Why The World Needs Christians

Some years ago I spent time on lists and forums. That has been replaced with blogging, but many of the conversations are the same because people grapple with basic concerns and because many of the cultural challenges are still the same as they were in the year 2000. I have decided to post this essay on my blog because it is pertinent to some of the discussions I find myself in at this time.
Below is something I worked on in response to discussions on the validity of the Bible. These are reasonings rather than proof in the scientific sense.

You need Christians like me. Your system needs us: Christians who believe in their God and the validity of their scriptures. You need us to volunteer in hospitals, visit the lonely and elderly, man soup kitchens and homeless shelters, help feed the hungry, share with the poor, giving sacrificially-so they might have shelter and clothing; give time, goods, and counsel in a thousand services to maintain and strengthen our society. You need us to raise our children with love and training so that they will be contributing to society after us. And in our belief system, we strive to do these things because we believe such actions please our God, our scriptures are full of directives and practical measures to show love and kindness to our fellow man, and how to live in a way that recognizes human dignity and worth. We believe we can sacrifice ourselves in this giving because we believe the reward from our God is sure and eternal. So, it is beneficial for you that we believe as we do and function as optimally as possible in carrying out these actions. The cudgels and pokers used to cow Christians and gut their faith works against this.

The difficulty is that your system cannot control us, your system that holds that all is made of time and chance. We keep insisting that our final allegience is to our God, and placing the requirements found in our scriptures above yours, and refusing to give creedance to your philosophies. We refuse to bow to Caesar, although we will obey him under our God. Thus, the cudgels and pokers.

The trouble with the system that holds ideas of the world and all its inhabitants being no more than chance combinations of molecules, that any or no idea of God is acceptable, that one persons ideas and actions are as good or as meaningful as anothers, (etc. ) is that while sounding equable, it gives no foundation to its adherents for a functioning society. A life of slacking is as good as a life of diligence-it is the individuals choice. A choice for abortion is equal to a choice of giving birth; a choice of philanthropically giving is equal to keeping ones wealth to oneself; an act of kindness no better than an act of cruelty. Of course, not all those adhering to this foundation live this way, many, many are giving and kind and selfless- but there is nothing in their system to warrant it. Why is it good to be kind? It just is…it is because I feel it is. Why is it good to help the impoverished and displaced? Or any other good work? Because they are humans.

Now, we enter another problem with this system of thought. What differentiates the humaness? How are these sets of molecules any more meaningful or important than any other set of molecules in the universe? Why should human life have any more meaning than a snake, or a tree, or the soil? All being interchangeable it will all come out in the wash……….won’t it? As long as people adhere to concepts of human worth, kindness, generosity, all the concepts we consider worthy, then society functions and holds together. As soon as groups of people decide, more and more, that there is just as much to gain and nothing to lose by destroying life or neglecting needs or obligations involving others, then some real problems arise. We are seeing this already, why are teen mothers leaving their babies to die in trash cans? Morally is it a difference to have an abortion rather than kill your baby with neglect or action at the birth? Why do students feel they can harm or kill a teacher? Or another student causing them mental pain? On what, O TIME/CHANCE adherents do you base your arguments? To what may you appeal? What if these persons JUST DO NOT CARE? So you bring out your authoritarianism, because in the end that is all you will have left. It is so because I say it is so, and I have all the guns.

So in the end, you are left with individuals desperate to find meaning and worth for their lives. Agonizingly desperate. I think this is one reason so many are looking into nature religions, they are hoping for some sense and peace and meaning; but they are still functioning in this system, and all they have is a palliative, an anaesthetic to ease their mind and give them direction…even though they cannot say it is anything more than an illusion -based on their system. Now, if you will stay with me I would like to quote one of your own and speak to you of some of the issues facing us, especially women.

Where Are We Going?

In a book I am reading , a published author,an eminent biologist and an athiest, Francis Crick is quoted and commented upon. I would like to quote here and add some of my own observations. The book I am reading is ‘Back to Freedom and Dignity’ by Francis Schaeffer and he quotes Francis Crick:

“I think one has to say that scientifically, astrology really is complete nonsense. I have tried very hard to think of a way it could make some sense and it’s too much. I wonder whether people who think that way should be at university.”

