Anybody else remember the 3rd Terminator movie where the T-850 (Schwarzenegger) has been programmed to go back in time to protect John Connor, the future leader of the Resistance, but the new evil Terminatrix has reprogrammed him to kill John? Schwarzenegger comes lumbering toward John warning him to stay away from him because he can’t control his actions anymore. As he has pinned John on the hood of a car choking him, John asks the T-850, “What is your mission?” He replies, “To secure the survival of John Connor and Catherine Brewster.” John then delivers the classic response, “You are about to fail that mission!”
Now what does this little bit of movie nostalgia have to do with anything? Well, some skeptics try to lay the blame for a lot of the injustice in the world at the feet of Christians. Christianity is supposedly to blame for wars throughout history, slavery, the repression and abuse of women, minorities, and a host of other categories of people, the hindrance of science and technological development, the holding back of society from advancing, and so on. There’s only one problem: a lot of the things blamed on Christianity, even if perpetrated by Christians, are not compatible with the mission of Christianity. Let’s look at some of the tenets Jesus Christ and His early followers passed on to us that the skeptic needs to take into account before blaming Christianity for societal ills.
- Love even our enemies [Mt 5:43-47, Rm 12:14] and turn the other cheek (i.e. don’t seek revenge) [Mt 5:38-42, Rm 12:17-21]. This is the very opposite of hatred, jihad, starting wars, picking fights, bullying, or any other malevolent violence. Anyone who commits murder or terrorism in the name of Christ either is not a Christian to begin with, or is failing his mission badly.
- “Bear one another’s burdens” [Ga 6:2]. It’s not all about me.
- Care for widows, orphans, and family members [Jm 1:27, 1 Ti 5:8]. Wouldn’t that be a wonderful world if everyone that couldn’t care for themselves were lovingly taken care of?
- The thief who becomes a Christian should no longer steal, but rather work hard so that he might be able to give to others instead of taking from them [Ep 4:28]. Christianity doesn’t simply ask the thief to stop stealing, but to start giving!
- God created humans in His image, both male and female. [Ge 1:26-27] Therefore, women are not inferior to men. In fact, all humans have intrinsic value by nature of being created in God’s image, regardless of sex or skin color. Discrimination because of sex, race, age, social status or nationality cannot exist where true Christianity is practiced [Ac 17:26-27, Ga 3:28, Co 3:11, Lv 19:32, Rm 12:16, Jm 2:1-4, Lv 19:33-34].
- Us husbands should love our wives with a self-sacrificial love exemplified by how Christ loved the church and gave His life for her. Repression or abuse is the last thing a husband should perpetrate against his wife, for she is a “fellow heir of the grace of life”. Rather, he should care for her as he would his own body and show her honor [Ep 5:25-30, 1 Pe 3:7].
- We Christians should never act such that we could be accused of evil. If we should be slandered for doing good, so be it; but we dishonor our Lord and Savior if allegations of evil conduct are ever warranted [1 Pe 4:14-15]. We are to be above reproach, avoiding even the appearance of evil [1 Th 5:22].
- We Christians should exhibit love, joy peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. Against such things, there is no law [Ga 5:22-23]. Indeed, what police chief wouldn’t love to see a community full of people exhibiting those traits?
- Even in the slavery-ridden culture of the Roman Empire, Paul commanded slave owners to be fair to their slaves, knowing that they also had a Master in heaven [Co 4:1] and for slaves to work for their masters sincerely, as for the Lord [Co 3:22-24]. All jokes about slave-driving bosses aside, that kind of work relationship sets a good model for current employer/employee relations.
- Except where civil governments order us to go against God’s commands, we are to be good citizens, obeying our civil leaders [Ac 4:18-20, 1 Pe 2:13-17, Rm 13].
- As for the charge of hindering science and technology, see my series, Portraits of Christians (here), for a series of articles on some of the “fathers” of modern science who were Christians and who were scientists because of their Christianity. For you see, the Bible tells us that God is a God of order[1 Co 14:33], and if such a God created a world, it would likely exhibit order and rational systems of laws that could be discovered through observation and be reasonably expected to be consistent and repeatable [Ps 19:1-4a, Ac 17:27, Rm 1:19-20]. Without that basis, science is simply not possible.
- Lastly, regarding the charge of Christianity holding back civilization, see Alvin J. Schmidt’s book Under the Influence: How Christianity Transformed Civilization for a very thorough historical survey in response to that claim.
You see, a true Christian will live a life in line with Christ’s teachings, for we are disciples, and a disciple emulates his master. We won’t do it perfectly, especially at first, but God gives us His Holy Spirit to indwell us. He works in us to mold us and conform our desires to match His. Think of it like getting on a diet – your appetites don’t match up with the new healthy diet at first, but you choose to conform your appetites to the diet because you know it’s better for you than your old way of living, and gradually, you learn to actually enjoy the new foods. Then, living on the diet is not a burden but a pleasure because your will now matches the diet plan. But spiritually, that realignment of will can only happen through the Holy Spirit’s regenerative work in us. But many who claim the title of Christian, aren’t. In fact, Jesus gave the sobering warning that there would be many at the last judgment expecting entrance to heaven, only to hear Him say, “I never knew you.” [Mt 7:21-23] We are known by our fruit – i.e. our actions. Talk is cheap, and, as they say, “actions speak louder than words.” And indeed, the Bible repeatedly affirms that the proof of our faith is not in mere words but in our character and the actions that flow from that [Jn 13:35, 1 Jn 4:20, Jm 2:14].
Maybe you’ve seen someone claiming Christ on Sunday and living like the devil the rest of the week, and thought that Christianity really is just a big show with a rotten core underneath, that religion really does “poison everything”. But we must remember that “abusus non tollit usum” – the misuse or abuse of something is no argument against its proper use (i.e. just because a person can use an axe to murder someone doesn’t mean that axes are inherently bad). Look at the fruit of true Christianity, the fruit of those truly on mission for Christ, and you will not find any viable source for the atrocities and horrors with which atheists try to saddle Christianity. It is only in counteracting the commands of God and failing His mission for us that those kinds of results are possible.