June 2011


To Love and Cherish

Doing Apologetics

Christianity: The Basics

What is Wrong with Social Justice

Christianity and Secularism

Evidence for the Bible

Archive for June, 2011

The 72%-90%

Monday, June 27th, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

I have been reading a new book that I find both challenging and exciting. No, it is not the latest spy thriller, and in fact is not even a novel. It is non-fiction and on a subject matter that has been dealt with many times in the past. Yet it does so by challenging cultural norms that most have simply taken for granted, and probably have not even thought much about. What is exciting is the potential it has to impact the church and thereby the world at large, which is huge.

The book is Rite of Passage for the Home and Church: Raising Christ-Centered Young Adults, by D. Kevin Brown (Energion Publications, 2011), and from its title one might question my claims of a huge impact. A huge impact can only come in the face of a huge problem. A book on study habits for those who are B+ or A- students only has a limited room for improvement. A book aimed at failing students that can transform them into A students would be huge, not only for their grades, but on what that would mean for their lives as well.

The problem addressed in Rite of Passage is larger than just grades. To put it bluntly, the church in America, as a whole, is failing its young people. This is a tough message and one that meets with tremendous resistance. I know because I have been talking in my speaking and teaching for nearly twenty years and have met with everything from skepticism and denial to, in few cases, hostility. People point to their youth programs and how many children are being reached, and how many accepted the Lord at their last vacation Bible school as evidence that I am wrong.

Yet the statistics I have been following for quite some time, and which Brown points to in his book tell a different story. As Brown points out, while attendance at youth programs may be strong, numerous studies reveal a problem. “These studies … show that between 70%-92% of ‘Christian’ teens were dropping out of church and abandoning their faith, most by their 20th birthday.” (pg. 12)

What is really exciting is that Brown solution is both revolutionary, and yet not. It is revolutionary because it runs so counter to our cultural norms. In fact, many will find it just too radical and different. On the other hand, it is not revolutionary in that Brown is really doing nothing more than returning to scripture, and asking the question “What do the scriptures say about adolescents?” (pg. 21)

Considering all the books that discuss the scriptural approach to raising teens, the surprising answer is that the Bible is completely silent on the topic. The Biblical perspective is that you have two groups, children and adults, “with no stopovers at a place called ‘adolescence.’” (pg. 22)

Thus Brown argues for a revolutionary course of action, but one that should be music to every believer’s ears: That we treat our teenagers following the biblical pattern. Most of the book is aimed at defending this view and then laying out its implications which are many. This is revolutionary when compared to the culture at large, a culture that allows young adults to drift through their teen years with few expectations and no clear line of adulthood. The current view is neither biblical, nor even very old, only a 100 years or so. As you read through Brown’s book, the individual parts are not really very new or very revolutionary, except that they are rarely pulled together and applied to, or expected of, teens.

Another thing that is clear is that Brown is not proposing yet another youth program. In fact if applied in that fashion, it would probably fail. What Brown is proposing is a vast and long term change in perspective. Given the reluctance to even face the problem, Brown will certainly face opposition from some. That is just not the way we do it. That just will not work with today’s teens. The reasons will be many, but the conclusion will be the same. It just will not work.

To those who are concerned with the current 70%-92% loss among 18-20 year olds, Brown’s book will at a minimum be a welcome point of view and a must read. To those who are skeptical I would make the same challenge that I do in all my teaching on the Bible. You don’t have to believe me, or in this case Brown. Look at that biblical evidence he puts forth. Pray about the examples he cites. Look at how teens are treated in the Bible and what is expected of them. And reach your own conclusions as to what does the Bible say. Ask yourself, if your church’s youth program is patterned after the culture, or if it is patterned after the Bible?

In the end, agree or not with Brown, this is a book that should be read by anyone concerned with the church, and in particular with those in the teen years.

Note: Energion Publications is also the publisher of my books

Immune to Evidence

Wednesday, June 1st, 2011 by Elgin Hushbeck

Recently I finished teaching a study of the Gospel of John. This class took two year (with summers off) so we spent considerable time in John.  The class elected to study the letters of John next and so in preparation I have once again been reviewing the preliminary question of authorship, which for the letters is strongly intertwined with the Gospel.

Usually I deal with such questions at the start of a study, but coming back to them having just finished the Gospel really drove home how utterly basis were the claims that the apostle John was not the author.  The problems here are an example of what is wrong with so much of academia.

Without going into too much detail, there are several things one can look at when trying to determine authorship. One is external evidence, which in the case of the Gospel of John is very clear and strong, linking back to those who personally knew and worked with the apostle.   Then there are several types of internal evidence.   The first is what the Gospel claims for itself.  The Gospel of John says it was written by “disciple whom Jesus kept loving” (John 21:20-24 ISV) and when the statements about this disciple are examined, it turns out to be John.

