This post, Faith in the system, or faith in Jesus?, by Chaplain Mike, brings up a very important point about American evangelical Christianity. Mike says that, as he was watching a documentary about creationism and evolution, he was struck by how the creationists seemed to see Christianity as a "system" where all the parts must be correct or else it's a slippery slope into the downfall of society.
The evangelical Christianity that this documentary displays, and I might add, the evangelical Christianity that I spent most of my adult life studying and teaching, is not, in the final analysis about Jesus, except insofar as Jesus is a part of the system. It is faith in the Bible that is more fundamental. It is believing in the system that is crucial. They are not just making a claim that reading the Bible aright leads to Jesus, it’s more than that. It is that the Bible is a divinely given systematic presentation of an entire worldview that must be believed in its entirety for one to be a faithful Christian (along with having “accepted” Jesus, of course). Indeed, beyond that, if we allow one crack in the wall of this system, society itself will become subject to moral decay, chaos, and ultimately destruction.And THAT'S the problem. If you just believe in Jesus, that's not good enough. It's the whole entire "Christian worldview." Evangelicals insist that if one part is rejected, then, logically, you'll eventually end up rejecting everything.
According to evangelical Christianity, this entire system is connected with ironclad logic. You believe in Jesus, therefore you believe the bible, therefore you believe that evolution is false, abortion is always wrong, gay is wrong, women are lower than men, etc. Supposedly, the logical connections between all these topics are so completely airtight, that if you stop believing in one of them, they all must necessarily fall.
You see this all the time in creationist arguments. Someone asks "Why is this so important? Why does it matter if Christians believe in evolution or not?" and the answer is "The bible SAYS God created the world in 6 days- if you don't believe that part of the bible, what's to stop you from rejecting other parts too? If you don't believe Adam was a real person, then what about the passages in Romans where Adam and Christ are compared? If you don't believe Adam was real, then logically, you can't believe the resurrection was real. Oh you may say you can, but eventually you'll be doubting that too."
There's an appeal to logic at every step. A, therefore B, therefore C, therefore D. Where "A" means Jesus, and all the other letters are whatever political issues and culture wars are popular in American Christianity at the moment.
And actually in some sense it is all connected. This is why you get people genuinely baffled over the question "if we stop believing in hell, then what's the point of being a Christian anyway?" That's why I say I've actually changed to a different religion- because I rejected one part of that interconnected web, and eventually it did all fall.
But you know what didn't fall? Jesus. Love. Resurrection.
Christianity is about Jesus. Full stop. If you want to follow Jesus, then you are a Christian. As for all that other stuff, you can argue about it, you can interpret the bible in one way or another, you can make a strong case, but the logic is not airtight. There is no "A, therefore B, therefore C." In reality, it's "A, therefore you can argue based on this set of facts that B should probably be true." But if B turns out to be false, it's okay. We still have Jesus.
When you believe in the "system", you have to live in fear of new information. You always have to "defend the faith" when you encounter a new idea- because the system explains everything, so anything outside the system must be wrong. You can't honestly examine an idea on its own merits- no, you already know you can't believe in it, you already know it must be wrong.
(If only we had been given a spirit that does not make us a slave again to fear...)
But Christianity is supposed to be about Jesus. Just Jesus.
Jesus is bigger than one culture's interpretation of him. And Jesus' love, salvation, and justice are strong enough and real enough to reach everyone, whether or not they believe the "right" things.
Where is your faith- in Jesus, or in your own interpretation of what a "Christian worldview" is supposed to look like?