What’s the greatest threat to Christians today?

According to Christian apologist Josh McDowell it’s… THE INTERNET! Duhn duhn duhhnnnnn!

“What has changed everything?” asked the apologist from Campus Crusade for Christ International as he spoke on “Unshakable Truth, Relevant Faith” at the Billy Graham Center in Asheville, N.C., Friday evening. His answer was, the Internet.

“The Internet has given atheists, agnostics, skeptics, the people who like to destroy everything that you and I believe, the almost equal access to your kids as your youth pastor and you have… whether you like it or not,” said McDowell

[…] “Now here is the problem,” said McDowell, “going all the way back, when Al Gore invented the Internet [he said jokingly], I made the statement off and on for 10-11 years that the abundance of knowledge, the abundance of information, will not lead to certainty; it will lead to pervasive skepticism. And, folks, that’s exactly what has happened. It’s like this. How do you really know, there is so much out there… This abundance [of information] has led to skepticism. And then the Internet has leveled the playing field [giving equal access to skeptics].

via Apologist Josh McDowell: Internet the Greatest Threat to Christians – The Christian Post.

You know what? He’s right. Faith largely thrives on ignorance. If you don’t know what caused something to happen or how something came to be then it’s pretty easy to accept “Goddidit” as a viable answer. The more you know the smaller the gaps that are left for God to hide in. With knowledge there is little need for faith. Which is a good reason why the Church (as a general thing) has so often over the history of mankind worked so hard to suppress scientific advances in knowledge if it has even a remote chance of contradicting official religious teachings. Can’t have some uppity scientist with his facts and evidence saying that the holy literature has got it all wrong! That stuff comes straight from God, dammit!

McDowell, who lives in southern California with his wife Dottie and four children, said atheists, agnostics and skeptics didn’t have access to kids earlier. “If they wrote books, not many people read it. If they gave a talk, not many people went. They would normally get to kids maybe in the last couple of years of the university.” But that has changed now.

Around 15 years ago, the apologist added, when Christian youth ministries were raising money for youth projects, the big phrase was, “If you don’t reach your child by their 18th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.” What is it now? “If you do not reach your child by their 12th birthday, you probably won’t reach them.”

Again, he’s right. Which is part of why there is so much focus on getting ’em when they’re young. You gotta start fillin’ those empty heads up with nonsense as soon as you can before they’re exposed to all those facts and theories and shit. Indoctrinate them early enough and teach them to disrupt their classes with stupid questions about the curriculum and chances are good you’ll have an True Believer™ for life! But if you let those poor little bastards onto the Internet where all those nasty skeptics and atheists are just laying in wait to pounce on them with science and facts before you’ve inculcated them they’ll stand little chance in ignoring reality. Worse, they might grow up to be Liberals!

Fortunately, Mr. McDowell says there are things you can do to combat this great menace of our time:

“First, we have to model the truth. If you don’t model what you teach your kids, forget it. If they don’t see it, they won’t believe it… Second, we have to build relationships.” Just as truth without relationship leads to rejection, rules without relationship lead to rebellion, he said. “Kids don’t respond to rules. They respond to rules in the context of a loving, intimate relationship.” And third, he said, we have to use knowledge. “You better arm yourselves to answer your children’s and grandchildren’s questions…no matter what the question is…without being judgmental.” Kids’ greatest defense, he said, was the knowledge of truth.

Surprisingly enough, I again agree with him. In fact, I think his first point is very important. It’s one thing to talk the talk and another to walk the walk and I think a lot of Christians fail to practice what they preach. If more of them followed the teachings of Christ found in the Bible then Christians probably wouldn’t have as bad of an image among everyone else. Christ had some decent ideas that started with the old standby of leading by example. Having a good relationship with your kids is good advice regardless of your belief system and it definitely helps when trying to install your values in them.

The last one is amusingly ironic to me, but I do agree with it. Granted, what he considers to be proper knowledge and what I consider it to be are probably vastly different things, but it’s still good advice. And it’s not like there aren’t plenty of Christians who wouldn’t benefit from reading their Bible a little more closely. At least if they’re serious about actually doing what Christ said to do.

So, yeah, the Internet has made all sorts of knowledge — good and bad — available at the click of a mouse and it can and does lead to an undermining of faith. It’s also allowed us atheists and skeptics a much broader platform to present our views and arguments in direct competition with the theists. Without the Internet I’d never have the reach that I do when I decide it’s time to blow some hot air around and I’m only a modest blogger compared to many out there on the Net. It’s a good time to be a member of the loyal opposition. Not only is our message getting out to more than ever, but it’s being listened to.

8 thoughts on “What’s the greatest threat to Christians today?

