Welcome to the online home of Tim Challies, blogger, author, and book reviewer.

Tim Challies

Challies on FacebookChallies on Twitter

discipline

August 19, 2011

I am convinced that one of the greatest but most subtle spiritual dangers Christians face is pragmatism. I have written about this in the past, usually in the context of statements such as, “Never criticize any method that God is blessing,” something Rick Warren wrote in The Purpose Driven Church. Over the past few days I have seen pragmatism rearing its ugly head in the ongoing discussions about C.J. Mahaney and the difficulties he finds himself in.

In this article I want to define pragmatism and show how and why it draws us. From there I hope to show how it has impacted the discussion about Mahaney and Sovereign Grace Ministries (SGM) and to show the danger this may present. I expect that this will be the last thing I write on this situation; I have posted this article only because I believe the events before us have brought the church an important opportunity to face a growing challenge.

A Pragmatism Primer

Pragmatism is a school of philosophy that arose in the United States in the late nineteenth century. It is rooted in the teachings of men like John Stuart Mill who exerted a formative influence on philosophers John Dewey, who subsequently applied pragmatism to education, and William James who applied it to religion. These men believed that the way to determine truth was to examine practical results. In its essence, pragmatism holds that truth is determined by consequences. Whether something is right or wrong, good or bad, depends primarily on its results.

September 24, 2005

I received the following news from Nancy Pearcey. I have had opportunity to browse through the Study Guide Edition of Total Truth and it looks great. I will have a thorough review of it next month.

World Journalism Institute is happy to announce that the study guide edition of Total Truth:Liberating Christianity from Its Cultural Captivity is now in bookstores. Total Truth is an award-winning book on Christian worldview by Nancy Pearcey, WJI’s Francis A. Schaeffer Scholar.

The new study guide edition is a great resource for Sunday School classes and study groups. It goes far beyond the typical guide by offering 30 pages of significant new content—fresh stories, examples, and illustrations to bring the book’s themes to life. Each chapter also suggests on-going activities to guide readers in detecting worldview themes in their work and daily experience.

Nancy Pearcey has “road-tested” the material with students in WJI’s journalism courses and their feedback has been highly enthusiastic. Many say it greatly enhanced their reading of the book.

“Virtually every day I get emails from readers who want to know if there is a study guide available for Total Truth,” Pearcey told WJI. “The book is being used by churches, schools, and study groups around the country—even by reading groups among Capitol Hill staffers.”

The study guide edition is an outstanding tool to help readers dig deeper into the text and learn how to be equipped with a Christian worldview. It is available from your local Christian bookstore or Borders, or online from Amazon, Christianbook.com, Barnes & Noble, and other bookstores. Total Truth won the Award of Merit in the Christianity & Culture category in the Christianity Today Book Awards for 2005, and the ECPA Gold Medallion Award for best book of the year in the Christianity & Society category.

January 13, 2004

Every month or so I like to drop by George Barna’s site to read his updates, which are generally published every two weeks or so. In case you are not familiar with Barna Research Group, it “is a full-service marketing research company located in Ventura, California. BRG has been providing information and analysis regarding cultural trends and the Christian Church since 1984.” Essentially he does surveys and polls of the Christian community or of the wider community but with a Christian theme.

In December he wrote about the results of a survey about worldviews. Allow me to quote a portion of the article which can be found in full here.

The research indicated that everyone has a worldview, but relatively few people have a biblical worldview - even among devoutly religious people. The survey discovered that only 9% of born again Christians have such a perspective on life. The numbers were even lower among other religious classifications: Protestants (7%), adults who attend mainline Protestant churches (2%) and Catholics (less than one-half of 1%). The denominations that produced the highest proportions of adults with a biblical worldview were non-denominational Protestant churches (13%), Pentecostal churches (10%) and Baptist churches (8%).

Among the most prevalent alternative worldviews was postmodernism, which seemed to be the dominant perspective among the two youngest generations (i.e., the Busters and Mosaics).

For the purposes of the research, a biblical worldview was defined as believing that absolute moral truths exist; that such truth is defined by the Bible; and firm belief in six specific religious views. Those views were that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life; God is the all-powerful and all-knowing Creator of the universe and He stills rules it today; salvation is a gift from God and cannot be earned; Satan is real; a Christian has a responsibility to share their faith in Christ with other people; and the Bible is accurate in all of its teachings.

It makes you wonder what churches are doing if they are not teaching their people the basics of Christianity. God as all-powerful and all-knowing Creator, Satan’s existence, the Bible’s accuracy…these are not radical new teachings and they are certainly not advanced teachings. They simply form the basis of a basic understanding of the Christian faith!

Of further interest are the results of not having a Biblical worldview. “One of the most striking insights from the research was the influence of such a way of thinking upon people’s behavior. Adults with a biblical worldview possessed radically different views on morality, held divergent religious beliefs, and demonstrated vastly different lifestyle choices.” You can read more about that at Barna’s site.

Now I would like to know what the specific questions are that the researchers asked of people. It is possible that they phrased the questions in such a way that people did not understand. From what I have seen of Barna’s work in the past, though, I suspect this is not the case.

Regardless, the results of this research is shocking. It shows that in many ways these days the church is little different than the world.