“In our society we are free to believe anything we want to believe as long as we don’t actually think it’s true.” Ravi Zacharias, in his book Jesus Among other Gods, said that. He was talking about our skewed understanding of religious belief. (I’ll explain in a later post why I’ve put religious in italics). Now days we can hang Buddhist prayer flags, put up Festivus poles, don turbans, hold séances, and carve fertility goddesses and no one will bug us. But if we let anyone know that we take any of it seriously – especially if any of it is Christian – then we’re discounted and marked as peculiar and even dangerous – see Janet Napolitano’s description of a terrorist, or Chris Matthews’ mocking of those who “don’t believe in evolution.”
We need to get this straightened out. As Christians we’re standing around strumming guitars and singing I Can Only Imagine while secularists make mincemeat out of our beliefs and they’re doing so because we haven’t stood up for what we believe, let alone for why we believe it. Sometimes we try to support our reliance on scripture, but since we don’t know much about the historical accuracy of the Bible, that falls flat. We try to back up our moral firmness and we’re told we’re not “loving.” We attempt to present the gospel and no one can fathom that he even needs to be saved. Things are really off-kilter. Let’s get a grip, folks, and look at the assumptions and motivations that rumble about underneath this growing rift.
First let’s inspect the premises behind 2 world-views – secularism and Christianity. The modern form of secularism was born with the publishing of Charles Darwin’s Origin of the Species in 1859. As people began to embrace the idea that man, and his ideas, developed gradually out the primordial soup, God was shoved into the backseat and became just another evolutionary development, and a rather pathetic one, at that.
So, today, people either see a belief in God as something created by man, which therefore comes in many different flavors, each as tasty as the next, and each helpful for the poor soul who needs them (Really cool people don’t, of course.).
Or they see God as the one who did the creating and therefore should be worshipped and obeyed simply because He is. “I am that I am.”
Here we are, 153 years later, and our schools, our media, even many of our churches have signed on to the secularist, developmental hypothesis – never mind the mounting evidence of a divine “watchmaker.”
But, you know, God hasn’t gone away, nor has our need for Him, so today we find ourselves wallowing around in angry, make-believe philosophies because we’re caught between a sore foot and an ill-fitting shoe – right where the blister starts. We want to get along without Him – but we can’t – which is obvious in the burgeoning array of religious “fairy-tales.”
People believe the darndest things and do so without one scintilla of actual evidence. Something in our make-up, some hole in our soul must be filled and as far as I can see we choose what we believe according to 3 criteria:
· First, the belief is attractive, comforting. It promises wealth and power. Oprah comes to mind – her New Age amalgam of fuzzy thinking that adds up to “believe in your self,” which is attractive and comforting and wonderful for ego-inflation. Atheism falls into this category. Scratch an atheist and you often find a person who is either comforted by the hope that God is not judging him, or angry and finds God’s un-being an attractive thought – never mind that it’s irrational to be furious with someone who doesn’t exist. I also think of the health & wealth gospel that’s making some folks very wealthy indeed.
· Second, the belief is familiar, traditional. It provides a sense of continuity, of security within a set of rules or an array of rituals. Many people in both mainstream and evangelical Christian churches are there for this reason. Islam provides this for its faithful – especially for the men. There’s little in the way of joy here, but the repetition, the pattern feels good and gives some parameters in what can appear to be a chaotic and meaningless existence.
· Or, third, the belief is true. It is what is. “Iam what I am.” God is the creator of the universe. Jesus Christ is who He says He is.
I’m not implying that Christianity isn’t comforting – quite the opposite, but that isn’t why we Christians trust in God’s integrity, in Christ’s promises – “ I am the way, the truth and the life. Whosoever believes on me will have eternal life…” And Christians are human too – we like going to church every Sunday, we like taking communion “in remembrance of [Him].” But that isn’t what drives us.
You see, our faith is not blind. Christians didn’t just make up some fanciful story and run with it. Did you know that there’s no historical data that Buddha ever existed? There’s mounting doubt that Mohamed ever walked this earth. But Christianity -- I speak here of the biblical, pure Christianity (I can’t vouch for purgatory or public confession or speaking in tongues, or any of the creative off-shoots that don’t hold biblical water ) -- Christianity is historical. We know, we don’t just believe, that Jesus Christ lived, that He lived for 33 years, that He taught, that He infuriated the Jewish hierarchy by claiming to be God, that they killed Him for it, and, most importantly, that He rose from the dead. The evidence all points that direction and there’s no other explanation for all that happened from that first Easter Sunday morning up until the present day. Christianity has changed the world in ways no other religion has and it continues to do so.
But changing the world isn’t the point – that’s just a valuable by-product. The evidence keeps mounting for a world created by an intelligent (using the term in the mind-boggling sense of the word), omnipotent being. The prophecies keep being fulfilled and over half already have been. The evidence continues to pile up – one war or murder after another – that man is a fallen, imperfect, unstable being in need of a serious attitude adjustment. Christ’s disciples lived through such an adjustment and the world has never been the same.
Christianity has the facts behind it. We need to know what those facts are so we can “give an answer” and open doors for those who live in the dark of blood-earned virgins and irate denial. No one can tell me, or any other Bible-steeped Christian, that what we believe is just something that arose from the interaction of brain chemicals or the indoctrination of children. If we try to tell you what’s what, don’t go all huffy and self-righteous on us. We have been blessed with truth and that truth is so glorious, so freeing, so graceful and challenging and rewarding that we want you to have it too. It’s infinite and there’s room for us all.