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That’s the title of a provocative book published in 2009 by Ken Ham and Britt Beemer. Its thesis is that, contrary to what many had assumed, we’re not losing evangelical kids because their faith is challenged when they go off to college.

We’re losing them in middle school and high school.

Ham & Beemer uncovered this shocking fact by doing some meticulous research – asking a large sample of 20 year olds why they had stopped attending church. They have stopped attending church, you know. The phenomenon has been recognized for years now. Two thirds (2/3) of those who attended church regularly as children stop going to church in their 20s. The question is “Why?”

For years, the widely accepted answer was that they were secularized by the colleges they went to. The real answer is more troubling.

Ham & Beemer probed deeper in their questions about belief and church attendance and, in particular, asked when these 20-year-olds began to doubt that the Bible was true. Confidence in the truth of the Bible is closely correlated with church attendance among 20 year olds. Of those who no longer believe the Bible to be true, roughly 40%, first had doubts when they were in middle school. 44% first had doubts when they were in high school. Only 10.6% report they first began to doubt the Bible when they were in college.

In short, the church has not lost these children because they were secularized in college. They were already gone before they left for college.

Here are the more shocking results of Ham & Beemer’s research: There is a correlation between Sunday School attendance and skepticism about the Bible. Those who had attended Sunday School regularly were MORE likely to doubt that the Bible is true. Here’s the most stunning question: “Do you believe you have become more anti-church through the years?” 39.1% of those who attended Sunday School regularly said yes, they have become more anti-church. Only 26.9% of those who DIDN’T attend Sunday School said yes.

For the 20-year-olds surveyed by Ham & Beemer (a large national sample, demographically balanced), Sunday School had a negative effect on their attitude towards church.

The research is convincing and disturbing. The situation uncovered by Ham and Beemer is serious, with serious implications for the long-term health of the church.

What can be done?

First, let me emphasize that Ham & Beemer are NOT anti-Sunday School. They resist the temptation to bash the whole concept of Sunday School, or suggest that it be abandoned. And although they do point out that there is no specific biblical mandate for Sunday School, they hasten to add that there is no biblical case to be made that it’s a bad idea. In any event they don’t believe that the problem is the institution of Sunday School – it is the content and attitude of how Sunday School is being conducted which is at the root of the problem. The problem is systemic, subtle, and insidious. The systemic problem is the abdication of families in the religious instruction of children. Parents whose faith is unformed or uninformed and whose understanding of the Bible is shallow will not be able to convince their children that the Bible is true and authoritative. If parents have no conviction that the Bible is true, then their children are unlikely to ever believe it either. It won’t matter much whether Sunday School is abolished, or extremely well-taught with excellent materials if parents don’t live a life of faith at home where they are closely watched by their children.

Ham & Beemer’s first challenge is to parents: Defend the Word. Live the Word. Parents if you are unsure about the Bible, it’s time to invest in some adult Christian education for yourself. Our culture has been waging a full-bore attack on the truth and accuracy of the Bible for generations. If you’ve not thought about the issues, it’s quite likely that your own faith has been weakened or undermined by the 24/7 assaults of movies, tv, news & talk shows and popular culture. The secular world dismisses the Bible as a ridiculous collection of myths and fairy tales. What do you believe? Can you answer the world’s attacks? Your children will inevitably ask you. You need to be prepared with an answer. “Be ready always to give an answer of the hope that is in you” (1 Peter 3:15).

Ham & Beemer’s second challenge is to all those involved in Sunday School and Christian Education: Defend the Word. Live the Word. Get trained. Find solid curriculum. If necessary, just sit down and teach the Bible (now there’s a radical concept). My favorite admonition: Teach Bible history, not Bible stories. Far too much Sunday School curriculum treats the Bible as if it were Aesop’s Fables. A cute story is told, followed by a moral principle found in the story. Children instantly understand that it is completely irrelevant whether the story is true or not. If the Bible is told as a fable with a moral, you’re actually communicating that it’s most likely NOT true. DON’T DO THIS. The Bible is not hard. It was designed to be read to children. Cf. Deuteronomy 6:7. The things God calls us to teach to our children are not the morals – he calls us to teach the scriptures.

