Peter Kreeft gives a lecture about Ecumenism Without Compromise.
I think more discussion needs to be given to the topic of The New Ecumenism. President of ACT 3, John H. Armstrong is a leader in this movement. He has written a blog about it here. He will also be coming out with a book very soon entitled, “Your Church Is Too Small” (published by Zondervan). There is indeed a new, Christ-honoring, gospel-centered ecumenism in progress among theologically conservative Christians. The ECT documents were signs of its beginning, not its end. Unity in the gospel between Protestants and Catholics is not only becoming a real option; many Christians are arguing that where common gospel belief is present, it is a divine mandate. God wants The Church unified wherever it exists.
I would love to know what you think. Can Catholics and Protestants believe in the same gospel?
This past Monday and Tuesday, October 13-14th, saw history in the making. The first ever SAET symposium was held at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Chicago, where Todd Wilson, one of the board members of the society, is the pastor. SAET is pronounced, sat, and stands for Society for the Advancement of Ecclesial Theology.
A small group of 13 to 15, composed of mostly pastors, came together in Chicago for the symposium. This year’s theme was Resurrection, and several papers were presented and discussed. Gordon Conwell’s New Testament professor Scott Hafemann, although he did not present a paper, gave oversight to the symposium and all the discussions. Gerald Hiestand, the president of the SAET Society also discussed the future of the SAET Society and facilitated discussion around potential directions for SAET.
While the vision for SAET is still coming together, those who attended the first symposium were enthusiastic about the benefit of starting this new community of fellow pastor-scholars. Among the group was David Rudolph, a messianic Jewish pastor from Los Angeles who is helping develop the first ever Masters of Divinity degree that specializes in messianic Jewish theology, Stephen Witmer, a pastor of a church in Maine, and Owen Strachan, the managing director of the Carl F.H. Henry Center for Theological Understanding at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Chicago.
“It was sort of intimidating for me,” said Bradley Cochran, one of the attenders. “Most of these guys are Cambridge or Oxford graduates with Ph.D.’s. Gerald’s vision for the SAET has birthed new discussions on important issues surrounding the heart of the gospel message itself, and the vision for the Society I found irresistible.”
The largest free standing structure in all of North America.
Perhaps what was most disturbing to me about Religulous was it’s incredible ability to make religious people look fanatically irrational and uneducated. The majority of the film was Bill Maher debating/ridiculing relatively uneducated lay people who wouldn’t likely have any ability to defend their faith intellectually. (The only exception to this was Ken Ham, in which case they masterfully edited the interview to make him look speechless or mad at everything Maher said).
Maher’s first engagement with real Christians in the moive takes place in the back of a Tractor Trailer as Maher begins “just asking questions” after a church service for truck drivers. I don’t want to be guilty of stereotyping myself, but my guess is that Bill Maher understands that most truck drivers don’t have Ph.D’s or Master Degrees in Divinity or Philosophy. They certainly don’t have a reputation for being intellectual. And of course, the truck drivers are disturbed and offended by his “questions” (at least one gentleman had sense enough to know that Maher was mocking them and not asking sincere questions, so he walked out).
As you might imagine, Maher didn’t have much “luck” with getting any serious intellectual challenge from the truck drivers. The hallmark of pseudo intellectualism is to go on the attack against the weakest defenders of an intellectual position rather than challenging the most able of their defenders. This always makes you look smart and the opponent dumb. Consequently, uncritical thinkers (i.e. the majority of Americans) are likely to associate your position with intellectual superiority and your prey’s position with intellectual vulnerability. This is the most dominant element of Maher’s documentary.
Why didn’t Bill Maher interview credible scientist’s like Michael Behe or tenured professors at the University of Berkley like Philip Johnson or the intellectual elitists from the evangelical camp such as D.A. Carson or William Lane Craig?
For Maher’s ridicule to be cross examined by Christians who are his intellectual equal would probably not make for good anti-Religious propaganda, but it would make his criticism’s more credible if they were to stand up against such cross examination.
In the meantime … the pseduo intellectualism of Maher’s movie will greatly influence how Religious people–especially Christians and Muslims–are seen in the public eye.
Over the next week or so I will discussing Bill Maher’s new movie Religulous, which just hit the theaters this week. One of my hopes is that people who are also skeptical about religions will speak up on this blog and engage in open dialogue on this religious and philosophical topic.
Today’s Camera Angle: Bills Maher’s Ridiculous Religion
Bill Maher, in his own words, argues that to take a posture of skepticism toward religious questions about God and life after death is a more “humble” posture than religious dogmatism.
