We often hear the belief in God is declining, that Christianity is something which belongs in the 1950s and science has replaced faith today.
Online comment threads decry religion as only useful before humans evolved and now our society has grown out of it.
But has the world really moved on?
Around the world, about 2.3 billion people will put their hands up to say they are Christian but that’s more nominal than anything, half of all Australians say they’re “Christian” but what does it mean?
If we asked how many people went to church last week globally, the number would be around 1.1 billion.
Globally there is massive growth in Christianity in the south being South America, Africa, and Asia. It’s not particularly newsworthy in Western media and perhaps even shocking to many but Christianity is booming.
But let’s look at Australia, has our country moved on?
Census after census, the number of people putting ‘No Religion’ is increasing and in 2016 it was 30% going up from 22% yet 52% of Australians identified as “Christian” declining from 88% in 1966.
While most people think Christianity’s decline in Australia is the growing belief in science, the biggest factor is how wealthy Australians have become.
As we’ve become richer, we have come to believe in the pride of self-gratification and reduced our dependency on God. The world may not have moved on but Australia seems to be moving on to say the least.
Just because Australia has grown in privilege and status doesn’t mean we should abscond from the deep question of truth.
This perhaps is one of the most important question of life and one which was asked by a famous Roman in a position of power. Pilate asked a question everyone alive has probably thought of at least once, “what truth is?”
We could look at what various philosophers have theorised about truth, but let’s go with the Oxford dictionary. Truth is defined as something “which is true or in accordance with fact or reality”.
For many Australians, the question of spirituality is reduced into a mere thought of what just feels right for me now.
Not too long ago, there was a tee-shirt which started to make its way into Sunday School showing Jesus sitting among Batman, Iron Man, Captain America, Hulk, The Flash, Superman and Spiderman. Jesus is saying “and that’s how I saved the world.”
Notice Jesus is placed on the same level as all the fictitious superheroes?
Modern Australian Spirituality
Modern Australian spirituality and egalitarianism resembles something like this tee-shirt meaning we can just pick and choose one of the superheroes and everything will be okay. It’s then no surprise around 60,000 Australians identified their religion as Jedi in the last census.
If we think about spiritual things in this way, then it’s easy to just say I feel like superman today and maybe tomorrow I’ll like Jesus or vice versa.
The truth claims of Christianity is not just based on the private revelations to religious leaders but based on things which happened publicly in a time and place we know.
Jesus and Christianity are anchored in history and recounted by many. While today’s sceptics of Christianity may view using the Bible to support Jesus is an unprovable circular argument, it should be noted the Gospels stand also as an excellent historical collection of evidence for Jesus.
An example is Luke, a doctor in the New Testament but a good historian who travelled with the apostle Paul. At the start of Luke’s gospel account of Jesus, he makes it abundantly clear why he has written the things down and, in the way, he has done so.
Luke chapter 1 begins with, “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.
“Since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.”
We know where and when Jesus’ life happened including his birth, life, death, and resurrection. Beyond the Gospels itself as a collection of evidence for the existence of Jesus, we have the Jewish historian Josephus (who wasn’t a Christian) and others who also wrote many things about the times which fits in well with the New Testament.
John’s gospel written separately to that of Luke telling us of the personal nature of the truth of Jesus. When Jesus was before Pilate and was asked whether he was the King of the Jews, Jesus replied, “…the reason I was born and came into the world is to testify to the truth. Everyone on the side of truth listens to me.” (John chapter 18 verse 37).
The word ‘testify’ is the same word we get ‘witness’ and ‘martyr’ from. It gets even more personal than this, with Jesus’ disciples asking him the way to God. Jesus’ famous reply as recorded in John chapter 14 verse 6 is, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.”
The New Testament claims everything recorded about Jesus is objectively true. Whether it be time, place or historical events can be publicly assessed, it’s as personal as God’s revelation and call to trust Him. But it’s also very much personal in terms of how we respond to this message.
Today our society’s response to the Christian faith is often one of not merely scepticism of faith of whether it is true or false but rather “I don’t like it,” or “it’s offensive.”
The Gospel offends our pride as we are reminded of our inability to save us from ourselves. The Gospel emphasises the need of a Saviour as we dwell among our fallen world with a sinful nature.
Jesus offers us the promise of knowing God and forgiveness for eternal life. He also says the way to get what he promises is to accept Him as Lord and master, and to live with Him as the ruler of our lives.
People often don’t like that.
So, seeing the truth is to humble yourself before God which also means we put Jesus ahead of our mindset of fulfillment through earthly wealth.
Let us not forget John chapter 7 verse 17 where Jesus says, “anyone who chooses to do the will of God will find out whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own.”
Australia as a nation, we ought to humble ourselves before God once again to become the Great South Land of the Holy Spirit and come to know His word.
Even though it seems the world has moved on in wealth in enabling Australians to run life our own way, we can find truth from Jesus because He is the only one who promises and delivers true community, hope, forgiveness and peace, confidence, and eternal life.
This article was first published at Christian Today Australia on Monday 7 June 2021.