Tough Questions #3: How can Christians claim that their religion is the only true one when there are so many in the world?

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…but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence…

1 Peter 3:15 (NASB)

I have been asked many really challenging questions, that also happen to be very good questions. I think at one time or another, most people have asked themselves, or others, tough questions about faith. We all have to resolve in our own hearts what we believe and why we believe it. Christianity is no different. Throughout my childhood years I was exposed to only the christian faith. That never stopped me from wondering. God made us to wonder, and explore, and to discover. That tendency is meant to draw us closer to Him. As I got older, I learned about other religions and world views. I thought many of them to be fascinating, mythical, but never reality. Many religions are full of really cool traditions and have good teachings, but when it came down to it, they were all missing what was most important.

I am a high school teacher. So I have about 130 inquisitive teens every day pass through my classroom. That means I hear questions similar to the one that this post is based on. I have the honor of sponsoring a Christian club at my High School and at times, I’ve had kids come in to ask us what makes us different. For anyone to cling to a faith or creed, they must believe it with such intensity that everything else in their world becomes subject to it. That draws questions, and sometimes ridicule. Especially in the world we live in today. So many cultures are about ‘open-mindedness’ and being ‘all-inclusive’. For anyone to claim that what they believes is true, makes everything contrary to that belief out to be false. I’ve heard many objectors use this as the foundation of their argument against the Christian faith. What many of them don’t realize is, that all religions are exclusive, and so is truth. In fact, atheists are exclusive too. They believe that no God exists. This means that they believe everyone who believes in God is wrong. Christians get a bad rap, but everyone, besides maybe agnostics (because they don’t know what to believe) are claiming that their reality is the only reality. However, only one can actually be right. People who claim opposing truths cannot simultaneously be correct.

Today, I want to offer a simple response to anyone who wonders how Christians can claim that what they believe is the only truth. Keep in mind, by being a Christian you are denying the reality and truthfulness of any other religion. Just on that basis, you are potentially insulting nearly 5 billion people (69%) around the world. It seems inevitable that you will come across someone wanting to know the answer to this question. If you are one of those 5 billion people, I hope this is helpful for you.

  1. Fulfilled Prophecy: For a claim to be true, it must be supported by evidence that can not be disputed. All religions have their stories and their proverbs, but only one has hundreds of prophetic statements that have come true. Not only have they come true, but they have come true in one person. There are over 350 specific prophecies that Jesus Christ fulfilled. Keep in mind that these prophecies came hundreds of years before His arrival on planet Earth. The odds against one person fulfilling just eight of those prophecies are astronomical. They equate to one in ten to the 21st power (1021). Here is an illustration that reflects that number. Cover the entire Earth’s land mass with silver dollar coins 120 feet high. Then, mark one of those dollars and randomly bury it. After that, ask a person to travel the Earth and find that marked dollar…while blindfolded. If that’s the probability for 8 prophecies, just imagine what it would be for over 350! Someone who did that has to be who they say they are. And Jesus said that He is the way, the truth, and the life, and no one comes to the Father except through me.
  2. Confirmation: A lot of religions claim that their main figure was miraculous in some way. Buddhist believe that the words of Buddha were divine. Muslims believe that Muhammad was a messenger of Allah. Mormons believe in the divine nature of Joseph Smith and that he completed the gospel. The hang up for all of these religions is that none of them have any form of confirmation that their central figure was who they said they were. None of them proved, in a sense, that they were divine or following a divine calling. Jesus, on the other hand, confirmed His mission and identity with many miracles. Jesus literally raised people from the dead, gave blind people their sight, cleansed people of the nasty disease of leprosy, and even calmed a storm and sea. That’s just a few of His extensive resume. But not only does Jesus confirm Christianity, so does the authenticity of the Bible itself. The places, the people, the events, and so much more have been supported by archaeology and science. It was written by 40 men over a period of 1500 years and all subjects, prophecies, and evidence agree. It was written in three very different languages by people who lived on three different continents. The authors of the Bible lived in very different time periods, very different places, and had different occupations but all focused on the same story line: God’s redemption of mankind. For a book to be so congruent and so accurate with that background is nothing short of miraculous.
  3. Resurrection: The Bible and history gives us tons of evidence that Jesus was real, that He lived among us, and indeed, lived a miraculous life. Few things set Jesus apart like His resurrection from the dead. No other religion can claim this. And this isn’t some mythical belief among religious zealots. Jesus was seen alive by more than 500 people after He had been crucified and laid in a tomb. With that kind of evidence, it’s an impossible event to disprove. Most cases are resolved on the testimony of two or more witnesses, let alone 500 plus. And these weren’t all His followers either. So the witnesses can’t be designated as biased. Jesus lives, and none of the other religious figures do.

