From my bible study with Chinese people, the question came up about the connection Christianity had with the West being technologically prosperous and richly multicultural. It’s understood that God’s plan is to unify the world, but the world tends to fight each other, using religion.
I really love sharing Christianity with people from non-Christian countries, because they
don’t know better when I come across as weird have such fresh eyes and perspectives. They ask such wonderful questions that really make you think from a different perspective. This is so refreshing when I spend so much time studying deeply controversial topics such as the end of the age, creation vs. evolutionism, or judgement vs. mercy. We live in amazing times, where we can reach God’s word and love into any country, bypassing government, and cultural restrictions. I really look forward to potentially being able to share with people in Iran as easily as those in my own city. For people in countries where Christianity is uncommon, it’s a wonderful opportunity to learn about Christianity, and also to practice English. It’s so simple, that anyone can do it. Just reach out to your foreign friends and offer to read the Bible with them and explain things and answer questions along the way. You don’t have to prepare much – just be open to questions and let the conversation evolve. The plan is to read Luke, Acts, Genesis, and Exodus. This covers the foundation of Biblical history. It’ll probably take a few years, but that’s what discipleship is all about.
It’s remarkable that someone who’s grown up with atheism sees that other parts of the world seem to be prospering because of their different beliefs. It’s hard for them to understand why westerners would turn away from God. This certainly makes it easier to be real when westerners behave quite differently to Jesus’ teachings. It clearly demonstrates Biblical history of a people knowing God, but within a few generations totally rejecting godliness.
It’s very easy to answer such a question pridefully. We must remember that we’re all imperfect. We have the same human nature that drives us to take advantage of other people. I believe God has gifted each culture with strengths and weaknesses. It’s important to remember our roots. We were all together at Babel, then in our rebellion, God split us up by making our ancestral families speak different languages. From there, difficult times and loss of technologies have evolved our common memories towards mythology. The Chinese used to worship Shang Di – the creator God. At the temple of Heaven, their worship practices were very similar to what’s prescribed by Moses in the Bible. It was much later that Buddhism and Taoism dominated their culture with new ideas.
China has been a technological giant, inventing paper, the compass, gunpowder, and printing. I think their most important invention is pasta, which the Italians stole! 😉 But over the last 500 years, Europe seems to have left the rest of the world behind as Christianity recovered from the dark ages. And the Italians perfected lasagne.
During Europe’s dark ages, priests kept scriptures secret, believing the common person to be too stupid to understand it. The Bible was studied in Greek, Hebrew, and Latin, requiring a university degree to begin to understand it. There was much corruption throughout the church, teaching all sorts of traditions as being from God, and profiteering greatly from controlled misinformation. Around 600 years ago, the printing press was invented, which allowed literature to be produced affordably. The Latin Gutenberg Bible was one of the first books printed. Around 500 years ago, priests such as Martin Luther started to translate the Bible into our native languages, and argued against religious dogma using Biblical evidence. As everyday people studied scriptures for themselves, they learned the practice of scrutinizing information and questioning the world around them. This introduced a golden age of scientific discovery, with people like Sir Isaac Newton, who was just as much a Christian philosopher as he was a professor of physics. A list of Christian scientists around this time, reads as a who’s who of scientific pioneers: Galileo, Pascal, Boyle, Newton and Kepler.
Since then, Europe has had its ups and downs with godliness. As Countries have forgotten God they have fallen in morals, followed by a fall in influence and prosperity. Then as the common people become desperate, the remnant of the church prays and great revivals restore the country to godliness, which flows on to prosperity. From a distance, Europe generally appears to be Christian. A closer look reveals a continual struggle between godliness and worldliness – the same struggle that we each experience in our own lives. Some people continue to try to be godly, and others can’t be bothered with a disciplined life and just want to enjoy themselves. But they don’t actually find greater satisfaction – there’s always that something missing, which only God can satisfy.
Christianity is unique as a religion because it presents a very detailed history, which can be tested, and has never been proven wrong. Isn’t this the core of the scientific method? I can guarantee the truth of the Bible because no claims against it have withstood scrutiny and the test of time. They are either testing the wrong thing or looking in the wrong place or the wrong time. Other religions either don’t make testable claims or their claims fail even the most basic scrutiny. Islam borrows a lot from the Bible but claims the death and resurrection of Jesus never happened. Judaism also rejects Jesus’ resurrection, although it was foretold by their prophets. But the death and resurrection of Jesus withstand every test that can be applied to a forensic investigation. Core to the Bible is a multitude of eyewitnesses. Millions of Jews experienced the Exodus and heard God thunder the ten commandments from the mountain. Thousands of people were healed by Jesus as witnessed by tens of thousands. Over 500 witnessed Jesus being alive after his death. Other religions and sects are limited to private revelation that cannot be verified forensically.
