#281

September 02, 2012

“Mere” Christianity

Dear Dr. Craig, first of all I want to thank you for reinforce my Christian faith and be confident about our Lord in these hard secular times. I am an Greek Orthodox Christian, former Catholic (still in personal conflict between the two). For years now I've been watching your debates against atheists, and you are, for certain, an instrument of God in these times of general Christophobia. Now that your books are arriving in Brazil in Portuguese, I had the privilege of purchasing two already. Although I don't agree with some of your protestant positions, such as the nature of the brothers of Christ (what makes the James argument strange to me), one thing came to my attention reading On Guard: You used countries in crisis to make example of how Christianity grow in hard times. But you used as examples El Salvador and Ethiopia as examples, two historically Christian countries! El Salvadorc- a Christian Catholic- and Ethiopia, with its historical Oriental Orthodox culture. Please, take some attention not to simplify Christianity to Protestant Evangelicalism; because you are a fortress not only for protestants: Christianity in general is in need of leaders like you in this skeptical, cynical and secular world ! I myself am all the time in defensive, since most of my family (uncles, cousins, etc), originally Catholics, became agnostics, atheists, sufi muslims, spiritism kardecists... and they don't give me a break even in Christmas family reunion! One of my uncles, a very cult and studied Italian old man, says Christianity is blasphemous because you simply can't say a human being is God; but, worst of all: he says Jesus not only survived, but have gone to Kashmir, and he even traveled there to that Roza Bal in Srinagar to see the tomb of "Jesus", and truly believe in Nicolas Notovitch lies. It's simply unbelievable how people today, even cult and studied ones, believe in every kind of sensationalism about Christ. Not even the videogames are giving us a break, like the Assassin's Creed series.

Finally, my question: Can't your Particularism argument be used to support Chistian sectarism, like Orthodox or Catholics who say they are the only true church? Or even by the more than 30.000 protestant denominations?

Thank you for illuminating the faith of so many Christians worldwide, and sorry for the bad English!

Otavio

Brazil

Thank you, Otavio, for your kind remarks and admonition! I can’t tell you how thrilled I am to see the Lord using our work in the lives of people across Christian confessions in various countries like Brazil. I have made it my goal to be a spokesman for what C. S. Lewis called “mere” Christianity, that is to say, the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith affirmed by all the great Christian confessions, whether Catholic, Orthodox, Protestant, or Coptic.

At the same time, I do have views of my own on doctrines which are not universally held, and in my lectures in my Defenders class my typical procedure in dealing with a particular doctrine is to give the interpretation of that doctrine from different confessional perspectives and then provide at the end my own assessment of the correct formulation.

I am convinced that evangelical Protestantism is the closest to New Testament Christianity and so am enthusiastically evangelical (broadly Wesleyan) in my theology. For that reason I am encouraged when I read in a missions handbook like Operation World of the growth of evangelical faith in different countries around the world, including Orthodox and Catholic countries (and Communist countries like China, which I also mentioned). From your letter I know you realize that what passes for Catholicism in many Latin American countries is often just a thin cultural veneer of Christo-paganism. So when we read of the growth of evangelical Christianity in El Salvador, Chile, or Brazil, that is cause for rejoicing. I realize that what passes for evangelical Christianity in certain countries is also, unfortunately, sometimes a syncretistic blend of Christianity with spiritism or paganism, and therefore even the statistics about the growth of evangelicalism in certain South American and African countries has to be viewed with caution. Still, a worldwide revival and outpouring of the Holy Spirit does seem to be occurring in our day, though people in the West are often unaware of it.

As for your question, of course, any other particularistic faith, Islam, for example, could adapt my defense of Christian particularism to defend its view against religious pluralism. That’s unproblematic. Mine is a defense of Christian particularism against objections on the part of religious pluralism; it is not a positive argument for the truth of Christianity. So a religious particularist of any stripe can adapt it as a defense of his claims against the critique emanating from religious pluralism. It doesn’t establish the truth of any particular faith; it just shows that that faith is not defeated by objections coming from the side of religious pluralism.