The Christian Faith – Why It’s True
|By: Dr. John Ankerberg, Dr. John Weldon; ©2001|
|The Christian faith was not the fabrication of man, for whatever reason. It was not the invention of the disciples, the Apostle Paul or the Council of Nicea in the fourth century. Nor is the Christian faith simply a result of the cultural evolution of the Jewish people, or an ersatz revival of the ancient mystery religions. By whatever means the critics suggest, Christianity is not the deception they claim it is.|
The Christian faith was not the fabrication of man, for whatever reason. It was not the invention of the disciples, the Apostle Paul or the Council of Nicea in the fourth century. Nor is the Christian faith simply a result of the cultural evolution of the Jewish people, or an ersatz revival of the ancient mystery religions. By whatever means the critics suggest, Christianity is not the deception they claim it is. Jesus’ original teachings were never perverted, only to have them revived by this cult or that cult, whether Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Christian Science, Unity School of Christianity, Armstrongism, or others.
Historical facts and the canons of logic document that Christianity alone is fully true and the only religion in the world truly based upon divine revelation. To the extent that any Christian body or denomination holds to that divine revelation, it may be
considered genuinely Christian, as opposed to being considered aberrational Christianity, heterodoxy, heresy or Christian in name only.
Besides being divine revelation, biblical faith is rational, not blind or based in subjectivism. Christianity is the one religion simultaneously most likely to be true and, given its claims, the easiest to disprove if false. Therefore, an individual searching for truth should begin that search with biblical Christianity. If knowing the truth is in one’s best interest, then the claim of Christianity to have the truth and the claim of Jesus Christ to be the truth is worth investigation. Further, because Christianity is a religion based on divine revelation (the content of the Bible), it is Christianity which submits to biblical authority. In other words the church does not sit in judgment upon the content or legitimacy of the Bible; the Bible sits in judgment upon the content or legitimacy of religious bodies claiming to be Christian, whether inside the fold of traditional Christianity or outside.
For those who are already searching but who do not share our Christian worldview, why might they consider openly evaluating the Christian religion? First, because it is good to do so. All religions can’t be true because they all conflict with one another. All might be false, but only one can be true. The honest search for truth is one of the noblest philosophical endeavors of life. Plato declared, “Truth is the beginning of every good thing, both in Heaven and on earth; and he who would be blessed and happy should be from the first a partaker of the truth.” Jesus Christ claims that He is the truth and that people can determine the legitimacy of His claims to their own satisfaction. Any religion that claims and produces solid evidence on behalf of an assertion that it alone is fully true is worth serious consideration for that reason alone. Only biblical Christianity does this.
The kind of existence that Christianity offers a seeker is one of deep and abundant satisfaction, regardless of the pain and disappointment one may experience in life. Jesus claimed that He would give us what we really need in life: true meaning and purpose flow, and when we die everlasting life in a glorious heavenly existence far beyond our current comprehension. Noted Oxford and Cambridge scholar C. S. Lewis correctly understood one of the most heartfelt yearnings of mankind when he wrote, “There have been times when I think we do not desire heaven but more often I find myself wondering whether, in our heart of hearts, we have ever desired anything else.” Jesus declared, “I have come that they may have life, and have it to the full” (John 10:10). He said, “I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me will live, even though he dies” (John 11:25). He also said, “I am the truth” (John 14:6). “Everyone on the side of truth listens to me” (John 18:37).
Christianity is unique in both the evidence upon which it rests and the doctrines it teaches. Just as Jesus Christ is unique, so is the religion based upon Him. There is sufficient evidence from virtually every department of human experience and study to objectively demonstrate that Christianity is true. Regardless of the many truth claims in other religions, it is the faith of the non-Christian that is internally and externally lacking. While it may be “politically incorrect” in some minds to say such a thing, the only issue is: “Is it true”? Again, Christian faith is an objective, rational faith. Whatever their merits, non-Christian faiths are typically irrational, subjective and without sufficient grounding as to historical claims, and they lack credible claims to be divine revelation. Despite the widespread misperception that Christianity involves a blind “leap of faith,” that description does fit non-Christian religions generally.
