Let’s give poor Mr. Horvath a break and pay a visit to our old friends at Tektonics Apologetics Ministries. Here’s a front-page article on The failure of the church to educate:
This is an article about how the church at large has failed us.
It is, of course, by no means meant to imply that there are not exceptions to the rules to be discussed. You may be part of a local church body without these failings, and if you are, you should be glad of it. But let’s be honest — most churches ARE failing when it comes to these matters we will discuss.
The article is introduced by two quotes, one of them from Dr. Daniel Wallace:
Even with the proliferation of Bibles today, Christians are reading their Bibles less and less. I believe the evangelical church has only 50 years of life left…because of marginalization of the Word of God. We need another Reformation! The enemy of the gospel now is not religious hierarchy but moral anarchy, not tradition but entertainment. The enemy of the gospel is Protestantism run amuck; it is an anti-intellectual, anti-knowledge, feel-good faith that has no content and no convictions. Part of the communal repentance that is needed is a repentance about the text. And even more importantly, there must be a repentance with regard to Christ our Lord. Just as the Bible has been marginalized, Jesus Christ has been ‘buddy-ized.’ His transcendence and majesty are only winked at, as we turn him into the genie in the bottle, beseeching God for more conveniences, more luxury, less hassle, and a life without worries or lack of comfort. He no longer wears the face that the apostles recognized. … The God we worship today no longer resembles the God of the Bible. Unless we return to him through a reading and digesting of the scriptures—through a commitment to the text, the evangelical church will become irrelevant, useless, dead.
But I’m going to take a contrasting view: the problem with modern Christianity is not that Christians fail to act as though they really believed in it, it’s that God fails to behave as though He believed in it. The church is straying, not because all Christians ought to be more thoroughly indoctrinated or because their religious faith needs to be more like doing homework, but because they have no real-world center of reference for their notions of what God ought to be like or how He wants us to relate to Him. And that, simply put, is exactly what we would expect in a world where God was a figment of human imagination.
Though the article is not an apologetic per se, it’s an interesting read nonetheless. Again and again he hammers home the point that weaknesses in the Body of Christ are due to a lack of human effort, even though the problems he cites are precisely those that would arise as a consequence of God’s failure to show up in real life.
Another thing I like to do is ask a pastor who their favorite Biblical scholar is. I did this once and got the supremely inane answer, “Warren Wiersbe” — who is a pastor, not a scholar. See if they know of certain people like Wright or Witherington. If their knowledge of apologetics is limited to a copy of ETDAV, forget it. And, see if they have a staff position for education pastor (if it is a large enough church).
Yes, yes, more human scholars are what the rank-and-file Christian needs. More study, more academics. Christians, and their everyday interests, are not intellectual enough, and Christians aren’t spending enough time familiarizing themselves with what uninspired men say about God. Christians need to be more thoroughly grounded in the works of men in order to meet today’s challenges. After all, isn’t that the approach we take to determining whether or not our spouses really exist? If that’s how we deal with our spouses, then we ought to deal with God in the same way, because God loves us even more than our spouses do.
Evangelical atheism (embodied by the likes of Harris, Dawkins and Dennett) is an intellectual embarrassment, but we can’t expect people to know this. Your church needs to be ready for challenges, and we need to test our churches to see how ready they are, and be willing to either reform one that isn’t ready, or leave one that refuses to reform, and do what we can to encourage others not to attend.
As quick as he is to apply the term “intellectual embarrassment” to the likes of Harris, Dawkins, and Dennett, he doesn’t seem to stop to consider how little success these three atheists would be having if only God were to behave in a way that was consistent with the motives and abilities that men ascribe to Him. Let God show up in real life to actually participate in the personal relationships He allegedly wants so badly, and the atheistic argument would be handily refuted, even for those who failed to devote years of study to the scholarly works of intellectual Christians. One of the hazards of being an intellectual apologist is that it is very easy to become so wrapped up in reading one another’s erudite and learned discourses that one forgets to consider the basics.
The bottom line is that the Gospel is a story about a God Who so loves each one of us that He was willing to die on our behalf so that He and we could be together forever. In real life, however, the unanimous experience of mankind is not consistent with the Gospel story. If God wants to be with us forever, and if the crucifixion and (alleged) resurrection make it possible to be with us for ever, then the most fundamental and obvious consequence would be that God would show up to participate in this relationship, just like He allegedly showed up in the Garden of Eden. He allegedly wants it, He allegedly made it possible, and yet what we see in real life is that He does not show up to do what the Gospel says He should be doing.
This is not the kind of failure that results from Christians spending insufficient time doing religious homework. God’s absence from real life, and the resultant wandering and disinterest we find in Christian churches, are God’s responsibility, and God’s alone–if He exists. All that human scholarship and apologetics does is to refine the art of denial and rationalization. You can study all you want, and think up the most sophisticated apologia, and fill your mind so full of bibliographies and footnotes that there isn’t time to consider the real-life fact of God’s absence. But in the end, you cannot deny that all this human effort is merely a monumental, man-based effort to fill the huge gap created by the fact that God simply isn’t there. If He were, it wouldn’t take a PhD in apologetics to know it.