There are trends in Christianity today that are incredibly frightening and frustrating to me. We have lost our voice in the public square and it is not because it has been forcibly taken from us; we have simply given it up freely. There are those that are speaking out loudly against Christianity, yes, but they are not solely to blame; it is the fact that we do not have an answer. Charles Malik wrote in 1980 “I must be frank with you: the greatest danger confronting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism” and he could not have been more correct. People in general no longer read, think critically, or know why they believe what they believe, and thus do not stand up for anything. Christians have sacrificed truth for nicety, and in so doing have witnessed the fall of the Church.
I don’t believe there is a person on this earth who legitimately likes confrontation with other people, however confrontation is a natural part of human existence and is something that we have to deal with whether we like it or not. The problem is that we have taken our natural revulsion to confrontation to the extreme of avoiding it at all costs. What are those costs? The loss of the Gospel, the blurring of the lines of the truth of the Bible, the willing intellectual takeover of our universities and public squares by those who are opposed to Christianity etc. Is the possibility of hurting someone’s feelings really worth their eternal soul? It would appear that so.
What happens when books like The God Delusion and movies such as The Davinci Code come out? Panic. Christians everywhere boycott the books/movies with a vengeance and force their children to stay away from them. Is this because they present new ideas which shake Christianity to its core? Absolutely not, but if you have spent your whole life reading “the love chapter” in the Bible and only listening to preaching that makes you feel good about yourself, while simultaneously trying to be nice to everyone and not hurt anyone’s feelings even though you know what they are doing is wrong….what do you expect? Do I believe that we need to be loving when we share the truth? Absolutely, that is the way the Bible instructs us and I think that is the best way. Here is the problem; we have gone too far in that direction. I understand that part of the way this started was a move away from being legalistic or dogmatic, but at this point we have gone too far. We have bought into society’s new, postmodernistic version of tolerance and now agree with people who are anti-Christianity in saying that those who take a hard position on anything are bigoted, intolerant, and narrow minded. Do we not understand that our voice has been stolen from us?
A phrase that Christians like to use is that Christianity is not a religion, but it is a relationship, meaning that if you have a personal relationship with Jesus Christ, then that is enough. I don’t think this phrase in itself is a bad one, except that we have replaced 2000 years of Christian teaching with it. A quote that I recently found is rather enlightening on this issue and it is from Jason Gray, who writes “All Religion Ever Made Of Me Was Just A Sinner With A Stone Tied To My Feet, It Never Set Me Free. Its Gotta Be More Like Falling In Love Then Something To Believe In. More Like Losing My Heart Then Giving My Allegiance.” This is my interpretation of that quotation; Religion tells me the things I do are wrong and that there are consequences for my actions, and that makes me uncomfortable. I would rather find something that makes me feel good than have something which is true and which I need to submit to.
Do I believe that we should have a personal relationship with our Creator and that He wants to have that relationship with us? Absolutely, but I also know that the Bible tells us that we need to have an answer for the hope that is within us for anyone who asks, and I know that the Bible tells us that we need to go and make disciples of all nations and to teach them to obey everything that Jesus taught. The ways of God are NOT the ways of the world. Do you think that may offend some people? Do you suppose telling people that Jesus loves them and that they need to have a personal relationship with Christ will work with very many people in this anti-Christian country that we live in? Let me say that again, WE DO NOT LIVE IN A CHRISTIAN COUNTRY, at least not anymore. I do not expect everyone who calls themselves a Christian to be an excellent debater. God has called all of us to do different things for His kingdom. However, I believe we have neglected a large part of our job as Christians in general. We need to love God with all our heart, soul, STRENGTH, and MIND.
All across our country we have pastors confused because they don’t know whether or not they should perform homosexual marriages, we have gay/lesbian people being ordained into the ministry, the Gospel is being parceled out to only include the love of God and His forgiveness. We have churches splitting over issues that are black and white in the Bible because they have bought into the lie that the teachings of Christ and of the Bible are outdated dogmas that do not apply to the times in which we live.
