Christianity has a most bizarre story. For years I dismissed it as sheer folly. I had met too many “stupid” Christians who seemed to be so sure of what they believed but when questioned had no idea why and often knew very little of what the Bible taught. Yet when I look into the history, the story, the logic attached with the Christian worldview I now find it is a much more plausible view to hold. Here are a couple of ideas which made me want to dig further into Christianity’s truth claims:
- Christianity far from being a crutch for the weak grew and continues to spread during times of intense persecution
We’ve all heard it before- Christianity is just a religion for the weak. Something you cling to in order to make yourself feel better and live a naive life. Such a view is ignorant of the original roots of Christianity as well as the fact Christianity today grows fastest in the places where there is the most intense persecution.
Christianity was born into the era of the Roman empire. A time where many Christians were persecuted and killed for their faith- Peter, Paul, Polycarp, Justin Martyr and James to name a few. This was hardly a time you would become a Christian to make yourself feel better, positive or naively optimistic about the state of the world and despite all this it was during this time Christianity spread like wildfire throughout the known world.
We see a similar trend of Christianity growing in places of persecution today. Antonia Blumberg in 2014 provided estimates that Christianity would rise in China from 68 million people in 2010 to 160 million in 2025 following a time when no one thought Christianity could even survive in China 40 years ago. The Washington post estimated in 2015, that the number of Christians in Africa increased from less than 10% of the population in 1900 to 500 million people, despite extreme persecution in many countries. This hardly sounds like a white man’s religion to me or a crutch for the weak. Throughout history people have been willing to give up their lives for the faith and it has had a remarkable capacity to grow and spread.
2. Jesus is the most influential person in history
In 2013 Time Magazine ranked Jesus as the most influential person in history. It is hard to argue with that- Islam talks about Jesus, Christianity talks about Jesus and time is split by the approximate time of His birth.
You would think it would be wise on that basis to ask yourself what you think of Jesus and have reasons to support your views.
3. The fine tuning of the universe
Atheist cosmologist Sir Fred Hoyle claimed that a “common sense interpretation of the facts suggests that a super intellect has monkeyed with physics, as well as with chemistry and biology.” Supporting this idea, atheist cosmologist Sir Roger Penrose estimated the odds of a life-friendly universe appearing by chance are less than one part in 10¹⁰^¹²³.
Physicist PCW Davies is quoted saying, “Scientists are slowly waking up to an inconvenient truth — the universe looks suspiciously like a fix… Example: neutrons are just a tad heavier than protons. If it were the other way around, atoms couldn’t exist, because all the protons in the universe would have decayed into neutrons shortly after the big bang. No protons, then no atomic nucleuses and no atoms. No atoms, no chemistry, no life. Like Baby Bear’s porridge in the story of Goldilocks, the universe seems to be just right for life.”
Scientist Dr. Jay Richards lists 22 finely tuned parameters and conditions which if were slightly outside of a narrow range would mean life would be impossible on earth- parameters and conditions such as gravitational and nuclear field constants, proper concentration of sulfur, right planetary mass and a large moon with a right rotation period.
Moreover, one must ask if we are simply the result of random chance and purposeless explosions why the world has continued to exist in such an orderly manner for so long?
A common response to the fine tuning argument is the multiverse argument that there are an enormous amount of universes so a life permitting one must eventually exist. However, there is no evidence a multiverse exists and even if it does, one must ask where the multiverse came from. This does not change the fact what we see here on earth is so highly improbable without design and continues to exist and operate in an “improbable manner”. Does chance flip a coin from heads to tails or does it reflect the probability of heads or tails when someone flips it?
4. Evidence of biological complexity
Even famous atheist Richard Dawkins admits, living systems “give the appearance of having been designed for a purpose.”
It is not just the planet we live on that is fine tuned for existence but the very cells in our bodies! Dr. Stephen Meyer who wrote Signature in the Cell: DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design is quoted, “If we assume that a minimally complex cell needs at least 250 proteins of, on average, 150 amino acids and that the probability of producing just one such protein is 1 in 10¹⁶⁴ as calculated above, then the probability of producing all the necessary proteins needed to service a minimally complex cell is 1 in 10¹⁶⁴ multiplied by itself 250 times, or 1 in 10⁴¹⁰⁰⁰.” That is the probability of a minimally complex cell coming into existence by chance! Not even close to a bone or a nail or a hair and certainly nowhere near a brain, eye or heart!
Dr. Michael Katz is quoted, “Cells and organisms are quite complex by all pattern criteria. They are built of heterogeneous elements arranged in heterogeneous configurations, and they do not self-assemble. One cannot stir together the parts of a cell or of an organism and spontaneously assemble a neuron or a walrus: to create a cell or an organisms one needs a preexisting cell or a preexisting organism, with its attendant complex templets.”
