Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts that you might want to check out.




Share

Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts I have come across. Go and check them out.




Share

Weekend Leadership Roundup

Here are some leadership posts that I came across this week. Go and check them out.


Share

Generation Ex-Christian

Generation Ex=ChristianDrew Dyck, Generation Ex-Christian: Why Young Adults are Leaving the Faith…and How to Bring them Back.  Moody: Chicago, 2010. 208 pp. Pbk.

Generation Ex-Christian is a thoughtful, well-researched, practical guide on why Generation Y or Millennials (those born after 1980) are leaving Christianity at an alarming rate, how they arrived there, and how to work towards getting them back.  Although it includes discussions surrounding doctrine, it is not a characteristically apologetic book that highlights differences between Christianity and other religions (or atheists), while sometimes ignoring ways to reach out to others.  While a series of basic theistic arguments are put forward, Dyck’s primary orientation is to provide concrete and contextualized approaches to equip, engage and evangelize those who have left the faith they once possessed.

After conducting numerous interviews with “Ex-Christians” (a term the interviewees used to describe themselves) and analyzing extensive research conducted by other organizations, Dyck began to establish a number of patterns and categories that characterized the participants, those he refers to as “leavers” – the postmodernist, the recoiler, the modernist, the neo-pagan, the rebel, and the drifter.  Using a primary interviewee as a case-study in each chapter, he moves into a discussion about their defining characteristics and concludes by offering a way forward.

Post-moderns are those who have embraced at least some of the basic tenets of postmodernism. First, they are suspicious of and very hesitant to embrace any metanarrative that seeks to contain the whole truth of reality and define it for all people.  As a result, truth, reason and reality become radically defined.  That is, there is a different truth for each person, and experience, not reason, is the means of determining what truth actually is.  As a result, morality suffers the similar fate as truth informs and shapes how one lives.

Postmoderns have also embraced the philosophy of Jacques Derrida called deconstructionism.  This idea, when coupled with postmodernism, creates an atmosphere of suspicion surrounding truth claims and beliefs.

Finally, postmoderns have a tendency to embrace a more positive value as well – concern for the marginalized.  They believe that the lack of concern and care for the disenfranchised among many of us are in many ways a result of our embrace of metanarratives, where less-fortunate people may sometimes be forced to the margins.  By deconstructing these narratives, postmoderns are more able to embrace those who are often excluded.

Simply defined, Recoilers are those who have withdrawn from the faith because of the pain they have endured within the church, often through some form of abuse done in the name of God.  As Dyck highlights, those who have been victimized, and who associate that with God, will normally tend to experience struggles with their faith.  And, though they may sometimes provide a series of intellectual arguments against faith, those same arguments are often used to hide their pain.  The result can be emotional atheism, where those who feel wounded by God conclude that God does not exist.

Modern leavers are those who have left the faith for intellectual reasons.  As Dyck posits, “unlike postmodern leavers, they love linear thinking, objective truth, and the Western tradition of rational thought.”  They also believe that truth isn’t found through revelation, but through scientific investigation and reason.  As a result, they is simply no room for belief in anything outside the physical world, including such things as a spirit, soul or the supernatural.  In the end, only those things that can be proven through empirical observation are real.

He also found that many in this camp have a strong tendency to be atheists.  With this in mind, he surmised that there would be no better way to find out what they believed and why they believed it, then to seek out ex-Christians at a local atheist meeting.

A primary conclusion that arose from that meeting was that leavers are part of what is commonly referred to as the ‘new atheists.’  While their arguments against God’s existence may not be all that new, what is new about them is their confrontational, angry and militant attitude.  Headed by highly recognized authors such as Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) and Christopher Hitchens (God is Not Great), the new atheists have launched a massive advertising campaign against religion that includes the selling of books, tote bags, coffee mugs, T–shirts, and buttons.  Dawkins has even included a ‘conversion corner’ on his website where those who de-convert can share their personal stories (or testimonies) about their departure from faith.

Dealing with neo-pagans, Dyck focuses on one of the fastest growing religions in America, and quite possibly, around the world – Wicca.  Derived from the word witchcraft, it is a neo-pagan, earth-based religion.  They worship a god and goddess, practice magic, worship nature and engage in seasonal rituals.  They also believe in a unifying energy in nature that “can be manipulated through magic to bring personal rewards such as love, financial blessing and general happiness.”