Ham & Beemer have similar exhortations for youth pastors and pastors. Be sure in your own mind about the truth and authority of the Bible. Then teach it confidently.

Because the message of Ham & Beemer can be easily misunderstood and misapplied, I want to stress that it is not a structural problem that is causing young people to leave the church. There is no magic structure, or magic program, or magic formula that will change the demographics of young people leaving the church. Abolishing Sunday School or simply re-organizing Sunday School will not solve the problem. The problem is not the structure. The problem is and has been the content of what is taught in the home and in Sunday School.

There does not need to be another lost generation. Jesus loves these kids. They need him desperately (as do we all). Our culture needs Jesus. Our best hope to reach the culture is by equipping our kids. The Holy Spirit uses the preaching and teaching of the Word to bring young and old into a relationship with Jesus. When we ignore the Word, or devalue the Word, we undermine and block the very tool by which the Holy Spirit works. The Word is Truth. Jesus is revealed in the Word. We have no higher calling than to preach Jesus and Him crucified. And how shall any know of Him, except through the Word?

There is a crisis in the church. There is a crisis with young people. They are leaving the church because they have no reason to stay. They have only vague notions about Jesus. Sunday School Jesus, sadly, is often little more than Aesop with a pious story. The Word gives us a much richer picture of Jesus than that. We need to teach the Word, defend the Word – that our children may come to know Jesus.

I commend Ham & Beemer’s book to all of those involved in the education of young people. I hope it scares you and makes you think.

(originally published in Family Magazine)

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marriage under fireI am a short term pessimist about the future of western civilization in general, and the United States in particular.

The culture war was lost in the 1960s & 1970s. Everything since has been a rear-guard, fighting retreat.

The Obergefell decision was not the Rubicon. We crossed the Rubicon 50 years ago.

The normalisation of sexual amorality and promiscuity began in the 1960s. Marriage was the primary target, and sustained shock after shock.

Promiscuity, unfaithfulness, abandonment, abuse, all contributed to the destruction of marriage. Sneering at it, demonizing it, jeering at it, and refusing to take it seriously all came long before the beginning of the new millenium.

Abolishing marriage legally came only after a substantial portion of the population had been persuaded to abandon it.

And this should not have been surprising. Marriage was and is the first institution. It is the institution upon which all other institutions, and indeed civilization itself is built.

Marriage precedes the state, in time, in the created order, and in importance. God did not say, on the 6th day, “Behold, I have created government, and it shall look after you and provide for all of your needs.”

To add the capstone of God’s gift of marriage, Hosea in the OT, and Paul in the NT, tell us that marriage is a picture of God’s relationship with his people and Jesus’ relationship with his church.

God, of course, knew what he was doing. Marriage is a great gift. It is for our good. It blesses us, it blesses our children, it blesses our community.

Those committed to the biblical view of marriage are an increasingly embattled minority. And that is why I am pessimistic about the short term future of civilization. The attacks on marriage, its abandonment and eventual abolition have left us in a dire situation.

men and marriageThe most imporant book you should read about the current collapse of civilization in the west (and in the USA in particular) is George Gilder’s Men and Marriage (original title: Sexual Suicide).

Gilder makes a compelling case that marriage is the tool that women use to civilize men. Take away marriage and young men remain uncivilized barbarians. Take away marriage, and older, rich men will commit serial polygamy – abandoning the wives of their youth and the mothers of their children for younger playthings – whom they will eventually abandon as well (after thoroughly exploiting them). Hint to women: The Sexual Revolution is not your friend.

In our current circumstances, marriage will not and cannot be restored by a political victory.

