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DMin, Leadership and Global Perspectives: Crafting Ministry in an Interconnected World

The Real Tragedy

Written by: on March 15, 2018

“I remember some of the anticipation that greeted the announcement of the release of James Davison Hunter’s latest work, To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, and Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. Given that evangelicals have for some time now been engrossed in a renewed and often passionate conversation about how to engage the culture, how to change the world, and what exactly the church’s mission really is, many looked forward to Hunter’s book as a major step forward in that conversation.”[1] This quote by Greg Gilbert I believe demonstrates both the intrigue and challenge of modern day evangelism; there is this constant pursuit to reach out to the whole world, but often the question remains, is that even possible. Has Christianity finally hit the proverbial wall; has it become more a competition of religious organizations to see who can boast the highest number of converts, or build the most important chapel, or are we still truly of the belief that we can still bring something to the party?

It has been a thought-provoking week for me, and I hesitate to say, it is largely because of a man most of us in the Christian world probably resent; Stephen Hawking. Bear with me, I promise this will tie into our reading. On Monday I read a post on Fox News that discussed one of the latest (and apparently one of the last) interviews with the famed scientist. In this interview I found myself overjoyed to see the back-stepping and word-play performed by this highly revered worldly man; in that he stated that he has come to realize that there was a conflict in what they believed concerning the “Big Bang” theory, because new evidence conflicts with physics. In this discussion he also reports a new proposed answer, “Imaginary Time,” a concept that has previously actually been presented on a Dr. Who episode. After explaining this concept the reported followed it with the phrase, “There is no raw physics that supports his idea…yet. But Hawking’s insight has proven right before.”[2]

Which brings me to the reading. I was frustrated by the article in which Stephen Hawking had literally expressed that he has been wrong concerning a lot concerning the “Big Bang” theory, and yet, the writer of the post still insisted that we should listen to him. Here Christians have been fighting to spread a gospel that has been around for 2000 years, supported by Scripture that has been around even longer than that, and we are called liars, haters, and troublemakers. Then I found the question that hit me even harder, “Is there the possibility of finding common purpose in American Christianity today?”[3] It was this partial truth that I cannot help but wonder if all of us Christians just want to deny, and yet we keep preaching as though it is not slapping us in the face with every scripture we preach; maybe we are part of the problem! Why is it that Science has more followers than God? Why do you suppose that people are more vocal about being a Republican or a Democrat than a Christian? Perhaps until we understand that, the reality of Hunter’s question has already answered itself. You see, the world has united against God, but for some reason, His people cannot unite behind Him. The media will promote a Scientific claim that bears absolutely no evidence and yet ban everything biblical; but why?! Hunter discusses the difficulty in having a desire to do good on one hand, and yet becoming its “worst proclivities in pursuing that good, on the other.”[4] Many of us seem to start out with the right intentions, but somewhere along the way, we allow the people we are to screw it all up. I considered the story of Ananias and Sapphira in Acts 5; I always felt a little sorry for these two, because in the beginning of the story, they started out with the best of intentions; they wanted to give to God. In the story, they sell a possession, but then decide to hold back some of the proceeds. The choice is then supported by a lie on both of their parts, which is then punished by instant death. How did a decision to give back to God end up so deadly? The reality is that what started out a godly and righteous decision was intertwined with selfishness and greed, thus corrupting the offering. The title of this reading included the word “tragedy”; perhaps the tragedy of Christianity is not that the world is rejecting God, but rather that it may just be our fault. The problem is not that worldly ideas have more stability, logic, evidence, or support; it is that their people are better united than God’s seem to be these days. We fight over pianos, projectors, service projects, roles, names over the front door, where to send missionaries, and even whether or not the adult classrooms should have a coffee pot or not.

I have often held a resentment toward Stephen Hawking; not for who he was, but rather, for the message they he shared. However, I realized this week that it was not even that, but rather that so many people believed that message. Today though, I realize something more important; if God’s people do not learn to unite together, behind His Word, with His Holy Spirit guiding them, then people will continue to listen to everyone but Him. Jesus taught a warning in Matthew 15:8-9; “These people draw near to Me with their lips, but their heart is far from Me. And in vain they worship Me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.” The tragedy is that we have keys to eternal life, and yet, something we are doing wrong is preventing so many from having access to it.

I Timothy 6:12 “Fight the good fight of faith, lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called and have confessed the good confession in the presence of many witnesses.” The world is watching!!

 

 

Bibliography

Gilbert, Greg. 9Marks. September 27, 2010. https://www.9marks.org/review/change-world/ (accessed March 14, 2018).

Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010.

Seidel, Jamie. Fox News. March 5, 2018. http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/03/05/stephen-hawking-says-knows-what-happened-before-dawn-time.amp.html (accessed March 10, 2018).

[1] Gilbert, Greg. 9Marks. September 27, 2010. https://www.9marks.org/review/change-world/ (accessed March 14, 2018).

