Contemp Culture, Fuller, MP520

MP520 – Tuesday Reflections, Week 8 (barriers to faith)

What do you think the main barriers to faith are? 

I grew up in an environment that stressed apologetics – if someone didn’t want to be a Christian, it was because there is an intellectual gap that they have to cross in order to accept the tenants of faith.  So, these barriers to faith are intellectual and rational.  If you are good enough with your systematic theology and can debate/communicate well, you would probably be able to convince some people to accept Christianity as a good belief system. 

And I think that is still true for some people. 

But what if there are other barriers to faith?  What if sociological and cultural factors serve as insurmountable barriers keeping people from Christianity – not just outside of the borders of Western culture, but deep in the center of it?  What if no amount of systematics, apologetics, theology, philosophy, or rational thinking can convince someone to accept the religion of Christianity because all those things, as good as they are, say nothing about the social and cultural barriers that they face? 

What then?

People are not just interested in the way that we think or reason.  People are looking at the way that we live our lives.  Donald Mcgavran said that if there were no barriers to faith, the gospel would spread like wildfire.  So that’s one of my goals…holistic barrier breaking.  Not just intellectual, but socialal and cultural as well. 

What do you think?  What other barriers are there that need to be broken through?

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5 thoughts on “MP520 – Tuesday Reflections, Week 8 (barriers to faith)

  1. Stupidity springs to mind. More seriously, stubbornness, a feeling that religion is not ‘cool’, secular powermongering by the likes of Richard Dawkins, privitised religion (don’t ask me, I won’t ask you), fear of being judged (I’m not good enough , or I’ve done things that God could never forgive), relativism, perceived divisions among Christians, hypocrisy and double standards (certain US evangelist springs to mind), a lack of holistic spirituality in church (for some, where is art, where is depth, what about sexuality? etc). That should do to be going on with :-).

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  2. francoisengelbrecht says:

    I think the perception that faith and spirituality is outdated, judgemental and hypocritical is a great barrier. I see that in a lot of my friends. Most of us grew up in church (Dutch Reformed in 1980’s apartheid South Africa) and that experience has pulled a lot of people away from God. We had to sit there Sunday after Sunday and listen to sermons about the evils of drinking, smoking nd long hair, while the same church that talked about love for God and your fellow man condoned and supported a system that oppressed other human beings. I was fortunate that as I grew older I could seperate God and His love for us from that experience, but a lot of people haven’t been able to.

    The challenge now is to live your faith and reach people with your actions, as they couldn’t care less about what you say.

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  3. For me, I simply didn’t want to have faith and I wanted to have fun. Since you could never know for sure that God was real, I figured it was up to my best judgement. So I decided that I would not have faith while I was young and enjoy life and then be all “religious” when I was old and could die- just incase there really was a heaven.

    My barrier? I wanted to do whatever I wanted to do.

    I think it is hard to give up your will to follow God’s. Christians aren’t even that good at it. It’s a big leap in how you live, and I didn’t want to make that leap.

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  4. Maria is on to something. Individualism – Ego – Self at the center of the universe. I want to be in charge of my own life, don’t tell me what to do, or as the old song said “I did it MY way” (which is a big hit at funerals these days when a religious song won’t cut it).

    Maybe people who see hypocrisy most clearly (you talk about God stuff but live your own way) are the same people who don’t want to give up being the center of their life. They understand what true faith should look like. And in addition to seeing that most Christians don’t live it, know they don’t want to give up control in the first place.

    Maybe the true barrier is partly this: they don’t understand the Holy Spirit’s role in transforming us after we believe. That our desires actually change. That we become new – and though it doesn’t happen overnight, we are changed. We still struggle, that’s okay. But God doesn’t ask us to believe and then expect us to suddenly change. His spirit actually works in us.

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  5. Thanks for all your insights!!

    snakesanddoves, I hear you on the privatized and non-holistic spirituality – I think that is a huge turn off to people. What is the point of Christianity if it doesn’t actually transform you in ways that people can see?

    Francois, what a great perspective. It seems that the way faith is handled in times of crises and injustice speaks volumes, and it cements judgment of that religion, for good or for bad, for a long time to come…

    Maria – so true…how do we speak about wanted to appeal to a higher law and a higher standard when people are completely content with where they’re at? At what level does Christianity attract someone who is complacent with where they are in life? Great questions.

    Nancy – Control is definitely huge…and it is so hard to show people how Christians are different when we have to admit that we are “in the process” of being new creations. Sometimes I feel like we just need to ‘suck it up’ so to speak and start acting like Christ, as hard or as uncomfortable as it may be. I think for me, there’s definitely a comfort level about fitting in – it’s just a bit too radical to act like Christ sometimes….but, that’s what we are called to….

    Anyways, thanks for the great conversation!

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