24 February 2006

Weekend Fodder: a link from NRO

by Frank Turk

What we do best here at TeamPyro is sell t-shirts write some original commentary on the state of Christian faith and the church, and we of course offer you a lot of Spurgeon. However, as I was suffering from insomnia on Friday while my wife was out of town, I found this link at the National Review Online, via Adrian Warnock.

Of particular interest to me was question #13 in that list of sociological trivia, and because I don't care if you visit them or not, let me list it here for you:
13. True or False: Religion has no effect on divorce rates.

False, false, false. Mere religious affiliation may not reduce divorce, but religious practice clearly does. One longitudinal analysis of the National Survey of Family Growth found that couples who attended church as often as once a month had divorce rates less than half that of couples who attended church once a year or less. Similarly, a recent study of the National Survey of Families and Households found that marriage in which both couples attend church regularly have the lowest divorce risk (David B. Larson and James P. Swyers, 2002, "Does Religion and Spirituality Contribute to Marital and Individual Health?" in John Wall et al (eds.) Marriage, Health and the Professions).
There are probably ten different things to say about this factoid -- ranging from the apologetic horsepower such a fact provides in reviewing the impact of faith in social stability to the rabbit chase of why it is important to understand what statistics say when they are employed.

What I'm going to Pyropine on here is something that readers of this blog ought to have hit them in the face: faithfulness to the church results in the faithful living of our lives. When even somewhat-loose church attendance can impact divorce rates this significantly -- cutting them in half -- we have everything we need to know about whether the myth of "me, Jesus and my Bible" can ever hold any water.

So if you are reading this blog this weekend in place of going to church, let me suggest to you that you are doing the wrong thing -- even if you are only reading this post and then all the Spurgeon Phil has provided for our edification. When Hebrews 10 (AMP) says,
21And since we have [such] a great and wonderful and noble Priest [Who rules] over the house of God, 22Let us all come forward and draw near with true (honest and sincere) hearts in unqualified assurance and absolute conviction engendered by faith (by that leaning of the entire human personality on God in absolute trust and confidence in His power, wisdom, and goodness), having our hearts sprinkled and purified from a guilty (evil) conscience and our bodies cleansed with pure water.

23So let us seize and hold fast and retain without wavering the hope we cherish and confess and our acknowledgement of it, for He Who promised is reliable (sure) and faithful to His word. 24And let us consider and give attentive, continuous care to watching over one another, studying how we may stir up (stimulate and incite) to love and helpful deeds and noble activities, 25Not forsaking or neglecting to assemble together [as believers], as is the habit of some people, but admonishing (warning, urging, and encouraging) one another, and all the more faithfully as you see the day approaching. 26For if we go on deliberately and willingly sinning after once acquiring the knowledge of the Truth, there is no longer any sacrifice left to atone for [our] sins [no further offering to which to look forward].
we should let it sink in. When even secular research confirms what we know to be true, let's act like it is true.

God bless you, and good night.


36 comments:

ib.carlos said...

Good post, Frank. Truly.

[And since my wife is also out of town (I know, Frank, bad joke) I seem to be the only one up this late on a Friday night readin' it...]

¡sbgtfa!

Joshua said...

I second that, Carlos.

One interesting thing though: I recently skimmed Ron Sider's Scandal of the Evangelical Conscience and his data (from Barna and Gallup) seem to indicate equal or higher divorce rates between evangelical Christians and the secular world. Do you know of any reason for this apparent discrepancy?

DJP said...

...if you are reading this blog this weekend in place of going to church, let me suggest to you that you are doing the wrong thing

Amen. Reading this blog, reading the Bible, listening to sermons on tape or other media -- none of these is a substitute for assembling, and being under eyeball-to-eyeball pastoral care.

centuri0n said...

Joshua:

Here's my thought -- Barna's research doesn't account for practice, only whether someone "believes" something. You know: hears but no account for "doers".

That problematic approach leaks over into his latest book, Revolution where his blind spot regarding the church and the actual sanctification of the believer shows up vividly.

I didn't comb out either set of statistics, so I might be full of beans.

Steve said...

