Glen Scrivener and Sam Chan discuss whether or not Christianity has done more good than evil in the world throughout time. They address:
- Resonance, dissonance, and gospel fulfillment (0:30)
- Christian guilt (1:13)
- More or less of Jesus? (1:44)
- Pursuing deeper understanding (2:38)
- Religions and their wars (4:50)
- Resources to learn more (5:56)
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The following is an uncorrected transcript generated by a transcription service. Before quoting in print, please check the corresponding audio for accuracy.
Glen Scrivener: So the question is, has Christian religion done more good than evil in the world? And I recently read a really good book by this Australian evangelist called Sam Chan. Don’t know if you know him, but he wrote this book on Evangelism in a Skeptical World?
Sam Chan: World. Yeah.
Glen Scrivener: Evangelism in a Skeptical World, and he spoke about resonance, dissonance, and gospel fulfillment?
Sam Chan: Gospel. Yeah, gospel fulfillment.
Glen Scrivener: Right, and it seems to me that answering that question, I think there’s resonance, and dissonance, and gospel fulfillment here because, obviously, people are asking the question from a certain viewpoint and they’re feeling certain things. So as they ask the question, has Christianity done more harm? How would you resonate with that?
Sam Chan: Right. Well, I think we would say, “Agree, agree. Guilty.” A lot of bad things have been done in the name of Jesus. And even pastorally, I would always ask someone first, “Why do you ask that question?” because maybe they have been hurt and they’re very angry at the church.
Glen Scrivener: Yes, yes. And it might be because of crusades, or it might be because of church abuse scandals out there in the ether, or it might be because of an abuse that’s happened within the church very personally. So, yeah. Always questioning the question. That’s pretty good. So you’re resonating with that. And then, what kind of dissonance will you point to?
Sam Chan: Well, you could say, “Well, would the solution be less of Jesus or more of Jesus?”
Glen Scrivener: Wow.
Sam Chan: But obviously the solution is, they need more Jesus, not less. And then if you ask them to read the Bible and read the life of Jesus, you’d say, “Do you think this is doing more harm or more good?” And everyone would say, “This is definitely way more good. People need more Jesus.” And borrowing from Tim Keller’s wisdom, he looks at people like Martin Luther King, and when he spoke against the racism, which was in the institutionalized Christian Church in the USA, Martin Luther King quotes more Bible at them. So the problem with these Christians who do harm in the name of Jesus is they don’t have enough Bible. They don’t have enough Jesus. The solution is actually more Jesus.
Glen Scrivener: Right. So there’s the gospel fulfillment.
Sam Chan: Yeah.
Glen Scrivener: Let’s have, let’s have more of Jesus, not less.
Sam Chan: Yeah.
Glen Scrivener: It was really good reading your book and seeing that paradigm of resonance, dissonance, and then gospel fulfillment because when I’m asked the question about, “Has Christianity done harm in the world?” I find myself either going in John Dixon mode or in David Bentley Hart mode.
Sam Chan: Right.
Glen Scrivener: Right? So John Dixon, for those who don’t know, a fantastic Australian evangelist and-
Sam Chan: Yeah, definitely.
Glen Scrivener: … part of the Center for Public Christianity in Australia. They did a great series of videos on For the Love of God where they really take it on the chin in terms of, has Christianity done evil in the world, and they’ve just said, “Yes, obviously.”
Sam Chan: Yeah.
Glen Scrivener: But then it wins them a great hearing for being able to say, “Ah, yes,” but there have been hospices, and hospitals, and universal education, and what about human rights, and what about the scientific enterprise, and the list goes on. But because they’ve taken what’s true about the objection in their strides, they’ve then been to win confidence in the here, and then actually presents that actually the Bible has built the less.
Sam Chan: Yeah.
Glen Scrivener: It totally has. I’m always saying to people when they have problems with the Bible, I always say, “Well, it’s probably because you’re assuming something else in the Bible in order to critique the Bible. The Bible is so immense that even your problems with the Bible have come from the Bible.”
Sam Chan: Yeah. Yeah, and I sometimes like to answer these questions with personal stories because people can at least imagine what we’re talking about. So I was once in South Africa, Cape Town, St. James, Kenilworth, where the pastor showed me the bullet hole was in the church building because there was a church service one Sunday when these gunmen just stormed the building, threw grenades into the church congregation, and then fired their machine guns into the church killing many people, wounding many people. And yet, the church as a group on mass and individually, forgave each and every one of the gunmen. And then you got to point people to this and say, “Well, where does this come from?” It actually comes from Jesus who told Peter to put away his sword. So, if we adhere to the teachings of Jesus, we will do more good than harm. So the problem is not enough Jesus, and the solution is we need more Jesus.
Glen Scrivener: Yeah, absolutely. And when people bring up questions like religions cause all wars, what do you say to that?
Sam Chan: Yeah, well, Karen Armstrong, in a book Fields of Blood, in her tent talks says, “It’s not religion, it’s people.” It’s people and politics who then grab the name of religion, or health, or education. So lots of bad things are done in the names of everything. These tools which could be for good are then used for harm. So it’s people. It’s the evil within people that does it. And again, well, what’s a solution? It’s not more politics. It’s not more education. We need more Jesus.
Glen Scrivener: Yeah. Could it be the guy who said, “Put away your sword. Those who live by the sword will die by the sword.”
Sam Chan: Yeah, that’s right.
Glen Scrivener: I often get people to Google it. If they say, “Has religion caused all war?” I just say, “Just Google it.” And you’ll find pretty quickly. 7% of all Wars have been caused by religion. Philip and Axelrod’s Encyclopedia of Wars has said about 1700 Wars, about 123 from religion, which is 123 too many, but the common denominator is not religion. The common denominator is man.
Sam Chan: Yeah. Yeah, it’s people.
Glen Scrivener: And who’s going to trust in people?
Sam Chan: That’s right.
Glen Scrivener: That would be silly. Brilliant. So there we go. That’s how we’re going to answer the question.
Sam Chan: Sure.
Glen Scrivener: So as we think about Christianity and its history down through the ages, do you have any resource recommendations?
Sam Chan: Well, John Dixon, Simon Smart, and Justine Toh has just put out a movie called For the Love of God, like a 60 minute documentary, they look into this question at a direct level, like has Christianity done more harm than good? And they give a very balanced answer.
Glen Scrivener: It’s a sensational thing. And I’ve seen skeptics really won over, at least to giving the gospel hearing through that. So that’s definitely one that I would recommend as well. And then David Bentley Hart who I mentioned earlier, he’s written a book called Atheist Delusions … Was it Christianity and its Fashionable Enemies, but he goes through the history of the Christian Church and just shown how hospices, and the hospitals, and universal education, and human rights, and the scientific enterprise, they’ve all come from Christian foundations. So, that’s definitely one to check out.
Sam Chan: Yeah, and then sometimes when people say, “So much harm, evil, and injustice has been done,” I like to point out, “Well, can you define evil, harm, and justice without a loving God because if we have an impersonal God or we have an unloving God, or we have no God at all, then really what is harm? What is evil? We’re just doing what is animal like behavior in the Animal Kingdom. We’re doing what lions do to gazelles, aren’t we?”
Glen Scrivener: Yes.
Sam Chan: But if there is a God, then that does give us the right to call Christians to account like, “Hey, there’s a loving just God. You’re not behaving appropriately to this God.” So the very question itself assumes there must be a loving, personal God that we’re accountable to.
Glen Scrivener: Yeah. So we need more Jesus.
Sam Chan: We need more Jesus.