Comedian Milton Jones has given brief, well reasoned defence of the Christian faith on the Guardian’s Website. Anyone who has read his “10 Second Sermons”will know that he is an unusually thoughtful Christian, who puts more thought into a quip than some writers put into an essay. Playing on a famous Python sketch Jones asks:
… apart from being involved at the beginning of science, systems of government, philosophy, art, schools, hospitals, the emancipation of women, the abolition of slavery, social welfare, helping form the basis of the moral code most people live by, and introducing popular notions of justice, mercy, decency and compassion – what has Christianity ever really done for the world?
His question provoked some furious responses, but it is well considered. Jones only claims that Christianity was “involved” in these developments. He does not claim that Christianity created science – merely that it had an important role to play. Atheist myths notwithstanding, this is not a controversial claim. Consider science: historian James Hannam points out that the Mediaeval Church had an important role to play in its birth. It’s also worth taking the time to listen to Peter Harrison’s lecture on the birth of science.
Os Guiness believes that Christians are the one unanswerable objection to Christianity. It’s a fair point: it’s difficult to reconcile inquisitions and crusades with the Gospel of Jesus Christ. So Jones wisely concedes this point at the beginning of his video; he’s also gives a response. He acknowledges that the Church has often failed to live up to the ideals of its founder. He seems to put this down to pride and, well, stupidity.
We shouldn’t restrict the failings of the Church to the Crusades or the Inquisition. Evangelical congregations are full of emotional storms and other absurdities. Tim Keller spends a chapter of The Reason for God dealing with the objection “the Church failed me.” Keller points out that the Church is full of broken people, all of whom have already acknowledged that they need redemption. We shouldn’t be surprised if they fail us. The gospel teaches that it is Christ that we should look to for solace.
Still, explaining the meaning of the faith to outsiders is made a little bit more difficult by the apparent weirdness of our evangelical subculture. Our catchphrases tend to obscure rather than clarify. There’s no easy way around this; every subculture seems odd to outsiders. At the end of the day, every human being is a little comical. Why should Christians be any different? So a good response to join @Rev_Norespect and Tim Hawkins in learning to laugh at ourselves; then asking outsiders to join in. Sometimes laughter is the only apologetic.