Adding to Frank's comment on Barna's research: He defines Christians VERY loosely. Some of the so-called believers or Christians or evangelicals or whatever who are responding to his surveys probably aren't really Christians and simply think they are or profess to be.

Thus, it's pretty likely unbelievers are helping to inflate Barna's polls to make it appear as if the divorce rate is higher among Christians than it really is.

That's not to say we should breathe a little more easily, however. Christians HAVE become too lax about divorce today.

Susan said...

Two thoughts come to mind.
The first by Dr. Laura Schlessinger, to whom I used to listen years ago on radio. When a caller once told her that one could be a believer without going to church, Dr. Laura's response was something akin to, 'you can't be a tennis player without going on the court.'
The other is Psalm 69:9.
"For zeal for Your house has consumed me."

donsands said...

"...as is the habit of some people, ... For if we go on ... sinning.."

The Lord is clear, I would think.

But the thing for me, (and it's only by His marvelous grace and Spirit), but I love to gather for worship and adoration of our Savior and His Father, and to listen to His Word of truth, and to have koinonia with the saints with prayer and meditation. I love it. And I look forward to it with anticipation.
May the Lord keep this fire burning in my belly, I pray, and may I be an encourager and admonisher to those who need it. Amen.

Sharon said...

How do you respond to people who claim Hebrews 10:25 just refers to meeting with other Christians (over coffee, for example), and that there is no Scripture that commands a believer to attend a formal church? I'm in a dialog with one who does not attend any church because the Bible doesn't command him to do so. Any help in refuting his claim would be appreciated.

Gummby said...

Here's an example of Barna's methodology in action.

Keith Walters said...

I think a quick glance through George Barna's new book Revolution should lead us to question if he is even a Christian. Shouldn't the wholesale encouragement of others to abondon the local church matched with your own abandonment of the local church call into question your faithfulness to Christ? (I John 2:19)

DJP said...

Sharon -- my own response would be to point to Hebrews 13:7 and 17.

Forgiven Sinner said...

Since you dont want to sell T-Shirts today....how about promoting mine.........
Hey Turk....Let me know how many of these you want and you to could sport a COOL T shirt.......
Honestly though......ya'll check it out at my blog and if you want one, just email me.......

jb.carlos........you inquired ....check it out.

Excellent converstion starter and witnessing tool.

Sharon said...

Keith: I agree. I'm fairly sure he is not a believer. He left the church, left his wife and kids, and thinks his departed mother, a staunch Catholic, is in heaven because "she was kind to people." But he becomes very defensive if I even hint that his relationship to the Lord is in question. All the classic signs.

Daniel: He would just say "those who rule over you" doesn't necessarily mean pastors or elders.

Perhaps it's time to invoke Titus 3:9 (not to mention Proverbs 26:4) and bow out of the discussion, eh?

4given said...

I can experientially say that it goes beyond merely attending a church faithfully... because I did and still left my husband. We were separated for 18 months. I tried to serve him divorce papers twice in that time and "for some reason" it never happened. Perhaps it was all those church people that were so annoying and kept calling me and praying for me... annoying people that I am so thankful for.
So what do I mean by it goes beyond just attending a church faithfully... it means it takes a church family that cares enough not to just bury their head in the sand, but to get involved in peoples lives through discipleship, Biblical admonishment, encouragement, accountability... and not just saying "I will pray for you." But actually doing it!

4given said...

I failed to mention that none of the annoying people were from the church I attended faithfully... they were too busy.

Mathew Sims said...

Oddly enoughly I suffered from insomnia of sorts this Friday and my wife was at a lady's retreat, but good post.

Christianity does effect positively marriages. What an encouragement!
Mathew S.

DJP said...

Sharon -- but that's a dodge. Who is it, then? Who has care of his soul? Whose lead is he obliged to obey? Christ gave pastor-teachers (Ephesians 4). Who is his?

Susan said...

