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  • Samuel at Gilgal

    This year I will be sharing brief excerpts from the articles, sermons, and books I am currently reading. My posts will not follow a regular schedule but will be published as I find well-written thoughts that should be of interest to maturing Christian readers. Whenever possible, I encourage you to go to the source and read the complete work of the author.

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It Is Impossible To Teach Christianity Without Teaching Dogma!

Oxford-educated Dorothy Leigh Sayers (1893-1957) was one of the most popular authors of the Golden Age era. Born in England in 1893, Dorothy Sayers received her degree at university in medieval literature. Following her graduation, besides publishing two volumes of poetry, she began to write detective stories to earn money. Her first novel, “Whose Body?” (1923), introduced Lord Peter Wimsey, the character for which she is best known.

Dorthy Sayers

Sayers was also a committed Christian. Below is an excerpt from a talk she gave to one Christian group. The subject she addresses, if possible, is even more relative to the conduct of modern church life:

And when he is come, he will convict the world of sin, and of righteousness, and of judgment: of sin, because they believe not on me; of righteousness, because I go to the Father, and ye see me no more; of judgment, because the prince of this world is judged. (John 16:8-11)

[I]f we really want a Christian society we must teach Christianity, and that it is absolutely impossible to teach Christianity without teaching Christian dogma. . . .

Writing the other day in The Spectator, Dr. Selbie, former Principal of Mansfield College discussed the subject of “The Army and the Churches.” In the course of this article there occurs a passage that exposes the root cause of the failure of the churches to influence the life of the common people:

“… the rise of the new dogmatism (he says) whether in its Calvinist or Thomist form, constitutes a fresh and serious threat to Christian unity. The tragedy is that all this, however interesting to theologians, is hopelessly irrelevant to the life and thought of the average man, who is more puzzled than ever by the disunion of the Churches, and by the theological and ecclesiastical differences on which it is based.”

Now I am perfectly ready to agree that disputes between the Churches constitute a menace to Christendom. And I will admit that I am not quite sure what is meant by “the new dogmatism”; it might, I suppose, mean the appearance of new dogmas among the followers of St. Thomas and Calvin respectively. But I rather fancy it means a fresh attention to, and re-assertion of, old dogma, and that when Dr. Selbie says that “all this” is irrelevant to the life and thought of the average man, he is deliberately saying that Christian dogma, as such, is irrelevant.

But if Christian dogma is irrelevant to life, to what, in Heaven’s name is it relevant? — Since religious dogma is in fact nothing but a statement of doctrine concerning the nature of life and the universe. If Christian ministers really believe it is only an intellectual game for theologians and has no bearing upon human life, it is no wonder that their congregations are ignorant, bored and bewildered. And indeed, in the very next paragraph, Dr. Selbie recognizes the relation of Christian dogma to life:—

“… peace can only come about through a practical application of Christian principles and values. But this must have behind it something more than a reaction against that Pagan Humanism which has now been found wanting.”

The “something else” is dogma, and cannot be anything else, for between Humanism and Christianity and between Paganism and Theism there is no distinction whatever except a distinction of dogma. That you cannot have Christian principles without Christ is becoming increasingly clear, because their validity as principles depends on Christ’s authority; and as we have seen, the Totalitarian States, having ceased to believe in Christ’s authority, are logically quite justified in repudiating Christian principles.

If “the average man” is required to “believe in Christ” and accept His authority for “Christian principles,” it is surely relevant to inquire who or what Christ is, and why His authority should be accepted. But the question, “what think ye of Christ?” lands the average man at once in the very knottiest kind of dogmatic riddle. It is quite useless to say that it doesn’t matter particularly who or what Christ was or by what authority He did those things, and that even if He was only a man, He was a very nice man and we ought to live by His principles: for that is merely Humanism, and if the “average man” in Germany chooses to think that Hitler is a nicer sort of man with still more attractive principles, the Christian Humanist has no answer to make. It is not true at all that dogma is “hopelessly irrelevant” to the life and thought of the average man. What is true is that ministers of the Christian religion often assert that it is, present it for consideration as though it were, and, in fact, by their faulty exposition of it make it so. The central dogma of the Incarnation is that by which relevance stands or falls. If Christ was only man, then He is entirely irrelevant to any thought about God; if He is only God, then He is entirely irrelevant to any experience of human life. It is, in the strictest sense, necessary to the salvation of relevance that a man should believe rightly the Incarnation of Our Lord Jesus Christ. Unless he believes rightly, there is not the faintest reason why he should believe at all. And in that case, it is wholly irrelevant to chatter about “Christian principles.” If the “average man” is going to be interested in Christ at all, it is the dogma that will provide the interest. The trouble is that, in nine cases out of ten, he has never been offered the dogma. (“Creed or Chaos?”)

