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40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #21

“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.” Joshua 11:23

This post is the twenty-second in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #22: Holy wars – followers of different faiths (or even the same faith) killing each other in the name of their (benevolent, loving and merciful) gods.

Harmful Effect #22 is further evidence that the author(s) of this list didn’t give particular attention to Christianity but rather opined upon what they saw as the harmful of effects of religion in general.  If, for example, followers of Islam and polytheistic paganism warred against one another, this would not be a harmful effect of Christianity.  Nor would it be a harmful effect of Christianity if followers of Sunni and Shia Islam warred against one another.  Yet, both of these hypothetical situations (which have also been real situations in history) qualify as “harmful effects of Christianity” according to this list.

From a Christian point of view, God is (as this harmful effect points out) “benevolent, loving, and merciful.”  Therefore, any war sanctioned by God would be just given that it would flow from His perfect nature.  An example of such warfare would be the expulsion of the Canaanites by the Hebrews from the Promised Land after the iniquity of the Canaanites had become full.  Any warfare carried out in the name of God but not sanctioned by God, by Christian standards, is sinful.  The very problem with such religious warfare is a rejection of the wishes of God.  To be specific, religious wars are not inherently harmful; unjust religious wars are.

Of course to declare the net effect of a war, religious or otherwise, as “harmful” is to engage in subjective judgment.  Those who win a given war might not deem its prosecution harmful, on the net, at all.  To declare a war objectively unjust requires an objective standard of morality, which atheism can’t provide.  Christian theism can provide such a standard.  The Christian theist can, for example, deem the Crusades unjust.  These wars were religious in nature and prosecuted in an unjust way in defiance of wishes of God.

Religious wars, it should be considered, are the minority of recorded history’s warfare. Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.  War exists in plentiful supply without religious motivation.  Even wars which are overtly motivated by religion, such as the Crusades, are arguably motivated by other factors such as nationalism, greed, or a lust for power (the same factors which underlie “non-religious” wars).  The counterfactual, “Religious wars would have been prosecuted for reasons other than religion if religion didn’t exist” can’t be proven, but it’s arguable plausible.  History shows that People are violent and religious motivations are hardly needed to beget war.

Harmful Effect #22 falls flat along with an atheist worldview.  The Christian worldview provides, at the very least, an explanation for why wars exist and which ones are just.  Furthermore, where there is death, war, and carnage, Christians can take comfort in the blessed hope of eternal life promised to them by the Lord Jesus and recorded in the Holy Bible.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #23: The destruction of great works of art considered to be pornographic/blasphemous, and the persecution of the artists. – See more at:

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

Christian Witness in a Postmodern World: A Critique

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Harry Lee Poe: The Author

Harry Lee Poe, PhD is the Charles Colson professor of Faith and Culture at Union University, a private Christian liberal arts university, in Jackson, TN.  Dr. Poe holds a B.A. from the University of South Carolina as well as an M.Div and Ph.D from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.   Dr. Poe “has written several books and numerous articles on how the gospel intersects with culture; including Christianity in the Academy, The Gospel and Its Meaning, Christian Witness in a Postmodern World, The Designer Universe, Science and Faith: An Evangelical Dialogue, and See No Evil: The Existence of Sin in an Age of Relativism.”[1]  Dr. Poe’s interest in culture and post-modernity is not purely academic; he truly recognizes it is every-day life.  Dr. Poe recently chastised a friend on Facebook (albeit facetiously) for lamenting about eating “too much chocolate”, commenting, “Something has gone wrong with your sense of proportion. Have you been hanging around postmodernists? How can you eat way too much chocolate? Way too much liver – yes. We need to get together more often. You’re losing your values”[2] Dr. Poe is a man very cognizant of values and their place in society; his own are not hard to surmise.  Dr. Poe is a self-proclaimed, “old-fashioned Baptist,”[3] and therefore writes his books on the intersection of faith and culture (notably postmodern culture) from that perspective

The Book in Summary

Christian Witness in a Postmodern World (“the book”) is a work about imparting Christian values and truths on an increasingly valueless society.  Christianity, particularity in Poe’s Baptist form, holds that mankind is a sinful race that is damned in its sinfulness apart from salvation Jesus Christ.  In a postmodern world, Poe asserts, beliefs in absolute truths and values are an increasingly rare commodity among the populace.  For Christians who are charged with Christ’s great commission to “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded,[4]” witnessing in a postmodern world can prove to be more challenging than it was in times past.  Poe states, “The advent of postmodern thinking will force Christians to erase all the cultural assumptions from their practice of religion and recapture the vitality of simple New Testament faith, which arose in a pluralist culture…the church has no special status” (pages 9-10) Methods for and the challenge of  imparting the absolute truths of Christianity upon those who lack a concept of absolute truths and are generally ignorant about Christianity are the crux of Poe’s message in the book, which is presented in four parts.

