The media world is rapidly changing, and traditional news organizations are struggling to find their footing. But what role does news media continue to play in informing the public? Which outlets are earning trust (and clicks)? And what do Americans make of “fake news?” Drawing from a number of Barna studies, we take a look at this complex media moment in history.
[Editor’s Note: This article was first published in the earliest days of the GTY Blog. As we recently culled through the ministry archives in preparation for a new blog series on God’s work of creation—which coincides with the broadcast of The Battle for the Beginning sermon series on “Grace to You”—we believed this post deserved further consideration.]
Thanks to the theory of evolution, naturalism is now the dominant religion of modern society. Less than a century and a half ago, Charles Darwin popularized the credo for this secular religion with his book The Origin of Species. Although most of Darwin’s theories about the mechanisms of evolution were discarded long ago, the doctrine of evolution itself has managed to achieve the status of a fundamental article of faith in the popular modern mind. Naturalism has now replaced Christianity as the main religion of the Western world, and evolution has become naturalism’s principal dogma.
Naturalism is the view that every law and every force operating in the universe is natural rather than moral, spiritual, or supernatural. Naturalism is inherently anti-theistic, rejecting the very concept of a personal God. Many assume naturalism therefore has nothing to do with religion. In fact, it is a common misconception that naturalism embodies the very essence of scientific objectivity. Naturalists themselves like to portray their system as a philosophy that stands in opposition to all faith-based world-views, pretending that it is scientifically and intellectually superior precisely because of its supposed non-religious character.
Not so. Religion is exactly the right word to describe naturalism. The entire philosophy is built on a faith-based premise. Its basic presupposition—an a priori rejection of everything supernatural—requires a giant leap of faith. And nearly all its supporting theories must be taken by faith as well.
Consider the dogma of evolution, for example. The notion that natural evolutionary processes can account for the origin of all living species has never been and never will be established as fact. Nor is it “scientific” in any true sense of the word. Science deals with what can be observed and reproduced by experimentation. The origin of life can be neither observed nor reproduced in any laboratory. By definition, then, true science can give us no knowledge whatsoever about where we came from or how we got here. Belief in evolutionary theory is a matter of sheer faith. And dogmatic belief in any naturalistic theory is no more “scientific” than any other kind of religious faith.
Modern naturalism is often promulgated with a missionary zeal that has powerful religious overtones. The popular fish symbol many Christians put on their cars now has a naturalist counterpart: a fish with feet and the word “Darwin” embossed into its side. The Internet has become naturalism’s busiest mission field, where evangelists for the cause aggressively try to deliver benighted souls who still cling to their theistic presuppositions. Judging from the tenor of some of the material I have read seeking to win converts to naturalism, naturalists are often dedicated to their faith with a devout passion that rivals or easily exceeds the fanaticism of any radical religious zealot. Naturalism is clearly as much a religion as any theistic world-view.
The point is further proved by examining the beliefs of those naturalists who claim to be most unfettered by religious beliefs. Take, for example, the case of Carl Sagan, perhaps the best-known scientific celebrity of the past couple of decades. A renowned astronomer and media figure, Sagan was overtly antagonistic to biblical theism. But he became the chief televangelist for the religion of naturalism. He preached a world-view that was based entirely on naturalistic assumptions. Underlying all he taught was the firm conviction that everything in the universe has a natural cause and a natural explanation. That belief—a matter of faith, not a truly scientific observation—governed and shaped every one of his theories about the universe.
Sagan examined the vastness and complexity of the universe and concluded—as he was bound to do, given his starting point—that there is nothing greater than the universe itself. So he borrowed divine attributes such as infinitude, eternality, and omnipotence, and he made them properties of the universe itself.
Sagan’s religion was actually a kind of naturalistic pantheism, and his motto sums it up perfectly. He deified the universe and everything in it—insisting that the cosmos itself is that which was, and is, and is to come (cf. Revelation 4:8). Having examined enough of the cosmos to see evidence of the Creator’s infinite power and majesty, he imputed that omnipotence and glory to creation itself—precisely the error the apostle Paul describes in Romans 1:20-22:
For since the creation of the world His invisible attributes are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even His eternal power and Godhead, so that they are without excuse, because, although they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God, nor were thankful, but became futile in their thoughts, and their foolish hearts were darkened. Professing to be wise, they became fools.
