Saturday, 2 November 2013

Questions Unwelcome in Church


Regular readers will be all too aware of my concern about the threat society faces from the aggressive and seemingly unrelenting onward march of secularism. On closer examination of this phenomenon, it is clear that those who are at the leading edge of the secularist assault on Christian belief and practice, tend to be intellectuals with a background in academia.

With this in mind, I was intrigued by a recent article in RELEVANT magazine entitled, ‘Why Aren’t More Intellectuals Believers?’ by David Denison, a psychologist from Sam Houston State University in the USA.

According to a recent review of 63 studies over decades, researchers at the University of Rochester have concluded that “religious people are less intelligent than non-believers.” Dennison, who is a born again Christian, argues that, ‘the Rochester report cannot be dismissed by the religious community. We must recognize as an objective fact that people with higher IQs are turning to atheism’.

Christians therefore need to ask the question, ‘why is it that our brightest and best minds are not believers?’

Dennison postulates two reasons.

Firstly, academia is intrinsically hostile to belief in God. Quoting a 2009 study by Dr Brent Slife of this 'pervasive, implicit bias,' Dennison argues that, "the result of this bias is that the most intelligent people (since they are likely to attend college and grad school) are exposed to tremendous negative pressure from both mentors and peers regarding their beliefs."

Secondly and most importantly, Dennison argues that church culture in the developed world is hostile to intellectual scrutiny: “I have experienced firsthand the judgmental glares of church ladies who didn’t take kindly to me polluting their potluck fellowships with tough theological questions. Once the conversation gets messier than the Sloppy Joes, it’s time to wrap it up with the catch-all ‘His ways are higher than our ways,’ or ‘If we knew everything we wouldn’t need God now, would we?’

This has to stop.”

I agree wholeheartedly with these sentiments. Our evangelical churches, if they are to survive and prosper in the 21st century need to become places where questioning and debate are welcomed.  

After all, scripture tells us that the Jews of Berea were commended in the book of Acts because: “they examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true. As a result, many of them believed.”

Sadly, many of Scotland's evangelical church leaders foster a 'culture of compliance' that is far removed from one which commends those who question their teachings.

Scripture calls believers to ‘contend for the faith’, something which is more urgently required than at any time in the history of the church. If Christians cannot even ask the hard questions of themselves, how are they going to be able to ‘contend for the faith’ in a hostile world..........simple really!

Concluding his article, David Dennison makes this plea: “As followers of Christ, we must not only make the Church a place that is open to the questions of others, we must ask tough questions ourselves. Our faith should be based on what we are certain of, not just on how we feel. If our belief in God is rooted solely in the shallow soil of human emotions, this shallowness will be evident in the fruit that our faith produces.

We are not called to blind faith. We are called to let the Spirit ‘guide us to all truth.’ And when you know the truth, the truth will set you free.”





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