Then he (Jesus) said to them, “These are my words that I spoke to you while I was still with you, that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must be fulfilled.

Luke 24:44 (ESV) [my emphasis]

Of all the religions in the world, only one has been confirmed by prophecy, miracles, and a resurrection from the dead. Only one religion in the world is about God reaching down to His creation out of love. Every other faith centers on humanity’s attempt to reach God, which is impossible. Only one religion defines humanity’s struggle and hurt and brokenness and simultaneously provides the solution. Only one religion in the world is so well documented and factually accurate.  If you’d like a more in depth look at this topic, I would suggest reading The Case for Christ by Lee Strobel. He was an atheist who set out to disprove Christianity, and instead, found the overwhelming evidence for faith. I would also suggest Jesus Among Other gods by Ravi Zacharias. This man will blow your mind!

Christianity is not blind faith. It’s real, and it’s powerful. And Jesus has been changing lives for thousands of years. Since the beginning of time actually. Just as He has in mine.

Peace brothers and sisters.

 

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Tough Questions #2: Why would a loving God allow bad things to happen?

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“Pain removes the veil; it plants the flag of truth within the fortress of a rebel soul.”

C.S. Lewis

 

Today we try to respond to yet another really hard question. I myself have had to wade through these waters during difficult moments of my own life. But I’ve come out the other side liberated, not from pain, but from the crushing blow of doubt. Few things in my life have contributed to my faith life the tragic experiences I’ve had to endure. That has helped my love for God extend to new heights.

…but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect…

1 Peter 3:15 (ESV)

Life is hard. There’s no way around it. Tragedy hits everyone. Some will experience more pain than others, but no one will escape it. That’s led many people to question the goodness of God…to wonder where He is in the sufferings of their life. I don’t ever want to take away from the pain inflicted on anyone. Everyone’s story is unique, but the answer to the question above is not and that answer can write the next chapter for anyone’s story.

Just like with my last post on why a loving God would allow people to go to hell, I want to keep the answer simple and biblical. Also, I will give you a three-fold response that you could share with anyone. From that, I hope a much deeper conversation would result.

  1. Humanity is broken. We all have a sinful nature from birth (Psalm 51:5). That’s because the very first humans, Adam and Eve, chose sin rather than obedience (Genesis 3). Every human since has suffered from the same ailment. And because of that nature, we often times choose sin over holiness. That choice results in pain inflicted on ourselves and others. No one’s sin ever just affects them. Our sin has domino effect that can disrupt and destroy lives. You add billions of people who suffer from the sin condition, that’s a lot of pain in the world. That’s a lot of greed, perversion, anger, violence, and pride. God provided the cure for our brokenness. He died for our sins and promised His Holy Spirit to anyone who calls on Him. The Holy Spirit is the only thing that can empower humanity to live beyond themselves, to live for eternity and not temporary, and to consider others better than themselves. But here again we see the factor of free will. Because God is so loving, He has allowed us to freely choose the course of our life, even if it’s not a good one.
  2. There are other forces at work in the world. God is sovereign. That’s indisputable. But there is a severe darkness that pervades the world and the hearts of a lot people. Satan is the dominate force behind that darkness. Not the little man in red with a pitchfork. The epitome of evil who tried to rebel and overthrow God. The one who has been leading people into lives of destruction. The one who’s soul mission is to destroy you and revel in that destruction. The one who has waged war on everyone’s soul. Ephesians chapter six says that we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. So much of what we struggle with in life, we can’t even see the reality behind it. And I know, that is a hard concept to grasp.
  3. Our pain is never the end of our story. God is the master of bringing beauty out of our ashes (Romans 8:28). Just read through the life of Job in the Bible. He was a righteous man who Satan sought after to destroy. Job lost his kids, his home, and his health. The worst things in life happened to Job. But through it all, God met with Job and his faith and character went to an all new reality. And in the end, everything was restored to Job, more than he even had before. Job’s life is an ideal ‘beauty from ashes’ story. So is the life of Joseph in the book of Genesis. Joseph was sold into slavery by his brothers and then sent to prison on false claims. But neither of those things were the end of Joseph’s story. God raised him up to be second in command of the nation of Egypt and he went on to save the lives of thousands. Joseph would later proclaim to those responsible for pain in his life, “As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many people should be kept alive, as they are today.”

The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me,
    because the Lord has anointed me
    to proclaim good news to the poor.
He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted,
    to proclaim freedom for the captives
    and release from darkness for the prisoners,
to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor
    and the day of vengeance of our God,
to comfort all who mourn,
and provide for those who grieve in Zion—
to bestow on them a crown of beauty
    instead of ashes,
the oil of joy
    instead of mourning,
and a garment of praise
    instead of a spirit of despair.
They will be called oaks of righteousness,
    a planting of the Lord
    for the display of his splendor.

