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Is Christianity a Crutch for the Weak? by Dan Story

23 May

“Only Jesus Christ Meets Human Needs At Their Deepest Level”

What Crutch and Weak Mean to a Christian

Christianity is a crutch for weak people! Obviously, my definitions of crutch and weak are different from the critic’s. Nowhere in Scripture is a Christian’s faith seen as a crutch in the sense of an escape from the reality of a fallen, suffering world (John 17:15). Likewise, nowhere are Christians portrayed as weaklings. On the other hand, throughout Scripture our faith is seen as a supporting pillar, an anchor, a means to healing broken and damaged lives. Likewise, throughout Scripture, believers are seen as depending on and drawing strength from the person who created and sustains them (2 Cor. 12:9–10) and who offers them life more abundantly (John 10:10). It’s in these senses that Christianity is a crutch and Christians are weak. We gladly accept the power of God to us through His Son Jesus Christ (John 14:16).

Why We Need a Crutch

There are three basic needs all people seek to fulfill in order to have peace of mind.

First, physical needs: food, shelter, rest, warmth, and so on.

Second, emotional or psychological needs: love, acceptance, self-esteem, and many others. These two needs are tangible and easy to identify, and they are fulfilled by either our physical environment or other people. We need food and shelter to live; we get this from our environment. We need love, acceptance, and a feeling of worth to function happily in human society; we get this from human relationships.

Being human also means that we seek to satisfy a third basic need: spiritual fulfillment—peace of mind with regard to a belief in a supernatural Being who can answer life’s most perplexing questions in a relevant and believable way that is consistent with reality. The quest for spiritual peace of mind is a worldwide phenomena and a characteristic of mankind as far back as history and archaeology allow us to investigate. As mentioned earlier, all peoples in every culture exhibit a belief in supernatural beings and seek to live in harmony with them. Cultures that have attempted to suppress this instinctive drive have invariably met with failure. The religious fervor in atheistic communist countries, now that religious freedom is returning, is an open acknowledgment that no society can totally suppress humankind’s spiritual need.

C. S. Lewis and others have argued effectively that every natural desire the family of man exhibits is a manifestation of a real and necessary human need. In the physical realm, we crave food because we are hungry; we crave warmth when we become cold; we crave sexual fulfillment because we are created to enjoy intimate physical relationships. Likewise, in the psychological realm, we desire love because we were created to be loved, self-esteem because we were created of value. In the same manner, we crave spiritual fulfillment because God has placed this desire in us. As fourth-century theologian Augustine said, “Thou [God] hast made us for Thyself, and our heart is restless until it rests in Thee.”

It is logical to assume that if man possesses a natural desire for something in which the world offers no fulfillment, there is something outside the world that will fulfill it. In short, we will have no longings that are unfulfillable, including spiritual longings.

It is crucial at this point to see something very clearly. Of the three innate drives we seek to fulfill, the spiritual drive is the most vital for peace of mind. Let me explain. Physical health does not necessarily lead to peace of mind. The suicide rate among handicapped people is far below the national average. Many handicapped people experience a genuine peace of mind as a result of spiritual fulfillment. Likewise, neither money nor material possessions guarantee peace of mind. Many spirit-filled poor people are vastly more content and happier than many rich people. Nor does emotional fulfillment necessarily lead to peace of mind. The suicide rate among mental-health workers (psychologists, therapists, etc.) is as high as it is in any other profession (some say higher). One would expect that those most knowledgeable in the means of attaining emotional good health would be the ones most likely to achieve it, but that’s not necessarily true. As another example, many thousands of prisoners, isolated from normal social interactions, and after years of living angry, violent, and bitter lives, have come to possess a profound peace of mind and deep spiritual fulfillment by experiencing God’s love and forgiveness.

