How Does Our Culture See the Christian Faith?-Part 2

A few days ago, I mentioned a couple of questions the Denis Haack regularly poses to those he meets:

“If you converted to Christianity today, do you think your life would be larger, fuller, richer, more attractive and creative, more involved with the people, circumstances, art, and culture around you? Or do you think your life would be smaller, narrower, more withdrawn, judgmental and negative, less winsome and creative, less involved with the people, art, circumstances, and culture around you?”

As I stated earlier, I find questions like these to be both interesting and important in that they reveal something of the way people in our culture perceive the Christian faith. But if that is indeed the case, then you and I need to grapple with a sobering and saddening reality. Why? Because Haack notes that he has never received the answer for which a Christian should hope, i.e., not one person has told him that, upon converting to Christianity, his or her life would be fuller, more attractive, more creative, and more involved ,etc. Not one.

That this is bitter pill to swallow is better understood when one starts to ask why his informal survey has yielded this unanimous response. Could it be that Christian belief, by its very nature, inevitably leads to a life that is less attractive, less engaged, and less enjoyable?

No doubt many (including many Christians, if they were honest) would suggest exactly that. But that argument simply doesn’t square with the biblical picture of what the Christian life is intended look like.

While the evidence to support the previous statement could easily fill any number of book-length treatments, I’ll mention just a few brief points. Consider, for example, how often Jesus—whose righteousness and holiness dwarfs our own—rubbed shoulders with the acknowledged “sinners” (to use the biblical language) of his day. Does that square with judgmentalism or a life unengaged with others? Or how about the fact that the Bible reveals man to be created in the image of a God who not only exhibits creativity/artistry that is staggering in its scope and brilliance, but also enjoys what he has made (a fact supported by his repeated declarations of “it is good” in Genesis 1, as well as other passages like Psalm 104:31). Is there any reason to think that man is not called to imitate his Maker in these ways? Finally, take the psalmist’s declaration that a day in the Lord’s courts “is better than a thousand elsewhere” (84:10). That doesn’t exactly sound like a drab and stifled existence.

So the nature of the Christian life itself is not the problem. The culprit is more likely that there is not nearly enough similarity between the biblical blueprint and the way we actually lead our lives. My fear is that all too often we present a tragic distortion, rather than a clear picture of the richly engaging life available to those who trust in and follow Christ. And that’s a possibility that should drive us to seek a more biblical understanding of who God calls us to be, as well as the grace to live out that calling faithfully.

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