Have you always doubted Christianity? Have you struggled to reconcile a world of pain and sorrow with a kind and loving God? Are you unsure by the claims of numerous religions that say they are the only true religion?
The following chapters will unpack a few essential truths about the Christian faith.
One of the most famous pastors of New York named Timothy Keller has used his new method to help in reviving the Christian faith. In these chapters, he describes the main points of Christian faith and its most common oppositions.
1 – Different from the popular belief, the Christian church is not particularly exclusive; however, they have their core principles.
People have a lot of things against the Christian church. However, the idea that Christianity is a strict and self-righteous religion is what scares the majority of the people away.
This is a result of Christianity’s strict beliefs and their claims of being just the only true religion and this is what makes a lot of people doubt Christianity.
For instance, a few parts of the Christian faith such as the belief that Jesus is truly the son of God are not compatible with some other religions. By claiming that their belief is real and true, Christianity denotes that other religions are wrong.
Each religion is right in its own way for the majority of people. This is why they don’t support Christianity because it assumes that its own rules and perception are the right ones. Actually, this type of notion can really make some people very annoyed.
For instance, the author of this book was once part of a panel discussion where he, a rabbi and an imam all said that not all religions are true. This statement made one of the students that were at the discussion annoyed, the student answered by saying, “We will never come to know peace on earth if religious leaders keep on making such exclusive claims!”
However, in reality, there is absolutely nothing wrong with having strong beliefs and core principles. As a matter of fact, everyone and society have a set of core principles that forms their identity and it also distinguishes them from other people.
For Instance, if you believe in the right to private property, or you believe that your life has a basic value, then you are upholding a core principle. Also, all society that has basic rules on how people are meant to behave; for instance, a law against homicide – also has some core principles about life that form a common moral basis for their specific social identity.
Also, even very tolerant groups have their own specific core principles that bring them together and also create their own identity just like Christianity. For example, gay rights activists believe that same-sex relationships should be completely accepted by society.
2 – Your personal or cultural freedom is not threatened by Christianity.
The strict regulations that Christian faith has is another typical misconception about Christian faith. Non-believers usually ask questions like: how can you live a free life if there is a firm set of rules that you have to abide with?
Truly, a lot of people assume that accepting and following Christianity’s strict rules and rigid regulations would threaten their personal and cultural freedom.
For instance, while the author was working as a pastor in New York; he met a lot of people who claimed they can’t become Christians because they wanted to live their life with their own rules and not rules set by another person.
However, Christianity truly has space for your personal freedom and your own practices.
This is due to the fact that the Bible is unclear on several points, and while it instructs you on some essential core beliefs, it also enables everyone to decide precisely how they want to practice their faith.
For instance, the Bible does not have a strict set of rules and regulations for religious services: it just states that religious practices are essential; however, the instructions can be interpreted in various ways. This enables every Christian community and believer to choose the type of service they want, either the loud gospel choirs of Africa or the quiet masses of some Protestant churches.
However, Christianity is beyond permitting personal freedom; it also gives room for the incorporation of existing cultural traditions.
Due to its openness, it is easy for Christianity to be incorporated into several local cultures and traditions. By doing this, Christian beliefs don’t overrule the existing traditions; however, it adds a new layer and new meaning to the culture. For instance, African cultures repeatedly had a strong belief in good and evil spirits as well as the notions of a divine savior. Hence, when they heard about the coming of Jesus Christ and how he resisted the evil spirits while wandering in the desert, they could instantly relate it to Christianity, regardless of their own local traditions.
3 – Christianity is the cause for the majority of the good that in the world.
How do you know if a set of principles is valid or not? One method to know is by observing those who practice such beliefs and see how they act in the world. As for Christianity and a lot of other religions, it is very obvious that its followers have done a lot of good things and they are still doing a lot of wonderful things.
This is because the principles of Christianity lay the basis for good beliefs, and it also inspires its believers to help others particularly those who are worse off than us.
As a matter of fact, not all Christian in history has been reliable in doing good. However, a lot of our Western moral beliefs find their origin in Christianity like the unquestionable value of human life. The source of this belief is from the Bible where God gave a command that no one should kill another person because God created every human. Hence, killing another human means that you are destroying what God made.
Also, according to the Bible; Jesus who is the most significant teacher of Christianity. He also assisted the poor as well as the weak, he even encouraged other people to do such. .He spent a lot of his time among the poor and marginalized, claiming that they are the ones that needed him the most.
Finally, in the seventeenth century, Christians were part of the first people in the United States to go against slavery because it opposed their core principles about every human being’s worth.
Also, the Christian faith encouraged its believers to do great things even during bad times.
