A hairdresser was spraying a stray hair into place when the conversation drifted to spiritual things, and I asked if she believed in Jesus. She replied, “Oh, yes. I believe in Jesus. In fact, I think of him as my brother. I also believe we can learn some good things from Hinduism, and I like a lot of stuff from New Age, too. I sort of just pull the good from each religion and make my own, you know?”
Yes, I did know. In fact, more and more over the past thirty years, I’ve encountered people who mix and match beliefs to their own liking, developing hybrid religions of their own, completely at ease with the logical contradictions in their self-contrived belief systems. But then, it’s okay, because we should all respect each others’ beliefs, I hear.
The cultural scene has changed since I was a zealous ten-year old believer in Christ. I recall arguing with a Church of Christ friend about whether a person had to be baptized to be saved. The discussion became rather heated and my mom had to step in to calm things down. But at least I knew what we were arguing about, and both the contender and I respected the validity of the Bible. Here in the 21st century, the debates aren’t about which doctrine is biblically true but about whether absolute truth exists or can be known.
These days I find myself thinking twice before sharing Scripture and the FAITH outline or even the Romans Road, because I get stopped even before getting to the part about Jesus dying for our sins. The moment I mention that God loves someone, the listener pipes up to tell me she doesn’t believe in God, or at least, not God as the Personal Creator. No, we all have within us godness, she says.
Or, I try to share my personal experience of coming to faith in Jesus Christ and the gal I’m talking to says, “Well, that may be true for you, but not for me,” or “That’s good if it works for you.” All my training in FAITH, Romans Road, CWT, EE, The Net, Share Jesus Now, Four Spiritual Laws and a host of other traditionally-effective evangelism methods I’ve spent years mastering hasn’t equipped me to respond to the contemporary mindset that has no biblical point of reference and prefers inclusive spirituality rather than exclusive conviction.
The façade of personalized faith, though, and “to-each-his-own” mutual acceptance only embraces the likeminded. People nowadays may not be able to articulate what they do believe, but they know they don’t believe in Christianity, and they vehemently oppose the narrow-minded Christians who insist that faith in Christ provides the only way to salvation and heaven. They wonder how Christians can be so arrogant as to push their beliefs on everyone else and blithely accept the fairy tale of Jesus Christ expounded in the Bible.
Adding to the confusion is the fact that many who claim the name of “Christian” bear little resemblance to the biblical description of a Christian. They wear the label while proclaiming a blatantly non-Christian worldview, arguing that Christ is a way but not the only way, redefining what it means to believe in Jesus, and insisting we should be tolerant of other religions since we’re all headed to the same place anyway.
No wonder genuine believers have become hesitant to openly share their faith. We don’t want to offend. But is there more to it than that? Do we know how to respond but just fear hurting feelings or offending? If we’re honest, sometimes we fear because we have no answer to the challenge, “You don’t believe in that fairy tale Bible stuff do you?” We avoid the questions because we aren’t sure there are answers. We think that faith, in order to be faith, requires us to suspend logic and just believe. Besides, you can’t argue someone into believing in Jesus Christ, so why even go there?
We fail to assess the cost of our silent acquiescence and unwillingness to engage in dialogue, both to the lost, as well as to our own faith, and I’ve written this book responds to the needs of both. First, unbelievers raise good questions: How can a good God allow horrific evil and suffering? How can Jesus be God and man at the same time? We as believers can help unbelievers move toward faith in Christ by reflecting on and responding to their questions honestly and confidently.
Second, our own faith as believers is at stake. Unless we pursue knowing God with our minds as hard as we pursue the latest fad diet, a crack of doubt etches its way into our foundation of faith. Couldn’t it be possible that Jesus was a great moral teacher but not God, we wonder? There does seem to be some truth in all religions, and we should respect the beliefs of all religions. We’re all probably going to end up in one big celestial group hug in heaven anyway, and we’ll have wasted all this time being dogmatic.
As we don our newly acquired tolerance, we wonder if the news report saying the bones of Jesus have been found is true. We become suspicious that our faith is built on a carefully crafted, albeit consoling myth, that the God-man Jesus died on the cross and rose again three days later. But, we’re too embarrassed to ask for help to sort it out because our fear shows how small our faith really is. Just buck up and believe, we think, no matter how fragile the evidence.
And then comes a defining moment in our lives. Someone we love betrays us. A loved one dies. We lose our job. A child we have reared to fear the Lord goes his own way. God can’t be who Christianity claims Him to be because a good and all-powerful God wouldn’t allow this to happen. Our faith crumbles in a heap of disillusionment and anger, and we retreat from God and His people.
If only we had run to the Savior, He would have embraced our questions, for He is the One Who urged us to seek and keep on seeking, and promised that we would find Him, if we seek Him wholeheartedly. He is the Jesus Who, when a curious questioner named Andrew asked where He stayed, responded, “Come and see.” He is the Jesus Who a stunned Samaritan woman invited incredulous townspeople to “come and see.” And He is the Jesus Whose angel met the grieving women at the tomb and invited them to check the evidence of His resurrection with the words, “Come, see. . . .” This Jesus does not fear questions. He invites us to scrutinize the evidence and decide whether He is all He claimed to be, and to whomever asks the questions, whether it be the wavering heart of one of His own or the belligerent heart of the skeptic, this Jesus invites, “Come and see.”