How Would You Respond to the Belief Next Door?

I recently ran across an article in the Columbia Tribune that examined the beliefs of a handful of local residents who describe themselves as religiously unaffiliated. A story like this is more than worth the read in that it serves as an excellent window into the kinds of beliefs that are held by people you and I rub shoulders with everyday. Here are some of the comments I found particularly interesting:

Columbia atheist Ken Albright was a little boy when he first started questioning the fundamentalist Christian beliefs being taught to him at the Church of the Nazarene after a Sunday school teacher told him the moon would turn to blood during the rapture, the Christian prophesy of the end times on Earth.

“I thought, ‘I know the moon isn’t made of cheese, so how are they going to do that?’ You know, they talked about people rising up from the dead – what age are they going to be in heaven? … When babies go to heaven, is someone going to have to change their diapers? There are so many issues with the after-the-rapture stuff if you try to apply any logic to it that it falls apart, but most religion does if you apply logic to it.”
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[More from Albright:] “Most people don’t really know the theology or care about it. If they did, they’d be appalled. Most holy books support the oppression of women, war, capital punishment, all sorts of nasty things. No one actually reads them.”
……

“I try not to put walls up around my belief system. I try not to reject anything. The more prejudices you have, the less experiences you’ll have,” [Rebecca MacLeod] said.

MacLeod’s mother tells a story about her daughter when she was 6 years old. “A kid said to me, ‘If you don’t believe in a God, you’re going to hell.’ I said, ‘I wouldn’t believe in a God that would send me to hell.’ “
……

[Nick] Hinshaw said he pondered the different ideas of God’s involvement in the world like deism, which says God created the world and then left it to run on its own, with the idea that God is constantly shaping and controlling our lives. “You know those light bulb moments when it all clicks? Well, I thought, ‘This is it. When you die, you die.’ “

Now here’s a question to think about in light of these quotations: if you were to get into a conversation where someone mentioned one or more of these ideas, how would you respond? Though the comments above are saddled with logical inconsistency, biblical misunderstanding, and questionable assertions, my guess is that many of us feel ill-equipped to address the challenges they and others like them present to the Christian faith.

A good step to take in rectifying that situation would be to pick up Tim Keller’s terrific new book, The Reason for God. As the pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, Keller has spent years addressing many of our culture’s most widely held and forceful objections to Christianity. The Reason for God is part of the fruit of that labor.

Keller’s style is both winsome and appropriately challenging; his content remains accessible even as it engages serious intellectual challenges. The evaluation of the book by our pastoral staff has been overwhelmingly positive (no small feat in itself!), and I’ve personally added it to a short list of books I’d love every Christian to read. Not surprisingly, you’ll likely hear much more about The Reason for God at The Crossing in upcoming weeks.

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