A common accusation thrown at Christians is that they are anti-gay, anti-abortion, anti-contraception. Many people have a perception that the church is negative — anti-everything — and Christians utterly prejudiced. How might we respond?
A good place to begin is by acknowledging that Christians have often made mistakes in this area. Not so much in the moral positions we’ve adopted but in the way we’ve presented them. We’ve been so loud and strident on some issues that many people think all we’re all about is abortion and homosexuality. Too many people know what Christianity is against but not what it’s for. We need to be careful not to put the moral cart before the gospel horse.
However, when the issue of morality is raised, it’s also important Christians have the confidence to ask our secular friends some questions. If we’re accused of being prejudiced simply because we believe something to be wrong, a helpful response is to ask a question in reply: “Do you think that anything is absolutely right or wrong? Do good and evil actually exist, or do we just make it all up as we go along?” For example, Richard Dawkins put it very bluntly: “The universe we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil, no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference.”
But is this liveable? Most of us want to say that there is such a thing as right and wrong, good and evil. To deny this leads to a terrible relativism. For the relativist, nothing is absolutely right or wrong, ethics is merely illusion, there are simply choices. Hitler made choices, Mother Theresa made choices, but who is to say that one set of choices is better than another? Any worldview that cannot properly and intelligently talk about “good” and “evil” is a non-starter.
In order to talk intelligently about good and evil requires a basis for the value of human life. If the atheist story is true, you and I are just a random collocation of atoms, a sack of chemicals, no more precious or unique than the aardvark, apricot, or amoeba. But if the Christian story is true, then you and I are, as the Bible puts, “made in the image of God” and of infinite value.
As Christians we recognise we live in a messy world, full of humans beings with broken, messy lives, and that will raise questions of morality and ethics. We need to be confident in talking, lovingly and respectfully, about those issues.
However, Christianity is not about our moral superiority, pointing the finger, being “holier than thou”. Nor is Christianity some kind of self-help plan to help us be good so that we can get to heaven. Rather, the claim of Christianity is uniquely this: that the whole purpose of Jesus’ ministry and mission was not to provide a self-help programme but rather to transform our very hearts. We must never make the mistake of presenting Christianity as just-another-set-of-ideas: Christianity is about transformation, new creation. Unless something radical is done to address the human heart, no amount of self improvement will ever work.
So when moral issues arise, talk about them sensitively with your friends, but always take every opportunity to also talk about the God who revealed himself in Christ, demonstrating the inherent value of each human being not just by creating us in His image, but also, in the cross, being willing to pay the ultimate price to repair and restore His broken children.
Canadian Director and Lead Apologist for RZIM Canada
(Originally published on the RZIM Canada website: www.stayinthecoversation.org)