Scholars Are Convinced
Christianity is not just intellectually credible, whether considered philosophically, historically, scientifically, ethically or culturally, but from an evidential perspective it is superior to other worldviews, secular or religious. If Christianity were obviously false, as cults and most skeptics charge, how could esteemed scholars and intellectuals logically make their declarations of faith? While testimonies per se mean little, if they are undergirded by the weight of scholarly evidence they can hardly be dismissed out of hand. Mortimer Adler is one of the world’s leading philosophers. He is chairman of the board of editors for “The Encyclopedia Britannica”. He is also the architect of “The Great Books of the Western World” series and its amazing “Syntopicon”, and he is director of the prestigious Institute for Philosophical Research in Chicago and author of “Truth in Religion”, “Ten Philosophical Mistakes”, “How to Think About God”, “How to Read a Book”, plus over 20 other challenging books. He simply asserts, “I believe Christianity is the only logical, consistent faith in the world.” How could a philosopher of Adler’s caliber make such a statement? Because he knows it can’t rationally be made of any other religion.
Philosopher, historian, theologian and trial attorney John Warwick Montgomery, who holds nine graduate degrees in various fields, argues, “The evidence for the truth of Christianity overwhelmingly outweighs competing religious claims and secular world views.” His 50-plus books and 100-plus scholarly articles indicate exposure to a wide variety of non-Christian religious and secular philosophies. How could an individual of such intellectual stature use a descriptive phrase as “overwhelmingly outweighs” if it were obviously false?
The individual widely considered to be the greatest Protestant philosopher of God in the world, Alvin Plantinga, recalls, “For nearly my entire life I have been convinced of the truth of Christianity.” On what basis can one of the world’s greatest philosophers make such a declaration if the evidence for Christianity is unconvincing, as cultists and critics charge?
Dr. Drew Trotter is executive director of the Center for Christian Studies at Charlottesville, Virginia. He holds a doctorate from Cambridge University. He argues that “logic and the evidence both point to the reality of absolute truth, and that truth is revealed in Christ”
If we are looking for evident truths, then perhaps we should consider the words of noted economist and sociologist, George R. Gilder, author of “Wealth and Poverty”, who asserts, “Christianity is true and its truth will be discovered anywhere you look very far.”
Dr. Alister McGrath is Principal of Wycliffe Hall, Oxford University. He studied at Oxford and Cambridge universities and is research lecturer in theology at Oxford. He is considered one of the most influential Christian writers in the world, and his numerous books include an acclaimed text on apologetics, “Bridge Building”, as well as “Intellectuals Don’t Need God and Other Myths”. He declares that the superior nature of the evidence for Christianity is akin to that found in doing good scientific research:
- When I was undertaking my doctoral research in molecular biology at Oxford University, I was frequently confronted with a number of theories offering to explain a given observation. In the end, I had to make a judgment concerning which of them possessed the greatest internal consistency, the greatest degree of correspondence to the data of empirical observation, and the greatest degree of predictive ability. Unless I was to abandon any possibility of advance in understanding, I was obliged to make such a judgment…. I would claim the right to speak of the “superiority” of Christianity in this explicative sense.
The noted Christian scholar, Dr. Carl F. H. Henry, wrote a 3000-page, 6-volume work titled “God, Revelation and Authority”. After his exhaustive analysis, Henry declared, “Truth is Christianity’s most enduring asset….” In his definitive “Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics” (Baker Book House, 1999, p. 785), leading Christian scholar Dr. Norman L. Geisler, author of “When Cultists Ask”, “When Critics Ask” and “When Skeptics Ask”, writes, “The only system of truth is the Christian system.” Such accolades could be multiplied repeatedly. Indeed, as Dr. Geisler comments, “In the face of overwhelming apologetic evidence, unbelief becomes perverse….”
There is also Christianity’s founder, Jesus Christ, who is utterly original and totally unique when compared to every other religious leader who has ever lived. In the words of an article in Time magazine, His life was, simply, “the most influential life that was ever lived.” In addition, the Christian Bible itself is clearly the most influential book in human history. If Jesus Christ and the Christian Scriptures continue to exert unparalleled influence in the world, shouldn’t they be considered worthy of truly impartial investigation? If objective evidence points to Christianity alone being fully true, then it seems that only personal bias can explain people’s unwillingness to consider seriously the claims of Jesus Christ on their life.
A further reason that those of other religious persuasions, secularists too, should be receptive to Christianity is because we live in an increasingly poisonous age experientially. In our pluralistic and pagan culture, almost anyone is a viable target for conversion to any of a wide variety of false beliefs and their consequences— from various cults and New Age occultism to solipsism and nihilism. Philosophies of despair and potent occult experiences can convert even those who think they are
the least vulnerable. “There is a great deal of research that shows that all people, but especially highly intelligent people, are easily taken in by all kinds of illusions, hallucinations, self-deceptions, and out-right bamboozles—all the more so when they have a high investment in the illusion being true.” In other words, even in this life the personal welfare of the non-Christian may be at risk.
