Thursday, March 18, 2010

"Preachers Who Do Not Believe"

Al Mohler comments on a fascinating, if not disheartening new study released by Tufts University. The name of the study is entitled "Preachers Who Do Not Believe." The title is self-explanatory. One of the authors of the study is the well known atheist Daniel Dennett. I do not believe that Dr. Dennett is a disinterested or impartial observer of the data. He is among the new school of aggressive atheists who believe religious faith is not only specious but potentially dangerous. That said, the study ought to concern those of us who love God and His church.

Dennett and LaScola undertook their project with the goal of looking for unbelieving pastors and ministers who continue to serve their churches in "secret disbelief." Their "small and self-selected" sample of ministers represents a microcosm of the theological collapse at the heart of many churches and denominations.

In their report, Dennett and LaScola present case studies of five unbelieving ministers, three from liberal denominations ("the liberals") and two from conservative denominations ("the literals").

Ironically, Dennett the atheist has a better grasp of the nature of theological liberalism than do many professing evangelicals.

Interestingly, Dennett also proposes a new interpretation of theological liberalism. Noting that many modern people claim to be Christians while holding to virtually no specific theological content, Dennett suggests that their mode of faith should not be described as "belief," but rather as "believing in belief."

Another portion of Mohler's post struck me as especially important for the church. It is a reminder that clear definitions and boundaries in all things doctrinal are vital.

Early in their report, Dennett and LaScola point to a problem of definition. Many churches and denominations have adopted such fluid and doctrineless identities that determining who is a believer and who is an unbeliever has become difficult. Their statement deserves a close reading:

The ambiguity about who is a believer and who is an unbeliever follows inexorably from the pluralism that has been assiduously fostered by many religious leaders for a century and more: God is many different things to different people, and since we can't know if one of these conceptions is the right one, we should honor them all. This counsel of tolerance creates a gentle fog that shrouds the question of belief in God in so much indeterminacy that if asked whether they believed in God, many people could sincerely say that they don't know what they are being asked.

In other words, some theologians and denominations have embraced a theology so fluid and indeterminate that even an atheist cannot tell the believers and unbelievers apart.

"Preachers Who Are Not Believers" is a stunning and revealing report that lays bare a level of heresy, apostasy, and hypocrisy that staggers the mind. In 1739, Gilbert Tennett preached his famous sermon, "On the Danger of an Unconverted Ministry." In that sermon, Tennett described unbelieving pastors as a curse upon the church. They prey upon the faith and the faithful. "These caterpillars labor to devour every green thing."

I would add that these "caterpillars" are not found only in the church. They can be found in many seminaries and so-called Christian colleges and universities. I know what it is to sit with students and graduates of Christian universities who no longer believe because a Bible professor convinced them that they could not rely on the accuracy of the Scriptures. I was told once by a now unbelieving young graduate, "Todd, if I cannot believe what the Bible says in the Old Testament then how can I believe what it says about Jesus?" Indeed.

Read Mohler's entire article HERE.

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