Thoughts : Progressive Christianity (Others) : Does Living Your Christianity in This World Entail a Clash of Ideologies?

Today at my Comparative Development class, my teacher talked about religion. Since I talked with him before about some of his beliefs, I knew he loved Karl Marx’s writings and was quite influenced by Socialism. That I liked about him. As for his religions beliefs, well, he’s an avowed atheist.

He pointed us to a sentence in a passage we were meant to read (which I of course didn’t!):

Historians and social scientists must write as atheists.

Almost the whole hour of the class was spent discussing this. It was quite interesting and the discussion provoked me to think a lot about the implications of my faith in God.

My teacher spoke of his views about Christianity. The fact that he’s an atheist made it all the more enlightening for me as I got to hear an atheist’s view of Christianity.

He argued that in the past, historians wrote from their own religious point of view – mostly Christian. All of their works were peppered with “God”. Now, we seldom see this happening. He asks why and postulates that it’s because we’re in a point of time in which the ideology of atheism prevails – the ideology of science, technological progress, reason, consumerism, materialism…etc prevails.

He doesn’t say this in a disappointed way of course since he’s an atheist. But he questions why Christians don’t challenge this. Why Christians nowadays don’t write like they did previously – when all of life was governed by God, all of one’s writings should be too.

Nowadays, Christians can’t write essays with a Christian worldview in mind. They have to write influenced by the prevailing ideology of atheism or else their professors would fail them.

One thing he said struck me. He asked,

Aren’t Christians meant to be abnormal? Aren’t they meant to be different?

Here was a non-Christian, yet one who understood that to be a Christian, one needed to be different. After all, the ideology and worldview of Christianity is so different and contrary to the prevailing ideology of the day. Christianity is an ideology where everything is centred on God – living for Him, putting Him first, pleasing Him, following Him – not this world.

I have to say that this atheist probably knew more about Christianity than most Christians. How ironic that it took an avowed atheist to provide me perhaps one of the most thought provoking challenges of living for God in my life.

His point that Christians ought to be different and shouldn’t be afraid to show it struck me. Indeed, they shouldn’t be afraid of being accused of being abnormal – after all, they should be abnormal, different. They should shine. And they shouldn’t be afraid of doing or being all this because they ought to seek the praises of God, not man.

All this talk really makes me think about how Christians ought to be living on this earth. The conflict of ideologies and ways of thinking and behaving ought to be seen in a Christian’s thought and life. If one doesn’t struggle in this world, something is definitely wrong. My lecturer brought that up so clearly and made me realize how true this is.

The world of consumerism and materialism. The world focused on science and progress and technological advance. Are these values what guide our life? These values are after all mostly contradictory to a Godward life. These values are values that focus on man, on the perfection of man and totally on man himself.

A Godward life demands we focus on God, on others – and not ourselves. And if we focus on God, we also focus on His values and His heart – a heart of compassion, love, selflessness and sacrifice. It demands we call Adam Smith’s notion of the invisible hand which speaks of the inevitability of self-interest and selfishness resulting in common good as utter nonsense! It demands that we don’t indulge ourselves in material things or seek to be part of the human race to collect waste. It demands sacrifice of our lives for others. Consideration of those less fortunate than us. Love for all humankind.

But indeed all these aren’t what drive Christians today. We want it both ways – the world and God, sin and life, our way and God’s way. But Jesus said we can’t worship both God and mammon, that we have to lose our life if we want to gain it…

How much do Christians know that who they are now and the life they’re called to live is indeed an abnormal life because the values they ought to hold and live out represents an ideology so contradictory to the prevailing ideology of the day? I believe the more we dwell on this fact and understand that Christians living in this world ultimately take part in a “clash of ideologies” – the more we’ll be able to understand how Christians ought to live in this world. Knowledge of this great battle – of ideologies – is prerequisite to victory.

It’s like how the charismatics often criticize conservative Christianity. They accuse conservative Christianity of being influenced by the enlightenment thinking which leaves little place for the role of the supernatural. Because this is so, conservative Christians somehow subtly expect less of the supernatural in this life. They would accept the supernaturalness of the events recorded in the Bible, yet somehow they don’t expect much of that occuring in this age.

Charismatics say we need a “paradigm shift” in our worldview. We need to rethink the way we view miracles and healings and supernatural events. Only when we get to the root of our belief systems and shift our paradigms of thought and belief will we be able to believe God for mighty miracles and healings.

In the same way, we Christians need to realize that the prevailing ideology that pervades everything in the world is that of atheism, materialism, consumerism…etc. Only when we recognize this fact and that the prevailing ideology indeed clashes with the Christian worldview/ideology we ought to have – only then will we start to realize how hard it is to live for God. But it’s only THEN that we can start shifting our paradigms, be cautious about what we accept as true and start challenging ourselves to live the Godward life.

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