What if itʼs not a new golden age or renaissance but that the arising of so many apologetic ministries as well as the attempts by more Christians to seek degrees in “philosophy of religion” (and flood the college market in that particular arena) only proves that when a dam starts to leak in places it takes more and more fingers to stick into each fresh hole, i.e., to keep at bay increasing waves of potential “doubters” and “leavers” from becoming a full blown flood?
Baptizing infants into a Christian church and expecting Christianity to take over the world that way, and also holding periodic revivals has proven insufficient, because churches keep splintering, and world religions continue blaming each other for going down the wrong trail or even damning each other to hell. *SEE NOTE The “power of Christ” alone no longer appears sufficient to compel crowds of people in the U.S. to convert (though Pentecostal revivals seem to be working fairly well in some third world nations, i.e., without the necessity of courses in apologetics).
*NOTE Of course some members of each world religion react in the opposite fashion, by growing more tolerant and cooperative, i.e., the moderates and liberals in each different religion tend to get along better than the conservatives do in the same religion.
Apologetic argumentation is also an invitation to get Christians to read atheist books, or if they dare, to read classics in biblical criticism like Straussʼ Life of Jesus Critically Examined (now in free audio online); or, Schweitzerʼs The Search of the Historical Jesus, and, The Mystery of the Kingdom of God, The questions will always be there, because written words do not prove their own authority, historicity or inspiration.
Speaking of questions, look at the history of the oldest most prestigious institutions of higher learning in the U.S., Harvard, Yale, Princeton. Harvard was founded as a seminary for conservative Christian ministers. Then some conservative ministers became alarmed at the growing “theological excesses” of Harvard and founded Yale in reaction. Now look at Yale. It is now far less conservative than its founderʼs views, just as Harvard has become. Apparently any institution that continues to attract the brightest professors and students who also attempt to interact with all the questions of their field raised by other scholars worldwide, cannot miss that fact that questions of history involve probabilities galore, making the retention of highly conservative Christian beliefs problematical. Or take Princeton, once the home of verbal plenary inerrantist, B. B. Warfield. Conservative Christian professors left Princeton to found a more conservative seminary, Westminster. In fact all of the most highly conservative seminaries and institutions of higher Christian learning in the U.S. are relatively youthful compared with Harvard, Yale, and Princeton, and demand signed statements of faith, so that they donʼt hire professors who dare to leave the door open to questions and/or interpretations of the Bible that are not “approved.”
Speaking of a renaissance, if there is one going on, one that is truly new, like never before, it appears to be a renaissance of atheist, humanist podcasters, screen writers, song writers, novelists, artists, and comedians whose beliefs range from “not very devout” to “blasphemous,” including scientists whose belief in “God” is less doctrinal or non-existent, compared with the average beliefs of the rest of U.S. society. There are also increasing numbers of “emergent” Christians, or “very moderate” Evangelicals a growing number of whom believe the Bible is a “thoroughly human” book, and neither infallible nor inerrant according to older definitions of inerrancy.
And for the first time in history there have been atheist bestselling books that did not merely consist of a character in a novel or play who was atheistic, but books advocating in non-fiction fashion for a belief in atheism. Previously there had been agnostic bestsellers, such as Bertrand Russellʼs works. Shellyʼs The Necessity of Atheism was a mere tract printed in 1811, and never a bestseller. But at the start of the 21st century we saw not just the first bestselling book advocating for atheism, but three of them.
I would add that whenever a book came out that posed some sort of challenge to “what the Bible says,” or even just to “what some Christians believe the Bible says, as opposed to what other Christians believe,” such books generally produce tsunamiʼs of replies. In the days of Christian emperors, and through the Middle Ages and Reformation such books were confiscated and burned. But with the advent of the printing press that became more difficult. Perhaps Christian apologists hope they can flood the market rather than burn books, i.e., simply produce far more books than “atheists” do? Differential reproduction? How Darwinian a notion!
Personally, I donʼt expect to see any particular religious belief, denominational belief, unorthodoxies galore, superstitious beliefs, or non-religious philosophical points of view die out soon. And everyone may imagine what they wish when it comes to how “the other folks” will “wind up in eternity.”
All I have are questions that I think are justifiable, and which remain, regardless of all the hypothetical replies each person constructs to try and justify what they “believe.”
