October 28, 2011
Evangelical Christians are rightly committed to truth. We have not always managed to affirm the corollary—truthfulness in every-day life. The reality is we cannot consistently affirm the truth of the gospel, Holy Scripture and essential Christian doctrines, and then overlook our commitment to truthfulness in the way we live and the way we articulate our faith. Truth and truthfulness are both affirmations of what is real and authentic.
Our need to affirm truthfulness in the realities of ministry and every-day life was brought home to me recently by reading Bradley Wright’s award-winning book, Christians are Hate-Filled Hypocrites…and Other Lies You’ve Been Told. Wright, a sociologist at the University of Connecticut, is well versed in statistical analysis, and in this book tackles some of the statistical portrayals of evangelical Christianity, by evangelicals themselves. His conclusion? They have distorted reality by misusing statistics.
As Wright notes, we are inundated with bad news about Christianity: “The Church is shrinking; Christians get divorced more than anyone else; non-Christians have a very low opinion of Christians; and on and on it goes.” There is just one small problem in all this. “Many of the statistics currently bandied about regarding the Christian faith in the United States are incomplete, inaccurate, and otherwise prone to emphasize the negative. Bad news has pushed aside the good news about the Good News.”
According to Wright one of the most blatant distortions of truthfulness occurs in a book entitled, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. The author claims, “When asked to rate eleven groups in terms of respect, non-Christians rated Evangelicals tenth. Only prostitutes rated lower.” This got picked up by a number of bloggers with a prophetic edge and one proclaimed, “Only prostitutes rank lower than Evangelicals.” But as Wright so clearly and patiently shows, the wording of the questionnaire and the statistical analysis itself were fraught with major problems. They thus failed to capture reality.
If we believe in truth and proclaim the truth, we must be committed to its corollary: truthfulness in what we say and how we live. Authenticity of words and life go hand in hand with the truth of the Gospel and God’s Word.
To explore this topic further, consider attending the Pastors’ Forum with Bradley Wright Wednesday, November 9. Click here for details and registration.
Dr. Dennis Hollinger is President and the Colman M. Mockler Distinguished Professor of Christian Ethics at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary in South Hamilton, MA.
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