Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism (Extended Outline) North American Christian Convention July 13, 2016

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1 Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism (Extended Outline) North American Christian Convention July 13, 2016 Event Webpage: 1 Richard Knopp, M.A., M.Div., Ph.D. Professor of Philosophy & Christian Apologetics Project Coordinator, Room For Doubt ( Lincoln Christian University Room For Doubt is a grant-funded program that provides learning experiences and resources to strengthen the faith of committed Christians, address the concerns of those who have doubts about their Christian heritage, and represent the Christian message to those who are skeptical about its claims. One of its components is a six-week message and curriculum series for churches and parachurch ministries. Introduction A. Primary session objective: To offer a comprehensive case for why one should learn to love God and choose the Christian way of life instead of one of its many alternatives. 1. To identify major alternatives to the Christian faith in a memorable way. 2. To expose critical weaknesses in these alternative ways of life. 3. To demonstrate how the Christian way of life is better than these alternatives. 4. To encourage your own faith and facilitate fruitful conversations with others who have questions and concerns about the Christian faith. 1. Encourage you to love God in a world of growing skepticism and secularism. 2. I m going to do that, in part, looking at some of the major ALTERNATIVES to the Christian faith. 3. I want to demonstrate how, and why, you should love God, even more, when you contrast who God is, and what He offers, to the alternatives. 4. I want to suggest some ways that you might engage others in fruitful conversation to prompt them to learn to love God or to learn to love God more than they do right now. B. A Christian apologetic. 1. Popular but mistaken perceptions. 2. Must utilize reason (1 Peter 3:15). 3. Must appeal to more than mere reason. a. Mark 12:30 (cf. Deut 6:4) b. Compare Matt 16:13-16 and John 21:15-17 c. The ultimate objective: LOVE 4. The undeniable need, both inside and outside the church. a. Churched doubters and dropouts (1) Significantly doubted their faith? 38%. (2) Can t ask their most pressing life questions at church? 36%. 1 The event webpage will provide the session handout (with and without blanks filled in), an extended outline with more information, presentation slides, recordings, relevant book and website resources, and more. Materials for other presentations by Dr. Knopp can be found at Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 1

2 (3) At some point, felt like rejecting their parents faith? 32%. (4) Churched Teens : No longer active in church in their 20s? 59%. [Barna Research] b. The rise of the Nones (1) Adults: 1990 = 8.1%; 2007 = 15.3%; 2014 = 22.8%. (2) year olds: 2007 = 22%; 2012 = 32%; 2014 = 36% (18-23 yr olds) C. Types of Christian apologetics 1. Negative: Replying to specific criticisms to show that Christianity is NOT FALSE (e.g. Matt 28:11-15; Acts 26:22-32; Acts 17:5-8; the problem of evil). 2. Positive: Providing considerations to show that Christianity is TRUE (e.g. evidences in nature, miracles, fulfilled prophecy, reliability of scripture, social benefits, personal experience). 3. Neutralizing: Showing that the alternatives are PROLEMATIC or UNLIVABLE. II. Identifying the Major Worldview Alternatives A. Christian Theism (theos = Greek for God ) 34,0000 distinct Christian groups (David Barrett, World Christian Encyclopedia) C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity. a. C CREATOR GOD b. S SAVING GOD c. I INCARNATE GOD 2. Basic theme: God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son. 3. Object illustration: A CROSS. 4. A foundation and motivation for learning to LOVE God. B. Deism (deus = Latin for God ) a. C CREATOR b. A ABSENT GOD c. N NATURAL REVELATION ONLY. d. T TRANSCENDENT ONLY 2. Basic theme: God is gone. Use Your God-given reason. 3. Object illustration: GRANDFATHER CLOCK Worldview implications: Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 2