4given, when I first started attending church as a believer, I used to say those words ("I will pray for you") a lot more. When I learned through experience that as a fickle-hearted person I didn't always pray for those for whom I stated I would, I had to come clean. Before my Maker. It was against Him I transgressed with my careless words.
Now, before I say those words, I reflect and count the cost, meaning that I will take those concerns and prayers very seriously, as if a life depended on it, because it very well may.
Now, if I don't mean that I truly will pray, I won't let those word pass my lips as simple encouragement or even good intentions. That's not enough.
There's plenty of wise counsel in James and elsewhere regarding the words that pass our lips.
Interestingly, when folks (in our church and outside as well) have prayed for me, I know it. There's evidence.
One man in our current church approached us about a year ago and said God had laid us on his heart to pray, just as we had been going through a very difficult patch with our teenage son - unbeknownst to that man at the time. I love it when God moves His Spirit through the church body like that. Such blessed confirmation and encouragement when needed.

donsands said...

sharon,

With someone who says, not forsaking the gathering together could be meeting at Starbucks, I wouldn't try to convince him with Scripture.
I would simply express the truth that God demands that I worship Him, and when the people of God gather I'm going to be there, because He wants to be worshipped.
I have a fervant desire to honor my Lord, and give Him the praise and thanks due for the great mercy which He bestowed on me.
That's what I would do.And keep him in prayer as well.

Sharon said...

Daniel: Of course it's a dodge. When you're not a believer, the things (and people) of God hold no interest for you. Did I mention this is the guy who claims Yanni glorifies God because he plays nice music?

Donsands: Good points! A redeemed saint will proclaim with David, "I was glad when they said unto me, Let us go into the house of the LORD." (Psalm 122:1)

DJP said...

Oooh... why didn't you say he worshiped Yanntichrist?

( j/k )

Screaming Pirate said...

Dan some thing stinks over here.....



Oh, I know it was that lame joke. I would put fort the entire book of 1 John, we are to love the bretherin as it says in that book very strongly, matter of fact we are to serve and cherish the bretherin. How can you do that in a real and constent way apart from the Church.

centuri0n said...

My response to someone who say that Heb 10 is talking about something akin to "getting together for coffee" (and Barna does this in his book, which left me speechless {except that I blogged about it}) should read the rest of Heb 10, then Heb 11, then Heb 12: Paul is clearly talking about something more than a casual conversation in the proverbial marketplace. He is talking about the cumulative witness of the church and saying that what we do today is part of that cumulative witness. In that, he is not saying, "don't forget to say 'have a blessed day'" when you chat: he's saying that to be part of the cumulative witness, you have to be part of the cumulative witness. You have to come together.

Rather than try to reconstruct or digest my comments on this already, read my refutation of Barna's assertion here.

centuri0n said...

I also want to be very careful in handing out criticism because there's a pretty wide gap between someone being a lousy Christian and somebody being unsaved.

For example, should we say that James Dobson is not a Christian at all? His doctrine is fuzzy at best, but he doesn't reject the Trinity or the work of Christ or active nature of faith in this life. Yet his view of the faith is no doubt far more common than my view or Phil's view or Coyote's view or Dan's view. I think he's a soft Christian -- not no Christian at all.

On the other hand, what about a Unitarian? A Mormon? A JW? A Roman Catholic? We are talking about a whole different class of belief, and frankly belief systems that subvert the Gospel -- reject key tenets of the Gospel. Let's not draw the circle so small that just becuase someone is immature they are automatically tossed in the resurrection ashcan. Let's be careful who we are calling "not Christian" when the qualifications we are offering are at-best denominational.

centuri0n said...

Let's also keep in mind (since I'm in that mood right now) to remember that the link and the data indicate correlation not uncontestable cause and effect. The rate of divorce in the church-goer is significantly less and not zero, which says something all by itself which I think we knew: there are tares among the wheat.

And because an alert reader has asked me to, I'm going to be blogging on divorce over the next week, and it is bound to raise at least one hackle -- maybe even among my fellow pyros.

So wear a flack jacket. I'll be in a bunker with a lot of canned goods and several boxes of dry ammo.

Kent Brandenburg said...

Let me think about this; now, weren't the Pharisees religious?

Kent Brandenburg said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
centuri0n said...

Kent: so was Abraham and Moses. I think I missed your point.

