Why is Christianity in decline in the United States?

It is somewhat alarming to see the decline of Christianity in the United States, as measured by surveys in recent years, most notably those of Pew and PRRI.

People want to be on the “right side of history” – a problematic notion in itself, as discussed here – so once a trend is established it tends to gain a momentum of its own. So naturally a lot of ink is being spilled in trying to analyze Continue reading “Why is Christianity in decline in the United States?”

Should Christians be vegetarians?

Before considering whether Christians should be vegetarians, let’s look a closely related question. Was Jesus Christ a vegetarian?  The answer to one question does not automatically provide the correct answer to the other – for example, one could ask whether Jesus worked as a carpenter, celebrated Jewish holidays, and claimed to be the Son of God (He did, but that doesn’t mean Christians should do the same) – but in thinking through moral questions it’s certainly a good place to start.

According to the Gospels, Jesus Continue reading “Should Christians be vegetarians?”

Should the Pope comment on environmental politics?

I recently had dinner with a friend who was quite upset with the recent encyclical letter issued by Pope Francis.  I had to admit that I had not yet read it, but had only seen headlines.  Nonetheless, we wandered into a discussion of the general topic of whether the Pope ought to be commenting on public policy matters.  My friend offered complaints about some of the Pope’s comments, while I tended to defend the Pope on the grounds that Continue reading “Should the Pope comment on environmental politics?”

Is God short of cash?

And I can’t tell the difference between ABC News, Hill Street Blues
And a preacher on the old time gospel hour
Stealing money from the sick and the old
Well the God I believe in isn’t short of cash, mister!

– Bono (of U2), “Bullet the Blue Sky”, on the Rattle and Hum album

I really don’t like hearing churches ask for money. I’ve always thought that if I ever start a church someday (and this is an idea that has refused to leave me alone, despite my suspicions that I don’t have the right skills for such a thing), I would try Continue reading “Is God short of cash?”

Does religion do more harm than good?

I can appreciate the reasons why some find it difficult to believe what I believe, or even to believe in God at all. Throughout this blog, I’ve engaged the big questions around this issue, but in this post I am concerned with a secondary topic. Whether my religion, or anyone’s religion, does more harm than good is a different question from whether it is true or false, but it is important in its own right. Continue reading “Does religion do more harm than good?”

Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?

As you might guess by poking around this blog, I enjoy sharing my Christian faith.  I realize, however, that most non-Christians feel that they have heard enough about Christianity already, and are not eager to hear more.  Because of this, it is important for me (and other Christians) to be tactful and sensitive about the topic.  Rather than talking about God as often as I would like, I need to treat people with respect by taking note of their wishes, and being judicious in terms of when it is appropriate to bring up the subject.  When the topic does arise, I should avoid the temptation to monopolize the conversation, and should make sure that I reflect well on the Gospel by sharing it, as Peter said, with gentleness and respect.

Having said all that, Continue reading “Why don’t Christians just keep their beliefs to themselves?”

Do people believe in God just because their parents did?

Occasionally I’ve heard a simplistic argument against belief in God that goes something like this: “You believe in God just because your parents did.”  The usual implication (either explicit or left unstated) is that any arguments in favor of God’s existence that I might offer would be biased, and therefore do not need to be considered by the listener on their merits.  This type of argument is commonly classified as ad hominem circumstantial, and labeled fallacious because one’s disposition to make a certain argument does not make the argument false.  (In an essay on this topic, Continue reading “Do people believe in God just because their parents did?”

Which church is the One True Church?

It is often reported that there are about 30,000 denominations within the Protestant branch of Christianity alone. This often leads to the suggestion is that if so many different churches each claims to be the correct one, perhaps none of them are. Sometimes this point is made by Roman Catholics as a kind of argument against Protestantism, the implication being that since they are both far older and numerically far larger than any Protestant institution, it is more likely that theirs is the true faith. However, I’ve also seen this line of thinking used in support of arguments against Christianity in general. Looking at the splits over the centuries into so many Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant groups, why should one believe Continue reading “Which church is the One True Church?”

Is divorce acceptable under any circumstances?

Many of the social issues in our media and politics today – abortion and gay marriage for example -are topics on which Jesus never spoke directly, at least not in any case that was recorded in the Gospels. Christians can consult other books of scripture, tradition, reason, and experience in order to try to draw the correct conclusions on these issues.  However, without direct teaching from Jesus, there is always going to be sincere disagreement.

One social issue on which Jesus did speak directly, however, Continue reading “Is divorce acceptable under any circumstances?”

Does the Bible support slavery?

To begin with, it’s worth summarizing my understanding of the Bible.  In my view, it is not a single unified book, and not the inerrant Word of God.  Instead, I consider the Bible to be primary source material which, together with conscience, can help us to understand and relate to God to the extent we are capable.  I consider Jesus Christ to be Himself the Word of God (as alluded to in John 1), and the various books of the Bible are  Continue reading “Does the Bible support slavery?”