A few years back the Church converted the lost and the non-religious! Today the new atheism is converting the saved and the non-religious! To some people the Christian faith seems irrational and inconsistent. They see faith as a whole as an escape from the “real world”. Modern Atheism would like us to believe that the crying need today is not for more intelligent people or even more gifted people but rather for more reasonable and scientific people. A people who are free from the system of religion, free thinkers, normal everyday people that can clearly determine the premise of the obvious revealed by mathematical calculations and scientific reasoning. Sadly, many Christians watch more TV in a week than they’ll spend in a year preparing themselves to answer questions about God and the Bible. Don’t leave defending the faith to your pastor. The church needs an army of saints who are able to articulate the truth persuasively and graciously. We are all called to “contend earnestly for the faith”. The stark reality for the believer in the pew and the Chaplain in the street is we are under the same attack from a new Atheism and enquiring minds from all walks of life. Never before has the world been so desperately asking for answers to crucial questions of faith, and never before has the world been so frantically committed to the idea that no answers are possible from Christianity.
The reality for the Church is the Christian Faith is not finding itself in a Judeo/Christian environment anymore; the world around us is greatly relativistic and seriously agnostic. Trickle answers and uneasy gesticulations will just not engage the secular mind anymore. What is happening in our world today? There is a general “zeitgeist” or spirit of our times cast a long shadow into the fate of the Christian faith. Non-believe seem to be more logical than some believe. Norman Geisler says “we live in a strange world where the relativity of Einstein is considered to be absolute, and the absolutes of the Bible are considered relative.” Jesus makes a startling promise to his disciples in John 4 He says: “Open your eyes and look at the fields, for they are ready for harvest. The reaper is already receiving pay and gathering fruit for eternal life, so the sower and reaper can rejoice together. For in this case the saying is true: ‘One sows and another reaps.’ I sent you to reap what you didn’t labor for; others have labored, and you have benefited from their labor.” Jim Patrick “A Christian must keep the faith, but not to himself.” What is the mission of the Christian? To live comfortably for the rest of their lives until death comes or the Savior arrives? No! What did Jesus ask us to do? Charlie Campbell laments “Can you imagine being an ambassador for your country and neglecting to prepare yourself for the common questions that people ask about your homeland? That would be irresponsible. You’d be without a job very quickly. God tells us that we are His ambassadors. Seeing that that is the case, I think it is important that every Christian consider the following question: Am I ready to answer the common questions people ask about God? Am I ready to explain to someone why I believe the Bible is trustworthy? “
Matthew 28:16-20 emphasizes “Then Jesus came to them and said, “All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.” This is even what the promise of the Holy Spirit entails, Luke reminds us in Acts 1:8 “But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem (your family or city,), and in all Judea and Samaria (your state and country), and to the ends of the earth.” The reality is we do witness, if we know it or not! We are a witness everywhere at any given time to all given people! Martyn Lloyd-Jones reminds us that “The main trouble with the Christian Church today is that she is too much like a clinic, too much like a hospital; that is why the great world is going to hell outside!… Look at the great campaign, look at it objectively and look at it from God’s standpoint. Forget yourself and your temporary troubles and ills for the moment; fight in the army. It is not a clinic you need; you must realize that we are in a barracks, and that we are involved in a mighty campaign.”
What is going on in our world today?
It was the great English author & theist G.K. Chesterton that remarked that “These are the days when the Christian is expected to praise every creed except his own.”
Noted Atheist/Philosopher Sam Harris writes “The problem with religion, because it’s been sheltered from criticism, is that it allows people to believe en masse what only idiots or lunatics could believe in isolation…faith does not offer a strong link between our beliefs and actual states of the world.” He goes further in his book letters to a Christian Nation “An average Christian, in an average church, listen to an average Sunday sermon has achieved a level of arrogance simply unimaginable in scientific discourse…” He says “If I had a choice to clear out rape or the Christian religion, I would clear out Christianity.” The author of the God delusion Richard Dawkins writes “Faith is the great cop-out, the great excuse to evade the need to think and evaluate evidence. Faith is the belief in spite of, even perhaps because of, the lack of evidence.”
The Richard Dawkins Foundation in their mission statement declares “The mission of the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is to support scientific education, critical thinking and evidence-based understanding of the natural world in the quest to overcome religious fundamentalism, superstition, intolerance and suffering.” Even recently in the news we hear about atheists becoming more evident! Clyde Rathbone South Africa under 21 Captain and Australian Rugby player said in a recent News article “I feel enormously enlightened and humbled by the works of Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins.” Dr George Claassen Journalist from the popular newspaper “Die Burger” brother of old Springbok captain Wynand Claassen wrote a popular book titled “Faith, superstition and other wishful thinking – perspectives on discoveries and irrational things.” And he is currently petitioning religion and the bible to be removed from all schools in South Africa.
South African Atheists
Zackie Achmat, AIDS activist, (born 1962) David Benatar, professor of philosophy, Barry Duke, activist, journalist, editor of The Freethinker (born 1947) ‘Nadine Gordimer, activist, writer, Nobel laureate (born 1923), John Odendaal, surveyor of Biblical hermeneutics (born 1980), Ronnie Kasrils, politician, Jacques Rousseau, activist, social commentator (born 1971) Harold Rubin, visual artist, musician (born 1932) Joe Slovo, politician (1926–1995) Lewis Wolpert, author, biologist, broadcaster (born 1929).
