Saturday, November 14, 2009

Why I Believe Christianity is True And Other Ideas Are Just False

I like vanilla ice cream. My wife likes chocolate mint. My parents like Rocky Road. It's silly to insist that vanilla is right, and every other flavor is wrong. That doesn't make any sense. Flavors of ice cream are a matter of personal preference, not statements of truth or morality.

What about religion? Many people believe this is also a matter of personal preference too. So what's up with the idea that Christianity is true, and other faiths are not? Isn't that a silly statement? It depends on what I mean by "religion."

Religion for some people is a matter of selecting a set of beliefs and practices (rituals) that helps one cope with life. They believe that centering oneself around certain practices brings peace and contentment, and that's what is desirable about religion. Religion for them doesn't really need to answer the big questions of life so much as to bring comfort. And if they do attempt to answer the big questions, they do so unrealistically. For them religion doesn't interfere with real life, as much as adding value to it.

But what I mean by Christianity is not this sort of thing. When I talk about Christianity, I am talking about the very nature of reality itself. It is a construct of what is true and inescapable. In other words, Christianity applies to everyone no matter what they believe. Christianity does bring comfort, but not all the time. Christianity does give moral direction, but it doesn't offer a mental escape from consequences when we disobey.

So, why do I believe it to be true in comparison to any other religion or philosophy. Here is a general construct I follow when I consider truth claims. (Thanks to this succinct approach by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason.)

  1. First, there is the test of consistency. Does the philosophy fit with reality? For instance, the theory of general evolution's philosophical construct posits that everything came to be as a result of unguided progressive evolutionary processes. The problem with this is that it doesn't adequately answer the big question of "how" nor does it fit the physical evidences. I am not going to deal with all the problems of this construct, but to suffice to say that Christianity's answer to this fits what we know to be true, and what makes sense: everything came from something, and information is only created by Someone rather than spontaneous processes.

  2. Second, there is the test of coherence. Does the idea itself make sense? The idea that all religions (ideas about reality) are true, can't be true because the statement is inconsistent with itself. Not only does the statement fail it's own test (it can't be true that it is false too), religions hold contradictory ideas. So logically they can't both be true. The only option is that either one is right or none are right. Christianity claims that only one way of seeing reality is objectively true.

  3. Last, is the test of authoritative support. Is the view attested by an authority. In the other two tests Christianity, Islam, and the Jewish faith can all pass the test to different degrees. But, this test requires an authority's testimony. In each faith, they share an authority of Moses. He testified that there is one true God who has created everything and has revealed his moral will. The authority of Moses is confirmed by prophetic revelation and by God's power.

    The clincher is Jesus. Here is where the major religions disagree. The argument is not with Jesus' moral teachings, but with what he said about himself. He claimed to be the very Son of God. If true, this gives him a standing of authority that supersedes Moses or any prophet. He has the authority to speak about God and reality which no other person has. The proof of his authority is what he did, his coherent teachings, his power, God's own testimony, and Jesus' resurrection. And there are many good reasons to believe these proofs are authentic, including eyewitness testimony from his enemies and early disciples.
What is central to Christianity is not the moral teachings of Jesus. What is central to Christianity is the identity of Jesus. It matters who he is. Without Jesus there is no Christianity, even with his teachings intact. Without Jesus being the true Son of God, there is no hope, no good news, and no real faith. If we do not have faith in who Jesus is, we cannot even be saved. A Christian is not someone who believes the moral teachings, does Christian rituals, or feels good about Christianity. A Christian is a person who knows Jesus is the true Son of God, trusts him with her life, and orders her life around him.

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