3 God is NOT IMMANENT. God is NOT INCARNATE. There are NO MIRACLES. 4. Cultural connections a. Notable examples: Thomas Jefferson; Thomas Paine; Antony Flew, a recently converted famous atheist; Donald Trump(?). b. Most American teens are moral therapeutic deists (Christian Smith, Soul Searching: The Religious and Spiritual Lives of American Teenagers, 2005, 2009). 5. Biblical connections (2 Tim 3:5; Matt 22:29; 1 Cor 2:4-5). 2 Tim 3: 4 treacherous, reckless, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, 5 holding to a form of godliness, although they have denied its power; Avoid such men as these. Matt 22:29 [to Sadducees]: 29 But Jesus answered and said to them, You are mistaken, not understanding the Scriptures nor the power of God. 1 Cor 2:4-5 4 and my message and my preaching were not in persuasive words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith would not rest on the wisdom of men, but on the power of God. 6. Key questions and considerations. b. God s power: If God is powerful enough to create the universe, why should we think that He cannot interact with the universe (e.g. miracles, the incarnation)? c. Do you ever pray? If yes, why do you pray if you believe that God can t, or won t, interact with the universe? d. Deism offers a God who is really not all powerful (i.e., He is not able to affect nature and history) and He is not necessarily personal (i.e., He is just a force of some sort). e. Deism leaves us with a God who is only transcendent, not with us (cf. Immanuel in Matt 1:23). C. Pantheism (and New Age) (cosmos = Greek for world or universe ; (pan = all) + (theism = God) a. A ALL is God. b. I ILLUSION of this world. c. M MYSTICAL awareness. 2. Basic theme: Connect with the oneness of the universe. 3. Object illustration: YIN YANG 4. Specific concepts and terms: Atman (the true self) is Brahman (the One); Samsara (the wheel of rebirth = reincarnation); Karma (works-produced principle that determines future incarnations). 5. Cultural connections: Hinduism; Taoism; some forms of Buddhism (e.g. Richard Gere, Steven Segal, Phil Jackson); New Age (e.g. Shirley Maclaine; Rhonda Byrne, The Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 3

4 Secret ); Animism; Wicca; Yoda in Star Wars; Scientology (e.g. John Travolta, Tom Cruise); Deepak Chopra; Eckhart Tolle; Lion King; Oprah. 6. Biblical connections a. Gen 3 (The serpent and Adam/Eve) b. Acts 17:16-33 (The Stoic philosophers) 7. Key questions and considerations. b. If everything is ONE, how can there be any real or ultimate distinction between good and evil? c. Why try to follow the right path (e.g. 8-fold path in Buddhism) if there is no ultimate distinction between right (good) and wrong? d. Pantheism leaves us with a merely immanent God and not a God who is transcendent. Even so, this God does not act in specific ways in nature or history. D. Secular Humanism ( Modernism ) a. N NATURE ONLY b. O OPTIMISTIC c. S SCIENCE/REASON d. E EVOLUTION 2. Basic theme: We can do it! 3. Object example: LEGOS 4. Cultural connections: Charles Darwin; Richard Dawkins; Carl Sagan (original Cosmos TV series); Neil degrasse Tyson and the new Cosmos TV series; Bill Nye the science guy; Michael Shermer; Bill Maher; Berenstain Bear s Nature Guide; Spock from Star Trek; The Titanic; Mission Impossible; CSI TV series; Numb3rs; Criminal Minds. 5. Biblical connections (Hosea 12:6; Mark 10:23-25; Acts 17 Epicureans; Luke 12:15-23; Luke 15:11-14; Matt 16:26; Phil 3:18-19). The Epicurean philosophers (Acts 17) Luke 12:15-23 (parable of the rich man): Beware, and be on your guard against every form of greed; for not even when one has an abundance does his life consist of his possessions (15). Then he said, This is what I will do: I will tear down my barns and build larger ones, and there I will store all my grain and my goods. And I will say to my soul, "Soul, you have many goods laid up for many years to come; take your ease, eat, drink and be merry (18-19). Luke 15:11-14 (the prodigal son). Matthew 16:26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul? Philippians 3:17-21 their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 6. Key questions and consideration b. How do you account for the origin of the universe? (The dominant scientific consensus is that the universe began at some point. How?) Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 4

