It has been long understood that Christianity has flourished in seasons of persecution. As human beings we naturally seek comfort and ease, desiring that our religion be a matter of freedom. When Jesus left and the Church began to spread throughout the world, they were a very small minority and suffered a variety of persecutions. However, Constantine (who was the Roman emperor from 306-336) made it legal for Christians to practice their religion in 313 via the Edict of Milan, and was the first Christian emperor. Christianity had flourished under the persecution and in freedom it became corrupt: offices within the church were sold and sought after for power, and people nominally joined the church for personal gain.
The same tendencies are seen around the world today. The Church is flourishing and multiplying in countries where it is illegal to worship Jesus Christ and proclaim His name. The underground, persecuted church is alive and well, putting us free men to shame in devotion.
Our post-Christian, technological, narcissistic society is now employing a different type of persecution: An intellectual assault. This is not a new phenomenon. It started from the very day Jesus arose from the dead, when the religious officials spread the rumor that the disciples had taken Jesus’ body (Matt 28.11-15). Rumors and lies have been spread and believed with the intent of causing people to disbelieve Christianity and its claims.
The ruling church, when run by nominal Christians and those seeking power, also made extra biblical claims and erroneously denied what is now known as scientific fact. Galileo, the Father of modern Science was arrested and sentenced to house arrest for his scientific discovery and theory that the Earth revolved around the sun and not vice-versa in the 17th century.
But amidst the philosophical questioning of the minority throughout the ages, religion and belief in the Spiritual and supernatural maintained the majority persuasion. Thought processes post-industrial revolution have led to a new, post-Christian mindset in much of Western Europe and is rapidly embracing the United States. Atheism is also dominant in Communist countries, and societies where dictators rule with severe authority. It is in the midst of this different cultural setting that the Church is experiencing a new and intensified intellectual assault. How can we believe that Jesus truly lived, died and was resurrected if it cannot be empirically tested and proven?
Will the Church survive this assault?
I believe wholeheartedly that it will. Many consider Christianity a crutch for uneducated or emotionally weak people. Educated people would never believe such a silly myth, would they? Emotionally mature people do not need anything outside of themselves to get through the trials of this life, right?
It is on this very foundation and assumption that many have set out to disprove Christianity historically, empirically, logically – and in the process have come to know and understand Jesus Christ as Truth and as salvation.
No historical occurrence can be tested scientifically. The scientific method requires testability and repeatability. Every historical fact that we trust and believe is based on penmen of the day recording the events. How do you know Christopher Columbus lived and sailed the Ocean Blue in 1942? With no known authentic portraits of him, we rely on his writings. But documentation is so limited that historians cannot even agree on where he was from.
Thus we encounter the conversation of historical reliability. All who have set out to determine the accuracy of the Bible have found that it is the most well preserved, widely distributed and most produced book in antiquity. Historically speaking, if you believe anything pre-industrial revolution, but not the historical accuracy of the Scripture, you are committing intellectual suicide.
And to deny the supernatural in any form is to deny much of life, even today. There are occurrences all around us that simply cannot be explained. Perhaps science will embrace some of these events as we continue to deepen and broaden our scientific understanding and knowledge, but without the spiritual nature of our souls there is no meaning of life. If we are just reasoning animals who cease to exist when we die, there is no foundation for morality, no purpose and no good and evil.
And we all, even if we claim to be atheists, function with the understanding and conviction of good and evil.
If you are not an historian but want to understand more deeply the research that has been done on these fronts, read “More than a Carpenter” by Josh McDowell, or “The Case for Christ” by Lee Strobel. Both men set out to disprove the claims of Christianity.
And it is by people, just like this, who research personally at the deepest levels that exemplify the historical accuracy of the faith.
Lastly, with the psychological movement of today making it normal for people to have therapists and forcing tolerance – Westerners are finding it nearly impossible to take any stand. We no longer may claim a belief or absolute truth in any form. And thus Christianity is proving itself to no not be a crutch for the weak, as it takes conviction and assurance to take a stand.
I believe that as time marches on, historians will look back and see that the intellectual and scientific assault of the 21st century will cause the church to grow, just as all other forms of persecution have.
Seek Truth. Find Truth. And cling to it.
“If you continue in My word, then you are truly disciples of Mine; and you will know the truth, and the truth will make you free.”