Hi, I’m a growing Christian and I’ve recently been doing research and gathering info to clarify my faith. I was wondering if you could answer some questions. 1) What is the basis of your faith? 2) How do you support the historical legitimacy of the Bible & New Testament as the true and sacred word of God? 3) How are other religions founded on false doctrine? Thank you so much!
Great questions, but please forgive me if I reply with unorthodox answers. Also, I’m well aware that a “secular” or “liberal” worldview will have plenty of counter-ammo for anything I say here — the Bible itself says Christianity will look like foolishness to the untransformed heart — but apart from writing a monster-sized textbook, these are some basic strands to consider.
1) Basis of Faith? —
I’m not 100% sure what you mean by this, so I’m assuming it’s, “How do you know your faith is reality?” We would have to start with which worldview satisfactorily accommodates some of the Big Questions. I deliberately used the word accommodate and not answer, because we’re not infinite beings with access to unlimited knowledge. We simply follow the clues.
Let’s start with a wide net. On one end of the spectrum you have the Materialistic Worldview which supposes there is no God, or one who spun things into motion but doesn’t care much, and that there are no eternal souls. Physical processes are then completely natural systems in themselves, and the meaning of life plus morality is self-established with a roughly standardized humanistic dignity.
On the other end there is a God who created everything, wants to have a personal relationship with you — loves you, the Bible says — and at some point in human history came down as a man to do what we could not do for ourselves: to bring us to Him. At the very least, we have to account for some damn crazy thing that happened in the first century which made the Jews go nuts. We’re then called to love God and love people.
So then: What best accommodates Ultimate Reality? What is, like gravity, the natural law? By what standard can we propose a meaning of life and objective morality? What best suits the Problem of Evil? Looking upon the shape of history and humanity, where does the evidence point after we objectively sift through the data? And after we discard secret agendas?
My agenda for having been an atheist, of course, was to dodge authority. Even Aldous Huxley admitted that he didn’t want God because he just wanted to have mindless sex. If we’re going to be honest here, we need to quit hiding behind the wall of Almighty Science (which is, by the way, not something to be feared but embraced) or quit terminating at very pat answers that quit asking questions. Everyone has an emotional agenda, and even saying, “I always felt there was a God who loved me” is not sufficient for a sustainable faith.
In the end, I found the Materialistic Worldview completely untenable with even the most basic principles of being a human being. At first I believed my desires were conforming to a reality that I wanted to be true, yet soon found that Christianity was exactly a reality that I did NOT want to be true. It was terrifying. It also turns out that it most accommodated the piercing questions. To read more on that, check here.
2) The historical legitimacy of the Bible —
There are much, much smarter people who can go over the historical documents and archaeology and endless research that has been poured into this field. It seems like every other year, there are more findings in Israel’s dirt confirming the Bible (and less than 1% of that area has been dug up). So I’ll just say some dumb obvious things here.
1 - The Bible is overly honest. — If I were to make up my own religion, it would definitely not look like the Christian Bible. For example, the story of King David and his affair with Bathsheba, plus the subsequent murder of her husband Uriah, is told with such unrelenting cold detail that no room full of religious conspirators would have left it in there.
The same with Peter’s failures, the disciples’ overall idiocy, Elijah’s suicidal depression, Ruth’s forwardness, or the women being first to witness the empty tomb (a woman’s testimony was not admissible in that day).
If I made up a religion, it would be one without any sort of god to mess with me, and one where I could hold my own standard of morality that changes at my convenience. In fact, many Christians live this way.
C.S. Lewis says it best: “I didn’t go to religion to make me happy. I always knew a bottle of Port would do that. If you want a religion to make you feel really comfortable, I certainly don’t recommend Christianity.”
2 - The Bible claims a Humble God. —The stuff of folklore, mythology, legends, and other religions often describe irrational demigods that are slaves to their own emotions, with limited power, acting inconsistently, committing adultery with witless women (Greek myths are crazy about that), and often abusive and arrogant. In other words: it would be much closer to a religion I would write myself, like a really bad fanfiction.
The God of the Bible humbled himself to death on a cross, becoming a servant for all and yet remaining a king, offering grace to a broken world. For all the accusations of religion being about “fear and control,” that one doesn’t stick here.
3 - The Bible reads like straightforward eyewitness accounts. — C.S. Lewis, who specialized in medieval literature and mythology, made a startling discovery of the Bible when he realized it was worlds apart from any manmade ancient literature. Often the Bible reads more like a periodical. The Gospels in particular do not fit any noticeable genre, coming off like a newspaper more than anything.
Why even add the detail about 153 fish? Why not make Jesus’ miracles more sensational instead of as direct as they are? Why have such formal accounts of Moses’ travel, battles, and routines? The craziness of Solomon’s temple? Or have a book called Numbers with, well, numbers? I find it amusing that what some people think are “boring parts” of the Bible actually enrich the depth of its veracity.
3) Other religions false?
Most religions do not exclude other religions; Christianity has the daring claim of exclusivity. That is, the Bible claims it’s the one true faith. I always chuckle at the “Coexist” bumper stickers: I get what it’s saying but it’s not helpful at all. You’d have to toss out critical thinking and also disrespect every religion listed on there.
I won’t claim to be a master of all religions, though my grandmother was in a Buddhist cult (namyohorengekyo) and when I became a theist, I studied religions more deeply. Being a martial artist, I came to respect Tao (and if I were not a Christian, I might have fallen into Taoism). My main beef is that so many religions make you do stuff to get stuff.
It’s a very Consumeristic Contract. You do things to get these things. Like going to to a certain grocery store until you find a better store with better prices; that’s the consumer mindset. It’s safe, shrinkwrapped, deceiving. There’s nothing personal or real about it, just a shallow transaction. Exactly the kind of religion I’d make up. It can also go to the other extreme where you’re hustled for your money and your mind, like Scientology, where you keep paying to achieve higher levels. No Scientology in the ghetto, you know.
There’s also the lie that the better you is in you. This is why I despise everything New Age — because a billion failed attempts later, it’s exhausting disillusionment. It’s also selfish and inward, a sort of navel-gazing. Forcing mind over mind is like holding a gun to your head. If you try to control fear, you’ll become aggressive; if you try to control anger, you can become complacent. It doesn’t work. We need a force outside ourselves to help. That’s an understatement.
Again: How does a worldview answer the Big Questions of the meaning of life? You can get convoluted real quickly here, so keep it as obvious as Occam’s Razor. At the same time, know that Christianity itself does sound strange to all bystanders, but in its peculiar oddities it begins to accommodate complicated problems with satisfying answers. It answers a complex reality with truth we would not have made up on our own.
Tim Keller’s message on “The Reason for God.”
Ravi Zacharias’ message on “The Existence of God.”
It is no good asking for a simple religion. After all, real things are not simple. They look simple, but they are not … Such people put up a version of Christianity suitable for a child of six and make that the object of their attack.
Besides being complicated, reality, in my experience, is usually odd. It is not neat, not obvious, not what you expect … Reality, in fact, is usually something you could not have guessed. That is one of the reasons I believe Christianity. It is a religion you could not have guessed. If it offered us just the kind of universe we had always expected, I should feel we were making it up. But, in fact, it is not the sort of thing anyone would have made up. It has just that queer twist about it that real things have. So let us leave behind all these boys’ philosophies—these over-simple answers. The problem is not simple and the answer is not going to be simpler either.
— C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity