Do People Become Christians Simply Because They Live in a Christian Culture?
(Photo by João Silas on Unsplash)
For God so loved the world that He gave His only
begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him should
not perish, but have eternal life.
I recently ran into an objection to Christianity based on culture and geography. It went something like this: Christians believe Christianity is true because they were raised in a Christian culture. If they were raised in a Muslim culture, they would believe Islam is true. If they were born into a Buddhist culture, they would be Buddhist. Therefore, the culture is responsible for a person's belief, and not a personal decision made by the individual. The ironic thing about this person's argument is they themselves were born into a Christian home and raised in a Christian culture, and yet they made an individual decision to reject Christianity.
Yes, the culture and geography do greatly influence a particular faith or belief, but to say geography or the culture is responsible is short-sided. J. Warner of Cold-Case Christianity says, "While it is true that cultural and geographic influences often favor a particular point of view or behavior, our personal experience demonstrates that individuals often make private, independent choices in spite of the accepted beliefs of our culture. As an example, many of us are vegetarians in spite of the fact the culture is predominantly carnivorous." Just because one is more likely to embrace the faith or non-faith they were raised with has nothing to do with what is true. There may be as many Christians in China as there are in America and China could surpass America by 2030 says an article in the Houston Chronicle. China is officially atheist.
Furthermore, just because one calls themselves a Christian doesn't mean they are. Too many people who think they are Christian don't understand the message of the gospel...that Jesus died and rose again and is the only One who can save us. Ephesians 2:1-3 teaches us three things about our condition before we are saved:
we are spiritually dead
we are slaves to sin (also see Rom 6:17)
we are subject to God's anger
Therefore, a Christian is one who believes by faith the good news of Jesus. Our good deeds or lack of good deeds has nothing to do with salvation. No matter where you live, there is only one way to be saved, and that is through Jesus Christ.
We as individuals must decide for ourselves what we believe just as the person presenting the argument did when they chose to reject the faith they were raised with. And lest you think that is uncommon, think again. The statistics show that young adults leaving the Christian faith are staggering (see USA Today and Fox News Research). This departure is not surprising when you look at what the Bible says:
2 Thessalonians 2:3...The day of the Lord will not come until there is a great rebellion against God
1 Timothy 4:1...In the last times, some will turn away from the true faith...
2 Timothy 4:3-4...For a time is coming when people will no longer listen to sound and wholesome teaching...they will reject the truth and chase after myths
2 Peter 3:3...In the last days, scoffers will come, mocking the truth and following their own desires
Becoming a Christian only because you were raised in a Christian culture is a false argument. Many would say America's culture is Christian because our country was founded on Christian values. And I would say that many people call themselves Christians but have no idea what the Bible says. Also, when you look at the history of Christianity, you will realize it flourished in hostile environments.
THE ANCIENT WORLD
Christianity emerged in predominantly Jewish and pagan culture. If you read the history of the early church, you will see that they faced much persecution and lived in an environment hostile to the claims of Christianity. Nevertheless, 1st century Christians held fast to their beliefs that Christianity was true.
IN SPITE OF PERSECUTION
History tells us that Christianity grew in spite of persecution and hardship. Today people come to Christ in countries where Christianity is illegal, or the gospel is severely restricted.
America was founded on Christian principles and for much of its history held to Christian values. Many think of this country as a Christian nation. But America has in its constitution, "freedom of religion," meaning people are free to choose how they worship without restriction. No faith is illegal. And while the majority may still consider themselves Christians, a recent Pew Forum poll revealed that the "religiously unaffiliated" and those of other faiths are on the rise.
CHRISTIANITY IN A MUSLIM CULTURE
It is possible to become a Christian in a Muslim world. An article in NPR says that Iranians are converting to evangelical Christianity in Iran. I have heard for several years that many Muslims are coming to faith in Christ, and research seems to confirm what I hear (see Muslims Converting to Christianity, and Why Do Muslims Come to Christ?). I even know one personally. His name is Tass Sada. He was Yassir Arafat's right-hand man until he had a dramatic encounter with Jesus. His life was radically changed, and he wholeheartedly serves Jesus now in his ministry Seeds of Hope. My sister-in-law was raised Buddhist but became a Christian while still living in her native country. Christianity is in every culture and available to anyone who believes the Good News of Jesus.
When Jesus died on the cross, He died for everyone. And whoever believes the message about Jesus will be saved.