I have been reading Reza Aslan’s Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth and have found a tremendous amount of material that I disagreed with. While I will address Aslan’s work in a future post, I wanted to offer a thought I had while reading his thoughtful book.
What is more damaging to the Christian faith: a book aimed at knocking out the divinity of Christ or a pseudo-Christian work like Your Best Life Now by Joel Osteen?
Think it over for a second and I’ll give my opinion.
It is definitely the latter. Before you throw your tomes at me, let me unpack my bombastic statement.
Christianity in History
Historically speaking, Christianity grew and flourished in a hostile environment. Amid the religiously diverse environment of the Roman Empire, Christianity stood squarely as monotheistic, evangelistic, and Trinitarian. It spread across social categories rather quickly, even if persecution ran rampant across several different leadership regimes. Both Jew and Gentile alike attacked the Christian faith from the first century on; however, it withstood the storm.
Christianity in Debate
Whether it was rooted in the Enlightenment or in secular Communist regimes, intellectual questions have not and will not decimate the Church. For every skeptical voice, there are able statesmen and women who can answer the charges (For example, NT Wright’s work easily handles the issues raised by Aslan).
On the other hand, the Church from its infancy on has been susceptible to the allure of false teaching from within. I distinctly recall the moment when I realized this. I was in my New Testament Survey class at Vanguard University when I was confronted with the textual truth that many of the letters in the NT were addressed to confront the false beliefs creeping into the Early Church. Racial tension, gnosticism, abuse, and so many other terrible things poisoned various churches across the Mediterranean. To put it differently, the churches died of a thousand internal cuts instead of one major assault.
Danger of Pseudo-Christianity
Pseudo-Christian works will come along arguing for material blessing if we only follow Jesus [and pay the author millions of dollars]. They will come along revealing expanded narration of near-death experiences when all we need for salvation can be found in Scripture alone. False teachers and snake oil salesmen alike will come along and tell you that you have to do more, be more, try harder, and put on a good show in order to earn good feelings.
I will gladly prefer the Church to be bombarded with New Atheists, ex-fundamentalists, skeptics, and angry comedians instead of the rampant pseudo-Christian works that are passed off as orthodox. Again I’ll say: show me a challenge to the deity of Christ and take away the hopeless work of televangelists! The latter category enslaves the people of Christ in order to add one more cheap car to an already crowded garage.