THE CHRISTIAN FAITH IN A WORLD OF UNBELIEF

 

Our Sons and Daughters in a Post-Freudian Masters and Johnson’s World (Christian Belief and Contemporary Unbelief'?

 

A.  Romans, Hebrews, and I John:  Belief and Behavior.

B.  "Take care. Brethren, lest there be in any of you an evil unbelieving heart leading you to fall away from the living God."  Heb. 5:12, 4:1.

 

Subject:  Contemporary idolatry and the youth culture; in the 1980's - 75% of the world's population will be 21 years old and under; and 50% of the population in the OSA will be 25 years old and under.  Problem:  What does this group believe? What are some of the ideologies that are competing for this age group?

 

I.    With Heart and Head; The Whole Person and Christian Faith

 

A.  What does it mean to be a Christian believer in the 20U Century?

B.  What does the O.T. mean by faith?  Person, promise, content, purpose, response, i.e., root significance is reply or answer to question/ challenge.

C.  What does title N.T. mean by faith?  (Believing that something is true and believing in a person, apistia, apeitheia).

D.  What does it mean to hear the Word of God?

E.   Faith after Freud.

F.   Hearing God's word in a visibility culture (audibility and visibility of Word of God)

G. Proclaiming the Word of God in an entertainment culture:  Listening for "ego" satisfaction rather than decision - life changing, behavior modification decision.

H. Word of God, Decision, and Integrity (wholeness of person, integration i.e. lifestyle from new life - we need both integrity of mind and emotion, i.e. feelings. Cf. unbelief, doubt)

 

II.  Social and Psychological (personal and group) Reasons for Unbelief

 

A.  European cultures - from revival to revolution; egs: French Revolution and Russian.)

B.  American culture - 200 years in the Promised Land. The Spirit in "76". Restoration principle - from the Frontier to Watergate - A study in influence.

C.  Social and Psychological reasons for belief:  Alternatives unknown or unavailable.

D. Ignatius Lepp - with Christ on the psychiatrist couch (converted communist propaganda expert - now Roman Catholic priest.)

E.  Third times charm - Resurgent concern in counseling (3rd time in 20th Century) and for meaning - belonging - caring - sharing.

 

III. American Forms of Unbelief - 18th  and 19th Centuries

 

A.  The Great Intrusion: Tomas Paine's “form of Infidelity” - 1784-1809.

B.  The Great Definition:  Coming of New England Liberalism - 1749-1805.

C.  The Great Foil to Orthodoxy - l759-l8l8 (e.g. Timothy Dwight, President of Yale, most effective vanquisher of infidelity in American history.

D.  The Great Alliance - Syncretism and the Established Church 1776-l8l8.

E.   The Great Adjustment - Modification of attitudes of religious institutions.

F.   Robert Owens (A. Campbell's debate) Image Maker - after l824 - churches as Virtuosi of Exploitation.

G.  From Liberalism and Unitarianism to the Frontier - "Muscular Christianity"

H.  Infidelity Incarnate - Robert Ingersole to l899.

I.     The Great Decline after l899.

J.     The Great Absence

K. The Great Silent Majority - The Sin of Silence; European forms Kant, Hegel, Darwin, Freud, Nietzsche.

 

IV.  Characteristics of Our World and Forms of Unbelief in the 20th Century

 

A. Originality of Modern unbelief (not merely ignorance, faithlessness, apathy or rebellion because there were present in age of Faith) -secularism, humanism, and scientism.

B.  Characteristics are worldwide: Penetration into every area of life, loss of transcendence, cosmic loneliness. Church is becoming dispensable, processes of secularization.

C.  Pluralism, i.e., contradictory claims have equal standing in universe of discourse.

D.  Loss of truth as basis of community.

E.  Community based on symbolic order (communication) has disintegrated (e.g. McCluhan's Hot and Cold Communication)

 

V. Secular Varieties of Unbelief

 

A.  Anomie (no norm, i.e., lawlessness) and Accidie (paralysis of action, listlessness).

B.  Rejection of possibility of positive belief, i.e. Nihilism or absolutization of nothingness (see my article on Nihilism in Dictionary of Christian Ethics, edited by Carl F. H. Henry, Baker, Grand Rapids).

C.  Atheism (see Ephesians 2:12) and anti-theism touches every individual and structure of the new humanity.

D. Pantheisms (Panentheisms, e.g. Spinoza, Hegel, Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin) and Paganism of history and power.

E.  Syncretistic unbelief, e.g., combines elements of Christian beliefs and contradictory cultural features.

F.   Syncretistic unbelief and contradictory political features, e.g. Nazism, Communism, Americanism (we cannot have two absolutes:  Only God and His Word is absolute and sets in judgment on every facet of this world's experience).

 

VI. Religious Varieties of Unbelief:  Integral Unbelief - of the Grand Inquisitor (O.T. and N.T. examples of unbelief - Baalism, Gnosticism, Judaistic Legalism, etc.)

 

A.  Private and public faith

B.  Private lives and public morals (Nixon, Mills, et. al.)

C.  Individual faith and institutional unbelief (Part is faithful; whole is visibly unfaithful, e.g. Niebuhr's Moral Man and Immoral Society).