Part I presents the postmodernist’s preference for personal, rather than institutional relationships.  This preference results from a more mobile society and the breakdown of the traditional family structure (the family itself being an institution). Postmodern people will often seek personal connections and discuss personal information with people who are generally unfamiliar to them.  At the same time, they do not necessarily seek membership in institutions such as churches.  While this situation makes it more difficult for churches to perforate postmodern society with the gospel message, it does make it easier on the individual Christian.  In a world where people will not shy away from discussing spiritual worldviews and very personal beliefs with complete strangers, the gospel is perhaps more presentable at an individual level than any other time since the first century when there was almost no church of which to speak.

Part II assesses the difficulty of getting postmodern society to receive the gospel message.  Yes, it is very presentable, but is it acceptable? Postmodern people tend to reject blanket ideologies and authority.  Jesus is a personal savior but he is also an authority.   Poe frames this situation as more opportunistic than challenging; in the absence of adherence to any other general authority, the Christian God can be presented as a candidate to fill the void of an authority with the “old story”. (page 76)  The time of Christendom, when Christianity was the major worldview is not to be glorified, but rather Christ himself.

Once the gospel is presented and accepted as authoritative, it must still be understood.  Part III emphasizes the change in the philosophical mindset from the modern to the postmodern age.  Poe presents postmodern society as “philosophically confused.” (Page 109) According to Poe; this is actually a good thing.  Modernist thinkers were more rational and empirical than are postmodern thinkers.  In the culture of modernity the church struggled to present the esoteric principals of Christianity to people who wanted to see hard evidence.  Postmodern people just want to hear a good story.  An effective postmodern witness of Christ can not only present the story of the gospel, but also the story of his own salvation experience in a relatable way.

Lastly, part IV of the book discusses the theological ignorance of postmodern society.  The theological position of the postmodern person (as Poe presents it) is basically, “I don’t have one.”  This does not mean that such a person is not spiritually inclined.  He is; he just doesn’t possess an understanding of God.  He may even search for God through other religious traditions.  Whereas the modernist might reject Jesus in favor of atheist, the postmodernist may accept Jesus as part of pantheistic worldview, thereby missing the boat in regards to the Christian message.  This situation creates a lack of moral standards in postmodern society while at the same time creating the opportunity make moral standards tenable.  Poe parallels the postmodern culture in the United States with that of Jonah’s Nineveh; Poe paraphrases God’s communication to Jonah about the Ninevites, “Jonah, these people don’t know their right hand from their left.  But Jonah, I’m not going to blast them into smithereens.  Oh no.  I’m going to send you to tell them about me, because they don’t know me.” (page 157)  The Christian is tasked with presenting a theologically understandable God to a postmodern society, thereby satisfying its thirst for spiritual understanding.

A Critique

On the surface the book is response to the changing requirements of effective evangelism in a postmodern world.  In Poe’s assessment, currently prevalent modernist methods are no longer effective.  Poe uses the book as a vehicle to decry the methods of modernist evangelism, such as trying to present the Bible in a scientific more rationalistic method, as no longer relevant in today’s postmodern society.   Poe touts first-century-style evangelistic methods, which are less intellectual and more personal, as the most effective means to reach a postmodern world for Christ.  When considering Poe’s worldview, however, one is left to wonder if Poe would still tout this message in a world that was not postmodern.  This is not to say that Poe doesn’t make a strong case that the environment in which to Christians are witnessing is postmodern; he does make such a case.  But what if no such case could be made?  Would Poe extol to modernist school of evangelist thought if the world was still in a state of modernity?  It’s doubtful.

Poe is an “old-fashioned Baptist,” specifically and old-fashioned Southern Baptist.  Intellectualism and modernist methods have never been popular with such people.  Poe himself points out that the Southern Baptists, unlike most other modern Protestant groups never produced a “great theologian.” (Page 149).  Poe, quite frankly, views all theology as “wrong.”  (Page 510).  So, in a postmodern world where people are looking for personal, relatable stories and not theology, Southern-Baptist-Style evangelism is the most effective method.  First-century-style personal evangelism and church governance is a hallmark of Southern Baptist methodology.  The most recent version of the Baptist Faith and Message states, “A New Testament church of the Lord Jesus Christ is an autonomous local congregation …In such a congregation each member is responsible and accountable to Christ as Lord.”[5]  “New Testament” is just another way of saying “first-century.”  The belief that each member is accountable directly to Christ rather than the institutional church is a basic Southern Baptist tenet.  It just so happens that this more personal, less institution style of religion is one which postmodern people are predisposed to accept.

