Jesus Creed

Jesus Creed


Are Christians Really….? 4

posted by Scot McKnight

BREWright.jpg Are evangelical Christians poor, uneducated, Southern and white? (Not that anyone has anything against any of the groups.) 

This is the question Brad Wright asks and probes in the 4th chap of his excellent new book, Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media

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Many people say these things. A WaPo writer, Michael Weisskopf, says “Evangelicals are largely poor, uneducated, and easy to command.”
If you had to connect one word to the word “Evangelical” what word would it be? (Is it accurate?)
So Wright asks who is in the church and how did they get there.


Gender

About 46-48% of church attenders are male; but among Black Prots the number is only 40%. But women participate in the Church and have a more intense faith than males. Muslims and Hindus are more male-represented.
Why? David Murrow famously argued Christianity appeals to women more and it is a feminized religion. But Rodney Stark contended that Christianity became a world religion because it valued women more than its surrounding culture.
Race
Billy Graham is the one who observed, in 1950s, that the 11am hour is the most segregated hour of the week. 
1. 66% of American churches (large ones) are 80% White.
2. 1 in 8 is 80% Black.
3. 50% of churches do not have an Asian; 33% have no Hispanics.
4. These numbers of racial segregation are improving.
People gravitate to those who are like them; they prefer people who have their preferences; what makes the American church segregated is also what makes it strong.
To use the image of another: the church in America is like a mall — most stores are specialized while there are a few general department stores.
Class
Education is a good measure here. Here are the percents of college grads: Americans (27), Evangelicals (20), Mainline (33), Black Prots (16), Catholic (26), Orthodox (46), Jewish (58), Muslim (23), Buddhist (48), Hindu (73), Unaffiliated (29).
Education tends to make evangelicals more certain of their faith. Thus, Wright encourages Christian parents to send their children to college. There’s a higher chance they will retain their faith.
Region
More evangelicals in the Midwest and South, with fewest in East and West, but these numbers are now shifting in a “regression toward the mean.”


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Jason Lee

posted July 9, 2010 at 8:43 am


RACE- Michael Emerson’s (author of Divided by Faith) recent work shows that the percent of multi-racial church has NOT grown in the last decade. But interestingly the percent of mega-churches (especially Evangelical ones) that are multi-racial HAS grown.
But aside from this… it sounds like Wright is confirming the assumptions: Evangelicals are more likely to be less educated and Southern/Midwestern. I have no doubt that the trend is toward the mean, but it seems the stereotypes on these two points still have support. On education, I’d suspect that if you compared proportion with graduate degrees the education disparity would be even greater.



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AJ

posted July 9, 2010 at 8:59 am


“Conservative” would be the word that comes to mind: conservative in social/moral issues, and thus politically, as well. It seems to me that there is an evangelical world view that lends itself to conservativism. But there are a growing number of folks whose world view is compatible with evangelicalism but isn’t necessarily tied to all things conservative.



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Joshua Wooden

posted July 9, 2010 at 9:01 am


I’ve got to say- I’m not sure a college education is proof of intelligence. I know plenty who skated by in college, doing what they’re told, but never really asking the questions of life and, more importantly, trying to find the answers to those questions. There are plenty of ignorant fools with degrees. But I’m not surprised about gender or race. Evangelicalism is deeply rooted in southern culture as well as white culture (if I can say that).



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Joshua Wooden

posted July 9, 2010 at 9:04 am


Not to dodge the question, though, I think AJ’s assessment it correct. I think the word is “conservative.”



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Diana

posted July 9, 2010 at 9:10 am


I live in the deep south, I witness this hatefilled ‘Christianity’ daily via the radio, print media, bumper stickers, billboards, ‘Christian’ Business directories, the mixing of religion and politics and in personal words and actions. I might not be aware of this extreme exclusive/exclusion behavior if I were not given the chance to see this behavior from non ‘Christian’ eyes. My husband of 18 years is a Palestinian American Muslim, I sincerely thank God daily for the wake up I recieved by seeing my self/actions, my religion and my faith through his eyes.