At this point, Schaeffer takes issue with the idea that one should be shunned from a university based on their beliefs. This is pertinent as an indicator of the arbitrary manner of judgement that is often applied to people in lieu of real standards.

[Crick,again quoted:] “Nonetheless, you must realize that much of the political thinking of this country (the USA) is very difficult to justify biologically. It was valid to say, in the period of the American Revolution, when people were oppressed by priests and kings, that all men were created equal. But it doesn’t have biological validity. It may have some mystical validity in a religious context, but when you ask what you mean by all people being created equal, it is not the same as saying that they should all have equal opportunity. It’s not only biologically not true, it’s also biologically undesirable. If you had a population in which everybody was the same, any biologist would say that it was a very bad situation, that it was too homogenous. You must have variety in biological situations. Yet, this is not the sort of thing that is regarded as particularly tactful to say. But sooner or later people have got to be saying these things. We all know, I think, or are beginning to realize, that the future is in our hands, that we can, to some extent, do what we want.

Now, what is happening at the moment? What is happening is that we know that with technology we can make life easier for human beings; we can make changes. What we are really doing is learning to tinker with the system. But there is very little thinking at the fundamental level as to what sort of people we would like to have. In the long term, that is the question you are bound to come up with.”

…..”It’s the aim of medical research to try to cure as many diseases as possible, in particular cancer and heart conditions. Those are probably the major killers. But what is going to happen under that situation? What is going to happen is that you can easily work out the age distribution, under a stable population, from the death rate. It means that gradually the population is going to become very old. What medical research is aiming for is to make the world safe for senility.”

….”We’ve just seen that the discussion as to how many people there should be in the world has now, as it were, become quite acceptable. It is not acceptable, at the moment, to discuss who should be the parents of the next generation, who should be born, who is to have children. There’s a general feeling that if we are all nice to each other and if everybody has 2.3 children, everything will pan out . I don’t think that is true. For good genetic reasons,even though you have more medical care, transplantation of organs, and all these things, it would be an unhealthy biological situation. Some group of people should decide some people have more children and some should have fewer….You have to decide who is to be born. Biology is indeed a revolutionary subject when you look at it this way. It is, in fact, the major revolutionary subject. It is the one that is going to make the new concepts which will come into social thinking. Biology is not simply, as it were, what you think you can do with herds of cattle. There are much more intricate things involving people at the psycological level interacting in society, but I don’t think you’re going to solve all these problems by just tinkering with the genetic material. I think it will turn out that thinking along these lines will have to take place, and if you don’t do it in this country, it will start in another country.” [unquote]

This quote was taken from a lecture given sometime past, but the thoughts are not essentially different from any we might hear in a university or the media today. these thoughts raise many issues, but I would like to focus on the last paragraph, because of its pertinence to women. If such thinking is inherent in the general system of thinking (and I can find no reason why it couldn’t be) then what do women, by virtue of their biological make-up become? We become the breeders, or even worse -useless and defective for breeding . It becomes the sum of our existance, and now dear feminists, where is any idea of self-actualization at all? If a woman is considered valuable genetic material, where are her dreams of deciding for herself whether to have children, or to spend her life in other pursuits? Or the woman who desires children, but is considered a social liability genetically? In China we see how a society deals with pregnant women who are deemed as not contributing to the good of society as a whole. Forced abortions. Forced sterilizations are not unkown in modern history, either.

In the light of these things, I have no qualms, no hesitations, no apologies for my belief in Jesus Christ of Nazareth, or the idea that the writing of the Bible could not only contain truth, but The Truth, and the very words of God. And in the light of believing these things I will recognize the right of man, individually or corporately, to accept or reject these things, but to his own hurt. I will have to trust God to not allow the hurt to end in destruction, a trust no different than I hold today.

Now, for the question of which system of thought is right (accurate,true) or provable. I hold that you can neither prove your system unequivocally, and that I cannot prove mine. What I submit here is that my system produces results that TEND towards the benefit of mankind. As a “system” its weakness has always been that its adherents fail in applying its truths. But I have also submitted to you that the weakness of your system is that more proponents will succeed in carrying out its implementation. We may all come to a worse case, and that is that both systems discarded out of hand will lead to a system that will make the Nazi and Stalinist regimes look like child’s play. And the Bible has some things to say about that,as well.

