The title of this post is based on a tweet I read from the Theos think tank. They seek to ‘inform the debate about the place of religion in society, challenging ill-informed thinking through… research, events and media comment.’
There was a recent lecture entitled ‘Between cross and crescent: the future of religion in the UK’. Ben Ryan, a researcher from Theos Think Tank gave the annual lecture at Kingston University on Faith and Spirituality. I followed some of the tweets from the event:
- ‘1960s and 70s: secularisation thesis dominant – Jesus would soon be on the scrap heap like Zeus’
- ‘Our Western context is the exception: religion is growing worldwide. Since 1970 Christianity has risen by 1 billion people’
- ‘We’re seeing transfer of nominalism. The automatic response to relig affiliation in 1980s was Anglican; today it is no religion’
- ‘Religion is moving frm Cross –Crescent. Future be defined by how Islam will develop in UK; & how we engage w collective amnesia’
- ‘Britain is a Christian country – in so far as contemporary Britain cannot be divorced from its Christian heritage’
- ‘Future of religion will be tied to development of Islam in UK. Islam will come define something about what it means be British’
- ‘In the move from Cross to Crescent, the Cross will not be thrown away’
There is a shift in religion in our society.
That is why I am thankful that Jesus Christ came into the world.
In Matthew 23, Jesus criticized the religious leaders of the day. Christ brought relationship, not religion.
In Christianity, God is the aggressor and man is the beneficiary (Romans 8:3). The Bible states clearly that there is nothing man can do to make himself right with God (Isaiah 53:6; 64:6; Romans 3:23; 6:23). According to Christianity, God did for us what we cannot do for ourselves (Colossians 2:13; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Our sin separates us from His presence, and sin must be punished (Romans 6:23; Matthew 10:28; 23:33). But, because God loves us, He took our punishment upon Himself. All we must do is accept God’s gift of salvation through faith (Ephesians 2:8–9; 2 Corinthians 5:21). Grace is God’s blessing on the undeserving.
The grace-based relationship between God and man is the foundation of Christianity and the antithesis of religion. Established religion was one of the staunchest opponents of Jesus during His earthly ministry. When God gave His Law to the Israelites, His desire was that they “love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). “Love” speaks of relationship.
Decades pass. Seasons change. Society shifts. Powers shift. Nations fall. Countries crumble. We live. We die. Nothing is certain. Security fails. War. Peace. Storms. Calm. Night. Day. Nothing is constant.
Where to go? Who to trust? Feeling uncertain. Nobody knows what will happen next.
Gun shots and explosions in Paris killing hundreds. Thousands of refugees seeking refuge. Explosions in Beirut.
Have we become immune to the headlines?
My heart aches. It weeps for the afflicted in the war-torn countries. It weeps for the innocent blood shed on the doorstep – just a trip across the water into France.
Everything changes. Constantly.
Except for God.
‘Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows.’ James 1:17
‘Jesus Christ is the same yesterday and today and forever.’ Hebrews 13:8
In our fragile and uncertain world, we have a loving God who seeks relationship with each of us. He is our refuge and strength. When we accept His love for us, demonstrated by His Son Jesus Christ who became a sinless sacrifice for us, we are free from the burdens of religion. We become children of God. And the good news is, our God never changes. He is the same yesterday, today and forever.