Wicca has benefited from a number of cultural trends, the first being feminism.  Its focus on a female deity has made it very attractive against a backdrop of patriarchal religion.  Consumerism also works in favor of Wicca’s popularity.  In terms of spirituality, it doesn’t promote a revealed truth to be accepted by everyone, but each person can create their own version of the truth. “Practitioners are free to pick and choose which beliefs and practices to adopt, making Wicca a religion tailor-made for our consumerist age.”  Nothing has benefited Wicca more than the environmental movement.  Wiccans worship the earth, so it is very easy to see why it would be very conducive with the concern to take care of the earth.  Finally, secularism is another ally of the Wiccan religion.  It has often been perceived as a reactionary movement against the prevailing secularism of the West.  Realizing that there is more to life than the ‘mechanized culture’ that surrounds us, people turn to Wicca as a means of finding answers to quench their souls.

Dyck includes two sub-categories within the rebels classification.  The first are “moral rebels.”  This group forsake the faith to indulge in sinful behaviors.  Living apart from their parents for the first time, coupled with an increased sense of freedoms and corresponding temptations, “…it’s no coincidence that more people abandon Christianity between the ages of eighteen and twenty-two than during any other four years of life.”

The second category is referred to as “spiritual rebels.”  These people do not rebel against the Christian lifestyle, but against the authority of God.  This group normally does not respond favorably to arguments for the existence of God because the very idea of a ‘ruler’ of all is simply reprehensible.

characterizes the final group of leavers as those “whose faith is rooted in shallow soil and is ultimately carried off in the wind.”  Rather than leaving the faith abruptly, they usually begin to gradually move away over time.  Drifters, he claims, have the greatest numbers of all leavers.

Drifters have acted on a tendency inherent to us all; the ‘prone to wander’ syndrome.  This view is substantiated by statistics that conclude that 71% of eighteen to twenty-nine year olds departed from their childhood religion gradually.

Drifters are also not prone to seek out opportunities to argue against Christianity, as other leavers are sometimes inclined to do.  However, this can create a whole other set of issues, as they may not be as motivated to open up about their beliefs and can seek to avoid spiritual conversations altogether.

Drew Dyck has written an extremely thought-provoking and helpful overview of contemporary ‘ex-Christians.’  What I appreciated most was that he did not rely exclusively on statistics, but actively engaged people where they were, taking the time to ‘hear’ them in their own words.  After conducting numerous interviews, compiling data, and analyzing the results, he provides us with well-researched information, real-life case studies and practical guidelines to more effectively engage the ‘leavers’ in our communities and around the world.

I especially appreciated his contextualized approach in defining each subgroup and for providing an individualized approach that sought to equip us accordingly.  Why this approach took a considerable amount of time relative to research and analysis, it was well worth the extra effort. Meeting people ‘where they are’ and determining their needs on an individual basis will equip us to help them with a greater degree of effectiveness.  A one-sized-fits-all approach rarely works in the world of evangelism, and Drew Dyck has captured this very well.

I highly recommend Generation Ex-Christian to every youth leader, pastor and parent who requires an informed and well-researched, practical guide to better engage the ‘leavers’ in their lives.  Dyck’s book will also prepare its readers to prayerfully and authentically serve as a catalyst to re-connect others with Jesus Christ and learn to walk with them on their journey to spiritual maturity.

Jeffery K. Clarke

 

Share

Why God Won’t Go Away

Why God Won't Go AwayAlister McGrath. Why God Won’t Go Away: Is the New Atheism Running on Empty? (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2011), 191 pp. Pbk.

Why God Won’t Go Away is Alister McGrath’s latest engagement with what has been referred to as the New Atheism. His primary area of concern centers on the work of its four leading proponents: Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris, and Christopher Hitchens. The book is organized into three parts, each building on the other to form a coherent picture of the current debates.

In part one, McGrath provides an historical overview of the beginning stages of the New Atheism, while highlighting the differences between the old and new strands. The primary difference has less to do with the essential belief inherent to atheism (God’s nonexistence), and more to do with the New’s emphasis on their hatred of religion in all of its forms (anti-theism).

Part two highlights three core themes that underlie the New Atheist’s hostility:

1. its critique of religious violence

2. its appeals to reason

3. its appeals to science

McGrath points out in chapter three that religion can go wrong and promote violence. And, when it does, it should be challenged and changed. However, where most people see religion as something that can go wrong, New Atheism sees it only as something that is wrong. As a result, all religion should be eliminated.

In response, McGrath argues that the problem is not religion, but fanaticism, which can be found in many areas of life. Furthermore, upon closer examination, Christianity’s leader (Jesus Christ) in particular offers a “transcendent rationale for the resistance of violence” (p. 69). In Jesus, the cycle of violence was broken. So, when any of its adherents fail to follow Christ’s example, they prove to be not very good Christians.  In the end, New Atheist’s appeals to violence as an argument against religions proves nonsensical. It is an unfair emphasis on the pathological forms within religions; forms that can also find a place in politics and science.