Exactly like the idolaters Paul was describing, Sagan put creation in the Creator’s rightful place.
Carl Sagan looked at the universe and saw its greatness and concluded nothing could possibly be greater. His religious presuppositions forced him to deny that the universe was the result of intelligent design. In fact, as a devoted naturalist, he had to deny that it was created at all. Therefore he saw it as eternal and infinite—so it naturally took the place of God in his thinking.
The religious character of the philosophy that shaped Sagan’s world-view is evident in much of what he wrote and said. His novel Contact (made into a major motion picture in 1997) is loaded with religious metaphors and imagery. It’s about the discovery of extraterrestrial life, which occurs in December 1999, at the dawn of a new millennium, when the world is rife with Messianic expectations and apocalyptic fears. In Sagan’s imagination, the discovery of intelligent life elsewhere in the universe becomes the “revelation” that affords a basis for the fusing of science and religion into a world-view that perfectly mirrors Sagan’s own belief system—with the cosmos as God and scientists as the new priesthood.
Although not every naturalist is as explicit in their use of religious language, their worldview is inherently the same. If there is no God, the only way to make sense of creation is to turn the natural into the supernatural. While naturalism cannot explain why people would believe in God, God tells us why people would believe in naturalism.
(Adapted from The Battle for the Beginning.)
Available online at: https://www.gty.org/library/blog/B170419
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Atlas Obscura shares the fascinating story of John Alexander Dowie, a health and wealth huckster who paved the way for the Benny Hinn’s and Creflo Dollar’s of today. Dowie was not ashamed of his wealth, and he lived in unabashed luxury. “Jesus came to make His people rich,” Dowie preached. Not in the “life to come,” but a “hundredfold now in this time.”
John Alexander Dowie was not America’s first faith healer—but he was the first to get rich doing it. Dowie, a Congregational minister originally from Scotland, discovered his unusual gift in 1876, when he was 29. A small girl dying of diphtheria was miraculously cured after Dowie prayed at her bedside.
A year later he launched his healing ministry. After stints in Australia and California, Dowie moved to Chicago and opened a church near the site of the 1893 World’s Fair. Sadie Cody, who was in town to see her uncle Buffalo Bill Cody’s Wild West Show at the fair, went to see Dowie about a tumor in her back. After he laid his hands on her, Cody later said, she “felt a new life” inside her. The tumor vanished, and word of Dowie’s seemingly miraculous healing powers spread quickly.
In his lifetime, Dowie claimed to cure scores of serious afflictions, including smallpox, cancer, broken limbs, and blindness, as well as lesser ailments like asthma and arthritis. Medical doctors and mainline Protestant ministers, however, dismissed Dowie as a charlatan, noting that many of the illnesses he claimed to cure were psychosomatic, while the most dramatic healings were obviously staged.
Nonetheless, Dowie’s flock multiplied rapidly, and by 1901 he had amassed enough followers to establish his own version of utopia, a biblical city built from scratch on 10 square miles of farmland 40 miles north of Chicago.
Read more: The Sketchy Faith Healer
After attending a service at St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church, Jeff Maples of Pulpit & Pen made this observation: A lost person could not walk into this church and walk out a changed man. It was literally a Pagan practice. Like a seance. Pure witchcraft was going on in this place.
Now read about Maples experience during a recent St. Nektarios church service:
One of the biggest complaints against Pulpit & Pen we get consistently is that we somehow don’t “have all our facts,” or are “misrepresenting” someone or something. I received countless emails claiming that I “misrepresented” Greek Orthodoxy in my recent posts regarding Hank Hanegraaff and that I should do more research. Well, what better way to research than to go straight to the source in person? Saturday, April 15, known as Holy Saturday in the Orthodox tradition, I along with a couple of friends went to visit St. Nektarios Greek Orthodox Church in Charlotte, NC–the church that Hanegraaff was recently chrismated in. The service began at 11:30 pm, and was still going strong showing no signs of slowing down when we decided to leave at around 2:00 am. While we hoped to have the opportunity to confront Hanegraaff in person, being that we all had to get up early the next morning to worship the living God on Easter morning, we decided to call it a night early. However, there are quite a few things that we can take away from this experience in this church.
