Impact

A Christian Conservative Goes to College, part 11 (World Religions: The Blind Leading the Blind)

A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39, NASB).

Welcome to World Religions class, already in progress:

“No sex before marriage? In top-down religion, the rule is already decided for you,” said Professor Yu,[1] “but in eastern tradition and other religions you work to figure it all out for yourself. No sex before marriage? Try it…” he said the last line with a laugh as if he was only joking. “God says, ‘No sex before marriage’? How do you know what’s best until you try it for yourself?”

“What wonderful advice,” I thought to myself. (Yes, even in my own head I can be sarcastic.) I thought about saying, “Would you say that regarding suicide?” but I bit my tongue. I could have been a wise-acre, done my best imitation of him, and said, “God says, ‘Don’t murder. Do not rape.’ How do you know what’s best unless you try it for yourself?”[2]

A blind man cannot guide a blind man, can he? Will they not both fall into a pit?” (Luke 6:39, NASB).

Welcome to World Religions class, already in progress:

“No sex before marriage? In top-down religion, the rule is already decided for you,” said Professor Yu,[1] “but in eastern tradition and other religions you work to figure it all out for yourself. No sex before marriage? Try it…” he said the last line with a laugh as if he was only joking. “God says, ‘No sex before marriage’? How do you know what’s best until you try it for yourself?”

“What wonderful advice,” I thought to myself. (Yes, even in my own head I can be sarcastic.) I thought about saying, “Would you say that regarding suicide?” but I bit my tongue. I could have been a wise-acre, done my best imitation of him, and said, “God says, ‘Don’t murder. Do not rape.’ How do you know what’s best unless you try it for yourself?”[2]

But besides my anger at the things the professor was saying, I also found myself frustrated and depressed at things the students were saying.

“I was raised Roman Catholic, but I disagree with the ‘no sex before marriage’ stuff.”

“I feel as though if I live a good life, I will go to heaven.”

Didn’t this country used to have Christians in it?

After that whole generation had been gathered to their fathers, another generation grew up, who knew neither the LORD nor what he had done…” (Judges 2:10, NIV).

As the professor interacted with the students about their religious backgrounds and beliefs, I was brought face to face with how lost people are in post-Christian America.[3] The students were just as lost as he was, but they weren’t teaching a class on World Religions. His interactive approach was similar to that of my Philosophy 101 professor.[4] He would ask a question and then ask follow up questions until the student was flabbergasted or the professor could demonstrate that the person really had no reasonable grounds for believing what they believed.[5]

He asked a few students, “What is the meaning of life?”

One woman, who I’ll call Vacillatira, said, “To live nice and go to heaven.”[6]

“So,” the professor countered, “if going to heaven is the meaning of life, then why don’t you kill yourself right now?”

“‘Cause you go to hell,” she answered.

“You go to hell?”

“That’s what they told me,” Vacillatira said, backing down. “I don’t know.” She paused and thought about it until a stale little adage came to mind: “I believe this is hell,” she stated, with more confidence this time.

Fabulous, I thought. Wisdom for the ages. (I wonder if she’s a World Religions teacher today?)

He asked another girl, “What is the purpose of life?”

“To live right and get riches in heaven,” she answered.[7]

“What are ‘riches in heaven’?” Professor Yu asked.

“I don’t know. That’s what they tell us.”

Ugh!

 “What does ‘riches in heaven’ mean?” he asked the class, beginning another stand-up routine, “A big house? Lots of money? An SUV? The Muslims have 72 virgins!”

He turned to a young male student: “What is the purpose of life?”

“To do good,” he answered, “and if there is a God, to do his work. You know, do good and good comes to you.”[8]

(“Are you kidding me?” said my brain.)

“From where?” Dr. Yu asked the student.

“I don’t know,” the student answered, “From the energy of the universe?”[9]

(“You have got to be kidding me,” I thought.) I looked around to see if there was a hidden camera trained on me…

So then the professor talked a bit about the different religions, saying some amazingly crazy things like, “Study Jesus and you will see a lot of Judaism.”

