“Grow up! It is silly to believe in the man-in-the-sky stuff!”
“Your belief is based on myths, the human need for comfort, and blind faith.”
“There is no evidence for your faith.”
How many times have Christians heard this? In this series, we are going to explore the misconceptions associated with Christianity and the reasons and evidence for belief in Jesus Christ.
I have learned over the 40 years, as a believer in Jesus, that people who make derogatory statements like the ones above are simply uninformed. But even if they are informed, it does not guarantee an acceptance of the truth about Jesus and the word of God.
Benjamin Warfield from Princeton University put it this way,
“We are not absurdly arguing that *Apologetics has in itself the power to make a man a Christian or to conquer the world to Christ. Only the Spirit of Life can communicate life to a dead soul….But we are arguing that faith is, in all its exercises alike, a form of conviction, and is, therefore, necessarily grounded in evidence.”
*Note: Apologetics (in the Greek language apología) is not about "aplogizing" in the modern sense of the word, but rather a reasoned defending the faith.
As Christians, we are directed by Peter (one who was an eyewitness to the life of Christ) to:
….always be ready to give a defense (apología) to everyone who asks you a reason for the hope that is in you, with meekness and fear.
1 Peter 3:15
We are also told by Paul, another eyewitness and major player in the growth of Christianity, that
faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.
Unprepared for the world’s attack.
Herein is the problem with the great loss of faith by our young children who enter college and face mature men and women armed with questions and doubts determined to convert their minds into their own agnostic/atheist beliefs.
We raise our young children in almost sterile environments complete with band memberships, Christian socials, and fun things, which are OK. At night we tell them nice Bible bedtime stories, also good, but we don’t give them the evidence, substance, nor the reasons for their faith in Jesus. Many are ignorant of the Bible itself and its faith-giving prophecies. Perhaps even more crippling is the absence of a personal experience with and dedication to Jesus.
Even us adults may find ourselves in a state of doubt and an anemic Christian experience because our faith is not based on facts, but rather feelings and family tradition.
Faith is not blind, it has substance and evidence. I agree with those who say, “my heart cannot rejoice in what my mind rejects.” God invites us to think and use our minds, not just our heart (feelings)
Jesus quoted from the Old Testament when he said,
“…you shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength.
The Christian experience includes the mind (reasoning) and not just the emotion. God asks us to “reason together” with him (Isaiah 1:18). Reasoning involves communication and this communication is performed through prayer and the opening of the heart to what He has already revealed to us in scripture. But, it also involves having “facts” for faith in Jesus.
The order of the three “f’s” in Christianity must occur in this order: Facts, Faith, Feeling. The facts about Jesus give you reasons for your faith (trust in Jesus), and all this give you the peace and all the feelings that come from the promises of God’s word.
An experience that starts and based only on feelings is destined to wither under the heat of life’s events. Faith cannot be mustered up by mental exercises. The faith and feelings will come only by the facts. This is what Paul stressed when he said,
So then faith comes by hearing and hearing by the word of God.
As one evangelist, I knew, said,
“Little time in God’s word equals little faith, but much time in God’s word equals much faith.”
Not Blind Faith
When Jesus Christ and the apostles called upon a person to exercise faith, it was not a ‘blind faith” but rather an “intelligent faith.” The apostle Paul said,
I know whom I have believed”
2 Timothy 1:12
You shall know (not ignore) the truth, and the truth shall make you free.
For me personally and many like me, I could not exercise blind faith about Jesus, I needed substance and evidence. I found it in three sources: 1.) The prophecies about Jesus, 2.) History, and 3.) Eyewitness accounts.
“*The Christian faith is an objective faith; therefore, it must have an object. The Christian concept of ‘saving’ faith is a faith that establishes one’s relationship with Jesus Christ (the object), and is diametrically opposed to the average ‘philosophical’ use of the term faith in the classroom today.”
“Faith in the Christian sense goes beyond reason but not against it” (Paul Little)
For the Christian, historical facts are critical. Paul drives home this point when he described the historical fact of the resurrection:
“And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty…And if Christ is not risen, then our preaching is empty and your faith is also empty.”
1 Corinthians 15: 14, 17
The Stories of the Bible Are Not Myths
“Critics sometimes charge, ‘Events such as the virgin birth, the resurrection and ascension, Jesus’ turning water into wine and walking on water didn’t really happen. They were inserted to elevate Jesus to the status of a divine figure, though, if he lived at all, he was no more than a mere mortal.” “A professor of a world literature class to which I spoke asked the question, ‘What do you think of Greek mythology?’ I answered with another question, ‘Do you mean, were the events of the life of Jesus, the resurrection, virgin birth, etc., just myth?’ He answered ‘Yes.’ I replied that there is an obvious difference between the events recorded about Christ in the Bible and the stories conveyed in Greek mythology that bear a vague similarity. The similar stories , such as resurrections, and others, of Greek mythology were not applied to real flesh-and-blood individuals, but instead to non-historical, fictional, mythological characters However, when it comes to Christianity, these events are attached to the historic Jesus of Nazareth who the New Testament writers knew personally, the professor replied, ‘Your’re right, I never realized that before.”
