This week, there has been a lot of debate about a historical (some called moral) equivalency when comparing atrocities in the history of Christianity with those within the religion of Islam.
Most of this is coming from remarks made by President Obama at the National Prayer Breakfast on Feb. 5.
No one can deny the truth that horrible things have been done in the name of Christ. The harshest critics and the honest followers of Christ must admit that there are sad blights in the long history of the Christian faith.
My list (though not exhaustive) includes: the Crusades, the Inquisition, the Salem Witch trials, exploitation and mistakes made by missionaries, anti-Semitic attitudes and actions, the child abuse cases found within Roman Catholicism, and consistent violations of Christian teaching including everything from torture, killing, sexual immorality, false teaching.....
Some of my favorite heroes of the faith have dark stains within their biographies and writings- Martin Luther, John Calvin included.
The greatest men of faith, even those listed in the 'Hebrews Hall of Fame- Chapter 11' have times of failure and sin listed in the very passages that extol their faith. These include Noah (drunkenness), Abraham (lying), Moses (murder), Jacob (deceit), Samson (lust), David (adultery, murder).... the Bible records the highs and the lows.
The only person to completely live according the the Holy requirements of God is the Son of God, Jesus Christ.
So what do we say in response to the charges of sin and hypocrisy?
And is there an equivalence when looking at these shortcomings of Christianity and other faiths?
But before I go further, there has to always be an important point made about the comparison of Christianity to any other faith.
Our default mode in human religion is to create a 'works' salvation... one where man must live GOOD enough to receive God's acceptance. The basic tenets of almost all human religion is to have our good deeds and virtue surpass our sin and vice.
The reason the Bible records the evil of man is to always shine the glorious light of the Christian gospel and the loving gift of Christ as the atoning sacrifice for sin. Man is not saved by his good works, and he doesn't HAVE to be condemned by his sin.... Jesus Christ is offered as God's provision for the reality of sin and the 'problem' of God's holiness.
If I were a truly brave man... I would gladly list all my current sins one by one where you could see how 'guilty' I am.... my thoughts, deeds, actions, and inactions place my life in danger of the fires of hell. I only have one option.... I cling to the cross of Jesus.. His death is my only hope... that is how good the gospel is!
The Christian gospel is unlike ANY other religion... Religion is man's best attempt to get to God. Christianity is God's successful plan to get to us!
I find it sad that our society portrays all 'faith' systems as the same.....
All religions are not the same. They have different systems and practices. I do believe that jihadist Islam poses a violent danger to our world today. All religions have the possibility of perpetrating great oppression and harm. One has to look no farther than the Crusades to see the destruction that misguided human beings can cause in the name of religious belief.
But even in the case of the Crusades, there are fundamental differences in belief.
The Crusades demonstrate followers of Islam doing what their faith requires them to do and followers of Christ ignoring what their Savior requires them to do. The Crusades represent Islam at its best and Christianity at its worst.
THE CASE FOR FAITH
I want to recommend a chapter in an excellent book- The Case for Faith, by Lee Strobel. Strobel takes on this issue along with other issues and questions Christians are asked.
Chapter 7 is entitled, 'Church History is Littered with Oppression and Violence'. Strobel looks at the history of the errors I listed and asks historian, Dr. John D. Woodbridge, to respond to these questions.
I will summarize his argument and list a few key quotes from the chapter:
"CHRISTIANITY has been a boon to mankind... (and) has had a beneficent effect upon the human race... Most people today who live in an ostensibly Christian environment with Christian ethics do not realize how much we owe to Jesus of Nazareth... What goodness and mercy there is in this world has come in a large measure from Him." Dr. D. James Kennedy
Christians tend to see the instances of church abuse and violence through the centuries as anomalies in an otherwise positive situation. Critics, however, are more apt to see the travesties.....
Some of Woodbridge (some paraphrasing):
We always have to be careful when attributing sin to the 'church'. We must always make a point to show the line of demarcation... there are 'true' Christians and 'false' Christians. Sheep and Wolves in sheep's clothing.. cultural Christians and authentic Christians.. in the Gospel of Matthew, Jesus speaks of those who say "Lord, Lord" but Jesus says "Depart from Me, I never knew you".
"there are misleading stereotypes about what Christians have done and haven't done based on the reality that some critics fail to notice a difference in a cultural Christian and an authentic one."
It is not the teachings of Jesus that are fault here.. it is (the inability of His followers to follow Him.)
'for whatever reason...they greatly strayed away from what he (Jesus) clearly taught.
We often think of Christians as the imposing majority when history does not bear that out....
"The typical Christian lives in a developing country, speaks a non-European language, and exists in the constant threat of persecution"
We must never downplay the tragedy of these terrible moments in history......
but, at the same time, we must also recognize that in most cases... it was Christians who played key roles in righting the wrongs. And this often came from re-discovering the unchanging truth of God's Word and applying it accurately.
You can name and count many of the atrocities.... but there have been innumerable acts of charity that have been God-honoring.
A CALL TO THOSE LIVING ACCORDING TO NON-CHRSITIAN FAITHS
As I close, let me make one final plea:
Christianity makes a 'call' to the world.... we echo the call of Jesus.... 'sinner come unto Me'.
True Christianity will never subjugate others with threat of sword... the True Church of Jesus is compelled to humbly serve and love... even those who do not believe.
We have never done it as well as we should... we often look 'no different' that the world... but we cry out.. do not judge this message based on our failures... judge the message on the ONE who gave it and the ONE who lived it and the ONE who demonstrated His love for us in that while we were yet sinners Jesus died for us.
All who are oppressed under a yoke of man made religion.. the fear and pressure to live perfectly and a zeal to kill... walk away from that and enter into forgiveness and peace.
All faiths are not the same......
Come to Jesus... the One who conquered the grave... the One who is alive and offers grace and mercy.
Lay down the arms of Jihad and embrace the sweetness of being a child of the King!