Thursday, February 28, 2008

21st Century Context: Good for Christianity

A friend of mine told me there's a saying in Egypt "a knife that's not used much soon becomes dull." The same can be said on one level concerning our faith. We're all familiar with the testimonies of Christians (particularly in other lands) whose faith has grown and become strengthened as a result of being challenged, tested, opposed and even persecuted. While some may suggest that the challenges in the west and particularly in America may result in the decline of Christianity, I submit the opposite is true when it comes not just to the numbers of those who may profess the faith, but to the strength and vitality of those who truly belong to the faith and to the overall well-being of the body itself which is called by God's name.

Both challenges from without and those from within will serve to boost and strengthen the church in coming days. Not only will individuals and churches be forced to examine their foundations and distinctions, but division will come (which must happen in revealing those who are of God and those who are not), Christians will grow through the testing and practice of their faith, and churches will become stronger as they stand upon Biblical truth or become marginalized as they prove little or no difference from the world. Besides this, churches will benefit even from challenges that come from having to think and strategically plan so as not only to avoid decline but do those things which lead to health, growth and greater effectiveness.

With this in mind, I believe the context we live in and that which we will see in the coming years is a context not only in which true Christianity and evangelicalism but also and in particular the reformed faith can not only thrive but make significant strides. The greater the exposure, variety and extent of the challenges brought on and found between believers and unbelievers, in addition to the greater tendency toward rational arguments and exchanges, the more the strength and value of the reformed faith will be revealed. More and more, we're seeing the need for Christians, their children and their converts to know what they believe or risk being isolated, found irrelevant, and weakening in their witness in the world; and at the same time, more and more we're seeing the ability of those who hold to the gospel and its truth with great conviction and understanding not only to gain a greater hearing but to have a significant impact in the world as apologetics and winsome character, love, and message are becoming the sway that wins the day. In a time when there's great sinfulness, hopelessness, confusion, searching, darkness, and hardness of heart; what better context both for us and our message to be sharpened and honed so that we might become more useful and effective both in cutting to the chase and in serving as instruments in the Lord's hand to bring the gospel cuts even to the heart, circumcising it, and doing away with the filthy and bad while promoting life, health, purity and prosperity.

It's great to see not just the historic reformed community participating in apologetics, but seeing Christians from other backgrounds taking interest and steps in apologetics as well. I look forward to seeing these new bridges, relationships, and partnerships being developed, even as the city of God protects itself and advances against both her enemies and the enemies of God, taking not the weapons of this world in hand, but the sword of the Spirit, God's holy word.

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