For what do righteousness and wickedness have in common? Or what fellowship can light have with darkness? (2 Cor. 6:14; NIV).
When I was a student studying German, I was given an assignment to read an essay by the title “Welche Religion ist die wehre?” The translation: “Which Religion Is the True Religion?” The message of the essay was simply this: they are all true. Every person has their own religion and it is as true as the next person’s religion.
With tolerance and relativism as the prevailing way of thinking, Christianity is not in any sense unique.
This essay would fit well into our culture today. The spirit of our time is tolerance. There is no such thing as “truth.” What is true for you may or may not be true for the next person . . . and who is to judge? Consequently, with tolerance and relativism as the prevailing way of thinking, Christianity is not in any sense unique. It is like all other religions of the world, and Jesus is one among many gods.
This is why the issue of the authority of Scripture is so paramount. When we see the compromise of the religion departments and (to a lesser degree) the science departments and the conflict that arises because they don’t adhere to a unified worldview, we see the potential for relativism to find its way into the institution—just as it has time and time again in the Ivy League and other schools that started strong and then lost the focus on the authority of Scripture.
And that’s tragic, because the Bible carries the most precious and important of all messages.
The Uniqueness of Christianity
In some ways the religions of the world seem similar. All seem to advocate various ways to reach “god” or some form of greater “truth.” Each religion generally has a commanding personality as a leader. The religions of the world each teach a system of belief that serves as some sort of moral basis for humankind. Most religions have ways of helping human beings relate to each other. If men and women seek peace and harmony and understanding of the world around them, each of the religions has something to say.
However, eventually each of the religions makes certain claims about things like the nature and character of God, how exactly man reaches this God, the prospects of life after death, etc. There we find the subtle and sometimes not-so-subtle distinctions among the religions. And then we must remember the concept of the law of noncontradiction and admit, as it suggests, that two contradictory ideas cannot both be true.
If you are interested in any religion for the express purpose of reaching God (which is religion’s main purpose) I would like to point you to the main distinction between Christianity and other religions (and remember—ultimately there are only two religions: God’s Word or man’s word) because the significance of this distinction is eternal . . . and it’s worth fighting for.
1. Christianity does not teach you how to reach for God. It teaches you how God has reached for us.
This concept changes everything. It puts into perspective how religions function with considerations of a moral code and patterns of required behaviors and beliefs. This is how Christianity is unique. The emphasis is not on how or what you do but what’s been done for you. What’s been done is that God the Father, in His Son, Jesus, reconciled the world to Himself by the work of atonement (Col. 1:20), Jesus dying on the Cross for the sins of all who believe in His name (1 John 2:2; Rom. 10:9). It is not what we have done but what He did (Eph. 2:8). This points us in the direction of the most amazingly unique thing about Christianity when compared to all other religions—the person of Jesus Christ. Anyone seeking religious truth will be blown away by Jesus. He is so unique that Christians know Him to be both fully man and fully God. Christians call this the incarnation “God with us,” Immanuel. Jesus has no rival in any aspect of His life:
- No one ever loved like He did.
- No one ever treated a person with dignity or respect like He could.
- No one ever taught what He taught or modeled a way of life like He did.
- No one ever was a better mentor.
- No one ever spoke like He did or commanded respect like He did.
- There is not one person in history who could approximate His wisdom or virtue.
- There has never been a healer like Him.
- No one ever prayed like He prayed.
- No man or woman has ever had a better friend.
- There is no scholar with His intelligence.
- No scientist has ever understood the physics of the universe like Him.
- There has been no other human who had His power—over the created order or over the human heart.
- No psychologist has ever understood the human mind like Him.
- No sociologist ever understood how cultures and societies function with the exception of Him.
He is not an icon representing a deity we do not know, understand, or relate to. No, He remains actively involved with His subjects, offering on a moment’s notice help, support, guidance, wisdom, power, mercy, and love. He literally wrote the book on human existence and the history of the universe. As the author of life, He holds the keys for unlocking the mysteries of this life and the life to come.
