Dr. Jeremiah J. Johnston speaks to 7 thousand delegates at the AACC World Conference 2017

Dr. Jeremiah J. Johnston speaks to 7 thousand delegates at the AACC World Conference 2017

Jeremiah J. Johnston, PhD, associate professor of Theology at Houston Baptist University, and president of the Christian Thinkers Society, captivated thousands of delegates during the American Association of Christian Counselors World Conference in September 2017 at the Gaylord Opryland Resort & Convention Center. There were about 7,000 event attendees who learned more about Johnston and HBU.

Johnston’s latest book, “Unimaginable: What Our World Would Be Like Without Christianity,” follows his equally important work, “Unanswered: Lasting Truth for Trending Questions.”

Prayer is essential to the teaching of God’s holy word.

Jeremiah & Audrey turned to their faith to keep them afloat during Harvey

My son and his wife Audrey were interviewed on FoxBusiness by Stuart Varney of Varney & Co. They shared with Stuart how their faith in God kept with afloat through Harvey and their mandatory evacuation from Fort Bend County with our 5 grandchildren.

Harvey victims say faith kept them afloat during Harvey

Visit Houston Baptist University website to see how you can help those hurt by Harvey.

Fox Business

Christian Thinkers Society

“I Wrote Myself to a Better Understanding,” – Jerry Johnston with Sociologist Rodney Stark

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. 

Jerry: OK

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. 

Jerry: Uh-huh.

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 Interviews Mike Bickle of IHOP – “Young People Want Something to Die For”

Before you write off all Millennials as religiously disaffiliated, consider @ihopkc where every week, 24-hours-a-day, 84 worship services per week are conducted, and there is literal non-stop, prayer and worship. @ihopkc is a magnet of spiritual intensity that draws people from all over the world. Yes, there are men and women of all ages. But, look closer in the seats, and you will find a strong contingent of millennials in deep devotion to Jesus Christ. And, it never stops … every day … every night reminiscent of the Old Testament Levitical priests who were consecrated to the Lord.
Mike Bickle @mikebickle and I have been friends for 35 years. I have repeatedly told people, when asked, “I have never met a man with such passion for Jesus as Mike Bickle. His spiritual intensity has produced a global movement. Annually, 25,000 young people attend his Onething Conference in frigid temperatures. Further, IHOP University is growing with hundreds of millennials intent on changing the world by their faith – another vision that came from Mike.
The International House of Prayer has continued in non-stop prayer led by worship teams since September 19, 1999, and is committed to combining 24/7 prayers for justice with 24/7 works of justice. Around 1,500 people (staff members, students, interns) serve full-time on the missions base, investing fifty hours per week in the prayer room, classroom, and ministry outreaches. Mike is also the founder of the International House of Prayer University which includes a full-time Bible school, music school, and media school.
Call it the dichotomy of American culture – millennials leaving organized religion and the church while, simultaneously, multiplied thousands of young people are exhibiting an intensity of Christian faith that is a bit shocking to the average church goer. Mike told me that there are now 20,000 “prayer centers” all over the world just like IHOP. Many received inspiration to begin from the example that ensued from his “believe-God-at-any-cost” faith.
 
We met and discussed the condition of American Christianity. 
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.

Jerry Johnston Interviews Noted Sociologist Dr. Rodney Stark at Baylor University

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” churches in the most populous nation on earth (1.371 Billion people). He, along with his co-author sociologist Xiuhua Wang wrote,  A Star in the East: The Rise of Christianity in China.

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 OxfordEngland – 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.


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.

3-Year Documentary Filming by Jerry and Cristie Jo Johnston

Over 100 iconic atheist, leaders in atheism, agnosticism, secularism, sociology, philosophy, apologetics, nones, dones, and deconversions have filmed with Cristie Jo and me for our upcoming documentary and ancillary products. We have learned very clearly the arguments against the Christian faith. Further, and even more important, we have discerned how professing Christians, or evangelicals, are perceived by thinking people who do not believe. This has been a stunning and very emotional journey for us.

