[Excerpt from IS JESUS “GOD”? Copyright © 2017 Edward K. Watson. All rights reserved. Section 6.3.]
The World Wants to Know More About Jesus Even Though Christians are Reluctant to Talk About Him
While there are more Christians on earth than any other religion, and Christianity is the foundation of the Western world, the accurate knowledge of the identity of the biblical Jesus appears to be getting worse each year. The main reason for this decline has been the unrelenting cultural assault on the West’s Christian heritage. The wonders and benefits of the West that made it the most successful and attractive civilization in history now somehow arose in a vacuum. Public utterance and promotion of Christianity—the source of what made our civilization great—is now a social faux pas, something that is not said in public by “civilized” people. Those who violate this rule are branded religious fanatics, publicly shamed, and pressured to keep their faith to themselves.
This hostility is so intense that active evangelization within one’s community and social circle has become virtually extinct in all branches of Christianity. One no longer sees local churches holding religious revivals and neighborhood drives to entice people to join their congregations. Virtually the only ones going door-to-door are Jehovah’s Witnesses (where it is a religious obligation to evangelize) and the occasional 18 to 20-year-old Mormon missionaries serving a two-year mission far from home.
Evangelization has become passive: Instead of following Christ’s command to go out into the world to seek converts, potential converts are now expected to seek out the evangelizers.
Our culture has become content to portray Jesus Christ as a great teacher, a wonderful example of a kind, loving man, and wise prophet who revealed God’s will. What has disappeared or only given lip service is the old view of him as God incarnate—God made flesh—who came to earth to save us from sin and death, and is the only way to God the Father.
So pervasive is this shift, that if a survey is done asking young adult Christians who was Jesus Christ; only a minority would consider him to be God as well as a man and the only way to salvation.
And yet, there seems to be an overwhelming desire among the public to know more about Jesus. Works like The Passion of the Christ, Jesus of Nazareth, The Last Temptation of Christ, Killing Jesus, Zealot, The Case for Christ, Jesus Calling, The Third Jesus, and hundreds of others have become immensely successful by responding to this need, regardless of their accuracy and fidelity to the biblical text. It seems the mere act of putting the word “Jesus” or “Christ” in the title or subtitle is sufficient to garner the public’s attention.
The world knows at a certain level that there’s something about Jesus it cannot ignore. It can ridicule and attack him and his adherents, but it senses something moving beneath the surface: What was it that caused his followers to change the world for the better? How did their belief result in the establishment of the modern world’s science and technology? What was their motivation in developing our “innate” rights that are now followed by all civilized nations today? What was it that made our grandparents and great-grandparents courageously face and overcome massive challenges?