What’s my point? This: Whereas fulfilling spiritual needs can result in peace of mind in spite of unfulfilled physical or psychological needs, the opposite is not true. Fulfilling physical or psychological needs does not lead to peace of mind without spiritual fulfillment. Regardless of how satisfying one’s life is with regard to good health, material prosperity, and emotional contentment, there exists a longing for something that this earth or human relationships cannot provide: spiritual peace of mind. And only God through Jesus Christ can satisfy that longing.

Two Objections

Before moving on, I want to address two objections that may have surfaced in your mind.

1. “I’m not a religious person, and I don’t go to church. I have peace of mind without religion, so obviously religion is unnecessary in order to have peace of mind.”

I’m not saying no peace of mind can result from good health or emotional stability. Obviously, fulfilling either of these two needs will result in a certain amount of satisfaction or else they would not be real human drives. But this is a much different kind of peace of mind than what one attains through spiritual fulfillment. Peace of mind that relies on good health, financial security, or emotional stability is tenuous and will vanish if these things are threatened. On the other hand, peace of mind founded on spiritual fulfillment will never die because its stability rests on the eternal power of God, not on human strength, success, or earthly objects.

2. “I agree that spiritual peace of mind supersedes all other human drives. But Christianity is not the only religion that offers spiritual fulfillment. Millions of people around the world worship other gods and follow other religions, and they too experience what you call ‘peace of mind.’ ”

This objection contains a degree of truth. Spiritual fulfillment can be achieved in non-Christian religions. But the error here is that other religions are fakes. In other words, as pointed out numerous times throughout this book, they are perversions of religious truth. They are not genuine revelations from God. If Christianity is the only true religion, then Christianity alone will offer eternal peace of mind. False religions can only offer a false sense of security because they do not have the correct answers to life’s bewildering questions, especially to What happens to me when I die?

To see this played out in real life, one needs only to examine religious conversions. Many millions of practitioners of false religions have converted to Christianity. They all acknowledge that Christianity is the only true religion and that what they thought previously was spiritual peace of mind turned out to be spiritual deception. On the other hand, it is very uncommon to see Christians convert to non-Christian religions. It is much more natural to walk from darkness to light than it is to walk from light to darkness (John 8:12). The few non-Christian religions that do boast a constituent of former Christians (such as Mormonism and Jehovah’s Witnesses) all use the Bible as a “holy book” and parallel many of their teachings with Christian doctrine, thereby employing a subtle and deceptive way of enticing Christians into accepting their heretical beliefs.

How Spiritual Fulfillment Works

Christianity offers spiritual fulfillment in two ways.

The Philosophical Approach

I earlier defined spiritual fulfillment as “peace of mind with regard to a belief in a supernatural Being who can answer life’s most perplexing questions in a relevant and believable way that is consistent with reality.” Thus, in the Christian world view, spiritual fulfillment is gaining answers to precisely the same questions that the non-Christian world cannot answer:

•            Who am I? What is my status in relation to the rest of life and the cosmos?

•            Where did I come from? What is the origin of my existence?

•            Why am I here? What purpose do I have for my existence?

•            What happens to me when I die? Is there life after death, and how do I obtain it?

All of these questions are unanswerable by science or philosophy because they involve issues beyond the scientist’s or philosopher’s ability to respond. They are unanswerable by non-Christian religions because they do not have divine revelation. These questions can only be answered by an all-powerful, all-knowing Intelligence who stands above and apart from humanity and yet who loves His creatures so much that He invites them to share in a loving personal relationship with Him. This describes only the God of Scripture. Since God created man, He knows exactly what man needs to achieve eternal and complete happiness.

Christianity is true precisely because it offers answers to life’s great mysteries that are in total harmony and consistency with the world as it exists. Unlike other religions, the Christian world view is coherent and believable; it is not mystical, esoteric, or far-fetched.

The Practical Approach

Christianity is also true because it meets human needs at their deepest level in a pragmatic way. Being a Christian is not always easy, but it promises something no other religion in the world can offer: it replaces the old, beaten self with a new spirit-filled self. Christianity has been the world’s most successful religion not only because it is the true revelation of God but because it makes changes in the inner man. While other religions have rules and regulations to follow, Christianity has a risen Savior that promises a born-again life (John 3:3) if we trust in Him. Jesus assures us that He “came that [we] might have life, and might have it abundantly” (John 10:10, nasv; see Phil. 4:5–7, 19).

Jesus is our crutch because we cannot attain eternal peace and life without Him. Only God has the answers to the questions of life, and only through Jesus Christ can we experience spiritual peace of mind. Prominent theologian J. I. Packer put it like this: “Once you become aware that the main business that you are here for is to know God, most of life’s problems fall into place of their own accord.”

Is Christianity a crutch for weak people? Yes, in the same sense that gasoline is a crutch for an automobile. As Lewis said, Christians “run” on Jesus Christ—not because they are weaklings, but because God’s power becomes our power through acknowledging our dependence on Him. The apostle Paul says it best:

And He has said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is perfected in weakness.” Most gladly, therefore, I will rather boast about my weaknesses, that the power of Christ may dwell in me. Therefore I am well content with weaknesses, with insults, with distresses, with persecutions, with difficulties, for Christ’s sake; for when I am weak, then I am strong” (2 Cor. 12:9–10, nasv).

Article adapted from Dan Story. Defending Your Faith. Grand Rapids: Kregel, 2004, 223-228.

About the Author in his own words: I was born in Phoenix, Arizona, the youngest of three siblings. From birth to the eighth grade, I lived in two states, six cities, and twelve houses (that I can remember). My wife and I were both nineteen when we married, and we have two children and four grandchildren. We presently live in Ramona, California. My hobbies include hiking, wildlife photography, traveling (especially to national and state parks), and mountain biking. 

I have had two great passions in my life. The first is rooted in one of my earliest childhood memories. At the time, my family lived in Seal Beach, California, and my father owned a mining claim in a remote section of the Tonto National Forest in central Arizona.

When I was four or five years old, I visited the mine with Mom and Dad. I credit that trip into the arid wilderness as the beginning of a lifelong love for nature and all things wild, lonely, and beautiful—an enchantment that has never weakened nor ever departed during all the ensuing years. 

When I became an adult, my love for nature became the focus of my life (other than my family and closest friends) and dominated my recreational and writing activities throughout the 1970s and early 1980s. With my wife, kids, and friends, I camped, backpacked, hiked, and explored numerous wilderness areas throughout the Western United States. My wife and I joined the Sierra Club, volunteered at a wildlife rescue center, and were active in various local environmental undertakings, including promoting California’s “Bottle Bill” and establishing a large open space preserve in San Diego County.

My first published magazine article in 1974 was titled “Helping Children Learn an Ecology Value,” followed by “The Wild Chaparral,” “Clocking the Cuckoo” (about the Roadrunner), and a two and a half year series of “Animal of the Month” articles published in a Sierra Club newspaper. In short, nature was my life and protecting and enjoying it was my passion. 

This changed dramatically after I became a Christian in 1981. My passion soon changed from delight in nature (creation) to worshipping the Creator. Although my enthusiasm and love for nature did not diminish, it was no longer the center of my life. In fact, my thesis for a master’s degree in Christian Apologetics was a 330-page book titled, Environmental Stewardship: A Biblical Approach to Environmental Ethics. After graduating in 1988, however, my focus in writing changed. Instead of defending the wilderness, I took up the case for Jesus Christ and began to write books and booklets, and to teach classes and workshops, on how to defend the Christian faith. 

Today, my ministry focuses primarily on Christian environmentalism (“creation care”). My writing and teaching includes topics on biblical environmental ethics and stewardship, ecological issues, wildlife, and other nature related topics (all from a Christian perspective and often with an apologetic emphasis). 

For a list of the books and articles I have published in the area of Christian apologetics, Christian environmentalism, wildlife and nature, click on “Published Works.” For information on my creation care and apologetic workshops, click on “Workshops.” 
For my credentials and ministry experiences, click on “Credentials.

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