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Christian Biblical Studies
WHAT HAVE YOU DONE FOR US LATELY?
I have shown you many great miracles from the Father.
For which of these do you stone me?
John 10: 32 (New International Version)
IT WAS AT the Feast of Dedication — now usually called Hanukkah — that Jesus uttered the words of this text. He was surrounded by a mob, intent on destroying Him and His influence, more keen on finding fault with His words than in commending His ministry.
This got us thinking about the latest British trend of bashing religious faith — specifically Christianity.
Hardly a week goes by without some voice in the media complaining about this awful Christian religion and ‘religious nutters’. Christianity is now viewed by many as an anachronism, akin to hereditary birthright, a social irrelevance, and call for its obliteration.
With relatively few exceptions it’s no longer acceptable to stand up for the Christian faith. Panellists on the BBC’s Question Time or Any Questions?, varied in their opinions on most issues, join hands when it comes to matters of religion. Regardless of the question, the response, expressed by sideswipes and innuendo, is to blame religion for society's troubles.
Listening to this drumbeat of complaint, along with the churlish assaults from Professor Richard Dawkins et al., we might be excused for thinking that Christianity is one of the worst tragedies to have befallen our land.
Please, May We Have our Country Back?
The British solution to the 'problem' of religion appears to be thorough secularism. Along with creeping political autocracy and its growing strictures on traditional and religious speech, the outlook for mainstream Christianity in this country is increasingly bleak.
No longer indulged as a harmless and occasionally useful jester, the Christian is now characterised collectively as a malicious bungler, all faults and no virtues. No statute of limitations here. From the Crusades to the Asian tsunami to the widespread deficiency in the understanding of modern science, the root cause is credulous Christianity and the Christian’s God. War, famine, civil strife, childhood disease and death — all are His fault. Off with His head!
It’s an odd development, this social vandalism which dismantles the national superstructure in order to destroy the foundation. In a nation in which petty and vicious crime seems to be spiralling upwards, armed street gangs shoot citizens dead on the public thoroughfare, and every week seems to bring the discovery of some grisly murder, it all seems to be a misguided distraction.
Our Sins are Many
As the historic national faith and dominant social force, Christianity has supplied the impulse which produced this nation’s rich culture of literature and inventiveness, free speech and enlightened jurisprudence, and made Britain one of the greatest success stories of world history.
Just what is it about the Christian faith that so enrages our antagonists?
Perhaps it’s that naughty injunction about being good citizens?
[I]t is necessary to submit to the authorities, not only because of possible punishment but also because of conscience. This is also why you pay taxes, for the authorities are God’s servants, who give their full time to governing. Give everyone what you owe him: If you owe taxes, pay taxes; if revenue, then revenue; if respect; then respect; if honour, then honour.
— Romans 13: 5-7
Or that pesky admonition to be kindly disposed towards those who hate us?
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.
— Matthew 5: 44
How about the mischievous one that warns us not to speak evil, but rather to give the benefit of the doubt?
[B]e ready to do whatever is good, to slander no one, to be peaceable and considerate, and to show true humility toward all men.
— Titus 3: 1, 2
Or, to offer no resistance when wronged?
Do not resist an evil person. If someone strikes you on the right cheek, turn to him the other also.
— Matthew 5: 39
And surely the Bible must be faulted for encouraging us to be generous and compassionate? For instance, the ideas that prompted the development of such great British institutions as the Salvation Army or the YMCA (and YWCA) and the numerous charitable and voluntary enterprises that dot our national landscape.
Therefore, as we have opportunity, let us do good to all people . . . .
— Galatians 6: 10
What of the outrageous command, from Christ Himself, that we should forgive from a willing heart?
If your brother sins, rebuke him and if he repents, forgive him. If he sins against you seven times in a day, and seven times come back to you and says, ‘I repent,’ forgive him.
— Luke 17: 3, 4
For which of these things do you condemn us?
Modelling the Source
Sobriety, honesty, compassion and fidelity to the will of God are the heart and soul of the Christian life. It is this private, reflective aspect that moulds the character and devotion to duty which marks the steadfast Christian. For the godly man or woman it is the example of Christ on which their behaviour is fashioned. Christ is the premier example of compassion and a socially responsible ministry which has engaged the minds and hearts of countless numbers over the centuries. What prudent society would not value these men and women of integrity? Such individuals form the backbone of the body politic.
In answer to the charge that God is an absentee Landlord, who allows mayhem on His estate, we’ll quote John 3: 16:
For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.
Oddly, the idea of God ‘giving’ His Son seems to infuriate a fair number of sceptics and unbelievers. That God should act unilaterally in anything seems to touch a raw nerve. It’s seen as despotic, an abridgement of humanity’s free will. So perhaps the suggestion that God is, in fact, interested in humanity’s welfare is part of the difficulty. It appears that a God active or inactive is unacceptable on principle.
Perhaps the bald reason is that the sceptic objects to the very notion of God in the first place?
In a world of shallow, materialistic thinking, it’s not surprising that religion gets the blame when things go wrong. Trouble is, those who are the most vocal in their assault on the faith are often those who know nothing about it. More discouraging is the fact that so many of today’s prominent thinkers in British society readily join in the harangue, and do not even allow that the Christian may have an intelligent response.
If it’s the faulty practise of Christianity they object to, fair enough. There have certainly been many blunders made in the name of Christ. But perhaps there’s something else going on here. Could it be simply the anti-God reflex — the attitude that says there is no god worth believing in?
We confess that the tenets of the Christian faith are frequently breached by its adherents. But this admission is unlikely to appease the critics. They are no longer looking honestly for sensible answers from people of faith.
They find it easier to condemn.
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