There was a day when Easter Sunday elicited cover stories and headlines on Easter themes in American media. I remember sympathetic biographies of biblical figures along with reflective essays on the abiding lessons of Jesus’ resurrection.
Things have changed.
The Los Angeles Times ran an op-ed for Easter Sunday titled, “How Christians came to believe in heaven, hell and the immortal soul.” Written by Bart Ehrman, one of the most notorious anti-Christian critics in contemporary culture, it is an astonishingly false portrait of Judeo-Christian faith and history. The book on which the essay is based has already been soundly debunked, but many who read Ehrman’s Easter article may nonetheless be persuaded by the falsehoods it perpetrates.
Two days earlier, the Los Angeles Times published a different op-ed, this one for Good Friday. Titled “Why America’s record godlessness is good news for the nation,” the article responds to the recent Gallup report that church membership has fallen below 50 percent for the first time.
The author celebrates what he calls “organic secularization,” by which “members of a society become better educated, more prosperous, and live safer, more secure and more peaceful lives” and thus turn from religion. In his view, “highly secular democracies” do a “much better job” of meeting human needs than faith-based charities. As a result, he concludes that we should celebrate the growing secularism of our day.
The author ignores the remarkable growth among evangelical and conservative churches and ministries in our day. Nor does he take note of the seminal work by Robert D. Putnam and David Brooks, among others, which highlight the social connections that are especially strengthened in religious communities. And he dismisses the relevance of “a heavenly reward that fewer and fewer of us believe in,” as if our personal beliefs (or lack thereof) change eternal reality.
The two anti-Christian articles have this in common: both were published on two of the most significant holy days in the Christian year. And both are based on selective arguments that conflate personal opinion with objective truth.
Christians who were intellectual giants
As intellectual attacks on Christian faith and practice continue to escalate, it is vital that Christians respond with intellectual passion and compassion. Such a commitment is nothing new for us. In fact, the rational and reasonable nature of our faith has been foundational to its transformative effect across Christian history.
Scholar Stanley Jaki demonstrated conclusively that modern science was “stillborn” in other cultures but came to life in the fertile soil of Christian reason. The list of great scientists who were also committed Christians is both large and inspiring.
Women were some of the greatest heroes in Scripture, as Shannon Bream shows in her powerful book, The Women of the Bible Speak. From the early church to today, women have excelled as theologians and leaders.
Hans Küng’s seminal book, Great Christian Thinkers, was enormously influential and encouraging. J. R. R. Tolkien’s role in leading C. S. Lewis to faith in Christ stands as just one example of an intellectual giant who influenced an intellectual giant.
Biblical thinking for biblical living
How can we stand for biblical truth with clarity and compassion today?
First, make a daily commitment to love God with all your mind (Matthew 22:37).
God’s call still resounds today: “Whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things” (Philippians 4:8). This is a present-tense imperative, a daily checklist of God’s continuing commands to each of us each day.
According to the Barna Group and the American Bible Society, only 9 percent of US adults read the Bible daily. Are you in their number?
Second, immerse your mind in God’s word (John 17:17).
God’s word is “profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16–17). This means that Scripture will instruct us in the right path, stop us when we choose the wrong path, set us in the right direction again, and keep us there.
As a result, it is vital that we meet God every morning in his word and then consult biblical truth as we face decisions and challenges all through the day. Biblical thinking leads to biblical living. Was this your experience yesterday? Will it be today?
Third, respond to falsehood with biblical truth (1 Peter 3:15–16).
Paul’s commitment should be ours: “We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ” (2 Corinthians 10:5). To destroy means to refute. Arguments refers to truth claims; lofty opinion refers to arrogant thinking. Raised against the knowledge of God means to be opposed to what God has revealed.
After refuting all such falsehoods, we are called to take every thought captive, meaning literally to “capture” each and every thought. We do this to obey Christ and his word, heeding Paul’s testimony as God’s commission to us.
A dear friend of mine has taught his children how to watch television and movies biblically: they compete to “spot the lie” whenever they see something unbiblical. Imagine the difference if all of us did the same for ourselves and those we influence.
“Did not our hearts burn within us?”
Tomorrow, I plan to discuss practical ways you and I can respond biblically to unbiblical truth claims. For today, let’s renew our commitment to thinking biblically.
On the first Easter, the risen Christ who met the disciples on the road to Emmaus “interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself” (Luke 24:27). In response, they later said to each other, “Did not our hearts burn within us while he talked to us on the road, while he opened to us the Scriptures?” (v. 32).
When last did your heart burn within you? Why not today?