When it happens, church abuse, especially of children, is horrific and deplorable. Critics of the Church point to the sexual abuse scandals as a huge reason to call the Christian faith into question. The ongoing Australian Royal Commission into child sexual abuse has uncovered case after case of broken trust, attempted cover-ups and gross system/organisational failure within the Church, especially the Catholic Church. This has left many critics and victims of abuse feeling like they can no longer trust the Church or its message. The Church’s own moral teaching is about protecting the most vulnerable so when abuse happens the Church has been called hypocritical and worse.
To many this is the number one blocker to Christian faith. The vast majority of people deplore this kind of abuse and are rightly shocked at the Church when it happens. This is a major belief blocker and we will be hearing testimonies and responses through this video.
We live in a ‘scientific age’. Today in Australia science is honoured as representing what is logical, verifiable and repeatable, whereas ‘faith in God’ is portrayed in some circles as irrational and superstitious. New Atheists like Richard Dawkins and naturalists claim that science has removed all need for belief in God, and religion is no better than fairy tales (like Santa Claus). Sam Harris even adds that ‘There is a price paid whenever an eminent scientist pretends that there’s no conflict between science and religion.’ Is he right or wrong?
The New Atheists, like Harris and Dawkins, claim that no sane, intelligent person can believe in God and they try to pit science against God. On the other side, mathematician Dr John Lennox says, ‘a simple observation on the history of science shows that it exploded in the 16th and 17th centuries in Western Europe in a theistic context ... and the best summary of it is again C.S. Lewis, “Men became scientific because they expected law in nature and they expected law in nature because they believed in a Law Giver.” So the basic stance is this – that far from belief in God being a hindrance for science, it was the motor that drove it.’
Today we live in the aftermath of the 1960s sexual revolution. There is a significant change in community views about sexual morality including homosexual behaviour. An active gay lifestyle is becoming increasingly accepted and, in some circles, actively celebrated and promoted. The push for gay marriage to be accepted has gained momentum and has been adopted in a number of Western countries.
Historically the Church has taught that homosexual sex is contrary to Biblical teaching. This stance has come under increasing community criticism. The Church is now being regularly branded ‘homophobic’ by critics. This topic is extremely sensitive and opinion, even within the church, is quite diverse. It raises many issues about human identity, sexuality and the definition of marriage. Critics note that the traditional teaching of the Church is turning many people away. With so many political parties and countries changing their view on this matter should the Church also change? How should Christians respond?
The Church across the Western World has experienced significant decline in the last 100 years. In Australia in the 1950s about 44% attended church regularly (at least once per month). Now that figure has declined to about 17%. In the UK 150 years ago 50% attended regularly; now it’s less than 7%. In the Australian community the perception is that the institution of the Church is virtually irrelevant, certainly outdated and becoming obsolete. Also these days there are plenty of people who see the decline of the traditional church as a natural evolution away from the authoritarian, moralistic and superstitious institution towards a more rational scientific understanding of reality. Many feel the Church will eventually die out as the older members pass away. Is this a true and valid perspective of the church? How do we respond to this?
“My hope for anybody that watches this series is they come to a place of belief and recognise that they can be confident in what they believe. (Cristian faith) is not a flaky idea; it’s not kind of weak resignation to something that’s intellectually fragile. This is firm foundations of belief that you can be confident in, that you can hold your head up in any community, in any space and say, ‘Yes, this is what I believe,’ and we trust that the whole series of Towards Belief has been people coming to a place where they’re firm in their faith, firm in their belief and sure of their future. That’s my hope.” (Karl Faase)