One thing about Christianity is that I believe it is supposed to stand out from the world’s philosophy. In the New Testament there is a continual theme of being set apart. Jesus said the world would hate us because they hated him.
18″(Y)If the world hates you, you know that it has hated Me before it hated you.
19″If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, but (Z)I chose you out of the world, (AA)because of this the world hates you.
20Where is the wise man? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world?
John continues this theme.
Some things in Christianity do, in fact, coincide with values found in secular circles. Feeding the hungry, taking care of the poor, loving your neighbor as yourself, these are not really controversial values. Applying them is difficult, but the concept is not.
But at some point, Christianity should deviate from the philosophy of the world. I’m not saying we should add things to it that purposely irritate non-believers, but I do believe there is plenty within Christianity that should irritate people already. Usually, Christians are blamed for people being turned off on Christianity, and yes, that can be the case many times. But could it be that sometimes people just don’t like Jesus?
The reason I bring this up is that it seems, more and more, some of Christianity is being shaped to be conformed to the world. The parts about loving your neighbors, Jesus being a swell guy, all that stuff seems to remain. But other facets seem to be disappearing in certain circles. Miracles turn out to not really be miracles, but maybe just something that could be explained with science, that people only thought were miracles. Certain standards of morality that do coincide with the world seem to remain (take care of the less fortunate) while those peculiar to accepted norms seem to disappear. Now people can disagree on what the Bible states, I think there are honest people on both sides of certain issues, but I can’t help but see general trends.
This seems to be happening with the stories of Jesus. Fortunately, most people in Christendom do in fact, believe Jesus died a barbaric death and rose again. But I do wonder if much of the focus is on Jesus being a swell person, maybe even a nice guy, telling us to love one another and telling off the religious establishment. But so much of Jesus’ teachings focus on himself. Jesus had difficult teachings. He affirmed that he was the only way to the Father. Yes, he taught us how to live good lives, but so much hinged on his identity.
To the world in general, Jesus has been diluted. Jesus is accepted by the world at large as some good religious leader, a nice guy (and I don’t think he was even that). But as Josh McDowell points in in More than a Carpenter, Jesus doesn’t really leave such a lukewarm reception of himself available. The guy who says he is Jesus Christ, Jose Luis de Jesus Miranda, I haven’t really heard his teachings, but the fact that he says something like that, that pretty much turns me off to anything else he has to say. It should be the same with Jesus. A guy who says he is God himself, who says that he is the only way to God, if we don’t believe these things, he is either psychotic or evil. Saying that he is simply a nice guy is weak.
There is some reasonable agreement within Christianity, and there is someone who I have been conversing with concerning these issues, and believe me when I say this post is not really addressed to you (not completely anyway). I’m not saying we should try to make Christianity as controversial as possible, but if our whole philosophy is indistinguishable from the world’s, we should reevaluate some of our core beliefs. All I know is this, it seems that in some circles of Christianity, the hard parts of the Bible, anything that doesn’t jibe with the world are being dismissed: most anything remotely supernatural, the moral standards that don’t coincide with today’s cultural norms, the difficult teachings of Jesus, to name a few. Before you know it, you know longer have a book that talks about God’s awesome displays of power, a book that tells us to be set apart from the world, the book that tells us about a man who was truly radical. Now you have some document that essentially talks about a nice guy who tells us to love other people. As if I couldn’t get that somewhere else. This goes along with the world’s philosophy just fine.