He is Jesus, our Lord and God, and there is no other. “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to mankind by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12; NIV). There is no one as glorious as He. The really glorious part of the uniqueness of the Christ of Christianity is that He solves a problem that, in our very honest moments, we all recognize we share in common.
2. Christianity teaches that mankind is born with a sinful nature since the Fall that wreaks havoc with virtually everything about life in this world.
This human nature is responsible for the vast evil and innumerable problems we face in every facet of life. As a group, humanity is broken. There is unimaginable empirical evidence that helps verify this, so we all know it. In our inner being, we know this problem requires a cure. No one has ever been able to cure themselves.
Who can you possibly compare to Jesus? He has no equal and no rival.
And so, while the other religions try to reach for God, Christianity teaches it is the other way around: He, through Jesus, reaches for us, a notion unique among all of the religions. In our hearts, we know it’s true because God puts the evidence of the rightness of the cure of Christ deep in the human spirit. And “since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse” (Rom. 1:20; NIV). The unchanging truth of the living, written Word of God attests to this. That is the primary and final testament to Jesus. That is why when people ask for evidence that Christianity is true, I say, “Look in your own heart and find the answer; it is there. There is a place in every human heart that only God can fill.”
Who can you possibly compare to Jesus? He has no equal and no rival. When we are honest in our innermost being, we know that who He is and what He does is the truth for all humankind.
3. Christianity proclaims a unique urgency to believe.
In the other religions of the world, there is not the sense of urgency to believe the message of the religion like there is in Christianity. In most religions, man operates in his own strength, making every effort at self-improvement. Hinduism and Buddhism use techniques of meditation to deal with problematic issues of the “self.” Judaism and Islam use rituals. They use these rituals to cope with the expectations of the law.
The God of Christianity does not ask for endless efforts of self-improvement. When it comes to measuring the condition of the human nature, He demands perfection. That is right. The standard for Christians is perfection; He settles for nothing less. The Christian only receives this perfection by believing in the only real perfect man who ever lived, Jesus. It is only by believing in the atoning, sacrificial death of Jesus upon the Cross as the payment for our sinful condition that the righteousness (perfection) of Jesus is imputed to everyone who believes. This is a response never conceived by any other religion. It is unique in every way.
Do you need evidence of the truthfulness of this message? Consider again your own heart. I really do believe most people in the inner sanctum of their own spirit know and comprehend the reality of this message (Romans 1 makes it clear there are no atheists—people suppress the truth in unrighteousness): we are sinners, unable to save ourselves, facing a holy God to whom we will give an account of our lives, a God who settles for nothing less than perfection. We also know in this inner place that it is Jesus—uniquely demonstrated to be God’s Son and the only sacrifice He accepts that makes for peace with Him. The Creator has created the human heart with the capacity to know this truth.
And here, Christianity differs from other religions in the most profound way imaginable:
4. When it comes to the claims of Christ, you can reject them but you cannot ignore them.
With the truth about Christianity as revealed in Scripture, you cannot pick and choose what you will accept (that is humanism, having yourself as the ultimate authority over God). You take it all or not at all. Many have attempted this, trying to select certain aspects of the truth while ignoring others. A good example of this strategy of trying to eliminate Scriptures that do not seem to apply to our case is Thomas Jefferson. He seemed drawn to Christ but did not buy His claim to be divine, to perform miracles, and to serve as the only way to reach heaven. So Jefferson devised his own version of the Scripture, The Jefferson Bible, where he literally cut out the parts of Scripture he did not want included. Don’t be too hard on Mr. Jefferson; this is an oft-repeated phenomenon. People may not go to the extreme of actually dismantling the book, the Bible; they just do so in the confines of their hearts and minds. The problem is, we do not get to experience Christianity on our own terms, only His.
If Jesus is not one among many gods, and the message of Christianity is uniquely true, it would stand to reason that there is a sense of urgency about believing this truth. In a culture so relativistic, where tolerance is key and all ideas considered equally valid, it is a challenge to get even earnest believers to catch a vision of how urgent it is to get this message out. At the very least, it is so clear to see that the worldview of naturalism and the worldview of the Bible are absolutely at odds—oil and water that truly cannot be mixed.
