Global Christianity Numbers Today

I read these words today from The Pew Research Center’s report on global Christianity.

The number of Christians around the world has more than tripled in the last 100 years, from about 600 million in 1910 to more than 2 billion in 2010. But the world’s overall population also has risen rapidly, from an estimated 1.8 billion in 1910 to 6.9 billion in 2010. As a result, Christians make up about the same portion of the world’s population today (32%) as they did a century ago (35%).

Also, as one reads on, they will see the major shift in Christianity across the world – moving mainly from the north and western hemispheres and now into the eastern and southern hemispheres.

Some interesting statistics to ponder. I still believe God wants to renew things in Europe, renew things in a different way than what existed as western Christendom. But renew them nonetheless.

Paradoxes of Our Faith

One should be aware that being a follower of Christ, being a Christian, will entail embracing paradoxes. It’s simply the way of the faith.

What is a paradox?

A paradox is a statement that seems to be contradictory but is actually true. Normally, two specific terms within the statement seem contradictory but they actually go hand in hand within the context.

And that is how our faith plays out in many a ways. And, if we allow our faith to hold to the true and biblical paradoxes, then this will call for a bit of tension in our faith. Possibly even unresolved tension, meaning, we can’t always wrap our finite minds around it.

The great example is that we live in the paradoxical tension between the already and the not yet of the kingdom of God.

In one sense, the kingdom rule of God has come. Jesus, the great King, arrived proclaiming the gospel of the kingdom of God, that gospel being that the rule of God was near and at hand. He showed it in his healings and miracles, in his teachings, and ultimately in his death, resurrection and ascension back to the Father to reign over all. We must be a people who confess that the rule of God has come in Jesus, and even continues in the work of the Spirit of God (see Romans 14:17).

Yet, one must not go so far as to say that the kingdom of God has fully arrived. There is the reality that we still await its final consummation at the return of the King to marry His Bride who awaits with both attentiveness and patience. Hence, while Jesus brought the rule of God into the history of mankind, he would also teach us to continually pray that God’s kingdom come on earth as it is in heaven (see Matthew 6:10).

This is maybe the major tension of living in this post-resurrection yet pre-consummation time. This entire time is the great period of the last days in which we groan over the paradoxical reality.

I was thinking about another paradox of our faith, one about Jesus. He was both the atoning sacrifice for our sin as the Lamb of God, and he was also the great high priest that offered the sacrifice.

Where do we see this tension? Well, Jesus is presented as both in one short passage in Hebrews:

11But when Christ appeared as a high priest of the good things that have come, then through the greater and more perfect tent ( not made with hands, that is, not of this creation) 12he entered once for all into the holy places, not by means of the blood of goats and calves but by means of his own blood, thus securing an eternal redemption. 13For if the blood of goats and bulls, and the sprinkling of defiled persons with the ashes of a heifer, sanctify for the purification of the flesh, 14how much more will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself without blemish to God, purify our conscience from dead works to serve the living God. (Hebrews 9:11-14)

Vs11 speaks of Jesus as the great high priest, but vs12-14 present him as the great atoning sacrifice for sin. Not to mention that Christ is presented as both in many other places in Hebrews and right across the whole of the New Testament.

How in the world can Christ be both the sacrifice and the one offering the sacrifice? We could probably break it down. But, suffice it to say, Christ is both. He is the one who presented the atoning sacrifice and he was the atoning sacrifice.

Now, since I’ve been thinking a lot about the concept of the Trinity lately, there are a couple of paradoxes that are presented:

1) God as one being-essence and God as three persons

2) Jesus as fully God and fully man

These are paradoxes and tensions within the Trinitarian understanding of God. How can God be both one and three? How can Jesus be both human and God? Some paradoxical tension, is there not?

The notions seem absurd to non-Trinitarians, and even some non-believers. And if we are honest, these notions might not sit perfectly well with a Trinitarian believer. There is tension and tension does not normally bring perfect resolve.

But, let me ask you this. How in the world can the kingdom be both here and not here? How in the world can Jesus be both the atoning sacrifice for sin and the high priest who presented the atoning sacrifice? In all reality, can something be both here and not here? Can someone be both a presenter and the object of presentation?

Not normally. But within the confines of paradoxical tension as laid out in Scripture, the answer is a resounding YES. We must allow for these tensions, and many other tensions as well.

And, though many can claim all day long that the idea of the Trinity or the idea of Jesus as the God-Man does not make any reasonable sense, I remind you that neither does the former two paradoxes I have given for consideration.

Of course, non-Trinitarians, and non-believers, might declare that Scripture never asserts that God is one being-essence and three persons, nor that Christ is both God and man. But, Trinitarians look to found these beliefs in Scripture. We survey the whole tenor of Scripture and can find that there is only one God. But we also see that the Father, Son and Holy Spirit are all three presented as God. We search the pages of Scripture and we see that the Christ was and always has been with the Father, the eternal Logos and divine Son. Yet, without a doubt. we also see that he was a man just like you and I.

Of course, objections will be raised. But let the objections centre around Scripture. Don’t pull out the card that says these beliefs are unreasonable, contradict, don’t make sense. For, if we are faithful to Scripture, we will find a plethora of beliefs presented that are unreasonable, just downright foolish. I don’t want to present this as an excuse for every belief and bypass all challenges. Things still need to be grounded in Scripture, in the reality of the full revelation of God that we have. But, let’s face it, we have a paradoxical faith that causes much tension. For don’t we have a God that chooses the foolish things of the world? And why in the world would an all-powerful God decide to be glorified through the sacrifice of His Son?

Absolutely ridiculous!!

But it’s true. And so I embrace the paradoxes of our faith. I embrace the tensions. They can’t always be explained from pure empirical reasoning. But that does not necessarily cut at the truth of our God and His revelation.

We worship a very scandalous and paradoxical God.