In a few weeks we will fly across the Atlantic for the fourth time and film with the famous atheist, Richard Dawkins, and his Oxford, England contrarian, the equally renown Christian philosopher, Richard Swinburne, in addition to numerous other notable leaders.

Too many North American Christian leaders seem illiterate to the de-Christian movement proliferating across Canada and America and fully realized now in the United Kingdom. Our original research is designed to ask serious questions about the paradigm of the church. Are we effectively and cognitively “making disciples” or, as repeated studies seem to indicate, is our techno, sleek presentation of the Gospel lacking in producing Christians who can critically think and articulate their faith? Jesus stated that the greatest commandment was “loving God with all your mind.” That involves cognition — teaching that has intellectual substance.

Cristie and I are not finished on this investigative journey. So we ask for your thoughts and prayers. A faith that is not tested is no faith at all.

Can your faith stand testing? Stay with us.


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.

Cristie Johnston interviews Nabeel Qureshi

Nabeel Quershi is the author of Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. It is his personal story where he transitioned from a committed Muslim to a follower of Jesus Christ. The book has made quite an impact. Nabeel has now moved to Houston, Texas to receive treatment for Stage IV stomach cancer. Detractors have made the outlandish statement that Nabeel’s cancer diagnosis is due to Allah’s revenge. Unthinkable that people could be so brazen. How does Nabeel respond? What are his thoughts? He is both a father and a husband. Cristie Johnston sat down for one hour and filmed with Quershi asking questions why he disaffiliated from Islam. Interestingly, both Christianity and Islam in North America is experiencing disaffiliation – the phenomenon known as “nones.” Ayaan Hirsi Ali told delegates at the American Atheist Convention, where we were filming, that atheists needed to turn their attention away from “Christians” and focus on radical Islamists.

To secularists, religion is “dangerous.” If you watch Bill Maher or listen to Sam Harris, you are left with the impression that Christians don’t know how to critically think. If we asked professing believers in Christ “critical questions” regarding their faith could they answer? People today query, “Is Jesus the only way to God, the only way to heaven?” Barna research indicates that a significant percentage of Christians, when polled, say there are multiple paths to eternal life.

We remember Nabeel, and his family, in our thoughts and prayers and ask you do to the same. Our documentary journey has taken us throughout the world and impacted us in many ways. Nabeel’s present challenge is no exception.

Cristie Jo: Recently you were diagnosed with stage 4-stomach cancer. What’s your prognosis and how has it impacted your faith?

Nabeel: They didn’t know what stage it was. So I thought, “Ok, this is at least 70%.” Then I had to come back in to get staged. Then later that week on Thursday they said, “This is at least stage 3,” and that meant my survival rate was at best 20%. And then they said, “Come in the next day and we’ll determine whether or not this is stage 4.” And I came back in the next day, and they did a scan and they said “In fact this has metastasized, uh, this is stage 4- stomach cancer,” which has a survival rate of 4%. Um and so you know 90%, 70%, even 20%, you can think, “I can beat the odds. I can do this. I can do this.” But when they come back and say you
have a 4% chance of surviving, you really don’t walk away thinking, “I can do this.” You walk away thinking, “I need miracle.” But here’s the thing—our God exists. Our God is real, and he is a miracle-working God.

Our documentary journey continues. Soon Cristie Johnston and I will film extended interviews with noted atheist Richard Dawkins and Richard Swinburne, a British philosopher. Swinburne is an Emeritus Professor of Philosophy at the University of Oxford. Over the last 50 years Swinburne has been an influential proponent of philosophical arguments for the existence of God. You could not meet any more polar opposites that those two people. Stay with us on the journey. Soon we will be filming extended interviews in Oxford, England, with noted atheist Richard Dawkins and Richard Swinburne. You could not find any more polar opposites than these two men.

Read more about Nabeel Quershi at nabeelqureshi.com


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.

