Wednesday, 22 July 2009


My wife read out this article from the magazine 'Liberati' for me and which gave me mixed emotions. I'd be also interested in reading your thoughts about it. Is the new strident disbelief in the Church a good or bad thing for Christians? OR Will it open up doors for productive dialogue and discussion on the things of God, the hypocrisy of the Church etc? Feel free to comment even if you want to do it anonymously. Peace and Grace Ak

An interesting change has occurred in the recent history of the West. At first imperceptible but gradually dawning into disturbance, it has finally, like a different kind of flower, come to full bloom. I'm talking of the fact that most Western nations are now officially Post-Christian, as verified in a recent speech by President Obama. The generation growing up right now has little context for the words Jesus Christ except as an expression frustration.

A recent news item trumpeted the rise of intentional atheism with the advent of debaptism certificates. People christened as infants are now making the choice for themselves. Launched by the National Secular Society, the initiative follows a controversial advertisement on London buses proclaiming that there probably isn't a God so relax and enjoy your life.

The NSS have produced a debaptism certificate that can be downloaded from the net for £3. At the date of the news article, 1500 had been sold. One man, after asking the Church of England to delete his name from their records, put a notice in the Gazette to renounce his baptism. Similar initiatives have begun in Roman Catholic strongholds such as Spain and Italy where legal action has awarded people the right to be officially depabtised.

What should we make of all this? Is it a travesty, a breach of faith? Or should we welcome these things for the clarity they bring to what Christianity actually is?

In the first few centuries of Church life, Christians made the choice to follow Jesus to the detriment of their work life, their comfort and their safety. Many people lost their lives; others were forced to flee from their homes and nations. It cost a lot to be a Christian and the injunction that Jesus' followers needed to carry their own cross gave clear context to a life of faith. However, in the 4th century the Emperor Constantine forcibly converted his entire army to Christianity, thus ushering in the era known as Christendom that was to last over 1500 years.

Contrary to general belief, Christendom, far from facilitating Christianity, actually corroded it, diluting its depth and intensity. It's not hard to understand that if your livelihood and social acceptance depended on it, and given the alternative, most people would profess to be Christian. The amazing experience of meeting with Jesus for the first time and learning to live with Him as a day-to-day experience was largely lost. Agreeing with the 'theory' of faith in Christ was substituted for knowing Him personally.

So, where does that leave the Church now?

In the best place it's been for a long time!

Previously, most people automatically designated themselves Christian based on the fact that their parents had christened/baptised them, believing that God's only requirement to count them as His own was for the Church to acknowledge them. The christening of infants inoculated many people against true faith in Christ; in the same way as giving a tiny dose of polio serves to keep someone from catching it. Well meaning as this is, it totally belies the fact that to be a follower of Jesus you have to make the decision for yourself. No one else, no matter how loving, can make this choice for you. The decision to be debaptised is a great one, in that it clears the clutter away from what Christianity really is, and clarifies again the original teaching of Jesus, which is that not only is faith in Him a choice, but it is also not an easy one to make.

People aren't as much against God as they are against the Church's portrayal of God. Wealth and rules, pomp, ceremony and hypocrisy have stripped the Church of its true call, which is to love the world as Jesus loved it, showing grace, power and humility to people who need to see that there is a hope and a future in Him.

We don't need to be told we are breaking the rules; we all know we are. We don't need to be harangued for our inadequacies; we do that to ourselves. The role of the Church is to make clear that there is an antidote to sin and it is to be found in the life of Christ. The Church can't save anyone - all we can do is to be a clear signpost pointing to the One who can.

The fact that people are increasingly choosing to clarify their position as those who don't believe in a God who was chosen for them, gives fantastic opportunities for the Church and should be celebrated rather than grieved over. As the lines of demarcation are clearly drawn, freedom to show the real Jesus becomes increasingly easier. The world the Church is called to is the world that is out there now, not the one that used to be there.


Anonymous said...

I think it is a good idea for people to actually think through their religious upbringing and decide whether it is right for them or not.THis is seen here with people being de-baptized. But to be honest I'm surprised that they even care,in fact I wonder why they do care.

Simon le bomb said...

It is sad that people have taken this decision to break even a tenuous link with the church though it is also a call for the church to make the best any links they still have with them.