There is no other group on the planet subject to so much persecution, suffering and death as Christians. Primarily at the hands of Islam, Christianity is the most abused and persecuted group today, and it seems to be getting worse as we speak.
Daily we see graphic reminders of the war on Christianity, with believers being killed around the world at alarming rates. One organisation working on behalf of the persecuted church, Open Doors, lays out the facts and figures this way:
-322 Christians are killed for their faith
-214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed
-772 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests, and forced marriages)
In many parts of the world, Christians gathering to celebrate Christ’s resurrection do so with the knowledge that any day their faith could cost them their lives as it has for thousands of their brothers and sisters….
During the last calendar year, some 90,000 Christians were killed for their faith across the globe, making Christians by far the most persecuted group in the world, according to a study from the Turin-based Center for Studies on New Religions (CESNUR).
The director of CESNUR, Dr. Massimo Introvigne, told Breitbart News that whereas atheistic communist regimes were the greatest persecutors of Christians in the last century, “Islamic ultra-fundamentalism” has taken its place as the number-one agent of persecution.
The Center’s findings corroborate those of other scholars and human rights groups. According to the 2016 “World Watch List,” for example, published by the Open Doors organization, nine out of the top ten countries where Christians suffer “extreme persecution” had populations that are at least 50 percent Muslim.
Their 2016 report revealed that “Islamic extremism is by far the most significant persecution engine” of Christians in the world today and that “40 of the 50 countries on the World Watch List are affected by this kind of persecution.”
During the year, nearly one-third of the Christians killed for their faith were executed at the hands of Islamic extremists such as the Islamic State or Boko Haram.
While tens of thousands of Christians are killed for their faith, Introvigne said, they are just the tip of the iceberg and much persecution takes place on a daily basis that never makes news. Along with the enormous number of deaths, a great many more Christians—as many as 600 million—were prevented from practicing their faith in 2016.
As you know Coptic Christians in Egypt have especially been targeted of late. Coptic believers in the UK are certainly worried about all this. As one news report states:
Amir Michaeel is a Coptic Christian and like many others he struggles to understand why his faith is such a target overseas. ‘In a way it can be like, because we are not retaliating, we are a weaker target and we are easy prey,’ he said. ‘But at the same time I feel like there is something profoundly difficult about attacking someone who is not retaliating. For someone to turn the other cheek and for you to feel okay to hit them, I feel like it would take something quite inhumane to do something like that.’
There is a general perception that the media, and the West, has in recent years largely ignored attacks on Christians in some parts of the world. Tim Stanley, journalist for the Daily Telegraph, has written on the subject and told Sky News that people are too afraid to call it ‘a war’.
He said: ‘Some Western governments are legitimately worried about appearing to validate the narrative of the Islamists that this is about Islam versus Christianity, so they don’t want to talk about the persecution of Christians and I get that. The problem is that’s exactly what is actually happening. Moreover, I fear that some of that is political correctness.’
Yes, Western nations should be at the forefront of standing up for these persecuted believers. Yet in the West our leaders too often seem far more worried about Muslims having their feelings hurt. We have managed to side against the persecuted while siding with the persecutors.
Thankfully there are some notable exceptions here. Let me single out just one: Coalition frontbencher Michael Sukkar, the Federal member for Deakin. Late last year he released a ‘Grievance Motion on the Global Persecution of Christians’. He said in part:
I rise this evening to speak about a matter of great importance to me and many people in the Australian community and, I hope and believe, to many people throughout our world: that is, the persecution of Christians around the world. We hear much in the media commentariat and elsewhere about the persecution of various groups globally. Often this is warranted, and it is important to recognise that our efforts as Australians and as part of the Western world to fight against these injustices are often informed by the Judaeo-Christian values that underpin the values of our country and our civilisation more broadly.
