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Last letter I gave a brief history of the word “Faith” especially comparing the New Testament definition to the modern definition. This letter I will focus on how in American history the word “Faith” has taken a different direction from a persuasion of a statement is true to a belief without proof or reason. A lot of non-believers in Christianity think Christians are people who hold their beliefs without using their minds. Jim Warner Wallace, Josh McDowell, and Lee Stroubel before they become Christians viewed Christians this way. Why? Let’s look some American history from the last couple of centuries.
The first 117 of 119 universities in America were started by Christians. Almost of all of the prestigious Ivy League Universities were started by Christians as well with the exception of Cornell. The Minister/Pastor was the intellectual leader of the schools and the community. The universities and the community worked together to promote Christian thought in literature, philosophy, history, the arts, science, and other fields of education. Christians back in the 1600’s and 1700’s held education in high regard with the beliefs of Christianity. Daniel Webster, former Secretary of State in the 1800’s, quoted “Education of the youth is an employment of more consequence than making laws and preaching the gospel, because the education of the youth is where the law and the gospel rests.” He believed that education with Christian influence would help society make better laws and embrace Jesus Christ. As you can see, Intellectual thought and Christianity had very robust relationship until the mid-1800’s.
In the mid-1800’s came revivals known as the Great Awakenings and these awakenings brought the advent of “altar calls”. These “altar calls” is where the simple gospel message was preached then music was played to sway the people to come and accept Jesus in their lives. Did Jesus do this during His ministry on earth? No, Jesus just taught in parables, used scriptures from the Torah to show that He was the Messiah, and performed miracles. “Altar Calls” were not evil and they did bring a lot of people to accept Jesus but focused more on feelings of belief than an intellectual belief. Another effect of the Great Awakenings was that the ministers/pastors didn’t need an education lead a group of followers. There was such a sharp increase of believers that there was increased need of a leader for those new converts. If a man felt a calling to preach and was sincere then he would be ordained to be a minister regardless if he had an education or not let alone a seminary education.
Shortly after these Great Awakenings, Charles Darwin came with his book, Origin of Species, promoting the theory of evolution over the Bible’s creation story. This was the beginning of the intellectual assault against Christianity. This was spiritual warfare and Satan used this particular time when Christians believing more with their feelings than with their minds. The Scopes Trial came in the 1920’s pitting Evolution against the Biblical creation and the result was characterized in an editorial cartoon where a Bible believing fundamentalist was a monkey holding a Bible and an educated evolutionist as a sharp dressed man. Another result was the universities were taken over by liberal Christians and secularists. The minister/pastor was no longer looked on as an intellectual leader but rather the secular leaders of the universities were trusted more. The church responded basically by “we have faith our beliefs are true by our intuition and the Bible”.
I think its no accident that God had Josh McDowell come out with “Evidence that Demands a Verdict” in 1972. Lee Stroubel came out with the “Case for Christ” in 1980’s. Frank Turek started the Cross Examine Organization in the 1990’s. Greg Koukl came out with “Tactics” in 2009 then Jim Warner Wallace with “Cold Case Christianity” in 2013. God wants us to have an intellectual basis to our faith not just on our feelings. Our feelings do matter but they change on daily basis whereas evidence never changes. Faith by today’s definition doesn’t meet God’s requirement of Faith. An intellectual faith doesn’t mean you know everything but rather you know enough to see what’s true and what’s not then you are able to stand firm with every wind of false ideas that come around. Next letter will be the impact of the modern definition of “Faith” has had on our culture.