5 c. How do you account for the origin of life? (While the claims of atheistic Darwinism must be addressed, Darwinism is not relevant without existing life. How did life itself begin?) d. Is there any genuine meaning to human existence? e. Do you believe in human freedom? If humans are merely matter in motion, how can humans have genuine freedom? [Note the candid honesty in the quotes below.] Rosenberg quotation: Why is there a universe at all? No reason at all. Why is there a multiverse in which universes pop into existence for no reason at all? No reason at all! It s just another quantum event. What science and scientism tell those who hanker for more is Get over it! (Alex Rosenberg, The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions, Kindle, pp ). Whitesides quotation: Most chemists believe, as do I, that life emerged spontaneously from mixtures of molecules in the prebiotic Earth. How? I have no idea.... On the basis of all the chemistry that I know, it seems to me astonishingly improbable (George Whitesides, Chemical & Engineering News 85 [2007]: 12-17). Crick quotation:... an honest man, armed with all the knowledge available to us now, could only state that in some sense... [the origin of life] is almost a miracle. Every time I write a paper on the origin of life, I swear I will never write another one, because there is too much speculation running after too few facts. (Francis Crick, Life Itself: Its Origin and Nature, 88, 153). Rosenberg quotation: The love of stories comes to us in a package that also includes the illusion of free will, the fiction of an enduring self, and the myth of human purpose. A scientistic worldview has to give up all of that. So, individual human life is meaningless, without a purpose, and without ultimate moral value (Rosenberg, The Atheist's Guide to Reality: Enjoying Life without Illusions [Kindle, p. 19]). E. Nihilism (nihil = Latin for nothing ) a. N really matters. NOTHING b. A ABSURDITY of Life ( I don t care ; I give up ) c. P PESSIMISTIC outlook. 2. Basic theme: We got nothing, and we re going nowhere. 3. Object illustration: A TOILET 4. Cultural connections: Murder by Number ; Final Destination ; Bohemian Rhapsody ; Douglas Adams Hitch Hiker trilogy ; John Cage; Seinfeld ; Kurt Cobain, Columbine shootings; Samuel Beckett. 5. Biblical connections (Eccl 2:10-11). Romans 1:28-31 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper (28). Ecclesiastes 2:10-11 I considered all my activities which my hands had done and the labor which I had exerted, and behold all was vanity and striving after wind and there was no profit under the sun (11). 6. Key questions and considerations. b. Do you love or care about anyone? c. Are you looking forward to anything? d. Do you think that anything is always wrong? Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 5

6 e. Nihilism offers no basis for love or concern; no reason to look forward to anything; no basis for thinking, for instance, that it would be wrong for someone to abuse them, steal from them, or kill them. f. Nihilists are unavoidably inconsistent in how they actually live. John Cage: I have nothing to say and I am saying it. [BUT, he says]: I became aware that if I approached mushrooms in the spirit of my chance operations, I would die shortly. So I decided that I would not approach them in this way. Cf. But there is something about mushrooms that defies Mr. Cage's flights of Zen fancy. He admits of ''chance'' operations: ''It's only if I act like that with mushrooms that it can kill me.'' He would not, then, use the ''I Ching'' to pick mushrooms; there are bounds on his activity, limits to his freedom. (Edward Rothstein, Sounds and Mushrooms, New York Times, Nov. 22, 1981). F. Atheistic Existentialism 2 1. Background (Camus; Sartre) 2. Overview ideas a. F FEELINGS b. A ABSURDITY OF LIFE c. D DEFINE YOURSELF TODAY 3. Basic theme: Life is absurd. Be free, define yourself, and have fun. 4. Object illustration: Mr. POTATO HEAD 5. Cultural connections: Friedrich Nietzsche; John Paul Sartre; Albert Camus; a lot of middle school, high school, and college youth! Ferris Bueller; the character Jack in the movie Titanic; Groundhog Day; Dead Poets Society (carpe deum); Hugh Hefner; purely subjective sexual orientation (i.e., there is no human nature). 6. Biblical connections (Phil 3:17-21; 1 Pet 4:1-5). Philippians 3:17-21 their god is their stomach, and their glory is in their shame. Their mind is set on earthly things. 1 Peter 4:1-5 For the time already past is sufficient for you to have carried out the desire of the Gentiles, having pursued a course of sensuality, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties and abominable idolatries. In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them into the same excesses of dissipation, and they malign you; but they will give account to Him who is ready to judge the living and the dead (3-5). 7. Key questions and considerations. b. Do you believe that you are free to act as you wish? How do you explain this freedom in a universe that seems totally deterministic? c. Do you think that anything is always wrong? (See this item under Nihilism above.) 2 Existentialism can be ATHEISTIC (e.g. Jean Paul Sartre and Albert Camus) or THEISTIC. Theistic forms stress having a direct encounter and relationship with some higher power. They minimize or reject the importance of doctrine, scripture, or history in favor of personal experience and communication with God. Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 6