Yet in our world today, the undeniable reality is that it is those of a Christian faith who are the most persecuted people in the world. This persecution can often be at the hands intolerant majorities of other faiths or militant groups, but it is more often than not state sponsored persecution against Christians that is becoming increasingly widespread. Of even greater concern is that this state sponsored persecution often comes at the hands of governments who receive foreign aid from Australia as well as other Western nominally Christian countries.
One shocking recent example is that of Asia Bibi, a mother of five in Pakistan who has essentially been sentenced to death for the crime of being Christian in a Muslim majority country after a recent sentence hearing on a charge of blasphemy. You may ask: What was her crime? She was alleged to have told colleagues that Jesus would have taken a different viewpoint to Mohammed when she was asked not to drink from the same water supply as the Muslim residents in her village. They believed that she would foul the water supply with her unclean Christian hands. After Asia Bibi allegedly said that Jesus would take a different view, a Muslim replied: ‘How dare you question the prophet, you dirty animal.’ Three other women joined in shouting, ‘It’s true, you’re nothing but a dirty Christian.’
This is sadly just another example of the ongoing persecution and terror that Christians face in Pakistan. Christian women and girls are regularly abducted in Pakistan; some are killed, others are forced to convert and marry; and many never heard from again. This is all occurring at a time when Pakistan is a huge beneficiary of foreign aid funding from a number of Western nations. From Australia alone, Pakistan will receive more than $55 million in aid this year. Other places such as the United States and the United Kingdom give at even higher levels. Clearly, it is a grave concern that Australian taxpayer dollars would go to a country and government that carries out such egregious human rights abuses directed at a particular minority—in this case, Pakistani Christians.
If Pakistani does carry out the execution or refuses to release Bibi, Australia should cut all aid and consider further sanctions, including sporting bans which would necessarily affect the Pakistan cricket team. This would send a strong message to the world that Australia will always stand up for persecuted minorities, not least the Christian communities that the world seems to have turned its back on.
And just a few weeks ago he called on Australia to officially recognise as genocide the Islamic State massacre of Christians in Iraq and Syria. As one news report states:
Mr Sukkar will call for a Coalition-sponsored motion to be put before parliament when it returns in May. The bid to build consensus on the issue comes after Foreign Minister Julie Bishop was approached last year by an ISIS survivor for the government to adopt a genocide declaration against the terrorist group.
Labor’s Treasury spokesman, Chris Bowen, last year put a motion to parliament to recognise the ethnic and religious “cleansing” of Christians by ISIS but it was never put to debate. Mr Sukkar, a Lebanese Christian and MP for Deakin, has now called for the government to put its own motion to the house, following the Scottish parliament’s recognition last week of the mass killings as “genocide”.
“The persecution and attempted genocide of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East has been occurring for centuries,” Mr Sukkar told The Australian. “It has now reached its zenith with the bloodthirsty and barbaric Daesh (ISIS) attempting to wipe all Christians and Yazidis from the Middle East. Sadly, the silence has been deafening from large parts of the Western media and political class to these atrocities.”
Please get involved
There are many things concerned citizens can do about this. If you are a Christian, prayer is vital of course. Letting our leaders know about this and urging them to action is also crucial, and supporting MPs like Sukkar is certainly very important. Another course of action is a new petition being circulated by CitizenGo. Their initiative reads as follows:
Last Sunday two deadly attacks rocked Egypt in two different cities, killing at least 45 Christians. Daesh (ISIS) claimed responsibility for the attacks in what has become an everyday occurrence for thousands of Christians worldwide.
Since December, the attacks by ISIS in Egypt have increased and Christians have been killed in their homes, businesses and places of worship. According to experts, the destabilisation of Egypt has become a new target for ISIS.
Speaking in Australia following the attacks, Federal Liberal MP Michael Sukkar told Sky news: “There needs to be a political awakening and movement for people who want to practice their faith in peace.”
He called for the Australian parliament to declare the atrocities committed against Christians around the world as ‘genocide’ and accused the Islamic State radicals of waging a war on Christianity.
Please sign this petition now to support this call to the Australian government:
Signing and sharing this petition is the least we can do for our persecuted brothers and sisters. Please do so now.
