Summary: Note: This message kicks off a church-wide campaign in which small groups go through the four- or eight-week Faith Under Fire curriculum, inviting their seeking friends to join them. The DVD-driven curriculum is available at Outreach.com
Faith Under Fire
[Note: This message kicks off a church-wide campaign in which small groups go through the four- or eight-week Faith Under Fire curriculum, inviting their seeking friends to join them. The DVD-driven curriculum is available at Outreach.com.]
The network news reporter asked the question point-blank: “Is this open season on Jesus?” Based on the proliferation of books and web sites currently attacking historical Christianity, the answer appears to be a resounding, “Yes!”
Dan Brown, of course, garnered the most publicity with his best-selling novel The Da Vinci Code, which purported to mix historical fact with fiction. The book claimed that Jesus isn’t the Son of God, that Jesus was married to Mary Magdalene and had a child named Sarah, and that you can’t really trust the contents of the New Testament. Brown went on to make more than $40 million last year – and this has opened the floodgates to a whole raft of other books that are attempting to rewrite history.
Just take a look at the best-seller’s list during recent months and you’ll see books claiming that Jesus was the son of Mary and a Roman soldier; that Jesus didn’t die on the cross; that the text of the New Testament has been hopelessly tainted and is therefore unreliable; that Christianity is based on earlier mythology and mystery religions; and that the current church doesn’t reflect Jesus’ real teachings.
In fact, a British publisher recently announced that it’s producing a new book in November, 2006, that will claim that Lazarus actually wrote the Gospel of John – and, oh, by the way, Jesus was not only married to Mary Magdalene, but he was also married to Martha at the same time! That’s right – according to this book, Jesus was a polygamist!
It’s safe to say that our faith is under fire these days. In a way, that’s not surprising. The controversial claims of Christianity – for instance, that Jesus is the only way to God – are so repugnant in our pluralistic culture that some writers are eager to present a new Christianity – a watered down, easy to tolerate and easy to sell faith that’s free of moral demands on us.
Of course, people have been lured by false gospels from the beginning. In the dawning years of Christianity, the apostle Paul wrote in Galatians 1:6-9: “I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel – which is really no gospel at all. Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternal condemned. As we have already said, so now I say again: If anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned.”
Many of the current crop of anti-Christian books are so absurd that few people actually believe the false gospel that they’re offering. But other books – as well as web sites attacking Christianity – have succeeded in creating doubts in the minds of many people. As a result, some seekers are being repelled from Christianity, and some Christians are questioning their faith.
One person read a current best-seller that attacks the New Testament and wrote an email to a Christian author, saying: “I was raised in the church and I’m now 26 years old. This book has devastated my faith. I don’t want to be kept in the dark; I want to know what really is going on in the Bible and what I should believe, even if it goes against what I’ve believed since I was a little boy.”
None of us wants to be kept in the dark, do we? We all want to build our faith on a solid foundation of historical reality. But what happens when doubts creep in? Whether you’re a seeker or a Christian, how should you respond if you encounter allegations that undermine historic Christianity?
First, it’s important to understand that God doesn’t condemn us when we wrestle with doubts or ask questions. You can see that in the 7th chapter of the Gospel of Luke, which is something that scholar Gary Habermas has extensively written about.
This recounts the time when John the Baptist was in prison, and he was grappling with questions about the true identity of Jesus. Verse 19 says: “And summoning two of his disciples, John sent them to the Lord, saying, ‘Are You the Expected One, or do we look for someone else?’”
Think about that! If there was anyone who should have been absolutely confident about the divine identity of Jesus, it was John the Baptist. He once pointed to Jesus and said: “Behold, the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world!” He actually baptized Jesus, saw the heavens open up, and heard the Father proclaim: “This is My Beloved Son, in whom I am well-pleased.” This is the person who had declared: “I have seen I have borne witness that this is the Son of God.”