When one examines the arguments and attacks made against Christianity for 2,000 years, by some of the greatest minds ever, guess what one finds? Not one is valid. Not one, individually or collectively, disproves Christianity. Even with the most difficult problems, such as the problem of evil, Christianity has the best answer of any religion or philosophy, the best solution to the problem.
If the leading minds of the world have been unable to disprove Christianity, this may explain why many of the other leading minds in the world have accepted it As James Sire correctly points out in “Why Should Anyone Believe Anything At All?”, an argument for belief, religious or other, must be secured on the best evidence, validly argued and able to refute the strongest objections that can be mustered against it. The Christian faith fits these criteria.
Obviously, if the God of the universe has revealed Himself and is the only true God, and if Christ is the only true way of salvation, then we would expect convincing evidence to substantiate this. Not just some evidence, or inferior evidence—so that a person has a dozen equally valid options in the choice of their religion—but superior evidence. Dr. John Warwick Montgomery asks:
- What if a revelational truth-claim did not turn on questions of theology and religious philosophy—on any kind of esoteric, fideistic method available only to those who are already “true believers”—but on the very reasoning employed in the law to determine questions of fact?… Eastern faiths and Islam, to take familiar examples, ask the uncommitted seeker to discover their truth experientially: the faith-experience will be self-validating…. Christianity, on the other hand, declares that the truth of its absolute claims rests squarely on certain historical facts, open to ordinary investigation…. The advantage of a
jurisprudential approach lies in the difficulty of jettisoning it: legal standards of evidence developed as essential means of resolving the most intractable disputes in society … Thus one cannot very well throw out legal reasoning merely because its application to Christianity results in a verdict for the Christian faith.
So, let’s assume that a God of truth is dedicated to truth and that He desires that people find Him. Indeed, “From one man he made every nation of men, that they should inhabit the whole earth; and he determined the times set for them and the exact places where they should live. God did this so that men would seek him and perhaps reach out for him and find him, though he is not far from each one of us” (Acts 17:26-27). What is the most logical place to begin our search for divine revelation? Wouldn’t it be the one religion that God has made stand out from all the rest? Logically, the best and only practical way to see if one religion is absolutely true is to start with the largest, most unique, influential and evidentiary religion in the world. “In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to all men by raising him from the dead” (Acts 17:30-31). It seems more reasonable to determine whether or not this religion is true than to seek another approach such as examining, one by one, all religions from A to Z, or picking one randomly by personal preference, or by accepting a religion as a result of subjective experience.
The problem is that, not being grounded in objective, historical evidence, all non-Christian religions are experientially based. As such, they prove nothing because of their inherent subjectivism. Thus, having even profound religious experiences, alone, cannot prove one’s religion is true. And, obviously, to attempt to examine all religions (whether the sequence is random, preferential or alphabetical) would be a daunting, confusing and in the end an impossible task.
If there is only one God, and if only one religion is fully true, then one should not expect to discover sustainable evidence in any other religion. And indeed, no other religion, anywhere, large or small, has sustainable evidence in its favor. If no credible evidence exists for any other religion, and if only Christianity has compelling evidence on its behalf; why should time be spent examining religions that have no basis to substantiate their claims, especially when there may be significant negative consequences for trusting in them, not only in this life but the next life as well?
It is much easier, and more logical, to start by examining the probabilities of truth on the highest end of the scale. We examined some of these in our book “Ready with an Answer” (Harvest House, 1997). In “The Value of an Evidential Approach,” William J. Cairney (Ph.D., Cornell) discusses some of the possibilities that constitute genuine evidence for the fact God has inspired the Bible and the Christianity based on it:
- History Written in Advance. We can all write history in retrospect, but an almighty, omnipotent, Creator would not be bound by our notions of space and time, and would thus be able to write history before it occurs. Suppose that we encountered a sourcebook that contained page after page of history written in advance with such accuracy and in such detail that good guessing would be completely ruled out.
- Prescience. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, we were able to find accurate statements written ages ago demonstrating scientific knowledge and concepts far before mankind had developed the technological base necessary for discovering that knowledge or those concepts….
- Historical Evidence. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, we were to find historical assertions that time after time were verified as true as historical scholarship continued….
- Archeological Evidence. Suppose that in this same sourcebook, statements that are difficult to verify are made about people and places, but as archeology “unearths” more knowledge of the past, time after time the sourcebook is seen to be true in its assertions.