Meanwhile scientist Dr. Michael Behe makes the argument that the flagellum which is a effectively a nano machine bacterium which travels through our bodies is irreducibly complex and thus could not come about without some form of design. A video on this can be seen here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNR48hUd-Hw&vl=en.
Yet many still prefer to think it was all accidental and mindless, that somehow the products of mindless purposeless accidents (ie. humans) through their minds and intentional purpose sensed what helped them survive and adapted accordingly, all purely by accident of course starting from the very first accidental cell.
5. The universe had a beginning
That might seem like an obvious fact but for centuries it was believed the universe just always was. This, of course, changed with the onset of modern cosmology.
Philosophy professor William Lane Craig has built on the famous Kalam Cosmological argument which is formulated as follows.
- Whatever begins to exist has a cause.
This is plausible and clear. God, by definition, does not begin to exist and so does not fall under this premise. Dr. RC Sproul provided the example of when you see a shoe on the road you must ask yourself if someone created it, if the shoe created itself (a logical impossibility), if the shoe is an illusion or if the shoe is eternal. I will let you decide for yourself on the most logical option.
2. The universe began to exist.
Cosmology professor Alexander Valenkin is quoted, “All the evidence we have says that the universe had a beginning.”
3. Therefore, the universe has a cause.
Given the Big Bang marked beginning of time and space as we know it, the cause of the universe must be independent of time and space as we know it, which starts to sound a lot like the Christian form of God. The question then becomes is this cause a personal cause (with an intention) or an impersonal cause. It makes no sense for a scientific law to bring about the universe as time and space began to exist at this point. Our other options are then abstract objects (like the number 7) which do not exist in causal relationships or a personal Creator. In the words of William Lane Craig, “we may therefore infer that a personal Creator of the universe exists, who is uncaused, beginningless, changeless, immaterial, timeless, spaceless, and unimaginably powerful.”
6. Historical evidence for Jesus’ resurrection
In the words of the Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 15:14, “if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain.” Regarding Jesus’ death, sceptic Dr. Bart Ehrman claims, “One of the most certain facts of history is that Jesus was crucified on orders of the Roman prefect of Judea, Pontius Pilate.” Atheist scholar Gerd Luderman adds, “Jesus’ death as a consequence of crucifixion is indisputable.”
We must then ask what about the resurrection? Based on criteria used by historians such as dissimilarity, embarrassment, multiple independent attestation and enemy attestation, we can establish the following three facts agreed upon by the vast majority of New Testament scholars whether atheist, Christian or agnostic.
- Jesus burial/ female witness discovery of empty tomb.
- The fact the disciples believed they had post mortem appearances of Jesus.
- Origin of disciples belief and willingness to die for their faith.
The best explanation of these facts would seem to be that Jesus did in fact rise from the dead and that His disciples despite the Jewish idea that the resurrection could only happen at the end of the age, were willing to die for beliefs dissimilar to what they grew up with. It makes no sense to argue that the disciples stole the body and were still willing to die for the idea of the resurrection or that hundreds of them were hallucinating despite every predisposition not to believe in a resurrection when the Romans or Jews could easily pull out Jesus body to prove that He was still dead.
NT Wright reminds us conspiracies are based off greed, power and lust and I can hardly see how being willing to die for a lie would help feed greed, power or lust.
Dr. Michael Licona also makes a case for the resurrection without even assuming there is any slightly accurate historical information in the gospels as these facts can be established from historic content outside the gospels (let alone a belief they are inerrant..). It is called the minimal facts approach and is outlined below:
- Jesus died by crucifixion
- Jesus disciples believed that he rose and appeared to them
- Church persecutor Paul was suddenly changed.
- James was suddenly changed.
- The tomb was empty.
7. The existence of objective moral values
I explored this issue in some more depth in my article:IF there’s no right and wrong, then why protest?2020 has been a year of division and protests. Protests over injustice, protests over failed government, protests over…streettheologian.medium.com
Some excerpts from the article are below:
Under atheism, there are no objective moral values (values which are right or wrong independent of whether or not anyone holds them). Nothing is really wrong and nothing is really right. Someone thinking that murder is wrong is no different to the idea that someone thinks the colour blue is better than the colour red- a social preference and social construct. Why? Because we are simply the result of a mindless accident and there is no grounding for the death of a human being as being anything different from the death of cells of your nose when you scratch it except that maybe there’s more cells involved…
In the words of atheist Alex Rosenberg, “ Is abortion, euthanasia, suicide, paying taxes, foreign aid, or anything else you don’t like forbidden, permissible, or sometimes obligatory? Anything goes. What is love, and how can I find it? Love is the solution to a strategic interaction problem. Don’t look for it; it will find you when you need it. Does history have any meaning or purpose? It’s full of sound and fury, but signifies nothing.”
