Bruised, Battered, and Thriving

  If you've passed anywhere near a magazine rack in recent weeks, you've probably seen magazine covers, tabloids, and banner headlines from several national periodicals grab your eye with provocative images of Jesus Christ and stories about the origins of the Christian faith. One of the most conspicuous is this month's issue of Life magazine with its cover story entitled, "2000 Years of Christianity." It purports to tell the story of Christianity, but ultimately falls far short. According to Life, the true miracle of Christianity is that a "bruised, battered and divided religion" somehow managed to survive to the eve of the third millennium. Anyone wanting to know about how the Church survived persecution under the Roman empire will learn very little about that topic. He will find little about the martyrs whose blood became the seedbed of faith. And he will see even less about men like Justin Martyr and Augustine who formulated a cultural apologetic that silenced the early critics. Nor will he be told how the Church's teachings on women, children, and the elderly transformed the moral order. Instead, he will be left with a vague impression that Christianity simply outlasted its pagan rivals. The reader might think that when Rome collapsed, Christianity merely picked up the pieces. Throughout their exhausting narrative, Life's writers make little or no reference to such seminal figures as Thomas Aquinas, Francis of Assisi, or other giants of the middle ages. And the Protestant reformists fare no better. Time's description of John Calvin, the towering figure of Protestant theology, reduces him to a caricature. Calvin, readers are told, "preached an austere Puritanism." Anyone wondering what difference Christianity has made to our world will be sadly disappointed. There's no mention of Christianity's contributions to law, music, or literature. There is no hint that it was, in fact, a Christian understanding of limited government that made our modern concept of liberal democracy possible. Or that Christianity's understanding of the natural order made modern science possible. Although the writers grudgingly concede that the world is a better place for the teachings of Jesus Christ, they hasten to add that we as Christians have failed to live by the teachings of the Savior. This so-called "history" reflects not just a bias against those who practice the Christian faith, but an appalling ignorance. We need to understand the sad truth that most of our non-Christian neighbors simply have no idea about Christianity's contribution to culture. They don't understand that it was Christian values and Christian teaching about liberty, law, and virtue that made western civilization possible in the first place. Instead, they've been told that Christianity is merely one contender among many competing belief systems. And some have even accepted what critics have charged the claim that Christian beliefs are the cause of suffering and evil in the world today. Well, the good news is the mass media apparently feels the need to explore religious heritage at this, the dawn of the new millennium. And this gives us a wonderful opportunity to teach our neighbors the reality of the life-changing differences Christianity makes. And the really good news this season is that the evidence is proving that Christianity is not only good for society, but it is true. Over the next few days, I'll be talking about new archeological evidence that demonstrates that the historical Jesus is the biblical Jesus.


Chuck Colson


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