Christians are going to have to learn how to live as an oppressed and despised minority. We have once again been tagged as “haters of mankind.”

What to do?

I suggest reading the history of the persecuted church – across time and across geography.

The church converted the urban population of the Roman Empire, from 33AD to 300AD. It took several centuries. Constantine, the first Christian emperor, was not the cause of the conversion of so many Roman citizens. He was the result.

The church converted the barbarian tribes from 400AD to 600AD.

The church converted the Vikings, from 750AD-900AD.

That’s why I’m a long term optimist.

Committing to a biblical marriage may well be the most revolutionary thing you can do.

How do we then live? I would call you, my brothers and sisters, to commit to marriage. Honor it as an institution. For those who enter in to it, take the vows and the promises seriously. Committing to a biblical marriage may well be the most revolutionary thing you can do. Model for your children what love and commitment look like. Deny yourself for your spouse, and for your children. Be the living model of Christ’s love for his bride, the church.

Unless and until we do these things, we will have little impact on the culture.

We should not cease to have an answer for the hope that is in us.

We should not cease to proclaim the good news of the kingdom of Jesus, the Christ.

But we must show by our lives, as well as proclaiming with our lips, the good news of the kingdom.

 

 

 

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The Church of England has produced a very moving 60 second message – a montage of UK Christians praying the Lord’s Prayer, beginning with the Archbishop of Centerbury, Justin Welby.

They have launched a website (www.justpray.uk), and had contacted the leading movie theater chains in the United Kingdom to contract to have the message aired during previews in the month of December, capitalizing on the expected five million cinema-goers expected to view the new Star Wars movie over the Christmas Holidays.

Here’s the video (well worth 60 seconds of your time):

The cinema chains have refused to accept the advertisement on the grounds that it might “offend or upset audiences.”

Although this is not technically censorship, it is very close to its functional equivalent.

The viewing of a 60 second video, with the only the 66 words of the Lord’s Prayer, “carries the risk of upsetting, or offending, audiences.”

Here’s British actor Stephen Fry’s response:

And here’s a link to a more complete article from the Daily Mail:

Archbishop Welby’s fury at cinema ban on ‘offensive’ Lord’s prayer:
Church threaten to sue after plug pulled on advert due to be shown to millions at Christmas

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Christen und Islamischer Staat im Irak: Frankreich bietet Asyl an - SPIEGEL ONLINE

The story is only on the German side of Der Spiegel at the moment. I applaud the government of France!

Christen und Islamischer Staat im Irak: Frankreich bietet Asyl an – SPIEGEL ONLINE.

Quick translation:

It was an Exodus in fear of death: Thousands of Christians had to leave the northern Iraqi city of Mosul a few days ago because they were threated by the terrorist group ISIS. Now France is offering the refugees asylum. “One must help every person who fled to Kurdistan because of the threats of ISIS,” reads a joint declaration from the French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius and Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve on Monday in Paris. “We are prepared to give them asylum in our country, if they wish.”

Proud of the French.

Listening and waiting for the joint Declaration by John Kerry and Jeh Johnson.

[crickets]

 

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Steven Ozment is, undoubtedly, one of the leading historians of the Reformation in the world. I first read his early, seminal works in grad school (The Reformation in the Cities and The Age of Reform 1250-1550). He is a professor of history at Harvard where he continues to teach both graduate students and undergraduate course in western civilization.

I admire and have enjoyed his writings, more recently Magdalena & Balthasar and Protestants.

One of my beach books is his new study of Martin Luther and the Saxon court artist, Lucas Cranach, titled The Serpent and the Lamb.

It is a fascinating, provocative, frustrating, maddening, illuminating, challenging and informative read.

Cranach’s life is intertwined with Luther’s in numerous ways. Cranach illustrated some of Luther’s pamphlets, and was a partner in one of the printing presses that published Luther’s writings, including Luther’s German translation of the New Testament. They developed a close personal relationship. Cranach was a witness at Luther’s wedding and later godfather to his children.

