There is a lot of talk today about the historical Jesus. It’s not new, Thomas Jefferson created his own Jesus by cut and pasting things in the gospel records according to what made sense to him. Jesus is the center of Christianity. Paul stakes everything on Him when he said that if Christ is not physically risen from the grave then all our faith and self-denial is in vain and we are to be pitied above all people. (I Corinthians 15:12-20)
Have you ever thought about this? I mean, we Christians are not only staking our eternal destiny on Jesus but are denying ourselves certain things in life now because of our belief that He is Who Scripture says He is. There are a myriad of other religions out there, what makes Christianity the right one?
This is a deep topic, and there are voluminous books dedicated to answering it. I don’t intend to exhaustively deal with the issue here, but share some areas that I have peered into as I have asked questions like this one and examined the facts seeking answers. After not being able to avoid this line of questioning – after all a faith that cannot be tested cannot be trusted – I am still a believer in the Jesus of Scripture. My faith in Him is actually stronger since my questioning. I believe Jesus is God in the flesh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob and that He is the propitiation for the sins of the world saving all who by grace believe in Him.
What are some areas I’ve looked into and what have I discovered in my examination of Christianity?
History. In my opinion this is the strongest point concerning Christianity. It roots itself in concrete history as opposed to abstract concepts. This also could be its weakest point (if it were not true) for all one would need to do is to historically prove that the foundational truth of Christianity never occurred. But it is historically substantiated that Jesus did exist, was crucified, and rose again. He was seen of over 500 eye witnesses and the miracles He preformed were also witnessed. Peter records that “these things were not done in a corner” and in His sermon at Pentecost he appeals to the knowledge unbelievers had of the life and death of Jesus. You can have Confucianism without Confucius, Buddhism apart from Buddha, Islam without Muhammad, but you cannot have Christianity without Jesus. Jesus didn’t say He has discovered the way, truth, or life. Jesus said, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” By saying He was the truth He inextricably tied truth to a historical figure. While other religions, like Buddhism, do trace their roots to a discovery made by an individual at a point in time, only Christianity has a Personal Creator God that enters the story by becoming part of His creation without ceasing to be God and redeems His creation from the penalty of sin and death. The other things listed below can all be categorized under this main historical point. As the author over at Christian Apologetics & Research Ministry says, “Christianity is only as true as the person of Jesus. He fulfilled prophecy, claimed to be God in flesh, performed many miracles, died, and physically rose from the dead. Christianity is about Jesus, his claims, and his deeds. It is based on him and it is only as true as he is true.”
The lives and deaths of the apostles. It is without a doubt that something extraordinary was witnessed by the apostles that caused them to give up everything to the death for the deity of Jesus. Many people die every day for a thing they believe is true that my not be so. The death of the apostles is different than the death of other Christians or the death of those of other religions. Why? I may give my life believing that something someone told me is true, but Peter didn’t die in this manner. Peter died because of what He witnessed first hand, not because of the word of another witness. The willing death of the apostles is not a thing to be lightly passed over.
Fulfilled prophecy. I realize that there are Jews who deny that Jesus actually was the Messiah as promised in the Old Testament. I also realize that there are Jews that have taken this claim to task in the OT and have emerged believers in Jesus as the Messiah. The New Testament record is a continuation of the Old Testament record. Jesus made claims that the OT spoke of Him, as did the apostles. Some of these fulfilled prophecies include the place of His birth, the events surrounding His birth, John the Baptist, and the events of Jesus’ death. There are plenty more, but these alone are significant as they are things that are outside of an individual’s ability to manipulate.
Miracles. This is often discounted by unbelievers. The problem with this is that they approach the Scriptures with a naturalistic mind-set and discount any miraculous event by default. But one must ask, “If there is a God and that God were to become flesh, what sort of things would you imagine this God-man accomplishing?” If I were to tell you that I was God would you not expect me to do something miraculous such as instantaneously make wine from water, or bring a deceased man to life, maybe walk on water, or heal those of incurable diseases. If I did none of these things and still insisted that I was God you would mock me to scorn. You would expect some extraordinary proof to substantiate my extraordinary claim. Yet, those who hold to naturalism by default demand this proof but refuse to accept it when given under the assumption of “miracles just don’t happen!” Yet we have recorded for us miracles that Jesus worked, and there is even an appeal made by Peter to unbelievers that they knew Jesus did these things. Even Jesus’ enemies accused him of working the miracles via the power of the devil. So we not only have believing witnesses that Jesus worked miracles, we have enemy attestation to the reality of His working miracles.
Logically sound. Christianity is logically coherent and consistent with reality. There are things in Christianity that we do not understand, such as the Trinity, but it does not defy logic or contradict sound reason. It not only coincides with history (archeologically and geographically) but also gives sound answers to the questions posed by reality. As a worldview it fits, and I believe it to be the only viable worldview out there. There are optional worldviews that are internally consistent, but not externally consistent. Christianity is consistent with itself and with the world around us.
In a world that is full of truth-claims of every kind, there are even truth-claims that say there is no such thing as true truth-claims, we must learn to navigate around falsehood. These are just a few areas that must be examined. If Christianity is true then all other religions and worldviews are false. But how do we know that Christianity is true? The five areas mentioned above are some paths that I would send honest questioners down in their quest for answers, for they are paths I have been down myself. God has offered Himself to be examined as He has come to were we are by meeting us in history. He has revealed Himself in a space time continuum and recorded it for our benefit. Christians need not fear examining their faith – remember a faith that can’t be tested can’t be trusted.