The Bible is built upon records of historical events. Through these we learn valuable life lessons and we understand the nature of God. These events include the description of supernatural acts, whose impact can be tested. For example, Noah’s flood covered the entire world. We find in museums across the world, the fossilized remains of all kinds of animals, found all over the world, mostly buried by flood. We find shellfish fossils in the highest mountains, and geological formations similar to shapes produced by the outgoing tide on a beach. The claims of the Bible are consistent with ancient memory and historic records, whereas the claims of evolutionism defiantly dismiss such evidence, as well as scientific laws. Eventually you need an infinite originator to appease an infinite question of what came before.
The Bible promotes science
Since the Bible is rooted in real observations, it nurtures an investigative mindset.
Proverbs 25:2 It is the glory of God to conceal a matter; to search out a matter is the glory of kings.
The Bible observes various scientific phenomena, such as the hydraulic cycle.
Job 36:27 ‘He draws up the drops of water, which distil as rain to the streams 28the clouds pour down their moisture and abundant showers fall on mankind.
The Bible also encourages critical thinking.
Acts 17:11 Now the Berean Jews were of more noble character than those in Thessalonica, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.
Following God brings blessings, rejecting him brings a curse
In Deuteronomy 28, we read how God blesses those who obey his commands and curses those who rebel against him. Churches are full of stories where a few generations ago a poor person became a Christian. By following the teachings of the Bible, they abandoned practices which caused poverty, such as spending their wages getting drunk. And they adopted disciplines for working diligently and studying – both the Bible and other things. These new Christians taught their children good disciplines, which led to a good education and within a few generations they became prosperous. Today, we see the opposite effect. Marriages split up and life becomes so complicated, it’s difficult to maintain good disciplines. Kids grow up without a balanced parentage and lack the example of a marriage between complementary partners. Something like 80% of people in prisons lack a good father figure. We see a general abandonment of the facts recorded in the Bible, which leads to rejecting Biblical morality.
Romans 1:28 Furthermore, just as they did not think it worth while to retain the knowledge of God, so God gave them over to a depraved mind, so that they do what ought not to be done. 29They have become filled with every kind of wickedness, evil, greed and depravity. They are full of envy, murder, strife, deceit and malice. They are gossips, 30slanderers, God-haters, insolent, arrogant and boastful; they invent ways of doing evil; they disobey their parents; 31they have no understanding, no fidelity, no love, no mercy. 32Although they know God’s righteous decree that those who do such things deserve death, they not only continue to do these very things but also approve of those who practise them.
When people don’t want to know God, he allows their lust for pleasure to control them. Over a few generations, forgetting God leads to tolerance, then experimentation, then indulgence, then intolerance of godliness and celebration of those more wicked than one’s self. This leads people to be stupid, rebelling against authorities, being unfaithful, hateful, and prejudiced.
Christianity is multicultural
The birth of the church is an incredible event. After Jesus death, resurrection and return to Heaven, we read in Acts 2 that a bunch of his disciples were hiding from the authorities. Suddenly they were filled with God’s power through the Holy Spirit and they bubbled out onto the streets in chaotic excitement. People from all over the world heard them preaching in their native languages. They were amazed to realize these Jews were generally not well educated. From the birth of the church, Christianity has been multicultural. Today, the Bible is the most translated book ever.
Just before Jesus left this world
Matthew 28:18 Jesus came to them and said, ‘All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. 19Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.’
It follows that Christians intently build relationships with foreigners. This follows from earlier teachings to always look after widows, orphans, and foreigners among you. The Bible warns that those who take advantage of the poor will face God’s punishment. So as Christianity promotes prosperity, foreigners are attracted to a better life, and are more likely to be integrated than in non-Christian cultures.
But this is just a weak reflection of what Heaven will be like.
Matthew 8:11 I say to you that many will come from the east and the west, and will take their places at the feast with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in the kingdom of heaven.
Jesus brings unity and peace, but religion brings war
This is an interesting contradiction. The Bible teaches to love your neighbour and your enemy, to repay evil with good, and forgive others so that you might find forgiveness. Why then do religions, including Christianity bring so much trouble?
Christians often talk about religion vs. relationship. The Bible teaches about having an intimate relationship with God. However, people generally find this too intense. When God thundered the Ten Commandments to the Jews, they demanded that Moses not let God speak to them directly, but Moses should mediate between God and them. People prefer to have a nice tidy set of rules to follow, rather than relate directly to God. This is human nature. This is religion. Rules bring reassurance and unity. But if others have different rules, then they’re bad. Rules include the punishment of those who reject the rules we’ve understood. Particularly during the dark ages, because the Bible was inaccessible to most, and even the priests found it difficult to read. People followed more what others taught, following human traditions, rather than following the Bible. Church leadership seemed more focused on maintaining power than following God. The crusades are infamous for Muslims and Jews and eastern Christians being abused and killed by armies who’d come in the name of Jesus.
Following the Bible leads to prosperity, but rejecting it leads to poverty, maybe over a few generations. Christianity is fundamentally multicultural, so “Christian” nations tend to be multicultural. Religion brings war, but a relationship with Jesus is the foundation of peace – first within one’s self, then with those around us.
I pray that God would bless you as you seek him. Thanks for the wonderful question.