This week, the Council on Biblical Manhood and Womanhood released a document called the Nashville Statement, which aimed to define how sexuality should be viewed through a biblical lens.
As you might expect, there has been a tremendous amount of back-and-forth between those who support it and those who don’t. My purpose in this post is not to debate the merits of the statement. It’s to talk about something said in response to it on the “Friendly Atheist” blog:
“I’m tempted to sign the statement myself, only because I think it’ll hasten the downfall of the Christian Right. The more we can connect this document to what it means to be a Christian, the more people will realize the faith is unworthy of respect” (emphasis mine).
The italicized part of this quote just hit me in the gut. Enough that I abandoned another blog post I was 90% done with right now to write this one instead. The Friendly Atheist’s statement expresses something I’ve been concerned about for a while.
Fellow believers, we need to talk.
When Christians Make It Easy for Skeptics to Redefine Christianity in the Public Eye
Any Christian with an understanding of, well, Christianity, knows that it would be absurd for anyone to think Christianity is defined by a single cultural issue. It’s a sad day when people are so uninformed that it would even be possible to define Christianity in that way. The author of that blog post is a smart guy who undoubtedly realizes that as well. Perhaps that’s why I found his statement so disingenuous—he presumably knows what actually defines Christianity (more on that in a minute) but is encouraging the promotion of his alternative, distorted definition to make people eschew the faith as quickly as possible.
As a Christian, does that frustrate you? Make you angry? Make you sad?
But I feel the need to say something today that’s been on my mind for a while now: Too many Christians are contributing to this (mis)understanding of what Christianity is all about, making it easy for skeptics to redefine Christianity in the public eye.
I follow a lot of Christians on social media—both leaders and lay people—so I can see what matters of faith people are talking about at any given time. With our culture propelling issues of sexuality to the forefront of discussion, many Christians have followed suit—letting culture lead the way in what they predominantly share about online.
As a result, if you looked at their Facebook timeline or Twitter profile to get an idea of what it means to be a Christian, you would see link after link about two issues alone: same-sex marriage and transgenderism.
Can you blame non-believers for thinking this is what defines Christians today if this is most (or all) of what we talk about?
You can protest all you want that people have a responsibility to get their understanding of Christianity from places other than social media posts (and that would be correct), but as Christians we have a God-given responsibility to be a compelling witness to the world–both in what we talk about and how we talk about it.
We’re too often not doing that.
As one example, when a transgender “man” gave birth to a baby boy last month, Christians had a field day making fun of the situation. Regardless of what we may think of the story, there are far better ways to talk about it. Show me a link to pretty much any story involving a transgender person and I’ll show you comments from Christians joking about how they’ve decided to be a chair, a dog, or a plant that month (please, please stop these kinds of comments).
You know what I don’t see nearly as many Christians sharing links about?
Articles that talk about the evidence for God’s existence.
Articles that talk about why there’s good reason to believe the resurrection is an historical event and that Jesus is the risen Savior.
Articles that talk about why there’s good reason to believe the Bible is actually God’s word.
Articles that talk about the transformational power of the gospel.
You know, the subjects that actually do define what Christians believe.
Here’s what I would have been happy to see the Friendly Atheist blogger say:
“The more we can connect [a belief in the existence of God, the historical resurrection of Jesus Christ, the reliability of the Bible as God’s word, and the transformational power of the gospel] to what it means to be a Christian, the more people will realize the faith is unworthy of respect.”
Of course I wouldn’t want him to conclude those things make Christianity unworthy of respect, but at least we would be working with an appropriate definition of Christianity and could engage on the evidence for the truth of those beliefs.
Truth has nothing to fear.
But many Christians fear talking about these underlying worldview topics because they aren’t equipped with a knowledge of basic apologetics (how to make a case for and defend the truth of Christianity). It’s easier to joke about being a chair than learn about, share, and discuss the evidence for the resurrection. I get it.
But it’s not an excuse.
If we want to be a compelling witness to the world, we need to be very aware of how we represent who Christ is and why He matters. That involves much more than repeatedly commenting on one or two hot cultural topics, and requires that when we do comment on those topics, we do so in a God-honoring way.
But wait! The world will never like when Christians state the truth! We can’t back down! These issues are important!
If that’s what you’re thinking as you read this, you’re missing my point. I’m not saying we need to water down the truth, not talk about questions of same-sex marriage and transgenderism, or not talk about what the culture is talking about. I’m not saying the Nashville statement is or isn’t important (this post has nothing to do with the Nashville Statement—I only described it because it was the background for the particular quote I wanted to respond to). I’m also not saying that you personally are guilty of what I’m talking about here.
What I’m saying is that these subjects are dominating what Christians talk about today because we’re letting culture lead the conversation and it’s sadly resulting in a misleading view of what Christianity is all about. As the body of Christ, I believe we collectively need to do a better job of leading the conversation on faith with discussions on why we even believe Christianity is true while engaging with the hot cultural topics of today.
Think it’s not possible? One apologist who does this especially well is Sean McDowell. Sean doesn’t shy away from addressing big cultural topics (such as those addressed here), but his focus remains on sharing why there’s good reason to believe Christianity is true. The “gentleness and respect” (1 Peter 3:15) with which he speaks and writes is an excellent example for all of us (and is why I asked him to write the foreword for Talking with Your Kids about God).
Yes, people will still misconstrue what we say. People will still confuse disagreement with hate. But that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t aim to do better. We can do better and we need to do better.
How Do Your Kids Understand Christianity?
As with all of my posts, I want to bring this back to parenting.
There are probably a lot of Christian homes that sound like the social media posts I’m describing. Lots of conversation about cultural topics but not much conversation about the evidence for the truth of various worldviews.
In fact, I get a steady stream of emails from parents asking me how to approach talking with kids about the subjects of same-sex marriage and transgenderism but very few asking how to teach their kids why we know the Bible is God’s Word. Again, it’s important that we talk about those cultural issues, but if we’re planning on pointing back to the Bible as the authority on what we’re talking about, shouldn’t we be sure we’re starting with why our kids should even care what the Bible says?
So let me ask you: What is your kids’ understanding of Christianity right now? Has the culture been successful in redefining what it means to be a Christian in their minds?
Ask them. Ask how they would define Christianity. Ask what it means to be a Christian. Ask how their non-Christian friends would answer those questions. Then compare the answers and bring it back to basics:
Why do we have good reason to believe Christianity is true?