“Many argue that Christianity is “different” from other religions – that it is primarily about love of one’s fellow man. The Crusades, The Inquisition, Calvin’s Geneva all prove that this is not the case. These events were pre-eminently about obedience to authority.” —Andrew Bernstein
Well, but… that’s you, Mr. Bernstein, saying what “many argue” and I do not agree with your starting premise. You can’t give me my argument and then provide the rebuttal as if the argument you supplied is mine. What if many don’t argue that Christianity “is primarily about the love of one’s fellow man” but that it is about- something else? And, in fact, it is about something else.
There are at least two problems here:
1) Christianity as a religion is no different than any other religion. True christianity is not a religion; it is a condition of one’s standing before God as an individual, and regardless of any organization. (More of that later.) (Notice also that I shall capitalize Christianity when referring to the religion, but shall write christianity when referring to that individual, personal condition)
2) Nor does Christianity, either as a religion or as a personal reality, argue that it is primarily about love for one’s fellow man. Christianity, in both its religious and personal realities, teaches obedience to God. christianity teaches salvation through Christ alone. christianity is primarily about one’s relationship with God, and the various aspects of relationship with fellow man are merely a side product.
Thus it is that, being someone who identifies as ‘christian’, I do not feel the need to fully identify with everyone else who identifies himself as ‘Christian’, and certainly not with others that Mr. Bernstein identifies as ‘Christians’.
Notice also, that in order to find widespread blame of ‘Christians’, Mr. Bernstein had to go back 700 years to the Crusades, 500 years to the Spanish Inquisition, to find an extreme case of the “seamy underside” of Christianity. In fact, Christianity is NOT the same as other religions. But, more importantly, true christianity is not a religion at all.
I have a family member whom I would identify as a christian (not as someone who merely practices the religion of Christianity, but as someone who is truly regenerate- again, more of that later), yet this person was so pleased that the new Pope was descended from a similar nationality as our family. I submit to you that 1) the new Pope has shown himself to be a person who is not especially righteous, nor even especially faithful to the teachings of his religion; and 2) that as the head of the Roman Catholic Church, he is a religious Christian, but that there is no evidence whatever that he is truly regenerate, and therefore has as little in common with me as someone avowedly anti-Christian.
A blogger I occasionally read recently challenged his followers, “To those of you saying that it’s appeasement to suggest the average Muslim is peace-loving, and who call on us to see Islam as the enemy and declare war on it, what exactly would that look like?”
Well, it would be ugly.
I think the problem is one of religion. I don’t for a minute believe that all Christians are truly regenerate (Ie: Christians, with upper case, being part of a religion; christians, with a lower case, meaning personally regenerate regardless of which church or religion they are a part of). If one is a Christian and not a christian- not truly, personally regenerate- then one’s Christianity is of no more value than any other religion. The scriptures talk about christians in terms of ‘regeneration’- “a new creature”, according to 2 Corinthians 5:17. Jesus told Nicodemus that this was a process of being “born again” (John 3:3-21). This is a process- a belief -that is individual and personal and it’s effects touch one person at a time, regardless of their past, their family, their race, or their religion.
That makes what Christianity does a moot point, because religions are not what God wants (Romans 3:23, John 14:6, Acts 4:12, John 3:16, 1 Corinthians 15:3, Acts 16:31). If Christians declare war on Muslims, or anybody else, it is just ugly. But christians don’t declare war, they declare evangelism- and there’s just as much rejoicing in heaven if the Ayatollah were to acknowledge his sin and come to Christ for salvation as if a little boy whose parents had been taking him to the “right” church since he was born were to do the same. The church is made up of all those who have truly acknowledged Jesus as savior, not people who attend a certain church and claim to be Christians. What religions do is no more sanctified than what other godless organizations do- it’s not the job of christians or Christians to be declaring ‘war’.
That having been said, it is also untrue that Islam is a peaceful religion. Certainly some Muslims are peaceful people, but as a religion, Islam is not peaceful. Indeed, even “objective” school history books- and Muslims themselves- acknowledge the violent origins of the religion itself, and many of its holy days and commemorations- many even involving violence between different Muslim sects. Now, please don’t mistake my brutal honesty about the shortcomings of this religion to mean that I’m claiming other religions are above reproach! No, I’m blaming all religions, including Christianity.
(At this point let me admit that it rankles me to refer to Christianity as if it has ANYTHING to do with christianity. The religions that use the Bible, meet in churches, have pastors and/or priests, baptize people, and claim Jesus as their founder- you know who you are- may or may not have christians among their ranks. Doing all those things does not guarantee that the activities of the religion, its leaders, or its members, will be in any way sanctified. In fact, the more formalized the organization is, the less likely it is that its activities will have any true, spiritual, biblical validity. Certainly there are groups, churches, comprised heavily/mostly of people who are regenerate, and whose leadership is comprised of people who have personally come to Christ for salvation, and who shepherd those entrusted to their care. But their job, as a leadership or as an organization, is not to be a religion- to tell people what to do and what not to do- it is to edify its members, to equip them to know God’s Word and live by its principals and precepts, and to shine the Light of the gospel into a dark world. As was recently stated from the platform at my church, “God doesn’t have any grandchildren, only children.” That is, having the right family, church or whatever does ot make you a christian, only a Christian- which has no eternal value. You are a child of God if, and only if, you have acknowledged your sin, your need of a savior, and accepted Jesus Christ’s sacrificial death on your behalf as satisfying a holy God’s demand for penalty for sin. Then you are a christian. But neither your children, nor anybody else, gets to go along for the ride- each one, individually, must take the same step of faith in believing in Jesus’ death on their behalf.)
So, no. Christians are not any different. But christians ought to be very different. christians ought to care about one thing first- that any and all people hear the good news of the Gospel- the Gospel that all mankind is sinful, that holy God cannot abide sin and therefore all mankind falls under the judgement of God, BUT that a loving God is also not willing for any to perish (Matthew 8:14, John 3:16, 2 Peter 3:9), and so provided for salvation from judgement in the person and work of His perfect and sinless Son, Jesus Christ, which salvation is free, and universal, and necessary, and effective for every single member of the human race if they will simply believe, and has nothing to do with any worth, or work, or act on the part of we sinful creatures. How we christians are to act after becoming regenerate is another mater, but ours is not to condemn, not to declare war.