Last week we watched as Notre Dame was ravaged by fire. A country that has all but banned God from the public square mourned the destruction of a place of worship.
Yet on Monday night Paris stopped and people spontaneously sang hymns and prayed as the fire burned.
Since 1905 Notre Dame, like all cathedrals in France, has been owned by the French state. The French state had tried to avoid paying for repairs for years, but now President Macron is calling on the nation to rebuild Notre Dame together. France’s devotion to la laïcité, its extreme form of secularism, seems to have been suspended as the country searches for its Christian roots.
In the UK, apparently only 46% of Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive sins according to a recent ComRes poll. The number rises to 82% among ‘active’ Christians.
Let me make things even clearer – 100% of Christians believe that Jesus died on the cross to forgive sins, it is essential to being a Christian.
Sadly, there are Christians who don’t know what they believe. At the same time, those that do are condemned. Look at Billy Vunipola who refused to bow the knee at the idol of sexual idolatry.
He, and a number other pacific islanders, stood up to the new ‘progressive’ colonialism, which seeks to enforce the West’s new sexual licence on others. In response, commentators rushed to mock their beliefs in an “imaginary construct” or a “fabrication”.
We live in strange times. Secular France mourns the damage caused to its most famous, and neglected, cathedral. Rugby players are accused of bringing the game into disrepute for supporting marriage while commentators can mock religion with impunity. And some people think they are Christians even though they don’t believe Jesus died on the cross to forgive sins.
We live in a world were people buy Easter eggs without any sense of the new birth that they represent. On Easter Sunday many will feast on chocolate but will have skipped lent and the associated fasting. Our culture is living of the fruits of Christianity while simultaneously taking an axe to the roots of the tree.
That every human being is a divine image bearer and therefore equal is a Christian idea. The same is true of freedom of religion and the free speech being used to criticise the rugby players. France wants to repair a cathedral designed to worship a God it no longer believes in. And people want to call themselves Christians while denying the cross.
But none of that matters if Easter isn’t true. As the theologian Tom Wright puts it, “The whole point of Christianity is the it offers a story which is a story of the whole world. It is public truth.”
And that truth centres on the life, death and resurrection of Jesus. No serious historian doubts the existence of historical figure called Jesus and his claims to be God are well documented.
CS Lewis surveys the options,
“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level with the man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God, or else a madman or something worse.”
If Easter isn’t true then Israel Falou has given up his rugby career for nothing. If Easter isn’t true, Notre Dame is just a nice building with a hole in the roof. If Easter isn’t true about a third of the world are following a delusion. But if it is true, everything changes and the question becomes - what will you do with Jesus?
David Smyth, Public policy officer, Evangelical Alliance NI, Belfast BT6