Christianity has lost its nerve

Christianity has lost its nerve.

Christians appear to lack confidence in their central message and purpose. Christianity has lost its cutting edge. It has become embarrassed and afraid. It is ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. In the face of determined opposition it has retreated into a bland and weakened version of the real thing. Those primarily responsible for this are government and media. The political tools which have been used to weaken the dynamics of Christian faith can be traced back to the Tony Blair’s time as Prime Minister. In order to pacify Islamic aggression, faiths were categorised as of equal value. No serious analysis of competing claims was undertaken and no differentiation of content and quality was articulated. In no other sphere of human thinking is such strategy tolerated. The whole of academia is based on comparison and evaluation. Politics is the exercise of alternatives. Business requires competition. The arts enlarge and exceed in order to communicate. The idolising of the principle of equality led to the minimising and denial of difference where it continues to exist. Political ideology was then taken further by foisting false equalities on society. This led for example to the absurdity of the gender specific words ‘husband’ and ‘wife’ being robbed of their common sense meaning throughout human social history.

Christianity is tolerated for its expressions of humanity but not for its proclamation. A grudging acknowledgement of a spiritual dimension to life has survived so far in schools, in the health service and in prisons. Even that modicum is dismissed by militant secularists. Pride in human intellect has been raised up as a criterion of validity and contemptuously ridicules Christian scholarship and learning. From the very start Christianity was intellectually credible and established itself in the literate Graeco-Roman world. Absolute negation is a blunt totalitarian instrument to use against the Christian phenomenon which is visible and measurable not only in being but in application throughout the world today in larger numbers than ever – about one third of the human population.

The fact that secularists always hit Christianity below the belt indicates their primitive understanding. They enjoy introducing false contextualisation, making infantile comparisons and continually denying the existence of historic Christian encouragement of science and learning. So arrogant are today’s militant atheists that they consider themselves far above any discussion or debate with any explanation of Christian identity and purpose. That is the opposite of age old discursive and investigative principles of education and learning. Paradoxically, secularists have become anti-intellectuals.

Most thinking Christians are aware of the problems that relating to an unseen benevolent Creator imply for those without such a relationship. But Christians cannot deny this form of reality in their lives. The historic foundation of such experience for them is in Jesus of Nazareth, a real human figure as attested by secular Roman records. It is however through this Jesus that such a strong and effective relationship has been made possible. It might be thought that any reasonable open minded human being would be interested in hearing about the possibility of overcoming physical time and temporality. This is Christianity’s central message. Human personal existence is not just for days and years on earth. Certainly, to reject and annihilate that possibility is to limit the human mind in a way that inhibits its development. It is not for nothing that Christianity has elevated human creativity to its highest forms as, for example, in the music of J S Bach, the poetry of John Milton and the scientific discoveries of Scots James Young Simpson, James Clerk Maxwell and James Black. But Christianity has also made of ordinary human lives spectacular examples of charity and service such as Martin Luther King and Mother Teresa. Why then, should Christianity’s effective dynamic be extricated from the state education system? Its proven capacity for moral and spiritual development should be of great interest to those who organise and manage societies. The ostracising of Christianity from public life is a factor of the demoralising of society by specific minority interest factions. Yet in other places, nations and cultures today, Christianity’s guidance is made warm welcome.

Christianity is at the same time the most persecuted faith expression in the world today. In the last one hundred years more Christians have died for their faith than in the previous nineteen hundred Christian centuries. But persecuting Christianity does not work. Christianity expands disproportionately. Secularists do not understand this. They want to eradicate all traces of Christianity in the public sphere. Harsh opposition to Christianity will not extinguish it. Christianity’s own dynamics cannot be obliterated as the recent history of the Soviet Empire shows. What secularists don’t understand is that their determinations will actually make Christianity stronger. Today’s militant atheists are preparing the way for Christian revival in the future. They have their time of influence but it will not last. The essence of Christianity presents an answer to the most basic of human perplexities, temporality and finitude. Apprehension of this also requires personal humility and this involves the whole person. Thus it is a life changing dynamic.

There is also a loss of nerve in Church leadership. The Roman Catholic Church in Scotland is licking self-inflicted wounds caused by its scandals of homosexuality and paedophilia in priesthood and hierarchy. Strident moral censure of contemporary mores has been compromised by recent revelations. By having made itself as a human organisation into a false absolute and identifying the essence of Christianity with its own institution, Roman Catholicism left itself damaged and lacking credibility. Pope Francis seems to understand this and seems to be seeking to distinguish the Christian Gospel from his institution. This may lead to renewal and the re-engagement of mission in Europe.

The Church of Scotland consistently nails its colours to the fence. If people want a nuanced opinion, they will surely get it. The media don’t appreciate this subtlety. It does not make for good headlines. This uncertain trumpet sound has done historic damage to the Church of Scotland because people no longer know what, if anything, it affirms about Christianity. Its central administration rolls over at every politically correct opportunity. It shamelessly climbs on any media bandwagon in the pitiless search for relevance. Married to the spirit of the age, it might endure long widowhood in the future. The Church of Scotland’s public pronouncements eschew the clarity of challenge that Christianity at its best offers any nation or society. Why has the ‘National Church’ so far failed to give clear direction in the Independence Referendum debate? The Church of Scotland hides behind its medieval legalistic processes and too often disappears up its own ecclesiastical rectum.

Christianity in this land has lost its nerve. Too comfortable, too complacent, too cowardly and afraid of the wounds of controversy, its noble message is being lost to a generation, perhaps more than one. But Christianity’s enemies should not feel triumphant. Christianity is of a different character than mere human argument. Christians should not be ashamed of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Proclamation is Christianity’s life force and raison d'être. It will regenerate.

Robert Anderson 2017

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