2000 Years of Jesus

CHRISTIANITY AND THE INDIVIDUAL

 

The Christian world has just celebrated the holiest holiday in Christendom: Easter Sunday. As Breakpoint listeners may know, I celebrated in the best way I know how: inside a prison.

But as a recent cover story in Newsweek makes clear, everyone—not just Christians—ought to have been celebrating.

Religion editor Kenneth Woodward makes it clear to even the most cultured despisers of our faith that without Christianity, the world would be a radically different place—a place that they wouldn’t want to live in.

As Woodward writes, “Much of what we now think of as Western ideas, inventions and values finds its source and inspiration in the religion that worships God in [Jesus’] name. Art and science, the self and society, politics and economics, marriage and family, body and soul.”

Yet, if the West is the child of Christianity, it has proven to be an ungrateful and stupid one. Take, for instance, what Woodward calls “the individual.” The autonomy-at-all-costs crowd views Christianity, with its focus on right and wrong, as the greatest threat to individualism.

But that is where our elites have it backwards. As Woodward writes, “It was Christianity that discovered the individual.” “In the ancient world,” he says, “individuals were recognized as members of tribes or nations or families, and conducted themselves accordingly.”

But the New Testament gives us a Jesus who sees beyond tribe and calls men and women to Himself as individuals. As the Apostle Paul put it, “In Christ there is neither Jew nor gentile, man nor woman, slave nor free.”

As Bernard McGinn of the University of Chicago explains, it was Christianity that released the individual “from the absolute constraints of family and society.”

Another thing that is lost on our elites is that the very freedom they worship is also a product of Christianity. It was a Christian, Martin Luther, who practically invented the idea of freedom of conscience.

Prior to Luther’s famous declaration at the Diet of Worms, “here I stand, I can do no other, God help me,” the idea that the individual conscience could trump the state or the king was unheard of. In fact, without Christianity, terms such as “individual” and “freedom of conscience” would literally have no meaning.

But God is having the last laugh. You see, as our culture has replaced Christianity with postmodernism, tribalism has reemerged with a vengeance, with its obsession with forcing all of us to identify ourselves as members of a particular group. It’s proof that in a world that doesn’t honor the Cross, the personal isn’t political, as feminists like to say: it’s impossible.

Christianity’s cultural impact shouldn’t come as a surprise to Christians. Because in His death and resurrection, Jesus not only saved us from our sins, he, as the second Adam, began to reverse the consequences of the first Adam’s disobedience. The benefits Newsweek cites are only a shadow of how, one day, all creation will be renewed.

Over the next few days, I’ll be telling you about other ways the Cross changed the world forever. Why not tune in, so you can explain these ideas to your unsaved friends. Because once they understand the truth, they will join us when we celebrate our Lord’s resurrection.


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