Cranach himself was more than just a court painter. He has been justifiably placed in the first rank or artists with his friend and rival, Albrecht Durer. He was also a successful businessman, entrepreneur, large landowner, and city official (twice mayor) in Wittenberg.

Ozment’s biography of Cranach (with special attention to his relationship with Luther) is a magisterial tour de force. Ozment is in command of all the details and figures of Reformation Germany and deftly places Cranach in context and relationship with the major players: Frederick the Wise, elector of Saxony, Albrecht of Halle, twice arch-bishop, Emperor Maximillian and his grand-son, Charles V.

Ozment is also an observant analyst of the subjects and style of Cranach’s paintings over succeeding decades.

I’d recommend the book for anyone who is curious about Cranach’s life and art, and the relationship between the Reformation and the arts.

Having said all that, there is one howler in Ozment’s otherwise astute analysis that is indicative of one of the blind spots of current historical analysis.

In his discussion of Cranach’s treatment of women in a series of paintings of Old Testament heroines (an otherwise fascinating analysis), he turns to a 1528 painting by Cranach entitled Lot and His Daughters. Here’s how he summarizes the biblical story which Cranach depicted:

“The ending and moral of this story are also of great biblical complexity. Both daughters were impregnated by their father and delivered healthy boys who grew up to be leading Hebrew tribesmen. By its silence, the Old Testament implies that God took no offense at the daughters’ and the father’s transgression of the incest taboo. Apparently the daughters’ benevolent desire to salvage the future of their family, and perhaps all of humankind, made their gamble forgivable in the eyes of God.”

The story is told in Genesis 19 and the two healthy boys here are Moab and Ammon. Although descended from Terah (the father of Abraham) they are decidedly NOT Hebrew. The nations of Moab and Ammon became rivals, enemies, and at times oppressors of Israel. It’s a bit jarring, in an otherwise exceptionally well written book, to see such a simple factual error. All the more jarring, since one expects a historian of the Reformation to have a better than average knowledge of the Bible.

Doesn’t diminish the utility of the book, and my admiration for the author. Just a reminder that he’s not an expert in all areas.

RedHatRob at the Cranach House in Wittenberg

RedHatRob at the Cranach House in Wittenberg

 

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Marriage: Just a Piece of Paper? [VHS]My irony meter has been pegged for a long time by the spectacle of the leftist intelligentsia’s hypocrisy on marriage. I’m a boomer. I cut my teeth on the denunciations of marriage as oppressive and outmoded. “Why do we need a piece of paper, man?”

Ladies, you may not have noticed, but these were the arguments advanced by men who wanted to have sex without having to make a commitment.

But in the last 15 years, the same leftists who denounced marriage have now demanded, as the sine qua non of social justice, the right of gay couples to get married.

As justification, they often cite the maudlin examples of gay lovers denied access to their partner’s side in a hospital, while husbands and wives get automatic access. It’s not fair!

Or the right to name a same-sex partner as a beneficiary for health insurance or retirement benefits the same way in which husbands and wives can. Also not fair!

There are, of course, easily implemented policy changes to deal with both those situations.

And, Surprise! – both of these situations are already easily dealt with.

The first is resolved with a “durable power of attorney for healthcare,” which I recommend for all adults, straight, gay, married or single. You should clearly designate who you want to be in charge of healthcare decisions should you be incapacitated. That person then has full rights to request and receive information on your status from hospitals & doctors and to visit you.

The second situation is also already resolved for the vast majority of citizens. You can designate a domestic partner (spouse, friend, room-mate, what have you) as your beneficiary. In fact, the ridiculous canard about Sally Ride’s widow being unjustly denied any access to her federal benefits is completely false.

OPM's Beneficiary Form

OPM's Beneficiary Form

Everyone, including Sally Ride, is/was perfectly free to name whomever they want as beneficiary on their insurance policies.

