Today, it seems that many people are offended by everything and ashamed of nothing. And their rubbed-the-wrong-way attitude is typically accompanied by a hair trigger that goes off the instant something touches it.
This dynamic has created a walking-on-eggshells society and an anxiety in people who now don’t feel comfortable respectfully expressing themselves because they’re afraid of offending someone who then brings the cancel culture down on them.
While I personally try to follow the Apostle Paul’s admonition of “If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men” (Rom. 12:18), I find that I still irk the world from time to time. And when I do, it’s usually for one of three reasons.
Because I am a Christian
One reason I might offend you is simply for the general fact that I’m a Christian. That alone could be enough for you to have ill feelings toward me. Perhaps you’re of the same mind as atheist Sam Harris who said, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of either rape or religion, I would not hesitate to get rid of religion. I think more people are dying as a result of our religious myths than as a result of any other ideology.”
Harris’ point would be interesting if it were correct. In fact, the reverse is actually true and there’s plenty of proof to back up that assertion.
For example, read through Alvin Schmidt’s book, How Christianity Changed the World. The professor of sociology at Illinois College shows in page after page the central role Christianity has played in the development of hospitals, orphanages, science, music, education, literature, family values, women’s rights and more.
Or if you’re really feeling ambitious, tackle Kenneth Scott Latourette’s, seven-volume work A History of the Expansion of Christianity. The once professor of Church history at Yale University states this about the Christian faith:
“We have, and properly, had much to say about the effects of Christianity upon the collective life of communities, nations, and mankind as a whole. Here has been the most potent force which mankind has known for the dispelling of illiteracy, for the creation of schools, and for the emergence of new types of education…The universities, centers for pushing forward the boundaries of human knowledge, were at the outset largely Christian creations…. Music, architecture, painting, poetry, and philosophy have owed some of their greatest achievements to Christianity. Democracy, as it was known in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, was in large part the outgrowth of Christian teaching. The abolition of slavery was due chiefly to Christianity…. The most hopeful movements for the regulation of war, for the mitigation of the sufferings entailed by war, and for the eventual abolition of war owed their inception chiefly to the Christian faith. The nursing profession of the nineteenth century had the same origin, and the extension of Western methods of surgery and medicine too much of the non-Occidental world in that and the twentieth century was chiefly through the Christian missionary enterprise. The elevation of the status of women owed an incalculable debt to Christianity. Christian ideals made for monogamy and for a special kind of family life. No other single force has been so widely potent for the relief of suffering brought by famine and for the creation of hospitals and orphanages.”
As to the often-stated charge of religion historically being the number one cause for war, we have the work of Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history (up to 2004). They found that only 123 of history’s wars have a religious backbone, which means that 93% of all wars have been secular in nature. Of the 7% that were religious, 4% were attributed to Islam, leaving only 3% for all other religions including Christianity.
All that to say that I should not offend you simply because I’m a Christian.
Because I believe there is only one way to God
Maybe I offend you because, given that I am a Christian, I believe that faith in Jesus is the only way to God. Perhaps that conviction strikes you as being arrogant, narrow-minded, and intolerant and you agree with Gandhi’s statement: “The soul of religion is one, but it is encased in a multitude of forms.”
There are two important things to consider here. First, every religion is exclusivistic in its teachings, so Christianity is not alone in that regard. The poet Steve Turner humorously underscores this point in his poem, Creed, when he says: “We believe that all religions are basically the same, at least the one that we read was. They all believe in love and goodness. They only differ on matters of creation, sin, heaven, hell, God and salvation.”
Second, exclusivity is a daily life practice. Exclusivity is practiced in relationships, government, economics, medicine, mathematics, etc. In the same way it’s not intolerant to say that 2 + 2 = 4 or that there is only one medication in existence to cure an illness you have, it’s not unreasonable for a Christian to assert that Christ is the only way to Heaven.
That being true, my claim of salvation being found only in Christ should not offend you.
Because I believe the Bible’s moral pronouncements
Perhaps I’m offensive because I believe what the Bible says about moral issues. Whether the matter is truth itself, life inside the womb, sexual relations, gender or something else, you become angry when I say I respect the Bible’s opinion on the subject and instead you take the position of atheist Christopher Hitchens who remarked, “What do I care what some Bronze Age text says about ?”
But consider this: it’s one thing to condemn my Christian rationale for morality, but it’s quite another to intelligently (not emotionally) defend your own. Your moral epistemology must explain whether objective moral standards exist, and if so, from where do they come? Like C. S. Lewis wrote, “A man does not call a line crooked unless he has some idea of a straight line.”
Unless you have an unchanging source for moral standards and authority – and outside of God there is none – then ethics become emotive (e.g. I don’t like rape vs. rape is wrong) and a tool to be used by the loudest and most aggressive mob voices. That, to me, seems more offensive than reasons for holding to what the Bible teaches about morals.
Does Jesus offend you?
Jesus obviously founded Christianity and had the audacity to say, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me” (John 14:6). That’s pretty narrow-minded thinking.
And where the Bible’s moral teachings are concerned, Jesus said Scripture cannot be broken (John 10:35), that it is divinely authoritative (Matt. 4:1-10), imperishable (Matt. 24:35), is literal truth (John 17:17), and has ultimate supremacy (Matt. 15:6). Pretty heavy stuff for the rambunctious culture in which He lived.
Jesus also said, “Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me” (Luke 7:23). The Greek word for “offense” is skandalizó, from where we get our word ‘scandal’.
Jesus was enough of a scandal in His day to get Himself killed. That’s how aggressive offended people can get, and sadly, we’re seeing violence of a similar nature in our own day directed towards those with a Christian (or even vaguely conservative) worldview. If you think this is an overblown statement, read any monthly issue of the Voice of the Martyrs newsletter.
It’s my belief that, if I’m offensive, it’s not because Christianity is responsible for most of the ills in the world, or that it is exclusivistic, or that it has no good foundation for its moral positions. It’s because, if I’m reflecting Christ, I’m going to be odious to the world in the same way He was.
Paul states this fact plainly when he says, “For we are a fragrance of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing; to the one an aroma from death to death, to the other an aroma from life to life” (2 Cor. 2:15-16). About these verses, John MacArthur says, “To some, the message brings eternal life and ultimate glorification. To others, it is a stumbling stone of offense that brings eternal death.”
If I offend you, that most likely means you are outside the Body of Christ and that’s the last thing in this world I want for you. Instead, it’s my hope that one day you’ll give the gospel biographies of Jesus a read for yourself, change your tune, and come to see the beauty and glory of Jesus.
Then we can be offensive together.
Robin Schumacher is an accomplished software executive and Christian apologist who has written many articles, authored and contributed to several Christian books, appeared on nationally syndicated radio programs, and presented at apologetic events. He holds a BS in Business, Master's in Christian apologetics and a Ph.D. in New Testament. His latest book is, A Confident Faith: Winning people to Christ with the apologetics of the Apostle Paul.