On Sunday, I returned from a semester abroad, in Quito, Ecuador. This trip was the second time being away from my home country for a considerable period; the first was an 8-month mission trip to Albania 5 years ago. Returning from a long trip away from home is always an interesting time of readjustment, and this “re-entry” has gotten me thinking about the various dangers of studying abroad. Don’t worry; I’m not talking about physical dangers, though that’s always a possibility when studying abroad (and, if you think about it, just about anywhere). Because of these dangers, I don’t think that studying abroad is for everyone. Continue reading
I wear glasses. Even though I own contacts, I prefer using my glasses when I know I have lots to read for school (which is pretty typical, nowadays). Those of you who own glasses have experienced those moments when you put on your glasses and notice smudges or dirt on your glasses. Do you typically just shrug your shoulders and go on with the day? Poppycock! You spend 10 seconds cleaning your glasses so you can see clearly.
Why all the talk about glasses? Continue reading
Every guy has a mancrush. One of mine is Vern S. Poythress.
Poythress is close to his 60’s and is a New Testament scholar and philosopher. He’s spent his time moving around California, growing in his walk with Christ and impacting lives on college campuses–both secular and private–all over the world. His writing covers a spectrum more diverse than most theologians of his kind, ranging from philosophy of science and logic to linguistics to hermeneutics and theology. In what little I’ve read of his writing, I’ve been amazed at both his level of academics as well as his steadfast commitment to seeing the gospel of Christ move forward. What sets Poythress apart from the rest of his field, and the reason I look up to him as much as I do, is his six degrees: a B.S. and Ph.D. in Mathematics, a M.Div, a Th.M. in Apologetics, a M.Litt. (Master of Letters) in New Testament, and a Th.D. in New Testament. He’s studied at some of the most prestigious schools in the world, including Harvard, Cambridge, and Westminster. Poythress has made it his life goal to study the world through academics, analyze what he observes, and use his findings for the glory of God.
There is a misunderstanding that Christians neglect the laws of logic and reason and replace it with a faith so blind that they seek neither to understand nor better our world. I came across a quote this past week from famed Atheist Richard Dawkins, saying, “I am against religion because it teaches us to be satisfied with not understanding the world.” Dawkins easily dismantles his own philosophy by exhibiting a fallacy of bifurcation–a logical fallacy that is defined by limiting an idea to two extreme alternatives–by, in essence, classifying all people into two groups: The ignorant religious and the enlightened non-religious. But what about two other groups that Dawkins seems to not consider? For instance, the enlightened religious and the ignorant non-religious. The example of Poythress at the beginning shows that there are people who could be classified as the enlightened religious, those that have made it their life goal to study and understand the world. Dawkins’ ignorance to recognize the enlightened religious is his own undoing, as his logical fallacy causes him to fall into the very group he painted out of his idealistic picture: The ignorant non-religious. To further prove Dawkins’ error, let’s use a deductive syllogism:
Premise 1: Richard Dawkins believes Christians are irrational
Premise 2: Vern Poythress and William Lane Craig are rational (enlightened)
Premise 3: Vern Poythress and William Lane Craig are both Christians
Conclusion: Therefore, Richard Dawkins’ belief is incorrect
Let me further define what an enlightened religious person would look like. First, by the term “enlightened”, I’m not intending to create any connection back to the 17-18th century revival of reasoning that took place in Europe, climaxed in the French Revolution, and gave birth to the so-called “Death of God”. By definition, “enlightened”, or “enlightenment”, is, “Having or showing a rational, modern, and well-informed outlook.” Someone who’s religious, a Christian in this case, would be someone that seeks to be well-informed about the world around them. This includes, but is not limited to, the academic fields of History, Economics, Astronomy, Physics, Politics, Anthropology, Sociology, Philosophy, Mathematics, Theology, Religion, Business, and Environmental Science. An enlightened Christian is someone who can look at and understand the social, political, and economic factors that went into the fall of the Roman empire, such as Rodney Stark. They can study physics, mathematics, and astronomy to understand the origins and nature of our universe, such as Dr. William Lane Craig. They can traverse the ins and outs of various world religions, break down religious philosophies, and understand the logic of how people observe and react to the world, such as Ronald Nash or Francis Schaeffer. They’re even critically-acclaimed people like Flannery O’Connor, C.S. Lewis, or J.R.R. Tolkien who observe patterns in our own world to fabricate worlds of their own. Christianity doesn’t remove people from the world by blinding them with circular reasoning; it should force people out of their comfort zone to observe, learn, and interact with the world that God has graciously made for us.
This is the study of Christian academics and why it’s so vital to the growth of the church. Richard Dawkins would be right if people like Vern Poythress or William Lane Craig didn’t exist. If Christians ignore what goes on in this world, then Dawkins, the now-deceased Hitchens, and Stephen Fry have every right to criticize Christians for their ignorance. But because Christians should strive to interact with and learn about our world–granted, not all of them do–the non-religious have no foundation to make general blanket statements about the entire world of religion, specifically that of Christianity.
You will spend years preparing for your career. But very few Christians spend any time at all preparing to effectively follow Jesus in that career.
Recent research has shown that only 16% of Christians report learning how the Bible applies to their field or area of interest. This means that 84% of Christians spend their lives in a career, but have never been taught how their Christian faith should play out in that career!
And the problem begins earlier than a person’s career. Only 11% of Christians report receiving helpful input from a someone in their church about their education.
This means the church is sending people out to be educated and devote their lives to a career, but leaving them clueless as to how their faith informs their education or career. The church may be doing a good job of teaching people about church life, but it is not preparing the next generation to take their faith beyond church walls.