One of my favorite books is A Severe Mercy, by Sheldon Vanauken (New York: HarperCollins Publishers, 1977). This former atheist wrote:
“The best argument for Christianity is Christians: their joy, their certainty, their completeness. But the strongest argument against Christianity is also Christians – when they are somber and joyless, when they are self-righteous and smug in complacent consecration, when they are narrow and repressive, then Christianity dies a thousand deaths. But, though it is just to condemn some Christians for these things, perhaps, after all, it is not just, though very easy, to condemn Christianity itself for them. Indeed, there are impressive indications that the positive quality of joy is in Christianity – and possibly nowhere else. If that were certain, it would be proof of a very high order.” (page 85)
I will put it another way. The reason many people do not believe that Christianity is true is because so many Christians are false. There are people in this world who claim to be Christians, and call themselves Christians because they attend church … or because they might pastor a church.
I am in no position to say who is and who isn’t a Christian … that is, a true follower of Jesus Christ. I don’t know what is in anyone’s heart … not even my own, at times.
But I would like to offer up for discussion what I believe a true Christ-follower looks and sounds like, hoping my thoughts will lend something positive to the current debate about the impact of religion in the marketplace of human ideas and human institutions.
At this time I will not offer up a defense for the existence of God. And at this time I will pose that Jesus Christ was not a liar or a lunatic; that He was who He claimed to be. That is my starting point.
For one thing, I think a Christ-follower is rational. To follow anyone, even Jesus Christ, the Son of God, blindly or carelessly or ignorantly is nothing short of ludicrous. It is also dangerous. That kind of followership invites cultist results. God, the most supreme and extreme Intellect in the Universe, would not expect, much less demand, such a followership. Committing intellectual suicide in order to “believe” in Him was never part of the deal. In fact, Jesus Himself invited honest inquiry. He entered into conversation with the intellectuals of His day, and challenged them with His claims.
Think about that.