From all of this it would seem pretty clear that the apostle John was the author.  And yet many, if not most, scholars not only reject the authorship of John, but claim instead John was the work of many authors.  Now if there were some clear changes in style or language, another type of internal evidence, which pointed to multiple authors, then one could understand such claims. But as D.A. Carson, Douglas J. Moo, and Leon Morris point out in their “An Introduction to the New Testament”,

The stylistic unity of the book has been demonstrated again and again as concrete evidence against this or that source theory.  Even the prologue (1:1-18) and the epilogue (chap 21) exhibit a style remarkably attuned to the rest of the book. (p 152)

Again, having just completed an in depth study of the Gospel, and having just recently looked in detail at all the evidence for chapter 21, it drove home how true this statement is.   So why then, given the solid external evidence, the claims of the book itself, and the internal consistency, is the authorship of the apostle John even an open question, but less rejected?

The answer seems to be that before a lot of this evidence was established, scholarly opinion dated this, and the other gospels, well into the second century, some dating it as late as  170, well beyond the lifetime of the apostles.   If the apostle did not write it, then someone else did, and this someone must have gotten the material they wrote from somewhere.   As a result, scholars spent considerable time trying to determine the sources of the Gospels and multiple sources have frequently been seen as multiple authors.   A real problem, however, is that unlike the other evidence, attempts of find sources is much more problematic, subjective, and thus error prone.

As a result, elaborate speculations were developed about a Johannine tradition, community or possibly even a school, which was responsible for the creation of the Gospel of John and the letters.  Over time these speculations became theories, which with succeeding generations of scholars came to be seen as established fact, based more on the reputation of the earlier scholars, than any actual evidence. Under close examination they remained little more than speculations, with very little if any actual evidence to support them.  The earlier speculations then came to be the foundation for even further speculations by succeeding scholars, until a large and elaborate framework of speculation was developed.

Since then, however, the late dating of the Gospels has run into serious problems, not the least of which have been that a fragment of the Gospel of John have been discovered that dates from around 125, well before the speculations about it authorship had claimed it was even written.

And yet, even though the evidence now show the Gospel was written within the lifetime of the apostle John, many scholars continue to reject his authorship, preferring instead the theories/speculations that it was written by Johannine community.   In short, they reject the actual objective evidence that points to the apostle John, and instead support what are really little more than speculations that depend mainly on scholarly inertia and group think.

This problem is not limited to Biblical Scholarship.  With the possible exception of the hard sciences, which have the ability/burden to actually objectively test their theories, it is found throughout academia.  Once the bastion of the exploration of new ideas grounded in reason and evidence, academia have become increasingly unified and closed mined, wedded to scholarly speculations and immune to the evidence.

As in, biblical scholarship, students in the various disciplines are discouraged from thinking critically about the prevailing views of the disciplines, but instead to accept them, in some cases as dogmatically as any medieval doctrine.   Slowly, any existing critical thinking and common sense are drummed out of the student, replaced instead by the new gospel of truth, the study.

There is nothing inherently wrong with studies, and the point here is not to attack them per se.  But like everything else, they have their strengths and their weaknesses.  Yet, I have actually heard professors claim that they will not believe anything unless there is a study to support it. This is an absurd claim, but the very fact that a supposedly learned person could make such a statement, and make it proudly, shows one of the problems with academia.  Pointing to studies is a way to avoid actually thinking.  If the study says X, then you don’t have to think about X any longer, you can just accept the study.

One only has to consider the problems of conflicting studies, to realize the problems with such a claim.  But the problems are much deeper.  In the late 1960s and early 1970s there were no studies that show men and women were different.   The common sense view that they were different was rejected as being based on common sense.  So men and women were declared the same.

As a result of advances in our knowledge of biochemistry and how the brain works,  we now know for a fact that men and women are not only different, but significantly different in the way they  think and react.  But as with the evidence for the authorship of John, this is largely ignored and the view that men and women are the same continues to shape much of society even today in everything from how we dress, to how the sexes interact,  to how we raise our children,  to marriage, and same-sex marriage.

Some might ask: So what? Where is the harm?  When pressed, such questions usually are little more than a demand for evidence from yet another study.  But, it is also a further problem with the group think-study based view of academia.    Most studies are so narrow that they only seek to answer the question the scholar asks.  If your knowledge is based on studies, then your knowledge will be limited to what is researched.  Thus if they don’t look for the problems, the studies will not find them.  The group-think that controls so much of scholarship passively, and sometimes even actively, limits what will be researched. Even when studies are done, that show problems, the group think mentality tend to relegate them to obscurity.

In short we live in a world increasingly under the sway of an academia that through the schools and in government are reshaping society to fit theories that are increasingly cut off from reality. This is a prescription for disaster.