Isaiah 61:1-3 (NIV)

God is in the joy-giving, heart-healing, and life-giving business. Sometimes, that is done best in walking through our darkest days. Quite often pain and suffering can be the instrument that refines us into having more of a godly character and softens our rebellious hearts.  Instead of looking for a scapegoat for the hardships in the world, we ought better use our energies being a part of the solution and not adding to the problem. If everyone devoted themselves to the One who created them, the world would look vastly different. Until that day, when Jesus returns to set all things right, we can live each day to improve the lives of others. We can use lessons learned through our own trials to walk through the fire with others. And we can keep our eyes set on the day when the hurt will cease. That day is coming.

He will wipe every tear from their eyes. There will be no more death’ or mourning or crying or pain, for the old order of things has passed away.”

Revelation 21:4 (NIV)

Tough Questions #1: Why would a loving God send people to hell?

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Instead, you must worship Christ as Lord of your life. And if someone asks about your Christian hope, always be ready to explain it.

1 Peter 3:15 (NLT)

As followers of Christ, we will be asked some really tough questions. There are very real objections among the seekers of the world, many of whom genuinely want to know the answers. Some, on the other hand, may have already made up their minds and will refuse to accept any response contrary to their own views. But for the rest, you and me have the responsibility to offer them the basis for our own hope and beliefs. Over the next few posts I will attempt to offer somewhat simple answers to questions that I’ve been asked that I believe many struggle with. These won’t be exhaustive responses for the purpose of debating anyone. They will be taken straight from what any of us can learn from reading what God has provided in the Bible. I want to keep them simple because that will be easier to remember. I’m not for a moment assuming that everyone reading these posts will not have an answer for themselves. I only want to provide a resource for anyone who needs it, whether you’re the one asking the question, or being asked the question.

For the first question I selected one that multiple atheists have posed to me over the years. I’ve even seen some in the church battle over the concept of hell and how people could actually be sent there.  Not long ago I came across a book that took a stab at answering this question by completely erasing hell and claiming that everyone gets saved. That’s only one example of why we have to stick to the Bible when answering these tough questions and not put our own speculations into it. One of the greatest pieces of advice I’ve heard from multiple people is that the Bible’s response should be our response and if the Bible is silent then so should we.

The Bible does have a lot to say about hell. Check out verses like Revelation 21:8, Matthew 25:46, Psalm 9:17, 2 Thessalonians 1:9, Mark 9:43, and Proverbs 15:24 just to name a handful. It’s a very real place. And it’s horrible. Because it’s so bad, we can approach that one of three ways: One, being overly thankful that Jesus came to save us from such a place causing us to become more urgent in sharing the gospel and seeing people saved and loving like Jesus. Two, look at God with disdain for allowing people to go there and continue to reject His love or share His love. And three, disregard it all and live life with a sense of apathy and run a huge risk of being wrong. Ignorance will never be bliss in matters like this.

So, my response to the question is three-fold:

  1. People reject God, not the other way around. The last thing God wants is for someone to go to hell. The Bible is very clear that His heart is for the salvation of mankind. Look no further than the cross for that. God stepped out of heaven, became flesh, and died on our behalf. The way to life is simple. It’s Jesus. Who is God in the flesh. God made salvation clear and open to all. But man, in the stubbornness of their heart, refuses the life raft. That’s because our sinful nature would prefer to think highly of ourselves than admit to the need for salvation. As technology advances, more and more people live a life absent of God because they feel as though they don’t need Him. A lot of people just can’t come to grips with their need for healing and saving. Every other religion in the world, other than Christianity, is man-made as a means to reach heaven on our own warrants and credentials. The problem with that is, none of us will ever be good enough. That’s why God came to us, with open arms, and continues to do so as long as we are alive.
  2. Freewill is really risky. Out of God’s great love, He allowed us to have the ability to choose. We can choose sin or holiness. We can choose love or indifference. We can live fully self absorbed or completely poured out for others. God didn’t create robots, He created humanity. And because He loves us so much, He wants our love and affection in return, but only willingly.
  3. Great love has to have a full measure of justice. There has to be punishment for the depravity of mankind. The greater the love, the greater the wrath. That wrath is fully displayed on the cross of Jesus or in the fires of hell. Everyone who falls on Jesus, who took on the full punishment for us, will escape the later wrath. Those who reject the sacrifice of Jesus will have to pay for their own sins themselves.

God loves every single person who has ever and will ever walk the face of this earth. No matter your sin, God loves you. No matter how broken, He wants to put you back together.  No matter how lost, God wants to save you. Choose life. Choose the love that’s freely offered.

This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. For there is one God, and there is one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, who gave himself as a ransom for all, which is the testimony given at the proper time.

1 Timothy 2:3-6 (ESV)