The Bible Contains Eyewitnesses Unlike Mythology or the Writings of Other Religious Works
Peter was an eyewitness who refutes the events as fables:
For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty.
2 Peter 1:16
John saw and touched Jesus:
That which was from the beginning, which we have heard, which we have seen with our eyes, which we have looked upon, and our hands have handled, concerning the Word of life— the life was manifested, and we have seen, and bear witness, and declare to you that eternal life which was with the Father and was manifested (made known) to us— that which we have seen and heard we declare to you, that you also may have fellowship with us; and truly our fellowship is with the Father and with His Son Jesus Christ.
1 John 1: 1-3
Luke, an educated physician put together a narrative from a “perfect understanding” of the events.
Inasmuch as many have taken in hand to set in order a narrative of those things which have been fulfilled among us, just as those who from the beginning were eyewitnesses and ministers of the word delivered them to us, it seemed good to me also, having had perfect understanding of all things from the very first, to write to you an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus,
Luke followed it up with “infallible proofs” as Jesus was seen by many for “forty days” after the cross.
The former account I made, O Theophilus, of all that Jesus began both to do and teach, until the day in which He was taken up, after He through the Holy Spirit had given commandments to the apostles whom He had chosen, to whom He also presented Himself alive after His suffering by many infallible proofs, being seen by them during forty days and speaking of the things pertaining to the kingdom of God.
Acts 1: 1-3
Paul saw Jesus after 500 people saw him “at once” ( a congregation of people), then James and all the apostles saw Him.
After that, He was seen by over five hundred brethren at once, of whom the greater part remain to the present, but some have fallen asleep. After that, He was seen by James, then by all the apostles. Then last of all, He was seen by me also, as by one born out of due time.
1 Corinthians 15: 6-8
John was an eyewitness to Jesus’ miracles and signs, most were not even written down!
And truly Jesus did many other signs in the presence of His disciples, which are not written in this book; but these are written that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God, and that believing you may have life in His name….And there are also many other things that Jesus did, which if they were written one by one, I suppose that even the world itself could not contain the books that would be written. Amen.
John 20: 30-31, 21:25
Luke states they were all witnesses even His death, resurrection, and having meals with Him afterward.
And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they[ killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be Judge of the living and the dead.
Acts 10: 39-42
Peter witness not only His sufferings but also looked forward to the second glorious return as taught by Jesus before he died!
The elders who are among you I exhort, I who am a fellow elder and a witness of the sufferings of Christ, and also a partaker of the glory that will be revealed:
1 Peter 1:5
His followers listened and watched as Jesus ascended to heaven as promised.
Now when He had spoken these things, while they watched, He was taken up, and a cloud received Him out of their sight.
Peter discloses to hecklers to the Pentecost that they also saw and know the actions and events of Jesus life
“Men of Israel, hear these words: Jesus of Nazareth, a Man attested by God to you by miracles, wonders, and signs which God did through Him in your midst, as you yourselves also know—
After Festus called Paul mad, Paul discloses that all that Jesus did was in the open and King Agrippa must have known about it. Further, Paul appealed to King Agrippa’s knowledge of the prophets and the fulfillment of their words in Jesus.
Now as he thus made his defense, Festus said with a loud voice, “Paul, you are beside yourself! Much learning is driving you mad!”
But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason. For the king, before whom I also speak freely, knows these things; for I am convinced that none of these things escapes his attention since this thing was not done in a corner. King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you do believe.”
28 Then Agrippa said to Paul, “You almost persuade me to become a Christian.”
Acts 26: 24-28
The Christian beliefs are not based on blind faith nor myths and fables. They are based on substance and evidence. Like all historical characters, there were eyewitnesses. Faith is based on substance and evidence, but even the evidence is not enough to convert a person. That person will only be convinced and converted if they yield to the encouraging the work of God’s Spirit which brings conviction about sin and its ultimate results. Once the person goes “all-in” with Jesus, they will discover a life of peace, real joy, and hope in the coming events proclaimed by Jesus and God’s word.
Next time we will continue our study on misconceptions about Christianity.
*Much thanks to Josh McDowell and his book The New Evidence That Demands A Verdict. Volume I and II