The Validity of Christianity

As stated in the last blog, we are starting on a series dealing with the validity of Christianity.  This will not be a course in apologetics.  There are plenty of other sources that can address that topic much better than I.  For example, Biola University offers courses in apologetics (www.biola.edu/apologetics) and there is a library of books on the subject.  Rather we will raise some issues that have not been addressed.

For myself, there are three main reasons why I believe in the validity of Christianity.  First, is the credibility of the Bible, second is the resurrection of Jesus, and third is the message of Jesus.

As Christians, the basis for our faith and our beliefs is Jesus and his disciples.  What we know of Jesus and his disciples comes to us primarily from the Bible.  So how do we know the Bible is a reliable and accurate witness to what Jesus and his disciples did, experienced, and said?  There are two main reasons:

1.         The Bible, in the words of Jeffery L. Sheler, has been “consistently and substantially affirmed as a credible and reliable source of history”. [2]  For example, during Jesus’ time, three lines of history meet—Jewish, Greek, and Roman.  Contemporary writers, in three languages (Hebrew, Greek, and Latin) are numerous and provide a cross-examination of Gospels in terms of habits, forms of government, general conditions. [3]  And the Bible withstands this scrutiny.

2.         The New Testament has better manuscript evidence than any other historical book.  We have more manuscripts and the dates of the manuscripts are closer to the original writings than other historical books.  The New Testament was written closer to the actual events they describe than other historical books.  The historical evidence for validity of the Bible is so strong that John Warwick Montgomery states if we disregard our historical knowledge of Jesus, we might as well disregard our entire knowledge of the classical world. [4]

However, the ultimate question for Christians is whether Jesus rose from the dead.  The apostle Paul recognized this and stated that Christianity rested on this one fact:  “For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either.  And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins.”  (1 Corinthians 15:16-17).

The nonBiblical sources such as the Talmud agree that Jesus was crucified and died, that Jesus’ disciples claimed that he rose from the dead, and that the Jewish leaders maintained the disciples stole the body in order to claim Jesus rose from the dead.  So how do we know that Jesus actually rose from the dead?

1.         The experience of the disciples argues strongly that something turned them around from terrified men to confident men who were not afraid to die for their beliefs.  Peter denied knowing Christ at his trial.  All the disciples except John were absent at his crucifixion.  And yet a few weeks later they were confidently facing death for preaching that Christ rose from the dead.  What was it that turned the disciples around?  The most compelling reason for the disciples’ change had to be that Jesus appeared to them in person.  An empty tomb does not prove anything other than the body is no longer there; it could have been moved.  The appearance of one who had died would be life-changing.

2.         The disciples talked about Jesus’ resurrection in Jerusalem, the city where Jesus lived and died.  If the Jewish leaders or any other enemy of Jesus had stolen the body of Jesus they could have easily proved the disciples wrong by pointing out the tomb where Jesus was buried.  Also if the disciples said anything about Jesus and his life, death, and resurrection that was not true, they would immediately be challenged by multiple persons who had witnessed Jesus’ acts and heard his words.  And yet the only argument we hear from the first century against the resurrection is that the disciples stole the body.  If they had, it is doubtful they would have endured the persecution and suffering they did.  Habermas states that “Liars do not make good martyrs.” [4]  Most motives for frauds involve some earthly gain: wealth, prestige, power.  The disciples had nothing to gain from telling this story except persecution and death.  People will not die for a false belief if they believe it is false.  They will die for a false belief if they believe it is true as is evidenced by all the people who have died for beliefs that are opposed to one another.

The power of the person of Christ and his message is evidence the Bible is more than a human construct.  Sheler states:  “The power of its inspired testimony and the resonance of its timeless message has earned the Bible the fidelity and trust of countless millions though the centuries.” [5]  Will Durant has commented that the person of Christ and his message is so powerful and lofty that it could not have been invented in one generation. [6]  Alfred North Whitehead suggests that humans “most precious instrument of progress [is] the impractical ethics of Christianity” which are a standard to test the defects of human society. [7]  Something special much have happened in first century Palestine to have such an impact on the world and the ages.

The above are what I consider to be the strongest evidences of the validity of Christianity.  Christians have a wealth of evidence for their beliefs.  So why is not everyone a Christian?  There are a variety of reasons which we will discuss in the next blog.

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[1]   Jeffery L. Sheler, Is the Bible True? (New York:  Harper Collins, 1999), p. 254.

[2]   Irwin H. Linton, A Lawyer Examines the Bible (Boston:  W. A. Wilde Co., 1943), pp. 56-57.

[3]  John Warwick Montegomery, History, Law, and Christianity (Edmonton, AB, Canada:  Canadian Institute for Law, Theology, and Public Policy, Inc., 2002), p. 9.

[4]   Gary Habermas, The Historical Jesus (Joplin, MO:  College Press Publishing Company, 1996),  p. 227.

[5]   Sheler, p. 256.

[6]   Will Durant, The Story of Civilization:  Caesar and Christ (New York:  Simon and Schuster, 1944), p. 557.

[7]   Alfred North Whitehead, Adventures of Ideas (New York:  The Free Press, 1961), p. 17.

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2 Responses to The Validity of Christianity

  1. Pavel says:

    Sadly, there is an answer to the quioetsns you pose. However, the answer feels hollow in the face of seeing suffering and injustice. And that your child, young at heart who understands there should be some divine fairness, pokes a stick at it. Something inside us rebels against the idea of a gracious God and a graceless world. They cannot seem to co-exist in our minds. Your comment about being God’s love to prove to the world of who He is transforms our perspective, transforms us, and ultimately transforms the world.This is one of those moments that I miss because I don’t have kids. Isn’t it amazing that we have how whole world challenged by such an honest question?

    • admin says:

      Well put. We do have difficulty coming to grips with how a gracious God would allow a graceless world. The only way it makes sense to me is recognize that God has given us free will and this graceless world is a result of our decisions, not God’s. God gave us free will because is the best way to teach us–we personally experience the consequences of our actions. It is obvious that most of us do not like the world we have created. So why do we not change? Each of us must answer that question.

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