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A couple days ago I linked to the Matthew Parris article warning Christians not to be too chummy with the defenses of Christianity offered by non-Christian critics.  It was a thoughtful piece and since reading it I’ve come across a couple related things that help you to see his point.

First, there’s this video and article at CNN from atheist Alain de Botton advocating what he calls “Atheism 2.0.”  de Botton has grown tired of the old strident atheism that chucks out everything having to do with religion.  He says that atheism 2.0 should, of course, reject the silly notion of there being a God, but culture needs all the things that religion provides that makes us feel good–Christmas carols and preaching, for example.  Let’s keep the feel-good trappings and utilize the effect things like preaching for an atheist cause, but waive our hands at any serious notion of God existing. De Botton writes:

God may be dead, but the urgent issues which impelled us to make him up still stir and demand resolutions which do not go away when we have been nudged to perceive some scientific inaccuracies in the tale of the seven loaves and fishes.

The error of modern atheism has been to overlook how many sides of the faiths remain relevant even after their central tenets have been dismissed. Once we cease to feel that we must either prostrate ourselves before them or denigrate them, we are free to discover religions as a repository of occasionally ingenious concepts with which we can try to assuage a few of the most persistent and unattended ills of secular life.

Then, there was this article about BBC’s boss Mark Thompson.  Thompson isn’t offering a defense of Christianity, but a justification for why BBC will “Mock Jesus but Not Muhammad.”  The article provides this summary of Thompson’s rationale:

He justified the astonishing admission of religious bias by suggesting that mocking Mohammed has the “emotional force” of “grotesque child pornography”.

But Jesus is fair game, he said, because Christianity has broad shoulders and fewer ties to ethnicity.

We live in interesting times!  One atheist warns Christians not to trust the “protection” offered by non-religious folks.  Another atheist says let’s use the trappings of religion even as we reject any notion of God.  And the head of one of the world’s largest media outlets says we would mock it all except some religious folks are too emotional.  No doubt a lot of religious folks will react very emotionally at his saying some of us are too emotional.

We should not forget the inspired words, “Up to this moment we have become the scum of the earth, the refuse of the world” (1 Cor. 4:14).  And…

Some faced jeers and flogging, while still others were chained and put in prison.  They were stoned; they were sawed in two; they were put to death by the sword.  They went about in sheepskins and goatskins, destitute, persecuted, and mistreated–the world was not worthy of them. (Heb. 11:36-38)

The scum of the earth of whom the world is not worthy.  That continues to be what a Christian is whether the world defends, adapts, or mocks us.  But the Master says, “Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matt. 5:10).

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7 thoughts on “Talking About Jesus, Christians, and Christianity”

  1. usama a. says:

    Thank you for this post


  2. Gordon Hazell says:

    This is an interesting post Pastor Thabiti.

    As Christians we are busy trying do defend our faith, ad protect ourselves from the censorship and possible physical and legal harm that may befall us by the world’s system. But Such persecution is to be expected and we should stand firm in the midst of it all and proclaim the gospel and our strong belief in it. However, i must say that it is important that such defense be put forth for Christians. There are many who are seriously doubting their faith because of the intellectual attacks leveled against the claims of Christianity. So at least for such persons’ sake we should try very hard to show them the evidence for the faith so they can have a better foot to stand on when discussing the faith. I think that is one thing if any that has damaged the movement of evangelism over the last couple of centuries. People aren’t really sure if the Christian faith is true and worth believing anymore…so they hold on to it, hoping that it is but not certain and when they try to engage others in the faith they are attacked with more and more doubts. So it may seem best to have a personal faith but not to be vocal about it. Because the more one is vocal the more doubt is experienced and such a person may fear that he will lose his faith. And because there is the possibility that the Claims of Christianity MAY be indeed true (including the dreadful eternity for those who reject Christ) forsaking the faith personally does not seem to be an option. Therefore many keep their faith quiet…precisely because of the increase in atheism’s prominence in western society.

    I am not sure how to address this but it is a serious thing.

