I was just reading Al Mohler’s latest blog post entitled A Tale of Two Crises? America, Europe, and Secularism, and I realized that loudmouthed, unbelieving, atheist bullies like Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Daniel Dennett, and Christopher Hitchens are steering our country to the cesspools of unbelief, and affecting many impressionable young mean and women.
The fact that a larger proportion of young people are unbelieving in the West is alarming, and those of us who name Christ should join the intellectual fray. While some in the Emergent Church propose we are losing the young because we have not adapted to postmodern thought (and they are right), I have another thesis that needs to come alongside that one – we don’t have enough firebrand intellectuals taking on the atheist and anti-Christian messengers.
We need preachers and public debaters who will fulfill the dictum of the great evangelist John Wesley
Catch on fire with enthusiasm and people will come for miles to watch you burn.
Or as I like to say, people will come to watch a house burn. As a preacher, you need to light yourself on fire (metaphorically speaking!) and go out there and burn!
One of my newly discovered such debaters from history is Clark Braden (1819-1914) who gave over 3000 lectures and engaged in over 130 public debates in his lifetime, defending the faith. This description of both his personality and effectiveness is appealing to me, and should be instructive for all of us who hear the call to ideological battle!
He was endorsed for more than one hundred other debates at which his opponents failed to appear, including “Seventh-dayists,” infidels and Mormons. For more than twenty years it was a standing formula with these errorists, when they challenged for a debate, to condition, “anyone except Braden.“ Some of his opponents, when hard pressed by Mr. Braden, unceremoniously fled from the halls where the discussions were in progress, amid the jeers and hisses of audiences.
His debates and lectures have reached through many States and Provinces of Canada. In April, 1872, Mr. Braden sent a challenge to the great agnostic, Robert G. Ingersoll, to debate in Peoria. When asked by Colonel Wright, “Why do you not accept?” he replied, “I am not such a fool as to debate. He would wear me out.” Mr. Braden’s last public discussion was successfully conducted in his seventy-eighth year.
A prominent minister declared in a church paper that Mr. Braden, by his assaults upon errors and his earnest advocacy of the truth, had saved the Pacific Coast from a tidal wave of infidelity. Mr. Braden was sometimes criticized for his neglect or disregard of the social amenities of life. However, he was always a companionable man, when he had time. A fine physique has enabled him to do the work of two or three men.
He has been “a crank all his life and grows no better,” for he is now an active advocate of Christian socialism. The storms of eighty years have not cooled the ardor of his love for “the truth as it is in Jesus.” For more than sixty years he has studied, investigated, written, taught and debated, and through these six eventful decades his master aim has been, “Accept the Christ’s teachings, live the Christ life, realize the Christ character.”
The fact is, the old guard of cultural and spiritual warriors, including Falwell, Dobson, Robertson, D. James Kennedy, Graham, and Palau, are near the end of their ministries. I know that there are hundreds of invisible warriors already taking the stage behind them that we have not seen.
But I have a message for those called to fight but not yet preparing themselves. DO IT! I am preaching as much to myself as anyone, but I want to say that the encroachment of the twin, opposite evils of Islamism and militant, anti-religious secular/atheist fundies should offend, frighten, and embolden all Christians to not only be more loving, giving, and Christlike, but more outspoken, more confrontational when heresies and lies arise, and more willing to politely but firmly engage the purveyors of these unbalanced or bogus ideologies, with fervor.
I dunno, maybe I am feeling fanatical tonight. Maybe I am fanatical. But I am incensed, and hear the call to battle in my own spirit. Maybe you hear it too.