For instance, the German pastor Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s faith obliged him to fight courageously against the Nazi administration; he even left London which was a safe place just to fight against it. After his arrest in Germany, he clarified in his various letters to his family that his faith in God gave him the courage to fight injustice, and focus on always helping others even if he had to pay the price of pain and suffering.
4 – It really isn’t a bag thing to accept one’s sins
There is one last common objection to Christian belief which is when you become a Christian, you’ll have to face all the things you have done wrong and you will have to accept that you are a sinner.
However, does this have to be a bad thing?
As a matter of fact, it is really redeeming to accept that you’ve made mistakes and that you are not a perfect person.
For instance, Professor Alberto Delbanco writes about the experience he faced while he was conducting research in the self-help group Alcoholics Anonymous. One of the members was a young man who felt he was cheated by society, and he blamed everyone else for his life that was going wrong. He was very annoyed and felt like he could not escape from his problems.
However, everything changed when one of the other members said: “I experienced the same problem until I had low self-esteem.” He further stated that he was eventually set free after he accepted that he wasn’t perfect and that he and not society had made a lot of mistakes. These statements helped the young man overcome his belief that his own perfect life was ruined by society and he didn’t feel annoyed anymore.
Also, another advantage of accepting our sins is that it helps us do something about them.
For instance, just imagine that you are sick and you continuing blaming your poor health on your surroundings or your genes. Because these things are out of your control, you really can’t do anything about them, and you won’t get any better. However, if you begin to think about what you have done wrong; perhaps you haven’t been exercising enough – you can begin to act differently and make a positive change.
Finally, accepting your sins can also help you focus more on significant things like helping others instead of focusing on just money or your career.
This is because if you accept that you’ve done bad things in the past, Christianity proposed that you ask God for salvation. This implies that you’ll have to try to please him by abiding by his rules; for instance helping others.
In the following chapter, you’ll learn about the author’s arguments on the reason why it is good to believe in the Christian God.
5 – Suffering, injustice, and calamities don’t oppose God’s existence.
In spite of several people doing their best just to make the world a better place, there is still a lot of suffering. Also, for a lot of people, this simple fact is the core argument against the existence of a loving and just God.
However, what these people fail to see is that these bad things signify something and it can bring out something good.
A popular illustration of this point is the story of Joseph from the bible. Joseph suffered countless sufferings which include him being sold into slavery in Egypt by his own brothers. All through his terrible suffering he must have prayed for help to God; however, God didn’t intervene. Even though it was painful, his suffering made him become stronger and wiser as a person.
Ultimately, after he was released, he used this strength of character to become a leading politician and he also saved a lot of people from hunger and drought. God allowed him to suffer as a slave because it was just this suffering that made him become a stronger and better person.
On top of the meaning that can be seen in suffering, there is also a more subtle reason that indicates that irrespective of this world’s injustice, we do believe in a higher being even if we fail to recognize it!
The fact that we consider something unfair signifies that we have some belief in a higher being. For instance, if we consider a disaster like a tsunami is an unjust occurrence, instead of a random act of nature, we are assuming that there’s some type of higher-order that is capable of influencing these occurrences. This means that an occurrence can’t be unjust if there is no one responsible for it. Therefore, claiming the occurrence is unjust shows that such catastrophes are more than pure coincidence.
One could even ask further: if there is no God, where do the ideas of “just” and “unjust” originate from, seeing that we can’t quantify justice in the physical world? Here is a likely explanation:
The mere fact that we have a feeling for justice signifies that there’s a God who gave us this idea.
6 – The idea of hell doesn’t oppose the idea of God being a loving God.
The idea of a scorching hell and an angry judging God scares away a lot of possible believers. However, these people don’t really understand the meaning of hell: hell can and should be viewed as an abstract principle which means a deviation from what is right, and a concentration on what is wrong.
For instance, Christian belief says that if you depend on the wrong things such as money and fame, you will live in your own personal hell.
Jesus once described this point in the story of the rich man and he said to the rich man that his money would hinder him from getting into heaven. Jesus meant that the people who are only concerned about money won’t find real happiness and comfort that lies in God, and are instead forced to live in hell on earth.
However, it reasonable that such a loving and just God would get angry at his creations sometimes.
For instance, imagine someone close to you was continually making the same mistakes and never getting to their full potential. There is a possibility that you will get angry because you care for that person and want to help them take charge of their life.
Sometimes, people that are wrong need to get punished for their actions. Imagine a world where there is no punishment for a murderer in a society. That barely looks fair particularly to the victims and their relatives.
A biblical illustration of this was when Adam and Eve disobeyed God by eating from the forbidden fruit, he felt betrayed, he became furious and he banished them from paradise. However, he still showed that he cared for them by making clothes for them and watching over them which shows the idea that God can judge and be a loving God at the same time.