In fact, here’s the spot on the Federal Office of Personnel Management form for federal employees, with the helpful example of how to fill it out for a “domestic partner.”

Are we supposed to believe that Sally Ride deliberately chose NOT to list her partner as her beneficiary? And that is somehow the fault of those who are opposed to gay marriage?

But it’s not really about the practical details, is it?

Gay marriage stands for the symbolic triumph of approval.

The activists do not want tolerance, or accommodation. They demand approval – or silence.

They are pursuing gay marriage not for its practical or spiritual benefits – but because in achieving it, they will be forcing society at large, and the religious institutions who perform marriages to give their approval.

I think this explains the disproportionate response to the Chick-fil-A, “we support traditional marriage” imbroglio.

What the gay activists are after is the demonizing of anyone who would speak anything but praise & approval of homosexuality.

Americans, by and large, are (and have been) tolerant. And I expect they will remain so.

They are, however, not likely to be cowed or bullied into giving their approval to anything under compulsion.

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A short and very nice summary of the role of Scripture and the Church.

Human beings can err.

Scientists sometimes get it wrong. Even when the all agree. The test is always to return to the natural world and observe closely.

Popes can err.

General Councils of the Church can err.

The test is to return to scripture and read it carefully.

“Accurate interpretation does not mean forbidding “private interpretation” any more than good science forbids backyard telescopes.”

H/T to: Stand Firm -> Sola Scriptura and Interpreting the Bible Badly.

Short, but very much worth reading.

is worth a read.

This one expecially.

William Grigg at Pro Libertate on the doctrine of Interposition.

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It will be some time before we are able to get these printed, but in the meantime we wanted to make them available to anyone who is interested. You can browse online here or download a .pdf to your own computer. You can even print your own copy if you’d like.

Our history study packages are typically designed for use in one semester, so now’s the time to order for the new year. Break out of the textbook box. Give your children real stories about real people. Reclaim history for them and for yourself.
Greenleaf Press 2010 Retail Catalog

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We sometimes forget that, in pre-Revolutionary America, the religious landscape was dominated by churches that rested on legal establishment: the Congregationalists in New England, and the Episcopalians in New York, Virginia, Maryland, North and South Carolina, and Georgia. What exactly did legal establishment mean? It is so far removed from our own experience that we may not realize what an intensive role the government playing in administering the churches.  the state collected tithes (which all citizens were legally required to pay, whether they attended the established church or no). The state also laid out new parish boundaries, subsidized new church construction, maintained parish properties, paid clergymen’s salaries, hired and fired them, and even took measures to suppress dissenters. Baptist preachers, for example, were sometimes jailed and beaten. Yes, here in America! Finally, in many states, government positions were limited to church members – there were religious tests for office.

[. . .]

[a] key to success on the frontier is that you have to be there. You have to be willing to sacrifice the comforts of the settled cities in order to minister among rough people living rough lives. As a rule, the established clergy were not willing to do that. In the state-supported churches (and in wealthier churches generally), the training for pastors was a long, expensive process that led to a chronic shortage of clergy, thus giving them considerable bargaining power over salary and location. Many simply refused to go to the unsettled frontier areas.

By contrast, the Methodist circuit preachers became a legend on the frontier. They traveled constantly, virtually living in the saddle.

– Nancy Pearcey, Total Truth , pp 263-264

She has some fascinating statistics that show that the rate of religious affiliation in the US has increased since the revolution, while at the same time, the “market share” of the older mainline churches has been decreasing since the First & Second Great Awakenings. The 19th century was the Age of Methodism. The 20th century has been the Age of the Baptists (with pentecostal/charismatics coming on strong towards the end of the century). During this entire time, while the number and percentage of Americans who indicate that they are affiliated with a church has increased, the numbers of Congregationalists, Episcopalians, & Presbyterians has been declining.

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