  3. Tricia says:

    Gordon,With all due respect, how can we have a personal faith and not be vocal about it, Christianity is, and always will be counter cultural, we are not called to be friends of this world, salvation is from the Lord,once given, nothing or no thing can make you lose it, including the prominence of atheism. We are commanded to take up our cross and proclaim the Gospel, it really is that simple.

    1. Ruth says:

      Tricia, I don’t think Gordon is saying that we should not speak up. He is saying that we simply do not, because of the risks, particularly because often evangelical Christianity skirts difficult issues rather than studying deeply to be able to accurately defend the faith, thus leaving many church members unprepared to face the onslaught of the world.

      In my experience, many (not all) “good” churches eschew intellectualism of any kind, thus leaving thoughtful, educated people adrift and unable to participate in accomplished “swordplay” (the sword of the Spirit is the Word of God) with their atheistic counterparts. I have a daughter in graduate school in chemistry at an Ivy League university, and a son trying to get into medical school. Most of their associates are completely hostile to the gospel.

      My son has a Chinese biochemistry professor who routinely, from the front of the class, derides the idea of anyone being “stupid enough to believe that there could be a god.” He says, “stupid, stupid, stupid.” He holds his exam review session on Sunday mornings. This man is hostile and unkind. My son also works in a lab with a tremendously gifted young Indian graduate student. This young man is kind and has taken an interest in my son, but he is also an atheist. Sometimes he plants seeds of doubt in my son’s mind, which we are ill-equipped to combat because of the great divide between science and religion, and the lack of strong apologetics in the church these days. My son loves the Lord and is honestly looking for answers. Unfortunately, the atheists have been more diligent in learning how debunk us than we have been at learning how to debunk them.

      If God has called a person to be a doctor or a scientist (or any other vocation that routinely comes into contact with powerful atheists), that person don’t have a pass to “not be vocal.” However, it is somewhat unfair to say, “We are commanded to take up our cross and proclaim the gospel, it really is that simple.” It really isn’t simple at all. We need educated, intelligent people who can work on behalf of the gospel through education and science. They cannot earn their degrees and hold on to their faith if they are too vocal in certain circumstances. There is a time to keep silence and a time to speak (Ecclesiastes 3:7b), and Jesus told us not to give holy things to dogs or cast our pearls before swine (Matthew 7:6)

      I agree very much with Gordon’s final statement: “I am not sure how to address this, but it is a serious thing.”

    2. Gordon Hazell says:


      I am wondering where you got the impression that I am advocating being ‘silent Christians’. I simply am saying that this is a reality that we face and we need pastors that would attend to this issue rather than the nonsense we are regularly dished out sunday after sunday.

  4. First Pastor I want to thank you for writing this article, I had up until recently no name from my personal feeling toward the bible and Christianity. I was all alone even among my family and other Christians. Then I found Dr Tim Keller’s site on monergism and realized there were other people getting the same from scripture that I was. I realized that I had a “Reformed View” of scripture and I was not the only one. But why was everyone else white? I could not see any raceism in scripture they simply said what they said. So why there were no people of color following this reformed thing?

    I simply asked someone if there were any blacks/ hispanics asisan anyone other than just white that were reformed. Right after everyone laughed they pointed me to Thabiti Anyabwile. I actual ignored the name for about a month because I could not remember it. (sorry) Then while going through a book caught my attention called “The Decline of African American Theology” and it was by this Anyabwile guy! Wow!

    I have been since than trying to systematically buy everything you wrote, I download your interviews etc. But don’t get me wrong its not so much about you or what you have done as it is finding out what I really believe and having the confidence to know that I am not alone.

    I have been in the church for many years and have constantly had to row against the current when addressing the scriptures. Even though when I teach bible study or Sunday school, everyone says that the scripture makes sense to them. Now I know that I may have be wrong in a lot of things I have said, but it may also be that I wasn’t wrong in everything that I said.

    Troy “FireSpeaks” Pearsall

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Thabiti Anyabwile

Thabiti Anyabwile is a pastor for Anacostia River Church in southeast Washington, DC and a council member of The Gospel Coalition.

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