D. Social functionalism; Institutionalise! (free association since Hegel and modern democracy), specialization and commitment to organizational development and the cult of efficiency, i.e., heresy of success orientation

E.  Reasons for affiliation and cultural stratification, egs. Poor and store front, rich and elaborate ediface complex. Christ and cultural basis of being successful.

F.   Church and acculturation - Christ and culture - (against, parallel assimilated, critical interaction or confrontation).

 

VII.  Positive Approach to Problem: Education, Christian world Life Style

 

A.  Being Christian is representing God in this world.

B.  Being Christian is committing one's life to ultimate vindication of God's promise and purpose for His creation.

C.  Let us not witness throughout the remainder of the 20"! Century, or until He comes, with - not much, not yet, or not enough, (cf. Contemporary Unlver-saltsm; and the present debate concerning the meaning of "faith in Christ" -believers' positive response, or God's faithfulness)

 

VIII.  Assumptions of Secularistic Humanism

 

A.  Man is the center of reality.

B.  Science can solve all problems.

C.  Time is real.

D.  History is relative.

E.  Death is ultimate.

 

IX.   Mechanisms of Humanism

 

A. Ego: The internal force that prompts most people to act in a self-aggrandizing manner much of the time, regardless of whether this behavior is at the expense of other people or at the expense of society itself, which has left us with no alternative but to love ourselves best of all.

B.  Fallacy of Direction; Nobody is at the wheel.  There are no navigators on this humanist ship, and the few steersmen we have are caught in the same system of lies and pretense of direction and control that enfolds us all.

C.  Inertia; Inertia increases in proportion to the complexity of our invented institutions.  It is the nature of modern Invention and Inventiveness that the roles set aside for people in the scheme of things are very highly defined, and people must meet these specifications, with no leeway, if they wish to find a place in society.

D. Primacy of Organizational Goals; Corporations and governments.  The conflict is between the needs of the organization and the needs of people.

E.  Avoidance of Unpleasant Reality; Any society that aspires to rational control does not want to hear about the negative results of that control.

F.   Ignorance of the Causes of Problems: In addition to not wanting to hear bad news, there are certain kinds of bad news that can never be traced to their causes among the humanistic roster of inventions and interventions—we know the effects but cannot find the cause in a complex society.

G. There will always be some people who win who are destructive and insane while occupying positions of power:  The more interlinked and organized the world becomes, the more vulnerable it will be to such disturbed persons, the more power they will have.

H. Rapidly increasing numbers and powers of destructive forces available to people in item G:  Humanism depends upon invention and organization for its illusion of control, yet it is also constantly developing new methods of destroying inventions, organizations and human beings.

I.    Efficiency:  Originally a manufacturing concept, it has now spread into every realm of modern life. It is adequate for designing some machinery and technical processes in systems that are defined and contained. Completely defined, logical and analytical has been achieved at the sacrifice of context, until in many cases there is no context left at all. Efficiency is foolproof in the restricted context of the technologist's blueprint and the economist's report—and a disaster when loosed upon the real world. Liberty , Efficiency

J.    Proliferation of Administrators:  People whose job is to manage and direct organizations.  Organizations are humanism's main tool for controlling the world. (From The Arrogance of Humanism, David Ehrenfeld, Oxford (1978), 1981, pp. 236-249.)

 

Conclusion

 

We are living once more in a Dionsysian age where we exist- Sentio Ergo Sum:

therefore, unbelief i.e. a problem fit for God. It cannot be effectively responded to by the church in its present spiritual and educational condition.  Fideism is no match for Humanism.

Revival is imperative; and equipping every saint in every congregation for service is a sina-qua-non for a Christian response to contemporary unbelief.

 

BIBLIOGRAPHY

 

1.  Burkle, Howard K.  The Non-Existence of God.  (NY:  Herder and Herder, 1969).

2.  Collins, Janes.  God in Modern Philosophy.  (Chicago: Henry Begnery Co., 196?).

3.  Cottier, G. M.-M.  Horizons de L'Atheisme.  (Paris:  Les Editions du Cerf, 1969)

4.  Dewart, Leslie.  The Future of Belief.  (NY:  Herder and Herder, 1968).

5.  Fabro, Cornelio. God in Exile.  (NY;  Newman Press, 1968).

6.  Luijpen, William A.  Phenomenology and Atheism. (Duquesne University Press, 1964).

7.  Marty. Martin E.  The Infidel.  (NY:  Meridian Books, pb., 1961).

8.  Marty, Martin, F. Varieties of Unbelief (NY:  Doubleday, pb., 1964).

9.  Matha, Ved.  Les Iheologiens de la Mort de Dieu.  (Paris;  Mane, 1965).

10.  Mooney, S. J., Christopher F., ed.  The Presence and Absence of God. (NY:  Fordham University Press,'1969).

11.  Novak, Michael.  Belief and Unbelief.  (NY:  Mentor-Omega, pb., 1965).

12.  Schrey, Simon, etc.  L-Atheisme Contempprain.  (Paris: Editions labor et Fides Geneve, 1964.

13.  Siegmund, Georg. God On Trial.  (NY:  Desclee Co., 1957)

14.  Hamilton, Kenneth.  To Turn From Idols.  (Grand Bapids, Eerdmans, 1975).

15.  Encyclopedia of Philosophy  (NY:  MacMillan Pub., 4 volumes).  Paul Edwards, ed.

 

James D. Strauss