Poe seems to have found the answer, “Southern Baptist polity and evangelism style is the best method,” before asking the question, “What is the best way method for a Christian witness in a postmodern world?” But just because he found his answer before he posed his question, it doesn’t mean he is wrong.  Poe is right about modernist society and the prevailing worldview.  First-century-style Christian witnessing is effective in a postmodern world.  Poe is certainly biased, but his answer is not incorrect.  His book presents this answer in a very understandable and encouraging method.  The book is, therefore, effective reading material for anyone seeking to produce a Christian witness in a postmodern world.  It must be considered however, that discipleship cannot be “postmodern” and theologically neutral.  In Christian community, doctrine matters; theology matters.  Churches are not authorities to lost people but they are authorities to their members.  Christians should keep this in mind as they bring postmodern people into the church through the evangelism methods recommended by Poe.

[1]  (Union University)

[2]  (Facebook)

[3]  (Poe)

[4] Matt. 28: 19-20

[5]  (The Southern Baptist Convention)

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

 

40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #21

“So husbands ought also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife loves himself.” Ephesians 5:28

This post is the twenty-first in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #21: Wives told they will be tortured forever if they leave their abusive husbands (and vice versa).

This “harmful effect” of Christianity is perhaps tenuously applicable to the Roman Catholic faith.  In that religion, marriage is considered to be one of seven grace-conferring sacraments administered by the church.  Those who participate in a church-sanctioned marriage and later divorce are barred from receiving communion.  Communion is believed to be another grace conferring sacrament.  Being unable to receive grace from the Roman Catholic Church may, according the tenets of that faith, damn a person to Hell or at least result in him being consigned to purgatory for a time.  However, divorce should be considered as altogether different from the type of physical separation intended to keep someone safe from an abusive spouse.  In any case, this author is not an expert who can write authoritatively about Roman Catholic practice with regards to the “sacrament” of marriage without further research.   What this author can communicate, backed by biblical authority, is that Roman Catholicism is a false Christianity.  Nothing it does is harmful effect of “Christianity” but rather a harmful effect of a false Christianity.  From a biblical perspective, what consigns one to Hell is the righteous judgment of Christ, not the act of leaving an abusive husband.

Anyone, regardless of his martial failures or successes, who does not repent of his sin and throw himself upon the mercy of the risen Lord Jesus, will be cast into Hell.  Where marriage is concerned, Christians are expected to treat their spouses with the utmost respect and demonstrate self-sacrificing love in the course of caring for them.  Civil authorities have the responsibility and authority to jail spouses who engage in domestic abuse.  This would, of course, justifiably separate an abused spouse from her abuser.  Furthermore, someone who unrepentantly abuses his spouse is subject to discipline and expulsion from the church.  Such expulsion effectively exposes the abuser as an unbeliever. In such a case, divorce may be a biblically viable (though not preferable) option.

In no case can a wife be told with any biblically authority that she will be forever tortured if she leaves her abusive husband.  Such an assertion, as a “harmful effect of Christianity” is completely unfounded.  The sanctity and commitment of Christian marriage is more appropriately held up as exemplary.  Christian marriage should be a picture of Christ’s love for His church.  Those who are blessed with a faithful Christian spouse are truly blessed.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #22: Holy wars – followers of different faiths (or even the same faith) killing each other in the name of their (benevolent, loving and merciful) gods.

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

40 Harmful Effects of Christianity – #20

“For even when we were with you, we used to give you this order: if anyone is not willing to work, then he is not to eat, either. For we hear that some among you are leading an undisciplined life, doing no work at all, but acting like busybodies.  Now such persons we command and exhort in the Lord Jesus Christ to work in quiet fashion and eat their own bread.  But as for you, brethren, do not grow weary of doing good.” 2 Thessalonians 3:10-13

This post is the twentieth in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:

Harmful Effect #20: Long-term environmental issues ignored because of beliefs that the rapture/apocalypse or something will happen soon, so they don’t matter.

Harmful Effect #20 essentially restates Harmful Effect #19, substituting “long term-environmental issues” for “education”.  Thus, my previous criticism of that “harmful effect” is applicable to #20 without much further commentary.   However, since Harmful Effect #20 mentions the rapture and the apocalypse, I shall briefly address those subjects.

The first thing that should be noted about “the rapture,” a term which is not in The Bible, is that not every Christian believes in it or views it in the same way.  (The statement of faith of my own denomination doesn’t even mention it, though I and many of my fellow Southern Baptists believe that it is imminent.)  The Bible is clear that the end of the present world is coming but is it does not clearly state the exact time at which the end will come.  Article X of The Baptist Faith and Message addresses the coming end of the world in an appropriate and generally agreeable way:

God, in His own time and in His own way, will bring the world to its appropriate end. According to His promise, Jesus Christ will return personally and visibly in glory to the earth; the dead will be raised; and Christ will judge all men in righteousness. The unrighteous will be consigned to Hell, the place of everlasting punishment. The righteous in their resurrected and glorified bodies will receive their reward and will dwell forever in Heaven with the Lord.