Reasons we do not witness:
Behavioral psychologists tell us that there are only two primary and dominant motivational factors at play in our lives; the fear of loss and the hope of reward. There could be a few remarks that take the “wind out of our sails”.
First, the fear of loss when we hear the following questions:
“That’s true for you but not for me” (Relativism)
As long as you keep your opinions to yourself then we’ll all get along. But does the relativist stay behind the line when he tells you to? If my belief is only true for me, then why isn’t your belief only true for you? Aren’t you saying you want me to believe the same thing you do? You say that no belief is true for everyone, but you want everyone to believe what you do.
“Who are you to judge others” (Judgmentalism)
What is interesting in these charges of arrogance and judgmentalism is this: Besides failing to define what is meant by “judgmentalism,” the accusers often act just as “arrogantly” and “judgmentally” as the “judgmental” ones. If the Christian (or any exclusivist) is denounced for judgmentalism, he can respond that his accuser is judging him for being judgmental!
“All religions are basically the same” (Pluralism)
All religions are not the same—Biblical Christianity is absolutely unique among all the religions and philosophies of mankind. Only in the Bible is God revealed as the one eternal, personal Creator, who brought the entire universe into existence by His own Word. Christianity alone is centered in the historical events associated with a Person—the birth, death, resurrection, and imminent, glorious return of Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ alone, of all men in history, has conquered man’s greatest enemy—death. All other religions of the world are fundamentally just one religion—one of salvation by works. The man Christ Jesus, alone of all men who ever lived, maintained in every respect a life of perfect holiness and full obedience to the Father, thus demonstrating that He was the God-Man. Christ alone offers salvation by grace alone, to be received only through faith in Him.
“The Bible is not reliable” (Fallibility)
Yes, the Bible is reliable. The original writings of the Bible have been lost. But before they were lost, they were copied. These copies were incredibly accurate, very meticulous, and very precise. The people who copied them were extremely dedicated to God and their copying tasks. They took great care when copying the original manuscripts. This copying method is so exact, and so precise, that the New Testament alone is considered to be 99.5% textually pure. This means that of the 6000 Greek copies (the New Testament was written in Greek), and the additional 21,000 copies in other languages, there is only one half of 1% variation. The variants are very minor. Nothing affects doctrinal truth and the words and deeds of Christ are superbly reliably transmitted to us. When we look at the New Testament we realize that it was written by those who either knew Jesus personally or were under the direction of those who did. They wrote what they saw. They wrote about the resurrection of Christ. They recorded His miracles and His sayings. It comes down to whether or not you believe what it says about Christ. Do you?
“It’s not my calling, gifting or passion”
What does the Bible say about our calling? 2 Corinthians 6:1-2 says “As God’s co-workers we urge you not to receive God’s grace in vain. For he says, “In the time of my favor I heard you, and in the day of salvation I helped you.” I tell you, now is the time of God’s favor and now is the day of salvation.” We are His fellow workers! Jude 1:3 says “Dear friends, although I was eager to write you about the salvation we share, I found it necessary to write and exhort you to contend for the faith that was delivered to the saints once for all.” We need to content for the faith! Titus 1:9 Paul says the Elders of the Church should be the ones “holding fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, so that he will be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict.” We need to refute and give an account! Peter encourages us in 1 Peter 3:15 “But in your hearts revere Christ as Lord. Always be prepared to give an answer to everyone who asks you to give the reason for the hope that you have. But do this with gentleness and respect.” If Jesus is Lord the natural result would be to give an answer why! Listen to Clark Pinnock said that “an intelligent Christian ought to be able to point up the flaws in a non-Christian position and to present facts and arguments which tell in favor of the gospel. If our apologetic (defence of the faith) prevents us from explaining the gospel to any person, it is an inadequate apologetic.”
Are you ready?
The Princeton theologian and apologist Benjamin Warfield suggests “we believe in Christ because it is rational to believe in him, not though it be irrational.” We as Christians need to provide reasonable answers that makes sense to the audience we are speaking to. As the Church of Jesus we should “go into the entire world” to present a Gospel that speaks for itself. Early friend of A.A. Samuel M. Shoemaker said that “most people are brought to faith in Christ not by argument for it but by exposure to it.” We need to set apart in our heart Jesus being Lord of our time, will, energy and witness as a Church! F.R. Beattie reminds us that “Christianity is either everything for mankind, or nothing. It is either the highest certainty or the greatest delusion. … But if Christianity be everything for mankind, it is important for every man to be able to give a good reason for the hope that is in him in regard to the eternal verities of the Christian faith. To accept these verities in an unthinking way, or to receive them simply on authority, is not enough for an intelligent and stable faith.”
My heart is broken for the lost and searching, and the question I ask every day is “Is Jesus visible in our community?” Do we provide people the opportunity to “Ask, seek and to knock?” Do we make sense or are we an exclusive franchise that clusters around our preferred groups. I see around our community with 24 Churches the timid struggle for Churches to “re-invent” itself, to find its niche, to make things more vibrant and even relevant. In contras I see Churches becoming places where ministers preach to itching ears gathering a people that are consumers rather than disciples. I want to be part of the harvest! God makes the promise in Psalm 2:8-9 “Ask of me, and I will give [You] the nations [for] your inheritance, and the ends of the earth [for] your possession. 9 You shall break them with a rod of iron; you shall dash them to pieces like a potter’s vessel.”
Will we dare to ask?
Rudolph P Boshoff