Let’s face it: sometimes it’s difficult for even a long-time believer to explain Christianity. Even the most sincere Christians come at their faith with perspective and even baggage from their own lives, and attempts to oversimplify some Christian doctrine can muddy the waters even further. Beyond the obvious statement of “put your faith in Jesus and allow Him to be Lord of your life,” explaining Christianity isn’t always simple.
So I often wonder why non-Christians seem to think they can explain Christianity so blithely sometimes. Case in point: over at Vox, the often condescending, always left-leaning news site, an interview with Israeli historian and author Yuval Harari features—almost as an afterthought—the worst description of Christianity ever. It’s enough to make one wonder if Harari has ever met a Christian or even opened a Bible in his life.
Let me give a little background here. Harari is no theologian, and as far as I know, he has never claimed to be. He’s an historian and author, whose first book traces the “triumph of Homo sapiens” and whose new book details “the threat our own intelligence and creative capacity poses to our future.”
Harari counts Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates, and Barack Obama among his legion of fans, which tells me that he probably doesn’t run in evangelical circles. The interview with Vox editor Ezra Klein talks about the idea of artificial intelligence and how its advent does not bode well for humanity; it’s full of the typical anti-technological alarmism that the humanistic Left loves to traffic in.
Klein’s last question for Harari muses on whether the development of virtual reality is beneficial for mankind, and in the answer, Harari goes off the rails.
This idea of humans finding meaning in virtual reality games is actually not a new idea. It’s a very old idea. We have been finding meaning in virtual reality games for thousands of years. We’ve just called it religion until now.
In this flippant, dismissive definition of religion, we can see Harari’s disdain for people of faith. You silly believers. You’re all just playing games. But it gets worse.
Harari goes on to say:
You can think about religion simply as a virtual reality game. You invent rules that don’t really exist, but you believe these rules, and for your entire life you try to follow the rules. If you’re Christian, then if you do this, you get points. If you sin, you lose points. If by the time you finish the game when you’re dead, you gained enough points, you get up to the next level. You go to heaven.
People have been playing this virtual reality game for thousands of years, and it made them relatively content and happy with their lives.
It’s precious, isn’t it? To borrow a statement from my friend Erick Erickson, “That’s not how Christianity works at all.”
The Bible reminds us that we do not “get points” with God by “follow[ing] the rules.”
For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast. Ephesians 2:8-9 (ESV)
For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law. Romans 3:28 (ESV)
For the promise to Abraham and his offspring that he would be heir of the world did not come through the law but through the righteousness of faith. For if it is the adherents of the law who are to be the heirs, faith is null and the promise is void. For the law brings wrath, but where there is no law there is no transgression. That is why it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his offspring—not only to the adherent of the law but also to the one who shares the faith of Abraham, who is the father of us all, as it is written, “I have made you the father of many nations”—in the presence of the God in whom he believed, who gives life to the dead and calls into existence the things that do not exist. Romans 4:13-17 (ESV)
Yes, we’re called to do good works, but those works don’t save us or score us points with God. Rather, they’re the natural result of the faith that does save us.
And our sins don’t cause us to “lose points” with God. Our sins do separate us from God, but when we believe in Jesus and accept Him as our Lord and Savior, He forgives our sins thanks to His death on the cross and resurrection. As a result of that forgiveness, God no longer holds our sins against us, and His perfect love “keeps no record of wrongs” (1 Corinthians 13:5, NIV).
He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea. Micah 7:19 (ESV)
…as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.Psalm 103:12 (ESV)
Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. 2 Corinthians 5:17 (ESV)
All it takes is a quick study of the Bible to show that Yuval Harari has got Christianity all wrong, which is a shame, because one day he will stand before the God of the Bible to account for his life. I hope and pray that one day before his life is over he will get his concepts of God and faith right. Because, you see, it’s no virtual reality—and certainly no game.
Featured image courtesy of Shutterstock.com / Amanda Carden