My Facebook and Twitter feeds are blowing up with Christians who are decolonizing, deconstructing, rethinking, and reforming their Christianity because of the abuses they have experienced from Christians and in churches. I understand. Christian history is rife with abuse. Justifications of horrific practices done in the name of Jesus—from the crusades to slavery, from the abuse of women to the spiritual abuse of prosperity preachers who demand obedience without question—distort Christianity are still with us.
A little searching or even scrolling through Facebook or Twitter will reveal Christians supporting slavery, defending men who have used their position in ministry to assault and rape women, and justifying nationalist brands of Christianity whose Jesus is portrayed as a participant in the American Revolution with a rifle in hand and a flag draped over his back. I understand people who say, “That’s not my Jesus.” That is also not my Jesus. I understand the desire to reevaluate and reform Christianity. Evangelical Christianity was birthed out of a movement in the 16th century to reform the Catholic Church.
In every age, Christians need to ask if the faith they received is consistent with Jesus and the teachings of Scripture. This questioning must arise from a clear foundation of who Jesus is, what Jesus accomplished, and the apostolic testimony contained in the Scriptures. The apostolic testimony is essential to our faith. It’s the foundation. Without it, according to Michael Horton, any attempt to salvage Christianity as moral teaching—no matter how noble the cause or how just the endeavor—is a waste of time.
There is no consolation prize for believers if Christ is not the risen Lord. As Paul also said in 1 Corinthians 15, “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead…And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still dead in your sins. Then those who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost” (vv.14–18). But even if it turns out that Jesus wasn’t raised, haven’t we lived a happier and more fulfilling life? Paul answers, “If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people the most to be pitied” (v. 19).
To dismiss the Christian claim with a shrug is intellectually irresponsible as well as personally catastrophic. The gospel is not a philosophy that might be true regardless of whether Jesus rose from the dead. It’s not a useful therapy for those who need a bit of inspiration and moral direction in a crazy world. In short, Paul says that religion is a waste of time if Jesus is not raised. “If the dead are not raised, ‘Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die’” (v. 32). The options are stark. Jesus is either the Lord, or he is a lair or lunatic. (Michael Horton Core Christianity: Finding Yourself in God’s Story, 34.)
It’s true that Christians are sinners who have committed atrocities in the name of Christ. And it’s also true that any Christianity that justifies sin, either personal or systemic, is deeply flawed and needs reformation. But if after your decolonizing and reforming, if you have nothing left of the historical Jesus who died and rose, the apostle Paul says that your faith is worthless, and you might as well enjoy your short life.