I’m sure you will all know that the media in first-world society would have all forms of religion as being an untenable position to hold. This social stigma is so prevalent that statements made in passing mockery are accepted with little objection:
"Christianity is an emotional crutch for the weak", "Christians were probably brainwashed from when they were children", "Christianity is so backwards. Those Christians need to get with the times!"
These sort of statements have been passed around long enough that it now is a prevailing worldview. An orthodox faith in Christianity is now seen as ‘fundamentalist’, ‘holier-than-thou’ and poisonous to the ‘progress’ of society.
Our society has become post-modern in the negative sense. Society doesn’t bother asking “Why should people believe in Christianity?” but jumps to the conclusion, “Christianity is old, and we’ve seen some rotten Christians. So let’s move on from it. We know better now.”
And then temptation arises - the one which we call nominal Christianity or cultural Christianity. The nominal Christian may say, “I believe Jesus and God exists and Jesus taught some good stuff. I’m a pretty good person. I mean, I’m nice and all. So I’m probably going to heaven.” The nominal Christian may selectively follow parts of the Bible - in particular the bits about love and doing good works - but put a blind eye to other parts - like repentance or laying down one’s life.
The temptation here is compromise. The message of Christianity is compromised and then a distorted message is sent out instead which says:
Morally upright and good people who believe in the existence of God and his son Jesus, who was this really good role model, get to go to heaven when they die. And this is somehow important because Jesus could rise from the dead.
The above statement was my very wrong understanding of Christianity until I was around perhaps even 15 years of age. Maybe I was even older. How could this be? I went to a church all my life. Yet, my problem was that I had always learned ‘Christian morality’ or ‘Christian living’. I could tell you a hundred general principles of how to live a comfortable and ‘right’ life - because of course, that was in the Bible.
- Don’t hate? That’s a good moral and general life principle that’s also in the Bible.
- Don’t steal? Another good moral life principle that’s in the Bible.
- Take a day of rest every 7th day? Another great principle to live by. Stops you from overworking.
See a pattern here? If you asked me what it meant to be a Christian all those years ago, I would given you that earlier statement as my answer. The standard of being a Christian is so low. May I take a verse from James 2:19
You believe that God is one. You do well; the demons also believe, and shudder.
What is this saying? Believing in the existence of the God of the Bible doesn’t make you a Christian. Thinking that God is good doesn’t make you a Christian either.
You do good works? Even insincere good works can be seen as evil. An example: A man who works at a homeless soup kitchen may be doing good works, but all of that is counted as immoral if the sole reason he’s doing good is because he wants to chat to an exceedingly attractive woman who works at that soup kitchen.
Surely there is not a righteous man on earth who does good and never sins.
- Ecclesiastes 7:20 ESV
as it is written: “None is righteous, no, not one;
- Romans 3:10 ESV
The ‘Christian’ who claims they can be a ‘good person’ on their own has obviously never read what the Bible says on human ability. I did not understand this for such a long time.
Let me put it another way - if you rob a store for money to buy food, you’ll be a fugitive for all the days of your life till you are caught, arrested, trialed and sentenced. It doesn’t matter if you use the money you had stolen to give to charity, or if you had repaid the store owner later out of your own money. A larceny had occurred where property that was capable of being stolen was removed without consent, with the intention to permanently deprive. The law had been broken.
It doesn’t matter how severe the sentence is. The fact is, that crime is going to be on your criminal record and there is no way to erase it. So why do we call it “Good News”? (For the word Gospel means ‘good news’)
The gospel is not about making this present earth a better place - though that may be a run-off effect of it. Nor is the gospel about satisfying our own desires - although a Christian will take complete joy in this good news. Let me explain my understanding:
The good news of Christianity is that the God who created this world, did not choose to let us continue running amok in doing evil. All had fallen short of the divine standard. However God, not wishing to destroy his creation but to save, sent His only begotten Son, Jesus, down into the world and let Him die upon a cross, as a willing substitute for the punishment of sin we deserve. And on the third day, Jesus was raised from the dead, showing His power over death and his power to declare righteous whoever places their faith in Him.
Let me note a few important things:
- That message I just wrote makes no mention of how good or moral or ethical a person is in order to be deemed righteous by God.
- There is no mention of doing enough good things to be deemed righteous. It is entirely the work of God, that people should no have no boast except in what God has done for them.
- The thing that saves us from judgment is ‘faith’. Not ‘knowledge of the existence of’ or mere ‘belief in the existence of’. As I have mentioned before, the Bible acknowledges that even demons believe Jesus is God.
So what is the great issue with nominalism as I have known it? They mistake ‘faith’ for ‘mere belief in the existence of Jesus and God’, and thus compromise our faith.
And he said to all, "If anyone would come after me, let himdeny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever would save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. For what does it profit a man if he gains the whole world and loses or forfeits himself?”
- Luke 9:23-25 ESV
Jesus is essentially saying - “I’m more important than your life”. The only person who is worthy of saying that is God or the person who has saved your life. Now Jesus is both those things.
Therefore, if you call yourself a Christian - respond in such a way. Not by works but by faith. Do you truly believe in what Jesus says? Good! Then live like it.
"Salt is good, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is of no use either for the soil or for the manure pile. It is thrown away. He who has ears to hear, let him hear.”
- Luke 14:34-35 ESV
If you put the label ‘Salt’ onto a sugar jar, then what you have is sugar not salt. Salt that doesn’t taste salty isn’t salt at all. So, if there are Christians who don’t strive to be Christ-like (for to be Christian means to be a Christ-ian), how can we say they are Christians at all?
"If you call yourself salt, then you better start tasting salty!"
In the name of political correctness, ‘Christians’ refrain from interfaith dialogue and rebuking each other for their sins. The message of Christianity isn’t presented because there’s a concern it’s too offensive. ”It’s too unloving” is the liberal excuse tossed around.
Let me tell you what is more unloving. It is more unloving to let people die without hearing the truth and deciding for themselves whether or not they should live by this eternal reality. I think Jesus gave one clear instruction to us before he ascended to heaven:
And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age.”
- Matthew 28:18-20
This ‘Good News’ is offensive. It is offensive in the same way that telling a child sticking a fork in a power-point is dangerous. It is offensive in the same way that a time traveller who visits a man who sells oil lanterns at the beginning of the 20th century and warns the man that if he doesn’t switch over to electric lighting, he will go out of business. Therefore let us go and share this message.
Edit: I realised I never answered the false presumptions made by society against Christianity. I think I’ll do that another time. For the meantime, I encourage all Christians to become extreme. Extreme Christianity can only ever be good. ”By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” - John 13:35 ESV. If we truly spread the message of Christianity in truth and in love, I cannot see how any accusation could stand against us.