Getting back into Christian dating

About this time last year, I kissed secular dating goodbye – or at least, I found a way of adding “AD” to the dates on this blog, in response to an old Briefing article commending this as “a small, simple way of confessing … Jesus to be the Lord of history, the Lord of time, and (indeed) the Lord of all”.

Well, in this quarter’s Churchman editorial, Gerald Bray takes up the cudgels on behalf of the historic “BC/AD” designation, as opposed to the “creeping tendency” to use “BCE/CE” (“CE” standing for “Common Era”). Bray acknowledges that “the usual arguments apply” about the Christian dating system having got the date of Christ’s birth wrong, there being nothing about it in the Bible, yada yada yada, before pointing out the great strength of the Christian dating system:

The real beauty of the Christian dating system, however, and one of the main reasons why it has now been adopted universally, is that it provides for an infinite extension backwards. A creation calendar has to have a starting point and can hardly conceive of anything happening before that, and Muslims also have difficulty in reckoning anything that occurred before the birth of Islam in AD622, since it hardly matters to them what went on in those days!

This ability to count backwards from 1 BC is not merely an accidental byproduct of the scheme, either. It is fundamental to the Christian understanding of time and history:

Christians, however, need a BC, because the coming of Christ was not the beginning of our consciousness, but the culmination of a centuries-old development which had been preparing for that great event.

This ability to count backwards into the distant past “makes our calendar more user-friendly than its chief rivals”, but:

As Christians, we hold onto it not because of its convenience but because of the word of prophecy which foretold the coming of Christ long before it actually occurred – the whole of earlier history is, in effect, a countdown to that glorious event.

Using the “CE” terminology Completely Eviscerates that meaning and “take[s] away a witness to the most fundamental aspect of our faith as Christians”:

The reason we have a “common era” now is that Christ came at that point in time, and his message is one of universal import. Even the atheists and agnostics among us are forced to bow the knee to him at this point and that, too, is a powerful witness to the sovereignty of Christ over all creation.

This in turn should strengthen us to resist attempts to use “neutral” terminology for our festivals (“Happy holidays!”) and for our system of dating.

For starters, this concealment of our beliefs is baffling to adherents of other religions, who recognise that “freedom for one religious group means freedom for all”, and who “do not want Christianity to disappear from view, because then their own beliefs will also come under attack”. But more importantly:

When all is said and done, we believe that Christ is the Saviour of every human being, and to deny people of other religions the opportunity to hear about him and receive him into their lives is an act of cruelty, not of kindness.

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