May 26, 2017

iMonk Classic: Why I Am a Christian (10 Reasons)

This weekend, as we mourn Michael Spencer’s passing, thank God for the hope of eternal life, and comfort one another in our time of loss, IM will feature classic posts from the Internet Monk.

Why I Am a Christian—Ten Reasons

Why am I a Christian? How about a quick survey of the more popular possible answers.

  • Spencer is a Christian because its the dominant religion in his culture. It enforces the value system he has grown up in, and if you are going to have some foundation for what it means to be a “good person” in North America, Christianity is still the majority game in town, especially if you’re a white male conservative Republican.
  • Spencer is a Christian because he is too cowardly to face the fact that God just isn’t there and the harder truth that death is it. Back to atoms and molecules. No reward or punishment. No heaven or life after death. He can’t swallow that so he’s leaning on the crutch of religion, and Christianity is a great crutch.
  • Spencer is a Christian because he wants Christianity to be true. It gives his life meaning and allows him to say he is right and others are wrong. He needs it to be true, especially the part about the Bible being true, because he gets paid the big bucks to talk about the Bible all the time.

And on we go. So now that I have given the alternative explanations a fair hearing, I want to make my case. Since most everything we write around here stands on some portion of our various understandings of the Christian worldview, I think it’s just fair to say, as plainly as possible, why we are coming from this point of view.

As intellectually interesting as the three options above seem to be, the fact is that I would not be a Christian if I were not personally convinced it were true. I could make more money if I weren’t a Christian. If I were convinced of the underlying truth of any of the above options, I wouldn’t leave my wife and kids, but you can be sure I would make some immediate changes in the fabric of my life. If I weren’t convinced of the truth of Christianity, I wouldn’t saddle my kids with all the baggage of a religious upbringing. And I sure would be happy- thrilled- to unhook myself from the organized church. New Age spirituality, Buddhism, Unitarianism: hey, they would all lower my blood pressure 10 points. Yet, here I am. One of those Christians, second cousin to Paul and Jan Crouch and the rest of the TBN zoo. Why, Oh why Oh why?

In presenting my personal belief system to my students, I have developed a simple ten point outline. I will share that here and make a few comments, but if you want the whole deal unpacked, e-mail me and I will send you a tape or something. I put this together with brevity in mind, but I’m not cutting corners.

So here we go.

Why I Am a Christian

  1. It is reasonable that God might exist.
  2. Further, it is reasonable (based on the evidence) that this God who might exist might be personal and therefore have communicated with human beings.
  3. The world’s religions are a reasonable place to look for evidence of such communication.
  4. Among those representing the world religions, Jesus of Nazareth seems to hold the consensus as the person most likely to provide convincing evidence of the God who might exist. (Since Jesus is- in some way- incorporated into all major world religions. If all the world’s religious leaders were locked in a basement until they could elect only one person to represent the best of their beliefs, I believe Jesus would be the person selected.)
  5. The resurrection of Jesus is a reasonable explanation for the existence of Christianity as a distinct belief system from Judaism.
  6. An examination of the various alternatives and existing evidence convinces me that the Resurrection is, in fact, true.
  7. If the Rez is true, then Jesus’ statements about himself, God, Truth, Sin, etc. (The Christian worldview) are true by deduction.
  8. Based on this conclusion, I relate to the God who I now believe exists through Jesus.
  9. My experience matches what Jesus describes, providing personal verification of the truth of Christianity.
  10. Based on Pascal’s wager, I await eventual verification of this conclusion after death, but haven’t lost anything if I am wrong.

First, for my skeptical friends, I know this outline can be faulted a hundred different ways, so its not that I haven’t thought of your objection before. This is simply the way I put it all together for me.
Secondly, the resurrection of Jesus is crucial to my faith. As far as I know, Christianity is the only religion that has an explicitly confessed point of falsification. That is, it tells you, up front, how to disprove it. Read I Corinthians 15:14 and 17: “And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith….And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is foolish.” Now this is significant because it is turning the entire worldview onto its head and standing it on one assertion. If this is disproven, then the whole structure collapses. Try to get someone in the New Age or atheism to give you a similar statement of falsification.

Third, there are only a finite number of possibilities for what happened to Jesus. 1) He never existed. (Disproven by the testimony of his first century enemies, who accepted his existence.) 2) He purposely faked his resurrection (which means he was an evil genius. Hardly plausible given what we know of his life.) 3) The resurrection is a mistake or hallucination. (The transformation and experience of the disciples cannot be explained by a mistake and mass hallucinations do not happen on this level.) 4) The disciples faked it. (No motive and not capable of doing it. Read the Gospels!)  5) He never actually died, but just passed out and recovered. (No possible way this could have happened.) 6) Jesus rose from the dead and appeared to his disciples. Given everything that must be explained, 1-5 fail, leaving 6 as the only possibility that explains all aspects of the sudden birth of early Christianity out of Judaism.

Fourth, while my personal experience proves nothing, it is important if my personal experience matches the experience described in the Bible. This is often overlooked. For example, the Bible says we are persons made in God’s image, but fallen into sin. This has great explanatory power for what we see in actual human beings, and beats the pants off any other view of human nature. Also, the transformative aspect of Christianity may be easily discounted because of hypocrisy and outright evil on the part of Christians, but the evidence of a conversion such as St.Paul, St. Francis, C.S. Lewis, Charles Colson, even Jane Fonda, is not to be set aside. It is exactly what Jesus described and effected during his life.

Fifth, I believe strongly that the inclusion of Jesus in the belief systems of non-Christian religions (such as Buddhism and the New Age) gives real credence to my assertion that Jesus is the most likely place to look for the truth about God and the resurrection is the key to our view of Jesus. If the Resurrection is true, then all of Jesus’ teaching and assertions can be used as authoritative, because he is the Son of God as he claimed to be.

Finally, Pascal’s wager is critical to this argument. The great French Mathematician and Christian wrote that if we “wager” that there is no God, and we are right, we win nothing. If we “wager” that God exists, and we are wrong, we lose nothing. If, however, we wager that God exists and we are correct, the payoff is inestimable. If we wager there is no God, and we wrong, we lose everything and more than everything. Therefore, even if the argument is not flawless, it leads to a position that allows anyone to sleep more soundly.

So there is the argument. I invite any response and certainly hope those you share my conclusions will use the outline freely.

Comments

  1. Ryan Cordle says:

    Michael wrote this outline to use with his Advanced Bible Class. One of his goals, though he may have never phrased it like this, was to communicate to his students that Christian could be, and should be, intelligent. Belief in Jesus does not equal ignorance or mere superstition. In many ways, that is where his contribution to our ministry, and to the world, will be most missed- his God gifted ability to communicate the Christian faith in a way that everyone could respect.

  2. If memory serves, this was episode 1 of Coffee Cup Apologetics. It not, it was definitely near the beginning. And Ryan is right; C.S. Lewis, Ravi Zacharias and Michael Spencer evidence the fact that we need intelligent, well thought out responses to legitimate questions about our faith. We can do better than “God said it, that settles it.”

    • It fascinates me how much Jesus did not say on so many of the issues and questions we struggle with as humans. I would dare say that part of maturing in the faith is when we stop being spoon fed and do the hard work of figuring out matters on our own to best of our ability. This is not unlike an earthly dad telling his son that it is time to leave home and start figuring life out.

      • God gave us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The problem is that we often read the Bible as some esoteric book that does not speak to practical needs. As I struggled against the flesh I came to realize that Jesus has actually given us many tools to use in our struggle, but we have to apply the principles. For example, if we view a woman as a sister, we will be less likely to lust after her. If I pray for a woman that is a temptation to me, I will be less likely to lust after her. If I realize my body is not my own and that I am bought with a price, I came to realize I cannot use my body in just any way I wish, for it does not belong to me. These principles have been there all along, and they provide solutions to many different kinds of real problems, but we have to realize that they are intended to help us defeat sin and actually use them instead of just memorizing the verse. There are many other principles there as well that are useful, helpful, and really work, but we do not recognize them because they do not explicitly say, “If this happens, then do this”. We have to think about the principles and apply them where they are appropriate.

        • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

          God gave us all things that pertain to life and godliness. The problem is that we often read the Bible as some esoteric book that does not speak to practical needs.

          As in a grimoire of one-verse Verbal Spell Components?

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      We can do better than “God said it, that settles it.”

      “God Said It
      I Believe It
      That Settles It”?

      ISLAM believes that — and not only trembles, but acts upon it.

  3. GranpaJohn says:

    How would Michael ever know if he won the wager? Only in that day, that glorious day when our hearts were saddened and his eyes enlightened.
    It is so very fitting that last week we celebrated the ressurrection of our Lord Jesus which was so crucial to Michael’s own faith and today we celebrate the one who wisely said ” I await eventual verification of this conclusion after death, but haven’t lost anything if I am wrong”.

    God gave us intelligence to be used to glorify Him.
    So in the time you have left, Preach Jesus.

    He KNOWS now, he is right!

    • Headless Unicorn Guy says:

      ”I await eventual verification of this conclusion after death, but haven’t lost anything if I am wrong”.

      Actually, he would lose something. Conscious existence.

      I’ve often wondered which “death after death” is worse. Completely ceasing to exist, or consciously existing in Hell. Both are serious bummers.