The church’s challenges are global: four lessons I learned in New Zealand

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Waving New Zealand and American flags of the political map of the world.

Photo courtesy of esfera via Shutterstock

Waving New Zealand and American flags of the political map of the world.

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Secularizing societies. Weakening churches. Ideological divisions. Harried pastors. Comparing the Christian situation in the US and New Zealand.

  • Jon

    The religious impulse – of finding meaning and purpose in our lives – is a basic part of many people.

    At the same time, our understanding of the real world has grown by leaps and bounds over the past 200 years, to the point that the traditional religions no longer fit it. The traditional religions, especially the Abrahamic ones, describe a world with a heaven above us, a hell below us, miracles and magic, gods and demons, and a world that can’t be significantly changed by our choices – not to mention the flat earth under a hard dome described by Genesis 1.

    The scriptures are no longer realistic – and people are figuring this out. Religions that cling to them will be left in the dust, and, just like any other similar time, new religions will emerge that are based on the current understanding of reality, and will thus be less wrong.

    They’ll probably be less prone to racism, sexism – and be more inclusive and more environmentally sustainable. We’ll see.

  • Jack

    Your explanations for declining religious identification and commitment sound like wishful thinking, Jon.

    But more than that, you offer a distorted, straw-man portrait of the content of that identification and commitment. Were at that simple, and that absurd, no well-educated person would identify with, let alone commit to, any “Abrahamic” religion. And yet they did and continue to do so.

    Not only that: They continue to offer compelling reasons for doing so. They ground their beliefs not on blind faith but on facts and logic. Witness the continued stream of apologetics books, past and present — evidencing the remarkable intellectual resilience of faith, including Christianity, in the modern world.

  • Murray Rae

    Thanks for your reflections on your recent visit David. We were glad to have you in New Zealand and hope that it might be possible for you to come again some time.

  • Dr. Cajetan Coelho

    Jesus visited the sick, the poor, the lonely, the elderly, fed the hungry, spoke against injustices and oppression. In every part of the world there are enough avenues to feel and act as a Christian.

  • Jon

    Jack, everyone can see the data that people are fleeing Christianity. Here is some data, among many others showing the same thing. Now, if I’m the one responding to the data, and you are the one saying it isn’t there, then who’s engaging in “wishful thinking”?
    http://www.pewforum.org/2015/05/12/americas-changing-religious-landscape/

  • Bruce Hamill

    It was great to have you in NZ David! Your presentation in Dunedin was the most useful thing I have heard in the LGBT issue and Christianity. I was also prompted by your lecture in Auckland to think further and possibly write on the nature of the objectivity of guilt. Blessings

  • Susan

    We still have the same brain and the same needs as our ancestors. Actually, the Hebrew Bible says very little about the afterlife. One doesn’t need to take the Bible literally to take it seriously. No one I know thinks that the Genesis story of creation is literally true. It seems that the atheists are often more literalist than believers.

    All non-Orthodox denominations treat women equally. They now ordain Gays and Lesbian as rabbis and cantors. They marry homosexual couples. Yes, we study the Hebrew Bible and take it seriously.