Tuesday, February 7, 2012

What Christianity Is Not

What is Christianity? It is understood differently by different people. I would like to look at some of the misconceptions. First, Christianity is not primarily a moral system. There were a number of moral systems before Christianity came along, and while there were conflicts, they were based on the same fundamental principles. Now I do believe that the Scriptural teaching on morals is the absolutely correct one, as it comes from God. But while it is helpful to have some of the conflicts resolved, that is not really our problem. Our problem is not that we need more accurate ethics, but that we do not live up to the ethics we have. Even given that the Biblical system is the most perfect ethical system, as C. S. Lewis points out, what good does it do to be instructed in calculus when we cannot do arithmetic?

Christianity also is not primarily a philosophy. A philosophy is the attempt to figure the universe out from simple basic premises. The problem is the universe is more complicated than that. Even in the realm of science, the universe is a complicated place. A place where light can be both particles and waves, where objects grow shorter and heavier the faster they go, and where slight differences in initial conditions can produce drastically different results. While there may be some value in trying to figure things out, as an ultimate answer it is too simplistic. And while Christianity may speak to some of the questions philosophy raises, that is not really what it is.

Christianity is not primarily a mystical experience. Now I am far from being against experiences. I have had too many to simply discount them. But there are many faiths which claim some kind of experience. How do you decide which of these to follow? Also, experience tends to ebb and flow; sometimes it is strong and sometimes it is weak. It is the commitment that we have to what we believe that takes us through the times of difficulty and doubt. It is like marriage. That strong feeling of being in love ebbs and flows. But it is the commitment that keeps things together through the rocky places.

What Christianity is, is the message that God Himself has invaded human history (John 1:1-18; Philippians 2:5-11; Hebrews 2:9-18), not only to tell us about Himself, but to pay the price we should have paid for failing to live up to correct ethical standards (1 Peter 2:24,25; Colossians 2:13,14; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Also, for those who accept His forgiveness as a gift through faith (Ephesians 2:8,9; Romans 4:4,5; Philippians 3:9), He comes to dwell in our lives to transform us over time into who we should be (2 Corinthians 3:18; Colossians 1:29; Ephesians 2:10). This is Christianity, and this is what I contend we really need. Not just a new ethical, philosophical, or mystical system, but God invading our lives to forgive and change us.

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