But on what grounds does Bill Maher believe that skepticism is automatically more humble? Well …
From the film it’s easy to see that Bill thinks skepticism is more humble because we don’t really have certain answers to life’s religious questions. Therefore, to pretend we do, or think we do, is prideful, arrogant–ignorance of ignorance. Making up answers as though they were certain and beginning religions based on such made up answers is the epitome (to Maher) of this kind of morally outrageous audacity. To go even a step further and press these religions on the minds of the people and bound their consciences to them, to start wars to propagate these religions, to tax the poor (with tithes) in order to fund the propagation, to preach in the street and tell people they are going to hell if they don’t believe a particular religion’s answers to these questions, is of course (to Maher) the uttermost moral atrocity.
Get the idea? Religion is a very bad thing. It’s like a mental disease.
Well … to the critical thinker, there’s something apparent about Bill Maher’s skepticism that he doesn’t want you to notice.
The truth is … the kind of skepticism Maher embraces is actually a form of close minded dogmatic skepticism.
In one of the beginning scenes of the movie, Maher is riding in a car talking about why he hates religion. In the process of explaining himself, he proposes that religion comes from fear of death. He says that the question of death and what happens when you die just gets some people so worked up with fear that they must have answers to the question to make them feel better. This is his theory of the origin of religion stated very simply.
… NOTICE …Notice so far Bill has a few beliefs of his own which do not fall into a “scientifically proven” category: 1) skepticism is more humble than dogmatism, 2) in fact religious dogmatism is ethically unacceptable, 3) because there are no answers to life’s religious questions.
Throughout the documentary, he literally preaches his own alternative view of skepticism. At one point, after standing up in a small church and “asking questions” (i.e. mocking the poor Christians who were in no way prepared for skeptical challenges), one of the Christians finally turns one of his questions around on him. Up to this point Maher had been asking all the questions. This time, he’s the one being asked. As he answers the question with a resounding, “I don’t know!” he literally bangs the pulpit with his hand while raising his voice to say something like, “That’s my religion, I don’t know! I don’t have to have all the answers!”
But his skepticism isn’t merely an “I don’t know,” or “It’s okay to not know all the answers.” The movie makes clear that he believes that true knowledge about religious questions is impossible to attain. At one point he makes the argument that no so called prophet could understand or know religious truth any better than him because no human being has any special powers/capabilities that he doesn’t have. In other words, “If I don’t have access to religious truth then neither do you.”
To say, “Well … I’m not sure who’s right and who’s wrong or whether anyone is right or wrong,” is one thing. But Bill Maher is a dogmatic skeptic. He doesn’t believe answers to religious questions are capable of being known. We could distinguish these two positions by calling one Open Minded Skepticism (I don’t know but I’m open to the possibility that there are answers) and Close Minded Skepticism (I don’t know, and it’s impossible to know). Bill Maher, then, is a Close Minded Skeptic.
… THINK with me …
Not only is he a close minded skeptic, but his motive is made explicit in the film–he intends the whole documentary to serve as propaganda that will promote his belief system of dogmatic skepticism as far as it will go. All other beliefs are wrong; his position on religious questions is the only right one. He is religiously passionate about his skepticism and wants everyone to be “saved” from bondage to religious dogmatism.
Is anyone else seeing the irony here?
Discouragingly, my gut tells me that not many people are seeing the irony in this film. If you still don’t see it, here; let me spell it out for you.
While railing against preachers, Bill Maher has become a passionate preacher of his own unscientifically proven belief system that includes dogmatic assertions and ethical absolutes. While on his crusade against religious dogmatism, Bill dogmatically preaches the gospel of skepticism, not allowing for any possible answers to religious questions to be knowable. While preaching against religion, Maher has founded his own religion.
In disallowing any possible answers to life’s ultimate questions, has not Maher not provided the authoritative answer to all religious questions? (i.e. “We can’t possible know, and if you think you do, you’re an idiot and blind?”)
Excessive sarcasm, rudeness, and pseudo intellectualism pervade the new documentary Religulous with Bill Maher. I watched his movie tonight, and it was very, very powerful. Master propaganda. Blows Ben Stein’s movie out of the water in terms of its cinematic rhetorical punch.
I’m very bothered by this movie. I will blog about it over the next few days (weeks?). The “big idea” of the documentary is this: Religions make up stories to answer questions that we don’t have answers to, and then they all become corrupt and destructive to everything good (i.e. to make religion look stupid and ethically outrageous). For a taste of Bill Maher …