It’s one of my favorite stories. A well-known contemporary Christian advocate got challenged by his son about the truth of Christianity. Sean McDowell informed his dad he didn’t know if Christianity was even true. Did his dad, Josh, respond in anger, frustration or fear? No, rather all he gave was the innocuous “that’s great son.”
Why would this popular Christian apologist respond this way?
I think Josh was confident that Christianity is true. Why would he think that? Well, in his college days, he was a skeptic and set out to disprove the Bible. His goal quickly evaporated when he encountered the evidence. If he wanted to be intellectually honest, he had to change his mind. The evidence drove him to Christianity! If Sean really wanted the truth, he would follow the evidence with intellectual honesty. He was sure Sean would come to the same conclusion.
So, what happened? Well, Sean actively set out to research Christianity. Sean, however, is just one of the many who has grown up in church, but still had doubts. Many fall away in unbelief. It’s strange that people rarely do what Sean did; actually research the evidence. If the evidence indicates its false, so be it. However, the evidence doesn’t cause people to walk away.
Christianity all depends upon Jesus. In fact, if you can knock out Jesus, you will destroy Christianity. I think it’s the only way to actually destroy Christianity. Peripheral questions may exist within the Christian worldview, but obviously the peripheral questions are not the essential questions. All I’m saying is that if someone wants to debunk Christianity, he or she will have to debunk Jesus first. However, that’s a tall task that’s been unsuccessfully tried for over two millennia.
To understand Jesus, we must remember that Jesus didn’t just walk onto the ancient stage without introduction. Rather, he was the fulfillment of many ancient prophecies. The ancient Hebrew Tanakh, known now as the Old Testament foretold of Jesus’ life. On almost every page one can find example after example of Jesus in the mega narrative and in very specific prophecies.
The central message of the Christian Bible, that includes both the Tanakh and New Testament, is Jesus. The curious part, however, is that the Christian Bible was written over centuries. It was written by numerous authors living on three continents. In fact, at least three different languages were used when the Bible was written. From ancient times to modern times, there has been massive amounts of scrutiny and textual criticism applied to the biblical text. No other ancient work has the massive amounts of ancient manuscripts like the Bible has. Lastly, there has been massive amounts of archeology devoted to biblical times that validate its claims.
Strangely, some question Jesus’ existence, but there is probably no other ancient figure who is better documented than Jesus. This documentation includes sources from both believers and skeptics. Not only did Jesus really exist, not only did he teach, not only did he die, but Jesus was resurrected. This may be a hard pill for some to swallow; who comes back from the dead? One source says there were over 500 people who saw him resurrected (1 Corinthians 15:6)!
Paul says that the resurrection is so essential that if Jesus was not resurrected, Christianity is dead! “If there be no resurrection of the dead, then is Christ not risen: And if Christ be not risen, then is our preaching vain, and your faith is also vain” (1 Corinthians 15:13 & 14). If there was no resurrection of Jesus, there would be no New Covenant. Let’s put it this way, all of Christianity rests on that very thin thread, the Resurrection of Jesus. To destroy Christianity, all you must do is snip this little thread. Strangely, this little thread seems to be a supernatural thread that snaps snippers that are used to snip at him. Countless have tried to snip this thread, countless have failed.
Three Poor Reasons
I don’t know why one would walk away from Christianity for evidential reasons. Intellectual honesty would prevent that. Christianity is an evidential religion, and it represents reality. It also has Jesus at the center, unlike other religions. However, there does seem to be at least three poor reasons to walk away.
The first one is the most silly and stupid. I mean that frankly and not in a mean way. People walk away because of ignorance. Now, it could be apathy, but it ultimately is ignorance. Most probably are easily talked out of Christianity because they have never been talked into Christianity. Some have questions that people in the Church have no desire to answer. This is obviously a very poor reason to leave Christianity, but it’s still a common reason.
The second reason is very bad. Again, I’m not using the word in a mean way, rather people who walk away want to do bad things. They love their sin more than they love Jesus. In other words, sin is their god. But, quite unknown to them, they are a slave to sin, and sin is a heavy taskmaster. People want sexual freedom, they want to lust, they want to be fine with abortions, that want to live with their boyfriend or girlfriend, they want to live as a homosexual. Some love to steal, some love drunkenness, some love to lie. The list goes on and on. My question is why would someone want to enjoy the pleasures of sin for such a short time and give up eternal bliss? To me, that seems to be quite the bad deal. This again is a poor reason people leave Christianity, but it’s quite a popular reason to reject Jesus.
The third reason is kind of psycho. Again, I’m not saying this to be mean, rather, I’m saying this because some leave for psychology or emotional reasons. Some don’t like some teaching or tradition. I’m not sure why that doesn’t mean it’s not true, however. Some doubt Jesus because of pain and suffering in their lives or in the lives of others. While concerning, this does not disprove Jesus. Some are turned off because of some historical event. However, Jesus is the measuring rod of how we measure Christianity, not some other person. Some don’t want Jesus because some hypocrite in their life identifies as Christian. However, some of those who use this as a reason are some of the greatest hypocrites. They don’t want Jesus because of the badness in others, but they go out and do even worse things. It’s like not wanting to go to the gym because fat people are there. Like the other two reasons, this too is very common, but it also is a very poor reason.
Of all the reasons to leave Christianity, evidence is the only good reason. If it is not true, leave; if it is true, the rational and intellectually honest person would follow him. The other three reasons are all poor reasons based upon the idolatry of self: I’m too lazy, I love my sin, I let my emotions run my life.
The road to ultimate bliss and happiness has no shortcuts. The glitter and promise of temporal utopia are always transient and fleeting, always ending in pain, evil and suffering.
Now, the “Good News” of “The Way” offers free salvation, but discipleship will cost you everything. Jesus requires all of you, all your wretched sinful life. Jesus calls you to repent from sin to him. He requires you to give up your passions, your personal peace and your affluence. It takes no special talent to do “sex, drugs and rock-and-roll.” That takes no bravery, no stamina, no commitment, no dedication, no nerve. Following Jesus is hard, a road full of scorn, ridicule and embarrassment, slander, rejection, sorrow, grief, persecution and even death. But in the end, grief turns to joy, despair to bliss, pain to utopia and commitment to reward. It takes real guts to follow Jesus, and Jesus offers real peace, strength and joy.