7 – Science can’t contradict God’s existence.
Have you ever heard people say that religion is no longer essential because modern science now describes all the mysteries in the world and it has also proven religion to be wrong in the process?
These people are not aware that science and religion aren’t as incompatible as they look.
For instance, the theory of evolution is frequently stated as one of the core conflicts between science and religion. However, as a matter of fact, the Catholic Church stated a long time ago that the theory of evolution is compatible with Christianity.
Moreover, the fact that a lot of scientists are very religious shows that there’s no conflict between practicing science and religion. For example, take Francis Collins who is the head of the Human Genome Project and also a profound religious Christian.
A lot of these scientists acknowledge that there are still a lot of things science can’t explain, however, religion can explain.
For instance, all events require a cause. However, what was the very first cause that initiated everything in the universe? This can’t be answered by science without coming to a contradiction, such as suggesting an infinite chain of causes that began from nowhere! However, religion obviously puts God as the first cause that formed the universe.
Some people object and say that the Big Bang was the initial cause. However, if we say the Big Bang was the start of all things, we’ve just formed a new question of what instigated the Big Bang?
Another confusion of the relationship between science and religion is when scientists attempt to challenge or explain miracles.
What they fail to recognize is that miracles work on a different level of meaning and proof. When they ask for a scientific explanation for a miracle illustrated in the Bible; like when Jesus turned water into wine they are missing the point. Because by their description, miracles can’t be explained by science.
8 – It is a fact for Christians that Jesus really rose from the dead.
The main belief of Christianity is also one of its popular discussed topics which are the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus Christ. However, can something so miraculous actually be real?
Let’s look at this statement through what we know from the Bible: immediately after the death of Jesus, there was a rapid change in the entire community of Christian that can only be explained by real experience. All Christian instantaneously began to believe and preach that Jesus had risen from the dead. For the Christians, the lack of big disagreements inside the Christian community at that time signifies that the resurrection was true, and there was no point talking about its validity.
Also, there’s the fact that the belief in God as a resurrected and transformed human body – in contrast to Ancient Greek mythology, where gods sometimes just used humans as a disguise was totally new in the Jewish community. However, since it actually happened, no one cared that it was a new belief.
However, even if the story of the resurrection was not true, it would have been faked very poorly.
Because a lot of its details are possibly destructive for Christian doctrine, and it would have led to a lot of doubts at that point.
For instance, the first set of people that met Jesus after his resurrection were all women. Then, women weren’t seen as official witnesses in court. If somebody had faked the whole story, it would have been very convincing to state that the first witnesses were men.
In conclusion, the resurrection of Jesus’ story is supported by a lot of eyewitnesses mentioned in the Bible.
In an account of the resurrection, Paul apostle mentions more than 300 witnesses mostly by their names and claims that a lot are still alive. This was significant evidence because the relatively safe roads of the Roman Empire made it easy to see the listed witnesses and also ask them questions directly. Definitely, he would not have gone through all these troubles unless he was certain that the resurrection was real.
9 – Even though there is no certain proof, a lot of clues lead us to believe in God.
Debates on religion can go on and on forever. Although there may be no proof for God, there are certainly a lot of strong clues that talks about his existence.
For instance, we all have experienced emotions that appear to connect us to something beyond our daily world. This shows that there is a higher plane of existence and within it, there might be a higher being.
Additionally, a lot of people have moral feelings and a deep sense of beauty; these feelings are difficult to explain in both our normal and non-spiritual world. For instance, we think that some things are simply wrong, for instance, committing murder without any reason; while other things are really beautiful such as a breathtaking landscape that seems to touch something inside us that is unexplainable.
Also, another argument for the existence of God is that we have the need for a higher being and a higher meaning for our lives – and where there is a desire; something regularly exists to fulfill that desire.
People who don’t believe in God or a higher meaning experience what author John Updike called a sense of “horror.” This enables them to continually seek for a higher calling in life and a lot of people wish for a higher being that watches over them to make that call. It is reasonable to assume that there is such a God who can satisfy these desires seeing that a lot of people have this desire for a deeper meaning and an almighty God.
Because it would be unreasonable to have a desire for something that is not in existence, as we would never be able to fulfill it. For instance, the fact that we have a desire like hunger strongly shows that there is something like food to satisfy our desire. And truly there is!
The Reason for God: Belief in an Age of Skepticism by Timothy Keller Book Review
The most common oppositions people have against Christianity are, why miracles are real, how did we know that Jesus resurrected from the dead and why science can’t challenge religion; all these can be answered through Christianity’s own doctrines and principles.