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Jason Lee

posted July 9, 2010 at 9:19 am


For the one word question, I’m going to have to go with Christian Smith’s: “embattled”
See his classic AMERICAN EVANGELICALISM: EMBATTLED AND THRIVING



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Travis Greene

posted July 9, 2010 at 9:48 am


“what makes the American church segregated is also what makes it strong.”
In what sense? Because tribalism is good for social cohesion? I’d say that’s a strength we don’t want. Let’s have the weakness of being bound together by Jesus Christ, rather than the strength of being bound by common culture/racial heritage.



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Robin

posted July 9, 2010 at 9:58 am


Addressing the “southern issue” I am a conservative evangelical calvinist and the men I look up to, the men on my bookshelf, include the following: Spurgeon, Lloyd-Jones, John Piper, Tim Keller, Mark Driscoll, J.I. Packer, R.C. Sproul, John Frame, John Stott, and a bunch of dead english and American presbyterians and puritans. I can’t think of one true southerner that has had any influence on my theology, so why is there this inter-twining of southern and evangelical?
Is that more prominent in non-calvinist circles? If I didn’t actually live in the south I don’t see any way that I would ever think my belief system was influenced by southern culture.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 9, 2010 at 10:19 am


I think “Evangelical” is used to describe a broad range of beliefs(whether we like it or not): fundamentalists, progressives, emergent/ing, etc.
To make it more complicated, I’ve actually heard some Reformed (capital R) folks claim they aren’t evangelical. I could be wrong, but I thought I heard Michael Horton say this.



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Travis Greene

posted July 9, 2010 at 10:32 am


Robin “Is that more prominent in non-calvinist circles?”
Probably, yes.



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Your Name

posted July 9, 2010 at 10:52 am


@Robin — I think if we have to play with the word, I’d say you’re perspective is “evangelical” in the classical sense that Jonathan Edwards was on of the early “evangelicals.” But in the current milieu, I’d say you are “Confessionally Reformed,” rather than a member of “Evangelicalism.” Evangelicalism as a movement, IMHO, is characterized by an effort to minimize some of the distintictives considered crucial by early Calvinist evangelicals such as Edwards. Indeed, most of the writers you cite are devoted to restoring the imagined purity of evangelicalism as against “looser” Arminian-Wesleyan-Pentecostal strands of Evangelicalism.
Captcha: krapp time (ouch!)



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dopderbeck

posted July 9, 2010 at 10:53 am


oops #11 was me



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Allan R. Bevere

posted July 9, 2010 at 10:54 am


Travis #7,
Tribalism is as much an incoherent category as sectarianism.



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Robin

posted July 9, 2010 at 11:03 am


Dopderbeck,
I certainly would consider myself more confessionally reformed than anything else, but it often seems that non-conservative folks want to use “evangelical, fundamentalist, and believes in an actual virgin birth and resurrection” as all somehow synonymous with one another. So while I certainly don’t view myself as a fundamentalist, and only tangentially as an evangelical, I just assume that if someone uses the words in a derogatory manner (like my mainline co-workers) they mean to include me as well.
In a similar manner, if I’m talking to an “Arminian” I assume that he means “holds to TULIP” when he says calvinist so I will tell him I’m a calvinist, but when I am around “really reformed” people I know they mean “holds to all of the views of Calvin, or at least more of them than we do, or at least all of the Westminster Standards” so I don’t call myself a calvinist. I’m all about labelling myself so that it is easy for my conversational participants to understand the essentials of what I believe.



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Robin

posted July 9, 2010 at 11:26 am


Dopderbeck (Or RJS or Scot or I guess anyone that wants to respond),
I have an off topic question for you. Here are some quotes from J.I. Packer about why he uses the term inerrancy and what it means to him.
http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/kevindeyoung/2010/07/08/j-i-packer-on-why-we-need-inerrancy/
In general, when people on this site deride inerrancy, do you think they are deriding something like Packer has in mind, or something stricter?