How Christianity Got Marginalized
America has become an increasingly diverse nation, and that includes religious diversity. We are growing, and as a nation full of people from different faiths it stands to reason that their influences are going to be felt. If America has become a non-Christian nation due to this trend, it is a demographic issue. It also becomes a wonderful opportunity for those of us who are Christian to enter the marketplace of ideas and engage this diversity with a message we believe to be for all people, cultures, and religious backgrounds.
It is not that our Christian message suffers from diversity, it is suffering because, in the marketplace of ideas, it has been marginalized.
But, there is another reason we are not a Christian nation (or really “Christianized nation,” as no nation has ever been truly a “Christian” one) any longer. Unfortunately, this reason doesn’t have much to do with demographics. While there is reason to celebrate the changing diversity of America, there is reason to fear what is really happening. It is not that our Christian message suffers from diversity, it is suffering because, in the marketplace of ideas, it has been marginalized. It has been moved to the edges of society.
Through the ages, Christians have been among the greatest thinkers and influencers of life in this world. How many scientific innovations and inventions have been forged in the minds of godly men and women? How many great works of literature have been written by devoted followers of Christ? How many of the world’s greatest institutions of service and learning were developed by Christian leaders and servants? How many humanitarians, public servants, community activists, and inspiring religious leaders are Christ followers? The list is amazingly impressive.
So what happened? Why are Christians not the major shapers and influencers of our culture like they once were? Why has the Christian faith been marginalized in recent times?
1. We Christians have abdicated our positions in the battle for the mind.
We lack talent, critical thinking skills, and a willingness to engage with intellectual vigor and rigor the ideas that compete for attention. Where is it today that Christians go to prepare themselves intellectually? Does the mind have a chance to grow in Sunday school? If you think Sunday school is intellectual and spiritual training for Christian youth, read Answers Magazine1 and you will find out it is clearly not there. How about in our church worship services? Is this where we gain enough knowledge and wisdom to stand against the intellectual tide raging against us? It is not likely in a typical, consumer-driven church where worship is driven by personal preference and followed by the mind-numbing, therapeutic pulpit. How about in our colleges, universities, and seminaries? Is this where Christian intellectual virtues are developed? Unfortunately, the answer to these questions is too often no. Where did we go? Answer: we went to the world. We sent ourselves to be among the liberal bastions of our culture that break faith instead of building it. The current disposition of Christians seems to be anti-intellectualism. Faith, in many circles, has been trivialized or marginalized because we have lost the desire for critical thinking and sound scholarship. Dr. Os Guinness, in his book Fit Bodies, Fat Minds, says:
Anti-intellectualism is a disposition to discount the importance of truth and the life of the mind. Living in a sensuous culture and an increasingly emotional democracy, American evangelicals in the last generation have simultaneously toned up their bodies and dumbed down their minds. . . . Evangelical anti-intellectualism is both a scandal and a sin. It is a scandal in the sense of being an offense and a stumbling block that needlessly hinders serious people from considering the Christian faith and coming to Christ. It is a sin because it is a refusal, contrary to the first of Jesus’ two great commandments, to love the Lord our God with our minds.2
Feelings seem to be the dominant concern in the Church today. These concerns for the issues of the heart are completely legitimate. But it is only half the story. Christianity is a heartfelt experience, but it is an experience of the head as well. We are similar to the Tin Woodman in L. Frank Baum’s The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, who chooses a heart rather than a head:
“Why didn’t you walk around the hole?” asked the Tin Woodman.
“I don’t know enough,” replied the Scarecrow cheerfully. “My head is stuffed with straw, you know, and that is why I am going to Oz to ask him for some brains.”
“Oh, I see,” said the Tim Woodman. “But, after all, brains are not the best thing in the world.”
“Have you any?” enquired the Scarecrow.
