My church newsletter column for May
The Wordsmith's Forge
A brief recap of my Sunrise Service meditation: I began by noting C.S. Lewis, who said that people tend to assume that we recommend Christianity to them because we think it will be good for them. This makes us look like busybodies, salesmen, or scolds, depending upon how we present our faith. But this is a fundamental error. We do not recommend Christianity to people because we think it will be good for them. We recommend Christianity to them because we think it is true.
If the Christian message is true, then it describes the most important thing that ever happened in the whole, long history of the world, and it is thus the most important news ever heard. This is why we are so urgent in our recommendation of it. But if Christianity is not true, then it is of no particular importance at all — a mere hobby for those who like that sort of thing.
And the linchpin of the Christian faith is the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. This is the validation of everything Jesus said about himself, about God, and about us. As St. Paul put it, “if Christ be not raised,” then none of this matters much. The scoffers, meanwhile — those who think we want them to be Christians because it will be good for them — want to argue with us about the Bible, particularly the creation, or Jonah and the whale, or some other “gotcha” passage that they think unbelievable. And, they want to make fun of or deride our behind-the-times morality. Their cartoon impression of the Bible and of Christian doctrine may, in fact, be what some Christians think Christianity is, but all too often it only exists in the minds of the well-educated ignoramuses who scoff at us.
I am not an uncritical reader of the Bible. I’m pretty sophisticated, and I understand metaphor, I understand context, I understand point-of-view. I understand science, too. I do not subscribe to the cartoon version of Christianity that the scoffers think I do. On the other hand, since I am willing to believe that Jesus came back from the dead — really dead, not just “sort of dead” — then I’m also willing to take a miracle or two on faith.
I any case, I have found it important over the years to remember that I am not engaged in arguing with people over how they should live their lives, or selling people on how much happier they would be if they adopted my values. I am saying that I have discovered the truest thing ever said; and if it is so, then that has implications for everything, including my behavior and my happiness — and theirs.
Making up your own religion can be fun. It’s like a quiz show in which everything you say is correct. Unfortunately, the prizes are all in your mind, too. If you want real rewards, though, then you have to find out what answers are actually true.