A Faith That Cannot Be Defended

picture-019There is such a thing as a Christian faith worth defending (in some sense). However, it seems like those who enjoy attacking the Christian faith find its least worthy representatives for the marshalling of their meager intellectual forces. This often means that atheists attack a faith nobody (virtually) believes, and that defenders sometimes defend something less than Christianity.

 I have seen several recent articles (most notably in the New Statesman) that have offered characterizations of Christianity that even the 9th grade education of my first Baptist pastor could have refuted. The caricature of Christianity, some of which has been made possible by Christian fundamentalism (itself a caricature of Christianity), is generally too incorrect to be addressed by a serious Christian. If people think that Christianity is the amalgam of ancient peasant superstitions – how can you answer them? Such ignorance of history is itself a modernist peasant superstition.

 Recently a parishioner sent me a small critique from a web-site that considered itself wise for having used weak philosophical reasoning to undermine Christianity by proving that God’s omnipresence proved that “God is in hell.” Of course, Orthodox Christianity, believing the Scripture and theological testimony would immediately agree: “God is in hell.” Why do they think we get so excited at Pascha? The God-Who-Is loves us so much that He entered Hell to redeem us. It is a doctrine taught in Scripture, upheld in Tradition and celebrated in the feasts of the Church.

 The great tragedy, of course, is that contemporary Christianity has been so “gutted” by those who claim to be its reformers, that a central doctrine of the faith can now be used by non-believers in an effort to undermine a modernized Christianity that was only invented a few years ago.

 There are many reasons to be an Orthodox Christian: the greatest of which I have any knowledge, is the simple fact that Orthodox Christianity alone is true, and the fullness of the Christian faith. Defending anything else is not only a waste of time but beside the point.

The tragedy is that much time and energy will be wasted attacking something that is not the Christian faith, while what is the Christian faith remains unknown. But perhaps in God’s good pleasure this is how things should be.

 To readers who entertain criticisms of the Christian faith: be sure to attack the real Christian faith and not recent inventions that have no right to the name.

 To readers who seek to defend the faith: don’t waste your time defending something less than the complete faith. Nothing else deserves the time or trouble.

About Fr. Stephen Freeman

Fr. Stephen is a priest of the Orthodox Church in America, Pastor Emeritus of St. Anne Orthodox Church in Oak Ridge, Tennessee. He is also author of Everywhere Present and the Glory to God podcast series.



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103 responses to “A Faith That Cannot Be Defended”

  1. dale Avatar
    dale

    Robert you may find the following interesting….

    I hope it is not inappropriate to add alink to this discussion. James Kay was a physicist who had the ability to clearly articulate complex systems including concepts of evolution(not Darwinian) that accepts mythology as a necessary reality. make sure to read the footnotes as well. I appreciate he willingness to accept that science is of value for understanding the world around us but is honest about the uncertainty of our ability to ‘know’ completely. I sense he would have been a good Orthodox…

    http://www.nesh.ca/jameskay/www.jameskay.ca/musings/myths.html

    Father Stephen… please feel free to remove this post if you feel it is unhelpful.

    Father Bless.

  2. Robert F. Avatar
    Robert F.

    Dale,

    Very interesting read. Footnote #3 is especially though provoking:

    “There is one myth that I think allows our society to get away with the other myths. This is the myth of ‘scientific objectivity’ and its ability to determine TRUTH. This myths allows people to believe that what they are doing is NOT based on myth, and hence they do not feel the need to examine the inconsistencies and contradictions in the myths that guide their actions. This science myth gives people an incorrect sense that what they are doing cannot be wrong, since it is based on scientific fact.”

    This is precisely what occurs when the difference between science and scientific materialism is blurred. It too happens when faith and science are confused.

  3. dale Avatar
    dale

    agreed, it is never healthy to blind ourselves to our lack of knowledge. Father Stephen’s statement,’ I am an ignorant man’ is not false humilty but honest reflection and it is true for him it is surely true for me as well. accepting our uncertainty does not mean we know nothing it just acknowledges our limitations and we move on by the grace of God as best we can. Lord have mercy on us in our ignorance.


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