Study the Heinz Company and you will find a lot of ketchup. (Cue Alan Funt.)

He mangled the Bible when he said that Moses had received the Commandments from the burning bush (instead of from God at Sinai). And when one student said something about being sinful, the professor asked, “How do you know you are sinful? Were you sinful at three years old? How come Adam and Eve’s sin makes you sinful? Did we all come from Adam and Eve? After all, they were Jewish.” (Ridiculously incorrect.) “All the people who came from Noah were Jews.” (Again incorrect.) “Tell us which skin colors came from Shem?” (This an attempt, I believe, at disparaging the bible through a fallacious “guilt by association” argument or attack.)[10] And then, as Philosophy professors are prone to do, he pretended to mean no offense, backing off a tiny bit by saying the following malarkey: “I am just asking you with the philosophical method training. We study religious stuff by intellectual training.”

Intellectual training? I was going to need a shovel in this class (Deuteronomy 23:12).

Although they claimed to be wise, they became fools” (Romans 1:21-22).

In one class the professor asked a girl, “So which religion is true?”

“Whichever one is true for you,” she said, “Maybe they’re all right.”[11]

You guys are killing me!

When asked what religion he practiced, Professor Yu answered, “I practice them all. As long as they make sense. Remember I am a philosopher and I look at things critically.” The professor was either disingenuous or he was a relativist. Entertainer? Maybe. Philosopher? Not! In his so-called practice of all religions he was doing one of two possible things: Either he subjectively picked what he liked from each religion, discarding what he didn’t like, or he lived a life of contradiction. In my notebook I wrote, “If he thinks he practices Christianity and other religions, the exclusive nature of Christianity (or even Islam for that matter) would contradict other religions. To practice ‘all religions’ would be to embrace contradictions, [and this is] not a critical philosophic assessment.”

But those students were so lost, misguided, self-guided, making it up and piecing it together on their own… and this professor who’s job it was to educate (“to lead out”) was going to be of no help in freeing them or leading them towards truth, or even towards a fair representation of what Christians believe and agree on at the core.[12] Thus I believe God moved my heart to take this class so that the truth would in fact be heard in the midst of the relativistic lost and deceived people…

These people have abandoned you, LORD and I alone am left” (see 1 Kings 19:10).

Allow me to end with a quote from a book which I bought and read while I was taking this class, J. Budziszewski’s How to Stay Christian in College, a quote which I believe explains the actual beliefs of the students and the professor:

     “Do-it-yourself spirituality is the belief that everyone makes up his own view about God and ultimate reality and that the best way to do this is to gather attractive ideas from various sources—from religions, from philosophies, and even from movies and TV shows…. Some do-it-yourselfers are hostile to organized religion, some belong to organized religions but pick and choose what to believe, and some even start their own religions (that’s how Mormonism, Christian Science, and Scientology got started).
      “Because of this variety, I can’t say, ‘All do-it-yourselfers believe this’ or ‘All do-it-yourselfers believe that.’ But I can tell you a few things they usually believe, and I can also tell you a few things they never—or at least never consistently—believe. First, the ‘usuallys’:
     Do-it-yourselfers usually believe that although the religions of the world differ greatly in rituals and formalities, they all really teach the same thing….
     Do-it-yourselfers usually choose beliefs according to ‘what makes me feel good’ rather than ‘what seems likely to be true.’
     …. Do-it-yourselfers usually put little stock in logical reasoning. Although there are exceptions, most do-it-yourselfers find logical reasoning a threat because it uncovers the flaws and inconsistencies in their worldviews….
     Now the ‘nevers’:
     Do-it-yourselfers never consistently believe that the Bible is a true revelation from God. The Bible condemns do-it-yourselfism….
     Do-it-yourselfers never consistently believe what the Bible actually teaches….
     Do-it-yourselfers never consistently believe that Jesus was really who He said He was .”
[13]

“They are from the world; therefore they speak from the world’s perspective and the world listens to them. We are from God; the person who knows God listens to us, but whoever is not from God does not listen to us. By this we know the Spirit of truth and the spirit of deceit” (1 John 4:5-6).

