Friday, February 27, 2009

Be Not Afraid

This post started out as a witty and biting critique of conservative Christians, especially the people at Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry (CARM). It was a masterpiece of nasty one-liners and yo-mama jokes, but I couldn't stand my own self-righteousness, so I deleted it.

In its place I want to put this:

To all Christians out there who believe that the church is a fragile institution under assault by a licentious and immoral culture, to those who believe that our faith is in desperate need of a defense from critics and atheists, liberals and heretics... I have good news: you're wrong. That might not sound like good news. Who likes to be wrong? But in this case I hope you'll stick with me long enough to see what I mean.

You're wrong, first of all, about the church being a fragile institution. The church belongs to Jesus Christ and is created by the power of the Holy Spirit. Nothing we do will ever destroy or corrupt it beyond repair. Yes, we get things wrong - alot. Sure there are plenty of times I wonder if the church hasn't gone over a cliff. There are probably lots of places called "churches" around this world which are rarely very similar to the Church of Jesus Christ, but the creation, maintanence and success of the true church does not depend on us. It never has and it never will.

You're wrong, secondly, about the church being under assault. Just from a matter of simple observation we can say that Christianity is the largest religion in the world and growing. Even in places like the US and Europe where churches are often stale and declining, the ubiquity of the religion denies any claims we might make about being a persecuted minority. Furthermore, Christ's victory on the cross forever proves that it is not the holy that is vulnerable to assault, but the profane which defeats itself by assailing the holy. The church cannot become impure by contact with an immoral culture, but the culture certainly can be sanctified by coming into contact with the church.

You're wrong, finally, about faith requiring a defense. Faith is a gift of the Holy Spirit. It can no more be lost than it can be bought. Any faith which can be shaken or destroyed merely by criticism was not true faith to begin with. Indeed, we should value the critiques of atheists, liberals, and heretics, because they stir us out of childish belief into an adult faith, by requiring of us more than mere intellectual assent. Not only does faith not require a defense, to attempt a defense is a failure of faith. Faith reveals itself in the cross and receives its vindication in the resurrection.

The good news of the gospel is this: God has already won the victory. The war is over. You can put down your weapons now and live into God's peace. You are safe. Be not afraid.

1 comment:

Heather W. Reichgott said...

You sound more orthodox than they do.