Friday, April 25, 2008

The Good News According to Ben Stein?

Maybe it's because my primary employment is as a substitute teacher at two private Christian high schools, but has anyone else noticed that Ben Stein and Christian culture are strange bedfellows?

At at least one of those two schools (and I think at both), teachers are offering extra credit for their students to go see Expelled. In fact it seems that the Christian world more generally is getting giddy about catching academic Darwinism with its pants down. I wonder if the film's subtitle should actually be: "See, all us Christians told you rotten atheists, and we were right!"

Well, maybe not. For one thing, it just isn't catchy. But for another, perhaps we ought to remind everyone that Mr. Stein, a bright fellow though he may be, is not a Christian. And I have not yet seen the film (I plan to when it hits the dollar theater- or does it have special effects worthy of my ten bucks?), but isn't the point not as much that ID is correct, but that academic Neo-Darwinists are pushing out the IDers? Starts to make you wonder why Christian high school science classes are being encouraged in droves to go see a documentary about academic integrity.

But of much greater concern is that we Christians are missing much more than the point of the movie. Stein is a Jew making money by pushing a point about ID vs. Neo-Darwinism in academia. And that's fine. But he is not sharing the gospel. So even if we think he is right, why do we Christians fight battles like this so hard in our culture when we won't share the gospel with our next door neighbors? Which of the two really matters most: the effects of Darwinism, or the effects of sin?

Expelled is certainly not the only time this Christian culture phenomenon has reared its ugly head (cf. all the hoopla about removing the Ten Commandments from courtrooms). So why do we get sucked in to things like this? While it probably is not the only reason, maybe it is that we desire to not only be right, but vindicated as such in the eyes of the larger culture.

The problem is that this is not what we are called to (you may remember that stuff Jesus said about how everyone will hate us for following him) and is potentially dangerous: do we not run the risk of confusing the culture about what matters most to Christianity?

As followers of Jesus, we are called to make disciples, not theists. The gospel is the only way that this can happen. I am not saying that we should not watch or even tell our friends about Expelled. I am not saying we should not engage the culture and discuss ideas. I am not saying that the ID vs. Darwinism debate shouldn't matter to Christians.

I am saying that we need to make the main thing, the main thing. And the main thing is the gospel.

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