  1. An interesting topic, and valid points, particularly about Christians failing to live out Christ’s teachings. IMO, one of the most common failures of Christians is not accepting others for who they are rather than expecting everybody to live according to their values. Add to that the fact that their values often miss the core of Christ’s teachings. So you have people claiming to follow Christ, yet applying their values, which don’t represent Christ, to everybody else.

    One point I’d like to emphasize is that just because parents “get to them” (their children) at a young age, this does not determine their future. I’m sure there are those who will be more likely to end up completely in line with their parents’ beliefs. But most will be exposed to differing opinions, scientific facts, etc. and will formulate their own beliefs and values. This is a process that continues for any person into early adulthood. And anybody who values lifelong learning will continue this process throughout his/her lifetime. I have different views from my parents; some of them probably seem pretty radical to them. So McDowell’s comments don’t really bother me. Hopefully such a strategy will encourage children to do one thing you have emphasized Christians should do; read their Bible, study, and investigate for themselves. IMO, the most pathetic form of Christian is the one who does NOT read his/her Bible, but instead takes every word spoken by pastors, parents, elders, etc., as “gospel.” In the end, I think it’s going to depend on whether or not the child matures into a person who values knowledge as essential to developing as a person.

  2. I speak from experience when I say that the internet, including SEB itself, DEFINITELY had an impact on my escape from religious belief in high school and college. The realization that there is a fairly large, active community of religious skeptics out there was powerful for me. It suddenly felt ok to ask forbidden questions, and to consider heretical answers.

    So, McDowell is largely right.

    On the other hand, it’s ridiculous to view passive information as a menace. To be influenced by internet skeptics, I needed the curiosity to seek out such information and opinions in the first place, and I always could have rejected what I found. I don’t think these kinds of transformations occur without some seed of doubt and dissatisfaction with religious arguments.

  3. Alex wrote:

    On the other hand, it’s ridiculous to view passive information as a menace. To be influenced by internet skeptics, I needed the curiosity to seek out such information and opinions in the first place, and I always could have rejected what I found. I don’t think these kinds of transformations occur without some seed of doubt and dissatisfaction with religious arguments.

    I’m in full agreement with you on that, Alex. I’ve met plenty of believers, young and old, for whom no amount of discussion is going to sway their worldview. The information that’s on the Internet is only dangerous to those who are already questioning their beliefs. That’s part of why I run SEB and engage in arguments about faith and religion. So that those who are on the fence can see that there is another side to the debate. That there are plenty of people who manage to be pretty moral and upstanding without faith or fear in God(s) to motivate them.

    soloscat wrote:

    One point I’d like to emphasize is that just because parents “get to them” (their children) at a young age, this does not determine their future.

    A very valid point. Though, as you point out, being indoctrinated young makes any journey away from religious belief all the more harder for the person involved in it.

    I once had a discussion with a former boss about my atheism and he told me that he simply couldn’t imagine there not being a God because it was all he has ever known. He was Jewish, but not particularly devout. He still had enough of the teachings ingrained him since a child that, even though he had lapsed in some aspects of his faith, he couldn’t get past the idea that God might not exist.

  4. The difference between Luther and many earlier “heretics” was the invention of the printing press, which caused the dissemination of his works throughout Europe. Whereas the writings of prior dissenters were often localized, his ideas were spread rapidly throughout the continent. That he often wrote in German, rather than solely in Latin, also helped in the spread of his message. The Internet has much the same effect, and not only do people have access to controversial writings, but also videos, art, etc.

    What irony that it would be Protestants- who should understand the need for free information better than anyone- who would complain about the spread of dissenting literature through new technologies.

    And I liked the comment about how few people read books by atheists. What do we make of all those NYT best sellers produced by atheist authors? Speaking of which, I would comment on indoctrination of the young, but I think Richard Dawkins has the last word on that. Not much that I can add to what he has said on the subject.

  5. You do know that the ‘big bang’ theory of the origins of the Universe was initially rubbished by Einstein; that the orignator of the theory was (gasp) a Catholic priest? You do know that the father of genetics was a Benedictine monk? There is no conflict between science and religion, because both of them are concerned with Truth.

  6. Einstein, as you say, did not initially agree with the Big Bang theory, but he changed his stance in accordance with new facts. That is the difference between science and religion. A religious person can of course be a scientist, as easily as he can be an opponent of science (the Catholic Church has been at times, and Evangelicals consistently so.) But what makes a system or belief religious is precisely what makes it unscientific, namely an adherence to baseless faith and a disregard for new facts that conflict with established dogma. Religion is not concerned with truth. Science endeavors to discover and verify, religion on the other hand fabricates or, at best, selectively chooses facts that are convenient, kind of like your post.

    There aren’t two sides to every story. And Gregor Mendel was an Augustinian.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.