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dopderbeck

posted July 9, 2010 at 11:57 am


Robin — I don’t think I “deride inerrancy.” I have lots of sympathy for what Packer says in that link. I think he’s right in many ways. I’ve said many times that some concept of infallibility or inerrancy is vital becauase we do indeed, as Packer notes, sit under scripture as it comes from God.
But Packer’s broader use of “inerrancy” unfortunately isn’t typical in North American evangelicalism, particularly in Packer’s willingness to allow extra-Biblical evidence to influence interpretation. Notice, for example, that Al Mohler singles out Packer in his recent speech on YECism as basically compromising on inerrancy by endorsing Denis Alexander’s book. For this reason, as well as for some other reasons described below, I think the term “inerrancy” is problematic and that something like “infallible rule for faith and practice” is to be preferred.
I would also differ from Packer to some extent when he says “nor cut the knot of any problem of Bible harmony, factual or theological, by assuming that the writers were not consistent with themselves or with each other. Instead, I shall labor to harmonize and integrate all that is taught (without remainder)….”
I think here he is, despite his protestations to the contrary, adopting very Western, rationalistic presuppositions about “consistency,” “harmonization” and “facticity,” as well as about “authorship,” that are foreign to the nature of the Biblical texts, that short-change the dynamic aspect of “revelation,” and that gloss over the incarnational character of the holy scriptures and of the God who gave us those scriptures.
It simply isn’t possible to “harmonize and integrate all that is taught (without remainder)” in the way Packer supposes because the Bible does not provide a system of doctrine in the way the Puritan divines supposed. This is an old an ongoing debate, of course, between Biblical and Systematic theology. I think systematic theology is valuable but that it cannot trump Biblical theology.
OTOH, to some extent I agree with Packer’s instincts in that, because scripture is divinely inspired, we should approach the text with a hermeneutic of charity, and we should expect that the narrative arc of scripture hangs together in a coherent way, even within its diversity, and that it tells the true story of God’s dealings with humanity. But the heremenutical center here, IMHO, isn’t rationalistic inerrancy, but rather is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. Theological method should first proceed from the revelation of God in Jesus Christ, not first from the presuppositions of formal human logic.
In short, I think Packer’s implicit critique of Barth misses the mark in some important ways.



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 9, 2010 at 12:09 pm


@Robin #15,
I’ll answer from my own perspective. I think part of the problem is that it’s basically meaningless. Generally inerrantists (and I might even consider myself a soft-inerrantist) insist that the original manuscripts are the only documents are are without error. Except, we don’t have the original manuscripts. If there is an apparent error that can’t be easily reconciled, an inerrantist can claim that it was just a scribal error that occurred sometime between the original and the earliest copy we have.
So then, what is the point of holding strongly to a doctrine of inerrancy? And… especially, why should we waste our breathe trying to prove contradictions don’t exist to skeptics? From an apologetic standpoint, inerrancy as a doctrine can be a barrier or obstacle. (the article you linked to points out how this can be a problem).
So, I guess my problem — and why I tend to just say the scriptures are true and reliable — is that the doctrine of inerrancy doesn’t mean anything in a practical sense.
With that said, I agree with the spirit of what Packer was saying. I just think inerrancy has become a meaningless and divisive doctrine.



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Robin

posted July 9, 2010 at 12:47 pm


Dopderbeck and Kenny,
Still have to process what you are saying, but I think I understand where Packer is coming from. Take Paul (Ephesians) and James for instance. Someone with Packer’s view would hold that whatever Paul and James are talking about when it comes to justification and works, they are (1) essentially on the same page and (2) both right because what both of them has written is the inspired word of God. Barring any relevant textual criticism that points to faulty translations, the job of a pastor teacher is to interpret the texts in such a way that they can harmonize.
I think that is a quintessential example of what he means by “nor cut the knot of any problem of Bible harmony, factual or theological, by assuming that the writers were not consistent with themselves or with each other. Instead, I shall labor to harmonize and integrate all that is taught (without remainder)….”



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Kenny Johnson

posted July 9, 2010 at 1:03 pm


@Robin #18 and I would agree with that perspective. But I don’t think that’s what most people mean when they speak of inerrancy.



