Yesterday, Eddie Arthur wrote this article on the need to contextualise the gospel for our times. His basic contention was this:
We are living in a time when claims of objective truth are viewed with suspicion; they are seen as grabs for power. A forensic defence of the resurrection is not as compelling as it once was in a world where people believe they can choose their own truth. Forty years ago, we had to demonstrate why Christianity was true, today we need to show why it matters. Our culture is asking different questions and we need to provide different answers. At all costs, we must avoid telling people that they are asking the wrong questions. It is our job to be advocates for Jesus in post-modernism, not to convince people to go back to being modernists so that we can witness to them.
I think he is quite right about this. And I recognise my tendency to want to prove everything – not because I am a product of the 70s (I have never worn flared anything in my life!) but because it is the way I am wired. I hold to things because they are evidentially true and they make logical, philosophical and historical sense. But my desire to prove and evidence is valueless against another’s feelings; and it is increasingly how people feel and experience that holds sway.
But there does seem to be a question here that bears answering. Why does Christianity matter? I thought I’d have a bash at offering an answer to that here.
Because it’s true
People may not be asking the question ‘is Christianity true?’ so much anymore. But it is hard to get around the fact that Christianity matters – at least in part – because it’s true. If it weren’t true, there would be no harm in ignoring it altogether. That is, in many ways, most people’s view of most things they don’t believe. You can think whatever you want and I will just ignore it. But if you simply ignore something because you don’t think it matters, and you are in danger as you ignore it, suddenly the truthfulness of the thing is what makes it matter altogether. So, what matters and what is true are, to some extent, linked. Christianity matters, in part, because it is true.
Because what we value is temporal
Depending on your generation, personality type and a few other things, most people value what is temporal. It could be money, status, experiences, identity or whatever. But these things are temporal and will not last forever. Christianity matters because it addresses realities that such things cannot touch. It speaks to eternal matters that, simply by virtue of the length of time, are far more significant than anything else we tend to prize.
Because it offers what nothing else can
Not only does Christianity speak to matters that almost anything else we value cannot and does not, it offers what these other things cannot and do not. Many are desperately searching for meaning, but on the standard issue secular humanist worldview that largely holds sway, meaning is a mirage. We create our own meaning. We impose meaning subjectively onto things. Which inevitably makes the search for meaning fruitless because it is inevitably hollow. The Christian worldview offers meaning outside of ourselves that is not subjective. It offers meaning beyond ourselves that is not arbitrary.
The search for identity is a similar issue. Many are looking for belonging and a clear sense of who they are. If they can express the ‘real me’ then they will have discovered their true identity. But, again, this become very subjective and ‘who I really am’ often look very similar to who I would really like to be. The search for identity, then, becomes quite hollow and arbitrary. But the Christian worldview offers a more sure and clear identity to us. It offers us belonging that is outside of ourselves and not arbitrarily rooted in our own whims and desires. Christianity matters because it offers many of us what we are searching desperately for.
There are other things we might say but that is why I think Christianity matters: (1) it is true; (2) it speaks to eternal realities; (3) it offers us what we are really looking for.