Day: October 29, 2010

the real threat posed by contemporary atheism

I’ve been thinking more and more about Christian mission — and about how to equip and inspire Christians here in Australia for mission in everyday contexts. (I even went so far as to describe myself as an evangelist during one recent conversation; something that kind of snuck up and took me by surprise.)

And I’ve begun to grapple more seriously with the so-called New Atheism, which looms larger and larger in the consciousness of contemporary churches as the threat to Christian mission.

So I sat up and took notice when Nathan Kerr sounded this significant warning in a recent interview posted on The Other Journal:

It is interesting to me how much ink has been spilled by theologians over the last few years concerning the threat of atheism and unbelief. I think this is a symptom of the kind of fear-driven theology that is concerned to maintain a distinctively Christian culture, of the kind of theology that is obsessed with turning Christianity into a religion that needs to be defended against its cultured despisers, of the kind of theology that is always fearful of Christianity being one generation away from extinction, of the kind of theology that considers one primary task of the church to be that of finding a “way to sustain its existence generation after generation.” … [But] the real problem, the really concrete problem that moves us to the kind of action to which we are called as disciples, is the perennial problem of idolatry and unfaith.

That’s the real threat posed by contemporary atheism. For it really would be a disaster if our rush to batten down the apologetic hatches so that we can weather the storm that Dawkins and Hitchens (among others) are whipping up, produced this kind of defensiveness in us.

In my view, one of the greatest freedoms that comes from being united with the Crucified and Risen Lord is freedom from the sort of insecurity that has us always policing our own borders. How much more exciting — and winsome — would our faith be if it looked confidently to the horizon of life-giving engagement with those who don’t trust Jesus!