Jerry & Cristie Johnston Interview Frank Schaeffer … A Self-Described Atheist Who Prays?

We learned something interesting in our two-hour filmed interview with self-identified atheist Frank Schaeffer, son of the late theologian Francis Schaeffer. Frank told us that he prays.

FRANK SCHAEFFER:  “When I pray in the morning when I get up; when I use the words ‘Jesus’, and ‘Christ’, and ‘God’, and all these other things that I was raised with.  And you say to me, ‘Then, why do you use that?’  And I have a real answer for you – although you didn’t ask it.  ‘Because I was raised that way.  You got a problem with that?  That’s who I am.’  And somebody else is somebody else.  But rather than reach for some intellectual explanation like, this is right and everybody else is wrong; or this is the truth; or I put it correctly – I just simply say, ‘You know, at this stage of my life, as a 64 year old, I’m ready to admit that I’m who I am because I was raised that way, because my life experience points in that direction.’  But what I’m very, very certain about is that I’ll never be a None, any more than I’ll be an Evangelical again, because I embrace the fact of paradox itself, which is past explanation.”

That is a bit of a mind-bender. Perhaps, if you can understand ‘paradox’ you may be able to discern Frank’s statement.   While there may be a Nones phenomenon proliferating in America of adults disaffiliating with the organized church or religion, there is no shortage of people who pray.

Only a small percentage of nones are atheists. Indeed, the majority has an interest in some form of spirituality. The current $2.8MM Templeton Foundation research grant, Understanding Unbelief, is a three-year scholarly study profiling nones. Who exactly are they? What is their ethnicity? Why are they leaving? Why do a significant percentage of nones pray. It will be fascinating research.

The late sociologist-novelist-priest, Andrew M. Greeley, in his research center, claimed 78 percent of Americans pray, more than half (57 percent) daily, and that 1 in 5 atheists still pray daily! Since Gutenberg invented the printing press in 1440, Google Books claims 129,864,880 books have been authored and published. Did you know that the topic of prayer is one of the most popular topics – over 2,000 different published works on prayer?

After enduring WWII and becoming President, Eisenhower commented to Senator Carlson regarding the White House, ‘Frank, this is the loneliest house I’ve ever been in.’ President Reagan later retelling the story indicated Senator Carlson replied, “Mr. President, I think this may be the right time for you to come and meet with our prayer group. And Eisenhower did just that. In 1953 he attended the first combined prayer breakfast.” History repeated itself today at the Sheraton in Washington, D.C.

What is it about prayer that engages people?

 


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.

Jerry & Cristie Johnston Interview J. P. Moreland

In our high tech, digital world, do we take the time to think seriously? Are we asking and answering the deeper questions? As we reach for our iPhone every 10 minutes, according to a recent report, when are the moments we drill down deeper about the issues of life and eternity? Are contemporary sermons too shallow? Do we live too much in the area of the euphoria of our faith always subjective to feelings-of-the-moment while suffering from our lack of cognition? Seminar sermons, skyscraper sermons (one story upon another) are giving indication of insufficiency. One in three Millennials has disaffiliated from the church. How can we begin to calculate the future religiosity of the “postmillennial” cohort that now number more than 60 million people? These kids and teens have no concept of life without the Internet and have been called the App Generation and Generation Z.

The Best Schools recently named “The 50 Most Influential Living Philosophers,” and evangelical J. P. Moreland made the list along with Simon Blackburn, Daniel Dennettand others. So Cristie and I flew to Los Angeles and drove to Moreland’s home in Yorba Linda, California for a fascinating filmed interview. When I asked J.P. how he felt about the condition of the contemporary church, he responded, “It makes me sad.”

J.P. Moreland’s background is spread across multiple disciplines: B.S. in chemistry from the University of Missouri; M.A. in philosophy from the University of California, Riverside; and a Th.M in Theology from Dallas Theological Seminary prior to earning his Ph.D. in philosophy from the University of Southern California in 1985. He currently holds the title of Distinguished Professor of Philosophy at the Talbot School of Theology at Biola University in La Miranda California and is a member of the Board of Advisors for the Center on Culture and Civil Society at the Independent Institute. Moreland’s work combines metaphysics, philosophy of mind, chemistry, and theology, and he is known for his defense of the existence of God and the supernatural.

