By Craig Dunkley – Originally published on American Thinker
Christianity is under attack in America, and it’s losing. Meanwhile, the Church is, in general, sitting out the fight and hoping the problem goes away.
Hope is not a strategy. It’s time to act.
Since its inception, the United States has been a predominantly Christian nation, though open-minded and founded on religious tolerance. Our sense of personal freedom and tolerance, backed by a thoroughly Judeo-Christian worldview, has contributed mightily to this nation’s greatness. That worldview, and the Christian faith behind it, is being whittled away by the media, our popular culture, and a newly emboldened “activist atheist” movement. The pace of that whittling has accelerated over the last decade.
Atheism and “Nones” Rising
Data from the Pew Research Center shows that those who consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated with any religion have been rising as a percentage of the U.S. population. In 2012, nearly 20% of the public fell into one of those categories, up nearly 5 percentage points over the preceding 5 years. When focusing on adults under 30, about one third consider themselves atheist, agnostic, or unaffiliated. Almost exclusively, the gains in these groups reflect losses for Christians, with Christians dropping from 78% to 73% of the population over the same period. Doubtless, the trend has continued.
Lies and Misinformation
Christianity’s retreat is facilitated by a new breed of authors and “scholars” who have worked hard to undermine the most basic teachings of Christianity. With the help of a sympathetic media, they’ve captured the public’s imagination. Their impact has been significant.
For example, from the likes of the late Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Bart Ehrman, Sam Harris, Reza Aslan, Simcha Jacobovici, and others, we have “learned” that:
- The New Testament is full of errors and alterations, and we can’t even figure out what the original texts said.
- Neither Jesus nor his early followers considered him divine. The whole idea that Jesus is the “Son of God” came about centuries after Jesus’s death.
- Jesus was actually just a poor, illiterate bumpkin who preached about the end of the world.
- The early church ruthlessly – and violently – silenced “heretics.” As a result, many valid writings were hidden from people because they were damaging to orthodox Christianity.
- The whole Jesus story was just a rip-off of other “dying and rising” god myths, common in ancient times.
- The traditionally accepted authors of the four canonical gospels could not have been the real authors.
- Christianity has killed and persecuted millions over the centuries, including “pagans,” heretical Christians, and thousands of Muslims during those first acts of Christian imperialism, the Crusades.
- Archeological discoveries have proven time and again that the Bible is untrustworthy as a work of history.
- The Bible is riddled with inconsistencies that render it invalid.
- Christianity encourages scientific illiteracy because it teaches that the Earth is the center of the universe and that it’s just 6,000 years old.
- Many more “facts” that serve to undermine the faith.
There is one problem common to all of the “facts” mentioned above: they’re demonstrably wrong, or else they take a tiny bit of truth and distort it beyond all recognition. For example, the assertion that Jesus was not considered divine until a vote of church leaders at the Council of Nicaea in 325 A.D., an oft-repeated myth, is absurd. The Council did not debate whether Jesus was divine. Rather, it debated the nature of his divinity: was he the created Son of God – sort of like an “über-Angel” – or was he a pre-existent being, co-equal with God? The Council decided, based on scriptural interpretation, that Jesus was the latter. His basic divinity was never doubted.
In another example, some authors are fond of pointing out uncanny similarities between the story of Jesus’s life, death, and resurrection and the stories of a range of other “dying and rising” gods, such as Mithras, Attis, and Dionysus. This is done in an effort to paint the Jesus story as just a rip-off of earlier myths. A closer analysis, however, reveals that most of these alleged similarities were either fabricated or wildly misrepresented. In a number of cases, such as that of Mithras, some similarities were genuine but were developed long after Jesus’s death by pagan cult members to boost their own movement’s credibility. In other words, it was Jesus who got ripped off!
For each of the “facts” listed above, there are highly sound, historically accurate rebuttals. Yet these myths are repeated ad infinitum by some “scholars,” authors, bloggers, popular media outlets, and ill-informed atheist activists all over this nation.
Their incessant “cut and paste” mentality on the internet has established a strong base of content that is now in the process of fooling many Christians into abandoning their faith, while turning away many otherwise open-minded “seekers.” A textbook example is the shamefully inaccurate cover story on Christianity, “The Bible: So Misunderstood It’s a Sin,” published on December 23, 2014 by Newsweek.
In addition, a confident-feeling activist atheist community is working to reinforce the notion that anyone who turns to religion (especially Christianity) is an intellectual weakling who believes in fairy tales. Consider the latest ad campaign by American Atheists. The net result of all this is a rising number of people who consider themselves atheist or agnostic.
Churches on the Sidelines
It’s important to note that churches do fantastic work. Christian charities help people across the globe, Christian missionaries risk life and limb to spread the faith abroad, and churches provide comfort and support to millions. But churches are not properly equipping their members to combat the lies being spread about their faith.
People raised in church are often taught what the Bible says, and many can recite key passages, chapter and verse. However, they are not often taught about the specific anti-Christian myths that have been developed, nor are they taught the data-backed responses to them.
In short, churches are not teaching their members enough about Christian apologetics. This leaves church members unable to respond effectively when their beliefs are challenged. As a result, they often come to doubt what they’ve been taught, and they are certainly ill-equipped to help “win over” friends or acquaintances who may be seekers “on the fence.”
Younger Christians are the most vulnerable, particularly when heading off to college. It’s in college that a young Christian is most likely to have his or her beliefs seriously challenged, be it by professors, atheist students, or both. He must be prepared to deal with this challenge. This reality was brought home to the author by an e-mail, sent by a friend. In part, it read:
I know what you mean about faith being challenged. I grew up in a Christian school where we learned Bible verses and attended chapel every Friday. We were taught ‘truths’ and were expected to absorb them at face value. It was a good foundation of faith, but it was just faith, and not supported by true ‘knowledge,” if that makes sense…I was completely unprepared to defend my faith when Biblical inconsistencies were pointed out in college. I signed up for a ‘Religion’ class thinking that I would pass with flying colors because of my years of education. Surprise. The first lecture and assignment in the class was about all the discrepancies within the Old Testament. I had never been taught about the Bible from a historical or factual perspective…
The Need for Apologetics
It’s time for churches to join the fight. It’s not acceptable to “duck and cover” and wait for this to pass. It won’t. Lies and misinformation must be countered with truth and logic in an open and loving way. Churches must get serious about creating apologetics ministries to educate their members, prepare their youth groups, and spread the word. Every Christian should understand the attacks that are being launched against the Christian faith, and be prepared to counter them. Strong apologetics ministries will inoculate Christians against these attacks and equip them to win over those bystanders trying to find their own paths to faith.
These apologetics ministries should also be open and directed toward the general public, inviting open-minded seekers, as well as committed Christians to attend. These ministries should make ample use of social media and other online resources to maximize their reach.
If Christians do not answer the call now, then even more people will turn away from Christianity because they think it’s not for them…when it might be exactly what they’re seeking in their lives.