Today, I discovered a post on Confident Christian entitled The Best Argument Against Christianity. The article makes a really good point that the best argument is not one of the arguments that atheists will often make on debate boards. I mean, who among those of us who are apologetics veterans have not heard debated to death the Argument from Evil or the scientific case against Christianity? Obviously, if there were no answers to these arguments most Christians would give up being Christians because (contrary to the arguments made by certain atheists) Christianity is a trust system and it is nearly impossible to trust what you cannot rationally accept. (Actually, that is an interesting post for another day.)
So, what does the post point out is the best argument against Christianity? It is, as my very Christian father-in-law used to proclaim: "The best argument against Christianity is Christians."
The article points out that many people view Christians (especially Evangelicals) negatively, and that negative association has a negative effect on their willingness to accept Christianity. The blog post notes that there are three things about Christians that are viewed negatively by the public at large according to the book Unchristian by Barna Research Group President David Kinneman. Unchristian pointed to three major things that Christians do that reflect badly upon Christianity.
First, unbelievers responded negatively to what they termed the Christian "swagger" – how Christians’ lives don’t match up to Christ's, and the bark and bite that unbelievers say they see in Christians' demeanor and actions.
Second, respondents said that the charity and compassion of Jesus’ teaching in the Gospels have been dismissed by Christians in favor of combative and judgmental actions against what they believe to be threats against their moral positions. In other words, as Christians, we have become famous for what we oppose and stand against rather than for what we are in favor of and champion.
The third most cited characteristic of Christianity ... is the one that supports my position that Christians are the faith’s biggest anti-apologetic. A full eighty-five percent (85%) of Kinnaman’s surveyed group said that Christians are best known for a hypocritical lifestyle. How depressing is that? Kinnaman’s finding echoes Gandhi’s famous statement, "I like your Christ, but I don’t like your Christians. Your Christians are so unlike your Christ."All three of these arguments point to one thing: some people are rejecting Christianity because of the way in which Christians live out their lives.
Now, some of this hatred cannot be avoided if one is to actually preach the Gospel. As the series of recent posts on this blog by JD Waters has pointed out, Christianity necessarily involves the idea that there is a moral lawgiver. Thus, while there are disagreements among Christians on the boundaries of the moral law, the idea that God has a standard of right and wrong which must be followed will always be seen by those who reject God as judgmental. Certainly, there are many of us in the Christian church who believe that Jesus meant exactly what he said when he said, "No one comes to the Father except through me." (John 14:6) Thus, when Christians proclaim that Jesus is the way to salvation, it is seen as combative and perhaps judgmental. The blog's author, Robin Schumaher, agrees:
Now, let’s pause a moment for a quick reality check. In regard to being judgmental, while ‘Church Lady’ personas certainly do exist in Christendom that damage the faith’s image, it should be noted that history has shown that the world and humanity’s fallen nature will never take kindly to Biblical pronouncements against the sin it cherishes and wants to practice. The one Scripture verse every unbeliever can quote is “Judge not less ye be judged” (Matt. 7:1), but they fail to understand (1) the statement itself is a judgment, and (2) Jesus commanded His followers to judge with a righteous judgment, but first make sure their own house is in order before they go about instructing others.
However, there is certainly no doubt that Christians need to do better than we have in how we live our lives. Both the first and the third points raised by the book relate to the way the Christians are seen as hypocrites. Looking at the divorce rate between Christians and non-Christians (as an example) points out that the difference between Christians who have had divorces and non-Christians how have had divorces is statistically insignificant. (32% of Christians have had divorces while 33% of non-Christians have had divorces. To be fair, when Christians are broken down into evangelicals versus non-evangelicals, the evangelical divorce rate is much lower -- 26% -- but still much too high.) If Christians are indistinguishable from the world while we regularly preach against the world (or the flesh) then it is understandable the non-Christians would see us as hypocrites.
Moreover, it is not enough to say (as Christians regularly do) that we are not claiming to be perfect -- only saved. Even Paul proclaimed in Romans 7:15, "I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do." But to the non-Christian that is tantamount to admitting that we are hypocrites. We need to do better. After all, Christians are ambassadors for Christ. (2 Corinthians 5:20) To many non-Christians, we are the only example of Christ that that person will ever witness. And if our witness is tainted because we outwardly engage in activity that is unlike Christ, what is that other person supposed to conclude about Christ? They will conclude that either Christ is not who we say he is or that we are hypocrites.
So, how do we change? How do Christians become better imitators of Christ. The blog post on Confident Christian makes some observations on what will improve our ability to be better imitators of Christ. However, the most important step that one can do to become a better follower of Christ is to heed the Words of Jesus: "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me." (Mark 8:34) In other words, as long as we seek our own ends and do not listen to the Spirit of God that has been given to all believers who truly repent and seek reconciliation with the Father we will never be able to accomplish the goal of being Christ-like. Instead, it is only those who trust and obey the Spirit of God who will have the strength and ability to be able to live each day more and more in the image of Jesus.
As Robin Shumaher says at the end of the Confident Christian post:
Paul succinctly states both a challenge to and a goal of all Christians when he says, "Be imitators of me, just as I also am of Christ" (1 Cor 11:1). It might cause you to wince a bit, but ask yourself: could you make such a statement to others and feel good about the claim that when a person is mimicking you, they are imitating Jesus?
My prayer is that we can all answer ‘yes’ soon, because the fact is that an authentic Christian life is the only thing that defeats the best argument against Christianity.My response: let it be so.