The Tragedy of the Dumb Church

by Robin Schumacher

I have a friend who’s an experienced pastor, teacher, and Christian apologist. He’s very well educated, articulate, teaches in a way that hits the mark, and has a passion particularly for grounding young people in the faith during their high school and early college years.

Currently, he’s employed with Youth for Christ and a while back he felt a burden to try and help churches in our area do what he does best, which is equip youth to defend the Christian faith in the world and know what/why they believe. Because he’s developed a number of curriculums to use for such situations, he sent a letter to all the churches in our metropolitan area (which is quite a lot) explaining what he does, and offered to come to their church free of charge and conduct Christian apologetic training for their youth.

How many churches took him up on his offer?

Zero. None. Zilch.

Now, any Christian leader who doesn’t have their head in the sand knows how depressing the statistics are for young people who walk away from the faith in the late high school/early college years.[1] At times, I’ve had atheists toss such data in my face in an attempt to argue that people ‘smarten up’ when they get older, but that isn’t it at all.

The fact is some in this particular demographic leave the Church because they get talked out of a faith that they were never sure of in the first place. The storyline is sadly familiar.

Maybe a young person was brought up in a church. Or, maybe they weren’t and began to investigate Christianity on their own. Either way, sooner or later they begin to ask hard questions, good questions, questions that deserve solid answers. But they don’t get them. So, because they rightly need what they believe in their heart to connect with their mind, they disconnect from Christianity.

Why does this keep happening?

In short, it happens because much of the Church today is dumb. Don’t misunderstand me, I mean no disrespect when I use the term ‘dumb’. What I mean is that the Church is dumb in that they aren’t well educated in what they believe, fail miserably in fulfilling 1 Peter 3:15 that says all Christians should be prepared to give a reason for why they believe, and are woefully unable to handle any challenge to Christianity that comes from unbelievers or the cults.

The Age of the Dumb Church

Dr. R. C. Sproul has said many times that he believes we are living in the most un-intellectual period in the history of Western civilization. Over 30 years ago, former Lebanese ambassador to the United States, Charles Malik, said the following in his speech at the dedication of the Billy Graham Center in Wheaton, Illinois: “I must be frank with you: the greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism. The mind in its greatest and deepest reaches is not cared for enough.”[2]

Such statements made by Sproul, Malik, and others were not always heard in the Church. The fact is, the Church dominated intellectual thought and discourse for hundreds of years, producing such thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, Calvin, Edwards, and others. Such men had their opponents (the Church always will), but their detractors never ridiculed their brainpower because the Churchman’s intellectual prowess left no room for it.

But shortly after the era of Edwards, something changed. Gospel preachers like Charles Finney arose and replaced the intelligent presentation of the Gospel, which was backed by meaty Biblical exposition and solid philosophical rationale, with emotional appeals, questionable theology, personal anecdotes with humor, a celebrity-style leader, and engineered publicity.

Sound familiar? Unfortunately, in many seeker friendly or liberal churches today, the characteristics of Finney and his followers are played out each Lord’s Day with the end result being a church body unable to intellectually defend the faith they espouse.

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