Christianity as a Social Science

Now those who had been scattered by the persecution that broke out when Stephen was killed traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus and Antioch, spreading the word only among Jews.  Some of them, however, men from Cyprus and Cyrene, went to Antioch and began to speak to Greeks also, telling them the good news about the Lord Jesus.  The Lord’s hand was with them, and a great number of people believed and turned to the Lord.
News of this reached the church in Jerusalem, and they sent Barnabas to Antioch.  When he arrived and saw what the grace of God had done, he was glad and encouraged them all to remain true to the Lord with all their hearts.  He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord.
Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch.  So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people.  The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.

  • Acts 11:19-26

When we returned from Tennessee after the Christmas and New Year celebrations with the grandchildren, we stopped by our favorite used bookstore in Nashville, TN.  They have a policy that if they do not give you any credit for a book that you turn in and they do not want to sell, or they feel they cannot sell, or it is not proper to sell, then they put the book in a free bin outside the exit from the store.  If you get nothing for trading in the book, why should they make a profit?  I like that kind of honesty.  Many bookstores do not do that.  They give you nothing and then slap a $2 or $1 price tag and place it in the clearance area.  At that price, someone will buy it and it becomes pure profit, but not this store that also has a few other locations.

When we had done the most efficient shopping we had ever done at the store, a lot of books less than a dollar each, we walked by the free bin and I saw two “Christian” books.  I added them to our purchases without really looking at what they were about.

I scheduled one of these “free” books recently and immediately wondered if “nothing” was too high of a price to pay.  The book was written in the early 90s and was on Christianity in the future, specifically focusing on the next century, which is now this century.  Then I looked to see who the author was, a professor of Social Sciences at an ivy league school.

I was brought up to believe that book burning was wrong, but I might make an exception in this case.  I have other ideas.  I will not mention the author’s name, the book’s title, or anything else that might narrow done the field a bit.  But I find it disgusting when you write a book that is over 200 pages of small print on the subject of “Christianity” without mentioning such things as “Bible”, “Jesus”, “Faith”, “Christ” – other than in the word “Christianity”, “Spirit” other than “spirituality” and I have no idea what he meant by it, “Belief”, and so on.  “Traditions” is a word that is mentioned.  “Social Justice” is covered in detail over a few chapters.  In fact, there are two themes to what this social scientist and leading expert in “religion” thinks about Christianity.  Christianity is the best means of organized doing of good deeds in the world and it establishes some sort or moral code that should be softened to the point of mushiness, but a semblance of moral code is not an altogether bad thing.  Yes, 200 plus pages that may become toilet paper.  Yes, I am still working on the demise of the book.  I would hate the thought of anyone else reading it.

And it scares me that this guy may be a ruling elder in a church somewhere.

I will use the Justin Wilson comedy routine way of explaining at what point I quit careful reading…  In the Justin Wilson story, the Cajun sought out the smart Cajun, of which every town had at least one, at least smart “something”, and he asked the smart Cajun where was a woman’s “Yet?”  An argument ensues and the Cajun asking the question proves that he is asking a legitimate question by pulling out the latest copy of the New Orleans Time-Picayune newspaper and thumbing through the paper until he got to the bottom of page 1.  And there in an article, it said that “a woman had been shot with a 38 special and the bullet was in her yet.”

Well, when I got so disgusted that I went from reading to just skimming through, I had thumbed through the book until I got near the middle of the introduction.  I had not even reached the top of page 1.  The introduction had Roman numerals, so, in a way, it was numbered.

What turned me off?  The author was saying that the liberals within the different denominations had been satisfied with passive-aggressive tactics leading to small victories in watering down the doctrine of the church in order to make the church more palatable for the masses, reducing the church to nothing but a “do-gooder” organization.  In the author’s view, more of this had to be done, and he was calling for the liberals to take a more aggressive approach and create a hostile takeover.  In his view, this would be the only way to save “Christianity.”

WARNING:  The author ignored the words with which the power is contained within those words that could “save Christianity.”  Namely, ignoring God (mentioned a few times in the book), Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and the Bible and turning the church into a “do-gooder” organization was his idea of saving the church.  When God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and a return to biblical teaching is the only way to have a Christian church.  Otherwise, volunteer for the Red Cross.

Note:  The author is a sociologist, and he means no harm.  He really believes the backwards thinking that he writes about in the book.  He is only writing about how Christianity intersects with society from a physical view.  If he knows anything of the spiritual aspects or how Jesus saves us, it never comes out in the book.

And yet, in the thirty years since he wrote the book, he seems rather prophetic.  Could it be that the church listened to his advice?  The church is crumbling at its foundation, because we have worried about doing good deeds, being more relevant in the society at large, and the “appearance” of being good, rather than careful study of Scripture, prayer, and learning what God is saying to us through the Bible.

Over a couple of days, I want to expand on this.  First, the concept of Jesus as a great teacher of moral law, or is He?  And second. I hope to write about something that I read in Lee Strobel’s book The Case for the Real Jesus.  In it, he mentions that Bono had said that he often feels closer to God outside the established church.  While there is ample arguments to have a church home, one can see Bono’s point.  All the arguments for staying with a classic church setting, regardless of worship style, is that you need support from other Christians, but if the denomination has strayed so far from the truth, at what point is private individual worship the only means of getting closer to God?

Then, I learned something else from the book.  Never take a sociologist’s viewpoint on Christianity.  He may get paid the big bucks, but without the focus on Jesus Christ and Him alone, does the author have anything worth saying about Christianity?

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

5 Comments

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  1. Good post. I felt 2020 really is an issue of social sciences, specifically secular social sciences warring against traditional culture and Christianity in the mix. I’ve been thinking about how so much of Christian apologetics has focus on science, history and philosophy, when the crisis we see going on has a lot of roots and origin in social sciences. Your discussion of this book by a sociologists is very relevant and an example of what we are seeing….

    Liked by 1 person

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