I tell you the truth, unless a kernel of wheat falls to the ground and dies, it remains only a single seed. But if it dies, it produces many seeds. – Jesus
What’s at the core of Christianity? Dig in deep, cut through everything, what’s in the marrow of Christ-following? When everything has completely gone to hell, what keeps you going as a Christian? What hill would you die on?
I recently read two short essays regarding these questions (and more) and wanted to share them with you. Both articles reflect on the increasing secularization the American church faces within itself, and how it could respond. The first was by Andrew Sullivan, and was the cover story of Newsweek this week. Sullivan takes this Holy Week to talk about “Christianity in Crisis“.:
Christianity itself is in crisis. It seems no accident to me that so many Christians now embrace materialist self-help rather than ascetic self-denial—or that most Catholics, even regular churchgoers, have tuned out the hierarchy in embarrassment or disgust. Given this crisis, it is no surprise that the fastest-growing segment of belief among the young is atheism, which has leapt in popularity in the new millennium. Nor is it a shock that so many have turned away from organized Christianity and toward “spirituality,” co-opting or adapting the practices of meditation or yoga, or wandering as lapsed Catholics in an inquisitive spiritual desert. The thirst for God is still there. How could it not be, when the profoundest human questions—Why does the universe exist rather than nothing? How did humanity come to be on this remote blue speck of a planet? What happens to us after death?—remain as pressing and mysterious as they’ve always been?
The second essay was by Dr. Paul Louis Metzger. He asks, very directly, in response to the secular world, what alone does the church have to offer? His essay “Religion for Atheists and Religionless Christianity“.:
In an April 2nd article discussing Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton’s book, Religion For Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion, Kimberly Winston asks: “Stripped of its supernatural elements, does religion have anything to offer atheists? What can nonbelievers borrow from the organizations, practices and rituals of believers – without borrowing a belief in God?” (see here).
Beyond what atheists and other “nonbelievers” might strip away from and also borrow from religion, I am even more interested in what Christian religious folks like me would be willing to strip away from the Christian religion and what we might leave intact. What would we reject, and what would we retain if we were to do a thorough house-cleaning? What would we find essential?
I’d invite you to read the works listed above, and then ask yourself: “When Christ comes out of the tomb tomorrow, what’s he coming out for?”