More Lively Critique Coming Your Way!

I want to thank my friend Nate (check out his lengthy response to my “atheist” blog here (comment #37) ) who gave me a book yesterday, The Dishonest Church by Jack Good. Here’s a part of the write-up on the back cover of the book that I think presents some interest:

“Two distinct styles of faith characterize the mainline Protestant churches in the U.S. One is the faith of the academy, theologically informed but arid and intellectual. The other is popular Christianity, an energetic mixture of tradition and superstition that provides fellowship and comfort but cannot answer the challenges posed by historical and scientific knowledge. Mainline pastors tend to hold an academic faith, but, lest they scandalize the laity, they preach a popular one. Meanwhile, those who seek a faith adequate to the modern world are silently disappearing from the pews.”
Within the book, Good is more direct:
“Members of the laity fear the loss of their faith; clergy fear the loss of their jobs” (p. 4).
Ouch! I’m reading the book with interest because Good and I share a common love and concern: the church.


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  • Jeff Roach

    Only two distinct styles? This is not a new phenomenon. Growing up in the Catholic church I was always surprised to learn, becasue I often went out of my way to befriend them, how few priests actually believed the things they preached or at least in the way or to the extent that they preached.

    This lack of authenticity must be one of the contributors to the crumbling of the organized church worldwide and the erosion of trust in church authority.

    Your sincerity and authenticity, David, is precisely what draws people to you and your church, whether we agree with what you have to say or not.

  • Well, I think by “characterize”, I think he’s drawing a charicature, which are always exaggerations to make a point. I totally understand where he’s coming from here. He’s been a pastor serving churches for many years, so he’s probably got some keen insights on the issue.

    Thanks for your comments about sincerity and authenticity, although it’s been my experience that you win some, you lose some. It is not necessarily a guaranteed drawing card.

  • Fred

    What about the mystical/experiential? That doesn’t fit into either fellowship/comfort or theological/informed. What about churches centered on meeting social needs and concerns like some inner city churches?

    The problem is that all generalities are false…

  • Richard

    What popular Christianity cannot answer the challenges posed by historical and scientific knowledge? Haven’t read the book, but that seems like a sweeping statement.

  • He uses the example of the virgin birth that is believed in popular Christianity. He claims that it is myth and cannot be scientifically proven. That’s just an example.

  • Fred

    “Scientifically proven” is the only criterion by which we judge truth.

  • Fred

    Sorry, I meant to say “scientifically proven” is NOT the only criterion by which we judge (and by judge, I mean evaluate) truth.

  • That’s okay Fred… we all make mistakes 8)

  • John

    Seems to be a blanket statement!

    I don’t know how wise it is to examine the Canadian Church with the comments made in regard to the American Church.

  • kari

    Re: “Members of the laity fear the loss of their faith; clergy fear the loss of their jobs” (p. 4). Ouch!

    If Good is accurate, that sounds like a lot of fear. It could be a near death experience for some rather than an “ouch”.

    Hopefully, your blog will continue to provide a space for positive exchange that will encourage understanding. It seems to me that understanding will lessen fear, if not take it out at the knees in many cases.

    If you wait too much longer to ride down on your bike, you will likely freeze your ass off.

  • I’ve been thinking about that Kari. Seriously. Are you home tomorrow?

  • Richard

    Is “freezing your ass off” TRUTH??? Ride an ass and you might keep your ass warm! You could put a blanket on it like John suggests. Is there such a large difference between a Canadian and an American church??

  • kari

    Hey Dave, home (in the office) all day.

    The main difference between the Canadian Church and the American Church is that one says “eh” and one doesn’t. The second difference is that one orders Canadian Bacon on the Pizzas at youth gatherings and the other doesn’t.

  • John

    Ahh … Kari you have great spiritual insight to the North American church! There has to be something there about pork or no pork. Jews and Gentiles? hmmmm

  • kari

    Thanks John for noticing the shallow, non-mystical, non-logical and far-from-absolute meaning to the latter part of my statement…most would have missed it…then again, most would not have finished reading it!
    I meant, of course, that the average church would only dip into the budget to supply youth with pizza on a planned and adult supervised “outreach” night. So with the possibility of an ethnically diverse group showing up, pizza toppings would probably lean toward Kosher, Vegan and diabetic diets to name just a few.
    Augustine probably never had pork or pepperoni at his youth group’s pizza parties because he viewed the church as a mixed bag of people and expected saints and sinners from all persuasions to show up and hang out. But then again, maybe he had an “anything goes” mentality and people would eat veal and drink non-diet coke…maybe he didn’t care either way.