One of the hallmarks of the New Atheism is that it seems to think it has a monopoly on truth (a critique that even comes from other, more moderate, atheists). In fact, “the New Atheism makes rationality one of its core defining characteristics and emphatically and aggressively denies that any alternative view can be regarded as rational” (p. 83), a belief that does not find resonance in other forms of atheism.

However, New Atheism refuses to confront the truth that every worldview, whether religious or secular in orientation, goes beyond what reason and science can prove. Questions that pertain to value and meaning often cannot be proven through empirical methods, yet are nevertheless maintained as trustworthy. As McGrath points out, religious faith is not a rebellion against reason but a revolt against the imprisonment of humanity within the cold walls of a rationalist dogmatism. Human logic may be rationally adequate, but it’s also existentially deficient. Faith declares that there’s more to life than this. It doesn’t contradict reason but transcends it. It elicits and involves rational consent but does not compel it (p. 89).

McGrath confronts the final core idea of New Atheism in chapter five – its appeal to science. He makes the statement that they do “more than simply reflect the cultural stereotype of the ‘warfare’ of science and religion,” they actually “depend on it for its plausibility” (p. 121).

They appeal to what has commonly been referred to as scientism, which claims that all that is known or can be known is capable of verification or falsification using the scientific method. However, as McGrath concludes, “to limit oneself to what reason and science can prove is merely to skim the surface of reality and fail to discover the hidden depths beneath” (p. 129).

In the end, McGrath draws the conclusion that the angry, loud, and aggressive debate tactics utilized by the New Atheism, especially when faced with a high degree of clear evidence from the religious other, will not be able to sustain the movement for the long term. While the older, and better argued atheism, may have a degree of traction, the newer forms do not. While they believe their anti-religious rhetoric will be heard and make a positive impact, their weak and often illogical forms of argumentation will ultimately be the cause of their downfall.

The ironic fact is that New Atheist anger at the persistence of faith has inadvertently stirred a huge interest in the whole God question. It’s made people want to reflect on the other side of the story.

I recommend this book to anyone who is interested in learning more about the New Atheism, its leaders, their writing, arguments and the general Christian response. It will help you to move pass the rhetoric and embrace a more balanced approach that stems from well-researched and more persuasive forms of argumentation.

Jeffrey K. Clarke

 

Share

Why I am No Longer a Pentecostal… But Still Am

This is a guest post that I did a number of years ago for Jeff Clarke. I know Jeff from McMaster Divinity College. He is a great writer and I encourage you to check out his blog. He has great things to say.

Soon after I became a Christian, I moved from the Anglican church I had been raised in to a Pentecostal church. This was a good move for me. I naturally lean toward an intellectual faith and I needed the push to experience God. I am so thankful for my experience within the Pentecostal church. It was there that I was baptized, where I was discipled and where I heard the call to ministry.

And yet it was also a time of struggle for me. Unfortunately, it was a struggle with the heart of Pentecostalism. I was told by my pastors and all my friends that the fulness of the Holy Spirit always came with the sign of speaking in tongues and it was that fulness that was required for real ministry. I heard testimony after testimony of Christians who had been going through the motions, received the gift of tongues and then finally had the power for effective ministry. Despite the strong conviction of people I respected, I had great trouble with this.

Ironically, it was a Pentecostal hermeneutic that led me to give up on the belief in tongues as the initial sign of Spirit baptism. I did not perform a systematic study of all biblical passages related to the Holy Spirit. Rather my change of perspective came through experience. I was spending much time with Christians of other traditions, most of whom did not speak in tongues. Despite the testimonies of my friends, I noticed no differences in either effectiveness in ministry or in personal holiness. After much internal struggle, I finally left the Pentecostal church. While I am credentialed with a Baptist denomination, I considered myself to be simply a Christian.

I say I left the Pentecostal church but what I really mean is that I no longer worship at a church affiliated with a Pentecostal denomination. I have become more and more convinced that all Christians are pentecostals with a small ‘p’. The church was born at Pentecost and it was designed to be Spirit-filled and Spirit-led. How that looks will vary from tradition to tradition, but if Christianity is not based in Pentecost, it is not the church. I am fine worshipping without raising my hands and I do not miss messages in tongues during the services. But I am still a pentecostal in that I am well aware of my need for the Spirit’s power and guidance in all that I do. I appreciate my experience with a Pentecostal denomination and I still enjoy visits, but because of my views on tongues I can no longer identify as a classical Pentecostal. However, I will remain a pentecostal in that I understand Christianity as finding power in the Holy Spirit.

Share