 

 

 

Feel free to read my other columns at http://www.examiner.com/christian-perspectives-in-philadelphia/stephen-j-drain.

_____________________




[1]
Not his real name.

[2] Of course, if a person who says, “God says, ‘No sex before marriage’? How do you know what’s best until you try it for yourself?” then says, “Of course I would not say that for suicide, murder, and rape” then he or she needs to explain why one can pick and choose, or separate. If God has not spoken, then who speaks and decides? From where comes the standard to which all people must answer? Or are there different standards? If so, perhaps murder and rape are not always wrong.

 If murder and rape are always wrong then, again, one needs to explain why. If you present to me a morality that is applicable to all people in all times, whether the society agrees with it or not, then it will have to be admitted that there is a law that all are obligated to answer to. If all are obligated, that should force us to ask, “Why?” I believe this points us to God; this has been the conclusion of many great Christian theologians and apologists for the last two millennia.

But if one says moral rules are socially based, to maintain a society, then let them present a case that shows us how adultery and fornication help maintain a society. And if it is society-based, then one society has no right to judge the actions of another society. If another society practices genocide, or sacrifices infants, etc., and that is the accepted practice within that society, determined by them to be right and fitting, then according to society-decides-morality, such things would be perfectly moral within that society, and no other society could say, “Well that’s just wrong.”

Is morality by democratic majority? Will they tell us the majority of people in western societies believe that rape and murder are wrong, but fornication and adultery are not necessarily wrong? Would that theory not then say that Southern slavery was okay since it was accepted by the majority? And what is to be said of the democratic majority of all peoples and societies from all time? Taking that into consideration, would our society not be in the minority opinion about adultery and fornication?

Is morality subjective? Then fornication, rape, and murder can be decided by the individual. Without an objective moral standard, there is no leg to stand on. This brings us back to Arthur Allen Leff’s great “Sez Who?” argument, that without an objective moral standard any rule presented to us becomes arbitrary, “Says who?” would then be the perfect response. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arthur_Allen_Leff)

C.S. Lewis: “The modern view…. [believes] that value judgments…. Are sentiments, or complexes, or attitudes, produced in a community by the pressure of its environment and its traditions…. Out of this apparently innocent idea comes the disease that will certainly end our species (and, in my view damn our souls) if it is not crushed; the fatal superstition that men can create values, that a community can choose its ‘ideology’ as men choose their clothes. Everyone is indignant when he hears the Germans define justice as that which is to the interest of the Third Reich. But it is not always remembered that this indignation is perfectly groundless if we ourselves regard morality as a subjective sentiment to be altered at will…. If ‘good’ and ‘better’ are terms deriving their sole meaning from the ideology of each people, then of course ideologies themselves cannot be better or worse than one another. Unless the measuring rod is independent of the things measured, we can do no measuring. For the same reason it is useless to compare the moral ideas of one age with those of another: progress and decadence [decline] are alike meaningless words” (C.S. Lewis, The Seeing Eye, copyright 1967 by The Executors of the Estate of C.S. Lewis, published by Ballantine, pages 100-101).

[3] Actually, lost people in post-Christian America are just as lost as those who were lost in 1950s America, 1800s America, and pre-Colonial America. They are just as lost as the lost in Communist China, the Islamic Middle East, the Hindu Temples of India, and apostate Israel. When it comes to salvation, its not as though some are only a block from the destination and others are five thousand miles away; there is no such thing as partially lost spiritually, just as there is no such thing as partially dead. Either you’re dead or you’re not, you’re saved by the grace of God in Jesus Christ or you’re not; there is no in between. (See John 14:6, John 8:24, Luke 11:23, 1 John 2:22, 1 John 5:10-12, etc.)