Morality Without God?

Quoting columnist Jeff Jacoby:

“It has become an annual tradition: The days grow shorter, the holidays approach, and the American Humanist Association rolls out an ad campaign promoting atheism and disparaging religion. Last year, the organization placed ads reading ‘No god? No problem!’ on billboards and buses in more than a dozen cities. Its theme in 2008 was: ‘Why believe in a god? Just be good for goodness’ sake.’ This year, the association is taking a more combative tone. It is spending $200,000 to ‘directly challenge biblical morality’ in advertisements appearing on network and cable TV, as well as in newspapers, magazines, and on public transit. … Can people be decent and moral without believing in a God who commands us to be good? Sure. There have always been kind and ethical nonbelievers. But how many of them reason their way to kindness and ethics, and how many simply reflect the moral expectations of the society in which they were raised? In our culture, even the most passionate atheist cannot help having been influenced by the Judeo-Christian worldview that shaped Western civilization. ‘We know that you can be good without God,’ [executive director of the American Humanist Association Roy] Speckhardt tells CNN. He can be confident of that only because he lives in a society so steeped in Judeo-Christian values that he takes those values for granted. But a society bereft of that religious heritage is one not even Speckhardt would want to live in. For in a world without God, there is no obvious difference between good and evil.”

Read more. . . .

Secular Humanism’s Failure As A Worldview

From the desk of Gary DeMar:

John Dunphy is a self-avowed Secular Humanist. He is best known for this statement first published in 1983 in The Humanist magazine:

“I am convinced that the battle for humankind’s future must be waged and won in the public school classroom by teachers who correctly perceive their role as the proselytizers of a new faith: a religion of humanity that recognizes and respects the spark of what theologians call divinity in every human being. These teachers must embody the same selfless dedication as the most rabid fundamentalist preachers, for they will be ministers of another sort, utilizing a classroom instead of a pulpit to convey humanist values in whatever subject they teach, regardless of the educational level—preschool day care or large state university. The classroom must and will become an arena of conflict between the old and the new—the rotting corpse of Christianity, together with all its adjacent evils and misery, and the new faith of humanism, resplendent in its promise of a world in which the never-realized Christian ideal of “love thy neighbor” will be finally achieved.”

As you can see, Dunphy is a worldview thief. He steals from the Christian worldview—“love thy neighbor”—so he can prop up his man-centered worldview that cannot account for either love or neighbors given the assumptions of atheistic, evolutionary humanism. Since the beginning of evolutionary time organisms have eaten their “neighbors” with no regard for either law or morality.

Continue reading. . . .

Facts Do Have A Moral Context

Many American Christians have accepted the view that the Gospel has absolutely nothing to do with the secular, but only with eternal life. They see secular institutions as neutral territory, having no influence on the heart’s personal relationship with God. One state institution that is particularly perceived in this way is the public school system. Gary DeMar provides us with the following insights:

Many Christians claim a form of factual neutrality where some subjects (e.g., science, medicine, technology, geography, politics, mathematics) can be taught without any regard to religious presuppositions since “facts speak for themselves.” This is most evident in education where a self-conscious sacred-secular divide is maintained and supported by Christians. Ninety percent of Christian parents send their children to government schools. Since these parents believe that math is math and history is history, the religious stuff can be made up at church. . . .

Knowledge of what works in the field of medicine still leaves doctors, for example, with decisions relating to abortion and euthanasia. An abortionist can be an expert in the way he performs an abortion. He has honed this “skill” through scientific study of the created order (general revelation). But is it right and just to use this knowledge in the destruction of pre‑born babies? Where does one go to find out? Dr. Jack Kevorkian designed a “suicide machine” that was efficient, effective, and painless, three criteria to consider in the practice of modern medicine. But was what he did right and just? This is the real issue. Procedures that were designed as part of the healing craft are now being used to destroy life. There is no doubt that abortionists and doctors like Kavorkian are skilled practitioners of their respective crafts, but that’s not enough. . . .

The humanists understand the importance of education in creating worldview shifts and control, so why don’t Christians? Charles Francis Potter, who founded the First Humanist Society of New York in 1929 and signed the first Humanist Manifesto in 1933, made no secret of the purpose of the American public schools:

“Education is thus a most powerful ally of Humanism, and every American public school is a school of Humanism. What can the theistic Sunday-school, meeting for an hour once a week, and teaching only a fraction of the children, do to stem the tide of a five-day program of humanistic teaching?”

Read more here. . . .

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