We hosted guest speakers Rex Burks and Owen Younger at our service on March 4th of 2018. They are former fundamentalist Christians who reasoned their way out of that mindset but have, like so many such people (many of us!), maintained a great interest in Christianity and its scriptural, historical and cultural basis as well as in believers and why they believe what they believe. In particular, Burks and Younger have together visited a wide variety of different denominations' Sunday School and Bible Study classes at which “everyone is welcome.” They shared their experiences with us including the surprising finding that there is a lot more doubt among believers than is usually supposed by atheists. They did find a spectrum of this, though, from “liberal” - almost agnostic/atheist – denominations like the Episcopalians to the very orthodox Church of Christ congregations. Curiously, they were not really able to find an entry into Catholicism, in part because Catholicism is really based not so much on the Bible as on Church teachings and it is expected that Catholics know these things. But for classes for those wishing to become Catholics, there aren't really any easy ways to explore Catholicism as an outsider.
Burks and Younger explained that they thought Christianity, entirely aside from its theological claims – which vary quite a bit – make five basic claims:
1. God is real. Miracles are real.
2. The Bible is a divine, perfect book.
3. God's plans are beautiful
4. Christianity is very good for humanity.
5. Life without Christianity would be meaningless and hopeless
They proceeded to point out how transparently ridiculous these ideas are, adding that they had an entire separate presentation that answers these claims in detail.
Burks and Younger also related that they were treated well at the church meetings they attended and perhaps only once were proselytized. Of course, the believers they were interacting with were a self-selected subset of Christians interested in Bible study and not those who don't feel the need to learn more about the Bible because “God said it, I believe it, and that that's that!” Obviously the latter are the sort of Christians that express hostility to unbelievers and cause them to fear making their doubts about theology known.
We had a lively question-and-answer session that ran over our usual time period but all who stayed for it found it interesting and rewarding. Burks and Younger will be returning in September at out First-Sunday service on the 2nd of that month to discuss further their analysis of the five basic claims of Christianity as they see it. And Rex Burks, being an attorney, has also promised to come for our July 1st service to present “A Primer in the History of Church and State: The American Story” just a few days before the Independence Day holiday on the 4th.
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