Anyone who has known me long knows I was captain of the high school debate team. I can debate any subject for the sake of debate. On the other hand, in real life I don’t particularly enjoy debates whose resolution won’t change the world. And a lot of people who aren’t Christians don’t seem to enjoy the kinds of debates that Christians have become famous for.
Over the last couple of days, my blog trail email box has filled with alerts as two readers of another blog I follow have gone back and forth about evolution. At last count, they’d communicated more than 50 times in what they considered to be an important conversation about whether the earth was a few thousand years old or millions of years old.
The irony: The evolution debate responded
to a post about whether the church was irrelevant
Of course, I don’t believe that Christians or our God are irrelevant to this world. On the other hand, debates about evolution probably seem pretty irrelevant to a world that’s worrying about things like:
- Suicides among returning veterans (6,500 last year).
- High rates of illiteracy among high school students and graduates (graduation rate of 65 percent here in NC; I worked in a neighborhood where only a third of the 18-25 year olds had finished high school).
- Whether the extreme weather we’re experiencing results from human-induced environmental change.
- Global shifts in employment that are making it harder for the American middle class to regain its position post-recession. (I recently learned that an American Board-certified heart surgeon from another country is going to open up shop in the Caribbean to provide $6,000 heart surgeries.)
- The “food deserts” inner cities are experiencing because supermarkets don’t locate where large populations of poor people live.
It’s worth debating
how to solve problems God cares about
I wouldn’t mind debating about how to solve some of those issues. I’m pretty sure God cares about all of them. But I also know we find it hard to approach these topics because they are addressed through political systems. As Ross Douthat points out in his new book “Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics,” we’ve become (as a church) political pawns of the party system. That means we can’t even think as a church about such things because we’re only “allowed” to express opinions that represent our particular church’s “acceptable” political party. So instead we debate for hours about things that prove to the culture that we and our God are irrelevant.
From my point of view, here’s the thing about our ability as humans to understand stuff: it’s really limited.
It’s worth remembering:
we don’t know as much as God does
The most common element in the earth’s crust is granite. The most common illness is the cold. As humans, we have yet to understand how granite is formed or how to cure the cold. If we can’t figure out those small creations of God, why should we assume we can figure out such large answers as how God created the entire world?
Rams have to butt heads. So I guess some Christians are going to spend a lot of time butting heads over issues of limited importance — even though God tells us not to. (“Accept the one whose faith is weak, without quarreling over disputable matters” [Romans 14:1].)
But it would do the world a great deal of good if we started obeying God, believing in our own limitations (humility), and simply attempting to do the good God has set before us (Ephesians 2:8-10). People might even start to think we are Christians because of our love.
Tim Keller: Why Is Christianity On The Decline In America (the gospel coalition blog)