I Sold My Soul on eBay: What Churches Do Wrong, Part 4

The offense of religious exclusivity

This complaint of Mehta’s is not that we think only Christians are saved. Rather, it’s that Christians seem to unnecessarily refuse to associate with non-Christians.

His first example is that fact that the Boy Scouts deny atheists the right to join. In Christian literature, this issue has been presented as one of religious freedom under the Constitution: do Christians have the right to refuse to associate with non-Christians? But Mehta asks,

Why would the Boy Scouts not want atheist boys to enjoy the experiences and traditions associated with the group? Continue reading

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Scientific Creationism (Beginning)

I’ve been around science since I was in diapers. My mother read to me from the Time-Life Nature and Science series before I was in kindergarten. I used to wake up early and skip school to watch the Mercury and Gemini space launches. And I’ve been aware of the church vs. evolution dispute since elementary school.

I have the good fortune that my father subscribed to magazines put out by the Creation Research Society and others arguing for Scientific Creationism (young earth creationism believed to be provable by science). I’ve been immersed in the theory as long as can remember! Continue reading

I Sold My Soul on eBay: What Churches Do Wrong, Part 3

Religious extremism

Mehta points out that Christianity has many nationally prominent personalities who embarrass the church. He particularly criticizes those who announce that natural disasters and epidemics are God’s vengeance on the U.S., homosexuals, etc.

His suggested solution is simple: when some preacher says something stupid that receives national publicity, denounce him. Make clear from the pulpit that we don’t agree with such things.

I think he’s right. For that matter, I’d think we’d do well to encourage our most prominent leaders to denounce such statements publicly — even on national TV where the issue merits it. The world needs to see that the nuts in pulpits don’t speak for Christians in general. Continue reading

The Political Church: The Democratic Party Does Theology, Part 3

After the Patristic period, as the church increasingly became the Catholic Church, attitudes toward abortion shifted. The church saw life as beginning at quickening (when the mother could feel the baby move). This derived from the combining of Grecian thought with Christian thought that we’ve seen in other contexts.

Much of following material is modified from Religious Tolerance

Augustine (354-430 CE) returned to the Aristotelian (Grecian) concept of “delayed ensoulment.” He wrote that a human soul cannot live in an unformed body. Thus, early in pregnancy, an abortion is not murder because no soul is destroyed (or, more accurately, only a vegetable or animal soul is terminated). Only abortion of a more fully developed “fetus animatus” (animated fetus) was punished as murder. Continue reading

The Abuse of Ministers by Elders

Well, it’s nearly September. The year is 2/3rds over, and the thoughts of church leaders quite naturally turn to football budgets.

And so here’s a great post from Patrick Mead on how so many congregations mistreat their ministers.

And while we’re on the subject, the following is revised from an old one of mine on the same subject, called Financial Sin in the Churches of Christ:

Parsimony

Many an eldership refuses to pay a living wage. Many provide no health plan or retirement plan. A small church with only one or two employees usually can’t provide group health, but any church can provide a retirement plan with no administrative costs at all (IRA-SIMPLE and some 403(b) plans, for example). Continue reading

I Sold My Soul on eBay: What Churches Do Wrong, Part 2

Not paying attention in church

Again, Mehta nails us.

One would think the adults would be role models, listening to the pastor, maybe even taking notes. Instead, what I saw especially in some of the smaller churches were adults who were obviously bored. They were looking through the program, looking around the room, even looking at their watches. Part of the blame rests on the pastors of those churches (they were among the less-interesting speakers). Regardless, I wonder why these adults come to church in the first place.

Can anyone deny the truth in this? Yes, preachers can be boring. Yes, songs can be horribly led. But how we act affects our children’s perception of church. Moreover, if the services are that bad, why don’t we do something about it? Continue reading

The Political Church: The Democratic Party Does Theology, Part 2

Here are the Patristics on abortion. You can see that the very earliest documents routinely and repeatedly prohibit abortion. In fact, one of the truly distinctive doctrines of the early church was its opposition to abortion and infanticide, both of which were common in Hellenistic culture. In fact, when non-Christians left unwanted children in the local forums to die from exposure, Christians routinely rescued the babies, adopting them.

(Quotations gleaned from Religious Tolerance; some sources are Gnostic or otherwise not orthodox) —

  • The Didache (also known as “The Teaching of the Twelve Apostles”) dates from the first half of the second century CE. It states: “Thou shalt not murder a child by abortion.” (2:2) It also says that “The Way of Death is filled with people who are…murderers of children and abortionists of God’s creatures.” (5:1-2)
  • Barnabas: “You shall not kill either the fetus by abortion or the new born” (Letter of Barnabas, circa 125) Continue reading