Sunday, November 11, 2007

The Positive of Persecution

I have not posted much lately, as my family, job and church responsibilities have taken up much of my time -- I enjoy writing, but sleep is nice too. I have a few posts in the pipeline, including: 1) Why I believe in a god; 2) Why I believe in the God of the Bible and Christ specifically; and 3) Do people go to heaven if they haven't heard the message of Christ. Given the complexity of these three issues, it have taken me a while to wade through everything while posting something of reasonable brevity.

In the meantime, I found this interesting article in Christianity Today regarding the positive side of the recent rise of atheist attacks on Christianity. Christianity flourished in spite of the Roman persecution during the first few centuries after the death of Christ. While we want the message of Christ to be spread the world over, there are dangers when our faith becomes mainstream or common, as it has been in western culture since before the founding of America. The danger, obviously, isn't from the message, but the laziness that can rise when there is no external challenge to being a Christian. We often cherish that which is harder to obtain, but possessions gained through relative ease do not hold the same position in our lives (Christ isn't a possession, but hopefully you get the point). Western Christians have not faced many significant persecutions or challenges to our faith, like for example our Chinese brothers and sisters. Yes, prayer has been banned from schools and it can be argued that many universities are not the most Christian-friendly places. But I can still attend my church on Sunday without having to worry about being thrown in jail.

With the recent rise of atheists such as Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens and others, Christians are facing a full-frontal attack to our belief system -- and it is not on a small scale. Since 2006, the three names I just listed have each published anti-God and anti-Christian books that have sold a combined 1 million copies. The questions they raise are not new, but their message is now becoming more widely spread, via television, the Internet, news papers and other media. Thus, Christians are facing a new wave of challenges and we are being called to defend our beliefs. The positive is that under such challenges, the search for answers will strengthen the faith of many and create opportunities to speak about Christ where such opportunities may not have existed before.

Below is an excerpt from the article.


You would have to have been hitchhiking across Siberia to have missed a striking new phenomenon: The atheists are back. Not just back, mind you, but globally parading in triumph across tv, bookstores, and the Internet...

Why a surge by atheists right now?...American evangelicals, we must admit, have not been immune to triumphal attitudes, arrogance, foolish public statements, and, sometimes, downright hypocrisy in personal behavior. A backlash against evangelicals has been brewing for years.

The good news? First, a bracing frontal assault on faith is actually good for evangelicalism. It compels us to reexamine what we believe and to behave—well, with greater humility.

Second, this backlash has produced a fascinating response among believers. For example, the most effective public debater with Christopher Hitchens to date has been Brooklyn Baptist and verbal flame-thrower the Rev. Al Sharpton.

In a debate, Hitchens disparaged the God-fearing sensibilities of Martin Luther King Jr., angering Sharpton. "In terms of the civil-rights movement," Sharpton responded, "it was absolutely fueled by a belief in God and a belief in right or wrong. Had not there been this belief that there was a right and a wrong, the civil-rights movement that you alluded to and referred to would not have existed."

Third...theists have drawn into the debate highly articulate scientists of fervent Christian faith. In England, Alister McGrath, professor of historical theology at Oxford, has battled Dawkins brilliantly on his home turf of science. McGrath holds a doctorate in molecular biophysics as well as one in theology.

Two other new books put forward important ideas about God's existence, offering magnificent ripostes to the atheists. In The Language of God, Francis Collins, a former atheist and director of the National Human Genome Research Institute, refuses to choose between science and God. "Science is not threatened by God," he writes. "[I]t is enhanced." Former Harvard astronomer Owen Gingerich, in God's Universe, draws a bright line between theists and materialists. He endorses the view that belief in "a final cause, a Creator-God" gives us truthful, coherent understanding about the design of the universe.

Christians have nothing to fear from the new atheist surge. We evangelicals, in our advocacy for the gospel, also have no need for blunt weaponry.

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