Last night, in Acts 24-26, we witnessed Paul on trial. He stood accused of the religious crime of sacrilege against Moses and the political crime of sedition against Caesar. Repeatedly, on all counts, he was found to be innocent. Thereafter, we considered what accusations are made against Christianity in the court of public opinion today. Here is a write up of some quick ways to respond to some of the most common ones:
- Science proceeds on the basis of an assumption (faith) in the “rational intelligibility of the universe” (John Lennox) – because science presupposes an intelligent mind of a divine creator and designer. “Men became scientific because they expected laws in nature, ad they expected laws in nature because they believed in a divine law-giver” (C.S Lewis)
- The true conflict is not God VS Science; it’s between two competing belief systems (worldviews / philosophies): Atheistic science VS Theistic science
IT’S VIOLENT / IT’S JUDGEMENTAL
- We don’t get our problem with violence and judgement from the Greeks or Romans – they boasted of the numbers slain in battle and were outspoken in their condemnation on those they considered inferior to themselves. Instead, a world that gloried in honour, strength, power, justice was turned upside down by the values of Jesus who exemplified weakness, humility, mercy, forgiveness and love.
- The very values that cause us discomfort at some things we find in the Bible are actually shaped by the Bible itself! That's why Jordan Peterson says: “The Bible is the foundational document of western civilisation”
- It’s good to stop to ask some questions in conversation:
- What about you, do you believe that there is any sort of inappropriate or unacceptable sexual activity? (most likely yes e.g. with children)
- How do you know that is wrong? Where is your authority for making that judgement? (most likely it will be because this is what our culture considers acceptable and has expressed in its laws)
- But what if our society changes its mind in future? Then something you think is wrong and dangerous today will be celebrated as good and acceptable. Is good and evil simply a question of majority popular opinion - do you see how that could and has gone wrong?
- Instead, we’re IKEA Christians, we want to follow our maker’s instructions, believing He knows how life and sex is meant to work best.
- The fact is that all of us struggle with aspects of our sexuality, because these strong desires and drives, which can leave us feeling confused, frustrated or ashamed. The Bible has always seemed strange about sex – the Old Testament’s view of sex was radically different to the rampant pagan fertility religions of the day, the New Testament’s view of sex was radically different to the 'anything goes' Greco-Roman culture of the day. But the Bible celebrates the beautiful place of sex between a man and a woman, who are covenantally committed to one another for all their lives saying: All that I am I give to you, all that I have I share with you (bodily, financially, socially, emotionally, spiritually). Otherwise you are saying with your body something which you are refusing in the rest of your life!
- The Christian faith is exclusive only in the sense that the human race is universally sick and there is an exclusive remedy – there is only one thing that can make us well again. You are welcome to try any other course of treatment, but it won't heal you. However, Christianity is also radically inclusive, because that remedy is made freely available to everyone!
- Unlike all the other religions and philosophies of the world, which require you to work your way up to the gods or to pull yourself up by your bootstraps (but not everyone is smart enough, good enough, born into the right circumstances to do that); the gospel is the good news of how God has come down and done everything necessary for us to be saved in the person of Jesus – and freely offers Himself to us all (no matter who we are or what we have done). That is why Christianity is the only truly global multicultural faith.
- We are rightly concerned with equality in our society, we want everyone to be treated fairly and properly, with their human dignity respected. However, where do we get that idea of equality from – after all, naturally we are all so different in ability that inequality is the default reality? We don’t get equality from the Greeks or Romans – they believed some people were 'born to be tools' and others 'born to be kings' – they didn’t believe men and women were equal, nor young and old – also they didn’t believe that all races were equal.
- The reason we have a problem with slavery, is because we live in a society that has been profoundly shaped in its values and attitudes by the Bible. The Bible declares that all human beings have been made in God’s image, sharing equally in glory and dignity in the sight of God. Those very ideas on page one of the Bible lit the fuse that would in time lead to the abolition of the historic cultural practice of slavery! (NB: slavery in biblical times was a form of indentured service in the extended family, rather than the barbaric evil of trans-Atlantic slavery in the 18th – 19th century plantations)
- We live in a society which has redefined tolerance and that considers disagreement as hatred (together with protecting people from challenging ideas or difference perspectives via safe spaces, no platforming, trigger warnings). But we believe that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable. But we believe that it is possible to disagree without being disagreeable.
- The Bible teaches us from its first page that we must respect all people as made in God’s image. That respect means that we must listen and take time to understand where other people are coming from. However, it is people who have rights, not ideas or ideologies. We can accept all people but we cannot accept all ideas/ideologies uncritically (our culture knows that is true, because it also rejects some ideas and ideologies as being dangerous!).
- It is “chronological snobbery” (C.S. Lewis) to assume that something is wrong or useless simply because it is old. Instead, the Bible proves that it has timeless value because it continues to be the world’s best selling book, almost every year since the printing press was invented.
- It addresses the issues which are explored and celebrated in our best selling novels and films (e.g. love, forgiveness, loyalty, war, peace, hope, justice, purpose, etc.)
- It answers the deepest questions that humans have ever asked (Why are we here? Who am I? What is the nature of the good life? What happens to us after death?)