[2] Seidel, Jamie. Fox News. March 5, 2018. http://www.foxnews.com/science/2018/03/05/stephen-hawking-says-knows-what-happened-before-dawn-time.amp.html (accessed March 10, 2018).

[3] Hunter, James Davison. To Change the World: The Irony, Tragedy, & Possibility of Christianity in the Late Modern World. New York: Oxford University Press, 2010. P 91.

[4] Ibid, p. 279.

About the Author

Shawn Hart

10 responses to “The Real Tragedy”

  1. mm M Webb says:

    Shawn,
    I think we can still bring something to the party! I read around your Hawking reference. Poor guy, deceived to the end.
    http://www.newsweek.com/did-stephen-hawking-believe-god-what-physicist-said-about-creation-universe-843724
    Brother, stand firm! There is only one reason to the problem you are describing, sin. And who is the creator, designer, schemer, advancer, and promoter of sin? Satan.
    So, please don’t be so hard on yourself, the church, or humankind. We have a personal adversary whose sole purpose is to possess the souls of the lost and ruin the testimonies of the saved. If you are going to call upon Paul’s “fight the good fight”, then I challenge you to call upon Paul’s “put on the whole armor of God” too!
    Be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. (Eph. 6:10).
    M. Webb

  2. I had a different perspective when Stephen Hawking died.

    I’m no scientist, and I don’t even follow the conversation. So reading the obituary of his life I found something that piqued my interest: he discovered the existence of black holes. And not only that, but as science progressed, he discovered that matter that disappeared into black holes did not disappear (as was originally thought), but re-emerged as other energy. There is hope in the universe.

    Anyway, long story, but it made me think of the spiritual direction I’m receiving. We’ve chatted about how it seems that, just like our Lord, everything goes through a process of pain/suffering/destruction/refinement, but fruitfulness, often in a very different manifestation, always seems to emerge from the ashes.

    • Shawn Hart says:

      Great thought Mark. Though I also heard that Hawking recently revealed that Black holes weren’t actually black. WHAT?! LOL. I do believe there is hope in the universe, I just don’t believe it comes from Science; it comes from God. That was my problem with Hawking. I love science, I find it fascinating; I just hate when people try to replace God with it.

      • What if science was just pointing to God through the discovery of facts? I think that’s what happens… They might not have the language for it. That is the work of theologians not scientists.

  3. mm Jason Turbeville says:

    Shawn,
    Great insight tying in Hawking. I have read several of his books, and as interesting as they are, I know he was wrong, there is a God and he created all things. One author you might check out is Stephen C. Meyer, Christian physicist who argues for creation.

    Your conclusion seemed to be the same as mine, why can’t Christians just live out their faith in a real way that impacts all around. We are too busy arguing about stupid things to focus on the main thing!

    Jason

  4. Shawn Hart says:

    It’s a viscous reality: we either go way too far over board, or we hold back and don’t go far enough. Either way though, God’s people seem to fight all the way. Terrible shame.

  5. mm Jay Forseth says:

    Hi Shawn,

    Thanks so much for highlighting the Holy Spirit in you Blog. I wish our author would have done this more. Not that he discounted the Holy Spirit, but he could have stressed more the fruits produced by God the Holy Spirit. To me these are lasting change–Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control…

    Agree?

  6. Greg says:

    I have been a science nerd since I was little( I know hard to believe). I too have been fascinated with Hawkings And his writings. Such a powerfully influential person in our world these last decades. I am an eternal optimists and read God unto what he is describing. I love to see humans discover what God has done and been doing for longer that we could ever know. It would be amazing to see what a united body of Christ could do, or more importantly, could represent.

  7. Chris Pritchett says:

    This was a passionate and clear-headed post. I am embarrassed to admit that I actually do not know much about Stephen Hawking. I know a little of his physical condition and that he died last week. I know that he is an acclaimed physicist and from what I gather, a staunch atheist. Aside from that, I don’t know much and for some unknown reason, I have not been much interested in any of those popular atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens. They all sort of strike me as pop scientific celebrities. But the real reason I find neither much interest nor much threat from the world of science is because science and Christianity are simply not addressing the same question, and one really should not speak to the other (ie., scientists have no business addressing the question of “God”). Why? Because science seeks to address the question of “how” while Christianity seeks to address the question of “why” (and “who”)? The more we can get clear about that the more Christianity will become compelling again, because people are still asking “why?” And science has literally nothing to say to that deep existential question. Thank you for raising this brother.

  8. mm Kyle Chalko says:

    Interesting tie-in and insight. It is embarrassing to think of all the time wasted talking about coffee pots. The other day our staff had to spend 20 minutes talking about table clothes. There was an awareness of, OK I know this is NOT important, but this how you handle … blah blah.

    I like the idea of finding common purpose. If thats what it takes to change the world!

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