I just listened to a Stand to Reason Podcast (7/12/10) where Craig Hazen outlined some provocative things to share with people who are exploring different religions. Not only will they get people thinking, they help refute some false doctrines that Christians hold and address common objections to Christianity. Hazen wrote a novel called Five Sacred Crossings that incorporates these themes (I’ll read it as soon as it comes out on the Kindle!).
Here are some notes from the Podcast with a few of my thoughts thrown in. They are simple ways to encourage people to think carefully about Christianity.
1. Christianity is testable – It is open to being falsifiable. You can research the truth claims yourself. Christianity involves knowledge, truth claims and faith in evidence. Many people think religions are just a matter of opinion or are the result of “blind faith,” but that is the opposite of Christianity. Consider this passage that shows how Christianity “hangs by a thread” – i.e., if Jesus didn’t physically rise from the dead, then Christianity is wrong and you should search elsewhere:
1 Corinthians 15:12–19 (ESV) Now if Christ is proclaimed as raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? But if there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is in vain and your faith is in vain. We are even found to be misrepresenting God, because we testified about God that he raised Christ, whom he did not raise if it is true that the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.
You can point them to all sorts of apologetics works (see the links to the right of this blog) or even simple things like the minimal facts approach, where nearly 100% of historical scholars from 1975 – present agree with the following statements and 75% of the same scholars agree that the tomb was empty:
- Jesus really lived and was killed on a Roman cross.
- Jesus’ disciples believed He appeared to them.
- Jesus’ brother, James, went from being a pre-crucifixion skeptic to a post-crucifixion church leader.
- The Apostle Paul believed Jesus appeared to him and he wrote most of the books attributed to him, including Romans, I & II Corinthians, Philemon and others. He converted from persecuting Christians to being the greatest evangelist ever, despite nearly constant challenges, persecution and ultimately dying for his faith.
The Christian view that the physical resurrection of Jesus best accounts for these facts is highly supportable and logical.
2. Salvation is free – as C.S. Lewis noted, grace is the main distinction between Christianity and all other religions / cults. They require works to (possibly) be made right with God, but Christianity says salvation is a free gift from God. People like free things, and it conveys a supremely important spiritual truth in an easy to understand way. Don’t be shy about reminding people about this.
3. The Christian worldview offers a perspective that fits the way the world really is. Look at facts of the world and see how they line of with Christianity. Consider the issue of evil and suffering, which Eastern religions (e.g., Hinduism and Buddhism) and New Agers treat as an illusion and which atheism cannot ground (if we are nothing but chemicals in motion then there is no true universal morality, just opinions and power).
If a Holocaust survivor described how her loved ones were brutally killed, does the typical audience shrug it off as being an illusion? Of course not. Deep down we know there is real right and wrong and real evil. Christianity has an explanation for that but many major worldviews do not.
Consider how Eastern philosophies like The Secret would have you tell the woman who her problem is that she didn’t ask the universe for the right things, didn’t feel the right things or wasn’t open to receiving them.
The “problem of evil” is one of the most common objections to Christianity, but it is an even larger philosophical liability for other religions and atheism. Christianity doesn’t try to side-step evil, it thoroughly addresses it.
4. In Christianity you get to live a non-compartmentalized / holistic life – We not only get to use our minds in worshiping and interacting with God (Acts 17:11 and more), we are told to do so. Some religions consider reasoning to be an impediment to faith.
5. Christianity has Jesus at the center – That may sound like circular logic, but consider how universally Jesus is revered – however misinterpreted – in Islam and other religions. Buddhism and Hinduism have plenty of room for a great teacher like Jesus. Islam specifically refers to him and claims to believe the Bible (though they believe in error that it has been seriously mistranslated). If nearly everyone wants to make room for Jesus and He has such a dramatic impact on the world (even to the point of our calendar being based on his birth), why not start with the religion that puts him front and center?
I would add a sixth: Since Christianity claims that there is one God and after we die we face one eternal judgment (Hebrews 9:27) you should consider it first, at least over atheism and any religion with either a concept of reincarnation or with no concept of judgment. If atheism isn’t true, then nothing eternal matters. If “second chance” religions like Hinduism and Buddhism are true then the worst case scenario is that you lose a little ground going into your next life.
But if Christianity is true and you don’t trust in Jesus and accept God’s free gift of salvation, then you spend an eternity paying for your sins.
Consider matters of eternity very carefully, because eternity matters.