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dopderbeck

posted July 9, 2010 at 1:26 pm


Robin — that’s a very high-level example, though, because you’re talking about a really broad and basic concept (salvation by grace). Even so, it probably oversimplifies the matter to say Paul and James are always “essentially on the same page.” Paul’s theology and James’ theology with respect to justification probably isn’t entirely coherent in a systematic sense, because neither of them were writing systematic theology — and that in itself is ok, interesting, and enlightening. Why can’t God speak to us through a witness that is to some degree diverse? Why can’t we understand the theology of Paul and James to offer a bit of dialectical tension that in itself tells us some important things about faith and justification? Isn’t it more than a bit presumptuous for us to assume that God simply can’t have given us scriptures that don’t neatly fit together all the time?
But let’s say that a really top level theological question such as justification by grace is one concerning which we would reasonably presume is at least broadly consistent across the various Biblical texts. Maybe the more prickly issues for rationalistic inerrancy are those little nagging things like the inconsistencies in the accounts of Judas’ death, or the discrepancies in the synoptic Gospels over the events of Holy Week, and so on. You end up having to construct really strange and implausible scenarios to “harmonize” these texts. Why can’t the most simple explanation be true: the human beings that produced the text didn’t always provide “perfect” details?
And then you get to those texts that can’t be correlated with external reality. Again, in some ways it’s not so much the “big” issues such as creation vs. evolution as the little nagging things that seem to make rationalistic inerrancy incredible. For example, Lev. 11:6 says rabbits chew cud — and they do not. If you Google this, you’ll find a variety of explanations for it that, let’s be honest, are just absurd. This simple explanation is that the writer of this law thought rabbits chew cud because of the way they move their mouths, but he was wrong.
Another interesting example is Acts 5:35-39, which has Gamaliel reciting a chronology that almost certainly is incorrect, in no small part because the Theudas revolt happened after Gameliel died according to Josephus. The usual “harmonization” here is that Luke and Josephus are talking about different revolts at different times, by different people named Theudas. Well, maybe, but does that really pass the sniff test? Isn’t the simpler answer that Luke probably is using the typical license of an ancient historiographer by projecting approximate words back onto Gamaliel, maybe based on a mistaken reading of Josephus?
These are just a few examples of this sort of thing — there are many, in both testaments. It seems to me that there’s a point at which you have to get so tied up in knots to preserve a particular theory that the appropriate step is to formulate a better theory. Given that the Bible itself doesn’t define exactly what theopneustos implies, it seems to me that the phenomena of the texts — like those I mention above — have to help inform us.
Captcha: recession whipped (I wish!)



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dopderbeck

posted July 9, 2010 at 1:37 pm


To add something — if someone has a theology of scripture that allows the sorts of things I mention in #20 to sit without artificial harmonization and frames it as “inerrancy” in terms of what is being taught, I have no problem with that. One inerrantist scholar I asked about the rabbit chewing cud thing said to me that the “inerrant” message was about what the Israelites were and weren’t allowed to eat, not the “ancient science” (i.e. cud-chewing rabbits) by which that message was communicated. Well, that’s basically how I would respond as well, but I think I’d go a little further and just admit that this is a kind of “inerrancy of purpose,” which is at least a few clicks away from what Packer probably would be comfortable with.



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Travis Greene

posted July 9, 2010 at 1:54 pm


dopderbeck @ 21,
Agreed. Once you have to qualify and nuance “inerrancy” that much, why keep it at all as a description of Scripture? Trustworthy, reliable, even infallible (although that one’s tricky, because all sorts of groups have twisted Scripture to bad ends), or my favorite, and the main one the Bible uses about itself in the oft-quoted, rarely thought-through 2nd Timothy clobber verse: useful.
Some people simply want, and are bound by philosophical presuppositions to believe God had to give us, a magic book that fell out of the sky. He didn’t. We do sit underneath Scripture, and that is a valid concern that Robin and others have raised, but part of sitting under Scripture is believing in it for what it is, not what we think it should be. If we try to make it fit what we want it to be, then we are the ones sitting in judgment over Scripture, because we won’t accept its story the way it wants to tell it.



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