This article first appeared in the Viewpoint column of the Christian Research Journal, volume 33, number 04 (2010). For further information or to subscribe to the Christian Research Journal go to: http://www.equip.org
Anne Rice, the famous author of the Vampire Chronicles who reconverted from atheism to Roman Catholicism about ten years ago, announced recently on her Facebook page that she “quit being a Christian.”1 Predictably, her declaration created a significant buzz on the Internet and in popular media. Rice directly states,
For those who care, and I understand if you don’t: Today I quit being a Christian. I’m out. I remain committed to Christ…but not to being “Christian” or to being part of Christianity. It’s simply impossible for me to “belong” to this quarrelsome, hostile, disputatious, and deservedly infamous group. For ten…years, I’ve tried. I’ve failed. I’m an outsider. My conscience will allow nothing else.
I have a little sympathy for what she’s saying. Over the past thirty years in ministry, I’ve encountered quite a few quarrelsome Christians, and there were times I was tempted to throw in the towel. But for Christ’s sake, I have not done so. And if Rice remains committed to Christ, as she says, then she should not do so either.
One cannot be committed to Christ without being committed to what He is committed to, and he has stated His undying commitment to His church. Yes, there are tares as well as wheat in the visible church, but Christ makes it clear that the wheat and the tares must grow up together until he returns (see Matt. 13:24–30, 36–43). And the fact that there are unchristlike Christians does not negate the fact that Jesus Christ is building for Himself one unified body of true believers. As the apostle Paul puts it, “There is one body and one Spirit….We will in all things grow up into him who is the Head, that is, Christ. From him the whole body, joined and held together by every supporting ligament, grows and builds itself up in love, as each part does its work” (Eph. 4:3, 15–16).2 By rejecting Christianity as a whole because she does not agree with certain visible, institutional representations of it (e.g., the Roman Catholic church), Rice truly has thrown the baby out with the bathwater. In so doing, no matter how much she may protest to the contrary, she is no longer following Christ.
Rice goes on to say, “I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay.” Here as well, Rice fails to make important distinctions. For the record, Christianity is not “anti-gay”! Christians are called to love homosexuals. But the
Bible does not say that being gay is an identity; rather, it describes homosexuality as a behavior, and homosexual behavior does not help anybody. On the other hand, we are indeed “anti-gay” when we don’t tell people the truth about homosexuality!3
Rice continues, “I refuse to be anti-feminist.” Again, Christianity is not anti-feminist. It is Christianity that empowered women in the West and, indeed, it is secularism that has objectified women.4
“I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control,” she writes. Well, I personally am against artificial birth control, but the simple fact is that vast segments of orthodox Protestant Christianity are not against it, so why reject all of Christianity over this issue?
A few words later Rice declares, “I refuse to be anti-science, I refuse to be anti-life.” In fact, Christianity is anything but “anti-science.” It was Christians who discovered and formulated the great laws of science. Indeed, it was the Christian worldview alone that historically provided the necessary conditions for science. After the fall of the Roman Empire, an empire that was forged on the anvil of Classical Greek thought—anti-scientific thought in which the world is controlled by capricious gods and therefore not knowable—Augustine pointed out that reason without revelation always leads to the blind ditch of ignorance. As a result of revelation informing reason, we had invention and innovation, Christian capitalism (responsibility associated with wealth), and the formation of Christian universities, out of which science came.5 Science is not a secular domain, and certainly Neo-Darwinian evolution is not science, as it flies in the face of empirical science.6
I’m not sure why Rice says that Christianity is anti-science, but perhaps she alludes to embryonic stem cell research. If so, she needs to recognize that science has demonstrated that a fertilized human egg is not simply an “it.” A fertilized human egg is a human being. The size of a pinhead, this newly conceived human being contains information in his or her genetic code that would fill an encyclopedia library. From height to hair color, every physical aspect of the emerging embryo is determined and documented. And then that single fertilized egg divides into trillions of cells, forming the most complex organized structure in the universe. Nineteenth century science considered this young life little more than a blob of gelatin, but not so in an age of scientific enlightenment. Although an embryo doesn’t fully exhibit personality, he or she is fully a person—and that’s science! To say otherwise is not only “anti-science,” it is “anti-life”!7
Rice goes on to say,
My faith in Christ is central to my life. My conversion from a pessimistic atheist lost in a world I didn’t understand, to an optimistic believer in a universe created and sustained by a loving God is crucial to me. But following Christ does not mean following His followers. Christ is infinitely more important than Christianity and always will be, no matter what Christianity is, has been, or might become.
As noted, however, we cannot dichotomize Christ and His body. Christ’s central work on Earth is to build a body, and that body is organically united to Him as its Head. The Bible knows nothing of isolated, self-styled disciples of Christ (see especially Romans 12). Indeed, it is the love we have for one another within the one body of Christ that demonstrates to the world that we are truly His disciples (John 13:35). “Everyone who loves has been born of God and knows God,” writes John. But “if anyone says, ‘I love God,’ yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen. And he has given us this command: Whoever loves God must also love his brother” (1 John 4:7, 20–21).
I quit Christianity in the name of Christ on this page so that I could tell my readers I was not complicit in the things that organized religion does. I never dreamed others would be so interested, or that they would feel the need to talk about their own religious struggles. But they do. And the public conversation on…this is huge, and I think important.
I certainly agree with Rice that this is an important conversation to have. I think it underscores what we do at the Christian Research Institute, equipping believers to be ready always to give a reason for the hope that lies within them, with gentleness and with respect (1 Pet. 3:15). But if you can’t give an answer—if you’re stumped by the words of Anne Rice—you’re not equipped. If you are equipped, you’ll have the greatest opportunity and thrill imaginable—the Holy Spirit working through you in the process of not only leading another lost son or daughter of Adam to the cross of the Second Adam Jesus Christ, but also participating in the formation of a body of the Second Adam—a bride awaiting the coming of her Bridegroom.—Hank Hanegraaff
Hank Hanegraaff is president of the Christian Research Institute and host of the Bible Answer Man broadcast heard daily throughout the United States and Canada via radio, satellite radio XM-170, and the Internet. For a list of stations airing the Bible Answer Man, or to listen online, log on to equip.org.