Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, my family and those whom God loves:
Occasionally I run into someone who sees nothing good in Christianity. For people like this, Christianity gets blamed for colonialism, the condition of First Nations peoples, slavery and racism, the oppression of women, violence, hypocrisy, intolerance, sectarianism, fundamentalism and…Is there anything left? Paul Kivel, an American writer, educator, activist and co-founder of the Oakland Men’s Project once blamed Christianity for everything bad in the world. Really?
I am a confessing Christian and I will be the first to acknowledge my own sinful condition and that I have broken every one of the Ten Commandments more than once, knowingly and unknowingly, hurting myself, others and the world I live in. My brothers and sisters in Christ are no better. The Christian faith is not the cause of all the problems in the world, but rather it helps us see both our sinful condition and how we have contributed to the ravages of sin, death and the devil we all experience in greater and lesser degrees. It is not the Christian Gospel in its truth and purity that is the source of the problem here, but the sinful human nature of every one of us, believer and unbeliever, and a big part of that sinful condition is blaming someone else (see Genesis 3:8-12).
Rather than painting Christianity as the source of evil which only reflects the Christianophobia that has been fostered by much of our left-leaning, progressive and “intolerantly-tolerant” society, I think there’s a strong case for calling Christianity a success story, maybe even the greatest success story in the history of the world.
Now I’m not suggesting that Christianity ever sought to be successful in a right-leaning prosperity gospel kind of way. But when you consider the growth of Christianity; that it currently (2020) has some 2.4 billion adherents and has historically changed more lives, educated more people, advanced progress in the arts and sciences, sparked cultural achievements and helped the downtrodden more than any other institution, religion or government over the past two thousand years, one cannot in any way blame everything bad on Christianity. If there was an award for the greatest movement ever, it would belong to Christianity.
Whereas Christianity identifies the confession of faith of those who follow Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour, the “Church” is the organized expression of that faith and it includes a wide range of groups (Roman Catholics, Eastern Orthodox and Protestants).
However, Christianity was not born of nothing. Both the Christian faith and the Church grew out of the seedbed of Judaism. It’s hard to imagine that the Christian faith evidenced today arose from a rather insignificant part of the world, within a small religious group and is the product of the life and teachings of a Jewish carpenter and twelve followers whom he molded over three years. The birth and the growth of this movement was not without very serious opposition from the very beginning (Matthew 2:16-18).
Rome attempted to destroy this sect, as did Judaism and many other pagan religions, but Christianity didn’t just survive; it grew through the fire of persecution. Christ’s own crucifixion made Christianity a “cruc-cess.” Okay, I just made that word up, but my point is that Christianity is far more than a human “success” story. It is a product of suffering, death and resurrection.
The forces against Christianity and the Church did not only come from outside it, but also from within. Prior to the full development of the New Testament canon and creeds, particular individuals and groups sought to define the Church’s confession of faith in their own particular light. Although fractures in the unity of the Church did occur because of these sectarian attempts, the Church actually became more united in its confession as it dialogued about key beliefs.
The survival of Christianity and its expansion and growth is truly incomprehensible and unrepeatable in human terms. Some suggest that it is proof of God’s existence. Again, I emphasize that this is not a worldly story of success and glory. As I said earlier, it is a divine “cruc-cess,” a the story of the crucified Christ, truly God and truly man, whose life, death and resurrection has brought new birth and sainthood to millions. Even so, God’s redeemed still struggle with sin, death and the devil. The Church’s history can claim many good things, but there are also many sad chapters in which sin showed its power over men. Amidst sin, death and the power of the devil though, the crucified Christ continues to come to redeem men from their sin and to reveal the victory of his resurrection.
In response to those who oppose Christianity and the Church and can see nothing good, I encourage them to look more closely at the history and in particular, His story, a story of “cruc-cess.”
Grace be with you,