Sunday, January 6, 2008

Why Christianity First

(The following is the summary of a talk I composed a couple of years ago. I'm indebted to Craig Hazen for most of the content.)

In summary, I have shared tonight five reasons to check out Christianity first among the world’s religions. I have assumed, for the sake of this discussion, that the person to whom I am speaking is reasonable--who is searching, that is, for a religion that is coherent and cohesive, one that attempts to satisfactorily explain all of reality and experience. I have not attempted to make a case for the truth of Christianity, nor have I shared, as I could have, the testimonies of a host of reasonable people of all nationalities and situations who, having tried Christianity, have experienced life-changing power, joy, peace, and fulfillment. Rather, I have simply argued that these five characteristics should compel a reasonable person to examine Christianity first.

First, I argued that Christianity is evidential--that it begs to be verified. The Bible is replete with historical and geographical references, and even directs its readers to examine its claims in a logical manner. The same cannot be said of other holy books, and one can expect little verification or logical feedback when practicing some of the other major religions. If, on the other hand, Christianity fails the evidential test, then one can move on quickly. With other religions (like Hinduism and Buddhism), there is no expectation of being able to verify or falsify them in a short time (or even in a single lifetime).

I argued that Christianity uses the same set of logical principles that everyone uses every day. Whereas Buddhists (for example) must suspend the use of logical analysis while practicing their religion, Christianity offers a system that flows from and is consistent with the rules of rational thought.

Similarly, I argued that Christianity claims to address all of reality. It offers a comprehensive worldview that tackles the tough issues (like evil and suffering). Other religions provide unsatisfactory answers, or go so far as to deny the existence of such things as evil. A reasonable seeker would look for a religion that provides satisfactory answers for the entire breadth of human experience. Again, Christianity offers such answers.

I pointed out that most religions deal, at least to some degree, with Jesus (giving him a place in history or even status as a great prophet). I argued that this fact is quite interesting, and strongly suggested that it should induce one to examine first the religion whose central figure is this fascinating person who crops up in all of these other religions.

As regards these four characteristics--its testability, its rationality, its comprehensive nature, and its focus on Jesus--I have argued that Christianity is superior to all of the other religions one could examine. With the fifth characteristic, I argued for the utter uniqueness of Christianity. Whereas in all other religions, it is up to man to strive for salvation--for heaven, nirvana, or whatever--in Christianity salvation is a free gift. No other religion is based upon the unmerited favor of God--grace--but Christianity alone. Were the other religions equal to Christianity in all other aspects--in their logical cohesion, in the comprehensiveness of their worldview, in their verifiability--this last characteristic by itself would make the reasonable person try Christianity first. The central claim of Christianity involves the understanding that God himself accomplished all that is necessary for our obtaining salvation, forgiveness of sin, peace with our creator, and eternal life. If there is a religion that boldly promises such wonderful gifts, the reasonable person would receive those free gifts rather than work and strive for the lesser rewards vaguely offered by the other religions.

No comments: