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Are We Fragrant or Fetid

Regis Nicoll
Regis Nicoll

ver the years one issue has tested my Christian faith more than any other. More than the mystery of divine silence or the existence of evil and suffering, the question that has haunted me throughout my Christian life is: “Why is there not a more positive, observable difference between Christians and their non-believing neighbors?”


In 2007, pollster George Barna reported that while faith plays a role in the moral lives of Christians, the role is smaller than what might be assumed. For example, after studying fifteen moral behaviors, Barna concluded that Christians were “statistically indistinguishable” from their non-Christian cohorts. (The exception is the 9 percent of born-again Christians that embrace a biblical worldview.*) Among the behaviors evaluated were lying, gossiping, substance abuse, and extramarital sex.

And this is not a recent observation: In the 20th century, Mohandas Gandhi concluded, “I like your Christ, I do not like your Christians”; in the 19th century, the famous existentialist Frederick Nietzsche quipped, “I would believe in Christianity if I saw more Christ in Christians”; and in the 1st century, the apostle Paul upbraided the early church for succumbing to the moral rhythms of the Greco-Roman culture.

Stunningly, little more than a generation after Pentecost, the Corinthian church’s attitude toward sin had become so complacent that an open and egregious form of sexual immorality went unchallenged by the church leadership.

Then, as now, the church was not giving off an aroma intended to draw people to the “Bread of Life.” Yet Paul’s handling of the situation in his time holds valuable lessons for the church today... Continue reading here.

Originally published September 10, 2011.

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