From: Peter Ruest (email@example.com)
Date: Tue Feb 04 2003 - 00:54:26 EST
> Don Winterstein <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote (Fri, 31 Jan 2003 22:36:56 -0800):
> I don't doubt what Peter Ruest and Alan McCarrick say about the "absence of
> God" on continental Europe, but I'm having difficulty squaring those views
> with personal observations. Perhaps they can shed some light.
> I spent about 2.5 years in Bavaria in the early '60s and two years in
> Yorkshire in the early '70s, and I've made assorted other trips to most
> countries in western Europe. I often attended Sunday worship services and
> presentations of religious music. Catholic services in France and Italy
> were often packed. Protestant services elsewhere were less well attended
> but still fairly full. I sensed that attendees in northern Germany and
> Norway (Trondheim, Oslo) were fairly cold and seemed to go mostly for the
> music, but this is just a feeling since I didn't spend much time in those
> places. In no place did I have much personal interaction with the people,
> but the piety of many of the Catholics seemed obvious.
> - ----- Original Message -----
> From: "Peter Ruest" <email@example.com>
> To: "Mccarrick Alan D CRPH" <MccarrickAD@nswccd.navy.mil>; <firstname.lastname@example.org>
> Sent: Friday, January 31, 2003 9:42 AM
> Subject: Re: Scientist Christians on the (European) Continent
> > Alan McCarrick wrote:
> > > We had a missionary speak at our church on his work in France and
> emphasized the almost complete absence of God from the minds of most of the
> French. We spoke briefly afterwards. He was aware of the ASA, but not that
> there is a British sister organization.
> > >
> > > Does anyone know of any similar organization in France or other part of
> continental EU ?
> > In Germany, there is the "Akademiker-SMD", the graduates' and faculty
> > branch of the SMD (Studentenmission in Deutschland, corresponding to
> > Intervarsity). For March 7-9, 2003, they plan a meeting in Kassel about
> > "Materie - der Stoff, aus dem die Welt besteht" ("Matter - the stuff of
> > which the world is composed"), with 9 speakers (six physicists - some of
> > them also active in philosophy, mathematics, or computer science -, two
> > theologians and one historian). The aim of the meeting is to
> > "investigate the mystery of the structure of our world from the
> > perspectives of the natural sciences, theology, philosophy, and
> > history."
> > But unfortunately, the characterization "almost complete absence of God
> > from the minds of most" of the people applies to Germany, Switzerland,
> > Italy, Austria, etc., as well. This situation is probably a consequence
> > of the state or otherwise publicly privileged big churches having become
> > very much secularized, while discriminating or even at times persecuting
> > the free churches which base membership on faith. A great majority of
> > the populations of these and other European countries are members of
> > such big churches, having been baptized as infants. But most of them
> > never go to church except for weddings, baptisms, and burials, know
> > virtually nothing about the Bible, don't give a d... about anything
> > Christian, but would usually be severely offended if it were suggested
> > that they were not "Christians". It is not a pure coincidence that the
> > theological liberalism destructive of the biblical faith was invented in
> > Germany.
> > Peter
"Graham E. Morbey" <email@example.com> (Sat, 01 Feb 2003 09:19:15 -0500)
> Don Winterstein's comments about European Christianity is well taken.
> To suggest as an email did, that God is almost absent from the minds of
> "...most of the French " suggests that the author of those words has a
> god-like omniscience that no human possesses, that ignores the working
> of the Spirit in all images of God ( common grace, sensus deitatis,
> etc.) and betrays a selfish understanding of God's grace. It bears a
> false witness about our neighbours!
> The Netherlands has a very active Association for Christian philosophy
> that has borne fruit in the so-called secular universities and in their
> society. It has discussion groups located in various areas of the
> country on the relationship between Christianity and the broad range of
> theoretical thinking including what north Americans call the sciences.
I won't comment about Graham's criticism of what Alan wrote. Alan may
want to speak for himself. Let me just add a few comments regarding
Don's and Graham's remarks which touch on what I said in my last post.
Of course, I agree with Graham that only God sees people's hearts. I
also believe that God gives much spiritual "starting capital" to every
human being born ("God's image") and showers many blessings upon them
Neither did I deny that there are many active christian groups, like the
Dutch Association for Christian philosophy that Graham mentions. I
expect various similar groups to exist in various European countries. As
some of my criticism was directed against German theological aberrations
(and Switzerland, where I live, is not better), I specifically endorsed
a German group of christians in science.
But God certainly doesn't force anyone to believe in him and follow
Christ. And what we observe all around us is that a large majority of
people in European countries (I emphasize this because in the US I
experienced quite a difference) are living as if they had never been
touched by this so-called "common grace", although most of them were
baptized. Maybe I was not clear enough when talking about "going to
church". Of course, going to church just for emotional reasons like
hearing music or just for social, political, or for worse motifs, has
not much to do with christian community and life. And some full churches
don't give us much statistical evidence if there are many more virtually
empty ones. In the US, you don't expect to find many empty churches. But
that's very different where the state pays the churches of privileged
denominations and much of the expenses of staffing and running them (in
some places directly, in others by means of compulsory "church taxes"
collected by the state).
Don wrote that the "piety of many of the Catholics seemed obvious". But
here, just as with those who, on the other hand, don't show any outward
evidence of being born again, it is only Got who sees the heart. Without
suggesting that such "piety" is always misdirected or hypocritical, I
notice that there are many biblical texts talking about religious
activity of people not listening to God's word. And I don't think
today's situation in so-called "christian" countries is any better than
that in ancient Israel.
Anecdotal stories hardly give us more than an inkling of what's going
on, if at all. A more interesting, and I believe valid, assessment of
the force and effect of genuine spirituality and christian witness in a
given country may be the statistics (number, activities, memberships,
full-time workers, budgets, etc.) of christian organizations like
mission boards, IFES movements, faculty ministries, etc. Perhaps, IFES
could give us their statistics for the countries in which they are
represented by indigenous movements, in comparison with the
corresponding population sizes. I expect massive differences.
-- Dr. Peter Ruest, CH-3148 Lanzenhaeusern, Switzerland <firstname.lastname@example.org> - Biochemistry - Creation and evolution "..the work which God created to evolve it" (Genesis 2:3)
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