Agnostic Alan Lightman adds, “We are a bunch of atoms, like trees, and like donuts.. so, eat a donut, or eat a child. Anything goes.” (Watch more at this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6Ny30CgaRmU)
My question to you is then if you are someone who continually talks about unjust behaviour or things other people ought to do or consider but think you are the result of a mindless accident, then why on earth would you really care so much? Why do you always talk about purpose when you live on a purposeless planet? Why even talk about what is true or just when you are just set up to survive according to the principles of evolution? There is no room for justice or truth under your worldview but mere survival and survival which initially comes about by chance.
If you’re left uneasy at these ideas being someone who stands for justice but has no real grounding for how justice could possibly exist, I encourage you to reconsider your worldview.
The moral argument is derived as follows:
- If God does not exist, objective moral values do not exist.
Philosopher Michael Ruse explains morality merely exists because it is of “biological worth” and an “adaptation” much like your hands and feet, which can’t be applied beyond yourself as a “reference point”, with “any deeper meaning.. illusory.” Thus any idea of moral progress is utterly meaningless for there is no benchmark against which to measure progress if God does not exist. Please note this does not mean you need to believe in God to be “moral”.
2. Objective moral values do exist.
We see this around us. Child torture and rape is really wrong. The Holocaust was really wrong even if the Nazis had taken over the world and convinced everyone it wasn’t. Protests globally are based on some idea of justice which sounds a lot more serious to the protesters than a biological adaptation or social construct.
3. Therefore, God exists.
8. The fact mercy is at the heart of Christianity
In Buddhism you need to return to being at one with the universe, in Hinduism you need to discover your inner god, in Islam salvation is a combination of your works (hopefully good deeds outweigh bad) and Allah’s grace. There is no real assurance of salvation.
Contrast this to Christianity, we read in Romans 5:8, “but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” Ephesians 2:8–9 adds, “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.”
Even the Hindu Gandhi recognised the uniqueness of the cross of Christ, “Jesus, a man who was completely innocent, offered himself as a sacrifice for the good of others, including his enemies, and became the ransom of the world. It was a perfect act.”
Napoleon echoes these words, “I know men and I tell you that Jesus Christ is no mere man. Between Him and every other person in the world there is no possible term of comparison. Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I have founded empires. But on what did we rest the creation of our genius? Upon force. Jesus Christ founded His empire upon love; and at this hour millions of men would die for Him.”
9. Christianity provides a framework from which science can be practised
Dr. Rebecca McLaughlin wisely points out, “Christians invented the university and founded most of the world’s top schools to glorify God. And yet studying is seen as a threat to faith. Christians invented science, yet science is seen as antithetical to Christianity.” In her book, Confronting Christianity, she outlines how the empirical and methodological foundations of the scientific method were laid by two Franciscan friars, Roger Bacon and William of Ockham.
It makes sense that is the case- Christianity believes in a rational orderly Creator whose characteristics can be seen in creation. Contrast this to atheism which believes humans exist for survival, not truth (so how can they even discern truth?), that everything is due to mindless chance and accidents. What sounds like a more logically consistent set of assumptions for applying the scientific method to you?
Even in 2009, research conducted by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press suggested 51% of scientists believe in God or some sort of higher power. They are definitely not 99.9% atheist as some of the atheistic literature might lead you to think.
10. Christianity speaks to the heart of the human condition
We live in a world full of deceit, corruption, selfishness, violence and pride. However, it is also a world where we see kindness, creativity, intelligence and beauty. This should come as no surprise when we read humans are created in God’s image (Gen. 1:27) and yet, due to sin, the human heart is sick and deceitful above all desperately in need of a saviour (Jer. 17:9).
I hope there’s 10 points are enough to get you thinking. There are plenty more we could discuss. To name just a few:
- the case from consciousness (significant work has been done in this space by Professor JP Moreland)
- the historical reliability of the New Testament with many clear references to historically verifiable times and places
- the fact the New Testament manuscripts were closer to the time of the event and far more numerous in number than other ancient texts
- the fact multiple extra biblical sources refer to Jesus and the rise of early Christianity
- the fact even Bible sceptic Bart Ehrman admitted in his debate with Dr. Dan Wallace, “Essential Christian beliefs are not affected by textual variants in the manuscript tradition of the New Testament.”
- the Messianic prophecies concerning Jesus in the Old Testament
- the fact the vast majority of the New Testament could be rewritten based off early church father quotes alone without even looking at the manuscript tradition
However, with all this in mind, we must ask what is Christianity about? On this note I think it is fitting to close with the words from the Apostle Paul found in Romans 10:9, “if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.”
If you are searching for the truth concerning Christianity, I would encourage you to continue and press on. In the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:7, “search, and you will find.”