In the first century, certain people in the Thessalonian church were acting inappropriately due to eschatological confusion.  Some had ceased to even work in anticipation of the immediate end of the world.  The Apostle Paul disabused them of their errant practices and admonished the church to not grow weary of doing good.  Those who, in modern times, adopt the posture of those confused Thessalonians do so in opposition to the clear teachings of the biblical authors.

Being a responsible steward of the environment is certainly a good thing for Christians to do.  Like Harmful Effect #19 before it, Harmful Effect #20 is fallacious.   Like Harmful Effect #19 before it, Harmful Effect #20 it ignores the hopeless nihilism inherent in the atheistic worldview. Christians, at least, enjoy the comfort of having a blessed hope – the appearing of the glory of their great God and Savior, Christ Jesus, who gave Himself for them to redeem them from every lawless deed, and to purify for Himself a people for His own possession, zealous for good deeds.

In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:

Harmful Effect #21: Wives told they will be tortured forever if they leave their abusive husbands (and vice versa).

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.

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Going Beyond Scripture: Why It’s Time to Say Good-Bye to Priscilla Shirer and Going Beyond Ministries

Here’s the thing…

You may not agree with all of these points, but there is enough here to indicate that you should be very wary of getting involved with Priscilla Shirer studies.

You may have loved her in War Room and want to buy her books. Let me tell you something, if your church recommended War Room, you can almost be certain that its leadership knew next to nothing about Shirer. Pastors don’t read LifeWay studies or pay attention to the false teaching crowd, for the most part. They are busy caring for their churches.

Unfortunately, they depend on LifeWay to deliver sound material. It often times fails.

You should bring these points about Shirer up to your pastor if her studies are being pushed in your church.

Michelle Lesley

Priscilla ShirerPriscilla Shirer is a wife and mom of three boys hailing from the Dallas area. Though you may be newly acquainted with her from her role as Elizabeth Jordan in the recently released Christian movie War Roomshe has been writing women’s Bible studies and has been a popular speaker at women’s conferences and other events for many years. Together with her husband, Jerry, she heads up Going Beyond Ministries.

When I participated in Priscilla’s DVD study He Speaks to Me several years ago, I found her to be an engaging writer, a witty storyteller, and charismatic speaker. Priscilla’s friendliness and genuine care for Christian women seem to shine through every word she speaks and writes. And to top that all off, she’s beautiful and sharp as a tack. It’s very easy to think of Priscilla and think, “What’s not to love?”

Which is why it grieves me to have to…

View original post 1,188 more words

Conquered by Contemplative Prayer

A critical examination of Priscilla Shirer’s involvement with contemplative prayer.

My Word Like Fire

Beth Moore and War Room stand-out Priscilla Shirer have promoted it. So has Tim Keller. And so have Mike Bickle, Beni Johnson, and Rick Warren.

Contemplative prayer is essentially the same as New Age or Eastern meditation, but disguised with “Christianese” terminology. Those who participate and enter the silence, as it is called, open themselves to great deception.

As Ray Yungen has explained, our minds are like rushing rivers. Our thoughts go here, go there, our thought process is active and continuous. In contemplative prayer, Eastern meditation, and New Age meditation, all thought is stilled. The active river of our minds is dammed up–the rushing river is now a still pool of water. This can be done by repeating a word or phrase over and over until thought ceases and one enters the silence.

But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen do: for they think that they shall be heard for their…

View original post 287 more words

The Christian Commute – Pilot Episode

I’d like to invite you to listen to the pilot episode of my new podcast, The Christian Commute.

For many years I’ve been commuting 30 to 40 miles to work every weekday.  During my daily commute, I’ve listened to hours and hours of podcast and radio programming.  After being a consumer of content for many years, I’ve decided to contribute my own program.  In the Christian Commute, you can ride along with me on my daily commute as I discuss matters of Christian doctrine, apologetics, and general interest.  A portion of the show will be spent responding to listener mail (presuming I receive it).  Please send your questions and comments for discussion on the show to Sethdunn88@gmail.com.

This is a very simple podcast: no theme music, no effects, no special equipment.  The production value is low but I hope you’ll find that the content quality is high.

The pilot episode is now available at podomatic.

RSS FEED: http://christiancommute.podomatic.com/rss2.xml

PODCAST FEED: http://christiancommute.podomatic.com

*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.