Perhaps Christianity Has no Intellectual Future in North America . . .

. . . which is to say, no future at all.

Sean McDowell, Truth Matters Tour, a Review.

Last Sunday night a few of us attended the “Truth Matters Tour,” hosted at Global Kingdom Ministries. Phil Wickham and Paul Baloche lead worship before Sean McDowell spoke. It was an interesting night for me, because I have not been to a Christian concert since I heard the late Larry Norman around 1998. I know that this wasn’t billed as a Christian concert, but it was intended to be a worship session. During this time McDowell spoke about 20 minutes or so. I was interested in hearing McDowell, because I heard his father, Josh (of Evidence That Demands a Verdict fame) in 1975 at Kansas State University. There the Ahearn Fieldhouse was packed with several thousand university students, and the elder McDowell spoke for a couple of hours, for several nights. I still have the tapes somewhere.

I was excited that anything to do with apologetics was being targeted to young people. We had a few from our church attend, although I tried to get others to go. I’m glad I didn’t get more people to attend, though.

1) The musicians were musically talented. But I would ask them, and other worship leaders today, whether or not Matthew 6:7 was really meant by Jesus. Content-less repetition of words for 1 1/2 hours doesn’t constitute worship. I am not sure if it was intended to induce a trance, but are we not to sing with our minds also (1 Corinthians 14:15)? If this is the state of worship today, and not an anomaly, I am very sad. Not all the so-called “great hymns of the faith” were all that great, but at least they did try to say something of the faith. What I heard was a dearth of content, almost an intentional repudiation of content.  The musicians were, I’m sure, sincere Christians, but they need to lead hearts and minds to think God’s thoughts. During this time, Paul’s command in 1 Timothy 4:13 was ignored. I found myself thinking, if the music was broken up for Scripture reading, would it ruin the mood? Probably, but that would be a blessing. Anytime reading Scripture in worship spoils the worship, we have to ask who and why we worship in the first place.

2) During the concert/worship/whatever,  I was reminded of Winston Churchill’s quote from 1943, “First we shape our buildings, then they shape us.” When we worship in what is basically a modified theatre, in darkness, does our worship become become an audience/performer relationship? I understand why live theatre and movies are presented in darkness, but I personally dislike worshiping in the dark, and find it hard to do so. When all the lights are focused upon the musician, one can feel as if they are very alone; but I didn’t feel alone with God (if that is the intention), just alone with the guy on the stage. Given the kind of instructions Paul offers regarding worship (again, see 1 Corinthians), I wonder if the isolation and individualism of a theatre is such a great way to bring awareness of the body and bride of Christ at worship.

3) The worship session ran about an hour and a half, with the two musicians named above leading. Following McDowell’s short segment, more music followed. I really can’t believe that it must be necessary to provide nearly two hours of music/entertainment/worship to lure high school and university students to hear an apologist speak for 20 minutes. I think McDowell is a very good speaker, and probably knows a lot more than he revealed in his time slot; I also know that apologetics can be intellectually demanding and difficult to get much across in one evening. But 20 minutes? He used his time wisely, and made one point: absolutes exist in morality and religion. If I compare Sean’s talk to what his father’s in 1975 (to a much larger crowd), the precarious future of the faith of the young in North America becomes painfully evident.

For one thing, even in 1975 Josh McDowell’s topics were not considered all that difficult or cutting-edge: he popularised C. S. Lewis’ “Lord, Liar, or Lunatic” argument, and some of F. F. Bruce’s conservative Biblical criticism. I read Josh McDowell in high school, so I know at that level it was not hard stuff. I am afraid that the younger McDowell knew his audience well, and spoke accordingly. I do not blame him for this, but it frightens me if it is true that today’s youth can take much in.

If the crowd in Scarborough Sunday night is typical of a majority of North American young Christians, there is no intellectual future for the Christian faith; faith will become privatised into total irrelevance. Do we wonder why students lose their faith in university? They may have had very little to lose to begin with. I saw many hundreds worshiping with hands stretched upward; do they know much about the God they worship, or why?