Easter is upon us, and with all the iconography of chocolate eggs and marshmallow bunnies, it’s easy to forget that the single most significant Christian holiday is about more than an egg hunt. Has the desacralization of Easter extended to its central figure? To answer that question, we took a closer look at how U.S. adults see and relate to Jesus in a new infographic.
The problem is that we select negative charismatic leaders much more frequently than in the limited situations where the risk they represent might pay off. Despite their grandiose view of themselves, low empathy, dominant orientation toward others, and strong sense of entitlement, their charisma proves irresistible. Followers of superheroes are enthralled by their showmanship: through their sheer magnetism, narcissistic leaders transform their environments into a competitive game in which their followers also become more self-centered, giving rise to organizational narcissism, as one study shows.
The research is clear: when we choose humble, unassuming people as our leaders, the world around us becomes a better place.
Humble leaders improve the performance of a company in the long run because they create more collaborative environments. They have a balanced view of themselves – both their virtues and shortcomings – and a strong appreciation of others’ strengths and contributions, while being open to new ideas and feedback. These “unsung heroes” help their believers to build their self-esteem, go beyond their expectations, and create a community that channels individual efforts into an organized group that works for the good of the collective.
For example, one study examined 105 small-to-medium-sized companies in the computer software and hardware industry in the United Studies. The findings revealed that when a humble CEO is at the helm of a firm, its top management team is more likely to collaborate and share information, making the most of the firm’s talent.
Another study showed that a leader’s humility can be contagious: when leaders behave humbly, followers emulate their modest attitude and behavior. A study of 161 teams found that employees following humble leaders were themselves more likely to admit their mistakes and limitations, share the spotlight by deflecting praise to others, and be open to new ideas, advice, and feedback.
Yet instead of following the lead of these unsung heroes, we appear hardwired to search for superheroes: over-glorifying leaders who exude charisma.
The Greek word Kharisma means “divine gift,” and charisma is the quality of extraordinary charm, magnetism, and presence that makes a person capable of inspiring others with enthusiasm and devotion. German sociologist Max Weber defined charisma as “of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of it, the individual concerned is treated as a leader.” Research evidence on charismatic leadership reveals that charismatic people are more likely to become endorsed as leaders because of their high energy, unconventional behavior, and heroic deeds.
While charisma is conductive to orchestrating positive large-scale transformations, there can be a “dark side” to charismatic leadership. Jay Conger and Rabindra Kanungo describe it this way in their seminal book: “Charismatic leaders can be prone to extreme narcissism that leads them to promote highly self-serving and grandiose aims.” A clinical study illustrates that when charisma overlaps with narcissism, leaders tend to abuse their power and take advantage of their followers. Another study indicates that narcissistic leaders tend to present a bold vision of the future, and this makes them more charismatic in the eyes of others.
The post If Humble People Make the Best Leaders, Why Do We Fall for Charismatic Narcissists? appeared first on The Aquila Report.
High profile Church leaders who teach doctrines of demons actually have the temerity to warn their critics to back off or face danger of divine judgment. Well, Cameron Buettel’s not backing off. In a blog post he wrote for Grace to You, Buettel names names and includes a video of one wolf in sheep’s clothing you won’t want to miss. The man’s heretical teaching is breathtaking! Even so, he has a gazillion adoring fans who financially support his sham of a ministry and they’ve made him a wealthy man. Why would any serious Christian support mangy wolves? Because many believers simply are unable to discern a wolf from a terrier, the reason being that they don’t have a firm grasp of Church doctrine — what they believe and why they believe it.
Someone once said that the Church is a mile wide and an inch deep. In other words, when it comes to understanding the things of God, His people have very little understanding. As a result of their shallowness, spiritual discernment is pretty much non-existent in the visible Church. And therein lies the problem.
So with all of this in mind, here’s Cameron Buettel’s excellent post:
False teaching thrives in environments where it is unlikely to be questioned. Charlatans and heretics prey on uncritical minds, and work tirelessly to protect and preserve that gullibility. Their success depends on dismantling every challenge to their authority and accuracy.
