“My religion is kindness.”
Is this quote talking about Christianity? Or Atheism? Or Tibetan Buddhism? It’s hard to say, because the quote doesn’t really say anything. It’s actually popularly attributed to the Dalai Lama (Tibetan Buddhism), but it could sum up an accurate description of a lot of what goes by the name “Christianity” today.
But true Christianity is based on the Bible. Not just on ethics.
During the early 1900s, liberal Christianity more or less rejected the authority of the Bible as the basis for faith and instead claimed to follow “Jesus alone” (Machen 65). Unfortunately, thanks in part to the liberalist-fundamentalist controversy, even many Evangelicals today are uncomfortable with claiming much more than “kindness.” To be honest, I have often shied away from referencing the Bible when talking in a public space. We are often afraid of being seen as narrow-minded, self-righteous, and dogmatic if we insist on the importance, inerrancy, and authority of the whole Bible.
And it’s not unlikely that we will be seen that way by the secular world. I just read an article published this week entitled, “Why Announcing ‘I’m a Christian’ is Seen by Many as a Microaggression.” The author essentially tells Christians to stop proclaiming their Christianity because they are “judging” everyone who is not a Christian and they are connecting themselves to the ‘oppressive colonial past’ of Christianity. She writes,
“There are truly great Christians guided by the dogma of love that Jesus preaches. The Christianity that Jesus taught is a beautiful thing. But so are a whole lot of other religions, dogmas, philosophies, and prescribed traditions” (Sue).
She wants Christians to follow the “dogma of love that Jesus preaches” and follow the “Christianity that Jesus taught.” Truly, Christians have sometimes been self-righteous jerks. It appears that she is admonishing Christians to strip down their Christianity to “love,” and that “love” is whatever modern culture defines it as — in other words, being politically correct and not offending anyone. But to say that Jesus only taught a “dogma of love” is to fall into the modernist error.
The Modernists exchanged God’s Word for human experience.
As Machen points out, for the liberal, “it is not Jesus, then, who is the real authority, but the modern principle by which the selection within Jesus’ recorded teaching has been made. Certain isolated ethical principles of the Sermon on the Mount are accepted, not at all because they are the teachings of Jesus, but because they agree with modern ideas” (66).
And when the Bible is rejected, and only “certain isolated ethical principles” of Jesus’ teaching are accepted, the only authority left is “individual experience” (Machen 67). Without the authority of the Bible, Christianity ceases to be Christianity, because in Christianity the whole salvation narrative is based on events that actually happened (Machen 60).
The beautiful thing is that the Bible is not just a rule book, but the gracious revelation of a God who loves us and has bridged the gap between God and man that we could never cross. “Dependence on a word of man would be slavish, but dependence on God’s word is life” (Machen 67). Let’s not lose that life. Yes, let us be people who love. Yes, let us seek justice and be winsome in our presentation of the Gospel. But let’s not exchange our solid foundation for something as shaky as human experience.
Machen, J. Gresham. Christianity and Liberalism. 1923. Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 2009.
Sue, Ricky. “Why Announcing “I’m a Christian” is Seen By Many as a Microaggression.” An Injustice! 17 Sept 2020. medium.com/an-injustice/why-announcing-im-a-christian-is-a-microaggression-f833cf594285