We Are All Greater Artists Than We Realize when it comes to maintaining our “views” of the world
Most people either avoid reading material based on views they oppose, or they read them and STILL manage to slough off the questions raised. The mind is a marvelously creative artist when it comes to finding ways to maintain whatever worldview it acquires rather than juggling and shifting between different worldviews which takes too much mental energy. After all, why move into a new house when you can just rearrange some of the furniture in the old one (and also keep any mad relatives locked away in an attic out of sight? All those unplumbed depths of questions that continue to remain unanswered in anything but a strictly hypothetical fashion and which will always bother us.) We all do that mentally creative furniture arranging to varying degrees, but of course we also each think WE are the ones who do it to a lesser degree than the “other guy.” Which makes me wonder why any Infinite Being would consider it perfect justice to punish people based on their “worldviews/beliefs.”
Questions I Ask Myself (As Oscar Wilde once put it, “Converting others is easy, converting oneself is difficult.”)
Was the universe created so that humans could arise and build churches, write holy books and pass collection plates so that more churches could be built, more holy books printed, and clergy paid to explain the true meaning of these books, though the “true” meaning of sections of Genesis to Revelation remain debatable, and Christians remain the greatest debunkers of each otherʼs views?
Was the universe created so that a particular species of Homo sapiens could arise – with unknown numbers of cousin species like ancient great apes (and hominids) arising in the process, but nearly all of them going extinct? (Keep in mind that the number of species of great apes now living on our planet is far smaller than the number of species of great apes that lived in the past, and the same goes for hominid species. In fact, earth was once truly a planet of the apes. In the Miocene Epoch, 24 to 5 million years ago, some 30 known species lived in Africa, Asia, and Europe, before hominids arrived on the scene, and there must have been many more species of ancient apes and hominids that did not leave behind much of a fossil trail, because great apes live in the savannas or forests where decomposition is almost assured rather than fossilization. Genetic analysis even suggest that only a single species out of all those extinct species of great apes gave rise to all living apes and hominids, including humans (click HERE). This suggests that “natural selection” or perhaps a “tinkering” was going on. It is difficult to see a straightforward plan taking place in natureʼs lengthy tale of endless branching forth and endless pruning. And if you stopped and looked at any particular species in a past epoch, one might be tempted to think, “Ah, this is where all the former development has lead,” but that would be a mistake because there would be more changes ahead.
Was the universe created so that a particular species of Homo sapiens could finally arise, a very late comer on the scene, arising at the last microsecond of cosmic time and in danger of falling back into either barbarism or extinction in the next microsecond? Keep in mind that the stars can continue to burn for billions of years should Homo sapiens turn belly up tomorrow, because the stars burn via fusion and have tons of hydrogen and helium to burn (even young-earth creationists find it hard to debate the evidence that stars can burn for billions of years). As our sun ages, it will expand, burn up planet earth, and then slowly grow cold, of course our planet could undergo mass extinction events via a host of cosmic means, including earth-produced volcanic eruptions if one of several supervolcanoes should erupt (Yellowstone is due). Furthermore, massive stellar nurseries have been found in parts of the cosmos where new stars continue to form at a fantastic rate (google “star formation”). Were the stars “designed” to have enough fuel to burn for billions of years before the arrival of our species, and burn for billions more after our arrival? Why? I am not asking for a hypothetical reply, Iʼm sure anyone with enough ingenuity could come up with one. As I said, we are all greater artists than we realize when it comes to keeping our beliefs afloat. And if our species avoids extinction for a long enough period of time, will we still be the same species? Or will we be looking back and chuckling at todayʼs “humans” like we chuckle at our ancient ancestors who thought that learning to control “fire” was the most awesome thing humans could dream of discovering?
Do genuine “accidents” happen, including deadly ones? A lot of religious people feel more comfortable believing thereʼs a reason behind everything that happens, but so do “conspiracy” minded folks who want to believe that history is not a record of human stupidity and accidental outcomes, but that a hidden hand of some vast conspiracy directs world affairs. In both cases, such beliefs add more “meaning” to peopleʼs lives, rather than the idea that sometimes things just “happen” that way. As the saying goes, the basis of all superstition is that people are prone to remember all the “hits” and forget about all the misses and near hits that are possible.
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