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Christianity March12AOE

Christianity March12AOE

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Published by OCCAMediaOxfordUK

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Published by: OCCAMediaOxfordUK on Aug 15, 2012
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In the last few weeks God has been in the news a lot. From Christianprayers in Council meetings, to statements from the highest echelonsof the Royal family and the Government, discussion of the place of God and in particular the role of Christianity in Britain today hasbeen in the news on a daily basis. T
he Archbishop of Canterbury’s
 debate with Professor Richard Dawkins in Oxford
on God’s existence
captured the twittersphere as Dawkins was quoted as being agnosticabout belief in God. It seems it is now acceptable to discuss theChristian faith and belief in God in public. From radio studios to theschool gate I have enjoyed being a part of this. The role of God inBritain is being discussed up and down the country in government,education, legislation and community life
in a way that I can’t 
remember in recent history.This is a huge opportunity. The secularists tell us that nothing good
comes from religion but isn’t 
it actually the case that it is ourChristian heritage that actually provides us with a free and opensociety
encouraging people to question and reason for themselves?For many people religious faith is a process, a journey of discovery onthe basis of evidence, reason and personal experience. Christianityhas provided the foundation in Britain for an open and tolerant society. It was the great Christian leader Augustine who coined thephrase
tolerare malus
he claimed that political structure influencedby the Christian faith must tolerate that which it disagreed with andperceived as wrong for the greater good of freedom.Freedom and tolerance of others arise from a worldview
a set of values and beliefs that are conducive to liberty, they do not comeabout by random chance. In Britain this foundation or worldview hasundeniably been the Christian faith. But this seems to fly in the faceof the claims made by leading atheists that belief in God is delusionaland oppressive and that people in Britain are not 
religiousanyway. Invoking what has come to be known by sociologists as thesecularization thesis they tell us that modern countries eventuallyturn their back on spiritual belief. That as people progress theybecome less religious.However the myth of secularization has plainly not panned out and it has been soundly debunked within academia. The leading sociologist Mary Douglas announced the death of the secularization theory in1982
in an essay that began with the words, “Events have takenreligious studies by surprise.”
Even prominent proponents of 
secularization like sociologist Peter Berger have now abandoned it since the world is plainly becoming more religious not less.So Is Britain still a Christian country?Our most profound laws and rights, and the concept of the dignity of the human person expounded in the Magna Carta arise from aChris
tian vision and assume God’s existence. Our
greatest socialreform movements from the abolition of the slave trade to the reformof child labour laws, and many other justice movements are thebequest of our Christian heritage as a country. Britain has benefittedso much in our history from Christianity
and this continues today aswe see the values of a tolerant society envisaged by St Augustinewhere Rowan Williams and Richard Dawkins can debate without fearof reprisals. Does everyone in Britain agree with the central tenets of the Christian faith? No of course not, but does our Christian heritagemake a way for peace, courteous debate, tolerance, inclusion andfreedom?
I believe it does.But as Christians going about our every day lives, are we able tospeak confidently and warmly about the person of Christ who hasinspired so much that is good about our society? Or are we silencedby a fear of seeming intellectually unsophisticated? Last month I wasprivileged to be leading a university mission in the north of England.It was freezing cold and we were holding a series of events forstudents in a marquee in the snow. This particular university isknown for its nightlife and on the surface it seemed under thecircumstances to be a very unlikely place for people to be turning toChrist in any significant number. My team and I were so humbled tosee over 40 students make professions of faith in Christ for the first time and 139 signed up asking to find out more about the Christianfaith.As people up and down the country discuss belief in God and thenewspapers keep running stories about Christianity we are seeing agreater openness to speak about the gospel in Britain. Who knowsthis may be a window that is open for a few weeks or months, or it may be a more significant change. Either way, are we ready andwilling to take the opportunities to speak of Christ when they come?

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