John MacArthur describes why that problem is rampant in the modern church:
In a time like this of tolerance, listen, false teaching will always cry intolerance; it will always say you’re being divisive, you’re being unloving, you’re being ungracious, because it can only survive when it doesn’t get scrutinized. And so it cries against any intolerance. It cries against any examination, any scrutiny.
Hank Hanegraaff addressed his conversion to the Orthodox faith on his radio show The Bible Answer Man in response to a caller who expressed concern that in becoming Eastern Orthodox, Hank had left the Christian faith. Following is his response:
I am now a member of an Orthodox Church, but nothing has changed in my faith. I have been attending an Orthodox church for a long time—for over two years, really, as a result of what happened when I went to China, many years ago. I saw Chinese Christians who were deeply in love with the Lord, and I learned that while they may not have had as much intellectual acumen or knowledge as I did, they had life. And so I learned that while truth matters, life matters more, and I remember flying back from China after spending time with just common people who had adeep, intense love for the Lord, and wondering, “Was I even a Christian?”
I was comparing my ability to communicate truth with their deep and abiding love for the Lord Jesus Christ… One man, by the way, said to me, truth matters but life matters more. In other words, it is not just knowing about Jesus Christ, it is experiencing the Resurrected Christ. As a result of that I started studying what was communicated by the progeny of Watchman Nee with respect to theosis and that drove me back to the early Christian Church.
And I suppose over that period of time I have fallen ever more in love with my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. It’s sort of like my wife—I have never been more in love with my wife than I am today, and I’ve never been more in love with my Lord Jesus Christ than I am today. I’ve been impacted by the whole idea of knowing Jesus Christ, experiencing Jesus Christ, and partaking of the graces of Jesus Christ through the Eucharist or the Lord’s Table. And that has become so central in my life, but as far as the statement that you mentioned, that I’ve left the Christian faith—nothing could be farther from the truth. In fact I believe what I have always believed, as codified in the Nicene Creed, and as championed by mere Christianity.
Hanegraaff recited the Nicene Creed and then concluded:
In other words, I am as deeply committed to championing mere Christianity and the essentials of the historic Christian faith, as I have ever been.
Articles that come from different perspectives:
“We need to write about the Orthodox Church because it has a membership of over 200 million people worldwide and because it claims to be the only true Church on earth. When any such claim is made involving so many people, it is necessary to research and write about such a group and compare it to scripture.”
“The Orthodox Church claims to be the one true church of Christ, and seeks to trace its origin back to the original apostles through an unbroken chain of apostolic succession. Orthodox thinkers debate the spiritual status of Roman Catholics and Protestants, and a few still consider them heretics. Like Catholics and Protestants, however, Orthodox believers affirm the Trinity, the Bible as the Word of God, Jesus as God the Son, and many other biblical doctrines. However, in doctrine, they have much more in common with Roman Catholics than they do with Protestant Christians.”
Ed Stetzer is a prominent evangelical with considerable credibility. But when it comes to spiritual things Stetzer has shown time and time again that he lacks discernment. If he had an ounce of spiritual discernment would he spend his valuable time interviewing Word of Faith pastrix Christine Caine regarding her new partnership with Wheaton College, a Christian institution? Not surprisingly Ed Stetzer did just that. In a piece over at Pulpit & Pen, Bud Ahlheim addresses the Stetzer-Caine interview and Caine’s baffling arrangement with Wheaton. He writes:
In Revelation 2:20, Christ chided the church of Thyatira in no uncertain terms. “I have this against you, that you tolerate that woman Jezebel, who calls herself a prophetess.” Today, though, it isn’t just a single church tolerating just a single “prophetess;” it’s a large swath of the evangelical church embracing a legion of false teaching sirens, none of whom are actually named Jezebel.
One, in particular, is Christine Caine.
“I’m spiritual but not religious.” You’ve heard it—maybe even said it—before. But what does it actually mean? In this second part of a two-part series on faith outside the church, Barna takes a close look at the segment of the American population who are “spiritual but not religious.” Who are they? What do they believe? How do they live out their spirituality daily?