- Philosophical and Logical Coherence. Suppose that this same sourcebook, even though written piecemeal over thousands of years, contains well-developed common themes and is internally consistent. And suppose all of these evidences hang together without internal contradiction or literary stress within the same anthology. Collectively, we could not take these evidences lightly.
Indeed, and this is why, overall, the evidence strongly asserts that Christianity is true, whether or not anyone agrees. The evidence for Christianity remains powerful whether it is internal (the documents), philosophical, moral, historical, scientific, archeological or when compared with the evidence found in other religions. For example, “The competence of the New Testament documents would be established in any court of law,” and, “Modern archeological research has confirmed again and again the reliability of New Testament geography, chronology, and general history.”
(This is especially true in the biased, liberal biblical studies cited by the cults to reject biblical faith, where we find the paradox of those being closest to the truth often snubbing their noses at it. As the noted classical scholar Professor E. M. Blaiklock points out, “Recent archeology has destroyed much nonsense and will destroy more. And I use the word nonsense deliberately, for theories and speculations find currency in biblical scholarship that would not be tolerated for a moment in any other branch of literary or historical criticism.”)
In conclusion, no one can successfully argue that Christianity and its origins have not been thoroughly investigated—as if some unrecognized aspect of it might yet prove its downfall. As the fifth edition of Man’s Religions by John B. Noss points out, “The first Christian century has had more books written about it than any other comparable period of history. The chief sources bearing on its history are the gospels and epistles of the New Testament, and these—again we must make a comparative statement—have been more thoroughly searched by inquiring minds than any other books ever written.” In essence, only Christianity meets the burden of proof necessary to say, “This religion alone is fully true.” When the critics claim otherwise, they are mistaken.
John Ankerberg, John Weldon, Ready with an Answer, Knowing the Truth about Salvation
C. S. Lewis, Mere Christianity
Francis Schaeffer, He Is There and He Is Not Silent
Norman Geisler, Baker Encyclopedia of Christian Apologetics
- C. S. Lewis, The Problem of Pain (New York: Macmillan, 1962), p. 145.
- As cited in an interview in “Christianity Today”, November 19,1990, p. 54.
- John W. Montgomery (ed.), “Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question” (Dallas: Word, 1991), p. 9.
- Alvin Plantinga, “A Christian Life Partly Lived,” in Kelly James-Clark (ed.), Philosophers Who Believe (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 1993), p. 69, emphasis added.
- As interviewed in the Chattanooga Free Press, July 25, 1995, p. A-11.
- L. Neff, “Christianity Today Talks to George Gilder,” Christianity Today, March 6, 1987, p. 55, cited in David A. Noebel, “Understanding the Times: The Religious Worldviews of Our Day and the Search for Truth” (Eugene, OR: Harvest House, 1994), p. 15.
- Alister E. McGrath, “Response to John Hick” in Dennis L. Okholm and Timothy R. Phillips (eds.), “More Than One Way? Four Views on Salvation in a Pluralistic World” (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1995), p. 68.
- Ajith Fernando, “The Supremacy of Christ” (Wheaton, IL: Crossway, 1995), p. 109.
- Norman L. Geisler, “Joannine Apologetics” in Roy B. Zuck (gen. ed.), “Vital Apologetic Issues: Examining Reasons and Revelation in Biblical Perspective” (Grand Rapids, MI: Kregel, 1995), p. 57.
- Richard N. Ostling, “Who Was Jesus?” Time, August 15, 1988, p. 57.
- Maureen O’Hara, “Science, Pseudo-Science, and Myth Mongering,” Robert Basil (ed.), Not Necessarily the New Age: Critical Essays (New York: Prometheus, 1988), p. 148.
- James Sire, “Why Should Anyone Believe Anything at All?” (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1994), p. 10.
- John Warwick Montgomery, “The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity,” in John Warwick Montgomery (ed.), “Evidence for Faith: Deciding the God Question” (Dallas: Probe Books, 1991), pp. 319-20.
- William J. Cairney, “The Value of an Evidential Approach,” in Montgomery (ed.), “Evidence for Faith”, p. 21.
- Montgomery, “The Jury Returns: A Juridical Defense of Christianity,” in Montgomery (ed.), “Evidence for Faith”, pp. 322, 326.
- E. M. Blaiklock, “Christianity Today”, Sept. 28, 1975, p. 13.
- John B. Noss, “Man’s Religions”, 5th ed. (New York: Macmillan, 1974), p. 417.