broadcast saying that ground zero was in Grover’s Mill, New Jersey. The nearby city of Trenton was completely crippled with phone calls to the police for three hours. Similar incidents have happened in 1944, 1968, 1974, 1983, and 1998.

On February 12, 1949, a radio broadcast in Quito, Ecuador reported that Martians were launching gas attacks and people flocked to the streets. When they realized that the broadcast was a fake, a mob stormed the radio station setting it on fire, killing 20 and injuring 15. Now the media and the politicians are promoting “fake news” in one form or another.

When Jesus talked about the end of the world in Matthew 24:3-7 He told His followers that there would be “wars and rumors of wars: see that you are not troubled.” Followers of Christ should have the faith to realize that God is in control and that our eternal home is not affected by Martians or politicians. Humans deceive other humans, but we can always trust Jesus Christ and His teachings. When Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth and the life” (John 14:6), He was assuring us that we can always have faith during a crisis whether real or imaginary.
–John N. Clayton © 2018

Data from Skeptical Inquirer, May/June 2018 page 5.

Mike Pence and Moral Values

Vice-President Mike Pence
Vice-President Mike Pence

Mike Pence is Vice-President of the United States. Before being elected to that job, he was governor of the state of Indiana. Being from Indiana, we have followed him rather closely. President Trump’s dismal record with the press and his relationship with women are well-known. What has not gotten much attention until recently is the fact that Mike Pence has always been extremely careful in his relationships with women. He will not put himself in a compromising position with his women co-workers in politics. Pence has always refused to dine alone with a woman other than his wife. He never works late with a female aide. He never attends any party where alcohol is being served unless his wife is with him. His basis for these careful controls of his personal life with female co-workers is that he is a Christian and he takes his Christian faith seriously.

The press has been extremely hostile toward Pence’s lifestyle. The Washington Post claims Pence is helpless in the face of female temptation. Slate.com calls Pence a radical retrograde and claims that Pence sees women as sexual temptations rather than as peers whose ideas might be worth discussing. Cosmopolitan claims that Pence’s Christian values put the women who work with him and a huge disadvantage and allow men to keep running the show.

National Review calls all of this anti-Christian bigotry and accuses liberals of loathing America’s traditional culture. Understanding the Bible’s teachings about avoiding sin and destructive behaviors is far from the mainstream media’s values. They just cannot understand Pence’s morality. When alcohol and social events are the way our government works, one has to wonder how the United States has survived into the twenty-first century. Leviticus 18 might be good reading for those who challenge the moral values of our vice-president.
–John N. Clayton © 2017

A Temporarily Borrowed Tomb

Replica Of The Tomb Of Jesus In IsraelJoseph of Arimathea was a wealthy man who had a new tomb carved into a stone hillside. This was not a pauper’s grave. Only the rich and powerful could afford such a tomb. But the first man to use it was not a wealthy man. He grew up as the son of a carpenter. He had no home to call his own. He had a small group of friends who deserted him at the last minute. He had thousands of admirers who quickly sought to get rid of him when he didn’t overthrow the Romans as they expected.

A few days after they greeted him with shouts of praise and honor, they were begging the Romans to put him to death. His lifeless body was placed in a rich man’s tomb because the rich man named Joseph stepped out of the shadows and loaned his tomb to Jesus. “Loaned” is the appropriate word, because Jesus would not need it for very long. A miracle was about to happen!
–Roland Earnst © 2017

The Beauty of Change

Accepting Change
A common denominator in all of life is the difficulty of accepting change. We establish a procedure to do something that works for us. Any change in that way of doing things is likely to involve work and adjustment. We tend to oppose work or adjustment. Driving in a rut is easier than trying to get out of it, but sooner or later you have to either get out of the rut or rebuild the road. If you stay in the rut, it gets deeper and deeper until it brings the vehicle to a total stop!

One of the lessons we can learn from our planet is that change is a design feature built into all aspects of the creation by God. When the sperm meets the egg in conception, change begins to take place at an incredible rate. From a single fertilized cell, a human develops over nine months. This change continues after birth until a seven-pound baby has turned into a teenager weighing over 100 pounds. When physical growth stops, change continues in different ways. Every seven years we get a completely new body. One by one, cells are replaced with new cells continually rejuvenating your physical body.

The changing seasons require accepting change. As fall comes, plants shed their worn and tattered leaves. Small animals enter their safest time of the year as predators have a harder time finding them under the-snow. The insect domination of the world is brought to a halt. During the winter the soil is covered with humus to provide for next year’s plants, and all is made ready for spring when even more dramatic changes take place. Change is seen in many positive ways in the natural world. Our muscles grow stronger through hard use. Caterpillars turn into butterflies. Breeding techniques have produced a bewildering number of new kinds of roses, tulips, dogs, cattle, fish, and vegetables.

We also see change in the surface of the earth as erosion, volcanoes, earthquakes, tornadoes, floods, and gravity constantly alter the planet on which we live. All of this geological change brings us new soil, new land, and nutrients to sustain the plants on which we depend. This was dramatically driven home to me many years ago as I walked beside a lava flow on the big island of Hawaii. I saw a man with a wheelbarrow full of warm lava. When I asked him why he was collecting lava, his response was to grow orchids. He found that orchids grew better in the new soil he made out of ground up lava and seaweed. The value of volcanic change and rejuvenation of soil through lava flows is a good demonstration of beneficial changes. The world around us shows the benefit and beauty of physical change.

Christianity is a religious system of change. One of the original complaints about Christians in the early days was that they “were turning the world upside down” (Acts 17: 16). The concept of repentance involves change. The lifestyle of Christians is to be change-agents in the world around us. Why would people who are a part of God’s tool to change the world be resistant to accepting change themselves? Somehow we seem to forget Paul’s example that he “became all things to all men that I might by some means change some” (1 Corinthians 9:21-22). Seeing a person change from a destructive, selfish, egotistical way of life to a serving, caring, God-directed life of love and graciousness is the most beautiful change of all. That is the highest beauty to which Christians are called.
–John N. Clayton © 2017