“No, my head is quite empty,” answered the Woodman; “but once I had brains, and a heart also; so having tried them both, I should much rather have a heart. . . .”
“All the same,” said the Scarecrow, “I shall ask for brains instead of a heart; for a fool would not know what to do with a heart if he had one.”
“I shall take the heart,” returned the Tin Woodman; “for brains do not make one happy, and happiness is the best thing in the world.”3
Too many Christians today have gone missing in action in the battle for the mind. Many have opted for the therapeutic happiness of the Christian subculture instead. Again, to quote Dr. Guinness:
Never mind that “heart” in the Bible is more a matter of understanding than sentiment—so “heart” versus “head” is a false choice. . . . Ever since the mid-eighteenth century we evangelicals have had a natural bias toward the Tin Woodman’s choice—empty brains and happy hearts.4
2. Christians have twisted the message of the gospel of Christ to the point that we repel men and women who are “unchristian,” instead of attract them.
In his book Unchristian, David Kinnaman surveyed the new generation to find out what they really think about Christianity. The negative perceptions of Christians are striking. The secular world thinks Christians are hypocritical, too focused on getting converts, anti-homosexual, sheltered, too political, and judgmental.5
There are exceptions, of course. We all know genuine, authentic Christians who live much like Jesus before us; we are compelled by the overwhelming evidence of Christ in their lives. They are probably, in large measure, the reason many of us are Christians. But even if this research angers you or makes you cry “foul,” can’t you see its truthfulness, too?
The research of Unchristian rings true, and we have to admit that as Christians, we need to take responsibility for this dilemma. We can change this perception, one attitude at a time. We do so by presenting our faith winsomely, as a proposal of truth, not in the ways of putting others down or combativeness.
Recently I listened to a debate that happened several years ago on the subject of the origins of life between creationist Dr. Phillip Johnson of Berkeley and Dr. Will Provine of Cornell. These two great intellects really went at it. The intellectual interchange was magnificent. They pulled no punches and gave each other no slack. They were straightforward in their criticism and analysis of the other’s argumentation.
This Stanford University debate, however, was not characterized by acrimony; quite the contrary. At one point in the proceedings, Dr. Will Provine explained to the students that even though they debate sharply, they have the utmost respect for each other as men; in fact, they will have dinner together when the debate is over. Our relationship with the world, as Christians, should be the same. We should be able to tell the opposition the truth, but do so in a way that’s winsome and seen as a proposal to be considered for what we know to be true. We should be connected to and sincerely engaging with those who may vehemently disagree.
There is one final reason I feel that Christianity has been marginalized:
3. As we bought into our anti-intellectual Christianity geared toward personal preference and happiness, and as we have failed to produce a winsome intellectual approach to belief, the opposition seized the moment and monopolized the debate.
In the Stanford University debate between Dr. Phillip Johnson and Dr. Will Provine, a student asked a very perceptive question. She asked evolutionist Dr. Provine why in the debate of creation versus evolution it’s so one-sided. Why is it so, she wanted to know, that across America only evolution is taught in public schools? Why is there such an uproar when a group of Christians here or there have tried to get creation science in schools and it is categorically denied? Dr. Provine said, “The answer is simple: evolutionists monopolize the debate.”
The answer is simple: evolutionists monopolize the debate.
They monopolize the debate and control the information. They teach in the colleges and universities of our nation. They write the textbooks our students read. These schools graduate the political leaders and school board members who make policy decisions on curriculum. We have eliminated ourselves from serious intellectual debate on this and other prominent social, political, or philosophical issues and have forfeited our right of influence.
A Call to Christian Soldiers
So what do we do about all this? We are in a war where subtle and militant attacks on the Bible continually bombard us. We have been marginalized and our voice has been largely muted in the marketplace and in the classroom. What do we do? How do we find our voice again and begin to speak the truth in love once more?