Of course, this begs the question: is Christianity merely a system? And, outmoded at that? If not,why not? As the thoughts continue….. ?

Christians And Money

Jesus Inc. What does it take to serve God and Mammon?
Fortune Magazine
Richard McGill Murphy, FSB senior editor, February 1, 2006

NEW YORK (FORTUNE Small Business Magazine) – Entrepreneurs, it’s been said, are born hungry and alone. And most are quick to seek not just bread but also fellowship. Nowhere is that impulse more evident than in the growing ranks of Christian business owners, who are banding together for mutual support while they seek to express their faith through their companies. They have created at least 30 networking organizations in the U.S., about half of them launched in the past five years.

While most Christian entrepreneurs hire and do business with Americans of all faiths, a more controversial trend is the rise of local Christian business directories, listing companies that wish to attract customers among fellow believers. Shepherd’s Guide, the largest Christian-directory publisher, prints five million guides a year in more than 100 markets nationwide, up from 3.2 million in 2000. Meanwhile, the market for religious products (everything from hit movies and popular music to live-action figures of Christ and the apostles) is expected to top $8.6 billion in annual sales by 2008, according to Packaged Facts, a market research consultancy.

In corporate America today, with its emphasis on offending no one, the norm is to keep expressions of faith quiet and generic. Christian entrepreneurs are more likely to see their offices and factories as extensions of their beliefs. …on a more personal level, many struggle to reconcile the often hard-edged requirements of commerce with the teachings of Christ.

Parts of the gospels are famously hostile to the pursuit of material wealth. It was Jesus who said that a camel can pass through the eye of a needle more easily than a rich man can enter the kingdom of God (Mark 10:25). Elsewhere Jesus asserted that no man can serve both God and Mammon (Matthew 6:14). The rich man who keeps all the commandments must still give all his property to the poor, Jesus said, if he wants to go to heaven (Mark 10:17-23). And Jesus did not just drive the moneychangers from the temple; he also expelled “all of those who bought and sold” there (Matthew 21:2).[bold emphasis mine ]

….And in the ambiguous parable of the talents, Jesus seems to use business success as a metaphor for moral virtue. A master goes away on a journey and entrusts each of his slaves with a sum of gold talents, or coins. When the master returns, he asks each servant what happened to the money. Those who increased their capital by investing it are praised, but the servant who buried his money gets branded “worthless” for wasting a valuable opportunity (Matthew 25:14-30).

“For to all those who have, more will be given, and they will have an abundance; but from those who have nothing, even what they have will be taken away,” says Jesus, sounding to modern ears like Gordon Gekko before his first cup of coffee.

When the gospels were written, most Christians were poor, persecuted outsiders. But after the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion, Christianity became the official religion of the empire and an avenue for worldly advancement. Since then, Christian doctrine has grown more amenable to business. In the 17th century, Calvinist merchants piled up wealth in the belief that it was a sign of God’s blessing. The Pilgrims sailed to North America seeking both religious freedom and commercial opportunity. And modern evangelical business owners often measure success in souls saved as well as widgets sold.

…..they want a workplace that reflects their deepest values. Some doubtless use the gospels to rationalize business as usual.

But at a deeper level, sincere Christians have much in common with committed entrepreneurs. Both callings demand faith in things unseen and persistence in the face of dangers and doubts. They ask themselves: Is it right to lay off workers to boost profits, or only to save the company? How do you foster a Christian office culture without violating the rights of non-Christian employees? What if you can’t get a city contract without bending the law? How fast must you run to beat a camel into paradise?

There are problems with this article. Some of the glaring ones I highlighted in bold type. Why does this matter? It changes the message…. and that makes all the difference.

Although the author,Richard M. Murphy, doesn’t come right out and say it, he throws the whole idea of Christians as successful business people into doubt. As if something were sort of wrong with the whole thing, a ‘rotten in Denmark’ feel.
So let’s look at that first.

