Summary: Is Christianity a crutch for the weak minded and naive? How should Christians respond to the criticism?
I wonder if you have heard this statement. It goes something like this. “Christianity is only for those who are weak; it only offers consolation to life’s losers.”
Have you heard it or seen this criticism? Just watch TV or go see a movie sometime. Read comments under Christian Facebook posts. The world often portrays Christians as being somewhat weak and naïve—We are portrayed as the kind of people who need our faith as a “crutch” just to get through life. Some critics of religion (I don’t put us in “religion” but bear with me) suggest that non religious people are stronger because they are brave enough to face life without the crutch of “God/god.”
In fact, over the last few weeks I have visited some atheist websites to prepare for this message. And it was not uncommon for me to see the image of a weak, ham fisted Christian contrasted with one of a hardier, wiser atheist who has no need for such nonsense to get through life.
That portrayal has obviously resonated with American culture. After all, we admire strength and rugged individualism. Plus, we live on knowledge in an information heavy world. In our modern world, if you don’t know an answer to a question, you just look it up online. My oldest daughter who is training in computers has a teacher who tells her classes, “Make Google your best friend.”
If this is true in today’s society, then are we better off without God? Do we need him?
Is God just the machinations of weak minds? Are Christians pathetically naive?
Is religion as Karl Marx describes it, simply, “An opiate (a pain killer) for the masses”?
Is Christianity just a crutch?
I want to explore this topic today as we continue our series of messages “Alien Experience: Living in the World, but not of it.”
Our Text for today starts with 2 Corinthians 12:1-10
As you turn let me offer a brief context. This letter was written by a man named Paul. He writes in part to address questions and concerns that were being asked by Christians in a city named Corinth. Now the church in Corinth had some serious issues. There was infighting and divisiveness; there were some who had a distorted view of grace. So Paul had written a first letter to them to address it. Now he writes this second. In this second letter, Paul reveals that some in the church in Corinth were questioning his authority as an apostle.
I'm guessing some did not particularly like Paul's advice. They are asking "Who does this guy think he is? It's not like his words carry the same weight as the apostles." So in the chapter before ours, Paul tells about all the things he could boast about, both good and bad, that make him an apostle. In chapter 12, he continues.
1 I must go on boasting. Although there is nothing to be gained (addition mine: in boasting about myself), I will go on to visions and revelations from the Lord. 2 I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know—God knows. 3 And I know that this man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knows— 4 was caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.
All this talk about visions, and being caught up to paradise sounds strange doesn’t it? Most of us haven’t seen heavenly visions, or had dreams, or been caught up in the sky not knowing if we were in the body or out of it. It’s strange. It almost sounds like a bad drug trip. And we are also left asking, "who was this man Paul is writing about in verse 2?"
What we need to understand is that Paul is addressing their objections to his authority as an Apostle. You see, in order to be an Apostle, one would have had to have been an eye witness to the ministry of Jesus. One would have had to been directly trained by Jesus. We know that Paul was not one of the original twelve. In fact he came quite late to faith, several years after Jesus had ascended into heaven. So Paul was not physically present during Jesus’ ministry.
And what he is doing is putting his words on equal ground with Peter, and John, and James. He is establishing is credibility to address problems with the church in Corinth. And what Paul is saying is this. “I don’t qualify as an apostle because I physically witnessed the ministry of Jesus.” My experience was different.