The Christian tradition is a castle, not a hut

Justin Brierley’s new book The amazing revival of faith in God It tells the stories of many intellectuals, commentators, scholars, and novelists who believed in God or professed faith in Christ.

As a radio show host in the UK unbelievable For more than a decade, Brierley has had a front-row seat to hundreds of debates on the most controversial issues facing Christianity in a secular society. He found his faith not weakened but strengthened when he saw “the intellectual power of the Christian story as experienced by the atheists, atheists and followers of other faiths who appeared on the show.”

Unfortunately, both in the world and in the church, it often seems that Christianity is expected to take a back seat to philosophy or science.

Is faith for the unenlightened?

In the Western world, there is the myth of the Enlightenment – ​​the idea that it is bold and courageous to put aside the silly superstitions of bygone eras and that a thinker “coming of age” must take into account the fact that this world is all that there is. It is immature, and a bit childish, to cling to religion for comfort. Immanuel Kant “Dare to know!” It is the rallying cry, and Bertrand Russell’s “inexhaustible despair” in the face of meaninglessness is the only “firm foundation” on which to build your life. If you are smart, you will look reality in the face and roll your eyes at the pedants of the peasants.

In the church, there is the myth of faith that posits that Christianity does not need intellectual understanding to be emotionally satisfying. We are told that the whole point of faith is to make the leap, to believe the unbelievable. No wonder, then, that many believers water down the truth and reject the idea of ​​serious education in philosophy and science. We expect to stumble when we debate scholars and intellectuals, thus reducing our faith to a private, personal thing that “works for us” whether or not it can be properly defended in the public sphere.

Cabin and castle

Believers suffer from feelings of inferiority, and we often feel like the world is taking care of us. It is as if the intellectual tradition of the church is a ramshackle, poorly built cabin, barely able to keep out the rain. Oh, it may provide a cozy fireplace of personal warmth, but not much more than that – nothing we’d expect to be very convincing to others. At the same time, the atheists and atheists of our time dwell in an imposing edifice of impenetrable arguments.

The truth is that we are the ones who live in a great citadel, an intellectual tradition that goes back to the Hebrew Scriptures, a legacy that includes the best of the great Greek philosophers, a style of thought refined by the great Middle Ages. and contemporary theologians, a movement that bequeathed the towering minds of Athanasius, Augustine, Anselm, and Aquinas (and these are just as).

Why should we cringe when secular writers say this world is all there is but still hope to live as if there were a moral order to the universe? Why do we accept such a logical contradiction? Why do we limit our minds to a reductionist philosophy that does not allow even a shred of the supernatural for fear that all naturalism will be exposed as a hoax?

There is no reason to believe that the world’s condescension toward Christianity is merited. There is no reason to feel ashamed or embarrassed about what we believe, as if no intellectual could accept the truths presented by Christianity. We may not be aware of all the ancient treasures, however, we live in a castle, not a hut.

Go exploring

My daughter recently shared the gospel with a friend, and she responded well to some of the spiritual and existential questions that arose. I told her that if she was asked a question and she wasn’t sure how to answer it, she should say she would look into it and respond later. I want her (and her friend) to assume that there are a lot of good answers in the Christian tradition that can be found through a little study. We may need to explore an ancient corridor or search one of the treasuries in a castle, but we have no reason to step back and say something silly like “This doesn’t make any sense, but that’s what faith is for!”

Let’s think about it, not only in our preaching where we need to remember that we live in a castle. In a time of widespread doubt and dismantling, we should expect young people growing up in our churches to face challenges to their faith.

What we need is an environment in which pastors and church leaders wrestle with the big questions of life, so that when young people encounter an obstacle of some kind, they will say to themselves, I’m sure there are Christians past or present who have wondered the same thing, and I should look up what they said. We need a church that shows Christianity as a castle, not a hut, so that we can develop in the hearts of young believers the instinct for exploration.

Confident enthusiasm

Telling the truth with confidence does not excuse arrogance. There is no room for pride here. On the contrary, exploring the castle should give us a sense of awe at the riches we have inherited, and reverent gratitude for the glories of this treasure.

We want to be passionate people who persuade others to enter the castle, not a hostile presence at the castle gate, yelling at our neighbors. So, let us engage the world not out of inferiority or embarrassment, not out of foolish doctrine or condescending dogma, but with confident enthusiasm and boundless joy.

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