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Monday, July 20, 2009

An Excellent Point

Many times I've heard that we should strive to live out the character of Christ in order to draw people to Him. Much as I agree that we ought to strive for Christlikeness, this assertion has always seemed a bit shaky to me. Michael Patton nails down why:
Thankfully, God did not confine the validation of his message to the character witness of sinners. If he did, we are all in trouble. Why? Because your character is grossly lacking. The character of the Christian community is weak at best. The character of Christian leaders is shaky and brittle. The history of the church, no matter what tradition, does not have a pretty track record.


...this is no reason for anyone to give a second thought to whether Christianity is true or not. Christianity is not based upon my character. It’s veracity is not dependent in any way on the faithfulness of its followers.


The idea would be that so long as we love one another, then Christianity is validated. Therefore, we should not do theology or apologetics, but just set an example and Christianity will be evidence through our character. As much as I appreciate the desire for Christians to act like Christians, this is a dangerous misunderstanding of this passage. It places the validation of Christianity upon our character witness. But the passage does not suppose the truthfulness of Christianity is dependent on our character. It does, however, suppose the truthfulness of our Christian confession is dependent on our character. If we don’t love one another, it does not make Christianity any less true. It only makes our profession to be Christian less true. Likewise, if we do love one another, Christianity is no truer than before.

Christianity is based solely on the person and work of Christ.


...“Christianity is true if Christ rose from the dead. If he did not, it is false.” That is it. It does not matter how Christians respond to the conflict in Palestine, Iraq, or any other place. It does not depend on whether you are nice to your neighbor or a murderer. It does not depend on whether all Christians are unified or divided. It does not hinge on your character or mine. It does not even depend on our perseverance in the faith. Its truthfulness is solely a matter of history. Is Christ who he said he was?


If we ever give the impression that Christianity is validated by our character witness, God forgive us for misleading so many. We are poor and weak, but the foundation of Christianity—the historic God-man Jesus Christ—is forever strong.

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