[4] See my column here: http://blogs.bible.org/impact/stephen_j._drain/a_christian_conservative_goes_to_college_part_2_philosophy_101_

[5] Actually, this can be done to almost anyone, since all worldviews, from Theistic to Scientific, are based upon faith (or, said in a more philosophical way, “All worldviews are based upon improvable foundational presuppositions”). 

[6] “To live nice?” Define “nice”? Anyway, Vacillatira (not her real name) was a black woman who appeared to be in her thirties. As the semester went on, she was one of the most vocal students in the class. She became a representative for American go-to-the-market-to-pick-and-choose-your-beliefs religion. She seemed to be making her belief system up as she went along; thus I give her the name, Vacillatira , based upon the word “vacillate” (to waver in mind or opinion; be indecisive or irresolute…. to sway unsteadily; waver; totter; stagger. [Dictinary.com])

[7] This girl was in her twenties. She was unmarried and had a child who attended the school at Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia.

[8] I would later find that this guy was in his twenties. He was a former drug addict and was attending Calvary Chapel of Philadelphia.

[9] I expect Calvary Chapel’s Joe Focht would be groaning at these answers by this point. See http://www.ccphilly.org/about-calvary/about-joe/.

[10] I believe here the professor was trying to disparage belief in the Bible through an ad hominem or “guilt by association” argument. He was subtly attempting to associate belief in the biblical account of Noah with flaky theories of racial divisions and the attempted justification of racial prejudice throughout history. (See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Shem#Racial_connotations.) Secondly, I believe the professor incorrectly named Shem as the cursed son. It was Ham who was cursed in the biblical account (Genesis 9:19-27). It is Ham who the crackpots say was the father of the black race.

[11] This student was a black woman, possibly my age, with a couple of kids who said she went to a Baptist church. Remember, not everyone who sits in church, not everyone who claims to be a Christian is one: “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter into the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 7:21).

[12] Whereas when a World Religions Class covers Christianity, the divisions are often underscored, instead of the lowest common denominator core beliefs, this is what C.S. Lewis concentrated on in his book Mere Christianity: “[This] book,” he writes in the preface, “however faulty in other respects, did at least succeed in presenting an agreed, or common, or central, or ‘mere Christianity’” (C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, © 1943, 1945, 1952 by MacMillan Publishing Company, a division of MacMillan Inc., copyright renewed © 1980 by Arthur Owen Barfield, page 8).

[13] J. Budziszewski, How to Stay Christian in College, copyright 2004, published by THINK, an imprint of NavPress, Colorado Springs, CO, pages 56-58.

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J Drain

"Rescued, ransomed, and saved because of the love of God the Father, through the regeneration of the Holy Spirit, thanks to faithful preachers and teachers of the Word, attained by the perfect life and merit of Jesus the Messiah, His substitutionary death and physical resurrection from the dead. Completely undeserved and gifted to me." Steve would label himself an apprentice Christ follower, an Evangelical Christian with strong Reformed beliefs, a "Five Point Calvinist" (if you must). Steve loves discussing and debating the two "taboo" subjects: Politics and Religion. He tries to read and listen to a minimum of forty books a year and realizes that no matter what topic or genre, whether Bible, theology, Christianity, history, biography, philosophy, political, social commentary, pop-culture, or even fiction, they all tie together in the spider's web of worldview. His favorite authors are C.S. Lewis, James R. White, Gregory Koukl, R.C. Sproul, J. Gresham Machen, G.K. Chesterton, J. Budziszewski, and Peter Kreeft. He loves Charles Haddon Spurgeon, Voddie Baucham, and Dwight L. Moody. Steve's hobbies are generally reading and writing, music, hiking, and laughing. He has been writing songs/lyrics since the age of eight and has played in a few Christian Rock bands. He has written poetry, several biblical studies over the past decades, and has one finished book manuscript entitled, “Shaken Faith: When God Has Let You Down” (written with friend and co-author Al Rossi). He has also written for the now defunct Examiner website as the Philadelphia Christian Perspectives Examiner. He wishes he could write some fiction.