Samuel Gregg of the Acton Institute wrote a great piece yesterday entitled Europe, Immigration, and Merkel’s Christian Values. In it, he sets out the argument made by the German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, regarding the proper response to the influence of Islam within Europe.
Her argument, if I may summarise it yet further, is as follows:
- Islam is not a threat but a challenge
- The challenge is to our own identity
- The response is a firmer foundation in Christianity
- Cohesion then can be built around reflection on Judeo-Christian tradition
It is true to say that unless you know what values you hold you are unable to influence others with those values or reject and oppose contrary values. It’s also true to say that a nation which refuses to pin down its values will have great difficulty being able to know what they are. Yet, for all the merit her suggestion has, it is fundamentally and fatally flawed.
As part of this theme, she spoke at her party conference in Karlsruhe about the Christian view of mankind. The Christian view of mankind is certainly important, but I wonder quite what her speechwriters thought they were implying by the phrase.
Just what is the Christian view of mankind?
Well, St. Paul summarises it brilliantly in his letter to the Romans, a short extract of which is below:
None is righteous, no, not one;
no one understands;
no one seeks for God.
All have turned aside; together they have become worthless;
no one does good,
not even one.
Their throat is an open grave;
they use their tongues to deceive.
Again, we read even as early as Genesis 6:5-6:
The LORD saw that the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intention of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually.
And the LORD was sorry that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him to his heart.
The Christian view of mankind is that we are all desperately wicked sinners, each one of us under the sentence of death, judgment and eternal condemnation.
As Ephesians puts it:
And you were dead in the trespasses and sins in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience— among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.
As regards those who deny Christianity, the Bible declares they are without excuse for their disbelief and hence subject to God’s wrath. It really puts a different perspective on the Christian view of mankind to realise that every single one of those of other religions and those of no religion are under God’s judgment and destined for eternal condemnation.
For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth.
For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse.
Now, I agree entirely with Angela Merkel if she really means what she said – if she means that we need to start using the Christian view of mankind: the view of man as lost, dead, wicked, unable to repent or turn back to God, and destined for hell.
However, I doubt this is what she has in mind. I doubt it because of the response she calls for. She calls for a return to promoting “Judeo-Christian values” in society. Such an act will not in any way solve the terrible problem of the mankind. You can cultivate and promote as many “Judeo-Christian values” as you like, but you will still remain a depraved sinful person, falling short of the Glory of God and subject to his wrath. The message Christianity has for the world is not the promotion of “Judeo-Christian values”. The work of a Christian is not to change the value system of the living dead.
The real message of Christianity
The message Christianity has for the world is entirely different. It is a message not of what we need to do but a message of what God has already done. It is the gospel message of the death of Jesus Christ, the Son of God, who was sent to die on the cross for our sins – sent as a sacrifice to turn away the wrath of God, bearing our sins and redeeming mankind from slavery to sin and death.
Notice how St. Paul describes the matter of first importance – what that message is which he preached, and the power of that message to save:
1 Corinthians 1:1-5
Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.
For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.
Without this message of the bloody cross on which Jesus died for us there is no Christianity. The death of Christ for our sins is not an optional extra – it is the only message which actually addresses the Christian view of mankind. If the cross is missing, it is not Christian but merely Biblically-inspired moralism.
I suspect Angela Merkel knows better than this, and I am inclined to think it the work of a speechwriter. I suspect she does know that the solution to the growth of Islam and indeed secularism is the Gospel, the Gospel, and the Gospel. It is only through the Gospel that man can be saved – and the real ‘problem’ of Islam is not the values that Islam brings but the fact that so many Muslims are perishing having never even heard the Gospel of the saving work of Christ on the cross.
As it is written:
1 Corinthians 1:17-18
For Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power. For the word of the cross is folly to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.
The danger of ‘forgetting’ the cross
There is another thing about which I need to warn. What is being done here in pushing ‘Christian values’ apart from the cross of Christ is actually very dangerous and deeply harmful. It’s not a neutral activity which helps in a vague way even if it leaves the main message of Christianity untouched. What happens when Christians promote ‘Christian values’ without the cross of Christ is that it leads many to believe themselves in good standing before God by keeping to a set of values and rules, when they are actually no closer to salvation than the devil himself. In so much as one encourages and condones the reduction of Christianity to a cross-less moral law, one implicitly denies the saving work of Christ by showing the world that to be a Christian is not to be saved by faith in Christ, but merely to live in a certain way. It doesn’t matter whether you have “Christian values” , “secular values” or “Muslim values” if you remain dead in your trespasses and sins and are destined for hell!
It should be clear by now that pushing “Christian values” in a society which is here today and gone tomorrow isn’t somehow more important than saving people from hell for all eternity. To do so in the name of Christ is akin to giving a child a snake when he asks for an egg: not just neutral but dangerous, deceptive and a gross abuse of trust.
It should also be clear by now that the message of Christianity is not at all palatable to Muslims or secularists. It is not even partly compatible. It is not a basis upon which they can build a society together. It is not something they can integrate into. True Christianity is enormously and intolerably offensive to Muslims and secularists – and if it isn’t – then what’s being taught or practiced is not Christianity.
1 Corinthians 1:22-24
For Jews demand signs and Greeks seek wisdom, but we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God.