Objections to Christianity: “The Church is Responsible for So Much Injustice”

This is part four in a seven-part series on interacting with objections many have to the Christian faith.  It’s based on the first half of Tim Keller’s book “Reason for God.”  In this post, we take a look at the claim that the church is responsible for a great deal of injustice.  More specifically, this objection takes three major forms, all related to Christians’ bad behavior that has undermined Christianity’s plausibility:

  • Christians’ glaring character flaws – if Christianity is true, why are so many non-Christians living better lives?
  • War and violence – why has the institutional church supported war and injustice over the years?
  • Fanaticism – even if Christianity is true, why would we want to associate with people who are smug and self-righteous? (page 53 in Reason for God)

Let’s take a quick look at Keller’s response to each of these:

  • Christians’ glaring character flaws – some wonder why many Christians, especially those in leadership, have serious character flaws while many non-Christians are living morally superior lives.  In response, the bible teaches (see James 1:17) that God has freely given gifts of beauty, skill, wisdom and talent across all of humanity, regardless of race, gender, and so on to make the world richer and fuller (“common grace”).  Without making excuses, the bible is also brutally honest about the character flaws of believers such as Jacob, David and Peter, so we should expect Christians – like everyone else – to be a ‘mixed bag’ of good and bad.  Finally, the bible teaches that becoming like God is a process (“sanctification”).  If someone from a difficult background becomes a Christian, after some time he or she may still be ‘further behind’ a secular person whose background is more stable or upstanding.
  • The churches’ involvement in war and violence – this version of the objection recognizes that the institutional church has been involved in, supported, or, at least ignored, various forms of violence.  This seems to discredit Christianity.  However, while the church has wrongfully done all these things and it cannot be excused, it’s also true that secular governments (see 20th century Communist Russia, China and Cambodia) have done the same to their own people.  As a result, we have to conclude that there exists within the human race a violent impulse so deep that it finds expression regardless of a society’s beliefs.  So, we can’t refute a society’s beliefs solely on the presence of violence we find there.  At the same time, Christians have often been at the forefront of recognizing injustice as evil and correcting it (see Wilberforce and the end of the British slave trade, and Martin Luther King, Jr. and the American Civil Rights Movement).
  • Fanaticism – secularists have noted the obnoxious, self-righteous attitude that some Christians possess.  It appears that they are overly “into” their faith and take it way too seriously.  In reality, though, they don’t take it seriously enough!  If they did, they would be just as passionate about humility, love and forgiveness as defending what is true.  The bible itself – especially Jesus and the Prophets (see Isaiah 58:2-7; Matthew 21:31) roundly criticizes those who profess to follow God but do so with a spirit of arrogance and pride that leads to power plays over God and others.  So, to abandon Christianity would be to lose some of our best resources for critiquing the problem of fanaticism.

In a nutshell, the way to deal with this objection is to recognize that Christianity itself denounces injustice committed in its name and provides a remedy through the Person of Jesus, who died unjustly to rescue us from our struggles in this area.

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About Bryan Stoudt

On my personal website (bryanstoudt.com), I help Christians follow Jesus in a noisy, broken world. I also have the privilege of helping Philadelphia's healthcare students and professionals do this as Area Director for the Christian Medical & Dental Associations (CMDA). More information at cmdaphiladelphia.org. On a personal note, I'm fortunate to be married to my wonderful wife, Sharon. Together, we have four fantastic children. In my spare time, I enjoy roasting coffee, running, reading and learning foreign languages.
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