Notes from “The Big Issue” – “Why Christianity?” 2 November 2010
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“You are only a Christian because you were brought up that way”
“How is your faith better than any others?”
“Jesus is just another good man”
Comments and questions like this are hurled at Christians daily. How are we to answer them?
Before we get into detail on this important subject it may be use understand three different ways of thinking:
Pre-modernism: although not an accepted description of an era of thinking, the pre- modern era in the Western world is the one that was dominant up to about 1930. Up to around that time, the dominant mindset was to accept the status quo- to recognise that there was a God to whom we should be obedient. Masters and servants, husbands and wives, employers and employees, nobility and commoners – each in their proper place. Although there were exceptions (Darwinism fuelled many of them) the over-riding view was that there was a God, there was a judgement day. Not everyone lived in the light of it, but the ministry of the church took place within this cultural context.
Modernism: this era, which probably started about the turn of the 20th century and lasted till about 1970, was the one in which conservative values were generally challenged. There was still a moral root, a sense of what was right and wrong, but the those living in the 1930-1970 era started to experiment with fashion, morals, gender roles, and just about anything else. There was still a sense of right and wrong, but it was challenged in a way that had not been experienced before.
Post-modernism: the rebellion of modernism gave way in the 1970’s onwards to full blown post-modernism, a way of thinking that says that your opinion is no more valid than mine. It is a view that challenges that there is such a thing as right or wrong, and in which all views are equally valid. Hence, according to this view, relationship, sexual orientation, and all moral issues are more subject to the question “Does it work”? than to the question “Is it right”
It is obvious to even the most casual observer that post-modernism is totally self-contradictory – the belief that there is no absolute truth contradicts itself – if there is no absolute truth the statement itself is invalid! However we have to recognise for the purpose of this subject that our society is a post-modern society. We live in an era when the overriding view is that your opinion is no more valid than anyone else. Despite its respectable front what post-modernism is really saying is that anything goes – except Christianity!
So, in a post-modern era – what is available in the supermarket of world views?
- Atheism – this is view that there is almost certainly no God. As with agnosticism below this is easily dealt with. (Psalm 14v.1; Romans 1 v.18-20) . There are a number of world views within atheism:
- Materialism – materialists believe that only matter is real, and they do not accept anything that cannot be seen as matter
- Existentialism – the view that “experience” is the height of existence
- Rationalism – the view that human reason is the only way to arrive at truth. This is very hard to defend. Those who believe in rationalism almost invariably believe in evolution. So they depend on our incompletely evolved reason and brainpower to tell them what is true.
- Agnosticism (– see atheism above)
New Age – “The New Age movement is a spiritual and quasi-religious Western movement that developed in the latter half of the 20th century. Its central precepts revolve around “drawing on both Eastern and Western spiritual and metaphysical traditions and then infusing them with influences from self-help and motivational psychology, holistic health, parapsychology, consciousness research and quantum mechanics“ in order to create “a spirituality without borders or confining dogmas” that is inclusive and pluralistic. Another of its primary traits is holding to “a holistic worldview,” thereby emphasising that the Mind, Body and Spirit are interrelated and that there is a form of Oneness and unity throughout the universe. It further attempts to create “a worldview that includes both science and spirituality” and thereby embraces a number of forms of science and pseudoscience” (Wikipedia). New Age is an umbrella term that for a pick and mix view of spirituality that avoids the embarrassment of a God to whom you are accountable and who will judge your life.
As with atheism, there are a number of elements that often fit into it.
- Mysticism – it contract to materialists, mystics believe that only spirit is real.
- Monism – this philosophy underpins much of the new age movement. It holds that matter and spirit are one and the same. The idea of God as an independent spirit ruling the world is thus ruled out of court.
- Animism – this is the belief that spirits rule the world, spirits of trees, rivers, mountains etc.
We now move over to a series of beliefs that hold that there really is a God – of some type!
- Dualism – the belief that there are two Gods one good and one bad.
- Deism – Deists all see God as a creator, but argue that he does not now control his creation. He is like the clockmaker who would up the clock and left it to run. Vast sections of the UK population are “Christian” deists – “having a form of godliness, but denying its power” – believing in the existence of a God, but to all intents and purposes living like atheists, as if he is not there.
- Liberal Christianity – fits into the deism bracket perfectly.
- Theism – Theists believe that God not only created the world but is also in control of everything he made. Theism is a good step towards what we believe as Bible-believing Christians. However…
- Pantheism – a poor variant of theism is that everything is god – which in fact removes the existence of God completely!
- Polytheism – as with theism – but there are many gods!
- Monotheism – the belief that there is indeed just one sovereign creator god. It can be seen that much of what we believe is in fact in common with Islam!
- Triune Theism
- This is the belief that there is one god, but that he is three in one, Father, Son and Holy Spirit – in other words biblical Christianity. This is what we believe and hold dear.
How many world views there are! And how do we disentangle them all? In the light of all these, what does Christianity have to offer, that nothing else can?
- An Exclusive Choice – if Christianity is true, then everything else is wrong. You can’t have Jesus plus any other world view – it is Jesus or it is nothing. John 14 v.6 shows that there is a radical choice to make.
2. Christianity is rooted, not simply in blind belief based on certain presuppositions, but in historical facts. All of the Christian truths, from creation to the resurrection are eminently reasonable, scientific and rational. As a leading 20th Century lawyer put it when discussing the resurrection:
“As a lawyer, I have made a prolonged study of the evidences for the events of the first Easter day. To me the evidence is conclusive, and over and over again in the High Court I have secured the verdict on evidence not nearly so compelling. Inference follows on evidence, and a truthful witness is always artless and disdains effect. The gospel evidence for the resurrection is of this class, and as a lawyer I accept it unreservedly as a testimony of truthful men to facts they were able to substantiate.”
3. Incarnation – Christianity is not an exhortation, it is an exhibition! By which we mean that uniquely, in Christianity, Jesus came as God the Son, God become flesh in a way that no other saviour has. There is no other belief system that can say “I am the way…” they will all say “That is the way follow that…”
4. Forgiveness – uniquely, Jesus offers forgiveness. The prophets of all other religions do not. They offer a code and guidance for living. Jesus offers forgiveness. Is there anything that humans need more? For a Muslim and Jew, the two great non-Christians monotheistic faiths, there is no assurance that our sins will be forgiven, or indeed that they can be forgiven. They all depend on our ability to make ourselves good enough to persuade God that we ought to be permitted to go into His heaven.
5. Jesus offers a relationship with God. No other religion offers an intimate relationship with a Father. Christianity is a relationship – not a religion. It offers a route to the Father, not a series of rules and rituals.
6.Salvation – Jesus offers sure and certain salvation from the wrath of a God who is angry about sin. No other world view, even if it recognises the need for redemption, provides a mechanism for it
7. Eternity – Jesus offers us the certainty of a hope for eternity with God.
The fact is that Christianity stands head and shoulders, intellectually, morally and scientifically above all other worldviews.
As Jesus said:
”I am the way the truth and life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
Discuss the following statements:
¢ “There’s probably no God. Now relax and enjoy your life”
¢ “We all worship the same God”
¢ “Everyone’s opinion is equally valid. What makes yours better than mine?”