Rick Potter said...

I agree that church attendance is extremely important. But I must also point out that when churches fail to teach true doctrinal content and even allow false teachings to creep in (like many churches in the world today) this can weaken her memebers. And, one cannot merely walk away from her. We must stay and fight with all our God given might to see that these discrepencies are eradicated. What happens when the resistance becomes such that one sees they are fighting a losing battle? Well, each will have to answer that question for themselves. I choose to stay and fight. No, I can't correct all the fallacies but God can. Can I just give you an example? I wish you could see how much meat I have gleaned from these "pyropines" over against some "church" teachings. Regardless, God hasn't given up on our churches and neither should we. Victory can at times seem to come very slowly - sometimes at the rate of one idea at a time - but they do come when we remain faithful. To be fair, I'm sure that there are times when the hand of God reveals a move to another church. But we should weigh that move very carefully lest we fall into a habit of subjective church hopping. I'm currently reading John MacArthur's "Fools Gold". I wish all of our churches could be true churches but the fact is that there has been an attack on the church from the very beginning. Our adversary hates the true Church of God and will do everything and anything in his power to destroy it. May we be found as a faithful phalanx of God's word.

Tad Thompson said...

I really don't have time to go off on Barna right now - but he had perpetuated the myth that the divorce rate among born-again couples is the same as among non-Christians. This is as accurate as saying 86% of our population is born-again.

Barna is going off the deep end in my humble opinion. I hope his Revolution is kept too himself, because if it spreads, it will harm the church.

Thom Rainer is a much better researcher of cultural trends related to the church and of church effectiveness. I reccomend his books, "Effective Evangelistic Churches, 10 Surprising Insights from the Unchurched, High Expectation Churches, and Breakout Churches." Buy them from Frank - our church could use the extra tithe money.

Phil Johnson said...

Tad:

Bingo. I have an article somewhere I wrote on Barna and the myth of the evangelical divore rate. Remind me after next week, and I'll try to dig it up and post it.

I'm also thinking a critique of Barna's career and his increasingly wild analyses of evangelicalism would make a good seminar for next year's Shepherds' Conference. I'm going to ask for that assignment.

donsands said...

I always thought that about Barna, but I wasn't sure, because so many rely on him.
His stats just didn't make sense to me. I'll be looking forward to hearing more on him.

Bo Salisbury said...

Right on, Phil.

Today we were exhorted from one of my favorite verses... Hebrews 10:25. I like how the NASB renders it... in one long sentence:

Hebrews 10:23 - 25 Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more, as you see the day drawing near.

1. Assembling is tied to the confession of our hope... it's not optional.
2. When we gather, we all play a part in provoking one another... stimulating one another to live out our confession.
3. Finally, "forsaking" is a good translation... A.T. Robertson brings out the nuance of abandonment, "not leaving in the lurch." While we sometimes emphasize that believers miss out by not meeting with the brethren on the Lord's day, we often miss the force of what is being communicated here. Christians who stay away are leaving their brothers and sisters behind. They are deserting Christians who need the kind of provoking and stimulating that they are gifted and empowered to do. It's pure selfishness and speaks lowder than any confession of the lips.

Thanks again for the post.

Bo

PietyHill Press

centuri0n said...

Yes, I know he's a young guy, but Tad really is my pastor. You now know where to send your complaints about my spiritual formation.

BTW, he preached in 1Cor 15 this weekend. Reading blogs must be good for him ...

ib.carlos said...

As a former Empty Professor, I'm tempted to think this is the issue of which Christians should be aware.

Though I do agree with Frank's earlier comment that to judge too harshly or too narrowly is indeed a risk, '...there are tares among the wheat' seems to me an understatement.

I'm no "Biblio-numerical theorist" (a la 'Omega Code'), but I'm convinced an accurate understanding of Christ's parable of the sower gives us pretty good glimpse into how predmoinant is the presence of "Pseudos" among us (25% ?)

¡sbgtfa!

Tad Thompson said...

Frank:

You are aware that I Corinthians 15 has existed long before the blog. Didn't you know that Bobby Welch came up with it for his FAITH outline?