This weeks A.S.K question is an oldie but golden – much beloved of atheist fundamentalists who think it is a killer question. But the answer really is not that difficult if you stop to think about it….its just that few do!
BIBLE READING: John 1:1-18
TEXT: He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God—children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God (John 1:11-13)
What language do you speak? I suspect the language of your parents! I also suspect that you have many of the tastes, opinions and even mannerisms of your parents. Is that the same for religion? What is known as ‘the geography argument’ certainly at first glance seems to make sense. If you were born in Saudi Arabia you would be Muslim, if you were born in India you will be Hindu, if you were born in America you will be Christian. Therefore religion is just a matter of culture and where you are born, not a matter of truth or God. So we might as well all be atheists!
Except… Surely the same argument applies to atheists? – if you were born in an atheist country like China then you are more likely to be atheist…or in a secularist country like Sweden you are more likely to be secular humanist. Does that invalidate atheism and secular humanism? The argument also fails because there are people born in Saudi Arabia who do not end up as Muslims, likewise in India there are millions of Muslims and Christians as well as atheists and secular humanists. And I know many Swedish Christians.
It also fails because it presupposes that culture and family are the sole determining factors. It does not allow for people changing their minds, being converted or for the possibility of supernatural conversion. In other words the argument is based upon presuppositions which themselves are not self-evident. It is a circular self-defeating argument.
However, it is clear that religion does depend to a large extent on your culture, your environment, your family and where you are born. But your relationship with God does not. That is the key difference. That is what John chapter one teaches us. Jesus, the light of the world, came as the light to the whole world. He came to his own people (the Jews), but they rejected him. Yet to all who will receive him, who believe in his name, he gives the right to become children of God – children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God. This means that being a Christian, becoming a child of God, is not primarily dependent on our environment, or place of birth. It is dependent upon hearing about, and responding to, the Gospel of Jesus Christ.
There are countries and communities where we are more likely to hear and experience the Gospel. Those who are brought up in such a privileged environment should be thankful and should not abuse their privilege. How can they hear without a preacher? But the great thing about the Gospel is that it has gone into all the world and it is producing fruit all over the world.
The notion that Christianity is primarily a white European religion is a false one. The vast majority of Christians are now in Africa, China and South America. Sometimes being brought up in a nominally Christian society can actually do more harm than good to our spiritual health. What we experience as Christianity is not the real thing at all. It’s a little like getting the flu jag, which gives you enough of the flu to immunize you from getting the real thing.
And lets not forget the Holy Spirit. No one – whatever their upbringing – can even see the kingdom of God unless they are born from above, of the Spirit (John 3). Many people have been brought from death to life who were not born or brought up in a Christian context. I think of a Muslim friend who was brought to faith in Jesus through a dream, a Chinese communist who came to believe through visiting a church, and a Hindu who heard about Jesus from a cult and started to read the Bible for himself. The Gospel will be preached to all the nations and the Spirit of Jesus will not be constrained by our cultures.
CONSIDER: Given that background is such an important part of our lives, why is it not the determining factor for our faith?
RECOMMENDED FURTHER READING: The Reason for God – Tim Keller
PRAYER: LORD JESUS – you came as the light of the world. To all the people of the world. Help us to receive you, to believe in you. Whatever our upbringing. If we have Christian parents and have grown up in the Christian church, we bless you for that privilege, but we know that that will not save us. So we come to you. If we have heard of you from others, we bless you for those you have sent to tell us and to invite us to become your children. May your gospel and Word flourish and prosper throughout the whole of your world – to the glory of your Name. Amen
Again it has been encouraging to see and get feedback from those who have been helped by A.S.K….like this “Hi David… a wee encouragement for you, I was chatting to a teen yesterday who will be professing his faith this weekend and he mentioned that your book Ask has been really helpful for him. Blessings.
Or better still go into your local bookshop and order it….there are bulk discounts as well from Ten of Those
If you have read the book and would like to review it – can I encourage you to do so on Amazon. The more the merrier….