J.P. MORELAND: “In fact, Os Guinness wrote a book a few years ago called The Gravedigger File, where he made the point that some of the very tools the church was using to gain short term success, by making its message easy to understand and making things comfortable for people, ultimately became the church’s gravedigger over the long haul.  And you cannot have a flourishing church if you don’t have Christians valuing learning why they believe what they believe and being able to graciously, without being angry, to speak and dialogue about those in the public square.”


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.

Jerry & Cristie Johnston Interview Phil Zuckerman at Pitzer College

A Christian student attends a university and is confronted with very aggressive, seemingly knowledgeable professors challenging the tenets of Christianity they have embrace during their young life. What happens? Statistically, approximately 75 percent or more stop attending church in their new environment, and many never return.

The Pew Research Center often quoted 2014 study,America’s Changing Religious Landscape,” states that, “The Christian share of the U.S. population is declining, while the number of the U.S. adults who do not identify with any organized religion is growing.” Sounds grim. Atheists and agnostics have repeatedly told us there are 55 – 70MM “nones” in America. Is it true? In 1950, only two percent of adult Americans were “nones.”

Pew again, “Between 2007 and 2014, the Christian share of the population fell from 78.4 percent to 70.6 percent.” Yet, their data indicates the religiously detached “unaffiliated” phenomenon was driven among “mainline Protestants and Catholics.” In contrast, evangelicals have lost less than 1 percent of their market share holding steady at about 1 in 4 Americans (25.4 percent).

Pitzer College is one of the Claremont Colleges in California. The college has a curricular emphasis on the social sciences, behavioral sciences, international programs, and media studies. Cristie and I filmed with renowned scholar, Stephen T. Davis, PhD, the Russell K. Pitzer Professor of Philosophy, at Claremont McKenna College, who is a solid believer in Jesus Christ.

His impressive colleague, Phil Zuckerman, PhD, at Pitzer College, is an atheist, and filmed with us as well. Maybe you watched him as he interpreted religion @chelseahandler on Netflix. He is articulate and very sharp. How would the average “Christian” university student respond to Phil’s remarks?

“So basically, secularization is what we call the process whereby religion weakens or just appears in a society over time.  Now there have been many theories to explain how this might happen and some of those are sort of general universal theories of secularism saying, you know, no matter what society we’re in, no matter what country, if X happens the result is going to be a weakening of religion.  And these are kind of, you know, universal theories.

“So the big universal theories are — well, as populations get more educated, strong religious belief tends to go down.  As societies becomes more technologically advanced, religiosity tends to weaken a little bit.  The biggest theory that I have the most data, is what they call the existential security theory which is basically that when people in a society are existentially secure meaning they have, you know, food, shelter, a relatively stable government, access to medicine and healthcare and life is essentially more or less secure, barring you know some extreme.  Those societies tend to have religiosity go down.  Societies that are more racked with more precarious situations — life is nasty, brief and short, housing is scarce, jobs are scarce, health and medicine are scarce, there’s political instability, a lot of war, corrupt governments — those societies tend to have higher levels of religiosity, and tend is the operative word here.  It’s not an absolute.  We work in tendencies, correlations and averages in social science.  So on average, societies that are most secure — where people have the best housing, healthcare, job situation, stable governments, democracies — they tend to be more and more secular, religion tends to weaken there.  And in societies that are racked with more social problems and life is more precarious for your average person, religion tends to be strong there.  So that’s the bigger, larger picture.”

It is time for believers to learn how to ‘critically think.’ Cristie and myself are working on multiple, digital, informative tools to help them do just that.

Stephen T. Davis

www.philzuckerman.com

www.pewresearch.com

 


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.