Friday, April 13, 2007

The New Crusaders

Christian bloggers in the US tend to think that the most important theological issues today revolve around the “Emergent” vs. “Modern/Evangelical” perceptions of the Gospel of Jesus Christ and its outworking in the Church today. Is the Church missional…attractional…or…is it…dangerous? As some theologians move to deconstruct entrenched hierarchies and creeds, another movement has arisen while we were looking elsewhere.

A front-page article by Andrew Higgins in yesterday’s Wall Street Journal, entitled “As Religious Strife Grows, Europe’s Atheists Seize Pulpit”, explores the rise of militant atheism in Europe. Although Europe’s churches have been in decline for years, the influx of adherents to Islam has made religion a growing issue. A dying religious brand of Christianity was not a threat, but a growing and more committed Muslim population is. That combination of religious ideology and a growing demand for political voice has brought the atheists out into the playing field.

France, in particular, has experienced both civil unrest because of Muslim discontent and a rise in what Higgins calls “zealous disbelief in God.” In fact, Michel Onfray, the French “high priest” of atheism, has written a book entitled, “Atheist Manifesto”. It is a best seller in France, Italy and Spain. In it, he suggests that “change is at hand and the time has come for a new order.” Since the meaning of “atheos” is “godless”, Mr. Onfray is opposed to any representation of God or a god, such as Allah, Buddha, or any other worshipped being.

The French are not the only ones promoting the new atheism.

Last month there was a public debate in London in which British atheists contended with defenders of the Christian faith. Tickets cost nearly $40 each, and the event sold out…with the atheists declared the victors.

What does this mean for Christians here in the US? Will we demonstrate classic American myopia and spend our days debating each other over denominational politics, definitions, and methodology? Will we even support our European brothers and sisters? Atheist thinking has undermined much of our culture and even much of the church. Will we wait for a declaration of war by American atheists before we realize that while we’ve been fighting among ourselves, there is a battle to be fought right outside the Church door?

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