First, we clearly need to be continually developing our own biblically based worldview. If we understand the authentic truth, we will be unlikely to be fooled by the counterfeits. The biblical worldview, like Jesus Himself, is unique in its explanation of life and existence. The biblical worldview remains the only authentic explanation of the origin of life. The Scripture teaches humankind what we need to know about life’s beginning and ending. It is a credible historical document with a perfect understanding of human nature and our place in the grand scheme of creation.
We need to understand that as Christians, all our thinking should begin with the revelation of God’s Word. We need to know what it means to build a consistent Christian worldview and be able to correctly understand and interpret the facts of the present. We need to know what we believe and why we believe as we do.
We also need to understand that those who don’t start with the Bible start with the fallible ideas of man. On this they build their worldview. Both Christians and non-Christians have starting points. The reason they interpret the same evidence in regard to origins differently is because of those different starting points. I highly recommend the book The Ultimate Proof of Creation, by Dr. Jason Lisle, to further understand how a person can learn to think logically and understand how to argue consistently in these matters.
Second, I think we need to become experts in evolution and the “millions of years” mindset. That’s right. There is nothing to be afraid of. In fact, once students become familiar with what Darwinism is, how the age of the earth is interpreted from data, how these ideas gained notoriety, and an understanding of the numerous flaws in the thinking, it becomes clear that even many scientists know that evolution is an idea in serious trouble and millions of years is not proven fact. If students will research the issue, they will find many problems with the interpretations crucial to the foundation of evolution, the big bang, and the various dating methods. There is the myth of absolute dates from radiometric dating; the myth of strict uniformitarian geology; the myth of a gradualistic fossil record; the myth of beneficial information-adding mutations; the myth of natural selection as a mechanism for molecules-to-man evolution; the myth of evolution not contradicting the bio-genetic law; the myth of homology supposedly supporting evolution; the myth of the so-called missing links.
It is the case that biblical creation cannot be taught in the public schools today—something that clearly reflects a one-sided, closed-minded approach to education (closed-minded to any supernatural aspects). As believers, we should not want it said of us that we do not want our students to be exposed to such ideas. The Bible doesn’t hide error from us, but it clearly speaks to us concerning the nature of the error and teaches us what we should believe. All of us need to know how to defend our faith, and as part of that, we need to understand how secularists think and how to combat their false religious ideas, including evolution and millions of years.
Third, we need to understand the basic tenets of naturalism. Most people are totally unaware that they live under the control of this worldview. It is up to us to explain it to them, show its consequences, and offer the biblical worldview as an alternative. (Again, I recommend the book Ultimate Proof of Creation.)
Why would there be laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, and the laws of nature if there were no God?
We consider the concept of a sovereign, all-powerful God who created the universe ex nihilo (out of nothing) to be the only logical position to take as an explanation for the origin of life. After all, why would there be laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, and the laws of nature if there were no God? These only make logical sense in the context of the infinite Creator God of the Bible. There is nothing philosophically or intellectually invalid about such a position. Unless, that is, someone comes into the discussion with a mind closed off to the possibility of God altogether (and they would no longer have a basis for uniformity, morality, or logic either!). If people start off closed-minded, “suppressing the truth” as Romans 1:20 states, they will not believe, no matter what evidence is presented to them. They first need to change their starting point. And only the Holy Spirit in a person’s heart and mind can start that process.
A sovereign, all-powerful God can create what He desires out of nothing and, as our Scripture says, hold it all together. He can also decide to reveal Himself in meaningful ways to those who will believe, be it in nature around us, in the Word (Scripture) He gave, in the Son (Jesus) He sent us as His exact representation, or in the Spirit He left to live in His children.
Christian students need to be confident and assured that these Christian worldview tenets are philosophically, intellectually, and spiritually valid if by no other reason than that of the definition of God, let alone by the personal experience of believers. Your personal experience of God matters in this discussion!
But this will require a new kind of thinking for a new generation of Christians. Romans 12:2 is an often-cited Scripture on this subject: “Don’t copy the behavior and customs of this world, but let God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think” (NLT).
