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Bible Answers 10-08-10

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“I read recently that religion is bad for society. The author claimed that religion, especially Christianity, only serves to hamper progress in ethics, education and science.  Any comments?”— Lisa

Christianity is often caricatured as “stupid, narrow, legalistic, bigoted, unthinking and regressive.” Such a critique may be appropriate to the degree that the faith is defined by the actions of individuals who claim the name while acting stupidly, ignorantly and with narrow, legalistic bigotry.
Authentic Christian faith, however, is not anti-intellectual. It requires critical, intellectually-informed thinking. Believers are to love God with their mind as much as with their heart (Mt. 22:36ff).  
True Christianity is not simply blind legalisms. Seeking to be honest with God and with the Bible, believers ask the Spirit and the Scripture to “interpret” them; i.e., to call into question their deeply embedded dogma, traditions, rules, creeds and institutions (Mt. 12:1-8; 15:1-9).
Christianity demands of its adherents participation in the moral, political and social discourse of the day. Christ-like engagement, however, is gracious and respectful, quick to listen, slow to speak and slow to anger (James 1:19-20; I Pet. 3:15-17).  
Christians have produced bigots and warmongers. True Christianity, however, eschews actions and attitudes which are not consistent with the Spirit of Christ. True Christianity renounces the advance of the faith through violence or coercion. Indeed, Christians are called to die to themselves in order to show the world the love of Christ. The way of Christ is self-sacrificing love for both brother and enemy (Mt. 10:38-39; 16:24-27).
The invitation of Jesus is no small thing: it is to a relationship with God, not simply to religious beliefs; to transformation of heart, mind and spirit, not simply to a set of doctrines. It is ethical, involving decision and action with humility and love; it is eschatological, taking the long look, believing that we will one day give an account to God for our words and actions toward others (Mt. 25:31-46; II Cor. 5:1-11).

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To send questions or to communicate with Pastor McCullough,
write to wrbc-pastor@earthlink.net.