I believe society as controlled by postmodernism has done severe damage to several areas. I think the new atheists are gaining an immense amount of ground in the universities, the media, and in the public square, but they are doing so because they are not being met with resistance. They do not present new ideas, nor do they present claims which are irrefutable, but they certainly appear that way to many people because they have never been confronted with someone who is not like themselves in that they will avoid confrontation and remain quiet whether they disagree with someone else or not. I think one of the large problems is that society in general and Christians in particular no longer read. The most common statements I encounter when I bring up this point in conversation are that reading is too hard, or they don’t have the time, or they don’t have the attention span for reading things which are boring to them. I will say that there are some people who are more inclined to reading than others, but this does not mean that those people don’t have to work at reading. It is a skill, like anything else, and takes time and effort to develop. However, what most people don’t understand is the extreme importance of reading. In the Enlightenment, people put knowledge above all else in society. If you were well read and well learned, you were well respected because knowledge was the greatest thing that humans could achieve. In more modern times, knowledge is…somewhat handy when it is convenient. I will always support 100% the reading of the Bible, and encourage all Christians to read theirs everyday, but do you understand the Bible? Do you know how to apply Biblical doctrine and teaching? Do you know how to explain to others what certain verses mean? Do you know which writers or teachers to listen to or read? Do you know what to say when people come to you and claim that the Bible is not the word of God and was simply written by men, has been changed over the years, and is full of contradictions? Yes, reading takes work; it takes time, effort, and perhaps even a bit of frustration but it is entirely worth it. The internet is a wonderful resource when it comes to reading, but I believe it has gone from being a convenience to a dependence. People expect everything instantly because that is the speed at which society travels. It is far faster to read an article on a book or perhaps the cliff notes on a book than read the entire book itself, and don’t you get the same effect? Not at all, especially if you are dealing with books of any sort of depth. However, I find that people don’t even have the patience to read a couple pages of summary, let alone an entire book which may contain hundreds of pages (gasp!).
When people like Richard Dawkins tell the world that children being brought up in Christian homes, and therefore are being raised with Christian ideals, are being subjected to childhood indoctrination, how do Christians respond? When someone says it is ok to call themselves Christian while still going out and getting drunk, or by being a practicing homosexual, how do Christians respond? The answer to both of those questions more often than not is that they don’t.
Evolution is taught in schools as a fact, yes it goes under the guise of a theory and some teachers/professors will speak with an air of fairness, but if ever someone brings another idea to the table it is shot down instantly. Take the theory of Intelligent Design for example. This movement is gaining quite a bit of ground, but if you watch the movie Expelled with Ben Stein, you see just how strong a grasp there is on the academy as a whole. There are several credible scientists, and even some who are atheist that believe that the theory is a stronger one than the theory of evolution and these people are simply dismissed on the notion that they have a “creationist, fundamentalist Christian agenda”. An atheist with a Christian agenda? So long as the status quo is maintained. A scientist is someone who has an incredible amount of clout in the minds of most average people, and certainly if you devote your life to studying science you are bound to have a good amount of knowledge that most people don’t. However, Albert Mohler points out that scientists are not as objective as they claim, and that even in the realm of science, there are still biases and worldview lenses that the scientists themselves work through.
All of that to say this; as Christians, we have lulled ourselves to sleep over the last couple decades and we are paying for it dearly. We need to have a clear, cogent voice in the public square and anywhere that discussion is taking place. We need to know what the Bible says and how to relay that to people. We need to know how to defend our positions and present the Gospel to a world that is hostile to the very notion of Christ. We need to know how to respond to people that are speaking out against the ideas and teachings of Christianity. It is going to take a lot of work on all our parts to even gain respect in the eyes of the rest of the world, but I believe that it is infinitely important that we put in the time and effort to do so. We need to regain our voice, not only to one another but to the world at large so that we are no longer a religion of mutes.