You Stole that from Us
I’ve been working through Larry Hurtado’s Destroyer of the Gods with great appreciation. Here’s the wonderful way he describes his aim:
The very features of early Christianity that made it odd and objectionable in the ancient Roman setting have become now unquestioned assumptions about religion in much of the modern world. But we likely do not realize how unusual, even off, these notions once were, and are still, the the larger context of human history. (Kindle location 129)
I’m not terribly far long, so I don’t know exactly what features he will examine, but it coordinates well with a sermon series idea I have been playing around with, called “You Stole that From Us.” The basic gist is that many of the assumptions we moderns hold to be self evident are actually borrowed from Christianity; moreover, thought they are now properly basic ideals, they were radical and world-changing in their own time.
The idea that all people are created equal, that any human life is valuable, that love conquers evil, that humility is a virtue, that selfless charity is honorable–these ideas are not the invention of modern liberal philosophers, nor are they universal values that cut across social and cultural boundaries. On the contrary, they are historically Christian in their origin. Even more specifically, they owe their philosophical and moral logic to the pattern of humiliation and exaltation that we find at the heart of the Christian religion in Christ’s death and resurrection. You stole that from us!
There’s an apologetic point to be made here, in addition to an historical one. Our culture wants to hold on to these ideals while at the same time ignoring their historical origin and philosophical warrant in the Christian religion. That won’t work. Take “all people are equal,” for example. That ethic simply does not work without the theology of creation and eschatology that we find in Scripture. It doesn’t work within materialist evolutionary philosophy. If God hasn’t made us equal, and if he doesn’t judge us impartially, then we are not, in point of fact, equal; rather, we are simply pretending that we are equal for the sake of social convenience.
That’s one example, and it needs some filling out, but you get the idea. Sadly, though, my preaching schedule will not permit such a series in the near future. So perhaps in the meantime it will make for a good Blog series. Look for it in the weeks to come!