David Kinnaman puts it like this:
We are learning that one of the primary reasons that ministry to teenagers fails to produce a lasting faith is because they are not being taught to think. This gets to the core of the get-saved perception: young people experience a one-size-fits-all message that fails to connect with their unique sensibilities, personality, or intellectual capabilities. Young people desperately need to be taught to process the rich complexities of life, to probe and test and stretch their faith from the perspective of a Christ follower.6
And this new kind of thinking needs to begin now. There is no time to waste. Today is the day of action for soldiers of truth to take up the Bible, the sword of truth, and run toward the battle. As our research has clearly illustrated, we have generations of our youth going to Christian colleges where God’s written revelation (which is foundational to a proper Christian worldview) is being undermined. As generations of students begin to doubt God’s Word as written (particularly in Genesis), and as they are encouraged to accept many of the fallible ideas of man (e.g., millions of years and evolution), they are being conformed to the world’s thinking instead of thinking as a Christian needs to (Rom. 12:2).
Many in the Christian academic community point the finger at those who take a literal interpretation of Genesis and accuse them of being the cause of the anti-intellectualism discussed earlier. These same professors who compromise Genesis are the ones who themselves have actually helped bring on this seeming anti-intellectualism.
Yes, one can see what seems to be anti-intellectualism, but it is because the Church has not taken a stand on God’s Word from the very beginning!
Because so much of the Church has been confused on the issues of origins and because so many Christian leaders have taught people to accept millions of years and even evolution, many Christians basically ignored the whole issue and concentrated on spiritual, relationship, and doctrinal matters. They avoided the historical science of Genesis, and gradually their “faith” shifted toward more emotionalism and experientialism in the Church, along with watered-down teaching. Yes, one can see what seems to be anti-intellectualism, but it is because the Church has not taken a stand on God’s Word from the very beginning! What hope is there for the right sort of Christian leadership when so many of those training our leaders have already embraced the world’s philosophies in many areas?
A story is told about Satan calling his emissaries of hell together because he wanted to send them to earth to aid men and women in the ruination of their souls. He asked, “Who would go first, and what would be the strategy?” One said, “I will go.” “And what will you tell them?” Satan asked. “I will tell them there is no heaven.” And Satan said, “They will not believe you, for there is a bit of heaven in every human heart. In the end everyone knows that good will triumph over evil. You may not go.”
Then another came forward, darker and fouler than the first. “If I send you,” Satan said, “what will you tell them?” “I will tell them there is no hell.” Satan looked at him and said, “No, they will not believe you, for in every human heart there is a thing called conscience, an inner voice which testifies to the truth that not only will good triumph but evil will be defeated. You are not to go.”
The last creature that came forward was more diabolical than them all. Satan said to him, “If I send you what will you say to men and women that will lead to the destruction of their souls?” And he said, “I will tell them there is no hurry.” Satan said, “GO. You are the one.”
And that seems to be the place we are today; the strategy seems to be working. As Christians we are certainly in no hurry; there is no sense of urgency. But there is urgency. The Church has been marginalized. What is at stake is the very heart and soul of our faith, particularly of our youth. It is essential that this generation of young people be confronted with this astounding truth, again from the pen of C.S. Lewis in his essay “A Slip of the Tongue”: “In the end, if you have not chosen the Kingdom of God, it will not matter what you have chosen instead.”7
The survey confirmed our hunch that compromise is taking place in Christian higher education. We know that the natural tendency of fallen man gravitates toward naturalism, liberalism, and an eroding of the authority of the Bible. We have grave concerns that this great compromise is marginalizing the central, life-giving message about Jesus Christ.
Christianity is in desperate need of leadership right now. Gone are the strong voices of the past that spoke out with confidence about the authority of Scripture. Parents and students would like to believe that the leadership of Christian colleges is focused, unified, and standing on God’s Word. But as you will see in the next chapter, the survey suggests otherwise. Floundering leaders are part of the widespread confusion we see in all levels of campus life and learning. While the leaders stumble, the battle rages. At stake is the truth about Jesus Christ and the gospel of His grace—and that is worth fighting for.