Sunday, 29 July 2012

Churchians And The Lack Of Apologetic Nerve

There is one trend I notice, and that is the lack of robust apologetics when the Christian faith comes under attack.

Or just faith in particular- for these days few seem interested in the distinctions between different religions.

I get this from a group of young people I know. No point in Buddhists saying that it was Muslims behind 9/11- it was just "religious people" and pointing out differences between Buddhism and Islam is just a type of anally retentive nitpicking.

This is the attitude I find- there is a single belief system called "religion", which is held by "religious people". Christianity, Islam, Bahai'ism, Paganism etc. seen as no more than just different names for the same system. Whenever there is an example of a "religious person" doing something wrong, the fault is put at the door of "religion" with the explanation that they behaved badly (e.g. a child prostitution ring) because "religion" says it's OK.

And this leads to a simple, just-so solution for all society's problems- ban religion.

One of my pet peeves is when well-intentioned men in dog collars write in to local papers to defend "religion" and "religious faith", but do not put Jesus first. Actually, don't put Jesus anywhere.

For example, recently one man wrote to the local paper complaining about the "Faith" page on Saturday, as he doesn't believe in "religion" and doesn't want to read about it. I have to admit I don't like the "Faith" section as it tends to revolve around [church names altered to protect the guilty]:

  • St John's is having a multifaith service
  • St Mary's is having a flower festival
  • St Cecilia's has new choirboys- here is a picture of them leapfrogging
  • St Vitus' needs money for its spire appeal
  • Ooh, let's get together with members of the other "faith communities" and have a jolly picnic
  • Nothing offensive. All about Churchianity rather than Christ.

    So, there was a defence of "religious faith" (not Christianity) by a senior Church of England clergyman based on three areas:

  • Religion gives people a sense of community
  • Religious people are searching for the transcendant beyond us
  • Religion has given society so much
  • Nothing about why Christ is unique. Nothing about Christ. Just blandness.

    This is what I hear:

    Yes Mr/Ms Atheist, we agree with you up to a point. We are quite weak, we lack your backbone. Please, please, pretty please, let us believe what we want. Please, please, pretty please, let us keep our crutch. Let us conduct our services with a knowing wink, as we all- except for happy-clappy tambourine shakers- know Christianity probably isn't really true, but gives is some hint of the transcendant and gives us a sense of community. Maybe, just maybe, we and the other religions, stumbling around in the dark, can find the transcendant when we compare notes.

    The problem is when "defences" of Christianity are firstly, just defending vague "religious faith" (covering all belief systems); secondly, defending "religion" on the basis of the good that "religious people" do and the effect that it has on its adherents (here's an example of the bad things someone "religious" has done, here's an example of a good thing, example of bad thing, example of good thing, and an indefinite back-and-forth-getting-nowhere debate) and thirdly it concedes that we have lost the battle and conducts the debate on the territory chosen by critics- that all intelligent people know that religion is not true, so let's not have a discussion on whether the claims of Christianity are true or not, but concentrate instead on the sociology of religious belief and the pyschology of "religious people".

    Christianity isn't about "religious people" searching for the transcendant or getting a sense of community. It is about God loving us so much that He sent Jesus to die for us. It is Jesus who is The Way to God- no need for stumbling around in the dark, crashing into spiritual furniture.

    Our search for the transcendent starts on the basis that God has revealed Himself ultimately and supremely in the Bible.

    There is nothing wise, or noble, or spiritual, or profound in an awkward "perhaps, maybe, we don't know, we can't know" when the Bible is crystal clear.

    Our sense of community is that of a family of people chosen across all nations, all ages. all cultures, by God. Redeemed. Forgiven. Adopted. Saved. Don't reduce church to being a Sunday social club. The Martyrs didn't willingly die over a love of church coffee and having the warm fuzzies on a Sunday morning.

    This just strikes me as a Churchianity that has just lost its nerve. Instead of providing a reason for the faith you hope in, it gives a set of hesitants true-for-us-but-not-true-for-everyone-else, or rather a set of probably-not-even-true-for-us-and-definitely-not-true-for-everyone-else.

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