7 d. If it were possible, would it be good if there were some deep meaning to human existence? G. Postmodernism 3 a. F FRAGMENTATION b. U UNCERTAINTY c. R RELATIVISM 2. Basic theme: Truth totally depends on your perspective. 3. Object illustration: A REMOTE CONTROL 4. Cultural connections: Madonna; Britney Spears; Star Trek: The Next Generation; The Truman Show; The Matrix; Lost; Inception; Reality TV shows; Modern [Postmodern?] Family. 5. Biblical connections (Deut 12:8; Isa 5:20). Deut 12:8 8 You shall not do at all what we are doing here today, every man doing whatever is right in his own eyes; Postmodernism and the pachyderm. 6. Key questions and considerations. b. Do you think that truth is always relative? (One cannot answer yes to this question without contradiction.) c. Would you say that there is no absolute truth? (One cannot answer yes to this question without contradiction.) d. What do you think about the capabilities of science and of human reason? (If one thinks that science and reason can give real truth, then this counts against their postmodernist view. If one strongly denies truth to science and reason, how do they explain the apparent progress of science and reason?) e. Do you think that anything is always wrong? (See this item under Nihilism above.) f. If it were possible, would it be good to have genuine meaning for human existence? g. Inevitably, postmodernists are inconsistent in how they live their life. III. A Summary of the Alternatives (John 6:67-68) A. Explanatorily Incomplete B. Rationally Inconsistent C. Existentially Unsatisfying D. Pragmatically Unlivable The important matters: Meaning 3 Postmodern often refers to cultural characteristics. Postmodern-ISM is a philosophical position that questions the possibility of universal truth and values. Often, this distinction is not adequately made. I suggest that the church adapt to a postmodern culture but be careful not to be unduly influenced by strong forms of postmodernist philosophy. Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 7

8 Morality Mortality Matter Living Matter Mind Messiah IV. Loving God by the Way You Live The Ultimate Christian Apologetic (see the graphic below). A. Individual Integrity B. Personal Involvement C. Relational Investments D. Social-Academic Influence E. Cultural Impact F. Apologetic Interaction Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 8

9 LOVING GOD BY LIVING a Christian Worldview The Ultimate Apologetic I implore you to WALK in a manner worthy of the calling (Eph 4:1). We request and exhort you that as you received from is instruction as to how you ought to WALK and please God that you excel still more (1 Thess 4:1). I have no greater joy than this, to hear of my children WALKING in the truth (3 John 1:4). [NASV] Apologetic Interaction Cultural Impact Medical Care Missions Islam Socio-Academic Influence Atheism Anthropology Theology Prisons Relational Investment Poor Paganism Spouse Personal Involvement Children Sociology Law Deism Crisis Care Media Mind Reading Parents Boss Hungry Animism Education Music Will Attitude Leisure Brother(s) Elderly Employees Politics Nihilism Sister(s) Sexuality Money Cults Philosophy Actions Speech Homeless Co-Workers Work Language Friends Economics Disasters Education Biology Church Leaders Grandparents Existentialism Orphan New Age Boy/Girl Friend Art Child Care Psychology History Social Justice Pantheism Unwanted Pregnancy Postmodernism Dr. Rich Knopp, Learning to Love God in a World of Growing Skepticism and Secularism Page 9

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