I asked sociologist Rodney Stark about his own faith. He replied, “I wrote myself, my way to a better understanding of things.” His books are classics: “How The West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity,” “For The Glory of God: How Monotheism Led to Reformations, Science, Witchhunts, And The End of Slavery,” “America’s Blessings: How Religion Benefits Everyone, Including Atheists,” “God’s Battalions: The Cast for the Crusades,” and “The Triumph of Faith: Why the World is More Religious Than Ever,” plus many more. I recommend you get them.
In our techno-savvy culture, one of our problems is people are not reading. The late George Gallup – gallup.com – wrote: “We revere the Bible but we don’t read it.” Wheaton College research indicated biblical illiteracy of incoming freshmen: 80% could not place Moses, Adam, David, Solomon and Abraham in chronological order; Half of the students could not sequence Moses in Egypt, Issac’s birth, Saul’s death and Judah’s exile, and one-third could not identify Matthew as an apostle from a list of New Testament names.
One hundred and fifty freshmen in a Christian college were selected in a scientific survey (PISA – Program for International Student Assessment) because they were active members of evangelical churches and grew up going to church. The students were given a test about their biblical knowledge. Here are the answers they provided: The history of Abraham was found in the book of Ruth. The Roman persecution was the greatest event described in the Old Testament. The Exodus was the return of the Jews to Palestine after World War II. Genesis was the first Gospel. The mother-in-law of Ruth was Mary Magdalene and her famous great-grandson was Noah! We have a problem.
My father is dying of inoperable stomach cancer. Daily I battle a variety of emotions because of his pain. Dad turned 90 on April 11. Yesterday, he told me that he is giving me his Bible which he purchased in 2006. “I want you to have it as a gift,” he said, “but I am hoping I stay alive long enough to finish reading it the 50th time before I give it to you.” I did the math. My dad has averaged reading his Bible nearly five times a year for the last eleven years. And he started reading the Bible long before 2006. I am going to have his Bible rebound and will cherish the gift.
Billy Graham wrote about regrets in his autobiography, Just As I Am, “I would spend more time studying the Bible and meditating on its truth … it is far too easy for someone in my position to read the Bible only with an eye on a future sermon, overlooking the message God has for me through its pages.”
Jerry: I’ve read that you’re a cultural Christian, I mean so how do you mix your faith experience in all this? I’m tring to figure all that out.
Rodney: For most of my adult life I was most certainly a non-believer.
Rodney: But I was also very much pro-Christian. I mean, I have always believed that this was a Christian civilization. Always believed that science grew out of Christianity. I don’t have any problems with that at all, I just had problems with believing, which didn’t trouble me a lot and it certainly didn’t make me any kind of an aggressive anti-… you know… at all. It was just a fact. And I think I wrote myself, my way to a better understanding of things.
Rodney: And uh … and that’s what it meant to be a cultural Christian. I’m glad churches were good things.
Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via transcontinental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.
JERRY JOHNSTON: 70% of young people in the UK don’t believe in God. Over 50% are nones. They kind of fast forward our culture by two decades at least. You’ve been in the UK. What do you take away from that as you look at America now?
MIKE BICKLE: And again I think you are right. I think they’re a decade or two ahead and I think we’re following Mother England as we have for years, following right in the track and I think it’s that reducing of what’s going on in the pulpit backfired. Though it made a lot of folks gather in a certain way, it lost the interest of the young people. Because a lot of folks think the young people just want cool media and I think they do want cool media. I think you can’t deny what’s happening in the culture. We are a product of our culture in part. But young people want to be challenged. Young people want something to die for. It’s like the preacher said if you don’t have something to live for you don’t have anything to die for.
Researchers, Drs. Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston, are Executive Producing a quick-paced film via trans continental, staccato interviews documenting the shocking rise of the non-religious.
Where there is life, there is growth. So, I traveled to Waco, TX, and asked renowned American sociologist of religion, PhD Rodney Stark @BaylorISR, “Is Jesus Christ Unique?” Stark has spent a lifetime studying the impact of religion on people in the various nations of the world. He is a profound writer whose many books circle the globe and are worthy of your attention.
For instance, Stark, co-director of Baylor University’s Institute for the Studies of Religion, documents Christianity in China is surging – 40 new churches are starting up every week and that does not include the inestimable “underground”
America’s Christianity is shrinking while China’s is growing – there is something disturbing with this scenario. “In America, much of the slip in Christianity’s numbers is being driven by the millennial ‘me’ generation, well known for tending to avoid commitment and institutions of every kind, not just religious, “ wrote Michael Guillen of USNWR (May 14, 2015).
In 1966, the Cultural Revolution in China outlawed all belief systems entirely, except for atheism. But, it hasn’t worked! In fact, Stark reminded me that after six decades of teaching atheism to the people of the former Soviet Union, it registered only 7 percent “atheist’ – just one or two percentage points ahead of the United States of America. As we have learned Christianity is thriving in Russia.
Cristie Jo and I have filmed now with over 100 distinguished leaders of atheism, agnosticism, secularism, sociology, and Christian apologetics, and next week we will film with both Richard Dawkins and Richard Swinburne in Oxford, England – one is a noted atheist and the other is one of the most respected Christian philosophers in the world.
Repression has not worked in stopping or slowing Christianity. Rather, Christianity seems to thrive under adversity as the present phenomenon in numerous countries indicates. Regardless of what you believe about Jesus Christ, He certainly did make an impact, as Stark said, in a manner unequalled.
Jerry: Is Jesus Christ unique among the other figures or founders of faith?
Rodney: Certainly … what is so peculiar is that we know so little. You know he didn’t leave a book. Um … but uh … certainly no one else has ever had that impact. I mean, people like Buddha and what not, they’re just not very important by comparison. Um … yeah, I think he’s unique.