“Parts of the gospels are famously hostile to the pursuit of material wealth”. Actually, what Jesus addresses is the same message as the first commandment as given to Moses. You can only serve one master: it ought to be God. In context, the Jewish nation had been corrupted by some of the influence of the gentile culture…The Lord Jesus was correcting that, as seen in his remonstrance to not exhibit the gentile thinking of worry about what to wear or eat. This doesn’t mean it wasn’t part of life, but the manner of thinking and living was reprioritized. This is the same message in those passages quoted by the author. And this statement,”The rich man who keeps all the commandments must still give all his property to the poor, Jesus said, if he wants to go to heaven ” is just plain wrong. The context is in the question of the particular individual wanting to know what further things he must do. The Master pinpointed the place of resistance… material belongings outweighed spiritual pursuit. It was dragging the young man down. Christian doctrine has always emphasized that one must hold this material world lightly…. but not that one must let go entirely. That is the message of the ascetic and closer to Eastern forms of religious thought. Peter’s answer to Ananias and Sapphira summed up the principle:
“Didn’t it belong to you before it was sold? And after it was sold, wasn’t the money at your disposal?”-Acts 5

“The Pilgrims sailed to North America seeking both religious freedom and commercial opportunity.” is a particularly glaring mistake. Excuse me? Commercial opportunity? A largely uncharted, unsettled and wild land is .. a commercial opportunity? If the author had a working knowledge of the history of the Pilgrims, he would have known that they first fled to the Netherlands where they had a prosperous life, but were feeling they were losing their children to the culture. The Pilgrims risked all for new life in the American continent for a spiritual quest of religious freedom to build their own society according to their convictions as Christians. They were Separatists and wanted to start life away from the practices of European Christianity and lifestyle.
Another misrepresentation is within this, “When the gospels were written, most Christians were poor, persecuted outsiders. But after the Roman emperor Constantine’s conversion, Christianity became the official religion of the empire and an avenue for worldly advancement. Since then, Christian doctrine has grown more amenable to business. ”

While it is true many were poor, and some were made poor through persecutions… the idea that Christian doctrine some how “evolved” is quite false. It is rather a case of changing circumstance that allowed for Christians to prosper, not changing their doctrine, but no longer holding them in oppressed circumstances of the persecuted. There were still the emphases on giving to the poor, to missions, and other Christians in persecuted circumstance or as general good works. That did not change.

There were always some wealthy Christians and this was not criticised. I.E. Joseph of Arimethea who begged the body of Jesus and buried him in a new tomb that he owned. This was someone with real wealth. Lydia, a business woman who hosted the church in her home, another example of wealth.

Wealth or Mammon was always a matter of having its proper place, and being held lightly rather than grasped tightly- as humans can be prone to do.

So is it a moral conflict for a Christian to be wealthy? No. Are there moral dilemmas to grapple with in business decisions, etc? Yes, of course.

Have families always tried to help each other and become more successful and thrive in practical ways? It’s true all over the world… and one thing the Gospel does teach is that Christians are a brotherhood; so it is so far a stretch to understand why they should band together for business purposes as well? What are many of the social benefits that Christians build, but businesses? Hospitals schools, charities, these all have components of business and wealth.

Christian Faith should inform the business practices of the Christian, and this will provide ethical direction as well as examples of diligence and practice… not at all in conflict with the idea that Christians can be successful, if that is what God directs.

Deuteronomy 8:18
“And you shall remember the LORD your God, for it is He who gives you power to get wealth, that He may establish His covenant which He swore to your fathers, as it is this day.”

God does Strange Things

I recently read a testimony of a Christian, Peter, that while more extreme than many, had numerous things that I remember from many testimonies of those sorts of Christians that have complete life-changing conversions from the time I was also saved.

It has a few similarities to my own conversion -which is online, here.

Peter said something simple, but affecting:

“I had discovered why the early Christians freely lay down their lives for their faith, it is a precious thing to know and be known by Jesus.”

It is a precious thing. That is the best way to put it.

I flounder about for words… but there it is. People want God to be quite regular, but the truth is that God does Strange Things. A New Thing.

Isaiah 48

5 Even from the beginning I have declared it to you;
Before it came to pass I proclaimed it to you,
Lest you should say, “My idol has done them,
And my carved image and my molded image
Have commanded them.’

6 “You have heard;
See all this.
And will you not declare it?
I have made you hear new things from this time,
Even hidden things, and you did not know them.
7 They are created now and not from the beginning;
And before this day you have not heard them,
Lest you should say, “Of course I knew them.’